Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Advantage BN

PM Najib has stolen the thunder from Pakatan with a timely Cabinet ruling on child conversion following the latest controversy involving Hindu mother Indira Ghandi. Several religious groups and NGOs were reportedly happy and so was I.
To soothe uneasiness over the controversial conversion of minors to Islam, the Cabinet decided on Wednesday that Muslim converts had to meet their marriage commitments and raise their children in the religion they were in at the time of their marriage.

It also directed the Attorney-General to look at which laws need to be amended in line with the decision to stop the conversion of minors without the consent of both parents. [More]
Indeed. Laws need to be amended so that the Cabinet’s decision carries weight.

"A directive has no legal effect in the court of law. It may be persuasive in court but again, it has no legal effect," said lawyer A. Sivanesan who’s acting on behalf of Indira Ghandi.

You could say the Cabinet decision was a compromise of sorts and there remain grey areas to address. There is still some wrangling, and a father gone AWOL. The point however is, it is a step forward.

This puts Pakatan in a quandary and as reports start coming in, DAP and PAS are again on opposite ends of the debate, with PKR trying to straddle the ideological divide. Whatever PKR may be saying about the coalition adopting a ‘middle-path’ and as commendable as the stance may be, it waits to be seen whether the middle-pathers will not succumb to the Islamists.

It is one thing for Syed Husin Ali to say that Pakatan needs only a ‘minimum’ to keep together (which presumably means the basic tenets required to stay together as a viable opposition coalition). That’s fine, but surely we who have voted in Pakatan have the right to expect more.

Sure, the coalition is not a monolithic homogeneous entity, and we understand the ride ahead will be bumpy. But the message of March 8 and the end of the political journey is not merely the establishing of Pakatan; it is the sustaining and nurture of higher ideals, i.e., the freedom to be Malaysians without the triangulation of race, religion and class, founded upon a common vision of justice, equality, integrity towards a progressive and prosperous nation. This means whatever stance Pakatan adopts had better move us all closer to this hope.

Anyway, as encouraging as BN’s decision is, I can’t help but feel a little bothered and more than a bit cynical. While JAKIM, PUM, the Perak Mufti, and other Islamist NGOs are making all the requisite noises, the Cabinet decision appears pretty much a done thing. You know, just get the AG to amend laws, etc. Just like that, with a press release and a stroke of the pen. QED. All these men and women strutting down those proverbial corridors of power can at a moment’s notice sit down and arrive miraculously at a consensus.

Imagine how long we have had to put up with mobs, mothers separated from children, bodies snatched from mortuaries, juvenile spin by one minister or another, threats of another May 13, tough talk by religious groups, etc. It goes to show that if the powers-that-be really wanted to resolve conflicts however sensitive these issues are, they could have. Yet they did not. Can you blame cynics when they conclude that all this feet-dragging was because BN’s interest wasn't served?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The real Susan Boyle

What’s more astonishing: that someone like simple homebody Susan Boyle could bring people to tears with her voice, or that millions who’ve made her a Youtube sensation think such a talent is just too good to be true? Susan has just gone through the first rounds of audition but millions want her to succeed on the talent show.

Now they’ve unearthed a song that Susan recorded for a charity album 10 years ago and the frenzy’s started all over again. Cry Me a River is sure to be another viral hit. It’s a wonderfully, perfectly rendered interpretation, but I have to admit it didn’t do it for me – it just lacks the emotive punch (Check out Julie London who first recorded the song, or Diana Krall who made the song her own).

We’re living in times where ‘normal’ is rather disturbingly abnormal. We prefer our newly elevated media stars to be slightly bigger than life - you know, like Jade Goody. Someone comes from the wrong side of town, who after taking a bite at fame tells the world he or she’s living it up now because they deserve it, and don’t anybody tell them otherwise. And we forgive the poor darlings because, yes, everyone deserves a shot at their 15 minutes, riches, popularity, a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and er, even cosmetic dentistry.

What we know of Susan right now seems to go smack against everything the media, Internet and our celebrity-obsessed culture represent. She had a learning disability and was teased in school, and she put her ambition to be a singer on hold to care for her aged mother. Susan was a regular at the village Catholic Church and sang frequently but stopped when her mother died. And now she’s taken the world by storm - and - gasp! - she doesn't even look the part.

'Gobsmacked' Susan wants to stay real: "I want to receive people as the real me, a real person."

I'm really glad to hear that. For her sake and for the sakes of all the jaded folks and media junkies out there, I hope she stays real, for a really, really long time. Go get 'em, Susan Boyle!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Power of the Resurrection

Easter 2009.

Here is a book that most touched me and challenged me this Easter. I must admit that some parts were dense - the way that only NT Wright is capable of - rushing over my consciousness like a torrent of words - some thoughts raised questions, but mostly they provoked reflection of the sort that came close to a kind of personal epiphany. He put in words some of the deepest and most thoughtful reiteration of the blessed hope that belongs to Jesus' followers.

It's the big picture that makes theology pure doxology. NT Wright's enormous capacity to draw together scholarship and thinking past and present and then deconstruct them all in ways that become clearer, is sheer brilliance. It's not all new or original (but the function of theology surely is not to be 'original') of course, but it is in the articulation. No doubt it is precisely this gift that makes him at once a scholar of note and a theologian who has challenged some of our most cherished ideas of atonement and justification.
"The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won." NT Wright

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Najib's ascent , BN's descent

Some say Batang Ai was a referendum for Najib. Perhaps. But the fact that Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau went the other way says something else: Najib's ascent is BN's descent.

The signs are clear. There is no letting up. Malaysians want something better, something new. And we want it sooner than later.

I understand that something ‘new’ is not always something ‘better.’ It’s just that we have had enough of being bullied and cowered by self-important tinpots who think we owe our well-being to their beneficence.

Perhaps I should say, we want something more.

We want hope, for us and for our children. We want to walk in the streets, keep our head up, breathe in the air, and know in our bones that this is our home. We want respect, we want to be treated justly, we want honesty.

Don’t point to history to show us our place. Don’t wave the so-called social contract in our faces as some would an unsheathed kris. Don’t stuff religion down our throats while strutting about in feigned piety.

So, know that every vote cast against BN is a vote that says to Pakatan, “Don’t become like BN.”

Good intentions are not enough; BN showed us where a road paved with platitudes led to. Know that every vote that goes to Pakatan is marked with a charge and a prayer: “Honour our trust.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Malaysia wins in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau!

Pakatan wins Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau!

Great going - Malaysia wins! Pakatan scores a 2,789 majority win in Bukit Gantang and a 2,403-vote majority in Bukit Selambau! Sweet! But shame about Batang Ai, Sarawak needs more work. Meanwhile here's some humour gleaned from Malaysiakini, Bernama, Nutgraph, and Malaysian Insider to celebrate the rakyat's win. If these quotes show anything, it's that BN still doesn't get it.

Zambri Abdul Kadir "The people have made their decision. It is not a rejection of the BN in Perak."

Koh Tsu Koon "As BN is still leading the federal government, BN has a good platform to perform, implement positive reform and good policies benefiting the people."

Dr M "I am confident that Najib's leadership reflects the original Umno."

Muhyiddin Yassin "Maybe the people have a feel-good factor relating to Najib's premiership, but they have yet to absorb the good feelings."

Hishamuddin Hussein "We must study the trend of the voters and see what else needs to be satisfied. You must understand, this is not our seat and not our state, we did not lose our own seat."

Samy Vellu “I am certain we have increased Indian support,....even though we are disappointed..."

Ong Tee Keat "They do not want to hear promises of change but they want to experience real change."

Ramly Zahari "We still maintained the Malay votes that we got in 2008."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Back. And backpedalling?

He's back. The recently revitalised octogenarian gets back in to UMNO and hits the campaign trail. No surprises there. But this is where he's lost me:

He said mistakes, bad strategy and carelessness in the Feb 5 power grab, orchestrated by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had led to the current crisis in the state.

"You cannot topple a menteri besar or a prime minister without a no-confidence vote in the assembly. There is no other provision," he said at a function organised by Mubarak, the association for former elected representatives.

"Umno-BN was too careless and did not wait for an assembly but instead asked the Ruler to sack the menteri besar," he said, referring to Sultan Azlan Shah's decision to ask Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin to resign.

"As far as I know, there is no such provision in the Perak or Federal Constitution," he said.

[Full story here]

So, should not the whole Perak crisis be exposed as an expensive and tragic sham that it is? Shouldn't Dr M be standing up for the rakyat?

Enough is enough!
So NO to BN!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Time for change!

I find the present political scenario an utter scandal. Politicians from the ruling BN almost always imagine the electorate to be either too dumb to tell the difference between their words and deeds, or too comfortable to care about the larger issues. Yeah, right. And all of us were born yesterday too.

Meanwhile public institutions are breaking down – the police have lost their credibility and all we hear is the need for the force to “improve its image.” Law and order is fast becoming a joke but long-suffering taxpayers who have been robbed, maimed, and victimized are not laughing. The judiciary is coming close to being nothing more than a mouthpiece for the government, apparently dictated by the powerful to legitimize injustice and vested interests - is there no one on the bench who commands respect for his or her principles and courage? Remember VK Lingam?

We know deep in our gut that something is terribly wrong, and we know things aren’t getting better. Anyone with any sense of decency also knows who are responsible for undermining the very institutions that are supposed to serve and protect the rakyat.

Government departments and ministries have become personal fiefdoms for politicos and their hirelings and cronies. Corruption and alleged misdeeds akin to daylight robbery are exposed and an ex-MB blithely dismisses the SELCAT hearing as ‘not certified” by the AG. These are men and women without an iota of conscience, who nevertheless revel as spokespersons and defenders of race and religion. Gallivanting all over the world on taxpayers money too. How do these people sleep at night?

Malaysia risks becoming a basket case if we buy into the tired spin that UMNO and BN are ready for reform - that’s why they need our votes, so they tell us. Malaysia is already sliding down the precipice; its descent will only be sooner if we the rakyat think that ‘peace’ is more important that justice.

Mouthing Obama’s hope and change mantra isn’t going to work just because there’s a new lineup in UMNO. On the contrary, the air has become heavier with a pall of hopelessness. It reeks of extremism and repression. There is little doubt that the powers that be do not know what change is, and neither do they want to change. There’s too much of old blood and too little new thinking. That these politicians are flexing their muscles, banning opposition papers, locking people up in ISA, and intimidating anyone with a dissenting point of view are enough to tell us they fear change.

This is why all right thinking Malaysians must take a stand. Resist the machinations of fear. Say no to racism and corruption. Don’t squander the forces of real change that started on March 8, 2008.

Batang Ai, Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau. Don’t be duped.
If you really want change, say NO to BN!