Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marraige Go Round

There’s been lots of reaction to Tiger Wood’s apology on Friday. While many people felt his performance was slightly wooden, it was an apology made on his terms. Woods’ management pointed out that he wouldn’t be taking any questions from the media and carefully controlled the event itself, which wouldn’t have endeared himself to the press in the first place.

The timing of the announcement, however, appears to have been the poorest decision of the PR exercise. The press conference coincided with the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona; Accenture were one of Woods’ sponsors who choose to end their association with the sports star in light of the ongoing revelations about Woods’ private life.

This opened him up to criticism that he was trying to take some of the limelight away from the competition, something which Ernie Els, a fellow golf professional, was quick to criticise him for. “It’s selfish. I feel sorry for the sponsor (Accenture). Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.”

All apologies are judged by their sincerity. While his press conference performance was wooden and some aspects such as the embrace with his mother could be construed as staged, in a country such as the US where body language coaches are a dime a dozen, Woods deserves the privacy to make amends for his transgressions in private.

When he returns to the golf course however, Woods is likely to see that some of his fellow professionals will have found his conduct on the handling of the scandal wanting and it could be a cloud that hangs over him for the rest of his career as a result.

When times are down, start looking up toward the Lord. He's ready to bail you out of the mess your life's in, if you'll trust in Him. Tiger Woods asked everybody in the world for forgiveness except the one person who can actually forgive him --The Lord. For those of you who didn’t know, Tiger is a Buddhist.

Still on the subject of that dreaded M word, (marriage) some of my friends are facing difficulties accepting the realities of life in general and matrimony in particular. It can be tough when you don’t share the same value system in your outlook and practice.

On a lighter note, the single and fancy free can and should take the advice given freely below. It can change your life.

click to enlarge

Monday, February 8, 2010

How Are You Doing, 1Malaysia?

For years Malaysia promoted itself as a sensible and stable democracy characterized, above all else, by religious and racial tolerance.

Indeed, we proudly sell ourselves as a model of inter-faith and interracial harmony and go around inviting others to learn from us.

To many in the Third World, we were the template for successful economic development based on political stability, sound economic strategy and respect for the rule of law.

On the business side, we were considered a safe and exciting place to do business with and invest in.

Investors were assured of strong government support, an efficient bureaucracy and a business environment free of corruption, red tape and political interference. Our English-educated workforce was a decided advantage.

Regrettably, we have not been zealous in propagating our 1Malaysia brand name lately.

Recent scandals, corruption and mismanagement, as well as misguided policies, have seriously left brand 1Malaysia reeling from a thousand cuts.

Currently Datuk Seri Anwar Ibahim’s sodomy case part 2 continues to fascinate Malaysians with its sordid details. Datuk Nasir Safar’s alleged racist remarks against the Chinese and Indians uttered ironically at a 1Malaysia rally in Melaka added fuel to the already simmering situation. The fact that Nasir is designated Special Officer to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak certainly didn’t help matters.

Is Nasir’s subsequent resignation and public apology enough? You decide.

Is the torching of churches over the use of the word “Allah” an example of the Malaysia we want to be?

Did the torching of mosques and throwing of wild boar heads into mosque compounds in an effort to ignite racial tensions work? Nope, Malaysians know better than to be fooled by such malicious actions.

Did the cow head incident in Shah Alam succeed in igniting racial disharmony? Nope again.

Then you have the illegal sand mining affair splashed all over the news. The Kugan case, the death in custody of Teoh Beng Hock and other high profile cases brought us a great deal of unsavory international attention. This, together with equally sensational scandals involving our judiciary, seems to convey the view that our whole justice system is in crisis.

As well, the massive PKFZ fiasco, the selling of official army secrets to a foreign embassy and the brazen theft of RMAF jet engines and other outrageous public sector corruption scandals have convinced many foreign observers and businessmen that corruption is now out of hand in Malaysia.

It is not for no reason that Transparency International recently gave Malaysia its worst corruption ranking ever.

Increasingly, visitors to Malaysia (as well as many Malaysians themselves) routinely complain of demands for bribes and kickbacks at many levels. Are we now destined to become a chronically corrupt state?

Though we tend to play down the extent of corruption in Malaysia, it is negatively impacting our image in more ways than one and may well be related to the declining levels of foreign direct investment.

On the political front, the continued use of detention without trial and limitations on fundamental freedoms have undoubtedly diminished our democratic credentials in the eyes of the world.

At the same time, the attention grabbing headlines concerning the caning sentence imposed on Kartika Dewi by the Syariah court, high profile Jakim raids on popular nightspots, the controversy over the use of the word “Allah,” the recent attacks on churches and the desecration of mosques have left many foreigners wondering whether we are heading down the slippery road towards intolerance and extremism.

Of course there are those who will argue that some of these actions are religious imperatives and must not be questioned. The point is we cannot have it both ways: we cannot act in this manner and still hope to cling to the “moderate” label we are so proud of.

Cases of unfair treatment of migrants and foreign workers in Malaysia have not helped either. The United States Senate issued a damning report last year that even implicated some government officials in human trafficking!

This, together with the abuse of migrant workers by their Malaysian employers, has brought shame to our nation and invoked the ire of some of our neighbors.

And then there is the exodus of Malaysians, more than 300,000 in 2008/09, in search of a better life abroad. What does it say to the rest of the world about brand 1Malaysia when many, including some of our best and brightest, are leaving?

It is clear to those of us who closely monitor Malaysia’s image abroad that brand 1Malaysia is in trouble. One commentator even went so far as to call us a “failed rich state!” It is nonsense of course, but it is a sign of the shifting perception of Malaysia.

Unfortunately, there are no Band-Aid solutions. Mere slogans or clever publicity campaigns won’t cut it. The scandals, the worsening corruption, the political dysfunction, the decay of national institutions, etc., are symptomatic of a much deeper malaise affecting our nation.

At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about where we, as a nation, are headed. Foreign observers are certainly asking the question and reaching their own less than flattering conclusions about brand 1Malaysia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak issued a clarion call last week for Malaysia to do “something extraordinary.” The most extraordinary thing we can do is to halt the sad decline of our nation and somehow find a way to spark a national renewal.

Dissent, Defiance or Downright Destruction?

Fumbles and trips as one learns the ropes can be forgiven, but there is a difference between ineptitude and downright sabotage.

In a soccer team there will always be someone who is not as good as the others. This is the chap who can’t dribble for more than two seconds without getting dispossessed; always passes to the wrong team and can’t ever kick straight.

However, usually the team puts up with him, because sometimes he has his uses. For example, if you kick the ball at him hard enough, it might just bounce off him into goal. I speak from experience here.

Pity and team spirit dictate that everybody can play. This should not be the case though when the player does something which is utterly destructive to the team; like taking the ball, turning towards his own goal and shooting past his keeper with all the force and venom of a World Cup penalty shootout.

Now I know that the Pakatan Rakyat have been moaning and groaning that in the last general election, they had to field candidates who, shall we say, are a little under par.

In the rush to put out a team, some choices from the lower divisions had to be made. I am sure many of these greenhorns are working hard, and perhaps their constituents can forgive them their fumbles and trips as they learn the ropes.

Having said that, there is a difference between ineptitude and downright sabotage. Pakatan has prided itself on being a more democratic organisation than their opposition, and dissent is tolerated.


This is well and good, but I think Zulkifli Nordin has gone beyond dissent to insubordination, and that can undermine his party and the coalition. Making a police report on his coalition partner Khalid Samad for essentially defending the coalition’s policy means that Zulkifli does not agree with the policy in question.


In a coalition that is well established perhaps this can be allowed to pass. But when we are talking about the fledgling Pakatan, which has yet to prove its cohesiveness to the public, it is folly of the utmost to do anything less than to throw the book at this person.

Pakatan’s stand has supposedly been one based on equality, non race-based affirmative action and respect for human rights.

When one of their own still spouts race-based rhetoric, supports supremacist ideology and has no understanding of the fundamental right to free speech, then he simply does not belong in the team anymore.

By enduring him, Pakatan shows itself to be at best weak and indecisive and at worst not totally convicted to the principles upon which it had built its platform and upon which it had won the biggest victory by op­­position parties in the history of our nation.

If you want to be a racial supremacist and if you think equality is a bad thing, then by all means there are other parties and groups you can join up with.

Take for example, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has thrown in his lot with Perkasa.

Perkasa’s agenda is a Malay agenda. Not a Malaysian one, a Malay one, and they have every right to be like that.

It is something that I would not want to be part of because I am sick and tired of the whole stupid idea of race-based anything, but hey, I’m weird like that.

Mahathir has recently been giving distorted history lessons on minority populations. To top these rants, he even sounded almost regretful when he opined that the Holocaust had ostensibly “failed” in its ‘Final Solution’ to reduce the ‘Jewish problem’ beyond the six million loss of life.

On January 28 in his reflections on Malaysian minorities, he claimed in the same regretful tone that “one million outsiders were given citizenships” during Independence. I leave you to draw your own conclusions on this latest champion of “Ketuanan Melayu” or Malay rights.

I would like to close by talking briefly about the boar heads in the mosques incident because that too looks like a case of the purposeful own goal. At the time of writing I have no idea who the culprits are and what their motivation can be.

If they were doing it as some sort of revenge for the church burning issue, I have one thing to say: congratulations, you morons, you just ensured that a civil solution becomes that much harder.

When people resort to violence (and the boar head incident is an act of violence, albeit more on a spiritual level, just like the cow head incident of last year) then it does not take much to inspire more violence.

This sort of tit for tat action is counterproductive and ultimately destructive and has to be condemned.

I do not believe that this country is all hunky dory and I haven’t bought into that loving multi-cultural propaganda for a long time, so the vile actions of a few did not come as a surprise.

However, it is not the existence of such people that matters but the reaction of the public at large as well as those playing a leadership role.

If we truly want a nation of united people with a common goal, then we must have certain ideals, principles and aspirations and we must stick by them. Sometimes we can do it alone. Other times we may want to do it as part of a team - just make sure you are in the right one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Islam’s special position

THE Home Ministry's ban on the use of "Allah" by the Catholic Herald publication has once again raised the issue of Islam's position in Malaysia.

The special position of Islam is enshrined and protected under the constitution," said senior federal counsel Mahamad Naser Disa during arguments in Herald's suit against the Home Ministry in the High Court. "Allah is the holy name and a special verse in Islam. Any deviation to the holy verse of Allah is an insult to the religion of the country and the Federal Constitution," he argued.

But does the constitution really place Islam in a "special position"? Was that the understanding of our nation's founding leaders? And if not, how are these conclusions being justified?

Some of the Herald's critics have been lambasting the Catholic Church for suing the government over the use of "Allah". As Mahamad Naser argued, they say the Herald's insistence on the use of "Allah" diminishes Islam's "special position" as enshrined in the constitution.

Muslim Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar cites his reasons for affirming Islam's special position in the constitution:

1. Article 3(1) says Islam is the religion of the federation.

2. Islam is specifically mentioned in other parts of the constitution such as:

a. Article 11(4) relating to the control or restriction of the propagation of other religions among Muslims; and

b. Article 12(2) which allows the federal government to assist Islamic institutions.

3. No other religion has been specifically mentioned in the constitution except Islam.

4. The majority in Malaysia are Muslims.

Zainul concludes that although Article 3(1) says other religions may practise their religions in peace and harmony, due to Islam's special position, they can only do so without interfering with the peace and harmony of the practice of Islam.

The constitution

But where does it say in the constitution that Islam has a "special position"?

The correct answer is actually, nowhere.

This is unlike the "special position" of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak which is explicitly spelt out in Article 153 of the constitution.

It cannot be said that as Islam is the religion of Malay Malaysians and since the Malay Malaysians have a "special position", therefore Islam also has a special position. By that measure, the religion of native Sabahans and Sarawakians, many of whom are Christians, would also have a special position.

In any case, if the constitution's architects meant Islam to have a special position beyond what was stated in Article 3(1), wouldn't they have made sure that the constitution said so?

The constitution in fact, suggests otherwise. Article 3(4) states that "nothing in [Article 3] derogates from any other provision of this constitution." This means that Islam as the religion of the federation does not diminish any other part of the constitution, including the fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II, in any way.

Historical documents

Contemporaneous documents during the drafting of the constitution also demonstrate that Islam was never meant to have a "special position" as claimed. There were in fact clear assurances that other faith communities would not be hampered in the practice of their religions.

"There was universal agreement that if any such provision [on Islam being the religion of the federation] were inserted it must be made clear that it would not in any way affect the civil rights of the non-Muslims," said a report by the Reid Commission, the drafters of the Malaysian constitution. The Reid Commission held extensive consultations with various interested parties, including the Alliance which preceeded the Barisan Nasional, and the Malay rulers.

Indeed, Universiti Malaya historian Joseph M Fernando cites written evidence that Umno representatives specifically assured their non-Muslim counterparts that Article 3(1) would have "symbolic" significance rather than practical effect.

Fernando quotes the remarks of former MCA president Tun Tan Siew Sin in Parliament: "[Islam as the religion of the federation] does not in any way derogate from the principle, which has always been accepted, that Malaya will be a secular state and that there will be complete freedom to practise any other religion."

Court judgment

A 1988 Supreme Court decision by former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas also clarified what "Islam as the religion of the federation" means.

After an examination of the historical facts and documents relating to the constitution, his judgment stated: "...we have to set aside our personal feelings because the law in this country is still what it is today, secular law, where morality not accepted by the law [does not enjoy] the status of law."

Honestly speaking...

So why is the senior federal counsel from the government taking a position contrary to the constitution, historical documents and a Supreme Court judgment? How could he argue against the historical documents that say that Article 3(1) was not meant to give Islam a "special position" in Malaysia and that non-Muslims are guaranteed freedom to practise their own religions?

To be fair, Mahamad Naser may only be supporting the position of his superiors. After all, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have all stated that Malaysia is an Islamic state. This is in direct contrast to Tunku Abdul Rahman, our first prime minister, and Tun Hussein Onn, our third, who expressly said that Malaysia is not an Islamic state.

Can the constitution's meaning be changed by prime ministerial decree or popular opinion? If the government says it long enough and loud enough, does that mean we eventually have to accept that Islam being the religion of the federation means it has a special position? And therefore the "peace and harmony" of Islam must be considered first, before the peaceful practice of other religions?

Instead of trying to read meanings into the constitution which were never there, the government should openly and honestly state its intentions. If its position is that Islam should have a special position in the constitution, it should propose constitutional amendments which can then be debated in Parliament. At least Malaysians would then be clear about the government's stand.

If the government is unwilling to attempt to amend the constitution to correctly reflect their position, it should stop manipulating the electorate to accept as fact a constitutional myth unsupported by historical evidence

Tiger Wood's Birdies

The leading saint of golf, a certain Mr. T. Woods, has landed himself in The Worst And Oldest Sand Trap in the World. Golf is of course the core entertainment of the folks who run the country-a sport without sweat, without bodily contact, devoid of real competition except with oneself, and no passion except for winning.

How is it possible that there’s no reciprocal formula for a sex scandal involving a prominent woman? Conventional wisdom has a few explanations: Some argue that women have to work extra hard for their prominence and are therefore less willing to risk everything for an easy lay.

Others suggest women are overwhelmingly less susceptible to physical temptation. Or maybe its just that women are too damn busy doing their jobs and taking care of their families to make time for an affair or 10. Or its because, apart from Madonna, real women just don’t have sex like men.