Archive for February, 2011

History’s shifting sands

The revolutions sweeping the Arab world indicate a tectonic shift in the global balance of people power

by Mark LeVine
26 Feb 2011

For decades, even centuries, the peoples of the Arab world have been told by Europeans and, later, Americans that their societies were stagnant and backward. According to Lord Cromer, author of the 1908 pseudo-history Modern Egypt, their progress was “arrested” by the very fact of their being Muslim, by virtue of which their minds were as “strange” to that of a modern Western man “as would be the mind of an inhabitant of Saturn”.

The only hope of reshaping their minds towards a more earthly disposition was to accept Western tutelage, supervision, and even rule “until such time as they [we]re able to stand alone,” in the words of the League of Nations’ Mandate. Whether it was Napoleon claiming fraternité with Egyptians in fin-de-18e-siècle Cairo or George W. Bush claiming similar amity with Iraqis two centuries later, the message, and the means of delivering it, have been consistent.

Ever since Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, the great Egyptian chronicler of the French invasion of Egypt, brilliantly dissected Napoleon’s epistle to Egyptians, the peoples of the Middle East have seen through the Western protestations of benevolence and altruism to the naked self-interest that has always laid at the heart of great power politics. But the hypocrisy behind Western policies never stopped millions of people across the region from admiring and fighting for the ideals of freedom, progress and democracy they promised.

Even with the rise of a swaggeringly belligerent American foreign policy after September 11 on the one hand, and of China as a viable economic alternative to US global dominance on the other, the US’ melting pot democracy and seemingly endless potential for renewal and growth offered a model for the future. Read the rest of this entry »


Dying in two different ways

by Goh Keat Peng

In the news this week, we are numbed by reports of the death of hundreds of human beings not unlike ourselves. Some of these our fellow human beings were going about quietly in their everyday life in a city that is not only beautiful in myriads of ways but also ordinary like many other cities of the world. At 12.51 pm on February 21, 2011 an earthquake struck and to date, 147 have being confirmed dead, with still 200 people missing.

What do we, can we, say? For all these many years, that city like so many others in the human world was functioning normally with few if any extraordinary event ever happening. Then this thing happens and loved ones, colleagues and neighbours are taken from this life in a twinkle of an eye leaving behind heartache, anguish and bewilderment. Even those who are left without loss of loved ones face months if not years of rubble- physical and emotional- to cope with. Normalcy and routine as one resumes one’s life under these circumstances is not possible for a while. Read the rest of this entry »


U.N. votes to impose sanction on Gaddafi

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 27, 2011

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday night to impose military and financial sanctions against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and his inner circle and to refer his regime’s crackdown on protesters to a war crimes tribunal for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.

The move came as President Obama for the first time called on Gaddafi to step down, deepening the Libyan leader’s international isolation as he struggles to contain a revolt that threatens his 41-year rule. It also marked the first U.S. vote in support of a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court, which the United States has not joined.

Speaking by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said that “when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” according to a White House account of the conversation. The statement brings U.S. policy in line with the position that European leaders adopted several days ago.

Obama had taken a more cautious approach, in part because he feared that hundreds of Americans in Tripoli could be in danger if he called for regime change. Those diplomats and other citizens have now been evacuated.

In a statement Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. would work with others to provide humanitarian assistance to Libyans in need. “We will continue to look at the full range of options to hold the Libyan government accountable and support the Libyan people,” she said. “Moammar Gaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence.” Read the rest of this entry »


The destiny of this pageant lies in the Kingdom of Oil

by Robert Fisk
Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Middle East earthquake of the past five weeks has been the most tumultuous, shattering, mind-numbing experience in the history of the region since the fall of the Ottoman empire. For once, “shock and awe” was the right description.

The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world. One after another, our satraps are falling, and the people we paid them to control are making their own history – our right to meddle in their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been diminished for ever.

The tectonic plates continue to shift, with tragic, brave – even blackly humorous – results. Countless are the Arab potentates who always claimed they wanted democracy in the Middle East. King Bashar of Syria is to improve public servants’ pay. King Bouteflika of Algeria has suddenly abandoned the country’s state of emergency. King Hamad of Bahrain has opened the doors of his prisons. King Bashir of Sudan will not stand for president again. King Abdullah of Jordan is studying the idea of a constitutional monarchy. And al-Qa’ida are, well, rather silent. Read the rest of this entry »


Sarawak BN may fall like Berlin Wall, says British anti-Taib crusader

By Shannon Teoh
The Malaysian Insider
February 26, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Barisan Nasional (BN) has held on to power in Sarawak through intimidation, but could still fall just like the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall, said the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has turned into an internet and radio crusader against Tan Sri Taib Mahmud’s administration.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, who operates radio station Radio Free Sarawak and blog Sarawak Report from Covent Garden in London, told The Malaysian Insider that “every person I have spoken to is scared of the fact that the BN government will know how they vote.”

But she said that even though voters “face naked threats that BN will withdraw vital services from longhouses that vote against them,” the tide of opinion can subtly change and “wash away the foundations of power without anybody quite realising.”

“The collapse of the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall took the world by surprise and almost happened overnight,” she said, recalling her experience as a reporter with Sky TV when the wall fell in 1989.

“I remember the shock of it all, as the grip of communist power had seemed so immovable for so long,” said the 51-year-old investigative journalist who began her career with the BBC World Service in 1983. Read the rest of this entry »


Saluting a True Malaysian Son

by Koon Yew Yin

(Speech on the occasion of Perak DAP celebration of Lim Kit Siang’s 70th birthday in Ipoh at Tropicana Grand Ballroom on 25th Feb. 2011 after presenting a RM100,000 donation to Perak DAP to restore a legitimate and popularly elected government in the state )

Let me begin by thanking the DAP for its invitation to me to celebrate the occasion of Saudara Lim Kit Siang’s 70th birthday, and for this honour to say a few words to this distinguished audience.

Firstly, it is only right that we are gathered here to pay tribute to a giant of a politician, Saudara Lim Kit Siang. In my mind, there are two key people who have been responsible for this turning point that we have reached in our country’s politics.

One is of course Saudara Anwar Ibrahim who has been the glue in bringing the DAP, PAS and PKR together in Pakatan Rakyat to challenge the political hegemony of BN and UMNO and in galvanizing the electoral vote for the opposition. The Government has launched a ridiculous campaign to harass and destroy him by a fictitious charge but I am sure Anwar will prevail and will continue his struggle for a better Malaysia.

The second hero in Malaysian politics – someone who has put his heart and soul into transforming Malaysia, and who has paid the price for standing up for the ideals of parliamentary democracy – is Saudara Lim. This is a truly towering Malaysian who has stood unwavering on behalf of justice, truth and equality for over 40 years in the public arena. Many young Malaysians may not be aware that for standing up for our basic freedoms, Saudara Lim was put in detention on two occasions under the ISA, the first time for 17 months in 1969 and the second time under Operation Lallang in 1987, when Kit Siang and his son Guan Eng were detained for another 18 months, together with five other DAP leaders. Read the rest of this entry »


By-elections: Pakatan on the defensive

By Bridget Welsh

But despite the BN’s victories in recent by-elections, neither side is coming out to be the clear winner.

The upcoming contests of Merlimau and Kerdau are like a drawn-out boxing match where both opponents are bruised and tired. The next two rounds heavily sway in favour of the BN, as both constituencies are in traditional Umno territory.

In the upcoming two matches, the BN has a comfortable weight advantage.

What matters in these by-elections is not the final result – almost a foregone conclusion in states where the result will not affect the balance of power – or arguably even the majority, but the honing of tactical skills in the campaigns and the condition of the opponents after the by-election battle is over. These contests foreshadow the real prize fight – the next general elections.
Read the rest of this entry »


‘Interlok a classic work of Malaysian racism’


Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) director Lim Teck Ghee has added his voice to calls for the novel Interlok to be removed from the Form Five Malay literature syllabus due to its perpetuation of “offensive stereotyping” of minorities.

This, while the controversial novel celebrates the virtues of the Malay race, culture and value system.

As such, Lim noted, it has led some quarters to see the novel as “the classic Malaysian racist book”.

In remarks e-mailed to Malaysiakini today, the former academician-turned-social activist said some may be tempted to invoke freedom of expression to justify maintaining the book as required reading in secondary schools.

That same “freedom to offend” would not, however, be granted if the offence were against Malays, he noted.
Read the rest of this entry »


Libya: Past and future?

After alienating powerful tribes, Qaddafi’s regime seems to be falling, but it is unclear who could fill vacuum.

George Joffe
24 Feb 2011

Many believed that Colonel Qaddafi’s regime in Libya would withstand the gale of change sweeping the Arab world because of its reputation for brutality which had fragmented the six million-strong population over the past forty-two years.

Its likely disappearance now, after a few days of protest by unarmed demonstrators is all-the-more surprising because it has systematically destroyed even the slightest pretence of dissidence and has atomised Libyan society to ensure that no organisation – formal or spontaneous – could ever consolidate sufficiently to oppose it.

Political Islam, whether radical or moderate, has been the principle victim, especially after an Islamist rebellion in Cyrenaica, the country’s eastern region, in the latter 1990s. Other political currents have been exiled since 1973, when “direct popular democracy” was declared and the jamahiriyah, the “state of the masses”, came into existence.

Even the Libyan army was treated with suspicion, with its officer corps controlled and monitored for potential disloyalty. No wonder that major units now seems to have broken away from the regime and made the liberation of Eastern Libya possible. Read the rest of this entry »


70 and looking forward to more democratic breakthroughs (postscript)

Turning 70 was a good excuse for my batch of classmates of Batu Pahat High School to go down the memory lane of our school days in the fifties.

Michael Ong reminded me, which I could not remember, that in Form V in 1959, I had given the first talk to the school debating and literary society. Topic? “Malayan Consciousness”.

Allan Goh, who has retired from the teaching profession in Penang, has composed an ode to the Class of 59:

Ode to the Class of 59

What really made my classmates tick?
Competitiveness, work, but no trick.
With shoulders firmly to the rack,
Oft leaving foot prints on time’s track.

It never was a one-horse race,
But a constant multiple brace:
Leadership, routinely ceded
To better friends who succeeded. Read the rest of this entry »


Najib has tough fight against NEP ‘cancer’, says report

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak is taking “an unprecedented gamble” by pledging to dilute the system of Malay patronage that has kept Umno in power, said a foreign report yesterday.

The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) — an Australia-based think tank — said that the large support for the status quo and Umno’s current vulnerability meant that “Najib will have a difficult task convincing his colleagues to ‘risk all’ for the sake of Malaysia’s long-term future.”

Its foreign policy research fellow Dr John Lee also questioned the prime minister’s capacity to introduce economic reforms as the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 has cultivated a “vast and deep network of rent-seeking and patronage.” While acknowledging that the New Economic Model (NEM) introduced by Najib last year was “enormously significant,” Lee said that the decades of pro-Bumiputera affirmative action was now a “millstone around the neck of the struggling Malaysian economy and the cancer behind the country’s growing structural problems.” Read the rest of this entry »


Libya’s falling tyrant

Gaddafi reaps what he has sown during his four-decade rule: terror, nepotism, tribal politics and abuse of power.

by Larbi Sadiki: 21 Feb 2011
Al Jazeera

Libya cannot escape the infection of democratic revolutionary wind blowing through the Middle East and North Africa. If longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi falls, it will be a sweet victory for the heirs of Omar al-Mokhtar, the legendary anti-fascist and anti-colonial hero. But a lot of blood will spill before the Libyan colonel abandons ship.

After Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Gaddafi is the worst of the Arabs’ surviving illegitimate rulers. He is now reaping what he has sown: terror, nepotism, tribal politics, and abuse of power.

In Gaddafi’s Libya, the so-called People’s Congress, universities and other regime-affiliated organisations have had to toe the official line: worship of the “brother leader”, read his Green Book, and the brand of Pan-Africanism that no Libyan except Gaddafi and his henchmen believed in.

While visiting the country with a group of students from Exeter University, the hollow slogans of Gaddafi’s “Great Revolution” covered all public space. “Partners not salaried” one says. Another declares “People’s rule” (sultat al-sha’ab). Nothing could be further from the truth.

Gaddafi has ruled the country with the delusion of grandeur of a man who rose to power in a 1969 coup with fairly acceptable political ideals that got corrupted and abandoned. Gaddafi’s much vaunted socialism turned into distribution in favour of the Colonel’s clansmen. Read the rest of this entry »


Dilemmas of a young Malaysian abroad

by Alea Nasihin (
The Malaysian Insider
February 24, 2011

FEB 24 — When I first stepped off the plane in Heathrow Airport three years ago, I was your average idealistic 19-year-old who thought she knew everything, and who thought she had it all planned out.

I was going to come to the UK, finish up my law degree and go home to Malaysia and single-handedly change the system. Everyone else who had trodden this path before me and failed just hadn’t tried hard enough. Everyone who went abroad and never came back were cowards who didn’t love their country.

Now, three years on, as I face my imminent graduation and the prospects of returning home for good, I find myself questioning the very beliefs I once held so dear.

It’s hard to leave the fact that I can walk a mile to class everyday and not fear for the safety of my handbag (or my lungs). It’s hard to leave the fact that I can discuss religion and race openly without getting accused of being an “infidel” or “ungrateful.”

It’s hard to leave the way I am allowed to think and question and express and explore for myself, and where my views are respected. It’s hard to leave when, here, youths are given a voice and never patronised, and nobody says “because I said so.”

It’s hard to leave the fact that I can walk down the street wearing anything I want and nobody will give me odd looks or whisper behind my back, or even force me to “cover up.” Read the rest of this entry »


Commission must be neutral

Brave New World
By Azmi Sharom
The Star
Thursday February 24, 2011

To ensure that there is no conflict of interest, the conducting officers must be totally unbiased.

THE family of Teoh Beng Hock has decided that they do not want to take part in the Commission of Inquiry which was set up to investigate his death.

This act has been criticised by some quarters as being a political ploy designed to delay the proceedings. I beg to disagree.

The family has some very compelling reasons for doing what they did.

Their main complaint is that there is currently an appeal in the courts regarding the findings of the inquest. Read the rest of this entry »


One Libyan Battle Is Fought in Social and News Media

Middle East
The New York Times
February 23, 2011

CAIRO — While Al-Jamahiriya, the Libyan state-owned television channel, was broadcasting nonstop patriotic songs, poetry recitations and rowdy rallies supporting the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, on Tuesday, Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite channel based in Doha, was showing images of angry Libyan demonstrators throwing shoes at a giant street screen carrying live pictures of Colonel Qaddafi’s speech.

The contrast highlighted a fierce battle between Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters, who were using the state-run news media, and Libyan protesters, who were turning to social media and the foreign news media, to win over hearts and minds, inside and outside Libya.

This tug-of-war has been going on since a public uprising started on Feb. 17 calling for Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster. His rivals have clearly made a global impression through multiple amateur video Web posts, visceral pictures, twitter posts and dozens of heartfelt interviews on Arab television stations telling stories of a ruthless repression unleashed by troops loyal to Colonel Qaddafi.

But the Libyan leader, who has ruled this tribal society unopposed since 1969, has demonstrated that he will not easily be outmaneuvered. His television channels appealed on Tuesday for amateur images showing support from his base and beseeched viewers to place them online, too.

Government channels have run a written appeal: “For the dear brothers whose hobby is photography and video taping, please put up videos online that show the massive support for our beloved leader.”

In Colonel Qaddafi’s all-out media counteroffensive, a sports channel and a music channel that are popular among the young have instead been showing 24-hour programs of poetry reciters eulogizing his achievements and films of pro-government rallies waving his pictures. Read the rest of this entry »


Unrest in the Middle East and Africa — country by country

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — Demonstrations have spread across a swath of the Middle East and Africa. Here are the latest developments, including the roots of the unrest:

Wednesday’s developments:


An opposition figure told CNN that a pilot who had been ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi refused to do so and instead ejected from the plane. Citing military sources, the Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that the two people aboard — the pilot and co-pilot — parachuted out and that the plane then crashed into an uninhabited area west of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Benghazi.

The Swedish tabloid Expressen reported that Libya’s former justice minister has accused Moammar Gadhafi of ordering the 1988 bombing of a jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

Various nations worked to evacuate their citizens for Libya.

Roots of unrest:

Protests in Libya began in January when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi’s government, which has ruled since a 1969 coup, responded with a $24 billion fund for housing and development. A month later, more demonstrations were sparked when police detained relatives of those killed in an alleged 1996 massacre at the Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment has also fueled the protests.


Bahrain has released about 25 high-profile political detainees, following an order by the king to free those he described as “prisoners of conscience” and halt proceedings against others, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Wednesday.

Among those released were the prominent blogger and human rights activist Ali Abdulemam, who runs; Abdul-Ghani Khanjar, a member of Committee for the Victims of Torture; and Mohammed Saeed, who works with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama last week to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century. Young members of the country’s Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country’s Sunni rulers have done little to address. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said authorities launched a clampdown on dissent in late 2010. It accused the government of torturing some human rights activists. Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysia’s lackluster response to a neighbour in need

Letter by Dr Nicholas Lee

Dear MP Lim Kit Siang,

I have never written to you but I do so now in the hopes of bring to light a small matter.

As you may have read in the newspapers, Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand has suffered a damaging earthquake. Within a single day of that report, the world raced to provide aid to the stricken city. Offers of aid came from neighbouring nations such as Australia and Singapore. Form further a field, assistance came from Japan, Taiwan, United States, the United Kingdom and South Korea. Even Thailand made a small gesture to provide some financial aid to the earthquake victims.

As for Malaysia, we took an entire day to respond. And our dear PM only went so far as to offer condolences and to monitor our own citizens (students). Nothing more. This behaviour strikes me as somewhat lackluster for a few reasons. Read the rest of this entry »


In praise of Lim Kit Siang

by Humayun Kabir | FMT

IPOH: DAP vice-chairman M Kulasegaran would have been one of the statistics of the brain drain from Malaysia if he had not read Lim Kit Siang’s book “Time Bombs in Malaysia”.

The book changed his destiny, he said in a tribute to Lim on the occasion of the opposition veteran’s 70th birthday.

Kulasegaran bought the book in 1978 – the year it first appeared – while he was en route to Subang airport for his flight to England for his law studies. He was then 21.

“On the long flight to London, I read the book and almost immediately began to rescind a prior decision I had made not to return to the country of my birth after my law studies for reason of its discriminatory policies,” he said in a statement released online yesterday.

He said it had kept alive his hope for political reform in Malaysia.
Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysia’s Sorry Record on Press Freedom

by Malaysia Center for Independent Journalism
Ruling coalition’s ‘multi-pronged approach’ to curb expression

Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, has gone to extreme ends to control freedom of expression and monopolize the dissemination of information, according to the Kuala Lumpur-based Center for Independent Journalism.

The NGO’s report, released Tuesday, says the Barisan “adopted a multi-pronged approach, using the myriad of laws at its disposal to curb expression. The Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 was used to intimidate The Star, China Press and Special Weekly, among others.”

A summary of the report, furnished by the center, follows. It is the fourth such report the organization has released.
Read the rest of this entry »


Letter to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers on Interlok as Literature School Text

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Dear Esteemed Malaysians,

I am not sure if you have been following this issue which is not only causing concern amongst many Malaysians but it also has the potential to poison young minds through its insidious and divisive racial stereotyping and messages.

I feel that, purely on educational and pedagogical grounds, this book with its denigration of the various communities, and in the context of our multi-ethnic society facing one of the most turbulent periods of our history, should be subject to higher standards of acceptance before being designated as a reading text in our schools.

This is not to challenge the artistic freedom and independence of the writer in pursuing his craft and writing on any subject that he chooses. In our country there is a need for greater candor and honesty on all types of divisive issues, however sensitive there are. Writers and artists should be encouraged to write freely and without any restrictions; and all Malaysians should work harder to dismantle the constraints on our freedom of expression and other freedoms.
Read the rest of this entry »