Source: Malaysiakini
Ban racist comic book, NGO coalition tells gov’t
7:50AM Jul 14, 2012
A coalition of non-governmental organisations has condemned a comic book distributed at a government function as “racist and xenophobic”.Its distribution should be stopped and the government should take action against its publisher, said the Working Group on National Ratification of International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

najib in penang usm dialogue 220412The Malay Mail in a report yesterday said the comic book, ‘M1 Malaysia – Majalah Untuk Rakyat’, was distributed at the Teksi Rakyat 1Malaysia(TR1MA) event on June 24, which was officiated by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The comic book has a segment titled ‘1Malaysia vs 1Pati’, which begins with a boy appreciating Malaysia’s multiracial society, but then runs from a group of dark-skinned people.

“Haa… this is not 1Malaysia but 1Pati who wants to destroy the country. Keep yourself away from Mr Charcoal (Awang Arang),” the comic character says.

‘Pati’ is the acronym for illegal immigrants in the Malay language –pendatang asing tanpa izin.

The Malay Mail also reported that the event organiser, Land and Public Transport Commission (Spad) and the Home Ministry’s Publication Control and Quran Text Division are both unaware of the publication.

“We will call up the publisher (Blue Pipe Studio Enterprise) and ask for their explanation. We will ban the publication, if necessary,” the division’s secretary, Abd Aziz Md Nor, is quoted as saying.

The newspaper also quoted an unnamed source as saying the Home Ministry had overlooked the publication because it lacked sufficient enforcement officers, and that the book was distributed by hand at a government function, instead of being sold at public bookstands.

The report also said the Home Ministry was still gathering evidence before commencing its investigations.

Comic book an embarassment

The ICERD working group, which consists of eight NGOs including the Bar Council Human Rights Committee, Lawyers for Liberty, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia and Institute of Ethnic Studies, said the book was an embarrassment.

“This xenophobic behaviour or the ridiculous and unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners is truly embarrassing for our nation and our multicultural population.

“It is a total contradiction to the common claim that Malaysians are very sensitive to one another despite racial and religious differences, and that we have achieved the delicate balance of unity in diversity,” the group said in a statement yesterday.

It also pointed out that Malaysia was not among the 175 countries that have ratified the ICERD, and urged the government to do so immediately.

“As a member of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council, Malaysia has the obligation to protect all citizens and non-citizens in our country.

“It is high time that Malaysia shows its genuine and sincere commitment to support and implement human rights mechanisms to combat racism and discrimination in Malaysia,” stressed the working group.

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Merdeka 2008: Towards a Bangsa Malaysia Where People Make the Government Competent, Accountable, Transparent (CAT)

Like any other year, Malaysia is gearing up for its Merdeka Day celebration, complete with pomp, glitter and color. But putting together a dizzyingly complex ensemble of performances is not enough to cover up a nation dogged by political insecurity, a weakening economy and high levels of inflation, job insecurity and widespread corruption.

Neither would it gloss over Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s political weakness and his dwindling grip on power. This is clear from the voice of dissidents within the ruling UMNO calling for the resignation of the premier following the outcome of the by- election in Permatang Pauh.

The government’s inability to grasp problems faced by the people, losing economic competitiveness, the shocking levels of corruption and ever-expanding wallets of the ruling elite are crucial issues that played out in the March election and broke its lock on power.

The upset polls, which left Barisan Nasional politicians and particularly UMNO leaders reeling from shock, aptly reflects the loss of confidence in the ruling government.

We saw a repeat of this in the decisive victory and dramatic political comeback of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim. Despite a cleverly planned and executed smear campaign against Anwar, the people chose to shun UMNO which is increasingly becoming irrelevant and out of touch with the needs and aspirations of people.

Malaysians are no longer swayed by biting and crude sexual allegations, promises of mega projects which do not benefit the poor or the doling out of goodies at electoral campaigns. Families are grappling with day to day issues like rising food and fuel prices, increasing crime rate, stagnant wages and the possibility of losing jobs. .

The government must ensure it works in the interest of the people. Therefore it has to be competent, accountable and transparent (CAT). It cannot continue to rely on communal politics or stoke racial tension to keep the people under its grip.

I urge Malaysians of all races and religion to come together on Merdeka Day to usher in a new political culture in the country – one that is based on Bangsa Malaysia, where the people stand together to make the government competent, accountable, and transparent.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang

016-6267797

‘Free water should be only for the poor’


MYT 8:00:46 PM

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KLANG: Klang MP Charles Santiago hopes only low-income families will get to benefit from the Selangor government’s proposed free water usage of up to 20 cubic metres.

“The move to give free water is good, but what is the point of giving free water to a rich man who is going to use it to fill his pool or water his plants?” asked Santiago, who is also coordinator of the Coalition Against Water Privatisation.

He said free water should only be channelled to low-cost homes, council homes, and new village and squatter homes where the family income was less than RM1,500 a month.

Santiago told reporters at a Sunday luncheon organised for his constituents at Dewan Hamzah that he would seek a meeting with Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to discuss the issue.

He said he would also work towards getting Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor to declassify its concessionaire agreement with the previous state government, adding that it was crucial for the contents of the agreement to be made public.

12 Proposals for a First-World Parliament in Malaysia

Lim Kit Siang
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In 2004, I had made 12 proposals for parliamentary reform and modernization for Malaysia to have a “First World Parliament” not only in infrastructure, but mindset, culture, practices and performance.

These 12 proposals for First-World Parliament should be adopted as the parliamentary agenda of both the Barisan Nasional and the Opposition in the 12th Parliament when it convenes for its first meeting in May, viz:

– live telecast of parliamentary proceedings;

– daily two-hour question time;

– Prime Minister’s Question Time twice a week;

– Opposition MP heading the Public Accounts Committee (PAC);

– some 30 specialist Parliamentary Select Committees with a Select Committee for every Ministry;

– about ten general Parliamentary Select Committees to produce annual reports on progress, trends and recommendations on national integrity, IT, women’s agenda, environment, mass media, corruption, etc;

– allocation of certain days a week specifically to deal with Opposition business;
research and constituency staffing for MPs;

– an Opposition Deputy Speaker;

– modernization and democratization of Standing Orders;

– code of ethics for all MPs;

– Ministers’ Parliamentary code of conduct.

The political tsunami of March 8, 2008 general election is an unmistakable mandate and demand for far-reaching changes in Malaysia after 50 years of nation-building, including the creation of a vibrant, vigorous and truly representative First-World Parliament.

At the meeting of PKR, PAS and DAP leaders in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday night, I had proposed that PKR President Datin Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail be the Parliamentary Opposition Leader of the new Parliament until Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim regains his full civil liberties and is re-elected to Parliament, and the proposal was agreed by the leaders of the three parties.

DAP MPs and I will give full support to Azizah and the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who is now fully responsible for parliamentary affairs, to turn the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament – as it is better to be late than never.

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Source

Learning From Others -2 : Sustainable Penang Initiative

Sustainable Penang Initiative (SPI)

The Sustainable Penang Initiative was funded by CIDA through the Canada-ASEAN Governance Innovations Network Program (CAGIN), which is co-ordinated by the Institute On Governance (IOG). The SPI is also supported by UNDP and UN ESCAP. The SPI sought to establish a process for public consultation in developing and using sustainable indicators for monitoring the development of Penang. It involved five roundtables that covered ecological sustainability, social justice, economic productivity, cultural vibrancy and popular participation. Additional roundtables were also held to encourage more input from the various communities. At the final People’s Forum, report cards identifying the key indicators were presented to the Government and the public. Click here for more information on the project.

FOR MORE DETAILS

Sustainable Penang Initiative 1

Book 2

Malaysia Rocked to the Economic Core
By Anil Netto
Mar 20, 2008
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PENANG – Malaysia’s race-based affirmative action policies have come under the spotlight in the aftermath of a pivotal general election which saw opposition parties making sweeping gains.

Opposition parties captured the “rice-bowl” state of Kedah and the industrialized states of Penang, Perak and Selangor in addition to retaining power in the Muslim heartland state of Kelantan on the east coast in the March 8 general election.

The three industrial states will be ruled by coalition governments made up of the multi-ethnic – but largely ethnic Chinese – Democratic Action Party (DAP), the multi-ethnic People’s Justice Party (PKR) and the Islamic party PAS. The opposition parties won 82 of 222 parliamentary seats while the ruling federal coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), or National Front, clinched 51.5% of the popular vote.

The new state governments now have their work cut out for them to make good on their opposition campaign promises of ending the New Economic Policy in favor of their “Malaysian Economic Agenda”. The NEP was introduced in 1971 to uplift the economic position of the majority ethnic Malays and remove the stereotyping of race with specific occupations.

But along the road, economic planners became obsessed with its 30% target for bumiputra (Malays and other indigenous groups) equity ownership while huge privatization projects and neo-liberal policies benefited the elite of all ethnic groups. This concentrated wealth in their hands while fueling discontent among the lower-income groups who have struggled to cope with rising prices for essential goods and services, as income inequalities grew.

One of the first things the new state government in Penang did was to announce a major policy shift in running the government free from “the New Economic Policy that breeds cronyism, corruption and systemic inefficiency”.

“We will implement an open tender system for all government procurement and contracts,” said new chief minister Lim Guan Eng from the DAP during his swearing in on Tuesday. The new state government would also practice transparency by uploading information of such tender bids in an Internet portal to be set up for public access, he added.

That did not go down well with leaders of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which along with coalition partner Gerakan, had just lost power in Penang.

On Friday, some 1,000 protesters led by UMNO representatives staged a demonstration outside the Penang chief minister’s office. They were worried that ethnic Malays would be sidelined if the government disregarded the NEP.

“I do not think Malay contractors object to the open tender system as it is more transparent. I just want to rectify some of the mistakes committed during the previous administration,” Lim later clarified.

The pro-NEP demonstration is the action of people trying to come to terms with what is going on, says Rustam Sani, one of the country’s leading public intellectuals and writer on Malay and Malaysian nationalism. “The language of ethnic politics is suddenly not working and they are hanging on to it and trying to revive it.”

“A few years ago, all talk about ‘Malays losing power’ would have invoked street demonstrations but it doesn’t seem to work now,” he added.

“For UMNO, the language and political idiom they have used all these years doesn’t seem to be as effective as it used to be. They have to re-tool the political idioms or re-tool themselves! That’s not easy – it’s a political and intellectual challenge; it’s a tough job.”

As for the new opposition-led state governments, Rustam said he detected a certain impatience in its onslaught on the NEP from the start: “We need to go slow. I hope there is more wisdom. We must not let them use our impatience with trying to get rid of such policies [to their advantage].”

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, for his part, said the question of abolishing the 20-year NEP was a non-issue as the policy expired in 1991. Since then, he pointed out, the government has set up a National Economic Consultative Council (Mapen) to take responsibility for planning the country’s economy.

“Through Mapen, many policies had been agreed upon for implementation by the government and among the policies were two policies taken from the NEP, with one being the overall eradication of poverty irrespective of race, and the second dealt with distribution,” he said.

But the term “NEP”, with its reminder of pro-Malay policies, carries huge historical and psychological baggage, said Rustam. “And it will take some time for the new state governments to explain their agenda. There is a need for both sides to handle change and the perception of change.”

Opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim led the charge in calling for an end to the NEP in favor of a new Malaysian Economic Agenda in the run-up to the March 8 general election. Anwar himself believes in a pro-growth free market economy balanced by humane policies to ensure “equity and distributive justice”.

The NEP has a certain flavor to it that UMNO can still exploit, warned Rustam. “I think there is no need to [actually] say that ‘we are ending the NEP’. We can achieve more by implementing something that is different from what has been done all this while such as transparency and open tenders.”

UMNO must realize by now that the Malays voted against the Barisan Nasional partly because they are unhappy with the party’s approach to the NEP, said economist Charles Santiago, just elected to Parliament under a DAP ticket.

“While the original NEP aims were laudable, it later turned into a policy to enrich the Barisan putras [princes], largely from UMNO,” Santiago said. “The average Malay was feeling the increase in prices, their jobs were no longer protected and inflation was eating into their income. Real wages were coming down [but] you didn’t find UMNO providing support. In fact, it was removing subsidies for the average citizen.”

“You had a situation where you had subsidies for the rich and a free market economy for the poor. While you subsidize the rich on one side, the debt of the country is being borne by the middle-classes and the poor.”

Santiago said UMNO should come to terms with the fact that the way the NEP was implemented had made some Malays very rich while marginalizing a whole lot of poorer and middle class Malays. As a result, he added, UMNO’s legitimacy as the “protector” of Malays has been called into question.

He, however, cautioned opposition politicians from interpreting the opposition gains and their mandate as a vote for free market policies. In fact, many ordinary people were promised more subsidies, including oil subsidies, if the opposition came to power (at the federal level).

“Opposition parties must realize it was free market policies, privatization and labor market restructuring that resulted in many people opposing the BN,” said Santiago.

(Inter Press Service)

Indian Malaysian Community and the New Politics

M. Nadarajah

(Opinion: Dated: 10th March 2008)

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The 12th general election is finally over. The people of Malaysia have delivered their wishes to the contending parties and their nominees. The people have given Barisan National yet another opportunity to continue to form the national government. However, they have decided to deny 2/3 majority to BN in the parliament. They have finally given the opposition the opportunity to play a more significant role in national politics. They have also, in trust, delivered 5 state governments to the opposition. Now the people of Malaysia will have to see if their country in fact becomes what they aspire it to be. It is an aspiration that includes fairness, freedom and social security for all.

These are plain facts. But the meanings of events of the socio-political drama that unfolded and burst into the public arena the last 6 months and in particular the last couple of weeks and on the 8th of March are far too rich. They would capture the imagination of many commentators, analysts, researchers and concerned citizens.

On the ground, the election results are (i) the product of history of what the BN government has actually done (or not done) for the people and this nation since independence, (ii) the political and campaign strategy of individuals, individual parties and/or their coalitions, (iii) the orientation of the voting system and constituencies and lastly, (iv) the easy access to new information and communication technologies by all political contenders (individuals and parties).

Recognising The Role of the Indian Malaysian Community

Among the factors, it is in the history of this nation that we need to look closely and to identify definite trends that have given us what we are experiencing today. A few centuries ago, an European social commentator and revolutionary once said that History moves forward qualitatively only on the side of and through the agency of the oppressed and marginalised. It is they who provide the social ground that offers History a new Future.

In a sense, History has thrust upon the Indian Malaysian community that special responsibility. This is not to suggest that others did not play an equally critical role but only to record the spirit, the contribution and the role played by Indian Malaysians as a community in the election, as many during the many election ceramahs acknowledged.

Certainly, the 12th general election was the temporal space where History conspired to give us all the opportunity for that ‘an-other’ Malaysia that we many of us increasingly aspire for.

Along with so many others, the Indian Malaysian community has pushed the agenda of a new politics for Malaysia. On hindsight, the spirit behind Hindraf, and later Makkal Sakthi, is undeniably a critical turning point in recent Malaysian politics. Beyond organisational politics, they really represent the spirit of an economically marginalised, politically powerless, and culturally-battered community aspiring for fairness.

This development in the Indian Malaysian community and the new found orientation among the other Malaysian communities have now given us all an opportunity to break the hold of ethnocracy in Malaysia and dismantle the ethnic model of politics. We have an opportunity to look beyond that model, the limit of which was reached by the end of the last century.

One of the many icons of ethnic politics in Malaysia, the MIC and its head, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, supposedly represented the Indians in BN, which is populated and controlled by strong ethnic parties. But the increasing problems of the Indian Malaysian community and the inability of the MIC leadership to deal with them adequately only led to the accumulation of disenchantment in the community.

People’s Power

The frustration, humiliation and disappointment Indians (in particular the Tamils) felt intensely was bound to become self-conscious and take a social form and it did. Makkal Sakthi (People’s Power) is that collective oppositional self-consciousness. A long view of this is that while it is Indian in form, it certainly is Malaysian in content. In fact, it did catch the imagination of many candidates and the term was used during their election ceramahs.

The mainstream media, BN national leaders and Samy Vellu dismissed all these critical developments. One of the main mainstream papers even trivialised the anger of the Indian/Tamil people expressed through Hindraf in their editorial.  And Samy Vellu did not see what was coming his way.  He even thought the 2008 Thaipusam in Batu Caves was a success when the community knew it was not. Probably he did not go to places like Kuala Selangor to see what was happening there. He thought the Indians/Tamils would vote the MIC leaders to power anyway, without carefully listening to the murmurings on the ground, even among once-staunch MIC supporters. But it is all too clear and loud now.

The angry Indian/Tamil Malaysians have removed Samy Vellu from power but have also, directly with the concerted help of other Malaysians, left the MIC in a disarray. (We can say that for MCA too.) The community does not want MIC to represent it. MIC cannot claim to represent Indian Malaysians in the BN and the government. There is simply no legitimacy to that claim. Whatever BN may do to include Indian Malaysians, the BN now cannot claim to run the often promoted and publicised but questionable ‘successful’ racial/ethnic consociational model of politics. The Indian Malaysian community has said it loud and clear that it does not want to be included as Indians but as Malaysians.

The Need for a New Political Language

A new political language needs to be framed. And the new young parliamentarians (and the ADUNS) who will now speak for all of us, including the Indian Malaysians, must frame it, by practice.

Along with many concerned citizens from all communities, the Indian Malaysian community has delivered to all Malaysians the opportunity for nurturing a new politics. And in this challenging interim period, they have done that at great risk and further marginalisation as a community, if those who have been elected to power i.e. the opposition, do not subscribe to a politics beyond the ethnic model and beyond ethnocracy or theocracy. The Indian Malaysian Community needs the active intervention of parties like the DAP, Keadilan and PAS (if it believes that the spirit of Islam and its protection is for all) to take up their cause as Malaysians.

There is an urgent need to subscribe to a politics that sees the problems and needs of Malaysians as common problems and needs of a people governed by a common destiny.

While needs and problems can be specific to definite Malaysian communities like the Malays, Kadazans, Penans, Mandailings, Chinese or Indians, they need to be framed as national problems or needs and addressed with national concern and sensitivity. Such an orientation will build us as a people and allow for equitable distribution of national resources. There is no room for ethnicisation of the problems of citizens, particularly when they involve access to basic goods and services, like water and housing. Addressing the needs of citizens must become colour-blind.

The ‘opposition to the Opposition’ will hold on to the old order and political language with great tenacity, pulling (or pooling) all its resources to actively discredit and delegitimise the gains of the forces of change, of the New Order. To counteract it, we need a new political language of dialogue, inclusiveness and all-round sustainability, knowing very well that it is going to take some time and challenges to institutionalise it. But a language names the world, shapes our dream, influences our imagination and helps build the society we want.

It is the responsibility of the Opposition and the new set of young parliamentarians (and ADUNS) to give us this as soon as possible. They have to balance their social commitment, the demands of their parties and arrive at a workable minimum programme for inter-party relationship and co-operation. They must be seen as representative of all the communities, of all the people.

We are at a threshold of a new future for the future generations and us. Can we nurture, shape and sustain it together … with single-mindedness and vision?

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Dr M. Nadarajah is a sociologist by training. He is Secretary of the Asian Communication Network (ACN), an inter-faith and inter-disciplinary social communication initiative, based in St John’s University, Bangkok. He belongs to the Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Community, a community of filmmakers, theatre people, song writers, poets, activists and academics working in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Japan for a better Asia. His work focuses on cultural and sustainability issues.

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