Archive for May, 2013





Published in The Sun on 24 May 2013

Halimah Mohd Said

THE buzz word these days is “reconciliation”. Without going too much into semantics as I’m often tempted to do, I’m offering a couple of analogies to better understand the concept.

Last Friday, my Facebook status registered quite a few hits when I declared “(HMS) thinks there are important lessons to be learned from estranged couples who love each other enough to get back together and work out a more equitable relationship; and estranged parents/children who love each other enough to accommodate one another’s needs. Love sustains”.

A “reconciliation” presumes there has been an estrangement – a falling out so to speak – between two or more parties who once liked or loved one another. When the word is used to describe a dire socio-political need in Malaysia, the presumption is that the inter-party (political) relationships have fallen into great disarray. Worse still, at the community level, the inter-group links have disintegrated. All too true judging from the writings on the media wall.

Having once been likened to King Lear’s ungrateful daughter Cordelia and having had to eat humble pie to appease an irate father, I believe that for reconciliation to take place there must be, first of all, self-realisation by the feuding parties.

For human relationships to break down there must have been mutual disappointment and hurt. To start the process of healing, there must therefore be honest acknowledgement of the part played by each in creating the emotional/psychological chasm underlying the racio-ethnic one.

Too much has been said and too much venom has been spread by those intent on making a mockery of Malaysia’s multiculturalism. Once and for all, we must accept the fact that we are not a homogenous society.

There are differences in history, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, philosophy and ideology which we have the right to uphold with the greatest honour and dignity.

We have a right to be racial, ie proud and protective of our own ethnic group and its rich heritage, but we have absolutely no right to be racist, ie decrying and discriminating against other groups.

True multiculturalism is not a song and dance act but gathering strength from one another’s differences.

The process of national reconciliation must start by getting Malaysians at all levels to sit down and face one another – not on Facebook but Face2Face.

There must be honesty in declaring one’s grievances and unhappiness but equally, there must be openness in confessing to one’s own shortcomings. Pointing out the faults of other people while hiding behind one’s sense of superiority will only cause the other side to retaliate.

Once and for all, Malaysians of all ethnic compositions must search their souls and admit we have all contributed to this sorry state we are now in.

BN and PR and their component parties must stop dealing the racist card and work out their political differences in a responsible way. Stop the name-calling, the slander and the slur and grow up.

Be the mature democracy you say you are aspiring to. Stop inciting hatred in the name of the electorate. Urge them instead to demonstrate the best of their cultural values.

Instead of circulating the hate mails and atrociously racist articles, those who are active on the email and social media circuit should undergo a process of atonement and keinsafan, bury their arrogance and keangkuhan and cleanse their black and kaudu hearts.

If they are sincere about building up a respectable Malaysian society and an enlightened Malaysian civilisation, they must instil the right values in the Malaysians that they lead.

May I surmise with this beautiful example of community living among the porcupines contributed by my email colleague Sallih Amran:

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. 
The porcupines, realising the situation, decided to group together. 
This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other but they began to die, alone and frozen.

So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.


The moral of the story!

The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.




The evidence, please

Posted on 14 May 2013 – 10:03pm
Last updated on 14 May 2013 – 10:21pm

R. Nadeswaran


FELLOW columnist Halimah Mohd Said could not have put it better. On Monday she wrote on a worrying trend that has pervaded our society. It is worrying because we seem to have fallen for unproven and unsubstantiated allegations. We seem to be relying on hearsay and jumping to conclusions.

She wrote: “The trend now is to believe those who cry loudest for change. The oft-repeated phrase is ‘a picture tells a thousand words’. But few seem to care if the pictures are indeed authentic and not many are prepared to investigate if they could have been deliberately created by the ‘other’ side.

Nobody will admit that like the crime of corruption, fraud works both ways and can be committed by either side.”

At every turn, there’s a self-appointed referee, umpire or even an expert giving his or her two sen’s worth on the recently concluded election. As I sat to write this piece, a colleague walked up to my desk and volunteered his take: “My friends ‘apprehended’ five foreigners who tried to vote in Banting.”

“Really? What happened?”

“Oh! They handed them over to the police.”

“Was a police report lodged? How do you know they were foreigners? Did your friends have the authority to stop anyone from voting or to apprehend anyone?”
There was utter silence.

At a watering hole last week, a woman after her workout in the gym was holding court and telling endless stories of how fraud was perpetuated at the polls.
“Where is the evidence?” she was asked.

“So many photographs on Facebook.”

“But that is not evidence and anyone could be persuaded to pose for such photographs including the neighbourhood petrol pump attendant.”

Defeated by such a stand, the standard reply as if it was part of her S.O.P, came out like a recorded message in her brain: “You are all the same. All you journalists are Barisan supporters.”

How do you have a decent conversation when conclusions have been formed?

Then, there was this guy who talked about a blackout when ballot boxes were brought in at the Bentong counting centre but when told that the losing candidate, Wong Tuck himself had declared there was no disruption in electricity, the retort was: “I read on the internet.”

Not to be outdone, a Malaysian working for a foreign newspaper swaggered into the bar and made a declaration: “I just got a call from a contact in the war room. The PM wanted some Chinese names for the cabinet. I nominated So and So …”

Of course, this was met with disbelief and a barrage of abuses against the person that he had nominated. Is this the high point of naivety or a case of dropping names?

On Sunday night, a friend remarked that there were 150,000 people at the Kelana Jaya rally, 120,000 in Penang and 100,000 in Ipoh. Do numbers matter?

Aren’t we guided by the principle that we should not jump to conclusions without seeing the evidence before us? Over the past eight days, I’ve heard friends, acquaintances and even strangers telling me: “I heard this thing happened … ”

My next question has always been and will continue to be: “From whom? Did he or she witness the incident?”

While conceding that the electoral rolls need a massive clean-up, the relevant question is: If there were so many instances of fraud, why hasn’t anyone come forward with the evidence?

Having championed so many issues and having exposed scores of instances of fraudulent conduct especially in the use of public money, I would be happy to do the same when it comes to similar unacceptable conduct in the polls. The caveat is that such claims must be substantiated with evidence. Any takers?

R. Nadeswaran has had enough of the fraud claims and has made a genuine offer to champion the cause. Comments:




A fraudulent culture?

Posted on 12 May 2013 – 08:36pm

Halimah Mohd Said


THEY say it takes a thief to catch a thief! By the same token, does it not also take a fraud to catch a fraud? Going by the number of people in the social media and elsewhere who believe there was fraud, pre and post elections, it appears as though Malaysians are all too familiar with fraudulent practices and are able to confirm them without proper investigation. A very disturbing development if indeed we are developing a fraudulent culture.

A couple of stories about the indelible ink on some fingers being immediately washable were enough for Facebookers to shout “fraud”; a few pictures of people in the queue who looked like foreign nationals were sufficient for them to conclude “fraudulent voters”; one or two uninvestigated blackouts made them scream “electrical fraudulence”. As quickly as the stories were posted came a barrage of comments all accusing the authorities of electoral fraud – a very serious offence if found to be true. The most disturbing thing was that the netizens spread the rumour and slander with impunity, not with the responsibility of citizens who would report any perceived illegality for it to be properly investigated.

There’s no doubt that as an electorate, we are maturing as we become better informed. Thanks to the accessibility of information on the internet there has been an awakening as we are more educated about our rights as individuals and as citizens. As a result, Malaysians can’t wait to exercise their right to become fully participatory in the democratic process. However, instead of equipping themselves with real knowledge as they pause to verify information and gather conclusive evidence, they have fallen into the trap of bitsy news gathering and quick dissemination.

The onslaught of cyber information that comes with such rapidity and frequency on news portals, blogs, Facebook and Twitter has made many netizens incapable of real-time reasoning as they tick “Like” or post a quick comment. Staring into their laptops, iPads and smart phones has made the cyber troopers hasty as they are encouraged to skim and scan information rather than read and mull over things in depth. Without their realising it, people who are net savvy are being trained to glean information that they subjectively deem relevant and to discard the rest. A lop-sided cognitive development indeed!

Just as they have hastily allowed themselves to be exploited on the net through the countless YouTubes and videos, netizens are happily skirting around logic to apply thread-bare analogies and far-fetched syllogisms to determine the credibility of information. The trend now is to believe those who cry loudest for change. The oft-repeated phrase is “a picture tells a thousand words”. But few seem to care if the pictures are indeed authentic and not many are prepared to investigate if they could have been deliberately created by the “other” side. Nobody will admit that like the crime of corruption, fraud works both ways and can be committed by either side.

As Malaysians stand poised to herald in a new government, those of us who still have our old-world conscience are imbued with a melancholic sadness to see our beloved nation torn apart by the clamouring for change and transformation, even if it means being fraudulent. For those who have contributed/are contributing their blood and sweat to ensure the nation’s evolution into a mature democracy, the groundswell of people demanding quick change is frightening.

More so when they are tearing down the fabric of civil society through a combination of rabble-rousing and street demonstrations. A true democracy and an enlightened civilization cannot be attained overnight or perpetuated by a culture that builds hate in the minds and hearts of the people. Sowing resentment against the government that has pledged to transform the nation and its people for the better defies logic. It destroys rather than builds the peace and harmony essential for Malaysia’s greater development.

It is my fervent hope that the prime minister in his wisdom will choose the right men and women to helm the new cabinet and government. To ensure the credibility of his team and the rakyat’s continuing support, it is of the utmost important that he chooses people with a clean slate. To answer the clarion call for a cleaner, uncorrupted and incorruptible government, Najib’s cabinet line-up must be able to withstand the greatest public scrutiny.

If indeed we are serious about transforming the nation, it must be reflected in the people that lead the way.

If fraudulence and corruption is what we want to rid the nation of, we must ensure our leaders do not exhibit or uphold such lowly traits. When Malaysians say they are against fraud and corruption, it must be reflected in the leaders that they choose. We must search deep in our souls to ask what is it we really want.

May 2013