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.

REFSA Team brings 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.”

‘A view to a kill’

It is ‘dangerous’ to have an opinion in this country. If it differs from that of whoever is in power, be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Call it a lack of caution or an act of courage but Bank Islam’s chief economist Azrul Azwar’s prediction of a slim win for Pakatan Rakyat in the upcoming general election landed him in hot soup. He arrived at the conclusion after analysing “factors like race and demographics”. Little did he know his bosses would not protect independent thought.  The bank said the prediction was Azrul’s own personal view but suspended him anyway.

The big loser here is Bank Islam. One wonders at the quality of the people it will retain, if all it values is sycophants.

University is no place for opinions

A university student, KS Bawani, also discovered that your opinion matters only when it matches that of the person in charge. During a public university forum organised by Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) in Kedah on Dec 8, she posed  reasonable questions backed by research, but was rudely stopped by speaker and moderator, Sharifah Zohra Jabeen, president of Suara Wanita 1Malaysia.

Sharifah Zohra, the proud holder of a degree, was unable to answer the questions posed and feeling powerless against Bawani’s logic, did the only thing she was good at – yanked the microphone away and launched into a shameful and bullying tirade. Speaking in broken English, she condemned, belittled and insulted the student, even to the point of telling her to leave the country if she did not like the conditions here.

The thing is, some in the audience cheered, proving only one thing – that you don’t have to speak logically or rationally to influence the masses; you only need to be loud, condescending and obnoxious.

This problem is symptomatic of what ails our local institutions of higher learning. We keep accusing our graduates of having poor communication skills. What do you expect when they are constantly exposed to the likes of the forum speaker?

The only silver lining in this dark cloud is that this incident became the stimulus that spawned some brilliant parodies of the main player, one being a catchy dance remix. Garnering more than 750,000 views at last count, it might even give Psy with his hit single Gangnam Style a run for his money. Some creative and imaginative musicians were born that day.

In her attempt to humiliate another, Sharifah Zohra publicly exposed her own superficiality and lack of substance. There’s a saying that goes ‘It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and clear all doubts.

Election: behind the scenes

Expect more scandals to come out of the woodwork in the run-up to the 13th general election. First up is the revelation by a former Sabah National Registration Department (NRD) officer that, under a top secret operation dubbed ‘Ops Durian Buruk’, the department was instructed by the then state Election Commission (EC) to furnish the foreigners with identity cards so that they could vote. This disclosure brings into the open all the past implications and allegations of fraud in the general elections.

Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants is underway at present. An NRD officer also revealed that 100,000 blue identity cards were given to immigrants in Sabah in 1993. The NRD Director then, Ramli Kamarudin, implicated the former Deputy Home Minister, the late Tan Sri Megat Junid, in “Project IC” whereby citizenships were apparently given to immigrants in exchange for votes.

A former chief minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh denies there was ever such a project. The issuance of identity cards was under the purview of the federal government, and he was never told the number of “immigrants who were given citizenship”.

We’d be surprised if people are shocked by the disclosures made. It is something everyone suspected all along.

Rallying around Pakatan Rakyat

It was a fiesta at the Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat (KL 112) rally at Stadium Merdeka on 12 January. Organised by Pakatan Rakyat and some NGOs, the gathering went on in an orderly manner. The police were commended for allowing protestors to gather peacefully at the stadium, and the organisers for managing the crowd in a professional manner. Who says this kind of behaviour is not possible?

10-point declaration was made with regard to elections, Felda, rights of Sabah and Sarawak, oil royalties, future of civil servants, environment, fate of political detainees, national language and other ethnic languages, national heritage and women’s living standards.

The huge turnout of almost 100,000 people filled the stadium and surrounding areas to the brim. In view of the coming election the BN government had to tread carefully and not apply a heavy hand like it did in the Bersih 3.0 demonstration last year. No brutality, tear gas or water cannons. It does not pay to invoke the people’s resentment at such a crucial time.


[image credit: back curtain – bagaball@flickr, ballot box – FutUndBeidl@flickr]


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.

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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...