Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Merdeka 51:Peoples' message is loud and clear

Permatang Pauh has spoken for all

On March 8 the people of all races sent a strong message to the Barisan Nasional(BN) government that they need change in the form of drastic reforms in the administration of the nation. The government promised to bring those reforms but the pace was too slow for their liking. Unfortunately instead of concentrating fully on those reforms and working together with the stronger opposition to realize those reforms, the government was more focused on politics to dismantle the newly formed opposition coalition,Pakatan Rakyat.

Five months later the rakyat in no uncertain terms have again cried out for those reforms that are badly needed, especially at a time of economic uncertainties, that have put tremendous strains on their budgets. This plea has come in the form of the just concluded Permatang Pauh by-election. The voters on behalf of the 27 million Malaysians have once again voted for change. The resounding victory they gave Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is an indicator that the people are serious in their demands for change. Anwar himself described his landslide victory as a “defining moment that should serve as a major lesson for the ruling BN”.

The people did not vote for Anwar because of his looks or his charisma, they did not vote him for his oratory skills or because of his position as a former deputy prime minister. The people are too smart now to succumb to such trivial issues unlike in the past. They voted Anwar for the message of change he promised; a fairer economic policy for all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity, combating escalating inflation, fighting corruption, restoring integrity to the judiciary and police, respecting human rights and giving more freedom of expression for the people. In short he promised good governance and an administration that would place the interests of the people above all others, the so-called ketuanan rakyat.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib was gracious enough to promptly accept defeat and congratulate Anwar for his success. Najib’s magnanimous actions are most commendable as it augurs well for our democratic system but that alone is not enough to win the hearts of the people.

Much more need to done to convince the people that the BN is serious in bringing about the changes demanded by them. It is time for BN to change its style of operation to show that it is listening to the people. It cannot win by just highlighting the negatives of the opponent but by emphasizing on its positive attributes.

The BN should not try to undermine Anwar’s legitimate victory in Permatang Pauh as it would only mean showing disrespect for the people. Instead it should be magnanimous to accept him and work together with him as the Opposition Leader for the well being of all the people. I am sure Anwar with his vast experience and wisdom has much to contribute to the nation.

We have come a long way to develop our country to what it is today, but after 51 years of self-rule the most glaring problem we have is the racial and religious polarization of our once united multiracial population. The vast majority of Malaysians share a common dream, a dream that one day Malaysia becomes a developed nation by the whole hearted contribution of all races, a day when all communities are accepted as equal and every citizen feels equally proud to be called Malaysian.

It is customary for our leaders to give their merdeka message to the people. On this 51st.annivesary of our independence; the people instead, have in their own way, given their merdeka message to the leaders. It is loud and clear “Bring change quickly or we will make the change”. Let us all in our own little ways act to fulfill the will of the rakyat by working towards the evolution of a successful, peaceful, harmonious and multiracial Malaysia, where ketuanan rakyat will always reign supreme.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, August 25, 2008

Defining moment for Permatang Pauh voters

Permatang Pauh's duty to all Malaysians

On the eve of the Permatang Pauh by-election,Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has once again revealed his vision for Malaysia,

"I want Malaysia to be free and democratic, with a vibrant economy... transparent and accountable."

His dream is shared by millions of truly patriotic and peace-loving Malaysians of all races and faiths from both Peninsula and East Malaysia.The whole nation is watching with hope that the voters of Permatang Pauh will put aside their political, racial and religious differences and elect the person who can change the nation for the better.

The nation is in a state of political and economic chaos and we need change, real change to steer the nation towards a path of peace, prosperity and racial integration. The task is momentous and we need a strong leadership to do that and from 50 years BN rule we know that it doesn’t have the political will to bring these drastic changes.

The global world is very competitive and if we need to survive, we need to pool all our resources and the talents of all Malaysians regardless of race or creed. The politics of race is becoming obsolete and it must be dismantled at all costs. Every child born is a son or daughter of this soil and must be given equal opportunities to strive and excel without discrimination or prejudice.If the cream of any community is ignored there is no way we are going to succeed in our mission to create a vibrant and competitive nation.

Now is the golden opportunity to chart a new course of our destiny.Anwar Ibrahim has provided that opportunity and we must never let it elude us for any selfish reason. The journey to a better future is monumental but together we must take the first step now. We must rally behind Anwar to start the journey now.

The voters of Permatang Pauh have a national duty tomorrow, a duty towards the 27 million Malaysians. We hope they rise up to fulfill that national duty with wisdom and patriotism,like they did on March 8.

Let us do our part by praying that God enlighten the minds of the voters of Permatang Pauh to make their choice wisely for a just future for all Malaysians.Their action of the single minute at the ballot box tomorrow will determine the future of millions of fellow citizens.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No reason to penalize Herald

Only fulfilling its obligation

The government’s decision to issue show cause letter to the Catholic weekly Herald is regrettable. Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar’s directive to the tabloid to stick strictly to purely religious issues is unfair. His contention that religion is all about rituals and the adherence by its followers is a myopic view of tenets of every major religion in the world.

Rituals may be an important part of a religion but rituals alone without a commitment for the well being of mankind would give little credence to a particular faith. The basic and fundamental teaching of all religions is the promotion of love for fellow men, regardless of the race, creed, social and political status. Fighting for justice and a concern for the underprivileged is a fulfillment of this love for mankind. It is of utmost importance for the followers of a particular faith to adhere to this fundamental rule besides the rituals of their particular religion.

Politics deals with fairness, justice and the rule of law. If these are tampered, especially by those in power, for any reason, then it is the duty of every citizen, regardless of his faith, to speak up against such injustices, otherwise one would be failing in his duty to the nation. It should be the duty of the various religions to emphasize to their followers this important duty to the nation, which is also a religious duty. While politicization of religion is morally wrong, nevertheless religion itself has a duty to infuse the much needed morality into politics.

Herald should not be just an instrument to provide information on religious issues only as proposed by Syed Hamid but be a means to highlight the injustices in society as well as obtaining feedback from the people on their various needs from time to time. Being a Christian publication Herald, is only fulfilling its responsibility to its congregation and has always acted within the laws of the country.

Christianity, like all other faiths, besides emphasizing on spirituality also places great importance on social obligations to the people and it would be unfair to restrict Herald’s coverage to purely religious rituals.It would only be fair and just that the government withdraw its show cause letters and allow Herald to continue with its noble tasks of nation building in our multi-racial and multi-religious country.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are we ready for Inter-faith dialogue?

Patience and perseverance needed

The Bar Council's forum on ‘Conversion to Islam’ was forced to a premature end by Islamic groups who protesting outside the premises where the forum was held. It is not the first time that such a civil forum had to be abruptly stopped by aggressive and angry protesters, and we have yet to learn from previous experiences. It is sad that civil dialogue had to be halted because of the unruly behavior of a small group of protesters claiming to be acting in defense of their religion.

All sorts of opinions have been expressed but the whole episode goes to indicate that the nation is not ready for such open civilized debates. When we are not ready for debates even on general issues how can we expect to debate on sensitive racial and religious issues. This can be blamed on the political system that ruled the country for the last 50 years. As our political system is based on race, instead of becoming more Malaysian, the people have unfortunately become more Malay, more Indian and more Chinese. In fact this has created a situation where, after 50 years of merdeka, we now have 2 nations in one, a Malay and a non-Malay

Dialogue is the only peaceful way to overcome the inter-ethnic and inter-religious problems in our country.We must strive to promote dialogue and debate but we have take into consideration that the Malaysian society that is so divided along racial and religious lines. There is suspicion of each other and unfortunately this suspicion may be leading to hate if it is not stopped immediately.

The various ethnic groups have their own fears to justify their actions aimed to protect their race and religion. The Malays fear that their special rights and their political dominance are being threatened by the non-Malays. They believe that they can only protect their race and religion by depriving the non-Malays their dues.

On the other hand the non-Malays fear that their rights as guaranteed in the Federal Constitution are ignored and they fear for the future of their children. They are not questioning the special privileges of the Malays but questioning why theirs are not honored.

Both these fears are justified and the political system must find ways to allay them. It is time for the Malays to accept the non-Malays as rightful citizens and cater for all their needs. At the same time the non-Malays must accept a Malay-dominant political system. In short everybody must uphold and abide by the constitution that is of paramount importance.

After years of despair we are beginning to see signs that things are to change for the better. Let’s not stand in the way by our own selfish racist attitude. The March 8 verdict of the people has given new hope. Racist policies are being rejected by all the people, the Malays, Chinese and Indians alike. We have waited 50 years why can't we wait a bit longer? The changes we aspire need to be brought about by evolution not revolution.

Meanwhile we must continue to strive for a time when Malaysians of all ethnic groups will be able to accept one another as Malaysians. It will take time, a really long time, to change the mindset of the people to accept one another as Malaysians. We need patience and plenty of goodwill to succeed, which I am sure we will one day. To realize this dream, there is a need for sacrifice on the part of all the races, sacrifice that will one day result in a win-win situation for all.

A lot of goodwill,tolerance,unselfishness and above all love for fellow men is needed for inter-faith dialogue.I am afraid Malaysians in general do not adequately possess these very virtues that are propagated by all faiths. Until we do so, inter-faith dialogue remains a just a fanciful term.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A sad day for the nation

Anwar to be charged tomorrow (Malaysiakini,August 6)

Tomorrow,August 7 2008,will indeed be another black day for Malaysia.August is the month of merdeka,a month to celebrate our freedom from the colonialists but this August is a month where our rights and freedom are once again snatched away from us by the powers that rule us.

After all these years we have a great man and leader in the form of Anwar Ibrahim,who fought for justice and fairness for all Malaysians.The people were beginning to trust him as their leader who could deliver them out of their financial crisis,pain and tormrnts. Without an iota of evidence,the man who threatened to expose the mighty and powerful , is being charged for a heinious crime which is almost impossible to prove.

Imagine a 61yr.old man with spinal surgery for spinal stenosis sodomising(raping) a 23 year old young man.Is it humanly possible?

Let us all,regardless of our race and religious believes,pray that God will grant justice to Anwar and the nation.Let us ask God to give him the courage and strength to endure these "persecutions" that are just temporary setbacks as truth will prevail in the near future.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Permatang Pauh - opportunity for change

The by-election that determines the future

The most awaited political battle has finally made its debut with the Barisan Nasional taking on Pakatan Rakyat’s de facto leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency. Many have described the battle as the mother of all elections. Yes, indeed it has stimulated tremendous interest, like never before, not only among the local people of Permatang Pauh but the whole nation.

Everywhere you go the coffee shop talk is about Anwar and his impending return to parliament. Will it materialize? If it does will it be for the better? Can Pakatan take over the government as claimed by Anwar? Can he become the next prime minister?These are the questions in the minds of most Malaysians these days.

This by-election is very different from all previous ones. The voters of Permatang Pauh are faced with a very important task, national duties that must be executed with great discern, as they may be electing, not just Anwar Ibrahim, but the next Prime Minister of the country. It may be just a by-election but it may decide the future direction of the nation.

On the first day when Anwar launched his campaign in front of a huge home crowd of Pakatan Rakyat supporters, there was another campaign being conducted a few kilometers away by the Barisan Nasional(BN) led by Umno’s Mohamed Ezam Mohd Nor, a one time close associate of Anwar.

Anwar in his speech outlined the problems that plague the nation and the people - killer inflation, corruption, judicial crisis, and abuse of power and above all, misappropriation of the country's wealth by an elite few. He pledged to put a stop to all these and he promised to bring down fuel price, introduce a more balanced economic policy for all Malaysians regardless of race, eradicate corruption and check abuse of power.

Anwar’s pledges sound too good to be true but nevertheless we see some hope for change that is so badly needed. He seemed to have understood the plight of the ordinary man of the street in this time of financial crisis and willing, if given the chance, to introduce the reforms to meet these challenges. The thrust of his speech was on how he would bring changes that would benefit all Malaysians.

He repeatedly spoke on the need for all races to unite as Malaysian and outlined his vision of a developed and progressive nation where all citizens regardless of ethnicity are treated equally and fairly so that they live together in peace and harmony. He advocates the concept of ketuanan rakyat and says he is an agent for the Malays, Chinese and Indians alike; in short he is the people’s agent. He talks of Malaysian unity, not Malay, Chinese or Indian unity. These are sentiments that are rarely heard from our politicians these days when race politics have become the norm.

Over at the BN camp the theme of the evening was Malay unity. Ezam labeled Anwar a “traitor” to the Malays because he was willing to do away with the New Economic Policy and bumiputra special privileges as long as he received support from the non-Malays. He accused Anwar for selling out the Malays to the Chinese and Indian communities. He asked the Malays to reject Anwar in the coming by-election in Permatang Pauh as he cannot be trusted.

It was a time for Anwar bashing and nothing else. No concrete policies to tackle the economic crisis. No mention of the reforms promised by the government. No proposals on how the government is going to address the increasing racial polarization. It appears that Anwar is the only problem the BN government is facing?

These two totally different approaches have set the tone of campaigning for this all important by election. The Pakatan Rakyat seems to be emphasizing a multiracial approach compared to the racial calling of Umno and BN. This was further highlighted by Penang Chief Minister,Lim Guan Eng who claims himself as a leader not for the Chinese only but for the Malays and Indians as well. Time has come to discard the racial politics of the past and embrace a system of fairness for all.

Umno and the BN have yet to learn from the March 8 verdict of the people, who wanted a multiracial approach to the future of Malaysia. There is no question of doing away of Malay privileges that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution. What is needed is that every citizen be granted what is rightfully theirs without discrimination. The deserving from all communities must be taken care accordingly.

Umno and the BN must come up with concrete new and sound economic policies to uplift all citizens and not rely on outdated racist policies of the past to take us into the future. These policies of the past, tailored along racial lines, have no chance for success in today’s highly competitive world.

There is a need to change the mindset of the people to accept all citizens as fellow Malaysians without fear or suspicion. This has to start now and the Pakatan Rakyat appears to have a handicap in that race to win the hearts of all Malaysians. Umno and the BN have some serious catching up to do. If they continue with petty squabbles and racial policies, I am afraid they will soon be left far too behind to catch up.

Umno and the BN keep on saying they want to regain their past glory but how can they ever achieve that if they refuse to listen to the people? How can they when they refuse to appreciate and empathize with the plight of the people?

The voters are more educated and better informed now and they are more concerned about good political governance, inflation and corruption that affect their daily lives. They are not going to be tricked into being distracted by the personal and private lives of others.

The voters of Permatang Pauh have been given a golden opportunity to send an effective opposition leader to parliament, who could well become the sixth prime minister of the country. He has promised radical reforms to take the country with racial diversity to greater heights as one Malaysian nation. It is time we give him a chance as we have nothing to lose even if he fails.

The people of Permatang Pauh have this simple but important decision to make, a decision on behalf of all Malaysians, present and future – do they want a change or continue with obsolete policies that are doomed for failure in a world that is highly competitive and where only the best succeed?

Dr.Chris Anthony

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