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Monday, July 21, 2014

GAZA, A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER

By SSK

Gaza’s known history goes back 4,000 years. Considering India’s known civilisation is 10,000 years and 5,000 years for China, we can assume that Gaza’s unknown history is certainly longer than 4,000 years, pre-dating even the beginning of the Abrahamic faiths.

Gaza originated as a Canaanite settlement after which it came under the control of ancient Egypt before being conquered by the Philistines. About 3,000 years ago, the Israelites under King David conquered Gaza but less than 300 years later it became part of the Assyrian Empire and subsequently part of the Persian Empire until Alexander the Great of Greece conquered Persia.

The most ‘recent’ occupiers, of course, were the Romans around the time of Jesus. The Romans ruled Gaza until the collapse of the Roman Empire after which the area came under the Christian Byzantine Empire and then finally, just after the time of Prophet Muhammad’s death, it was conquered by the Arab Muslims under Omar.

The Christian Crusaders then took control of what was by then an ‘international’ or metropolitan city briefly around 1,000 years ago and less than 200 years later the famous Saladin drove the Christians out and the Muslims have held that area until the creation of Israel soon after the First World War.

The reason I am laying out that very brief history of Gaza is so that we can better understand what is happening in that area and why for millenniums we have seen conflict after conflict in the battle for control of both Gaza and what is now called Israel. Basically, all the contestants to the ownership of that region feel they have a legitimate claim to that place.

In short, it is a battle for territory but most people who are ignorant about the history of Gaza and/or Israel view it as a religious conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles. And this is as great a fallacy as arguing that America originally belonged to England and therefore the United Kingdom has a legitimate claim over the United States.

Gaza, which once-upon-a-time was considered a thriving and prosperous metropolitan, has now been reduced to probably the largest open prison in the world. The conflict in that area has really nothing to do with Islam. It is a political struggle for domination of that area with all sides believing that that they have a legitimate claim.

However, as in all conflicts, while the politicians battle it out, it is the people who suffer. And what we are seeing is a great loss of property and life as the death toll and destruction spirals by the day.

The pictures and news reports coming out from Gaza are heartbreaking. Women, children, babies, old people, and all form of non-combatants are victims of the Israeli bombardment. The Israelis say they are merely responding to the attacks by Hamas. And they argue that Hamas is using human shields to bombard Israel from behind the residential areas in Gaza.

Israel explains that it has a right to protect its citizens from Hamas bombardment and that if Hamas would stop sending rockets into Israel then Israel would also do the same. And, added Israel, if Hamas shoots the rockets from the residential areas then it is Hamas that is putting the civilians at risk from ‘dragging’ them into a military conflict.

This is a sort of tit-for-tat situation. If you shoot me then I shoot you. And if you shoot those rockets from residential areas then I too will shoot rockets into those same residential areas. Basically, two wrongs make a right, is what is being argued by Israel.

While some may be angry with Hamas for putting civilians at risk or with Israel for shooting rockets into what they know are residential areas, there is one fact we cannot deny. And that fact is the world is standing by and doing nothing about the actions of both Hamas and Israel.

Why can’t Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and the other Middle Eastern ‘powers’, especially the backers of Hamas, rein them in? Hamas has sophisticated weapons. Who is financing Hamas and who is supplying them these sophisticated weapons? This has never been answered. Similarly, there are many Western allies of Israel who are maintaining a silence as if there is only one side to this conflict.

The truth is the many conflicts in the Middle East, not confined to just Gaza, are proxy wars being fought by Middle Eastern as well as Western powers. For obvious reasons, the Western powers do not want to see unity in the Middle East. And countries like Saudi Arabia, too, do not want to see the Middle East united because that will not bode well for countries such as Saudi Arabia that are seen as pro-America.

So, to solve this humanitarian disaster we need the Western and Middle Eastern powers to play their role. Hamas and Israel must be subjected to international pressure like what they are doing to Ukraine and Russia to end the senseless killing in the Crimea that has now seen the MH17 tragedy. If not, the death and destruction will continue with more civilian than combatant casualties.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

PROTOCOL AND POLITICS

By SSK

The opposition is criticising Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim for attending a buka puasa with Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak. Some are even saying that Khalid is laying the groundwork to join Umno, which prompted the Prime Minister to deny it.
NAJIB

Back in 2006, ex-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad visited Kelantan to give a talk and that night they hosted him to a dinner. Menteri Besar Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat was not invited to that dinner.

When the media asked Nik Aziz whether he would be attending Dr Mahathir’s dinner, he replied that he had not been invited but if they do invite him he would most certainly attend.

DR MAHATHIR
The organisers did not take the hint and did not invite Nik Aziz. To everyone’s surprise, however, Nik Aziz unexpectedly walked in as an ‘uninvited guest’ and sat beside Dr Mahathir at the main table.

Nik Aziz felt that since Dr Mahathir was once Malaysia’s Prime Minister and since he is the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, the proper thing would be for him to show Dr Mahathir some respect and attend the dinner, especially since Dr Mahathir was the guest of honour.

That is the type of political maturity that Nik Aziz demonstrated and we would not expect anything less from Khalid. Yet the opposition plays up this issue and uses it against Khalid. Do they expect Khalid to boycott the function just because he and Najib are from opposing political parties?

What about when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attended Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Hari Raya open house in Kepala Batas back in 2004 together with the Sarawak Chief Minister. The pictures in the Internet showed them laughing and joking like good friends.

KHALID
Then we had Anwar and Najib having tea in Parliament and the pictures showed them in a most jovial mood. This is how we would expect our political leaders to act notwithstanding they may be political rivals.

It is time we ended this politics of hate and adopt a more mature attitude. Malaysian politics is too much hate-driven and the opposition is guilty of this as well, although those in the ruling party are not any less guilty. Why must everything be taken as animosity? Malaysians were not always like this in the past but it seems to have become worse of late.
NIK AZIZ

During the Conference of Rulers, the Prime Minister, Governors, Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers all attend. There is no issue about who is from the ruling party and who is from the opposition. If that is an issue why don’t the opposition Menteris Besar then boycott the Conference of Rulers since the Prime Minister and ruling party Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers are also attending?

We need to know proper protocol and understand that there are times when protocol needs to override politics. Not everything can be seen just from the lenses of politics.

ANWAR
For example, take the issue of Dr Mahathir criticising Najib openly and publicly, the latest being the issue of the TPPA. Dr Mahathir said only a weak leader would agree to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

No doubt the TPPA, which involves eleven Asian and Pacific-rim countries, including the United States, needs to be seriously considered because even Australia and New Zealand are not happy with it.

However, the issue here is the United States is forcing its will on ten other countries. So the problem is the United States. Malaysia cannot single-handedly go into conflict with the United States. Malaysia needs to unite with the nine other countries to get a better deal from the United States.

It would be better if such matters are discussed behind closed doors rather than public statements issued criticising the Prime Minister because matters such as the TPPA is more than just about politics. It is about the economy of the country against the backdrop of a super-power. And such matters need proper protocol in the way they are handled.

KERAJAAN PUSAT KOMITED TAMBAH SUMBANGAN PEMBANGUNAN UNTUK SABAH

SALLEH bersalaman dengan Najib
KOTA KINABALU, 12 Julai (Bernama) -- Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak berkata Kerajaan Pusat amat komited untuk menambah sumbangan kepada Sabah melalui kaedah yang difikirkan sesuai tanpa menjejaskan pembangunan industri minyak di negeri ini.

Sebagai langkah serta merta, beliau mengumumkan bahawa Petronas bersetuju menambah sumbangan Tanggungjawab Sosial Korporatnya (CSR) kepada Sabah terutama dalam bidang pendidikan termasuk menyediakan kemudahan sekolah luar bandar, penyediaan latihan kemahiran teknikal serta bantuan biasiswa kepada pelajar universiti.

"Kalau kita nak berjaya secara berterusan, kita mesti ada keupayaan. Soalnya bukan untuk mendapatkan kontrak kerajaan semata-mata. Ia bukan tentang memberi kontrak tetapi tentang memberi nilai.

"Dalam persaingan ekonomi hari ini, nilai kreatif menentukan kejayaan kita secara berterusan. Kita akan menambahkan keupayaan rakyat Sabah," katanya ketika berucap pada majlis berbuka puasa di sini malam Sabtu.

Turut hadir isteri Najib, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Ketua Menteri Sabah Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Timbalan Ketua Menteri Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Menteri Kemajuan Luar Bandar dan Wilayah Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal dan Menteri Luar Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

Najib berkata hubungan erat kerajaan Pusat dan kerajaan negeri Sabah selain sumbangan Sabah bagi membolehkan Barisan Nasional (BN) menang pada setiap pilihan raya memudahkan kedua-dua pihak membincangkan isu-isu berbangkit termasuk tuntutan tambahan royalti minyak.

Beliau berkata Musa juga tidak pernah berdiam diri berhubung isu royalti minyak untuk Sabah dan sering bertanya kepada beliau bagaimana Sabah boleh memperoleh lebih banyak daripada pembangunan industri minyak dan gas.

"Oleh itu, kalau ada apa-apa perkara berbangkit dari semasa ke semasa, tentu sekali kita boleh merundingkan perkara ini. Tidak semestinya kita bertempik di luar, tidak semestinya kita bawa usul ke Dewan Undangan Negeri.

"Atas isu royalti minyak, kerajaan negeri Sabah tetap prihatin dalam hal ini. Saya boleh sahkan perkara ini," katanya.

Najib yang juga Menteri Kewangan berkata beliau telah mengarahkan Presiden Petronas Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas memberi taklimat khas kepada kerajaan negeri Sabah dan menteri-menteri kerajaan Persekutuan dari Sabah berhubung isu itu bagi membolehkan mereka memahaminya dari sudut penambahan pendapatan untuk Sabah.

"Percayalah kita melakukan yang terbaik untuk Sabah. Hakikatnya yang perlu kita fahami ialah peruntukan yang diterima Sabah melalui kementerian dan agensi kerajaan Persekutuan jika dicampur perbelanjaan pembangunan dan operasi, ia adalah tiga kali ganda daripada 20 peratus royalti minyak yang disebut-sebut dan dicanang oleh parti-parti pembangkang," jelas beliau.

Najib berkata kerajaan Persekutuan dan kerajaan negeri Sabah juga sedang menimbang usaha dan bentuk bantuan untuk negeri ini dan akan mengumumkannya kelak.

Sementara itu, Najib yang juga Pengerusi BN mengingatkan semua pemimpin dan anggota parti komponen BN di Sabah supaya tetap berpegang kepada konsep perkongsian kuasa dan semangat BN serta membuat keputusan secara konsensus bagi memastikan BN terus utuh di negeri ini.

Beliau berkata pemimpin parti-parti komponen BN perlu sedia duduk semeja dan mendengar pendapat mengenai sebarang permasalahan manakala wakil rakyat BN sama ada di peringkat negeri atau Parlimen haruslah adil dalam soal pengagihan bantuan.

Sekiranya pemimpin parti-parti komponen BN bersifat adil dan inklusif dalam soal pengagihan bantuan, katanya keadaan itu akan memberi kekuatan berterusan kepada BN di Sabah.

Mengenai masa depan Sabah, Najib berkata beliau yakin Sabah yang diterajui BN mempunyai masa depan yang cerah dan cukup baik untuk terus maju.-- BERNAMA

KAPAL BUNGA MAS 5 DITEMPATKAN DI PERAIRAN SEMPADAN, PERKUKUH PERTAHANAN ESSCOM

KOTA KINABALU, 12 Julai (Bernama) -- Kerajaan bakal menempatkan Kapal Bunga Mas 5 milik Perbadanan Perkapalan Antarabangsa Malaysia Bhd (MISC) di perairan pantai Timur Sabah yang bersempadan dengan Filipina, bagi memperkukuh pertahanan di Kawasan Keselamatan Khas Pantai Timur Sabah (ESScom).

Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak berkata kapal itu berperanan sebagai kapal induk dan dilengkapi pasukan anggota keselamatam dan bot-bot laju bagi menangani jenayah rentas sempadan.

"Saya fikir kerjasama rakyat juga penting. Kalau kita beri maklumat kepada musuh, maka musuh dapat membolosi sistem pertahanan negeri ini...saya harap ini dapat dielakkan, jika tak, apa jua sistem pertahanan canggih pun boleh ditembusi jika ada yang beri maklumat," katanya.

Beliau berkata demikian ketika berucap pada majlis berbuka puasa dan makan malam bersama Perdana Menteri dan Isteri di sini, malam Sabtu.

Turut hadir isteri Perdana Menteri Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Ketua Menteri Sabah Datuk Seri Musa Aman dan isteri Datin Seri Faridah Tussin, Menteri Kemajuan Luar Bandar dan Wilayah Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal, Menteri Luar Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Menteri Kesejahteraan Bandar, Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan serta beberapa menteri Kabinet negeri.

Najib yang juga Menteri Kewangan berkata dua pelantar minyak Petronas akan ditempatkan di perairan Semporna dan Lahad Datu sebagai barisan pertahanan terakhir dengan dilengkapi sistem radar yang dapat memantau pergerakan di perairan berkenaan.

Perkara itu akan dilakukan enam bulan lagi sebagai langkah meyakinkan rakyat Sabah terhadap peranan Esscom sejajar penstrukturan semula ESScom yang dipimpin seorang Komander.

Sebagai Pengarah Keselamatan Negara, Najib berkata beliau akan kembali melakukan lawatan kerja ke Sabah dalam masa terdekat bagi mengumumkan lebih banyak bentuk insiatif dalam soal pembangunan dan keselamatan negeri ini khususnya Esscom.

Penstrukturan semula Esscom mewujudkan dua komponen utama iaitu pengurusan keselamatan dan pertahanan serta penguatkuasaan dan tindakan awam, bertujuan menggembleng sumber agensi-agensi keselamatan bagi mempertingkat keberkesanan operasi.

Pelantikan Abd Rashid sebagai Komander Esscom berkuat kuasa Selasa ini.

Najib dan Rosmah turut menyampaikan sumbangan duit raya dari Pusat Zakat Sabah kepada anak-anak yatim, ibu tunggal dan warga emas di sekitar Kota Kinabalu.

Terdahulu, Najib menghadiri taklimat khas Pembangunan Sabah oleh Unit Perancang Ekonomi Negeri (UPEN) Sabah sebelum menghadiri majlis perjumpaan bersama pemimpin Barisan Nasional (BN) Sabah di sini.-- BERNAMA


Friday, July 11, 2014

KEHARMONIAN KAUM PROSES DUA HALA

Oleh SSK

Hari ini, 68 kumpulan masyarakat awam dan Pertubuhan Bukan Kerajaan (NGO) berganding bahu   membentuk satu gerakan baru dipanggil Negara-Ku yang dipengerusikan bersama Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan dan sasterawan negara Datuk A. Samad Said. 

Misi dan visi Negara-Ku yang diwar-warkan ialah "membentuk semula negara dalam berdepan dengan pelampau dan perkauman dalam semua bentuk yang diberi ruang berkembang." 

Dilihat sejenak, perjuangan gerakan baru itu nampaknya agak murni namun apabila diteliti dengan rapi ia sebenarnya sama seperti Bersih, satu gerakan anti kerajaan. Malah kenyataan yang dikeluarkan semasa pelancaran pun berunsurkan politik dengan nada anti-kerajaan.

"Tidak ada kepimpinan yang ditunjukkan...kepimpinan apa bercakap mengenai perpaduan tetapi pada masa sama menaja perpecahan," kata Ambiga yang dilihat seolah melemparkan kritikan terhadap kepimpinan Perdana Menteri Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak. 

Pendek kata, kerajaan, atau pentadbiran Najib nampaknya sering dipersalahkan berhubung perkara itu selain peningkatan daripada segi fahaman perkauman dan ekstremis di negara ini. Sudah menjadi lumrah bagi pembangkang melemparkan tohmahan kononnya  'semua itu adalah salah kerajaan atau Umno".

Walaupun kita bersetuju bahawa rakyat negara kita kelihatan berpecah belah ekoran peningkatan fahaman perkauman dan pelampau, namun kita tidak boleh menafikan bahawa pembangkang turut memainkan isu perkauman dan agama ke tahap yang melampau. 

Bolehkah kita menafikan bahawa usaha sayap kanan pergerakan Cina mewujudkan sekolah Cina bukan berbentuk pecah-belah? Bagaimana pula ura-ura untuk memansuhkan Perkara 153 dalam Perlembagaan dan gesaan untuk menamatkan dasar Bumiputera, khususnya mengenai pendidikan? 

Walaupun saya katakan bersetuju isu perkauman dan fahaman pelampau menjadi masalah di Malaysia (seperti yang nyatakan dalam artikel-artikel sebelum ini), saya tidak bersetuju pandangan bahawa isu ini hanya dimainkan oleh kerajaan atau Umno. Pembangkang juga melakukan perkara yang sama untuk memancing undi.
 
Oleh itu, Negara-Ku seharusnya cuba untuk menjadi badan yang tidak berat sebelah dan tidak menjadi wadah bagi pembangkang untuk menghentam kerajaan jika ia mahu mendapat sokongan golongan liberal dan sokongan daripada kedua-dua pihak kerajaan mahupun pembangkang. Dalam keadaan sekarang, imej Ambiga dan Samad tercemar ekoran penglibatan mereka dalam gerakan pembangkang Bersih.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

HARMONY IS A TWO-WAY STREET

By SSK

Today, 68 civil society groups and non-governmental organisations got together to form a new movement called Negara-Ku, which is co-chaired by Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and national laureate Datuk A. Samad Said.

The mission and vision of Negara-Ku is to “reclaim the nation in the face of all the extremism and racism which are being allowed to grow.”

Offhand this appears to be quite a noble cause but on close scrutiny it begins to look more like Bersih, an anti-government movement. The statement issued during the launch itself is already very political and anti-government in tone.

“There is no leadership being shown, and what leadership there is seems to condone the divisiveness,” said Ambiga, clearly meant as a criticism of Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak.

In short, the government, or Najib’s administration, is being blamed for what they call ‘divisiveness’ plus the alleged increase in racism and extremism. This is the usual ‘it is all the government’s or Umno’s fault’ blame-game that the opposition is fond of playing.

Even if we agree that the country is badly divided and that there is an increase in racism and extremism, we cannot deny the fact that the opposition, too, is playing the race and religion card to the hilt.

Can we deny that the focus of right-wing Chinese movements to push for Chinese schools is not divisive? What about the move to abrogate Article 153 in the Constitution and the call to end the Bumiputera policies, in particular regarding education?

Even if I were to agree that racism and extremism is a problem in Malaysia (which in previous articles I have) I would not agree that this is being perpetuated by the government or Umno. The opposition, too, is guilty of playing the race and religion card in its effort to win votes.

Hence Negara-Ku should try to be non-partisan and less an opposition platform to hit the government if it wants to get the support of the liberals and support from both sides of the political divide. As it is, Ambiga and Samad are already tainted by their involvement in the opposition movement Bersih.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NAJIB NEEDS TO WATCH HIS BACK

By SSK

While the whole country appears focused on the power struggle in Selangor and are placing bets on whether Selangor Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, would be out by this week, or by the end of this month, or by August, September, October, and so on, no one seems to notice an even larger issue looming over the horizon.

Talk that the warlords and kingmakers in Umno want Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak out seems to have simmered down. Is this because the move to oust Najib has ended or is it because they have resorted to underground tactics?

In Khalid’s case it is very clear. It is an open and direct assault on the Menteri Besar. In Najib’s case, it was also an open and direct assault soon after the general election last year. Of late, however, things appear to have quietened down but Najib is for sure not in the clear yet.

There are two ways to bring down a person. As the Malays would say: it can be done by jarum kasar and it can be done by jarum halus. In Khalid’s case, Anwar Ibrahim’s people are getting desperate and the longer they wait the harder it would be to oust Khalid so they are now using the jarum kasar.

In Najib’s case, they may feel that the jarum halus method is safer or, as the Malays also say, would be just like removing hair from flour. This means you remove the hair without spilling any flower -- unlike what PKR is doing in Selangor regarding the MB issue (the flour is being spattered everywhere).

What I mean is this. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ‘reminds’, ‘warns’ or ‘threatens’ (depending on how you see it) the Chinese regarding May 13 and Najib gets blamed for it.

The Selangor religious authority triggers a controversy regarding the Bible issue and refuses to comply with the state government’s directive to return the confiscated Bibles and Najib gets blamed for it.

There is a water crisis in Selangor and Najib gets blamed for it. There are problems regarding conversions to Islam and the issue of where to bury them and who gets the children and Najib gets blamed for it.

Nothing happens in Malaysia without fingers being pointed to Najib as the cause of this problem. When Najib keeps quiet he is accused of no action and of not doing his job. When he says something he is accused of political interfering. Nothing Najib does is the correct action.

So many controversies have cropped up of late. And they seem to be increasing by the day. Even the loss of MH370 is blamed on Najib although more than a dozen more advanced countries also cannot find the plane and cannot explain what happened.

At first look it appears like some civil servants or politicians have not used their brains and have made silly mistakes. On second look, however, one wonders whether these really are blunders by not so clever people or were intentionally done by quite clever people so that Najib can be blamed for them?

If this is a jarum halus strategy to get the people to blame Najib then it might actually be working. And that is why Najib needs to beware and look around him to see if there are any enemies in the blanket, as what the Malays would say. It is time Najib took a hard line and cut off those around him who are doing more damage than good.