Saturday, October 18, 2008

As Others See Us

Excepts from Race to Judgment by Zoher Abdoolcarim, in Time, Oct. 20, 2008.

Asia’s vast ethnic diversity means we are forced to confront many real differences – cultural, political, economic – that exist among us. Sometimes those differences erupt in violence. At least half of the world’s armed conflicts are in Asia, nearly all ethnic-based. But the bigger reason Asians do not focus on commonality is because their societies do not encourage it.

In many countries, ethnic divisions are institutionalized, with strict laws governing what one race can and cannot do. In Malaysia, an affirmative-action program gives preference to Malays over the country’s sizable Chinese and Indian populations in everything from university places to government contracts.

The world has already gained from the Obama candidacy. In one sense, and one sense alone, his skin color does matter. In Asia (with the exception, perhaps, of India), it is virtually unthinkable that an individual from a minority could rise to become a serious national leader. Whatever we may think of the U.S., of its hardly stellar handling of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, of its lack of oversight, restraint and thrift over the financial meltdown, the fact that a Barack Obama can overcome the disadvantages associated with being black and have a shot at the highest office in the land speaks volumes about the possibility of hope in America.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Baik juga jika Zul say bye-bye...

From The Malaysian Insider:

"Zulkifli's likely defection will be a setback for opposition icon Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who has been talking about BN lawmakers joining him in an attempt to unseat the BN federal government."

This is the guy who protested against a Bar Council forum aimed at clarifying matters of law that dealt with religion - a completely peacefully organized event aimed at dialogue and discussion. In other words, this guy is a diluted form of Ahmad Ismail, on the wrong side of the fence.

If anything, the presence of PKR's Zulkifli at the unruly protest made it impossible for critics to decry it as another example of Umno's inherent racism - since by saying so, it would also imply that racism is just as evident in some members of the opposition, even those who have made it to Parliament. Anwar Ibrahim, in an earlier interview with Malaysiakini has said that some sort of action has to be taken, but in order to save an already damaged face of PKR, declined to elaborate. An exit to BN may mean one seat less, but would solidify the impression of racism and which side of the political spectrum it seems to be attracted to.

"A PKR source told The Malaysian Insider that the party was in the dark as Zulkifli had not informed the leadership if he was leaving the party or if Umno had even been courting him."

If PKR themselves cannot say with assurance where this guy's allegiance in, what the heck are they doing having him around? Is this what is hampering the touted takeover of the government - because you may "have the numbers" but can't keep track of them? Like that, better they stay away and you be the best Opposition you can be, and make an example of your state governments rather than be a government completely tied down by members who aren't truly loyal to anyone.

"She [the anonymous PKR source] also dismissed the rumours as unlikely, saying the BN could not afford to get involved in another by-election so soon as the tide of the popular vote from the rakyat were currently against them."

It's a bit odd that the PKR source cannot comment on what her own fellow PKR member thinks or what he plans, but can speculate on what the BN thinks and plans.

I hope that they do get into another by-election. And that Pakatan Rakyat will be smart enough to continue their "ketuanan rakyat" stance that helped them win Permatang Pauh. If they should lose, it would mean that those constituents support having a lawmaker who prohibits peaceful, law-abiding citizens from contributing to the clarfications of laws in this country. And they can take that kind of loss as a badge of honour - a willingness to have a political sacrifice for an ethical stance. If they should win, it means that it is another blow to racism in this country and the recent efforts to play the race card do not work.

"Most commentators told Zulkifli that his dissatisfaction with PKR should not push him to join Umno. Instead they asked him to consider joining Pas, a PKR ally in the Pakatan Rakyat.

'Daripada join UMNO baik join PAS. kalu bro join UMNO lu hilang respect dari gua,' wrote commentator Anglagestifung."

Aduhai. As if PAS doesn't have enough problems fitting their Islamic State goal in the more multiracial and secular progressive Pakatan Rakyat. Angla, pikir sikit. 'Bro' hilang respect lama dah.

It may be true that one seat in Parliament matters a great deal. But at the end of the day the confidence and trust of millions who see no place of racism even - especially - in the parties we support must surely matter more.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rumah Terbuka, Telinga Tertutup

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi commented that the members of Hindraf who visited his open house did not greet the federal ministers and were only interested in relaying their views.

“Abdullah said he was gracious enough to allow them in as he thought they wanted to wish him and the other ministers but was disappointed that their intention was not so.” (The Star: ‘Hindraf did not greet ministers at Raya open house’, October 7, 2008)

There’s a word to reply to this sort of thinking. And the word is: haiyo.

It really must be party time in Lala Land when you don’t realize that these people have on their minds the suffering of those under ISA. Not the buffet lines at your open house, which I hope is coming out of your RM15,000+ monthly entertainment allowance, but the two eggs they get in Kamunting. The point is that you made somebody's hari less selamat and raya, not that someone didn't wish you selamat Hari Raya.

Plus, it’s not as if they makan your food and don’t say thank you. They’re not there to eat, they are there to see if your ears are as open as your house. And the result was hardly surprising.

Our dear Home Minister added his two cents (lowest devaluation possible).

“Syed Hamid Albar as reported in Utusan Malaysia as saying that Hindraf’s action was a form of provocation and intimidation.” (Ibid.)

Hamid, oh Hamid, what are you smoking? If a peaceful, verbal message is provocation and intimidation what should we make of detention without trial?

It brings to mind the now well worn statement that the last elections were simply about sending a message. And the message was received, and so there is no need to change the government.

Something tells me the Hindraf supporters would somewhat disagree that people like Abdullah Badawi have truly gotten the message. The answer to it would likely be: “Um… no.”

What’s the phrase? Maaf zahir dan batin? Somebody please pass our PM a Kamus Dewan.