Jumaat, 13 September 2013

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Sleepwalking to disharmony?

Posted: 12 Sep 2013 02:52 PM PDT


The survey makes it quite clear that, for most Singaporeans, race and religion still matters. But let us not be fixated by them. We all have multiple identities, with context determining when one identity is more relevant at any given time.

Let us see, rather, how we can further strengthen our civic identity as Singaporeans — this must be the over-arching identity that takes precedence. Let us endeavour to appreciate and celebrate our commonalities, even as we manage the differences. 

Eugene KB Tan, todayonline.com 

Independent Singapore was born out of the political quest for civic identity and loyalty to trump narrow sectarian identities. But are we now sleepwalking to disharmony, even as we continue to affirm the value of multiracialism in Singapore?

This provocative question is pertinent in light of the findings from Indicators of Racial and Religious Harmony, a joint Institute of Policy Studies and OnePeople.sg survey. The survey is probably the most comprehensive study on the state of ethnic relations here: Generally healthy, although there are areas of concern to pay attention to.

After close to 50 years of nation building, multiracialism cannot be just a mere slogan or a factual descriptor of the presence of different races. It has to be about the fundamental commitment to fair and equal treatment of all races at all levels of society. Beyond our laws, public policies and institutions being race-blind, Singaporeans have to be committed to these values.

The survey demonstrated that we did well in indicators that had a strong public sphere/space element. However, we did not do as well in indicators that had a closer nexus to the private sphere and how we viewed Singaporeans of other races.


Singaporeans appreciate and value social harmony, denominated in the survey by the absence of inter-racial and religious tension. But this premium on harmony need not mean that there must always be an absence of disagreements and unhappiness, which are inevitable in our heterogeneous society in the throes of socio-economic transformation.

Unless it poses a clear and present danger, tension can be healthy and should not be seen as something that needs suppressing. The process of managing conflict is important: How we seek to restore equilibrium can either be instrumental (harmony at all cost) or purposive — in the latter, we strive to improve our understanding and attend to the underlying causes of tension.

Don't get me wrong — harmony is to be preferred over conflict. But let us not valorise harmony such that tension is portrayed solely as a threat. This prevents us from using it as an opportunity for meaningful engagement.


Have we learnt the lessons of multiracialism and harmony well, but without having imbibed the core values of multiracialism?

The four indicators where we did not fare as well (but still positive overall) suggest a lack of meaningful engagement or interest in colour-blindness, intercultural understanding and interaction.

If our harmony is built on tolerance only, then our ethnic relations are fragile and might not withstand severe stresses, such as in the event of a terrorist attack or a prolonged economic crisis.

As such, we should be concerned about the minority perception of exclusion and discrimination in our society. For example, close to 20 per cent of respondents believed that Indians and Malays had to work harder compared to other races to have a basic, decent life in Singapore.

Slightly more than 30 per cent of respondents believed that Indians and Malays had to work harder to reach top positions in their organisations. The undermining of our meritocratic ethos subverts our multiracial credentials.

A robust multiracialism is predicated on our having cross-cutting ties. It is worrying that only 45 per cent of respondents had at least one close friend of another race.

What is astonishing is that almost 80 per cent of respondents either somewhat agree, or agree/strongly agree that when they know a person's race, they have a good idea of what some of their behaviour and views are like!

Collectively, these findings suggest that we know how to conduct ourselves in the public sphere that is aligned with the multiracial stance. But, in the private sphere, the innermost thoughts and values that we hold may imperil multiracialism, since they invariably affect how we will act, particularly in a crisis.

It is these enclaves of closed minds — in which we seek to exclude others who are different or to exclude ourselves from others — that will work against the endeavour to build a cohesive society. We really need to go beyond tolerance and forbearance to seek genuine understanding and protection of Singapore's diversity.

Read more at : http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sleepwalking-disharmony

Terrorism in Southeast Asia and a new order

Posted: 12 Sep 2013 02:21 PM PDT

The influence of radicalisation is also incited in the literary world where implications and just cause of jihad is propagated. Religious justifications are easily available on websites and this will give more sympathy to individuals and diaspora groups who may support militant Islamist fighting for a just cause.
Andrin Raj, Fz.com 
ISLAMIST terrorist groups in Southeast Asia grew over the last two decades and Jemaah Islamiyah, the main terrorist group, spearheaded the rise in extremist groups in the region. 
The leader of Jemaah Islamiyah – Abu Bakar Bashir – is Emir and head of Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia and is currently in prison for involvement in terrorist operations. 
Jemaah Islamiyah was established in Malaysia by Abu Bakar Bashir when he escaped the ruling dictatorship of the Sukarno administration. After his return to Indonesia in the early seventies, his leadership created an extensive network operating in Southeast Asia today with four Mantiqi's established and operating in the region. 
Jemaah Islamiyah was able to recruit, educate, indoctrinate and train Islamist Jihad groups. These Mantiqi's were headed by regional leaders under the leadership of Abu Bakar.
Evidence clearly shows that since 2002 there has been some 360 extremist and radical groups operating freely in Indonesia. Over the years these groups have grown within the states of Southeast Asia spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei. 
Today there are about 500 Islamist Jihadist groups operating in the region. These groups have spurred from affiliated groups loyal to Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda; to individual groups with no direct affiliation to any international terrorist groups. Nevertheless, their sympathy is in direct actions of these international groupings.
Today, these groups are suspected to have spread all around the Southeast Asia region with individual movements operating on their own and with no support structure from the main groups.
An example of one such movement in Indonesia where the plot was foiled by the Police Detachment 88 is the Good Friday or the Christ Cathedral plan to blow up the gas pipeline that ran through near the church grounds. 
Pepi Fernando is just one of the new faces of terror groups in the uprising in Southeast Asia. Although Jemaah Islamiyah plays a lead role in the region, these new faces of terror is quickly becoming real in Indonesia and the region.
The new faces of terrorism in the region are young people who have no direct contact with any terrorist figures or any affiliations to Islamist groups. 
What is transpiring is frightening as the Southeast Asian governments are not addressing the issues constructively. 
Extremist and radical groups are growing in the region and there seem to be a downplay on these groups from the governments of Southeast Asia for fear of discrediting Islam. These individual groups have evidently been indoctrinated in universities or colleges where manipulation of works and teachings of ulamas and lecturers have been identified.
It is also staggering to know that these individuals have no militia or any physical training in terrorist tactics. Their training has been the internet where Al Qaeda public relations propaganda websites have been a source of new and increasingly dangerous training facility. 
A propaganda magazine that is published in the website clearly shows how easy it is to get training on using an AK47. Hence other training sites are available for bomb-making and so forth which can be downloaded with an ease are available today on the internet.
Current terror threats are even more complex in the region as there are more than 2000 students from the Southeast Asia region who are studying in countries tormented with terrorism. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and certain Middle Eastern and African countries are potential indoctrination of terrorist modus operandi. 

Read more at: http://www.fz.com/content/andrin-raj-terrorism-southeast-asia-and-new-order#ixzz2ekOKcek4

FZ Says: Mahathir can sidestep RCI, but history will be his judge

Posted: 12 Sep 2013 02:15 PM PDT

However, while Mahathir may appear to be untouchable under the current circumstances no matter what the purported transgression is, his reputation in the eyes of a discerning section of the public is already sealed in view of the damaging information revealed through the latest RCI.

by Fz.com
IT IS a travesty of justice that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad can appear before the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the illegal immigrants problem in Sabah and deny any knowledge of 'Project IC', the so-called exercise to issue citizenship to these immigrants, during his eventful tenure at the helm of the government.
Mahathir has cast a long shadow over the country during his 22-year rule of Malaysia, and the episode where Sabah's illegal immigrants were issued identity cards in a protracted operation that has changed the state's electoral demographics is just one of a list of scandals that have tainted his administration.
The travesty arises because the institutions of governance as they exist in Malaysia are largely neutered and are incapable of rectifying the weaknesses that prevent the rule of law from operating effectively.
Considering the grave political, social and security implications of the irregular citizenship exercise, it is absurd that the commission is not empowered to establish the culpability of the main protagonists and to order definite remedies, including the punishment of the perpetrators and seizure of records to get to the bottom of the matter.
Instead, the commission's scope is so limited as to be pathetic, confined to investigating various dimensions of the social, administrative and political issues that surround the problem, in a manner more befitting of a research project rather than the country's highest investigative forum that is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and justice.
In the light of this, it is no wonder that Mahathir could respond to the questions of Commission Chairman Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Keong on Wednesday by saying that he could not remember key announcements on the matter by senior members of his administration.
Perhaps more than anyone else who ought to know what exactly took place during his premiership, Mahathir must be very well aware that the RCI is not empowered to seek anything more than he was willing to divulge to it.
The former prime minister's testimony this week is in many ways a reminder of an earlier fiasco, when he took to the witness stand during the RCI into the VK Lingam videotape scandal in 2008 concerning the alleged interference of the executive in the appointment of the judiciary.
In that episode too, gaps in the chain of accountability have allowed Mahathir and other protagonists in the scandal to remain untouched.
These examples of the country's paralysis in the face of grave abuses of power are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. The unremitting misuse of public office for political and personal ends could, and have, filled many volumes.

Read more at: http://www.fz.com/content/fz-says-mahathir-can-sidestep-rci-history-will-be-his-judge#ixzz2ekMvYjPV

Time for reflection

Posted: 12 Sep 2013 01:12 PM PDT

I believe more Malaysians, especially the Chinese, should show their trust in the Prime Minister if we want to help him be more effective. Sometimes we are unsure if he will be bolder if we give him undivided support, but if he really were an extremist then he would not have even bothered to try out the 1Malaysia idea.

Zaid Ibrahim, The Star 

To give moderate politics a chance to succeed in this country, we have to espouse the principles on which this nation was founded.

ON Sept 16, we will reach the 50th year in the life of this nation. It's an opportune moment for us to reflect on things that have happened, and more importantly, on things that are in store for our children and future generations.

In all this time, we have seen leaders with many accomplishments and mediocre ones who did little during their time in power, leaders we could be proud of and those who did wrong for the country. We have seen major policy changes that brought about prosperity and peace, as well as those that sowed the seeds of disunity and hatred.

In short, we have witnessed an exciting 50 years of political and economic development in this peaceful country, and which can only get better if we all play our part .

It's not for me to tell you what things are important enough for you to ponder, what you should stand up for and who you should support. I will not even try to set out the important issues for the country as I believe you know them well. I can only give you my own perspective.

What is most precious to me is this country's character. Malaysia must remain a free, just and liberal democracy governed by the rule of law. Democracy is not just about the freedom to choose our leaders – the leaders we elect must reciprocate by recognising the rights and freedom of Malaysia's citizens, as mandated by our Constitution.

Malaysia must also remain a business-friendly economy; where the Government does not allow only GLCs to own precious assets but instead encourages individuals to prosper; where hard work, risk-taking and innovation are rewarded.

A true democracy is not simply the rule of the majority, but the rule of everyone regardless of their race, religion or beliefs, all of which must be protected and provided for in equal measure. All peaceful and prosperous nations in the modern world share these attributes and characteristics.

Today, we have strong advocates of religious theocracy making inroads into our political system. Never before have we had our public policies become the subject of approval of religious clerics. This is a trend we have to resist.

The values that form the bedrock of the nation are usually those that are acceptable to all communities. This must remain the basis of our public policies. All Malaysians must be brave to speak up and defend the values they believe in and cherish. Unless we fight for freedom and for our rights, no one will give them to us for free. Nothing is free.

We have powerful oligarchs influencing policy and that makes it important for the rest of us citizens to put forth our stand so this country can mature peacefully. They must not be allowed to "bully" us like bringing in foreigners to "balance the scale", as is evident from the public inquiry in Sabah.

These oligarchs create the mistaken impression that the country and the bumiputra are under attack, which justifies any means taken to address this perceived problem. This approach has enabled them to seize large economic benefits for their own interests at the expense of others.

No other independent nation has created this culture of fear or demonised its own citizens as blatantly as we have done.

No nation has institutionalised discrimination – both in racial and religious matters – as vigorously as we have.

And it could be that the worst is yet to come. So we have a fight on our hands.

The only way out for us now is to be together so we can reverse these trends. We need to collectively espouse with conviction the principles on which this nation was founded. This is the only option available to us as right-thinking Malaysians looking for a way to give moderate policies the chance to succeed in this country.

Like so many of you, I have been critical of the Prime Minister for many years. I had hoped he would be forceful and courageous enough to bring our country back from the excesses of the past. I had hoped he would reform Umno's core beliefs and uphold the good values of its earlier leaders. Still, he is doing his best and deserves our support.

On reflection, it's always easier to criticise others when we are not in the hot seat ourselves. He is a reformer who needed to pace his efforts lest he became another victim of his own party. He believes in most of the things we want for the country to move forward, but it's much more difficult to implement policies when there are equally powerful forces at work to slow him down or even derail him.

I believe that beneath his skin he is a liberal and a democrat, despite his Umno theatrics that reject pluralism. He will not bring about racial discord nor will he condone racist politics. He will not issue ICs to foreigners to win elections. He is a moderate, which is rare for a Malay leader still holding power in Umno. His economic plans deserve support despite huge implementation problems that are sure to unfold in the coming years.

His administration's Education Blueprint is comprehensive. Although the results are still unknown, he has recognised the problems of having a poor education system. This is a major step forward after so many years of neglect.

He has repealed some of the preventive detention laws and that is proof of his commitment to human rights. He even tried to establish the Equal Opportunities Commission under the New Economic Model, although he has had to backtrack. This is a man who must walk the tightrope at all times and you have to be in Umno to fully appreciate the difficulties he faces.

I believe more Malaysians, especially the Chinese, should show their trust in the Prime Minister if we want to help him be more effective. Sometimes we are unsure if he will be bolder if we give him undivided support, but if he really were an extremist then he would not have even bothered to try out the 1Malaysia idea.

He would have embraced Perkasa and all its dangerously chauvinistic and exclusionary ideas in totality.

It's understandable that we want to see him distance himself from everything that is negative in his own party and take action to address his departmental heads and advisers in certain media. We hope he will be more firm with them.


In defence of Fathul Bari

Posted: 12 Sep 2013 12:15 PM PDT


With his words public, I can convince how perhaps we do not really need ulamas if what they know seem mostly irrelevant, and has not much practical value.

Zurairi AR, MMO 

It is slightly embarrassing when somebody talks about a topic of which he has no clue. It is, however, pretty hilarious when Islamic clerics do so.

Case in point, Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, a popular preacher with ILMU, the Umno-backed wing of young ulamas (religious scholars).

During the weekend, Fathul Bari took to his column in Malay daily Sinar Harian to defend the recent fuel subsidy cut.

Granted, increasing fuel pump prices was bound to be a very unpopular move with the public, but Putrajaya did explain it as a way to reduce its ballooning deficit.

Not so for Fathul Bari, whose attempt to appease the masses is to explain that any increase in fuel prices is indeed "Allah's will."

According to him, any increase in the prices of goods is just a matter of God "testing" his believers in this fleeting material world.

He also seemed to have suggested that it is useless to strive for cheaper goods, for who are we to know what plans God has for us in the future?

This was, perhaps unsurprisingly, not Fathul Bari's first and only attempt at justifying socio-political issues with such wonderful excuses.

Earlier this year, just weeks before the May polls, Fathul Bari had also claimed that Malaysians get their leaders as a result of "Allah's will."

Going by this trend, it would not be too far-fetched to imagine what Fathul Bari's next few columns in the future will be like: "GST is Allah's will", "interest rate hike is Allah's will", and maybe "the property bubble is Allah's will."

Ridiculous as he may be, however, I support Fathul Bari's freedom to speak his mind, unlike some who felt he is not worthy to talk about our economy.

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/zurairi-ar/article/in-defence-of-fathul-bari 

Sabah Illegal ICs: The Buck Stops with Mahathir

Posted: 12 Sep 2013 11:59 AM PDT


Mahathir's disavowal of knowledge about its happening does not exonerate him. He was the CEO of Malaysia. Ignorance is no defence. He has to take responsibility.

Kee Thuan Chye 

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad drew considerable laughter last Wednesday when he gave testimony at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah. One hopes the laughter was laced with irony and scepticism.

Irony and scepticism because it seems unlikely, going by reports of the proceedings, that anyone listening to some of the things he said could find them acceptable.

The most unacceptable was his saying that he had not heard about Project IC or Project M (for Mahathir) until only recently, and that the Government could not be held responsible for the issuance of illegal identity cards (ICs) to immigrants who had entered Sabah illegally.

"These illegal immigrants may have been issued the identity cards erroneously or it may have been the wrongdoing of certain low-ranking civil servants," he said, expressly passing the blame on to others.

Well, if it were a matter of only a few hundred ICs, we might say these civil servants acted corruptly on their own and out of their personal greed, but a key witness has earlier testified at the RCI that in 1993 alone, about 100,000 ICs were issued to immigrants in Sabah. One hundred thousand in one year is a staggering number. How likely is that to have been a private enterprise undertaken by "low-ranking civil servants"?

It is a requisite of leadership that the leader is accountable for what his underlings do. Especially when it is something serious – in fact, treasonous. We're not talking here about giving out free food vouchers or concert tickets. We're talking about giving out citizenships illegally. Mahathir's disavowal of knowledge about its happening does not exonerate him. He was the CEO of Malaysia. Ignorance is no defence. He has to take responsibility.

Besides, it's extremely unlikely that he was not aware of it at the time when so many ICs were given out, under what was apparently an organised programme, and leaders of Sabah political parties were making a hue and cry about it. The prime minister does not live in a cocoon, much as Mahathir would want us to believe.

We can also bet our bottom ringgit that he could not have found out about Project IC or Project M only recently when the issue has been out in the media for years, with specific naming of the project. A man like Mahathir who is so well-informed of developments must surely have heard of Project IC or Project M way before "recently".

In fact, people were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for alleged involvement in the issuance of identity cards to foreigners, like Hassnar Ebrahim (who was arrested in 1988), Akjan Ali Mohamad (in 1995), Ramli Kamaruddin (in 1995), Mohd Nasir Sugip (in 1995),  Kee Dzulkifly Kee Abdul Jalil (in 1995) and Abdul Rauf Sani (in 1996).

Most of them have testified at the RCI and admitted issuing tens of thousands of ICs illegally. Some have also alleged that they received instructions to do this from then deputy home minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub. They have also claimed that they carried out their operations in the Kampung Pandan home of Aziz Shamsuddin, Mahathir's then political secretary.

They were detained when Mahathir, apart being from the premier, was also minister of home affairs. He held the portfolio from 1986 to 1999. In that capacity, he would have known about the arrests and the reasons for them. He probably signed the detention orders himself.

So how could he say to the RCI, "Hassnar? I have never heard of him. I am also not aware that he had been arrested under the Internal Security Act."?

Read more at: http://my.news.yahoo.com/blogs/bull-bashing/sabah-illegal-ics-buck-stops-mahathir-094802993.html 

Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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