[Governance] On Bersih, part 2

A follow-up to this post.

The cost is too high.

Marching for an idea and a concept carries sacrifices that are far too dear.

There are a number of people who say that the march is a bad idea because it inconveniences them. Those in support of the rally brush it off. Hey, so you face a delay in shopping and driving around for one day. Big deal, right?

Wrong.

I’m not talking the inconveniencing of daily lives. I know of at least one person for whom July 9, 2011 will be the biggest day of her life. She’s getting married.

Married.

That is NOT something you can tell other people to just bear with it this is just a small inconvenience. This march also affected my own plans. I wanted to go to KL to check out the Further Studies education fair in KLCC. I can’t now, mainly because 1. family obligations keep me at home, and 2. it’s unsafe for anyone to be in that area there.

Which brings me to my next point.

It’s easy to say that people will die for an idea. It’s easy for the individual to accept that death is a necessary component of defending that idea. That their physical death will somehow validate the idea and bring it to life. It’s easy to accept the death of strangers because you don’t know them.

It is much harder to accept the possible deaths of people you know.

I cannot condone the march, mainly for this single reason.

It puts lives at risk. Your deaths will not just affect you and your family, but everyone around you and those who have not. Are you all ready for that?

I know of at least three friends who will be marching tomorrow. Two of them are very dear to me. I know that if they die, their deaths would be on my shoulder. I have, in some way or other, supported their decision to walk. It may not have been my support alone, but I would be carrying the fact that they died with me till the day I die. If you’re alive you can still do something. Death is permanent. Seeking death to defend an idea, in my opinion, is the cause of much misery in the world today.

Some people may argue that this is for a future, a better future for all of Malaysia.

Is Malaysia going to bring my friends back should anything happen to them?

Is Malaysia going to take the burden of knowing her children died in her name?

Which parent can live with the fact that their children died for a bloody idea?

I will hate you all forever if you die.

[Governance] On Bersih

Required reading: Alwyn Lau

The only reason that I see for people who started the rally thing is because they are in some political party, not the usual auntie/uncle/people who just wanted to live peacefully.

Oh and young folks who can’t think or bother to question on everything and follow blindly.

A friend and me were exchanging emails about the upcoming Bersih rally. His view was that the march was unnecessary, if only because at this point in time, we have no real proof that Bersih has spoken to the Elections Commission. By real proof I mean minutes of meeting, documentation, actual black and white or recordings to show that the talks had taken place and that the EC had stalled/ignored or even refused them. Plus, Malaysia is still a pretty peaceful country. A number of people who are protesting, from what I know, are those who have nothing to lose.

But then I got to thinking. I know people who will be marching personally. These are people, who, ordinarily would just want to live peacefully. In fact, during the Hindraf rally and other such events, these people often shook their heads and decided that it was not worth making such a big fuss. Bersih too, is one of those events. After all, they can still eat comfortably. They can still work and earn money. There is no real hindrance to living a comfortable life. And elections every five years… well, that’s every five years. Nothing big, really, when you think about it. Only the politicians like to make a big hoo-ha about it.

So what changed? What’s caused these peace-loving, normally quiet people to suddenly be vocal and demand electoral reforms? What’s changed that suddenly Bersih is a big thing? That people don’t think that Bersih is to be blamed for wanting to have a street rally, but rather the Government for obstructing them. And these are not citizens who are affliated with political parties (in fact, many are disgusted with our politicians on both sides) but ordinary citizens and Malaysians.

In other words, what changed that people hold the Government responsible for the inconvenience they now face instead of Bersih (which would have been the scenario three years ago)?

Honestly, I cannot tell you what changed for them, but I can tell you what changed for me.

Up to a week ago, I held the view that Bersih’s aim was noble. That their demands were reasonable. I did not, however, agree with the street rally. I did not agree that we needed a street march, not when you had UMNO Youth and Perkasa jumping on the bandwagon. Not when the threat of violence became very real.

What changed was Barisan Nasional’s actions. Harrassing and arresting people are nothing new. To go after people just for wearing the colour yellow, without any justification, now that is new. Since when did the colour yellow become illegal? The rule of law must prevail, says the Home Minister, but where is the law that prohibits the colour yellow?

What changed me was the realisation that I could be a mother. That if I stayed in this country, this is not the place I want her to grow up in. I do not want my son to grow up feeling he must conform because the state said so. I do not want my daughter to feel constrained because there are those who would cut her voice.

I do not want my children to grow up in a place where the rule of law is disregarded for the whims of a few.

I do not believe that the march is necessary to demand for electoral reforms. I do, however, believe the march is now necessary to show Barisan Nasional, and by extension, UMNO, that we do respect the rule of law. The Federal Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land, gives us the right and liberty to walk and gather peacefully. It does NOT give anyone the right to take that right away for political survival.

[Governance] Free email add? DNW!

This piece of news is just…

Wow. Seriously, BN Government, don’t you have BETTER ideas? Really? An EMAIL address to be handed out to all Malaysian adults over 18 years old so you can have “direct and secure communication between citizens and the government”???? Yet by that same token, you CANNOT enable automatic voter registration?

My brain feels like it’s going to explode from the sheer absurdity.

Look, I understand that you want to create a one-stop portal (which apparently includes citizen application development, so tell me why my friend who’s father has been contributing almost patriotically loyally to this country’s economy for the last 30 years STILL getting his citizenship rejected?). I can understand that you want to make it easy for people to sign up. You want to have secure communications with the people, sending them government notices and what not.

My question is, WHY THE HELL DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE OUT SUCH ADDRESSES? It would be far simpler to simply make a form and let people fill in the details themselves, right?

Someone also just pointed out to me that besides monitoring on its citizens, this 1Malaysia email thing could also have privacy issues. For one, does anyone still remember when the Tunisian government hacked their citizen’s Facebook accounts? Why would anyone trust their government?

Especially this Federal government.

Should I have a wtf is this stupid category?

The MCP strikes again!

And people who break the law like Bung Mokhtar are NOT a menace?

Women drivers are a menace, says Bung Moktar
Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin today stirred the hornet’s nest again as he blamed reckless drivers, “especially women drivers”, for being traffic hazards.

The BN backbenchers club deputy chairperson, notorious for his “leaks every month” jibe against Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah) in 2007, said reckless drivers – particularly women – were a major cause of traffic accidents.

“They relax; think that because they are inside a car the world is theirs. They don’t look left and right and when we honk they get angry. There are times when we honk, they show all sorts of sign language,” he said when debating the supplementary supply bill.

Dr Siti Mariah Mahmood (PAS-Kota Raja) was in no mood to let Bung’s statement slide.

bung mokhtar parliament 080708 01″I ask that he retract his statement,” she immediately interjected. “(His statement on) women drivers is too general,” she added, sparking a war of words between the two.

Bung (left) defended his statement, saying “it’s true”, and accused the opposition of politicising what he said a few minutes earlier.

“We are talking about accidents, do not politicise anything. I stress here, do not be a monkey… semua nak politik. Mati pun politik kah? (you politicise everything. You even want to politicise death?)” he said.

Ill-informed man with limited experience

At this point, Dzulkefly Ahmad (PAS- Kuala Selangor) interjected to ask Bung what evidence his allegation was based on, reminding Bung that his own wife and mother are both women.

Siti Mariah added that Bung made an ill-informed statement based on his own limited experience, and was being unfair to many women who took the trouble to learn how to be cautious.

However, Bung remained adamant, saying he was not being disrespectful to women but that road mishaps “definitely happen to women who just passed” their driving tests.

“Do not politicise the issue. There is no discrimination… (I am referring) only to new drivers. I urge the authorities to figure out how to pursue road safety for all parties,” he said.

Abdul Rahman Dahlan (BN-Kota Belud) was the only person to stand in Bung’s defence, saying the senior MP was not demeaning women.

“I sympathise with Kinabatangan… there are no negative implications (to his statement). Women are more careful, so they drive slower. There is no discrimination (against women),” he said.

[Poetry] Setiap Bayang Ada Cahayanya

Merunsing
Hatiku berpusing
Kegelisahan bertambah
Di ambang merdeka kini

Kekecohan
Di jalanan, mahupun di kampung
Di bandar dan di rumah
Semuanya gemuruh

Dalam kegelapan ini
Teringat suatu peribahasa
Di mana bayangnya, di situlah cahaya

Dengan cahaya wujudlah gelapan
Dalam sinaran adalah bayangnya
Untuk setiap yang inginkan kemusnahan
Wujudlah lebih ramai yang inginkan keamanan

Negaraku bukannya yang termoden
Negaraku mungkin terlalu runsing
Tapi yang adanya macha
Tiada warna, tiada sempadan

Mereka yang mementingkan diri
Terlalu inginkan kuasa dan wang
Sehingganya negara yang menjadi mangsa
Rakyatnya yang merana

Dalam bayangan wujudlah cahaya
Dalam runsingan wujudnya jawapan
Dalam kegelapan adalah harapan
Dalam rakyat adalah pendirian

Kepada mereka yang inginkan kemusnahan
Kepada mereka yang inginkan kuasa
Baliklah, iblis, ke nerakamu
Tinggalkan negaraku Malaysia sekarang!

Ditulis sempena Kemerdekaan Malaysia ke 53 dan Hari Malaysia ke 47. Inspired by a quote from the Mothership, “who would like to remind you that in this ever present darkness, there’s always someone nearby with a light. And if you’re willing, you can be that light.”

[Politics] Awesome sauce!

There were two reasons why I voted for the opposition in the last General Elections.

1. Pakatan Rakyat promised a FOI act.
They made a promise in 2008 that if they were elected, one of the first things they would seek to do is to create a Freedom of Information Act. This was one of the reasons why I voted them in; because they promised me that they would create such an act. Yesterday, they tabled the Freedom of Information Act. That’s one promise kept.

2. Local Elections
I am still waiting for this one to be resolved, but let’s just put it this way; apparently we are not allowed to have local elections because it is unconstitutional. Huh. But from what I know it’s still in progress.

Congrats, Pakatan. Now keep it up. I, for one, am interested to read what documents I can of the water concessionaire agreement.

2 Weddings and 1 Funeral

A year ago, a friend got married. The weeks before, she had spent hunting us down at an event, making sure that the wedding cards reached each of our hands, safe and sound. That weekend, I took the LRT down with a male Malay friend to the wedding, and we entered the hotel together. I’m pretty sure the khalwat crew would have had fits if we’d have gone up to the hotel room to see the bride, but we decided to chillax at the cafe instead.

We saw another couple when we went back to the ballroom entrance. They still had the flush of “new couple” around them, though it was great to see the guy getting bullied by the girl. Did I mention that they were a cute mixed couple? Awesome as they were, what was even more awesome was that soon the rest of our friends started arriving. And we were a palette of colours.

As we signed in, there was a chorus of cries as we “complained” that we had all be shunted off into a room by ourselves. Considering our noise levels, I think that was a good point. Certainly no one could complain when we decided to dispense with the normal, “Yam Seng” cheer with another. Lead by Fazri and Victor, I think, we sang this instead (yes, sing):

I don’t wanna close my eyes
I don’t wanna fall asleep
Cause I miss your babe
And I don’t wanna miss a thing!

Which of course, nearly shattered the glass doors. :D Then we made the groom sing a song to his bride, all in the name of turning traditions upside down. He sang Mazinger Z’s opening song, I believe, to everyone’s delight. As we dispersed (after throwing the groom into the air, no mean feat, I tell you), everyone walked in one big group to the carpark. We hugged, talked and divided ourselves according to who was going where to go home, and then we promised to meet at the next gathering.

Two years ago, my cousin sister got married. The main thing I remembered about her wedding was standing up and seeing a sea of Chinese faces. That terrified me to no end. The only-non Chinese people I could see was my dad, aunt, my bro and me. My mother’s family doesn’t really trust non-Chinese, which is why the fact that I’m here writing to you on this blog is nothing short of a tiny miracle.

Three years ago, a good friend passed away. He did it in a way only he could; leaving us the day after his birthday.

I still remember the way everyone rushed up to go to Penang for his funeral. The way we all poured into a friend’s house in PJ to plan (very very quickly) the transportation details for the next day. The way we all rushed home after that to grab our clothes. The shock and sorrow I felt at losing him. The memorial we had, online and offline, for him. Hearing stories from friends who attended the funeral, especially from his parents who were surprised that their son had made so many friends. That we all gathered, regardless of colour, to mourn the passing of a guy who really didn’t care about colour.

I didn’t understand how May 13 could have happened from an emotional viewpoint until I went for my cousin sister’s wedding. I realised just how much we’ve moved on since then though, because of the celebrations I’ve attended since then. I’ve come to realise the debate and the reasons behind May 13 isn’t racial. It never was.

It is, always has, and always will be, about class. It was about the poor of one community being told to blame the poor of another community, because the rich of the first community was stealing from the poor and wanted to hoodwink them.

That is all.

3:10 Success Rates

Excuse me for clogging up your feeds. Sorry about that

I’ve got a few questions for Information Minister Dr Rais. According to the article I just translated here, his statements raise more questions than they do answers. First off though, I would like to tip my hat off to him, for at least not joining in the gossip about Maya Karin (though Utusan seems to want him to).

Studies carried out in Malaysia between 1995 to 1998 discovered that only three out of every ten mixed marriages succeed.
I’d like to know what is his definition of success. Some couples could be together and still have a failed marriage; they argue, fight, and cheat on each other without actually getting a divorce.

The reality was there were a lot of hardship a mixed couple would face.
Isn’t this the same no matter what the circumstances of your marriage is? No matter the culture, marriage is not a bed of roses. Ideally, this could be bad translation on my part, but reading the context, Rais seems to paint the picture that only mixed marriages have problems while it is smooth sailing for the non-mixed marriages.

Children getting kidnapped back to their home country
I find it very amusing he said this, he’s completely forgotten about this. So how, Mr Rais? Why does Indira have to raise her children as Muslims and not as Hindus? Are you going to overturn the previous and unjust sentence meted out to her children?

Also on the home country thing
Sir, did you mean international mixed marriages, or did you just mean mixed marriages in general? You see sir, I ask because I’m a child of a mixed marriage. My family’s as Malaysian as you can get. I dare say that we’re really Bangsa Malaysia, or 1Malaysia, whatever you want to call rojaks like us. Both my parents are Malaysian nationals.

Thus, while I can understand your worry about children snatching internationally, I feel you do a discredit to everyone else.

Which brings me to my last question: Sir, do you have any friends who are of mixed blood like me?

For Karcy

Sarawak gov’t humbled by Iban villagers

The Sarawak government’s unpopular ‘Konsep Baru’ or ‘New Concept’ of land development, which encourages private companies to set up vast oil palm plantations on native people’s lands, has been dealt a blow by a landmark High Court decision today.

The High Court of Sabah and Sarawak declared victory to rural Iban farmers from Rumah Madel, in Sebauh, 30km from Bintulu, in a land rights suit filed against Ladang Sawit Bintulu Sdn Bhd Tabung Haji (a major share-owner in the oil palm plantation) and the Sarawak government.

The Rumah Madel plaintiffs were represented by land rights advocates Baru Bian and See Chee How.

“This is a victory for all Sarawakians, and for future generations of Malaysians,” said See, outside the High Court. The government has 30 days to appeal the decision.

The state government now faces increased pressure to curb its enthusiastic support of big business – in this case wealthy oil palm companies – taking over the Native Customary Rights (NCR) land of indigenous communities across this vast state.

Tabung Haji, a federal investment fund, will also face questions over its involvement in the Sebauh plantation. Local people say the plantation has destroyed their land, rubber and other crops, fruit trees and water supplies. The adverse publicity has made it tricky, to say the least, for the fund to argue that it supports ethical investments.

Old concept, new packaging

The Sarawak government’s ‘Konsep Baru’ promises NCR landowners a 30 percent share in ‘joint development’ of a given oil palm plantation, with a 60 percent going to a private company and 10% going to the state. The state says the land will be returned to the NCR owners after 60 years. The government argues this brings development to what it calls ‘idle land’.

It has been well documented that these private oil palm companies are closely associated with high-ranking state officials. Many NCR landowners who signed up to these schemes have bitterly condemned the private investors for failing to pay dividends, or handing out only a pittance.

Worse still, private companies have frequently established plantations without even consulting local communities. The first the locals hear of the ‘development’ is often the sound of bulldozers uprooting their fruit trees and farms.

Many native communities have shown great courage in taking the government to court. Over a hundred court cases filed by natives, alleging infringement of NCR rights by logging and oil palm plantations, are trundling their way through the bowels of the judicial system.

This latest judgment supports the legal rights of natives to their NCR land, as affirmed by the Madeli Salleh Federal Court and Nor Nyawai decisions.

These pivotal cases emphasise that customary rights precede the existence of the state of Sarawak, and cannot be extinguished by the government.

Yet the state government considers all NCR land which has not been surveyed as ‘state land’. The Land and Survey Department has failed to survey more than 90% of the state’s NCR land, in 46 years of independence.

The state administration has ridden roughshod over the landmark court NCR decisions. It ignores long-established legal and constitutional guarantees of NCR land, as well as the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Malaysia has signed.

Rumah Madel’s bruising fight

Rumah Madel had sent a string of protests to the police and other government agencies against intrusions by the oil palm company onto their ancestral NCR land since 2004. But the community’s appeals were brushed aside.

“This company, Tabung Haji, doesn’t even have any agreement or a promise of sharing with us. So, we are not happy with the way the government deals with our land. They said that our land does not belong to us,” an elderly man from Rumah Madel recalled. “They told us it’s state land. But we didn’t move here illegally. We didn’t move here yesterday. We have lived here since the British colony was established, since the time of Rajah Brooke.”

The Iban villagers resorted to erecting blockades across the companies’ access roads. The police finally sprang into action, but in support of the oil palm company. Police arrested peaceful protestors, including three defiant women, Siah anak Laga, Meliah anak Enjup and Sadah anak Julau, in December 2004.

When the villagers in Rumah Madel were asked whether the company had paid any compensation for their land or crops, the village elder replied: “No. They told us ‘If we pay you compensation that means we acknowledge it is your land. But this is state land and therefore it’s not your land!’ So they just went ahead and destroyed our land without paying us anything.”

“They don’t care,” said the village head, Tuai Rumah Madel anak Kandau. “Even several of my own plots of land have been destroyed by the lorries. They even destroyed my own oil palm saplings but I planted them again. I told them ‘Please don’t kill my oil palm saplings. Just leave them alone.’ ”

The villagers are angry that the rivers and water catchments supplying their drinking water have also been polluted by the oil palm plantation company.

“Look at our streams now…the water looks like it came from a pig-sty. None of us wants to bathe there, let alone drink the water. They’re making life difficult for us in the village,” Madel said.

Anger over empty promises

One villager said the company had promised surrounding villages good jobs if only they would participate in the oil palm ‘joint project’.

Several headmen signed up. He recounted the promises. “They told us, you will earn a lot of money, no problem with your expenses because you will have a permanent job there.

“Also, once you work in the oil palm plantation, you will have a 30 percent share in the plantation. 70 percent will go to the government and its ‘friends’.

“But they did not give us the letter of agreement…and also, the certificate to show that we have a share in the plantation was not given to us. The company kept it for themselves.

“Now you see…none of us are working there. All the workers in the plantation are foreigners. None of us here want to work for RM10 or RM15 per day. With RM10 per day, my wife and I can eat. But what about our children? Their schooling?” he asked..

“If we follow those who are educated, they will mess up our minds, suck our blood. It’s better that we’re uneducated,” Tuai Rumah Madel said with a wry smile, “so we can discuss together what is good or bad.

“Look at the YBs (elected representatives). Who voted for them to become our YBs? It’s the YBs who are messing with our minds. They only pretend to try to help us by saying all kinds of things.

“I think about my grandchildren in the future. When I die, will my grandchildren say ‘Our grandfather was very stupid – without land, how are we going to live?’ That is why I don’t want my land to be taken away.”