Ahad, 14 Julai 2013

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How Welfare is Inclusive, Just, and Catalytic to the Malaysian Economy

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 12:25 PM PDT


In the case of Malaysia, bigger welfare programs in education and health for example, will help raise the purchasing power for the average lower middle class Malaysians who are very much left behind in the curve of development. 

Anas Alam Faizli
One of the most wicked economic satirist of the 18th century, Bernard Mandeville cynically proclaimed, "It was generally admitted that unless the poor were poor, they will not do an honest day's toil without asking for exorbitant wages. To make the society happy it is requisite that great numbers should be ignorant as well as poor."

Mandeville made clear his displeasure with an economic hierarchy that accepted poverty as necessary to safeguard "social order", dismissing charity as hypocrisy of priests and noblemen wanting to maintain status quo. His great paradox that "private vices bring about public benefits" was echoed by his junior of half a century, Adam Smith. Similarly, Smith posited that true virtuous self-interest results in an unintended invincible cooperation, which produces greater economic good.

Is the answer to humankind's economic queries truly within the power of collective selfish incentives? A revisit to the origins of economic superpowers of today can invalidate this claim.

How did West Europe, America and Japan emerge as significantly superior economies to the rest of the world? In 1820, the average income in Western Europe was roughly 90% of that of Africa today. Huge poverty and wealth gaps between nations today virtually did not exist prior to the 19th century. Everyone started on the same footing.

Since the beginning of time, human population only reached 15 million 5,000 years ago. We hit our first billion mark in 1804, and our second more than a century later in 1927. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the world witnessed tremendous economic and human development taking place in Europe and North America. Poverty was reduced in those regions dramatically. Since then, human population skyrocketed to 3 billion in the span of only 40 years to 1960, already reaching 7 billion by 2012.

Healthcare, agriculture, food technology and better mode of production paved way to the industrial revolution. For the first time ever, world food production was at a surplus; one person was able to produce food for thousands of other people. Britain assumed leading position in modern economic growth, given its relative ability to rupture existing structures and undergo necessary gender, familial and social mobility. Growth and technology diffused outwards to other receptive regions like Japan, which was undergoing the Meiji restoration, and North America, from waves of outward migration from Europe.

At the same time, vast regional differences and inequalities surfaced. Modern economic growth was not tasted by many parts the world; thereon emerged dichotomous terminologies we are familiar with today, such as "the east", "the west", "third world" and "first world".  Underdevelopment and poverty was no longer something humans could just wait to naturally climb out of. Poverty became relative; it needed combating and attention because great superpowers were accelerating at their self-driven pace, unintentionally or not "trampling" on the poor. Private vices alone will result in grave imbalances. Only then did earlier works in economic philosophy re-emerged with complex theories and models for the solution to man's economic problems, picking up from where Smith and Marx left off.

Jeffrey Sachs in the End of Poverty (2005) saw that eradication of extreme poverty by the year 2025 is possible, as per the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), given properly planned development aid. Sachs argued that through increasing anti-malarial bed nets in Sub-Saharan Africa, promoting debt cancellation by richer nations to the world's poorest economies, adequate funding for clinical economics, and tripling development aids, the world can be free of extreme poverty. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living below one dollar and 25 cents per day, at purchasing power parity. But Sachs views the extremely poor as those stuck in a rut and unable to even begin climbing the ladder of development out of poverty without aid.

If we believe in the capability of "private vices" to establish this great invincible cooperative force to achieve economic prosperity; does this mean we see welfare and redistribution as dead? Does it mean we are apathetic towards extreme poverty and economic deprivations of fellow human beings? Where do we draw the line?

Demystifying Welfare

A welfare state sees its government play a huge role in the provision of goods and services to ensure social and economic well-being of its citizens. It aims to reduce economic insecurity that is produced by nature or the market. The concept rests upon major normative themes like 'rights', 'needs' 'equality', and 'justice'. In view of organized Islamic living, the Islamic worldview too puts the fulfilment of basic needs of all human beings as one of its primary objectives. Nejatollah Siddiqui in his 'Role of State in the Economy' proposes that the burden of fulfilling needs rest on the Islamic state; it is a fardh kifayah, which is an essential duty that must be performed.

Garfinkel and Smeeding at Columbia in 2010 found that all wealthy nations are in principal welfare states; they are "primarily capitalist economies with large selective doses of socialism". Welfare can take the form of direct transfers or on-behalf payments to service providers, like education and healthcare. Transfers can be cash or coupon handouts, disability and unemployment benefits, which we do not have in Malaysia, family assistance, and poor relief.

Statistically, welfare states can be defined as countries devoting at least 20% to social transfers like Nordic countries, Austria and the Netherlands. On the other hand, countries like the United States and poorer Third World countries spend less in social safety nets and human investments. Malaysia spends only 4.1% on Education (ranking her 101st) and 4.4% on Healthcare (ranking her 156th in the world). Not coincidentally, Malaysia also ranks among the highest in income-disparity gap in Asia between the rich and poor.

Using the Nordic example, higher social transfers of the welfare state have resulted in less poverty, less inequality, and longer life expectancy with statistically no net cost in terms of GDP, economic growth or even budget deficits. But according to welfare expert Peter H. Lindert, the burden of proof lies on those who claim that welfare states strangle productivity and growth. Antagonists need to prove why, in reality, large welfare states end up with higher growth rates.

Welfare Will Not Bankrupt Malaysia

When approaching the subject of financing welfare programmes, we can never avoid Scandinavia. It is always thought that they run a terrific social democratic welfare state, but at the expense of its people. The myth is that citizens, especially the rich and hardworking, are really bullied to pay heavy income taxes. The reality is not as disheartening.

In the 1980s, corporations and property incomes in Sweden rarely pay top statutory rates because of deductibles and loopholes. In fact in the 1990s, Sweden and some other European countries simplified their tax systems which effectively lower tax rates at the high income brackets. The OECD experience since 1980 exhibits no sign of negative econometric impacts on GDP and national product from higher taxes having to finance larger transfers and welfare payments.

It is actually sin taxes that are highest. Tobacco and alcohol are demerit goods because its total costs to society that arise from its consumption (higher healthcare bills from second hand smokers) outweigh the private costs to smokers who purchase them. Consumption in general is also taxed via the Value Added Tax (VAT); the more financially able one is to consume, the more one ought to be taxed.

The Nordic model also taxes lower income groups. While those earning below RM3,000 (which form the majority) are not taxed in Malaysia, even the average Nordic toilet janitor does. At first glance this seems cruel, but labour supply is less sensitive to tax than say, capital supply; people are less likely and less able to change or run away from jobs because of tax as much as investment monies and consumption could. By making everyone pay labour income tax, even those in favour of receiving government welfare too are made to contribute at least a little to the welfare they enjoy.

Welfare Will Not Hinder Progress, Rather Catalyze It

It is time we cease looking at welfare as populist, a game of pity or even something to be grateful to the government for. It is a perfectly feasible economic programme in its own merit and even growth-accretive. Keynes explained that the welfare state is not just absolute support for the poor. Welfare is actually part of a package of policy instruments to keep the market economy on track and prevent relapses of economic crises. Welfare spending also stimulates demand when private investment and expenditure dry up in times of dampened economic growth.

The Columbia University study showed that large welfare state budgets enrich nations rather than impoverish them. First, all modern rich nations have large welfare states.  Second, he found that these states grow faster economically in periods after large welfare programmes compared to periods before them. Third, they found strong evidence that public education and public health have led to enormous gains in productivity and economic well-being. The study drew a 125 years historical timeline for rich nations and found a correlation between social spending and growth rates. It is empirically proven that higher growth rates are registered in states during its large welfare era as opposed to its pre-large welfare era.

How so? For one thing, a welfare state is more inclusive; it generates economic producers wven out of its economically-handicapped citizens, by ensuring the bottom income earners are placed onto the ladder of development.

If welfare programs are tax-financed, it is revealed that social spending can only have a net positive effect on GDP because the leakage out of the economy in the form of tax is re-injected into the economy at targeted productive uses. Denison, Barro, Lucas, Hicks and many others agree that there is overwhelming empirical evidence that public education promotes productivity and growth. In fact, even many other social transfer programs raise GDP per capita. America sees shortened life expectancy, ranking 19th of 20 rich nations, and GDP gone wasted as they refuse to spend for health care. Scientific evidence over a similar 125-year period also suggests public health measures have large social benefits and promote productivity and growth. Unsurprisingly, Finland is the second-happiest country on earth (the US not even in top 10), with lower infant mortality rate, better school scores, and a far lower poverty rate than the US.

Furthermore, various studies also found that the richer a country is, the more its citizens can attribute their incomes to welfare transfers, as exhibited by Europe and Australia, because high-budget welfare states feature a tax mix that is more pro-growth than the tax mixes of low-budget Japan and Switzerland. These high-budget states also have more efficient health care, better support for childcare, women's careers, and other features that more than mitigate any negative incentives effects on transfer recipients.

Transfer payments have a direct impact on economic growth by generating private consumption. But the BR1M that we have witnessed is myopic and too little to make a sustainable impact to income. Public provision of education up to tertiary level too will also produce Malaysians who can acquire better skills and jobs, and thus stronger consuming power. Both productivity and private consumption will contribute directly to domestic components of GDP growth. Unfortunately we still hear Malaysians rejecting public university offers from sheer inability to pay even the already subsidized tuition fees.

Such are only some of reasons why Malaysia needs to embark on a serious welfare plan. When designed properly to extract most from less elastic sources to more elastic sources, we can inch closer to ensuring basic comfortable living standards for every Malaysian, and more importantly for them to have the means to ensure that for themselves. A bigger welfare budget is really crucial to enhance the means to achieve a respectable minimum standard of living for many low-income Malaysians.

Welfare Will Not Make Us Lazy

Aside from welfare straining government's coffers or cannibalizing growth, welfare opponents also worry about disincentive effects of tax-financed welfare programs. One other major argument against welfare is how it will make recipients lazy. I argue otherwise. Inheriting a bloated trust fund from your grandfather makes you lazy. Free education and free healthcare do not. That 77% of labor force are only SPM-qualified and below, sluggish wage growth due to lack of skills and qualification, relatively higher graduate unemployment compared to overall employment, and low insurance penetration for access to quality healthcare, only manifest how poor Malaysians are not too far off from those "stuck in a rut" as illustrated by Jeff Sachs. Though not necessarily dying of Malaria, their economic helplessness relative to other Malaysians enjoying a heftier share of Malaysia's growth can be likened to it. Siddiqui proposed that the standard of need fulfilment of an individual should depend on the average of the standard of living of the society that the individual lives in. This needs fulfilment include food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education. In richer states, it should also include transportation, care taking and attendance.

In the case of Malaysia, bigger welfare programs in education and health for example, will help raise the purchasing power for the average lower middle class Malaysians who are very much left behind in the curve of development. They may not be statistically considered poor, but it is increasingly harder for them to be that much better off than their parents. The path of social mobility for the "just above poor" group gets more blurred. Targeted and productive welfare is very necessary to demystify that social mobility path for them and get them started on the path of self-development.

Justifying Welfare for a Country as Rich as Malaysia

The most interesting case yet, for a bigger welfare program in Malaysia, is that the government budget is also significantly financed by non-tax sources. Indirect taxes (excise duties, sales tax) and non-tax revenues (investment income, permits, licensing) combined, contribute about as large as direct taxes to the government's 2012 revenue. Out of indirect tax, individual income tax is the least, at about 11.4 percent. The rest are due to petroleum income and corporate taxes.

What does this mean? First, given government revenue sources are status quo with our wealth of oil and natural resources, welfare programs need not even mean we have to start paying more personal income taxes. Second, there is much room still for welfare programs to positively contribute to employment empowerment, education and socio-economic well being of vulnerable Malaysians without necessarily resulting in laze, complacency or over-dependency.

In fact, over-dependency is only prevalent amongst selected groups who have been enjoying selective treatments by the government, rather than amongst the truly needy groups. While BR1M sings its own praises about how many Rakyat will benefit from it, there's a saying that "We should measure welfare's success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added."

Not Just Any Welfare, But Tactical Welfare for Economic Justice

My thesis is that welfare states, when successfully undertaken emulating as much as possible the successes of the social democratic model, is more inclusive to all citizens. Given our current circumstances, it is the best way to promote better productivity in situations of depressed wages, skills and productivity. To allegation that welfare will produce lazy citizens such as in the British case, can be dispelled by the relative success of the Nordic model.

Bearing in mind the need to historically scrutinize data and on-the-ground experiences when studying success stories of other nations, we recognize that arriving at a conclusion is not as simple as it seems. A large welfare programme in no way suggests redistributive intervention where the free market works fine without significant externalities, including fair international trade. Given our relative size, dependencies and advantages on a global scale, it is pivotal for Malaysia to endeavour a larger welfare budget which will ultimately enrich Malaysia, rather than impoverish it.

We dream of a world where grave imbalances cease to exist, where the most vulnerable groups within society are put where they can start making more of themselves. That world would see government intervention as introduced at the start of this address. In that good world, the government corrects externalities and directs resources to where separately functioning private incentives will not, in an ultimate goal of ensuring net positive social outcomes inclusively for Malaysia to yield exponential dividends to reap from.

"Power has only one duty - to secure the social welfare of the People" - Benjamin Disraeli

*Anas Alam Faizli is an oil and gas professional. He is pursuing a post-graduate doctorate, co-Founder of BLINDSPOT, Founding Executive Director of TFTN and tweets at @aafaizli 

"Allah" row; opportunity to re-brand

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 12:17 PM PDT


Is going to the courts over the "Allah" débâcle the best solution? In reality, winning or losing over the rights to use the word "Allah" in the Malay-language Bible will not be able to stop this political football from bouncing around by UMNO. If UMNO loses it's appeal in court, it has a uniting factor for Muslims to stand behind UMNO on the matter. If they win, it is a confidence booster to unite behind UMNO.

Kuo Yong Kooi 

Malaysian minorities are being used as a political football.
There is a clear pattern here that the Malaysian minorities are being used as a political football by the authorities for many years now. There are countless examples of this type of behaviour from the powers that be to continue on with this political football game to gain political mileage to stay in power.  

The "Allah" row, the Child Conversion Bill, accusations of the Christian group trying to proselytise to the Muslims, vernacular school, two churches being fire-bombed in January 2010, call for Malay Bible burning festival by Perkasa in January 2013, cow head demonstration against Hindu temple in August 2009, Lina Joy apostasy issue and the latest July 2013, two Malay right wing NGOs call for the closure of the Malaysian Vatican office for openly supporting the Malaysian Catholic Church's stand on the "Allah" row just to name a few major ones.

Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng started the noise by making a call in his 2012 Christmas message for the Malay-language Bible, to be freely available. That statement was used as a political mileage highly scored by UMNO against PAS. 

The perception that Pakatan is being run by DAP is real in the eyes of the Malay heartland voters. This issue is a point scorer for UMNO against PAS and Pakatan. UMNO will play it to the hilt over and over again in future elections.
Another point to consider on the recent Conversion Bill issue was that most Malay members of parliament from the Pakatan Pact did not come out to make a bold stand against the Child Conversion Bill. Anwar Ibrahim did relate the matter back to the days of Muhammad on the similar incidence but stated that he needed further consultation with the Pakatan Pact on this issue. Unlike the "Allah" débâcle, Tuan Guru Nik Aziz came out openly to say that Christians can use the word "Allah" in the Malay-language Bible. 

The Malay opposition members of the Pakatan pact are caught in this conundrum when the religion card was played on them. They do not want to be seen as not Islamic enough. Unless the Pakatan pact redraws the strategy of "PAS ganti UMNO", it will be hard for them to outwit UMNO on matters Islam against other religions. 

Pas Dewan Ulama chief Datuk Harun Taib in a recent July 13th, 2013 press statement reaffirmed his position on the Allah word is exactly the type of response the UMNO master minds wanted. It has a powerful divisive effect within the PAS rank and file and within the Pakatan Pact. This can shatter the people's faith on the Pakatan Pact. This "sandiwara" has already started to replay again leading up the the Kuala Besut by-election.

Why not start a political football team or openly back one instead?

The interesting part is that there is a new political reality emerged in the light of the recent GE-13 results. The current UMNO administration is now and will increasingly rely on the Christians majority East Malaysians to sustain a strong position in Putrajaya.

The question to ask is what are the best strategies that we can deploy to stop the UMNO administration from perpetuating this reckless and irresponsible path of dividing Malaysians?
Is going to the courts over the "Allah" débâcle the best solution? In reality, winning or losing over the rights to use the word "Allah" in the Malay-language Bible will not be able to stop this political football from bouncing around by UMNO. If UMNO loses it's appeal in court, it has a uniting factor for Muslims to stand behind UMNO on the matter. If they win, it is a confidence booster to unite behind UMNO.

The only way to stop the political football from bouncing around is to form a political football team or openly back one. By doing that, we can start directing the football to the direction we want to kick.

I have always worked against the idea of mixing religions and politics. The Church has demonstrated tremendous human rights abuses in the past centuries. I can forgive and forget if a religious based political party will always be a minority for the purpose of balance of power. If that balance of power is directed appropriately, it is effective to stop all the nonsense spewed on us by UMNO and its mouthpiece Utusan.

I believe that there is a potential for the Malaysian Christians to be a formal political force in East Malaysia. I guess the best way to start is to brainstorm on re-packaging the Christian brand that is prevalent in Malaysia at the moment. 
The heart of all religions is non materialistic; re-brand into Liberation Theology?

The throw away materialistic society that we are living at the moment is the anti-thesis of all religions. All the world great religions want us to live a simplistic lifestyle so that we can embark on a spiritual path of contemplation/prayers/meditation. All devout religious followers are also advised to help the poor and disenfranchised.

Liberation theology began in Latin America in 1950s to the 60s within the Catholic Church. It interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to a liberation of unjust economic, political, or social conditions in Latin America. 

Liberation theology had also influenced the people's power movement of the Philippine during the era of the Marcos dictatorship. The common question asked by Liberation Theologians was that if Jesus is alive today he would fight for the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised. I actually had a Filipino workmate in mid eighties who asked me this question. If Jesus is alive in Philippine today would he be working for Emalda Marcos or for the poor? That question changes my idea of what Christianity is.

The Latin America today was shaped to some extend by the activisms of the liberation theologians. Probably the financially rich Church congregations in West Malaysia should make a field trip to Latin America or the Philippines and see how they work and try to apply that to East Malaysia situation.

If the liberation theology idea is not palatable, try making a field trip to America and see how the Church lobby group works in the Republicans and Democratic parties.

If hypothetically the Malaysian Christian lobby managed to get fifteen to twenty Christians MPs from East Malaysia who are not corruptible by UMNO money politics, all those racial and religious issues that we have faced for the last few years including the ranting from Utusan might just go away overnight.

Some might argue that setting up a new political party may complicate the multi-cornered fights situation that were rampant in East Malaysia as shown in the last General Election. 

The opposition Pakatan pact has yet to find a remedy to that conundrum and that was one of the main reasons why BN won big in East Malaysia on the last 13th General Election. 

The multi ethnic and multi religious winning formula against BN is so complex that any extension of a new political party or a political force with a new theme could either help or hinder the situation, it remains to be seen. Using the unifying "Christian sister/brotherhoods" theme might be just what it is needed to put a common threat across the multi-cornered fights situation in East Malaysia. We don't know unless we try it out.

I am not from East Malaysia so it is hard for me to assess and make suggestions on how easy it is to gather the energies of the East Malaysians together through a Christian bloc rather than the current personal leaderships, ethnic, regional and sub indigenous division bloc. That diverse divisions were shown to be disastrous for the opposition forces in the past. It's about time all the opposition forces sit down and rehash an agreeable and winning formula to that conundrum.

The UMNO right wing group endless cycle of the "sandiwara" on Christians versus Muslim rivalry might well lead to a natural emergence of a united front of an East Malaysian Christian bloc to counter this situation.

Resources most likely can come from the financially rich West Malaysian Church congregations. the characteristics of the West Malaysian Christian congregations are different from the East Malaysians. The West are more modern, trendy, well-educated, well connected group whereas the East are more traditional indigenous based. The Liberation Theology type of approach might be suitable for East Malaysia. The question posed is "is there a political will there"? If there is, anything is possible in the world of politics.

To stay apolitical is not a good option

If the Malaysian Christian groups decide to continue to remain apolitical, going to court over the Allah issue will only settle that particular matter. There will be more battles to come as we have previously seen the clear patterns of endless attacks from the reckless UMNO party machinery. 

Another point is that the Christians should seek out partnerships from a bigger group like The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism,Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) to defend this together if they want to remain apolitical. Defending the "Allah" issue alone falls prey to the master plan of divide and rule from the authorities. Unfortunately the word "Allah" does not affect the other religious groups. 
I also have difficulty grappling the idea of spiritual growth has to be based on a particular word use. I was often told by my Christians friends that "god" is hard to describe, god is all powerful, god is omnipresent, god is everything. If that is the premise of what you believe then why argue over a word that we all agreed that it is hard to describe with words?

The same point of argument can be found in Buddhism. Buddhists had always said that it is very hard to describe "Nibbana". If you have achieved enlightenment, there are no words that can describe that experience. Buddhist that are not enlightened are encouraged to have faith in practising a "path" that would lead to enlightenment laid by the Buddha who is enlightened. 

This logic would tell us that once you have understood and experienced enlightenment, you can call it whatever you want. People would find it hard to understand when you try to describe it with words.

So to extend that logic to the argument over the use of the word "Allah", it can be any other form of expression if you want other people to understand you without using the word Allah. You can just look up to the sky or point your index figure up there, if people understood what you meant, that's all it needed. Assessing the intuitive "right" brain is the key in deeper understanding of any religions. The logical thinking "left brain" are of little use when it comes to meditation, contemplation and connectedness with god.
Putting the "constitutional right" argument aside, the oxymoron here is we are going to the courts to argue over a use of a word that is hard to describe in words. 

The Buddha described a "path" where followers can practice to get an understanding of what enlightenment is. The Christians and Muslims also have their "paths". I would agree with our  Malaysian Christian friends that the courts are needed to mitigate a dispute when followers are not allowed to follow a particular path, but a word is not a path. As a Buddhist, I've always been taught that the path and the practice is more important than words. Words are ninety five percent rubbish when it comes to meditation in Buddhism.

The text and the words used are just guidelines for followers to practice a path. That was why you have the "old" and the "new" testament to guide practitioners at different times in history. 

Unfortunately humans had always misinterpreted whatever texts that were written in history. This is a fundamental flaw of the mind that human beings carry. It interpret and redefine what ever they have read according to their own prism/biases/world views that had been imposed/impregnated in their mind through cultural conditioning and upbringing. That is why all religions are not monolithic, this topic is best left for another article.

If you think you have the right practising path, we can always use a different word to describe it. There is really no need for any further arguments on the use of a particular word to practice the religion.

If we agree on that, it is best to drop the case because the basic flaws of our mind will lead to more cumulative conflicts over many other matters in the future and that can lead to a disastrous outcome.

As a Buddhist I was always taught to take all mishap or misfortune as an opportunity to learn and move on positively. As for this case, winning the "Allah" word use case in court or redefining the word "Allah" in the Malay-language bible will not stop your religious community from be used as a political football.

Another real risk that we may face if the religious minorities decide to stay apolitical is that there are always a possibility of defections in the Malaysian political scene. If hypothetically in a situation where the opposition wins only a small majority in a future election, we might see a scenario where the conservative "Ulama" factions of Pas made a move to defect over to the UMNO camp and upset the opposition's march to Putrajaya.

If you really think hard for the long term benefits of all ethnic and religious minorities, forming a formidable political force by taking the opportunity of the current political climate can be a positive way out of the predicament. If not can someone think of a better way?


Reflections on Ramadan: Beyond The Fast

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 12:10 PM PDT


Malaysians must fast; it is the law and not as it should be a matter of faith and personal conviction. Consequently the spiritual value is often missed, or worse, corrupted as manifested by culinary extravaganzas and ostentatious piety. Malaysians simply rearranged their gluttony from daytime to nighttime. Where is Ramadan's spirit of restraint? 

M. Bakri Musa

[Presented at the South Valley Islamic Community's Iftar, Morgan Hill, Ca, July 13, 2013.]

When giving talks on religious topics especially during Ramadan, it is customary to quote generously the Koran and hadith. In deference to those who are far more knowledgeable on matters hadith and those whose tajweed are exquisite when reciting the Holy Book, I will depart from tradition. I do not wish to strain their patience!

Instead I will share my perspective on Ramadan drawing on three insights:  one, my earlier experience as a surgeon in an Oregon lumber town; two, the findings from a landmark experiment in social psychology; and three, comparing Ramadan in Malaysia to America.


Surgeon in Oregon

As a young surgeon in Oregon, I treated many workers with severe injuries from the huge local sawmill. To better understand their injuries, the manager kindly took me on a tour of his factory.

Those massive logs were effortlessly thrown by giant cranes onto steel conveyors with the ease of your tossing away used chopsticks. Then the logs were spun around by rollers with stubby studs to be de-barked, much like a housewife peeling carrots. Then high-speed circular saws would slice through the logs back and forth, reducing them to pieces of lumber. If not for the bone-shaking floor vibrations, the high-pitched sound reminded me of a plugged-up vacuum cleaner.

Those pieces were then mechanically sorted and then forced through yet more spinning saws to be cut into specified lengths. Finally they were subjected to human touch and scrutiny as they rolled towards the finishing line, pieces with splits, nodes and uneven cuts having been shunted aside. Then they were stacked and carried into a special room to be "cured."

This curing room was quiet and cool, its humidity, temperature and airflow strictly controlled. The lack of noise and vibrations was instantly felt; it was a tranquil oasis in marked contrast to the rest of the mill. On the factory floor we shouted and hand-gestured; in the curing room we whispered and cupped our mouths. Even the rhythm of our walk changed, from brisk noisy strides to soft silent steps, as in a mosque. We feared disturbing the sanctity of the room.

The manager told me that after the stresses of being cut, pushed, spun and thrown around, the lumber needed "rest time" so they could withstand the inevitable subsequent stresses at the construction sites or furniture factories. Without this curing, the lumber would readily bend, splinter or even break, soiling the factory's brand.

If an inanimate object – wood – has to be "cured" before it faces its next phase of stresses, imagine how much more humans would need this time and space. This is what Ramadan means; a "time out" so we could pause and reflect. After all we too have been through the mill in our regular daily lives!

Plants and trees too need this change of pace. The forced dormancy of the long cold weather ensures a full bloom come spring, and with that a bountiful harvest. Winter is the plants' Ramadan.


Children and their Marshmallows

My second insight comes from the Stanford marshmallow study on preschool children. They were each given a marshmallow, with instructions that should they refrain from eating it for 15 minutes, they would be rewarded with an extra one. As expected, some devoured theirs right away, others took longer. Nonetheless there were those who successfully restrained themselves and were thus duly rewarded. The study shows that individual differences towards instant gratification could be discerned very early.

If that was the only conclusion, the study would not be regarded as "one of the most successful behavioral experiments."

Years later when those kids were of college age, the lead experimenter, prompted by anecdotal accounts, decided to do a follow up study. It turned out those "impulse controlled" children (those who successfully deferred devouring their treats) did better academically as well as disciplinary-wise in school. Indeed, the ability to delay eating marshmallows was a better predictor of scholastic achievement than IQ tests or parent's educational level!

This insight is fully leveraged by enlightened educators. The largest operator of charter schools in America, KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), emphasized character building as well as a rigorous curriculum. It is remarkably successful despite its students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This marshmallow study has other vast implications. If a culture is predisposed to immediate gratification, its members would not likely save. Low capital formation (from lack of savings because of this propensity for immediate gratification) leads to economic stagnation. Malays would do well to ponder this.

The marshmallow study also helps explain why those who acquire wealth through inheritance, lottery, or preferential treatment rarely keep it while those who acquire it through hard work do. The latter have self-discipline – key to their success – and more importantly, to maintaining that success. Again, a point for Malays to ponder!

Read more at: http://www.bakrimusa.com/archives/reflections-on-ramadan-beyond-the-fast 

Change in Umno unlikely despite rumblings

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:52 AM PDT


(FMT) - A new leader may give it the glitter it lost over the years but a failed coup by the Sabah MPs will not only bury Razaleigh for good, it will also bring a large fog over Umno.

An underground movement is emerging within Umno, one that may alter the political landscape if it were to succeed

In the aftermath of the 13th general election, talk has been revived about pushing Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to take over the top Umno post from Najib Tun Razak.

The talk comes not only from within Umno, but also from other BN parties, including those in Sabah, and the opposition parties as well.

BN members, including some from Umno, want change at the top as the coalition figures out how to rope in new parties and new faces to consolidate its rule over the nation. There is little doubt that BN will have to adapt to the new reality created by Umno's outright domination within the coalition and the extreme arrogance of some of its leaders.

The blasting of the Home Ministry by BN and Umno MPs in Sabah over the Lahad Datu incursion is yet another sign of trouble brewing within the party. But the question is, whether the freedom to take pot shots at federal leaders by party members from Sabah or Sarawak will erode Najib's dream of a rule without hassle?

It is also like asking if Umno will be split into two at a juncture in its history where it won the elections with more seats than in 2008, controlling more states than any other party and monopolising the cabinet.

Read more at: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2013/07/15/change-in-umno-unlikely-despite-rumblings/ 

Menteri: Elak makan ayam kalau harga naik

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:50 AM PDT


(Bernama) - Menteri Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaaan Datuk Hasan Malek hari ini mengajak orang ramai 'menukar' selera daripada memakan ayam kepada menu lain seperti ikan dan daging sebagai usaha mengekang kenaikan harga ternakan itu.

Beliau berkata langkah itu dianggap perlu memandangkan terdapat pihak tidak bertanggungjawab yang cuba mengambil kesempatan menjelang musim perayaan Hari Raya Aidilfitri dengan menaikkan harga ayam sewenang-wenangnya.

Katanya ia juga bertujuan mengajar pihak berkenaan yang cuba mengaut keuntungan supaya sedar tindakan tidak bertanggungjawab mereka tidak akan berhasil.

"Pengguna perlu guna kuasa untuk ajar pihak tidak bertanggungjawab, kalau tengok harga naik jangan beli ayam tapi beli daging pula," katanya ketika berucap pada Program Pemimpin Bersama Rakyat di Pulau Perhentian dekat sini, hari ini.

Ketika ditemui pemberita kemudiannya, Hasan mengulangi gesaan kepada peniaga supaya tidak menaikkan harga ayam sesuka hati sebaliknya menanam perasaan mendahulukan rakyat agar negara terus sejahtera.

"Saya lihat masih ada peniaga yang degil. Fikirlah balik...pada saya letaklah kepentingan negara lebih daripada lain-lain supaya kita tak jadi macam negara lain yang huru-hara.

"Kita sedang pantau dan cari punca kenaikan harga ayam adakah daripada pembekal, pemborong atau peniaga sendiri," katanya.

Selain itu Hasan berkata kira-kira 74 wakil industri termasuk pembekal ayam dan pengeluar gula memberi jaminan untuk tidak menaikkan harga barangan pada musim perayaan Aidilfitri selain memastikan bekalan mencukupi.

"Persatuan Penternak Unggas Melayu di Selangor telah memberi jaminan akan memberi sokongan kepada kementerian untuk memastikan bekalan sentiasa cukup supaya harga kekal," katanya.

Mengenai Ops Harga 2013, Hasan berkata sejak dilancar pada 6 Julai lalu hingga Khamis lepas (11 Julai) sebanyak 26,854 pemeriksaan dilakukan di seluruh negara.

Beliau berkata daripada keseluruhan jumlah pemeriksaan itu 60 kes telah dikenakan tindakan dengan jumlah rampasan bernilai RM10,071 dan kompaun RM7,150.

"Kes-kes yang dikenakan tindakan itu 59 membabitkan kesalahan tidak meletak tanda harga atau senarai harga bagi barangan yang dijual dan satu lagi kes dikenakan tindakan kerana menjual barang harga kawalan (gula kasar) melebihi harga maksimum yang ditetapkan," katanya. 

In Kuala Besut, BN takes advantage of opponent’s gaffe

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:47 AM PDT


(The Malay Mail) - Barisan Nasional (BN) is one up against PAS in the Kuala Besut state seat by-election after PAS candidate Azlan Yusof slipped by saying he would hire assistants to serve the constituents as he would be busy attending to his businesses.

The interview, which appeared in Harakah online, is now going viral as BN has picked it up and is using it in its campaign, which has so far been mild and tame, in an area where religious issues were, at one time, splitting families and friends.

Azlan, 48, is a local boy but has businesses mostly in Kelantan, 50km from Kuala Besut.

BN has been quick to pick up the interview, stressing that an assemblyman should be more in tune with the people and not merely assign his responsibilities to employees.

The ceramah lined up have also not attracted interest among the locals, probably as the general election had just concluded around two months ago.

BN's line of campaign is "An Ustaz's son, professional and a young man" for the voters while PAS is going with "A man who can develop Kuala Besut".

Leaders from both sides of the political divide take to speaking in nightly ceramah but attendances have been small.

No more than 150 people, consisting of locals and outside supporters, gather at these ceramah at a time.

The candidates themselves are focusing on one-on-one meetings, leaving the leaders and outside campaigners to handle the ceramah and raise issues for the 17,000-odd voters to analyse and decide.

The locals, however, seem to be taking things easy despite Kuala Besut being only 20km away from Jertih.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-kuala-besut-bn-takes-advantage-of-opponents-gaffe?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#sthash.HocIl3QC.dpuf 

Facebook shuts down Malaysian sex bloggers page

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:41 AM PDT


(ABN News) - The troubled duo went on to blame the Muslims, the media and MCA for rampant reporting against them, tweeting: "Argh, f**k them all… The butthurt Muslims, the feel-good heroic Chinese, the reporters, the Facebook staff, etc." 

Controversial sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee finally got a taste of their own medicine. Facebook has shut down their erotic Alvivi page permanently.

Confirming the news on their official Twitter @AlviviSwingers, the couple said: "FB's staff replied: 'Your Page has received strong negative feedback…' YADDA YADDA YADDA! F**k them!!!"

The troubled duo went on to blame the Muslims, the media and MCA for rampant reporting against them, tweeting: "Argh, f**k them all… The butthurt Muslims, the feel-good heroic Chinese, the reporters, the Facebook staff, etc."

Undeterred, they pledge to come back bigger, stronger and nastier. "You may shut us down now, but we'll be back. And we'll be stronger & better than ever! NANTIKAHLAH. Enjoy your Ramadhan for now, "friends"."

Tan and Lee sparked public furore on Friday with their offensive buka puasa greeting. In their posting, the notorious blogging couple suggested that the best way to foster the 1Malaysia spirit is by having Malaysians of all faith to exchange food during their holy festivals.

Ending their Ramadhan greetings with Selamat Berbuka Puasa (break your fast) with Bak Kut Teh, the duo described the Chinese herbal pork soup as wangi, enak, menyelerakan (fragrant, delicious, appetising).

They also included a Halal logo in their bak kut teh photo, which they described as "dark humour".

Even though they eventually apologised, edited the photo and included real halal food, the damage was already done.

Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek called it "unacceptable" and has vowed to take action against them.

MCA Public Complaints Bureau chief Datuk Seri Michael Chong has also condemned the act, saying that the bloggers have given Chinese community a bad name.

The Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission (MCMC) confirmed that they are currently investigating the blogging couple. 

Anifah: Foreign interference in 'Allah' issue unwelcomed

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:37 AM PDT


(Bernama) - Malaysia does not welcome foreign interference or influence on the usage of the word 'Allah', said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
In a statement today, Anifah said as a sovereign country, such interference would only stoke religious sentiments in the country and would not help in contributing towards ensuring racial and religious stability and harmony in the country.

"The matter (word Allah issue) case is currently being heard at the Court of Appeal and all parties should let the case be determined according to the rule of law of the country," he said.

Vatican City ambassador to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino was reported to have lauded local church's campaign to include the Arabic word 'Allah' to refer to GOD, amongst Christians.

The archbishop's open support has not gone down well with several Muslim groups who have considered the move as insensitive and highly offensive for Muslims and Malaysians.


Former senior policemen voice concern over need for EO to remove crooks faster

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:33 AM PDT


(The Star) - The abolition of EO released hardcore criminals by the thousands into society in one stroke without adequate preparation on the ground by the police, other agencies and society in general.

While human rights issues were instrumental behind the abolition of the Emergency Ordinance (EO), the plight of the victims of these criminals is seemingly forgotten.

Former senior policemen who have dealt with these victims personally feel that there is a need for this preventive law to remove hardcore criminals off the streets faster.

According to former Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar, preventive laws were intelligence-based and not "prosecution based", which meant it got these criminals off the streets much faster.

"In a trial, the law favours the criminal nine to one, and shouldering the burden of proof is much harder against violent and organised criminals.

"Their victims and witnesses would not cooperate to testify in open court due to fear," he told The Star recently.

Hanif said his first thought when the EO was abolished was that crimes, particularly violent ones, would escalate immediately.

"The abolition of EO released hardcore criminals by the thousands into society in one stroke without adequate preparation on the ground by the police, other agencies and society in general.

"We are talking about mostly hardened criminals who would naturally see the abolition and release as a victory, rather a reward for good behaviour," said Hanif, who added that changes must also be made to the executive-appointed advisory board to make sure they are committed and competent to prevent any kind of abuse of the EO.

"This is important because the previous EO had degenerated into abuse due to incompetence, lack of dedication and allegations of widespread corruption," said Hanif, who pointed out that it would be good for Malaysia to look at a comprehensive law like the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisa­tions (Rico) Act in the United States.

"It would be ideal to have both the Rico Act and preventive laws until the police are sufficiently reformed and retrained to slowly rely less on such laws."

Former Selangor police chief Datuk Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah said he had personally seen what violent criminals were capable of in intimidating witnesses.

"When I was a policeman in Sarawak, these witnesses would come forward and cry to me and ask for help.

"I have seen some with their limbs cut off but what stuck was a victim who had his tongue cut off so that he would remain silent," he said. 

Amid hue and cry, Rafizi speaks up for TITAS

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:31 AM PDT


(The Malay Mail) - "Politically, it's not helping when it's made too much of a fuss, because it fits the Malay right-wing argument that the Chinese and non-Malays refuse to understand and look down on everything Islam" 

PKR's Rafizi Ramli has come out in support of the controversial Islamic and Asian Civilisation Studies (TITAS) subject soon to be compulsory in private tertiary institutions, even as Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ally DAP pushes to reverse the decision.

Disagreeing with the view that Putrajaya's decision to impose TITAS upon Malaysian students at private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) indicated "creeping Islamisation" in the country, the PKR strategy pointed out that the subject was "pretty much educational".

"Politically, it's not helping when it's made too much of a fuss, because it fits the Malay right-wing argument that the Chinese and non-Malays refuse to understand and look down on everything Islam," Rafizi (picture) told The Malay Mail Online yesterday.

But he stressed that politics aside, TITAS should not affect one's cumulative grade point average (CGPA). Malaysian Studies, which local students in public and private universities are required to take and pass, does not count towards the aggregate score.

"If people have to take it to learn, I think more and more people will embrace it and learn it with open minds," said the Pandan MP. "If universities are run more on the basis of knowledge rather than churning out degrees, I don't think it's going to be too much of a problem."

Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee from the Centre of Policy Initiatives (CPI) said yesterday that making TITAS mandatory for all Malaysian tertiary students was Putrajaya's attempt to impose "ketuanan Islam" (Islamic supremacy) on to the country.

Former Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin said on Friday, however, that there was nothing wrong with learning about Islam, the religion of the majority of Malaysians, pointing out that Islamic scholars similarly study other faiths such as Christianity and Judaism.

The prominent Islamic cleric also warned the DAP that its opposition towards TITAS would damage the goodwill it has built up with the Malay-Muslim community.

On Friday, the DAP's Seremban MP Anthony Loke said that forcing TITAS onto students would create a negative impression of the subject, instead of fostering communal understanding.

MCA publicity chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie went further to say that the move would incite religious tension in multicultural Malaysia. She called instead for TITAS to include studies of other major religions and civilisations in the world.

Despite his approval of TITAS, Rafizi acknowledged that the national education system may not have enough emphasis on the study of Chinese, Indian or European civilisations.

"But I don't think learning about Islamic civilisation is wrong," he said. "People may argue that enough is being put in secondary school, but there's no limit to knowledge."

Historian Dr Ranjit Malhi Singh complained in 2011 that the secondary school history texts are too Islamic- and Malay-centric, noting that five out of 10 chapters in the current Form Four history textbook revolve around Islamic history compared to just one chapter in the earlier edition.

He has also pointed out that more than a quarter of the text on Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Hinduism was reduced from the previous edition.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, said in Parliament on Thursday that TITAS will become mandatory for local students, regardless of their religion, at IPTS starting in September.

He said the move was meant to streamline the requirements between public and private tertiary institutions.

Expanding on his objection, Loke told The Malay Mail Online yesterday that the Education Ministry's decision on TITAS was politically motivated.

"He is trying to shore up his political capital in the run-up to the Umno general assembly," Loke said, referring to Muhyiddin. "It's not good for our education system when politics are being brought into the education system."

Heng told The Malay Mail Online that making TITAS a compulsory subject was akin to moving "backwards".

"We should be moving forward," she said. "We want our generation to be a global people and we want to make them more inclusive."

Study: Women drivers are angrier than men

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 11:28 AM PDT


Showing her displeasure: It is rare for Malaysian women drivers to externalise their anger when on the road.  

(The Star) - Discourtesy on the road, such as cutting queues, refusing to give way, failing to use indicators before tur­ning or changing lanes and triple parking on roadsides were found to be main causes of fury.

Malaysian women drivers have been found to be angrier than men behind the wheel.

However, despite their higher le­vels of anger, women drivers suffer fewer crashes and road fatalities.

This was revealed by results of a five-year study undertaken by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros).

The survey was to identify the number of agitated drivers, categorised under three groups – high-anger drivers, medium-anger drivers and low-anger drivers.

Miros research fellow and psychologist Karen Goonting said despite their inclination to be angrier, fewer women drivers were involved in accidents because they tend to keep their anger bottled up.

"Men are more prone to act out on their anger and may express it phy­sically, as opposed to women. It may also be due to cultural factors. It is not generally acceptable for Asian women to be outwardly aggressive," she told The Star.

Goonting said the downside to this was that women suffered more from depression than men as a result of turning their anger inwards.

Another surprising finding of the study was the demographics of where angry drivers were likely to be.

In spite of its scenic beaches and peaceful towns, Terengganu topped the list as the Malaysian state with the peak percentage of high-anger drivers.

The survey, however, did not look into the causes making drivers in Terengganu and the other states angrier, or less angry in some cases.

The state that emerged second in the list was Malacca while Kuala Lumpur was third.

It was speculated that the probable causes for angry drivers in Malacca might be the narrow streets and difficulties in finding parking spots.


The survey did not identify whe­ther the drivers who displayed anger were locals or tourists who throng the historical city during weekends and public holidays.

In the case of Kuala Lumpur, the daily traffic jams and long commutes are the likely causes of more high-anger drivers.

Kedah emerged as the state with the least number of high-anger dri­vers but the reason for this remains unclear.

Perhaps the abundant padi fields have a calming effect on drivers there.

According to the study, 18% of the 13.3 million registered drivers in Malaysia would come under the category of high-anger drivers.

"That's very high. That means there are 2.4 million extremely angry drivers on our roads, which increases the probability of accidents," Goonting said.

She said high-anger drivers were more likely to lose control of their vehicles, suffer loss of concentration and display verbal, physical or vehi­cular aggression on the road.

"And with this type of drivers, the anger sparked off is likely to stay with them throughout the rest of the journey," she said.

Malaysian drivers were also found to be three or four times angrier than drivers in the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey under the study," she said.

Discourtesy on the road, such as cutting queues, refusing to give way, failing to use indicators before tur­ning or changing lanes and triple parking on roadsides were found to be main causes of fury.

"The second strongest trigger is traffic obstructions, such as construction or repair works along roads. Other factors include rude or hostile gestures, driving too slowly, or getting stopped by the police," Goonting added.

She hoped that the findings of the study would help Malaysian drivers be more aware about the dangers of driving in an angry state and why they should always keep their cool while on the road.

The survey was also meant as an aid to traffic police so that they could conduct more efficient enforcement in the states with large numbers of high-anger drivers.

The study, conducted between 2009 and last year, measured the anger levels of 5,248 drivers (cars, buses and other vehicles, except motorcycles) in more than 103 districts throughout the country.

The drivers were asked to rate how angry they felt on a scale of from one to five (five being very angry, one being not angry) on matters ranging from illegal driving to hostile gestures.

High-anger drivers are defined as those who get angry about 642 times over an average of 300 driving days a year – two to three times higher than low-anger drivers.

Low-anger drivers are those who get angry about 264 times. They are angry less frequently and don't keep anger as long as others. 

Alvivi apologise for offensive ‘buka puasa’ greeting calling it their “stupidest stunt”

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 04:26 AM PDT

(The Star) - Sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee have issued an apology over their offensive Selamat Berbuka Puasa 'greeting', calling it their "stupidest stunt".

In a 1:22 minute video uploaded on their youtube channel SexcussionsAlvivi, the couple apologised for the insensitive posting, saying it was done in humour.

"We are recording this video to ask for forgiveness for offending Muslims in this holy month of Ramadan," said Tan in the video.

"We sincerely regret offending religious beliefs and sensitivites in multi-cultural Malaysia," he added, speaking in Malay.

He said that they had no intent to insult or ridicule the Muslim faith, nor incite racial conflict.

He ended the video by saying "selamat Aidilfitri dan maaf zahir batin (happy Aidilfitri and apologies for all discretions)".

Though present, Lee did not speak during the video.

In a 9.10pm post on their twitter @AlviviSwingers, the couple tweeted "I think this "halal pork for Ramadhan" stunt was the stupidest one we ever pulled. Even I had to admit it. We, were, wrong."

On Thursday, the duo uploaded a picture earlier this week depicting them eating bak kut teh and describing it as 'wangi, enak, menyelerakan' (fragrant, delicious, appetising).

The picture also had a 'halal' logo in the corner.

They were panned online for their insensitivity and receiving a warning from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

They removed their offensive posting shortly after, replacing it with a picture of them eating ketupat, rendang and curry puffs.

However, their Facebook page had since been removed entirely.

According to their twitter, Facebook administrators had done so due to "strong negative feedback".


Couple who humiliated Ramadan to give statement at MACC today

Posted: 14 Jul 2013 04:00 AM PDT

(Bernama) - Two individuals who humiliated the Islamic month of Ramadan are expected to be at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) office today to give their statements.

MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, in a statement today, confirmed that Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee had been called by the commission to have their statements recorded to facilitate investigation.

Tan and Lee had uploaded in their Facebook website photographs of dishes with caption that touched the sensitivity of Islam in the country.

In another case, also involving the uploading in Facebook, of a photograph of a roast piglet which carried the halal logo, Mohamed Sharil said the owner of the Facebook account was neither a Malaysian nor residing in the country.

"We have reported the matter to Facebook to request them to block or delete the account," he added.

Mohamed Sharil advised the public to immediately report to the Facebook administrator if there were instances of people insulting the sanctity of Islam on the social website.

Meanwhile, following much protest from various quarters, Tan and Lee had apologised for their action through a video recording which was uploaded on YouTube this afternoon.

In the video recording, which was in Malay and with English subtitle, Tan said they had no intention of insulting, humiliating or making a mockery of Islam, as well as to create racial tension.

"We regret our action in not respecting the religious belief and sensitivity in Malaysia's multi-racial society," he said.  


Catholic Envoy in Malaysia Runs Into First Dustup

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 06:54 PM PDT

(The Wall Street Journal) - The Vatican's new envoy to Malaysia called for interfaith dialogue this week but instead found himself taking a tongue-lashing by two Muslim groups.

The dustup happened after Archbishop Joseph Marino gently weighed into a fire-hot court case in Muslim-majority Malaysia over whether non-Muslims should be able to use the word "Allah." The local Catholic Church's newspaper had used the word "Allah" — the word Muslims use for God — leading to a case that it won at a mid-level court in a ruling that is under appeal.

In an interview Thursday with a small group of reporters, including from The Wall Street Journal, the archbishop said he supported the arguments in a fact sheet put out by the Christian Federation of Malaysia on why  Christians should be allowed to use "Allah."

"In terms of how they presented the arguments in favor, it seems to be quite logical and acceptable," he said.

Two local online news outlets invited to the talk characterized his comments as supporting the use of "Allah."

That drew a strong response from the far right group Perkasa and  a newly formed Muslim NGO Jati. The groups demanded the envoy retract his statement or else they would ask for the government to close the embassy and ask the envoy to leave the country, according to The Malaysian Insider.

It's unclear whether the tussle will undermine the archbishop's stated goals of helping nurture interfaith harmony.

Muslims and Christians have largely lived in harmony in Malaysia, but tensions have grown in recent years. Of Malaysia's 28 million people, Christians make up about 9 percent of the population, while Muslims are 61% of the population.

The 60-year old Roman Catholic archbishop Marino arrived in Malaysia in mid-April as the first papal ambassador or apostolic nuncio to Malaysia. In the interview in his embassy's living room and a talk afterwards with The Wall Street Journal, he touched on topics ranging from the meaning of God to his love of mystery novels, and Dan Brown in particular. He also has yet to try durian, the stinky fruit that people tend to either love or hate.

He described his primary role as being "the constant link between Pope Francis and the local Catholic community, primarily to the bishops."

He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in January, two years after Malaysia established diplomatic ties with the Vatican.

Archbishop Marino  is no stranger to living in a Muslim majority country. Prior to his posting here, he was the Holy See's envoy to Bangladesh for five years.

"The first thing I came to learn was the beauty of Islam, and it is indeed a religion of peace and harmony," he said. "Its spiritual components of seeking God are profound. That was the joy that I have, if I may say, with my deep contact with Islam in a country that is predominantly Muslim."

Having served in Bangladesh for so many years, Archbishop Marino has developed a deep interest in inter-faith dialogue, he said, something which the small Christian community there was very active in.

In Malaysia, Archbishop Marino said he was eager to be a part of any inter-religious dialogue.

He said that inter-religious dialogue it is a gift to society because it assures society that religion will never be a source of discord.

"Religion cannot be a source of discord. It is against the very  nature of religion that we fight over religion. It is against the very nature of God. … So not only is inter-religious dialogue something among peoples of faith, it is also something that peoples of faith give to society – harmony , tolerance, living together, working together."


Read more here: http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/07/13/catholic-envoy-in-malaysia-runs-into-first-dustup/


Young professionals in Malaysia struggle to own property

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 06:47 PM PDT

With the oversupply of high-end condominiums shadowing the property market, fresh graduates and young professionals may have to either send out an SOS to their parents for cash or live at home because having "my own space" just got a little tougher.

Christina Chin, The Star/Asia News Network

Malaysia - Wanting and actually being able to afford your own place are two very different things.

With the oversupply of high-end condominiums shadowing the property market, fresh graduates and young professionals may have to either send out an SOS to their parents for cash or live at home because having "my own space" just got a little tougher.

Fresh graduate K.T.S. Chua, 23, who recently took out a RM30,000 personal loan to start a hotdog business, is relieved at narrowly missing the July new personal loan cap ruling but the shorter home loan repayment period has dampened the budding entrepreneur's plan for a bachelor pad.

He currently lives at home with his parents and two brothers.

"I was looking to get a place of my own; unfortunately, the new ruling will gravely affect my plans to purchase a home. Without the new cap, it is already so hard for me to buy property and I will have to put it on hold.

"Needless to say, I am really concerned about the higher monthly repayments and qualifying for the housing loan," he sighs.

Most of his friends who have just started working are "fuming" over the new ruling, the Penangite shares.

Unless you are from a rich family, plans of owning a home will have to be put on the back burner, they feel.

"Those from wealthy families can ask their parents to support them in purchasing a house. But I think it's safe to say that many more fresh graduates will be staying with their parents until they are more stable and able to move out on their own," he says.

At the end of the day, he cites high property prices as the biggest problem, not the new ruling.

He laments how property prices keep increasing but the salaries of the fresh graduates and even those who have been working for years have not.

Lecturer Cheryl Withaneachi, 30, agrees.

The Teluk Intan lass, who currently lives in Petaling Jaya, says the new ruling makes it difficult even for professionals to consider buying a house.

On top of rising house prices, the situation becomes practically impossible, as though housing is only meant for the urban rich these days, she grumbles.

She says that with higher repayments, it would be more practical for her to continue renting despite having "seriously considered" putting the monthly rental towards purchasing a house.

Cheryl started working almost eight years ago and is currently renting a house for RM1,500 - not inclusive of utilities which, she says, is pretty high.

"Many of my friends who are around my age cannot afford a house and this is not only due to the ruling of late but the exorbitant house and apartment prices.

"I dread to think how fresh graduates or those who do not earn very much cope," she says, adding that fresh graduates who are based in the same location as their parents will definitely opt to stay in the family home due to the increasing living costs of transportation and housing.

"The rest of us who are not from the city have no choice but to struggle.

"The only way to buy a house is if it is jointly bought. So if you are married, the combined funds allow for more flexibility to purchase your first home but in my case (being single), it is a whole different ball game," she says, before calling on the government to look into house prices, instead of car prices, as a person can live without the latter.

"Paying through our nose for accommodation without actually owning the property is painful," she adds.

Single mother Fatimah Zakaria, 34, is also feeling the heat,

The frustrated civil servant, who currently lives with her adorable six-year-old daughter in Shah Alam, has been scouting around for a place in Selangor for some time now but it keeps getting harder due to high prices "that just keep rising".


Read more here: http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Business/Story/A1Story20130714-437011.html


Voters your masters, PAS tells Ahmad Said after ‘stingy’ rebuke

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 05:53 PM PDT


(The Malay Mail) - The BN administration in the east coast state is now clinging on by one seat in the 32-spot assembly, after it won just 17 seats to Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) 15 in Election 2013

The BN administration in the east coast state is now clinging on by one seat in the 32-spot assembly, after it won just 17 seats to Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) 15 in Election 2013 - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/voters-your-masters-pas-tells-ahmad-said-after-stingy-rebuke?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#sthash.cRY3J4vk.dpuf
Datuk Seri Ahmad Said was today reminded  that the government was subservient to voters rather than the opposite, a day after the Terengganu mentri besar chided the state's voters for being "stingy" in their support for Barisan Nasional (BN).

While launching a low-cost housing project yesterday, Ahmad Said had categorised Terengganu voters as ungrateful despite the aid that he said has been lavished upon them.

"Please look at your own performance before you blame the people ... It is not acceptable to blame the people in a democracy, since the people are the masters," PAS's Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told reporters here today.

The PAS central working committee member said that BN's dismal performance in the 13th general election was an indicator of the people's disenchantment.

The BN administration in the east coast state is now clinging on by one seat in the 32-spot assembly, after it won just 17 seats to Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) 15 in Election 2013. One of its assemblymen died last month, triggering the July 24 by-election that will determine if the government stands or falls.

Today, PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub highlighted the fluid nature of Terengganu voters, pointing out that BN had previously managed to win the 2004 and 2008 general elections comfortably.

BN had wrested Terengganu back from PAS's short-lived rule in 2004 under the leadership of former mentri besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh. BN won 28 seats compared to PR's four.

Despite keeping Terengganu in 2008, BN had won fewer seats, taking 24 to PR's eight.

This later fell to the precarious 17-seat win in 2013, for which Ahmad reprimanded Terengganu residents yesterday, blaming them for leaving his administration at risk of what could be Malaysia's first-ever hung assembly.

"The government has never tricked the people ... But the people are actually too 'kedekut' (stingy) to give their votes to BN," Ahmad said during the launch of a low-cost housing project here.

"Sometimes the Terengganu folks, I don't know, when you promise them the moon, the stars, the heavens, they forget the deeds of BN."

Kuala Besut is considered an Umno stronghold, as it has won there by over 2,000 votes in the previous two elections. But the party and the larger BN coalition are sparing no effort to ensure that it does not fall into PR's hands.

BN's Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman will face local boy from PAS, Azlan Yusof, for the Terengganu state seat in the July 24 by-election which was called following the death of Dr A. Rahman Mokhtar on June 26 from lung cancer.

In Election 2013, Dr Rahman had defeated PAS's Napisah Ismail with a comfortable 2,434-vote majority. The state seat has 17,679 registered voters, of which 98 per cent are Malays.

Muslim group claims Vatican man broke ‘consensus’ on ‘Allah’

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 05:37 PM PDT


File picture of His Excellency Most Reverend Joseph Marino (Titular Archbishop of Natchitoches Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia)

(The Malay Mail) - Temperatures have once again risen as the government's appeal against the contentious 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church's constitutional right to use the word "Allah" is due to be heard after a four year hiatus.

The Vatican ambassador to Malaysia has come in for more tongue-lashing after broaching the "Allah" controversy, with the Malaysian Islamic NGO Consultative Council (MAPIM) accusing him of not respecting the local "consensus" granting Muslims exclusivity to the Arabic word.

On Thursday, Archbishop Joseph Marino, the first papal envoy to Malaysia, told the press at a gathering here that the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) has presented a "logical and acceptable" factsheet to counter the allegations by some hardline Muslims here that "Allah", a word of Middle Eastern origin, was exclusive to Islam.

For that, he has been criticised by far-right Muslim groups that are demanding a retraction or his expulsion from Malaysia.

"Broadly speaking, the word Allah is used non-Muslims in the Arab countries, but not in Malaysia. Malaysia has a 'limit' on the use of the word Allah," Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, the president of MAPIM, was quoted as saying last night by Sinar Harian.

"The Vatican statement is contrary to the 'consensus' in Malaysia that 'Allah' is used specifically for Muslims in this country."

It is unclear what "consensus" Mohd Azmi was referring to.

In 2011 and just ahead of the Sarawak state election, the Najib administration issued a 10-point resolution for east Malaysia to end a Home Ministry blockade against shipments of Malay-language bibles into the country then.

In it, the Cabinet, through Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala, said the considerable Bumiputera Christian population in Sabah and Sarawak could use their Holy Scriptures in the Malay and indigenous languages.

The 10-point resolution is held up by Christians in Malaysia as official affirmation of their right to use the word "Allah" in a non-Muslim context, in addition to the 2009 High Court ruling that sparked off the controversy.

Separately, the news portal reported the head of Muslim group Muafakat, Ismail Mina Ahmad, as demanding action against Marino over the remarks.

"He made a statement about the use of the word 'Allah' that is now before the courts here; he is in contempt of court. At the same time, the Vatican is promoting inter-faith dialogue," Ismail told the news portal.

"This shows double standards as his statements favour one side."

Temperatures have once again risen as the government's appeal against the contentious 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church's constitutional right to use the word "Allah" is due to be heard after a four year hiatus.

In 2009, the decision had shocked Muslims who considered the word to only refer to the Islamic God. It also led to Malaysia's worst religious strife, with houses of worship throughout the country coming under attack.

Putrajaya later decided to appeal the decision but the matter was left to fester until now, over four years later, allowing opposing sides to harden their stances.

Muslims are dominant religious group and represent over 60 per cent of Malaysia's population of 28 million, while Christians make up less than a tenth of the number.

Statistics: Muslim countries, the most protective of women’s "honor," have one of ...

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 05:16 PM PDT


The High Rape-Scale in Saudi Arabia

(Atlas Shrugs) - Bear in mind when considering these numbers that rape is not even considered a crime in many Muslim countries, so these numbers do not accurately reflect the true horror.

Bear in mind when considering these numbers that rape is not even considered a crime in many Muslim countries, so these numbers do not accurately reflect the true horror.

The silence and sanction of the left is a secondary human rights abuse.

"Muslim countries, the most protective of women's 'honour', have one of the highest rape scales in the world" The Muslim Issue, July 11, 2013 (thanks to Inex) 

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most conservative countries in the world, especially in regard to the status of women. Saudi Arabia is an extreme Islamic country where its legal code is based on Shari'a Law. They therefore believe that there is no separation between church and state and the state's laws are heavily based on Islamic teachings. Because of this strict Islamic culture, women in Saudi Arabia are treated and acknowledged very differently than the women who live in the west. For example, in Saudi Arabia, there are laws that require women to wear a hijab, a head scarf, as well as dress in loose, long garments that do not show the shape of the woman's body. To do so would be shameful and secular. There are other laws such as this one that are meant to protect the virtue of women in Saudi Arabia.

 Read more at http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2013/07/statistics-.html

Anifah Completes Tour To Promote 'Global Movement Of The Moderates'

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 05:03 PM PDT


(Bernama) - The 'Global Movement of the Moderates' is an initiative of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that calls for combating the scourge of extremism in five broad areas - peaceful co-existence, democracy and rule of law, finance, education and conflict resolution.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman has completed a three-nation European tour to promote Malaysia's 'Global Movement of the Moderates' initiative and strengthen bilateral relations.

He concluded the seven-day tour in Warsaw after a two-day visit to Poland from July 11, following visits to Latvia and Russia.

Wisma Putra said in a statement Sunday that in Warsaw, Anifah had a meeting with Poland's Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and the two leaders reaffirmed their countries' commitment to strengthen relations.

They concurred that both countries should encourage more frequent exchange visits and undertake greater efforts to enhance cooperation in various fields, including trade and investment, education, tourism, defence, green technology and 'halal' certification, it said.

Anifah also hosted a Ramadan breaking-of-the-fast for the Malaysian community, including students and staff of the Malaysian embassy, in Warsaw, it added.

The 'Global Movement of the Moderates' is an initiative of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that calls for combating the scourge of extremism in five broad areas - peaceful co-existence, democracy and rule of law, finance, education and conflict resolution.


Ulama hope to regain lost ground

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 03:45 PM PDT

Datuk Seri Hadi Awang is assured of staying on as PAS president in the PAS election this year but all other positions will see keen contest as the ulama group move to reclaim their dominance in the party.

The man known as "Raja Lawak" or "king of laughs" is not feeling so happy these days. Some have noticed that Mohamed Sabu has not been the man he was before the general election. His electoral loss seems to have knocked some of the oomph out of him.

Joceline Tan, The Star

THE affable PAS deputy president Mohamed Sabu was all over the place shortly after the general election, speaking at one 505 rally after another.

Mat Sabu, as he is known, was the supporting actor to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at these rallies where the crowds cheered at everything they said.

Both men are superb orators but not even the biggest of crowds could mask the fact that they are among the two biggest losers in the general election.

Mat Sabu suffered a humiliating defeat in the PAS stronghold of Pendang in Kedah, whereas Anwar failed once again in his bid to be Prime Minister.

The man known as "Raja Lawak" or "king of laughs" is not feeling so happy these days. Some have noticed that Mohamed Sabu has not been the man he was before the general election. His electoral loss seems to have knocked some of the oomph out of him.

The Pendang parliamentary seat carries a lot of symbolism for PAS. It used to belong to their beloved president Datuk Fadzil Mohd Noor who died during heart surgery in 2002. The seat has since been solidly with PAS.

Some PAS members have blamed Mat Sabu for failing to defend the party's "political legacy". He and his Pakatan friends have been going around the country blaming phantom voters from Bangladesh but the reality is that he lost Pendang through internal sabotage.

Mat Sabu had parachuted into Pendang to replace the three-term MP Dr Hayati Othman. It was evident from day one that it was not a popular decision. The local party structure did not agree with his candidacy and he had to stumble along with a limited campaign team.

The Erdogans, as the non-ulama faction in PAS are known, had lobbied hard for him to contest in Pendang. Their plan was that if he won in Pendang, it would be read as him being worthy of inheriting the mantle of the late president.

It would enhance his status and help him retain his deputy president post in the party election later this year and, who knows, he may even have made a bid for the presidency.

Their ambitious plan flopped and Mat Sabu is now in limbo. He has told friends in the party that he intends to defend his post.

"What else can he do? You can't expect him to take a step down and contest for vice-president," said a top PAS figure.

PAS, like Umno, will be holding its party polls in November. The branch meetings are taking place now and the nomination of names for party posts will begin in September when the division meetings convene.

Those aligned to Mat Sabu claimed that they sense powerful moves from behind the scenes to oust him as the deputy president. These unseen forces are using religious arguments against him and it is said that the allegations have been raised at the Syura Council, the highest decision making body of the party.

It is no secret that the ulama faction in PAS want him replaced by one of their own.

When Mat Sabu won the No 2 post in 2011, he broke the glass ceiling because the party's No 1 and No 2 posts used to be held only by the ulama. The ulama group was not pleased but they kept their peace because they thought they were on the way to Putrajaya.

But they lost the general election and a showdown is in the cards between the pro-ulama and the pro-Erdogan supporters.

Party insiders say the election will likely see a resurgence of the ulama presence at the top levels.

The leading ulama candidate for the No 2 post is Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, a well-known figure from Pahang who lost to Mat Sabu in the last party polls. But Tuan Ibrahim, like Mat Sabu, also lost in the general election and is apparently "very unwilling" to contest again.

He had also been an unwilling contestant in the last polls but there was a clamour for him to contest and he caved in. He is quite typical of the conservative ulama who see this sort of contest as a form of greed for power and that is not so good for the soul.

But the ulama group intends to get Tuan Ibrahim to try again because the thought that Mat Sabu may become the president if anything untoward happened to Datuk Seri Hadi Awang is a recurring nightmare for them.

The ulama will also be making a strong bid for the three vice-president (VP) posts. Salahuddin Ayub, Datuk Husam Musa and Datuk Mahfuz Omar who won in 2011 are all non-ulama.

Two ulama figures have emerged as serious VP contenders. One of them is Bukit Gantang MP Idris Ahmad and the other is Temerloh MP Nasrudin Hassan.

Idris is an Islamic hardliner with a fierce speaking style that gets his supporters all fired up but frightens his critics. He had contested but lost in the last VP race but he is a strong contender this time, having won in the general election. Moreover, he has emerged in recent years as a bold ulama voice.

Nasrudin is also an ultra conservative. He is known as "Nasrudin Tantawi" in the party but outside the party, he is better known for his opposition to Muslims celebrating Valentine's Day.

Apart from his periodic opposition to what he sees as the "liberal lifestyle" among Muslims, he has not been outstanding as the party's Youth chief.

But his status was enhanced after he defeated the high-profile Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah for the Temerloh parliamentary seat. That will be a stepping stone for him to move up in the party.

But the one to watch among the younger ulama is Nik Abduh Nik Aziz who defeated Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali in Pasir Mas. He is being heralded as the next head of the Youth wing.

Nik Abduh comes across as rather introverted and bashful, but reporters in Parliament have noticed that he has real opinions and treats people respectfully.

Within the party, he is known as someone who does not ride on the popularity of his father Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat. He is not afraid to voice views that are contrary to that of his father. For instance, he supports unity talks with Umno whereas Nik Aziz is dead set against it.

PAS actually did quite well in the general election but their elation was dampened by the loss of Kedah to Barisan Nasional. It was a bitter blow and DAP's Aspan Alias, who was campaigning for PAS in Kedah, said the party should send its younger leaders for management courses so that when they come to power they will not fail like in Kedah.

Some PAS politicians have taken their losses badly but the average PAS leader is not like those in other Opposition parties.

There are upright people with professional attitudes towards election and politics among them. This was evident from the way they handled their defeat in Kedah where they acknowledged that the PAS administration failed to meet the expectations of Kedah voters.

But they have not gone into a frenzy of blame and recrimination and most have taken their disappointment like Muslim gentlemen. They do not bad-mouth former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak. Instead, PAS members have been sending good wishes and prayers for his recovery after a double amputation of his legs.

In fact, many PAS leaders seemed more upset about the way their Islamic Brotherhood friend President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in Egypt. They see the conflict as an unholy bid for power by the secularists. Many of them took to Facebook to express their misgivings that a democratically elected leader had been overthrown by street demonstrations.

PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali was anxious to downplay perception of a power play between the ulama and the Erdogans at the muktamar.

"Everything is normal, no temperatures rising. People are interested in posts but they are not clamouring to win at all costs," he said.

Nevertheless, there is a lot at stake for the ulama in PAS. If the deputy president post goes to a non-ulama again, the day when a non-ulama can be president of PAS will not be far ahead.

Harakahdaily editor Zulkifli Sulung resigned from his post earlier this month to join an established news portal. Zulkifli has been with the party's media arm for as long as anyone can remember and his resignation came as a bit of a shock.

His friends joked that he made history as the first "pre-election casualty" of PAS.

PAS elections have grown more competitive over the years and Zulkifli has often come under pressure regarding Harakah's coverage of party affairs and personalities. After each election, there would be criticism that Harakah did not give sufficient coverage to one side or another.

For instance, in 2004, Zulkifli was axed as editor-in-chief of Harakah and reassigned to the then fledglingHarakahdaily because the ulama were unhappy with Harakah's editorial content.

He has made a success of Harakahdaily but the pressure on him has not gone away especially before and after each party poll. It is a dilemma that all media people know too well – you can never please everyone.

Mustafa, who is Harakah board chairman, has had to defend Zulkifli and the party's publications at a number of PAS muktamar. The most recent was during the muktamar in Kota Baru last year and it was not even an election year.

Despite Mustafa's assurance of "no temperatures rising," this election is bound to be just as intense and Zulkifli is probably getting out of the kitchen before the heat goes up again.


From Kelantan to Kuala Besut, student activists bring with them a cautionary tale

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 03:29 PM PDT

Originally from Seremban, Aduka is a committee member of grassroots movement "R", which is part of Kelantan's battle with Putrajaya for oil royalty the PAS government says is due to the state.

Zurairi AR, MM

A group of eight young men plan to make an hour-long journey here from their homes in Kelantan every day just to caution people against voting for Barisan Nasional (BN).

"We're here not only during the weekends, but also weekdays. The moment we finish class at 3pm every day, we'll drop by here," said Mohd Khamis Saloman Pariz, 19.

Kuala Besut is just over an hour's drive from the Kota Baru town of Nilam Puri, where the International Islamic College of Sultan Ismail Petra (KIAS) is located.

The student activists, who will make the journey in a five-year-old silver Kia Pregio van, want to remind Kuala Besut voters about the oil royalty issues that continue to plague their home state, warning it might one day affect folks in Terengganu, too.

"Our hope is to bring up the issues of oil royalty and territorial water sovereignty," group leader Aduka Taruna, 32, told The Malay Mail Online at an impromptu rally near a Ramadan bazaar here.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/from-kelantan-to-kuala-besut-student-activists-bring-with-them-a-cautionary#sthash.lfdfJeiK.dpuf

A group of eight young men plan to make an hour-long journey here from their homes in Kelantan every day just to caution people against voting for Barisan Nasional (BN).

"We're here not only during the weekends, but also weekdays. The moment we finish class at 3pm every day, we'll drop by here," said Mohd Khamis Saloman Pariz, 19.

Kuala Besut is just over an hour's drive from the Kota Baru town of Nilam Puri, where the International Islamic College of Sultan Ismail Petra (KIAS) is located.

The student activists, who will make the journey in a five-year-old silver Kia Pregio van, want to remind Kuala Besut voters about the oil royalty issues that continue to plague their home state, warning it might one day affect folks in Terengganu, too.

"Our hope is to bring up the issues of oil royalty and territorial water sovereignty," group leader Aduka Taruna, 32, told The Malay Mail Online at an impromptu rally near a Ramadan bazaar here.

"We would like to share this with Kuala Besut voters... we want them to consider the issues of natural resources, dignity, and sovereignty when they cast their votes."

The sleepy fishing town of Kuala Besut will see a by-election on July 24; it will be a straight fight between local boys Azlan Yusof, 48, from PAS, and BN's Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman, 37.

Originally from Seremban, Aduka is a committee member of grassroots movement "R", which is part of Kelantan's battle with Putrajaya for oil royalty the PAS government says is due to the state.

Holding placards saying "Telaga Bertam hok Ganu" (Bertam field is Terengganu's) and "Kembalikan Bertam hak kite" (Return Bertam, our right), the group wishes to remind Kuala Besut folks about the Bertam oil field, situated 160 kilometres off the coast of peninsula Malaysia.

Since the discovery of new oil reserves there last year, there is an ongoing dispute about whether it is located inside Pahang or Terengganu, and most importantly, which state is owed the oil royalty.

"Najib had announced that Bertam belongs to Pahang through a media statement ... there was no legal process," Aduka complained, referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

In October, the PM announced that Pahang is expected to be awarded a royalty of RM100 million annually, commencing from the start of operations in the third quarter of 2014.

KIAS student Nik Aziz Afiq Abdul, 19, tagged along after being inspired by the call of Prophet Muhammad to not turn a blind eye on injustice.

"The struggle for the people's right is consistent with the Prophet's command ... when we see injustice, we have to fight it together," Nik Aziz said, shortly after delivering a brief public "tazkirah" (lecture) on Muhammad's words.



Kelantan Umno grooming ulama as leaders for next elections

Posted: 13 Jul 2013 03:18 PM PDT

(Bernama) - Kelantan Umno is nurturing a second echelon of leaders from among ulama (religious scholars) in preparation for the 14th general election five years from now.

Kelantan liaison committee chairman Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said it was identifying potential leaders to take up positions in the party's divisions.

"We want to bring up as many of these leaders as possible," he told reporters after breaking fast and handing over contributions at the Bukit Nangka Umno Complex in Jeli last night.

He added that the 2,204 Umno branches in Kelantan will hold their delegates meetings between July 16 and August 31 while the 14 Umno divisions are to do so after Hari Raya, which is likely to fall on August 8.


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