Anti-Semitism and mainstream Malay politics - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, February 19, 2018
Malaysiakini : “The anti-Semites who called themselves
patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists
primarily in a complete whitewash of one's own people and a sweeping
condemnation of all others.” ― Hannah Arendt, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’
COMMENT | David Roet who led the
Israeli delegation to a United Nations event in Kuala Lumpur – the first
in 50-something odd years – had this to say about
Malaysia - “I have great hopes for good relations between our two
countries in the future”, adding that he had found “many similarities
between Israelis and Malaysians. A multifaceted society of people from
different backgrounds working together for a better future.”
Even though Malaysia was a “tough nut to crack”, I give credit to the
Najib administration for sensibly following international norms - not
to mention, UN obligations - by allowing Israel to participate in this
forum even though the Foreign Ministry in a cowardly manner attempted to
deflect from this obligation when confronted with the predictable
bigoted rhetoric from Amanah and PKR.
Meanwhile, what does the so-called “moderate” Islamic party, Amanah,
think of all of this? They want to know if Malaysia is having an “affair”
with Israel. The cherry on the horse manure cake is when Amanah’s Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah said, "Or is (Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak) so
eager to follow in the footsteps of the Saudi Arabian government which
reportedly has close ties to Israel?”
Really, Saudi Arabia? The country which has since conceded that it
has intentionally supported radical Muslim groups all around the world
is now the whipping boy for Islamists wanting to outdo each in domestic
politics? Isn't it strange how Amanah and PAS sound so much alike? I contend that the only challenge to the country’s dignity is having
people who make stupid anti-Semitic remarks like what Amanah and PKR
have done with this issue.
Anti-Semitism is mainstream in Malay politics. Anything wrong with
the Muslim world is blamed on the Jews. We have hosted despotic
theocratic regimes. We have welcomed religious tyrants. We have courted
religious fanatics. We have embraced religious extremists who mock the
religions of the non-Muslims in this country.
Yet when the only real democracy in the Middle East comes a calling,
the Islamists use it as a weapon against Malay power structures in an
attempt to appear “more Islamic” than their brethren. While axiomatic, I will nonetheless draw a distinction between
anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Muslims and Jews, depending on their
ideological perspectives, love to conflate the two. While most
"pro-Palestinian" advocates fall in the latter category, there is enough
empirical evidence to suggest that when it comes to the Islamic
dialectic on the Palestinian issue, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are
not mutually exclusive and, of course, it gets muddier when you consider
the wider geopolitical context of this issue.
While Roet highlights the diplomatic view of a divided country
“working together”, all that the Islamists who claim to be moderate can
do is play the anti-Semitic card, hoping it scores religious points with
the Malay polity. The irony, of course, is that the average Malay would
not recognise a “Jew” if he or she passed him or her on the street or
understand the factual narratives behind the Palestinian conflict.
Everything most Malays are taught about the “Jewish” and the
Palestinian conflict, they get are from Biro Tatanegara (BTN) courses
and state-sponsored sermons from mosques around the country. If you think what the Najib administration did “tarnishes” the image of Islam, remember in 2015 when Times of Israel reported that the Malaysian premier called for a new dawn
of Jewish-Muslim relations by quoting the Golden Rule and speaking
“good” of the Torah when defending Muslim rights at Temple Mount? -
“When asked to describe the Torah in a soundbite, [Hillel] said: ‘That
which is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellow human being,’” Najib
said. “This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden
Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship
between Muslims and Jews.”
I do not have much good to say about the Najib regime but hopefully,
by the time this sees print, minions of the regime have not said
something dumb in the name of the sanctity of the Malay community to
whittle away the “good” of acting like mature adults in international
relations. Instead of changing the Islamic discourse in this country like what
they claim they want to do, what Amanah and PKR are attempting to ride
the anti-Semitic wave hoping that would give them credibility in the
Malay/Muslim polity when it comes to anything “Jewish” in this country.
This idea that by spreading hate for the "Jews" makes good capital is
what every Islamic political party in this country does. Except, of
course, when the real world intrudes and Islamists are made to
understand that you cannot expect to be part of the international
community and think you are exempt from certain rules.
This would have been a perfect opportunity for so-called moderate
Islamic parties to change the discourse even a little by highlighting
the fact that Islam from the Middle East, or at least that which was
perverted by petrodollars, is changing.
They could have taken the opportunity to learn from the Israeli
experience of holding their leadership accountable like how Israeli
premier Benjamin Netanyahu (photo) is facing possible criminal charges for corruption,
by highlighting the fact that a supposed enemy of Islam holds their
leaders accountable to graft allegations submitted by (mostly)
independent institutions. Instead, none of this is explored, only the same old narratives that Islamic parties think will get them the Muslims/Malay vote.
Of course, the non-Muslim component of Pakatan Harapan will keep
their mouths shut because by opposing anti-Semitism, they suddenly
become anti-Muslim. This is pure horse manure but the opposition who are
the mercy of the pernicious politics of Muslim countries should know
better when it comes to standing up to state-sponsored bigotry and
racism. Of course, nobody will hold them accountable because nothing
should detract from the road to Putrajaya, right?
All this means is that another golden opportunity to reshape the
discourse even a little bit, is drowned out by the business-as-usual
politics of getting to Putrajaya by appealing to the lowest common
denominator. This time Umno has the right of it, which makes Harapan’s
bigotry worse. Imagine if the Muslim component of the opposition actually praised
the current regime for this stand and acknowledged that this was a good
way to handle international relations and a perfect opportunity to
engage with a foreign power on behalf of the Palestinians, who Muslims
here claim are at the mercy of the Jewish state?
As usual, when it comes to issues like these, rationality is too much to ask for.
Harapan should stop appealing to emotion - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Elections are about choices. Draw a
contrast with your opponent on an issue that is important to the segment
of voters who will decide the election and you will win.” - Bob Franks, US politician
COMMENT | Public comments by
Pakatan Harapan pundits, supporters and politicians of late have been in
defending, extolling and cajoling the new world order of Harapan
politics to an electorate which is divided along racial and religious
lines. The fight over the urban voters, the traditional base of
oppositional politics since the opposition become a viable threat to the
Umno hegemon, has taken a new turn with the inclusion of Bersatu and
former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad into Harapan.
The Undirosak movement, an apathetic youth demographic, and as highlighted in the theSundaily
recently - registered voters who do not bother exercising their right
to vote - is a boon for the Umno state. Mind you, this is not the fault
of those mentioned but rather the fault of the opposition. The only way
to get pass the gerrymandering, the voter fraud and the myriad of
elections “strategies” of the establishment, is to overwhelm the system
Implying that people who do not vote are akin to old maids or that
some folks are waiting for Mr Right in terms of their politicians are
not going to get people to vote, and more importantly, getting
fence-sitters to consider giving their vote to your side.
What happens if the apocalypse does not come the day after an Umno
win? What happens if the economy strengthens after an Umno win? The
opposition would look like morons who would say anything to win and this
would be used by Umno to further the narrative that the opposition
always cries wolf and then blames the establishment when things do not
go their way.
I give you an example. Instead of constructing silly analogies about
sunscreen and the country is on fire, what DAP leader Hannah Yeoh should
have done, is write in great detail about the legislative reforms in
Selangor that Harapan has carried. How the Selangor government did not
take voters for granted. And how not taking perpetual rule into account
is reflected in the policy decision of the Harapan state government. You
know, the very things that were mentioned in passing in her article before all the pleas to emotion and dire warnings took centre stage.
This way people can actually see there is a difference between
Harapan-led state governments and BN state governments. This way,
opposition supporters get talking points when they attempt to defend the
record of Harapan as a viable opposition instead of pleas to emotion
and using straw man arguments. This way the opposition in a constructive
manner engages with people, who at this moment think there is no
difference between paella and soggy fried rice.
And do not say silly stuff like people know the difference between
the two - Umno and Harapan. The Umno hegemon does not want to talk about
issues because they do not have a good track record. If the Harapan
state governments can change the narrative and focus on issues, more
people would participate and vote because the atmosphere would be less
toxic and it will not be only about rehashing history that the
opposition cannot credibly defend beyond saying "trust us."
It’s a numbers game
And this really goes beyond attacking the Umno regime, because to my
mind the clear and present danger for the opposition is people who do
not want to vote, but more importantly, do not want to vote opposition.
Remember just because people do not want to vote for the opposition, it
does not mean that they support the Umno establishment. Their inaction
may be the logical conclusion to the maintaining of Umno power, and I
would argue that that the inability of the opposition to give them
something to vote for is a major contributing factor.
By clearly articulating positions and policies will give Harapan a
very clear edge over the Umno hegemon, who at this moment can only throw
cash at people. Remember the demographic the opposition is after -
while they struggle to put food on the table, they also care about
issues that have no place in the Umno discourse.
Also, people who defend Harapan can use them in the discourse on the
hard progressive forces in this country who are disappointed in the way
how Harapan is conducting business instead of just ad-hominem attacks
and the group-think mentality that just makes people think that
opposition supporters are a bunch of trolls.
It has always been a numbers game and now with the possibility of
three-concerned fights, either by establishment plants or because the
opposition lacks the vision to expand the base by ceding the ground to
grassroots-level organisations, the chances of Umno maintaining its grip
on power grows tighter every day.
Whenever and wherever I strike up conversations with young people, I
encourage them to register and vote. I am old fashioned. If you want to
complain, the least you could do is vote.
But I am also aware that merely telling people that the country is
doomed under the current administration and if they do not vote, the
country will go down in flames, does not matter. Asking them to vote for
the lesser of two evils is old hat. That was the mantra for Pakatan
Claiming that you have got the best team you can find – doubtful –and
in the same sentence admitting that you wish you could “protect”
yourself against betrayal (from leaders like Mahathir), is just dumb
rhetoric. This may play well with the base but it is a howler to people
who are actually thinking about voting for the opposition.
Nobody is just sitting around waiting for the house to burn down,
some people are already leaving because they think that the house is not
worth saving, while some people do not think the house is burning,
while some people think that repairs done to the house is enough, while
others… you see how stupid this analogy becomes?
Also, and this is important, do not say things like - “How will your
vote change the lives of others who cannot afford what you have?” -
because it implies something about the people who vote opposition which
may not be entirely true. Indeed, I would assume that it is the goal of
the opposition to get people who cannot afford what the urban class
takes for granted, to vote for them.
The only way to overwhelm the Umno hegemon is for people to come out
to vote in huge numbers. The establishment cannot withstand this kind of
attack. There are not enough outsourced thugs in the country to
intimidate voters in the voting booth. There are not enough jail cells
to put people in who really want regime change which is the definition
of democracy. Remember when people voted and broke Umno’s two-thirds majority and
delivered prime real estate to the opposition, they voted not out of
fear but optimism.
Zaid Ibrahim – The relevant Malay - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, February 12, 2018
Malaysiakini : “I don't pretend to be a man of the people. But I do try to be a man for the people.” – Senator Gaius Gracchus in ‘Gladiator’
COMMENT | (Full disclosure, I
compiled and edited Zaid Ibrahim’s latest collection of essays,
‘Zaidgeist: Building Bridges for a Greater Malaysia’. Of great
assistance in this endeavour was ZI Publications, which in case you were
not aware has many interesting titles in their portfolio). Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim defines who an irrelevant Malay is here
- “They are those who talk a lot about the ‘right way’ and the ‘correct
way’, and they want us to think that they belong to that category of
‘right and correct’ people.
They use public spaces under their command
(because of their positions in the government) and they usually make
pronouncements that attract headlines in news media and amongst Facebook
users. They think that because they are able to issue sensational
statements, they must be making some kind of impact on society and the
country. They probably think they grow in importance as a result.”
A young Malay activist once said to me, if all Malay opposition
politicians were like Zaid, the opposition would not be able to take on
Umno but at least we would have Malay politicians who you could believe
would lead Malaysia to a brighter future. Malay politicians like Zaid
face that dilemma. Whenever some Umno hack claims that Zaid is out of touch with the
Malay community - which I suppose means those from the rural heartlands -
I have to ask, what does out of touch mean, exactly?
That he warns them that a dogmatic approach to religion cannot
withstand the vicissitudes of the modern world? That institutional
integrity protects them from the powers of the state? That entitlement
programmes have not benefited them if they have to rely on them forever?
That Malay right is a sham that protects the political elites but not
the average Malay citizen bereft of political influence and money? That
race-based policy which favour one race is morally suspect? That
modernity means more than just aping Western culture or that tradition
means more than just aping Arab culture?
Does all of this make Zaid out of touch with the pure simple people
that Umno claims they want to “uplift”? If it does, what does this say
about the state of the education system and the policies of Umno? Going by Zaid's definition of an irrelevant Malay, most Umno
potentates would fall into this category. If this holds true, this would
mean that Umno was composed of irrelevant Malays, which is kind of
funny when you think of it because this would mean that people have been
voting for a hegemon which is irrelevant.
But there is more to it than that. If you read the book ‘Zaidgeist’,
Zaid’s main concern is that the country and the political elites are
slipping into irrelevancy and when this happens, the country will turn
into one of those despotic theocracies that we read about and are
thankful that we do not belong to.
His criticisms of the Malay community are not that of a self-loathing
rebel but rather of someone who clearly sees that the direction the
community is heading - led by kleptocratic charlatans - will destroy
this country which is blessed with natural resources and a diverse
polity which is an advantage globally, if only we could get our act
While I was compiling Zaid’s articles what I noticed was a Malay
politician who was interested in discussing the “real stuff”. He was
interested in starting a dialogue about what his community faced but
more importantly, what the issues facing Malaysians were. Zaid had a
very clear idea on the theme of this book and he wanted the articles
compiled to reflect the serious questions that continuing support of
this regime raises. He also wanted to be sure to offer an optimistic
perspective of Malaysia even though it came in the form of criticisms.
The quixotic politician
Here is a point that Zaid made clearly and unambiguously (recently)
when a blogger questioned the gender of cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat
and the religious authorities decided to get involved in this issue of
grave importance - “I have no idea what the process entails. Nur Sajat is a celebrity
entrepreneur and Jakim thinks it’s somehow its business to verify and
identify the gender and sexual orientation of Muslims, including her. It
must be stressful for Nur Sajat but I hope she will be strong. No one
can change her identity. To her, I say: ‘You are who you are. Live your
life as only you know best.’”
Nur Sajat (photo), meanwhile, said this
- "She said there were many other issues that were worthy of
discussion, listing as examples matters regarding Malaysia’s currency
and how to generate money in the current economic climate. She added
that her own story was ‘boring’ and that all anyone needed to know is
that ‘Nur Sajat is cun’ - using the Malay word that runs the gamut from
‘cute’ to ‘attractive’.”
This is the type of clear statements from a politician you will get
in this book. Unlike some Malay opposition leaders when it comes to race
and religion, who waffle and fudge in the hopes of smoothening over the
issue, Zaid makes his stand clear and unwavering. This is the
optimistic aspect of ‘Zaidgeist’. You may disagree with what he has said
in the past or present, but Zaid has always been clear on what is on
Zaid has always been a quixotic politician, which is strange because
he was, until he left Umno, a political insider. An Umno operative told
me that Zaid was a loose cannon whose principles more often than not
would hurt the opposition than Umno. Indeed, while the Umno state has
been busy using the legal system and their propaganda arms to target
Zaid, the opposition has often had to scramble to minimise the damage
when Zaid (photo) decides to speak truth to power, when he
should be keeping quiet and carrying the opposition tune, which merely
means playing the game.
Many people, for instance, cannot get over the fact that the
opposition needs Dr Mahathir Mohamad to save Malaysia. Zaid was one of
the maverick’s earliest supporters and was instrumental in getting the
opposition comfortable with the idea of working with the man the
opposition called a tyrant. Now some would argue that this is a bad idea and indeed the narrative
by the Umno establishment has been to use the former prime minister’s
past, the rhetoric of the opposition and the so-called ineptitude of the
opposition to rally around Mahathir to their advantage but Zaid makes
clear in various articles, that this is about the future and once a
two-party system is established, we can as Malaysians fine-tune the
system through the electoral process.
If you are an opposition supporter and wondered why Zaid says the
things he says, you should really read this book. Everything he said,
whether it is politically incorrect for the opposition or a poke in the
eye for the Umno establishment, he has put down in words, long before he
actually said them.
Which merely means these are not political gaffes
but rather ideas that he believes in and he believes would save
Will Rafizi-Johari’s guilty verdict galvanise the Malay vote? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, February 10, 2018
Malaysiakini : “It’s been six years and most of you would have forgotten it. Such is life - we move on.” – Rafizi Ramli on the National Feedlot Corporation scandal.
COMMENT | As someone who has publicly agreed and disagreed with Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, I have to say that I was impressed with his ‘no regrets’ take on the guilty verdict of his Bafia (Banking and Financial Institutions Act) trial. I sincerely hope that his message is disseminated to the demographic
that needs to hear it most but more importantly, I hope that former bank
clerk Johari Mohamad who exposed these “secrets” also pens a letter as
to why he did it and what he had hoped to achieve.
It is important that the Malay community hears from someone who
whistle-blew because it shifts attention away from the professional
politician and centres the discourse on the average rakyat who did
something, for whatever reasons, because he believed that it would
benefit the public. This makes the personal political and we should
understand by now, this is a potent tool in the arsenal of winning
hearts and minds.
Already the establishment spin is out - painting Rafizi’s actions as
that of a man who would abuse the most scared of our banking laws, a
manipulator of whistleblowers and someone who for the sake of martyrdom,
attempted to sabotage the economic interest of this country. Rafizi who has been on the forefront of governmental malfeasance when
it comes to institutional corruption - be it land deals, Tabung Haji or
the myriad other scandals he has exposed - plays well with the urban
educated demographic but does he resonate with the demographic that
Pakatan Harapan claims it needs to take Putrajaya?
Corruption scandals are complicated. People do not have the time to
sift through the minutiae of records and public documents most often
written in legalese. The struggle to convey all of this in digestible
segments to disenfranchised/rural communities whose “interests” are
confined to local issues is an obstacle for most Harapan political
People always say, why do these rural folks keep voting BN when it is
evidently against their self-interests? If there is one thing that
these corruption scandals expose is that the system is designed to
exploit and “rob” from the very community that Umno claims to want to
defend and uplift. If exposing the plunderers of the Malay community was
really an example of Malay righteousness, then someone like Rafizi
would probably be the biggest defender of Malay interests and
self-preservation in this country.
However, because he attacks the institutions and power structures
deemed “Malay”, he is instead cast as the interloper working with
‘pendatang’ power structures to destabilise Malay privileges and rights
in this country. His exposes are deemed treachery and his collaboration
with the “enemies” of Islam and political power structures deemed
anathema to Malay supremacy constantly puts him on the defensive, which
is where Umno wants him to be.
Much like how W.E.B Du Bois’s in ‘Black Reconstruction in America’
expounded on the concept of “whiteness” as a “public and psychological
wage” - this idea that whiteness elevated the status of poor whites over
blacks, giving them a perceived superior status (which in reality had
tremendous value), whereby they supported the land-owning/political
class which exploited them while enriching themselves - the idea of
‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and the so-called codified Malay rights and privileges
acts as a counter intuitive, if effective means, of gaining support
from an electorate always in fear of losing their status – real but
worthless* – in a changing geopolitical landscape. See my thoughts on
this here. *(Worthless in against the traits of self-reliance and economic savvy
of other communities forced to be independent through historical and
Our system of entitlement
What the corruption scandals that Rafizi has really exposed is that
the Umno regime is the economic crutch of the majority Malay community.
Forget about the kool-aid that this is a not a racial issue; it is.
What these scandals, be it land scandals, religious institutions
scandals and the plethora of “dirt” Rafizi has managed to unearth, is
that the system of entitlement, either directly or indirectly, meant to
help the disenfranchised of the Malay community for whatever reasons has
been abused by the Umno state. And yet this is not enough, or at least
history demonstrates that it is not enough, to actually weaken the Umno
When it comes to communal economic interests - the country has been
through some trying economic times - the demographic that sustains and
enables the Umno regime have kept them in power. So this idea that if
the people are hurting in their wallets, they would decide to vote
against purveyors of race and religion is suspect. This, by the way, is
not an invitation to discuss the racial politics of Harapan.
Of course, the Umno regime wants to portray the naysayers as economic
saboteurs - they claim that detractors want the economy to fail in
their quest for power - but the reality is that the systemic abuses by
the state is weakening the economy. While economists practice their
voodoo, either in support of Harapan or in support of the Umno
establishment, the demographic that both needs to elevate them to power
continues to support - thus far - a system which disenfranchises them,
yet tells them that they are the masters of the land.
Hence the more corruption in land deals, religious institutions and
other “Malay” institutions discounting those public institutions which
are deemed “Malay” institutions by right-wing types, the more Malay
supremacy is portrayed as under threat even though in cases such as
these, it is Malay politicians and outliers who expose such corruption
in the system.
Interesting side not. The graft allegations and childish back and
forth between the MCA and DAP is another example of how the system
distorts the issue of corruption, and encourages minority communities to
cannibalise each other in service of the greater Malay hegemon.
I have no idea if the guilty verdict of Rafizi and Johari would
galvanise the Malay polity to the unjust manner in which powerbrokers in
the hegemon have value - economic, social, legal - over the rest of the
community but if the narratives of the establishment hold, as they have
done in the past, the guilty verdict of these two men will just be
another in the long line of silencing dissent in the Malay community.
The only other alternative for so-called oppositional Malay power
structures intent on playing this game is to increase the psychological
and public wages of the Malay community.
This, of course, would be a guilty verdict on the political process of this country.
The youth vote – what Harapan should do - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, February 07, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Seven out of 10 young Malaysians
polled said they found politicians to be untrustworthy and the main
cause of Malaysia’s problems today.” - Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research
COMMENT | Kluang MP Liew Chin
Tong discussing the issue of young people not voting (specifically
concerning the Chinese community) said something that really displays
the tone deafness of the opposition. Not his comment, mind you, but the
opposition's failure to understand the demographic that could help them
take Putrajaya. He said, “...(DAP) was now seen by Chinese youth as an ‘establishment’ party.”
Pay close attention. This is not peculiar to young Chinese in this
country. Young people in this country think that the “opposition” is
part of the establishment and you know what, the opposition became part
of the establishment when they became a credible threat to BN. If
Pakatan Harapan manages to take Putrajaya in this upcoming election, it
would truly become part of the political ruling class in a two-party
system. That is the reality. It does not have to be a problem though.
Meanwhile, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng reminds
young people about the consequences of wasting their vote by their
method of preference (giving up), “Once you give up, they win. Who wins?
Those in the ruling clique. The status quo will remain." Again with the
tone deafness, young people are apathetic because they think the
opposition in this country, following its business-as-usual politics, is
already a component of the status quo.
Claiming Harapan “are not the best” but they are “better” than BN
which flows trippingly from the CM’s tongue, is not the kind of
catchphrase which makes young people think they better get voting but
more importantly, displays a profound lack of understanding of what is
expected from an opposition.
Don’t bother erecting that strawman of young people wanting a perfect
system because young people are not naïve. People often deliberately
conflate idealism with naiveté and this just makes the discourse more
difficult because telling young people they should vote for you because
although "not perfect, you are still better" is not an effective
strategy. Young party members telling other young people that they
listened to the “party elders” and have accepted the party’s stand does
not inspire confidence either.
The Kluang MP also said something that applies to all young people –
“They rather focus on earning money or working in Singapore” – okay,
maybe that last part of working in Singapore could be replaced with some
other country. The underlying point of believing that politics archives
very little and they would be better of working the system or ignoring
it, is indicative that the opposition has failed to spark a rebellion
against the system because as the days drag on they behave more like the
Young people or at least those I have talked to, those who voice
their concerns on social media, those who are involved in some sort of
social and political activism, those who participate in the discourse or
just the average young person who vents online, are not looking for the
perfect system. Those involved in progressive politics merely want the
bare minimum they see youths in other countries are fighting for and
They want to see our politicians or political parties doing that.
They want to believe that progressive politics will lead to a
possibility of change and when politicians using the same strategies as
the entrenched establishment ask them to be pragmatic, they either want
to spoil their votes or not bother showing up at the ballot box at all.
One activist who read my article
of how former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was reshaping Umno yet
again, asked what is the point of voting for entrenched political
interests even if it establishes a two-party system? He often reads
online how this country is going to turn into a crap hole, so why bother
voting when the entrenched interests would not be invested in changing
the country because actually changing the country would mean that those
interests would have less of a hold on the majority in this country.
“You think I and my friends like looking over our shoulder for the
religious police? If the religious departments ask for more money in a
Harapan administration, you think these people won’t give it to them?”
There is a strong anti-establishment streak in young people in this
country but nobody in Harapan seems interested in mining it for
political gold, instead they are investing in official narratives in the
expectation of political gain.
I have said it before: Harapan should commit to the game that they
wanted to play but this chasing after the rural Malay vote at the
expense of the youth vote is just stupid. In fact, by all accounts from all the surveys, analysis and
commentaries by credible think-tanks, not to mention the experience of
foreign countries, the votes of young people have changed the direction
of the country or political alliances but more importantly young people
who were inspired to vote by the rhetoric - the rhetoric, mind you - of
politicians who understood why that demographic was important, turned up
Of course, they did not tell these young people to be pragmatic, or
not be stupid or that they did not know any better. What they did was
take the ideas of these young people and run with it. This is not a
“Western” idea. This happens in countries in Africa, the Middle East and
yes, in Southeast Asia but it is just the West that offers the more
well-known examples of how "old men" have inspired young voters.
In the UK, there was Jeremy Corbyn who changed the fortunes of the
Labour party and in the US, if Bernie Sanders (an independent) was not
sabotaged by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), he could have
saved the world from Donald Trump. These two old men offered something
radically different from the business-as-usual politics that some think
is the only way to gain political victory. Everywhere you look, Harapan is painting itself into a corner by
seemingly emulating the kind of politics that BN practices. Of course,
having Mahathir does not challenge perceptions but young people would
overlook this if the rhetoric of change coming out Harapan was
revolutionary instead of the conventional political thinking that they
do not know any better or that they are idealistic or that the system
will correct itself if it merely changes drivers.
If Harapan really wants young people to roll the dice, they should
make the stakes high instead of the low stakes that young people rightly
or wrongly perceive the current political game offers them.
Malaysiakini : “There comes an hour when protest no
longer suffices; after philosophy there must be action; the strong hand
finishes what the idea has sketched.” ― Victor Hugo, ‘Les Misérables’
COMMENT | You have to give credit
to the old maverick, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Pakatan Harapan designate
for the top job if the coalition comes into power. Not only is he
comfortable slaying sacred Malay cows, he has no problems baiting the
Najib regime as he does when he extols the virtues of street protest if
PM Najib Razak dares to declare an emergency in lieu of elections.
Would Najib declare an emergency? This is doubtful. The regime may be
in a precarious position but the Umno regime still has the tools to
successfully ensure electoral success and with the opposition in
disarray, the longer it takes to hold an election, the better the
chances for the Umno establishment to narcotise a weary electorate.
If the opposition was a cohesive force, then time would not be on
Najib’s side but as it is, the longer he holds off, the more the
opposition embroils itself in stupid “friendly fire” fiascos that only
serves the Umno hegemon and makes the fence-sitting voters more
convinced that they should vote for stability.
But let us say for whatever reason, Najib does decide to use the
emergency option. He really does not need the consent of the Agong to
play that card. The National Security Council (NSC) law gives him the
power to declare certain areas as security risk (and people should
understand that "security" in this instance is widely defined) and he
could stall an election for years, if need be.
If memory serves, the inspector-general of police and the chief of
defence forces have a seat at the council. This way, in theory, that he
could bypass the consent of the Agong is within the confines of the law,
and he has the heads of the various security apparatus at his side.
Scary stuff. I have written about this law numerous times and people should really familiarise themselves with what it could have in store for Malaysians.
Or you could read the cliff notes version with the scary highlights, courtesy of Amnesty International
– “One provision, Section 18, allows the prime minister to arbitrarily
designate any area in the country a ‘security area’, if he deems it a
potential source of ‘harm’. ‘There is good reason to fear that the Act
will be yet another tool in the hands of the government to crack down on
peaceful protests under the guise of national security,’ said Josef
“The special status given to ‘security areas’ could worsen Malaysia’s
track record of custodial deaths and police brutality. Under Section
35, magistrates and coroners will no longer have to carry out inquests
into deaths resulting from operations mounted by security forces within
these areas. The National Security Council Act also allows security
forces to use lethal force without internationally recognised
safeguards, and grants them broad powers to carry out warrantless
Of course, there are claims made that the Harapan leadership has
plans if the Najib regime uses racial-religious tensions to suspend
elections, and it is the duty of Malaysians to support (Harapan)
politicians. And by support, I guess it means that normally timid
Malaysians will have to go on the streets. Well, let us see how this
The DAP is demonised as anti-Malay and anti-Islam, so by encouraging
its supporters to go on the streets, the leadership, not to mention the
entire Chinese community, would be labelled by the government as
subversive and part of the reason for the security crackdown. This, of
course, would necessitate the entire (probably) DAP leadership being
carted away in Black Marias. PAS, if it is not firmly in bed with Umno, will probably say that
street protest is not the “proper” way to engage with Umno and probably
make some sort of deal with the Umno hegemon in the name of Malay/Muslim
Amanah, of course, will attempt to make a stand. But since clearly it
is the weakest of the opposition coalition in terms of influence and
voter base, it will have to rely on the other component parties to make a
stand. Who knows if Bersatu, which is in reality a cut-out of some
kind, can stir up support from an oppositional voting base which has
within it a deep distrust of the old maverick. And not forgetting PKR,
which of late has demonstrated it could not organize so much as an orgy
in a brothel.
And let us not forget Sabah and Sarawak. Who knows how things will
play out there since the populations of both states have a deep mistrust
of Peninsular politics and would probably sit this one out.
So, this leaves a spontaneous outpouring of support fuelled by social
media against the ruling Umno hegemon mainly in the urban areas. Urban
areas are in many ways easier to control, and it does contribute to the
narrative that people in these areas are purposely stirring up trouble
for the country, and want to usurp the position of a particular race and
Young people could possibly go out into the streets and wage a
protest against the Umno establishment but does anyone really see this
happening in Malaysia? If young people were truly engaged with the
system and let’s face facts, if young people were brought up in a
culture where protest and political involvement were encouraged, then
maybe this could happen.
However, for the moment the hegemon provides a comfortable
environment for the breeding of apathy. And let us not forget that many
young people are not voting, and if they are not voting, which is the
easiest thing in the world to do, what makes anyone think that they
would brave the state security apparatus and demand that the Najib
regime hold elections just so they could exercise their right not to
Besides, nobody wants another May 13, certainly not the non-Malays.
This would be the narrative of course. No matter what the hegemon
engineers, it will be about race and religion. Then, of course, there is the other side of the coin. Calling for an
emergency or engineering a situation in which areas are declared
security risks, is a move that demands cojones. It is a move in which
the state security apparatus has to essentially wage a war against their
own. Tyranny is a bloody business. Can the regime expect that the state
security apparatus, and by this, I mean the foot soldiers, would
actually turn their guns against their own?
During my military career and after, I have had the unfortunate life
experience of meeting those men who do the bloody work for tyrants. Men
and women who have been in deaths squad and other paramilitary outfits
used to suppress dissent. Men who have turned on their own for the
benefice provided by tyrants.
I do not see this in Malaysia. Not the banal evil of other
kleptocratic countries. Let us not go there. If the Najib regime does
call some kind of emergency using the tools available to him, I wonder
if Malaysians - and by this I mean everyone from protesters, the
security apparatus and politicians - would be able to turn on each
As someone who has been to nearly every one of these protests of
diminishing returns, I know a few old timers - patriots even - who would
have no problem being cannon fodder for the "cause". After all, we
started this problem, so we may as well contribute in finishing it or it
finishes us. But large-scale protests as we have seen in other countries, I am
skeptical, not when the opposition is in disarray and young people are
marginalised from the mainstream oppositional process. I am more
inclined to find it useful to look at other Muslim-majority countries
rather than countries closer to home.
Because of our political system, Malaysia is due a reckoning. I do
not think that the opposition at this time would be the harbinger of the
shape of things to come, but I do know that when it does come, everyone
will be touched.
Fake news for a fake democracy - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, February 03, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Totalitarian propaganda perfects the
techniques of mass propaganda, but it neither invents them nor
originates their themes. These were prepared for them by 50 years of
imperialism and disintegration of the nation-state, when the mob entered
the scene of European politics. Like the earlier mob leaders, the
spokesmen for totalitarian movements possessed an unerring instinct for
anything that ordinary party propaganda or public opinion did not care
or dare to touch. Everything hidden, everything passed over in silence,
became of major significance, regardless of its own intrinsic
importance. The mob really believed that truth was whatever respectable
society had hypocritically passed over, or covered up with corruption.” ― Hannah Arendt, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’
COMMENT | DAP’s Lim Kit Siang’s offer to the Umno regime to form
a bipartisan committee to tackle “fake news” is the cherry on top of
the horse manure cake that is politics in this country. This is exactly
what Malaysia needs right now - two highly partisan entities determining
what news is fake or otherwise.
Any rational person would realise that this is just another way for
the propagandists of Putrajaya to control the narrative and the
opposition to play the blame game and make ridiculous suggestions of
bipartisanship when the reality is that nobody in the current system has
any genuine intention of working on specific issues for the betterment
of the rakyat.
Umno contention with this committee is to legitimise the crackdown on
press freedom in the hopes that they can finally cripple not the
alternative press – them too – but social media, which is the main
medium that the opposition uses to get its narratives out. Politicians
lie, spin and fabricate to get votes but more importantly, to control
Remember when people thought the Umno grand poobah would be arrested
if he went to the United States and the elaborate “news” articles that
were fabricated and disseminated online or how Kit Siang was in Kuala
Lumpur during the May 13 riots and was part of the cabal who instigated
it. This is what we are dealing with here in Malaysia.
It is, of course, no surprise that Singapore also intends to form a committee to combat fake news. As reported in The Diplomat
in the beginning of the year – “On Wednesday, Singapore’s parliament
agreed to set up a new select committee to study what the government has
characterized as ‘deliberate online falsehoods’. The move is just one
of several steps that the Southeast Asian state has taken in its
response to the growing challenge of fake news, in spite of various
concerns raised by some opponents.”
Singapore, like some of its other neighbours such as Malaysia and
Indonesia, has become increasingly aware of the growing magnitude of the
challenge of fake news (See: ‘Winning Asia’s war on fake news’).
“As part of this, the country’s top officials have been publicly and
privately emphasising the dire consequences of fake news to the country
specifically – including generating unnecessary public alarm, diverting
limited resources, and harming the reputations of individuals and
institutions – as well as considering new measures that can be taken.”
Laws to combat fake news, as lawyer Eric Paulsen (photo)
rightly points, is detrimental to freedom of speech but more
importantly, points out that nobody has a monopoly on the truth. We live
in a time when fact-based assessments are clouded in a patina of
partisanship, hence any attempts by politicians to control the news
should be rejected by rational Malaysians.
Another weapon for oppressors
Paulsen referenced a Malaysiakini case which is worth considering because it demonstrates how the Umno regime defines fake news. You can read my defence of Malaysiakinihere – “It was not (editor-in-chief) Steven Gan or Malaysiakini
that claimed that the attorney-general (AG) was not fit for his job and
should resign; they were reporting on what a critic of the AG said
during a press conference. Furthermore, and this is also important, is
it really ‘obscene, offensive or false’ for a citizen of this country to
call into question the credibility, fitness for office or the
resignation of a public official?”
France’s Emmanuel Macron (photo) whose campaign was target
by Russian provocateurs, is naturally inclined to believe that laws are
needed to combat fake news but what he has done and indeed many other
“Western” governments who have been plagued by Russian operations, is to
give tyrannical regimes the opportunity to propagate laws which further
stifle freedom of speech and expression. Here are two interesting aspects of what Macron’s intends his legislation to achieve as reported by NPR -
1. “Among other things, Macron said the law should require websites
to disclose their source of funding and have a cap on the amount of
money they receive from sponsored content.” 2. “During an election, the government would be authorised to block a
website to suppress fake news, he said. He insisted that press freedom
could be preserved under such a law.” The above, of course, is already happening in Malaysia. Websites have
been closed down and donors who fund news sites deemed detrimental to
the Umno hegemon have been targeted by the state security apparatus. Malaysiakini has
been on the receiving end of harassment because they propagate “fake
news” and numerous attempts have been made to threaten social media
users who spread “fake news” on chat groups and the like.
The phenomenon of fake news as propaganda of foreign powers
threatening domestic elections has morphed into news that is detrimental
to tyrannic hegemons or political personalities. Mainstream news
organisations in the West are target by either left-wing or right-wing
ideologues when it suits their purposes In the Malaysian context as with many other kleptocratic or
theocratic regimes, fake news is anything other than the official
narratives of the establishment. While there have always been lies, spin
and propaganda by both sides, this idea that fake news is a danger to
this country is nothing but outrage porn for the political elites.
While the establishment through it mainstream propaganda organs
demonises the opposition, the opposition has to fight with one hand tied
behind their backs because the legal and political realities favour the
Umno establishment. Meanwhile, the fake news about the Umno hegemon
that floats around the social media are sometimes debunked or is taken
as gospel truth by a highly partisan electorate. What I want from the opposition are guarantees in writing that
restrictions on freedom of speech and expression enacted by the Umno
hegemon and by political operatives who not too long ago were part of
the hegemon, would be lifted.
The cowardly attacks against Maryam Lee - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, February 01, 2018
Malaysiakini : "Those who are able to influence others
and defend the right to speak up without resorting to hate speech,
should help protect freedom of expression for all, especially for young
women like Maryam, and women in general. They can help do this by
ensuring a safe space for meaningful discourse, both online and
offline." - Empower
COMMENT | Over the years writing for Malaysiakini,
I have received my share of online abuse. Sometimes there are even
calls by people who I do not know, who hurl abuse when I am critical of
the opposition. The funny thing is, I have more rational engagements
with establishment supporters in terms of articles they write about my
pieces than the apparatchiks who have hurled abuse, racist invective,
built elaborate straw men and, yet, who pride themselves on being the
people who want to "save Malaysia".
This, of course, is nothing compared to what Malaysiakini
columnist Maryam Lee has received. Young activists have sent me a data
dump of toxic materials aimed at Maryam merely because she supports the
#UndiRosak movement. Full disclosure. I wrote a two-part articlecritical of her arguments hence I feel if none of her critics wants to address the toxic atmosphere she is facing, it may as well be me. Two points that Maryam made when describing the toxic atmosphere she finds herself in are worth elaborating on.
1. “This violence and abuse are coming from the very pact who
call themselves different from their political enemies - Pakatan Harapan
supporters - who call themselves different from Barisan Nasional.”
I have often wondered - and I am not alone in this as numerous
foreign correspondents who read the local media wonder the same thing -
how some folks who pride themselves on their progressive politics, who
blame Umno/BN for the toxic politics of this country, have never had a
problem hurling misogynist and racist abuse against people who are
critical of the opposition or who disagree with their position.
Even more troubling is that, most often, their intended targets have a
history of social and political activism on behalf of the opposition. As I wrote
– “I do not think civil society made tremendous progress. I think the
opposition political elite made tremendous progress buttressed by civil
society groups, who did not really understand the nature of the beast.
There is this assumption that just because the politics of civil society
groups and oppositional political parties aligned, there was some sort
of understanding. Politicians say a whole lot of horse manure to get
elected and count on activists to pass their message, but once elected,
rely on their bases (partisanship) to stay elected.”
Some people say the opposition is fighting hard, Really? I know far
more activists who have been on the front lines and have terrible
experiences with the state security apparatus than most of these
politicians who people say are fighting hard to save Malaysia, but in
reality are fighting hard to maintain this system which makes it
difficult to distinguish between the people destroying Malaysia and
those who claim to want to save it.
Nearly every opposition personality laments the fact that the
opposition is under attack by the establishment propaganda instruments
but ignore the lies and online abuse committed by their supporters. This
is a reckless omission because (1) this is reflective of the kind of
Malaysia they want to create and the people who support them, and (2)
the racist comments – not so much the misogynist comments – are used by
the establishment to demonstrate the hypocrisy and race hate of the
2. “Harapan leaders are still silent, mum, not taking
responsibility for this unruly behaviour, as their intellectuals and
spokespersons keep refusing to address core issues raised by the
Here is the thing, though. Harapan either thinks that this movement
is another Umno tactic or that this movement has no legs. This is why
beyond mocking the movement as some Harapan leaders have done, they do
not think that this is a serious issue. This is why they tacitly approve
of the online opprobrium that the #UndiRosak movement receives. They
have convinced their supporters or their supporters are convinced that
this is just another movement to derail the train to Putrajaya.
I have asked numerous opposition leaders to publicly disavow the
toxic atmosphere that some of their supporters create, but in typical
fashion, some leaders claim that it is part of an elaborate Umno
conspiracy to discredit the opposition and that their supporters would
not resort to such “low class” tactics.
Opposition political operatives confide to me that whenever they want
to take a principled stand against what they believe is wrong with
oppositional politics in this country, they have to face the online
abuse from supporters who are encouraged - either by silence or subtlety
- by the leadership to mock and abuse anyone offering up a contrary
Pro-establishment writers who argue on the facts and contradict
opposition narratives (especially if they are women) revive the most
horrific kind of online abuse. I know one pro-establishment blogger who
has received abuse in the form of rape threats, death threats and
pictures of her posted on pornographic sites, much like the kind of
online abuse Maryam has received.
'Umno DNA' a cop-out
Some people would claim that the atmosphere is toxic because of the
Umno DNA in of some in the opposition. But we all know that this is
complete horse manure. The rhetoric against the Umno establishment and anyone critical of
the opposition has always been toxic. If you are critical of the
opposition, you are stupid or you are on the ‘dedak’ train or you are
bullying the opposition. That is the narrative and I believe more and
more Malaysians are finally waking up to the fact that this horse manure
is what makes the political process in this country not worth engaging
Here is the thing though, Maryam. While it would be nice if
opposition leaders disavowed the behaviour of these supporters, it
brings them no gain. If people are afraid to dissent, if they are afraid
to face the abuse by anonymous online cretins, then it makes their
jobs, whatever it may be, easier. Now I know many opposition leaders who
are appalled by the behaviour of some opposition supporters, but
ultimately, they think it does no good to alienate their base.
Having said that, kudos to DAP deputy secretary-general Teresa Kok for speaking out
in a clear unambiguous manner. This is exactly what is needed and
expected from the opposition. This includes the public comments of PKR
Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Klang MP Charles Santiago for also
referencing the abuse that political commentator Hafidz Baharom has been
Maryam, when people make these kinds of attacks, they want you to
cower in a corner. They want to stop dissent. The Umno establishment has
the state security apparatus to do this. The opposition relies on
online opprobrium to stifle dissent. Honestly, if they did not want this
they would make a clear and unequivocal statement that this type of
abuse is not tolerated and cite specific cases – such as yours – to
demonstrate their sincerity.
I actually read some of the comments posted on your articles here in Malaysiakini
and elsewhere and there were some opposition supporters who used their
anonymity honourably and made rational arguments against your position.
While I suppose we do have laws against these kinds of cyber-attacks -
death threats, rape threats, doctoring your photos, etc – these
anonymous cowards who support Harapan will never be held accountable for
Some tech-savvy anarchist folks who like what I write have called for
the ‘doxing’ – okay, I had to look that up – of these anonymous
cretins, who make racist and misogynistic comments, and to this I say,
“Well, if they tell people to leave the kitchen if they can’t take the
heat,” maybe the same should apply to them.
However, the onus is on opposition supporters to watch the flock. It
is incumbent on those opposition supporters who are rational and not
bigoted anonymous hacks to criticise those who make these attacks. It is
for opposition supporters to disavow this kind of behaviour and create
that safe space if they really believe in the values and principles of
the online communities they count themselves a part of.
Indira Gandhi case – how reality is in conflict with claims of moderation - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Malaysiakini : “But in order for us to continue to live
in harmony, we must persist in promoting the right message of Islam –
that, it is the religion of peace and compassion.” – Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak
COMMENT | Writing about his pow-wow
with Grand Mufti of Zimbabwe Ismail Menk, Prime Minister Najib Abdul
Razak said about the action of a few extremists, “This has caused
unfounded fear towards Muslims and the religion of Islam. Some
politicians in the West even pledged to close down mosques and further
discriminate against Muslims should they hold office one day. If this
situation persists, our brothers and sisters abroad will be denied their
fundamental right to exercise their faith – Islam – as the religion of
choice. The threat of Islamophobia is real.”
My views on this so-called “Islamophobia” is discussed here
– “What is solely a Muslim issue is this idea that any criticism of
Muslims is an attack on Islam or that acknowledging empirical evidence
of the way how ‘Islamic’ states operate is anathema to freedoms and
rights enjoyed in the progressive world is verboten in ‘civilised’
company. That any contrary narratives to the acceptable
politically-correct discourse is an attack on a peaceful, peace-loving
people who have always been at the mercy of colonialism or other forms
of ‘Western’ imperial ambitions. This is Islamophobia in a nutshell.”
Keep in mind that this particular mufti was banned from giving religious talks in Singaporeand closer to home, the state of Johor, because according to
the Johor state religious department, “The content of their (and
Malaysian Haslin Baharim, also known as nicknamed Ustaz Bollywood) previous speeches appear to promote racial and religious unrest, which
disrupts harmony between the races.” Why is all of this important? It is important because it is a stark
reminder of how reality is in conflict with the moderate claims that
many in positions of power make.
In other pieces, I have argued that only Muslims in the West can make
this claim of moderation because of the Western societies they live in.
That is because the societies they live in have strict secular
mechanism that control the religious imperatives that most Islamic
states do not have and do not wish to have. Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association president Musa Awang’s (photo) rejoinder that the M Indira Gandhi decision might lead to even more conflicts over child custody is chilling because of the tone it sets.
custody conflicts in the situation of unilateral conversion are really
about choice. Having no choice is exactly what some advocates such as
Musa Awang acknowledge. Musa's rhetoric appears to be that he is more
concerned with the child being given a choice, more than any other act.
As many human rights organisations have pointed out, what is
important is that the welfare of the child is paramount, and this
includes the child’s right to make his or her own choices at the
appropriate age. If there is no compulsion in religion, then this must mean that a
person has the right to choose what he or she believes in. Unilateral
conversion, as I have argued, makes it impossible for a person to choose
because the person converted is a child when it happens and thus has no
choice in the matter.
Will there be real justice?
I argued here
that unilateral conversion does affect non-Muslims, contrary to that
argued by some proponents of Islamic law – “Islamists like (PAS
president Abdul) Hadi (Awang) and the numerous other peddlers of hate
like to remind us that their laws do not affect non-Muslim communities.
We are told that we are bullying the Muslim community by arguing for
rights applicable to all. We are warned that our secular trespass into
their religious domain would lead to violence. Unilateral conversion is
the corrosive truth that it is the Islamists who would invade our scared
domain of family in the name of their religion.”
The big question is, will the state security apparatus respond in an
appropriate manner? Will the state security apparatus recognise the
primacy of civil/secular laws in this country? Will the state security
apparatus act in a manner which does not in the words of the prime
minister tarnish the good image of Islam?
Some Muslims are always concerned about how the “West” treats
Muslims. Of course, they have no interests in how Islamic hegemons treat
non-Muslims in countries in which they are in control of. They have no
interests in the way how their religious laws discriminate against
non-Muslims. A good example of this is the way how unilateral conversion robs a
child of his or her right to decide if he or she wants to belong to a
religion which has profound implications on the way how its believers
live in a country where Islamic laws define Muslims and there are legal
ramifications of being Muslim.
How many cases have there been where state authorities convert
non-Muslims wards of the state to Islam? How many cases have there been
where parents claim that their children have been “converted” to Islam
in boarding schools in Sabah and Sarawak? How many cases have there been where children have been converted
without the permission of their legal guardians and have had to live
with this conversion for the rest of their lives? How many cases have
there been where non-Muslims who have lived as Christian, Hindu or
Buddhist all their lives are suddenly in death, victims of grave
snatching by state religious authorities?
What does Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal
Abu Bakar want? He wants child conversion laws to be reviewed to make
it easier for the Muslim parent to unilaterally convert the child. He
wants religious laws to be on par with secular law. He places no
emphasis on the rights of the child or the non-Muslim parent, only
taking into consideration the primacy of his religion. With this kind of thinking, does anyone really think that non-Muslims
can get justice in the religious courts? Did the religious courts give
Indira Gandhi and S Deepa justice? In fact, what these religious courts
have done is attempt to destabilise the secular rule of law and with the
complicity of the state security apparatus attempted to deny justice
meted out by secular courts of the land.
So, my question is this - now that the Federal Court has made this
decision which has been greeted warmly by the Umno establishment with
some saying that old cases need to be revisited, do those converted
finally have the choice to believe in the religion they choose and would
this be reflected in official documents?
Why Harapan is losing the cyberwar to BN - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, January 29, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | Here’s how the opposition can reclaim lost ground in cyberspace. “It doesn't matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.” - Benjamin Netanyahu
COMMENT | The more Pakatan Harapan talks about needing Dr Mahathir
Mohamad to secure rural Malay votes, the more this plays into the hands
of Umno. There are three ways that Umno uses this particular narrative.
The first is that a majority of the Malay community does not support
Harapan hence Mahathir is a traitor to the Malay race by attempting to
split the vote, the second is that the mandarins of Harapan realise that
their choice of Mahathir as the Big Cheese leading the charge is
causing dissonance amongst the faithful, and the third, is that it also
gives the Umno state the opportunity to attack the legacy of Mahathir,
1. Gives succour to those why do not want to whitewash his contributions to this country. 2. Allow the ruling hegemon to use the opposition own words about the
former prime minister to point to the hypocrisy of Harapan.
They do this without harm to themselves or their narrative that the
opposition is weak and in need of saving. The more Harapan invest in the
narrative that they need Mahathir and the rural Malay vote (not to
mention all those corruption scandals that apparently will cause the
zombie apocalypse), the more damage this does to their narrative of
If the Harapan leadership and supporters think that what Australian
National University (ANU) researcher Ross Tapsell said about BN winning the cyberwar is complete bunkum, I suggest stepping out of the echo chambers. Not only is Umno winning the cyberwar, they use the rhetoric of
opposition leaders and their online supporters in propaganda materials
that are extremely effective. Now, some people may consider this lazy or
maybe it is just working smart. The end result is that BN supporters or
those who just do not care, are given clear messages as to what Umno
stands for, while the opposition is scrambling to pander to diverse
demographics in the hope that something simple and intelligible comes
out of their mixed messages.
To recap, when I wrote that Harapan needs a clear narrative, I wrote this
about the 1MDB scandal – “When Nurul (Izzah Anwar) says that Prime
Minister Najib Abdul Razak does not talk about his scandals, what this
really means is that the Umno grand poobah is not playing defence. Umno
is on the offence when it comes to the corruption scandals that plague
“He does not need to talk about them because he understands that
these scandals are complicated and that the opposition’s rhetoric that
he is an international outcast does not jive with the photo ops that
‘world leaders’ provide for future services rendered.”
With regards to the ongoing seat allocation fiasco and the conflicting messages
from Harapan leadership – “Furthermore, when you talk about the
opposition being oppressed and the need for people to empathise with the
opposition, and the path to this ‘empathy’ is a clear narrative, you
are on the wrong path.
“Here's the thing. People want to believe that politicians empathise
with them even if politicians clearly demonstrate that they do not.
Therefore, when the people see all the infighting that goes on in the
opposition, they translate that to the opposition only being concerned
about themselves and political power.
Some people dismissed the “Manifesto of the 99%”
released by a coalition of left-wing groups, but the reality is that
what is in that manifesto – which can be read in Malay, Tamil, Chinese
and English – is exactly the type of bread-and-butter issues that the
demographic that Umno maintains a choke hold over is concerned about.
You know what the evidence for this is? The fact that this is exactly
what the message that Umno is sending its base when it comes to
welfare, educational and economic issues. This, of course, is done in
the Umno way, through the lens of racial and religious politics but the
core issues, remain the same.
As I said, grassroots organisations know what the people most likely
to vote for Umno think and want, but more importantly, they understand
what they need. Umno knows this too, which is why their policies of
handouts for the Malay polity and governmental benefice for the
non-Malay/Muslim demographic is neither contradictory nor counter
intuitive. In other words, giving them what they want so they do not
think of what they really need. That is Politics 101.
This is why when we look at the great upsets in electoral politics
all over the world but specifically in the US, there has always been the
major element of grassroots activism working in concert with
on-the-ropes political hegemons to pull off electoral victories that
mainstream pundits assumed impossible. This includes highlighting
regional issues to bringing out the vote.
Every time oppositional political operatives tell me that they are
making progress in the rural demographic, I keep asking them why is this
not in the echo chambers of the alternative media? Why are these
efforts not the front and centre of the oppositional discourse? Why
isn’t the opposition changing the narrative of what the rural
demographic really cares about instead of wallowing in the personality
politics of their leadership and the whole 1MDB financial scandal which
means very little to the demographic that really matters?
The usual answer I get is why isn’t the press covering these news
stories? The press covers sensational topics, and if their audience
wants to read about the latest stupid thing a BN personality says or the
latest scandal that Umno vomits out, then this is what they will do.
Honestly, most human-interest stories do not get the kind of traffic
that these bread-and-butter stories get. Put it this way. If the
alternative press is the propaganda organs of Harapan, then the
opposition is really screwed. However, the alternative press is not the
only way to change the narrative.
People laugh at what Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said about
the open hall in Bagan Datuk but the reality is that it plays well with
the demographic that keeps Umno in power. There has always been an
element of theatrics in Malay politics that non-Malays mock, but it
would be dumb to think that what Zahid did was for the benefit of an
urban Internet-savvy audience.
Not only has Umno got the mainstream media that highlights all Umno
is doing for the communities it relies on, they have an extremely
sophisticated online mechanism which propagates their efforts for
marginalised communities. Not all Umno propaganda is how the opposition
is dominated by Chinese interest or how the former prime minister wishes
to destroy that foremost of Malay institutions –Umno. Umno propagandists send me material which has nothing to do with
demonising the opposition but of their efforts to satisfy the wants of
communities that they hope are their vote banks. Furthermore, people
actually repost these messages as a means of doing something for the
community. Do you get where I am going with this?
All I get from oppositional operatives is how the country is screwed
because of Umno and the latest in corruption scandals, which mean very
little to the demographic that Harapan claims it needs. If Harapan does
not manage to change the narrative soon, and reclaim lost ground in the
cyberwar, not only will they lose this election, they may also give Umno
a two-thirds majority.
Take what “Bibi” said in the opening quote seriously.
There’re better ways to dissent than #Undirosak - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Whatever question arose, a swarm of
these drones, without having finished their buzzing on a previous theme,
flew over to the new one and by their hum drowned and obscured the
voices of those who were disputing honestly.” ― Leo Tolstoy, ‘War and Peace’
COMMENT | If you want to get your
message across that the opposition should change, there are better ways
to go about it without spoiling your vote or choosing not to vote. I understand the dissatisfaction young people have for the political
mainstream. Most emails I receive are from young Malaysians who are
extremely dissatisfied with the current system. When we have young
opposition leaders writing op-ed pieces of how their older, more
experienced “leaders” tell them why it is important for the former prime
minister to lead the charge and like compliant kids, they pass this
message on to other young people, I cringe.
There is a difference between advocating for committing to the game
the opposition has chosen to play and indoctrinating young people with
the poisoned dreams of old men. I realise sometimes that the two are not
mutually exclusive, and I did say, I was part of the problem. However,
there are more productive ways to demonstrate dissatisfaction for the
political mainstream than advocating that voters spoil their votes or
not vote at all.
You could help opposition parties like PSM who are going against the
mainstream political establishment. Instead of spoiling your vote or not
voting because you think mainstream politics sucks – and it does – you
could volunteer to be part of PSM’s election machinery and spread the
word to drain the swamp in Putrajaya.
It really does not matter if PSM does not have candidates in your
area. They have various criteria for their candidates where they
contest, but young people who may not believe in socialism could show
their dissatisfaction with the political mainstream by helping parties
like PSM win in the areas they are contesting in. This way even if you
vote for an opposition candidate in your area, you would be encouraging
dissent within the opposition by helping political parties like PSM win. How 'powerful' is your vote? Undi Power will tell you. The mainstream political establishment vilifies grassroots political
parties like PSM. PSM needs all the help they can get and if the youth
vote is with them or if intelligent urban people canvass for them and
inspire young people to vote for political parties like PSM, these
so-called mosquito parties could become more effective in the political
This is a better way to register dissatisfaction with Pakatan Harapan
because it enables grassroots-level activism and its concerns, which
affect the majority of Malaysians, an avenue of expression in mainstream
And if people snarkily tell you not to rock the opposition boat, you
could give them the finger too because you are encouraging people to
vote and voting in PSM would definitely enable the kind of change that
the mainstream oppositional politics claims it wants but always has to
bow down at the altar of political expediency.
Even if PSM drains votes and the opposition loses the seat, young
people who voted for the party are secure in the knowledge that they
voted for change even if they failed. I have always maintained that the
opposition should embrace PSM into its ranks and what the opposition
needs to counter the mainstream politics of Bersatu - and in many ways,
the DAP - is a political party like PSM.
Young people, instead of advocating that people spoil their vote or
not vote, should instead rally around young independent candidates who
stand for election or should encourage more young independents to stand
for election as a viable alternative to the current ‘old man politics’
in this country.
Why? Because if more young people who are not satisfied with the
choices offered would actually take a stand, maybe they would get other
young people interested in the democratic process. Who knows, a youth
tsunami could establish a young political base of independents aligned
with the opposition but grounded firmly in the issues that the
opposition often times chooses to ignore because of political, racial
and religious expediency.
Think of it this way. If a young candidate is voted in, beating Umno
and Harapan candidates, then Harapan has a young vanguard which would
calibrate the flexibility of Harapan when it comes to certain issues. If
Harapan loses because the youth candidate drains votes, Harapan learns
that they should not take the youth vote for granted. The important
thing is young people are voting and Harapan learns a lesson.
Of course, for this coming election, it may be too late. Youth
movements to be effective needs planning and commitment, so young people
who say they are disenchanted with the system should begin the hard
work of organising, now. I would do my part by using this platform to
ask people to consider young candidates. I have never had a problem,
being on the receiving end of opposition opprobrium.
The point here is that people are voting, even though whom they vote
for and how they go about expressing their dissatisfaction in the ballot
box upsets the opposition and maybe even the Umno establishment.
Lastly, I would like to end this piece with this sentence from Malaysiakini columnist Maryam Lee’s piece,
“Well, here's news. If allowing BN to win in elections means national
treachery, that would mean a lot of people have been selling out their
country for the past six decades. “ I have been saying this for years.
All I know is that Malaysia will not become a crap-hole country if
the opposition loses this election. It will eventually become a crap
hole if young people do not rise up and change the system.