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Flag-raising is not loyalty

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 04:44 PM PDT

Zaid Ibrahim

At a talk with students from the United Kindgom and Ireland last week, I said that to compel Malaysians by law to raise the national flag for 30 days as a sign of loyalty to the country was a "loony idea", and that it was a case of a politician trying to score political publicity. Let me now elaborate.

This is the kind of idea that could only have come from a Minister who believes there are many Malaysians who are not "loyal" to the country. Although he did not name them, I am sure he was alluding to the Chinese and the Indians. In some years I put up the national flag on the premises of my small publishing company, and in other years not at all. It's got nothing to do with loyalty but is simply my way to celebrate this pivotal moment in the nation's history. I resent anyone, including the Minister, who suggests disloyalty on my part if I do not raise the flag.

How does the Minister know that I or the Chinese are not loyal? Has his Ministry carried out a scientific study that proves that people of Chinese descent are not loyal? What does loyalty mean to him anyway? There are many Chinese Malaysians who view the Barisan Nasional Government with disgust, but that does not mean they are not loyal citizens. There will always be a handful of crackpots who will say or do something provocative to our national symbols on YouTube, but that's not enough evidence to show that the entire Chinese community shares these views. There is an endless supply of craziness on YouTube and the Government should not waste time studying it.

During the Vietnam War there were many American students who burned the American flag and spit on their Presidents, but that did not mean they were disloyal citizens. The great Muhammad Ali himself refused conscription to serve the nation because, according to him, "I ain't got no problems with them Vietcong".  By refusing to join the war effort, he was not being disloyal but was opposing a wrong and cruel policy of the US Government.

Anyway, let's for the moment agree with the Minister about there being Malaysians who are not loyal. How does the compulsory 30 days of flag-raising change that? Such an act is tantamount to nothing more than a superficial show of loyalty—surely the Minister wants loyalty that is real and substantive. The Minister will also have another practical problem on his hands. If this exercise of flag-raising is to mark 31 August, how will Sabahans and Sarawakians—who gained their independence on 16 September—feel? Why should the independence of Malaya be more important than the independence of Sabah and Sarawak? The Minister might even lose Sabah votes in the forthcoming UMNO General Assembly if he's not careful.

If we take the feelings of our East Malaysian compatriots into account, as we should, do we then have another 30 days of compulsory flag-raising to mark 16 September?  I think we would have to. As a loyal subject of the King I would also then insist that loyalty to the King is inseparable from loyalty to the country, so I will demand another 30 days of flag-raising in June. All in all, we will be raising flags for three months in a year, not to mention for other equally important national events.

Showing your loyalty by flag-raising will certainly cost money and we haven't even touched on the difficulty of enforcing such a practice. What do we do with people like me who will probably not raise the flag because I don't like the inference that I am not loyal? I don't like to be forced to do things to prove my loyalty to this country. I am a loyal subject of King and country and the Minister just has to take my word for it.

The Government must stop this pernicious idea that the Chinese are not loyal citizens. They are, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are proud to be Malaysians.  We need to be more positive about nation-building.  Why doesn't the BN Government be more charitable and kind to the Chinese and stop this silly but dangerous politics of racial baiting. This country would not be what it is today if not for the sacrifices and efforts of the non-Malays. Their loyalty has been proven beyond a doubt. Only the blind will not see.


Alternatives to First-Past-The-Post system

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 03:43 PM PDT

If the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system is problematic, what options do we have? To borrow Datuk Seri Najib Razak's latest slogan, there are "endless possibilities" in the choice of electoral system. Just because we have been eating Mackerel yesterday and the day before yesterday, it doesn't mean we have to eat Mackerel today and tomorrow.

Wong Chin Huat,

If the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system is problematic, what options do we have?

Based on the works of political scientists Douglas Rae (1967) and Andreas Blais (1998), an electoral system has six elements:

(a) number of votes

(b) types of votes, whether it is nominal, ordinal or numerical

(c) object of votes, ie, individuals or teams

(d) constituency nature, ie, one or many constituencies

(e) constituency magnitude, ie, number of seats; and

(f) formula, whether it is plurality, majoritarian, or proportional.

Under this framework, FPTP, or officially known as Single-Member-Plurality, is an electoral system where a voter is given one ballot, a nominal ballot to choose between individual candidates, in a single-member constituency, and a candidate needs only a plurality to win.

For legislative elections, FPTP will have many constituencies.

FPTP is the simplest one of all but as we have seen, hardly the best one. By varying these elements differently, we can then have different electoral systems.

I will introduce two of them which may be featured in future debates.

The first is Australia's Preferential Voting system advocated passionately by Prof Clive Kessler, a renowned Malaysianist from Australia in his chapter in the book "Elections and Democracy in Malaysia" (edited by Dr Mavis Puthucheary and Prof Norani Othman) as well as some Australia returnees.

The second is Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system in Germany and New Zealand, which the Election Commission has expressed interest to study and emulate.

The Australian option – Preferential Voting

Also used in presidential elections in India and Ireland and parliamentary elections in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, the Australian system is similar to our FPTP in three ways: first, it has many legislative districts; second, each district elects only a single member; and third, the voters are to choose amongst individual candidates.

The system differs from FPTP in the ballot structure and the electoral formula.

Firstly, the Australian ballot is ordinal, where candidates are ranked. When it comes to the number of candidates to be ranked, there are two variants.

Under the Alternative Vote (AV) variant, applicable for the state elections in New South Wales and Queensland, the voters can choose only as many candidates as they like. 

Under the Compulsory Preferential Voting variant, applicable for Australia's federal and other state elections, the voters have to rank all candidates.

Secondly, to win one must obtain a majority, not just plurality – in other words, the winner must have more supporters than opponents.

If a candidate wins more than half of the first-preference votes, he or she will be declared the winner, much like our FPTP. However, if no candidate does so, the weakest candidate will be removed and his/her votes will be redistributed to the remaining candidates based on the second preference of these votes. 

This process will continue until a candidate which commands a majority support is produced. You bet, the counting will take some time.



Tanda Putera: Untruths and Polarisation

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 01:52 PM PDT 

This film maker does not bother with such basic SOP of research. She is more interested in the "creative licence" (sic) to orchestrate the scene of the Chinese youth urinating on the flagpole outside the Selangor mentri besar's residence.

Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser

I do not intend to pay to watch Tanda Putera since the government has already used part of our money to sponsor this film which seems intent on spreading untruths and enhancing polarisation instead of promoting truth and reconciliation. My response to the film is based on published reviews of the film on the online press.

Who orchestrated the May 13 pogrom?

From the reviews of the film, the Chinese are depicted as the aggressors, insensitive to the extent of urinating on a flag pole outside the residence of the then state menteri besar Harun Idris, hurting the feelings of Malays and thus triggering the May 13 race riots. The communists are also portrayed as having a hand in the troubles.

I am surprised that in spite of my having produced references in my 2007 title, the director insists on putting the blame on the communists:

"…as late as 29 May (the Tunku) was still voicing his conviction that communists had been behind the trouble… But on the same day, Tun Dr Ismail was admitting that he had been wrong to ascribe the riots to the communists, and during the New Zealand Defence Minister's visit on 30 and 31 May, the Tunku admitted that the earlier accusations had been incorrect. Three days later, Tan Sri Ghazali followed suit…" (Kua Kia Soong, "May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian riots of 1969", 2007:51)

This can be easily corroborated by checking up on all the official wires on the dates I have quoted, a standard practice of any respectable scholar. This film maker does not bother with such basic SOP of research. She is more interested in the "creative licence" (sic) to orchestrate the scene of the Chinese youth urinating on the flagpole outside the Selangor mentri besar's residence.

After the 13th general election, the government seems intent on polarizing our society further by communalizing issues. It's payback time, as some observers have also pointed out. Tanda Putera seems to be set in this trend.

A government that is concerned about national rejuvenation would not shrink from setting up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to lay bare the truth once and for all without fear of retribution. The new deputy ministers from the NGOs, Paul Low and Waythamoorthy should call for transparency by declassifying all documents on the May 13 incident. Let us also honour the victims by uncovering the names of all those who died or suffered injuries during that dark episode in our history.

For a start, truth seeking Malaysians should boycott the film. We also call upon FINAS to justify to all taxpayers why their money should be used to spread untruths which are costly to national reconciliation. 

How to become a gang member?

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 12:19 PM PDT 

Bold move: Some gang members gesturing in this photo on Facebook. 

Secret societies are open to all. You don't need an A or a good looking face to join. Just like other societies in schools, secret societies welcome new members, have organised cadres and are active in promoting their activities.

Tay Tian Yan, Sin Chew Daily 

In Malaysia, almost everyone has the opportunity to join secret society without difficulty.

If you are a young man, you will have 50% more chance.

Secret societies are open to all. You don't need an A or a good looking face to join.

Just like other societies in schools, secret societies welcome new members, have organised cadres and are active in promoting their activities.

Hong Men, Wah Kee, 04, 36, and Satu Hati are fighting for new members with Scouts, St. John Ambulance, Chinese Society, and Tamil Society.

For some students, secret societies are more attractive than uniformed groups. It is so hard to be a uniformed group member as they would have to march under the hot sun; learn tying knots and first aid; memorise all the rules and go around to raise fund.

It is more relaxing to join secret societies. All you need is to make a vicious face and give orders.

As for fundraising, there is no need to beg. Just ask, "you want to give or not?" After deducting the part for the boss, you can even keep the rest.

Moreover, it is so cool to be a gang member. It can even meet the desire for power, peer fear, and admiration from the opposite sex.

There are also admiration from the society.

Hong Kong-based comic Oriental Heroes demonstrated secret societies as a world of justice. Slashing, burning, kidnapping are necessary means while blood and violence are heroic acts.

Ten-year-old children have already agreed with these behaviours and joining secret societies became their great ambition.

A Better Tomorrow, Young and Dangerous and Infernal Affairs have become classics in the Chinese movie industry. Misbehaviours are covered by brotherhood love while violence are shown more effective than the rule of law.

Fifteen-year-old teenagers are so excited after watching these movies and immediately, they join a secret society so that they can be heroes, too.

Schools attended by Indian young people, their living environment and cultural ecologies are having even higher exposure to secret societies compared to the Chinese.

Please think, how have we actually educated our children and what kind of environment has been provided to them?

Under such an environment, there is no need to teach them. From input to output, it would be as easy as a straight line for secret societies to get members.

Therefore, the headline of this article should instead be "How to avoid becoming gang member".

It is much more difficult to answer this question.

First of all, never ever send your children to secret society preparatory schools. Please do whatever possible to avoid schools with signs of existence of secret societies.

Secondly, search and destroy all gang-themed comics, movie DVDs and books. Please do not hesitate even to smash your 52-inch television if you have to.

Thirdly, track the whereabouts of your children and understand what they are thinking. Develop their ideas of right and wrong and instil the rule of law concept of civilisation to lead them towards a bright future, and help them get the courage and confidence to overcome setbacks and keep pursuing their goals.

Lastly, if all the above methods fail, you can arrange a trip to visit the Simpang Renggam Jail, so that they can see the fate of gangsters. It might bring a shocking and preventive effect. 

Are we breeding bigotry at home?

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 11:52 AM PDT

The people in this story happen to be Chinese and Christian. Which serves as a reminder, at a time when we are rolling our eyes at the ignorance and intolerance of Muslim authorities, that no one has a monopoly on bigotry.

Deborah Loh, 

WITH the government and religious authorities taking an increasingly hard line on race and religion, you can be forgiven if you feel that there is little to celebrate this Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day.
That said, it's time Malaysians stop allowing those in power to define what "unity" (read: conformity), "respect" (read: Sedition Act) and "tolerance" (read: acquiesce to the feelings of one race and religion) mean.
It's time more Malaysians take things into their own hands, where they can and with what influence they have, to mitigate the bigotry that is poisoning the nation's soul.
What do I mean? Here's a story to explain:
I recently helped a friend take a class of young teens on a photography trip to different houses of worship. The group of one dozen kids were all urban, Chinese and Christian. The idea was to familiarise them with religions other than their own, besides learning some photography basics.
The kids, aged 11, 12 and 13, were accompanied by four adults who acted as teachers and chaperones. We meandered around the Petaling Street area. We walked to Masjid Jamek but found it closed to tourists due to renovations. We then went to the Taoist temple and the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple on Jalan Tun H S Lee.
For some of the teens, it was to be their first time in a house of worship of another faith, having been born into Christian families and being raised in an almost-wholly Christian environment all their young lives.
As we approached the two temples, some of the teens began a discussion on how "scary" they thought temples were. 
"Those statues freak me out," a girl declared.
"The Hindu gods are all half-naked. It's disturbing!" a boy commented.
"My mum says we shouldn't go to such places because there are evil spirits!" shrieked the same girl.
"Do we really have to go inside?" the boy said plaintively.
"Yes, that's the plan for this trip," I said.
"Then I'm gonna delete all the photos of the temples after this!" he announced.

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