Crisps of the Week (17-23 Feb)

In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

Foong Li Mei brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

When the facts of life are harmful

A picture speaks a thousand words, and those illustrations in the educational children’s book Where Did I Come From? speak none that our Home Ministry wants to hear. The ministry has pulled the books off the shelves to study if the graphic descriptions of love-making and the physical realities of making babies are obscene and offensive and could ‘harm the moral of the community’.

REFSA executive director Chi-Chang is incredulous at the Home Ministry’s tardiness – his mom bought him a copy when he was ten years old, and if the book is indeed ‘harmful to society’, then tender young Malaysian minds have been tainted for more than 30 years now! Curiously, though, Chi-Chang has successfully grown up into an upright citizen. In fact, he found Where Did I Come From? a very helpful and appropriate introduction to the facts of life. Perhaps the Home Ministry would like to use him as a case study?

There are far worse places to learn about sex, and some had paid the price. Perhaps straight answers about sexual education is the key to set things right. REFSA invites you to take a look at the book and judge for yourself.

Rallying against radioactivity

Despite the fact that public outcry over Lynas setting up its rare earth factory in Pahang had been bulldozed over repeatedly, anti-Lynas groups are  adamant not to take it lying down. In fact, Lynas’ detractors will kick off a nationwide rally this Sunday, 26 Feb to pressure Putrajaya to terminate the project.

The groundwork for the rally had started much earlier for the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 organisers. They had been sent back and forth between the police and the Kuantan Municipal council, trying to seek  approval to use the municipal field for the gathering. Imagine their dismay when discovering that the field had been fenced up in great haste. Despite the initial hurdles, the rally finally obtained the nod to proceed at another field nearby.

The government, however, put its foot down, maintaining that the rally would not change Putrajaya’s mind, as AELB (Atomic Energy Licensing Board) has already issued a temporary operating license (TOL), and there is no reason not to go ahead.

Chemical engineer Lee Chee Hong could name a few good reasons. Lee, who holds a doctorate in corrosion science and engineering from the University of Manchester, warned that any mishap would cause the release of radioactive particles that may escape to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand. Lee also disputed Lynas’ data on the capacity and radioactivity of wastes it may produce, as Lynas does not have “industry-proven data to corroborate its claims”.

Doubts are also cast on AELB’s issuance of the TOL, as there is a conflict of interest; the Board would be paid 0.05 per cent of the revenue generated by Lynas, according to residents applying for a judicial review to challenge AELB’s decision.

Court disorder

While legal battles on the ground zone in on the rare earth mining project, an airline tycoon is ‘hovering overhead’ beyond the reach of the law.

RM589.14 million of public funds seem to have flown out the window, along with the court case of former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) chief Tajudin Ramli versus Pengurusan Danaharta Bhd (Danaharta).

Danaharta, which manages unpaid loans, had filed a suit against Tajudin following the latter’s failure in servicing a multi-million ringgit loan taken to purchase large stakes in MAS. The court then ordered Tajudin to pay Danaharta RM589.14 million at 2 per cent annual interest.

However, a private and confidential settlement made between Tajudin and Danaharta means the court order is now dropped.

Tajudin had claimed that his purchase of MAS stakes was on the instructions of then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Daim Zainuddin. Mahathir denied issuing such an order. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri had also reportedly informed litigants that all suits against Tajudin would be settled out-of-court.

Transparency International Malaysia chairperson Paul Low has classified the case as an abuse of power.  A former city CID chief also urged the police to investigate if the settlement was made to screen any ‘parties from legal punishment or to suppress evidence of criminal wrongdoings’.

While condemnation is hurled at the judiciary, a Kampung Pandan imam’s expression of criticism would be a ‘shoe-in’ for being the boldest, if not downright shocking. Hoslan Hussain had flung his shoes at three judges, when he was ordered to vacate his premises because of disciplinary problems. The imam claimed that the real reason he was being removed was because he had been highlighting corruption and abuse of funds at the Ar Rahimah mosque.

Democracy at odds

Democracy is making the headlines with a couple of contradictions. The good news: Malaysia has climbed 19 positions in the 2011/2012 World Press Freedom Index, sitting at number 122 compared to 141 in 2010. The bad: the courts found 16 people guilty of taking part in an illegal assembly during an anti-ISA demonstration in 2009. PKR supreme council member Latheefa Koya was peeved, saying that the 16 should not have been criminalised as their activities were no longer considered an offence under the new Peaceful Assembly Act.

Stale squabble

More political ceramah than debate” was the verdict that encapsulates Malaysians’ disappointment over the much-anticipated show-down between MCA president Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng. Their spiels seemed to be stumping for votes, and were hardly relevant to the topic ‘Malaysian Chinese at a political crossroads: is the two-party system becoming a two-race system?’

REFSA opines that the topic itself is irrelevant to the Malaysian reality. Our multi-racial country requires leaders who can take on issues that cut across ethnicity, and not those confined within a narrow racial scope that we no longer identify with.

One may argue that many Malaysians still have a race-based mentality, and politicians are merely addressing their concerns. Our stand is that if a leader gets caught up only with the discourse of that majority, without illuminating more constructive ways out of that mindset, then maybe he or she isn’t a leader to start with.

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Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

Visit us at http://refsa.org | Like us on our Facebook page | Follow our tweets @inforefsa


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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at www.refsa.org

Posted on 24 February 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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