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Najib’s Peace Overtures

Posted: 13 Aug 2013 03:58 PM PDT

Anwar confirms Malaysian PM's feelers for a unity government

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, beset on his right flank by an implacable former Premier Mahathir Mohamad critical of his performance in the May 5 general election, has been making quiet overtures to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to explore the outlines of a unity government.

The overtures, made through former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, are a long, long shot at best. However, they have included three visits by Kalla to Kuala Lumpur, the latest in mid-July. Kalla earlier this year acted as an intermediary between Anwar and Najib at Anwar's initiative to seek to broker a commitment for a peaceful result in the May 5 general election.

Kalla, now a businessman and head of the Indonesian Red Cross Society, has emerged as a major Southeast Asian peacemaker, brokering peace agreements in various conflicts across Indonesia during his time as vice-president from 2004 to 2009; he also played a role in attempts to settle conflicts in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

While the pre-electoral contacts were made public in mid-May, with Kalla accusing Anwar of breaking a written agreement to accept the outcome of the election, the contacts have continued, according to sources in Kuala Lumpur.

Anwar confirmed the new contacts, saying they had been initiated by Najib, who emerged from the election severely weakened within the United Malays National Organization, the country's largest ethnic political party, which he heads. The overtures were made via Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Home Minister in Najib's cabinet, a source told Asia Sentinel. Ahmad and Anwar were friends before Mahathir fired Anwar as finance minister and had him arrested and jailed in 1999.

It is unsure if the contacts will go anywhere. They would require the three components of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat all to sign off. The idea of reaching out to the opposition, particularly Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, is likely to drive Mahathir into a fury and energize whatever followers the septuagenarian former leader still has in UMNO.

Anwar, in an interview, said he had sent word through intermediaries that the incendiary racist attacks by the UMNO-owned broadsheet Utusan Malaysia on the Chinese and Indian communities would have to stop, and that the racial temperature in the country would have to cool before any progress could be made.

"I said the fundamental issues must be addressed, ending the racial stuff, there has to be a clear understanding and commitment to reform and change," Anwar said. "I made it clear that discussions must deal with this first and that the racial rhetoric must not escalate. The UMNO president has always had a direct say in running Utusan."

He said so far no answer has been forthcoming.

Presumably the Najib gambit opens another front against Mahathir, who has been allowing surrogate bloggers to attack the wounded prime minister ever since the election, in addition to delivering his own blistering attacks on Malaysia's ethnic Chinese, who make up about 25 percent of the population, making allegations that they are trying to take over the country politically as well as economically.



Unnecessary Censorship in Malaysia

Posted: 13 Aug 2013 01:00 PM PDT

I remembered two things from watching The Wolverine: when no other outlets are available, it is always possible to perform impromptu chest surgery on oneself; and the amount of cuts and bleeps in the film.

Admittedly, this was my first time catching a film at a local cinema after spending the last few years abroad, where censorship is a lot more laissez faire. The censored scenes were pretty jarring to me until a friend reminded me that liberal application of cuts and bleeps are part and parcel of the Malaysian cinema experience, besides the awesome cineplexes and delicious popcorns.

Growing up a film buff, I've always wondered if film cuts compromise the artistic integrity of the film (not that The Wolverine was brimming with artistic merit) and the vision of the director. Imagine how Yasmin Ahmad's Sepet would feel like without the eight cuts imposed upon it. Complaining about cuts in films may seem petty but aesthetics and annoyance aside, film censorship, like all other forms of censorship, underlies what we are allowed to see, experience and by extension, think.

The watchman setting and implementing the guideline that defines the social, religious and moral values the rakyat are allowed to be exposed to in the cinema is the Film Censorship Board, operating under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry. An updated guideline for film censorship came into force on March 2010 espousing the regulations in which films are expected to follow under four categories: public safety and harmony, religion, culture and manners, and morality, including a list of words deemed too rude for the rakyat to hear or see. According to the Board, the rules contained in the guidelines are of prime importance as films exert influence on the mind-set and actions of society, especially children and teenagers.

It seems reasonable that the Censorship Board adopts the monkey see, monkey do view towards public mores, but is there solid evidence to justify heavy-handed censorship in the name of defending the public morality? The significant body of research into the issue unsurprisingly offers conflicting conclusions. A segment of studies and meta-studies suggest that exposure to media violence – movies and video games – increases the propensity of violent behaviour due to desensitisation and increase in aggression-related thoughts. Critics argued that those papers are biased and methodologically flawed, and do not take into account issues beyond exposure to media violence such as family environment, peer delinquency and depressive symptoms as a predictor of youth aggression or violence. A 2008 study found that exposure to media violence is not even a predictor of youth aggression compared to the factors above, suggesting that the correlation between youth aggression and media violence is not necessarily the causation. Furthermore, longitudinal and cross-national studies yielded more non-supportive results over supportive results. A recent analysis of the data for youth sexuality and the initiation of sexual intercourse concluded that exposure to sexy media may not actually exert any significant impact compared with other well-established factors such as parental permissiveness and having sexually active peers.



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