- How possible is it to have some sort of disturbance that will spark unrest?
- What form might it take?
Thursday, May 16, 2013
May 13 has arrived and passed with no major incidents. For many Malaysians who sit uneasily with the date, there is a culpable sense of relief. However, is the threat of a nationwide disturbance over? Is it possible still in this day and age for something on the scale of the May 13 riots to reoccur?
Before moving on let me just clarify that this analysis is not meant to monger fear or accuse the government of anything. It is a hypothesis based on my historical analysis of post-election trends in Malaysia, and as with all hypotheses, is unproven and certainly not set in stone.
This article seeks to analyse and answer two main questions:
Through a careful examination of past incidences of civil unrest in Malaysia, 3 incidents in particular stand out for their scale, their impact on the political narrative of Malaysia, and their nature. The 3 incidents I speak of are the May 13, 1969 riots, the 1987-1988 Operation Lalang and judicial crisis, and the 1998 sacking of Anwar Ibrahim and the subsequent Reformasi movement. In considering the events leading up to, during and following the events, 3 key traits stand out.
Firstly and perhaps most importantly, all 3 incidences have taken place in the foreground of internal UMNO struggles. In Dr. Kua Kia Soong’s thesis of May 13, he posits that the riots were in fact a coup d’état initiated by the ascendant Malay capitalist class under Razak to replace the Malay aristocratic class lead by Tunku Abdul Rahman . The validity of Dr. Kua’s statement is subject to debate, but the swift and stunning reversal of fortunes that Tunku Abdul Rahman suffered cannot be discounted as coincidence. Even if the riots were not facilitated by the top leadership of the right wing of UMNO, Razak certainly made full use of the opportunity to grab the reins of government. Recently, Gerakan veteran Dr. Goh Cheng Teik and ex-UMNO strongman Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar came out to clarify that May 13 was indeed an internal coup orchestrated by irate UMNO members against Rahman.
The 1987-1988 Operation Lalang also had similar internal rumblings. In fact, the judicial crisis roots lay in the dismissal of UMNO as an illegal organization due to complaints from Tengku Razaleigh’s UMNO Team B . The same goes for the mass arrests that followed the Reformasi movement. Again, it was an inside UMNO fight between then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad .
Time and time again, UMNO leaders especially those from the right wing have shown that they are more than willing to externalize internal struggles to distract people from the real issues and to eliminate opposition. Come this October, UMNO internal elections will be held, and it will be a titanic clash between the reformers under Najib Razak and the Mahathirists under Muhyiddin’s tutelage. The first shots have already been fired by Mahathir, calling Najib’s performance a “disappointment” and openly stating before elections that given a slim victory Najib should give way to deputy Muhyiddin .
2. Need for consolidation of power
The second trait is a need for constitutional/ law changing. As we all know, the last time UMNO was in government with a minority of the popular vote was in 1969 . Post-1969, constitutional amendments made the EC beholden to Barisan Nasional and various laws such as the Sedition Act were strengthened (See Andrew Yong’s article in Loyarburok for easy understanding) . Similarly, in 1988 the threat from the Semangat 46’ coalition formed posed enough of a threat to the UMNO hegemony of power that the Mahathir felt it necessary to cripple the judiciary and rob it of its independence.These changes in law to consolidate UMNO dominance have however, often been met with significant opposition. It is because of the backlash that comes with these changes in the institutions and dilution of the rule of law that such exercises have needed to be preceded by mass arrests/ unrest preventing any coordinated response. The Reformasi movement of 1998 was rife with similar arrests, but with a firm 76.56% of seats BN could comfortably continue its gerrymandering, mal-apportionment exercises  One must also bear in mind that due to 1998 being led by Anwaristas, it took on a different nature.
At the end of this year, there will be a re-delineation exercise that threatens to entrench BN firmly in power, no matter what the popular vote turns out to be in GE 14 . Civil society, opposition politicians and proactive citizens have already begun raising awareness of the exercise. The rakyat, especially urban folk are acutely aware of their rights and attendance at rallies such as the 8th May Kelana Jaya rally have shown that from here on escalation of civil action can be only grow .
It would require a major distraction on an unprecedented scale to divert attention away from the re-delineation exercise.
3. Incitement of racial sentiments
The third trait that has preceded such incidents is the exacerbation ( or in some cases manufacturing) of racial sentiments. This has largely been the domain of the government-controlled mainstream media. In 1969, the mainstream media reported Labour Party processions as shouting “Malai-si!” and provoking the Malays . However, such accounts are doubted and are contradictory to the foreign press accounts that reported the procession as a show of “discipline” and “genuine restraint” .
In 1988, Utusan Malaysia blew the issue of Chinese educationists out of proportion. What followed were the mass arrests of not just prominent members of Dong Zong but also of activists and opposition politicians  In 1999, BN blew up fears of Islamization, loss of non-Malay rights etc to secure a win despite losing the popular vote of Malays to the Barisan Alternatif .
Now the racist rhetoric has reached an all-time high. From Utusan Malaysia’s “Apa Lagi Cina Mahu” (What More Do The Chinese Want?) , an ex-judge’s warning of backlash against the Chinese, to PM Najib’s “Chinese Tsunami”, all UMNO media seems to be blasting out racism at every avenue.   
A Negative Cycle
The need to change laws, racial sentiments and UMNO internal struggles are all interlinked and form part of a negative cycle that has occurred since May 1969. The government starts to lose popularity and its grasp on power starts to loosen, thus facilitating the growth of opposition movements. The government then needs to consolidate its position, and the bending the law to suit such needs is its ultimate tool. To bend the law however is to invite dissent. At the same time, the loss of popularity also sparks internal divisions within UMNO itself. Faced with signification obstacles, such power struggles are then externalized in the form of a national crisis to distract from the real issues and to decapitate any unified response. To provide a raison d’etre for such a national crisis, the mainstream media exacerbates and incites racial rhetoric. And when the so-called “spontaneous chaos” ensues, fear takes hold of many and allows the ruling coalition to remain in power. This standard operating procedure is not endemic to Malaysia but is something common in the politics and history of many other Southeast Asian countries with similar problems with diversity and nation building such as Indonesia and the Philippines (See People Power revolution and the fall of Suharto’s regime) .
It is my view that given the volatility of the current political position and the fulfillment of all three key traits, a national incident is bound to happen. However, despite the incitement of racial sentiments, it is my opinion that any unrest will not be of a racial nature. Unlike in 1969 and 1988, the issues raised by the opposition and civil society have been part of national consciousness and not ethnic-specific . The opposition platform is also multiracial, unlike in 1969 where it was largely non-Malay, and has enjoyed multiracial support . The racial baiting by UMNO-controlled media has also been met with incredible shows of unity from Malaysians from all walks of life .
Therefore any incident will take on the form of mass arrests in the name of stability and national security. Already 28 Pakatan Rakyat leaders who spoke at the Kelana Jaya rally have been/ are going to be called up on charges of sedition . Yesterday, a group of NGOs lead by Haris Ibrahim’s ABU has called for a 1 million Malaysians to rally against electoral fraud in Kuala Lumpur (Note: Contrary to what was reported, in his official statement Haris Ibrahim never called for toppling of a government, see his blog for details). This is the Catch 22 situation faced by every pseudo-democratic government, where in order to remain in power they dilute the institutions of democracy, but in so doing radicalize the populace and further erode their mandate to power. Faced with an escalation of civil disobedience on this scale, it would be an easy thing for the government to crackdown on activists, politicians and intellectuals in one fell swoop.
Many a politician used to justify any repression including use of the Internal Security Act by stating that the majority of people in Malaysia seemed not to mind as most people voted BN in elections. In the days of Operation Lalang, this was the case. But this time any action by the BN government will be without the support of the popular vote.
There is a word used to describe the act of a minority cracking down on freedoms without consent of the majority: tyranny. Whether or not such tyranny will continue to work in this day and age, will depend on the strength of will of the rakyat. Not the work of NGOs, not the ceramahs of politicians, but the voice of the ordinary citizen in speaking out against injustice.
Again, this is pure speculation on my part but is nevertheless based on a close analysis of long term historical trends in Malaysia and throughout the SEA region. In fact, for the sake of this country, I hope that this entire analysis is rubbish, and that I will be proven absolutely wrong and a pessimistic idiot. One can only hope.
 Kua, Kia Soong. May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969. SUARAM, 2007.
 “May 13 was not an ethnic phenomenon. It was a political occurrence, only those who were members of Umno or associated with it were involved.” – Dr Goh Cheng Teik
“Ex-Gerakan stalwart backs Hadi's May 13 stand” Malaysiakini. May 1, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228701.
 “…the incident was a mini coup planned by Umno men.” – Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar.
Kuak, Ser Kuang Keng. “Ex-UMNO man defends DAP against May 13 charge” Malaysiakini. April 30, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228497.
  Means, Gordon P. Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation. Oxford University Press, 1991.
 Hartcher, Peter. "Outdated political thuggery embarrasses Malaysia". The Sydney Morning Herald. February 23, 2010. Available at http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/outdated-political-thuggery-embarrasses-malaysia-20100222-ornl.html.
 Zurairi, Ar. “Dr M questions BN strategists, says Umno to decide Najib’s fate”. The Malaysian Insider. May 7, 2013. Available at http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/dr-m-questions-bn-strategists-says-umno-to-decide-najibs-fate.
 Drummond, Stuart & Hawkins, David. The Malaysian Elections of 1969: An Analysis of the Campaign and the Results. University of California Press, 1970.
 Rachagan, S. Sothi. Law and the Electoral Process in Malaysia. University of Malaya Press, 1993.
 Swee-Hock Saw, K. Kesavapany. Malaysia recent trends and challenges. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2006.
 “Constituency redelineation to be done at year end, says EC”. Malaysiakini. May 10, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/229751.
Su-Lyn, Boo & Ding, Emily. “Thousands pack Kelana Jaya stadium for Pakatan rally”. Malaysian Insider. May 8, 2013. Available at http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/thousands-pack-kelana-jaya-stadium-for-pakatan-rally.
 Abdul Rahman, Mohd Daud. Ke-Arah Keharmonian Negara. (Towards National Harmony) Jabatan Kerajaan, 1971. (State Department)
 “Malaysia: Requiem for a Democracy?” Far Eastern Economic Review May 24th, 1969.
 Kua, Kia Soong. 445 Days Under the ISA- 1987-1989. Suaram Komunikasi, 2010.
 Lin, Juo-Yu. A Structural Analysis of the 1999 Malaysian General Election. Tamkang University, 2002.
 Zulkiflee, Bakar. “Apa lagi orang Cina mahu?” Utusan Malaysia. May 6, 2013. Available at http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Pilihan_Raya/20130507/px_03/Apa-lagi-orang-Cina-mahu?.
 Aw, Nigel. “Ex-judge warns Chinese of backlash for 'betrayal'”. Malaysiakini. May 12, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/229909.
 “Malaysia GE13: PM Najib blames polls results on 'Chinese tsunami'”. Straits Times. May 6, 2013. Available at http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/se-asia/story/malaysia-ge13-pm-najib-blames-polls-results-chinese-tsunami-20130506.
 Slater, Dan. The Architecture of Authoritarianism: Southeast Asia and the Regeneration of Democratization Theory. Stanford University Press, 2006.
 Among the issues brought up were corruption, high cost of living etc.
Manisfesto Pakatan Rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat website. April 19, 2013. Available at http://www.pakatanrakyat.my/files/ENG-Manifesto-BOOK.pdf.
 Ong, Kian Ming. “Here’s proof: It's a Malaysian tsunami, not Chinese only”. Malaysia Chronicle. May 10, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=98901:heres-proof-its-a-malaysian-tsunami-not-chinese-only&Itemid=2.
 “Youths point the way towards unity” The Star. May 12, 2013. Available at http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/5/12/nation/13102027&sec=nation.
 Ramendran, Charles. “Cops to haul up rally organisers and speakers”. The Sun Daily. May 9, 2013. Available at http://www.thesundaily.my/news/692938.
 Anand, Ram. “1 million street rally planned for KL”. Malaysiakini. May 14, 2013. Available at http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/230049.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
The current trend of racialising election results is extremely worrying.
- PM Najib: "Elections results... due to a Chinese tsunami."
- Utusan Malaysia headlines: "Apa lagi Cina mahu?" (What more do the Chinese want?
- Mohd Ali Rustam, ex-Melaka MB: "The Chinese are ungrateful and racist!"
- Papagomo, influential pro-BN blogger also today called the Chinese ungrateful, implying Chinese should go back to China. A reader whose comment was liked by many also commented that the Chinese should be slaughtered like pigs.
The truth is that statistics show that the urban Malay vote also experienced a huge shift to PR, and since PR actually won the popular vote, 3.1 million of those votes were actually Malay.
A Malay friend of mine actually messaged me to apologise on behalf of the Malay community. I told him there is absolutely no need to apologise. Unlike some people in power, I know better than to stereotype people based on the color of their skin. Unlike some people in power, I know better than to emulate Hitler and condemn a whole ethnicity. And unlike some people in power, I know Malaysia, now more than ever, needs unity.
Sometimes I can't help but hate being Chinese. Why can't I just be Malaysian?
Monday, May 6, 2013
I must say that I'm as appalled as anyone else about the allegations of massive electoral fraud. So many people are incredibly upset and I understand. But mourning and being angry is not enough. In fact, I find all the black profile pictures in a sad way rather amusing. And I do not know whether to laugh or cry when I see people giving up, or looking ahead to the next elections in another five years to push for change.
I find all this rather morbidly amusing because the people being incredibly upset, many are also the ones who on a normal day, would rather go to a music concert than a protest, would rather watch the Sports news than update themselves on Malaysiakini, would rather stay at comfy urban homes lamenting the "stupidity" of the rural folk while never bothering to visit them or reach out to understand.
Even better yet are those who look forward to next elections in 2018, resigning themselves to “Lain Kali Lah”, as if democracy consists of a once-in-five-year vote and nothing else.
For god's sake wake up. Democracy is messy. Democracy can be deeply flawed or a tyranny of the ignorant masses. But one thing democracy is not is a hollow, rare concept.
Democracy happens every day around us. Start caring about the issues, start advocating and educating people about them. And I don't mean clicktivism. The urban-rural divide needs more than Facebook statuses and black profile pictures (though it doesn't hurt). Go to Sabah and Sarawak and feel just how separated and marginalized they feel when they speak of the Peninsular. Go to the kampongs and help the folk realise why even though all seems hunky dory and life goes on, change could mean longer term benefits for all. If you’re not the activist type, then do something else. Volunteer for PACABA and get everybody you know to register as a voter. A cook? Bring some food for the PACABAs and campaigners. Do anything but do something! And come on, demos kratos, people power is not contained in a tampered, delible ink-stained, pencil written ballot paper!
"Democracy is dead!" some proclaim. No, Democracy is very alive. You just haven't discovered what it really is yet.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
|Just looking at this makes my mouth water...|
Signature dish: Tandoori Chicken
Location: Jalan 5, One Ampang Avenue, 68000 Ampang, Selangor.
Add. Directions: The stall is next to Galeri Guitar and directly opposite Ampang Point, near Empire Furniture Gallery or Little Korea as some may know it!
Opening Hours: 6:30p.m. to 11.00p.m., All days
Contact: 012-354 5624
My father tells me that Ampang, aside from Yong Tau Foo, used to be famous for Tandoori Chicken. It was the grand heyday at Naan Corner beside SPCA, until well... the dark days of precooked, microwave heated tandoori. Those days are gone sadly.
|There, you're looking at Ampang Point right ahead.|
His tandoori chicken (RM4.50) is to die for. I've eaten tandoori at every single Indian joint I've come across, from Petaling Jaya to Melaka; from hotels to five foot ways; from Malaysia to London; from... ok ok you get the point. Basically, the tandoori chicken here is the best I've ever tasted.
It merits starting a new paragraph. Roasted in a metal box which contains a clay tandoor in it,the meat is super tender. When you bite into it, meat tears away from the bone like a girl in a James Bond movie taking off her jacket. The meat is so juicy at times that it has a Xiao Long Pao/ Onde-Onde feel: juice bursts out and makes for a wonderful sensation in your mouth. The marinade is tasty and really flavourful, that deep red is one of the most beautiful colours I've seen. (But then again, vibrant, natural colour in food is something I can't help but love). But one thing that really stands out is the moistness. Many tandoori joints turn up dry chicken, but here it is almost always moist!
I think the secret is that the tandoori here is marinaded, roasted and served before your eyes. The charcoal they use give a wonderful smoky and natural aroma to the chicken as well, and with a dash of line juice, MUAH! A true experience in every sense of the word.
|Garlic Butter Naan!|
|Mix Vege ( RM3.00)|
Taste: 9.5/10 - Simply the best.
Value: 9/10 - Very reasonable prices, and again, you can't get tandoori like this just anywhere!
Health: 9/10- Lots of veggie dishes and tandoori is all natural!
Overall: 5/5 durians! A full score, meaning it's last meal on earth worthy!
As we enter a new year, we reflect back on a year full of trials and tribulations. From the pending abolishment of PMR to the flitting about of PPSMI, from the Rawang school of terror to the plight of Orang Asli education, Malaysians have had their fair share of drama in the education scene.
Which is why, we have to look forward and strive to do much much better this year. Here's a list of 5 things everybody from the government to the ordinary citizen should look into for the sake of our children.
The issue: The History syllabus as it is, is too myopic in its scope. The Russian revolution, Ottoman Empire, Alexander the Great, Kublai Khan all used to be part of Malaysian history syllabus. It is little wonder that a complaint against fresh Malaysian graduates is that they lack general knowledge. Important figures of history like Yap Ah Loy have also been reduced to a mere footnote. The History Syllabus is also incredibly rigid: the textbook lists a few factors causing an event, and anything out of the book is usually considered wrong. History becomes an exercise of pure memorization. I highlighted many of these failings in greater detail in another article here.
The proposal: We need to broaden the syllabus to reflect an increasingly globalized world. It is ironic that while the rest of the world has become more inclusive of other cultures and histories, Malaysia the melting pot of cultures, better positioned than many others to take advantage of globalization has gone the other way.
The increasingly insular nature of our education is most apparent in Geography. In-depth learning is restricted to Malaysia and superficial discussions of weather across vast swathes of land in Europe and Asia. Again, the lack of general knowledge is disconcerting. I probably learnt more about the world through TV than Geography!
2. A less rigid, more flexible style of education
The issue: This was mentioned briefly regarding History, but I think perhaps Moral Education is a far better example of the sheer frustration of the system. Moral Education is an exam-based subject, where students memorize the definitions of various values such as responsibility and tolerance, and regurgitate them word for word. Should there be a mistake in terms of the specific words used, even if they carry largely the same gist, marks are deducted. By doing this, Moral Education becomes the one thing it should never be: a theoretical exercise in futility that has no practical applications.
The proposal: The problem is widespread in the education system. Rigid mark schemes and teachers fearing to make their own decisions make the safer choice the premier choice. Certain syllabuses need to be restructured: Moral Education being one of them. For example, Moral Education should include community service and discussion of current ethical issues such as the crime rate in Malaysia. And for crying out loud, don't make it a SPM exam subject.
3. More opportunities for all
The issue: There is the perennial problem of scholarships for tertiary education. While those are important and certainly should be maintained, we should also recognize that university-going students are a minority in Malaysia and that it will likely remain so. We need to offer opportunities for vocational education and improve the capabilities of our skilled workforce. To offer an anecdotal example, my father's mechanic finds it increasingly difficult to hire good mechanics. The reason being that many graduates are given little practical experience, or have a poor command of language that rules them out from reading car manuals.
|Students at Benz Training School.|
Malaysia should do the same. The government should encourage companies to partner up with vocational training centres, and incentize these companies in setting up training centres of their own. Perhaps some CSR tax benefits may be in line. This way, the government reduces unemployment, companies get tailor fit and capable new recruits, and we all benefit along the way.
4. Resolve the PPSMI debate
The issue: Whether its BM or English, let's just get it over and done with. This flitting about in the span of a few years has thrown everyone from parents to teachers to book publishers in disarray. As seen in the TIMMS survey, Malaysia has had a huge drop in rankings, with deterioration in both Math and Science subjects.
The proposal: Education reform is a long, grueling process. Teacher trainers need to be hired, teachers need to be trained, book publishers need to write, examiners need to reach a standard of largely uniform marking. With Math and Science reverting back to BM after only a few years, one can imagine the dismay of fresh teaching college graduates who trained for PPSMI. The whole system needs time.
The same goes for the new school self-assessment that is to replace PMR. The remedy is simple enough: choose a system, and stick to it, at least for 10 years or so. And if there is to be a change, all stakeholders must be informed, consulted and planning must commence way before.
5. A more holistic education
The issue: PE class has been reduced to a young substitute teacher giving children a ball and letting them do whatever they want. Art class has degenerated into teachers giving random assignments and uninterested students messing around. Our education system emphasizes the superiority of the Science stream above the "dumb" Arts stream.
The proposal: In its current state, our education system is skewed. How are we to nurture the next generation of artists, sportsmen, skilled workers and accountants if they are told at every turn that they are not as important as Science students? Again, it boils downs to the same issues: better teachers, better syllabus. For example, PE teachers should be properly trained to teach vital and basic issues such as warming up before exercise, proper rules of games played and how to deal with a pulled muscles etc.
At the end of the day, many of these issues have been highlighted again and again. My proposals are far from comprehensive, I am young and still learning, but I hope that as we enter this important year of change, we will bear in mind these issues. Whatever your political inclinations, I'm sure we can all agree that education for our children is an important thing, so make sure you ask your MP/ ADUN what they intend to do about it!
Originally published on Education In Malaysia.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
REFSA Rojak is our weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia. We trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.