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Chin Peng, an obituary

Posted: 04 Oct 2013 03:52 PM PDT

The passing of Chin Peng in Bangkok on 16 September 2013 brings to an end one of the longest of Asian political biographies. Chin Peng became the Secretary General and effective leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), the country's oldest political party, in 1947 when he was only 22.  He retained that position for the next 60 years, indeed until his death, even though the party became divided, moribund and irrelevant around him. Long after communism ceased to be a threat to Malaysia he was refused permission to return to the country of his birth (unless he publicly recanted all his views) and so he remained an exile.

The scars of that period have not healed.  The role of communists in fighting first Japanese and later British for control of Malaya is scarcely recognised in Malaysian textbooks and public memory.  Many Chinese and a few radical Malays remain unnecessarily alienated from the Malaysian establishment, and it from them, while an important but polarised chapter in Malaysia-China relations remains off the table, unable to be discussed by either side.  Chin Peng himself spent much of his later life attempting to explain and defend what he called 'My Side of History'. One hopes that his removal from the scene, after having his say, may make the integration of a very divided history a little easier.

Just why Chin Peng came to lead Malayan communism so early in his life has much to do with accidents of his family upbringing and schooling.  Although essentially educated in the Chinese medium like the overwhelming majority of Malayan communist recruits, he had just enough English education at the beginning and end of this period to be comfortable, if a little hesitant,  in English. His elder brother and his equally committed communist wife were English-educated.  In the crisis that endangered the party in 1947, when its long-term Secretary General Lai Tek was discovered to have worked for both Japanese and British and was assassinated by the Party, Chin Peng was well placed politically to succeed, not least because his English enabled him to talk to other communities. Indeed the early years of his leadership marked a striking reorientation of the Party to being 'Malayan', and looking for non-Chinese recruits, rather than a branch of the Chinese party.

As a teenager he had already taken a leading part in the communist-supported Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), the most effective armed resistance to the Japanese in Malaya.  With a half-dozen other communists in the resistance he was decorated by Mountbatten in 1946. But in May 1948, as the Federation of Malaya structure disappointed non-Malay hopes for a post-war democratic order, as the British increasingly cracked down on left-wing activists, and as both sides in what became the global Cold War hardened their international stance, Chin Peng led the communists back to the jungle in armed insurrection.  The Malayan Emergency which followed was a long and ruinous guerilla struggle, involving troops from Britain, Australia and New Zealand as well as Malaya. Progress to independence was speeded to deprive the communists of their most powerful anti-colonial argument. Once the government that would carry the Federation of Malaya to independence was in place, led by the genial prince Tunku Abdul Rahman, a meeting was arranged at which the Tunku could try to persuade Chin Peng to give up the struggle since its nominal object of independence was achieved.  Chin Peng proved clear and persuasive at the 1955 Baling talks in Kedah, but insisted that he could only bring his men out of the jungle to lay down their arms if they were allowed to enter the political process as a legal party.  Under British advice the Tunku  would not agree to this, or indeed to any significant concession to the communists once they surrendered. The talks failed, and all they had changed was to provide the Malayan/Malaysian public with an image of their "enemy"–a slim soft-spoken figure who vanished from sight as suddenly as he arrived.



COMING SOON: Malaysia's I.S.A. 2.0 ... Oppose it!

Posted: 04 Oct 2013 11:08 AM PDT

I am reposting this article on the Internal Security Act, written in 2008 before it was finally repealed. Now that the Barisan Nasional has won, it is rebranding the act, not only, accordingly, for crime prevention but essentially as a national security straightjacket. We do not need such acts anymore. What then must we do? 

Remove the "national security" straightjacket

"Work with me …. not for me" 

— Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled for 22 years, once spoke about the nine challenges called 'The Way Forward-Vision', said to be a culmination of his work throughout his tenure.
The document charted the challenges the nation must confront in order for it to develop on par with the advanced nations.

These challenges are summarised as follows: 
1. Establishing a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny 
2. Creating a psychologically liberated, secure, and developed Malaysian society with faith and confidence in itself, justifiably proud of what it is, of what it has accomplished, robust enough to face all manner of adversity 
3. Fostering and developing a mature democratic society, practising a form of mature consensual, community-oriented Malaysian democracy that can be a model for many developing countries 
4. Establishing a fully moral and ethical society whose citizens are strong in religious and spiritual values and with the highest ethical standards 
5. Establishing a mature, liberal and tolerant society in which Malaysians of all colours and creed are free to practise and profess their customs, cultures and religious beliefs and yet feeling that they belong to one nation 
6. Establishing a scientific and progressive society, a society that is innovative and forward-looking, one that is not only a consumer of technology but also a contributor to the scientific and technological civilisation of the future 
7. Establishing a fully caring society and caring culture, a social system in which society will come before the self, in which welfare of the people will revolve not around the state or the individual but around a strong and resilient family system 
8. Ensuring an economically just society… in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation, in which there is full partnership in economic progress 
9. Establishing a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient 

With the Internal Security Act (ISA), how do we then meet these challenges? How is it an antithesis to what a civil society means? Do we still deserve the ISA?

Snapshot of protests

We are on the threshold of 2008. We have created a larger middle class, educated and imbued not only the taste of progressive Western secularist ideals synthesised with deep cultural and/or religious values still preserved, but also a better understanding of the principles of human rights. We know that Malaysia ratified the 1946 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We know that these involve the rights to the freedom of speech and assembly.

Our nation no longer deserves the ISA or any other intolerable Acts that kill the creativity and imagination of its nation. The ISA is an ideological state apparatus must go if we are to move forward as a nation that is known for it wisdom, intelligence, tolerance, and commitment to social justice – one that takes care of the needs of the poor of all races, without fear or favour.

The ISA which provides for detention without trial for up to two years at a time is anathema to the idea of a civil society. If we charge the detainees in court, we could learn a lot more about the meaning of 'national security'. It is not merely about maintaining public order but about trying to understand why citizens are publicly acting in manner deemed 'disorderly'. The history of the use of the ISA is tied to the history of the ruling class and how those who own the means of production own the means of silencing progressive voices of change.

Let us look at some snapshots of the protest movements in our history:

Read more at: 

Malaysia’s total local currency bonds outstanding: RM1 trillion

Posted: 04 Oct 2013 11:02 AM PDT

That's a 6.4 per cent rise from last year though 0.2 per cent lower than the end-of-first quarter 2013.

A bond is paper issued by a borrower, whether the government, GLCs or private firms, with a promise to pay periodic interest and to repay the face value upon maturity. The terms of payment depend on how investors view the offer, the risk involved and the country's economic climate – a view also shaped by rating agencies.

Out of this RM994bn bonds outstanding, the corporate sector accounts for RM406bn or US$128bn. Here are the top 30 outstanding corporate bonds in Malaysia. Note that four out of the top five issuers are state-owned.

Read more at: 

What will Zahid do about Unsatisfactory Management in Police HQ?

Posted: 04 Oct 2013 10:40 AM PDT

Previously I pointed out what's missing in the discourse about the Auditor General's Report for 2012. Here I will point out how focusing on missing guns has diverted us from the real issue. I will also point out some salient features of audit reports.

I am writing this post because I read in Malaysiakini that Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said "more and more people now trust the police," and said we should stop discussing guns lost by the Police.

The missing guns

Concerning the missing guns, Malaysiakini reports that Zahid said:

"I know the loss was not due to a breach of trust, deviant acts or elements of bribery," and "It is because of carelessness and mistakes made in the line of duty."

Well, this is the same Zahid who asserted, before any investigation, that the police were not involved in the shooting of Sanjeevan whose published mission was to 'expose' the police. It's hard to take Zahid seriously, for reasons I've outlined elsewhere.

In parallel, the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, has responded to reporters on the same subject.

According to The Malaysian Insider, Khalid said "the missing guns . . . could have fallen into the sea from boats and the weapons could not be recovered."

One of my friends observed that some Chinese say "fallen into the sea" to indicate practical wisdom: "it's happened, that's life, let's just let it go."

I doubt Khalid was thinking of the Chinese idiom, for he mentioned boats and alluded to on-the-spot decisions made not to recover the submerged guns.

According to Free Malaysia Today, Khalid said that subsequent to the Auditor General's Report, 7 of the missing guns had been recovered. The same article reports that Khalid said "the missing guns could also be due to police negligence and car break-ins."

Diversionary tactics

Teresa Kok, the Member of Parliament for Seputeh and "One Woman Malaysian Book of Records" used the missing guns to take a swipe at the Prevention of Crime Act.

Teresa suggested that the guns lost by the police could have been used in a spate of armed attacks which Malaysia has experienced in recent months.

Teresa used the missing guns as leverage to challenge Zahid's aggressive moves to re-introduce detention without trial, a la ISA and EO.

Khalid and Zahid appear to be using Teresa's comments to divert attention from the real issue of mismanagement in the police force. And the media are playing into their hands.

The real issue

Concerning the losses (mainly 156 handcuffs, 44 firearms and 29 vehicles), here's the complete list of weaknesses listed in the Auditor report:

i. delay in detecting the loss of assets;
ii. Head of Department delayed in preparing the Initial Report on the loss of assets;
iii. delay in forming the Investigating Committee For Loss Of Assets;
iv. Investigating Committee For Loss Of Assets delayed in preparing the Committee Final Report;
v. the Secretariat for The Loss And Write-Off Committee delayed in taking follow-up actions on reports of assets lost;
vi. delay in taking action by the Police Contingent upon approval of the write-off by the approving authority;
vii. delay in taking action for the surcharge process;
viii. secured storage space for assets was not provided for; and
ix. space for storing assets was limited. 
The word "delay"

Auditors are extremely careful with their choice of words. The word delay has been selected to do service in seven consecutive sentences. And most people still miss the point!

The frequent occurrence of the word "delay" is a signal to the reader that an extremely serious issue is being reported.

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