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.”
The conundrum of crime
What constitutes crime? Problem, perception, paranoia or politics? Crime becomes a conundrum when our ruling coalition insists that Malaysia is safer than ever, but the opposition accuses it of spinning the truth. While both sides sling statistics and suspicion at each other, Malaysians continue to share harrowing experiences of being victims of crime.
The people aren’t dancing to the feel-good tune of PEMANDU defending dipping street crime statistics. The trumpeting of a crime drop sounds like a hollow blare amidst reports of kidnappings and assaults; in addition to the recent wave of theft and violence in shopping mall car parks. The Home Minister claims that media sensationalism on “isolated cases” is the real threat to public perception on security.
PEMANDU’s chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala called on the media to report on solved cases to “arrest the doom and gloom”. The Malaysian Insider however, retorted that there are enough crime victims’ personal stories in the social media to put Malaysians on edge; even if the media ceases reporting on crime. PJ Utara MP Tony Pua also questioned the government’s reluctance in providing detailed crime statistics, especially since it is so confident of the crime reduction rate.
Of course, Malaysians can install nifty home alarm systems and turn their neighbourhoods into gated and guarded communities, but the sense of safety these provide is only confined to our own homes. The irony of these iron security measures is that while criminals roam free, the public are locking themselves in.
Real peace of mind is not achieved merely by us watching our own backs. It is achieved by taking joint action – such as sending a letter to our Home Minister via REFSA to redeploy our police force effectively (read our focus paper Too many policemen are in non-core police work). It is achieved by taking part in projects that work towards a safer Malaysia. Most importantly, it is achieved by looking out for one another, and feeling a sense of responsibility for all, so that criminals know that they cannot get away with their misdeeds.
Real peace of mind is, ultimately, not achieved by brushing off real and pressing concerns of the public as mere ‘perception’.
Trick or transparency?
Can one man’s trouble be another man’s trickery? While Putrajaya is busy combating ‘perception’, the Election Commission (EC) has been accused of putting it to good use. According to veteran polls watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel), the EC’s selection of untested NGOs as election observers creates an illusion of transparency.
The watchdog pointed out that the five NGOs picked to observe the 13th general elections lack expertise and experience in observing elections, as opposed to Mafrel which was once accredited by the EC to observe several by-elections and has participated in numerous international election observation missions. EC claimed that Mafrel was excluded for being pro-opposition, but the latter rebutted that political inclination does not deter one from conducting ethical monitoring in line with international standards.
Mafrel also questioned EC’s sincerity in having election observers, as the electoral body contradicts international norms with gags imposed on the observing NGOs. The EC forbids the poll monitors to speak to the media throughout the election campaign, and will vet the NGOs’ reports before they are made public. These conditions have caused one group experienced in international election observation missions to decline the invitation to be an official election observer.
The highest bidder wins!
Transparency has hit a wall in the Ampang Line LRT extension plan. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib has allegedly gone against the tender panel’s decision to award the RM1 billion project to the winning bidder.
PKR brandished official documents showing that Najib had signed the approval to award the contract to Balfour Bratty Invensys Consortium. However, the premier was later said to be keen on granting the project to George Kent consortium instead, even though the company’s bidding price was the highest among all bidders. The opposition party demands for a clarification on what influenced Najib to change his mind. Were there elements of graft or misconduct involved?
What is the point of calling for tenders if the best bidder cannot win? The economy can only thrive if the competition is fair – as demonstrated by Penang’s open tender policy that nurtured capable Malay contractors, discussed earlier by REFSA.
Persecution of Borders’ employee bordering on the ridiculous
While cynics may insist that nothing is truly fair in life, the persecution of a Borders bookstore female employee portrays absurdity at its height. She was charged by Jawi officials for distributing and selling the book, Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta by controversial author Irshad Manji, at a Borders branch.
The company has come out strongly in defence of Nik Raina, who it said was merely performing her duties as manager; she did not have control over the selection of books sold at Borders. Nik Raina was charged even before the book was officially banned! Borders plan to take legal action against Jawi.
What could possibly be the justification for Jawi’s action? Could an overzealousness in preventing ‘confusion’ among Muslims have caused some disorientation? Incidentally, Suri Kempe of Sisters in Islam (SIS) made a compelling point when she pointed out that confusion is exactly what a book ban would cause. Read her list of 8 reasons why books should not be banned.
“If writing is Thing, then censorship is No-Thing, and, as King Lear told Cordelia, “Nothing will come of nothing,” or, as Mr. [Paul] Jennings would have revised Shakespeare, “No-Thing will come of No-Thing. Think again.”
– Salman Rushdie, On Censorship
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.