Wednesday, September 30, 2009
October 2nd 2009 is the 140th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who is one of the greatest personalities of recent times and he can be considered the saint of non-violence who did what he preached and preached only what he did.
Religious conflicts are the most common cause of violence in the world today. Not a day passes without the news of some tragic episode causing deaths of innocent people somewhere in the world. We say that we are all the children of one God and that that all religions lead to that same God but why are we fighting and killing each in His name.
Mahatma Gandhi had a very simple but useful lesson for us all in inter-faith relations. A militant Hindu, who admitted killing a Muslim child in revenge for the murder of his own son by Hindu militants, came to Gandhi, who was almost dying from prolonged fasting. He laid down his weapons and urged Gandhi to break his fast, saying he did want to carry the sin of his death. The Mahatma listened intently and told the man of a way out of his past sins against fellow Muslims.
“You go back, find a Muslim child whose parents were killed by Hindus and bring it up strictly as a Muslim not a Hindu.”
These words of Gandhi are so powerful and remain relevant till today and will remain so for ages to come.Unless we accept and respect each other’s faith we can never have genuine and lasting peace. Although Gandhi was a devout Hindu he also had great respect for all other religions. When asked whether he was a Hindu,he replied said “Yes,I am a Hindu but I am also a Muslim, Christian and a Jew”.
Gandhi believed in the universality of God, “The Allah of Islam is the same as the God of Christians and the Ishwar of Hindus.”
He was quoted as saying “all religions were true but all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. … our inner-most prayer should be for a Hindu to be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian." (Young India: January 19, 1928).
This concept of the equality of religions and the universality of God is something, which is badly needed in today’s world where violence in His name is so rampant. We justify killing others as acts to defend our own God. I wonder who needs whose protection, God needs man’s or man needs His. Don’t we realize that we are despising the same God who may be worshiped by others in different forms?
We are so intent in fighting one another to claim superiority over our adversaries, man against man, race against race, religion against religion and nation against nation. We resort to all the resources at our disposal; powerful arms, violence and war, to achieve victory over our enemies. We justify the use of violence to protect our perceived rights, race and religion but where do all these stand in the eyes of God?
Just after sixty one years after his passing we are finding it difficult to believe how Gandhi, a small, timid and frail looking man, could have brought down the mighty British Empire. This was clearly described by Albert Einstein, 'Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.
Mahatma Gandhi may have left this world but his memories remain very much with us, alive and relevant. He did not possess power, position or wealth. His simplicity, integrity and a heart for fellow men had touched many of all races and religions and he should and will remain a conscience in the hearts of men for generations to come.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The most hotly contested Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) elections saw the return of the president’s men at the helm of the party. Despite the growing demands for change from Malaysian Indians, including MIC members on the ground, the 1400 over delegates saw it fit to return the same old team for another 3 years. They seemed to be oblivious to the sentiments of the people they represent. The MIC president himself, Datuk Seri S. Samy Velu, was returned unopposed in a rather controversial manner that typifies his style of authoritarian leadership of the party for 3 decades. It does not augur well for the party that practices democracy.
Now that the old team is back at the helm, what is next for the Indians who form about 8% of the population? The plight of Indians has been at the forefront since the Hindraf rally in 2007 which saw thousands of them pouring onto the streets to highlight their anger and frustration over the government’s inaction to the plight. In the subsequent general elections of March 2008, the Indian candidates in MIC fared badly losing most of their seats. Even their president of 30 years suffered a humiliating defeat in his own constituency.
The Indian voters have for the first time in the history shifted their support from the MIC and Barisan Nasional(BN) to the Opposition parties. Even the once considered Islamic extremists PAS was more appealing to them than Umno , MIC and BN. Why this sudden change of loyalty?
Umno blames Samy Velu for the losses of MIC and the BN and wants him to step down as its president. Its former president, Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad, has called him a liability to BN which Samy strongly denies and in turn blames Umno for failing to honor its commitment to the Indians. For once we tend to agree with Samy ; he may be a cause of the rot in MIC but is not the sole cause of the BN defeat in the 12GE.
It was an overbearing and arrogantly dominant Umno that has caused the drastic erosion of support for not only the MIC but the MCA, Gerakan and other non-Malay parties. It was the Umno-dictated lopsided BN policies that led to its debacle in the 2008 elections. Unless Umno accepts its shortcomings and take steps to correct itself, its non-Malay partners in the BN are going to perish in the next general elections.
There are widespread calls for Samy Velu to step down as the MIC president. These come from not only Malaysian Indians in general but also by many from his own party. In fact most Malaysians are of the opinion that he has overstayed and he should steps down for the sake of the future of Indians who are already severely divided with the establishment of numerous smaller Indian based parties.
Will Samy’s exit resolve the woes of the Malaysian Indians, the MIC and BN? His dictatorial style of leadership has eliminated all talented Indians who were either expelled, left in cold storage till this day or denied entry into MIC. Absence of a credible opposition within the MIC has led to abuse of power and corruption in the party as a result of which the poor Indians got poorer and the rich richer.
There are serious doubts whether his hand-picked team that he will leave behind can ever rise up to fulfill its role as the protector of the Malaysian Indians. There are signs that Umno-BN may be courting others to replace its long-time ally if Samy continues to be stubborn and recalcitrant. There are already many waiting on the sidelines to rush in to fill the vacuum being that may be created by the MIC.
The Indian population may be small but its share of problems is abundant and complex. Since independence the economic share of the Indians has dwindled progressively due to their losses in the plantation and public sectors where they were predominantly employed.
Today poverty, unemployment, delinquency and crime rate among Indians are the highest in the country. Apart from these other social ills such as alcoholism, illiteracy, broken homes, illegitimate children and stateless youths are also highly prevalent among them. Their deplorable state has resulted in them being looked down by the other races who may consider them as a liability to national development. Even many of the successful Indians are beginning to get frustrated with the helpless mentality of the poorer Indians who have earned a third-class citizen status in the country. Even the immigrant population has little regards for the Malaysian Indians. Their dignity and honor are now at stake.
The blame game for the deplorable state of Indians continues. Samy Velu and his MIC blame the Umno-controlled government for their woes. Well it may be so to a certain extent but a great deal also being contributed by the Indians themselves. They have only look at their fellow Chinese to realize that their situation could have been far better than what it is today.
The biggest factor that has contributed to the deplorable state of Indians is their mindset which makes them think others are obliged to cater for all their needs and perceived rights. They blame everybody else for their failures except themselves; the British colonialist, Malays, Chinese, Umno-BN government, the richer Indians and even the Almighty.They must realize that unless they help themselves no outside force however great can uplift their socio-economic status without their cooperation. Aren’t we taught that even God only helps those who help themselves?
The only way forward for the Indians is to adopt a more positive attitude to life. Instead of ranting and raving about others denying them their rights and not helping them, they must buck up by adopting a more enterprising work ethics. They must discard all obsolete practices and prejudices and be willing to acquire all the latest knowledge and skills in technology and commerce to equip themselves to brace the challenges ahead in the highly competitive world today. They must get their priorities right and be shrewd to grasp all opportunities that come by and not wait for them to be given without any efforts on their part.
It is time for all Malaysians, including Indians, to support a system that will do away with race politics and opt for a one based purely on multiracialism and merit. If we continue with the politics of the past where each community is represented by its own communal party, where the races compete will each other, the minorities will inevitably be marginalized. The Indian community being a minority that comprises a mere 8% of the population and without any economic or political clout does not stand a chance for success as proven over the last 52 years.
Multi-racial political system that has policies drawn up to eradicate poverty and socio-economic deprivation that are color-blind will be the only way all races will obtain maximum benefits. Only under such a system will all citizens be able to unite and prosper as one Malaysian race. That is the ideal situation that we must have and for which we all must strive.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had rightly made racial unity as the focus of his first Hari Raya Aidilfitri message to the nation. He declared that we are 1Malaysia family, a concept that recognizes every citizen as equal regardless of race, creed and political ideology. Whether his 1Malaysia remains just a political slogan, like many others before it, remains to be seen. His most difficult task will be to get his own party, Umno, to back his 1Malaysia.Will he succeed where his predecessor failed miserably? Thecoming months may give the answer but his failure will spell the end of the once invincible Barisan Basional(BN), as many of the components parties in the coalition are now is disarray.
Najib’s message to the Muslims is timely; being the majority they not only have the right but more importantly, the responsibility to carry the torch of unity and progress of all Malaysians. He urged the Muslim majority to not only to open the door of the house to guests but also to open “the door of the heart” to all, including the non-Muslims. The Muslim majority must take the lead to show the path towards moderation and tolerance for others.
Hosting of open houses has become our unique way of celebrating the festivals by the various racial and religious communities in the country. This is indeed a good practice and must be encouraged but we must not stop at just visiting our friends at their open houses but strive to develop a deeper and more genuine relationship with our friends of different race and religion. Such a relationship should be based on mutual love, respect and acceptance, not just tolerance for each other’s cultures.
Unfortunately even the open house concept has become politicized and commercialized. There many these days hosting open houses for political reasons to get support from the people and others for commercial reasons to repay faithful customers. These may be inevitable but what is more important is for ordinary people to host open houses for those around them to promote goodwill towards those of different race or creed. This is vital for cultivating the genuine unity that we need today.
The recent ‘cow-head’ incident is an ugly reminder that all is not well with inter-ethnic relations in the country. It is an indication that after 52 years of staying together there are still those among us who are intolerant to the differences among us. Superficially we may appear to be united but deep down there is a great deal of suspicion, jealousy and even hate for those different from us. We may console ourselves by saying that these extremists are just the minority among us but nevertheless they must be taken seriously and corrected before such ill-feelings become more widespread.
Whether we like it or not Malaysians of all races and creed are here to stay. Instead of cultivating suspicion of each other it will be wiser and more fruitful for us to learn to co-exist in peace and harmony with others around us. We must rid ourselves of the egocentric attitude and accept the facts that we are not always right neither are others always wrong. As such we must adopt the good of others and discard the bad in ours. That is the basic principle of peaceful co-existence that we must instill in the hearts of our children. I am sure this is what God wants and that is what we must do for lasting peace, progress and happiness.
As we celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri as Malaysians, let us not forget how fortunate we are to be blessed with such diverse cultures in our country. These are God given treasures that we must cherish and preserve at all costs for the benefit of our future generations. We must build on our diversity to make the various cultural differences our way of life as Malaysians. Diversity must be seen as a sign of strength not weakness.
As the Prime Minister says it is time for Malaysians to open the “doors of their hearts” to all fellow citizens regardless of race and creed. We must break down the walls of prejudice, hatred and apathy for the sake of the future of our children and the nation. Whether we succeed as a nation depends very much on us not less so on the political leaders.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
After years of tussle ,Kg.Buah Pala, popularly known as the High Chaparral of Penang, was finally destroyed and it will soon become just a name in the history of Penang. It is to be replaced by a RM200 million luxurious condominiums ironically called “The Oasis” that is expected to give Penang a more pleasant, modern and luxurious outlook to boost its image as a tourist destination.
It is a well known fact that evicting long-term occupants of public land had always been a very thorny problem that is closely inter-twined with emotional, social and human rights issues which are easily sensationalized by the media and exploited by political opportunists. Kg.Buah Pala was not any different, where the controversial acquisition and sale of the land, negotiations for compensation and the subsequent forced eviction of the residents were handled in a very high handed and inhumane manner that leaves much to be desired.
Unreasonable promises by certain parties raised the hopes of the residents to emotionally high levels that led to the unpleasant encounters between them, the government, developer and finally the demolition team and police. The whole saga revealed that in business and politics there is no place for compassion and humanity towards the underprivileged even by the state.
The issue of Kg.Buah Pala is not something that cropped up overnight but has been going on for some years from the time of the previous government. I am sure the government, owner and developer were well aware of its ramifications, yet the way it was handled and finally demolished does not speak well for a government that puts the people’s welfare above all others.
The villagers were accused of being too greedy in not wanting to accept the quantum to be paid in compensation. By the way in our materialistic society who is not greedy these days? Who doesn’t want a better deal? Why was the land sold to a third party in such a controversial manner when it should rightly be offered first to the occupants? What was the reason for the erecting the luxury condominiums in that place? Is that what Penang needs most now? If these were not done out of greed what is it then? It is ironical that in a society where everything is driven by greed, these poor villagers and cowherds are being branded as greedy for not willing to give up their homes.
Like in all cases, there may some residents who were out to take advantage of the situation for monetary and political gains. However we forgot that there were also among them who were genuinely desperate and lived in fear of losing their livelihood and homes. To them the government has failed in its duty to protect their interests regardless of who caused their hardship and predicament. It was more interested in monetary gains in deciding to sell the land that would make way for luxury condominiums which is the last thing that Penang needs at the moment.
The Kg.Buah Pala saga should be a lesson for all to prevent the repeat of such incidences in the future. The government should be more accountable and forthright in its dealings with the people. The truth must be revealed and not submerged by false promises made for political gains. The truth, that the residents will have to finally vacate the premises, may be bitter but will eventually be accepted by the people if it is handled with tact and care.
The government must review all development projects in the state and stop all unnecessary ones. Over development has resulted in the unnecessary loss of beautiful beaches, hills and recreational parks and fields that were once the attractions of Penang. The so-called development projects should not be carried out solely for the sake of spinning money for the state and big co-operations but for the benefit off the people at large. It must strike a balance between development and the all-important preservation of natural resources, the environment and our heritage.
Meanwhile occupants of government land should realise that they are only temporary occupants who may be required to vacate one day and they must plan their own developments and activities in advance and not wait till forcefully evicted. They must understand that developments are inevitable with time and negotiations for compensation and relocation must be carried out well in advance in accordance with the laws of the land.
The Kg.Buah Pala dilemma leaves bitter memories in the minds of the residents and Penagites. It may have been a political issue for some and a legal or commercial one for others, which they had to win at all costs. For the genuinely desperate residents, especially the elderly, it was an emotional and hear-breaking issue that affected their livelihood and the very existence of their homes where they have been living for over a century.
It is sad that in the enthusiasm to win the battle,the interests of this poor group of Malaysians were overlooked and they became the real losers in the tussle. To them all that remains are memories of scenes of the unpleasant and brutal ways their dwellings were demolished by heavy machinery and demolition workers under the watchful eyes of the police, leaving them without the places which they called their homes for over a century.
The feelings of the residents can be summed up by the comments of a 84year old resident that was quoted in the NST. “… my children were born and bred here. Now, I have to live to see the day everything that we built being smashed to the ground” said the elderly man with tears in his eyes as he watched his partly wooden house being pulled down by the workers.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The government’s decision to extend the service of the Inspector-General of Police(IGP), Tan Sri Musa Hassan by another year is not surprising. Despite his poor tract record – uncontrolled crime rate, brutal suppression of civil liberties, political impartiality and rumors of his alleged links with the underworld, the government still considers Musa as the best man to continue as IGP for another year. To many it may be puzzling to many but to those in the corridors of power the reasons will be obvious.
The government I am sure has its own reasons for the extending his service but a large section of the people including the opposition and NGOs are skeptical of the need to do so. In fact many are opposed to his extension as they feel it will not bring any benefit to the police force and the nation in general.His stay will only delay the badly needed reforms in the police force.
Extension of the service of senior government servants after their retirement should not be routinely encouraged except in cases of dire need as such a practice would encourage cronyism, corruption and create unhappiness among others who are deserving and waiting for their turn to be promoted. Furthermore the change that we are all waiting for can only be brought about by new people taking over the reins of power. In general it would be naive to expect drastic changes from the same old leaders who has become comfortable with their old entrenched ways.
The police force is one of the most important institutions in the country as it is the agency that is responsible for maintaining the law and order. As such it must be seen to be truly independent and impartial in handling the various crises, political or otherwise that emerge from time to time. A police force that is professional and politically non-partisan is paramount for the peace and security in the country.
Over the years the reputation of the police force has been adversely affected by the various controversies that it was involved. It is high time for the IGP to seriously act to redeem the image of his force before the situation takes a turn for the worse. Will extending Musa’s term per se for another year going to deliver the PDRM from its professional doldrums? He has been the IGP since 2003, will another year make any difference? Will he succeed in redeeming the image of the police in the next one year?
The two major problems confronting the police force are the escalating crime rate and its declining reputation as an uncompromising defender of the rights of all Malaysians, regardless of race, creed or political allegiance. Musa has a formidable task ahead in the coming one year in combating these two evils that plague his institution.He must resist the politicization of the police force if he wants to regain the confidence of the rakyat.
He must find the ways and means to put the brakes on the unacceptably high crime rate and correcting the wrong perception of the people regarding the police force.He must be seen to be independent in acting without fear or favor in tackling the various law and order issues. In this endeavor he must ensure that the right people, with commitment and integrity, are assigned to undertake the various the tasks. He must by his own example lead his men to strictly uphold the Federal Constitution at all costs. There should be no compromise whatsoever in that for whatever reasons.
A lot of adverse comments are circulating in the cyber world regarding the IGP and the police in general. Musa has just one year to prove his critics wrong and thereby restoring the PDRM to its past glory as a tough and no-nonsense crime buster and defender of all Malaysians. He may not be able to accomplish that aim fully within such a short time but at least he can make the start for his successor to continue.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
RPK explains how his statutory declaration with regards to the murder of Altantuya intended for the Prosecutor's eyes only was published without his permission by those who looked to undermine its contents.
Friday, September 04, 2009
The controversial “cow-head” protest just before the 52nd Merdeka Day marred the joy and the true spirit of the celebrations. It was an indication of the failure of inter-ethnic relations which was once the pride of our nation and the envy of others. While peaceful demonstrations should be allowed but those who ridicule or insult other races or religions must not be tolerated for whatever reasons.
Only prompt and stern action against the perpetrators will discourage others from resorting to such mean and shameful acts. The police must act professionally without fear or favor to thwart such provocative behavior in its bud by any group regardless of their race, religion or political affiliations. Failing to do so will result in severe repercussions that will be detrimental to the peace and harmony that we are blessed with all these years.
It is notable that recent years have witnessed a growth in religious fundamentalism throughout the world. Rising fundamentalism is a problem for all religions and can be said to be a major cause of inter-religious conflicts throughout the history of mankind. Although religious fundamentalism is inevitable it should be kept in check to preserve the inter-ethnic peace in a multi-racial and multi-religious society.
All religions teach good; promoting goodwill and love for fellow men particularly from other faiths. None teaches its members to look down and spite another. Fortunately the vast majority of the followers of all religions are liberal in their outlook and they want to live peacefully with mutual respect for the believes, cultures and traditions of those from other faiths.
However it is sad that a small section of them succumb to fanaticism due to skewed interpretation of their religious teachings. It is vital for the liberal-minded majority in every religious community to stop their own fanatic minority from resorting to actions that would not only create chaos and turmoil among the various races but also tarnishing the sanctity of their own religion. It must be remembered that the respect and esteem a religion commands depends on the way its followers treat not their own members but the members of others religions, their perceived ‘enemies’.
A simple issue of a temple relocation has been blown out of proportion by political opportunists. This is a very serious and dangerous issue that must be tacked with utmost care and steps taken to prevent such acts in the future. The government’s intention to host talks between the Muslim and Hindu residents should be lauded, as dialogue in the spirit of goodwill and mutual understanding, is the only right way to solve the problem amicably.
I am sure Malaysians have attained the maturity to resolve their inter-ethnic disputes in a peaceful and civil manner without political interference. I am sure by now Malaysians would realize that they are all here to stay for good or bad, the faster they sort out their ethnic problems the better for all. There is no option but to adapt themselves to live side by side amidst all their cultural and religious diversity. Learning to coexist harmoniously is the key to lasting peace and progress.
Although we hope for a win-win outcome for all parties but often that will not be possible. Winning or losing is not the issue here but whether we want to foster a cordial atmosphere where we can live together in harmony as fellow Malaysians. If we want to achieve that, then we must be prepared to lose a little at times for the sake of the general well being of the nation. Doing so we may appear to be losers in the eyes of men but we will be the real winners in the eyes of God, whom we claim to defend at all costs.
When we see so much violence in the name of God, it makes me wonder who needs whose protection, whether God needs ours or we need his. Amidst all these uncertainties one thing is sure; if we continue to do what God truly wants us to, then He will always protect us without we imploring.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
CHRIS ANTHONY, Butterworth
IN his Merdeka Day message, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak urged Malaysians to tear down the divisive walls that exist among them ("Tear down walls of disunity" -- NST, Aug 31). He rightly acknowledged that the progress achieved by Malaysia has been due to the contributions and support of people of all races, religions and all strata of society.
At a time when there is so much ethnic tension, his speech is a timely reminder that all races must put aside their differences and unite to sustain the successes achieved by the sweat and toil of our founding fathers. We should not allow opportunists to destroy whatever we have built so far.
After 52 years of independence, can we say that we are truly better off as a nation than we were at the time of independence? Are we nearer the creation of the 1Malaysia that we are proudly proclaiming to the world? In physical development, economy and technology, there is no doubt we have advanced tremendously, but when it comes to human development and racial unity, we must admit that we have still a long way to go.
Fifty-two years may have passed but the nation is still deeply divided by race and religion. There is still no end in sight to racial strife. In fact, deteriorating race relations has become the greatest worry and its repercussions are threatening the peace, progress and prosperity of the country.
After 52 years, we should be nearer to the ideal state of a united Malaysia where everyone, regardless of race and religion, has an equal stake in the fortunes and misfortunes of our nation. We should have been nearer a state where all citizens must have equal opportunities in education, scholarships and job opportunities in both the public and private sectors. We should have been nearer a state where we must have mutual respect and accept with magnanimity the traditions and cultures of those different from ours. Unfortunately, we are nowhere near this haven; instead we seem to be on divergent paths.
If we are sincere in wanting lasting peace and uplifting our nation to the ranks of other developed democracies, we must sort out the racial and religious problems that are dividing the people. Procrastination will only lead us to greater complications from which we may never recover. Genuine commitment on the part of all Malaysians, regardless of race and creed, especially political leaders, is vital to repair the weakening inter-ethnic bridges built by our forefathers.
It is still not too late for Malaysians to change their race-based mindset. As citizens, we must decide our destiny and not allow a few with vested interests to lead us astray. We must believe and propagate that what brings us together as Malaysians must be stronger than what pulls us apart.
After many years of despair, we finally see a ray of hope in the new concept called "1Malaysia". It offers a great promise to unite all the races under the one banner -- Malaysia . Whether it remains just political rhetoric and a dream remains to be seen in the coming months.
On our part, let's resolve to put aside our differences and strive for the dawn of a new Malaysia, where all races can work together, hand in hand, without fear or suspicion, to realise our common dream for a truly 1Malaysia.
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