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It is Christmas time and yet many don’t feel much joy and peace in the air of Kuala Lumpur given recent national developments, sighs Ngu Ik Tien.

The controversial National Security Council Bill 2015 has just been passed in the Senate.

A few days ago, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, we saw a dispute between a trader and his customer turn into a brawl which has been painted by certain politicians as racial bullying.

Aliran’s response to recent developments included launching a petition on 4 December 2015 urging Malaysians to call on Senators of the Dewan Negara to reject the National Security Bill 2015. So far, it has received over 2,500 online supporters.

Unfortunately, the voices of civil society have not been heeded as senators passed the bill without any amendments. This bill gives enormous power to the prime minister in “suspending” democratic institutions such as parliament in the name of preserving national security.

A TA article expresses concern that Malaysia may become a military government with the passing of the bill.

Together with other civil society organisations, Aliran condemned the threat of sexual assault made against G25 spokeperson Noor Farida Ariffin following her statement on khalwat laws during a G25 press conference. Aliran was disappointed that instead of taking action against the person who had threatened her, the police began probing Noor Farida under the Sedition Act.

Meanwhile, Aliran also endorsed a press statement issued by Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia on Brunei criminalising public celebrations of Christmas and non-Muslim festivals. Apparently, the trend of religious intolerance is gaining momentum not only in Malaysia but also in our neighbouring country.

Another alarming sign is a fracas that occurred in a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur which was deliberated painted by some as a communal clash between ethnic Chinese and Malays. A group of people took the law into their hands and targeted shops inside the mall while some made provocative racist remarks presumably with an intention to incite hatred. Among them was one of those who had led the Red Shirts rally and was also involved in a riot at the Low Yat Plaza.

Francis Loh, the president of Aliran, has written an interesting piece on Malay politics, which lists out the Malay groups that serve in various political parties and non-governmental organisations, and a spectrum of their political orientations. The article discusses the intra-Umno conflicts and the disquiet of NGOs such as Perkasa and Isma, which he believes reflects only half of the picture of the ethno-religious relations in Malaysia.

The other half of the picture, in his view, is represented by the Malay intellectuals in Amanah, and those in Ikram, the DAP and G25 who have made great efforts to put forward a new discourse. While the ethnic-religious divisions are seemingly deepening, he reminds us that ethnic boundaries have frequently been crossed by some civil society groups, Bersih 4 and Pakatan Harapan.

Ngu Ik Tien
Aliran newsletter co-editor
24 December 2015

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Kita Lawan rally participants represented a majority of Malaysians - Photograph: Latheefa Koya

Despite the diversions, it is quite obvious for many Malays – and other Malaysians – that it is Umno that would be destitute without the Malays and not vice versa, observes Zaharom Nain.

The multi-billion ringgit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal just keeps growing bigger and bigger, threatening to not only destroy groups and individuals but also engulf all of us and, of course, our country.

Overshadowed by this scandal has been the sad and sorry tale of major losses incurred last year by that traditional cash cow, Petronas. Quietly, according to chartered accountant and blogger, Anil Netto, Petronas reported ‘impairment losses’ of RM23.3bn in its accounts for 2014.

Which is certainly not chicken feed by any stretch of the imagination.

The bulk of these losses, contrary to what many of us may believe, was, as Anil illustrates, from “property, plant and equipment”.

How far this could be yet another scandal in the making, we are still to find out. But what is certainly evident is that while these exorbitant shenanigans are taking place before our very eyes, we get our ministers coming up with rather crass, often clearly idiotic statements.

The Federal Territories Minister, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, led the recent charge of the ninnies. First, he is reported to have hit out at critics of 1MDB for evidently trying “to kill the goose that lays the golden egg”.

‘Golden egg’? You’d really need to stretch your imagination as wide as the Grand Canyon in order to swallow that. Billions of ringgit and US dollars in debt and we are to assume that it will lay a ‘golden egg’?

Crap bricks would be a more likely scenario.

Not satisfied with yet again (remember his insensitive comments about the homeless awhile back?) truly endearing himself to all of us, the good tengku then had what can only be called a ‘Rais Yatim moment’.

Akin to the former minister, who’d attempted (and failed) to belittle the massive numbers who turned up for the third Bersih Rally in 2012, Ku Nan tried to dismiss the Kita Lawan rally on 7 March by saying that they “represented a minority”.

First, Ku Nan needs to understand that at the 2013 general election, 52 per cent of those who did vote, voted for the opposition.

The opposition, in other words, won the election in terms of popular or total votes. Fifty-two per cent, as any school kid will tell you, represent a majority.

The Kita Lawan rally, as can be seen by the spate of arrests since, was a rally by the opposition parties and civil society organisations – part of that 52 per cent, as it were.

So, seriously, Ku Nan, they did represent more than just a smidgeon of the Malaysian population.

Not wanting to be outdone

As if not wanting to be outdone in the Idiot Sweepstakes, one of the oh-so-many ministers in the Education Ministry – yes, the same one who boasted not too long ago that Malaysian public universities are now “world class” – came out to say that a committee was being set up to “boost Islamic education”.

This, purportedly, is being done to counter the IS threat.

Indeed, as the Malay Mail Online report put it, the aim is “to ensure Muslim students have a sound understanding of Islam’s teachings in a bid to stem the outflow of Malaysian youngsters to join global terror group Islamic State (IS) in Syria”.

Which then begs two obvious questions.

First, I’m sure the ministry has a whole big team of qualified personnel to provide students with this ‘sound understanding’ of Islam. And if so, pray tell, what have these experts being doing all this while?

Second, is this strategy based on a clearly conceived study of the reasons why Malaysians have joined IS? Or is it, as is more likely, the outcome of much group guesswork over mugs of teh tarik and platefuls of kuih Melayu?

But this comedy by a gaggle of politicians didn’t quite end there, of course.

It needed the PM himself to round up a week or two of desperate acts and comments by senior politicians. And he surely didn’t disappoint.

In the run up to his crucial meeting with Umno division heads recently, he was reported to have declared in Ipoh, “I cannot imagine Malaysia without Umno, especially Malays and Muslims,” asserting that, without Umno, the Malays would be destitutes in their own country.

Which is all a bit rich, of course, since it is quite obvious for many Malays – and other Malaysians – that it’s really the other way around. Indeed, it is obvious that it’s Umno that would be destitute without the Malays.

It is time the PM and his flock woke up and smelled the caffeine. And come to terms with the fact that the feudal mentality cultivated all these years by Umno no longer carries much weight among many Malays.

Years of being handed down peanuts while at the same time seeing the wealth of this country being plundered by a cruel and corrupt cabal of politicians and their cronies have led many to question and, indeed, turn their backs on, the party.

Leaving, of course, not them, but a desperate Umno, destitute.

Source: malaysiakini.com

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