Thursday, November 15, 2007

Looking back to the past to build our future


I am incredibly heartened by 30-year old Fahmi Reza and his documentary 10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka about the pre-independence nation-wide hartal. It was first brought to my attention by Rachel, and in the aftermath of the Oct 11 march, Tricia asked if we ought to screen it (there’s this group that meets in my home to watch lesser known movies). Why not? I would love to see it on a wide screen.

I felt a deep sense of gratitude and pride that a new generation of thoughtful Malaysians was finding its voice and speaking up for Malaysia, and not narrow communalism. His own research into our recent past has shed light on a little known nationalistic struggle that has been conveniently usurped by the construction of a mythic narrative more suited to the vested interest of UMNO. In his interview, he said,

It’s true that our school history books, for the most part, highlight the role that is played by just one party or group. Other groups are mentioned but are not given focus or are labelled anti-government or anti-something. For me, this happens because, any history at all, and this can probably be applied to any country, history is always written by those in power.

So, if we look at our history, the people in power are Umno and the Barisan Nasional. So, they are the ones who write the history of our nation. So, of course, they will present a historical narrative that sheds a positive light on them. I think this happens in any regime or government. Firstly, in order to legitimise their current position, there is a need to create this myth about their history.

So, if we look at our historical narrative about independence, it’s focused on creating this myth about Umno’s struggle to gain our independence. How Umno was born and how Umno fought for our independence. It’s understandable that there’s this narrative.

So, any other narrative that doesn’t support the (dominant) narrative will of course be left out, because it would challenge or counter their narrative.

Many regimes do one of two things. You absorb the other narrative and claim it as your own. Or you leave out.

Umno’s problem is, because they were there at the same time, they cannot claim that their struggle was part of the left’s because they were on the opposite side. So, the only way left to them is to silence (the other narrative). So, history books are written that way.

Fahmi isn’t the only one, of course, to question this historical oversight (there’s also fellow film maker Amir Muhammad, among others), but notably his work is one more vote for a more fully realized Malaysian Malaysia, one where our shared history is acknowledged and celebrated. We live in interesting times; there is a stirring beneath the surface fueled in equal parts perhaps by a sense of grief and anger at our fraying society, and an unquenchable hope that the tide can still be turned.

I predict Fahmi’s effort is going to gain an even wider audience in the very near future. For those who try to pull the wool over our eyes saying demonstrations are not a part of our culture, or who are deliberately rewriting history to serve myopic ends, this documentary is an eye-opener.

Related:
Fahmi's blog: 10tahun
Tricia's take on 11/10 "BERSIH: Democracy Malaysian style"
Bobjots 'The Other History of Malaysia'

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yellow Dawn

"We have broken the climate
of fear and intimidation
as well as overcome
our public apathy.
A new dawn has arrived."
Din Merican

"Credit to a monarch who has
demonstrated that
he has the well-being
of his people at heart."
Haris Ibrahim

"The king symbolises the fountain of justice in Malaysia and it is
completely within constitutional norms for Malaysians who are shut out
from all avenues of redress to seek justice to appeal to the king for intervention."
Lim Kit Siang

"This has been quite an unprecedented experience for people
who believe in New Media, and want to pierce through the blackout by the
mainstream media, which pretended as if nothing has happened. "
Jeff Ooi

“I think these pics speak well more than 4,000 words.”
Nathaniel Tan

"What a bad mistake it is for withholding information to the public.
A warning: they are no longer being kept in dark anymore as
the level of awareness has gone better than ever.
More people are getting aware of what is happening in Malaysia."
Melvin

"The rain did not dampen the spirit of the people
who wanted a message sent to the Agong, and to the increasingly detached
and arrogant leaders of this nation."
Rocky

"As a Malaysian, I believe the only thing that was broken today
was my camera lens. Kaput! But who cares. "
Sheih (After being hit by a chemical laced shower)

"The fact is, its not ended. It has only just begun.
Ensure that you take the next step to claim your right to vote.
No to corruption. No to illegal mansions.
No more cover ups. We want the truth."
Tony Yew

“Malaysians should be proud to say that they are
in the process of reclaiming the state
and demanding their country back.”
Farish Noor

"I have never seen such an unbreaking long moving crowd,
amazing as it seems that they all wear the same colour,
and moving in the same direction. The sight of it, was breathtaking!
It was classic "V for Vendetta" phenomenon!"
Dan

"Throughout the whole rally, Malaysians were well-behaved.
It is certainly strange that a Certain Somebody could say
rally will "never be peaceful".
From what I learnt, only police used water cannons and tear gas
on the peaceful BERSIH participants @ Rakyat."
Sagaladoola

"It was really cool. you look around and you see all these CIVILIANS!
your neighbours, people you pass on the streets daily,
the guy who sells you your morning newspaper,
the uncle from the kopitiam,
your bus driver, your former schoolmates…
all clapping each other on the back
and smiling and congratulating each other
for being there that day. sigh. so nice. i swear to you it was
the most patriotic situation i have ever been in
. "
Su Ann

"I’m a voter. I can walk with my fellow Malaysians
in a peace marchto convey our thoughts and misgivings
about the state of our country, to our ruler. "
Galadriel

"How about wearing yellow every Saturday?"
Ronnie Liu

BERSIH takes on Mr Clean

Photo from Jinggo's Fotopage


Read the spin in NST and STAR regarding Bersih’s massive Nov 10 rally, and you have a pretty good idea how PM Pak Lah deals with issues: deny, deny, deny. But first you preface your response with threats, threats, threats.

The fact is, dozens of websites, blogs and youtube posts are collectively telling the whole world how underdressed the emperor and his increasingly arrogant party are. Clearly the whole event – relatively incident-free and orderly – was a slap on the face of the coalition dominant partner, particularly its leader who faced down the rally with a “saya pantang cabar” challenge.

ILLEGAL GATHERING CAUSES TRAFFIC CHAOS IN CITY

KUALA LUMPUR: A crowd of about 4,000 gathered for an illegal march close to Dataran Merdeka yesterday, causing massive traffic jams across the city.

Police had to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstration, organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or Bersih, a grouping of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations.

The crowd converged on Masjid Jamek and the National Mosque to march towards Dataran Merdeka but failed to do so when police cordoned off the area.

"Police had to resort to such actions because the protesters refused to disperse when ordered to do so," Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said.

He said 245 people were arrested and later released after their statements were taken.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, speaking to reporters in Pekan, Pahang, said those involved in the protest had caused difficulties to the people, especially traders and businessmen who had to close their shops and offices.

I say, were mainstream media reporting on some other protests when they put the figure at 4,000? And were these protestors the cause of the lock-down in the city? The truth is, the chaos arose because of police action to keep potential protestors away from the city centre. The use of tear gas and water canons on protestors at Masjid Jamek were totally uncalled for, but the intimidation and aggression on the part of police or FRUs distracted attention away from marchers who were converging at the Istana. While the cops were havimg their fun, thousands upon thousands were waiting for Bersih leaders to hand their petition over to the Agung's representative.

Inthe aftermath of what was probably the largest public demonstration in a decade since the Reformasi outbreak, PM Pak Lah changes his tune, while official numbers turn mysteriously from 4,000 to 10,000:

PM: RALLY A MOVE TO DRAW MONARCHY INTO POLITICS

PENAMPANG: The opposition-led illegal rally to deliver an election reform petition to the palace on Saturday was an attempt to force the Yang di-Pertuan Agong into taking sides, the prime minister said.

"Obviously, the action was tantamount to dragging the institution of the monarchy, and the king, into politics," Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at a press conference after he opened the Parti Bersatu Sabah 22nd annual congress here.

A memorandum calling for changes to the electoral process was handed by opposition stalwarts Lim Kit Siang of the DAP, Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to an official at the gates of Istana Negara.

The king, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, was away in Terengganu.

The coalition of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations, calling itself Bersih, had organised a rally of some 10,000 people, according to an official police estimate, to march to the palace with the petition. Police had denied the assembly a permit.

"I believe the king is wise and mature and would not fall into their (the opposition's) political trap," Abdullah said.

Meanwhile Information Minister Zam gives his bumbling two sen when interviewed by Al-Jazeera on the phone here. "Protests are illegal because we have elections every 5 yrs - no point having protests –we are not like Myanmar, like other countries," said the erudite Minister. Right.

The
rakyat is tired. We can't take it anymore. The time for words is over. It's time for "Mr Clean" to act before he is himself taken to the cleaners.

But the big question is, what is the Agung going to do with the petition?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Homeschool Centres and mom's breast milk

Just recently a learning centre asked for my permission to reproduce an article I wrote regarding our conviction to homeschool. My wife Sook Ching and I teach our own children, and our sons (now 17 and 15) know no other form of education except the one they receive at home. I was pleasantly surprised not only because the rather lengthy article came out in a Christian magazine in 2004, but also because few people actually think to ask the author or publisher permission to reprint published material.

Regrettably, I had to say no after finding out what it would be used for. I could not see how our experiences as parents who teach our own children at home could be used to promote institutions where children are taught by strangers. Particularly the type that is mushrooming in Malaysia, which is really nothing more than private schools, without glamourous facilities and faculty to boast about (and therefore very affordable).

More perplexing was this learning centre's misquoting Christopher Klicka's Homeschooling, The Right Choice as saying that schooling in a centre/institution and homeschool are the 'same.'

Let me say at the outset that I did not turn the request down on the relative merits of one or the other form of education. I fervently subscribe to education in all its modes traditional and alternative, whether it takes place at home or elsewhere in learning centres. In fact I also believe that when either mode of education is done well, our children benefit. What is necessary however is to help the public distinguish one from the other.

Homeschooling is the education of children usually by their own parents in their own home. When a child is primarily educated by tutors who are not her own parents in an institution that is not her own home, that is NOT homeschool. Whether "homeschool" or "international" curricula is used is beside the point.

At an education forum I participated in early this year, an executive from the Ministry of Education spoke up to say they were not 'against' homeschool in principle; what upset tthem were learning centres that passed themselves as homeschool. Well. Nice that the MOE has people who know more than we give them credit for.

Put bluntly, the current mix-up is akin to equating mom's breast milk at home with powdered milk in a nursery. Not-Mom's Mom's Breast Milk Center, anyone? I feel compelled to say this because there has been so much confusion over the concept of homeschool with the proliferation of learning centres all over the country, most of which have been touted as "homeschooling centres."

It does not help that arguments in favour of learning centers sometimes go like this:

"Public schools are seriously flawed. The merits of homeschool where parents teach their own children at home are well-supported by research. Our homeschool curricula from the US are also excellent in every way compared to the ones used in Malaysian public schools. Since you are unable to homeschool at home, we can homeschool your child at our "homeschool centre" using homeschool curriculum. It's a good alternative, offering the same if not better benefits."
Notice how 'homeschool' has been inexplicably expropriated midstream? There's probably no ill-intent but can we NOT say or suggest that a learning centre is homeschool or a version of homeschool, or even its alternative? To my mind a learning center is better described as an alternative to traditional public schools and tuition centres. Since these learning centers are presently almost always church-based it is all the more reason to be careful with definitions.

Perhaps I'm a stick-in-the-mud pedant, but I do believe it matters what we say and what we really mean. There are learning centres and there are homeschools. They are both legitimate modes of education, but different in form and function. I must admit my little objection isn't going to make a dent in the "homeschool centre" boom but there's my stand. Words have meaning, and everyone benefits when we make ourselves clear.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Myanmar checkmate?


Hopes were dashed as the miltary cracked down on monks and civilians. It has been difficult following up on news - as I have been in preparation for an upcoming trip - only to see peaceful mass demonstrations end in blood. I am appalled. Has the junta won?


Where are all the monks? How many have been detained? How many are missing? How many killed? Who will speak up for Myanmar?

But even if the next stage of the struggle does not produce the results one is hoping for, there is no reason to despair. There is an enlightened principle in Buddhism which Aung San Suu Kyi - a person of impeccable dignity and incredible integrity - has alluded to in her writings that should guide the struggle for justice in Burma. She observes, “Just continue to do what you believe is right. Later on the fruits of what you do will become apparent on their own. One’s responsibility is to do the right thing.”

Chandra Muzaffar ( Letter to Malaysiakini)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lingam Tape: chickens coming home...?

Looks like the chickens are coming home to roost...

1988 Judicial Crisis

Five Supreme Court Judges were initially suspended
Y.A. Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawan Teh
Y.A. Datuk George Edward Seah Kim Seng
Y.A. Tan Sri Mohamed Azmi Haji Kamaruddin
Y.A. Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader
Y.A. Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Haji Wan Mohamed Salleh

After a hastily convened Tribunal,
Former Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas was sacked.
Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman
were also sacked together with Salleh.
The 1988 Judicial Crisis scarred the Judiciary forever.

Malaysia-Today Special Report here.
Tun Salleh Abbas' story here.

Senior lawyer Datuk VK Lingam cozies up to
Berjaya's Tan Sri Dato' Seri Vincent Tan
and then Chief Justice Eusoff Chin in 1994

Bowman Papers:
Eusoff, Lingam allegations here.

The shocking 2002 video clip starring VK Lingam.
The damning 8-minute expose about 'soldiers', friendly parties,
and secret meetings, to fix judicial appointments
"for the sake of PM and for the sake of the country."
Who's at the other end of the line?
Apparently it's 8 minutes from a 14-minute recording,
according to PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysiakini Special Report here.


Chief Justice Tun Dato' Sri Ahmad Fairuz has no comments...

... and then denies all to de facto law minister
in the Prime Minister's Dept Dato'Sei Mohd Nazri.
First, in a most telling gaffe, when questioned why he was speaking
on behalf of the CJ, Nazri says,
"Because I'm his minister."

(27 Sept)

Lawyers who were stopped from entering Putrajaya
walked 3.5km up to the Palace of Justice.
Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan:
"We walk peacefully and with dignity."

It's a rare and unprecedented show of unity.

Malaysian Bar Council report here
Malaysia Today pics here
(27 Sept)


The heat is on.
While a 3-member panel to probe the video
is short of the Bar Council's call for a royal commission,
it’s an indication that enough feathers have been ruffled.
Question: Are these gentlemen the best we have to handle the probe?
Tan Sri Haidar was Registrar of the Supreme Court during the Judicial Crisis.


"But when all is said and done,
what’s the moral of this story?

It’s that we cannot expect our political leaders
- those in office and,

yes, those retired too - to bring the much-needed
reforms to this country.
That, we will have to do ourselves."

Steven Gan, Malaysiakini, 2006

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's Nurin.

The dead they sleep a long, long sleep;

The dead they rest, and their rest is deep;

The dead have peace, but the living weep.

Samuel Hoffenstein



It's been confirmed. It was eight-year old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin's body that was found in the sports bag. We're all so deeply sorry. Our hearts are with the family.

"What else can I say. The DNA test shows she is my daughter. I will accept the will of God,” said Norazian.

"As a mother, I still hope the body is not my daughter's. No mother will accept the reality that her daughter was raped and killed brutally,” she was quoted as saying.

"Only God knows the extent of my sadness and grief," she said in tears
. [Malaysiakini]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The mathematics of an Islamic State

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
1984 [George Orwell]


Yet another day passes, and Malaysians go blithely about their business unconcerned that the PM and his cohorts have decreed that we’re Islamic (Read the PM's reply to DAP's Lim Kit Siang in BM). Whether being Islamic refers to state or country has been conveniently left undefined for reasons that are not only insincere, but downright dishonest. It appears Malaysians are to be content to be sandwich fillers – unceremoniously pressed between secularism and theocracy - which apparently serves to appease demagogues who oppose secularism on one hand, and those who fear out-and-out Talibanisation on the other. (See also Dr Chandra Muzzafar's take on this)


Although we have no shortage of grammarians or linguists to instruct our PM and our honourable parliamentarians, it saddens me that our elected leaders think nothing of shortchanging the rakyat. Those in Government must consider this sleight of hand politically expedient, if not diabolically clever. But we are not so easily fooled.

The strategy as I see it is to continue espousing the same line – that Malaysia is an Islamic state – until at last the worried populace grows weary of protesting, and submits to government dictate. Fait accompli. I can accept that Muslims should practice their faith as all good Muslims should and that Islam is the religion of the majority, but is it not fundamentally dishonest to impose such values on some 40% of the country who do not share Islamic convictions or aspirations? Is it not devious to ignore the testimony of our Founding Fathers, blatantly rewrite history while declaring allegiance to the Federal Constitution? Is this duplicity right, much less good? Are these declarations all there is to turn Malaysia Islamic? God forbid!

The Reid’s Commission made it explicit that though Islam is the religion of Malaysia, it shall not “impose any disability on non-Muslim natives professing and practicing their religions and shall not imply that the State is not a secular State.”

Who better to interpret the intent of the nation’s constitution than Malaysia’s first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman who was present during its drafting? The late and sadly forgotten Tunku is on record as saying, “I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it is generally understood, we merely provide that Islam shall be the official religion of the State” (Official Report of Legislative Council Debates, 1 May 1958, Column 4631 and 4671-2). But that’s only his personal opinion isn’t it?

As far as I understand, there was unambiguity of intent regarding the nation’s identity as our Founding Fathers were framing the Federal Constitution. Malaysia was meant to be secular – in the sense that no single religious dogma shall supplant or subsume the Federal Constitution at the expense of freedom of religion. To pretend and to insist otherwise is akin to telling all right thinking Malaysians that 2+2 makes 5.

Eighty years ago, a failed painter wrote these words: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it. "

That man was Hitler. He understood the relationship between propaganda and the law of repetition: "Now the purpose of propaganda is not continually to produce interesting changes for a few blase little masters, but to convince; that means, to convince the masses. The masses, however, with their inertia, always need a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and they will lend their memories only to the thousandfold repetition of the most simple ideas."

Hmm, the inertia of the masses - now that's the lynchpin. This manipulation of truth in the interest of the State probably lead Orwell to say this of the Nazis a few years before he wrote 1984:

“The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened"—well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five—well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”

Our PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi says he’s a leader of all Malaysians, fair to all. This, too, frightens me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Smart election website

Wow! This latest announcement by Google is such a smashing innovation to the practice of democratic elections and electoral information. According to Google Australia, the “world’s most powerful dedicated election website” tracks public statements by politicians down under so voters will be better informed before casting their votes:

Google's Australian-developed election site includes a feature called "On the Record", where users can type in a politician's name, along with an issue of their choosing.

It then scours parliamentary transcripts and the politician's personal website to find any statements on the issue, allowing voters to check whether their representatives are being consistent.

It also gives voters electoral information through a range of online tools including YouTube, GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps. Google said it was the first time so many features had been available on a single election website. [More]

Isn’t that something to look forward to here in Malaysia? Since I don’t expect Google will get an invitation from our supposedly forward looking MPs to do the same here anytime, perhaps a few brave net savvy souls could replicate a version of this? It would provide voters a database of our politicians (BN and opposition) and their statements off and on record, their stand on issues, and what they have been up to. Now wouldn't that be something.

On a lighter note, it might just give Amir Muhammad’s Politicians Say The Darndest Things, a run for the money.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle's light

“We do not draw people to Christ
by loudly discrediting what they believe,
by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are,
but by showing them a light that is so lovely
that they want with all their hearts
to know the source of it.”

[Thanks Madeleine. How desperately I need to learn this.]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

5cm/sec bliss

Thanks to Owen, I saw Byousoko 5cm, Makoto Shinkai’s latest 3-parter anime. Clocking just over an hour the story about unrequited love is genuinely cinematic in its feel. It’s a thing of beauty, of the sort that anime lovers can justifiably use to flay critics (um, usually parents) who see the genre as junk - mostly juvenile in content and puerile in taste. Then again works like Makoto Shinkai’s are really exceptions (not excluding screen favourites by Miyazaki). But I digress.



Anyways. This lovely film tells the story of a young boy Takaki and a girl named Akari – two close friends who though inseparable in childhood, drift inevitably apart as they grow older. Friendship turns into deep affection, but it’s nipped in the bud just as romance blossoms. School, family, and even nature come between the two.


The film is awash with symbolism – never mind that a scene or two appears a mite too heavy-handed – and enough realism to connect with any number of people who have ever been in love. So near, yet so far. Anticipation magnifies the commonplace with heart-aching clarity, and you just know Makoto Shinkai’s been there to tell the story the way he has in 5cm. In the meantime Takaki remains trapped in a world of his own with unrealised dreams as consolation – like a cosmonaut adrift in space. But Akari has moved on, blissfully unaware that Takaki still carries a torch for her.

5cm/sec is supposedly the time it takes for cherry blossom leaves to fall to the ground. It’s an apt metaphor in a film that tries to portray the effect of absence on love and life. The poignancy does not escape viewers; in fact a quiet urgency prevails, railing at how fate like gravity conspires with time and distance to rebel against the stoutest hearts.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ratatouille and St. Irenaeus

Some years ago, a friend commented that too many people settled into a utilitarian existence, caring neither for beauty or art in their lives. She lamented that few people bothered about their surroundings, ate out of newspaper wrappings and/or styrofoam boxes, and cared little about brightening up their living spaces. Why the absence of beauty? Why can’t we hang a picture on the wall, have flowers in a vase, eat our food out of proper plates, she asked?

Blame it on Maslow’s theory of needs. This might explain the hovels that students live in. Or the homes that young working adults occupy. Utterly artless and painfully functional to a fault. No drapes on windows, no food in the kitchen, non-matching utensils in the drawer, no real furniture to speak of, and no books on the shelf. No pursuits to nourish the soul. Is that any idea of living?

Such a dismal life would be disagreeable to Remy, and he’s a rat. Now, Remy is the star of Pixar’s latest animated hit, Ratatouille, and I loved it. Ratatouille tells the story of an ordinary country rat with an amazing nose and an incredible talent to match: Remy cooks. Inspired by the great French chef extraordinaire Gusteau, Remy yearns for the gourmet life – this, despite the most obvious of handicaps. He's a dirty rodent, for crying out loud!


I don’t have to tell you how this magical yarn turns out. It has a happy ending similar to all those animated box-office hits we’ve grown to love - of finding a whole new world somewhere around the bend, or in following your heart. Although it did not have the profundity of, say Toy Story 1 & 2, Ratatouille entrances in a more visceral manner, which is not a bad thing in itself. I thought it was a brilliant movie, dazzling in its depiction of Paris. And so bizarre a plot too.

There’s something else in Remy’s story that is surely a metaphor for the difference between joie de vivre and mere existence. Unlike real life rats and other animals, we have the means and the creativity to add beauty and order to our lives. I suppose one can argue that indulgences like these are beyond the ordinary student or young working adult who live on poverty-level allowances and wages anyway. Perhaps. Yet it’s not extravagance that I’m promoting; it’s choosing to live ordinary lives in an extraordinary and creative way.

St. Irenaeus got it right when he wrote that God’s glory is displayed in “Man fully alive.” God’s life and his goodness are surely a gift of grace to us. It's what gives humanity the will to rise above our circumstances and adversity. All we have to do is to choose to participate in it.

Bitten by Facebook

I didn't fall for MySpace or Friendster. But Facebook grabbed me. It's its layout - clean, uncluttered, and ease of navigation - that's what makes it a very attractive sell. Then again it's entirely up to you to mess that up with all sorts third-party Facebook apps. Anyway, the social networking bug bit. Dave Walker's cartoon says it all:

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Phishing Alert!

Everyone knows about Nigerian scams. This one I received a few days ago from a certain "Mr Patrick Chan" is the latest variation:

I am Mr. Patrick Chan, Executive Director and Chief Financial
Officer of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd. I have a concealed business
suggestion for you.

Our client Gen. Samir Abi Rahman who was with the Iraqi forces
and also businessman made a fixed deposit for 18 calendar months,
with a value of Twenty Four million Five Hundred Thousand United
State Dollars only in my branch. Several maturities notices was
sent to him, even during the war which began in 2003. Again after
the war another notification was sent and still no response came
from him. We later found out that the General along with his wife
and only daughter had been killed during the war in a bomb blast
that hit their home.

After more inquiry it was also discovered that Gen. Samir Abi
Rahman did not declare any next of kin in his official papers
including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also confided
in me the last time he was at my office that no one except me knew
of his deposit in my bank. So, Twenty Four million Five Hundred
Thousand United State Dollars is still lying in my bank and no
one will ever come forward to claim it. What bothers me most is
that according to the laws of my country at the expiration of 5
years the funds will revert to the ownership of the Hong Kong
Government if nobody applies to claim the funds. Against this
backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a
foreigner to stand as the next of kin to Gen. Samir Abi Rahman
so that you will be able to receive his funds.

MODALITIES:

I want you to know that I have had everything planned out so
that we shall come out successful. I have an attorney that will
prepare the necessary document that will back you up as the next
of kin to Gen. Samir Abi Rahman. After you have been made the next
of kin, the attorney will also fill in for claims on your behalf and
secure the necessary approval and letter of probate in your favour
for the move of the funds to an account that will be provided by you.

There is no risk involved at all in this matter, as we are going
adopt a legalized method and the attorney will prepare all the necessary
documents. Please endeavor to observe utmost discretion in all matters
concerning this issue.Once the funds have been transferred to your
nominated bank account we shall then share in the ratio of 60% for
me 40% for you.

Should you be interested send me the following:
1, Full names,
2, private phone number,
3, current residential address,

And I prefer you reach me on my private email address
below:(patrickchan0_07@yahoo.com.hk)
and finally after I shall provide you with more details on this operation.

Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.

Kind Regards,
Mr. Patrick Chan.


And here's a new one to beware of. It just arrived in my mailbox. The scary thing is how rampant these scams are, and how much money they are making:

COMPUTER E-MAIL DRAW RESULT
FROM DESK OF PROMOTION MANAGER{MICRO/STATES GLOBAL EMAIL LOTTERY}
www.staatsloterij.nl

YOUR EMAIL ID HAS WON $1,500,000.00(ONE Million,Five Hundred Thousand
USD) in the first category of our computer ballot email lottery.

Do contact the Details below for further Clarifications and to claim
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Finally, all hostages released


Photos: BBC

AL JAZEERA: The Taliban's last three South Korean hostages have been handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after six weeks in captivity. [More]

SKY: One of them, Yoo Kyung-shik, said: "We are very sorry to the people and the government for causing concerns. [More]

AFP: "We owe the country and the people a great debt," said Yu Kyeong-Sik. "We had basically died and have got our lives back. We plan to live in a way that will make you proud, and we promise that to you and we will repay our debt." [More]


CHRISTIANITY TODAY: "Remorse is the face of the church," said Park Eun-jo, senior pastor of Saemmul Church. The Presbyterian congregation that sponsored the trip, in the Seoul suburb of Bundang, has a weekly attendance of about 5,000 people.

"Koreans, particularly those who are not receptive to Christianity, are very emotional and critical about this incident," he told Christianity Today. "Because of the hostage situation, people withheld their opinions, but since they are released, people are now really letting us have what they think." [More]


REUTERS: AFGHANISTAN'S Taliban plan to abduct and kill more nationals from foreign countries whose troops serve under NATO and the US military in the country, a spokesman for the Islamic movement warned today.

The vow comes just days after the Taliban released 19 South Korean hostages after their Government struck a deal that critics said sets a dangerous precedent that could spur more kidnappings and make life even more dangerous for foreigners.

"We consider it (kidnapping) as an arm that can help us in imparting a blow to the enemy," Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"Kidnapping ... and killing of (nationals) of those countries who have come for the annihilation of the nation of Afghanistan, are works which suppress the enemy," he added. [More]

Friday, August 31, 2007

MERDEKA!

"This is what the LORD Almighty says:
"Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.
In your hearts do not think evil of each other."

Zechariah 7:8-10

"Build houses and settle down;
plant gardens and eat what they produce.

Marry and have sons and daughters;
find wives for your sons

and give your daughters in marriage,
so that they too may have sons and daughters.

Increase in number there;
do not decrease.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city
to which I have carried you into exile.

Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers,
you too will prosper."

Jeremiah 29:5-7

If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven
and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicle 7:14

Thursday, August 30, 2007

7 more hostages to go...

AP Photo

News reports say 12 hostages have been released thus far. 7 more are in Taliban hands, held in different locations in Ghazni province outside Kabul.

ABP: The Taliban has released 12 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan.
The ten women and two men, part of a group of 23 Christian volunteers kidnapped from a bus in Ghazni province on 19 July, were handed over to members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in three different groups.

BBC: The 12 hostages - 10 women and two men - were freed in groups at separate locations around Ghazni province, several hours apart.

Red Cross officials who helped drive them to safety on Wednesday said the group were "relieved" and physically in good shape.

Merdeka reflections

Found this link to Catholic Asian News on Screenshots. Check it out for some viewpoints on Merdeka:

Celebration of liberation from colonial rule and of material success must therefore be coupled with sober reflections in the search for success in ethnic and religious unity. Then perhaps within the next 50 years Malaysians can proudly say, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation (Dt 4:6).”

  • My dear Malaysia: What has become of You? By K. George

  • 50 years of Islamisation By Aneel David Kannabhiran
  • Malaysia: The next 50 years By Colin Nunis
  • When I become Prime Minister By Adnan Amir
  • Christian Federation of Malaysia Press Statement

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

8 South Korean Hostages Freed

(Reuters photo)

The Taliban released 8 South Korean hostages in 2 batches to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

AP: To secure the hostages’ release, South Korea reaffirmed a pledge to withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and prevent South Korean Christian missionaries from working there. The Taliban apparently backed down on earlier demands for a prisoner exchange. [More]

Reuters: A spokesman for South Korea's president, Chon Ho-seon, did not respond to questions at a news briefing in Seoul on Wednesday on whether a ransom was part of the deal but said South Korea had done what was needed.

"We believe it is any country's responsibility to respond with flexibility to save lives as long as you don't depart too far from the principles and practice of the international community," Chon said. [More]

USAToday: Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan expert at New York University, said the agreement was a public relations victory for the Taliban. "It has enhanced their stature as an Afghan political group," he said. "They engaged in negotiations with a foreign government." [More]


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The selling-out of Malaysia

The last week or so has seen the official yawing of the Islamic state mantra and I must say it is beginning to grate. First, we were told we were never secular, that we had always been an Islamic state. Then, our venerable PM muddies the water by saying we were neither secular nor theocratic (note ‘Islamic’ is not the choice adjective here) but a country that practices parliamentary democracy, albeit with Islam as its official religion. And as if the previous pronouncement did not exist, Pak Lah issues a written reply in parliament that we’re an Islamic state after all. According to Malaysiakini, he said:

“Malaysia is an Islamic state which is administered based on the principles of Islam and at the same time adheres to the principles of parliamentary democracy guided by the highest law of the land - the Federal Constitution.”
As Malaysiakini notes, Pak Lah’s term in BM 'negara Islam' could mean either 'Islamic state' or 'Islamic country', both of which do not mean the same thing in English. So the semantics game continues.

Of course, further stirring up the conundrum was former AG Tun Abu Talib Othman who in an earlier interview with Malaysiakini, admitted indifference to the Islamic-secular state debate. In his interview he said he had no regrets during his tenure as AG, or over his role in the controversial sacking of then Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas. He defended his actions as ‘applicable law’ and disagreed that declaring Malaysia Islamic had impact on human rights. “It doesn’t really matter to me so long as I’m not forced to do anything against my will... That’s the basic premise,” he said.

I find the former AG’s admission all the more shocking (nay, shameful) if you would step back into time with me to 1988, to events surrounding Salleh Abbas’ fateful dismissal on account of 5 controversial charges produced against him. One of these charges is especially pertinent and I shall summarise from Abbas’ book, "Mayday for Justice":

Charge #2 alleged that at the launching of the book, Malaysia Law and Law, Justice and the Judiciary:Transnational Trends on 12 1988….”(iv) you made special reference to the interpretative role of judges and advocated the acceptance of the Islamic legal system not only in the interpretation of the Civil Law of Malaysia but in its general application.”

“Your attempt to restate the law generally along Islamic legal principles ignores the character of Malaysia society as one which is multi-religious and multi-racial with deep cultural differences. No responsible Government can allow the postulation of such views by the head of the Judiciary without causing fear and consternation among its non-Muslim population. Further your statement violates established principles of judicial interpretation widely accepted in the courts in Malaysia and in the Commonwealth.”

And then during submission to the Tribunal, AG Abu Talib pressed home his point:

“He (Abbas) is advocating a new rule…he is not sensitive of the secular position of this country and the law of this country…”

(emphasis mine)


[More about Abbas dismissal and Malaysia's judical crisis here]

The former AG’s post-rationalisation and doublespeak is painfully obvious. It appears now that whether Malaysia is secular or Islamic does not matter. So what? Indeed. It meant something to the former AG then. It was on this very allegation of advocating Islamic rule, of being insensitive of the secular position of this country, of causing fear among its non-Muslim population, that formed one of the primary charges for Abbas’ dismissal.

I ask:

Who has been insensitive to the country’s secular position today?

Who has been denying the secular character of the Federal Constitution while stridently insisting Malaysia is an Islamic state?

Who in the Judiciary has suggested that Common Law be dropped, to the horror of all right thinking people in the country?

Who in the Judiciary has subjugated freedoms enshrined in the Federal Constitution to the interpretation of Syariah?

Who in the PM’s department has proposed the application of Syariah as appropriate replacement for English Common Law, causing distress to millions of non-Muslims in the country?

Who has been calling Malaysia an Islamic state while ignoring Malaysia’s multi-religious and multi-racial reality, thereby causing “fear and consternation among its non-Muslim population”?

Why is the Government insensitive to the concerns of over 40% of its non-Muslim population who do not want the country to be arbitrarily declared Islamic?

Who is preaching unity and causing schisms just when we're celebrating 50 years of Merdeka?

Who is going to answer for the selling-out of Malaysia?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Young Writers Camp 07

The highest purpose of art is to inspire.
What else can you do?

What else can you do for any one but inspire them?
Bob Dylan

The Young Writers Camp (YWC) was a grand experience that reinvigorated the SU teen magazine PHASES. More than anyone else it was Alvin who, returning from Middlebury (and a brief stint in Hong Kong), wondered why no one thought about nurturing budding writers in Malaysia, and started to push the envelope. That was eons ago. They were halcyon days, I think, and it raised a small community of writers to evoke awe and nostalgia to this day. Stuff of legend, almost, and I’m glad to have had a whiff of it.

The PHYW – that’s what the campers called themselves – made quite a splash. Where did these kids come from? Who knew why those pioneering camps at Fraser’s and Kuala Selangor way back when were so stirring? Was it all a fluke? A confluence of stars? The tenacity of dreams? Breath of the Spirit? It was all these, and one thing more: someone to do the heavy lifting. That would be quite a few souls whose names escape me at the moment.

But you can’t really have too much of a good thing; people grow up. The PHYW did, and it wasn’t the same after that. Perhaps we tried too hard to keep the notion of some indescribable flame alive. I guess everyone else who came after didn’t think it was their thing - not the teens who came later. Yet some of us clung on to a faint hope, not quite believing it was over. So it was that we decided to give it another shot. Not quite a new start, (what with a bunch of familiar faces) and maybe, a new focus, wrapped with a greater sense of urgency. If the chemistry’s right, there would be strong medicine to last a while.

Even so, we weren’t at all sure if another YWC would do the trick so soon after the last false start in Malacca. Then when Phui Yee raised her hand, everything started moving very quickly, and the rest trooped in.

Yet for all our good intentions, the YWC hung in the balance for a while. Somewhere between presumption and conviction was the indictment of 5 registration forms. Only 5? With nearly 2 weeks to go before the camp, this was dreary news. If we erred by opening the gates too wide the last time, were we now too stringent? Did we frighten away hopefuls and wannabes with our list of participating luminaries – Tricia, Sivin, KJ, et al? Or did people smell a fish when we mentioned projects? Fortunately, by the time registrations closed we had 24 or 25. Quite respectable, considering all we wanted was 30 or so, erm, ‘quality’ campers.



Post-camp, one week later.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought the YWC went very well. Ok, maybe it’s too soon to say, but we all sensed an energy. Not unlike those heady days, yet different in that the present bunch seemed less cocky. There was again a confluence of stars, the breath of the Spirit. We raised the bar, challenged the kids to give legs to their words, and then some.

A few people who didn’t know writers could have this much fun swore they were coming back next year. Karcy felt the standard of writing was several notches up compared to the last camp. Colin thought a lot of the campers had a greater sense of calling than was usual. Darren called his mom to say the standard was ‘very high’ and that he was glad he came. Elliot found the camp more ‘christian.’ And Daniel said we may have succeeded where we failed in previous camps: we turned everyone into an activist.

Well. If the camp’s inspired anyone, we’ve done something right. We're all the richer for it, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Refugee Nation

Malaysia is not a member to the U.N. Convention on Refugee Status 1951 and Protocol 1867, and does not intend to sign a UN pact recognizing or protecting refugees within her borders. This immediately classifies all refugees as illegal immigrants (together with undocumented workers and asylum seekers), which explains their constant harassment, detention, and deportation. The sad and tragic truth is, many of these refugees have been playing cat and mouse with the authorities – particularly Rela - and some have even been born here, with no country to call their own, but the squatter colonies to call home.

But Malaysia is a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, which ironically allows all children born here to acquire nationality. Since their parents are illegal immigrants and foreigners, their birth certs are stamped orang asing (foreigner).

That’s something to mull over as Malaysia celebrates her 50th birthday.

Malaysian Aris Oziar has moved from mulling to making a difference. Visit his blog Fifty Refugees which documents the stories of 50 illegal immigrants on our shores. So the next time you’re tempted to complain about traffic jams, remember their stories. If you think we have it bad, they are having it worse.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bad News - Good News

BAD NEWS

One of the country's worst road accidents, which occurred in the wee hours of yesterday on the North-South Expressway near here, was a disaster waiting to happen.

The driver had 13 traffic summonses - some still outstanding - and two warrants of arrest against him while the 20-year-old bus, which also had 19 summonses, did not even have the permit to ply the route.

The passengers of the bus, bound for Alor Star from Malacca, never stood a chance against such a poor record - 19 of them were killed along with the 37- year-old driver. [More]
(STAR pix)


GOOD NEWS

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed on Monday that it had facilitated the release of two South Korean hostages held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The two women were among 23 South Koreans kidnapped by Taliban militants on July 19. Two male captives were executed at the end of July. [More]

Yonhap News reported the released hostages are Kim Gina, 32, and Kim Kyung-ja, 37.

(AP Photo)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Answering Minister Zam

Andrew Khoo who is the Deputy Chairperson of the Malaysian Bar’s Human Rights Committee, came up with an excellent response to Info Minister Zam’s strident objections to the Merdeka Statement. Excerpts from his letter in theSun:

Why was the Jabatan Perpaduan Negara re-named Jabatan Perpaduan Negara dan Integrasi Nasional? The 42 organisations which were listed as supporting (whether in whole or in part) the Merdeka Statement either deal with or represent ordinary people of all walks of life on an everyday basis. Does the Honourable Minister really think that the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations is elitist? Or the Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled? Or Yayasan Strategik Sosial? This last organisation is a body that works with underprivileged and marginalised, mainly Indian, children and youths. How more “un-elitist” can you get?

Does he consider the Malaysia Hindu Sangam elitist? Or the Malaysian Buddhist Association? Rather than face the reality, the preferred response appears to be to classify these groups as an elitist unrepresentative fringe group, and then to dismiss them as “Irrelevant!”

Furthermore, when you actually take a look at the Merdeka Statement, is it so bad that under the first item there is a call to ensure that “all new policies should be tested against the tenets of the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara? Is it so horrible that “an independent and transparent National Consultative Council on Vision 2020 should be established immediately? Is it so intolerable that “a National Research Institute on Ethnic Relations should be established?” Are these things, in and of themselves, so repugnant to the average person in the street that the majority of Malaysians would be offended by such suggestions? [More]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I am a town

I was going to write about Madeleine Peyroux (yes, yes, belated discovery) but got distracted by this beautiful melancholic song by another favourite singer songwriter, Mary Chapin Carpenter. So it's a song about a southern town a universe away. But I come from a small town myself (Alor Star) and I, too, was brought up in a Southern Baptist church. Under the skin, we are all the same.

I AM A TOWN

I'm a town in Carolina, I'm a detour on a ride
For a phone call and a soda, I'm a blur from the driver's side
I'm the last gas for an hour if you're going twenty-five
I am Texaco and tobacco, I am dust you leave behind

I am peaches in September, and corn from a roadside stall
I'm the language of the natives, I'm a cadence and a drawl
I'm the pines behind the graveyard, and the cool beneath their shade,
where the boys have left their beer cans
I am weeds between the graves.

My porches sag and lean with old black men and children
Their sleep is filled with dreams, I never can fulfill them
I am a town.

I am a church beside the highway where the ditches never drain
I'm a Baptist like my daddy, and Jesus knows my name
I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age;
I am not your destination
I am clinging to my ways
I am a town.

I'm a town in Carolina, I am billboards in the fields
I'm an old truck up on cinder blocks, missing all my wheels
I am Pabst Blue Ribbon, American, and "Southern Serves the South"
I am tucked behind the Jaycees sign, on the rural route
I am a town
I am a town
I am a town
Southbound.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Charges against Siti Noor dropped


Remember her?

That's singer Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin who was detained by the Perak Religious Dept for allegedly dressing sexily and encouraging vice by performing at a nightclub. The STAR carried this report yesterday:

The 22-year-old singer said the department reached the decision after a meeting on Saturday.

“At the meeting, (the Perak Religious Department) decided to drop the charge as it it did not have enough evidence to press charges," said Siti Noor Idayu.

During the meeting, she said, the department officers also advised her to dress properly in future performances. [More]

Well, I'm glad for her.

I'll probably be told to mind my own business but I’m also curious: Did the religious dept really have a case but not enough evidence, or what? Interferance from higher-ups? And if these officers insisted on advising her about proper dressing even when she's not charged, does it imply that she was - according to laws regulating Muslim propriety - improperly dressed and then reluctantly let off? Again, if she was let off due to lack of evidence, what kind of evidence would have implicated her?

Mmm. Just curious.