Monday, June 25, 2012

Dance Also Want To Fight Ah, Bapak?

images cheerfully pinched without authorization from Demotix News

Wisma Putra will summon the Indonesian embassy’s charge d’affaires to express the Government’s serious concern over the violent acts by protesters at Malaysia Hall and provocative remarks by an Indonesian politician in Jakarta.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the meeting follows two protest notes sent to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry last Friday.

“The Malaysian Government views with serious concern the attack against Malaysia’s interest in Indonesia and the provocative comments by an Indonesian MP in a MetroTV programme, Neo Democrazy on June 21,” Anifah said.

A group of about 50 Indonesians hurled stones and pieces of wood at the Malaysia Hall building in Jakarta on Friday, damaging parts of it and injuring a security guard.

They had earlier held a protest outside the Malaysian embassy, about 5km away, where they burned the Malaysian flag and threw eggs into the compound.

The group was protesting Malaysia’s decision to recognize two traditional north Sumatran musical items – the Tor-tor dance and the Gordang Sambilan musical ensemble – as part of the national heritage.

Anifah said Malaysia believed that with the strong and special bilateral ties, the Indonesian government would take appropriate measures in addressing the violent acts and provocative statements.

In one of its protest notes to the Indonesian Foreign Minstry, Malaysia urged the republic to take immediate measures to avoid any more provocative acts.

It expressed “deep regret” that the Malaysian embassy continued to be a target of anarchic action.

Along with the protest note, the Malaysian embassy provided CCTV footage and photographs of the incident as well as a copy of a police report lodged over the attack.

Malaysians on Twitter responded with surprise and, in some cases, amusement, to tweets by irate Indonesians over the issue.

Twitter user @RueShenLee posted: “It is awkward when Indonesians said Malaysians stole their Tor-Tor dance and Malaysians are like – ‘what on earth is a Tor-Tor dance?’ ”

Users also spoke out on the insults hurled by Indonesians through the trending topic of #MalaysiaMiskinBudaya.

“#MalaysiaMiskinBudaya? Hello, we Malaysians DON’T even know what Tor-Tor means,” said user @Syakee.

User @NabyllahZin tweeted: “If Tor-Tor dance is yours, it will always be yours. You’re wasting your time insulting Malaysia.”

“What on earth is TorTor?” tweeted @TheRealAzrul while @pretty_chanteq wrote: “Who ever wants that tortor dance, please take it.”

“Keep your dances and your culture. While you're at it, keep your haze to yourself too. Thanks,” said @mediha_m.

Irate Indonesians also took to the Twittershpere to vent their anger over the issue, calling Malaysia a country that is “deprived of culture”.

Twitter hashtags like “#tortorpunyaindonesia (Tor-tor belongs to Indonesia)” and “#MalaysiaMiskinBudaya (Malaysia is poor in culture)” were trending among Indonesian users of the micro-blogging site ever since the controversial issue came to light over the past week.

“Semiskin itukah Malaysia sampai mengklaim kebudayaan kita?? #TorTorPunyaIndonesia (Is Malaysia that poor that they have to claim our culture?)” read a tweet by @Anak_Twitter.

User @ranyaani said: “Tor tor has been indonesia's for centuries, so dont you just claim that its yours.. #taritortormilikindonesia”.

A tweet by @Shafwan_MZIFC read: “Banyaknya Budaya & Makanan yg diKlaim Negara malaysia menunjukan betapa Kayanya Indonesia (Malaysia has claimed so many of our culture and food, it shows how rich Indonesia is)”.

Some extreme comments include a tweet by @ANTI_MALAYSIA4 which read “ayo kita bersatu ganyang malaysia (Let's unite and crush Malaysia)”.

Angry users established a hashtag called “#HapusMalaysiadariASEAN”which literally means “kick Malaysia out of Asean”.

Malaysians across the political divide were united in condemning the attack on the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta in protest against the claim that the traditional Tor-tor is a heritage of this country.

Members of both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan parties criticized the action of the Indonesians who demonstrated in front of the embassy.

According to the group, the dance and the beating of the drums popular among the north Sumatran Mandailing community in Indonesia and in parts of Malaysia were a tradition belonging exclusively to Indonesia.

Barisan and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said that attacks against Malaysian interests in Jakarta appeared to be seasonal and happened each time some Indonesians had an issue with this country.

MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung called for decisive action by the Indonesian authorities, noting that similar incidents had occurred in the past.

While the attack would not affect Malaysia - Indonesia ties, he said, Jakarta should deal with this latest incident effectively to prevent a recurrence.

PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he “cannot accept the incident” although he was a descendant of the Mandailing.

“The attack on the embassy cannot be supported, and I condemn it,” he added.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said Malaysia and Indonesia should find a way to manage each other's cultural claims.

Indonesia should not allow such an incident to occur every time there is a disagreement over a claim, he said.

Former Information Minister Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, who was involved in establishing the Malaysia-Indonesia friendship association of journalists, said he was shocked by the attack.

“This is the act of a narrow-minded group of people who might have been hired to try and create a big issue out of a small matter,” he added.

Here’s a recap of recent incidents:

2007 - Rasa Sayang, Batik and Wayang Kulit

Malaysia-Indonesia tension rose when Indonesian House of Representatives member Hakam Naja called for action to be taken against Malaysia for using the popular folk song Rasa Sayang in its Malaysia, Truly Asia tourism campaign, claiming that it is an Indonesian traditional song. The same politician also accused Malaysia of claiming ownership of batik art and wayang kulit.

2009 - Pendet dispute

Tensions flared again after a television promotion for a documentary on Discovery Channel entitled “Enigmatic Malaysia” featured a clip of the Balinese pendet dance. Some Indonesians alleged that this was an attempt by Malaysia to claim the dance, prompting several protests in Jakarta, including an aggressive demonstration at the Malaysian embassy.

A nationalist group calling itself Bendera claimed to have signed up 486 volunteers who were ready to wage war against Malaysia. Its spokesman Mustar Bonaventura claimed the group had stockpiled medicine, food and samurai swords and ninja-throwing stars for the fight.

The dispute started after word spread that Malaysia had promoted the traditional pendet dance of Indonesia's Hindu-majority Bali in its tourism drive. It turned out that the advertisement was part of a Discovery Channel programme on Malaysia, and the Malaysian authorities had nothing to do with it at all.

2011 - Border protest

A claim by an Indonesian politician that Malaysia had seized Indonesian land along the Malaysia-Indonesia border in West Kalimantan led to a protest at the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta, where demonstrators hurled rocks and other objects at the embassy building.

Meanwhile The Jakarta Post reported interim North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho as saying that people of the province were “really hurt” by the “attempt” by Malaysia to claim the dance and musical ensemble.

“They are truly the native culture of North Sumatra and we protest that both things (dance and music) have been claimed as part of Malaysian culture. This has really hurt us,” Gatot was reported as saying.

The Jakarta Globe reported that senior Indonesian lawmaker Nurhayati Ali from the Democratic Party had demanded that a special legislative caucus be established to resolve the “conflict”.

Another lawmaker from the same party, Ruhut Sitompul, was quoted as saying that Indonesia must use “hard diplomacy” to defend its cultural heritage.

On Thursday, the Tempo newspaper quoted Indonesian Deputy Minister of Education and Culture Wiendu Nuryanti as saying the Malaysian Government “cannot claim that Mandailing culture belongs to Malaysia because its origin and history can be traced back to the North Sumatrans in Indonesia”.

The Malaysian Mandailing community, however, is not pleased with the aggression in Indonesia.

Malaysian Mandailing Association president Ramli Abdul Karim Hasibuan expressed disappointment over the actions of the protesters, saying they were only interested in causing a rift between the two countries.

“I have gone live on national television for the past week in Indonesia to explain the issue that Malaysia is not trying to claim the dance as theirs. But they (the protesters) are not interested in listening,” said Ramli.

“The Malaysian Government intends to recognize the two as a Mandailing heritage here. The dance belongs to Mandailing, not Malaysia or Indonesia. Nobody is trying to claim ownership here,” said Ramli.

Various groups in Indonesia have staged protests against Malaysia on practically every issue, including the arrests of certain Malaysian politicians. The only thing they have never protested about is the perennial haze problem in Malaysia, which is the result of forest fires in Sumatra.

Last week's protest, however, seems to have taken a different twist. First, they hurled eggs and stones into the embassy's compound. Then they torched the Jalur Gemilang, which were all part of the script. But this time, they became more aggressive and violent by attacking security personnel who, fortunately, only sustained slight injuries.

But seriously, we know the reasons for such purported pent-up frustration from the Indonesian side. Indonesia has done well on many fronts but the poverty level has not been fully addressed. They may complain about a lot of things but Malaysia remains the land of opportunity for many of its citizens.

We cannot deny that there have been stories of mistreatment of Indonesian migrant workers by their Malaysian bosses. But really, if we are that inhumane and cruel, we wouldn't be seeing the influx of Indonesians into Malaysia.

In fact, many Malaysians are terrified of the many Indonesians who come not only to make a living but also to indulge in crime. And when they are arrested, our police would diplomatically refer to these criminals as coming from “a neighboring country”. Not only are we diplomatic, we also do not want to embarrass our neighbor.

We have been too nice for too long, preferring to be the submissive little brother to the big brother across the Straits of Malacca in this saudara charade.

The brouhaha over such issues is pretty ludicrous. Such flag-waving exercises are sometimes good in bringing the nation together, for both sides, but let's not get entangled in narrow-minded nationalism that is nothing but a facade to justify violence or juvenile delinquency.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Starbucks & McDonalds Contravene Malaysian Evidence Act

As a digital media junkie, I have to express my serious concerns on the recent amendments to the Malaysian Evidence Act 1950, specifically section 114A which says that if seditious/defamatory/offensive content is traced back to your digital device, webpage, or internet network, you are responsible and therefore legally liable for it.

The Government’s rationale is that this new law will curb postings by anonymous bloggers and commentators who are critical of the Government.

The newly inserted Section 114A of the Evidence Act says:

ü  Owners, hosts, administrators, editors or sub-editors of websites or social media accounts are deemed responsible for any content that has been published or re-published on their site whether by themselves, persons impersonating them or any other persons;

ü  Subscribers of a network service which was used to publish or re-publish any content are deemed responsible for the publication; and

ü  Owners or individuals in custody of an electronic device that was used to publish or re-publish any content are deemed responsible for the publication.

There are obviously many flaws with this approach. Websites and social media channels can be hacked. If that happens, the onus is now on you to prove your innocence.

You are now directly responsible for content that is generated from your personal device – when such devices can be borrowed by family/friends/colleagues or worse, stolen.  Even if all you do is allow a friend to use your wifi network, you are deemed liable for postings that your friend makes.

Continuing the “logic” expounded by this argument will surely lead to the arrests of the people responsible for the free wifi services at outlets like Starbucks and McDonalds.

What about the complications that arise from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?

With Facebook, people don’t need your permission to post on your wall. How many of you are agreeable to monitor your accounts 24/7 to delete offensive posts? Then again, what exactly constitutes an offensive post? Who decides on this?

Facebook has a share function. Let’s say someone posts a link, a comment, an image or a video and you share it with others in your circle - are you then responsible for that posting just because you shared it? Is sharing considered an act of publishing?

In the first place, should comments by other people even begin to be your responsibility? If someone posts something on your facebook wall, and his/her identity is clearly displayed, then logically shouldn’t he/she be the one responsible for his/her comments?

What happens if you “like” a comment that is deemed offensive in facebook? Is that considered publishing?

Twitter on the other hand, has a retweet function making things even more complicated. If someone posts a tweet and you choose to retweet it, you are not the original author nor are you publishing it but are instead sharing it with your followers.

Therefore does retweeting mean you are considered the publisher or should the original writer (whose name will also be displayed) be considered liable? Or are you both in trouble?

To confound the issue further, if you tweet a link to an article, without reproducing any of the original text, is that considered publishing?

I’m sure many of you are asking if there is a reasonable grace period to allow you to remove “offensive” comments. Or is the amendment with immediate effect and there no grace period? Are we all supposed to shut down our respective sites now?

Seriously, unless ambiguities like this are clarified, it would be easy peasy for people to sabotage each other under this “new & improved” Evidence Act. The elections are looming and there’s an all-out cyberwar in the Malaysia cybersphere involving fanatics of both sides of the political landscape.

Our PM actively engages the rakyat via social media. It won’t be long before some mischievous person posts something seditious on the PM’s facebook or twitter timeline. Will the PM then be duly held responsible and arrested?

As any right thinking person can see this amendment is a threat to the freedom of speech that is enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

Already one law, the Election Offences Act has had to be retracted after beeing passed because it was found to be detrimental to all sides in an election.

Surely this is a result of not giving the law enough scrutiny and debate in Parliament. If more time had been given, then surely such faulty laws would not have been hastily passed. It is not quite total lawlessness in Malaysian cyberspace as there are already adequate laws in place to seek redress.

While the following list is not comprehensive, the high profile cases of Dato Ahiruddin “Rocky” Attan, YB Jeff Ooi, Malaysia’s most infamous blogger Raja Petra “RPK” Kamaruddin being found guilty of defamation, blogger Amizudin Ahmat being found guilty of defamation, blogger Chan Hon Keong being found guilty of defamation to the Sultan of Perak while blogger Khairul Nizam Abd Ghani  being acquitted and discharged of insulting the Johor royalty and Twitterers Fahmi Fadzil and R Nadeswaran being found guilty of defamation are testament to that.

Policing cyberspace is not the answer as there are many workarounds known to savvy tech junkies. Engaging the rakyat promptly and diligently providing credible solutions to their concerns is.