Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Merger Push in Perak

I read with interest on the merger talk between PAS and UMNO to form a new Perak State Government in the NST today. The Perak Barisan Nasional chief Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali was ‘magnanimous’ enough to offer the post of Menteri Besar to PAS. Probably the talk of the merger is the result of earlier secret talks between Pas and UMNO on the Malay unity agenda.

As much as I would like to see the BN wrestle back the five states held by the opposition, I don’t agree that it should be done through such back door methods.

First of all, the people have spoken through the ballot box in the last general election. Not only did they vote for the candidate, they voted for the party AND the coalition. That being the case, we should all respect the people’s choice and not try to reshuffle the cards after the event.

Both Pas and UMNO must bear in mind that it was not only the Malays that voted them in. Both parties received votes from all races through the coalition mechanism. PAS especially enjoyed an unprecedented amount of goodwill from the Chinese and Indian voters in the last general election.

PAS and UMNO had different agendas, different priorities and belonged to different coalitions when they went into the 12th General Election. The votes they received were cast based on the two different corners that they fought from. That being the case, won’t their action now tantamount to a betrayal of trust of both the voters and their coalition partners?

Forming a government through such back door tactics will erode the confidence of our people on the very political process in this country.

Just as much as I am opposed to Dato Seri Anwar’s idea of forming a Federal Government through defection of BN MPs, I am opposed to forming a state government in Perak through the so called merger of PAS and UMNO.

At best it would be a marriage of convenience, at worst it would be abandoning the principles of consensus upon which the Barisan Nasional had been built upon.

Would PAS abandon its stated mission of forming an Islamic State or UMNO concede to PAS’s pressure to form such a state? What about the wishes of voters that chose them based on their opposing manifestos? What about the bond of understanding of partners that fought along their side?

PAS and UMNO must make it clear if they are willing to break ranks with their coalition partners so everyone will know where they stand. In any event PAS and UMNO, by their conduct, had lost the moral high ground to question any coalition partner on their loyalty to the coalition.

Another dark cloud that hangs over this whole episode of PAS-UMNO merger is the question as to whether this will push our nation into the abyss of blatant racial politics. God forbids if this were to happen as there won’t be turning back and Malaysia will be consigned to join the ranks of some of the worst countries in Africa.

It is in the best interest of our political system, our people and our nation that both PAS and UMNO return to the business of good governance and win back the confidence of the electorate through their performance instead of attempting to run circles around the system by forming a ‘secret pact’.

Please concentrate on the Nation Agenda instead of any narrow racial or religious agenda.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Sunday, July 27, 2008

We Cannot Change the Cards We are Dealt, Just How We Play the Hand

I have many friends and teachers that I have never met.

They are a part of me and what I am. They are authors of great books that I have read and cherish.

One such great friend and teacher is Randy Pausch, father, husband, professor of Carnegie Mellon and author of “The Last Lecture”.

I can't give a better introduction to the book then Randy:
"I HAVE AN engineering problem.

While for the most part I’m in terrific physical shape, I have ten tumors in my liver and I have only a few months left to live.

I am a father of three young children, and married to the woman of my dreams. While I could easily feel sorry for my-self, that wouldn’t do them, or me, any good.

So, how to spend my very limited time?..."

Randy was diagnosed with cancer (I am not sure exactly when, as Randy thoughtfully omitted that detail from his book) and was told in August 2007 that he had only a few months to live.

With that in mind, Randy gave his last lecture at the Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," Randy talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

That lecture was recorded as a legacy for his three children so that they can relate to their dad and listen to his 'lectures' for them from the beyond. It became an Internet phenomenon and was subsequently published as a book, "The Last Lecture".

"Almost all of us have childhood dreams; for example, being an astronaut, or making movies or video games for a living. Sadly, most people don’t achieve theirs, and I think that’s a shame. I had several specific childhood dreams, and I’ve actually achieved most of them. More importantly, I have found ways, in particular the creation (with Don Marinelli), of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center of helping many young people actually *achieve* their childhood dreams." - Randy Pausch

For further information about Randy and to view the Last Lecture, log on to www.thelastlecture.com

That special friend and teacher passed away last Friday.

Farewell my Friend. You have become a part of us and will live in all of us through your Last Lecture. Thank you for the pointers, Teacher.

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." - Randy Pausch

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Preventing Preventive Detention

Preventive detention is a process of arrest and imprisonment of a person without a formal charge on the basis of the executive’s subjective assessment that the said person is a threat to security or public order.

Three major preventive detention laws in Malaysia are the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 (EPOPCO) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 (DSPMA).

The most infamous of these is the ISA.

The ISA has its legal basis under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution which enables legislation against subversion and action prejudicial to public order. Article 149(1) further states that law designed to stop or prevent that action is valid notwithstanding that it is inconsistent with any provisions of Articles 5, 9, 10 or 13 ( i.e. Articles that ‘entrenches’ Fundamental Liberties’).

The ISA has its historical origin in the Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948. After World War II, the Malaysian Communist Party took to armed struggle and a state of emergency was declared by the then British High Commissioner to fight this insurgency.

Regulation 17 of Ordinance 1948 empowered the Chief Secretary of the Federation to direct the detention of any person named by way of an order for any period not exceeding one year.

The Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948 did serve its purpose and was subsequently repealed when the Emergency ended on 30th July, 1960. However, the power of detention without trial under Regulation 17 was transformed into Part II of the ISA.

When the ISA was tabled in parliament, all indications and assurance were that it was a temporary measure and was enacted to fight the communist threat.

RH Hickling, the original draftsman of the ISA commented in “The First Five Years of the Federation of Malaya Constitution” (1962):

“… I must hope that the practice of imprisonment without trial, charge or conviction admitted by the Act 1960 will not be regarded as permanent feature of the legal and political landscape of Malaya or for that matter of Asia generally.”

Again in 1989, now Professor Hickling commented in the preface to Essays in Malaysian Law as follows:

“I could not imagine then that the time would come when the power of detention, carefully and deliberately interlocked with Article 149 of the Constitution, would be used against political opponents, welfare workers and others dedicated to non-violent, peaceful activities. It was with some considerable surprise that I discovered in 1987 that the Supreme Court (Teresa Lim Chin Chin and Ors v. Inspector General of Police [1988] 1 MLJ 293 at 296) took the view that ‘from the wording of the provision(s) of the Act there is nothing to show that it restricted to communist activities”. It seems extraordinary that a court, faced with two interpretations of a law, should adopt the one more restrictive of freedom, and indifferent to the Constitution.”

The late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister when tabling the ISA gave the assurance that it would be used with utmost care so as to avoid abuse. In his speech he stated that the security of the Federation was still very much in issue on the basis that there was still a need for the people “to be protected from communist subversion.”

The threat of communist terrorism had come and gone with the Bangkok Accord in 1989 but we still have the ISA very much alive and kicking till today.

ISA which was enacted as a temporary measure and for a particular purpose had become a permanent feature in our Malaysian life. Enacted as a necessary evil to fight terror, ISA has become terror in itself.

Datuk Dr Rais Yatim, as early as 1996, made the following observation in INSAF:

That the ISA may be used freely to thwart political or other challenges on the pretext of ‘security’ hardly needs qualification or rebuttal as events in the country have in the past proven. The culture of fear that the ISA emanates, the disregard for a person’s right of hearing, not to mention the gross disregard for the dignity of the person and the very percepts of a just society – all add up to the question of whether the ISA ought to be tolerated as a legal instrument to correct society from the standpoint of national security.”

Cases of mental and physical torture, inhumane and degrading treatment of the ISA detainees are numerous and are well documented by the victims. These horror stories have become our own “Tales from the Gulag”.

With the cessation of the communist threat, Malaysians did not benefit from the dividends of peace by the timely revocation of the ISA. Instead, the ISA had morphed into an overbearing and all encompassing instrument of fear and suppression.

In 1989, ISA Detainee’s recourse to the courts of law was further curtailed when we dutifully followed our southern neighbor in ousting judicial review in matters concerning the minister’s power to detain any person under ISA.

With the amendment, detainees can only challenge the detention on procedural grounds. I have nothing against Singapore. We have many things that we can emulate them but must we obediently imitate them in a field that they have one of the worst track records?

The breadth and reach of ISA has been expended to include amongst others, counterfeiters and religious extremist. What’s more worrying is that the ISA is viewed by some as the catch all enactment. There had been proposals that the ISA be used against copyright infringers, share fraudsters and rice hoarders. A government backbencher once even suggested that the ISA should be used against ‘political traitors’ of the country.

With so little understanding of such a grave provision of the law, it is worrying, to say the least, to allow it to remain as a law in our statute books.

Not only does ISA injure the detainees by depriving them of the basic right to be heard but it injures the Nation as a whole at a deeper level. The very threat of ISA casts a net of fear on the populace and retards our aspiration for justice for all.

ISA might have been a necessary evil once but with the evil vanquished, where is the necessity of ISA now?

We have a vast array of legislation that provides adequate legal frame work to deal with threats against national security. However, the executive have repeatedly chosen the easy path of invoking the ISA that deprives a man his day in court and send chills of fear down the spine of its citizens.

The Prime Minister, YAB Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has the best window of opportunity to revoke ISA now. With the current political scenario and calls to repeal ISA coming from all quarters, Pak Lah has the political momentum to push for the repeal of ISA.

The Prime Minister, by repealing the ISA, will not only pave the way to set the heart and soul of our country free, but also will leave a legacy more enduring and meaningful then any monument one could ever build.

Please repeal the ISA now Mr. Prime Minister for I doubt others have the political will or courage to do it.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Education, the Foundation of a Nation

With all the political circus that is going on around us, I doubt if many would be interested in talking about the ‘mundane’ issue of education. However, it is a subject close to my heart and I would like to jot down some views here.

Education is the very foundation of a country. It is the one fundamental that must be set right to build a strong nation. Our education system, though not terribly wrong, is not right either. Each Minister of Education will be sworn in and he will proceed with ad hoc changes to the system before moving up the political hierarchy. We are left with an education system that is incapable of producing students in keeping with the demands of the global economy or contribute towards national integration.

Each year we spend billions on mega projects and on military expenditure, yet we don’t spend enough to develop our education system. I am not referring to the money spent on maintaining our schools but about the fund needed to expand and upgrade the entire system.

Here are some facts that indicate that all is not right with our education system:

  1. It has become a norm rather then the exception to send children for tuition. Children not only take tuition on subjects that they are weak in but for all subjects.
  2. Most Chinese parents send their children to the Chinese Type National Schools and not National Schools. Chinese students form a distant third ethnic group in National Schools despite being the second biggest group in the country.
  3. We still don’t have enough buildings to cater for a single session school system despite being independent for more then 50 years. Countries like India that has lesser per capita income then ours, could manage a single session school system.
  4. A significant number of National Type Tamil Schools and schools in the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak lack basic infrastructures and are in such a state that is not conducive for learning.
  5. A significant number of affluent upper middle class families prefer to send their children to private schools and those with ‘connections’ prefer to send their children to International Schools.

Where are we heading with a system that does not command the confidence of the populace? Why should parents spend extra on tuition fees when a comprehensive education system is supposed to cover all our educational needs?

Another area that must be looked into is the quality of teachers. Yes, there are dedicated and able teachers but do they form the majority of the staff or are they in the minority? Those with the ability to produce excellent results often end up dedicating their time in giving tuition. It is perplexing when a student takes private tuition from the very teacher that is teaching him the same subject in school.

Teachers Training College should not be the dumping ground for graduates with degree in courses that no one else will hire nor be the last choice option for students with no where else to go. Government must make Teachers Training College a centre of excellence in education and attract the ablest students to enroll there.

In order to attract the best, the government must make teaching an attractive profession with paychecks and perks to match. Why shouldn’t we spend more on training our teachers and retaining the best? The quality of students will be in direct proportion with the quality of the teaching staff.

It’s about time the government look into our education system comprehensively and holistically. We should formulate mid-term and long term education policies that involve the entire government machinery, just like the Five Year Economic Policies and Overall Perspective Plan (OPP) that we have for our economy.

In the long run, we will not be able to compete globally and retain our edge if we rely on an outdated and limping education system. If we are to set our country back on the right track, we have to strengthen the foundation of our education upon which the tracks are to be laid.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Friday, July 18, 2008

Circus Comes to Town

The circus is back in town with the investigation of allegation of sodomy against Anwar. Oh boy, here we go again!

First of all this better not be a political conspiracy. If the Prime Minister gets even a hint of this, he should just haul up those guys and shoot them! Ok, that might be a little too dramatic and …unlawful.

The point is, the Prime Minister should expose anyone, no matter how high up or how close they are to him if there is a conspiracy to drum up these allegations. Besides being illegal and despicable, whoever that’s behind it (if at all there is a conspiracy) should be sent to the gallows for being outright stupid and unimaginative. A second sodomy charge when the trial for the first one was laughed at and was thrown out on appeal? Who are we kidding here?

Frankly, it is a scenario that the Prime Minister could well do without right now. It is as tight and dangerous as walking a political tight-rope as it gets.

This second allegation of sodomy against Anwar could either break the ruling government or the self proclaimed ‘Prime Minister in Waiting’. The stakes could not have been higher. More then Anwar, it’s our Police Force, Judiciary, Attorney General’s Office and the Government that is on trial here.

On this score the people have already judged that there could be a conspiracy. Not only must Anwar be investigated, charged and convicted beyond reasonable doubt; he must be convicted beyond ANY doubt. Anything less, will set off PKR’s PR machinery into frenzy to turn the table against the government. And they have already started.

That is why it is inevitable that the government handles this case delicately and with utmost care. The police must not only be fair but must also be seen to be fair. Every procedure and every rule must be followed to the dot. Anwar and his army of lawyers are waiting to pounce on every technicality.

On the other hand, there is this Complainant that has lodged a police report against Anwar. Pray that he does not do a ‘Bala’ on us all on this one. Although he might have been a ‘consenting adult’, he had sought the ‘protection’ of law and ‘wants’ justice. Should he be denied ‘protection’ and his day in court just because the person that he is complaining against is the self proclaimed ‘Prime Minister in Waiting’?

If Anwar is convicted of the charge after due process of law, PKR and his supporters must accept the verdict and go on with their business without demonstrations and taking to the streets.

Enough is enough. We have seen what it is like when the circus comes to town. Let the due process of law take its course and let the institutions discharge their duties without fear or favour. At the end of the day, the integrity of the institutions and the due process of law matters more for the well being of this nation then any individual or political party, whoever it may be.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Time to Move On

Last Saturday the 62nd AGM of MIC was successfully conducted and concluded. Unlike previous years, this AGM was held for only one day in order to balance up cost due to increased number of participants.

The 62nd AGM had a special significance as it was the first AGM held after the party’s worst ever performance in the polls. A spate of resignations and call for the President to step down that preceded the AGM had cast a shadow of uncertainty on how the AGM might proceed.

This year’s AGM was also special in that all 3,500 plus branch chairmen were invited to it. Previously, only delegates were entitled to attend national AGMs.

For those unfamiliar with the system, there are branches, followed by divisions, states and then the national level. All branches in a parliamentary constituency will form a division. However, not all branch chairmen will be eligible to attend and vote at the national AGM.

Each division will be allotted a number of delegates in proportion with the number of branches and those delegates will be voted in through a divisional level election. Therefore, it explains why there are only around 1,500 delegates to the national AGM whilst there are 3,500 plus branch chairmen nationwide.

The decision to allow the participation of all branch chairmen at this year’s AGM is commendable especially in view of the post 8th March era. We should allow for as an inclusive discussion as possible and listen to all views, even though it might be diametrically opposed to our own views. I was encouraged by the fact that this trend was allowed to flourish at the AGM.

Although the AGM went on till 7.00 pm to allow for as many delegates as possible to air their views, many didn’t get a chance to speak at the podium. It is my sincere wish that in subsequent years we revert to the 2 days’ AGM format to allow for a longer period of debates and to facilitate delegates to interact with each other. Perhaps we can cut corners on other expenses or schedule the AGM in such a manner so as not to incur an extra day’s accommodation expense.

‘Rebranding MIC’ was officially introduced to the branch chairmen and they were allowed to debate on it. The notion that ‘Rebranding MIC’ was merely limited to change of logo, songs or the flag was dispelled at the AGM. Delegates were given a handbook that outlined the aim and extent of the rebranding exercise. ‘Rebranding MIC’ was well received as the delegates came to realize that the exercise went beyond a face lift and that it touched the very core of MIC.

Now that MIC AGM is behind us and the Rebranding exercise is underway, we have to get on with the business of winning back the confidence of Malaysian Indians.

We can only do this with actions that match our words. We can only do it by proving that MIC has leaders with integrity, character and sound judgment; leaders that walk the talk. There is neither short-cut nor window dressing for this.

With conscience as our only guide and God as our witness, we have to formulate policies and make hard decisions that will reverse the notion that we are second class citizens in our own land and uplift our community on par with the rest of the nation.

Recent back peddling by the opposition on issues concerning the Indians have shown that whilst others might raise a hue and cry, only MIC could deliver. What Malaysian Indians are asking, is not for preferential treatments or for special favours. That they have confidence in their own hard work and ability is beyond question.

What they ask, is to be given equal opportunity and to be treated as equals not merely in the letters of the law but in the implementation of government policies and development plans.

It’s about time MIC moves away from its role as a salesman of government policies and reverts to its original mission of steering the government towards equality and fairness to all its citizens.

These measures must be undertaken not to win back the votes, although votes are a good indicator as to how aligned we are with the aspiration our people, but for the simple reason that MIC is the only organization that is truly in a position to affect these changes.

It will serve leaders of MIC to bear in mind that, as harsh as judgment of our contemporaries may seem, history will judge us harsher still if we fail in this our mission.

For the sake of all our children and our children’s children, its time for MIC to move on with it.

Murugesan Sinnandavar

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The recently concluded MIC Youth AGM (6th of July, 2008) is significant in more ways then one. Many doubted if the MIC Youth Team could pull this one through.

To put matters in perspective, the former National Youth Leader resigned from the party exactly Seven days before the AGM. With his resignation, he called for the resignation of the Party President. The Kedah Youth Leader, Penang Deputy Youth Leader and the Youth Information Officer resigned from their posts but maintained their divisional youth positions and MIC membership. Fiery accusations and claims were made in the press. Many thought the Youth AGM will be called off and MIC Youth will buckle under pressure. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Six days from the AGM, T.Mohan was appointed as the National Youth Coordinator with me as the Deputy and S.Ramis as the Chairman of the newly formed Youth Advisory Council.

Five days from the AGM, Five new State Youth Leaders were appointed to replace the outgoing ones. All State Youth Leaders, except Kedah, passed the baton to the new leaders in the spirit of comradeship and took their positions in the Advisory Council.

It’s noteworthy to mention that the former National cyclist, M.Kumaresan whom had to relinquish his position as Youth Secretary due to his age, went on to complete the AGM Report in time and was magnanimous to allow his assistant, Vengadasalam to table the Annual Report at the AGM. The Youth Treasurer, Ganesan stayed on to complete his Annual Accounts and successfully tabled it.

S. Ramis used his influence and persuasive power to ensure that there would be full turnout at the AGM. T.Mohan whipped the team together and made sure everyone stayed focused on the AGM. All State Youth Leaders (outgoing and the newly elected), National Youth Council Members, Bureau Chairmen and ‘volunteers’ like former National Information Officer, V.Mugilan together with his team, came together as one single coherent unit to make this AGM a success. Division Youth Leaders went the extra mile to call for emergency meetings to assuage divisional youths that we are sticking with the scheduled Youth AGM.

To me, these are the true heroes of MIC and I salute them.

Most of the 520 Youth Delegates attended the AGM. They were joined by Youth Observers and Puteras. Debates and questions from the floor were based on issues. No one took cheap shots against any one. All delegates stayed focused on how we can strengthen the party and stay relevant to the community. Make no mistakes, some harsh criticisms and comments were made but it was never personal. No attempt was made to gag anyone either. The quality of the debates were better then any that I have seen in recent years.

Putera MIC were a revelation at the AGM. We got off to a good start at this first official interaction between Putera and the ‘senior’ Youths. P.Kamalanathan has done a good job in identifying and nurturing these talented young cadres. They acquitted themselves well and spoke their mind on a wide variety of issues. Welcome aboard guys.

Ten Resolutions were tabled at the AGM. The First was in support for the President. Unlike previous years, this year, this particular resolution had a special significance and weight in view of the current political situation. It was heartfelt and was intended to send out a clear signal.

The Second Resolution was a call for transparency and merit based allocation of JPA Scholarships and Matriculation seats. Resolutions Three to Six were on economics. The government was urged to come up with a specific action plan to achieve the 3% Indian Equity target, set a up a revolving fund of RM300,000,000-00 for Young Indian Entrepreneurs, issue our very own banking licence and to issue operational licences/permits to genuine operators.

Resolution Seven was on allocation of 10% employment for Indians at Public Service Department at all levels and for fairer promotions. Resolution Eight was on agriculture with a call on the government to allocate land for farming. Resolutions Nine and Ten were on social issues whereupon the government was urged to grant a ‘temporary amnesty’ for registration of those without proper birth certificates and Identification Cards. The government was also urged to appoint at least one Indian Welfare Officer in each district.

In the midst of all these, the MIC Youth managed to pass the hat around and collect RM25,678-00 for the family of a former MIC Youth whose daughter is in coma due to an accident.

Most of the delegates stayed on till 5.45 pm although the AGM was scheduled to be adjourned at 4.30pm.

This was a successful AGM under any circumstances, and more so under the challenges we were up against.

Thank you guys. Its an honour to be counted as one of you!

Murugesan Sinnandavar