Monday, September 29, 2008

Release RPK and other detainees for Aidil Fitri

Let them be united with their families

We are just days away from Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and weeks away from Deepavali. Malaysians of all races, not just Muslims and Hindus, are already in the festive mood preparing to celebrate these two auspicious days in our national calendar.

This year’s festivities are marred by the recent arrests and incarceration of a well-like national figure Raja Petra Kamaruddin under the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA). The popular blogger, fondly called RPK, has been detained without trial for 2 years for alleged threat to the security of the nation. It is difficult, almost impossible, to understand how a peace-loving, responsible and law-abiding citizen like RPK, who is loved by the majority of Malaysians of all races can be considered a threat to the security of the country.

As we are busy with all these preparations for the coming festivities we must pause to recall the great torments the ISA detainees, including RPK, the Hindraf five and about 60 others, are undergoing in Kamunting. They are treated like hardcore criminals for crimes that they have never committed.

In fact they are the elite citizens with ideas that are contrary to the government and are brave enough to express them openly. Instead of appreciating them, they are instead branded as national threats similar to terrorists, armed criminals and racists. Detaining them without trial is a great injustice and a breach of basic human rights of any individual and goes against the spirit of the Federal Constitution.

It is ironical that people like RPK are quickly arrested and detained for criticizing the government for its misdeeds but real criminals who rob the nation and stoke racial and religious hatred are left to freely roam the country.

Some of those detained in Kamunting have spent many years celebrating Hari Raya in prison away from their loved ones. Why should these patriotic citizens be denied to be united with their families when all others are allowed to do so? Isn’t that gross injustice?

Any law that allows detention without trial is unjust in modern times in a civilized society and is prone to abuse by those in power. Malaysia is a democratic country with sufficient laws to protect its sovereignty, why should we need a dictatorial law like the ISA?

If the government is truly a government of the people and for the people, as it always proclaims, it must heed the call of the vast majority of the people and release all the ISA detainees immediately as a goodwill gesture for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. It must listen and take steps to not just review but repeal the draconian act altogether.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, September 21, 2008

ISA - a tool for self-destruction

Today the Star(SundayStar,Sept.21) reported that Home Minister has rejected any review of the ISA.He says the ISA is a good and useful preventive law and is here to stay come what may.

His statement simply goes to show that the Umno-led government is in a state of denial,not realising the vast majority of Malaysians reject the obselete and draconian law that should only be reserved for terrorists and not those who oppose the policies of the ruling party.

Even the senior partners in the BN coalition,MCA,MIC,Gerakan and others from Sabah and Sarawak are against the ISA and want it to be reviewed or abolished altogether.Even members of the cabinet including those from Umno have called for its review.Despite all these public furore and opposition the government is still adamant to retain the law.It still considers itself to be a people-caring government.

Its time for the government to give in to the wishes and demands of the people.Its recalcitrant attitude may be the cause of its downfall.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No need for ISA

Detention without trial morally wrong

One of the laws that the Malaysians have opposed so aggressively over the last 20 years is the draconian Internal Security Act(ISA) that empowers the government to detain anyone for up to 2 years without trial on mere suspicion of being a threat to national security.Everytime someone is arrested under ISA there is uproar all over the country in protest.

The vehement protests not only comes from the Opposition parties, Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) and various human rights groups from within and outside the country but most significantly of late from the rakyat themselves, regardless of their race, religion and political ideology. Even the various religious leaders have condemned the ISA as being against the basic tenets of every faith.

We have come a long way, fighting the colonialists, the communist insurgency and Japanese occupation. At that time, there was no way of identifying the enemy and we needed a law like the ISA to detain someone on mere suspicion of subversion, to protect the nation and the people. Today we do not have such enemies of the state anymore as we are all loyal citizens of an independent and sovereign nation with its own laws and code of ethics in the form of the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara.

We have a legitimately elected government and an opposition, to represent the people in a duly established and respected parliament. We have an independent police force and judiciary to enforce and punish those guilty of subversion. We have sufficient laws to act against anyone who threatens the security of the nation, why do need to resort to arrest and punish someone without proving his guilt? Isn’t that a grievous breach of the basic human rights of an individual?

We are all aware that the ISA had been abused for political reasons by those in power. Not only politicians but professionals, members of NGOs, students, educationists and even religious and spiritual leaders have been detained under the ISA for questioning the injustices and abuses of the government and championing the rights of the people. Not only are they detained under deplorable living conditions but they are subjected to severe physical and mental torture like hard-core criminals.

The rakyat in general and various human rights groups in particular have voiced their opposition in no uncertain ways, forums, vigils, signature campaigns, petition and even demonstrations and street protests but to no avail. The government is adamant that the ISA is still necessary to maintain the peace and harmony among the races and reiterates that it will only use the law sparingly, a reassurance that is becoming less and less credible these days. More and more people are convinced that the draconian Act is being increasingly used to quell the swelling opposition to the government race based policies.

In a significant turn of events the recent detention of Opposition politician and Selangor State Exco member Teresa Kok, Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng have also been criticized by members of the BN itself, in particular Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who has even resigned in protest, a honorable gesture that is rare among our politicians these days.

These actions of members of the ruling party is unprecedented but is encouraging and goes to show the increasing maturity of our legislators who are willing to stand up in support of the aspirations of the people. It is time for more of our elected representatives from the ruling party to register their opposition to the ISA and demand its repeal. They must voice out against human rights violations, whenever and wherever they occur regardless of who perpetrates them.

Due to overwhelming public objection, the government has no choice but to reconsider the use of the ISA to detain civilians who pose no major threat to the security of the nation. In fact the government should seriously consider abolishing the ISA altogether as there are enough laws to deal with those who are out to create chaos in a multiracial and multi-religious society. What is important is to apply these laws promptly and fairly on anyone who breaches them. Ethnicity and political alignment should not be the factors that determine prosecution.

It is a false notion that the ISA is necessary for maintaining peace among the races. On the contrary its use not only fails to diffuse racial tension but its selective use, as is practiced, on those who oppose the government, only aggravates the already existing tense situation. Each time the nation recovers from a racial conflict and is on the brink of attaining peace, harmony and progress, the ISA is used which takes the nation back to the sixties. If this continues we will forever be the era of the sixties, with anxiety and fear of racial strive.

What is needed is a fair socio-economic policy for all races based on the fact that all citizens are equal and their rights stipulated in the constitution. Nobody should question or deny another of his rights. Greater and more genuine efforts must be made to promote inter-ethnic unity by emphasizing on the many common identities we have not divide on the few differences that separate us.These are the ideals that should be taught in all schools if we what a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous nation for our children and grandchildren.

Since March 8,the confidence of the people in the BN is declining by the day as their perception that it is recalcitrant to change is spreading fast. It must act fast and positively to regain the trust of the people. What the people need are reforms and change for the better not ISA arrests which are the least needed in the country plagued by political uncertainties.

The voice of the rakyat that transcends racial, religious and political divide is loud and clear – abolish the ISA. As a gesture to acknowledge its willingness to listen to the rakyat, the government should first release all ISA detainees and reassure the people that it will not resort to the draconian ISA in future for whatever reasons. It should work towards abolishing the ISA once and for all. Racial politics must be checked promptly and effectively with the existing laws of the country and not by resorting to the easy way out by detention without trial, which defies the basic human rights and the fundamentals of every major religion.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reject racism in all its forms

The people must reject racism in whatever form

The nation is undergoing trying times these days. Since March 8, not a day passes without some depressing news of infighting within the various political parties. The fear of the Barisan Nasional (BN) losing power to the opposition is creating tremendous anxiety among all sections of the population regardless of race, religion and political alignment. Of late these fears have taken a more sinister path of racial confrontation especially after the recent Permatang Pauh by election.

The euphoria of the March 8 elections that gave the much needed hope for a multiracial two-party political system is rapidly fading from the lives of fellow Malaysians. Instead the ugly head of racial politicking is trying to make a comeback which threatens to push our country backward to the sixties once more.

The recent controversy surrounding Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s alleged racist remarks, has revealed some unpleasant realities in the inter-ethnic relations in our country. It should be a lesson for all Malaysians that our race relations, which was once an envy of many, is still fragile and far from what is being portrayed to the outside world. As citizens there is much more to be done to cultivate it further.

This incident may be an isolated one but it is frightening to realize the tremendous effects it may have in a country of diversity where ethnic relationship is so fragile. Are Malaysians in general gullible to such racial incitement? Are they mature enough to ignore the ill-intended racial instigation of a small group of selfish and corrupt politicians?

The vast majority of Malaysians of all races are least interested in politics, most so in racial politics. They have other more important priorities to cope with – rising cost of living, education, health care and housing for them and their loved ones. These are more pressing issues that they are struggling to handle day in and day out with their meager income.

They have learned to live together with one another not just tolerating but respecting each other’s customs and traditions. They value the prevailing peace and harmony that they have built together and the last thing they want is conflicts and violence that would harm them or their loved ones. Such mishaps are evil that will destroy not only the intended ‘enemies’ but themselves as well.

While the majority of Malaysians are peace-loving and tolerant, it is very sad that a small number of corrupt and irresponsible people, fearful of their loss of power, are again resorting to the age-old race card to gain support and stay in power. They have a lot to lose with the rise of people’s power and they will not hesitate to resort to any means to stay in power.

Race based politics might have been necessary in the post-independence era where the people were all migrants from elsewhere but after more than 50 years of self-rule such race based politics is obsolete especially in a highly competitive and borderless global world. Furthermore the newer generation of Malaysians are all born and bred here with many never having set foot on foreign soil. Wouldn’t it be grossly unjust to still consider them as immigrants? They may differ physically and culturally but they are all Malaysians, here to stay to share the fortunes and misfortunes of their motherland.

It is very unfortunate that of late we are being constantly of the racial riots of 1969.Our children know nothing about those riots, why keep reminding them of that black day in the history of our nation? Isn’t it time to forget the past and move forwards to a better future for all, a future where all Malaysians can live together side by side in peace and harmony? Why harp on the few differences between us when we have more in common among us?

The political parties must come hard on their members who incite racial sentiments. The government must act sternly without fear or favor on anybody who utters seditious words that could hurt the sensitivities of any community. Above all it most important to educate the people that mutual tolerance and goodwill are the only way for a peaceful coexistence in a multiracial society.

The people of all races must rise above politics, race and creed, to thwart all attempts by irresponsible people who are out to create racial conflicts for their own benefits. The peace, harmony and well being of the nation depend solely on us, the rakyat. Come what may we must not succumb to the racial instigations of those who are out to cause chaos and confusion among the people of various races. The destiny of our nation is in our hands as we alone can make or break it. We must unite to do the right thing today which will be the pride of our future generations to come.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Racial integration starts in school

School must be a place to unite not divide the races

The gathering of some 300 religious leaders and representatives of various faith groups was indeed a historic moment and a positive development for inter-faith understanding in the country. Such joint activities augur well for the promotion of inter-faith understanding and harmony in our multiracial and multi-religious country. The Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry must be commended for organizing the event in conjunction with the 51st.merdeka celebrations.

The majority of Malaysians of all faiths would welcome Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s suggestion that such a gathering be held annually as part of the country’s National Day celebrations. He was absolutely right in saying that efforts must be made and opportunities sought among religious leaders to meet, eat at the same table as well as talk and exchange views.

In fact free inter-mingling among the various races should not be just restricted to a few hundred religious leaders once a year but extended to all citizens of all ages at all times. After more than half a century of sharing in the brotherhood of an independent nation, such a way of life where people of all races and religions can live, eat, work, play and even pray together should have become entrenched in the lives of all Malaysians. Unfortunately we are very far from that ideal situation and recent political trends indicate that on the contrary the people are more divided than integrated after all these years.

It is not the time to blame any particular party for the racially polarised situation we have today. It would be better for us to look into ways to improve the racial integration for the well being of the future. There is a need for genuine action on the part of all if we are sincere in wanting to promote better understanding among the people of various races and faiths. Half-hearted attempts as practiced now will not take us anywhere in this important task of uniting the people of diverse racial, cultural and religious backgrounds.

Racial and religious integration does not fall from the sky but must be cultivated to develop from a very early age. It must be actively promoted from the time a child goes to school. The children of all ages must be allowed to mingle freely without any prejudice or suspicion. Children regardless of their ethnicity are all innocent until we as parents and teachers impart our own prejudices, suspicion and fears onto them.

As the lessons on racial unity must start in schools, it is very important to ensure our schools are really tailored to unite the children of various races not divide them. The schools must be truly national in their outlook that must be secular and activities carried out therein should be multiracial. In order to do that there is a need to have diversity not only among the students but also among the teachers. Only by doing so can national schools be able attract the children from all races like the English medium schools of the sixties and seventies.

Our national schools have adopted a more religious outlook for the liking of many. Instead of having separate religious classes that could be held outside school hours it would be better for the common values promoted by all religions, love for fellow men regardless of ethnicity, to be in cooperated into the system to become the moral basis for all.

By promoting the universal values that are common to all faiths, one does not become a lesser Muslim,Christian,Hindu or Buddhist but a better human. Unless we become more human, there is no way we can cultivate the much needed mutual respect and love for those different from us.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Malaysian dream

Listen to the peoples’ merdeka message  

It is customary for our leaders to give their merdeka message to the people every year. This year that marks the  51st.annivesary of our independence there seems to be a slight difference where the people instead, have in their own way, given their merdeka message to the leaders on two separate occasions, on March 8 and August 26.On both these occasions the message was the same.  
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 realizing those reforms it was more preoccupied with internal party squabbles.
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. Their plea came in the form of the just concluded Permatang Pauh by-election when the voters on behalf of the 27 million Malaysians expressed their displeasure once again by voting for the opposition. The resounding victory they gave the opposition is an indicator that the people are serious in their demands for change.  
The people want a fairer economic policy for all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity, a more committed combat against 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 they want good governance and an administration that would place the interests of the people above all others. The people were even willing to give the opposition a chance knowing that ti may not be able to keep its promises.
It is time for the government to seriously start listening to the voices of the people. Poverty and all socio-economic problems transcend racial, religious and political barriers so should be our efforts to eradicate them. The people of all races have risen above racial divide and voted for multiethnic cooperation to overcome our basic socio-economic problems that equally affect all communities. Their voices are loud and clear – they want genuine changes in policies and a greater commitment to boldly implementation them to put right the many ills that plague our 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. It is very unfortunate that despite living together all these years we are still identified by our ethnic origin. Today we have become less Malaysians but more Malays, Chinese or Indians. Wherever we are, in schools, offices, on the fields, on the roads and even places of worship, we are constantly reminded of our ethnicity. Isn’t it time to rid of this racial mindset and adopt a more multiracial one that will one day lead to the evolution of a united Malaysian race?

Martin Luther King once said "I have a dream,a dream that the sons of slaves and their masters will one day sit together as equal". That American dream has not only come true but soon the son of a slave may soon become the president of the most powerful nation on earth.
Similarly 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 time for leaders at all levels to listen to the merdeka message of the people and act to promptly to realize these dreams of all Malaysians - a Malaysian Dream
Dr.Chris Anthony

Historic Parliament after historic GE14

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