Thursday, October 29, 2009

1Malaysia camp tragedy, a cause for concern

Mistakes of past a lesson for future

The tragedy that struck the 1 Malaysia camp in Kuala Dipang, Kampar was indeed very regrettable. It led to the death of an 11 year old girl with two 2 others still missing. It is dreadful to imagine the agony of the parents especially those anxiously awaiting the fate of their missing children. We are told that these 1 Malaysia camps are for a noble purpose, to foster unity and interaction among primary school children of all races, through activities such as traditional cooking, cultural training and games.

However are these camps the best and only means of fostering racial unity? Do we need to take young primary school children into remote areas for such a purpose? Are the teachers adequately trained and equipped to handle emergencies in such areas like this tragedy? What was the need for these children to cross a river 30meters wide and 1.5 meters deep on a suspension bridge at 10.30pm at night? Shouldn’t young children of their age be in bed by that time? Why weren’t they provided with life jackets when crossing the river? How was that 30 to 50 children were allowed to get onto the bridge at the same time?

Another series of questions concern the quality and safety of the bridge itself.The bridge collapsed after one of the metal pillars supporting it got ripped off the ground by the weight of the children. We are told it was newly built but was it built to specifications? If so why did the metal pillar and its concrete block foundation got ripped off the ground in the incident? Obviously the size of the base concrete block did not match the metal pillars which held the cables.

Why was a suspension bridge chosen instead of the traditional wooden or concrete one over a river as wide, deep and hazardous as the Kampar River that is known for extreme water sports? We are also told that the bridge was given free. It is hard to believe that today one would give something free without some rewards in other forms.

These are some of the disturbing questions that must be addressed by the authorities, police and if necessary the MACC with some urgency and impartiality. A detailed and independent probe must be conducted to get to the truth so as to prevent such tragedies in the future. There is the general perception among ordinary people that corruption and cronyism may the underlying cause in this all previous tragedies.

Tragedies from human error are inevitable but we must learn from such incidences and take steps to prevent the repeat of such fatal mistakes. It looks like we never seem to learn from past our mistakes but keep repeating them over and over again. Each time such a tragedy occurs there is so much hoo-ha in the media, committees are set up to investigate but no concrete results come out of all that, only to be struck by another disaster at a later time and at a different place.

We hope this tragedy in Kampar will open the eyes of the authorities to place the welfare of the people above everything else. They should temporarily suspend all unity camps for children and get the experts to check the safety of all the facilities in them. It is also timely to review in a truly professional manner the needs for such camps to promote unity among the children of various races. It is time to seriously look into better, safer and more effective ways of doing that than by bringing the children of various races to a remote camp for a few days with all the attendant risks.

Children of all ethnicity are essentially color blind to start with; it is the adults, as leaders, parents and teachers, who sow the seeds of racism in them by their own examples for whatever reasons. Unless they get rid of racial and religious bias in them and stop reminding them of their ethnic differences, there is no way our children can be united by all the unity camps that we may hold.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, October 23, 2009

TBH death homicide or suicide?

Act to reveal the truth

Renowned Thai forensic patho¬logist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand’s conclusion that there is a 80% probability that Teoh Beng Hock’s death was an act of homicide was shocking and it has created an interesting twist to the inquest into the case. Though it was shocking but not surprising as most Malaysians believe that something sinister should have happened during the detention, interrogation and mysterious death of Teoh in the premises of the Malaysain Anti-Corruption Commission(MACC).

Dr.Pornthip’s remarks, if proven to be true, would cast serious doubts on the operations of the MAAC and on the capability and integrity our own forensic experts who concluded that it was a suicide. It would reinforce the general perception that all was not well with the interrogation of Teoh who was just a witness to assist the MACC. It has also created fears among those who could be investigated or called up as witnesses by the MACC in the future.

Her basis for her conclusion as reported in the media appear to be logical and scientifically sound which contradicts with the findings of our own experts. If she is right then we have some very serious issues to address. What has gone wrong with our experts and their investigations? Aren’t our forensic experts and crime investigators as capable as their foreign counterparts?

Dr.Pornthip has been a practicing forensic pathologist for many years and is presently the Director of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, Ministry of Justice, in Bangkok. Her work in forensic pathology involved many complicated and puzzling cases particularly those involving police abuses in her country.

Her evidence should not be taken lightly considering her years of experience and her passion for her job as it exposes severe weaknesses in our system that needs to be addressed with urgency. The independence and integrity of the MAAC, police and the professionalism of our forensic experts has come under suspicion and the people’s confidence in these agencies is greatly undermined.

Instead of writing off Dr.Pornthip’s comments as irrelevant and politically motivated, the government should give her the full cooperation, including carrying out another post-mortem, to get to the truth surrounding this tragic death as our credibility among the international community is at stake. The quicker we act to put things in order the better for the nation.

The government and the MACC in particular has been given an opportunity to get to the truth of this tragedy and bring to justice those, if any, involved in the death of Teoh. That is the only way to prove to the people that the government is really serious in bringing about genuine change in governance that is has promised. It is the only way to win the confidence and support of the people.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Umno Assembly 2009 : A sign of maturity?

Multiracial politics the way forward

At the recent Umno General Assembly, its president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak rightly said the party must look after the welfare of not just the Malays but that of all the races in the country.As the backbone of the ruling Barisan Nasional(BN) it has the obligation to look after all Malaysians regardless of race. However being a party exclusive for Malays and bumiputras will it be possible to effectively take care of the others? History has shown it cannot do that.

Of late Najib is going all out to woo the support of not just the Malays but the non-Malays as well and he may be meeting some degree of success in his endeavors.He realises that a harmonious environment where all races live side by side is essential for lasting peace without which he will not be able to rule effectively to bring development and prosperity to the nation.

Furthermore without the support of all races the ethnic polarisation will further widen which will not be good for long-term peace and stability in the country. While we laud his attempts to cater for all races with his 1Malaysia policy, there is still much more to be done to convince the majority of the people of his sincerity. His words and pledges need to translated into action and the people must be made to see the results of this 1Malaysia.

While Najib’s call to Umno to care for the non-Malays as well is highly commendable,it is unfortunate that he stopped short of opening its doors to other races although he did not rule out that possibility in the future.Umno could take the lead but the only way it can effectively take care of the non-Malays is by adopting an inclusive policy to admit all races into its fold as legitimate members.

This fact has been clearly shown over the last 52years of communal politics that has resulted in increased racial polarisation and unease.The politics along racial lines,Umno for Malays,MCA for Chinese and MIC for Indians,have clearly failed to unite the races and the system was dealt a serious blow by the people in the last general elections.If only Umno had headed the call of its founding forefather,Dato Onn Jaffar, we may be in a better footing today as a united Malaysian nation without racial distinction and disparity.

Umno has been given another chance to reshape history which it rejected almost 60 years ago.We hope its members under the leadership and guidance of Najib will gain the wisdom to envisage the long-term benefits of a multiracial Umno and BN.With the component parties all in disarray,it may be time to seriously consider the formation of a multiracial BN to save them from disintegration.

The just concluded Umno assembly has portrayed a more mature debate by the delegates who by enlarge refrained from raising issues that were offensive to their fellow non-Malays citizens.Najib must be credited for this clear departure from its traditional racial overtones unlike at previous assemblies.If the proceedings this year is sign of future trend in Umno,then I am sure the time for Umno to open its doors to all races will become a reality in the not so distant future.

More and more Malaysians of all races are being convinced that multiracial politics is the only way forward for lasting peace and prosperity.With this change in the mindset of the people,only parties with multiracial ideals are going to survive in the future.The Opposition has opted for such a multiracial platform and unless Umno and BN do likewise they risk becoming obsolete.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lessons from Bagan Pinang by-election

PR must win on own merits not the demerits of BN

The Bagan Pinang by-election as expected gave Barisan Nasional(BN) the much-awaited victory after a series of losses. However it was the majority of loss that came as a shock. The Pakatan Rakyat(PR) was expected to put up a stronger fight to reduce the majority of the BN but instead it disappointed their supporters by losing so badly.
Although so many reasons can be offered for their miserable showing by PR, the underlying cause was complacency. It took the people’s support for granted making the same mistake of the Barisan Nasional (BN) before. It is deeply disturbing how it can become so overconfident within a short period of just 18 months and with the BN holding a noose around its neck, tugging it each time it makes a right move.

In fact the BN, under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, despite all its shortcomings is trying hard to show that it is willing to reach out to the people at large. Its 1Malaysia policy, liberalization of economic policies and Najib’s personal efforts to woo the people especially the Chinese and Indians with pledges of equality for all are definitely positive moves although are scorned off by the Pakatan as political rhetoric which nevertheless may be so. He may not have convinced the majority of the people of his sincerity in wanting to bring change but he is definitely succeeding, with the help of the mainstream media.

On the contrary the PR does not seem to show the same enthusiasm and commitment as before to reach out to the people with problems which they promised with their ‘ketuanan rakyat’ slogan. Its component parties, towards each other PKR, DAP and PAS, who were very compromising before March 8,2008 have hardened their stand after their win and coming into power in some states. Each is now intent on championing to further their own cause instead of fighting for the common good of the people as a united opposition coalition.

The last 12GE and the subsequent by-elections that followed clearly showed that in order to win, a candidate or the party he represents, needs the support of all races. In most constituencies the support from any one race alone will not be sufficient to win. This is a wonderful situation which gives every race a significant voice in deciding the winner of any election.

The Bagan Pinang by-election further reinforced this fact where the BN’s candidate,Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad, won a landslide victory due to the overwhelming support of not just the Malays but the Chinese and Indians as well. In fact 67% of the Malays and 73% of non-Malays supported Isa in this by-election. It was very encouraging, despite the tactics to divide them, the people of all races were united in deciding who to vote. It further reinforces the fact that the people are willing to unite above their ethnic divide to vote for a candidate or party whom they love. Ethnicity was not major factor; it is only made one by political opportunists.

Najib and BN seem to have realized this need to garner across the board support from all races but unfortunately PR failed to do so as they took the voters for granted. Fiery speeches and criticisms of their opponents alone are not going to convince the voters. They need to see concrete actions of their sincerity and capabilities. The people are aware of the unfair and unfavorable environment the PR is working but they must at see that it is trying to do its best under the most difficult circumstances. Time is not its side so are the media and government machinery. The only favorable factor on their side is the people support or ‘Makkal Sakti’ and even that seems to be eluding them as it is being hijacked by BN.

It is time for PR to find ways and means to win the hearts of the people not just by their words but more so by their actions that must be seen to always consistent with their pledge to uphold their interests at all times. It could have won on the demerits of BN but it cannot continue to so for long. It must strive to gain its own merits for long-term wins in future elections.

The numerous public spats over many issues between PAS, PKR and DAP did not go down well with the people. They only helped to highlight the differences between them not the commonness. Most right thinking Malaysians, and there many these days, had expected these differences to be settled amicably without the unnecessary negative publicity but sadly they were not.

They have created doubts in the minds of the people on the capabilities of the PR to rule the nation one day. Can they trust the nation in the hands of three warring parties each fighting to impose their ideological system that is detested by the others? The people are more mature today to make such an unwise move.

PAS must discard its fundamentalist ideas and Islamic state agenda as even the growing middle class Malays are getting jittery over them. The DAP must rid of its Chinese chauvinistic label and adopt a truly multiracial appeal at all levels. It must not keep blaming its problems of the past Umno-BN but be focused on solving the problems of the present that they inherited. The PKR must strive to rid of the BN mentality among its members who are there to just reap the benefits of money politics. It is disheartening to see that each time we have a by-election some PKR members cross over to the BN.

The components of PR, namely PAS,PKR and DAP must seriously push through for the creation of a formal Pakatan Rakyat as a legal entity with its own elected leaders and supreme council that is represented by all parties. This would enable them to contest as PR candidates and not PAS,PKR or DAP candidates. That would convince the people of their seriousness and capabilities in wanting to form the federal government. That would convince the people on the merits and viability of a two-party political system of governance.

Of course for a formal coalition to take shape there is a need for a lot of compromise on the part of all parties. The time has come for PKR,PAS and DAP to make the all important decision – are they willing to put the long-term interest of the nation and its people above their own parties’ short-term benefits?

The 12GE has shown that they should and the recent Bagan Pinang by-election showed that if they don’t they will perish and become a part of history which future generations of Malaysians will detest on reading of the missed golden opportunity.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bagan Pinang by-election: A vote on corruption

Voters must reject corruption in whatever from

The dark clouds that shrouded Port Dickson on nomination day may be an indication of the uncertainty of the Bagan Pinang by-election and the nation as a whole come the 13GE.The historic elections of March 8,2008 has drastically changed the political landscape in the country. In a country divided and ruled along ethnic lines, a multiracial and a two-party system of governance, which was unthinkable before, have suddenly, become a possible reality.

Bagan Pinang may be a Barisan Nasional (BN), in particular Umno, stronghold with its candidate Tan Sri Mohd.Isa Samad enjoying mass popularity among the constituents but these days victory for BN is far from guaranteed as it used to be before in the pre - March 8 era. The battle has to be fought with all their might and resources at their disposal.

For the BN its main asset at this by-election, besides money, is experience and popularity of its candidate on whom it depends to redeem its wavering support among the people. For the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) it is the call for change to eradicate corruption, abuse of power and multiracialism. The people in Bagan Pinang must decide on behalf of the 27million Malaysians which of these should emerge the victor.

It is interesting that Bagan Pinang is a racially balanced constituency with 62.7%Malays, 20.7%Indians, 10.9%Chinese and 5.5% others. That means that the composition of Malays (63%) and Non-Malays(37%) reflects the overall racial makeup of the nation. The voting pattern in this election may be an indication of the support the BN and PR enjoy among the various communities. It may further indicate the possible trend in the next general elections that is not too far away.

Another significant factor is that the Indians, who have many grouses with the BN, make up a larger than usual proportion of the constituents which offers them a tangible voice this time around that could determine the winner.

Realising their strength this time, there have been calls by Indian rights groups for the Indians to boycott the by-election as they feel both BN and PR have failed to help the Indians. Their boycott will definitely give the much needed victory for the BN but will that in anyway benefit the Indians who claim they have been marginalised for the last 52 years under Umno-BN? The only way Indians can get long term benefits is for BN to do away with the present race-based politics and adopt one based on merits and need regardless of race or creed. Is the ruling Umno-BN ready or willing to adopt such a system? It does not appear to be so although it says it wants to in its 1Malaysia policy.

Even on the day of nomination race politics started to rear its ugly head. Racist books attacking the Pakatan Rakyat were being distributed; of course we do not expect any action against those responsible. No Umno leaders see it fitting and right to condemn such seditious acts but they expect full support from the non-Malays this time around. That is the irony, attacking those whose support they need badly.

The battle may be between a political heavy weight Isa, a veteran with wide experience but who has been found guilty of money politics, and Zulkefly Mohd Omar, a political novice who is yet to be tested of his capabilities and integrity, but the main issue in this election is corruption. By nominating Isa who has been found guilty of money politics, what message is the BN trying to convey to the people? Is it alright to be corrupt as long as you can win an election? Wouldn’t a win for Isa set a dangerous precedence?

It is interesting how the perception of corruption has changed over the years. When we were young we were taught the no- nonsense approach to corruption which was described as illegal, bad or dishonest behaviour, especially by people in positions of power. We were taught that corruption is terribly wrong in whatever form or magnitude it may take.

However today we are now told by our top leaders that corruption may be technical, moral or legal and if one is found guilty on technical grounds it is acceptable. If our leaders have such compromising views on corruption there is no way this cancer can be eradicated and we are doomed. and only God can save the nation.

The people of Bagan Pinang have the opportunity to send a clear message to our national leaders that they will not tolerate corruption in whatever from it takes or whoever perpetrates it. They must choose the candidate who is in a better position to fight corruption that has plagued the nation for too long and is undermining every effort to elevate the nation to a developed status. Only a candidate who himself is free of corruption, is trustworthy, and is willing to go down to serve the rakyat will be best suited to represent their interests. The people must be their judge to decide who that is.

Our politicians have taken the voters wisdom and maturity for granted for far too long. The people today are mature enough to decide for themselves the good and bad of each candidate. They cannot be hoodwinked by the antics and empty promises by the political parties anymore.

The country is undergoing some difficult times in inter-ethnic relations and its transformation into a two-party multiracial nation and the people of Bagan Pinang can help the process by sending a strong message on behalf of all Malaysians that they want a nation that is multiethnic and corruption-free where everyone regardless of race, creed or political ideology can live side by side in peace and harmony. The onus is on the people of Bagan Pinang to demonstrate their wisdom and maturity in no uncertain terms come October 11.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ops Sikap's failed mission

Death rate on roads unacceptable

The final death toll from road accidents during the 15 days of Ops Sikap XX that covered this Hari Raya festive period was 261 which is an increase to that that recorded last year. The number of accidents recorded during the same period was 17,335 and the summonses issued were 152,745 which indicate significant increases from the preceding year.

The police, Road Transport Department, PLUS and other Highway and road operators have put in a lot of effort in trying to reduce the accidents and deaths during festive periods which should be highly commended.

Despite all the efforts and money spent on Ops Sikap the number of accidents and the death due to them keeps increasing every year. It may be time for the authorities to review the measures taken to reduce accidents not only during festive periods but throughout the year. Do we still need to continue with Ops Sikap if the intended targets are not met? What is the real purpose of Ops Sikap, to reduce road accidents or just to record statistics on road deaths and accidents and issue summonses to top up the government coffers during the various festivities?

We are told that about 800,000 new vehicles were registered last year and about 2 million vehicles used the North-South Expressway (PLUS) during this Hari Raya holidays. The figures will be many times more if we were to take into consideration the trunk roads that were all jammed with cars during the period. The increase in the number of vehicles will give rise to a corresponding increase in the number of drivers including many new ones who would have taken to the streets.

With such a drastic increase in traffic volume, the unchanged inconsiderate attitude of the drivers, the poor road conditions, inadequate rest areas, inefficient alternative public transportation and the emerging culture of over enthusiasm to rush home at all costs, it would be impossible to reduce the number of accidents and deaths on our roads during festive seasons.

There are no way accidents and deaths associated with them can be effectively reduced with the present rate of increase in the vehicles on the roads. There must be concerted effort by all concerned to deliberately keep away from the roads as far as possible. Why the mad rush to get home at all costs?

It is deeply distressing to read of whole families perishing in tragic road accidents during their balik kampong journeys. Joy and happiness suddenly turns to extreme sadness and agony for those who lose their loved ones in such tragedies that could have been prevented. Imagine babies and children suddenly made orphans and parents without warning losing their children at the prime of their lives.

Hundreds are dying on our roads during the various festive periods in the country. Many of them are at the peak of the careers and their demise is a great loss to the families and the nation. It may be time for Malaysians to review our emerging culture of mass exodus to be with friends and relatives during the 1 or 2 festive days. We may be doing that at the expense of losing our lives and those of loved ones. Why shouldn’t such trips home, particularly to be with parents, be staggered throughout the year?

We must review the granting of additional long leave especially to schools to discourage the mass exodus. It is time to develop other modes of transportation, rail and air to reduce the overdependence on roads. A more balanced transportation system should be planned and implemented as soon as possible. It is impossible to keep increasing the roads and highways to cater for the rapidly multiplying number of vehicles.

As the name suggests Ops Sikap is conducted to change the attitude of road users. In this aim it has clearly seen to have failed.The high death rate during festive periods is not acceptable in this modern era of technological sophistication. There is a need for a comprehensive review of Ops Sikap and other measures to reduce road deaths not just during festive periods but throughout the year. Our leaders must spend less time, money and energy in politicking and come together to solve the many problems that confront us, roads accidents being just one of them.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Historic Parliament after historic GE14

  New Parliament symbol of hope and democracy Congratulations to all our newly elected MPs. The first session of the 14th ...