Tuesday, 31 March 2015

First of April 2015

I sent the piece below to The Star but it was spiked.


I have some fantastic news to share with all of you.

One of my ex-students is currently holding a post fairly high up in government. I can’t tell you his/her name or the department for purposes of privacy but suffice to say it is a position where important decisions go through his/her desk.

I have been told that the government is having second thoughts about the amendments to the Sedition Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. They have come to realise that the implications on the human rights of the people of Malaysia are far too grave and whatever supposed plus points from these laws are simply not good enough to justify the infringements on the civil liberties of the nation. This could mean the dropping of POTA and the complete dismantling of the Sedition Act.

Instead there is a new bill in the works which is designed to ensure that any wastage in government expenditure will be severely punished. Departments which spend money wrongly either through incompetence or corruption will face budget cuts. Furthermore if incompetence is the cause then the heads of departments will face demotion and if corruption is uncovered, a criminal charge will be put forward. If enough savings are made, the GST might be scrapped completely.

My source also tells me the Independent Police Commission is going to be a reality especially in the light of how there has been a growing perception that the impartiality of the police force is  questionable. It is vital that the police are trusted by the public and the thinking is this commission will go some way in bringing that faith back.

But that is not all. There is to be an independent inquiry into the entire IMDB fiasco. A cross party parliamentary committee will be created with three members from the BN and three members from the Pakatan and with a non-party aligned chairperson. The purpose of this committee is to select the members of the inquiry. They will have to be men and women of the utmost independence and integrity and they can be from Malaysia or outside Malaysia.

The electoral boundary exercise by the Election Commission has been extended by another year in the light of public concern. Now there will have to be a concerted effort to ensure that each constituency is as close in size with one another as possible in terms of numbers of voters. This is to guarantee that one person one vote has real meaning and to assure the public that no gerrymandering is going to happen. Furthermore all the proposed boundaries changes will be put online and can be examined by anyone easily and freely, making objections easier to be carried out.

Finally, I have also heard that the Printing Presses and Publications Act will be amended again so that there is no longer any discretionary power to withdraw licenses, and the Statutory Bodies Discipline and Surcharge Act will be amended to ensure that universities do not fall under its ambit thus taking away a major threat to academic freedom.

I hope you are as happy as me to have such wonderful news. On this day, the first of April, it looks like our nation can really start moving forward.


So I replaced it with the one below

We need a bit of humour
Brave New World (The Star)
1 April 2015

APRIL Fool’s Day: it used to be great fun when I was a kid. Well, it was fun in theory because I never could think up any really good trick. And even if I did, I was too chicken to carry it out.
Unlike some friends of mine who actually managed to hide our math teacher’s car. To this day I have no idea how they did it.
However, despite my inherent lack of gumption to do something truly mischievous, I always liked April Fool’s jokes.
A memorable one for me is a picture on the front page of a British broadsheet.
It had the back of the unmistakable head of Michael Heseltine, who was a minister at the time, sitting on a park bench with what appeared to be a young lady.
“Minister caught with leggy blond in park” screamed the headline (or something similar).
Of course upon opening the paper, there was a smiling Heseltine on a park bench next to a rather fetching Afghan hound.
Such jokes are, of course, rather dangerous in this country. For one thing, they can be misinterpreted.
A few years ago I got some extremely vitriolic e-mail because a sarcastic piece I wrote was thought to be earnest.
But that is all right. Annoyed punters can always be placated with just an e-mail explaining things.
What is worrying now is that it seems anything at all can be deemed seditious, or incitement, or any other of a host of offences that would result in police action.
The recent spate of arrests may not have dimmed the conviction of Malaysians who feel that democracy is fading away and want that trend reversed. But it has, rather, made us into a sour country.
People are more than a little irritated, but because of this crackdown, the usual safety valve of humour also seems to have disappeared.
Perhaps we see nothing to laugh about. But it is more likely that the powers that be will not tolerate any sort of dissent, even the satirical sort.
This is indeed a sad state of affairs. This country used to be joyful. Now things feel miserable. We have to change things, otherwise we will be the fools.


Rather ironic eh?

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