Year in review 2016 – MACC makes record haul in 49 years from top officers of Sabah Water dept


Azam Baki (L4) and other MACC officials with the cash and jewelry seized, at a press conference on Oct 5, 2016. — BBX

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) landed its biggest haul since it was set up 49 years ago when it seized RM114.5 million from two senior officers from the Sabah Water Department (SWD) in October.

In a year when MACC bared its fangs, the commission detained the director and deputy director of SWD, which is a government department.

The top officials were alleged to have misused their power in handling infrastructure projects valued at RM3.3 billion. MACC also seized some RM53.7 million in cash.

A total of 19 engineers from the department were also arrested for allegedly receiving kickbacks of between 27% and 30% of the value of SWD projects and emergency response work awarded to contractors.

Meanwhile at MACC, Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad was appointed the new chief commissioner and took his oath of office on Aug 23.

Dzulkifli, the former national revenue recovery enforcement team director from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, succeeded Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed who stepped down as MACC chief commissioner on Aug 1 after being appointed to the Austrian-based International Anti-Corruption Academy as a board member and visiting expert.

MACC director of investigations Datuk Azam Baki was also promoted as deputy chief commissioner (operations), while its community education division director Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil was appointed deputy chief commissioner (prevention).

Meanwhile, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was investigated by MACC following complaints that he had corruptly purchased a bungalow for a “below market price” of RM2.8 million.

The actual value of the bungalow that Lim bought from a businesswoman Phang Li Koon, was said to be RM4.27 million. He was arrested on June 29 and charged with corruption at the Penang High Court on June 30 but claimed trial.

Statistics revealed that the number of people arrested for corruption from January to September, this year, was 727. This is an increase from 688 in the same period last year.

Other notable corruption cases this year include:

* Jan 18: MACC arrested 14 people, including three Road Transport Department officers, to facilitate investigations into the “sale” of driving licences for between RM2,500 and RM2,800 each in Sarawak. The suspects, aged between 19 and 50, were picked up in an operation in Limbang, Miri, Bintulu and Sibu since Jan 11. They were found to be trying to obtain the licences by submitting false documents to change Brunei driving licences into Malaysian ones.

* Aug 30: The chairman of a bank with the title of “Tan Sri” was remanded for seven days until Sept 5 to assist in the investigation into misappropriation of funds in a RM15 million book publishing contract. Four others, namely the managing director of the same bank with the title of “Datuk”, the bank’s former director of procurement and two publishing company owners were released by MACC on completion of investigations. A total of seven individuals had been arrested by the MACC to assist in investigations in the case. The chairman was charged in the sessions court with criminal breach of trust.

* Sept 20: MACC detained a 55-year-old doctor and 30-year-old general clerk from a district health department for allegedly being involved in fraudulent claims amounting to RM900,000. Johor MACC director Datuk Simi Abd Ghani had stated the suspects were allegedly involved in making 59 payment vouchers for some materials, amounting to RM900,000, between 2015 and 2016. However, the materials never reached the department and the vouchers involved six services’ companies.

*Oct 10: A Datuk Seri and his accomplice were arrested by the MACC for allegedly duping a 58-year-old woman into paying RM125,000 to make changes to erroneous entries in her husband’s death certificate.

The duo had supposedly offered to assist the woman and demanded the huge sum of money from the victim. They had supposedly claimed that the funds were to pay off an officer at the National Registration Department at Putrajaya.

This year, there were a number of charges involving high ranking officers by the MACC.

They included the cases of Kuala Lumpur City Hall project management executive director Datuk Seri Syed Affendy Ali charged with 18 counts of corruption and money laundering involving RM4 million; Kota Baru Tenaga Nasional Berhad manager Arman Che Othman charged with 13 counts corruption and money laundering amounting to RM125,200; and Malacca Public Works Department director Datuk Khalid Omar charged with two counts of corruption and money laundering amounting to RM4 million.

Source: Charles Ramendran newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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Trio slapped with 34 money laundering charges involving more than RM61mil

KOTA KINABALU: A former Sabah Water Department director, his wife and his former deputy were slapped with 34 money laundering charges involving RM61.4mil in what the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission is calling the nation’s biggest graft probe so far.

The former director Ag Mohd Tahir Ag Mohd Talib, 54, was hit with 12 charges for a sum totalling RM56.9mil while his wife Fauziah Piut, 51, faced 19 similar charges involving cash and properties totalling RM2.2mil.

Ag Mohd Tahir’s former deputy Lim Lam Beng, 64, faced four charges involving property and cash totalling RM2.3mil.

All three claimed trial to the charges in the Special Corruption Court after being produced before Sessions Court judge Ummu Kalthom Abdul Samad.

Ag Mohd Tahir was the first to be charged when the hearing began at 10.15am.

Ag Mohd Tahir Ag Mohd Talib, 54 (former Sabah Water Department director) 12 charges involving RM56.9mil.

He faced eight charges of being in possession of RM56.9mil cash and in four bank accounts, two charges of owning six luxury vehicles and a charge of owning 86 types of branded watches.

He also faced another charge of being directly involved in handing over RM14,000 to an individual, Cristine Fiona M. Ponsoi.

The charges were framed under Section 4(1) (b) and Section 4(1) (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA).

Fauziah faced 18 charges for being in possession of more than RM2.2mil in 18 bank accounts. She was also accused of using proceeds from illegal activities to own 93 branded hand bags.

Ag Mohd Tahir and Fauziah were also jointly charged with owning 575 pieces of gold jewellery and another charge of being in possession of 376 other types of jewellery acquired through illegal means.

They were represented by counsel Hairul Vairon Othman and Ariel C. Dasan who were acting for P. J. Pareira.

Fauziah Piut, 51 (Ag Mohd Tahir’s wife) 18 charges involving RM2.2mil.

Lim, who has been suspended as state Finance Ministry advisor, who was represented by counsel Chin Teck Ming, was accused of being in possession of more than RM2.38mil that was allegedly from the proceeds of illegal activities.

Ummu Kalthom subsequently allowed Ag Mohd Tahir to be released on a RM10mil bail – one of the country’s biggest bail amounts set in the country.

She also allowed Fauziah to be released on a RM2mil bail while Lim’s bail was set at RM1mil with the case management to be heard on Feb 28.

Ummu Kalthom also ordered their travel documents to be surrendered to the court.

Lim Lam Beng, 64 (Technical and Engineering advisor, Ag Mohd Tahir’s former deputy) 4 charges involving RM2.38mil

In arguing for the RM10mil bail for Ag Mohd Tahir, Deputy Public Prosecutor of the MACC Husmamuddin Hussin said the property seizures in the case were the largest so far made by the MACC and any other enforcement agency.

The offence is related to the corrupt act by a civil servant entrusted to manage an important resource – water, Husmamuddin said.

Hairul in arguing for Ag Mohd Tahir’s bail to be fixed at RM10,000 for each charge, said bail should not be excessive to the point of penalising his clients.

By Muguntan Vanar, ruben sario, Stephanie Lee The Star

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Hopelessness among public after rampant fraud & corruption cases, says Auditor-General


RM2bil recovered from audits

The Government seldom receives dividends and whenever loans are given to these GLCs, they keep piling up’, says Tan Sri Ambrin Buang

KUANTAN: Government agencies have recovered an estimated RM2bil in follow-up actions after the recent audits, said Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.

Ambrin said this was just based on a small sample size of agencies audited, so cases of misappropriated funds could have been a lot larger.

“If there had not been audits, the RM2bil would have been lost. People always ask me the extent of leakages in this country but I do not know because we only carry out audits on a limited sample size.

“For example, we did an audit on security in schools. The sample size is only 46 schools out of some 10,000 schools nationwide.

“Within that sample, there are already all kinds of weaknesses and leakages so imagine how widespread it is,” Ambrin said at an integrity talk programme here yesterday.

He said there was a feeling of hopelessness among the public when they kept reading about cases of fraud and corruption in the Auditor-General’s reports.

“There was a case where a 300m to 400m road construction contract was given to four contractors.

“Then there’s that incident at the Youth and Sports Ministry and that one at the Sabah Water Department.

“People are questioning how these things can happen and what kind of country we are living in where corruption like this can take place.

“Almost every day there are reports of government officials getting caught for corruption.

“I can’t deny there are officials with integrity but a few rotten apples destroy everything,” he said.

He also spoke about government-linked companies (GLCs) that were draining the Government’s resources without giving anything back in return.

“GLCs get all sorts of aid like projects, grants and financial assistance but what does the Government get out of it?

“The Government seldom receives dividends and whenever loans are given to these GLCs, they keep piling up.

“These GLCs burden the Government, so we must examine the cause. Those with experience should run a company but look at who are on the board of directors.

“I am sorry to say government officials cannot succeed in business because they have a different mindset,” he said.

Ambrin added that management could not be left as the dominant force without the supervision of the board of directors, but this would not be effective if the directors themselves did not contribute anything.

In his conclusion, Ambrin proposed that excellent work be made a culture in government service to repair the damaged public perception.

To achieve it, he said four aspects had to be looked into, which were attitude, skills, knowledge and integrity.

“Continuous improvement is humanly possible to achieve. The question is whether we want to improve or not,” he said.

By Ong Han Sean The Star/Asian News Network

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Perak Ruler warns against corruption committed by high-ranking individuals

TANJUNG MALIM: The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, is concerned about the corruption and criminal breach of trust committed wantonly by highly-educated and high-ranking individuals and on a large scale.

“Allah has stressed that humans should not take for themselves the property of others through methods disallowed by Islamic law.

“It is equally wrong for one to hire false witnesses or give bribes to judges with the intention of influencing a decision to enrich oneself.

“Property acquired through such methods is tantamount to cruelty and oppression of others,” he said at the state-level Maulidur Rasul 1438H celebration here.

On judges, Sultan Nazrin said that a human being, conscious and fearful of God, would realise that his duty was entrusted to him by God.

“A judge should not be so bold as to change the law in his judgment to wrong what is right and to right what is wrong because it is a sin in Allah’s eyes to do so.”

Sultan Nazrin said history had shown many a government and civilisation collapse because of acts of embezzlement and corruption, greed for material possessions and abuse of power.

“In the history of Islamic governments, many among the leaders of the Bani Umaiyyah (Umayyad Caliphate) and Bani Abbas (Abbasid Caliphate) were preoccupied with worldly pleasures and willing to use their wealth to remain in power.”

He said that as followers of Prophet Muhammad, every Muslim should instil in themselves the determination and willpower to be incorruptible and trustworthy.

In Kuala Terengganu, the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, urged Muslims to avoid quarrelling among themselves and forming factions, reports Bernama.

He said Muslims should have an open attitude and practise tolerance so they can live in peace with each other, hence receiving the blessings of Allah.

“With the theme of the Maulidur Rasul celebration this year being ‘Islamic Solidarity: The Foundation of Muslim Unity’, it is only apt to use Prophet Muhammad as the best example.

“The Prophet did not use force, but changed people by being exemplary and with the spirit of brotherhood, love and care for the welfare of the community, which led to the formation of a sovereign Islamic community in Madinah.”

He said Prophet Muhammad had left mankind two legacies, namely the Quran and the Sunnah (sayings and teachings of the prophet).

Source: The Star/ANN

Graft probe in Sabah almost done

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is one step closer to completing its probe on the suspected graft and abuse of power in the Sabah Water Department.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said investigators had pored over nearly 12 tonnes of documents and would be submitting the investigation papers to the Attorney-General’s Chambers soon.

He said MACC officials had spent nearly a month analysing 8,000 payment vouchers between 2008 and 2016 from tens of thousands of documents.

The documents were seized from 30 locations around Sabah, including Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Sandakan and Lahad Datu.

Azam said 28 people including the department’s director and two of his deputies were detained during the course of their investigations since early October.

Also detained were 23 divisional and district engineers and two more individuals who are involved in the case.

MACC also recorded statements from 200 witnesses, Azam added.

He said MACC also seized properties and cash and froze bank accounts, unit trusts and other assets totalling some RM114.5mil within and outside the country.

Azam said 137 MACC officers from headquarters as well as various divisions and states were involved in the investigations.

In the scandal, several Sabah Water Department officials are being investigated over allegations that they abused their power by awarding contracts to 38 companies owned by their families or cronies to siphon off federal funds.

MACC investigators have implicated top department officials in connection with the siphoning of RM3.3bil worth of federal allocations for state rural water projects since 2010.

Azam had been reported as saying that certain individuals in the department may have collected as much as 27% to 30% in kickbacks from the contracts awarded.

MACC investigators are also looking into suspected money laundering activities in their bid to recover some of the RM30mil that has reportedly been stashed in overseas accounts.

By Ruben Sario The Star/ANN

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Let us do more against graft, bring corrupt culprits to court fast !


BY now, it’s clear that many ordinary Malaysians have the perception that corruption in this country has degenerated into a hugely disturbing situation.

To many of us, rightly or wrongly, corruption has become an entrenched culture involving many in the political and government circle.

But who would have suspected that a seemingly innocent department like the Sabah Water Department could end up being investigated for such a staggering amount of money, in what is now known as our very own Watergate scandal.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized RM114mil worth of assets – RM53.7mil in cold cash stashed in the houses and offices of two senior Sabah Water Department officials on Oct 4.

Many of the department’s staff, apart from the top two officials, are also being investigated for alleged abuse of power and money laundering linked to contracts for RM3.3bil federal-funded projects channelled to the department since 2010.

MACC has traced RM30mil stashed in foreign banks and another RM30mil in 127 land titles for housing, agriculture and commercial purposes.

That’s not all. MACC also seized nine vehicles worth RM2.7mil, an assortment of jewellery worth RM3.64mil and designer handbags with a value of RM500,000.

To many Malaysians, when the topic is corruption, they would think of the police, customs, immigration, council enforcement officers and authorities with the power to arrest someone, to issue approvals or permits.

These authorities have earned such notoriety through mere generalisation or plain prejudice as there are surely many good and honest officials.

And of course, many Malaysians think lowly of high-level politicians, sniggering over their purported wealth even if they have little evidence and information.

The MACC must be commended for its successful investigations into the Sabah Water Department.

It has, in fact, led to loose talk among Sabahans that the MACC need only check the Facebook postings of some staff, even the low ranking ones, of another government department in the state to see the kind of lifestyle led by some of the workers.

There might not be sufficient evidence but the raid on the department will surely encourage more whistle blowers to tip off the MACC.

Malaysia ranked 54 among 168 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2015 with a score of 50 out of 100.

This is a drop from 50 out of 175 countries in the CPI 2014 with a score of 52 out of 100. High scores indicate a less corrupt perception.

Obviously, the 1MDB issue is a major perception issue and has affected the minds of many Malaysians, contributing to the slide in ranking.

In a 2014 news report, it said that the international accounting firm KPMG’s Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Survey 2013 revealed that an overwhelming 90% of business organisations feel that bribery and corruption is necessary to do business in Malaysia at the moment.

Transparency International- Malay­sia’s first ever Malaysian Corruption Barometer (MCB) 2014 recorded that as many as 45% of Malaysians feel political parties are the most corrupt, followed by the police force, then the public and civil servants, the report added.

It is safe to say that such perception among Malaysians have not changed much over the past few years. It has probably gone worse.

There is little doubt that many Malaysians feel, even with the current blitz on corruption, that the actions against the corrupt have not been sufficiently effective.

The tentacles of corruption, to many, has become so prevalent that no sector in government has become immune – that’s the scary perception even if the reality is otherwise.

It has tarnished the image of our institutions and must have affected investors who want to put money in Malaysia, even if we are seen as a country that is business-friendly.

To be fair, much efforts have been taken such as enacting the Whistle Blower’s Act in 2012 and increasing corruption arrests, as well as publishing the names of more than 1,000 corruption offenders on the MACC website.

There has also been a sharp decrease in business licenses and online publication of government contracts.

But one does not need another survey, although the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) has actually carried out one, which showed that a large segment of Malaysians do not believe that enough has been done to combat corruption.

That’s simply because the perception is that actions have only been taken against those at the lower and middle rungs of government.

If the fat cats – or big fishes – are left untouched, it may actually encouraged the bottom to be corrupt as they may think their bosses are dirty anyway, so why shouldn’t they, too, grease their hands to just pay the bills.

It is incredulous that a country like Malaysia, which has becoming more conservatively religious, are not seeing a corresponding decline in corruption.

Our religious leaders, regardless of their faith, seems to be more preoccupied with religious forms and theological aspects, and forgetting that they can be effective tools in the fight against corruption – not just against the takers but givers.

They should spend more time at their sermons, services and prayers to talk about the ills of corruption, among others – and not be too preoccupied with just politics.

More often than not, we hear the open grumbling of businessmen who lament the corrupt practices, which adds to their cost of doing business but if there are no givers, then, there will be no takers.

Never mind, if others want to give.

Let the policeman issue summons instead of offering a bribe to “settle it”.

If we give, why then are we still complaining about dirty cops?

If we do not do something more resolute now, the young will soon see corruption as an acceptable culture.

If we remember, in 2007, the majority of 1,800 university students interviewed felt it was acceptable to give or take bribes.

Surely, this is troubling. Have we come to this level where many of us can no longer differentiate between right and wrong?

It’s time to wake up, don’t let our beloved Malaysia go down the drain.

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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No room for an Islamic State (IS) and the racists in multiracial Malaysia


Let not the first brick be laid

THREE issues that have surfaced over the past week have terribly disturbed me and I am sure many Malaysians who are rational, reasonable and fair-minded feel the same way. More than that, these actions are slowly eroding the Malaysia that we know.

Minister in charge of Islamic Affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom told Parliament that unilateral conversions are lawful and gua­ranteed under the Federal Constitution.

This writer does not know if Jamil understood what he was reading out, which was presumably prepared by an official, or if he had referred to the Cabinet papers or read up on the Federal Constitution.

There is a 2009 Cabinet directive on uni­lateral conversion and early this year, a five-member Cabinet committee on unilateral conversion also decided that no child can be converted to another religion without the consent of both parents.

The 2009 Cabinet directive also stipulated that children must follow the practised religion of the parents at the time of marriage in the event that one of them converts.

Surely Jamil must be aware of the committee because he is also a member. Among the others in the panel are Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

The other members of the committee are Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri, and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

Jamil and his officials cannot read the Federal Constitution – specifically the provision for conversion – in isolation.

The argument of the singular meaning for “parent” does not hold water as the Interpretation Act 1948 & 1967 clearly indicates otherwise; the term “parent” in Article 12 (4) must necessarily mean both the father and mother.

To construe otherwise would mean depriving, for example, a mother of her rights as a parent to choose the religion of her infant under Article 12 (4), if the father alone decides. In simple English, the Interpretation Act stipulates “parent” to mean plural, not singular.

The Interpretation Acts of 1948 and 1967, which generally apply to all Acts of Parliament, state that words in the singular shall include the plural. Therefore, the Constitution ought to be interpreted in like manner.

Jamil should also put himself in the shoes of other Malaysians, especially non-Muslims. He may be in charge of Islamic Affairs but he is also a leader of all Malaysians.

I don’t think Jamil will be a happy man if his spouse makes a decision without telling him, and we are not even talking about religious issues.

Lest we forget, the Federal Court has ruled that Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi is allowed to challenge the validity of the unilateral conversion of her three children by her Muslim-convert ex-husband Muhammad Riduan.

The ruling is the culmination of the interfaith custody battle between Indira and Muhammad Riduan that began in 2009. They were married as Hindus and today, no one has been able to trace the whereabouts of Muhammad Riduan (formerly K. Pathmanathan), who had converted the couple’s three children – then aged 12, 11 and 11 months – to Islam without their presence or Indira’s knowledge, just six days before he obtained a custody order for all three in the Syariah Court on April 8, 2009.

Another big surprise last week was the Government’s decision to allow PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to table a Private Member’s Bill in the Dewan Rakyat to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

On Thursday, it was at the bottom of the day’s agenda but it was prioritized by two Federal Ministers. It came as a surprise because PAS has brought the Private Member’s Bill four times since 1995, and has never succeeded. On Thurday, Hadi got this first step.

We can be sure that Hadi will repeat his mantra that the Bill only seeks to empower the Syariah Courts and it only involves Muslims.

When tabling the Bill, he said it seeks to amend Section 2 of the Act to state that the Syariah Courts will have jurisdiction over Muslims, and in the case of offences on matters listed in Item 1 of the State List under the Ninth Schedule of Federal Laws.

He said it is also to include Section 2A, which states that in the conduct of criminal law under Section 2A, the Syariah Courts have the right to impose penalties allowed by Syariah laws related to offences listed in the said section, in addition to the death penalty.

What Hadi is pushing for is unacceptable. We live in a plural society. Those who argue that the Syariah law is only for Muslims may have missed this point – can anyone in Malaysia guarantee that crimes would only involve Muslim criminals and victims?

Many kinds of criminal acts affect non-Muslims, including rape. If we follow what Hadi is preaching – we will have to find four male witnesses of repute to testify in a rape case. Women witnesses are not accepted and we wonder where we are going to find four men of good reputation in relation to a rape case.

If non-Muslims already find that judges in civil courts are reluctant to adopt a firm stand on the civil rights of the aggrieved non-Muslim party, we wonder how the Syariah Courts can defend the interest of non-Muslims.

There cannot be a parallel criminal justice system with Muslims and non-Muslims subjected to two different laws. This is not about Islam, as advocated by Hadi and PAS, but simple common sense. But of course, common sense is not that common in PAS but we hope there will be a sense of fair play from Umno, and not the agenda dictated by the likes of Jamil. Sometimes we wonder if Jamil is really from Umno or PAS.

The third disappointment must be a speech made by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob, the controversial Rural and Regional Development Minister, who is well known for his communal remarks.

Last week, he reminded his listeners that Malays must unite to prevent non-Muslims from becoming Prime Minister because the Federal Constitution is silent on the racial origin of the top boss.

First of all, I cannot imagine any non-Malay aspiring to be the PM because, accept it, realistically it is not going to happen in my lifetime. It took 200 years in the United States for a black man to become president, even when the whites and blacks are mainly Christians and speak English.

But it is sad that in this age and time, Ismail is still looking inward and seeing things through his racist lens. Surely, he must have applauded when a Muslim became the first mayor of London, and for that matter, the first mayor in a big Western city.

Even in Jakarta, the capital of the world’s largest Muslim country, a Christian Chinese has been voted in as the city’s governor.

The non-Malays, especially the Chinese, are aware of their position as a minority in Malaysia. Politicians like Ismail should stop using phrases like “they” and “us” in his speeches, because we are all Malaysians.

What he has said serves little purpose, except to hurt feelings unnecessarily. A true mature Malaysian leader will talk about the strength of all Malaysians, regardless of their race and religion, coming together and not going separate ways.

As one lawyer put it aptly in his article, Malaysia is represented by at least 45% of the population who have faiths other than Islam. The important question one needs to address is the line between maintaining social stability and securing individual rights of religious practice and freedom of religion.

He further added, “this needs to be re-evaluated – where the politicisation of the Muslim rights over the non-Muslim citizens and fear mongering has had considerable effect in defining the parameters of the fundamental rights afforded to the citizen by the Constitution.”

Three months from now, Malaysia will celebrate its National Day. As we replay the old visual of Tunku Abdul Rahman raising his hand at Stadium Merdeka, let us not forget that the Alliance created Malaysia as a secular democracy.

Tunku would have been horrified at the thought of what Hadi and his PAS theolo­gians want to do with Malaysia.

He would have also reminded a few Umno leaders, who have no sense of history, that our Independence was made possible because of the unity of Umno, MCA and MIC, and that without Sabah and Sarawak, there would be no Malaysia.

So please think carefully of the hearts and minds of the rest of Malaysians who do not live in Kelantan and do not want to see Malaysia turned into an Islamic State. Let not the first brick be laid.

By Wong Chun Wai The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

 

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Liberating Malay mind: Shed ‘excess baggage’ of privileges !


  Malays must shed ‘excess baggage’ of privileges, says Rafidah 

 

SHAH ALAM: The Malays should drop the “excess baggage” hobbling them, such as the thinking that they are “special” and deserving of certain privileges, says Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

Instead, she said they should move forward by nurturing themselves with a recalibrated mindset.

Speaking at the launch of a book titled Liberating The Malay Mind by author Dr M. Bakri Musa, Rafidah said that the excess baggage of the Malays included the obsession that the community was special and more privileged than the others, in an ideal that was bolstered since the formation of the New Economic Policy (NEP).

“We (Malays) have been taught that we are special and privileged. But, we must know that the NEP was introduced because we were so far behind in knowledge and economy, and we needed assistance.

“It was not because we deserved it, nor was it that we must have it because the Malays were special,” she said in her speech.

Rafidah said it was a shame that after all these years, the Malays were still imprisoned by the thinking that they were special and deserving of certain privileges.

“It is shameful that we still want the “crutches” although our legs are fine, or still want to depend on the special status when we are able. It is our mindset that is stopping us from moving forward.”

Rafidah called on the Malays to face the future by eradicating the narrow thinking as well as their over admiration on foreign culture.

“All Malays are Muslims in Malay­sia. So, be a Malaysian Muslim. We are not Arabian, we are Malaysian first.

“We must realise that we are an integral component in Malaysia.

“It is necessary for us to nurture the younger generation with good universal values, such as integrity, trustworthiness, responsibility, accountability, discipline and respect for others.

Otherwise, we will be stuck in a time warp and end up going nowhere, she added.

Sources: The Star/Asia News Network

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Liberating Malay mind, unnecessary hoo-ha and nonsense!


 Liberating the Malay mind

Open-minded people are usually more tolerant, and when you are tolerant you are also moderate in your actions and behaviour.

Open-mindedness started to disappear from the scene when we began to have indoctrination in our schools and universities. In other words, when politics and religion got into the class rooms and lecture halls.

LIBERATING the Malay Mind is the title of the book by Dr M. Bakri Musa, a Malay doctor who practises medicine and lives in California. Written in English and Malay, the book was published by ZI Publications.

The second edition will be launched on Jan 30 by another famous and successful Malay, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz. As a Malay, I am proud to be associated with these two Malays whom I consider to be “open-minded”.

Open-mindedness is essential if we want to be a moderate and tolerant society.

Moderation is only possible if people understand the issues and are willing to talk about them openly. They can only understand difficult issues if they are willing to think rationally.

Being open-minded means that even if you think you are right, you know that you could be wrong, and you must therefore always be willing to consider other arguments and ideas.

Open-minded people are usually more tolerant, and when you are tolerant you are also moderate in your actions and behaviour.

An open-minded person is willing to engage in discussions and is generally flexible in his or her approach to things. Many leaders like the late Nelson Mandela, artists, writers and scientists attribute their success to their open-mindedness.

In Malaysia, Malays of my generation and those who are older are generally more open-minded than the present crop. This is partly because our educational approach was more focused on building skills such as reading, writing and thinking.

Science and the arts were subjects that had no socio-political dimension. They were studied purely to understand the physical world, culture and human nature.

Interpersonal relations were measured according to how we dealt with others as human beings, rather than which race we belonged to.

Success was measured by the level of skills we attained after years of schooling, and by the job skills we required to feed our families upon graduation. Back then nothing more than a bit of fun here and there got into our bloodstream.

Open-mindedness started to disappear from the scene when we began to have indoctrination in our schools and universities. In other words, when politics and religion got into the classrooms and lecture halls.

Education now includes courses on political awareness, and a heavy dose of religious instructions. If teachers and educationists do not exhibit some form of conforming identity or partisanship to “political and religious needs”, then they might not go far in their respective fields.

A new sense of historical perspective is also considered necessary. The biggest stumbling block to open-mindedness is, of course, education. Both secular and religious education in this country are not like those in the Islamic world of the 8th century.

Baghdad then was the centre of learning, and had the biggest public library in the world. Jews, Christians and Greek scholars of all faiths and creeds gathered to pursue knowledge without restrictions. It was never vacuous, mediocre and rigid, both in content and methodology, like what we have here today.

The culture of having an intellectual and pluralistic approach to understanding the world, including religious tenets, has not taken root.

In fact, such an approach is frowned upon and considered blasphemous. The state’s monopoly and control of religion is absolute.

The outcome is therefore predictable. Younger Malays are an angrier lot; they are less tolerant and moderate than older Malays. Just read their Facebook accounts and social media comments on any subject that is faintly controversial and you will appreciate what I mean.

They hurl abuse and make personal comments that have nothing to do with the subject matter in question. Extremism in their thinking is clearly visible.

They always see problems as if Islam and the Malays are under constant attack.

My concern in all of this is that the attributes these Malays/Muslims are exhibiting, besides being dangerous to the country’s peace and stability, are actually detrimental to their own well-being.

Their “enemies” – such as Chinese, Jews and the West in general – will continue with their ways and not be bothered with the tantrums thrown by these Malays.

They will continue with their educational and economic dominance. They will continue to make inroads in science and technology. They will continue to produce Nobel Prize winners.

What will become of these Malays? They will continue to be fascinated with ideas of violence and destruction, like the Islamic State teachings.

They will continue to adopt a rigid mindset which will make living in a multicultural 21st century setting more difficult. They can continue to listen to preachers and motivational speakers about how to defend their rights; but they will continue to be irrelevant because they will not be successful or dominant over things that matter.

They will not be able to truly develop the country and exploit its resources because they will lack the necessary know-how.

I am concerned that their frustrations over their own irrelevance will push them closer to those militants who blow themselves up. After all, suicide bombers are usually driven by their sense of helplessness, despair and alienation.

That’s why I hope more young Malays will read Dr Bakri’s book and attend the forum “Merdekakan Minda Melayu”, which will be held after the book launch.

I hope they will listen to what Rafidah has to say to find out what can make them more resourceful, and hopefully, successful.

One thing for sure though: they can only do that if they are prepared to liberate their minds from the toxic influences of the present.


By Zaid Ibrahim
all kinds of everything
Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim (carbofree@gmail.com) is now a legal consultant. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 Unnecessary hoo-ha and nonsense

Common sense has slowly been taking a back seat over the last few years, as people get hysterical over the most ridiculous things.

I don’t understand why we are not ashamed to admit our faith is weak, and that we should constantly protect it. Others people don’t seem to have ths same problems.

FOR a country that loves having laws to govern everyone’s beha­viour, we are very peculiar about ensuring that people follow them.

For some people, we bring the full force of the law to not only pu­nish them but to also set as an “example” to others.

For others, we sometimes wilfully ignore the law and let them do what they want.

Then there are the people who ignore court orders because they say it conflicts with some other law. Why they don’t get charged with contempt of court, I don’t know, but I don’t have to be a lawyer to think this is weird.

Then there are people who stretch laws to mean and do other things.

Like assuming that fathers are the only parents of a child and therefore what they say goes. (To the students to whom I was explaining what gender discrimination means today, there’s your example.)

Additionally there are people who make things up because it’s a law that only exists in their head.

A Muslim parent whose child goes to a Chinese school talked about how it was not enough for the religious studies teacher that there is halal food available in the canteen, but that the Muslim kids had to sit apart from their non-Muslim friends as well.

Does she think that non-halal food can be breathed in?

Some people will undoubtedly say that children have a habit of sharing food and utensils so some may inadvertently eat some non-halal food.

But of course sharing even all-halal food isn’t very hygienic either and is something parents should teach their children not to do.

Thinking about this story, I rea­lise how common sense has slowly been taking a back seat over the last few years.

Some people can really get hysterical over the most ridiculous things.

The unnecessary hoo-ha over the eventually false story of pig DNA in chocolate comes to mind.

Then of course there is the obsession with the cross appearing everywhere.

Apparently if you live in a house where there is something that looks like a crucifix on the roof, you will change your faith as easily as you change your underwear.

It never ceases to amuse me how, while Muslims find it so difficult to convert anyone else, all it takes to convert a Muslim to some other religion is the sight of a crucifix, a statue, hearing a song, drinking some water and even, as I was once privileged to be told, looking into the eyes of the Pope.

Our faith is a delicate thing, which we hang on to by the thinnest wisp of a thread, vulnerable to whatever “infidel” breeze might blow our way.

As it happens, I spent 12 years in a Convent school where there were crucifixes everywhere inclu­ding a giant one on the roof of the school.

Not a single one of the Muslim girls who studied there has left the faith. But maybe our generation are stronger than the people today.

I don’t understand why we are not ashamed to admit our faith is weak, and that we should constantly protect it.

Other people don’t seem to have the same problem.

I talk to young foreigners about the practice of Islam in Malaysia very often and, as far as I know, none have converted yet.

I may have dispelled some stereotypes about Muslims however, particularly the one about us having no sense of humour.

Logic is not our strong point either.

I saw a video where a uniformed man was briefing some academics on how to spot terrorists.

He talked about their distorted beliefs about religion and their lite­ral reading of the Quran.

I thought he was doing a fair job until he decided to give some examples of people to be wary of.

All of a sudden, he cited some of the most progressive people in the country as those most dangerous.

The sheer illogicality was breathtaking. I think even the terrorists would be puzzled, because the very people he mentioned in the same breath as terrorist ideology are not exactly popular with the angry, head-chopping, bearded crowd either.

The people wreaking havoc in Syria these days don’t believe much in women’s rights, for example.

So does it make sense to label women’s rights advocates as terrorists?

But maybe the illogicality and nonsense are deliberate. Our people tend to look up to those in authority so perhaps when they say that black is now actually white, and good is now bad, we will simply believe it.

That approach assumes that our people are all mildly intelligent, of course, and have shaky values to begin with. But it seems to work.

Maybe ultimately that’s the only thing about how we are governed that makes sense.


By Marina Mahathir musings

Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. The views expressed here are entirely her own.

 

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