Thursday, 30 December 2010

Balanced worldview via history

Brave New World (The Star)
30 December 2010

Our secondary school history syllabus needs some serious thought and reworking as it is very imbalanced.


I DID a funny thing on Christmas Day. I went to a bookstore and bought an SPM history book. The last time I read one of these things, Ronald Reagan was president and it was considered the height of fashion to wear carrot-cut trousers and white socks with your little black shoes; an ugly time indeed.
Anyway, the reason I bought this SPM history textbook was because there has been some controversy recently about the proposal to make history a compulsory subject in the SPM exams.
The main contention about this move by the Government is the actual content of the history taught. In the spirit of independent research, I bought the book to see if there is any cause for concern.
The thing about history is that it is not written in stone. Discoveries are made which shed new light on old ideas. For example, archaeological digs in Malaysia have shown that the peninsular has been inhabited for far longer than previously thought.
In Egypt, discoveries of entire towns surrounding the great pyramids suggest that they were built by a skilled workforce as opposed to an army of slaves (or technologically advanced Atlanteans if you read some of the more far out books).
Even existing facts can be reinterpreted in order to view established historical figures and events in a new way.
Recent works on Genghis Khan dismiss the simplistic (and racist) view that he was merely a blood-thirsty conqueror. Instead his empire established progressive ideas such as a common currency, protected trade routes and centres for education and culture.
However, the interpretation and reinterpretation of history has to be done very carefully.
There is always the danger that if a person has a specific agenda in mind, then his version of historical events can be very skewed and untruthful.
For example, for many years the great African civilisations like Nubia were not given any prominence because it conflicted with the European agenda to depict Africa as a backward place, thus justifying their exploitation of the continent and its peoples.
Therefore, any historian worth his salt must be as objective as possible and back his assertions with solid evidence; assertions which can change with future discoveries.
With this in mind, I dipped into my brand new book. And I must admit that the SPM syllabus leaves much to be desired.
The most glaring oddity is found in the Fourth Form section of the book. There are 10 chapters in the Fourth Form syllabus and five of them are about Islamic civilisation.
I do not understand why there has to be so much emphasis on Islamic civilisation.
Great swathes of important history such as the ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the Chinese Kingdom, the Indian empires (north and south), the Renaissance and the South-East Asian kingdoms are dealt with almost perfunctorily.
What is even more troubling is that the “history” of Islamic civilisation has elements of theology in it.
This overly heavy emphasis on one aspect of human history is not healthy as it provides our young people with a very imbalanced worldview.
And it is most ironic that it is Islamic civilisation that is given so much space in the history syllabus because one of the greatest strengths of the so-called golden age of Islamic history was the hunger that Muslim thinkers then had to seek knowledge from around the world.
They were not insular and narrow in their thinking and if one were to truly honour Islamic civilisation, then it is this attitude that should be embraced, not the rather strange idea that one civilisation deserves so much more attention than all others.
Looking at the Fifth Form part of the book, there is also some cause for concern.
In studying the development of the nation state that is Malaysia, there is a need for our young people to understand that there were many players involved.
The Malayan Union, for example, was not opposed by the Malays only. The multi-racial AMCJA-PUTERA (which was given approximately three dismissive lines in the book I bought), opposed the Malayan Union too.
They organised massive rallies and a general strike which Malayans from all walks of life and ethnic communities participated in. And they were the first to actually demand independence.
So yes, I do believe that our secondary history syllabus needs some serious thought and reworking. As it is, it is very imbalanced.
If taught correctly, history can be fun and also invaluable in shaping a sense of common identity.
However, if taught wrongly it is deadly dull and if content-wise it is wrong, it can be divisive and breed dangerous ideology.
With the New Year upon us, let us not forget that to move forward we must understand the past.
Let that understanding be a fair one in order for our progress to be fair too.

The beauty of democracy

Brave New World (The Star)
16 December 2010

Governing well is a boring thing because it is scandals and exposes of corruption that sell the newspapers. Still, it is important that the people choose those who govern well.

SOMETIMES, we can miss the forest for the trees. In Malaysian politics, there are so many rotten trees that we sometimes forget there’s even a forest in the first place.
The forest I am talking about here is that when we elect a government, we are primarily concerned that they should jolly well govern.
However, everyday government business is actually a very boring thing, so it is unlikely that the newspapers will cover it.
Why should they when scandals sell so many more copies. This is true with the online media as well.
So there is a tendency to emphasise more on the juicy stories.
In the meantime, boring stories about governing either do not get told or are lost amid the more titillating tales.
I admit I too am guilty of running with the most exciting issue of the day but sometimes we need to just look at the boring stuff to remind ourselves that a country is not run by rhetoric alone but the drudgery of simply organising things day after day.
We have to look at this because it is important for Malaysians to not just look at the “big” stories, we must also examine the minutiae of a government’s record of doing its day-to-day job.
If we take a look at Selangor for example, the state government made some good decisions since it has been in power.
Local councillors in my area have been chosen from a wider array of people than before, many of whom are recognised and respected in our local community.
There are councillors who established their reputations by being representatives of the interest of the disabled, local residents and human rights.
It is reassuring that local council posts are not being treated merely as a reward for the faithful and if the Selangor government can overcome the legal minefield that lie before it, we should see proper local government elections.
The Freedom of Information Bill, if it is passed by the state legislature will ensure much better access to information that citizens deserve.
Sure, it is not perfect, but it does put into place a mechanism where in a clear and organised manner, we can demand information which, by and large, should not be denied to us.
And I am certain that if it comes into force, we can demand information about the open tenders being conducted by the state government and it won’t have anything to hide.
Despite the whinging in some quarters, I like the fact that on Saturday I will not get plastic bags in my local store.
It forces me to carry my little canvas bag when I go shopping.
And although I have yet to see a canvas shopping bag that has even the slightest hint of masculinity, I am quite happy to do my little bit by using them even if it means swinging a girly bag when I buy my onions and coffee.
The Penang state government also has much to be proud of.
For example, my home state finds itself in the black from better financial management after tottering on the brink of being broke.
The fact that the mainstream press so gleefully print stories of protests by disgruntled citizens in both these states is also a reason to be happy for it shows their respect for the freedom of assembly.
The Pakatan has had many hiccups in the political arena, the latest being of course the sheer debacle of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s party elections.
I have said it before, and I will say it again that my main concern for Malaysian politics is that we achieve a proper two-party system, where we have a real choice to vote one party in and if we don’t like the party, to vote it out again.
It is imperative therefore to look at the ability of the parties to govern and if they do a poor job, we can just kick them out again and put whichever party we like in.
That’s the beauty of democracy.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Sore need for plurality in law

Brave New World (The Star)
18 November 2010

Over the years, our courts as a whole have been steadily abdicating their duty to protect the citizens’ rights as stated in the Federal Constitution.


YOU may remember the Shamala case; the story of a Hindu man converting to Islam and then without the consent of his Hindu wife converting their two small children as well. The latest development in this saga is the Federal Court decision on the 12th of this month.
The roots of this case lie in the judgment of the High Court in 2004; the judge held that it was all right for one parent to convert their child without consent from the other.
His reasoning was based on Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution which states: “The religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian”.
He noted that the article says “parent”, not “parents”. This is an overly simplistic literal interpretation of the article, for if taken to its logical conclusion what it can lead to is a child being converted by one parent one day and then converted again by the other parent the next day.
Surely this ridiculous situation was not what the article intended and surely it can be implied that the word “parent” means both parents.
He then proceeded to give custody to the mother but on the condition that she will not expose the children to her Hindu faith. Again, this is another strange ruling. It places an unreasonable condition on the mother.
After this decision, the mother left the country with her two children.
Meanwhile, her lawyers appealed to the Court of Appeal asking the court to decide, among other things, on the constitutionality of one parent being able to unilaterally convert their children.
The Court of Appeal agreed to allow the case to go straight to Federal Court, the highest court in the land, to decide the matter on the grounds that it will save time and effort as whatever its decision, one of the parties will appeal to the Federal Court anyway.
The Federal Court decided not to make a judgment on the constitutional issues as the mother and the children were now out of the country and therefore whatever it decides will come to naught as she is not within its jurisdiction.
The Federal Court judges made clear their displeasure that this woman had left the country in contempt of the court and was now seeking a decision from the very same court; something they were not going to do.
With all due respect to the court, I am of the opinion that this entire situation is the result of our courts as a whole steadily over the years abdicating their duty to protect the citizens’ rights as stated in the Federal Constitution.
And now using a technicality, albeit a legally sound one, they are once again side-stepping an important constitutional question.
Time and time again, we have seen our courts hide from their responsibility to uphold the Cons­titution whenever cases involving Islam appear.
They either do it by stating that such matters belong in the jurisdiction of the Syariah court, even though the Syariah court has no jurisdiction to answer questions regarding the Constitution, or they come out with a ruling like the High Court decision in this particular case.
The courts have lost track of the fact that this is a secular country and that its citizens have rights as stated in our secular constitution. They have bent over backwards, for reasons unknown, to allow Islamic matters to be above and beyond the limits placed within the Cons­titution.
In this way, they have ignored the fact that this country, being a multi-religious and secular one, needs a high degree of plurality in order to avoid injustice.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Perfectly legal, but not necessarily good

Brave New World (The Star)
4 November 2010

Laws must be good and have an ethical foundation, for without such a foundation we can so easily slide into barbarism cloaked behind a thin veneer of legality.


A NATION ruled by law not men — a concept that demands our behaviour be determined by a set of principles and not by our own desires. As an ideal, it is a leveller, a protector, for at its core is the idea that power should not be abused.
Power takes many forms, some simple and base, whereas others are more complex. At its most simplistic level, a healthy 200lb, 6ft tall 20-year-old man is far more powerful than a frail 70-year-old pensioner.
This does not, however, give him the right to knock the old man down and rob him. There are laws against assault and theft.
But power is not merely about physical strength, it is also about authority. In a modern state, we give a lot of that authority to governments and government agencies. This is a necessity for governance in large complex societies.
What this means is that some ordinary men and women find themselves with tremendous power over their fellow citizens.
I can’t walk the streets with a pistol in my pocket, but every day I see men with guns. Usually they are directing traffic.
What is there to stop these armed men from pulling out their weapon and shooting someone? Absolutely nothing, except perhaps, their own conscience.
However, one can’t be overdependent on an individual’s moral compass, and so we have laws. And everyone is subject to these laws, even those — no, especially those — who have been given powers greater than the average citizen.
It ought to be remembered though that these laws must also be good laws. They must have an ethical foundation for, without such foundations, you have barbarism cloaked behind a thin veneer of legality.
Let us not forget, for example, that the atrocities of the Second World War committed by the Nazis on Jews and other people considered below their Aryan perfection, were perfectly legal according to the laws of Hitler’s Germany.
These were the thoughts that played on my mind upon reading the news of the last few days. The arrest and alleged beating of Selvach Santhiran on Oct 25, the very day that he testified against the police in the R. Gunasegaran death-in-custody case is very worrying indeed.
The police have arrested him under the country’s drug laws, but the close proximity between his testifying against them and his arrest is suspicious to say the least.
Furthermore, if his family’s allegations are true, why was there a need to beat the man in front of his children after he had been arrested and was no longer a physical threat?
The court had reached an open verdict on Gunasegaran’s case, meaning the judge was unable to conclude the reason for his death, despite the fact that three witnesses testified that he was beaten.
This judgment itself has been criticised, but it is what it is. S. Selvach had testified in a court of law, and the judge had made a decision. He had done nothing wrong and in fact had fulfilled a civic duty.
If his arrest had anything to do with his testimony, there is reason to be concerned. Concern for the apparent example of “rule by man”, and concern for the safety of the other two witnesses, Ravi Subramaniam and Suresh Subbaiah, who are also in police custody.
Another news item that caught my eye was the arrest of Teoh Lee Lan. She is the sister of the late Teoh Beng Hock and she was arrested along with some of her friends for distributing leaflets at Galas amid the by-election campaign.
She and her group, “Malaysians for Beng Hock,” have been campaigning hard to raise awareness about the case and to press that the truth be uncovered regarding Beng Hock’s tragic death two years ago while in the custody of the MACC.
Her arrest was made on the grounds that she broke election laws and was “campaigning” in a manner that was promoting feelings of ill-will. Whether these reasons are justifiable is extremely debatable as she was not representing any political party.
But what we see here is the use of a law to prevent a person from expressing her legitimate concerns.
If a law is used to favour one group over another, if it is not enforced in a neutral manner, then it is just as bad as having a poor law or no law at all and it will be yet another example of a nation ruled by men and not laws.
These examples are important to us as a nation because they show a disregard of the principle that I stated at the beginning of this column.
And this is a principle that has to be adhered to for it is a civilising ideal without which we can so easily slide into barbarism, and surely that is not something one would wish for one’s own country.

Turning rhetoric into reality

Brave New World (The Star)
21 October 2010

'I am talking about we citizens using the Asean Charter as one of our tools in the fight for human rights, rule of law and democracy.'


YOU may have heard of the Asean Charter, it is a treaty signed by all the members of Asean and it formally confirms that Asean is an international entity.
This means that Asean as an organisation now has legal “personality” on the international stage.
It can make treaties with nations and other international bodies.
It has international rights and obligations and it is bound by international laws and principles.
All this time, Asean has never been officially an international entity in its own right. It was a loose coalition of various countries with no legal personality of its own.
You can imagine it like an informal club. A group of buddies get together and form a club.
They have rules and they do things according to those rules. However, the club was never registered with the Registrar of Societies, so the club itself did not have any legal personality.
Thus, if a member of the club does something wrong to you, you can sue the member but you can’t sue the club because legally, the club does not exist as an entity which has rights and obligations.
This was what Asean was before the Charter was signed. Alright, this may be really exciting to students of international law, but I guess that if you are not, and if you are still reading at this point, you are probably thinking of turning the page to see how Spider-man and Iron Man are faring in their fight with the Puppet Master.
Before you do, let me explain that the Charter may well have a profound impact on our lives.
The Charter has a set of principles and Asean and its members are obliged to act in accordance with those principles.
Two of those principles are:
> Adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional governance;
> Respect for fundamental freedom, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice.
This means that our Government has agreed to live according to these principles.
Now, those with any knowledge of Asean would probably dismiss this document with a contemptuous wave of the hand, saying “Asean is weak and toothless and nothing will be done”.
There is plenty of justification in that cynicism for amongst the principles of the charter is also an emphatic confirmation that there will be no interference in the internal affairs of Asean members.
This is the famous “Asean way” in which they try hard not to step on each other’s toes, no matter how appalling the behaviour of their members.
But I am not thinking of Asean taking the initiative to make sure that the Malaysian government lives up to its principles.
I am talking about we citizens using this document as one of our tools in the fight for human rights, rule of law and democracy.
It is not interfering if we are campaigning within our countries. And campaign we must.
We must remind our government, no matter who they may be, that an international agreement has been signed, an international law has been agreed to, and it says that this government will abide to the principles of human rights, rule of law and democracy.
You can’t agree to such things and then pretend it does not exist.
Well, they may want to, but we can remind them that it does exist and we will push them to live up to those promises for they affect us the citizens.
Last week, there was an International Conference on Human Rights in South-east Asia, held by the South East Asian Human Rights Scholars Network (SEAHRN) in Bangkok. Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary General of Asean gave the opening keynote address and in it he said, “Those who toy with the rhetoric of human rights and democracy will have to live up to the standards of human rights and democracy in the end”.
Well, our government has been talking about it, let’s make sure that they don’t forget it and press them into turning the talk into something real.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in PKR

Brave New World (The Star)
7 October 2010

The ongoing party elections and a recent book launch show the different, sometimes opposing, faces of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.


THE last two weeks has seen Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) acting in a way that is akin to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. On the one hand its party elections have so far been conducted in a manner that does not reflect well on it. On the other hand, an event last week showed the vast potential of PKR.
Let’s discuss the party elections first. As far as I know, this is the first time that a Malaysian political party is having direct elections for party posts. That is to say, one member one vote as opposed to party divisions having the vote.
This method is of course far more democratic and should be applauded. It is quite obvious to the outsider, however, that the actual organisation of such a large endeavour was not done with any efficiency by PKR.
It is not easy to run an election with an electorate that goes into the hundreds of thousands, and logistically it does appear that PKR has not done well.
This has led to unseemly fights and arguments, which perhaps could have been avoided if the election process was properly run with mechanisms in place that ensured transparency and accountability.
Admittedly, being the first time that this method is used on such a scale, mistakes will be made and lessons must be learned for future elections. We must also remember that the reports we have been receiving have been lacking in context.
Sure it makes great copy to write about furious rows and breaking ballot boxes, but we are not told how many divisions conducted the elections peacefully and in a civilised fashion. It is possible therefore that trouble only occurred in a minority of cases and proportionally takes nothing away from this experiment.
Be that as it may, PKR cannot deny that this poor running of its party elections does not paint a complimentary picture of it, and needless to say its political enemies have gone to town making the most of the chaos.
I don’t really want to talk about the nature of the competitions themselves, except to say that they have been disappointing indeed.
The kind of character assassinations that has been going on does suggest that PKR is playing old politics and that its top people are not mature enough to not stoop to such crude tactics.
And this is where the Jekyll and Hyde analogy comes in. While all this was going on, very few people noticed the book launch of The Road to Reform: Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor.
This is a book commissioned by the Selangor government and it consists of over 20 chapters by various intellectuals giving their perspectives on how the state government has performed since the 2008 elections.
These writers are all independent-minded and the chapters are by no means a public relations job. They are intelligent and well-thought out. Most importantly, they were critical where they needed to be.
On top of this, the book launch on Sept 27 included a forum where the panelists were very outspoken and (in my view sometimes unfairly) witheringly censorious.
What this shows is that PKR (and they are the main component Pakatan party in Selangor) is willing to face uncomfortable intellectual discourse when examining its own work.
This is amazingly progressive as I am certain no other political party in this country will have the guts to commission a project that gives writers a free hand to be brutally honest about its performance.
This is a level of progressiveness and intellectual honesty that simply does not exist in Malaysian politics; reading the book and attending the forum was like being in another dimension.
The question here, therefore is, which personality is dominant in PKR? The squabbling, crude and crass PKR of the party elections, or the forward thinking, courageous and intellectually honest PKR of the book and book launch?
This is a question that the PKR has to ask itself, but I can tell them which one the voters who gave them their unprecedented success in 2008 want.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Debates to tickle the heart

Brave New World (The Star)
9 September 2010

If only new NGO 1Malaysia Youth Graduands and Perkasa's Ibrahim Ali will come forward to defend their assertions that the Constitution has been slighted.


AS I am writing this, my mind is not really on the happenings in this country of ours.
It is instead on lemang.
Which is very strange because I never grew up with lemang on my mind.
Coming from the north, the stodge of choice for Raya feasting was always ketupat.
And by ketupat, I mean the triangular ones made with beras pulut which is sometimes enhanced with soft boiled peanuts amidst the sticky goodness.
For years, I have defended the superiority of the feminine ketupat over the phallic lemang.
But that was just my stubborn northern pride talking because at the end of the day, lemang or ketupat, it is a small matter and to discuss the merits of one over the other is really making a mountain out of a molehill.
Which is rather like political party elections really.
It’s quite funny to see Azmin Ali and Zaid Ibrahim battle it out for the number two spot in PKR.
I never really understood the venom that goes into political party elections. I mean, you are all on the same team, right?
So, whoever wins, as long as it is the better person, then the whole team wins.
This being the case, there is no need for any viciousness, just a simple statement of intent and policy should be enough.
Then let the members choose. Simple.
Especially with the won­derful one-member one-vote system that PKR has implemented.
Each member has a voice, and that is empowering.
I am sure they can make up their minds on who is best for the job without the need for big-shot party members making declarations of support even before nominations are in.
All these press conferences and declarations of loyalty look awfully 1984 (the book, not the year) to me.
Besides there is something tawdry and terribly sycophantic about making such premature public declarations of support.
Kind of like the kid in school who will go out of his way to please teacher.
No one likes a teacher’s pet.
Speaking of teacher’s pets, I really like the name 1Malaysia Youth Graduands.
It truly sounds like a name a group of teacher’s pets would come up with.
Anyway, 1Malaysia Youth Graduands is the new NGO that made a police report against the Bar Council recently.
This is because, according to them, some of the booklets in the Bar Council’s My Constitution campaign are seditious.
Namely, the booklet that says that elected MPs can change the Constitution.
It’s all so pathetic, really.
All it takes is for a person to actually read the Constitution to see that it can be changed, and the main agent for change is the Legislature.
For some provisions, it requires a majority vote in the lower and upper houses of Par­lia­ment.
For others it needs a two-thirds majority in both Houses and the approval of the Council of Rulers.
In fact, the Constitution has been changed many times. On average about once a year ever since independence.
So I am not quite sure just what got 1Malaysia Youth Gra­duands’ (oh, I just love that name) drawers in a twist.
It would be nice to see them debate with the Bar Council about just how elected parliamentarians voting to change the Constitution is seditious since the Consti­tution actually allows for it.
Another constitutional debate I would really like to see would be between MPs Nurul Izzah Anuar and Ibrahim Ali regarding the interpretation of Article 153.
I know it is unlikely because Ibrahim Ali probably does not like to be beaten by one so young, and a woman at that.
Which is a shame because such a debate will be truly meaningful politically.
It will draw an intellectual line between PKR and Perkasa (and whichever other group that thinks like them), and this will inject much needed ideological balance to the political landscape of this country.
Such an event would mean so much more than yet another press conference over the PKR party elections.
It would even mean so much more than a debate over which is tastier, lemang or ketupat.
Have a safe and happy Id.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Stand up and be counted, Malaysia

Brave New World (The Star)
26 August 2010

It is strange that in the 21st century, we are still having to face the problem of institutionalised racism.


OVER the past week or so, there have been some developments in our country which are more disturbing than usual.
In particular, the two cases of alleged racist remarks by school heads; the accusations that Penang mosques have replaced the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the Chief Minister’s name in their prayers; and the continued insistence that Article 153 of the Constitution is equal to an inalienable right that could not be questioned.
These events are interrelated and it seems to me that they indicate that there is a battle of ideology going on in the country now.
On one side is the idea that a person’s ethnicity and religion entitles him to be treated better than anyone else who is different. On the other side is the idea that equality is an aspiration that is both noble and necessary for nation building.
It is strange that in the 21st century we are still having to face the problem of institutionalised racism.
Looking at our history, one can see why this has occurred. The combination of race-based politics and poorly interpreted constitutional provisions have meant that the idea of racial and religious superiority has been allowed to grow and become the norm rather than something undesirable and out of the ordinary.
How else can one explain the possibility that teachers, the very people to whom we entrust the education of our children, can have such warped values and also have the gall to express those views publicly?
How else can we explain the near rabid attack on the Penang Chief Minister for something which he and the state religious department have vehemently denied and in fact would have been insane to attempt?
Let’s analyse this one step at a time. When the dominant political parties in this country do not have any political ideology to speak of and are instead, based on the principle that each race-based component has a duty to safeguard the interest of its community, what one has is a recipe for the kind of policy and rhetoric that divides rather than unites.
Historically, one can see the reasons why the politics of the nation was forged in this way. It was a necessary evil in the face of the divide-and-rule policy by the British to show that even when separate, the three major communities of the nation can still work together politically.
However, it is an unsustainable model and what started life as a fairly rosy example of racial cooperation too easily descended into crude racialist type politics.
Which is why the early aspirations that our founding fathers had for a society treated with equality has now been all but buried by the idea that one race is superior to others and in fact is the only race with any right to be here in Malaysia.
This is because in the battlefields of politics, it is easiest to appeal to base racialist emotions, especially when without those types of ideas, a party based on race will have no collateral to work with.
In this kind of political atmosphere, it is of no surprise that what has been forgotten is that the basis of this nation was one of justice and equality. And the document that is meant to protect that, the Federal Constitution, has been misinterpreted to the extent that there is no longer any trace of this aspiration in the mainstream discourse of the day.
Let us be absolutely clear on this matter, the Constitution does give powers to the government to take affirmative action and it does acknowledge the fact that Islam has a special place in the public life of the nation.
What it does not intend to do however is create a perpetual system of ethnic-based favourable treatment nor does it advocate the idea that all other religious beliefs must be subservient to Islam.
However, instead of this reasonable position, what we have today is the idea that affirmative action for Malays is unquestionable and to be continued in perpetuity becoming the norm.
This cannot be further from the truth as there are no legal justification for it at all.
Article 153 of the Federal Constitution is seen as the holy grail for those who hold this view. However, if we examine the provision closely we will notice two things.
Firstly, affirmative action is not a Malay right. Article 153 does not endow a right. What it does is to merely give government the power to take affirmative action despite the overarching ideal of equality which is enshrined in Article 8 of the Constitution.
To support this contention, we see that Article 8 clearly states that all citizens in this country are equal except for situations specifically provided for in the Constitution. Those “specific provisions” are found in Article 153 and there are not many of them.
They include the power to establish quotas for the civil service, permits and licences, scholarships and education.
Therefore anything other than these areas should not be subjected to affirmative action.
Furthermore, any affirmative action has to be reasonable. The idea of what is reasonable must surely be open to research and debate otherwise there will always be the risk of abuse and wastage of resources.
This being the case, although questioning the existence of such a power to have affirmative action is moot, discussion on the efficacy of affirmative action policies and programmes surely is not.
The way the discourse is today, and not merely by the racialist fringe but by mainstream politicians in power, is that even the implementation of Article 153 is not to be questioned at all.
This is surely wrong based both on the meaning of the Constitution as well as the principle held by the founding fathers that Article 153 was an unfortunate but necessary aberration from the ideals of equality and that it was to be used not in perpetuity.
With these kinds of distortion of law, is it any wonder then that we still get people actually classifying whole swathes of the citizenry as having no right to be here?
Is it any wonder then that a crazy accusation against a Chief Minister whose government has given twice as much money to the Islamic bodies in the state than the previous administration, can give rise to the belief that he is a threat to the faith?
If this country is to have any future as a true nation, the time has come for those who believe in the ideals of equality, ideals which were held by the political founding fathers of the country as well as the traditional Rulers of that time, to stand up and be counted.
To not be cowed by the bigots and to say that this is our country and it stands on noble humanitarian ideals, not opportunistic racialist thinking.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Living in the Puasa Zone

Brave New World (The Star)
12 August 2010

What once was ordinary has now become bizarre and mind bending, and just when you think you have a grasp of what they are, the air shimmers, changes, and they become something else.


THE caffeine withdrawal has kicked in and things around me have taken a surreal turn. What once was ordinary has now become bizarre and mind bending.
The low blood sugar level in my body does not help as I cling to my sanity, waiting for a time when I can have that first sip of rose syrup which would take me safely through the Puasa Zone.
Cue music
It is a town unlike any other. Purpose built to act as a grandiose statement of one man’s ambition, it houses the machinery of government. But recently another machine has been seen stalking it’s corridors of power.
It is a strange creation, both charming and yet disturbing. Speaking in a high squeaky voice it walks around followed by an irritating boy in shorts and spectacles. The boy complains and whines when in fact he should be the happiest boy in the world.
How can one not be happy when one’s best friend is a blue robot cat from the future? A robot cat who has magical powers. And these powers are truly mind blowing; from a special pouch on his tummy, our magical blue robot cat can produce anything that you may want. Things that were not there moments before can suddenly appear, making life so much easier and happier for you.
Is this true and have things been appearing out of thin air? Or perhaps this is just my imagination as I watch the clock ticking, in the Puasa Zone.
Cue music
What once was considered to be a simple political alliance has now become something far more sinister and dangerous. It has taken on powers that the most mighty of magicians can only dream about.
Behold Pakatan Rakyat. They may appear to be a simple coalition between three political parties who for the longest time have been in the opposition. But when joined together they become a stronger more potent political force.
But is this truly all that they are? No, I am afraid not, for they have mastered an art which is so difficult that the most skilled of sorcerers would give their beards to possess. Pakatan has learnt the art of being two different things at the same time.
It bends the mind, confuses and confounds for you look at this creature called Pakatan and just when you think you have a grasp of what they are, the air shimmers, changes, and they become something else.
To some, if Pakatan sinks its claws into political power, then we will be ruled by a Chinese party. And yet to others if it comes to power, we will be ruled by a Muslim party. They warn us about the dangers of Pakatan but the dangers shift and change depending on who talks, in the Puasa Zone.
Cue Music
It is a special month. To many it has deep spiritual significance being a time for quiet contemplation amid strict discipline and physical deprivation that bring about greater understanding and appreciation of life’s blessings.
Yet, to others, it is a time to use what should be a time where one rises above the worldly, to campaign for cheap political mileage.
But perhaps one should just take a deep breath and turn away for a moment. Do not get drawn into anger and bitterness.
For just once a year, is it too much to ask of oneself to be more measured than usual, to keep that temper in check, no matter how idiotic the world may seem to be, for only once a year, one finds oneself living, in the Puasa Zone.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Less talk, more debate please

This article was published in Brave New World (The Star) on 29 July 2010. However, the passages in red were taken out. I post here the article in its original form.


The recent news that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Malaysia has dropped so much that it is now the lowest in ASEAN is worrying to say the least. Rather unsurprisingly the brother of the Prime Minister, head of a major bank, cautioned against panic and suggested that there be a thorough investigation into the matter to find the root causes and to determine if there is really cause for alarm.

This all sounds very reasonable and level headed except of course that we have a history of sweeping studies that are unpopular to the powers that be under the carpet. Take for example the findings by the Centre for Public Policy Studies in 2006 which put forward the argument that Bumiputra Equity had exceeded the target set by the NEP.

Faced by a tidal waste of government protest and the lack of support from parent organisation ASLI, the Director of CPPS resigned. Amidst the denials and crass accusations (it was insinuated that the findings of the CPPS was a non-Malay plot), what we did not get was a public debate on the issue.

So, it is well and good that the PM’s little brother wants a proper examination of the issue, but really, can we expect a thorough and open debate? We are faced with some serious economic questions but I do not think that the powers that be would want hard questions being asked and answered, and in this matter, hard questions and answers are exactly what’s needed.

And this is what worries me about the nation at the moment. We have real problems but we are still stuck on a mindset that is not helpful and is in fact counterproductive. Take for example the New Economic Measures (NEM). It would be unfair to say that it was a complete load of cobblers. Admittedly some of the ideas are taken pretty much wholesale from the Pakatan agenda, for example the bits regarding helping the bottom 40% of the society based on poverty as opposed to ethnicity, however I suppose one should take good ideas wherever one finds them.

However, back to my point: in its analysis of the economic situation in the country the NEM does concede that there are tough issues that need to be done away with in order to ensure future economic health; such as rent seeking and corruption, as well as race based policies leading to a brain drain.

If one were to look at this document alone, then one might feel that the “hard questions” mentioned above are at last being asked and following that there should be some equally hard answers. Still, it is one thing to talk the talk, quite another to walk the walk. And it strikes me as odd that in a time when we are economically vulnerable and when we should be looking at what is best for the country as a whole, we still get acres of print space being dedicated to ideas like “Malay Unity”.

Both the PM and the DPM have been talking about this “Malay unity” thing. First and foremost, I have no idea what they mean by the term. United for what purpose and perhaps more importantly united against whom?

Of course at the heart of it, what they must surely mean is united in the support of one political power. This is a repulsive notion as it flies in the face of democratic freedoms and it also has serious racist implications. After all, why should people be united based on ethnicity? If one wants to talk about unity, shouldn’t it be based on common endeavour, or ideology?

We are on the verge of what could be yet another serious economic crisis, and although official policy seems to point towards a more rational approach doing away with antiquated ideas based on race; the political reality is that race is still foremost on the minds of those in charge. I would have thought that the depressing news of having less FDI than the Philippines would wake us up to the reality that for the good of the nation, we need all our best people working for all the people. Instead those in charge appear stuck in that tiresome mire of caring more about hanging on to political power by using the basest of philosophies.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Important to have free access to data

Brave New World (The Star)
15 July 2010

Only with accurate information being freely available can the rakyat play a meaningful role in ensuring government decisions will have a positive effect on their lives.


THE Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) tabled in the Selangor assembly this week is the first major legislative action taken by the Pakatan Rakyat state government, and it is an important one.
It is, in my opinion, the first time they have taken a substantive step — by which I mean more than mere rhetoric — to show an ideological divide between themselves and Barisan Nasional.
The FOI, if it is passed, is a law that will enhance and strengthen one of the people’s fundamental liberties; specifically Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which is about the freedom of expression.
The right to information is an integral part of the right to expression because it is near impossible to voice your views with any authority if information is denied to you.
If the FOI lives up to its promise and works on the philosophy that information as a matter of course will be released, then it should make a real difference to the rights of the residents of Selangor.
Their participation in governance will then become much more meaningful.
And this is the second reason why this bill is so important. To achieve good governance, two of the key ingredients are ac­­countability on the part of authority and meaningful participation by the citizens. In one swoop the FOI can enhance both.
When information is available freely, it is harder to hide wrong-doings and corruption, too, becomes more difficult to practice.
Human beings are flawed and because of our flaws we shall always be vulnerable to temptation. It is hard to change people’s character but what one can do is to ensure that the system within which they operate does not give them free reign to indulge in the baser parts of that character.
A system which is transparent and promotes accountability does just that.
With regard to participation, citizens will need the necessary data to take part meaningfully in any discussion regarding actions that will affect their lives.
Sometimes this information will be used in an ad hoc manner, for example in formulating a criticism over forestry policy.
Other times it can be used as part of an established system of public participation, for example through the provisions in the Town and Country Planning Act allowing for the public to give their viewpoints to the planning authority.
There are basically two avenues through which this can be done. The first is if there is a development project in your immediate neighbourhood; the second is when the entire town or district is given the opportunity to comment on the Draft Structure Plan for their area.
Both avenues will be made more effective if the people have access to information.
I certainly hope this law will become reality although I realise it may take some time to be passed and, more importantly, to be operational.
In the meantime, there are other things that the Selangor government can do to make information more freely available.
To my understanding, during the consultation period for draft structure plans, local authorities actually note down and consider public opinion. If this is true, then it is very good practice indeed.
However, it will only be truly meaningful if the people are in the know about this practice.
In other words, this process must be made known to the general populace so that they can see whether their opinions are taken into consideration.
Another thing that the Selangor government can do is to introduce a more people-friendly modus operandi with regard to consultation processes.
If there is going to be a large-scale consultation process involving the planning authority, then tell us via our cukai pintu letters.
After all, you are going to post us those letters asking for our money anyway.
It is true that the FOI is limited to Selangor and the activities which are within the jurisdiction of the state government.
Be that as it may, that still covers a lot of issues concerning the people living in this state. The FOI is welcome indeed and I hope it is passed.
This combined with better practices in the day-to-day government operations will go a long way in showing that Pakatan means business when they say they are concerned about more rights, more democracy and good governance in this country.

Friday, 2 July 2010

It’s democracy and not derhaka

Brave New World (The Star)
1 July 2010

It is one thing to have a populace that does not quite understand the full extent of their democratic rights, it is quite another to have leaders perpetuate a feudalistic atmosphere to keep their grip on power.


After the 2004 general election, the newly chosen MP for Putrajaya was being interviewed on the telly. He was obviously very happy with the result – his chubby face was glowing. The Barisan had won big in that particular constituency.
His happiness was understandable but his explanation for the victory, however, was a little bizarre. He said the reason Barisan won the seat so easily was because Putrajaya was home to mainly civil servants. In other words, it was expected that these people will vote for the “govern­­ment”.
Two points of clarification should be made here. Firstly, the freedom to choose is the right of every single Malaysian, regardless of job description. And secondly people don’t vote for a “government”, people vote for a party which will then form a government.
It’s all pretty basic Democracy 101 type stuff, but I guess for some it’s a lesson which is a little tough to grasp. Not surprising really, consi­dering how terribly feudal our country is.
Why, just today I read that tribal leaders in Sarawak have been warned not to vote for the opposition. The last time I checked, the right to choose belonged to all Malay­sians. I didn’t realise there was a tribal clause.
To a certain extent, I can understand why some people may think that once a party is in power then they deserve undying loyalty. It is a throwback to our days of absolute monarchs, chieftains and the like. You had an allegiance to your ruler, whoever that ruler might be and woe betide you if you were to be rebellious, or to use that most heinous of Malay words “derhaka”.
But times have changed and we are a democracy now. Or so we claim to be. If we are, then this thinking is simply not in line with our rights as citizens to choose our leader and to choose whoever we like as our leader. A feudal system is very much top down whereas a democracy moves the other way.
But like I said, I am not too surprised that we ordinary people may fail to understand and appreciate the power that is in our hands. I’m not surprised because the everyday business of governance in this country is infected with the trappings of feudalism.
Look around you – if you are in any public building, chances are you will see several portraits smiling benignly down at you a la Kim Jong Il. Apart from providing income to a bunch or photographers, printers and framers, I really don’t see the point in having these elected mugs smirking down at me. After all, what is important is the office, not the individual holding that office.
And although our national characteristic is one of politeness and respect, I don’t think it should degenerate to base toadying and brown nosing. It is distasteful to see grown men slobbering, bowing and scraping to elected officials who, let’s face it, are our servants and not the other way round.
Again, in a warped kind of way, I understand why people do this. These big shots have power. But then, even here there is a distortion of how things should be. They have power, that is true, but that power must not be in any way unlimited and the use of that power has to be accountable and transparent.
Because our system of governance lacks transparency and accountability, the amount of power wielded by the few is far too great and this merely feeds into the feudalistic thinking of the society we live in as people will prostrate themselves before someone whom they think can give them reward, regardless whether they should have such power to reward or not.
However, back to the Sarawak tribal chiefs. Michael Manyin, who is the Sarawak Infrastructure Develop­ment and Communication Minister, said in a speech that “tribal leaders are the government’s agents in developing local communities and are not supposed to go against the government”.
This may be true in the daily life of a tribal leader. He will have duties to carry out and he should not do anything to undermine that. However, during election time, there is no longer a “government”. There are only parties vying to be the next government and in that situation, a tribal leader or any other citizen for that matter can choose who they want.
It is one thing to have a populace that does not quite understand the full extent of their democratic rights, it is quite another thing to have leaders perpetuate a feudalistic atmosphere in order to keep their grip on power.
It is about time we realise that this country belongs to all of us, the citizens. It definitely does not belong to elected officials who are at the very most merely managers entrusted with the running of the nation and managers with no security of tenure because we can fire them.
And that is not “derhaka”, that is democracy.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The New Parliament Building

Note: This was not published in The Star due to the fact that the IT department thought it was a dubious email and quarantined it!


Throughout history we have examples of how the excesses of rulers help propel a revolution. Marie Antoinette was perhaps not quite the callous spoilt queen who supposedly uttered those famous words “let them eat cake” when told that the starving people of France had no bread. But it is undeniable that the extravagance of the court in Versailles played a major role in the over turning of the French monarchy and the success of the Revolution.
A bit closer in place and time, we need only look across the South China Sea to observe that the corruption of the Marcos regime was quite wonderfully symbolised by the thousands upon thousands of shoes owned by Imelda. The bleeding of the people of the Philippines by the dictator in Manila was represented by the row upon row of dainty slippers and pumps. In a country where so many were too poor to afford shoes, the imagery was powerful indeed.
And so it is here. The recent plans to build a new Parliament building at the cost of hundreds of millions of ringgit, along with the similarly priced new palace for the King, will quite naturally stick in the craw of the ordinary Malaysian.
Especially in the light of all the sounds made regarding subsidies. The people have been spoilt it appears. We have had it too easy with the cheap petrol and basic food stuff. And it is because of us that the country is going bankrupt. So the subsidies will be taken away, and we have to jolly well tighten our belts and economise.
How can anyone announce with a straight face multi million ringgit projects for new buildings (when there already exists buildings for said purpose) and at the same time bemoan our impending economic collapse. It looks a lot like them making fun of the people.
Yet, I am sure that no matter what you might think of them, the government can't possibly be so clueless. And I can already see the arguments that will be made. It is the same argument made by Mahathir when he had power (and not seeking publicity in poorly attended rallies in Terengganu).
In order to make money, you have to spend money and large government spending is a method with which to give a boost to the economy. The money for our Parliament building and palace will go to contractors and this will start a cascade of spending that will involve a whole host of industries.
Putting aside the obvious question of just who exactly are going to get the contracts, and are they truly the best companies to be awarded this work; one has to question the validity of this argument. It is true that government spending helps the economy and it is largely because of such spending that the growth in this country has appeared to be quite healthy in the past few years. However, it has to be remembered that this shine of health is only skin deep.
This kind of spending is a short term fix and for sustainable growth there has to be investment from the private sector, both internally and internationally. Ideally any public sector spending will encourage private sector investment. I can't see how a new parliament and palace is going to do that. Without private investment eventually you will simply be in a situation where there is no longer any growth and absolutely no money in the nation's coffers to artificially encourage growth.
From what I understand, foreign investment is at an all time low and much money is being taken out of this country to be invested elsewhere. Issues such as corruption, the rule of law, smooth bureaucracy, safe cities, working infrastructure and competent workforce are tough problems that have to be tackled before there can be confidence in this country by those with the money at home and abroad. Surely these are the issues that need to be addressed with certainty and courage and we ought not be looking to the quick fix of building yet even more buildings which are unnecessary and in the current climate look like cruel taunts.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

It takes more than just subsidy cuts

Brave New World (The Star)
3 June 2010

Doing away with subsidies is only plugging some of the holes in the system. A holistic approach is needed to put the economy back on sturdy footing.


SO, there I was driving down the Federal Highway, minding my own business when the car in front of me stopped suddenly. I braked as hard as I could, but due to the wet conditions and the fact that I was perhaps driving a wee bit too close, there was a moment of realisation that I was going to crash. Sure enough, I did.
This was the second time I’ve crashed due to wet conditions. The first time saw me spinning a little Kelisa a full 360 degrees; on a flyover no less.
Contrary to popular belief that during such moments one’s life flashes before one’s eyes, the only thing that flashed before mine was a vision of Ah Sang my mechanic sucking his teeth and saying “Waaah! This will cost you”.
Anyway, back to my Federal Highway escapade. The front of my Proton was pretty much smashed. The lights were gone, the bumper and bonnet were gone, and the radiator was wheezing its last breath.
With a heavy heart, I took the car to a workshop, mentally kissing away my No Claims Bonus, and they proceeded to repair it.
At the end of two weeks, the car was ready. Everything was fixed and shiny. Now, if I had gone there and they had just replaced the radiator, or just the bumper, I would have been mightily peeved. You can’t just fix one part of a car that has so many problems; you have to fix it all.
This brings me rather neatly to the subsidy cuts. According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala, our country will go bankrupt if we don’t stop the subsidies we enjoy on petrol and basic food items.
Now, the only thing I remember from my Sixth Form economics lessons was that supply and demand are somehow related and if you sell crisps in a pub your sale of both crisps and beer will increase. I never understood any of it, so forgive me if I am a little slow.
I wish someone would explain to me the following. Firstly, are subsidies the only thing causing a drain in our resources? I mean, we do have a gigantic civil service; perhaps a lot of money is going there.

And corruption is pretty rife, so rife in fact that “commissions” to deal makers for government purchases goes into the tens of millions of Ringgit. If our money did not line the pockets of cronies, wouldn’t there be more of it safely tucked away? [This paragraph was taken out by The Star - I wonder why?]

How about wasteful spending? I mean we’ve had petroleum money for decades that is now running dry; has all that money gone to subsidies so that we can enjoy cheap roti canai and kopi tarik?
Maybe, just maybe, if we did not use our money to bail out failed companies and financial institutions, and perhaps if we did not build grandiose buildings in the middle of nowhere, some of that money will still be around.
Be that as it may, the subsidies look like they are going away. This would not be so bad if we can be assured that, to paraphrase the many billboards I see on the Federal Highway, “people will come first.”
If you take away the petrol subsidy, for example, Mr BMW is not going to suffer. Neither will those having government-issued Perda-nas. But the ordinary Mat on his kapchai or his second-hand Kancil, will.
And the reason people scrimp and save to buy these vehicles which drink up subsidised petrol is because our public transport system is simply awful. If our ministers were to take the time to look, they will see hordes of people squeezing into buses even late at night.
So, it is all well and good to do away with petrol subsidies. It’s better for the environment, for example, but those with no alternatives will suffer.
Furthermore, when the price of basic foodstuff goes up it means that a working person’s daily expenses go up as well.
I remember just a few months ago when an iced tea at my favourite roadside stall went up by 20 sen due to the rising sugar price.
This may be a laughing matter for those who sip lattes in a hotel lounge, but it’s not for most Malaysians. Many Malaysians do not enjoy a reasonable minimum wage because we do not have any law that imposes a minimum wage.
So, pardon me Mr Jala, but I think putting the responsibility of saving the nation from bankruptcy on the shoulders of the masses is not only unfair; it is also merely fixing a part of the problem and not the whole.
It must be done holistically; otherwise, one cannot be surprised if people get a little peeved.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Tough game to overcome

Brave New World (The Star)
29 April 2010

It is very hard to win when officials appear to make decisions that favour one side over the other.


LAST weekend was terribly depressing for me. I was a distant witness to a battle whose outcome seemed inevitable, al­­though one did hope that it would have been different.
On the one side you had a group which has been dominant for so long that they felt it was their god-given right to always be at the top. Any challenge to them is met by petulant fury from their leader. On the other side is a weaker group which has struggled over the years to have some sort of impact on the status quo.
However, over the last two years, they have grown from strength to strength, and after a string of stirring and unexpected victories, they looked set to overcome the odds and beat their all-powerful foe.
But perhaps their recent good form was misleading, and to win this time was a bridge too far.
It did not help of course that officials almost always seem to favour the mighty enemy. Their leader in particular seems to have an unseemly amount of influence on the very people who are tasked with ensuring that any contest is clean and fair.
It is very hard to win when officials appear to make decisions which favour one side over the other. And to make matters worse, the supporters of this powerful group are arrogant and smug creatures who are unaware of the ideals behind the competition that their team is participating in.
I watched from afar, unable to do anything more than give moral support.
It was so frustrating being unable to actually be down there on the field of battle to do something more tangible.
But alas, this is the way of the world and most times high hopes and fervent prayer just don’t do the trick.
Still, it was a close call. And for a little while at least, it looked like the underdog might have been able to pull off a small miracle of sorts.
At one point, I was certain that they would win. Unfortunately, in the last lap of the race, they fell behind and victory went to the powerful.
It was not surprising, although painfully disappointing. But one must not give up hope, there are battles yet to be fought and they hover in the future.
The little guys must pull together and focus their attention on what they can do well. They have to fight on intelligently, building on their many strengths and shoring up their weaknesses.
A culling period may be called for where the ineffective and the counter-productive are trimmed away from their ranks, leaving a strong core that can bravely and honestly face the challenges that lie ahead.
I am, of course, speaking about the defeat of Tottenham Hotspurs to Manchester United at Old Trafford. What did you think I was talking about?
■ Brave New World will be taking a leave of absence and will return in June.

Why the need for Pornthip?

Brave New World (The Star)
15 April 2010

The fact that Dr Pornthip had to be asked to testify at all is a damning statement on how low the belief is in our justice system. Her presence casts a shadow over the judiciary.


THE controversy surrounding Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand especially the cicumstances surrounding her reluctance to return to testify at the Teoh Beng Hock inquiry is something that does not surprise me.
There are accusations and counter accusation by so many sides - some even defamatory.
However, that is not what I wish to concentrate on here. There is a bigger issue. The question that we should be asking is why did we have to obtain the services of Dr Pornthip in the first place?
True, she is very good at what she does, and it was through her efforts that forensic sciences in Thailand have developed by leaps and bounds.
But she was brought in not just for her expertise but because, frankly, of a lack of faith in the Malaysian justice system.
There is uncertainty that local experts will be able to do their work without any interference from outside parties.
In the Asian Rare Earth case of the 1980s, where a village in Perak became the dumping ground of radioactive wastes by an irresponsible company, the villagers had to get expert witnesses from Japan and Canada to provide evidence of the higher than normal radiation levels.
It was not a situation where they could not find any local person with the ability to use a Geiger counter, it was just that the company in question had influential shareholders, and local experts were unwilling to come forward.
In the Teoh Beng Hock case, it is not a company that is under scrutiny but the MACC, a government agency.
Furthermore, the young man who died was working for an opposition party. It is therefore even more likely that a local expert could be faced with all sorts of pressures, especially if he or she works in a government institution.
This is not to say that pressure will be applied. Neither is this to suggest that the government will resort to such underhanded tactics.
It boils down, not to a matter of fact but a matter of faith; faith that our system of justice is incorruptible and fair.
It really does not matter if it is or not, the problem is just as profound if one simply does not believe that it is just and honest.
Yes, it is very sad that Teoh Beng Hock died in such violent circumstances, and yes, it is imperative that we find out the truth about how he died. But there is also a larger question to be answered here.
The fact that Dr Pornthip had to be asked to testify at all is a damning statement on how low the belief is in our justice system.
Is it possible for us as a society to wipe clean the debris that is our justice system and build again?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What ‘social contract’ entails

Brave New World (The Star)
1 April 2010

The term has been hijacked by those who choose to invent their own meaning of the expression.


AH ... the social contract — a theory propounded by the philosopher Hobbes where the citizens of a country agrees to give power to a government in exchange for the guarantee of their own civil liberties and rights.
It is a term meant to dictate a type of governance where the needs of a powerful authority are balanced by the protection of citizens from abuse of that power. In this Hobbesian philosophy we find a weapon against tyranny.
But this is not so in Malaysia. The term “social contract” has been hijacked by those who choose to invent their own meaning of the expression. When “social contract” is used on these shores, it means that Malay political power must always hold sway and a state of perpetual pro-Malay economic policies must remain in place and everyone else must keep quiet as their forefathers had agreed to it.
The founders of this country did not have such racialist aspirations when we obtained our independence in 1957. The provisions in the Constitution which provides for the “special position” of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak (note there is no such thing as “Malay rights” in our Constitution), were meant as a stop gap measure but not a permanent crutch.
Tun Dr Ismail likened it to a golf handicap where you give the weaker party a boost until he reaches a point where he can play on equal terms. Indeed the time limit initially set was for the affirmative action to last 20 years.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Allow me to regale you with some quotes that can be found in the Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission “… in an independent Malaya all nationals should be accorded equal rights, privileges and opportunities and there must not be discrimination on grounds of race and creed …”
And the people who said this were not the British and their pompous hats. It was the Alliance which in case you have forgotten who they were, consisted of the Malayan In-dian Congress, the Malayan Chinese Association and the United Malay National Organisation. That’s right our great leaders of Umno hoped and dreamt of a Malaya based on equality. And you can see this aspiration reflected in the Constitution. Article 8 guarantees equality except in situations specifically provided for in the Constitution. In other words, if an affirmative action is not specifically allowed for in the Constitution, it is unlawful.
And there are other provisions as well; like Article 136 which states that all government servants must not be discriminated against based on race and creed. So our non-Malay public servants have a Constitutional protection against poor treatment for example in promotions. I don’t see all these “warriors for the social contract” waving placards demanding impartial treatment to all civil servants. Of course not, it would not do to defend the non-Malays, will it?
By the way, it is not only the politicians who wanted a country where there is racial equality, the rulers, our Sultans themselves said that they “... look forward to a time not too remote when it will become possible to eliminate communalism as a force in the political and economic life of the country”.
But in case you think I am making this up, it’s in the report mentioned above on page 71. Check it out yourself.
So the next time some ex-premier, or multi-millionaire Malay, or racist rhetoric politician, go on and on about the “social contract”, please be informed that this kind of self- serving bigoted behaviour was not part of the dream that is independent Malaya. Our founders did not have such base ideals they wanted better, and so should we.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

We need to move with the times

Brave New World (The Star)
18 March, 2010

When Man was lucky to live past 30, starting a family young might have made sense, but with lifespans having expanded many-fold, surely children should not be pressed into the rigours of adulthood


IN THE 19th century, slavery was still legal in many parts of the world. Societies which allowed for this practice often found justification for slavery in the scripture. Neither the Bible nor the Quran specifically disallows slavery.
To be fair, there are verses in both books which might be interpreted to discourage it, but if you are looking for any lines that say “slavery is bad, don’t do it, at all, ever,” well, you are in for a long search.
However, the cruelty of slavery soon became too much for people to endure. Values were changing and what was once deemed normal, became repulsive. This being the case, both Christian and Muslim scholars had to rethink the way they looked at the issue.
Many of the abolitionists at this time were Christians who chose to look at the “spirit” of the Bible, rather than specific verses, to oppose slavery from a religious perspective. Muslim scholars, while accepting that slavery was allowed in principle, concluded that it led to such cruel practices that it was no longer acceptable.
By the beginning of the 20th century, slavery was a thing of the past. Sure, it still happens, it happens today, but it is no longer legal, and stories of its existence are met with outrage.
In other words, values change and societies change with them regardless of earlier practices.
Another example from the 19th century is the age of consent for girls. Up till 1874, the age of consent for girls in England was 12. This was then raised to 13 in 1875. About a decade later, it was raised to 16 where it remains today.
The main proponents for the raising of the age of consent were concerned by the large amount of child prostitution that was occurring. With such a low age of consent, it was easier for young girls to be made prostitutes and harder to prosecute the men who preyed on them.
Today, of course, the concern for the protection of young girls (and boys) has become linked more to their mental and physical well-being.
Child prostitution still occurs, and to see images of broken little children being pawed by lecherous paedophiles is disgusting and disturbing to the extreme. But even without such vile practices, it is still generally accepted that children need to be protected.
If we look at the Islamic idea of what constitutes adulthood and sexual maturity, it is based on two very simple things. For girls, it is when they get their first period and for boys it is when they wake up in the morning feeling confused and with their pyjamas in a mess.
This may have been well and good in the 6th century but, really, times have changed. For one thing, the transition from childhood to adulthood has become much more extended.
Schooling, for example, is no longer a luxury for the wealthy but open to almost every child. The preparation time needed to become a grown-up has become more complex, and therefore children are not expected to jump immediately from childhood to the responsibilities of adulthood.
The need for the human race to procreate has also changed in the sense that there is far less urgency considering that lifespans have been extended significantly. Perhaps in a harsh world where one was lucky to live past 30, it made sense for people to start families as early as physically possible. But surely that is no longer the case.
This brings us to the story of the 11-year-old girl who was married off in Kelantan to a man in his 40s. The fact that it happened is not particularly shocking. This sort of thing occurs. Paedophiles exist. What should be shocking is the apparent “justification” used by the man (and I use the term here loosely), that the girl was “old enough” and their “marriage” was lawful.
The law as it stands does allow for Muslim girls younger than 16 to be married off with special dispensation. I think that it should be changed so that it is not allowed at all for girls under 16 to be married.
I realise that maturity is different from person to person. There are very mature 15-year-old girls who may well be able to handle marriage and child rearing. Just as there are very immature 18-year-old women who can’t. So, the age of 16 may seem arbitrary. However, a line must be drawn somewhere and short of further studies, it may as well remain at 16.
The importance of changing the law is two-fold. The first is to protect all our children in general. The second is to lay down the idea that as a society, we care that our children are given that protection so that they can grow safely and securely into adulthood.
Surely that should be the values we are projecting in this day and age, not some outdated concept from a bygone age.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Understanding three layers of a phenomenon

Brave New World (The Star)
4 March, 2010

To keep changing in a positive manner, we need to view social behaviour from the perspectives of the individual, national institutions and culture.


CHAIWAT Satha-Anand of Mahidol University in Thailand theorises that a societal phenomenon such as violence can be conceptualised in three layers: agent, structure and culture.
Agent is the individual perpetrator; structure is the institutional situation within which the act occurs, and culture is the societal norms that either condemn or condone such acts.
Only by studying all three layers does one come to a complete picture of the phenomenon in question. His study was focused on violence against children in Thailand, and how it appears to be in stark contrast to the perceived idea that the Thais are a peaceful society.
He states that of all the layers, the easiest variable to change is the agent. One can capture the perpetrator and punish him, thus removing him from the equation.
What is harder to change is structure; the laws and institutions that could have an encouraging effect on violent acts, for example, lenient punishments or corrupt judges. Still, it can be done with the requisite political will.
However, the most complex and difficult variable to consider is culture. It is an instinctive and ingrained feature of society which does not have a formalised shape (therefore making any change very hard), yet permeates thinking and attitude.
In his studies, Satha-Anand examines how, in some Thai myths, children are deemed to be property upon which great violence can be carried out for the greater good. Such myths, he suggests, are norm setting and create an attitude which may result in society not taking seriously enough the problem of violence against children.
For real change to occur, one must understand all three layers of a particular phenomenon. He does not suggest that only by fixing all three layers can society fix its problems; it is, after all, possible for a change in structure to have profound effects on agents and culture. But without understanding all three, the process will be flawed due to a lack of depth in understanding.
What I like about his theory is that it is applicable to all sorts of phenomenon, not just violence. Take, for example, corruption and racism.
As a lawyer, my tendency is, of course, to think more along the lines of structure. If there is a problem, lawyers tend to think along the lines of “can we improve the law, can we strengthen the institutions that enforce the law”. This has value but there is also a need to understand the mind-set behind the problem.
For example, I have said before that ultimately the Constitution is a document which has equality, liberty and liberal democracy as its aspiration and ideals. Yet, the way it has been interpreted by the courts appear to fly in the face of such aspirations.
Now, structurally, there appears nothing wrong with the Constitution itself. Neither is there, on the face of it, anything structurally wrong with the judiciary.
I realise the appointment of judges is a contentious issue, but it was not contentious before 1988; and the power of choice given to the executive exists in countries such as the United States without anyone questioning the independence of its Supreme Court.
The answer, therefore, must lie within the cultural milieu of the judges themselves. Ideals such as those I mentioned above do not seem to be part of their ethos any more.
Finding out why would be necessary to effect real change for, otherwise, even if there were a structural adjustment, it would do no good if the agents involved still have the cultural baggage of those from before.
This is, of course, a very narrow illustration. Broader issues can also be examined in the same way, and it is fascinating to look at these phenomenons through the prism of culture as a norm setting variable.
The legend of Hang Tuah is an interesting myth to study. The most renowned aspects of the legend revolve around machismo, fighting, and the concept of loyalty taken to the nth degree. And it is these elements of the legend that are most often alluded to in the behaviour of many in the country, politicians in particular.
But, as social commentator Farish Noor points out, that is only part of the story. The second half of the Hikayat Hang Tuah paints a very different picture of the man.
He is a diplomat, a pluralist, a linguist, and he is multicultural. How different would our situation be if these were the parts of the legend emphasised and these values, not the warlike blindly loyal narrative, had become our norms.
In conclusion, when studying the Malaysian condition, one has to bear in mind all three layers of analysis. And to keep changing in a positive manner, an understanding of all three is needed. All three can be changed.
As pointed out earlier, grappling with agents and structure is relatively simple. Culture, on the other hand, would require space for us to re-examine our norms and to discuss them openly.
In this way new norm setting can take place, either by the re-evaluation of old ones, or even the creation of new, more progressive ones.

Monday, 1 March 2010



As you may know, this blog was kindly set up by Elanor to compile the stuff I write (mainly for the Star). I have recently learnt how to use this new fangled thing called "blog" and now I post the articles myself, saving Elanor the tedium of doing so.

However, this is not really what you would call a real blog in that I don't interact on it. All this time, I just thought it was a handy archive type thing and a convenient place to direct imsomniacs to help them sleep.

But, recently I noticed that people actually read the damned thing and also take the time to comment. I would just like to say here that I am grateful, very grateful, to all of you and I would like to thank you. I may not reply to the comments but rest assured they are all read, considered and enjoyed. Yes, even the "direct selling" ones!



Road to political change

Brave New World (The Star)
February 18, 2010

"Our country needs a two-party system. Not as a panacea to all the nation’s ills, but as an important first step towards a vibrant democracy where there will be greater hope for things to improve."


I READ an interesting article criticising the Penang Government for being too business-friendly. In other words, the Pakatan government is behaving in the same capitalist fashion as the former Barisan Nasional government.
Examples that were used included the continued development of hillside land.
A similar complaint has been made against the Selangor Government which has apparently softened its outright ban on hillside development.
The writer of the article claims that this is because of the powerful business lobby, namely the developers lobby.
He may very well have a point, but one line struck me.
He said that this kind of behaviour by Pakatan suggests that a two party-system makes little or no difference.
After all, what is the point of having one bunch of capitalist to replace another? Shouldn’t we have a real choice with truly different parties and different ideologies?
To be fair to Pakatan, even if they are closet capitalists, they do have a different stance than Barisan and that is their non-race-based policy. To me, that is a pretty big and important difference.
However, that is still besides the point. A proper two-party system, where one group can actually lose and be replaced by another is, like I stated earlier, merely a first step.
Only with the real fear of being booted out of office can any change occur. And by change, I do not mean necessarily that suddenly we change from a capitalist state to a socialist one.
I mean the little changes which are needed to give people a real choice.
We desperately need a free press, for example. Newspapers that are free to provide an alternative view.
Therefore, the Printing Presses and Publications Act needs to go.
I realise that even without this law, a newspaper would still be bound by the wishes of its owner. But at least without this law anyone can start a newspaper and the people will have a choice.
And it is only with free and open discussion can there be other developments, for example the dissemination of different economic ideologies.
So, if you want the people to have a less capitalistic viewpoint, they have first to be exposed to that viewpoint.
Another law that has to be amended or done away with is the Societies Act.
If this was done, anyone can establish a political party. There will be many useless little ones, of course, but a few may survive and even if they are small they could still be influential.
In most democracies, the harsh realities of politics usually mean that two parties tend to be dominant.
But if we look at some of these countries we also see the possibility of a third party, perhaps with little chance of actually taking power but with enough clout to be influential, for example the Green Party of Germany with their eco-message.
Furthermore, with the necessary changes in place, a most vital third force in politics will be able to come into play — civil society.
Politicians are politicians and as such they will always be bound by several things.
Their party line is one but also their unquenchable thirst to hang on to power.
It is up to civil society, therefore, to keep them honest and in order to do this, they need the freedom to associate and the freedom to express — things which can’t be done properly with the two laws mentioned above.
These changes I mention are relatively small, but they will not occur if there is no change of government, because the laws I mention maintain the status quo.
Why would the wielders of power want to change the status quo?
It is for this reason that we need to have a viable two-party system. It won’t be a magic bullet, just to change one government with another, but it would be the start for real change to occur.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Going from dissent to defiance

Brave New World (The Star)
February 4, 2010

"Fumbles and trips as one learns the ropes can be forgiven, but there is a difference between ineptitude and downright sabotage."


IN A soccer team there will always be someone who is not as good as the others. This is the chap who can’t dribble for more than two seconds without getting dispossessed; always passes to the wrong team and can’t ever kick straight.
However, usually the team puts up with him, because sometimes he has his uses. For example, if you kick the ball at him hard enough, it might just bounce off him into goal. I speak from experience here.
Pity and team spirit dictate that everybody can play. This should not be the case though when the player does something which is utterly destructive to the team; like taking the ball, turning towards his own goal and shooting past his keeper with all the force and venom of a World Cup penalty shoot out.
Now I know that the Pakatan Rakyat have been moaning and groaning that in the last general election, they had to field candidates who, shall we say, are a little under par.
In the rush to put out a team, some choices from the lower divisions had to be made. I am sure many of these greenhorns are wor­king hard, and perhaps their constituents can forgive them their fumbles and trips as they learn the ropes.
Having said that, there is a difference bet­ween ineptitude and downright sabotage. Pakatan has prided itself on being a more democratic organisation than their opposition, and dissent is tolerated.
This is well and good, but I think Zulkifli Nordin has gone beyond dissent to insubordination, and that can undermine his party and the coalition. Making a police report on his coalition partner Khalid Samad for essentially defending the coalition’s policy means that Zulkifli does not agree with the policy in question.
In a coalition that is well established perhaps this can be allowed to pass. But when we are talking about the fledgling Pakatan, which has yet to prove its cohesiveness to the public, it is folly of the utmost to do any­thing less than to throw the book at this person.
Pakatan’s stand has supposedly been one based on equality, non race-based affirmative action and respect for human rights.
When one of their own still spouts race-based rhetoric, supports supremacist ideology and has no understanding of the fundamental right to free speech, then he simply does not belong in the team anymore.
By enduring him, Pakatan shows itself to be at best weak and indecisive and at worst not totally convicted to the principles upon which it had built its platform and upon which it had won the biggest victory by op­­position parties in the history of our nation.
Look, if you want to be a racial supremacist and if you think equality is a bad thing, then by all means there are other parties and groups you can join up with.
Take for example, Tun Dr Mahathir Mo­­hamad, who has thrown in his lot with Per­­­kasa.
Perkasa’s agenda is a Malay agenda. Not a Malaysian one, a Malay one, and they have every right to be like that.
It is something that I would not want to be part of because I am sick and tired of the whole stupid idea of race-based anything, but hey, I’m weird like that.
I would like to close by talking briefly about the boar heads in the mosques incident because that too looks like a case of the purposeful own goal. At the time of writing I have no idea who the culprits are and what their motivation can be.
If they were doing it as some sort of revenge for the church burning issue, I have one thing to say: congratulations, you mo­­rons, you just ensured that a civil solution becomes that mu­ch harder.
When people resort to violence (and the pig head incident is an act of violence, albeit more on a spiritual level, just like the cow head incident of last year) then it does not take much to inspire more violence.
This sort of tit for tat action is counter pro­ductive and ultimately destructive and has to be condemned.
I do not believe that this country is all hunky dory and I haven’t bought into that loving multi-cultural propaganda for a long time, so the vile actions of a few did not come as a surprise.
However, it is not the ex­­­­­­istence of such people that matters but the reaction of the public at large as well as those playing a leadership role.
If we truly want a nation of united people with a common goal, then we must have cer­tain ideals, principles and aspirations and we must stick by them. Sometimes we can do it alone. Other times we may want to do it as part of a team; just make sure you are in the right one.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

We must never allow the mob to rule

Brave New World (The Star)
January 21, 2010

"People calling for a ban on the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims must find their justification in the Quran or in legal enactments."


A COUPLE of churches were burnt by people who believe that non-Muslims should not use the name Allah when describing God. A very strange motivation indeed when we look at the scripture.
In Surah 22 Verse 40 of the Quran, it is said: “Had not Allah checked one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure.”
Looks pretty clear to me. There is no scriptural justification to stop non-Muslims from using Allah to describe God. In fact the opposite is true, the name Allah is praised in “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mos-ques”.
This is not my assertion, this is a quote from the Holy Quran, and there are more in the same vein.
Right, so all these people calling for the ban surely must find their justification elsewhere. There is the law, it is said. In particular, state enactments banning the use of Allah by non-Muslims. We must obey the law they assert.
All right, let’s look at the state laws then. Space prevents me from going through each enactment, so let’s just look at the Selangor enactment of 1988.
In the preamble it says: “[This is] An enactment to control and restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religious doctrines and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam.
“Whereas Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution provides that State law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion, and whereas it is now desired to make a law to control and restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religious doctrine and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam, therefore pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution it is hereby enacted by the Legislature of the State of Selangor.”
And if we look into the Enactment, we do see a section which lists down words that can’t be used by non-Muslims (it includes Allah). However, the explanatory note to this section states that to do so is “an offence of distributing in a public place publications concerning non-Islamic religions to Mus-lims”.
Again, this looks very clear, the law was designed to prevent proselytising to Muslims. And the ban on the use of the name Allah by the state law is in the context of proselytising.
If used within the context of their own worship and their own religious community, this law does not apply.
And if we look at Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, the only specific limitation on the freedom of religion is that the proselytising to Muslims (even Muslim to Muslim proselytising) can be controlled.
Other than that everyone is free to practice his or her religion in peace. It is unconstitutional to stop anyone from using the word Allah in their worship if they so choose.
So, the Quran says there’s no problem with peoples of other faiths using “Allah”, the state enactments are limited in their scope, and the Constitution says that everyone can practice their religion peacefully. What other justification can be used to try to ban this word?
There are two more; firstly it is culturally unacceptable among the Malays in peninsular Malaysia to hear the name Allah on non-Muslim lips. Oh yes, this is a great argument.
It reminds me of similar arguments used in the past. For example, “it is culturally unacceptable to allow negro children to go to the same schools as white children”. Look, just because some people are bigoted does not mean we have to pander to them.
Secondly, there is also the argument that if Muslims see Allah being used by non-Muslims they will get awfully confused and in their simple-mindedness, they will become Christians. People who make this argument can’t have very high regard for Malay intelligence. Rather insulting, I think.
At the end of the day there is no scriptural or legal reason to ban the use of Allah by non-Muslims, and if the powers that be have an iota of principle in their collective bones, they would stand on principle and not cater to the small minded and ignorant.
Instead they try to be pragmatic, leading to ludicrous statements like “it’s all right to use Allah in Sabah and Sarawak but not in the peninsula”.
The Muslim community, particularly the leadership, must ask itself: Is the way Islam is taught in this country so weak that Muslims can get easily confused by just one word?
I do not believe there is any evidence of large scale conversions by Muslims to Christianity. It is illegal for Christians to try to convert Muslims anyway.
However, if this sort of unintelligent and vicious behaviour goes on, I can’t imagine a greater disservice to Islam.
The Catholic church must not back down on this matter. It is in the right and if it gives in now, it will set the precedence that a bunch of thugs with firebombs can dictate the type of country we live in.
For the good of the country as a whole, not just any specific religious or ethnic group, we must never allow the mob to rule.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ear biting is fighting dirty

Brave New World (The Star)
January 7, 2010

"There are ways and means to deal with the alleged leak of evidence yet to be tendered to the Teoh Beng Hock inquest. The most obvious and fair procedure would be to make a complaint with the inquiry itself."


YOU know someone is in trouble when he starts to play dirty. Take for example the fight between boxing heavyweights Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1997.
I have always thought of Holyfield as a great fighter ever since I saw him fight George Foreman in 1991.
Those were the days before satellite TV and you could get live heavyweight championship fights for free on normal telly.
Holyfield had just beaten Buster Douglas, who put up a weak and spiritless defence of the title he had won from Tyson in Japan.
It was clearly a win, but could Holyfield stand up to a real opponent? Someone who comes to fight and not just to pick up a pay cheque?
Enter Foreman, 42 years old and only recently re-entering the fight scene he had quit in 1977.
He was tubby, he was old and he was laughed at. He joked his training diet was cheeseburgers, and looking at his belly you would have thought it was true.
But after 24 fights – all of which he won, 23 by KO – people stopped laughing. He wasn’t just beating journeymen but guys who were genuine contenders.
Somewhere beneath that genial, bald, preacher facade the monster who destroyed Joe Frazier with tremendous hitting power was lurking there.
Holyfield won on points. He couldn’t knock out Foreman, but more importantly, despite many clubbing blows by a man larger and stronger than him, Holyfield himself was not beaten.
He had a chin of stone and a heart to go with it. It was then I thought that he was a true champ.
When Tyson faced Holyfield in 1997, he was facing a man who would not be intimidated, who was not going to crumble under his usual barrage and who was hurting him in return.
Tyson knew he was in trouble. So what did he do? He bit Holyfield’s ear. He played dirty.
Which brings me to the MACC and its police report against Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan for supposedly making a sub judice statement to the press.
I have not read the actual press report in question so I would not want to comment whether such a claim has any merit.
My point here is that there are ways and means to deal with a complaint of this sort. The most obvious and fair procedure would be to make a complaint with the inquiry itself. In other words to allow the inquiry process to sort out any problems “in house”.
By making a police report, what the MACC has done in effect is to bring a third party into the mix.
A chief witness now has to not only deal with justifying her findings to the inquiry but also with her possible arrest and interrogation by the police.
Instead of playing fair, the MACC has taken a route which could at the very worst intimidate a witness or at the very least irritate her to the point where she won’t come to the country to take part in the inquiry.
And even if she did come back to the country to face down her accusers, just how swift would the police be in handling the problems of their fellow government servants?
In other words, the MACC, by making the police report instead of simply lodging a complaint to the inquiry, has put a spanner in the works.
I wonder why? Is it not interested in finding out the truth about Teoh Beng Hock’s death? If it were concerned with justice, then surely it would want the inquiry to continue smoothly and honestly.
Unless of course, it does not view this as an inquiry but some sort of scrap that it has to win at all costs, where it has to ensure that what really happened in Plaza Masalam remains uncovered.
Why it would want this is beyond me, but what is clear is that if it views this inquest as a fight, it is obviously in trouble because it is playing dirty.