Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

Steadfastly neutral and apolitical

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
Civil servants are committed to executing government policies, goals and agenda.

LETTERS: “We serve the government of the day” is a familiar phrase that has long being woven into the fabric of the civil service. An ethos instilled within and upheld by those who signed up for government service.

Advocating such a principle has gone blindingly obvious in the backdrop of mature democracy and the recent political turbulence.

Amid the political wobble, the government machinery in ministries, departments and agencies remains intact.

For us, the civil servants, it is still business as usual. We stand impartial, continue doing our work while offices and operations return to a semblance of normalcy. This is the epitome of professionalism and non-partisanship at work.

Ultimately, democracy necessitates the civil service to be consciously and studiously neutral, come what may. Even in dire straits, civil servants must take an unbiased position while upholding the rule of law without fear and favour in accordance with the Constitution.

We are also overwhelmed by the unprecedented political feuds, and like many, are also personally impacted and similarly concerned over how the rift would end.

The worry is justifiable because we have seen how things had turned ugly after governments in other countries changed overnight.

The infuriated could easily slip beyond the periphery of outrage, jump onto the activism bandwagon and spark riots.

The civil servants in Malaysia remain composed because of the responsibility we are entrusted with and the pride to uphold our professionalism that is above everything else.

We execute what we are expected to with professionalism — to assist and administer, to engage and disengage, to respond and question, to act and conduct, to adapt and adopt. After all, that is what a pragmatic civil service comes down to — being able to serve with integrity and to the best of one’s ability.

Just because we exercise our right to vote and cast our ballot during the election, it does not mean that apolitism is a myth. Likewise, being fully entitled to vote does not mean our political leanings should stand in the way of executing any of the government’s policies, goals and agenda.

Although our choice as an individual singularly impact us and may potentially impact the larger system, that does not prompt us to violate the values we firmly hold to while serving the government of the day, whatever the political inclination is.

No matter how boiling hot the political cauldron is, we should sit composedly on the fence.

There has already been countless discussions about the direction of the country. While many are still baffled, perplexed, unsettled or still trying to internalise what had happened with the political saga, we, the civil servants continue to buckle down and get our hands to the plough.

The political stalemate should not be the reason for a hindered productivity nor should it impede civil service excellence.

Think about it for a second: The face of the government may change but how the civil service is governed remains. The politicians come and go but policy implementers stay.

I am not speaking on behalf of all the public servants — far from it — but I can safely argue that many of those who signed up to become civil servants are genuine in meeting obligations despite sometimes being the lightning rod for criticism.

Ideally, the door must swing both ways — as much as the civil servants should faithfully serve the government of the day, the government of the day should also respect our impartiality.

Put succinctly, against all adversity, civil servants must always be mindful of the word “servant” that we carry.

Our moral compass should be set clear to serve the nation through the government of the day with equal degree of commitment, whatever the political ideology is.

Let us all stay impartial and deliver what we say we will.


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Finding honour among our politicians

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Despite constant bickering in the political scene, Malaysians have shown maturity and restraint. Politicians must now show integrity in these trying times.

SOON after the Pakatan Harapan government took power after the last general election in May 2018, The Star was summoned to the Home Ministry over complaints about an article that we published.

Being invited to meet senior civil servants of the ministry was quite common under the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

The meetings involving senior editors of The Star usually ended with admonishments over articles that were deemed either too sensitive or dangerous.

Sometimes at these meetings, we were warned that the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 could be used to punish recalcitrant publishers. (The PPPA has been used in the past to suspend media licences and even shut down newspapers.)

However, not too long after this last meeting, we were informed by an official that we would no longer be summoned to the ministry. This official told us that the directive came from higher-ups.

She was as good as her word because we have not heard from the ministry’s print media division for almost two years now. In fact, checks with other media practitioners showed that there was very little interference from the ministry, if at all. But I wonder if this will change now with a new government in place?

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has just been confirmed as our eighth Prime Minister. Pakatan Harapan is no longer in power and we have a new ruling coalition, Perikatan Nasional, which consists of Parti Bersatu Pribumi Malaysia, Barisan and PAS.

Will this new coalition result in diminished media freedom once again? Journalists and media owners supported the creation of a media council which would eventually see the end of the PPPA, an act which some have termed the enemy of the free press.

The pro-tem committee of the media council was formed late last year with the express aim of formulating a code of conduct that would replace the PPPA.

The repeal of this archaic law would of course have to be tabled in Parliament. But there are now question marks as to whether the present government would see this move through.

I raise this matter because I think it is important to acknowledge that we have made great strides when it comes to freedom of the press. The 2019 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index has us up 22 spots to 123 in the world, the top-ranked South-East Asian nation.

Malaysia’s media fraternity is professional in conducting our work and this was demonstrated at the height of the political upheaval in the last week or so.

I am not referring to social media pundits or armchair bloggers. I am referring to legitimate members of the media who were at

the frontlines of all the political intrigues throughout Malaysia and in the capital.

I am referring to those men and women staking out Istana Negara, the Prime Minister’s Office and many other locations.

These dedicated journalists had to linger and wait under the hot sun to file their stories in trying conditions and they did it with poise and a spirit of camaraderie. Above all, they brought us the news accurately without fear or favour.

In the midst of all these, we were inundated with a deluge of fake news via WhatsApp, social media and unverified websites. But Malaysians proved that they are mature enough to know where to turn to for reliable news.

In the same vein, the rakyat also owes a debt of gratitude to another group of Malaysians who proved that political instability is not going to distract them from getting their jobs done.

I am referring to the men and women of our civil service, be it the police, army or staff of ministries who went on working despite the absence of ministers or political leadership. For them, it was business as usual.

If this was a demonstration of the maturity of our civil servants, it was also a microcosm of Malaysians in general who showed that just like they did in the aftermath of the 2018 general election, there was no need for rallies, violent demonstrations or riots.

One needs to take a step back now and realise that Malaysia is evolving and reaching a stage of political maturity that has seen the electorate going about our business in spite of the political chaos and breakdowns that have taken place.

Admittedly, there were and still are numerous social media posts that are racist, incendiary and seditious in nature but by and large, Malaysians have been a beacon of self-

restraint. Peace and calm have prevailed.

As we all pray and hope with bated breath that the political instability will come to an end, we also pray that integrity, honour and ethics will bring a new dawn to Malaysia irrespective of who leads the government.

My hope is that Malaysians will continue to mature and more importantly that maturity will permeate the ranks of our politicians be it at the state assembly level or the august house of Parliament.

After all, the rakyat’s demonstration of maturity must be mirrored in the words and actions of our politicians.

By Brian Martin.

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Expectations of MY government

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Trust needs to be rebuilt urgently to heal the heart and soul of the nation.

“THE priority is to increase administrative integrity and management. Fight corruption and abuse of power.

“Even if you are a farmer, a fisherman, a trader, a civil servant or a private sector employer, I am your prime minister. I offer my heart and soul for the nation.”

Any country would be fortunate to have a leader who says, believes and executes these words. These particular sentences, together with commitments towards addressing cost of living, healthcare and education, were uttered in an address to the nation by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin a day after being appointed as the eighth Prime Minister by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong following a process which followed the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

Indeed, only fanatics among certain political parties (and lazily, some parts of the international press) have criticised the performance of our head of state in this matter, while downplaying the role of duplicitous politicians in triggering the whole episode in the first place.

Some other countries would have descended into violence in a situation of political uncertainty, but the constitutional and moral authority of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong ensured peace and stability.

But while our new head of government might be constitutionally legitimate, he knows that establishing moral legitimacy is a much harder task.

The trust deficit is such that his claims have been mocked, particularly of “not wanting to be Prime Minister” and only stepping forward when his name was “put forward”.

In response to the “promise to appoint a Cabinet from individuals who are clean, with integrity and calibre, ” one meme added a stinging conclusion: “which means it will be completely empty.”

Indeed, the appointment of the Cabinet will provide the next substantial evidence of the direction in which our country will move, especially since the MPs available contested the last general election on different manifestoes.

There is a flurry of lobbying going on, not only from party leaders (who claim that they are leaving the choices entirely up to the Prime Minister, despite reliable accounts that names have been submitted for consideration), but also from different ideological factions within supporters.

One list, which was described as “too good to be true” in one of my groups for its purported ministers of finance and education, was later revealed to have been created by reformist defenders of the new government, to suggest that despite the unfortunate manner of the change of Prime Minister, the new Cabinet might actually be capable of many meaningful reforms.

Indeed, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, likely to have a senior role in the new line-up, stated the government’s commitment to the Constitution, the Rukun Negara and the “national agenda to drive the economy, guarantee inclusive prosperity, preserve security and sovereignty, strengthen unity as well as ensure institutional reform”.

Many might dismiss these assurances as worthless but the fact that they have been said at least provides something against which civil society can hold them.

And it is vital that civil society, together with advocates and activists on important issues, continues to speak up.

I hope that jitters over reports of investigations into certain individuals for what appear to be activities within their constitutional rights are more the result of a temporary and exaggerated fear of a crackdown, rather than an actual crackdown on civil liberties.

As per the statement from the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) – approved by the board of directors which I chair – “the new government must continue the push to abolish oppressive laws, particularly the Sedition Act 1948. Constitutionally enshrined freedoms such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association must be upheld”.

Our statement continues by noting challenges on the economic front and the need for the government to implement the stimulus package and define a new strategy for economic growth.

We call upon the Opposition to rebuild, regroup and focus their efforts towards ensuring a check and balance on the government’s power. The parliamentary reforms already achieved (especially the select committees) will be important in this regard.

More urgently, trust needs to be rebuilt: between people and government, and among Malaysians. A narrative of inclusivity, acceptance and embracing diversity as one of our greatest strengths as a nation needs to be shaped.

Trust between Malaysians of all backgrounds is not only critical for the country to fulfil its true potential, but essential in building a nation where everyone feels a sense of purpose and belonging.

This necessarily requires both a strong shared sense of history, a feeling of a common destiny, and a solid understanding of why our institutions exist.

It is only in this way that the recent political trauma can be redeemed towards a more positive, democratic future.

By Tunku Zain Al-Abidin.

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Good governance will unite people, strengthens economy

Thursday, March 5th, 2020
Malaysian citizens from all over the world and from all walks of life voted for a clean and trustworthy administration, with strong institutions to protect the rights of all Malaysians, against kleptocracy, the abuse of power, greed and corruption. – NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAA

LETTERS: WE, the members of G25, join other organisations in civil society to express our deep disappointment and frustration at the way the recent political process has been working in Malaysia, to bring about a change of government.

In expressing our disappointment, we wish to emphasise that we are not against a change of any government. It is an accepted practice in a parliamentary system of democracy, that when there is a vote of no confidence tabled in parliament by the opposition against the Prime Minister, and if the vote stands, the government automatically falls.

The Prime Minister will then have the choice of: (i) either to tender his resignation or (ii) or to request the head of state to dissolve parliament, such request if acceded to, will result in a general election. This, unfortunately did not happen here in Malaysia.

Instead, the 7th Prime Minister who was elected by the people suddenly resigned on his own initiative, taking down with him, the whole Cabinet and causing so much uncertainty and anxiety in the country. This is because he did not name his successor.

His Majesty the Yang di Pertuan Agong has appointed Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the new Prime Minister. We hope that the usual parliamentary practice will be allowed to operate in order to determine the legitimacy of the new Prime Minister’s appointment by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

In the light of what had transpired politically, a motion for a vote of no confidence would be the most appropriate move in the forthcoming sitting of parliament as it is a constitutional right of the Opposition, following the correct constitutional and democratic practice.

If the motion were to succeed, then, the Yang di Pertuan Agong shall either appoint a new Prime Minister or dissolve parliament, as the case may be, in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Constitution. On the other hand, if the motion were to be defeated and Parliament confirms the appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, then, the appointment must be respected by the citizens.

The people feel betrayed by our politicians. It is the people who voted the Pakatan Harapan government into power during the previous General Election (GE14) on the strength of the reform manifesto. Malaysians had welcomed their reform proposals and voted for the Pakatan Harapan government with a mandate to transform Malaysia’s system of governance.

Malaysian citizens from all over the world and from all walks of life voted for a clean and trustworthy administration, with strong institutions to protect the rights of all Malaysians, against kleptocracy, the abuse of power, greed and corruption.

We in G25 are dismayed that instead of concentrating on implementing the reforms, the politicians were obsessed with infighting to seize power, which became so vicious that it led to the collapse of the government.

We condemn these power-hungry politicians as they have clearly shown they only care about their own self-interests, without any sense of duty to fulfil the promises of reforms that they made when they were campaigning for votes from the people.

In relation to the appointment of the Prime Minister by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution prescribes that he shall appoint the Prime Minister, a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House.

Under the Federal Constitution His Majesty alone – and independently – must determine the requirement of ‘likely to command the confidence of the majority’; and no-one else – not even the Conference of Rulers. Of course, needless to say, His Majesty carries out the task, which may be difficult at times, with the guidance of the Attorney General on the application of the law and the Federal Constitution.

We in G25 also hope that the print and electronic media will continue to be open and easily accessible.

The public hopes that they can and will continue to hold and express opi

nions through all forms of media, while strictly adhering to the norms of decency and factual integrity. G25 also supports the existing laws that monitor or prosecute purveyors of fake news.

We, the members of G25 call upon the new Prime Minister, whoever he may be after the next sitting of parliament, to respect the wishes of the people who strongly advocate for urgent institutional reforms. We want to see considerable changes to the electoral system, so as to provide a level playing field for all political parties, big and small, with money politics being banned.

We want to see fair competition that would render elections meaningful for our democracy. We want a strong system of checks and balances among the institutions of government because as we can see from what is happening now, we cannot blindly rely on the declarations of honesty and integrity from our politicians

We need them to be persons of integrity so that they can protect the interests of the nation and the people. We should have a civil service and governmental institutions that are honest, courageous and independent of political influence so that they can become pillars of strength and hope in good and bad times.

Malaysia should emulate the developed countries where Prime Ministers and their cabinet may fall, but the nation’s administrative machinery continues to function smoothly. These countries are aware that their democratic system must always provide for the stability and continuity of public services, which are vital for a healthy and functioning economy.

We should be a country where there are no draconian laws that not only stifle freedom of expression, assembly and association but also create a bad impression of a government that is afraid of its own people.

We welcome the assurance given by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his speech yesterday that his priority as Prime Minister is to increase administrative integrity and management, and to fight corruption and abuse of power.

We are further heartened by his assurance that his Cabinet will comprise clean individuals with calibre. We hope that his Cabinet members are those who believe in reforms in both the secular and religious aspects of government to make the country a model of tolerance for our multicultural country and its diversity of race and religion.

These reforms must include respect for our fundamental freedoms under the constitution and our plural society so that all races will feel a sense of pride and belonging as citizens of the country. With all races feeling united as a nation, Malaysia will be able to recover from the current economic problems and become a successful high-income country in the near future, with the lower income groups of all races enjoying higher standards of living.

Nothing is more powerful in uniting the people than a well-functioning and prosperous economy. But, this does not come from the sky. It comes from good and honest government.


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Unity enjoyed under Tunku sorely missed

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

FEB 8 this year would have been the 117th birthday of Malaysia’s Bapa Kemerdekaan (Father of Independence) Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. It is regrettable that the day went by without any mention of it or any significant event to mark it.

The legacy of Tunku has touched the hearts of many, young and old, from different racial and religious backgrounds all over the nation. He was a great statesman and I still remember vividly some of his outstanding remarks as our then prime minister. They include:

“Every one of us must respect each other’s right and feelings, be tolerant of each other’s religion, customs and habits for in diversity we can find real unity.”

“We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that united us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”

Tunku should also be remembered for his simplicity, sincerity, integrity, strong sense of patriotism and, above all, his unwavering stand on harmony and unity in a multiracial nation.

The values he stood for were exemplary and his ways were an inspiration for all Malaysians who strive for a united nation.

In recognition of Tunku’s legacy of unity, let all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion re-dedicate themselves to working towards national unity through “mutual respect of each other’s rights and feelings, religions, customs and habits, for in diversity we can find real unity”.

If Malaysians, in particular politicians, are able to put into practice Tunku’s words of wisdom, Malaysia today would be a more harmonious and peaceful nation.

Looking at the present situation, the nation has yet to be united even though it has enjoyed six decades of independence.

In the 1970s till the late ‘90s, the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness was based on sharing and respecting each other regardless of social, economic and religious backgrounds.

It was the way of life. We played, studied, camped and visited each other with no worries and qualms of hurting each other with our actions. Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and other festivities were celebrations for all.

But today, our nation has become polarised along race and religion. All religions encourage their followers to do good, be courteous, humble, honest, respectful and above all not to hurt one another even unintentionally. Unfortunately, we have deviated from these virtues.

Crime, social behaviour, politics, education, health, laws and even festivities have been infused with the element of race and religion from the negative perspectives. At every opportunity, an incident is viewed from a racial or religious angle.

Malaysia today is going through a very critical phase of its existence in view of the continuous articulation of extreme views by several quarters.

Speaking ill of, casting aspersions and making hate speeches against fellow Malaysians are most undesirable, uncalled for and will certainly not help to forge inter-racial harmony and unity. We need to go back to the 1957 Merdeka Spirit and work towards genuine racial and religious harmony.

For those who persist in making incendiary and insensitive statements and instigate racial and religious tension, our law enforcement agency should take action on them without fear or favour and help restore public confidence in the process.

The immediate task of all political leaders and all strata of society is to stop the drift towards racial polarisation. Politicising every issue and problem will not benefit the nation.

We need to be sincere to find solutions to the nation’s problems. Malaysians are disappointed and even disenchanted when certain politicians play the race card to gain popularity.

This is the time for all level-headed patriotic Malaysians irrespective of race to reject all forms of religious and racial extremism, and stand up and be counted in furthering the cause of mutual respect, harmony and unity.

By: Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

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Morality play in our unending political struggle

Monday, March 2nd, 2020
Political events of recent days may be a reflection of how different groups in the country attach varying degrees of importance to public issues and how politicians representing each group try their best to resonate with their audiences. – NSTP/File pic

Foreign and local analysts have gone about painting political manoeuvrings of the past week as a morality play.

Seeing events in stark (and simplistic) black or white may be compelling; it certainly makes great news copy but, as the BBC says, events are never black and white.

The “Ming Court” incident of 1987 that redefined Sarawak politics for a generation is an appropriate parable to illuminate national politics in recent days.

The “vote” of no-confidence in the leadership of then chief minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud (made at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur and not in the state assembly in Kuching) was stillborn as Taib dissolved the assembly and triggered a snap election.

It was a nail-bitingly close electoral tussle. Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) saw an opening in the disarray in the main political party then and now, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) as ex-chief minister Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub slugged it out with his nephew and successor, Taib.

Taib pulled through with the slimmest of margins, at 14 seats in the newly-elected 48-seat assembly. PBDS gained 15 due to the so-called Dayakism wave. PBB defectors, led by Rahman, gained five seats, denying their partner, PBDS, its chance to lead a new state government.

The Rahman-aligned PBDS’ fatal flaw turned out to be the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP). Despite defections, the Chinese-based SUPP held its own, with 11 seats and, crucially, stuck with Taib. With the Sarawak National Party’s three seats, Taib secured a wafer-thin 28-seat majority.

SUPP’s then leader, the late Tan Sri Dr Wong Soon Kai (a medical-school contemporary of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) no doubt saw the events leading up to 1987 as a clear morality play.

Here was Taib, some five years after being plucked by the uncle from relative obscurity in the federal cabinet to lead Sarawak, unable to move out of Rahman’s shadow.

A major reason why Rahman gave way was grumblings in SUPP over his decade-long leadership.

I had a chance to interview Dr Wong some years after he retired upon losing his assembly seat in the 1996 state election, the second SUPP deputy chief minister to face such personal ignominy. At least both lost with personal and political integrity intact.

Dr Wong cryptically quoted a Chinese proverb during the interview: that unless the main beam of the house is straight, the house will not be sturdy.

I think he perceived that (keeping to the straight path) as his main political contribution.

There were stories that Taib, at least in the initial years after the “Ming Court” incident, showed genuine deference to Dr Wong’s views on state matters.

How ironic that SUPP would later crumble almost into political irrelevance, becoming part of the political problem.

If I read what DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang wrote over the past few days correctly, he (if not his fellow DAP leaders) is aware of the perils of being trapped, like SUPP, through involvement in the governance of the country.

Be prepared to be unpopular, even misunderstood, wrote Lim to his party leaders in government.

Corruption in government is a curse the world over. In democratic societies, it is, of course, the job of every citizen to help fight it. A dilemma confronts politicians and parties in the country, such as DAP and SUPP, in their trying to draw popularity and political strength as torchbearers in the fight against corruption, especially when majority groups regard it as only one of a few other priorities and not the most pressing at that.

Political events of recent days may be a reflection of how different groups in the country attach varying degrees of importance to public issues and how politicians representing each group try their best to resonate with their audiences.

For sure, there is the moral dimension but underlying elements almost always (and everywhere) end up overlaying the moral.

Malaysians battled and won the morality play that was the 14th General Election. Some determined it to be a continuing struggle of foremost priority. Others want a return to what is regarded as equally or more important, unfinished business. That is our unending political struggle.

Will there be a way this Gordian Knot, with its frustratingly complex, hugely polarising and stubbornly entrenched web of deeply-held convictions, ever be undone?

By John Teo.

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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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