Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

Racial unity becoming fragile due to sensational news on social media

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The attitude of some individuals who prefer to read and trust sensational news on social media without verifying their authenticity or truth has contributed to racial unity in the country becoming fragile, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy.

He said the situation was made worse when some people misused the the freedom of speech granted by the government to spread false information to create misunderstanding and tensions among the people of various races in the country.

“Not only in our country, but all over the world, the social media has become a major medium to disseminate news, including false and inaccurate ones.

“Before, the media was controlled by certain groups, but now with the borderless information, some people think that they have the power to disseminate their own personal ideologies and opinions.

“They don’t read many newspapers, or authentic news and books, instead prefer (to read) sensational news. When they are impressed with the news, they will viral it immediately,” he said in a special interview with Bernama in his office here recently.

The minister, who is responsible for the National Unity and Social Wellbeing portfolio, said this group of people had no care to know the news was real or fake.

They are not interested to know the truth, but are happy and more interested to get the sensational news across to netizens, he added.

Waytha Moorthy said some of the issues raised on the social media had undermined the country’s harmony and it had become one of the main challenges facing the Pakatan Harapan government, where precautionary measures had been taken to safeguard the interests of all parties.

The minister also expressed his sadness over the action of previous government leaders for deliberately raising certain issues to build up anger against the current government for their own political survival.

“Therefore, it is the responsibility of the people to remain focus and to live as citizens who practice diversity in a pluralistic society. We have to live with each other and as long as we are focused, we can accept what we have practiced before,” he said. –Bernama

The issue on abuse of the social media was also raised by AirAsia Group Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes on Tuesday, saying too many negative things, falsities and outrages on the platform had led to the shutting down of his Twitter account.

Commenting further, Waytha Moorthy said the people, especially those in the peninsula, should emulate the close relationships and tolerance of the various tribes in Sabah and Sarawak, enabling them to live in harmony without suspicion for one another.

He recalled his visit to Sarawak and Sabah and was impressed with the understanding and respect for the religious practices and cultural diversity displayed among the people of the two states.

He said the ministry would take into account suggestions from community leaders in Sabah and Sarawak in formulating a new policy to enhance national integration between the people in the peninsula and East Malaysia.

In addressing racial and religious issues, he said the ministry hoped to set up a special commission known as the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission to act as an independent body that would resolve sensitive matters on race and religion.

“This matter is still in the proposal stage and I am looking into the practicality of using existing laws, including the Sedition Act and the Penal Code to resolve related issues raised on social sites.

“This is because I find that some of them are unaware that their postings are offensive to other religions and in this case, the Commission will call on the relevant parties to explain to them,” he said.

by Bernama.

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PM: Civil servants must resolve to help develop Malaysia

Friday, January 10th, 2020
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivers his speech during the monthly gathering for the Prime Minister’s Department’s staff in Putrajaya. Also present is Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. NSTP/Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor.

PUTRAJAYA: Government sector workers’ resolutions for 2020 should be to work harder for the sake of Malaysia’s progress, regardless of their political affiliations, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We have important roles to play, which will ensure whether Malaysia can be developed or otherwise. It will involve not only the government machinery, but also the ministers,” said Dr Mahathir in the first monthly gathering for the Prime Minister’s Department’s staff for 2020.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 must be rolled out effectively, adding that much work must be done by the government, which was chosen by the people.

“Personal feelings must be put aside to make sure all policies can be executed successfully. Granted, we work to earn a salary, but that is only one part (of a bigger picture).

“We must know how to make our policies and strategies successful. I am of the opinion that we must work harder and be sincere.

“The new year gives us a new start for such resolutions so that we will not be looked down on by others,” he added.

Dr Mahathir said that the rakyat are the ones who award government positions and salaries – therefore, those in government must work towards Malaysia’s success.

“They will thank us if their needs are met,” said the Prime Minister.

Dr Mahathir also said that one should not resent the rich, because they contribute to the country by paying higher taxes.

“We need their money to pay our salaries and to develop this country,” he said.

The Prime Minister added that he believes that if everyone, including the poor, continuously improves themselves and works hard, Malaysia could become a developed nation earlier than expected.

Dr Mahathir said the government is aware of the wealth gap between urban and rural areas, states and territories.

“We need a solid reception from the rakyat to ensure that our policies can be a success (to close these gaps).”

He also expressed his concern over poor Malaysians who refuse to be productive or make the effort to escape their poverty quagmire.

On this note, the Prime Minister urged civil servants to go to the poor and explain to them why they should not rely solely on subsidies to survive.

“We will introduce ways on how the poor can improve themselves, but they must be receptive and willing to learn. Malaysia practises a free economy which allows anyone who is willing to work (to improve their livelihood),” he said.

Dr Mahathir also said that Malaysia will continue to participate in making modern technology.

“We now have the means to build drones, and we will continue to undertake efforts to come up with sophisticated technologies so that Malaysia can become a modern and developed nation,” he said.

The current administration, Dr Mahathir said, wants Malaysia to be on an equal footing with developed nations.

“This is the hope for our country. So, do have resolutions to this effect,” he added.

By Azura Abas.

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Is the world on the brink of war?

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020
Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike outside the Baghdad Airport on Jan 3. – AFP pic

ARE we on the brink of a Third World War? There are signs that demand that we ask this question. Three clusters of signs compel us to probe a question that could well determine the future of our civilisation.

One, the nature of the event itself – the reckless assassination of the Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, on the orders of the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, on 3rd January 2020 at Baghdad airport – and the fears it has generated of a full-scale war between the two countries and other actors.

Two, the events that have preceded and followed the 3rd January murder that portend the danger of a much bigger conflict in the world’s most tumultuous region.

Three, the tussle for power and influence in West Asia between various actors and their protectors and allies which only needs a trigger to set the entire region ablaze.

The Assassination

While the Trump administration has tried to justify the killing of Qassem in terms of his role in combating the American military presence in West Asia, it is indisputably true that he was also instrumental in the defeat of al-Qaeda and Daesh and their affiliates in both Iraq and Syria — groups which the US leadership formally regarded as “terrorists.”

If Qassem had an iconic stature in Iran and certain other countries in the region it was because of his success against terrorists inasmuch as his resistance to the Americans whom he saw as occupiers.

In any case, it is doubtful if it was Qassem’s position against the US presence that was the primary factor in his assassination. Isn’t it possible that Trump was hoping that the assassination of a major figure from Iran — since Iran has been depicted as a demon in the US media — would lessen the adverse impact of his impending impeachment? Besides, if he is perceived as a tough leader willing to eliminate a foreign opponent, wouldn’t it boost his chances of re-election in the presidential polls at the end of this year?

The Context

Qassem’s killing should be seen in the context of deteriorating US-Iran relations since Trump withdrew from the Iran plus six nation nuclear agreement in 2018. He intensified pressure upon Iran in a multitude of ways. Sanctions were increased manifold. Drone surveillance over Iranian territory became more pronounced.

A US drone which had allegedly violated Iranian air-space was shot down by Iran on 20th January 2019. A tit-for-tat pattern in US-Iran confrontation developed often on Iraqi soil. The US for instance attacked a militia base in Iraq on 29th December 2019 which prompted pro-Iranian Iraqis to retaliate by occupying the US embassy in Baghdad on the 31st of December. Tit-for-tat confrontation arising from the targeting of Iran by the US has heightened the danger of an all-out war.

Tussle for Power

Perhaps a greater danger stems from the tussle for power within West Asia itself. Saudi Arabia, because of its immense oil wealth and its revered status as the land that situates Mecca and Medina, has for a long while regarded itself as the leader of the Muslim world.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979 was perceived as a challenge to its status partly because it had overthrown a monarchical structure and rejected US hegemony over the region. Besides, the vast majority of Iranians are Shia in contrast to Saudi Arabia’s adherence to Wahabi teachings.

The uneasiness between the two states did not create any severe friction until the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 which led eventually to the rise of the majority Shia population through the ballot-box. The empowerment of the Shia in Iraq, and their links to Shia Iran were interpreted by the Saudi elite as a threat to their position.

Soon, they also witnessed the strengthening of the minority Shia component of Syria largely because of a war imposed upon the land through the machinations of some regional actors backed by the US and its allies. It is because of these reasons — and not the military manoeuvres of Qassem alone —– that the Shias and Iran have become more influential in West Asia.

The increasing influence of Iran has also incensed Israel. Since the 1979 Revolution when the Iranian leadership stated unequivocally its commitment to the liberation of the Palestinian people, Israel has been antagonistic towards Iran. It has worked closely with the US elite to undermine Iran on a variety of fronts.

It is their common enmity towards Iran that has now helped to forge a bond between the Israeli and Saudi elites. It is this struggle for power, Saudi and Israeli elites on one side, and Iran and some of its allies on the other, which has exacerbated the potential for a huge conflict in the region.

Needless to say, the US role in this power struggle, as protector and defender of Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran has heightened the danger of war as never before.

Apart from these three clusters of signs, there are other factors which may also point in the direction of a possible war. They are related to the global economy and global political power. The irreversible shift in global power from the US and the West to China and certain other actors is causing much consternation in Washington DC and London among other capitals.

It signals the end of the epoch of Western dominance. Is a world war a way of preventing that change from taking place?

While the danger of a world war is real, we must also recognise that people everywhere do not want a war.

A lot of governments have condemned the brazen assassination of Qassem as a gross violation of international law. In fact, some members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate regard the authorisation of the murder by the US president as a stark transgression of US law.

For critics of US foreign policy outside the US in particular, Trump’s abuse of power is characteristic of a government which more often than not has behaved as if established law and civilised norms do not apply to it.

US “exceptionalism” is one of the main reasons why the global movement against hegemony has become so much stronger in the last three decades. They know as others do that war, a creature of hegemony, is a terrible scourge. It is not just a question of millions dying. Much of civilisation as we know it will also be eliminated especially since one of the protagonists is convinced that destroying cultural sites in a war is legitimate.

Iran which had suffered so much from a war imposed upon it in the eighties and has not initiated a war for the last 250 years is opposed to a military confrontation with the US. This is why avenging Qassem’s death for the Iranian leadership does not mean starting a war.

It is a rational leadership which will focus upon driving the US military forces out of West Asia through politics and diplomacy. If it succeeds in achieving this, it would have transformed the region and the world for the well-being of human beings everywhere.

By Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

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Sabah Govt upholds religious freedom – CM

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Ewon (sixth from left) with Bishop Melter (seventh left), Poon (fourth left) and Jannie (fifth left) and ohter guests at the Anglican Diocese of Sabah’s Christmas Open House yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Government upholds freedom of religion and peaceful and harmonious co-existence among the people, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

“Therefore, universal values such as peace and harmony, mutual understanding and human flourishing are highly priced that any party that subscribes and promotes them will certainly get my strongest support, because it will certainly benefit Sabah and Malaysia,” he said in his speech at the Anglican Diocese of Sabah’s Christmas Open House yesterday. Shafie’s speech was delivered by Rural Development Minister Datuk Ewon Benedick.

Christmas, Shafie pointed out, is a festive season and a joyous celebration for Christians in Sabah.

“Not only that, we can celebrate it in peace and harmony and where Malaysians of different backgrounds can gather and celebrate together. In your holy text in the Gospel, it says: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.

“The word is Peace. Peace is priceless. Your Christmas is associated with Peace. Peace or peacefulness can mean a state of harmony, quiet or calm that is not disturbed by anything at all, like a still pond with no ripple,” he said.

The Chief Minister added, “Peace too, remains a fundamental element in our harmonious co-existence and especially in a multi – cultural, multi- religious society like ours here in Sabah.”

“I am confident that your effort to host an Open House Christmas celebration like this will continue to forge and engender genuine understanding among your flock and our people also,” he said.

Among those present at the event were Bishop Datuk Melter Jiki Tais of the Anglican Church in Sabah, Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Frankie Poon and Assistant Law and Native Affairs Minister Jannie Lasimbang.

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Stories on elderly neglected by children, relatives heart-breaking: Lam Thye

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is expected to become an ageing nation by 2030 and it will definitely have major impacts on our nation and its economy.

In Malaysia, senior citizens are defined as those aged 60 years and above based on the definition made at the “World Assembly on Ageing 1982” in Vienna.

“There are serious problems and challenges ahead given the fact that Malaysia will reach the ageing nation status in 10 years when 15% of its population will be at least 60 years old. It was reported that there are currently two million people aged 60 or older, and this is set to increase to six million by 2040,” said chairman of Alliance for Safe Community, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The United Nations data show that the average person has gained an extra 30 years of life and can now expect to live to 72.6. It also estimates that there will be 2.1 billion people aged 60 and above by 2050, out of a projected total population of 9.7 billion.

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is already experiencing the issue of population ageing. By 2030, one in every three people in the country will be 65 or older and one in five people will be 75-plus years old.

“Malaysia will eventually face the same fate due to rapid graying in the country. It will also have implications on other aspects of our society, from health care and financial services to city planning and social services,” he said.

According to the recent Work of the Future report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Demographic shifts will impose steep burdens on national budgets as the ratio of retirees to workers rises and as the growth rate of working-age taxpayers slows.

“Apart from that, we have to look into loneliness and other mental health issues among the elderly when the country becomes an ageing nation.

“We often hear stories of senior citizens being abandoned and forced to live in a deplorable condition on their own.

“It’s very heart-breaking to read stories of the elderly people who were neglected, especially those who still have children or relatives,” he said in a statement.

There are cases of parents being abandoned at a hospital, welfare home or even bus stop by their own children or relatives.

It shows the lack of filial piety, which in the Chinese community refers to the important virtue and primary duty of respect, obedience, and care for one’s parents and elderly family members.

Many senior citizens have also shared their sadness when their children or relatives do not visit or call them. Some of them have to live on their own after being neglected by their families.

“Elder abandonment happens when children are busy working and such a situation could affect their parents’ emotional well-being, causing depression which will subsequently trigger senility or dementia,” he said.

The Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) has proposed that the government should consider having a separate ministry or division to focus on the ageing population.

The Society has highlighted the lack of professionals to handle senior citizens as there are only 40 geriatricians and around 2,000 occupational therapists in Malaysia.

International Medical University consultant psychiatrist Prof Dr Philip George said mental health also played a huge role in healthy ageing and we are doing too little to help prevent common mental health disorders, especially in the ageing population.

“We must remember that this problem will also become a huge burden on the carers too as many families find it a real challenge to look after elderly people who are mentally challenged.

“More awareness programmes must therefore be held to educate our society about the prevention of mental health problems at all levels.

“Mental health problems affecting the senior citizens are serious as they could also lead to suicide.”

There is no reliable data on suicide among the elderly but throughout the world, including Malaysia, suicide among the elderly is a huge and complex problem.

“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by not just professionals such as psychiatrists but also general health professionals. We must treat this issue as a public health problem rather than just a specialist matter.

“There is also an urgent need for the Government to introduce a special Act to safeguard the well-being of parents being left alone at home or abandoned elsewhere,” Lee said.

Failure to visit or give proper attention to parents could be considered as a form of neglect and should be subjected to legal action to prevent children from abandoning their responsibility to their parents.

Although some quarters may question the need to introduce such a law, the negative development in recent years should justify such a drastic action to stop the problem from worsening.

“We always pride ourselves on our eastern culture that teaches the young people to be courteous and respect the elderly people but such noble values are diminishing due to various reasons including the pressure from higher cost of living.

“Many people think that if parents can be charged for abandoning their children, the same action should be taken against children who neglect their parents.

“As a child, we must remember that our parents who are living on are prone to accidents and could injure themselves or become a crime victim. They can also suffer from mental health problems such as depression and senility.

“Since the cost of living is expected to increase in years to come, it is important to provide a social safety net including allowing the senior citizens to work as is the case in many Asian countries,” he added.

The Government could emulate the approach taken by other countries which had introduced various financial incentives for employers to hire or retain older workers and subsidise job training for them.

The country must also have a more comprehensive social security programme since studies show that the retirement income for most of the older people is inadequate.

Among others, we must foster a more affordable independent care system, such as the one in Hong Kong, which has the highest life expectancy in the world. In Hong Kong, about 40% of domestic workers are taking care of older adults, enabling them to stay in their home.

More non-governmental organisations should be set up to care for senior citizens who are neglected by their family members, especially those who suffer from illness.

“We need to help the elderly to remain in the community by providing day-care centres and day hospitals, social clubs, rehabilitation, counselling and advice centres, volunteer schemes and home nursing.

“The existence of “Homehelp volunteers” under the Social Welfare Department for example, has helped solve the problems faced by the senior citizens in their neighbourhood,” he pointed.

According to Lee, under the programme, volunteers will visit each senior citizen at least three times a month as well as monitoring their health and social development.

Such a support system which involves the local community will indirectly make neighbours more aware of the problems and needs of senior citizens living in the vicinity.

“Our main aim in caring for the elderly is to ensure that they could have a quality life in their twilight years.

“I believe that the most important thing for us to do now is to practise the noble values which include respecting and caring for the elderly who have sacrificed a lot to raise us up,” Lee concluded.

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Keeping up with the challenges

Friday, December 20th, 2019

We have made great strides in protecting basic human rights and freedoms, but there are always threats to counter. We fight best when we fight together.

DEC 10 was Human Rights Day, a reminder that human rights are inherent and not dependent on the state’s charity or generosity.

As we celebrate the many advances in the quest for human freedom, we must also take cognisance of the challenges, opportunities and regrettable regressions.

Dimensions: Like a mansion with many rooms, human rights have many dimensions.

Political science informs us of at least three dimensions: civil and political right, socio-economic rights and development rights.

No prioritisation between the various categories is intended because all human rights are interconnected and interdependent.

Food is as important as freedom and bread as important as the ballot box.

Challenges: I see four theatres of human rights violations where challenges confront us and opportunities beckon:

• Challenges from unjust national laws, institutions and structures;

• Absence of a national culture of human rights;

• Cross-border violations; and

• Advances of science and technology that impinge on human rights and dignity.

Oppressive legal structures: Malaysia is blessed with a written and supreme Constitution that provides for fundamental liberties.

Regrettably, the Constitution is not the polestar it was intended to be. Parliament and the executive behave as if their legislative competence is unrestrained.

There is no dearth of domestic laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Prevention of Crime Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, Universities and University Colleges Act, Official Secrets Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act and Societies Act that impose excessive restraints on human rights.

Additionally, in the administration of these laws, there is no “equal harassment under the law” and many powerful people and organisations enjoy impunity.

In addition to oppressive laws and unequal enforcement, there are policies, programmes, directives and guidelines that in our “administrative state” are given primacy over the Constitution and laws.

Within the civil service, the police and local authorities, there is a culture of subservience to the political elite.

The professionalism and check and balance that the public service should supply to the political executive is largely absent.

Government policies permit environmental degradation, overlogging, river pollution, razing of hills and displacement of natives from ancestral homes.

The Constitution’s rays of justice do not reach the Orang Asli, the aged, the disabled, the orphans, the widows and the needy. Quality education in public schools is a thing of the past and affordable medical treatment in public hospitals is becoming more and more difficult.

Corruption is endemic and a substantial portion of the economy allocated to helping the needy is siphoned off for the purposes of the elite. That is why significant success in affirmative action policies is rare.

Since the 1980s, a resurgent Muslim religious bureaucracy brooks no opposition to its version and vision of Islam. Diversity of opinion is criminalised. Books are banned. Foreign scholars are arrested and deported. Minority groups within the religion are vilified, demonised and prosecuted. Vigorous moral policing is widespread.

The judiciary is under an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution but, barring some honourable exceptions, our courts were, till 2017, extremely reluctant to review legislative and executive measures on the touchstone of the Constitution.

However, a judicial renaissance appears to be in the air and the swallows of spring are audible.

Lack of human rights culture: Human rights require socio-economic and cultural prerequisites. These are not fully in place. Our post-1969 education system and our race-based political culture perpetuate racial and religious polarisation and prejudices. Hate speech is common and goes largely unpunished.

There is widespread suspicion of and disrespect for “the other”. Human rights issues are often seen through a racial and religious lens rather than the prism of humanity.

This is, of course, a phenomenon in many other societies as well.

Due to lack of constitutional and human rights literacy, there is indifference towards structural injustices, authoritarian traditions, and racial and religious bigotry.

Issues such as the death penalty; preventive detention; torture in police custody; gender, race and religious discrimination; child marriage; corporal punishment in schools; endemic corruption in both the public and private sectors; and official abuse of power do not evoke strong responses.

There is lack of civic responsibility and environmental consciousness.

The courageous, small minority that advocates fidelity to the rights of all irrespective of race, religion or gender and pleads for moderation and tolerance, is denigrated as disloyal to its race, religion and nation and criticised for its “human rightism” and liberalism.

Cross-border violations: The 20th century saw concerted action against authoritarianism by the national state.

This century must seek protection for weak, under-developed nations against cross-border violations by predatory nations of the North Atlantic and their transnational corporations.

Every so often we read of “regime changes”, “humanitarian interventions”, “pre-emptive wars” and economic blockades by North Atlantic nations against poor Third World nations like Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Iran.

All wars, by whatever description, are a devastating violation of human rights. Economic blockades impose vicarious punishment on innocent children, women and the elderly. The world condemns drug trafficking but the lucrative trade in weapons of mass destruction by the merchants of death is given respectability.

Nuclear weapons remain in place despite the pretences of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Militarism fuels the conditions for the loss of life and the violation of the socio-economic rights of many impoverished Asian and African states. Seventy-four years after the setting up of the United Nations, peace remains as elusive as ever.

In the 21st century, international institutions must improve their ability to enforce the law against perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The culpability for the impending environmental catastrophe, depletion of the ozone layer and the overfishing of the seas falls mostly on Western shoulders. Poor countries of Asia and Africa have become the dumping ground for hazardous wastes.

Economic globalisation has metamorphosed into a threat to indigenous small-scale industries in the East that cannot cope with Western retail giants. Our indigenous resources, artefacts and herbal medicines are falling to Western patents and trademarks. A National Heritage Protection Law is needed at both national and international levels.

The debt stranglehold is suffocating many Asian and African nations. If human rights in the 21st century are to be protected, the world needs to move away from the corporation-based society and put casino capitalism activities under social control.

Science and technology: The numerous exhilarating advances of science and technology like genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, computerisation, information explosion and the rise of alternative means of communication, have a dark underbelly.

Cyberspace has become a convenient medium for hate speech and incitement to violence. Techniques of surveillance have put the right to privacy in mortal danger. Artificial intelligence, and the use of robots and computers pose a threat to the livelihood of workers and their right to organise into unions.

In the post-truth era of “deep fake”, our family life, reputation, jobs and bank savings are under threat from those who know how to abuse technology.

In sum, despite the progress of freedom, new threats to human rights and human dignity are emerging nationally and internationally and in the realm of politics as well as economics. Cross-border as well as private centres of oppression within each state are going unchecked.

There is no magic wand to meet the challenges. We should, nevertheless, not wring our hands in despair. We should come together; contribute our trickle of effort that could transform into a torrent of pressure. We should not wait for Parliament, Ministers or the Attorney General’s Chambers to improve unjust laws and institutions.

Remember, it is not the laws that make us free; it is we that make the laws free.

Emeritus Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi is Tunku Abdul Rahman Professor at Universiti Malaya’s law faculty and holder of the Tun Hussein Chair at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia. He wishes all Christian readers Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

By Shad Saleem Faruqi.

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Dr M: We need to find solutions

Friday, December 20th, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 is not meant to discriminate or isolate any country, but is aimed at coming up with proposals and solutions acceptable to the Muslim world, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We are not discriminating or isolating anyone. We are attempting to start small and see if these ideas, proposals and solutions are acceptable and prove workable.

“Then we hope to take them up to the larger platform for consideration, ” the Prime Minister said in his welcoming address at the summit yesterday.

Also present were Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and his wife Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

The foreign Muslim leaders present were Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Dr Mahathir, who is the summit’s chairman, said the objective was not to discuss religion but the state of affairs in the Muslim world, which he described as “in a state of crisis”.

“Everywhere we see Muslim countries being destroyed, their citizens forced to flee their countries, forced to seek refuge in non-Muslim countries.

“Many thousands die during their fight and many more were refused asylum. On the other hand, we see Muslims perpetrating violent acts, killing innocent victims… men, women, children, the sick and incapacitated.

“They have done this because their own countries are unable to provide security for them or do anything to retake the land that has been seized by others. Frustrated and angry, they react violently without in any way achieving their objectives, ” said Dr Mahathir.

The Prime Minister said in seeking revenge, all they succeeded in doing was to bring into disrepute their own religion of Islam.

“They have created fear by their actions. And now this Islamophobia, this unjustified fear of Islam, has denigrated our religion in the eyes of the world, ” he added.

Dr Mahathir explained that the summit needed to discuss how the fear involving Islamophobia was generated and whether it was true or mere propaganda of its detractors, or a combination of both.

“It is for these reasons that the summit meeting is organised. At the very least, through our discussion we may find what went wrong.

“We may even find solutions, if not to end these catastrophes at least to awaken the Islamic world, the ummah, of the need to recognise the problems and their causes.”

He said the Muslim world also had to deal with fratricidal wars, civil wars, failed governments and many other catastrophes without any serious effort being made to end or reduce them, or to rehabilitate the religion.

“We have seen other countries devastated by the Second World War not only recovering quickly but also growing strongly to become developed. But a few Muslim countries seem unable even to be governed well, much less to be developed and prosper.

“Is it our religion that is in the way? Is it that Islam is against worldly success and becoming a developed country? Or is it the Muslim themselves who prevent their countries from being governed well, from being developed?” he asked.

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Azilah’s SD: IPCMC can protect officers from following illegal orders.

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

WE cannot know for sure if all the details in Azilah Hadri’s explosive statutory declaration (SD) regarding the killing of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006 are true.

His revelations obviously have extremely serious political ramifications – most of which are the talk of the town this week.

Azilah’s story however, also potentially raises important questions about how things are done in the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).

Almost every paragraph in this article can be preceded by the phrase “If Azilah’s story is true …, ”.

For the purposes of brevity however, let it be stated here that all this is a hypothetical exercise that is particularly relevant should the details of Azilah’s story be in fact true.

His story is in many ways a tragedy. This man kept his silence for over 13 years, and his SD does indeed read like that of a man who has borne a heavy secret for that long.

To be clear, Azilah is no hero. At the end of the day, by his own confession, he pulled the trigger and has to bear the rightful consequences for his part in this sordid affair.

That said, this article is about what allegedly went through Azilah’s mind as he made the decision to commit this crime, and what this tells us about the culture of the police force, and the Malaysian government as a whole.

Azilah’s story more or less begins when he was brought in to see then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who tells Azilah that he is needed to perform an extremely important task that is vital to national security.

Najib allegedly tells Azilah that Altantuya is a spy who is a threat to national security because she is privy to all sorts of national security secrets. He also says that she is a slick operator, given to lying, and pretending that she is pregnant.

Azilah then says that Najib instructed him to get rid of Altantuya. When Azilah asked to clarify what Najib meant, Najib allegedly made a throat-slitting gesture. Najib also allegedly instructed Azilah to dispose of the corpse via explosives (a move that would theoretically erase any trace of a pregnancy, for example).

Throughout the story, Azilah says he repeatedly suggested to Najib and his aide-de-camp Musa Safri that the right approach would be to go through the proper channels and file a police report.

They refused Azilah’s suggestion, and told him that this was a national security matter of the utmost secrecy, that there was to be no paperwork, and that Najib’s name was to be kept out of this affair at all costs.

The rest of the SD narrates the sequence of events in considerable detail.

At the end of it all, the picture that emerges is one of a man who either trusted or was so subservient to his bosses, that he was willing to commit murder almost without question.

Azilah allegedly had nothing but verbal instructions and assurances to rely on. He was told that everything was going to be okay, and that his superiors would protect him.

Presumably he believed that the assurances of a deputy prime minister would suffice.

Ultimately, those assurances clearly did not suffice, as evidenced by Azilah now being on death row.

Once again, the potential political implications are massive.

Somewhat less scrutinised perhaps are some larger institutional questions.

How did a policeman and public servant become convinced that the verbal assurances of a few of his superiors were sufficient for him to disregard proper procedure and act outside the ambit of the law?

If Azilah’s account is true, it suggests a number of disturbing scenarios.

Firstly, that in the police and other institutions, feudal loyalty to one’s superiors is prioritised over adherence to proper procedure and the strict rule of law.

Secondly, that there are police, armed and trained to kill, who are ready to believe that they can do so without adherence to standard operating procedures, and without any kind of paperwork or institutional legitimisation.

Thirdly, that at least some police believe that if they follow the instructions of their superiors, they will be protected from the law.

By implication, their superiors are in fact, deemed to be above the law. Note: this is the perception of the very officers tasked with and sworn to uphold that same law.

If the police believe that politicians are above the law, where does that leave us?

As one of our politicians loved to say on his campaign trail, do we have rule of law in Malaysia, or the law of the jungle?

It is extremely hard to believe that Azilah would have acted on his own, to kill someone he did not know, for no discernible benefit to himself (unless you count the RM300 Najib allegedly gave him afterwards).

If he was just following orders (which the Nuremberg trials after World War II has taught us is no excuse), then what kind of police force and government do we have if politicians can just call a cop into their room, and successfully instruct them to kill someone and then blow them up, with no proper, institutionally backed orders?

Malaysians need to be protected from such violence, and the police need to be protected from such unscrupulous leaders.

This is where institutions like the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) would be of help to both the police and to the people of Malaysia.

An independent commission like the IPCMC exists not only to protect Malaysians from the police, but to protect the police from being neglected and from being unlawfully manipulated by powerful people in authority.

PDRM has a notoriously top-down power structure, where seniority and the chain of command are usually adhered to very strictly.

Should there be problems within the police hierarchy, officers may often feel they have no one to turn to – they can’t after all, make a police report, without fear of serious internal repercussions.

This highlights once again the need for an institution of recourse that exists outside the internal hierarchy and structure of the police – once again, both for the protection of ordinary Malaysians as well as the police themselves.

There will be ongoing focus on Najib’s role in this killing, and a lot of it will be political in nature.

Politics aside though, we must remember that a young woman was murdered in cold blood in the most brutal way imaginable, here on Malaysian soil.

One way or another, politics or no politics, everyone involved in her murder – from top to bottom – must be held accountable.

By Nathaniel Tan

NATHANIEL TAN is a communications consultant. He can be reached at

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Corruption should be on agenda

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

THE 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit (KL Summit), to be held from Dec 18 to 21 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, has received an encouraging response, with 52 countries confirming their attendance, and more than 400 participants, including more than 250 from abroad.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are expected to join Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the summit, which he will chair.

Unfortunately, fighting corruption is not listed on the agenda of the summit.

It should, in fact, take the necessary steps to address flaws in the global financial system that allow the corrupt to siphon off funds from the public purse and hide the proceeds of their crimes.

Last January, Transparency International Malaysia, the global anti-corruption coalition, released its 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that drew on 13 surveys and expert assessments measuring the perceived level of corruption of public sectors in 180 countries and territories in the world.

A country’s rank indicates its position relative to other countries in the index .

The smaller the number of the rank, the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.

Based on CPI 2018, Jordan ranked 58th with a score of 49 compared with 59th with a score of 48 in CPI 2017.

Saudi Arabia ranked 49th with a score of 58, one score above its CPI 2017 ranking.

Oman ranked 53rd with a score of 52, compared with the CPI 2017 ranking of 68th with a score of 44.

Indonesia was in 89th position with a score of 38 compared with 96th with a score of 37 in CPI 2017.

The other Muslim countries’ rankings and 2018 CPI scores were: Turkey, 78th with a score of 41; Bahrain, 99th with a score of 36; Egypt, 105th with a score of 35; Kosovo, 93rd and with a score of 37; Pakistan, 117th with a score of 33; Yemen, 176th with a score of 14; Iraq, 168th with a score of 18; Sudan, 172nd with a score of 16 ; Afghanistan, 172nd with a score of 16; Syria, 178th with a score of 13, and Somalia, 180th with a score of 10.

Worldwide, Denmark stands tallest with 88 points, with New Zealand in second place with 87 points.

Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland shared the third spot with 85 points.

Among the criteria used to determine the rankings are a robust rule of law, independent oversight institutions and a broad societal consensus against the misuse of public office and resources for private interests.

The 19th-century Egyptian scholar and jurist, Muhammad Abduh, once said: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I came back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.”

Currently, corruption remains the main problem in many Muslim-majority governments.

Most of the core values of Western countries, such as transparency, integrity, accountability, freedom, human rights and justice, are universal values which do not conflict with Islam or any other religion and are even important constituents of Islamic teachings.

A country’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Thus, the countries with higher scores will rank much higher in position (as being less corrupt) compared with countries with lower scores.

It is interesting to note the trend in fighting corruption within Muslim and Muslim-majority countries.

The 2018 CPI results showed that no Muslim country ranked in the top 20 out of the 180 countries surveyed.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) took the 23rd place with a score of 70, topping all other Muslim countries.

Brunei ranked 31st with a score of 63, the second cleanest Muslim country followed by Qatar, which ranked 33rd with a score 62.

Malaysia is the seventh least corrupt country among Muslim nations but has moved up to the 61st spot — one notch higher than the previous year though it still retains a score of 47 points.

A study of 208 countries and territories by Professor Hussain Askari of George Washington University entitled, “How Islamic are the Islamic Countries”, showed that most countries which applied Islamic principles in their daily lives were not the ones that were traditionally Muslim.

The top countries in economic achievement and social values were New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg. Malaysia was in 33rd place, Saudi Arabia 91st and Somalia 199th, at the bottom of the list.

Hussain said we listened to religious lessons and sermons more than people of other faiths, but we were still not the best of nations.

In the last 60 years, we have listened to 3,000 Friday sermons. We must practise what we preach or hear being preached.

Since the UAE, Brunei and Qatar are seen to be the cleanest and most trustworthy of all Muslim countries, they should share their best practices to improve the CPI score and reduce corruption in other Muslim countries. Even the G20 included anti-corruption as an issue on the agenda of their summit.

It is strongly urged that Malaysia, being the chair of 2019 KL Summit, put the anti-corruption agenda at the forefront of its initiatives and play a leading role in fighting corruption in Muslim countries.

By Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar.

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NST Leader: Honours, titles

Thursday, December 12th, 2019
Selangor has made a good start. Of the 958 nominated for the royal honours, only 19 were conferred awards by Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah at an investiture yesterday to mark his 74th birthday. A drop from 25 awards of last year. BERNAMA

ROYAL awards are meant for those who have shown loyalty, gallantry, and service to the sultan, king or country. On occasions, they have been hung round the wrong necks. Or pinned on undeserving lapels. Happily, this may not happen again. The discerning are at it. Rules and criteria are getting strict and the vetting process more robust. And committees are going sharp ears and keen eyes, as a 14th century Chinese idiom would put it.

The number of awards is being reduced too. Selangor has made a good start. Of the 958 nominated for the royal honours, only 19 were conferred awards by Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah at an investiture yesterday to mark his 74th birthday. A drop from 25 awards of last year. Other states are similarly making sure that titles do go to the honourable. Only thus can the distinguished, eminent, noble and venerable be assured the honours.

The police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Malaysian Insolvency Department, too, are casting the nets wide. This is to avoid the undeserving — such as those with criminal records — being conferred the awards for which the nominations are made. The police and MACC should go further often as they have done in the past. They should investigate awardees who are involved in criminal activities and recommend revocation of the titles. And fake awardees, too. There are two reasons for this. One, it will preserve the dignity of the royal awards. Two, such a move will put an end to criminals and fake titleholders from stealing the dignity away from the deserving.

Criminals with titles and fake “Datuk” are not uncommon. Perhaps the most famous of the “titled” criminal was a 32-year-old “Datuk” reported to be the head of a notorious gang shot dead by his bodyguard on Dec 6, 2016. We are not short of peddlers of make-believe either. Last year, a Sessions Court sentenced two individuals — a “Datuk Seri” and a single mother — to 15 months’ jail and fined RM24,000 after being found guilty of eight counts of deceiving eight people into buying fake “Datuk” title from Kelantan. The eight were said to have lost RM735,000 in the title chase. There have been other peddlers before. On Nov 16, 2017, a news portal reported the arrest of two men by the Johor police for hawking fake “Datuk” and “Datuk Seri” titles to 40 businessmen. They were said to have lost millions. Things people do to purchase fame. Let’s be brutal. Our sympathy is not with such pseudos.

Some Malaysians are really title chasers. Real or fake, it doesn’t seem to matter. To them we say this: honours are earned for loyalty, gallantry and service. “Earned” doesn’t mean “bought”. Not everything can be purchased. A royal title is one of them. If one really wants this royal award, one should work for it. Be loyal and serve the state or country. Or display valour. Do not try buying them from peddlers. Honours are not street goods to be bought and sold. Besides, people can easily spot a fake title. By the fake who adorns it. Instead, go for the real thing.

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