Archive for category culture

Why the rift?

By Nitya Kamalanathan
June 16, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 16 — I am currently a PhD student in the United Kingdom, my first time in England. When people ask me about Malaysia, I beam, telling them how wonderful our country is and our food!

Oh that is my favourite topic of discussion. We come from a country bursting with flavour, warmth, culture and diversity all of which have been the building blocks of the country.

The three representing races of Malaysia each have rich traditions and cultures, which have blended together to produce a Malaysian culture of which I am proud to say I am part. Read the rest of this entry »


Why are dinosaurs championing the arts?

By Erna Mahyuni
Jun 15, 2011

JUNE 15 — As anyone in the arts will tell you, the government has consistently failed both the arts and its practitioners.

Take the recent debacle involving Artistes Day 2011, where Bernama reported Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim bemoaning the lacklustre response of arts practitioners.

Bernama had initially reported the celebration cost RM100 million, when in actual fact it had only cost RM97,800. DAP was only too happy to use the issue for political traction when, frankly, the party couldn’t give a toss about the arts either. Posturing on both sides and who benefits? It definitely isn’t the arts.

Now, some of you would probably start the usual hue-and-cry about where the money could have been better spent on non-arts related expenditure. Schools, roads, healthcare and the like. I respectfully disagree. Read the rest of this entry »


Artiste Day: ‘Rais blew half year’s budget in 1 day’

Jun 12, 11

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has slammed minister Rais Yatim for splurging RM100 million, or half the annual budget for creative projects, on a poorly attended one-day arts event that local artists reportedly dubbed an “instant noodle project”.

Lim said a fraction of that amount, or RM2 million, would have gone a long way in funding the internationally-rated month-long George Town Heritage Festival in Penang.

“Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim must explain the rationale of wasting RM100 million for the 2011 Artistes Day on May 29 that received a lukewarm response from art activists. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

The Wall Street Journal
The Saturday Essay
JANUARY 8, 2011

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?


A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
Read the rest of this entry »


Hero worship


An arts space with a reputation for championing freedom of expression honours five people who have gone above and beyond in the pursuit of free speech this year.

FOR the past year or so, arts hub The Annexe Gallery at Central Market in Kuala Lumpur has been busy with an art bazaar called Art For Grabs during which independent vendors gather to sell all manner of arts and crafts, from homemade jewellery to framed amateur photos.

The bazaar started on quite an ad-hoc basis, according to the gallery’s programme director Pang Khee Teik. “It has been quite successful and we plan to have them at least three times a year in future,” he enthuses.

Seizing the opportunity to reach a captive audience lured by retail therapy, Pang put together a variety of educational outreach events spanning art house film screenings and public lectures and forums to edgy, alternative exhibitions that run concurrently with the bazaars.

These outreach programmes had socio-political themes and featured heavyweight intellectuals – such as history scholar Farish Noor, indie filmmaker Amir Muhammad, and playwright Jit Murad, to name a few – who chaired forums on a wide array of themes, from debating local films to alternative sexualities.

“It’s a good way of bringing people together to hear about political issues because we do attract many who come to browse at the stalls at Art For Grabs. We want to offer them more than just shopping,” says Pang.

The fourth instalment of Art For Grabs at The Annexe Gallery that took place last Sunday also had a socio-political agenda. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ketuanan Melayu – concept used by UMNO leaders to enslave all Malaysians

The 2009 Budget debate on the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage last night opened up with the most unprecedented and ferocious attack by the UMNO MP for Sri Gading Datuk Mohamad Aziz on the MCA for being “biadap” and “kurang ajar”, telling PPP to “get out” of Barisan Nasional and even proposing a political alliance of the Malay leaders in Umno, Pas and Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

When I spoke (see video), there was a deliberate attempt by former Cabinet Minister and UMNO MP for Rompin, Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis and Mohamad Aziz to sabotage my speech when I touched on the “ketuanan Melayu” controversy, demanding that I withdraw my non-ex isting statement that Malays are “tuan” and the Chinese are the “hamba” – with the matter left to be verified with Hansard (verbatim parliamentary report) the next morning, which proved that Jamaludin had mischievously misled the House with the false allegation.

My question why 51 years after Merdeka, the Umno leaders are not prepared to accept the concept of “ketuanan rakyat Malaysia” was evaded completely.
Read the rest of this entry »


Culture reinvestigated — or must we preserve age-old traditions?

by Azly Rahman

The festive season brings me to this argument I am having silently with myself: Must core values of a society be preserved, through the rites and rituals and pomp and pageantry of that elusive concept called ‘culture’? Race theorists would call for a debate between the ‘Essentialist’ and the ‘Progressive’ schools of thought on culture.

In looking at the question of Cultural Essentialism, the arguments for and against it, on whether adherence to this concept divides or unites, and lastly to offer my own view on this important concept, I begin with the general statement that “Cultural Essentialism” is the belief that in every civilised society or a cultural group, exists a core culture which governs the ‘life sustaining’ forces of that particular culture.

From the core, moral or religious doctrines are derived, cosmological views or metaphysical conceptions are drawn, knowledge bases are founded, principles and ethos are constructed, and socialising agents as cultural values transmitters are established. So that the core culture can continue to be passed down from one generation to the next in order for society to be maintained of its order and harmony although technological, political, economic, and ideological winds of change may be sweeping seasonally into the core culture’s residence. Read the rest of this entry »


Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta, Chow Yun-Fat, Ang Lee and Aaron Kwok also to be honoured for filming in Malaysia?

A reporter just phoned up, asking for my comments on popular Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan as one of the 77 new Malacca Datuks on the occasion of the 70th birthday of the Malacca Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Mohd Khalil Yaakob.

I was astounded and I said so. Are there no Malaysian film stars, artists or sports-people who have greater title to be honoured and encouraged as compared to Shahrukh?

I don’t think the reason that has been given for making Shahrukh Khan a Malacca Datuk would impress or convince many – that the Bollywood actor-dancer had “contributed to our tourism industry when he acted in a movie filmed in Malaysia”.

On this basis, shouldn’t Hollywood stars Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones be honoured for their 1999 film “Entrapment” which first promoted the Twin Towers to the world shortly after they were completed when the Twin Towers was used as the film location – although the film was subsequently accused of “distortion” when images of Malacca slums were spliced with shots of the 1,482ft-high skyscrapers.

Or the 2000 Academy Award-nominee film “Anna and the King” (a remake of “The King and I”) starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat (and our Patrick Teoh) which was mostly shot in Ipoh?

Or are Taiwan Gold Horse Award 2005/6 Best Leading Actor Aaron Kwok to be similarly awarded for his 2006 film “After This Our Exile” and world-famous director Ang Lee for his 2007 film “Lust, Caution”. starring Tony Leung & Tang Wei, as both promoted Malaysia as having been filmed or used footages from Perak?

What about other foreign stars in films which had used Malaysia for their location?


Pak Lah’s announcement of Thaipusam as public holiday – Thousand pities

Thousand pities that Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s announcement yesterday of Thaipusam as a public holiday is seen as highly opportunistic and self-serving to salvage Samy Vellu’s political life and Barisan Nasional’s political fortunes in the coming polls than the start of a serious and genuine national commitment to end the long-standing marginalization of Malaysian Indians as the new underclass in the country.

Although the Prime Minister had said at his Ponggol speech in Bukit Bintang on Saturday that he would consider the call to make Thaipusam a public holiday, it was clear that he had decided to use the “Thaipusam a public holiday” as a gambit to restore the political stocks of Samy Vellu and the Barisan Nasional among the two million Malaysian Indians, which was why there was the front-page story in the Star on Friday “PM to hold BN council meeting on polls” which reported: “On Sunday, Abdullah will meet 20,000 MIC members and supporters at the Cheras Badminton Stadium where he is expected to make a major announcement.” Read the rest of this entry »


Collective resignation of Ministers to give Abdullah free hand to end farce of “half-past six” Cabinet

Yesterday’s New Straits Times journalist Fauzlah Ismail wrote a report on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s visit to Japan last week which should be compulsory reading and critical discussion by all Cabinet Ministers for their weekly meeting tomorrow to lift them out of their “half-past six” malaise.

Entitled “Broaden horizons during trips abroad, says Abdullah”, Fauzlah started with the observation: “Trips abroad, be it official or working visits, are not just about the fixed itinerary. It is about observing the culture of the countries visited and finding those that can be emulated back home.”

Fauzlah said that Abdullah used his fourth visit to Japan since taking office in 2003 to observe what the Japanese do best and what examples he could bring home for Malaysians to emulate.

Clearly what struck the Prime Minister most was the culture of maintenance in Japan, causing him to ask newsmen covering his five-day visit last week:

“Did you check their toilets? Did you notice how clean the city is?”

He was impressed with the Japanese culture of maintenance, especially of public buildings and places.

Fauzlah wrote:

“Indeed, the toilets, especially at the Narita International Airport where millions of local and foreign passengers go through, and the city were impeccably clean.”

Another part of Japanese culture which struck Abdullah was queuing. Fauzlah quoted the Prime Minister: “Do you see people or cars jumping queue? The queue may be long but they still wait their turn.”

There was a third thing about the Japanese which impressed Abdullah – when the Prime Minister was reminded of the Malaysian habit of passing the buck to others.

“This has to stop. The departments and agencies concerned must take responsibility. Whoever is responsible must know what he is responsible for and take action without being told to do so.” Read the rest of this entry »


Don’t ban it if you don’t get it

Don’t ban it if you don’t get it
Azly Rahman

There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance. – Goethe, German philosopher

The Internal Security Ministry denied that it had seized 10 copies of the book on May 13, clarifying that it had only taken the books to check the contents. The books would be returned if they contained nothing that violated the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984.

Deputy Minister Fu Ah Kiow said news reports stating that the books were seized were incorrect and believed that the matter was being deliberately blown out of proportion to gain publicity. “It is just a very ordinary procedure, something that the officers will do if they receive reports about any publication that may be unfavourable for the public.

“They will still carry out their duties even if there is no report,” he told reporters. Fu was asked to comment on the books taken from a bookstore in Mid-Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Fu said his officers were still reading the contents.’ (The Star)

The above news report still amplified the culture of book banning we have had since independence. To be telling schoolchildren and parents that we ban books is not conveying a smart message for our smart schools. Why not tell these children to think and think freely and to read and read voraciously? Why use the schools to promote the message of active ignorance?

Active ignorance

In our history, one of the most famous books banned was of course The Malay Dilemma by a medical doctor from Titi Gajah, Kedah. The author later became Malaysia’s fourth prime minister, staying in power for 22 years. We banned Kassim Ahmad, Othman Ali, Karen Armstrong, and many work of national and international authors who proposed new line of thinking about society. We ban good movies on the Malaysian early political experience that tries to enrich our youth with a radical perspective of this nation and its narration.

We were even afraid of our respectable social scientist Dr. Lim Teck Ghee’s Asli findings on the New Economic Policy, written with such a refreshing and constructivist perspective. Through the repressive Internal Security Act, we jailed out intellectuals — without trial — people like Lim Kit Siang, Dr Syed Husin Ali, Kassim Ahmad, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, and many others who lived their lives presenting alternative viewpoints for a better Malaysian future. We have installed a government of active ignorance, interested in the advancement of poor understanding of human development. We continue to live a national life of contradiction. Read the rest of this entry »


Parliament as “House of Leaks” – heads must roll in PWD and Works Ministry, or Samy’s head should roll

Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has asked the Public Works Department (PWD) to explain to the Cabinet on why no request was made for allocations to repair the roof when Parliament House underwent an extensive RM90 million renovation in 2005.

Four questions immediately come to mind:

Firstly, will the reference to the Cabinet of the scandal of Parliament as “House of Leaks” end up as unsatisfactorily as last week’s reference to it of the outrage of sexism in Parliament where two Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs, Datuk Mohd Said Yusof (Jasin) and Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (Kinabatangan) made crude, derogatory, sexist and gender-offensive remarks in Parliament last week, bringing shame and dishonour to DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan, Parliament, Malaysian women and the nation’s international reputation — resulting in fake apologies which are really no apologies at all?

Secondly, why the extraordinary departure from the principle of Ministerial responsibility with PWD going over the head of the Works Minister to report directly to the Cabinet, when such a report is customarily and by convention made to the Cabinet by the Minister responsible for the department, namely Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu as Works Minister?

Has the Cabinet has lost all confidence in the capability of Samy Vellu to perform effectively as the Works Minister and to bear full and direct responsibility for PWD in Cabinet, especially as Samy Vellu’s is completing his 20 years as Works Minister in shame and ignominy with a helter-skelter of collapse of government buildings and public constructions, whether falling ceilings, cracked walls, air-conditioning breakdowns or power disruptions in spanking brand new buildings or renovations costing hundreds of millions of ringgit!

Or is Samy Vellu utterly fed up with the disgraceful performance of PWD and he is washing his hands to dissociate himself from its failings, leaving PWD to directly explain to the Cabinet on the latest scandal of Parliament as the “House of Leaks”?

Whatever the reason, the time has come for the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to terminate Samy Vellu’s long tenure as Cabinet Minister, spanning 27 years and six months, with 20 years as Works Minister short of five months. Read the rest of this entry »


PM – reprimand and discipline JJ for racist remarks against Malaysian Indians in California

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should reprimand and discipline the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Seri Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis for his disgraceful conduct in making racist and derogatory remarks about Malaysian Indians when he met Malaysian students in California on Monday (30th April).

During his official visit to California on Monday, Jamaludin met some of the Malaysian students studying in California especially the ones from TPM Academy twinning programme at the Belacan Grill Malaysian Restaurant, Redondo Beach, Ca.

One of the students was Sheena Moorthy, a third-year Biotech Malaysian student in CALYPOLY.

Sheena complained that during the 3½ hour session, Jamaludin passed a few racial remarks on her, being one of the two Indians present there.

Sheena has formally written to the Prime Minister to complain against Jamaludin for the “totally uncalled-for racial insults”, citing the following instances:

Incident 1 – Each student had to briefly introduce themselves. When it came to her turn, while speaking he interrupted her and asked if she knew Samy Vellu, because he knows him. She did not see any relevance in that and he mentioned it a few times for no apparent reason.

Incident 2 — He gave a speech regarding how agriculture started in Malaysia. He mentioned how the British invested in Malaysia and made farmers work. Due to the lack of work force, “buruh India” was brought in. While mentioning this, he looked at her saying “that’s how we get Indians in Malaysia”.

Incident 3 — After saying he is going to get MARA to help the Bumiputra students, he looked at her and asked “How many Indians are here?” Sheena did not keep track of number of Indian students so she mentioned that in the room there were two (pointing to another Malaysian Indian friend, who is fair skinned) and Jamaludin looked at him and asked “Oh. You are an Indian? Which means you are an upper class Indian and she is the lower class one” (pointing at her). Jamaludin went on to say that, “Oh, I am not going to help upper class Indians, I only help the lower class ones. They are the ones that need it’.

Sheena left the room feeling very insulted as the Minister had judged her based on her skin colour. Read the rest of this entry »


My Invitation to the Oxford Roundtable

My Invitation to the Oxford Roundtable

My invitation to The Oxford Roundtable
Azly Rahman

I received an invitation to be a member/participant of a roundtable on cultural diversity held at Britain’s oldest institution of higher education, Oxford University. I was nominated to be part of the group of selected 40 individuals from the American higher education system who will be discussing issues of race, ethnicity, poverty and religious intolerance in this hundreds of-years-old institution that has produced important Western scientists, philosophers, inventors and religious leaders.

I wish to thank that person/institution that nominated me. Through a series of notes I wish to share my thought on what I learned from the experience. I will also share visual data of what I will manage to capture. Here are some thoughts I will be bringing to the institution that symbolizes the intellectual epicenter of the British Empire.

Culture and transformation

I will be presenting thoughts on the idea of cultural change as it is impacted by globalisation and the rapidisation of technology. “Culture” has become an important debate in an age wherein boundaries continue to shift and peoples began to claim their rights as citizens of the country they are in, and the meaning of democracy is beginning to be understood. Culture, to me is not merely about the house we inhabit or merely the tools we use, but a combination of both and more than this, it is about the way we enrich the sense of humanism we embody.

I am reminded by what the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset said, “Man does not have nature… what he has is history.” This seems to be a notion of humanity worth exploring if our belief about human evolution takes into consideration how human beings take what is available from nature and transform the resources into tools and institutions, and then turn institutions into tools that will transform human beings into classes of people who have the power to turn less powerful others into machines or automatons who have lost their soul to the spirit of the machine. Read the rest of this entry »