Saturday, September 13, 2008


Events of recent weeks have highlighted the difficult question of what should be the legitimate scope of freedom of expression in culturally diverse societies. Raja Petra was arrested under Section 73(1) of the ISA, alleged to have posted articles deemed to belittle Islam and seditious in nature. Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng was arrested over her report on former Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s racist remarks while campaigning for the Permatang Pauh by-election last month. She was released after a one-day detention under the ISA. DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok is believed to have been picked up in connection with a residents petition in Puchong over a mosque.

While different societies have drawn the boundaries of free speech in different ways, the controversies brought about by these individuals shows how, in today's increasingly global media space, the impact of actions by a few can be felt by many. Today, more than ever, societies are faced with the challenge of asserting universal human rights principles in an area where there has traditionally been a tendency to defer to the domestic laws of a particular state and the values they enshrine. Set against the backdrop of the rising climate of intolerance and suspicion between races and religious groups, two conflicting sets of principles are being advanced in this controversy.

1. The right to freedom of opinion and expression should be one of the cornerstones of any society. This right includes "the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19).

2. The right to freedom of expression is not absolute - neither for the creators of material nor their critics. It carries responsibilities and it may, therefore, be subject to restrictions in the name of safeguarding the rights of others. In particular, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence cannot be considered legitimate exercise of freedom of expression. Under international standards, such "hate speech" should be prohibited by law.

In the light of the above, I am deeply troubled by the growth of irresponsible alternative media. In the name of freedom, many websites allow the broadcast of slander, lies and swearing, use of harsh, degrading language and racial slurs without regard for the reader or those concerned. It cannot be denied that many of the postings, even though these may or may not be articles by the bloggers, are inflammatory. Many are downright racist, slanderous and libellous. The use of four-letter words has been allowed to go through without any moderator to delete them. Bloggers cannot criticise our Members of Parliament for using unparliamentary languages when they themselves allow such obscenities on their blogs. Their victims have rights too, and bloggers should not assume that they have the monopoly over civil rights. Like print and electronic journalists, they must live by the same rules when it comes to defamation, libel and other laws relating to national security. But there is a difference: they don't need to answer to the Internal Security Ministry for a printing permit. Bloggers must admit that freedom of speech does not mean freedom to slander or to libel. If civil suits are taken against them, it is simply because others have been offended, if not emotionally or financially affected, by their words.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've always been somewhat fascinated with politics. Whether it's local or international, I've always believed in the philosophy that we can change the world we live in. I also believe that today, most Malaysians are completely uninformed when it comes to who candidates are and what they believe in.

Politics in Malaysia has degenerated into a modern war of name calling and it's disgusting. Sadly, I think that victories of our newly appointed MPs had nothing to do with their political positions but EVERYTHING to do with modern politics. Smear others, and if you have less sludge on you in the end, you will win. The fiasco during the Permatang Pauh By Election week between BN and Pakatan Rakyat reminds me of 2nd graders calling each other names and tattle-tailing when the other does something bad. What is it about the exercise of democracy that prompts politicians to indulge in toe-curlingly embarrassing behaviour? How often does the behavior of politicians remind you of unruly eight-year-olds? Put that another way, how often does the behaviour of politicians not remind you of unruly eight-year-olds? Indeed.

The drama, the shock and awe, the political explosions, the allegations, the missing PI, the statutory declaration with a 24-hour lifespan, the conspiracy, the ploys, the accusations, the homo, the Mongolian girl, the Turkish embassy, the UMNO general elections, the September 16 deadline, the unanswered questions, the suspense! If voters think that any of the candidates can TRULY do anything about some huge problem in this country than they are sadly mistaken. If history has proved anything it's that politicians will say and do anything to get elected but when they take office they often forget the promises they made to voters. All that I see now is corruption, money-mongering, stealing public money, scandals (though I do like those), nepotism, faulty elections, manipulation of the masses during elections etc... Malaysian politics is indeed at its ‘BEST’.

This is not the Malaysia I know and loved over the last 33 years of my existence. I just can’t believe that this is what politics has come to. What democracy has come to. I don’t agree with politicians when they say, That’s just politics. No. That’s how you’ve made politics. That’s the direction you have taken politics. You are the leaders of this country. And you should be ashamed in turning democracy into the laughing stock of the world. And you should be ashamed of not inspiring people to participate anymore. You are the reason for the failure of democracy in Malaysia. It is no wonder why many people refuse to vote. It is no wonder that younger generation feel that it is not worth it. Their innocence led them believe that politics should be about leadership, honor and truth. But when they look up at ‘their’ political leaders all they see is corrupt souls. People with vested interests. A city of sin. And the lies they tell and the stories they spin. You should be ashamed of yourself for lying to the people of Malaysia. No reason is good enough reason to lie and be dishonest. After all, Karma can be a bitch. Oh! almost forgot, we’ll talk about pole dancing some other day ok?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


For much of the last century, Russia (then known as the USSR) was one of the most feared countries on Earth. Seemingly indifferent to the desires of the rest of the world, and aided by a huge nuclear capacity, the USSR was a country few wanted to tangle with. However, the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 unleashed forces that continue to affect life there to this day. Long forgotten feuds were apparently not so forgotten, and conflicts that lay dormant for years, once again rose to surface. Below is a glance at the legality of what recently happened between Russia and Georgia. The most important questions are:

  • Was there an armed attack against Russia?
  • Was the Russian use of force in response necessary?
  • Was it proportional?

Russian History 101

When Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union, South Ossetia was an autonomous unit within the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia. As was often the case with autonomous regions, the ethnicity of the majority South Ossetia’s population was different from the titular ethnicity of Georgia. When Georgia separated from the USSR, South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia, which sent troops to keep South Ossetia from breaking away. Russia brokered an agreement to end the war in 1992.

Russia stationed its troops in South Ossetia in 1992 under the deal with Georgia and South Ossetia. The troops had a peacekeeper status and a mandate to separate Georgians and South Ossetians. The latter have been de facto independent from Georgia for 16 years. During this time most of them received Russian citizenship.

The Little Artist Seeks a Bigger Canvas

Georgia initiated a military assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, on August 8, 2008 following a week of clashes with South Ossetian troops. Georgian military shelled the city of Tskhinvali with heavy artillery including MRLS (multiple rocket launcher system) and the Georgian air force conducted bombing raids of Tskhinvali. The city fell to Georgians soon after the attack. According to the Russian defence ministry, 12 of its troops stationed in South Ossetia under the 1992 agreement with Georgia were killed and 30 wounded. Their base in Tskhinvali was destroyed.

On August 8 following the Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali, Russian troops entered South Ossetia from Russia. In five days they repelled the Georgian troops and forced them out of South Ossetia. Russian air force systematically destroyed Georgian military infrastructure in various parts of Georgia and bombed the port of Poti. Russian military entered or occupied several towns in Georgia for various lengths of time declaring its intention to destroy or remove abandoned ordnance and maintain security.

Would the Great Grotius approve?

Jus ad bellum - the law of entering into war, is generally based on the UN Charter. A state can use force either with permission of the Security Council or in response to an armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter. The use of force must pass the test of necessity and proportionality.

In their attack on Tskhinvali Georgian forces used weapons designed to inflict maximum destruction and casualties in a large area. The Georgian military was aware of the civilian population in the city and the Russian military contingent present in Tskhinvali under the 1992 agreement. Most residents of Tskhinvali are Russian citizens. South Ossetia is not Russian territory, and it is internationally recognized to be a part of Georgia although South Ossetian authorities dispute South Ossetia’s status within Georgia. Georgians acted in violation of the 1992 agreement and either targeted the civilians and the Russian military or attacked the city with reckless disregard for their safety and lives.

Even if we accept that the Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali was an armed attack on Russia, the legality of the Russian response by force depends on whether the use of force would be necessary for a legitimate goal under the UN Charter, and whether the cost of the response in civilian lives and damage to civilian property would not outweigh the benefit. For example, if Russians responded by destroying international oil pipelines in Georgia to eliminate competition to its energy transit routes, such use of force would be unnecessary and illegal. If Russia carpet-bombed Georgian cities (like Georgia bombed Tskhinvali) declaring its intention to destroy military bases, it would probably also be illegal because the massive loss of civilian lives in Georgia would be disproportionate to a potential loss of lives, had Georgia continued unfettered.

Russia did none of these things when it used force against Georgia. Instead, its troops appear to be systematically degrading Georgian military. Initially this was accomplished by artillery and air force with a small number of civilian casualties, and later the preferred method appears to be occupation of Georgian military bases and controlled detonation or removal of ordnance, military vessels, aircraft and infrastructure. At some point the Russian military stopped running into any significant resistance from the Georgian troops.

Are Russian actions necessary to protect the civilian population of South Ossetia and its contingent stationed under the 1992 agreement? Three facts stand out: the fierceness of the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali, continuing declarations of resolve to reintegrate South Ossetia into Georgia, and the intransigence of the Georgian leadership in accepting any responsibility for the war buoyed by the strong diplomatic support from the United States. To infer that Georgia will attempt another attack on South Ossetia if it retains significant military capability is reasonable.

The biggest question mark over the Russian response to the Georgian attack is its proportionality. To the Russians’ credit, the civilian casualties of their military operation appear minimal, especially compared to some of the recent examples of international use of force unauthorized by the Security Council. However, large numbers of Georgian refugees and the destruction of dual use facilities in Georgia weaken the Russian case. Still, the Georgian attack on South Ossetia also displaced many civilians and, if unfettered, could produce many more in the range comparable to the number of Georgian refugees. The bombardment of the Georgian port of Poti may go some way against assessing the Russian action as proportional although the use of the port to resupply the Georgian military is possible. The Russians can also argue that their air force refrained from destroying the Tbilisi International Airport for humanitarian reasons despite the strong possibility that its runway could be used to resupply the Georgian army or to bring back the Georgian troops from Iraq as reinforcements.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


After three years of investigations into the atrocities in Sudan’s ravaged western province, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo concluded a genocide is going on in Darfur. The mastermind behind it all, he suggests, is Sudan’s own president, Omar al-Bashir (Bashir). On Monday July 14th 2008 the prosecutor asked the court to indict Bashir with ten counts of mass crimes, including three for genocide, and to issue a warrant for his arrest. It is the first time that this court, which is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its foundation, has gone after a sitting head of state (Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia's Charles Taylor were also indicted when still heads of state, by other international tribunals). It is also the first time that it has sought an indictment for genocide, the gravest of all international crimes.

The fact is that bringing a head of state before an international court, no matter how grave the crimes he is suspected of having committed, does not easily fit an international system built on the principle of state sovereignty, in general application worldwide since 1945. This is a point that is certainly not lost on presidents like Mugabe and Bashir who have offended against humanitarian principles that are held in particular regard by sections of Western public opinion. Sudan’s ruling party has described the case against Bashir as “irresponsible cheap political blackmail” and has threatened more violence if he is indicted. Tanzania’s foreign minister, Bernard Membe, speaking on behalf of the 53-member African Union, wants the court to defer bringing charges “because there is a risk of anarchy in a proportion we have not seen in this continent”.

On the face of it, Bashir richly deserve to be punished for his actions. But, as their supporters do not fail to point out, if that is so, then what of the many other heads of state who are suspected of responsibility for major crimes? Inevitably, the first example that defenders of state sovereignty are likely to raise is that of the US president who invaded Iraq in 2003, probably illegally, and in any event with a public claim of justification that appeared weak even at the time. An enthusiast for international justice may argue that the indictment of Bashir is only a foretaste of things to come, and that in the future all heads of state risk being held responsible for their actions. However, that seems unlikely in the extreme. The authority of any court of justice is directly related to the political forces that sustain it. A really effective system of world criminal justice could operate only in tandem with a system of world government. Realistically, this type of arrangement is not in sight. In any case, such a system would produce its own powerbrokers who would no doubt contrive to place themselves above the law, as powerful people habitually do. In the meantime, the hard fact seems to be that international justice is most likely to be done only when it is politically expedient. In other words, when the person indicted is both politically weak and has few friends as well as being the prima facie author of crimes against humanity.

None of this should be taken to imply that Omar al-Bashir is innocent. It does not mean that he does not deserve to be punished for crimes he appear to have committed. It does, however, mean that his indictment and eventual trial will never be free of political implications. An enthusiast for international justice may accept that this is so, and still wish to see the most egregious violator of human rights duly tried and punished.

Let us compare and contrast the naked crimes that the Bush administration has committed against defenceless countries in the Middle East. After the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan and Iraq under the pretext of the so-called war on terrorism, slaughter, massacre, ethnic cleansing, liquidation, extermination and total annihilation have been going on for years without any end in sight.

Did the ICC prosecutor take a leave from this world when all these acts were being committed? Not long ago, the Israeli military conducted military exercise in what many termed to be a rehearsal in preparation for an attack on Iran. No condemnations came from any of the so-called superpowers on such a provocative exercise. Some weeks later, in order not to be caught unawares, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards test-fired some of their missiles. Immediately, the western megaphones started to issue one press statement after the other on the danger posed by Iranian retaliatory exercise.

Come to think of it, what type of international law will allow Israel to have a nuclear arsenal and deny Iran from having one? Between the two countries, which one among them has committed more acts of genocide and mass murder? How many United Nations resolutions has Iran flouted compared to the illegal state of Israel? The border of Israel keeps on increasing every year because the international community looks the other way when Palestinians’ lands were being forcefully seized. The most painful thing is seeing the fathers of human rights turning away from what is clearly genocide. By pulling the thread holding Palestinians together, they are pulling apart their so-called civilisation in Europe. If the ICC truly does understand the meaning of genocide, they should arrest President Bush and his partner in crime Olmert of Israel.

It is the conflict of interest of the superpowers that keeps the sun scorched soils of Sudan drenched in the river of blood flowing there, and not their internal conflict. If not for the reasonable resistance of African countries, Zimbabwe could have been turned to another battlefield by the western propaganda machines. The African Union need to redirect their attention to investigate the cause of most of African conflicts in order to track down the roles of these imperialists.

Again, none of the above amounts to a solid argument for allowing heads of state to enjoy lifelong immunity for acts committed during their tenure of office. Anyone who cares for justice or human rights must be tempted to wish that guilty people should be punished for offences they have committed. But the deployment of a criminal justice mechanism with particular reference to Africa needs to be seen also in political terms, as evidence of the long term erosion of the sovereignty of states. Military/humanitarian interventions are steadily increasing, whether by the UN, by international alliances, regional groupings, or others. International justice, like military action, can be a legitimate international instrument, but neither is a replacement for politics and diplomacy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


What is the true state of a Malaysian Malaysia? What I been hearing lately fills me with dread and disgust. We have Chinese uncles, aunts and brother in law, Indian/Ceylonese grandparents and quite a bit more in our ancestry to qualify me and my wife as a truly ‘rojak’ Malaysian we are so mixed in our ethnicity that the technical definition of race is mere formality.

A true Malaysian Malaysia is a dream I think all Malaysians want to see in their lifetime. But the terrible truth behind the situation today is some of those fighting for a Malaysian Malaysia have an underlying sentiment which is VERY much racially oriented and nobody ever dares meet it head on.

Our leaders are sweating bullets trying to defend the 30% slice of the economic pie for the Malays and nobody ever talks about the 70% dominated by the non-Bumis and this is not counting the so-called Bumi companies with Malay figureheads being controlled by non-Bumis, Ali Baba is still around and not admitting that doesn’t make it go away. A level playing field doesn’t exist and our forefathers who came up with this arrangement should be commended for having the foresight and guts to do something CONCRETE about it instead of simply mouthing off populists sentiments when the reality everywhere else has always been the rich get richer and poor starve. The Russians and even the Americans today are living proof of this, there’s a very nasty distinction between utopia and reality called the human nature survival instincts. Those with economic power will want a social structure that benefits them and they will pay anything to get that. Just as those here who have it will always want more for themselves. Wake up and see the truth, Malays…the ONLY way of true survival is not to depend on others. For every successful Malay, there is still a thousand struggling to eat, lest we forget the poor unfortunates regularly featured on ‘Bersamamu’ and other such programmes. . And Malays who have made it thanks to the system seems to forget this and loudly talk about how we should take away the subsidies/crutches ….hmmmm and the multi million unpaid MARA debts remain unpaid even though they can afford to pay because “hey, ini tanggungjawab kerajaan” never mind that the money is for the next generation of students. It is time for us to help each other instead of depending on the political system because everybody else is getting tired of doing so and our political leaders have sold their soul for power.

The poor should be helped and they should be helped without regard to race or creed. My problem is the best solution our newly elected revolutionary leaders can come up with is to take away Malay rights. How does taking away help from the poor Malays help the poor non-Malays? So they can be poor together? My main point is the fact that this approach is the ‘solution’ du jour for the people fighting for a Malaysian Malaysia show how racially driven they are and in the most malicious way. Wealth is generated and created, one shouldn’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul. At least if we had true thinkers and problem solvers as leaders. This is being proven true everywhere around the world, even when the economy is struggling new millionaires are made every day. Yet the people we have put our faith in can only see competition between the races and any problem is used as an excuse to remove more Malay rights and protection. It is a sickening selectiveness and rather than compete regionally, internationally and globally, they advocate robbing their neighbor to fatten their pockets. My non-Malay genetics hang its sequence in shame. Malaysian Malaysia indeed…

One of the best ways to redress the socio-economic imbalance is education and what do they say? Let’s open up UiTM for the non-Bumis. Last I checked every other IPTA in Malaysia: that is UKM, UM, UPM, UTM, USM, UUM, UNIMAS, UMS, UPSI, IIUM and ALL others except UiTM is open to free competition based on meritocracy (albeit a little quota thrown in to avoid monopoly) and this should be the way for an education/ academic institution. But UiTM is NOT just a university. It was created primarily and solely to help those poor Malays stuck in economic twilight zone thanks to the colonial masters. And we have created many successful individuals at national, regional and even international levels. Go check their webpage and see just EXACTLY what the facts are. Again this automatic perception that anything Malay is mediocre and substandard tells us more about the people thinking it rather than UiTM itself. And despite some successful Malays there are still thousands out there for whom UiTM is their one and only hope to escape poverty. How do I know this? My Indian friend who is a UiTM lecturer and her Chinese colleague verified this, they go all over the country for interviews because some candidates are too poor to even have money to travel for it. There are still Malays who earn less than RM5 a day and the one child out of 8 is their only hope. I would say my friends are truly those who make the change they wish to see. These leaders could learn from them.

Those championing a Malaysian Malaysia talk of competition, yet for every one spot in UiTM there’s 25-200 applicants vying for it depending on the courses. All Bumis, ALL competing to get in. Is that not enough competition? Is that not meritocracy? Yes we need more space in UiTM to accommodate these candidates. Why must competition be against racially divided lines? Seems oxymoronic that they advocate fostering unity by forever bringing up racial differences and highlighting specific issues known to cause discontentment. I see students in schools and others universities STILL being birds of a feather flocking together. Even within the races themselves like tend to be with like…and they are still trotting out that tired old line? When the truth is there are many other ways of fixing the problems, these people keep harping on taking away Malay rights at every opportunity, the only conclusion I see is they themselves are racially oriented with nothing positive on a bigger picture. And the sad thing is many Malaysians whether they are Chinese, Malays or Indians and the DLLs are buying this. A poor neighbor beggars us all and anyone who wants to pursue their agenda at any cost will only lead us down a path of discontent and destruction. We really need to start solving the problems instead of always finding people to blame, committees to form and principles/souls to barter. And the only way political double talk and selling out on the little people will stop is when we ALL TOGETHER start putting the collective good first and egos and agendas last.