I have taken some portrait shots of my family, courtesy of Celeste’s new red wall in her new place.
The news that Mahathir had quit his political party is surprising but not totally unexpected. The old man of Malaysian politics had shown the world again that he is no push over and when cornered, will do anything to put himself on top again. This includes, to no certain extent, destroying the moderate persona that he had adopted during the last few years of his tenure as the longest serving Prime Minister of Malaysia.
His recent speeches and blog articles stating that a particular communal group in Malaysia is losing political power in Malaysia is a most disingenuous argument indeed. By rallying groups of people towards what he perceived to be a newer dilemma facing the nation, he has tapped into an issue that is sure to raise the political, and some say, racially temperature in the country. However, is this argument still valid today as it was twenty years ago?
There are more Malay lawmakers in the parliament today after the 12th General Election than there were after the BN landslide victory during 11th General Election. The addition in the number was made by the ranks of lawmakers from PKR and PAS. Even the DAP stalwarts know of the political realities of the land and has since accommodated this mindset, albeit after initial missteps, into the states that they are managing. Bahasa Malaysia is the national language and no one is challenging that. Islam is the official religion and again, there is no argument on that.
While issues like special rights and privileges will always provoke knee-jerk reactions regardless of whoever raised them, I believe that the Malaysia of today, post 12th General Election, is politically more matured and is able to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuverings.
Can Mahathir’s rhetoric gain traction in society? Depending on how the political winds flow, Mahathir’s argument can gain momentum if the Badawi Administration works very hard on it. That’s right. If the Badawi government works very hard on these issues, Mahathir’s movement can gain ground. The Badawi government shouldn’t over-react. By taking a middle ground with a more inclusive and moderate approach, they can win over the majority of supporters. They might take some steam out of Pakatan Rakyat’s increasing move towards the center of Malaysian politics. However, if they over-react and start to take hard line approaches, then the following issues will be sensationalized for all its political mileage:-
- Position of Bahasa Malaysia: The teaching of Science and Mathematics in English was one of the last few initiatives that was pushed through by Mahathir before he stepped down. Practically, this is a good move for society because of obvious pragmatic reasons. Even culturally myopic societies like the French, Chinese and Japanese are equipping themselves with the knowledge of English to be enable their people to tap into the global world of knowledge and commerce which is conducted exclusively in English. There is movement right now, as signaled by the grumblings in parliament, to reverse that decision to safe guard the position of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language. This is counterproductive and we will be building future generations of Malaysians who will be left out of an increasingly integrated global web of knowledge and commerce because they lack proficient English language skills.
- Position of Islam as the national religion: The recent ruling by the Penang syariah court to allow a convert to “leave” Islam was seen by many moderates as a progressive step to give the religion a moderate face, vis-à-vis the other religions practiced in this land. This double-edged decision by the court, while favoured by the non-Muslim groups, can be used to create a perception of the decline of the religion’s supremacy. This issue can be politicized and the movement of PAS to the center will be hampered by this if it is not seen as championing the Islamic cause by being silent on this ruling. However, this may also hurt UMNO if they do nothing. And if UMNO politicians decide to suddenly rally around this and makes it to be a clarion call to gain supporters, UMNO and its relationships with other BN component parties will be damaged.
- Position of special rights: Najib has made statements recently to the effect that people should question these rights to their own detriment. No one would rightly want the powers of the Malay rulers will be stripped or the special position will be revoked. Politicians making statements about the erosion of the special rights doesn’t have to prove that it is being eroded. They just have to point to the expected storm of protest from other politicians, actions groups and blogs to prove their point by declaring that they can’t openly talk about their rights without invoking massive protest and condemnation.
All in all, one shouldn’t confuse the lack of support for UMNO as a lack of support for the Malay community. This issue has been raised over and over again by commentators and analysts. During the election night results, TV3 invited a panelist who had the audacity to proclaim that the opposition was anti-Malay. How did he arrive at the logic? He claimed that if one equates Malay to UMNO, then being anti-UMNO means being anti-Malay.
It has been shown that there is another path. Multi-racial politics as spearheaded by Anwar Ibrahim through his Pakatan Rakyat coalition. What is happening right now is a war of ideas on how best to move forward. UMNO and BN, while successful in the past have shown that they lack the capability to govern in light of growing global competitive landscape where information flows freely, where free markets select the winners and where being inclusive makes one stronger.
“The general consensus is that affirmative action should be given to the poor and the marginalised regardless of race or religion. Notions of social dominance and racial superiority find no resonance among the people except for those diehards still bigoted over ancient and archaic forms of political ideolog“- Anwar Ibrahim in his recent speech outlining his New Economic Agenda.
Being a progressive, I personally welcome this new development and I excitedly look forward to a new Malaysia with a new progressive mindset that promises all a better future.
I finally upgraded my trusted and reliable Nikon D70 to the new feature packed Nikon D300. Initially, there were some adjustments to get used to as the D300 lacked various presets like Auto, Portrait, Sports, etc. However, after taking 500 shots and reading through the manual, I’m pretty used to it by now.
Check out my photos at my Flickr Page.
In a shocking, but almost true to his element turn of events, Raja Petra the editor of the grand daddy of Malaysian political blog Malaysia-today.net was arrested after he refused to post RM 5,000 bail after being charged in court today under the Sedition Act.
It is indeed a sad day for freedom of speech in Malaysia. Charges were brought against him after one of his recent “No Holds Barred” series that touched on the Altantuya murder trial asked that her murderers be sent to he’ll for their henious crime.
In terms of “seditious” quotent, that article was mild when compared with his other fiery articles. What is true, in my opinion, is that Raja Petra had put down in words what most thinking Malaysians had already suspected but dared not give voice to.
This is really a bad political move for the ruling party.
Just when the Pakatan Rakyat ranks are slightly rattled by their own partisan philosophies and people were wondering if they can get their acts together, UMNO has given a new lease to the anti-government ground swell sentiments. Bloggers and the general populace are now reawakened to the feeling of injustice that they had felt which gave life to the anti-government marches and people uprising of last year.
If the intention of the government is to silence a vocal voice of truth, their latest action will indeed backfire. Raja Petra’s reluctance to post bail has created a situation where he has become more famous than he is already now. The “seditious” post will be replicated and distributed more widely. People will tend to believe the content of that article even more as people would think that there is truth in it else why would he be arrested for writing it?
What happens now is interesting to see. Indeed, Raja Petra’s move has elevated him to a sort of Malaysian Mahatma Gandhi.
And we all know what happen to that story.
An office colleague of mine recently sent an e-mail soliciting signatures to stop Guillermo Vargas, a Costa Rican artist from repeating an installation that he did in 2007 of a starving dog. The event was scantly reported in the local press but it seems the installation involved tying a dog up in a corner of the art gallery and allowing it to starve to death by withholding food and water.
On first reading of the e-mail, I was outraged. But I did a little digging.
Peta and other reports on the web indicated that the event could be a stunt and the dog was actually fed daily and released quietly at the end of the installation.
The the artist said that the “art” was performed to show the hypocrisy of people. We treat abandon animals no better and yet we get outraged when one of them is displayed on the stage for all to see. We see his act as an abuse of the animal but yet we are no better when it comes to the treatment of strays when we see them loitering near our houses. Neither do we shed any tears when they are carted off by the city councils and shot.
I brought this to my colleague and she was angry with the artist. She sees the artist as being inhumane, exploitative and inconsiderate. I don’t blame her and the multitudes who signed the protest petition as I believe that everyone can take out different messages from an “art”, especially those that are meant to provoke.
I do not know whether the artist truly planned it that way but it did raise my consciousness towards our hypocrisy towards issues bigger than just stray dogs. If the BBC has not highlighted the plight of the unknown war in Congo that has killed more people than World War II, will the world care about it? Or are we so fixated on the global war on terror not because it has killed more people but because it is more shocking and received more airtime coverage?
Has art evolved to a point in our modern world that artists have to resort to shock art to get their messages across? Is this an example of the relativist nature of art?
Recently, our Happy team was in Langkawi to launch our no-frills mobile service to the island. I’ve posted some pictures of this trip at flickr. Click on the photo below to see more.