Friday, February 27, 2015

The possible partial-autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak


No one would deny the fact that Sabah and Sarawak are Barisan Nasional’s ‘fixed deposits’. Politicians from both sides of the political divide have openly admitted this, even the Prime Minister himself. Sabah and Sarawak are the Kingmakers and without these two states we would see a hung parliament in Peninsula Malaysia and neither Barisan Nasional nor Pakatan Rakyat would be able to form the federal government.

This is not something odd because the UK saw the same thing in 2010 and would most likely see this happening again in May this year. In 2010, Lib Dem was the Kingmaker and this time around it may even be UKIP, unless they continue to blunder with their ‘white supremacy’ statements.

So Malaysia is not far behind the UK and if Barisan Nasional wants to avoid what happened in the UK to also happen in Malaysia it will have to take care of its ‘fixed deposits’, namely Sabah and Sarawak.

Sabah and Sarawak do not really want independence as what some people are propagating. We must admit that there were some benefits for Sabah and Sarawak to become part of Malaysia and if it had not been Malaysia it would have been some other regional power that annexes East Malaysia.

Nevertheless, what is of concern to Sabah and Sarawak is the federalisation of the state government and the loss of its autonomy in deciding some matters. We are not talking about independence as a nation-state. That is not even a subject that requires discussion. We are talking about independence in decision-making, or at least in some of the decision-making.

Currently, the federal government not only decides on the development expenditure but also controls how, what and when development is implemented. This causes delays, wastage and overlapping of functions between the state and federal agencies. Many times the state is left out entirely in the decision-making process.

Once the state approves the projects and the federal government approves the funding for these projects the federal government should transfer the funds to the state and allow the state to implement those projects the way it sees fit. The present system of the federal government practically running the states does not go down well with states that are supposed to enjoy a certain level of autonomy.

This would be a good first step for Barisan Nasional to prove to the Sabah and Sarawak voters that it respects their autonomy and honours the spirit of the Malaysian agreement and the 20/18 Point Memorandum.

Sarawak will be facing its state elections in about a year or so from now followed by Sabah probably two years later or maybe even earlier. Hence it is crucial that this matter be considered in the not too distant future.

Sabahans and Sarawakians must be made to feel they are partners in Malaysia and not servants of West Malaysian colonialists. Whether this is the correct perception or not is another matter but we must not deny that this is how many Sabahans and Sarawakians feel.

The bone of contention here is the manner in how these funds are managed and how much say the states have in how these funds are utilised. Hence this is a fair request from Sabah and Sarawak and can only strengthen Barisan Nasional in Sabah and Sarawak when Sabahans and Sarawakians are made to feel that they do have some say in their own destiny.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Qur’an project not what was reported


There were loud protests from the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) regarding the Islamic Information and Services Foundation’s (IIS) “One Soul One Qur’an” project that was launched by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently.

“We have not distributed any Qur’an yet. It has not started. It will not be distributed randomly among non-Muslims but through religious organisations. It's up to non-Muslims to take them or not. We are also not taking down their personal information,” said IIS in its statement clarifying what is really going on.

Actually, back in 1998, IIS had a similar project called “Hotel Qur'an Project” in which it distributed Qur’ans to hotels all over Malaysia to be placed in hotel rooms side-by-side with the Gideon’s Bible. That project was approved by JAKIM with the endorsement of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

This project of 17 years ago was announced in all the newspapers and was even covered by the primetime TV news. Somehow it did not receive the loud protests that it is receiving now. I suppose it was because the announcement then was that the Qur’ans would be placed side-by-side with the Gideon’s Bible so they could not protest the plan to place the Qur’an in hotel rooms without also protesting the Bibles.

It looks like the negative response was a bit too premature and was based on the misconception that the move was aimed at converting non-Muslims to Islam, which IIS has denied. Their aim is merely to allow non-Muslims to understand Islam to dispel the notion that Islam is a violent religion that preaches extremism and radicalism.

I have heard many comments from people asking as to why the moderate Muslims, what we would probably call the silent majority, remain silent and do not speak out against extremists, especially in light of what is going on all over the world involving extremist Muslims.

Well, here we now have moderate Muslims attempting to do precisely that, and an effort that is supported by Dr Mahathir, someone who has spoken out against extremist Muslims and radical Islam. I feel we should give IIS the benefit of the doubt and allow them to embark on this project of information and see what they go from there.

We always condemn extremist Muslims as being misguided and ill informed about what ‘real’ Islam is. We also always blame the education system for breeding extremist Muslims.

And then when a moderate Muslim organisation like IIS takes up the challenge to counter extremist Muslims and radical Islam we also condemn them and refuse to lend them our support.

I suppose this reminds me of that 1960s song, ‘Give peace a chance’, and what IIS is asking for is just to give peace a chance. I would support them until and unless it is proven that they have an ulterior motive other than bridging the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims by better educating everyone regarding Islam.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Oleh SSK

Nampaknya isu hudud antara DAP dan Pas semakin memuncak dan mengancam memecah belah pakatan pembangkang, khususnya Pakatan Rakyat. PAS berkeras untuk mengajukan pembentangan undang-undang Hudud yang dicadangkan manakala DAP telah memberi amaran bahawa jika PAS benar-benar berbuat demikian maka ia seolah-olah membayangkan era Pakatan Rakyat akan berakhir.

Apakah mesej kemelut ini? Pada dasarnya ia memperjelaskan bahawa kerajaan negeri Kelantan mempunyai kuasa terhad dan tidak boleh berbuat apa-apa melainkan Parlimen meluluskan pelaksanaan Hudud di Kelantan. Ini bermakna perkara berkaitan agama terletak di bawah bidang kuasa negeri namun negeri-negeri di negara ini perlu mematuhi peruntukan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan tidak boleh melanggar atau (meluluskan undang-undang) bercanggah dengan Perlembagaan.

Ini juga bermakna isu-isu Sabah yang membabitkan agama terikat dengan undang-undang negeri Sabah yang turut dihadkan oleh Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Sabah tidak boleh sesuka hati meluluskan sebarang peraturan baru mengenai agama tanpa mengambil kira undang-undang negeri dan Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Situasi di Sabah tidak sama dengan negeri-negeri lain di Semenanjung. Di Sabah, rakyatnya telah mengamalkan konsep 1Malaysia sekian lama sebelum istilah itu diwujudkan. Mungkin belum ada lagi perkataan atau konsep seumpama itu di Sabah pada ketika itu tetapi semangat 1Malaysia sudah lama wujud di kalangan rakyat Sabah.

Orang-orang Kristian atau bukan Islam di Sabah menyakinkan bahawa arena politik, sama seperti isu perkauman, tidak pernah dijadikan senjata politik bagi parti-parti yang bertanding untuk mendapatkan kuasa. Mana-mana parti politik yang menggunakan isu bangsa dan agama untuk meraih sokongan akan ditolak oleh pengundi. Sebab itu, gaya politik Semenanjung tidak dialu-alukan atau tidak diterima oleh masyarakat kita di Sabah.

Religion is not an issue in Sabah


It looks like the issue of Hudud has peaked and is threatening to break up the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat. PAS is adamant about pushing ahead with the tabling of the Hudud proposal while DAP has warned that if they do so then this more or less signals the end of Pakatan Rakyat.

What does this tell you? Basically this tells you that the Kelantan State Government is powerless to do anything unless Parliament approves the implementation of Hudud in Kelantan. And this means that religion is a state matter but states have to abide to the Federal Constitution and cannot violate or contradict the Constitution.

Hence this means that in Sabah issues regarding religion are bound by Sabah state laws and are restricted by the Federal Constitution. Sabah cannot at its whim and fancy pass new rules regarding religion without taking into consideration state and federal laws.

Sabah is not like the other states in West Malaysia. In Sabah we have been practicing the concept of 1Malaysia long before the term was even invented. We may not have had a word for it yet at that time but the spirit of 1Malaysia has always been with us.

The Christians and other non-Muslims in Sabah can reset assured that politics, just like racism, will never be political ammunition for parties vying for power. Any party that uses the race and religion card is going to get rejected by the voters. And that is why West Malaysian style politics is not welcome here in Sabah.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chinese ‘pendatang’: how East Malaysia looks at the issue


In his Chinese New Year message today, the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, said a most sensible thing regarding the Chinese ‘pendatang’ rhetoric that is straining race relations in Malaysia.

He also thanked the Chinese for their contribution to the state and added that the community should rightfully regard Malaysia as their home. “You call Sarawak your home, and indeed this is your home, just like for those from many other races,” said Tan Sri Satem.

What Tan Sri Satem said would apply to Sabah as well. And we from Sabah have said the same thing many times in the past: that Chinese are as Malaysian as any other race or ethnicity.

It is probably time to put this matter to rest and no longer argue about who is more Malaysian and who came to this country first. Instead, we should discuss how to face the challenges ahead of us, especially the economic challenges and the bigger worry of terrorism that, according to the IGP, threatens to land on our own doorstep.

We have Malaysian Chinese who are descendants of those who came to this country more than 500 years ago and Bumiputeras whose ancestors came here only about 100 years ago or less.

Hence how do we measure who has more right to this country if the date your ancestors came here is used as a yardstick to determine who is more Malaysian?

The yardstick to use is: once Malaya gained independence in 1957, or once Malaysia was formed in 1963, whoever was already in Malaysia, especially those who were born in Malaysia, are Malaysians and equal to one another.

Anyway, if the reason for this rhetoric is because the Bumiputeras feel threatened, then rest assured there is nothing to worry about because the Federal Constitution of Malaysia protects the special position of the Bumiputeras.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Oleh SSK

Kerajaan Malaysia telah menyatakan kebimbangannya tentang hasrat segelintir penganut Islam di negara ini yang ingin berlepas ke Timur Tengah untuk menyertai perjuangan kumpulan militan Negara Islam (IS). 

Malah, terdapat umat Islam dari seluruh dunia, termasuk negara-negara Barat dan Australia, yang mahu melakukan perkara yang sama.

Kerajaan mungkin tertanya-tanya mengapa orang Islam begitu mudah terperdaya dan mudah dipujuk untuk mengangkat senjata selain mempertaruhkan nyawa dalam mengejar misi yang berbahaya, namun kejadian itu sebenarnya bukanlah sesuatu yang misteri. 

Saya lebih cenderung menyalahkan pendidikan agama yang dipelajari umat Islam terbabit. Malah, isu ini kadang kala boleh dikaitkan denga indoktrinasi agama. Umat Islam diajar bahawa jihad adalah wajib untuk semua umat Islam, dan umat Islam turut diingatkan bahawa jika mereka mati ketika berjihad maka mereka dianggap mati syahid dan dijamin masuk syurga.

Oleh itu apa yang mereka lakukan adalah sesuatu yang mereka percaya sebagai kewajipan agama yang mana ganjaran yang bakal diperolehi ialah syurga. Masalahnya terletak cara umat Islam dididik. Apabila agama dilihat terlalu mudah dan jihad diterjemahkan kepada memperjuangkan Tuhan dan Syahid sebagai ganjaran untuk berbuat demikian, maka ramailah orang Islam pergi ke Timur Tengah untuk berjuang sama seperti Kristian lakukan semasa Perang Salib kira-kira 1,000 tahun yang lalu.

Pendidikan agama tidak boleh terlalu mudah sehingga umat Islam memperolehi maklumat yang salah. Tidak dinafikan jihad adalah sebahagian daripada ajaran Islam namun jihad hanya terpakai atau wujud dalam keadaan tertentu. Keadaan semasa di Timur Tengah yang menyaksikan berlakunya perang saudara di kalangan umat Islam menganut mazhab berlainan, tidak boleh ditafsirkan sebagai perjuangan mempertahankan Islam terhadap keganasan bukan Islam.

Umat Islam tidak boleh lupa bahawa perang saudara yang pertama antara umat Islam pada zaman Khalifah Madinah telah memecahbelahkan umat Islam dan sehingga hari ini isu itu masih menjadi masalah di negara-negara Islam di seluruh dunia. Ini bukanlah perjuangan yang dimaksudkan jihad dalam erti kata yang sebenar.

Tanggungjawab kini terletak kepada pihak berkuasa agama untuk menyemai atau menyampaikan ajaran Islam yang sebenar kepada umat Islam di Malaysia. Islam tidak seharusnya dipolitikkan sehingga umat Islam keseluruhannya di Malaysia dianggap sebagai militan dan berfikir bahawa perjuangan seumpama itulah yang telah diperintahkan Allah.Seperti yang kita katakan dalam dunia akademik, "tidak ada pelajar yang jahat - apa yang ada hanya guru jahat". Jika orang Islam menjadi sesat kita harus menyalahkan guru dan bukan pelajar. Oleh itu kerajaan perlu mengambil berat tentang apa dan bagaimana cara terbaik mengajar umat Islam supaya rakyat Malaysia tidak dilihat terlalu militan dan berfikir mereka berjuang untuk menjayakan misi murni melalui kegiatan militan.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The danger of religious indoctrination


The Malaysian government has expressed concern that quite a number of Malaysian Muslims are going to the Middle East to join the Islamic State (IS) forces to fight. In fact, Muslims from all over the world are doing so, even those from the Western countries, Australia, and so on.

While the government may be puzzled as to why Muslims are so gullible and are so easily persuaded in taking up arms and in risking death in such a dangerous pursuit, it is really not that mysterious as to why this is happening.

I would blame this on the religious education these Muslims are being subjected to. In fact, you can even say it is religious indoctrination because sometimes this is what it boils down to.

Muslims are taught that jihad is mandatory upon all Muslims. And Muslims are further taught that if you die in the cause of jihad you will die the death of a syahid (martyr) and get to go straight to heaven. Hence what these Muslims are doing is merely what they believe is their religious obligation, to which the reward will be heaven.

The problem lies with the way Muslims are being educated. When religion is oversimplified and jihad translates to fighting for God and Syahid as the reward for doing so, you will have many Muslims going over to the Middle East to fight just like the Christians did during the Crusades of about 1,000 years ago.

Religious education cannot be oversimplified to the point that Muslims become misinformed. No doubt jihad is part of the Islamic doctrine but jihad exists in only certain situations. And the current situation in the Middle East, which is a civil war between Muslims of different sects, cannot be interpreted as coming under the ambit of the cause of defending Islam against non-Muslim aggression.

Muslims must not forget that the first civil war between Muslims during the time of the Caliphs of Medina divided the Muslims for good and until today this division is still a problem in the Muslim world. This is not quite what Islam means by jihad.

The onus should be on the religious authorities to impart proper Islam teachings on Malaysian Muslims. Islam should not be politicised to the extent that Malaysian Muslims become militant and think this is what Allah has commanded.

As we say in the academic world, there are no bad students -- there are only bad teachers. And if Muslims become misguided we should blame the teachers and not the students. Hence the government needs to take more interest in what and how we teach Muslims lest Malaysians become too militant and think they are serving a noble cause through militancy.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nik Aziz Nik Mat: the passing of a great man


One of the first things that the late Mursyidul am or spiritual leader of PAS, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, did when he took over as the new Menteri Besar of Kelantan was he called the Hindus for a meeting.

Nik Aziz told the Hindu community leaders that he had noticed that they had applied for permission to build a temple in Kelantan but the application had never been approved. Nik Aziz then asked them whether they still wanted to build their temple.

The Hindus were surprised. They had applied for permission to build a temple at a time when Umno was ruling the state and had heard nothing about it since. Now that PAS was running the state surely it would be even more impossible to get permission.

The Hindus told Nik Aziz that, of course, they do still want to build their temple but did not think the PAS government would approve the application if Umno would not approve it.

Nik Aziz approved the application for a Hindu temple there and then, much to the surprise and delight of the Hindus.

Before Nik Aziz became Menteri Besar, the Chinese were not allowed to slaughter pigs in Kelantan. They had to bring in the pork from outside Kelantan. With Nik Aziz as Menteri Besar, the Chinese could now set up abattoirs in Kelantan.

Those are just two examples of what type of Islamic leader Nik Aziz was. I could go on and on and give you pages of other examples. But those two alone are enough to demonstrate that Nik Aziz was not just a leader for the Muslims but a leader for all Kelantanese.

Nik Aziz once said that he does not mind if PAS is closed down. All he wants to see is for Islam to be implemented and upheld and if Umno can do this then there is no longer any need for PAS.

To Nik Aziz, his struggle was not about politics but about Islam. And he put decency and doing the right thing above politics.

This is a very rare person, whom Malaysia has now lost. If more politicians from both sides of the political divide can be even just half the person that Nik Aziz was, Malaysia would not be suffering the many racial and religious problems that we are now facing.

Al-Fatiha. Malaysia has lost yet another great son.

Monday, February 9, 2015

When will this race and religious tension end?


Even before the controversy about what the Minister said regarding boycotting Chinese shops can die down, the new controversy regarding the conversion to Islam of the under-aged Sabahan schoolgirl erupts and, even before that can be resolved, we now have the concerns being expressed by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) regarding JAKIM’s plan to distribute one million Qurans to non-Muslims.

Will Malaysia ever see the end of all this race and religious tension? There seems to be a series of issues cropping up non-stop, one after another, and if it not this it is that, which is bringing Malaysians to the brink of discontentment and intolerance.

Malaysia has never seen this level of problems before this. In the past, Malaysians have always been more tolerant of one other and, even if there were issues, Malaysians have always been able to sit down to try to resolve these differences. Now it looks like they no longer care. They just lash out with absolutely no regard for the result of what they say.

We in Sabah, and of course those in Sarawak as well, are getting very concerned with the way Malaysians no longer care about what they do and say and whether their actions and words are going to trigger hostilities. We would like to call for some sanity to be restored and for Malaysians to be more responsible and not ‘play politics’ at the expense of peace and stability.

This requires a political will and politicians need to take the lead in toning down this race and religion rhetoric that can only be disruptive and destructive if not contained. We cannot act only once the damage is done as history has proven that once it reaches that level it is very difficult to turn back the clock.

I only hope and pray that there are enough sensible Malaysians who do not like what they are seeing and would like to see Malaysia as what it used to be back in the old days when Malaysians strived to live with one another regardless of race and religion.

Or am I hoping for the impossible?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Poverty is colour-blind


All over the world, Malaysia included, the talk is about the high cost of living. On what the average person earns, he or she will find it very difficult to survive. In some countries, due to the shortage of hard cash, people have resorted to barter trading.

For example, a dentist may offer his services in exchange for a set of car tyres. In fact, they have even set up a website where you can barter for what you need -- a sort of ‘goods and services exchange’, just like a stock exchange.

As the world becomes poorer and governments spend trillions every year financing wars, with very little set aside for social welfare, billions of people are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.

Poverty is colour-blind. Poverty does not pick and choose its victims. When poverty strikes it hits all and sundry irrespective of race, religion, age and gender. So let us leave race out of this because race has absolutely nothing to do with it.

It is most unfortunate that what the Minister said has become the main issue of this week. However, does all this squabbling help when what he said may not be entirely accurate but still quite close to the truth -- meaning the high prices of good and services?

The Minister’s mistake was in equating profiteering to race. Race has nothing to do with profiteering. Profiteering, just like poverty, is also colour-blind. Profiteers will profit from their own race as soon as they would profit from another race.

Probably the foulest of trade in history is the slave trade. It happened in the west and it happened in Malaya as well back in the colonial days. We always talk about how the whites sold the blacks and profiteered from it. What we fail to mention is that the blacks were selling their own people to the white slavers. And the same for the Malayan slave trade where pirates captured people of their own race to sell as slaves.

Hence when it comes to making a profit the profiteers do not care whom they profit from. They will profit from anyone they can and they do not discriminate based on race. Malays and Indians will go all out to make a buck just like the Chinese would. So in that sense it would be unfair to target just the Chinese for criticism.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

In the spirit of national unity


The four-year long American Civil War between the United States and the Confederated States from April 1861 to May 1865 saw about a million dead and wounded from both sides and the involvement of more than three million combatants.

Many think that the war erupted over the issue of slavery. Actually the war erupted because the southern states seceded from the United States and formed their own Confederated States. Hence the war was actually about secession rather than about slavery although slavery, or the banning of it, was one of the reasons for the grouses of the south.

The war in Ireland that started in 1922 was about the same thing. They wanted an independent Irish Republic free from Great Britain. It took a long time and the loss of so many lives before they got it.

And the same is going to happen if Sabah (and/or Sarawak) declares itself a Republic and independent from Malaysia. Isn’t the example of what are still happening in Southern Thailand and the Muslim part of the Philippines proof enough that a separatist movement, especially one that escalates to an armed conflict, eventually has to get settled on the battlefield?

We should be looking at how to improve national unity against the backdrop of the race and religion politics that appears to be plaguing Peninsula Malaysia. While we in East Malaysia are concerned about the danger of race and religion politics spilling over to Sabah and Sarawak, we need to also be very careful about an even bigger danger, the triggering of a separatist movement.

The issue of the right of secession should not be the focus of settling our grievances. We should try to settle it through negotiations. From the statement by the Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim, it is clear that even Pakatan Rakyat will not support secession. Hence changing the government, as some are suggesting we should do, will not achieve this.

Once we agree that the focus should be on national unity, then the issue of race and religion politics plus the issue of respecting and honouring the 18/20-Point Memorandums can both be addressed in one swoop.

The national leaders know that these are matters that seriously need addressing, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, and they will certainly be open to seeking an amicable solution to maintain the peace in East Malaysia.

As the third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, a military man, once said: better we jaw-jaw than we war-war -- meaning talking is better than fighting.