Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

Of sex videos, Azmin and deepfake ‘nuclear bombs’

Thursday, June 13th, 2019
June 13, 2019 @ 9:56am
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali in his denial, says it is a nefarious plot to assassinate his reputation and character to destroy his political career. – NSTP/File pic

THE video showing two men frolicking in bed is distressful and disgusting.

So are the persons behind the recording.

Datuk Seri Azmin Ali has already vehemently denied that he is one of the men in this ‘drama’.

How this sordid affair will end, only God knows. Let the investigators do their job, let the guilty face fire and brimstone.

But this revolting episode has also pushed a piece of technology into the conversation.

It is called deepfake.

Doubtless, many would have heard about it in recent times.

It may or may not have any role in this video. But make no mistake, this scion of hell is another great existential threat to truth.

In fact, I would consider it the nuclear bomb of fake news.

It works like this: in a video, Barack Obama says, “We are entering an era in which our enemies can make it look as if anyone is saying anything in any point in time”.

The man in the video looks and sounds exactly like Obama, but the truth is, it isn’t him who mouthed those words. AI was employed to create this deception. It seems the technology is widely and easily available.

There are many explainers on the Internet. Malaysians would do well to educate themselves.

Fake news in other forms has already caused so much damage. Lives have been ruined and lost.

But this deepfake nuclear bomb may obliterate truth in a way that will make the conventional fake news appear like a mere grenade.

Think of it. A deepfake video of you shouting profanities at someone, or kicking a cat, or smooching with a lady who is not your wife, is put on the Internet. That’s merely the mildest damage this thing can do.

What if a video shows a person committing murder, stealing, etc? What if an audio recording of a religious leader saying that those of other faiths must die emerges?

Are these fantastical worries? Or will deepfake be the dagger that finally kills truth altogether?

Yes, truth will no longer be the norm. Nothing will be believable any more. We will become so suspicious of everything, we will see through things forever.

But, like the thinker C.S. Lewis said: “To ’see through’ all things is the same as not to see.” We might as well be blind. Or dead.

By David Christy.

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Dirty politics alive and kicking in New Malaysia

Thursday, June 13th, 2019
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali denies the accusation made by an individual who had attempted to link him to a sex video which is going viral. -NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The emergence of a sex video allegedly of Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and a government officer has shown that even in the age of New Malaysia, such political tactics still are resorted to.

The video has made its rounds on the Internet, but it was the media fraternity that first became its unwilling victims.

They were added into a Whats-App group, claiming to be a Hari Raya event invitation.

What came instead was a shock.

The majority of social media users have expressed their disappointment at the prevalence of such dirty tactics.

Azmin, in his denial, said it was a nefarious plot to assassinate his reputation and character to destroy his political career.

What took many by surprise, however, was a supposed video confession allegedly by Muhammad Haziq Abdul Aziz — the senior private secretary to Deputy Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin — who declared that it was him and Azmin in the video.

However, Haziq has yet to speak to the media to clarify whether the confession is genuine, and whether it is indeed him in the video.

Character assassination is nothing new in Malaysian politics. The only thing that’s changed is the medium used to do it.

Whatever one receives can easily be shared and re-shared by netizens on multiple social media platforms, instantly killing characters and years of effort taken to build them.

“Social media is a faceless community. In most cases, you do not see the person who likes your photos, or shares your ideas.

“It is where people tweet and send threatening messages to strangers without a care in the world, all in the name of fun.

“Let me just say that it is never fun being at the receiving end of character assassination,” said political and social media analyst Associate Professor Dr Sara Chinnasamy.

The supposed confession, however, has raised eyebrows.

Why would someone who had built a political reputation for himself over the years tarnish himself by confessing to the act? Why risk himself, his safety, and evidently, his freedom?

Lawyer Nizam Bashir said with Azmin’s denial, the burden now lied with his accuser to prove that his statement was not defamatory.

“Now that (Azmin) has denied his involvement, the ball is back in his accuser’s court. The accuser needs to succeed in saying that his statement is not defamatory, by perhaps showing that what he said is fair comment.

“This, meaning that his comment, which though defamatory, cannot be sued upon as it is an opinion on a matter of public interest.”

Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said a report was needed to enable an investigation to be conducted before the prosecution proceedings.

He added that the accuser could be charged for a criminal offence under syariah or civil law for his public confession.

“However, under the double jeopardy principle in law, the person cannot be charged for the same offence in two separate courts,” he said yesterday.

Those in possession of the video also have to be careful — Section 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 prohibits the publication of offensive content on the Internet.

It stipulates that any person found to provide content which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person may be liable to a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or jail term not exceeding one year, or both.

By Hana Naz Harun.

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Stop dumping rubbish into drain!

Monday, June 10th, 2019

Scores of rubbish accumulating at a corner of the flood mitigation drain near the Fortuna Commercial Centre, Jalan Penampang, are cleared on a daily basis.

The unsightly view of mass rubbish floating on the murky waters inside the structure is prominent from the main road.

JASON, who lives in Taman Fortuna, told Hotline on June 3 that the flooding problem plaguing certain areas from Lido to Fortuna was partly due to rubbish clogging housing drains, including monsoon drains.

“I’ve been living in this neighbourhood for more than 20 years and I have never seen the flood mitigation drain free from rubbish and all kinds of junks.

“What saddens me is that the amount of rubbish has increased 10-fold now compared to 20 years ago,” he added.

He said he had seen people throwing plastic bags into the monsoon drain on many occasions.

“I fear that toxic waste is also being discharged into the structure,” he added.

A City Hall spokesman warned the public to stop treating the monsoon drain as a place to discard unwanted solid objects.

“Removing an old refrigerator, a water tank, used tyres and other objects from the drain is not something new to us,” he said, adding that the amount of refuse that had been picked up from the structure could reach a tonne.

He said the drains in Kepayan and near the State Museum also faced similar problem.

“This is why we fish out all waste materials from the drain on a daily basis,” he added.

He said its workers are on the lookout for those who litter the drain and those caught would be issued a RM500 compound under its Anti-Litter Bylaws 1984. (OV)

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Will Latheefa be impartial?

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

LATHEEFA Koya was the last person I spoke to before I was arrested (but never charged) as part of an Official Secrets Act investigation back in 2007.

She was of great help to me then, and I remain grateful to her and to the many others who stood in solidarity with me.

When it was all over and done, I remember having this feeling like she had patted me on the back, proud of my mini baptism of fire as an activist of sorts.

Needless to say, she had trod that path long before me, and I looked up to her as a senior.

That was 12 years ago, and since that time, we’ve come some ways. I think in 2012 we were still friendly, but during the time of the Kajang Move in 2014, we found ourselves on opposing political sides, and I learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of a particular type of … criticism, is perhaps the word I’d use here and now.

It took me a while to find, but those criticisms are still online.

I state all this in some attempt to put cards on the table. Someone with absolutely no connection or past with Latheefa might be seen to offer more objective, impartial views.

That said, I will do my best, and hope for the writing to speak for itself.

This article will try to discuss the ideal criteria for an MACC chief commissioner, the question of how baggage may affect questions of impartiality, and the larger political context.

Let us begin by asking what some of the desirable characteristics of an MACC chief might be.

I will list out a few that come to mind, and presumptuously assign how I personally think Latheefa scores on these characteristics. No one is under any obligation to take my humble assessment with any seriousness.

I would say the characteristics of a good MACC commissioner should include: fearlessness (10/10), dedication to justice (9/10), relevant experience (5/10), being (almost universally) seen as impartial (2/10), and being the epitome of cool-headed professionalism (2/10).

The one thing I think all can agree on is that Latheefa is fearless. She speaks her mind, and with a very sharp tongue at that.

“The one thing” here may be meant quite literally. How one feels about a sharp tongue tends to depend on whether or not it is uttering things you agree with or not.

If it is, then you praise the speaker as a “straight talker”. If it isn’t, then you criticise the speaker as a “hatchet man” (or woman) or “attack dog”.

The latter term is particularly impolite, but I imagine Latheefa has been called all three of the above and more. Not that it has ever deterred her, which again, is why all can agree that she is fearless.

I’m not sure there’s very much else everyone else agrees on.

These last few days have demonstrated quite clearly how polarising a figure Latheefa is. There are some who love her, and some who hate her. It might not be a stretch to say that the latter consists more of Pakatan Harapan supporters, rather than Barisan Nasional ones.

Latheefa has also had an undisputed record of being dedicated to activism. She has spoken out strongly on cases of deaths in detention, statelessness, refugee welfare, and other human rights abuses.

Not everyone in politics or government necessarily needs to have a cool head. It would be nice, but realistically, we live in an age of sensational gravity, and we all know that slamming tables and shouting is what gains attention.

That’s fair enough, for politics at least.

The MACC chief commissioner is however a civil servant – and furthermore, one who is tasked with investigating other civil servants as well as politicians.

Politicians in particular are by definition, partisan. There are many different parties, and many different camps within each party.

Suaam (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) adviser Dr Kua Kia Soong wrote: “Latheefa no doubt has a range of valuable skills, experience and qualities. However, her political independence is sadly not one of them.

“In the public eye, Latheefa has for many years been known as a PKR stalwart and leader who makes political statements not only pertaining to other political parties but also to factions within PKR itself.”

background piece in The Star observed how Latheefa had fierce words for prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof.

I believe she had some choice words for Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh as well last year.

In 2017 meanwhile, Latheefa engaged in a very public spat with PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, once again over the Kajang Move.

The Star columnist Joceline Tan was one of the few who spoke directly to the heart of the matter: “Latheefa’s past involvement in PKR politics also raises concerns about her independence.

“She was closely associated with what the PKR crowd called the ‘Azmin cartel’ during the PKR election. She was very critical of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for their involvement in the polls and had launched broadsides against them.

“There is little doubt she will be firing on all cylinders against Barisan Nasional wrong-doers but can she be professional if there is a report against, say, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali?

“Politicians have been among the biggest crooks in the country and PAS vice-president Datuk Iskandar Samad put it in a nutshell when he said that an agency that will be investigating politicians should not be led by a politician.

Latheefa’s stormy ties with Anwar have naturally led to speculation that she is there to make things difficult for the prime minister-in-waiting.”

It would be remiss of me or anyone else to automatically assume or accuse Latheefa of bias or prejudice of any sort.

As someone who works in public perception however, the more I thought about it, the more impossible things seem to be for her.

Let’s just imagine hypothetically that the MACC opens a file on Anwar, or someone closely linked to him.

Whether or not Anwar is guilty, with Latheefa heading the MACC, the credibility of the investigation would already be compromised, as many will accuse the investigation of being politically motivated.

How can they not, given Latheefa’s history with Anwar?

In the same way, if there is even any whiff of rumour associating Azmin (incidentally, did anyone take a close look at his asset declaration?) or his associates with corruption, and there is no MACC investigation – or even if there is an investigation which exonerates them – the MACC will again be accused of bias, regardless of actual guilt or innocence.

Thus, there should ideally be no reason whatsoever for any reasonable person to question the partiality or the integrity of the MACC chief commissioner, based on his or her past.

In Latheefa’s case, there seems to be way too much ammunition to draw upon to do just that. Resigning one’s party membership will not make all this baggage disappear overnight.

While she has openly questioned mine in the past, I (believe it or not) don’t feel that Latheefa’s past automatically or conclusively compromises her present integrity – most of us are really in no position whatsoever to ascertain that, one way or another.

I think it’s fair to say however, at a public perception level, there is little to no way that her history and past of crossing swords with all sorts of people in the political arena is an asset rather than a liability – not just to her, but to the MACC and the government as a whole.

Ultimately, the appointment raises more questions than it answers.

The enduring elephant in the room of Malaysian politics is whether or not Anwar will finally succeed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister.

As Joceline Tan and others have observed multiple times over, the nexus of Azmin and Tun Daim Zainuddin seem to be the ones most interested in preventing this from happening.

This conflict becomes exceedingly obvious in the wake of how PKR leaders have responded to Latheefa’s appointment predictably in direct proportion to where they stand on the Azmin vs Anwar spectrum.

Azmin himself was very supportive of the appointment, as were associates like Zuraida Kamaruddin and Shamsul Iskandar; whereas more Anwar-aligned leaders like William Leong, Fahmi Fadzil, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Anwar himself all reacted far more cautiously

indeed, despite his repeated assurances that Anwar will succeed him, this is arguably Dr Mahathir’s biggest show of support for the Azmin-Daim vision. Up till now, there seemed to be precious little to suggest that Dr Mahathir may renege on his word.

After all, why Latheefa? If you wanted an external expert on corruption, there is C4’s Cynthia Gabriel or Fadiah Nadwa Fikri (also a lawyer with extensive human rights credentials and qualifications), human rights lawyer Edmund Bon, Rafizi, Professor Terence Gomez, and so on.

If you just wanted a fierce firebrand with a sharp tongue, you could just as well have appointed Hishamuddin Rais or Ibrahim Ali for that matter.

If you wanted to give Latheefa a role in government, fair enough as well. She is talented and qualified, with a lot of relevant experience in certain fields. There is the upcoming IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission), or various commissions and taskforces related to stateless people, refugees and so on.

Civil society seems polarised on this issue as well. Many know Latheefa personally and are thrilled at the appointment.

Others were more circumspect. After all, if a prominent Umno lawyer or activist – or someone with a ‘passion’ for a particular camp within Umno like Raja Petra Kamaruddin – was appointed to this post under Datuk Seri Najib Razak administration, what would civil society’s reaction have been?

The timing of the announcement on the very eve of Hari Raya, just as everyone was getting in the mood to dig into lemang and rendang, also raised eyebrows. Was this to minimise debate and polemics?

Given all these factors, surely the intense speculation and debate that has ensued is understandable. Will it rage on, and take the focus away from the primary business of fighting corruption?

I’m sure Latheefa doesn’t think so, and she has said as such, on her first day on the job. Good for her.

As for the rest of us, there are two main possibilities. The first is that Dr Mahathir will backtrack, the same way he did about becoming Education Minister, and about Icerd (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) and about the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.

This seems relatively unlikely. The second possibility, that Latheefa will carry on, seems much more likely.

In that case, the fairest thing to do for now is to let her work speak for itself. Time will tell.

As with all government leaders, we should assess their work fairly and objectively. As with any incoming MACC chief commissioner, close attention must be paid to see whether there is a new pattern as to who is investigated and who is not.

I am generally wary of looking like I am telling any woman – especially one as fierce and accomplished as Latheefa, whom we can proudly point to as Malaysia’s first woman MACC chief commissioner – how they should speak; in this particular context, there is the ever so small chance that it may be appropriate to say that given her new, public post, it may be wise to go easy on the political and partisan public tongue lashings for which she has previously been famous.

By Nathaniel Tan
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Ramadan in the garden of knowledge and virtue

Saturday, June 8th, 2019
A member of the congregration at the World Quran Hour at the International Islamic University Malaysia. PIC BY ASYRAF HAMZAH

MY stint in IIUM thus far is no less than business unusual. There are too many tales to tell. For now, I would like to focus on the experience during e Ramadan, my first in this Garden of Knowledge and Virtue as this serene campus‎ is also known as. It was preceded by the World Quran Hour graced by the sultan of Perak.

Knowledge has always been likened to a tree with its many branches representing the many disciplines of knowledge, some bearing fruits and flowers. This metaphor is what defines a university.

The more the branches, the “lusher” the tree, compared to some institutions that prefer to pick and choose what is “marketable” while trimming off the branches that are said to be “irrelevant”  to the marketplace.

Such a tree is somewhat “artificial” and imbalanced (read unsustainable), academically speaking. A hefty price that we are beginning to pay as the knowledge purveyors are themselves imbalanced as reflected in the many human-induced crises of today. This is indeed the crux of knowledge-deficit that is being promoted as “world-class” education — one without a soul

To speak of the soul of education is to recognise what “virtue” is all about. For virtue is the root of the tree, so to speak; the unseen part underneath a tree that gives rise to the whole tree, any tree

Just like the whole person whom the Quran likened to a “good” tree, and the virtue that is rooted therein. There is no tree without roots (except for “artificial” ones) and in fact the latter determines the quality of the former.

When the roots are left to rot the tree will eventually collapse. Easily uprooted, as warned by the Quran. This means ensuring the growth of the tree of knowledge in a “balanced” way is to tend to its roots foremost.

It is in this sense that Ramadan in IIUM is deeply rooted to provide the much-needed “balance” to the acquired disciplines of knowledge. It is the inspiration that changes knowledge into wisdom; the reflection that brings about courage for transformational changes; and the practice that realises the real meaning of virtues into reality.

This is made possible by nurturing values like humility, patience, tolerance, justice and trustworthiness which are the foundation for a balanced being to be manifested harmoniously as the Ramadan man (Homo ramadanus).

Hence Ramadan is set for the higher purpose of restoring or perfecting the balance in maturing a holistic person — balanced and complete. This acts as the bedrock to move forward beyond the month of Ramadan. In other words, it has to be internalised as a way of daily living in the Garden of Knowledge and Virtue.

For that reason alone it adds deeper dimensions to the practice of mere fasting. Meaning, we are constantly all the time aware of a balanced life that will lead us out of Ramadan until the next one.

These deeper dimensions are spread throughout the garden campus with its international community of 700-odd members from more than 110 countries. The culmination of this came during the congregation for Eidul Fitri prayer at the dawning of Syawal.

They were not limited to the IIUM community, but also from nearby communities and other campuses throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula, renewing acquaintances in the spirit of Syawal. Seeking forgiveness and strengthening fellowship.

It was yet another experience to behold, unmistakenly like that of the Holy City of Makkah where the mix and aura are beyond description except for those who had gone on the holy pilgrimage whose memberships ranged far and wide.

For instance, standing in line with the rest in prayer was the ambassador of Yemen and other dignitaries who preferred to be in the Makkah-like environment. The camaraderie was total and undivided. As though the ummah was actually one, despite the intra-ummah divisions apparent from the 14th OIC Summit held a couple of days before during Ramadan.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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NST Leader: Great good to come?

Saturday, June 8th, 2019
Latheefa Koya clocks in as the new MACC chief today. NSTP/NURUL SHAFINA JEMENON

NEVER has there been an appointment more controversial than this. From the moment Latheefa Koya’s appointment as the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief was made public, a spectrum of reactions began to form.

Some were distressed to no end. Some were caught by surprise. There were others who thought it was a Raya gift.

Perhaps they were all looking at the episode with different spectacles, as we are wont to do.

The distressed see Latheefa as a former PKR member, with an uncut umbilical cord. This must be the most unkindest cut of all.

By this token, no one can be a former anything, let alone a former PKR member. Among the distressed is a bunch who sees Latheefa’s appointment as a bad move for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister-in-waiting. How so? Is this all about politics?

Why see intrigue in everything? Anwar, on his part, is a leading light in the fight against corruption. His advice: give the prime minister time and space to explain Latheefa’s appointment to Pakatan Harapan’s presidential council.

The views of the surprised were a little more palatable. They were more concerned about the manner in which Latheefa’s appointment was made.

They argue: Pakatan Harapan’s 14th General Election manifesto pledges to validate the appointment of MACC commissioners by Parliament. The surprised, you may say, are all about a promised process.

Fair enough. But the appointment of the commissioner itself is well within the requirement of Section 5(1) of the MACC Act 2009: the king makes the appointment on the advice of the prime minister.

As it has always been. No laws were breached here.

Raya gift? This bunch extols the virtues of Latheefa in fighting for the cause of justice. Latheefa’s first statement as chief of MACC yesterday makes this clear: “My job is to transform Malaysia into a corruption-averse and corruption-free society.”

We must judge her by the decisions and actions she takes in bringing about a nation that is intolerant to corruption. Not because Latheefa is a woman.

Merit does not vanish nor increase because she is a woman. Neither does merit vanish because she was once a member of a political party of a particular stripe.

Debates about gender, intrigues and everything in between do not enrich us. Our focus must be in getting the job done.

Latheefa must be judged, like her predecessors have been, on whether she delivers the goods as required by the office she holds.

Success in the job requires professional and personal attributes. Honesty and integrity are two. These two values require putting aside personal bias. There are others, for sure.

The chief of MACC must always put the agency above everything else in the decisions she takes. To judge her before she does anything is to put the cart before the horse.

The New Straits Times wishes the new chief corruption buster all the best. We have a standard-issue advice, one that is as old as the newspaper: do your best, Latheefa

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Unity in Raya forgiveness

Friday, June 7th, 2019

TOWARDS the end of Ramadan, there were different views expressed about the permissibility of Muslims breaking fast in buildings in (or near) non-Muslim places of worship, about Muslims breaking fast with food cooked and distributed by non-Muslims, and about a supposed general trend of events that include people of different faiths gaining in popularity that might “threaten” the faith of Muslims.

I was reminded of the story of the Caliph Omar who refused to pray in a church – not because he felt that Muslims might therefore lose their faith, but because he was afraid Muslims would then take over the building.

I also recalled examples from my travels and memories of countries where Muslims are a minority: in Cologne, Germany, where the cathedral hosted the breaking of fast for Muslims for many years before a mosque was built; the many kindnesses of my non-Muslim hosts and friends during Ramadan when I was a young student in rural England; and many dialogues and interactions involving people of different religions that have – in my experience – only ever increased understanding and tolerance while fostering greater appreciation of one’s own beliefs.

The suspicion that many pole­mics on these issues are often driven by political interests is sharply brought into focus when Hari Raya arrives.

Indeed, this Hijrah year of 1440 has seen the usual traditions being observed.

The visit to the graves of family members took place before the final breaking of fast at Maghrib, with the first takbir following Isyak prayers.

After that, greetings and tokens of appreciation were distributed to the various teams of staff that work in, and more generally support, the Istana.

Early the next morning, after familial exchanges of forgiveness, Aidilfitri prayers were performed at the Masjid Diraja Tuanku Munawir, its congregation spilling beyond its walls as a result of the temporary urban-rural shift that seizes the country during this festive season.

Every year, despite the political temperature of the country, I am comforted by the fact that for most Muslim Malays, it is the performance of these traditions (no doubt with many variations across families) that most defines what it means to be Muslim and Malay – and not the politically charged rhetoric of division and intolerance.

This fact is further exemplified by what follows immediately after the observance of these most emblematic of rituals: the open house.

In the case of Seri Menanti, that means about 12,000 people from across Negri Sembilan assembling at the Istana Besar, enjoying local delicacies in the presence of their Ruler.

And what is remarkable – though one has to think about it – is how unremarkable it is that those in attendance come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds and a spectrum of educational, career and life experiences.

But all want to share in the joy that Hari Raya provides: a vision of Malaysia encapsulated, a celebration of unity exemplified.

Yet we must be wary when others appeal for “unity”, for the word has many different meanings and applications.

Do they mean unity among a particular subset of Malaysians, or unity across all Malaysians?

Even if the former, do they mean unity that inspires and promotes cooperation, or unity in opposition to those regarded as different?

Do they mean unity according to government-mandated labels, or unity based on values that people choose to have?

Even if the latter, do they mean unity under a single political affiliation, or do they recognise that unity towards values does not necessarily mean political uniformity?

Sometimes, amidst the gorging on rendang and satay, one too easily forgets the abstentions of fasting and the true purpose of Ramadan.

The usual greeting, now reduced to #shrmzb, loses its literal but profound meaning.

Thus, as we enter the open house season, it may be beneficial to remember that Aidilfitri encourages an expression of unity that is inherently individualistic, entirely voluntary and yet, deeply profound. And it is exercisable by Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

It is about seeking forgiveness from others for the wrongdoings that one may have committed.

When offered with genuine intention, and when received with honest sincerity, a bond between two people is strengthened (or at least repaired).

When replicated millions of times in our diverse nation, it surely helps solidify the foundations of shared citizenship.

Over the last year, I know that I have made many decisions that have negatively impacted others, that my words and actions may have caused offence, and that many promises could have been better kept. To you, I say Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir dan batin.

By Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin
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Ramadan is more than just refraining from eating and drinking

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019
Ramadan is more than refraining from eating and drinking throughout the day. – NSTP/HAZREEN MOHAMAD
It is dangerous for Malaysia when we can condemn senior citizens who do not fast during Ramadan in the media.

A case in point is the 71-year old man who was caught eating in public in Kedah.

He claimed that he broke his fast at a non-halal shop because he did not have the energy to continue fasting.

The Quran tells us that we must always stand up for justice, even if it is against ourselves [4:135] because Allah orders justice, kindness and good conduct, and forbids injustice, immorality and oppression [16:90].

In Islam, it is permissible for many people not to fast.

These exceptions reflect the wisdom of Allah and the deep compassion and consideration that Islam has for the different circumstances that different people experience in this world.

A few days ago, a friend who was five months’ pregnant and working three hours away from home went to buy food at a fast food outlet, but was not allowed to eat there.

Instead, she was forced to pack her food and asked to leave the premises. Since she shared a car with colleagues, she could not eat there.

She ended up sitting on the pavement in a back alley so she could eat in peace.

I have heard so many stories of people who are dependent on medication who struggle through Ramadan.

But what does respecting Ramadan mean?

Ramadan is more than refraining from eating and drinking throughout the day.

It is about the purification of the heart and the mind, where Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable, do good deeds, say good things and think good thoughts.

It is a month where we pray more in the hopes of Allah’s mercy, forgiveness and blessings.

I know that we are nearing the end of Ramadan, but it sems religious departments are competing among themselves to see who can issue the most summonses.

Just because we don’t see people selling and eating food does not mean that we have created a pious and righteous community.

We have a choice. We can choose a hardline stance by shutting down food shops and asking people who are not fasting to hide themselves for the entire month.

Or we can celebrate Allah’s mercy in all its forms this Ramadan not only by amplifying our prayers, for forgiveness and blessings, but also by reflecting on Allah’s deep compassion for people whose lives are affected by Ramadan.

Ramadan is a chance for us to appreciate the experiences of women and how we can extend compassion towards them not only during menstruation, but during pregnancy and throughout motherhood.

Allah is not cruel. Not only has Allah disallowed oppression for themselves and among human beings, (Sahih Muslim).

Allah is kind and loves kindness in all forms (Sahih Bukhari).

By Majidah Hashim.

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Positive values produce national highs

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Tun M has made the perfect statement when giving his address in 1 Belt 1 Road summit in Beijing on 27 April 2019.

He is quoted as having said “No one should impose one single value system to the world but should strive to understand the different cultures and values.” All Malaysians should read this article as in the same context, his statement has deep pertinence to New Malaysia. This is what Malaysia needs in our multi religious and cultural country..

No world leader has made a statement like Tun M’s. Typical Tun M style – concise, succinct and straight, likes an arrow hitting the heart of the target. It reflects on the reality of a new world order that is emerging fast, in which the mono polar leadership of USA is fast fading, a new multipolar system with Russia, China with India slightly behind is fast emerging.

No matter how hard USA is trying to suppress the birth of this multipolar system, how hard it is trying to impose its will on other countries including its closest allies, it will fail due to many weaknesses of its own making. Trump’s erratic, unbecoming tyrannical behaviour, is helping to expedite its demise as world’s only super power.

Tun M’s statement is the beacon to the emerging new world order. No Malaysian leader has uttered a more perfect, profound statement like Tun M. His statement is fittingly suitable for the New Malaysia that PH is trying to give all Malaysians.

The PH government has taken various baby steps to implement/fulfil its many manifesto promises since GE14. Many a times, it got side tracked by the opposition’s trumpeting negative value of “fear” of loss of political and racial rights etc. All sensible Malaysians who know what is good for our nation would not subscribe to this “fear” factor. “Fear”, “jealousy” “rights” and other negative factors have never got any country or race anywhere in the world. There are clear indications that these are negative value leaders. They would not help to build national greatness for Malaysia. No country or race has gotten to the top by embracing and inculcating negative values among its citizens. More than that, negative values are destructive, suppressive, regressive and keeping people poor like in the feudal system.

It is increasingly clear that the Americans, in their falling economic/political standing in the world, have adopted many negative values for quite a long time. One very outstanding of such negative value is that they think it is their birth right to be No. 1 super power and no other country and/or political system can usurp them from their august “high and mighty” position. Many Malaysians have this same negative attitude too.

The baby steps of the PH government I have mentioned earlier show lack of conviction in its own direction and leadership. Good example is the recent decision of increasing the number of positions for matriculation from 25,000 to 40,000. The PH government is trying to please all which in the end, will make no one any happier. Instead, it is continuing to promote mediocracy among all Malaysians. It is an easy way out. It will perpetuate negative values, instead of imbuing positive values like “I can do it” confidence or hard work will pay.

Tun M’s 1 Belt 1 Road statement to the world is also the perfect statement for New Malaysia. I am certain Tun M being the man he has always been, does not have double standards. Just like the English saying “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”.

Lacking in the PH government so far is a very clear vision which Tun M has now provided in his Beijing statement, definitive political and economic leadership which can pin point the way forward for all Malaysians. Most importantly is political courage to tell Malaysians what it should be, like Tun M has done in Beijing. Such a vision is exactly what Tun Mahathir has prescribed to the world in Beijing.

Political courage is key Malaysian national greatness. Malaysians can advance to high income status for which we are more than capable of and have the resource for it. However, it is not like a walk in the park. For years, Malaysians of all races have been poisoned with a great number of negative values.

Definitely there are more negative values than positive ones. Not easy to lead Malaysians out of this cauldron of negative value system that is more than 40 years old with many wanting to protect their rights protected and with just as many thinking they are being deprived or discriminated. justly Malaysia cannot continue with this diabolical racial dilemma. The solution is to get all to give up these negative positions, work hard with the confidence of being justly rewarded .

Does Malaysia have leaders with the necessary mental capacity, vision and courage to lead Malaysians in the path of national greatness? I will deal with mental capacity and vision first. All our leaders have the necessary mental capacity and vision. Najib has them when he introduced his New Economic Model and Government Transformation Programmes when he first became PM. Courage he was lacking for he abandoned it soon after the launch with great fanfare.

Tun M has it all, plenty mental capacity, clear vision and ample courage. In his case, too many Malaysians lack the necessary will to embrace all that he has to offer. Too many Malaysians cannot accept the harsh reality of hard work, competitiveness to achieve greatness. Too many Malaysians resort to corruption, and quick wealth by “hook or by crook”.

As for Anwar who will become the next PM, he too has all the requisites. I am a bit taken aback by his illogical explanation on increasing the number for matriculation to 40,000.

He is creating more mediocre graduates, not more resilient ones. National greatness will never come from mediocracy.

He is just taking the easy way out. If mediocracy can create national greatness, every country will be great! He is not promoting the right values. My greatest fear for PH government is that it may eventually, like Najib, get cold feet with its transformation.

It should remain steadfast even its approval rating may get a beating now. Rating goes up and down, the PH government must remain on course as far as its transformation is concerned. Do what is right for the people, for the nation and the rating will be take care of. Malaysians can judge what is right and wrong for themselves.

Not fair of me if I don’t say that the PH government has done many things that are of  positive values like promotion of rule of law, national value of “mercy for all creations”, much more transparency and a lot more fairness to common Malaysians. PH government is on the right track. The speed of transformation the PH government can implement will ultimately depend on the uptake capacity of all Malaysians to embrace positive values. I am certain that when more Malaysians can see the benefits of PH’s transformation, the faster Malaysia can become an advance nation.

By: Datuk John Lo.

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Death penalty under criminal law and syariah

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
The proponents of the death penalty draw attention to the need to protect society from serious crimes and the predicament faced by the victims and family members of murdered victims. The opponents, however, argue that there is no proof the death penalty is an effective deterrent. FILE PIC

FOLLOWING the United Nations General Assembly’s call in June 2007 for the abolition of the death penalty on the grounds of protecting human rights, the then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, announced in October 2008 that the Malaysian government was considering withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms.

Death punishment for murder, terrorist acts, treason, kidnapping, rape, possession of fire-arms and drug trafficking applies to this day in Malaysia.

The Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 provides for the mandatory death sentence for possessing and distributing drugs.

But total abolition has remained a debated topic ever since.

The proponents of human rights, including the Malaysian Bar, the Human Rights Commission or Suhakam and Lawyers for Liberty have called for the abolition of the death penalty as no studies have proved that it is a deterrent to serious crime, and that in the event of a miscarriage of justice, the penalty is irreversible.

As for the mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking, they have further argued that the experience of many countries, including Malaysia, showed that most of those caught under draconian drug laws are not the big timers the laws are meant to target.

Besides, there is no evidence that the death penalty is effective as a deterrent to curb drug trafficking, its production and its sale.

The proponents of the death penalty draw attention to the need to protect society from serious crime and the predicament faced by the victims and family members of murdered victims who demand the capital punishment.

Imprisoning the criminal for 20 to 25 years is costly for the taxpayer and perhaps inhumane.

Broadly, syariah law applies the death penalty to four crimes — murder, terrorism, adultery and apostasy.

The first two are prescribed in the Quran, which makes murder liable to the death penalty under qisas (just retaliation) and makes terrorism (hirabah) also subject to the capital punishment.

As for apostasy (riddah) and adultery (zina), it is the sunnah (ways of the prophet) not the Quran, that makes them liable to the death penalty.

The Quran refers to apostasy in no fewer than 21 places, yet in all of them, the offence carries severe punishment in the hereafter.

As for zina, the Quran provides 100 lashes of the whip for all cases proven by four eyewitnesses which is almost impossible to obtain — hence all cases of zina are likely to be given alternative punishments.

The death punishment for apostasy and adultery is based on the authority of the hadith (words of the prophet) that falls short, however, of decisive (mutawatir) evidence.

It is then argued that a discrepancy between the Quran and the hadith on issues of life and death must naturally be determined by referring to the Quran.

The Quran refers to qisas in several verses, yet in all of them there is a strong emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation between the parties.

Prophet Muhammad emphasised forgiveness in all qisas cases that were brought to him for adjudication and consistently advised the parties not to insist on retaliation, but to reconcile through the payment of blood money (diyah) or grant of forgiveness.

This would suggest that qisas carries the death punishment which is, however, not mandatory.

Hirabah is described in the Quran as the “waging of war on God and His Messenger and the spreading of corruption on earth”, which provides for punishments, such as execution, mutilation of limbs and banishment.

Muslim jurists have also understood hirabah, also known as qat‘al-tariq, to mean highway robbery, banditry and terrorism which involves with or without killing, theft and looting.

They have differed widely over the order and choice of punishment for them, but the majority of Sunni schools authorise the head of state to select one or more of these punishments in proportion to the severity of the crime.

In summary, hirabah, like qisas, carries the death punishment, but since it is subject to stipulations and the discretion of the head of state, it also fails to qualify as mandatory death.

Can a death sentence be imposed on the basis of tanzir (deterrent) principle in serious crimes other than murder and terrorism?

Imam Malik and some jurists of the Hanbali school have allowed for a Muslim to spy on other Muslims who work for the enemy who spread heresies.

But the majority, including the Shafini, Hanafi, and some followers of the Hanbali schools maintain that the death punishment may not be imposed under tanzir.

Imam Abu Hanifah, however, has held out that the ruler may punish recidivists and hardened criminals to death under tanzir.

In summary, the syariah law is restrictive on the death punishment and when it is allowed, it is carried out with stipulations and has the possibility of repentance, reconciliation, or alternative punishment.

There is no clear case for man- datory death punishment in syariah — lest it compromises the impartiality of justice.


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