Thursday, June 30, 2011

Warnings. Threats, and the Psychology of fear.

There are enough warnings and threats announced over the air and printed in the Papers to make everyone in Malaysia feel afraid come July 9. The organizers of Bersih 2 do not appear to be in any way willing to compromise with the Police or the government and reconsider its intention to hold the rally, nor are UMNO Youths ready to pull off their anti-Berrsih2 counter rally. Meanwhile Dr Chandra Muzafar has triggered another possibility bv insinuating that the Bersih 2 is related to and probably conceived along the lines of the mass protest movements against the ruling elites as had happened in the East African and Middle East countries.

Whatever the truth is, the planned July 9 rally and the planned counter movement are making everyone in Malaysia scared. Although the organizers of both groups ensure the people, the Police and the government that there won't be any hostilities or brutalities, it would be foolish to assume that when two cars collide there won't be any injuries, bloodshed or fatalities. It would only take some shedding of blood to start a panic and pandemonium in Kuala Lumpur, which could spread like wildfire throughout the country. The Police and the Armed Forces would then take over control and Malaysia. or at least Peninsula Malaysia, would become a Police or Military State.

If that is not bad enough, look at the other possible consequences. If the Police and Armed forces start using their arsenal of deadly weapons against the civilians, the self- appointed police force of the world will find it necessary to intervene in the name of protecting the rights and freedom of the civilians. Doesn't that sound familiar? Hey, we are also an oil producing country you know!

All these possibilities are not impossible. Any attempt by a foreign power to bring its military might into Malaysia might have friendly countries in the neighborhood, ready to provide a base for its military build-up. That's also a familiar scenario. And don't forget that Malaysia has also been accused of harboring Islamic militants. Under the wing of JI. There are all the reasons for a foreign power to intervene in the name of restoring peace and order, freedom and justice for the people.

Would the organizers of the intended rallies take all these into consideration. I can't uderstand why the Home Affairs Miniter is not taking any inititive to meet the organizers face to face and negotiate a happy compromise, instead of just letting the Police flex its muscles and issue all sorts of threats. I thought we are already mature enough as a nation to know that threats never work and will entail a lot of repercussions. Maybe the PM or DPM himself should take the initiative if the Home Affairs Minister is unwilling to so.

Or do we really want the july 9 rallies to occur in order to do some cleansing job before GE 13 or to show what can happen if BN is not brought back to power. The psychology of fear can only work temporarily and like threats will entail serious repercussions.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Do the Warnings Tell Us and Others

We hear a lot of warnings issued to the public by the Police and other Government Departments, the City Coiuncils and Local Aithorities and certainly by national leaders, through the radio, tv and mass media. Put them together and read them like a public statement. What impression and what image do we have of the country and nation?

Lets try to do this for size.

Don't walk around alone in quiet places or you can get mugged or robbed.
Don't go out alone in busy town and city streets or you'll attacked by snatch thief ( directed especially to the ladies).
Don't wear expensive jewelry, rings and watches in busy and crowded places or some thugs will try to snatch them away or wait around to jump on you.
Ladies and young girls should not go out with man- or boy-friends alone or risk being abducted, raped or killed.
Don't leave valuables and expensive items (like handphones, laptops and notebooks) in your car when you park it to go somewhere. The screen will be smashed and the valuables taken away.
Don't leave a lot of cash and valuables in your house wnen you go out or your house will be broken in.
Don't speed when you drive for speed ( not incompetent drivers) kill.
Don't exceed the speed limit of 80/90 kph on highways and sometimes reduced to 40/50/60 kph (at least it's 110 kph in NS) while modern cars can go up to 180 kph easy. (Going at 40 kph is like going on a bicycle.
Don't take part in get-rich-quick schemes or scams or you'll get cheated.
Don't trust fast talking peddlers.
Don't trust strangers who come to the house to sell things, seek help or financial contribution to some building schemes.
Don't throw rubbish, plastic bags, broken pieces of furniture and unwanted babies around. (They are almost dumped under the same category),
Don't eat (at foodstalls) or play on the roadside (while most open space and even playgrounds have been used up for development).
Don't respond to annoucement that you've won a prize for it counld be a trick.

God. There are so many other public warnings that I can't recall offhand!

What kind of image do you conjure up when you can't do all those things mentioned? Don't you get the feeling that this is a pretty-screwed up country where the police and the law enforcement people are not doing much to prevent criminal and undesirable things from happening, not prevent people from enjoying the freedom of a developed nation. Crime there'll always be but to take away people's freedom to prevent crime both petty and serious, is taking the easy way out.

Another thing is to prevent the violation of by-laws and regulations ( and sometimes just a new road sign which has not been gazetted) by imposing a fine. Boasting over the total sum of fines collected (running into hundreds of million RM) merely shows that more people are violating the rules and you're quite happy about it.

There are now talks about increasing the compound or the fine for traffic offences to a thousand ringgit or more when even the RM300 fine imposed on a poor motorcyclist who couldn't afford to buy a car, is already a rather pathetic way of fighting traffic offenses. Yet a distinguished ex-political leader who admitted guilt to peddling a sex scandal video was only fined RM1000 ringgit by the court while the others who actually committed the crime were fined RM3000 and RM1500. I think many pornography peddlers would find this a very encouraging development since they can make a hundred thousand times more
money than the fine imposed if caught.

All these again contribute to shaping the image that our country creates both within the country and overseas, aside from the mounting exposure of corruption cases (which is ggod as a process in eliminating the crime). The warnings which are issued to the public sometimes sound so petty as if to take the easy way out of combatting or fighting the crime like saying "don't sleep in the park if you don't want to be robbed, mugged, or (for the ladies) to be raped."

I wish that the Authorities will think more deeply before issuing a public warning. Especially when the warning doesn't seem to carry any enforcement measure.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As Kuala lumpur Rovolves..

Big deal. I've taken meals in the sky at 10,00 meters (30,000feet plus) on a plane, on top of the Titiwangsa Range at more than 1760 meters ie at Genting Highland, and on the CN Tower in Canada at 553.33 meters. So what is having dinner at some 334 meters above KL City ie. at the revolving restaurant on KL Tower! No cause for excitement.

But there was. It was a Father's Day dinner arranged by my wife and kids. I am a simple village- born man who will be happy with lunch or dinner at a foodstall by the busy streets of KL (difficult to find one now) or a maplei somewhere on the outskirt of the city. The thought of celebrating FD in the sky was as far away from my imagination as the earth is from the sun. I've heard that the charges could be more than a hundred buckaroo per head and paying for 8 adults and two kids would be too much for my kid's purse. Of course I know that my wife will come to their rescue if they ran into a strait by quietly doling out her share of the bill or even taking up the bill all by herself. ( Thank god she's a working wife. Otherwise all commitment would be transferred to my account!).

Well, getting up to the revolving restaurant was itself an adventure. Being a Sunday night the whole tower area was crawling with people dressed in their Sunday best with cars parked quite neatly I must say, on all roadsides. Looking up at the tower from underneath it gave me an Avatar neck without a tail to balance it. Yep. I got a shot of the tower taken with my faithful handphone. (see pic). The base of the tower was thronging with people shopping at the souvenir shop and feasting away at the stalls of the Trengganu food festival . Some children were also enjoying tne pony ride or playing with the animal show. The F1. simulator fun ride shop was closed for that night. I never knew they had all the attractions there.

Up in the revolving restaurant, in spite of the endless array of scrumptuous food offerred at many stalls generating a gourmetic atmosphere and aroma, all newcomers seemed to rush to the slanting glass panel which gave a panoramic view of KL city bathed in bright lights. Some children were playing on the fixed dias while the dinner tables and chairs slowly and almost imperceptibly moved away from them (see pics). I joined the rank eagerly for this was my first visit although I had a hand in developing the idea of building the tower together with the late Tan Sri Mohammad Rahmat, the then Minister of Information. Civil servants never get recognized for their ideas once adopted by the government.

It was a joy to see the city at night from the tower. Stand back on the moving platform where the chairs and tables are and you get the feeling that KL City was revolving around you. The Maybank tower, the PNB building, PWTC and of corse the Twin Tower etc., all paraded by as if taking a salute from you. The light danced merrily and the dark night changed its intensity according to the strength of the luminance which penetrated it. For a while i was lost in the magic of a bird's eye view of the city in which I had lived and worked for years. It all looked so new and strange.

As i savor the unending plates of food which I filled myself or brought to me by my wife and kids, i couldn't help thinking how luxurious the life of the rich and wealthy must be. They have all the great towers of the world to visit and the creative genius of the best chefs to enjoy. But no. I'm not jealous of them. The luxury of the love and concern my wife and kids have for me was worth more than any material wealth and luxury could bring. I pride myself in being a father, standing as tall as the tower itself, as Kuala lumpur revolved around me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day: A Brief Reflection.

Being a Muslim I don't know if churches in Malaysia hold a special service to honor Father's Day. But since it is widely celebrated all over the world on the third Sunday of June each year, there certainly would be a Sunday service when the role and responsibility of fatherhood could be mentioned either specifically or in general.

. In any case I see that Malaysians do celebrate Father's Day in one way or another.Regardless of whether I honor it myself or not, when my kids arranged a special dinner for me on that occasion with some presents thrown in for good measure. who am I to refuse? I would love any day on which such things happened, call it whatever your want.

I've been spared the difficulty of deciding whether to honor it or not - and also Mother's Day - because both my parents had passed away many years ago, long before Malaysians began to celebrate Father's Day. My wife buys a present for her mother every Mother's Day and so I had to reciprocate and complement the gesture by getting a present for my father-in-law when Father's Day comes around as he has become my substitute father. When I see how he treasured the thought as he held the present in his hand, I decided not to miss the honor of getting him that little gift every year. It doesn't cost much and the dinner that we usually have at his house on such occasion, is normally something to look up to by the entire family members. Oh yes, sometimes we have it at some fancy restaurants too, like we do for Mother's Day.

But how seriously and sincerely do Malaysians honor Father's Days now? The question of making it a public holiday does not arise at all since Sunday is already a public holiday. The more important question is: Do Malaysians accept the idea of reserving a day to show love and respect for their father over and above the usual show of love and respect extended to them. More importantly, do the young men and women of today who have worked and achieved a great measure of success in life but DO NOT consider their father as a crucial factor in achieving the success, ever cared to give their father at least a "Hello, how are you.Dad?" greeting on that auspicious day? Why should they do so since their father had not done much for them? they might ask. All I can say is: Ask yourself. Did you inherit your intelligence from your mother or some one else beside your father? If your mother it was that had been the genius in the family, fine. Otherwise, even if your dad had not given you much of anything at all, you carry his genes and the spark of his brains in your head. Unless, of course. you believe that your intelligence comes from someone else besides God's bestowal on you, you still owe him something. Perhaps just the chance to live in this world.

If anything at all, it is this thought which makes me honor, respect and love my father, even though he is dead and gone. The Father's Day concept makes me focus my attention on his role in bringing me to this world and for that alone I would celebrate Father's Day as a beautiful thought, even if it has a non-Muslim origin.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nothing is ever enough...

It's just a human trait that nothing you're endowed with is ever enough. You just keep on wanting more and more of it. The simplest example is, of course, money and wealth. The same with power, inflence, beauty, knowledge, love and sex. But it works the other way round in terms of the negative aspects. A little financial or property loss is already a disaster. A little pain or inconvenience is torture. A little disagreement with someone, and you hate or despise him (or her)! A lttle clumsiness on the part of someone is a faux pas.

Why are we human so prone to insatiety and hyperbolical tendency in expressing dissatisfaction. Especially when the former involves comparison with someone else and the latter involves a person we dislike. A lttle less of something becomes a great deprivation. Criticism quickly turns into vilification. All sense of proportion and fairness suddenly goes to the wind.

I think this tendency lies at the very root of societal and coomunal problems in a multiracial society like Malaysia. In the face of rapid economic development and tramsformation, hopes and expectations especially from the poorer group and level of society, swell like the rising tide. Nothing is enough to bring them at par with their richer and wealthier neighbors, not in a year or two anyway. Meanwhile the rich and wealthy will continue to amass more wealth while the poor lag further and futher behind, the heightened pace of economic development causing more dissatisfaction to the poor than satisfying them. The transformation to a high-income nation with the concomitent rise in cost of living, consumer prices , property prices, tax, rentals etc. will make the poorer lot more deprived and left behind.

As a result you suddenly have dissensions and protest movements all around the country as is happening in the Arab and east African nations. The government backed by the super-rich becomes beleaguered by the mass of dissatisfied citizens. Foreign powers which thrive on uprisings and revolutions in less than friendly developing nations, come in to help, and we have what becomes of Afghanistan, Iraq, and others yet to become like them. Just wait and see. The power that they have over resource-rich but poor and underdeveloped countries is never enough. Like the rich, they always want more and more.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Social distance, the cause of misunderstanding.

The older group of Malaysians i'm sure feel much closer to other Malaysians in their age group than the younger ones. Why? Because when they grew up in the village and small towns, their relationship was closer and more intimate. The younger Malaysians are subject to more divisive forces than their elders

Have we ever considered what these forces are? We talk about 1 Malaysia and uniting the people into a more integrated and cohesive society. But we don't seem to study what keeps people apart seriously so that those barriers to unity and homogeneity can be removed or overcome. Perhaps we assume that we know . But can we also assume that we know how to overcome the problems. Can we just assume that the 1 Malaysia concept will provide a panacea for all the problems of disunity in the nation?

Rapid economic progress had made people drift apart according to their economic status. The luxury housing areas and homes become inaccesable to the less affluent. The rich will shop at luxurious, high-end complexes, the poor and average at jln Tuanku Abdul Rahman and other cheaper places. Even eating out takes the rich and higher middle class into a different direction than the lower middle and lower class- the former frequenting the classy restaurants and bistros, the latter filling in the ' taman seleras' and the 'mapleys'. The latter would not be able to visit even the Mc D and the KFC too often because of the continuously escalating prices. Yes, children go to the same school but not in the same way (by bus) and receive tuition from different sources which separate the well-to-do and the wannabes.

There might not be social classes anymore now, but there certainly exists a social distance between various groups of people in our modern society caused by a change in economic status. This distance is magnified by other differences such as in religious faith, vernacular language , culture, education level, professional interests etc. Can all these be overcome by just one concept - the 1 Maysia concept. I think the government has to do more to close the social distance, once it has been recognized. The bigger problem is we often fail to recognize the problem and dismiss complex issues as a simple
human problem. Worse, we often think that we have resolved the problem through a new policy or regulation, which actually can create more issues than it can solve.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When People Don't Care Anymore..

If we listen carefully to people talking about politics today, you'll hear an undercurrent of disappointment, frustration or a plain " I couldn't be bothered anymore" attitude. And i don't mean talk among non-politicians only. Even active party members and party office holders can be heard echoing such sentiments. Not to say some politicians holding public office themselves.

Of course most people are never happy with what they get from life. Or from their employers or the government as the biggest
employer in any country. But there's a great difference between being dissatisfied or frustrated and being Indifferent. One is the result of not getting as much as is expected but still hoping to get more,The other is the result of losing interest or concern because things have become hopeless and cannot be improved. Let things go down the drain for one has given up hope for a gret improvement.

That's what one blogger seems to say about the government and even some of the NGOs as they've become today. Let me quote without mentioning the name:

"Once Malaya and then Malaysia was the hallmark of excellence in how a democratically elected government operated.
What happened?

Surely it’s not just about stuffing up the organizations by staffing them up with incompetent people, though there is that

It seems as if at some stage there was a humongous avalanche, where Malaya/Malaysia’s old excellence in governance
was hurled down the slippery slovenly shameful slope, a slope which is now bereft of good management, discipline,
merit , respectability and credibility.

Our institutions have gone to the dogs, with even some, like banks, universities and the police, in repetitive fashion.

Someone or some people has/have a lot to answer for the regrettable plunge towards zero."

(I beg your permission to quote you, Sir).

This seems to be the kind of dissatisfaction and hopelessness and the "I just couldn't accept anything anymore attitude which we can sometimes hear.If it comes from people who are in the opposition camp, we can very well understand. But what if it's reflected in the the comments of people who are not opposed to the government but just fed up with some of the things it is doing or NOT doing, Lately it has to do with the rising costs of foodstuff, increase in the price of fuel, the prolonged court case of shameful sexual behavior with the distribution of pornographic tapes to support the charges outside the court, the dubious conclusion to corruption cases involving some big names and the inconclusive investigation into the death of people under investigation by the MACC or the Police etc. These matters keep appearing in the front pages of the local dailies but there is nothing new that could make the people more confident of a fair and transparent verdict. Things usually end in a way which people thought it would - ie in favor of the government. Hence the charge that even the judiciary is not totally independent.

Most of us however believe that the government is doing its best in the interest of the nation and the people. That was why it was voted to power again and again since achieving Independence. The Prime Minister and many other Ministers say that they welcome responsible and constructive criticisms. But why are some people so cynical nowadays and some unhesitatingly display the "I don't care anymore" attitude? Are we really going down the ladder of excellence and "kecermerlangan" that we pride ourselves in just some years ago?