Archive for July 12th, 2007

Dear Citizen Lina…

by Farish A. Noor

Identities are funny things. They evolve, overlap and sometimes regress when we least expect it. Odder still, most of us — though we might not care to admit it — actually have several at the same time; and the dilemma faced by many of us living in this modern world is how to juggle several overlapping, criss-crossing, permanently mutating and at times contradictory identities at the same time, without having to make an appointment with the psychoanalyst.

Now the problem of living in modern postcolonial nation-states like ours is that in just too many cases the politics of identity has come to the forefront as the defining aspect of national politics as a whole. Malaysia is not unique in this respect and everywhere we look we see modern nation-states in crisis, or denial, because the citizens themselves are at odds over who and what they are. The bane of postcolonial development is the lingering doubts over nationhood, loyalty and belonging. Once the white masters in their funny pith helmets packed their bags and were shipped back home, the natives started asking the question: ‘Now who has the right to stay?’

What is doubly odd about Malaysia (and here we are unique) is the way that the postcolonial set up envisaged a rather ackward and clumsy arrangement between two legal systems; one secular and one religious, to cater to the needs of all. Furthermore as we all know this happens to be one of the very few countries in the world where the racial and religious identity of one group — the Malays — has been defined by the constitution.

That the conflation of Malay and Muslim identity is artificial and has no basis in history is embarrassingly evident for all to see. Why, we just have to hop on the first AirAsia flight to Indonesia next door to see for ourselves that the same rule does not apply for them. Indonesians seem more comfortable with the idea that in the same family there can be Muslims, Christians and Hindus living under one roof, and unlike us they dont go around crafting slogans and jinggles for the ad campaign to sell Indonesia as some multi-culti happy land of harmony that is ‘Truly Asia’. Moreover, it proves that our Indonesian friends are quite capable of living with Pluralism that doesnt have to be imported from the liberal capitals of the West. But try taking that road to multiculturalism in Malaysia and see what happens…

Well, in fact one among our number has done just that, though at a rather hefty cost to her well-being. Read the rest of this entry »


Caucus public hearing becomes “closed session” – Police not prepared to be responsive

The absence of police officials and the need for the “public hearing” of the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights and Good Governance on “Fight Rising Crime” in Petaling Jaya last night to become a “closed session” are clear proof that the Police is still not prepared to adopt a new paradigm of “policing for people” despite all talk of police “rebranding with a new vision and mission”.

Instead of thanking the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights and Good Governance for creating a meaningful forum for the police to hear the voices of the people about their concerns, fears, hopes and nightmares about crime and the fear of crime in various parts of the country, the police have adopted a far from appreciative attitude as illustrated by the absence of police officials at the public hearing in Petaling Jaya last night to hear out the people who are concerned about the law-and-order situation in the Klang Valley to attend and speak up at the three-hour session.

There is also no doubt that if the Police is prepared to fully respect and respond to the concerns of Malaysians about the law-and-order situation, there would have been no need for the Parliamentary Caucus public hearing to become a “closed session” with the media not allowed to report its proceedings.

The “Fight Rising Crime” public hearings of the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights and Good Governance were never meant to be police-bashing exercises, and this was clearly understood by members of the public and the press as illustrated by the first public hearing of the caucus in Johor Baru last Sunday.

There is one common objective among those who attended the public hearing — to have a better-quality policing service to restore to Malaysians their most fundamental human right to be doubly free from crime and the fear of crime, so that citizens, tourists and investors can be safe and feel safe whether in the streets, public places or privacy of their residence.

During the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Royal Malaysian Police in March this year, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said that the police was being “rebranded with a new vision and mission in line with the recommendations of the Royal Police Commission”.

If so, then the Police must be guided by the strategic objective which the Royal Police Commission had spelt out for the Malaysian Police — “a world class, twenty-first century organization that is efficient, clean and trustworthy, dedicated to serving the people and the nation with integrity and respect for human rights”. Read the rest of this entry »