Prime Minister says sorry to Indonesia
The Jakarta Post reported Friday, that the Malaysian Prime Minister formally apologised to Indonesia after four plainclothes policemen beat up a handcuffed Indonesian karate referee about a week ago. I have not read the local papers in the last two days but I daresay that this significant bit of information may have been omitted by our mainstream editors in order to minimise any damage to the Prime Minister. Of course, I stand to be corrected if indeed, Abdullah Badawi's apology to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono were indeed printed in the local papers.
Why an apology by a Prime Minister who is frantically being described by the grovelling mainstream media as a man who can do no wrong? Don't forget, he also offered an apology to the Indian government after the inexcusable abuse local authorities inflicted on legitimate Indian workers back in 2003. Would he be so apt to offer an apology like this to Bangladesh or Sri Lanka if one of their own was abused and humiliated by the Malaysian police? The fact is, Malaysia is fast losing ground on the world stage to Indonesia and of course India, two growing Asian countries with large legitimate interests in Southeast Asia. It is striking that since Badawi took over the mantle of the Prime Ministership, the Indian Prime Miniser has not made an official visit to Malaysia despite official invitations by Wisma Putra. Indonesia is also showing good economic growth in recent years, a development of significance, which has given a dose of self-confidence and swagger to this large nation decimated by decades of authoritarian rule.
Will an apology be enough for the abuse that rogue policemen inflicted upon karate referee Donald Luther Colopita? If indeed, the Prime Minister has admitted wrongdoing, shouldn't the matter of compensation also be raised and subsequently offered by the Malaysian government? There has been countless calls by many parties here to reform the police force but which has fallen on deaf ears. This recent shameful episode can be added to the litany of long-standing complaints against the police force.
Merdeka yesterday but what about tomorrow?
Malaysia celebrated 50 years of independence yesterday with pomp and ceremony. The glitze aside, are we truly a country that all Malaysians can be proud of? I think the question many right thinking Malaysians are likely to ask themselve or express privately amongst friends is "why did we waste countless opportunities in the last 50 years and fail to be a true Asian powerhouse?" After 50 years, the judiciary, which is suipposed to be the cornerstone of any civilized nation is still operating under a heavy shadow of gloom, brought about by questions of its independence. The education system which has forced many talented Malaysians to the brigher shores of Singapore is still leaking talent overseas due to perceived racial discrimination and preferential treatments, consistent of long-term government policies.
Racial polarisation has deepened - the recent SMS fiasco alleging racial riots in Johor got a lot of people riled up. There were no such thing but just a few simple keys into a mobile phone, was all it took to shatter, once again, the weak illusion that UMNO has created, that all is well on the racial unity front. It is poetic that this incident happens on the eve of Merdeka. But will this symbolism dawn upon UMNO, the decision makers? I don't have that confidence that things will change anytime soon.
I am happy and thankful to see Malaysia celebrate its 50th Merdeka anniversary and may there be many many more such occasions. I love this country and I want Malaysia to succeed. But past formulas which has brought great benefits to UMNO cannot be repeated for the future. It is bound to fail miserably. Already, its control on the news agenda is already severely undermined by the new media. Its nasty bark in recent times should be a reminder to UMNO that the new media is likely to set the news agenda in the future and not the other way around, however hard it tries to demonise the new media. UMNO must make changes on all fronts - political, economical and social - in order to remain relevant in the long-term. IF a 61-year-old political party thinks the world owes it a living, then the realities of the flat world will soon overpower it and render UMNO irrelevant.
Reporters leaving The Star?
I was at a media function last week and a reporter from the Star, confided in me that the country's largest English-daily newspaper is fast losing its prized reporters. Apparently the days of six months ex-gratia bonuses are long gone and reporters, so used to those fat bonuses in the past, are not satisfied about the current status quo. The New Straits Times, for a long time the poor cousin of The Star are now willing to pay an extra thousand Ringgit to entice reporters to cross over to Jalan Riong from Section 16.
The Star is reputed to have lost a promising young journalist from the Malacca bureau as well another one from its Ipoh office, just in the last few days. Or so i heard. An exodus may well pick up steam, as reporters realise that they cannot survive on the measly basic salaries in the big cities. The discrepancy is startling; a reporter with about two years of experience and affinity for the job who agree to jump to the NST, can see his salary rise by 70 percent in one swoop to about RM2,500 while an experienced, hardworking Star reporter, after 11 years, may still only pick up less than RM3,000.
The top management at The Star is probably worried about this chain of events although they will put up a brave face. Besides losing reporters, they also need to be worried about the better quality stories that the NST and The Sun have been writing about. The Sun, for example, has succeeded in winning over advertisers with its unique free newspaper business model, which even people like Rupert Murdoch had grudgingly acknowledged as a threat to the tradtional newspaper business model. I generally find the content in the NST more appealing than the Star. The NST, being an UMNO newspaper, probably has more leeway in pushing the limits right now, in order to win market share it lost to the Star earlier in the game. The MCA mouthpiece has been very compliant to its political masters since it was punished in 1987. I recall when as a rookie Star reporter, I mentioned to a senior editor why we had to listen to the "political masters", he took umbrage to this and went out of his way to convince me that this is not true. A rookie I was but a fool I am not.
MCA displays its impotence
It is really amusing to read MCA's mouthpiece, The Star quoting MCA vice-president Datuk Chua Soi Lek as saying that MCA will continue to "assist" student Wee Meng Chee who got into trouble with the authorities after his laments about the state of the nation was viewed on YouTube.
Is this the best that MCA can do? Especially after the de-factor Law Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said that the government is not going to forgive Wee and that he could face legal action including possible jail time, for, in my view, merely echoing the sentiments of many Malaysians. The Star report today even stated that Chua spent 30 minutes lecturing Wee where he went wrong, when in his hearts of hearts, Chua knows that there is massive disatisfaction amongst his own ethnic community in Malaysia about the disturbing state of the nation and the path it is taking in regards to corruption and decaying national integrity.
So, what "advise" will MCA give Wee if he is charged in court? That he should take whatever is meted out like a man? UMNO is out for a pound of flesh and MCA is fighting in UMNO's corner, as it is seen from the outside. If Chua and his ilk are the best that the dynamic, hardworking Chinese community in Malaysia has as a so-called representative in Cabinet, then let's look forward to an interesting General Elections which is just around the corner.
Royals speaking up against excess
'This country belongs to all Malaysians regardless of their race, and everyone has a right to feel as Malaysians.' If this statement was made by our Prime Minister, I would not give this statement a second look. In my opinion he has lost a lot of credibility and has not demonstrated able leadership. This statement was made by Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, who is the Sultan of Selangor, and immediately a lot of thinking Malaysians have woken up and lauded his weighty words.
Another royal, the Crown Prince of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, called on Malaysians to promote unity by protecting the integrity of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. His words in the last few weeks have made me feel more Malaysian than all the fluff uttered by our politicians in the last few years. Compare these words with statements uttered by the ruling UMNO party, and you will see a sea of difference in tone, sincerity and leadership.
Perhaps we will all have something to think about during our Merdeka come August 31st. Perhaps this country is stronger than the sum of all our dirty politicians put together. Perhaps we can feel more like brothers and sisters at least for a little while as that 50th anniversary of Merdeka draws near.
Bail out again?
In Malaysia, there seems to be a litany of unresolved issues floating aimlessly like uncleared debris in a pond. We've got disturbing issues coming out of the Attorney General's Chambers, unrest in the police force, the Rulers' rejection of the Prime Minister's candidate for the Court of Appeal seat, just to name a few. These days, the high ideals expoused by our Prime Minister at the height of the 2004 elections have come crashing down earth with a thud. Obviously, the powers that be now has no way of rebutting opposition allegations on corruption and abuse of power, except by warning bloggers who write on politics and socio-economic issues(who have all been tarred with the "unpatriotic" brush)that they are being watched (no less by KJ's vehicle- UMNO Youth). It seems like Ijok all over again, with the "gempur" ragtag team coming out of their little holes to bang on empty tins to drown out any reasonable demands for accountability, transparency and respect for state institutions.
Now, after Malaysiakini broke the story about the brewing financial scandal involving the Port Klang Authority which has been saddled with a RM5 billion debt following the pull-out of Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone (JAFZA)as principal partner last month, the other "traditional" media like The Sun and Singapore's Straits Times have delved deeper into the issue. According to media reports, it is clear that there is no transparency, accountability and respect for the rule of law involving this so-called free trade zone. It is as if the glow of money blinded all in UMNO and it became a tidy get-rich-quick scam. The chairman of the company that owned the land is no less than the UMNO treasurer himself according to the Straits Times report. The politicial angle is overwhelming when one reads about the convoluted connections behind the scene. This is not a flattening environment (as Thomas Friedman puts it) which will make foreign investors gain confidence in Malaysia. One must wonder what they think of our grand plans to develop Johor if this PKA scandal is a testament of what doing business in Malaysia is like. The Singaporeans must be watching this scandal with deep interest. I bet they will keep their money bags tightly zipped.
Where is the "goblok" Minister who says everything in cyberspace are plain lies? Why is he quiet? And where is that monkey who claims to know what is best for Malaysia? It would be interesting to hear his views on this brewing scandal.
Where is that Merdeka feeling?
As the day of Merdeka approaches, there is a distinct lack of emotion regarding this momentous occasion, which stirred the soul of this nation fifty years ago, promising its people happiness and prosperity if all the ethnic communities work together as one. The newspapers prefer to focus on the historical figures, who contributed their tears, sweat and blood to the nation but curiously shy away from any substantial reportings about the current views of Malaysians. The newspapers seem to shy away from writing about this special moment, this special occasion while paradoxically, the issue of Merdeka and this "disconnect-ness" is embraced and analysed by bloggers.
Is it because the newspapers already sense a certain "disconnect-ness" amongst ordinary Malaysians of all races from the importance of Merdeka? Are they worried about what they would find if they dig a little deeper? Have their political masters decided that any indepth reporting on Malaysians' opinions about Malaysia may be too explosive? Is it apathy that we are seeing out there? Isn't that something we should all be worried about? Am I apathetic? Honestly, I think I am becoming apathetic, numbed by disturbing developments I see all around me. The point is, we should be able to sense that a special day is just around the corner. Instead, the nation is trudging along towards August 31st like a horse wearing blinders.