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Don’t Talk Big, Mahathir, You Brought Down Our English

Posted: 14 Nov 2013 11:24 AM PST


I did subjects like Shakespeare – and of course studying his plays in the original English – and still had to write essays and answer exam questions on Shakespeare at least 30 per cent in Malay! Sounds crazy, no?

Kee Thuan Chye

Not that I want to knock Mahathir Mohamad, you know, I've knocked him so many times before, but I cannot tahan laa when he tries to act innocent and say things should be like this or that now when he never did anything when he was prime minister to do the right things himself. In fact, for some things, he did the opposite.

Take what he now says about our graduates not being able to get jobs because they fail at interviews – because their English is poor. Now, let me ask him, when he was PM, did he do anything to make Malaysian students learn the language seriously other than learning Maths and Science in English? No, he didn't!

He didn't have the guts to go one step further and give more emphasis to learning English in schools. He floated the idea of bringing back English-medium schools but that petered out. He was only testing the idea. When it didn't work, he pulled back, like a tortoise head into its shell.

He didn't even make passing English at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exam compulsory. In fact, English ceased to be a must-pass subject in 1974, when he was education minister. He said Malay students might fail the whole SPM if English was a must-pass. Instead of spurring them on to master the language so that they would pass it and SPM as well, he gave them the easy way out. After that, succeeding generations of students couldn't be bothered with English. He was responsible for that mistake. The National Union of Teachers protested, but did he care?

Well, Mahathir was education minister from 1974 to 1977, and during that time, Malay neo-nationalism was on the rise. Even Malay creative writers like Muhammad Haji Salleh and Syed Alwi who were originally writing in English were feeling uneasy about writing in the colonial language and decided to switch to writing in Malay. So Mahathir was going with the flow. He promoted Malay to please the nationalistic herd, and he had no qualms about letting our standard of English slide.

But now he says Malay language nationalists are wrong in thinking that nationalism is about being able to speak the national language well. Now he says, "Nationalism is about becoming successful in all fields of life, being able to contribute towards the growth and the development of your country and your race. Being able to stand tall ... that is true nationalism." And therefore the use of Malay, which is "not yet the language of maths and science", should not be equated to nationalism.

Why didn't he stand up and tell them that in the 1970s? In those days, Malay was even less of a language of maths and science. He was education minister, for crying out loud. He was a leader, he was supposed to lead with the right ideas. Of course lah, he didn't because he was scared he would lose his position. In those days, if he had tried to champion English, he might have got lynched! And Mahathir must have loved his neck too much.

We know, however, what he was not scared of doing. In fact, it was one of the first things he did when he became education minister – the sort of thing he does best. Yes, exert control. Mahathir the control freak bulldozed university campuses and forced academia to be subjected to Government control. He kicked aside academics who opposed the move and placed his own men in vice-chancellor positions. I know that he replaced the excellent VC of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Hamzah Sendut, with a civil servant. What did civil servants know about administering universities except how to behave like feudal lords?

Mahathir took away academic freedom and politics in universities. He emasculated academics and threatened to withdraw the scholarships of students who were politically active. He introduced the culture of fear in campuses.

Read more at: http://my.news.yahoo.com/blogs/bull-bashing/don-t-talk-big-mahathir-brought-down-english-085328712.html 

Don’t idolise political leaders and inflate their egos

Posted: 14 Nov 2013 11:21 AM PST


What? Anwar the saviour! With due respect, I am also a Malaysian and I don't feel at all that Anwar is my saviour or that of my country. Seriously, I have yet to see anything tangible that Anwar had achieved to "save" Malaysia.

Francis Paul Siah, The Ant Daily

 "Anwar is not God and he should be prepared to face criticisms," a defiant Matunggong assemblyman Datuk Jelani Hamdan posted on Facebook. The Sabah PKR legislator is currently embroiled in a public spat with his party's leadership.

It's interesting to note that Jelani has used such strong language in describing Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. "He is not God" – a comparison between a political leader and God – is not a term we hear often. Why, were there people in PKR who have likened their party supremo to a superhuman or a divine being? Was Anwar really considered beyond reproach by party cadres and loyalists?

If Anwar himself thinks so, then it's just too bad. If Anwar is God, then I'm Jesus. Aha!

But I doubt it. Anwar is an old hand in politics and should be able to play down personal accolades. He is also known as a man of great strength and character. However, all of us have egos but politicians, particularly those holding high public office, have bigger egos — so big and heavy that they are incapable of carrying it at times.

Of course, they would be delighted if their supporters continue to polish their egos with their hero-worshipping and adulation - who wouldn't? We would too.

My worry here is that once those wielding power are put on such a high pedestal, they tend to think that they are somewhat invincible and can do what they like.

In order to continue winning the adulation and affection of their followers, they will likely go overboard and do the wrong thing — abuse their power. This is something which should worry all of us.

Anwar is an enigma. In the months following the 2008 general election, the opposition leader had the largest following of hero-worshippers in the country, in my opinion at least.

I was amazed by the thousands of postings online singing his praises. How his followers idolise him! This man could garner public adulation in a way no other political figure in the country was able to. Anwar deserved the credit too. For the first time, the Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority and five states to the opposition alliance.

But I was quite perturbed by some PKR leaders who went overboard with their praises for Anwar. In the 2011 PKR convention, Azmin Ali described his boss as the "saviour" of the people and nation.

What? Anwar the saviour! With due respect, I am also a Malaysian and I don't feel at all that Anwar is my saviour or that of my country. Seriously, I have yet to see anything tangible that Anwar had achieved to "save" Malaysia.

But Anwar has my respect and I have high regard for him as the opposition leader today. I support his anti-corruption drive and his Buku Jingga ideals of justice, transparency and accountability. Being the skeptic that I am, I must see that his policies have been brought to fruition first before I can say "well done, Anwar".

Perhaps I can understand Azmin. He worships Anwar. That is his right. But Azmin's choice of a hero is one of personal affiliation. He identifies himself with Anwar while many of us do not.

Anwar is not my political idol because I have none. I do not hero-worship any political leader at all. Why? I feel that there is no politician in the country worthy of such servile flattery. Let's get real -- there is no Mahatma Gandhi(s) or Nelson Mandela(s) in the Malaysian political scene.

Read more at: http://www.theantdaily.com/news/2013/11/14/dont-idolise-political-leaders-and-inflate-their-egos 

Police Oversight: How do we police the police?

Posted: 14 Nov 2013 10:42 AM PST

It could be reasonably postulated that this is another case of first class legislation followed with third class implementation, something not unfamiliar for Malaysia. 
Nicholas Chan, fz.com 
THE police force is sometimes looked upon by the people with respect and veneration, but other times with fear and scepticism. 
This is because as law enforcers, they are imbued with considerable power; power that are open for abuse. 
As cases of police brutality and death in custodies has begun to pile up (Suaram recorded 12 custodial deaths as of July 18), calls for police oversight in the form of Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct (IPCMC) has been reinvigorated as its current replacement, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) was largely criticised as a toothless tiger.
Life before the oversight commissions
Although our state of police oversight, or rather the lack of it, has been the crux of the movement for politicians and human rights activists alike in recent years, it is worth noting that police oversight was never a new concept. Article 140 (1) of the Constitution clearly stipulates that,
"There shall be a Police Force Commission whose jurisdiction shall extend to all persons who are members of the police force and which, subject to the provisions of any existing law, shall be responsible for the appointment, confirmation, emplacement on the permanent or pensionable establishment, promotion, transfer and exercise of disciplinary control over members of the police force"
This looks pretty legit of the fact that the ultimate binding document for the nation of Malaysia has recognised the need of having civilian oversight over the police force. The Police Force Commission as mentioned, interestingly has a clause that says if subsequent establishments for police oversight was formed, it should rightfully delegate its powers to such bodies. 
However, the Constitution does not specifically mentioned how the Commission should exercise its power, especially in terms of investigative powers.
The lack of clarity in this sense about dealing with police misconduct followed by the fact that the Commission is chaired the Home Minister with another eight Commissioners1 whom are all current and former civil servants (including the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and former policemen) would perhaps explains the lack of observed vigour and gravity from the Commission in tackling issues of police efficiency, integrity and professionalism. 
The Commission simply lack a clear legal mandate and more importantly, the independence from the Executive to do so.
The journey from the IPCMC to the EAIC
Nevertheless, it was not until 2005 that a concrete idea on revamped police oversight was mooted in the form of the IPCMC proposed by Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah's Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police. 
Although the idea was principally agreed by then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the government finally backed off from its establishment following vehement opposition from the force. 
One instance even involved then IGP Tan Sri Mohd Bakri Omar, voicing out his opposition to the idea in the presence of Pak Lah at a public ceremony celebrating the 199th Police Day. 
A watered down version of the IPCMC named the Special Complaints Commission (SCC) Bill was instead tabled at the Parliament but later also withdrawn from debate. 
The hopeful legacy of Pak Lah in reforming the police was finally cemented during the passing of the EAIC Bill in July 2009, three months after his resignation.
Oversight body of any other name?
Like the SCC, the EAIC suffered from criticisms as being a washed down version of the IPCMC, which admittedly is a more powerful organisation in writing.
However, it is worth exploring such differences (as can be seen in Table 1) before assessing the cited failures of the body impartially, like how it should have rightfully done on the police.
Table 1: The Scope and Powers of IPCMC and EAIC2
A study of the two Commissions would reveal that the EAIC was nowhere near the toothless tiger it was claimed to be, at least not legislatively. 
In truth, the EAIC Act 2009 is actually a more concise but structured version of the IPCMC as it lays down in better details the framework and methodologies in the handling of complaints as compared to the IPCMC. 
In terms of investigative powers, the EAIC and IPCMC can be said to have almost the same mandate. 
Major differences between both Commissions lies in their extent of power (EAIC handles complaints of more than 21 enforcement agencies) and the mandate to punish (IPCMC can exert direct punitive actions on police officers).
In short, the IPCMC, with its far reaching powers, is designed as an ad hoc and pressing solution to address the plight of human rights infringement and corruption, while the more composed EAIC is a slightly watered down but still powerful oversight body for all enforcement agencies.
The case of the powerful
To say that the EAIC is a powerful body is not an arbitrary but a relative fact. This can be seen in comparison with the United Kingdom's Independent Police Complaints Commission3 (IPCC), Hong Kong's Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC HK) and the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) of Queensland, Australia4.
It could be observed that in international practice, most the misconduct complaints on the police are to be investigated by the police themselves while the oversight bodies only monitor and sometimes supervise the investigation.
Only when serious cases of misconduct happened, the IPCC and CMC would conduct investigations on its own (the IPCC HK does not have such powers). 
Being the investigative body, all three oversight bodies do not act as the arbitrating bodies in dispensing punishments. They will only take on an advisory capacity when it comes to punitive action. 
Furthermore, unlike the IPCMC, none of them seem to have peremptory power in initiating investigations against the police unless a report is lodged.
So what went wrong?
Given such comparisons it would appear that there is no case of the EAIC being under-armed to deal with police misconduct, as its counterparts overseas could do more with less.
A comparison of the available resources and manpower to the various oversight bodies can be seen in Table 2.
Table 2: A Comparison of the Operating Budget and Staffing Capacities of Different Police Oversight Bodies in the World
It could be reasonably postulated that this is another case of first class legislation followed with third class implementation, something not unfamiliar for Malaysia. 
For instance, out of the 124 cases opened for investigation (as of May) by the EAIC, none of them are related to the police custodial deaths. 
Surely the body wouldn't be so insensitive to the point that death in custody does not qualify as cases of public interest for investigations to be initiated even if no complaints are lodged.
The body is not devoid of its own scandals too. The only investigation officer that remained at the Commission was one of the last MACC officers to have interrogated Teoh Beng Hock before the latter plunged to his death mysteriously. 
Later on, one of its Commissioners has been accused of conflict-of-interest when his lawyer firm was found to be representing a police officer charged in the murder of a detainee. 
Unlike the three oversight bodies mentioned previously, the EAIC perplexingly did not release any information to the public in the forms of annual reports to account for its spending and investigations conducted. 
It is in irony to see a body that was established to introduce values of integrity and accountability was operating without them.
Police oversight done right
The author is also of the opinion that it is more efficient to have a separate police oversight body rather than lumping it up together with the oversight duties of twenty other enforcement agencies seeing that it would strain the Commission financially and logistically.
In support of the doctrine that nobody should act as both the police and judge, it would not be appropriate to have an oversight commission with indisputable punitive powers. 
The body should instead, be imbued with the powers to monitor the execution of its recommendations. 
Powers which the EAIC has, but does not exercise when a news report has quoted the then CEO of the Commission saying she did not know what happened to its recommendation of demoting a police officer. 
No matter what, a body seem to be persecuting the police would only be counter-productive to the greater goat of reforming our police force.
Apart from that, the Human Factor is very important in complementing good laws; hence staffing the Commission with the correct people should be made first priority. 
Commissioner's appointment, instead of being the Prime Minister's prerogative should have undergone a parliamentary approval. 
Investigations on serious cases of police misconduct (e.g. police linked violence and death, major abuse of powers and discriminatory practises) should be made mandatory (like the IPCC) as well as public disclosure of information, something an independent and transparent body ought to be doing.
In short, the police oversight body Malaysians deserve should be one of size, integrity and professionalism. 
Qualities that has been evading the Royal Malaysia Police certainly has to be found in those hoping to reform it, right?
1 Some are designated appointees as stipulated by Article 140 (3)
2 Edited from the fact sheet as found in Fz.com
3 Also investigates serious complaints against Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs department and the Serious Organised Crime Agency in England and Wales.
4 CMC investigates misconduct for the entire public sector, while playing a complementary role to the police in fighting serious crimes.

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