Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama and Change

Najib calls for change but will there be change?

January 21, 2009 was a historic day for the people of the United States of America and to a certain extent to the people all over the world, in particular nations that profess to practice democracy. It was the day when Barack Obama became the 44th US president as the first black leader of the nation, shattering the American racial barriers.

In his much awaited inaugural speech he promised to free the country from its economic crisis and to restore the respect and credibility of his country among the nations of the world. The world especially the poorer nations are beginning to perceive that the US is becoming arrogant, inconsiderate and hegemonic. It refuses to listen to the world opinion and unilaterally bulldozers its views and decisions with little regards for the well being of poorer nations that are struggling to survive. It does not practice what it preaches with regards to democracy and human rights.

Obama did not deny the fact that the US is losing the respect and credibility that it used to enjoy among the world community decades ago. He did not hide the fact that his country is seriously affected by the economic crisis. He admitted all the shortcomings of his nation saying they are serious and many. Admitting that challenges he faces are real he however wowed to do his best to overcome them.

He called on his countrymen to pick themselves up, dust themselves off considering the complexity of the world today. Whether Obama can succeed remains to be seen in the coming weeks and months but he has set his foot on the right path by admitting his shortcomings and pledging to act to overcome them. and begin the work of remaking America saying be ready to lead once more. He promised to bring the change that will restore the respect and admiration of the world for America once more.

Americans and the people all the world have placed too much confidence on Obama to effect the changes that the US and the world are in dire need. His tasks are formidable

On the home front Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib has also called for change of Umno at all levels warning that it will perish if it fails to do so. His call comes in the wake of rejection of the BN by the people for the third time in ten months. It is a sternest warning to date and the members of his party must take it very seriously if they want Umno and BN to remain relevant.

“Change” has become a household word these days and since the last general elections everybody seems to be calling for change and it may be relevant for us to reflect what it really means for our nation. Change is when something becomes different or made to become different from what is presently in existence.

The changes that we initiate today should transform the nation to a state that reflects its past glory.Being in power for over 50 years, only the BN in particular Umno, is in a position to bring the change the nation really needs. Only by changing itself can it help all Malaysians to adopt a change of mindset and attitude in order to succeed in this highly competitive global world.

There is a need to adopt a mindset that accepts all citizens as Malaysians with equal educational and job opportunities based on merit. There must be a strongly conviction that corruption in any form and degree is morally wrong and must be fought vigorously. There is a need to change in attitude to respect and uphold the basic human rights of all citizens regardless of race, creed, social standing and political ideology. These include the right to assemble peacefully to voice dissent and the freedom of worship.

The new mindset must acknowledge that it is the right not a privilege for every citizen to be provided with quality and affordable healthcare, education, housing personal security. Poverty transcends race and religion and so must be its eradication. There is a need to accept that the civil service, judiciary and police must be independent and highly professional at all times and the rule of law must be upheld always at all costs.

The new leadership of Umno must acknowledge the serious economic, social, political and inter-ethnic problems the nation is facing and take the lead to change. They must initiate the steps to bring about these changes at all levels of Malaysian society. There has been too much talk of change but very little seriousness in wanting to really change. Change may be bitter for some but is inevitable and as the DPM says if we do not change we will perish.

The change promised by Obama may soon come to the US. Will the change to reform the nation as promised by our incoming Prime Minister ever materialise? Gauging by what is taking place it appears rather remote but with the extraordinary amount of resilience and perseverance of the rakyat there is no reason for that not to happen one day.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

KT by-election,a renewed call for change

The Kuala Terengganu (KT) by-election was a victory by itself regardless of who the winner was. The orderly and peaceful manner it was conducted was a victory for the democratic process that is unfolding in the country.

Despite some glitches, by enlarge the Elections Commission and the police conducted themselves in a professional manner to ensure that the by-election went on smoothly without any untoward incidents that used to mar most previous elections.

The political parties too were better behaved this time, avoiding personal attacks on the candidates. Although there were initial attempts to raise racial issues, like the issue of Islamic state and hudud laws, but they were aborted when the people showed their disapproval. It was particularly gracious of the BN to promptly concede defeat which helped to diffuse the tension that built up to the polling day.

The biggest winners were the people of Kuala Terengganu who kept their cool and gave their verdict that has a significant bearing on the direction the nation is heading. Despite the mounting pressure by the politicians during the campaign the voters were not easily influenced in making their decision. They did not succumb to racial and money politics like in the past. They demonstrated a high level of discern, wisdom and maturity in making their decision, which augurs well for the future of democracy in our country.

The people’s verdict is once again clear; they want change in the way the government is run. They want greater accountability and transparency. They want quick and drastic reforms to address the rampant corruption, abuse of power and the deteriorating race relations and economic crisis. They are disappointed that Umno and its partners in Barisan Nasional(BN),who have the means to bring about these changes do not have the political will to do so.

The loss of the KT parliamentary seat may not change the political equation in the country but it may well be an indication of the beginning of a shift of political paradigm and unless the BN acts to address the issues demanded by the people it may become irrelevant to the newer generation of Malaysians.

The BN government has done much to develop the nation but today’s global world poses challenges that need newer approaches to overcome.BN has no option but to heed the call of the people to reinvent itself to meet the demands of the new generation of Malaysians. Umno,MCA,MIC and the other partners must come together as equals at the highest level to re-chart their new course bearing in mind the new realities of a global world where myopic race based politics is not going to take them far.

What we need is not race and religious disputes and a debate on who is superior but to start working to create a superior Malaysian race which can compete effectively in a highly competitive global world. This can only be achieved with the contributions all races who must be made to feel proud of their citizenship.

On the other hand the Pakatan Rakyat(PR) must realize that it owes its very existence to the people who have put their faith in it to bring the changes which they badly need. The people were impressed with its promises to dismantle race politics and check corruption, power abuse and formulate more sound economic policies to take the nation through the current economic crisis. It must strive to make these impressions become realities.

The members of the opposition coalition may have vast ideological differences but they have managed to come together for the sake of the people and they must remain so for the same reason. They must get together in that spirit to iron out their differences by dialogue, debate and above all by compromise, which is a rare commodity in political negotiations.

The people have placed so much hope in PR and it must not let them down. Win or lose in the many other by-elections that may come by, the members must stick together in thick and thin for the sake of the people. It must not let petty squabbles among its members lead to its disintegration and premature demise but unite above racial, religious and ideological differences to bring about the changes that the BN could not.

Through the KT by-election, people have spoken again and the ball is now in the courts of the BN and PR to prove to the rakyat of their capabilities and political will to fulfill the aspirations of the people who thirst for change. The battle of wits has begun and in this duel the rakyat should never be made the loser.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, January 16, 2009

Palestinians and Israelis must determine their own destiny

Middle-East violence : Innocent victims of wider geo-political agenda

It was a rare moment at the recently conveyed special session of the parliament when our parliamentarians from the ruling and opposition parties close ranks, put aside their differences and united to condemn the Israeli atrocities. It may be a testimony of the increasing maturity of our wakil rakyat who if necessary can rise above the political divide to overcome any problems that we may encounter.

We hope in future they will with similar enthusiasm and vigor condemn such atrocities wherever and whenever it occurs regardless of who commits them, both outside and within the country. Violence and breach of human rights wherever it occurs is wrong and we must condemn them in the strongest terms and not disregard such misbehavior as internal affairs of the country.

The Israeli aggression, which it claims is for self defense, is unwarranted and a gross violation of human rights that totally disregards international law and order. The indiscriminate killing of innocent people, children and women must stop immediately and the warring parties must be brought to the negotiating table. This is not the time to see who is at wrong as the killing must stop immediately before further negotiations can be planned.

The conflict in the Middle East is not a religious conflict between Jews, Muslims and Christians as it has been wrongly made out to be. It is a territorial dispute between two neighbors who are unable to see eye to eye over the terms of their very existence. The involvement of the international community in their dispute has only worsened this enmity between them. In fact many nations have taken advantage of this conflict for their own political gains. It is sad that innocent Palestinians and to a certain extent Israelis have been made the victims of a wider international geo-political agenda by many concerned parties.

If only the Israelis and Palestinians had been were left alone to handle their problems by themselves, they would have stopped fighting long time ago as neither of them benefits from this long drawn-out war between them, which has killed thousands of innocent and defenseless people. All it has brought is misery, pain and uncertainties for so many generations. I am sure the ordinary people in both Palestine and Israel are aware of the political maneuverings over their fate but they are unable to take control of their own destiny as it is being dictated by outside powers.

Numerous attempts to broker peace by the international community, particularly the United States, have repeatedly met with failure as the most important criteria were lacking. Firstly there must be a genuine intention by all parties for lasting peace in the region and secondly the acceptance by both parties to live with each other as neighbors and face each other directly in negotiations without the involvement of third parties who have their own vested interests.

A hostility between the Palestine and Israel with repeated escalations and brutal wars from time to time dates back for generations. Although the ordinary civilians on both sides may want peace but many powers in and outside the region appear to be bent on continuing the dispute for their own selfish reasons. They repeatedly quote history and blame one party or the other for perpetrating the violence.

Who is right or wrong is not the issue now. The real issue is that the violence must stop at all costs and the sooner the Israelis and Palestinians realize that the better for their people. It is important for both parties to put history behind as to who is right or wrong but to realize that they must adopt the mindset that they have no option but to live side by side peacefully as two separate nations, respecting each other’s sovereignty.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is not a religious one and Malaysians of all religions should be united to support a peaceful solution to resolve the conflict. In order for any peace initiative to succeed all outside parties must stop taking sides and allow the affected parties to take full control of deciding their destiny.

Nations all over must unite to stop the age old barbaric means to solve disputes that confront mankind – war, which instead of overcoming the problems only multiplies them as it always brings death and misery to ordinary innocent people.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

KT polls: Opportunity to demand change

Will it make bring any change?

January 17 is an important day for the voters of Kuala Terengganu. On that day they will elect the man who will represent them in parliament for next 4 years or so. The main contest may be between BarisanNasional’s(BN) Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh and Pakatan Rakyat’s(PR) Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut, but in reality it has more significance that that. It is seen as the people’s verdict on the performance of the BN and PR over the last nine months after the historic March 8 general elections.

It is very interesting that despite the major ideological differences among the members of PR, the opposition coalition has managed to remain intact as a viable opposition and alternate government. In fact the campaign so far has helped to prove this fact. It was unthinkable a decade ago that Lim Kit Siang and his Rocket will ever make inroads into the Malay heartland.

Today such a dream is becoming a become a reality. We witness not only Kit Siang but other leaders of his Democratic Action Party(DAP) being cheered by predominantly Malay crowds and PAS leaders being applauded in predominantly Chinese areas. The Rocket and Bulan flags that were once a taboo to Malays and Chinese respectively have now become household names within the communities.

This is undeniably the most positive developments since March 8 and it is due to the rakyat themselves who have brought about such a change. It is gratifying to note the Malaysians have attained a high level of maturity and wisdom. No amount of racist tactics seems to influence the vast majority of Malaysians today.

Our politicians and the mainstream media should take heed of this change in the people and stop underestimating this wisdom, intelligence and maturity of the people today in an era of sophisticated and facilitated mass communication. They must appreciate the people’s increasing demands for greater transparency and accountability in governance and these demands are only going to escalate with time. As such there is no option for them but to buck up and change for the better or risk being changed by the rakyat.

The coming Kuala Terengganu by-election offers a golden opportunity for our political parties to uphold the principles of democracy for a clean and healthy contest. Focus must be on genuine issues confronting the people not personal, racial or religious as these latter tactics are being rejected more and more by the people. The people are now in a position to gauge them based on genuine performance not propaganda.

For the media it is a chance to demonstrate its professionalism and maturity in its coverage of all the events leading to the by-election and the ensuing outcome on January 17.It has the obligation to ensure that the voters are given the true picture on the events unfolding on the ground as the campaign heats up thereby helping them to make the all important decision to make the right choice.

For the voters it is another opportunity, after March 8 and August 26, to continue to demonstrate their wisdom and maturity to vote for the right man to represent them in parliament, the man who would put their interests above his and his party. It is another opportunity for them to tell the BN government that it must be more aggressive to bring about the reforms it promised. It is also an opportunity to tell the PR coalition members that they must put aside their ideological differences and remain united to provide an effective opposition now if they want to given a chance to rule the country in the future.

The people of all ethnicity have initiated a change for the evolution of a two-party political democracy. The ruling and opposition parties must facilitate the changes in that direction and not stand in the way of the wishes of the rakyat.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, January 09, 2009

Pakatan Rakyat should remain united in their goal

Agreeing to disagree

The recent public squabbles within the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) was seen as a big let down for the people who voted for them last March. The continuing quarrels among them, over issues like the hudud laws, Islamic state, Klang bus station and election of village heads in Perak, appear to be dashing the high hopes placed on PR to provide a formidable opposition in parliament and more people-oriented governments in the states under their rule.

Despite these disputes over differences, PR leaders insist that they are not about to disintegrate. They reassure the people that expressions of dissent are just part of the democratic process that is evolving after years of a dominant one-party rule. They accuse the ruling BN and the media it controls as the culprits who exaggerate and sensationalize their minor rifts for their own political advantage. This may be true to some extent but the opposition coalition must to do more to prove that the bonds between the members are indeed strong and intact so as not to succumb to the political assaults of its opponents. The onus is on them to allay the fears and anxieties of the people who went against all odds and voted for them to bring the desired change for better governance.

It is encouraging that top PR leaders including, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim himself, have admitted that the three members of Pakatan Rakyat do indeed have major ideological differences but they are united on very important issues of eliminating power abuse, racial poltics, corruption, formulating sound economic and forming a government that places the welfare of the rakyat above everything else.

In a political coalition, it is absolutely healthy to have differences but it must not let these differences distract them from their original ideals for which it was formed. The attitude of “agree to disagree” should be encouraged as it is the basis of a good democratic practice that promotes a healthy debate on issues confronting us.

Acknowledging the existence of differences however would pave the way for the adoption of civil dialogue and debate as the means to find solutions to the various problems that are bound to occur in a multiracial and multi-religious society like ours.

Political coalitions like BN and PR may be made up of members with diverse ideologies but they should be united with the common aim of serving the rakyat. Instead of arguing which race, religion or party is superior, they should agree on a common goal - to govern the country better, with the welfare of the people at heart. It should be a battle between them to offer better governance not to champion their own self interests and the interests of their community.

In this duel to outdo each other in better governance, the media should play a positive role and promote whichever party that does the right thing for the rakyat.It should not allow itself to be used as a tool to further the interests of any party for whatever reasons.

Our politicians and the mainstream media should not underestimate the wisdom, intelligence and maturity of the people today in an era of sophisticated mass communication. They must appreciate the people’s increasing demands for greater transparency and accountability in governance and these demands are only going to escalate with time. As such there is no option for them but to buck up and change for the better or risk being changed by the rakyat.

The coming Kuala Terengganu by-election offers a golden opportunity for our political parties to uphold the principles of democracy for a clean and healthy contest. Focus must be on genuine issues confronting the people not personal, racial or religious.

For the media it is a chance to demonstrate its professionalism and maturity in its coverage of all the events leading to the by-election and the ensuing outcome on January 17.It has the obligation to ensure that the voters are given the true picture on the events unfolding on the ground as the campaign heats up thereby helping them to make the all important decision to make the right choice.

For the voters it is another opportunity, after March 8 and August 26, to continue to demonstrate their wisdom and maturity to vote for the right man to represent them in parliament, the man who would put their interests above his and his party.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sex parties : Where are we heading?

Educate to arrest declining morals

It was appalling to read of the planned mega sex party to usher in the New Year. We wonder what has gone wrong with our younger generation who yearn for such immoral behavior that we often condemned as a culture of the West. Indulging in immoral activities is nothing new as they have been going on since the existence of man but by enlarge they have been on the quiet as such activities were abhorred by society. It is shocking that now such activities are being commercialized and organized openly with little respect to our own cultural restraints.

While we have been condemning the West we failed to realize that such immoral activities have been slowly taking roots in our own society. We continued to be in a state of denial that such activities are alien to our own Asian cultures. Even now we say that this mega sex party planned is a hoax which well may be but it should be an alarm that indicates that morality among Malaysians is definitely on the decline and it is time for us to see where we have gone wrong.

The two institutions that are vital in instilling good moral values are the family and the school. The declining morality among our youth is an indication that both these institutions are failing.

It is not surprising that with the rising divorce and separation of parents, the family unit is severe strain. The integrity of the family unit, which was once a pride of our culture, is slowly but surely breaking down. With parents separated and divorced and bitter with each other how can good morals be instilled in their children?

The influence of the West is undoubtedly a contributing factor but we too should take the blame, as we had not actively strived to strengthen our own system which placed great emphasis on families ties, respect for the elders, sanctity of marriage and care of children.

Sadly we have allowed the culture of greed and selfishness to become the guiding principles for success and happiness. In the pursuit of wealth and more wealth, we traded in the established moral values that were the hallmark of our cultures. Today we are judged by the amount of wealth we have not by the virtues we possess. The media glorifies and idolizes the rich and glamorous, never mind if they are living immoral lives. It is sad that these idols have become the role models for our youth.

In the pretext of promoting individual freedom, many are breaching the norms of morality. Individual freedom may be important but it should be within limits. Absolute individual freedom without regards for morally and socially accepted behavior should be aggressively resisted.

There is a need to re-emphasize the importance of the family unit. Every effort must be made to educate parents on inculcating good morals in the children by their own examples. It is a responsibility that is too important to be abdicated to others.

Of late the indiscipline and immorality among school children are also on the rise. As parents we can see that the level of discipline among our children is definitely not at par to that when we students once. Teachers today are too busy with unnecessary activities that they are not able to give full attention to their pupils. The quality of teachers too has deteriorated as many take up the job as a means of income when it should have been a vocation.

Ideally schools should be places where our children get a wholesome education, where apart from academic excellence, good morals and character building are also given paramount importance. Unfortunately politicization, commercialization and privatization have all adversely affected the education system where our schools have become places to merely secure maximum As.

Of late Malaysians of all faiths may have become more religious but are we becoming morally more righteous? It is sad that we have become more attracted to the rituals of our faith rather than their essence that propagate good moral behavior as the basis of all human activities. Will enforcing strict religious fundamentals help improve morality among the young? Extremism in any forms either religious or freedom to do whatever one likes will not be the right way. What we need to do is to choose a path of moderation that will be attractive to the youth.

Outright banning of immoral activities and punishing those indulging in them may not be able to totally deter our youth from staying away from such vice. What is a needed is to educate them on the importance of good and decent behavior at all times. At the same time no effort must be spared to educate and emphasize on the importance of maintaining the integrity family unit, which is extremely vital in upholding morality.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Historic Parliament after historic GE14

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