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Malaysiakini: Column 

‘Allah’ and second class users of BM

Helen Ang
12:04PM Jan 28, 2010

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Lim Guan Eng had chided “the extremists in BN” who oppose Penang’s bilingual road signs in Bahasa Malaysia and Arabic, Mandarin, Tamil, or English.

The Chief Minister is overeasy in labelling people “extremists”, when what’s extreme is having road signs in five different languages on a small island.

He also said in his speech at the DAP national conference in Ipoh on Jan 17 that “Malays have no problems with bilingual road signs, just as a 100 percent Chinese area is comfortable with Arabic road signs”. For Lim’s info, Jawi (as the script for Bahasa Melayu) has been superseded by Rumi or the Roman alphabet. The modern Arabic of today’s tourist dollar is not our historical Jawi heritage.

But how difficult is it, really, for a foreigner to figure out the meaning of Jalan? Do you see other cities — say Paris and Berlin — adding second languages beneath Rue and Strasse?

Lim, in mooting his party’s nouveau notion of multilingual ‘Middle Malaysia’, missed one of the most fundamental pillars of nationhood – the role of a national language.

Pakatan Rakyat, in their common policy framework presented at the Dec 19 inaugural convention in Shah Alam, had agreed to “uphold the use of Bahasa Melayu in accordance to Article 152 of the Constitution”. Pakatan-ruled Penang should prove that they are not merely paying lip service to the promise.

Malays of Middle M’sia

One reader, Teoh Soong Kee, responded to my article on the ‘Allah’ controversy by saying “The need for our young to be competent in English for the global markets is different from fighting against extremists who want to take away the right of a Malay-speaking Christian …”

Firstly it is Middle Malaysia, and not only just “extremists” who are uncomfortable with Christians using ‘Allah’. Secondly, the lack of a hue and cry over the Herald’s English, Mandarin and Tamil sections implies the BM language factor is most relevant. Hence, attitude to BM viz. the PPSMI Maths and Science in English issue has a comparative bearing on the present discourse.

To rebut the two prongs of Teoh’s criticism, firstly, I beg to disagree that PPSMI promotes English competency, and secondly, I reiterate my contention that the convention of Allah belongs to Islam.

On point one, I’m venturing that instead of acquiring better English through PPSMI, pupils are instead likely subjected to incorrect grammar and poor pronunciation during their Maths and Science lessons – compare Western Europeans, who have a more than adequate command of English despite being deprived of PPSMI.

The crux of the matter actually is upholding standards in education (and other areas).

On point two, ‘Allah’ is an Arabic word. Sabahans, Sarawakians and Christians in Malaysia don’t speak Arabic. How do you make a case for appropriating a word from a language remote to us? Or to put it another way, imagine insisting that we’ve got an inalienable right to a Greek or Swahili term.

The Christians may have a leg to stand on if they wish to claim that ‘Allah’ is a word in our national language. In this regard, we still need to acknowledge that ‘Allah’ was absorbed into the Malay lexicon through the filter of Islam when the religion reached the shores of the Malay Archipelago in the 1300s.

But even in this context, Islam has first dibs anyway, as Christians in Borneo only started using ‘Allah’ following European colonisation.

Relation of language to citizenship

Last week I noted “inconsistent action” in those enthusiastic about their Constitutional right as pertains to ‘Allah’, and how an equal degree of enthusiasm is missing re BM usage in other spheres.

If one side wants to invoke rights, they should at the same time glance at worldwide custom. Although he is multilingual, Zinedine Zidane speaks French and not his mother tongue (Algerian Arabic) in interviews. Malaysians are polyglots but not everyone accords BM such precedence in the public domain.

I cannot imagine an identical clamour in France to have English as the medium of instruction like the tooth-and-nail battle we’ve witnessed for installing English in Malaysia. Only here do we find residents contemptuous of the capability of our national language.

Lee Kuan Yew pronounced in March 2009 during his country’s ‘Speak Mandarin’ campaign 30th anniversary that “To become a united nation, the population must speak a common language”. Singapore favoured English, Lee basing his rationale on the quarter of the populace comprising non-Chinese that would have been alienated by the adoption of Mandarin as lingua franca.

In Oct 2007, footballer Ashkan Dejagah’s refusal to play an international match in Tel Aviv prompted some German newspapers to ask if it was a sign of failed integration.

Dejagah, then 21, was born in Tehran and held dual German-Iranian citizenship. German Football Federation president Theo Zwanziger said: “A player who wears our team shirt must identify with this country and its values.”

Our current entangled situation only serves to underscore strong support for the national language project in Sabah and Sarawak, and how far these two states have come to identify with Malaysia.

Therefore, negotiating a resolution to the conflict should not be switching the East Malaysian natives over to using English (so that, alternatively, they become competent enough to read the Bible in English). This proposed solution will be a regression, in addition to undermining the national policy of ‘Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu’.

BM is Islam-compliant?

Instead now is an opportune moment to review how the peninsula can and should embrace our bahasa kebangsaan. The axiom Bahasa jiwa bangsa infers that embedded in language is the channel for transmitting cultural values. Shared values equate better integration.

A common language allows discovery of commonalities.

Take for instance the cover story of this month’s Milenia Muslim magazine, “Penangan Si Tanggang moden’. For anyone possessing some familiarity with Malay folk literature, the headline reference is already shorthand to the article content. The cautionary tale of Si Tanggang touches on filial piety, a valued cherished by Confucian society.

But sadly, Malaysia’s diverse communities don’t appreciate – or are seemingly unaware of – what we have in common, instead choosing to magnify our differences. This mutual incapacity to understand the acute anxiety of The Other is compounded by the stance taken by official quarters.

“Clearly what the Christians are trying to do is to de-Islamise the Malay language for missionary purposes …” How would you interpret this statement by Md Asham Ahmad, a fellow at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia? (nb: Ikim is an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department)

Saying Christians are attempting to ‘de-Islamise’ the language presumes BM as containing an inbuilt faith orientation; a claim in the same vein as declaring that English or Latin is a Christian language.

The same sort of Malaysians who make the surau off-limits to non-Muslims may want to render BM exclusive to Muslims as well.

As I mentioned previously, the state religious departments have a list of words banned for use by non-Muslims. While I can comprehend the apprehension over ‘Allah’, I don’t see how essays on Christianity can be published in BM without recourse to forbidden words like nabi, mubaligh, iman, ibadah, Injil, and dakwah; also how to address the Old Testament prophets Nabi Nuh (Noah), Nabi Yunus (Jonah), Nabi Musa (Moses) and a host of others if ‘nabi’ is prohibited?

The Home Ministry and religious authorities are in effect imposing a restriction on writings in BM with regard to religions other than Islam. The bottomline deriving from this proscription is that minorities must necessarily be second class users of the national language.

This article was first published in Malaysiakini on Jan 28, 2010.

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Free Malaysia Today: Comment

Zaid-effects from PKR fallout

By Helen Ang

Mon, 22 Nov 2010 

By Helen Ang

COMMENT The side-effects from Zaid Ibrahim’s ousting is a windfall of political capital for Barisan Nasional in the next general election (GE).

Remember that Zaid is popular with urban Chinese and Indians for his liberal views. So when GE comes around, BN candidates contesting against PKR opponents in mixed seats will bring up this disgraceful episode of Anwaristas attempting to drag Zaid’s name through the mud.

He was the outsider whose aborted candidacy caused the siege mentality to erupt in PKR’s entrenched establishment. The bashing of Zaid by the party leadership was not only an overkill but encouraged a feeding frenzy by the rank and file.

The piranha-like devouring of Zaid in certain alternative media will not bring PRK any new converts, particularly among the traditional Malay ground (think civil servants or those inclined to Umno but not card-carrying party members). These are segments of the electorate that normally watch TV3, RTM and the free-to-air channels, and those that read Utusan, Berita Harian and The Star.

On the other hand, the ferocity of the personal attacks on Zaid is immensely offputting and may lose PKR some potential goodwill from the fencesitters and non-partisan crowd.

Unlike the PKR diehards and Pakatan Rakyat loyalists, reasonable members of public are able to surmount the contrived distractions and appraise the damaging issues raised by Zaid with greater rationality. To make good their ambitious road to Putrajaya, Pakatan desperately needs these swing votes beyond the secure electoral constituencies.

The trump card that BN will slap on the table in its GE campaign is to ask how can the rakyat trust a PKR-led coalition to run the country when the party cannot even conduct its own internal polls in a manner that is above board.

Who’s got more Umno DNA?

Zaid had stood for Umno in the Kota Baru parliamentary seat against a PAS candidate in the 2004 GE and did not suffer any smear campaign. Compare how in the race for PKR deputy president, Zaid is deluged by an avalanche of dirty tactics employed against him. What does this say of the party?

The intensity of the infighting is a sign of the eager scramble by individuals to position themselves for the spoils, should Pakatan conquer Putrajaya. Similar factional power struggles are occurring in the DAP.

What just transpired in PKR has been most illuminating of the way Anwaristas operate, the two planks of which are fear and loathing.

A comment from Azmin Ali’s aide Muaz Omar, reported in The Star, accurately sums up the fear:

“People know that actual change can only be via a two-party system and any effort to undermine Pakatan is seen as allowing Barisan Nasional to hold on to their hegemony. Zaid’s actions went against this sentiment.”

Zaid fingerpointed Anwar as the originator of the “Trojan Horse” and “sore loser” labels. Those in the know or formerly from Umno have murmured that these insidious methods had been characteristic of Anwar when he previously unseated his rivals in Umno.

How can anyone credit the wild accusation that Zaid is an Umno plant when it could hardly have been Najib Tun Razak who invited Zaid to join PKR, could it? And who promoted Zaid to his high status in Pakatan? Who handed Zaid the responsibility of drafting the coalition’s common policy framework? Not Najib.

It wasn’t Najib either putting a gun to Lim Kit Siang’s head to compel the DAP stalwart to tout Zaid as “the first minister in the nation’s history to have resigned from the Cabinet on a point of principle”.

Umno wasn’t the one heaping praises on its supposed “mole”; it was Pakatan that did so of its own accord.

The other main motivator of the opposition movement is loathing. An overarching hatred of Umno is what binds the motley crew of politicians and political groupies recently tearing into Zaid with gusto.

Even incumbent PKR vice-president (who is trailing behind the top five contenders) Sivarasa Rasiah resorted to the Umno bogeyman, saying Zaid’s revelations are “something that we normally only hear from Umno-BN politicians” and a “very Umno-BN-like criticism”.

For Sivarasa to dwell on Zaid’s so-called Umno taint is disappointing, to say the least. While Zaid’s former law firm was arguably an NEP beneficiary (and how many of the ex-Umno office-bearers even now in PKR have not been?), Zaid’s political career in Umno reached its zenith as Kota Baru division head.

Zaid has never even been an Umno supreme council member whereas Anwar, as deputy president, rose to within a whisker of the apex of the party hierarchy.

So, in whose veins is flowing the thicker Umno blood?

No saint but quite sane

The Anwaristas have decried Zaid’s opening of the proverbial can of worms. Nonetheless, Pakatan is misguided in thinking that any criticism of its leaders equates to an endorsement of BN.

Take this analogy: Jill says Jack is unattractive. Her remark is not to be construed as Jill believes the other fella John is good-looking.

Among the labels heaped on Zaid is that he’s a “loose cannon”. On the contrary, he threw several curve-balls that the cabal-around-the-personality-cult could not catch.

Misgivings that PKR is rudderless stem from the following considerations:

  • The hallmark of any democracy is its election process. Why then is Anwar the “de facto leader” when he has not put himself up for elected office?
  • Why is the anchor party of the Pakatan axis being helmed by a seat warmer? Will party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is flying PKR on auto pilot, defer to her husband like a good Muslimah when push comes to shove? To paraphrase Kit Siang’s ubiquitous “First-er” question: What is she? “Party president first or wife first?”
  • PKR claims to have 364,098 registered members, yet the voter turnout hovered at a meagre 8.4%. What kind of mandate does Azmin wield with his own fraction of 14,751 votes garnered (as at Nov 21)?
  • Why should loyalty be the most important criterion? Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was loyal and rewarded for his loyalty by being made Umno deputy president/deputy prime minister and later prime minister. Azmin, like Abdullah, lacks intellectual depth and gravitas albeit both were loyal men.
  • The “reformasi” faithful demand that newcomer Zaid should be “grateful” that he was parachuted into prominence in PKR. Well, so was Tunku Abdul Aziz when appointed DAP vice-president without paying his dues. Doubtless the Tunku is a man of calibre and fulfils DAP’s race formula requiring Malay window-dressing… But alas DAP fails to practise the democracy it shouts from the rooftops.
  • Should Zaid have kept his peace? Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has remained in Umno even though he has lately not agreed with some of the party’s doings. One wishes though that Ku Li has a bigger and more meaningful role. Zaid can play a bigger role. What he should not do is play second fiddle to Azmin, anointed successor though the latter may be (but still at the end of the day lacking intellectual depth and gravitas).
  • However is PKR going to shed its image that it is a party wherein a de facto leader pulls all the strings?

Granted Zaid made a fatal miscalculation in trying to do a reverse takeover of the family business (whose company logo is the Anwar black eye). He underestimated how the Anwar agenda is first priority. Therefore Zaid is quite correct in his decision to quit now.

PKR should be left to its own devices of seeking justice for Anwar, who will sorely need it when his sodomy trial reaches a verdict.

Physician heal thyself

In its article “Anwar lashes out at former party colleague”, Malaysiakini reported that “Anwar Ibrahim, who delivered a speech at yesterday’s (Nov 19) event aimed at closing party ranks in the state, said that he would not elaborate on what had happened to Zaid and his eventual exit from the party.”

But wait! “Yet [Anwar] spent the best part of his address talking about the Zaid imbroglio.”

In the short interim since the BN electoral setback of March 8, 2008, we’ve witnessed several other inherent inconsistencies of the above nature.

Another example: Pakatan and its supporters were furious at the two state assemblymen and the Jelapang state assemblywoman who, by deserting the coalition and declaring themselves “BN-friendly Independents” caused the fall of the Perak government. Yet it was Pakatan which embraced the very first “frog”, and a triumphant Anwar was pictured in the papers with his prize catch.

The Bota state assemblyman eventually did a double hop, from Umno to PKR and leaping back to the BN camp again.

Zaid’s Dec 16 resignation date is a dig at Anwar’s Sept 16 failed coup, a stratagem of enticing a pondful of BN frogs. Ironically, the Pakatan polity was later to be up in arms over the three Perak tadpoles. If PKR is intent on framing itself as a reformist party, it should most certainly adhere to higher standards than the status quo.

With the benefit of hindsight and looking at how Perak remains unsettled, one should – after going through the necessary postmortem and soul-searching – possess enough humility to admit that Anwar’s promised Sept 16 would have backfired ethically, not to mention send standards plummeting irrevocably.

After the dust settles on the PKR three-ring circus, the truth (already glimpsed by the clearer-sighted) will be discernible to more and more Malaysians. Zaid is no “traitor”, merely the boy who blurts out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

The heart of the matter is not that the boy has been naughty (he should have been doing his exam revision at home instead of sneaking out to watch the royal parade) but whether it is true that the emperor is buck naked. Or do we mean butt naked?

The article above was first published in Free Malaysia Today on 22 Nov 2010.

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The Star: Letter to the Editor

Keep abuse out in commenting

Tuesday August 9, 2011

WONG Chun Wai’s call for moderation (“Let’s fight to keep Malaysia moderate” – Sunday Star, Aug 7) is most timely and I, for one, can relate to his recent column on “angry Malaysians”.
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To extend his discussion, the anger calculus in fact sheds light on why the opposition is not averse to stoking public rancour.
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They incite anger on an almost daily basis because they’ve calculated that the angrier they make the electorate, the more votes the ruling party will lose. One cannot fail but notice how after an airing of the “angry” laundry list, the oppositionists inevitably shift into electioneering mode. Their opportunistic script goes: “Let’s all together now kick BN out”.

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King Solomon’s wisdom tested two mothers who both made overlapping custody claims on a newborn infant. The genuine mother is revealed as the one willing to relinquish the baby to the other woman in order to spare its life.

Applying Solomon’s wisdom here, if Malaysians really cared for the well-being of the country, they would tamp down the escalating anger.

If they had ever cared for unity, they would have supported 1Malaysia instead of constantly attacking it. Success for the 1Malaysia idea would have been good for the country but bad for the opposition. The hoots of derision greeting the concept at every turn tell us how detractors of the Prime Minister’s effort will likely fare in the Solomon test.

Wong is not the only mainstream editor to observe how far good sense and manners have gone south. In the aftermath of Bersih 2.0, Chok Suat Ling wrote that Facebook is “most in danger of imploding with hatred and vitriol”.

I understand the frustration of my ex-colleagues. Whereas a degree of restraint is still practised in the newsroom, the alternative media shows no inhibition at all in encouraging “the ‘us’ or ‘them’ syndrome”, to borrow a phrase from Wong.

There are no more boundaries remaining, what with the latest digital networking that interconnects the various communication technologies. The “lots of venom and animosity” (Chok’s description) and the “distasteful round of name calling and personal attacks” (Wong’s) are more often than not set in motion by the new media.

In the old days, professional courtesy would have dictated that “the right of reply” was kept within the relevant print publication itself.

Journalism evolving in the 21st century has apparently reached a stage where gutter language against personalities perceived to be pro-establishment is permissible.

As a seasoned journalist, Wong would have received his fair share of brickbats as well as bouquets. For a new media reader to relish the idea of Wong’s son meeting the same fate that befell Teoh Beng Hock is terrible, but what is really beyond the pale is the comment being seen fit to be published.

The news portal in which the comment appeared is one that is fully moderated. This means any reader’s comment has to be approved before it becomes visible on the page for public viewing.

It’s not surprising either that readers of that news portal failed to find the comment offensive, for if they had, they would have called for it to be removed. They’re actually a self-selecting online community, i.e. like-minded people gravitating to websites partisan to their own political positions.

Their manufactured consensus leads to group affirmation, which then validates mob prejudices. This insularity is further aggravated when the agenda-setting new media owners as well as the opposition ranks predominant on the Internet allow no room for contrary thought.

It is not only those in the traditional media who have noticed the bellicosity. Shortly after, Johor Sultanah Raja Zarith Sofia voiced her concern over how the “responses of readers of blogs and news portals have become worryingly provocative”.

Similarly worrying is that while those within the establishment are calling for a middle ground, belligerent political operatives are holding to ransom the silent majority.

Toxic political junkies do nothing but poison the environment when, as “Anonymous” online commentators, they run the mill of the echo chambers. In cyberspace, under the cloak of anonymity, packs of anonymice are emboldened to be feral.

New media, in encouraging the stampeding herd instinct, must be held responsible for the subversion of civility. In the real world, people have to at least try to be polite in agreeing to disagree, and not call the other person “prostitute” or “lapdog” as an argument clincher.

When Wong mentioned how, on top of the derogatory labels, there is also cursing of the victim’s next three generations, I suspect he might be referring to prominent writers and critics at the receiving end of such treatment (if it so happens they dare question Pakatan’s motives).

Actually Wong quoting “three generations” is rather mild. Someone leaving his/her comment at my blog laid a curse on my next seven generations.

The present cyber climate is one where vocal segments of public opinion are antagonistic to the old media, while the new media, in deliberately shutting out differing perspectives, are only driving dissenting readers to congregate in camps where biases are solidified.

Without a diversity of views, the reader will be hard pressed to conduct an internal moral audit with some objectivity.

Thus the moderates in our society must not simply wring their hands over the increasing lack of tolerance in public discourse. Rather, they must reassert themselves in the public sphere to keep the excesses of the fanatical fringe in check.

Wong, a veteran on the beat, would surely have been able to sniff the air of the hostile mood when so many Malaysians were apparently hyped up over Bersih. Yet he had gumption enough to enter the fray and take the bull by the horns.

His writing on “angry Malaysians” necessarily urges us to take stock and recalibrate.

HELEN ANG,

Petaling Jaya.

(The above was first published as a letter to the editor in The Star)

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Maths and science: The case for BM

Helen Ang
11:20 AM Mar 12

Yang dikejar tak dapat, yang dikendong berciciran.

We might dream about creating a breed of Malaysian scientists and mathematicians but we’re losing hordes of children who don’t even have a decent grounding in Math and Science due to PPSMI (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris).

1. Prof Mohamad Tajuddin Rasdi commented that the move to teach Math and Science in English was made with “such rapidity that it boggles any management team to implement”. The public did not hear about any feasibility study nor were there any debates or concerns that built up to the radical switch.

2. PPSMI was implemented in January 2003, coming at the tail-end of Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s tenure. “Tun Mahathir sort of woke up one day and decided to change the languages of the two subjects”, Prof Tajuddin noted. Dr M’s ‘Eureka!’ moment came after Malaysian kids have been learning Math and Science in Malay for almost four decades.

3. Dr M’s executive order was given against a backdrop of massive unemployment among local graduates which he blamed on their lack of proficiency in English. At the same time, private colleges offering courses in English were burgeoning. The PPSMI directive did not originate from the Education Ministry but was instead the premier’s personal initiative.

4. The PPSMI project – it was revealed in Parliament last May – has already cost taxpayers RM3.2 billion over the last five years. A significant portion of the money was ostensibly spent on ICT equipment. Further billions have been budgeted to see through the programme. Is it an enrichment of pupils or of cronies, one may ask?

5. We have completed a cycle of PPSMI. In 2008, the pioneer batch finished their Year Six. Yet last year, only 31.1% elected to answer the UPSR Science paper fully in English, while 68.9% opted to use Malay, or vernacular (Chinese/Tamil), or a combination of languages.

This rojak language feature is unheard of anywhere else in the world. Would a 12-year-old in England submit his Science answer script in a jumble of English-French-Urdu?

6. Close to 70 percent were not confident enough to sit the exam in English. In absolute numbers, that’s 352,641 pupils. It is mother tongue instruction that’s most effective for children as countless studies have shown. Unesco endorses this formulation. The European Union similarly adopts a mother tongue education policy.

7. Is it so incomprehensible to the vocally pro-PPSMI urbanites that English is alien to the majority of rural children?

Furthermore, Math and Science teachers who are themselves deficient in English will not help improve the pupil’s language command. In fact, a likely scenario is that kids will pick up English grammar mistakes from Cikgu during Math and Science periods.

Wrong to scapegoat BM

8. A most oft-cited argument in favour of PPSMI is that the bulk of reference material is in English. But we’re talking about seven year olds and 11 year olds. They don’t need to refer to advanced textbooks and academic papers.

They’re not required to write a thesis using English jargon. Foundation level Math and Science deals with basic concepts that can be explained just as well in BM or vernacular.

Even at ages 13 to 15, schoolgoers don’t specialise in Math and Science. Not everybody aspires to be a scientist.

9. Three scientists of Japanese ethnicity shared the 2008 Nobel Prize for their work in subatomic physics. They obtained their PhDs from Nagoya University and University of Tokyo. They learned their Math and Science in Japanese…I’m sure.

10. Let’s say that a science magazine discusses the field of their Nobel prize-winning endeavour with words like ‘particle accelerator/Large Hadron Collider’, ‘CP violation’ and ‘Higgs boson’. Mastery of English doesn’t necessarily help a Form Five student comprehend the contributions of the Japanese trio.

Only by being very good in Physics will the 17-year-old Malaysian find the article illuminating. English is not a magic key to unlocking scientific aptitude.

11. The problem with Malaysians doesn’t lie with the language of delivery. It lies with the passive education system, the teachers’ dispiriting approach and the by-rote exam structure (practise, practise, practise past year test papers, spot questions). These methods fail to foster a scientific mindset.

12. Impressive Math and Science scores in domestic exams do not automatically make Malaysia a great science and technology nation. Does Malaysia have the requisite technology base (except in the automotive industry thanks to Proton), flourishing R&D sector as well as incentives to absorb those future graduates who intend to do original research?

13. What’s the real value of an ‘A’ in the Malaysian exam system? The revamped PSSMI syllabus has been dumbed down compared to the BM curriculum it replaced.

14. Not only that, the GMP (movement to abolish PPSMI) has alleged that in order to cover up the failure of the policy, the Education Ministry has resorted to lowering the passing mark to 30 percent and thus beefing up the pass rate.

National language, national identity

15. Article 152 of the Federal Constitution makes Malay our national language. It is the language for ‘official purpose’, i.e. “any purpose of the Government, whether Federal or State, and includes any purpose of a public authority”. English has no official purpose in schools.

16. The Education Act says that the national language shall be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions except Chinese and Tamil schools. It does not provide for the existence of English school.

UPSR in national school has six subjects; the core subjects Math, Science and second language are in English. To all intents and purposes English has become the medium of instruction. If the government insists on proceeding with PPSMI, it should amend the Constitution and change the law first.

17. In national-type schools similarly, the school’s Chinese character is lost while ‘doubling’ wastes precious time when Math and Science are taught overlapping in both English and Chinese.

Chinese primary schools are feeders to the independent Chinese high schools whose students take the UEC. This exam is recognised for entry to universities in Taiwan, China, Singapore, Australia and some European countries. PPSMI will kill the UEC, and seal off alternative avenues to higher education if students are incompetent in Chinese language.

18. PPSMI benefits the ‘haves’ and disadvantages the ‘have-nots’. Poor parents lack the resources for private tuition, not that there are tuition centres anyway in the rural and remote areas.

Nor are these parents capable of giving home tutoring as they themselves are not well-educated. And in settlements and long houses, children do not have access to facilities, computers and laboratories.

English-speaking parents desire the easier path paved by English access, otherwise their kids will have to adapt to English later at college level. What is advantageous to them comes at the expense of the majority losing out in Math and Science (see results). PSSMI shifts the burden to young rural children while those exposed to an English-speaking environment cruise ahead.

19. It is not for the greater good to penalise many to advance a few. Since 1982, all first degree courses have generally been taught in Malay at our public universities. For close to three decades, these tertiary institutions have been producing graduands who obtained their qualifications in Malay. We’re a Malay-speaking polity.

20 Finally, the standard of BM has risen in inverse correlation to the decline in the standard of English. Our socio-political milieu is undeniably Malay. Unless we’re willing to alienate ourselves in ethnic enclaves, it’s untenable to continue living in Malaysia if we do not encourage our children to be adept in Malay or at the very least, keep up.

PPSMI by sidelining the national language turns the accepted notion of nationhood on its head.

The article above appeared in my (former) column in Malaysiakini, March 12, 2009.

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ISA repeal: Our Mandela moment and thereafter

September 17, 2011

For national reconciliation to have a chance, we need to give truth a fair hearing.

By Helen Ang

The release of Nelson Mandela after a 27-year detention ushered in South Africa’s post-apartheid era where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established during his presidency.

It is hoped that Thursday’s watershed announcement on repealing the Internal Security Act will yield a similar milestone in our political landscape. And hopefully the same two keys words – ‘truth’ and ‘reconciliation’ – will be as significant for us.

Can this momentous move to sheath the ISA sword go some way in making Malaysians braver and more clear-headed in confronting self-evident truths?

Ex-ISA detainee P Uthayakumar is one of the foremost and forthright speakers of the truth today. I’ll share why I hold a deep respect for this man but first a few words on another political figure that played a recent role in carving out public space for the exploration of truth.

The Malay far right has been calling for Mohamad Sabu, better known as Mat Sabu, to be ISA-ed over his remarks on the Bukit Kepong episode. “Well over 900 police reports” were lodged against Mat Sabu for what is in essence a challenge to the Umno version of our Merdeka narrative.

Threat of police investigation is a same sort of weapon that the ISA is. And the ISA has been a blunt and brutal instrument to put the fear of government into the people. The almost one-party state is feared for its power to lock you up and throw away the key.

Umno controlling the Home Ministry not only has ISA at its disposal but the police and their lock-up facilities too. PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali suggested that the large number of police reports against Mat Sabu were mobilised by Umno through the many NGOs connected to the party.

Punishing the truthseekers

We must take our hat off to Mat Sabu for sticking to his guns on the Mat Indera contentious comment and remaining unfazed by the almost a thousand police reports.

It is through Mat Sabu standing his ground despite ‘dikepong’ (being besieged) from all sides that paved the way enabling last evening’s forum in Petaling Jaya on the contributions of the left to the decolonialisation process.

If Mat Sabu had succumbed to pressure exerted by adversaries and allies alike, the topic would have been closed prematurely. Members of the public could not then have heard Dr Rohana Arifin’s forum presentation telling how the Bukit Kepong hagiography – the eponymous film directed by Jins Shamsuddin – goes to serve the Umno propaganda.

A retraction by Mat Sabu as Karpal Singh had demanded would have shut the window of opportunity created and later kept ajar by PAS agreeing to back up their deputy president.

Umno is the devil we know that fails to mask its coercive nature in trying to silence Mat Sabu. Turning the complaints over to police opens the door to another facet of state intimidation, especially when sedition is invoked.

DAP is an equally treacherous devil. Coming on the heels of Karpal’s insistence that Mat Sabu should apologise was the hatchet job by Tunku Abdul Aziz. The party vice chairman had piled insult upon derision upon malice in tearing into Mat Sabu.

Karpal did not bother to hide the motivation for his attack. He declared upfront that the resulting backlash from Mat Sabu offending Malay ‘sensitivities’ would be “very damaging” to Pakatan’s prospects in the general election.

A parallel motive propels the attack by Aziz, i.e. DAP’s courting of the Malay vote. In fact, DAP stabbing Mat Sabu in the back indicates that the party is preparing itself to go direct to the Malay electorate and bypassing electoral pact partners PAS and PKR as intermediaries. The DAP plan to stand its own Malay candidates is no secret.

Note that on Sept 2, when Umno firepower in the form of pliant press and party proxies was trained on Mat Sabu, DAP international secretary Liew Chin Tong signed his party’s name to a Pakatan joint statement that condemned the Utusan Malaysia reports as “irresponsible spin-mongering being perpetrated by Umno leaders and the media”.

Yet a mere five days after the opposition’s purported defence of Mat Sabu, the New Straits Times on Sept 7 published Aziz’s vicious denunciation of the populist speaker’s historical reinterpretation. Tunku Aziz, Karpal and the party they chair don’t give a toss for any intellectual truth of the matter.

Granted, Mat Sabu’s off-the-cuff observation has an adverse impact on the potential votebank and Pakatan pursuit of the Putrajaya crown. However DAP pulling the rug from under Mat Sabu’s feet signifies how for them, truth is better off denounced if it gets in the way of fishing in Malay waters.

Painful but plain truths

Mirroring the ‘kepong’ of Mat Sabu, Hindraf’s Uthayakumar has long suffered being assailed from all sides as well. Circling the wagons were Umno who chucked him into Kamunting, the Barisan indoctrination apparatus demonising him and the chest-thumping Anak Malaysians relieving Uthaya of the need for having enemies (what with ‘friends’ like them).

Umno was plain nasty in portraying Uthaya as a ‘samseng’, which is a far cry from the truth. If anything, he is someone I laud for the courage of his conviction and for following the uncompromising path that he sees clear ahead.

The character assassination of Hindraf’s leading light draws on latent stereotypes. The Indian community, because of its numbers disproportionately making up the crime-and-prison statistics, has been tarred with a broad stroke as one producing gangsters.

Instead of addressing the grievances, which includes why Indians are the most in jails, the Umno-led establishment added more injury to an already wounded segment of the population.

Just as the poor championed by Parti Sosialis Malaysia were considered a destabilizing force during Bersih 2.0, and hence the Emergency Ordinance pre-emptively applied to the PSM Six, the Hindraf masses were also deemed dangerous game-changers in the immediate aftermath of Bersih in 2007.

Hence the ISA hastily and harshly applied on the Hindraf lawyers, and Uthaya’s subsequent 500-plus days in captivity.

The treatment of Uthaya by all those complicit with the Umno agenda was deplorable. His incessant vilification by Pakatan quarters which continues yet to this very day is equally despicable.

Uthaya is a genuine voice for the have-nots, whom the haves are unfortunately unable to emphatise with. And they misjudge and they wrong him.

The Umno-aligned authorities used the sledgehammer but the venom spewed against Uthaya by Pakatan, particularly their Indian politicians who consider him a formidable rival as well as the so-called multiculturalist opposition supporters, is equally loathsome.

One vile accusation is that Uthaya is racist. It’s an allegation easily rubbished by Uthaya’s track record as counsel to Malay and Chinese victims of police brutality. He took up their cases pro bono years before any of his present armchair cyber critics even acquired a pinch of political consciousness.

Award-winning cartoonist Zunar revealed that during the Reformasi period when he was arrested for participating in street protests, it was Uthaya who fought his case.

Said Zunar: “Back in those days (1999), you seldom get lawyers willing to do so, unlike today. That’s why in terms of human rights, Uthaya has done a very good job representing every race.”

Learn to judge a person by his actions rather than be swayed by the pretty-sounding but ultimately shallow rhetoric of his detractors.

Uthaya survived a year-and-a-half under ISA and walked away with his chin held high, and on his own terms. He was the only Hindraf detainee who refused to accede to the restraining order on public appearances that was made a condition of release.

Readers may not be aware either that Uthaya grew up in Kelantan and consequently speaks our national language fluently. If he had ever wanted to pander to Malays like DAP counterfeits such as the hypocritical Hasnah Yeops are overdoing, it’d be a cakewalk for him. But he doesn’t care for such fake antics and nor has he the luxury.

Current political punditry is almost unanimous in decrying Malaysia’s increasing race polarisation.

For national reconciliation to have a chance, we need to give truth a fair hearing. Only if the compass is set true can we get our bearings right. Taking our next steps require the ability to recognise who are the truth bearers – more whom will be set free hopefully by a loosening on the ISA.

(The above article first appeared in Free Malaysia Today.)

____________________________________________________________________

8TV Ramadan ad is chickens coming home to roost

Helen Ang
Thursday, 04 August 2011 06:04
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The 8TV Ramadan ads which many Chinese and other right-thinking Malaysians find offensive have since been removed from the Internet.

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8TV claims that a ‘multiracial’ crew had been behind the ad’s creation. The video clip public service announcements, which were taken down by the station, had earlier been uploaded by YouTube account holder Sanjit Randhawa, a producer with Primeworks Studios who in his profile describes himself as “God’s gift”.

Adherents of our misplaced ‘multiracialism’ – in the sense of the glorified term being hijacked by the Malaysian First camp – are more likely to be bigoted than those willing to openly acknowledge themselves by their ethnicity. Malaysian First is best described as ‘kelentong’ and Firsters often taunting others as ‘racist’ a clear case of pot calling the kettle black.

Make no mistake that the ad which was “written, produced and directed by a multi-racial team” as claimed by the Media Prima broadcaster is indeed racist in its denigration of Chinese.

Preaching about the ‘rude’ and ‘inappropriate’ bare shoulders of the Chinese woman in the ad is baloney when 8TV’s own Malay spokeswoman is herself clad in a body-hugging, scarlet kebaya pendek. (See photo of the station’s Malay bottle blonde at my blog, www.helenang.wordpress.com)

Since when has what is permissible to wear in public been lodged firmly within the parameters of Muslim ‘aurat’ rulings? The 8TV ad attempted to shove non-Muslims into the same conservative sphere on the pretext of Ramadan but what about the remaining 11 months of the year?

A documentary by Sisters in Islam’s Norhayati Karpawi on why Muslim women cover their head shows old photographs where Malay women of note did not previously wear tudung. Norhayati told the audience during her screening that the wives of some top PAS leaders in the 1950s did not wear tudung either.

She reveals that in Universiti Malaya, the trend of wearing tudung began with the first batch of students on the Anwar Ibrahim Foundation scholarship.

In any analysis of the ‘morality’ shift (at least outwardly with skirt hem inching downwards and neckline upwards), it is admittedly Anwar who brought the creeping Islamisation into public life, and most crucially to embed it in our government bureaucracy.

More than any other individual in the country, he is responsible for the sea of tudung seen in Malaysia today, albeit this development is in tandem with the global Islamic resurgence.

Pakatan, the electoral pact led by Anwar, has since its unholy matrimony thrown up – among other gimmicky theatrics – three poster girls dubbed ‘the Selendang Squad’. Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching, Bukit Lanjan Adun Elizabeth Wong and Subang Jaya Adun Hannah Yeoh all created a stir in cyberspace when pictured covering their hair and wearing baju kurung – the style of dressing obviously to fish Malay votes.

To understand why 8TV is bold enough to think that a Chinese woman in sleeveless top should rightly be the object of its scorn as well the target of its behaviour modification campaign, we should also look at the tectonic plate movements in local politics.

The sartorial shenanigans of the Selendang Squad needs to be recalled because with their collusion they have cost minorities and non-Muslims our public space which is continually narrowed through the constant push by fundamentalist Islamists.

In the rest of the world, those labelling themselves ‘multiculturalists’ who live in cosmopolitan societies make it a conscious point to protect the diverse heritages. The Bangsar Malaysian First cabal not only fail miserably in this respect but are hell-bent in the opposite direction.

Let’s take Subang Jaya state assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh. In the birth certificate application form for her baby, she had filled in the box for her own race as Anak Malaysia. Her husband had filled in his race box as Anak Malaysia too. Neither would admit to being Chinese or Indian.

How can the couple be in any way considered promoting acceptance of a multiracial co-existence when they deny their own ethnicity? If everyone was Anak Malaysia (i.e. a sameness of single racial identification), where then is the multiplicity?

Hannah and her hubby Ramachandran are not advancing any cross-pollination of cultures – he does not speak to her in Chinese; she does not speak to him in an Indian tongue. They converse in 1English and are of the same religion 1Christianity.

How quintessentially Malaysian is the Yeoh family set-up then in the context of the population as a whole? But they brazenly staked the claim that their newborn is representative of Anak Malaysia – how mind-boggling.

When I attended a wake for the father of a Sikh friend, I put a veil over my hair out of respect for the place, a gurdwara, and the occasion. I have nothing against non-Muslims covering their hair when visiting mosques but Nie Ching’s surau-hopping was unmistakably cheap politicking.

She was photographed all wrapped up from head to toe when presenting a cheque to a surau committee. The group posing for the camera were not in a hallowed hall of worship, and she could just as well have posted the cheque.

Yet she conveniently blamed the Sultan of Selangor for the need to cover her hair when His Highness never asked her to pay the visits in the first place, and in defiance of the unease already expressed by some Muslim quarters.

Her blame game drew the ire of the palace as well as the state religious councils who banned Nie Ching from further showboating in mosques. It is DAP’s faux Islamic polemics that has brought opposition politics to this new low.

Like Nie Ching, who after her Utusan tango had sought a Kodak moment with the Tok Guru to burnish her public image, so did Elizabeth previously. In a widely circulated picture of her with head covered, she was in fact photographed with Nik Aziz Nik Mat in a formal setting. They were certainly not in any mosque.

Some reviewers noted that the young Chinese woman featured in the 8TV Ramadan public service announcement had instantly changed her ways “to suit the advertisement’s message” and her transformation underscored by “a complete change of attitude”.

If we are able to be critical of the post-March 8, 2008 landscape, we will realise how in the DAP’s desperation to court the Malay electorate, they have changed their long-held stance and are twisting themselves like pretzels.

By comparison, never had any Wanita MCA or Gerakan leader, in the over five decades of Barisan’s existence, resorted to faking this Muslim-mandated decorous dressing as how the opportunistic Pakatan pollies have done.

The slap down by 8TV on its cringe-inducing Chinese actress is merely the chickens coming home to roost.

(The above first appeared as a Media Buzz in Malaysian Mirror.)

____________________________________________________________________

t-bersih

Ridhuan Tee demonises Bersih leader as anti-Islam

Written by Helen Ang
Thursday, 07 July 2011 13:53

Chan Lilian, a Penang chief minister media department staff, wrote in her Twitter account on June 29: “i think all Christians shud march for all the persecution they had done to us and our Lord”.

Blog House Malaysia secretary Tony Yew made a police report so that the authorities could “charge [Lilian] for seditious statements, and use her as an example to others that we cannot take National Unity for granted”.

Tony posted in his blog on July 1: “As long as there are those out there who think they can get away with this, then we must all be vigilant in safeguarding this nation we all love. To incite and divide is hardly an act of allegiance to Malaysia!”

He told reporters that Lilian’s tweet was intentionally seditious and “dangerous considering the recent development related to this coming 9 July”.

Lilian – the “official video-journalist of Lim Guan Eng” – subsequently clarified in her blog that when referring to those responsible for persecuting Christians and Jesus, she “did not mean the government”.

In her July 3 posting, Lilian denied she had ever implied that all Christians should march with Bersih. Instead, she said her tweet was merely a “lamentation” or wailing which should be understood in a biblical sense. The word ‘march’, insisted Lilian, is not to be understood either in its most obvious definition but “in a Christian way means to be brave and not cower, to stand for justice and rights …”.

Lilian denied also that she was “a Bersih advocator”. She explained that since she did not pin a yellow badge on her avatar or “repeatedly asked everyone to join” the gathering, she is innocent of Tony’s charge. In fact, she termed him a “screwed up guy” and his allegation that she had mixed religion with politics to be a “screwed idea”.

Although I don’t buy Lilian’s flat out denials and disagree with her language used on Tony, but nonetheless you’d still have thought that her tweet should be rightly dismissed as a tempest in a teacup. But no. It seems that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, after reading in the papers (or perhaps in the Umno blogs that had gone to town with the story) about Tony’s police report, decided on its own initiative to further pursue the matter.

The government apparently takes a most serious view when it is someone from the opposition camp that’s said to be “dangerous”, “inciting” and threatening “national unity”. But how about when it concerns someone on the pro-establishment side of the fence?

Inciting anti-Bersih sentiments

Now let’s take the Ridhuan Tee article of July 4.

t-bersih-text

Ridhuan is best known for his Utusan columns but his most recent effort ‘Program Bersih dalam kotor!’ saw print in Sinar Harian where he is now the Malay daily’s columnist. In his newspaper article, Ridhuan wrote that Bersih is only seeking political profit and should be left to the police and the army to deal with.

Meanwhile in Ridhuan’s blog is posted a lengthier and unedited version of the same write-up where as usual he took it upon himself to speak for the Malay polity in using the word ‘kita’ (we Muslims). A prolific ideologue, Ridhuan revealed that he had only just earlier participated in TV1’s ‘Bicara Rakyat’ live telecast on the topic of street demonstrations.

In his posting ‘Bersih dalam kotor!’, Ridhuan warned Malays and Muslims against being exploited and divided. He wrote that there are many “kafir harbi” (belligerent infidels) out there just waiting for the chance to provoke and set Malays against each other. He characterised the Bersih group as opportunists who are always ready to take advantage of the situation in order to spark quarrels among Malay-Muslims.

Without directly mentioning Ambiga Sreenevasan by name (as per his well-known wormtongue style of preferring sly insinuation), Ridhuan wrote that “the Bersih leader” prominently displayed an anti-Islam attitude when chairing the Bar Council previously.

Again without mentioning Ambiga by name, Ridhuan wrote (my translation): “What is the interest of an NGO in the electoral roll if not to get publicity? She only wants to get publicity so that she can stand in the next general election. This opportunity is just being used by her to popularise herself.”

He cautioned: “The latest developments have convinced me as to why this ultra kiasu group cannot be trusted and should be rejected” and how Bersih must not be led by “this ultra kiasu” individual who had previously held Islam in contempt and trampled on the religion (“menghina dan menginjak-injak Islam” / “Lina murtad Lina Joy dan penghinaan terhadap mahkamah syariah masih terngiang-ngiang di telinga”).

Expanding on his favourite trope of ‘ultra kiasu’ machinations, Ridhuan wrote that Bersih was a thorn in the flesh and a fifth column ready to capitalize on any opportunity but whose supporters would not dare to show their faces on July 9 if ‘we’ (Ridhuan speaking as a Muslim; alluding to the PAS/PKR grassroots) were not alongside ‘them’ – the ultra kiasus – at the rally.

He warned against letting these “orang lain” (non-Muslims) become too powerful because ‘they’ have so many cohorts waiting in the wings – presumably relatives in China and India – who are simply waiting to come into “our” territory.

Who are the real instigators?

Compared to Lilian, it is clear that Ridhuan is mixing religion and politics with far greater fervour. And looking at the one-sided crackdown over the past week, it is similarly evident that unlike Lilian, Ridhuan will indeed be allowed to get away with instigating Muslims.

More tellingly, Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali is able to make veiled threats of May 13 with the police doing nothing whereas the Parti Sosialis Malaysia activists are thrown in lock-up on the ludicrous charge of ‘waging war against the King’.

An even more incredible charge is that PSM is trying to revive communism. Obviously, the story is trumped up to create unease among the Malays (never mind that the last remnants of the communist insurgency are today geriatrics who have long retired).

Police raided the PSM office in Jelapang to try and obtain fresh evidence so as to bolster their basis for a case against the PSM members. Instead of having evidence in hand first and consequently making any arrests, here our Polis Di-Raja Malaysia puts the cart before the horse by kasi tangkap dulu and only then start searching premises to gather enough evidence.

A news portal reported that police took along PSM deputy chairman M. Saraswathy in handcuffs for the raid, and tried to break into the Jelapang office.

Saras is a courageous woman who belongs to a legitimate and well-respected political organization committed to enfranchising the poor and marginalised. It was most painful to see the 58-year-old handcuffed like a common criminal. Among the other PSM activists arrested initially on June 25 who face the possibility of three to five year jail sentences for possession of ‘illegal’ and ‘subversive’ material (according to police evaluation) are 60-year-old Cheang Sew Yin, two 64-year-olds R. Saroza and R. Nalayani as well as a teenaged duo.

If the core PSM people remain under the Emergency Ordinance detention order, and at the same time Ibrahim and Ridhuan continue their demagoguery with impunity, there will be severely negative repercussions for the Najib administration extending beyond July 9.

Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted rueing last month that “Politics is all about perception. Not the question of reality… the opposition knows how to play up perception and deny what is the truth.” Unless the six EO detainees are freed immediately, and charges against the rest of the PSM activists dropped unconditionally, the PM would not only have lost the perception war but risks delegitimizing his government in the eyes of the public. The world is watching.

__________________________________________________________________-_

The above article first appeared in the Centre for Policy Initiatives website, here.

____________________________________________________________________

Surat

Gelagat orang Kristian di Malaysiakini

Originally published on 28 July 2011
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By Helen Ang
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I refer to ‘Blogger in trouble over tweet “promoting” Bersih‘ where one Malaysiakini subscriber made a reference to me.

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Going by the moniker ‘Ade’, the person commented: “Coming to that Tony Yew character, I don’t believe he is a Christian. He’s just like most non Christians who use Christian names for glamour. Remember Helen Ang?”

It is a sad day for Malaysiakini if ‘Ade’, along with his like-minded compatriots who troll the feedback section, is representative of the crowd comprising the news portal’s most ardent and addicted supporters.

But it’s beginning to look as if their mindset is the one prevalent as the general tone of the regular commentators suggests.

Firstly, for Ade’s information, ‘Helen’ is not a Christian name. His claim merely reveals his own ignorance. My best known namesake is Greek mythology’s Helen of Troy.

The earliest written record of her appears in Iliad and Odyssey – which clearly Ade has never heard of – an epic by the poet Homer who lived 800 years before Jesus was born.

Secondly, on Ade’s allusion that I’m a “non Christian who use(s) Christian names for glamour”, again his unfounded allegation is telling of the childish malice that prompts certain readers to slander others simply for holding contrary opinions to theirs.

I have dozens of relatives and cousins who call me Helen, the name by which they’ve known me since birth. That my mother chose it for me indicates that she was an educated woman, schooled during the British colonial rule.

That Ade chose to take such a cheap shot indicates how the Pakatan cheerleaders, who are the most vocal segment, operate and their approach – the template of which I am cataloguing below.

Thirdly, regarding Ade’s slur, “I don’t believe he is a Christian”, Tony Yew similarly has family and friends who will vouch that he surely is. So what are we supposed to make of approved comments which scatter such baseless accusations like some nasty birdshot?

For the sake of Malaysiakini‘s credibility, I hope that Steven Gan is reading this letter.

Next, at the time of my writing, there are almost 60 comments in response to the said article on the Chan Lilian vs. Tony spat. They fall into a few broad categories.

First is the personal attack on the ‘offending’ individual which does nothing for public discourse. Examples: “go to hell Tony Yew!”, his name is “too obscene to be uttered”, “so much crap coming out from him”.

In short, anyone critical of anything to do with Lim Guan Eng’s office where Lilian is a contract staff must surely be “two faced hypocrite BN bootlickers”.

Actually, the level of sycophancy I’ve noticed accorded Marina Mahathir for her Bersih walk makes me wonder that a tongue infection epidemic had not broken out.

Second, the knee-jerk assertion that Tony is trying to get a ministerial post, or a title/datukship. Any rational reader knows that it is unlikely to happen – with no disrespect to Tony but certainly it is unfathomable to imagine a reward over this trivial matter.

Other wild comments insinuate, for instance, that Tony is taking instructions from Ibrahim Ali. Again, needless to say, the commentator had not substantiated his statement and nor will he be able to.

Third, profanity and name-calling directed at Tony: The ‘f’ word, “MF”, “idiot”, “bonehead”, “blockhead”, “asshole”, “arsehole”.

Evidently some readers spell the British way while others follow American spelling but in the same breath, these blindly charging brigadiers refuse to permit everyone else the privilege of diversity of thought.

Coerced censorship through mob intimidation is symptomatic of fascism, just in case you weren’t aware.

Fourth, the holier-than-thou grandstanding of many commentators insisting that “shameless” Tony can’t possibly be a Christian and that he is a disgrace to their religious community.

This particular thread of abuse goes in tandem with a recurrent ‘Christian traitor’ motif. In addition to several comments along the same Judas line, there is the following: “the whole Christian community will curse you for behaving just like JUDAS” – a comment coming from someone who frames him/herself ‘anak,bangsa,malaysia’.

All I can say is that is if his/her hexing is illustrative of a typical follower of the SABM movement, then I can only hope I’m spared the misfortune of my path ever crossing theirs.

They seem to lack the realisation that life is too short to be spent barbecuing those refusing to be DAP Malaysian First-ers over fire and brimstone.

Fifth, in the Malaysiakini-reader lynching of Tony Yew can be seen the quite predictable attempt to silence the speaker, in addition to declaring him an outcast: “Diam lar“, “let’s excommunicate this unbeliever”.

However, some of the readers lent the cyber-ranting – already vile enough as evidenced in the sampling above – a greater earnest and extending their enmity to the physical environment.

Malaysiakini subscribers wrote: “Please post a picture of Tony Yew, so all (especially Christians) will know how he look like”, “if anyone knows which church this IDIOT Tony Yew attends, please let us know online”, “So if anyone knows of this guy please place his photograph for all to see”, “any Christian group (Catholic, Methodist etc.) know who this ‘Tony’ is, please post his picture and we will see who this guy is”.

Since these folks are so keen to know Tony’s appearance and apparently to stalk him, may I ask what is it that they have in mind to do to him should they recognise him in the street? Tar and feather?

The extreme political partisanship displayed by Malaysiakini pages has so clouded the commentators’ judgment that none (as far as can be discerned from published remarks) bothered to take the trouble to find out the particulars of the spat before rushing in one voice to canonise Saint Lilian, and consigning Tony to hellfire.

On July 7, I wrote an article that touched on the behind-the-scenes of the Lilian-Tony tweet war, where I said that I didn’t buy Lilian’s flat out denials and disagree with her harsh language used on Tony.

For reason of space constraint here, an elaboration can be found in my blog posting ‘Tony Yew and Chan Lilian duke it out‘.

_____________________________________________________________________________

The above letter was published under the headline ‘Behind the Tony Yew-Chan Lilian spat’ in Malaysiakini.

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hussin Rahman  |  August 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I don’t agree that Ridhuan Tee is a demagogue. He is simply speaking as a true Muslim. If all the Muslims in Malaysia and the world truly understand and follow the teachings of Islam, all of us should be helping the Muslim Palestinians or any other oppressed Muslims right now. All of us should be marching to Palestine to fight and eliminate the Zionists. And if we die, we are promised heaven.
    Sadly most Muslims now, di dunia akhir zaman ini, sayang dunia dan takut mati.

    Reply
    • 2. dayakthinker  |  April 24, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Are you sure you will get heaven for killing yourself for palestine? very funny. You dont even correct how malays marginalized the sarawak and sabah bumiputera. Correct that first bro. Open up your eyes.

      Reply
  • 3. Dicky Zane  |  August 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Dear Helen,

    I enjoyed reading this post of yours but disagree with many points you raised about Ustaz Ridhuan Tee, of whom I am a big fan (not surprisingly). However, that’s not why I’m writing to you.

    I take issue with Chan Lilian’s claim of “i think all Christians shud march for all the persecution they had done to us and our Lord”. The ill-chosen words of ‘all the persecution’ suggest that here in Malaysia Christians are hunted down, assaulted, thrown in jail, burnt at the stake, fed to the lions, what have you, with frequent regularity. Ignoring the hyperboles, it is like saying Christiansn are not allowed to practice their religion in Malaysia, for when they do, they are punished openly. This is more that mere words of mischief.

    This is vicious slander with wicked intentions. This is not a pithy lament, as claimed by Ms. Chan. I wish people will be more circumspect in making their ‘laments’ public. It will save us a whole lot of grief.

    Reply
  • [...] telah menulis pada Julai 7 (dua hari sebelum berlangsungnya Bersih 2.0) tentang Saras dan PSM: “Saras is a courageous woman [...]

    Reply
  • 5. Serai wangi  |  September 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Unlike street demo-mongers obeying the masked manipulative Janus, Ridhuan Tee, on the contrary, invites peace an order, intending to neutralize the potentially rebellious nature of street demonstration. My advice is; persevere and be patient, Ridhuan. You are on the right track. There are just too many ignorant and confused people out there waiting to be exploited by the hypocrites.

    Reply

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