Archive for March 17th, 2007

Royal Address Monday – will PM redeem failures of past 40 months to “walk the talk” of reform?

Every March, the Yang di Pertuan Agong will officially launch Parliament with a Royal Address which spells out the government’s programme for the new year.

The Royal Address is not the personal speech of the Yang di Pertuan Agong but the policy presentation of the government-of-the-day for the next 12 months.

The official opening of the third session of the current 11th Parliament will be on Monday (19th March) by the new Yang di Pertuan Agong for the first time, and Malaysians are entitled to know whether the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will redeem his failures in the past 40 months to “walk the talk” of reform agenda to spell out the government’s policy initiatives and legislation programme for the coming year to finally deliver his reform pledge.

Let me touch on three areas which should be top priority in the Abdullah government’s policy initiatives and legislation programme for the coming year, if Abdullah is to retain credibility and even legitimacy for his unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority in the March 2004 general election.

Firstly, announce a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and why corruption had worsened in the past three years instead of improving — as reflected not only by the seven-placing drop from No. 37 to 44 in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from 2003 to 2006 but also the latest corruption survey last week of Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) that Malaysia is perceived to be more corrupt than the previous year and that Malaysia would soon lose out and be overtaken by China and India in anti-corruption rankings.

The Royal Address on Monday should also incorporate the Abdullah premiership’s commitment to introduce legislation to confer full autonomy to the ACA, removing it from the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office and making it fully independent and answerable only to Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »


Living in Kasar Times

Living in Kasar Times
by Farish A. Noor

Its quite rare for a talcum-powdered, linen-clad bloke like me to get angry in public, and so I write this piece with a hint of embarrassment to begin with. During one of my antique hunts around Central Market recently, I experienced something that raised my blood pressure high enough to warrant an article being written about it.

While trawling through the mountains of made-for-tourists kitsch that passes as contemporary Southeast Asian folk art and handicrafts (nursing the futile hope of actually chancing upon something worth buying, in vain), I overheard a conversation among some young kutu types.

They were looking at some wayang kulit puppets hanging by the door of one of the shops in the market, and pointing to the figures of the Mahabharata heroes Yudistira and Arjuna, two of the five Pandawa brothers of lore.

The punk-headed kutu said to his skin-headed friend with a ring in his nose: “Apalah hero wayang ni. Kurus, ramping macam mak nyah lah. Tangan tak de muscle pun, macam mana nak jadi hero? Nampak macam bapok saja!”

Under normal circumstances I would have let such an untutored remark pass. If Malaysians can’t be bothered to read a little bit more about their own culture and history, then why should we feel offended when tourists say similar things and think similar thoughts?

Who would care to explain to the kutu braders why the heroic figures in the Nusantara rendition of the Mahabharata were and remain so slender, so fine, almost feminine? And even if I had set up my soapbox to deliver an impromptu lecture of Southeast Asian masculine aesthetics, who would have listened?

I cursed my luck for not being able to find a single decent piece of nyonya jewellery instead…

But one month on, events have prompted me to go back to that episode. Like some pathetic gesture of trying to regain lost time, I regret that I had not stood my ground and defended the slender arms of dear ol’ Arjuna, he of the long eyelashes and warm pouting lips.

I regret the fact that I had not defended the value of halus against the unwavering, relentless, smelly tide of kasar and kasarism instead. For indeed, we live in kasar times.

Signs of kasar-ness are all around us today: Politicians lose their cool and reach for their daggers, shouting slogans of blood and triumphalism as soon as they see a microphone.

Powerful men on the make assume that their powers are so limitless that the mansions they build have to reflect their largess as well, to the point where their homes rival the palaces of kings both in size and vulgarity.

Arguments are no longer met with counter-arguments, but with lawsuits or death threats instead. So much for our beloved ‘Asian values’ that are supposed to be ever so halus, refined and sophisticated. Read the rest of this entry »