PH’s greatest achievement

The full headline said “PH’s greatest achievement, one year on.” Of course I was intrigued. It was an opinion piece by A Kathirasen, the executive editor of FMT.

He wrote of meeting two neighbours who felt PH had lost credibility because it had failed to keep many of its major election promises. Once again, no details. (Every this is mentioned, no details follow. My conclusion is that it is an impression that has sunk deep into people’s psyche so that it is now fact).

In the meantime one of them said that Najib is innocent until proven guilty. Once again, despite ECRL, FELDA, 1MDb, Tabung Haji, this is mentioned. Except we don’t make a distinction between proven and declared guilty in a court of law.

How quickly we forget how close we were to having Najib continue to be our PM. How quickly we forget what a miracle it was that PH is now the government of the day.

OK. What was “PH’s greatest achievement, one year on?”

For Kathirasen, it is that there is greater freedom today than in the past 35 years.

He did not elaborate, but as I thought about it, the presence of PKR and DAP must have had a real influence.

I felt that the commitment early on to institutional reform was the key. Perhaps there were other motivations but the appointment of Tommy Thomas as AG was crucial as all legal matters must flow through him. Art Harun as EC chair bolsters its independence and Richard Malanjum as CJ signals that the government is willing to allow justice free rein. He has just retired and who replaces him is a matter for urgent prayer.

The IGP remains unchanged but he will also retire soon and thus have no motivation to endanger his remaining time as IGP. Who replaces him will be another crucial matter for prayer.

What many fail to understand and appreciate is how much political capital among the Malays PH had expended to do all these. And when they gripe and scorn and belittle PH’s efforts, even more political capital is depleted wastefully. And in a state of depleting political capital it is much harder to achieve reforms that are necessary but unpopular.

It must have been tempting for Mahathir to come down hard on Najib and manipulate the establishment to crucify him early on. But he has shown remarkable restraint this time round. But the price is time and space for Najib and UMNO to regroup and spin their way into the minds of the masses. They can say anything and lie shamelessly (and they do) and the media, social or otherwise, amplify their messages uncritically, because, of course, Najib is innocent until proven guilty, and PH is using 1MDb to excuse their incompetence, and the trillion ringgit debt to justify their inaction while in truth they have lost credibility because they have failed to keep their promises.

For me though, PH’s greatest achievement has to be defeating BN and successfully forming the government. That creates the possibility of a viable two-party political system for the country. I say “possibility” because PH has to win a second term, as the incumbent, to be truly legitimate, or be dismissed as an aberration.

That this achievement was the result of many different groups coming together and working together is the icing on the cake. It was not just a single race, or a single group of people with an agenda. It was not won solely on the back of urban Malaysia. It was not a victory wrought by civil society or society’s elite. It even took Mahathir and Anwar to set aside their differences and suspicion.

Truly this government is our government. It is my government. I voted for it, I prayed for it and I rejoiced when it came into being.

And this is why I believe we should not treat it as if it is our adversary. Or begin to abandon it. And yet we do. We are critical and demanding of PH and nice and understanding towards Najib, even when he is lying through his teeth. And now we too are repeating the mantra of the opposition, that PH has lost credibility because they have failed to keep their promises (the two neighbours Kathirasen spoke of were clearly those who had voted for PH in the last election).

The UMNO-PAS axis to consolidate the Malay vote is a powerful possibility. And we should fear it. MIC and MCA’s continued association with UMNO in this context is puzzling. Do they seriously think they can influence them to abandon their propensity to do whatever they please?

This by the way is not an anti-umno-pas sentiment. If they stand on clear ideals and objectives for the betterment of the country and its people, sure. But they are standing on Malay-Muslim grounds. And that is destructive.

The more we suggest that the present government is no better than the last, the more we make it easier for the Malay voter to return to UMNO’s fold. And once the UMNO-PAS marriage succeeds in gaining power, we will have to seek God for another miracle.

PH still the better choice, warts and all

By Wan Haron Wan Hassan

A number of political developments and events have unfolded over the past few weeks, casting a pall over Malaysia Baru.

They are causing great stress, strain and concern to the people.

1. The Rome Statute

Malaysia will not be ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – a month after acceding to the treaty.

A visibly upset Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government “was forced” to withdraw from the treaty following confusion created by those with political interests.

The foreign minister, meanwhile, revealed that the forces of “the deep state” were busy scheming a coup against the government.

Mahathir also alluded to the involvement of royalty in opposing the treaty.

People are obviously unhappy with this development. Like the ICERD affair, the Rome Statute has fallen victim to spins and misinformation.

Even Umno’s Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was on record as saying that the royal institution has been misled by overzealous quarters, who include some academics.

Tengku Rithauddeen said that mischief had triumphed over truth in the case.

2. Tabung Haji, Felda and LTAT

Lembaga Tabung Haji continues to be a troubling issue with the latest announcement of 1.25% returns to the depositors for 2018. It is the lowest return in history – the depositors had been enjoying an average return of about 6-7% dividends over the last few years.

The reasons behind this are easy to understand.

TH has been in the red for a few years now on account of abuse and financial mismanagement. They have been operating with a deficit of about RM4.1 billion for 2017, with liabilities of RM74.4 billion outstripping assets of RM70.3 billion.

They have been declaring good dividends over the past few years, not from income but from non-income sources, which is illegal under the Tabung Haji Act 1995. Accounts have been doctored to misrepresent, mislead and distort the true state of affairs.

At a recent special briefing for Pakatan Harapan MPs, it was revealed that the fund had suffered losses amounting to RM10 billion which were kept off the books.

On Felda, the government announced that it had to inject RM6.23 billion following soaring losses and debts over the past decade.

This included the latest police report by Felda on Najib Razak and its purchase of Eagle High Plantations at a highly inflated price of RM2.3 billion, whereas the market price was only RM440 million.

Then, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu dropped another bombshell when he announced that the audit report for the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) has to be re-declared because its report last year was manipulated.

It remains to be seen how many billions more have been squandered.

It is unfortunate that the PH government is the bringer of bad news, left with the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess.

Yet, many are gullible enough to believe the spins and lies being churned out by some political parties bent on blaming PH for the mess.

3. MA63

The bill to amend the constitution which sought to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia was defeated in Parliament with only 138 MPs voting for it while 59 abstained.

How this will pan out remains to be seen, and it will require all the skill, wisdom and foresight of all parties concerned to work out a solution or a compromise.

4. Other troubling issues

In the countdown to the Rantau by-election tomorrow, we see racism and religious bigotry rearing their ugly heads.

PH is still saddled with the legacy of financial and administrative mismanagement, questionable development projects, massive corruption and mega scandals, and a compromised jury and civil service.

The high cost of living continues to be a bane. One cannot fail to mention the real threat of global economic slowdown and trade wars between superpowers.

Silver linings

Yet, there is good reason for us to feel upbeat about the prospects ahead as we look at some of the other significant unfolding events.

1. Mahathir on Anwar

A few days ago, Mahathir reiterated that his successor would be Anwar Ibrahim, in another statement to show his commitment to the two-year timeline.

The naysayers and prophets of doom will be unimpressed by this latest development. We can expect them to continue with their conspiracy theories, spins and deception. They will stop at nothing to create a wedge between the two men and sow seeds of discord between the component parties of PH.

2. Najib’s trials

Najib’s klepto trials are finally underway with the seven charges in relation to SRC International involving RM42 million, while another six CBT charges in relation to 1MDB involving RM6.6 billion will begin next month.

The remaining charges will also be tried this year.

The people have been waiting for this, after months of debate and trial by media.

We shall see when the hard facts are revealed whether the realities will take a bite at the facade of beliefs and perceptions about the cases.

And at the end of the day, we will get to see whether the people will continue to cheer and support “Bossku” as some do now.

3. ECRL

There are indications that both China and Malaysia are now close to a resolution on the East Coast Rail Link, with the project expected to cost less with a deal for China to buy our palm oil.

4. Other positive news

The controversy surrounding Ronald Kiandee’s chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee is resolved.

Right commission Suhakam made a brave finding on how state agents abducted Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat.

The PH government has finally agreed to launch further investigation into the matter when the police get a new chief next month, so that investigations are not compromised by the involvement of current and previous police chiefs in the cases.

There is now greater urgency to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission to address grouses and take enforcement action against the police.

Fireman Muhammad Adib’s inquest has also debunked the many allegations by some quarters, especially the extremist groups who see a racial slant to the tragedy.

We will realise that there is more good than bad under PH in the New Malaysia.

But people are impatient and expect immediate results.

There is still a long way before the next polls. And there is reason for us to remain upbeat that things will get better as we move forward.

When it comes to the crunch, the PH government is still our best bet for a safer and better future. Warts and all, PH is still a better choice than Umno/BN and PAS. They remain trapped in a time warp with the old mindset of racial chauvinism.

Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior practising lawyer, active in civil society movements.

First published in Free Malaysia Today

Like all things heading for greatness, we are a work in progress

By Vinod Sekhar

Over the last six months I’ve seen statements coming from my friends and acquaintances about some of the decisions of our current government. About how bad some statements are, or how so many promises are unfulfilled.

Recently we had the issue of the Rome Statute. In many cases I agree with the criticism, perhaps more vehemently than others. The decision on the Rome Statute was simply wrong. But what caused that decision? It wasn’t Tun M, or Anwar. Where were the noises loudest.

Perhaps Tun M should have just done it, pushed it through. I’m disappointed he didn’t. But I guess politics is politics. They keep telling me that in politics you have to pick your battles. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a politician.

But with just the above, to ignore the great leaps we have taken in society in the last 9 months, and say we are sliding into being a pariah nation or statements in that vein are plain and simply wrong. We are not. Yes, we have problems. And yes, we are getting many things wrong. But pariah or anything remotely like that is just plain nonsense. We have to stop repeating and vomiting misinformation at will, simply because social media has made it easier to.

A great many people sacrificed for decades to fight a system that would not change, filled with injustice and fear. Filled with ignorance. Many risked their livelihood, reputation and freedom to stand and get us a change. That change has happened. And if anyone thinks that things are still the same – well look around properly. And remember what it was like before May 9th. I can see that change everyday. I can hear it on the radio, I can see it on the news, I can read it. I feel it in all the Univerities.

Yes we have a long way to go. And yes there are many things that are still unacceptable, and yes some of the current leaders are much to be desired. But we are still so much better, so much stronger than we have been in 30 years. And we still have so much more to do.

So we have to keep moving forward. Please be proud, very proud of what OUR country has achieved and fight to keep fixing what we need to fix. We have the leaders WE elected and for the first time, NOT ONE of them can be assured of their positions. The people, US, can throw them out come the next election. And perhaps we won’t like what the majority decide, but that’s democracy. But it will be the people that decide, not a corrupt group of individuals buying or stealing elections.

If we want to influence hearts and minds then we have to get into the mix, that’s our call. Get involved and convince the people to vote on the ideas we want, the future we see. We have now at least, the right to do that. We have the outlets to do that, whatever the view or perspective.

We are not a pariah nation, and we certainly are not remotely sliding into that area – Brunei and many other nations are more akin to that. Look at the world around us and you could say we’re doing pretty well. Let’s stop misinterpreting and misrepresenting issues with the current quality of our nationhood. Our Nationhood is strong. Our citizenry proved their might, their will. But like all things heading for greatness, we are a work in progress.

Let’s just keep working. We are Malaysia.

First published in Facebook

The Suhakam Inquiry

This was published on March 6

On the 3rd of April 2019, Suhakam will tell the nation whether and to what extent it believes the Malaysian government, in particular the police force, is responsible for the disappearances of Amri Che Mat, Raymond Koh and Joshua and Ruth Hilmy.

Today the Inquiry panel received the clarifications it had sought from four parties who have participated in the hearings. These are (1) Counsel (lawyers) appearing for the families of Amri and Raymond, (2) Suhakam officers, (3) the Bar Council and (4) the police.

I’ll describe some key conclusions we can draw about the cases of Amri and Raymond. This post runs to about 3,000 words. Please feel free to scan the text in bold and read the details only of what interests you.

AMRI CHE’ MAT (based on key points presented by Datuk David Morais for Amri’s family)

First, three witnesses saw a boxing-in operation conducted by three vehicles on Amri’s car. This indicates abduction. Police interviewed one witness immediately, the second a year later (and now say they cannot find him – though he’s right under their noses). They didn’t interview the third witness.

Although the police continue to classify Amri as a disappeared person rather than an abducted person, there is much evidence that his disappearance is at the behest, assistance or blessing of the state, in particular the police force.

Three men claim to have witnessed what appears to be his abduction. One of them, Syed Amri, described Amri’s car being boxed in by three dark four wheel drive vehicles. What he saw was so unusual that as soon as he got home he described to his father what he had seen. Another, Saiful, a restaurant operator, said he saw one of the presumed abductors draw a gun – he was so alarmed by this that he shuttered the doors of his restaurant.

Amri was interviewed by the police within days of Amri’s disappearance. Saiful was interviewed only a year after the police were made aware that he too was a potential witnesses – the interview was conducted after the Suhakam Inquiry was announced. Another witness who was together with Saiful at the material time was neither interviewed nor called before the Inquiry.

Saiful was issued with a warrant to appear before the Inquiry, but did not show-up. For this, he was charged in court. He did not show up in court either. Today a Senior Police officer (DSP Nuzulan), in response to a question put to the police by Inquiry Chairman Dato’ Mah, said Saiful “could not be located.” Two men from Perlis who were seated beside me muttered “we see him every day.”

Second, Amri’s car was abandoned by persons who took pains to hide themselves.

Amri’s car was found by a witness (a security guard) who observed a four wheel drive open back truck “with men on it who were trying to avoid being identified” driving away from an isolated location.

The guard immediately went to the location. He discovered a car (Amri’s) with shattered windows. He quickly made a police report. He deduced that those who departed the scene “suspiciously” must have brought Amri’s car and abandoned it there, thus indicating that Amri’s disappearance involved other actors – as also suggested by the observations reported by the two witnesses noted above.

Third, Amri was under surveillance before he was abducted

A workshop owner, Vee Yak, testified that Amri may have been under surveillance 3 days before his disappearance, including by a person in a gold-coloured Toyota Vios with registration number PFC 1623. (The persons in the presumed “surveillance team” were acting so suspiciously that Vee Yak wondered if they might be re-possessors targeting one of the vehicles in his workshop. He therefore recorded the registration number of one of the cars – the Vios.)

Fourth, lack of forensics on Amri’s car.

The police say only one partial print was found in the car. Astonishingly, the police didn’t think to challenge this supposed finding of the forensic unit despite the fact that the car had broken glass, had documents and stickers removed and had been in daily use by Amri’s family.

Fifth, targeting of Syiah Muslims by the police and the religious authorities.

A national fatwa was issued against Syiah in 1996 and the Inquiry was shown a pattern of activity and scrutiny of those suspected of Syiah activities from 1996 till 2016 when Amri was abducted.

Also, dichotomy within the police is evident. ASP Razman said Amri had been investigated for Syiah activity but no evidence was found and the case was closed. However, DCP Awaludin Jadid said evidence of Syiah activity by Amri and Perlis Hope had in fact been found, thanks in part to his wider network of informants (compared to Razman’s).

Awaluddin claimed Perlis Hope was a front for propagating Syiah teachings. Today the Inquiry was reminded of a remark by police anti-terrorism chief Ayob Khan that “identifying me as a Syiah amounts to calling upon Salafists to murder me.”

Awaludin met with Perlis Mufti Dr Asri (“Dr Maza”) weeks before Amri’s abduction. Soon after that meeting Awaludin made a “rivers of blood” speech in which he, lamenting the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA), called upon NGOs to work with others to take matters into their own hands to halt both Syiah activity and “Christianization.”

It was noted that while the police told the Inquiry they could not act against individuals or groups in matters related to religious doctrine, the Perlis Mufti told the Inquiry the religious authorities couldn’t act either, despite the matter being one of “national security.”

Shockingly, photos of Awaludin’s meeting with the Mufti, posted on a Facebook page controlled by the Perlis Mufti, provide evidence that Awaludin showed the Mufti and his team a slide which included a photo of Amri’s home. The Inquiry was not provided with minutes of the meeting, but both Asri and Awaludin said Syiah were discussed as a threat to national security.

(The Awaludin/Maza meeting was on 7 October 2016; Awaludin’s “rivers of blood” speech was on 6 November 2016; Amri’s abduction was on 24 November 2016.)

Sixth, the police can’t locate their employee of 18 years who owns the gold Toyota Vios PFC 1623

Within days of Amri’s disappearance the police learned that the car with registration number PFC 1623 did in fact match the general description given by the eyewitness who had recorded the number. This eyewitness, Vee Yak, had connected the Vios to a surveillance operation which is highly likely to be connected with Amri’s abduction.

The police learned that the owner of the Vios worked for the police in the police college (Pulapol) in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur. The police “rapidly” concluded – and still maintain – that the car is not connected to Amri’s disappearance.

Claiming secrecy in an ongoing investigation, the police refused to reveal, to the team of lawyers acting for Amri’s family, the identity of the owner (and his connection with the police).

It was only after police Sergeant Shamzaini – in a furtive, nocturnal visit to Amri’s wife in her home in Perlis – asked Amri’s wife Norhayati to instruct her lawyers to probe the police (Inspector Khor) about the car and its location in Jalan Semarak that the police revealed information about the car and its owner.

Mysteriously, about a month after the Suhakam Inquiry began, the owner of the car, Saiful Bahari, ceased coming to work. In March 2018 the police did not renew his contract of employment.

The Inquiry panel asked the police to locate Saiful Bahari. The police responded that despite their best efforts, they are still unable to locate Saiful Bahari.

An employee of the police for 18 years, presumably with many friends in the police force, “has vanished like a phantom” and the Malaysian police can’t find him. This despite the fact that the road tax and insurance on his car are still “alive.”

Only one conclusion can be drawn: the police do not wish for Saiful Bahari to be found. Their motive is to hide the truth about the abductions.

Seventh, Norhayati has provided an accurate account of Sergeant Shamzaini’s nocturnal visit.

Shamzaini is the nocturnal visitor mentioned earlier. What he said to Norhayati (Amri’s wife) was recounted by her in a police report. Days after she made the report Shamzaini made his own police report in which he denied her version and gave his own version. This was discussed by the counsel acting for Raymond Koh’s family, so I will discuss it below.

Shamzaini very likely back-tracked because of pressure placed upon him by his superiors and also because he operates a business without written approval of his superiors as required by established policies.

Note: Though Shamzaini’s version of events hinges on him operating a vehicle repair business in Kedah which he wishes to relocate (and expand) in Perlis, the Inquiry received no substantive evidence to corroborate his claims about business activity.

PASTOR RAYMOND KOH (based on key points presented by Datuk Jerald Gomez for the Koh family)

Before Dato’ Jerald presented his points, Dato’ Dr Gurdial Nijar addressed the Inquiry on “the legal effect” of using evidence taken during the Amri hearing to support the Raymond case. He did so as requested by the panel of Inquiry.

Dato’ Gurdial made references to the Evidence Act and the Suhakam Act as well as to several cases which serve as precedents. His central themes were (1) evidence must be allowed if its omission would result in “an affront to justice” (2) the Amri and Raymond cases were convened as a composite cluster, (3) there were similar witnesses and (4) the same counsel appeared across both cases.

It is worth pointing out that though the “reasonable suspicion” rule is used during the Inquiry to draw conclusions, the Inquiry often attempts to use the more demanding “beyond reasonable doubt” rule which is used in the courts.

Dato’ Jerald’s points were selected to support his contention that Raymond Koh’s abduction was either at the behest of the state or state actors or with the acquiescence of the state or state actors.

First, the modus operandi of the abduction was “police style.”

The abduction involved seven vehicles, fifteen abductors including a videographer and was completed in under 40 seconds.

The abductors demonstrated division of responsibility and dress. For instance, some were “in plain clothes,” so they could identify themselves to other police officers who might attempt to intervene, while others were in “standard gear” which included concealment of identity via the use of balaclavas (head/face coverings). The vehicles used were black SUVs very similar to those used by the police.

The abduction was executed in similar manner as the abduction of the Sultan of Kelantan in 2010 when one part of the force, “the Sultan’s detail” was protecting the Sultan while another part of the force abducted him.

Second, DCP Awaludin encouraged NGOs to take direct action to end Christianization and promotion of Syiah practices and he discussed Amri with the Perlis Mufti before Amri’s abduction.

I discussed this under Amri above, so I will not go into it again here.

Third (& fourth), CP Huzir in Bukit Aman, co-ordinated and directed the “investigation” of the 3 cases (Amri, Raymond, Hilmi & Ruth), despite his denials. And fourth, Huzir’s STAFOC team likely planted photos as evidence.

The head of the Ops Jejak Paderi Task Force, SAC Fadzil, told the Inquiry that he met at least three times with CP Huzir who was coordinating the investigation of the three cases. ASP Supari, the Investigating Officer in the Raymond Koh case, said he had met Huzir and received instructions about the case.

Huzir however told the Inquiry he was neither coordinating nor giving instructions concerning the three cases. Huzir lied.

It is hard-to-believe it is coincidental that Huzir was in charge of a special operations STAFOC (Special Task Force on Organized Crime) team which claims to have discovered photos of Pastor Raymond Koh in a second search of the Kg. Hulu house of Fauzi Tajuddin whom the team had shot dead in Baling, Kedah.

Note: the STAFOC team was disbanded in late 2018. Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is reported to have said that the reason for disbanding is so that “the public [will] retain their confidence and trust in the police force.” (The Star, 27 June 2018) According to another report, “Allegations of corruption have been levelled at the [the taskforce] introduced during Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration. (Malay Mail, 03 July 2018).

It is likely that Huzir’s team planted evidence in the Kg. Hulu house in order to change the narrative of the Koh abduction into one of human trafficking – though the person who was shot dead was initially alleged to have run a drug and arms smuggling operation, with no mention of human trafficking.

Datuk Jerald went into considerable detail about the discrepancies in the evidence about the items recovered in Tajuddin’s house. I’ll just give an overview.

These include (1) false recording of the name of the officer who received a related police report, (2) obvious discrepancies in handwriting on a list of items seized – indicating two persons wrote it –although one officer (Hazril) claims to have recorded the entire list, (3) evidence of ex-IGP Khalid that members of Tajuddin’s group were involved in Koh’s abduction and the Malaysian police were collaborating with Thai police vs. (4) Koh Investigating Officer ASP Supari’s evidence that he is not aware of any such involvement or collaboration, (5) failure of the police to satisfactorily explain discrepancies in the house number of the residence where the items are said to have been found – is it house #71 or #76? As Chairman Mah pointed out, one is a wooden kampong house on stilts, while the other is a brick house.

As I listened, I recalled what I wrote on 23 November 2017, Day 11 of the Koh Inquiry:

As I listened to the evidence being adduced, I recalled what Justice V T Singham said about Khalid in his decision on the case of death in custody of 22 year old Kugan in January 2009. Singham found that Khalid had made false statements about the case to the media and that Khalid had tried to cover-up what really happened. He wrote, in paragraph 22 (page 64) of his judgement:

… the evidence of [Khalid] when considered together with the evidence of [other officers] tantamounts to suppression of evidence … This court wishes to state that no person, be it in any position, status or rank, when testifying in court should take this court for granted and attempt to suppress the truth with the view to escape liability.

The second is that despite his previous testimony, the SAC now agrees that the wife of suspect Fauzi Tajuddin who was shot to death in Kedah was never brought to Selangor for questioning. How is it possible that the head of the task force in a high priority case can’t remember whether his team questioned the sole woman suspect in the case? Does he even realize how bad this makes him look?

The third was aptly described by Chairman Mah as “the one big question mark in the RK case.” The head of the task force is clueless about how the four pieces of evidence allegedly found in a search of the home of shot-to-death Fauzi Tajuddin are connected to the abduction of the pastor. These items are a photo of the pastor, a photo of his residence, a photo of his car and a number plate bearing the registration number of his car.

Fifth, Norhayati’s report of Sgt. Shamzaini’s visit is a lot more credible than Shamzaini’s version.

As soon as Shamzaini left after speaking with Norhayati late one evening at her home, (1) she made phone calls to her friends in Perlis Hope during which she repeated what Shamzaini told her – as corroborated by her friends who provided evidence to the Inquiry; (2) she made a hand-written record of what Shamzaini said to her – a record which was provided to the Inquiry panel as an unplanned submission – even her counsel had not seen it before the panel saw it; (3) Norhayati’s daughter verified much of what Norhayati said because she too listened to Shamzaini.

The information which Norhayati gave the police in her report of what Shamzaini said to her includes information about transfers and retirements of police officers – information which Norhayati or any member of the public has no other means of obtaining. Evidence taken from police officers confirmed that the information about the police officers is true.

It was the information provided to Norhayati by Shamzaini which led to a breakthrough in the case: the gold coloured Toyota Vios and the police (contract) employee, Saiful Bahari, who owns it and subsequently disappeared without trace, as described earlier.

Sixth, the gold-coloured Toyota Vios PFC 1623 and its mysteriously un-locatable owner Saiful Bahari who worked for the police for 18 years.

I discussed this in the Amri section above, so I will not provide an extended discussion here.

The fact that Saiful Bahari was not brought to a police line-up for potential identification by Roshan who witnessed Pastor Koh’s abduction is astonishing since the police were aware from (1) the viral video, (2) a description provided by Roshan and (3) other undisclosed CCTV footage that a gold Vios featured in the abductions of both Amri and Raymond.

Note: The police did ask Roshan to work with a police artist to produce a photo-fit of the driver of the Vios but Roshan was unsuccessful.

The evasiveness of the police over the Vios, their resort to the OSA to withhold information and their unwillingness to produce Saiful Bahari is a damning indictment on their complicity in the abductions of both Amri and Raymond. This is especially so in light of the fact that the police themselves have said the two cases may be connected – supposedly the reason why Huzir “co-ordinated” the investigations.

Seventh, the police tried to use Lam Cheng Nam as a red-herring to derail the Suhakam Inquiry.

Before the Suhakam Inquiry was announced, “Lam Chang Nam was charged with extorting RM30,000 from Jonathan Koh Szu Hao, 33, for the release of the pastor” (The Star, 16 March 2017). The charge was made after Investigation Papers were compiled by the police, submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers and subsequently accepted.

Raymond Koh Task Force head SAC Fadzil told the Inquiry “Investigations revealed that the suspect had nothing to do with the case and only tried to take advantage by extorting the victim’s family” and IGP Khalid told the Inquiry “the man was not involved in the pastor’s abduction.”

Before SAC Fadzil was due to provide evidence to the Inquiry the police informed the Inquiry Panel that they had opened investigation papers against counsel Dato’ Jerald Gomez for purported falsification of evidence.

That was an obvious threat against the family’s team of lawyers, a threat designed to “encourage” them not to probe SAC Fadzil – who, it appears, wishes to distance himself from false associations (by his superiors) of Koh’s abduction with a smuggling ring, claims of supposed collaboration with Thailand and other far-fetched fabrications.

What next?

The police told the panel today that they will, by Monday next week, make one more written submission in which they will address the points raised today by counsel for family, Suhakam officers and the Bar Council.

Note: In the interest of brevity I have limited myself to reporting what counsel for the families said since the others – apart from the police – concurred with what the family counsel said.

Chairman Mah said the panel will announce its decision on 3rd April 2019.

Rama Ramanathan is a member of the Citizen Action Group On Enforced Disappearance (Caged)

First published in Rest Stop Thoughts.

Tok Mat says …

Dato’ Mohamad Hasan is currently a candidate for the Rantau state by-election. He is also the acting president of UMNO.

Too many penumpang

Umno acting president said Malays are being made to feel like visitors in their own country as there are too many ‘penumpang’ in Parliament.

“This government is not looking out for Malays and Muslim rights. Right now the ‘big house’ is full of ‘penumpang’,” said Mohamad alluding to the many non-Malays as ministers in office.

“We’ve been made to feel like visitors in our own country. This is a spineless government. One that we should reject.”

I was talking about weak ministers

Umno acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan today asserted that his “penumpang” (squatter) remark was not aimed at non-Malay ministers in the Cabinet.

He said in a Malaysiakini report that he was referring to ministers in the current Cabinet who were not living up to expectations, while blaming Pakatan Harapan (PH) for intentionally smearing his name by misinterpreting his words.

“The ‘penumpang’ I meant were the non-performers in Mahathir’s Cabinet, but it was deliberately misunderstood by Harapan, who claimed I used the word against non-Malay ministers,” said Mohamad said in the news portal’s report.

Dr M won’t let Anwar be PM

Umno’s Mohamad Hasan has questioned the likelihood of Dr Mahathir Mohamad handing over the reins to Anwar Ibrahim in two years’ time as promised, saying the PKR president will likely remain “the longest prime minister-in-waiting”.

“I know our ‘atok’ very well,” he said, referring to the 93-year-old statesman. “He will not give Anwar the post.

“Our ‘atok’ is hard-hearted. Those who dream of (Anwar) becoming prime minister will be disappointed,” he added.

Losing Rantau won’t hurt Anwar’s chance to be PM

Anwar Ibrahim’s chances to become prime minister would not be affected if PKR loses the Rantau by-election, said Umno acting president Mohamad Hasan.

“The issue of Anwar’s chances becoming slim (if PKR loses) doesn’t arise,” Mohamad said at a press conference in Rantau today.

He said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has stressed that Anwar would succeed him.

“It’s just that we don’t know when (Mahathir) will step down,” Mohamad (photo) added.

Don’t taint UMNO with 1MDb (Nov 2018)

“Umno as a party is not guilty and has no­­thing to do with the 1MDB operations and transactions. It is unfair to blame Umno for something it does not know about and that it has not done.

“Umno and I sympathise with Najib and we leave it to the authorities to manage and judge it according to the constitution,” added Mohamad.

Tok Mat says theft allegations all lies

Umno acting president Mohamad Hasan says the accusations of theft and embezzlement related to 1MDB against Najib Razak are baseless, and challenges the authorities to bring solid proof that could put the former leader behind bars.

But Mohamad added that 10 months after the change of government, Najib is still free despite repeated references to the 1MDB scandal by Pakatan Harapan (PH) politicians.

“In Parliament, it is always about 1MDB,” Mohamad, better known as Tok Mat, told a late-night ceramah in Kampung Sendayan, Rantau, where he is trying to retain the state seat for Barisan Nasional after his default win was nullified by the election court last year.

He said Najib has yet to be found guilty in the 1MDB scandal, adding that the fact that Najib is still free shows that the allegations against him “are all lies and slander”.

It seems a politician can say anything with no reference to truth in Malaysia, and still remain the favorite candidate to win the Rantau by-election.

How much we need to pray for our nation.

The emasculated academic

By Tajuddin Rasdi

Daim Zainuddin recently made two important points in his speech at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Skudai.

Firstly, he said the Malays are being fed a narrative bordering on the idea that their race and Islam are both under threat, and that more affirmative policies will be needed in the new Pakatan Harapan government in the coming years and decades.

Secondly, and this is the main point of my article, he said Malay academics appear to be doing nothing at all but are letting this narrative play out to the opportunism of certain political parties and selfish NGOs.

I have been writing to the media for 20 years, saying absolutely the same thing, but it has earned me a negative perception from the Malay establishment especially in the public universities and even the previous higher education ministry.

Daim’s statement came as a sweet surprise to me as he was never one of my favourite politicians.

I know him as a savvy businessman who grew up within the Malay patronage system. As the economic and corporate worlds are outside of my understanding, I have shied away from trying to know anything about the man himself.

But a few days ago, I was surprised to find him articulating a historical, religious and political construct of what I consider a “Malaysia-Malay construct” as opposed to what I term a “Melayu-Malaysia” one.

A Malaysia-Malay construct is simply a Malay who understands his or her own heritage and faith within a Malaysian constitutional, multi-religious and multi-ethnic acceptance of co-existence, while a Melayu-Malaysia construct is a Malay who is just a Malay, then, now and forever, living in a land geopolitically defined as “Malaysia”. No compromise, no apologies.

The Melayu-Malaysia expects others to change for the sake of his race and faith, without the need to understand, tolerate or even acknowledge the importance of the existence of others as partners in nation-building.

The academics of this country have become purely self-serving and disinterested in nation-building.

The story of a disinterested academia began in the 1980s.

The Universities and University Colleges Act, or UUCA, was instituted to kill off or control student political activities and also that of the academics.

Under UUCA, no academic can speak or write to the media or the public without getting permission from the authorities. That basically sums it up.

A few academics were charged under the act, one of them the late Fadzil Noor who was the PAS president and an academic at a public university.

The involvement of the academia in nation-building basically died. With this law, the culture of academia turned inwards to a concentration on teaching until the idea of “world class” and being “internationally recognised” in rankings came into being in the late 1990s.

With this new mantra, academics are said to be successful if they publish in “high impact” or Scopus journals and receive million ringgit grants.

It would also sweeten the deal if an MoU were signed with European or American or Western universities deemed to be “world class” and “international”. Whether such ties would produce a culture of research and inquiry was disregarded as long as universities “dapat nama”, and a minister was there to observe the deals being signed. That’s it.

After the turn of the 21st century, public universities went full blast on rankings by journals with overseas publications. Locally published books, encyclopaedias and journals were regarded as third rate.

In the old days, books and media writings commanded a high percentage and weightage but now there is hardly a column to put them in on an evaluation or KPI form.

Once, I had to put my books, articles and 200 encyclopaedia entries in a column marked “other publications”.

I used to read Aliran, whose writers are academics from universities in the north. I found their writings to be fresh, bold and highly academic.

After 10 years, I noticed their designation was still “associate professor” and wondered when these people would be called “professor”.

I soon found out that they had migrated to the National University of Singapore. There is no future in Malaysia for “public intellectuals”.

I was lucky enough to be appointed a full professor before all the crazy journal hype began to take place in universities. I managed to squeeze by with my books, papers and other writings after attending the professor interview twice.

As my writings increasingly touched on society and the nation, my appointments at committees on the national level became fewer and fewer.

I no longer got invitations to public talks from universities, because I was told that I am “controversial” in the corridors of the chancellery.

So the only appointment letters from public universities that came to me were to be an examiner for PhD candidates and evaluator of professorships and associate professorships in architecture.

The coup de grace came after I went on optional retirement, leaving after 27 years of teaching and writing at a public university, exiting the campus alone and uncelebrated.

My application as contract professor to two public universities was rejected on grounds of me being “controversial”.

I have mentioned that the key to our future is the reeducation process of the Malay mind by Malay academics who understand that Islam is strong only if you read and understand, and not sit in front of the TV or the mosque podium listening to an ustaz giving his half-baked ideas of religion and society.

The fate of our country hinges on academics changing the narratives of what is important for Malaysians in the coming decades and centuries, to be in line with the goals of sustainable development outlined by the United Nations.

We won’t go very far listening to Friday sermons condemning progressive thinkers or LGBT that may have caused Allah to turn the hot weather on us.

Forget about STEM education if academics do not speak about it.

We are facing a Malay-Muslim society that has grown up with the Islamic resurgence of the 1980s with most Malays conscious about the afterlife and religious values for their children and society.

The International Islamic University Malaysia as well as Istac and Ikim were supposed to guide the Malays into a new era of modern and democratic understanding of Islam vis-a-vis nation-building and coexistence.

But where were these academics when two muftis encouraged the use of “kafir” on non-Muslim citizens, or when calls for “jihad” against the enemies of Islam came from the national mosque?

Daim’s speech must give pause to all the vice-chancellors of public universities to rethink their KPI for academics.

We need more public intellectuals to reform and rewrite the narratives of the nation, to bring social and religious harmony and sustainable wealth to the country.

We don’t need “high impact” journals to measure our success.

Just ask the man on the street whether he should vaccinate his children or whether the world is flat or defending minority groups would start a tsunami somewhere.

First published in freemalaysiatoday.com

Hannah, Khairy, Nurul

Yesterday I came across an FB post by Hannah Yeoh on Khairy. In an interview Khairy had given the PH government a “D”. Hannah’s response was “This is akin to asking someone who is booted out of school to grade the one who got in!”

From the comments on her post, I could see that the post backfired with many people criticising her for not listening to criticism. And many agreed with Khairy’s assessment.

Her post was wrong at many levels. Khairy was not booted out of school. He remains an MP. Pointedly saying “we won, you lost so shaddup” smacks of arrogance, which many commenters pointed out.

Such throwaway oneliners may seem clever at first glance, but they can cement a perception that can be costly.

Some commenters urged her to watch the interview, saying that he said a lot of good things. So I did.

And yes, it was a good interview, broadening his profile (he spoke about his autistic son), gave perceptive analyses on ICERD and Najib. But most of all he spoke strongly that Government must be for ALL Malaysians and so while he is sympathetic over the UMNO-PAS strategy, he feels that it projects a wrong image.

My take is that Khairy, freed from the constraints of his UMNO ties, is beginning to find his own voice, and that is good for the country.

There was another interview, Nurul Izzah by Singapore’s Straits Times, where she expressed her frustration at the slow pace of reform and policies. That interview is behind a paywall but Malay Mail reports that her plan is to make this her final term as MP. This, on top of her resignation from the PAC over the continued chairmanship of Ronald Kiandee, who has moved from BN to Independent to PPBM over the past few months.

Resigning, rather than engaging and working with the cards you are dealt with, is poor politics but it would seem that Nurul has no appetite for politics and her inability to work with Mahathir at the helm has boiled over. Bridges, it seems, are being burned.

So in the course of 1 day, 3 of the young turks (Khairy is 43) have come into the public’s eye but only Khairy has done well. Khairy’s growth is good for the country. But we do need our other young turks to step up and work in the context of the bigger picture.

Christchurch killings: Deputy minister highlights hypocrisy of Malaysian politicians

Following the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Malaysian politicians from both sides of the divide condemned the incident.

Umno politicians such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Annuar Musa were also quick to criticise Australian senator Fraser Anning, who linked the shootings to the influx of Muslim radicals.

However, Housing and Local Government Deputy Minister Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah highlighted the similarities between the New Zealand shooter Brenton Tarrant and the hate being spread in Malaysia along racial and religious lines.

Without mentioning names, but in an obvious reference to Umno and PAS leaders, he also noted the hypocrisy of Malaysia’s opposition politicians with regard to this issue.

“The biggest irony is that there are certain opposition politicians who become livid over the threats against Muslims, who are the minority in New Zealand, France and the United States.

“At the same time, these politicians continue to threaten and make rash accusations based on racial and religious sentiments against the minorities in Malaysia,” he said in a statement today.

The Amanah leader also warned that if the racial and religious hate on social media is not curbed, then a similar tragedy could happen in Malaysia.

“Statements like halal darah (permissible to kill), kafir harbi (infidels who can be killed), pendatang (immigrants) which have long been spread through social media by influential personalities can create a fertile ground for serious racial and religious conflicts in Malaysia,” he said.

Apart from politicians, Raja Bahrin said religious scholars also make such statements which can influence the people.

“The label ‘pendatang’ accorded to a portion of Malaysian citizens is the same as the label ‘invaders’ used by the New Zealand shooter to describe Muslims.

“Using social media to fan hatred towards other races and faiths is also similar to the New Zealand’s shooter’s tactics,” he added.

Noting how the Dewan Rakyat yesterday condemned the incident in New Zealand, Raja Kamarul said Malaysian lawmakers should not criticise others on issues of racial and religious extremism when guilty of doing the same back home.

“If someday, an equally devastating incident happens in Malaysia, can Parliament say it happened without any sign or warning?” he asked.

Since the last general election, Umno and PAS, which are now in a formal alliance, have repeatedly accused the Pakatan Harapan administration of failing to safeguard the interests of the Malays and Islam.

Despite repeated denials, there are also accusations that the current administration is controlled by the predominantly Chinese DAP, whom certain Muslim politicians and groups claim is bent on undermining the special position of Islam and the Malays.

First published in Malaysiakini.com

Daim denounces “Malays under threat” as nonsensical political rhetoric

Since the last general election, the political narrative in Malaysia has centred around issues concerning race and religion, particularly the position of the Malays and Islam.

Speaking at UTM Skudai in Johor last night, former finance minister Daim Zainuddin addressed this issue and described the claim that Malays are under threat as nothing more than nonsensical political rhetoric.

“Despite being more educated and having a large educated segment, we are still unable to convince ourselves that Malays have nothing to fear in this country.

“Are Malays thinking strategically, critically and logically? It looks increasingly obvious every day that the Malays are thinking with their emotions instead of with their intellect. We must ask ourselves – what is happening to us?” he said.

According to Daim, who headed the Council of Eminent Persons, the Malays have allowed their emotions to run wild and influence their perception of others.

“When Mastika (Malay-language magazine) stopped writing ghost stories, circulation ended and now there is no more Mastika. Now instead of reading about ghosts in Mastika, we are seeing ghosts around every corner.

“Instead of depending on logic and facts, we prefer to buy into the racist rhetoric of politicians with dubious reputations,” he added.

Daim then asked his audience, comprising mainly of academicians, what role they were playing in injecting logic and facts into the Malaysia narrative.

“Do you intend to go along with the emotional flow or do you see it as your academic duty to question the irrational narratives that are being shoved down the Malays’ throats?

“Do you as ‘the educated’ speak honestly and bravely about what is happening or do you simply pretend that this growing racism is justified?

“All of you here are highly educated, but how many of you have bought into the nonsensical political rhetoric that the Malays are being threatened by the non-Malays in this country? That Islam is under threat simply because of one or two people being insensitive enough to post something on the Prophet (Muhammad)?” he added.

Daim said the current narrative, which centres around race and religion, gives the impression the Malays are on the verge of being driven out of their own country.

“There is so much anger and indignation when non-Malays were appointed to high posts in the government as if this is something new.

“Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders? We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa? (Ashamed of what?)”. Kalau “tak malu,” apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?

“The Malays can continue down this emotional and irrational path at our own peril or we can stop, think, reflect and call for change.

“Nobody is forcing us to be emotional and irrational. We have chosen to be that way ourselves because we have allowed ourselves to be bought over by politicians whose only goal is to gain or regain power, no matter what the cost – and the cost is almost always ours to bear,” he added.

Below is Daim’s speech in full:

To understand our current political climate, it is important to look back at our history. Kusut di hujung, balik ke pangkal (Messy at the end, return to the root of the problem).

The history of the Malays starts from long before the formation of Tanah Melayu. We are descendants of great empires, from Langkasuka, to Srivijaya, to Majapahit, to Melaka. Melaka, of course, is our most popular tale, that of a world-famous port whose global success led to its eventual colonisation.

And when Melaka fell to the Portuguese, those descendants of Sultan Melaka who survived founded a new empire here in Johor. They took control of the southern Malay Peninsula, spreading across Riau, Anambas, Natuna, Tambelan, Borneo, and Sumatra. Their success was attributed to the wisdom of their rulers, and their openness to international trade.

In more recent history, the formation of the Malayan Union and the subsequent opposition led by Umno were significant events that triggered real change in the political organisation of the Malays. Onn Jaafar, himself from Bukit Gambir and an MB of Johor, founded Umno in 1946, signalling the height of Malay political supremacy. We were united and we were strong.

But our unity did not last. We didn’t know how to deal with success; the Malays started to split. When we are successful, we are drunk with success. When we fail, we look for scapegoats and go amok.

Our battle with the Malayan Union was, in a way, the first true independence that we achieved – when the British backed down. We became masters of our own land.

But the political landscape changed, and many non-Malays began to consider Malaya home and demanded a say in their new homeland.

In 1951, Onn made the first attempt to unify the races in a single party when he tried to open the membership of Umno to non-Malays. However, Umno members at the time rejected it, and he left the party.

Nevertheless, the 1952 elections marked the first real political collaboration between Malays and non-Malays when Umno and MCA joined forces for political victory. They were later joined by MIC to form the Alliance, signalling political unity amongst all Malayans, achieving a sweeping victory in the 1955 elections.

Then came the negotiations for Merdeka, where all Malaysians worked hand-in-hand to shrug off the yoke of colonialism. We learned that we were stronger together – when all Malaysians were united, we could overcome challenges.

All this happened against a backdrop of consistent armed warfare against terrorists during the Emergency, when all races fought shoulder to shoulder to gain victory. We are the only country in the world to defeat terrorists.

Then came the formation of Malaysia and Konfrontasi and throughout Malays were working with non-Malays to achieve national goals.

So, Malaysia has had a strong and rich history of inter-racial harmony and multi-culturalism since its very inception. But we must admit that it is still very complex with jobs and economic sectors identified with race, income inequality between the races and different educational systems existing.

It cannot be denied that Malaysia will prosper when Malays prosper. You cannot have 50 percent of your population in low income, there will be economic instability affecting everyone, regardless of race or economic status.

For Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed. But this can only be achieved within the national context, working together with non-Malays for the benefit of Malaysia.

Why is it that Malays were able to work so closely with non-Malays for so many years leading up to Merdeka and beyond? Even in the face of outside aggression, there were hardly questions of who deserved Malaysia more – the Malays or non-Malays. Indeed, it was only when politicians decided to use race and religion as tools to gain power that we fell by the wayside.

This talk is entitled ‘Naratif Malaysia: Melayu dalam Persoalan National’. My question to you is: should we not just be talking about a National Narrative? Need we break down a national narrative along racial and religious lines?

But if your intention is to find answers to inequality, and to answer why the Malays are behind economically, then I really hope that this seminar will provide the answer.

When we talk about the Malays, we must talk about Islam. The Malays and Islam are indeed deeply entwined. They cannot be discussed separately. But what this has led to is the ignoring of our cultural and regional heritage, which has been abandoned in favour of foreign cultures (Arabisation especially) which feed into the insecurity of the Malays. It seems that everyone who does not speak like us and everything that we do not agree with, is a threat to Malays and Islam.

We must ask ourselves – is this true? Why is this so? Since when have the Malays and Muslims become so insecure about our place in this country?

When the Malays were far less economically advanced and far less educated, we defeated the British by rejecting the Malayan Union. We were brave.

We knew to organise collectively and strategically. We used our brains to defeat a colonial power. We managed to gain independence without bloodshed. We had no problems working with non-Malays and even learning from other races.

As the Malays progressed, it seems so did our sense of insecurity. Why is this so? Could it be that when there were no crutches, we had dignity, and the Malays felt more secure of our place within the country?

We are not lacking in Malay heroes. Johor alone has a rich history of formidable warriors, renowned artists, poets, athletes, scientists, doctors, academicians, and businessmen.

There was Muhamad Salleh bin Perang, who was the Bentara Luar. He was the first to draw up an accurate map of Johor, without the modern technology that present-day surveyors have available. He was the Head of Land Management and State Survey, and he used his map to plan the development of Johor. He was a Malay, but he was fluent in Chinese and was knowledgeable about Chinese culture, which allowed him to work closely with them in developing the economy.

In the realm of politics alone, the list of honours is never ending. Tun Hussein Onn, our “Bapa Perpaduan”, was from Johor. And so was his own “Bapa”, the founder of Umno, Onn Jaafar. His father before him, Jaafar Muhammad, was the first and longest serving MB of Johor. Deputy Prime Ministers Tun Dr Ismail and Musa Hitam were sons of Johor. Tun Ismail’s family was illustrious on its own, including his father-in-law Seth Said, Deputy MB of Johor, who was part of the delegation for Merdeka, and signed the Merdeka agreement against the Sultan’s orders. Without him, we would not have had Merdeka.

Johor produced the President of the Senate, Rahman Yasin. He was Tun Dr Ismail’s father. Tun Dr Ismail’s brother-in-law Ghazali Seth, was Chief of Defence, and he married Sri Norziah – sister of Hussein Onn, daughter of Onn Jaafar. Tun Dr Ismail went to school in Sekolah Melayu Bukit Zaharah in JB with two other famous figures – his brother, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, and Ahmad Perang, who became the first Malay chairman of KTM.

Mohamed Noah Omar, the first Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, was also from Johor. His family too was very special – his two daughters married the men who would go on to be our prime ministers. Rahah, the wife of Tun Razak, and Suhaila, the wife of Hussein Onn. Tun Razak studied at Raffles College, with another son of Johor, Taib Andak, after whom Felda Taib Andak in Kulai is named. His brother Rahman Andak, was one of the early campaigners for Johor’s independence, and was State Secretary of Johor in 1984.

Governors of Bank Negara, Aziz Taha, Jaffar Hussein and Zeti Aziz. Professor Ungku Aziz, Zeti’s father, is a renowned economist. Zeti’s grandfather, Syed Mohammed Alsagoff, used to own Pulau Kukup, and had a concession to print his own money. Today, we use money signed by his granddaughter.

Why should we feel insecure with a legacy as illustrious as this?

Again, could it be that after being given all sorts of crutches, the effect has been to make the Malays weak and insecure, and most noticeably, lacking in resilience? What has led to this lack of confidence? It seems that when the Malays were facing real challenges, such as fighting for independence, our resilience was so much stronger.

As ease and comfort and quality of life improved, confidence and resilience abated. These observations call for sincere self-reflection – instead of picking fights with perceived enemies, we should look inwards and try to better ourselves instead of blaming all of our ills on others. We seem to be scared of our own shadows.

Today, there is one Malay graduate for every 20 Malays. Despite being more educated and having a large educated segment, we are still unable to convince ourselves that Malays have nothing to fear in this country. Are Malays thinking strategically, critically and logically? It looks increasingly obvious every day that the Malays are thinking with their emotions instead of with their intellect. We must ask ourselves – what is happening to us?

We have allowed our emotions to run wild and influence the way we see others. We watch ghost movies at the box offices. When Mastika stopped writing ghost stories, circulation ended and now there is no more Mastika. Now instead of reading about ghosts in Mastika, we are seeing ghosts around every corner.

Instead of depending on logic and facts, we prefer to buy into the racist rhetoric of politicians with dubious reputations.

Since I am talking to academicians, I would like to pose this question to you: what role should you be playing in injecting some logic and fact into the Malaysia narrative? Do you intend to go along with the emotional flow or do you see it as your academic duty to question the irrational narratives that are being shoved down the Malays’ throats?

Do you as “the educated” speak honestly and bravely about what is happening or do you simply pretend that this growing racism is justified?

All of you here are highly educated, but how many of you have bought into the nonsensical political rhetoric that the Malays are being threatened by the non- Malays in this country? That Islam is under threat simply because of one or two people being insensitive enough to post something on the Prophet?

The religion cannot be insulted. Only people can be. If our faith is strong, we do not get insulted. In fact, we laugh at such ignorance. And our behaviour should reflect the best of our religion so that we and our religion earn the respect of others.

Our country is multi-cultural and multi-religious. We have managed to live here in peace. We are sensitive to our neighbours and respect one another. This is our way.

It is wrong to insult anybody, more so the Prophet. To make fun of religion is stupid. But we have laws, and we should respect due process. Many have forgotten our Rukun Negara. The most important document is the Constitution.

No Malaysian should make insensitive comments towards other religions and races. But what has happened with the proclamation of Jihad against non- Muslims recently?

If Muslims want to perform Jihad, it should be Jihad to better ourselves not only spiritually, but economically, academically and to contribute to the continued growth of our own country.

We talk about the Malay narrative as if we are on the verge of being driven out of our own country. There is so much anger and indignation when non- Malays were appointed to high posts in the government, as if this is something new.

Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders? We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa?”. Kalau “tak malu”, apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?

The Malays can continue down this emotional and irrational path at our own peril or we can stop, think, reflect and call for change. Nobody is forcing us to be emotional and irrational. We have chosen to be that way ourselves because we have allowed ourselves to be bought over by politicians whose only goal is to gain or regain power, no matter what the cost – and the cost is almost always ours to bear.

So, the choice is up to us – nak duduk macam katak di bawah tempurung (want to be like a frog beneath a coconut-shell)? Do we change and become a force to be reckoned within the context of the national agenda, Malaysia Baru, or do we go down the path we are currently treading and proclaim a narrative that is narrow, focused only on ourselves? Or will we pursue a truly National or Malaysia Narrative, in which we participate and play a very active role?

The National Agenda is not a Malay agenda or a non-Malay agenda. It is a Malaysian Agenda that takes into consideration all Malaysians. That fights poverty and inequality without discrimination, respecting the Constitution.

I am glad to note that this seminar is directed at the four sectors of politics, economy, budaya and agama. Let us get all of these right. To get all of these right, our education system must change. Don’t treat education as a political football. The education system must be right.

Our future, Malaysia’s future, will depend on giving our children the right type of education that will allow them to be confident to face the best in the world. Get education right, then politics and economy will be right. Brains minus emotions will determine our future and the future of Malaysia.

Expose our children to the world, then they will want to excel, and they will protect the best of our budaya.

There is nothing wrong with Islam. It is not under threat. It is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I would like to advise you not to follow politicians blindly. As I said earlier, for Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed. I keep repeating, Iqra’ (Aik Krok) – read to acquire knowledge and to think critically. Choose the right path that will lead to success.

Time is very important and we are excellent at wasting time. We will lose to time. Let us tell ourselves from now on we shall not repeat past mistakes. We will give the best education to our children so that they can compete and succeed. Let us leave all failure of confidence behind, and start our future now.

Leave this hall confident and ok with ourselves. Tell our children that we will compete and we will succeed.

First published in Malaysiakini.com