Monday, November 26, 2007

Hindraf Rally...After

Well, the reaction has been quite predictable. Tear gas+water cannons. (BN) Politicians saying that a culture of protests is dangerous and etc. Jeff Ooi has some pictures of the protesters at Batu Caves and at the main site. See for yourself.

Malaysiakini also reports, calling it a "Gandhi-inspired mass civil disobedience".

And Al-Jazeera also weighs in, with some footage.

Other various responses:

Other races have poor too.

Change must come from within.

No intention to give memo.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here We Go Again...

Looks like the Police are not laying back now. The BERSIH protest, has probably opened the floodgates, and they are not taking any chances with Hindraf's rally. Some might say that this gathering is an exercise in futility, but a few thousand Indians don't think so.

Let's see what happens.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remember, remember, the tenth of November

So that was what caused the traffic jam.

Did you buy the Star last Sunday? The Sunday Star carried a picture of the massive traffic jam citywide not on the front page, but on page 8. Evidently the Star thought that fuel subsidies were of greater importance than 40,000 people who took to the streets and demanded clean elections. But the front page had not a word of the Bersih rally. The news was relegated to page 8, along with that picture of the massive traffic jam, where it was reported that cops had broken up an illegal gathering. If this is to be any indicator of what the vast majority of people care about, then traffic jams beat illegal gatherings any day.

The media blackout ordered by the Government has succeeded to some degree. Rather than censoring the media themselves, the Government has generously allowed the media self-censorship. While independent websites like Malaysia Today and Malaysiakini kept blow-by-blow accounts online, the News Straits Times and the Star's websites' silence was telling. Reporters are willingly obscuring information and spinning stories in favour of those in power.

I wonder how such people can sleep at night.

But short of lying, spinning bad news is a tried and tested method of misleading the masses. Our Prime Minister dismissed the rally as a "political gimmick" by opposition parties. His attempt to sweep the significance of this march under the rug is thwarted by the fact that Bersih is a coalition of about 70 NGOs and 5 political parties. Clearly this is anything but a political gimmick. What really happened is that for one glorious day, differences were cast aside and 40,000 Malaysians made their stand on a patch of common ground. They came in peace. Yet cars were searched. Dataran Merdeka was cordoned off because that was where demonstrators had planned to gather. Tear gas and water cannons were used - there are videos and first-hand accounts everywhere of this occurring. At least seven people were reported to have been beaten and kicked by police. However, Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin denied any actual violence. There was no violence, he said, the police just dispersed the crowd with tear gas and water cannons. But no violence (This is democracy Malaysian style, an Al Jazeera reporter said to a video of police dispersing the crowd at Masjid Jamek).

It is true that the gathering was technically illegal - no permit was issued - and so far every politician available for comment has stood by that. But there was a rowdy illegal demonstration when Condoleezza Rice arrived in Malaysia some time ago. Police just sat back and watched, thus proving that illegal is an entirely subjective term.

The night before the Bersih rally, TV3 apparently reported that members of the public were banned from wearing yellow the following day. Still people came and marched. The people chanted democracy! and bersih!, the sight and sound of which will resonate for a long time to come. But of course reform is still a long way off. It's too soon for change, but it isn't too late to hope. Just seeing the pictures of the march filled me with an emotion I'd usually never associate with Malaysia - pride. I wasn't there. But I'm proud of those who were. And I'm finally proud to be Malaysian.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Bersih", A Comment.

When 40,000 people gather together to make a point, you know something is wrong. And so it was today, with people flocking to the middle of the city, all the way to Istana Negara (in which leaders from the opposition parties handed over a memorandum to the King calling for electoral reform).

I wasn't there, and I wish I was. But this is not to say I heartily agree with the entire thing. In fact, it feels somewhat "forced", as it were. After all, PAS and DAP wouldn't ordinarily be good bedfellows, but of course, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, they would say.

The Prime Minister condemned the rally, saying it is "challenging the patience of the people". Actually, the "people", I think, would be more inclined to sit back and enjoy the show, and perhaps nod their heads in agreement (I wouldn't say the same thing for those stuck in the horrible jam, though).

But it is easy to become fulsome here. And overtly joyful.

RTM's TV1 ran a video montage showing the evils of "rioting" (in which I chuckled all the way through). To their credit, they ran an audio conversation between Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin and a journalist. Asked why such gatherings a "illegal", Zainuddin interestingly fudges by answering that it is "unnecessary". The people, after all, can express their thoughts through voting.

Ironically, Bersih's main purpose was to protest against the electoral system itself (which, apparently, favors the ruling coalition).

Are "rallies" illegal, and should they never occur for the peace of the nation? Perhaps. But that would be calling Gandhi and his rallies "illegal" (it was called that, by the British- something which our government would loathe to be compared with).

Gatherings are just a means of expressing oneself, one that, I think, should not be denied. And shooting tear gas and water cannons at protesters makes the situation more shameful. Malaysia is now under international scrutiny.

But the purpose that justified such an event makes it completely laughable. Electoral reform? Perhaps start protesting why such protests are illegal in the first place, next time.

As for me, I would say "All the best". There's probably not going to be any big changes anytime soon (as long as folks with the rationalizing power of Zainuddin Maidin still hold government posts).

But it's a start.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Being Constructive

It is not law that any posts here should be constructive. On the contrary, the whole point of this blog is to present our views on Malaysia, no matter how raw they might be. Thus, one may find some less than pleasant posts about Malaysian politics (and politicians) and, on the other hand, find more positive articles about various aspects of Malaysia.

Despite the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion here, nevertheless our opinions will have much more weight if they are written constructively. The whole point of this blog is to differentiate itself from the rest. While many blogs on Malaysia make it a point to bash any single politician or policy the authors disagree with, this blog (hopefully) aims to take a more positive standpoint.

And even though this is only my own personal goal, I sure other contributors make it their own personal policy to talk about the good and the bad, but in so doing to comment on anything that they write on constructively, thoughtfully.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

For Burma

Not Myanmar.


From Wikipedia: In 1989, the military junta officially changed the English version of the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar, along with changes to the English versions of many place names in the country, such as its former capital city from Rangoon to Yangon. This decision has, however, not received legislative approval in Burma.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Nurin tragedy: is this what we have become?

The Nurin tragedy left many stunned and outraged at the brutality and heartlessness of the way an innocent child was killed.

Sadly, what happened to Nurin just serves to illustrate to us just what kind of a society we have become.

Firstly, the sight of young children wandering alone in malls and public places is so common an occurence that we as the public couldn’t be less concerned. Why must it take something as shocking as this for us to wake up?

Secondly, if it wasn’t enough for Nurin’s parents to go through the grief and anguish of losing their child and to find out later that she was murdered and abused, they had to face accusations of the public that it was their fault for not watching her - with some even saying that they should be charged for negligence. How much more heartless can we get?

Thirdly, some people even take advantage of the situation for their own selfish gains. Today in class my lecturer mentioned that a caller phoned Nurin’s father saying he had information on his daughter, but that he didn’t have enough credit, and asked Nurin’s father to top up his credit. Imagine yourself in the shoes of a desperate father, and you would have done what he did without hesitation - top up the caller’s credit. The caller then vanished, leaving no information about the girl. How cruel and insensitive can people get?

Finally, the media. It is necessary to sensationalize the whole story and dramatize it for further effect? As Marina Mahathir put it in her weekly column ‘Musings‘:

“If a child is sexually abused and killed, does it really matter how? Is there really a need to report the more abhorrent details of her suffering? Is there really a need to print photos of the dead child, even if the initial intention was to find out her identity? Don’t little children deserve some respect too?”

This is the kind of society we have become. And before long, Malaysia will have forgotten little Nurin’s name until another tragedy like this happens.

Davin Arul wrote in his blog Rules of Unreality:

“The unidentified murder victim, whose young body was violated in ways that makes you lose so much faith in humanity, screams a silent but deafening cry for justice whenever the horrifying photograph of her brutalized face is seen.

It seems to be an unbreakable cycle. A child is raped and murdered. We scream for blood and more stringent measures to monitor sexual offenders. A child loses his or her life in a senseless incident, and we mourn with the parents. It happens and it happens and it happens.

The question is, why can’t we - society, parents, the authorities - learn fast enough? Do we do future victims a disservice by forgetting, by letting the outrage die after a few weeks? Do we doom another child when we don’t agitate for sex offenders to be catalogued and monitored? Do we allow kidnappers to flourish in our midst when we ignore the sight of a child wandering alone and lost in the streets or shopping malls?

How much is too much?”

Just thinking about it makes me cry. But sitting in class today as my Media & Society lecturer, Ms. Jessie, talked about the Nurin case opened my eyes to just how apathetic we can be. Nobody in class seemed particularly shocked at the details - or maybe they, we, have just become too desensitized to be shocked anymore. A few even had a good laugh over the credit reload scam, commenting on what a ’smart’ idea that was. I was so incredibly, incredibly disappointed when I heard that.

They say the younger generation, the youth of today, bring about fresh change and hope for a better future. Look around. These ARE the youth of today. Nothing’s going to change if we don’t do something about our attitudes and mindsets.

Open your eyes, Malaysia. Is this what we have become?


Related articles:

  • Nurin’s murder - chronology of events
  • DNA tests - body found in bag is Nurin
  • Parents accept fate, bury Nurin
  • Related commentaries/opinions:

  • A reflection of society?
  • Be sympathetic, don’t speculate
  • Other weblinks:

  • In memory of Nurin Jazlin (a blog originally dedicated to the search for Nurin, which now acts as a channel for the parents to speak out on issues concerning their child’s murder)