Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Is Riduan Tee safe to be stupid?

By Choo Sing Chye

It seems that  it is safe for Riduan Tee to be stupid in his number 4 idea.  In fact none of his other ideas proffer any intellectual wisdom that we keenly seek in him as a lecturer. All his proposed ideas, I supposed  had  certainly found a niche in the yelling-right politicians and NGOs.   

Now his voice changes and he is trying to sneak his way to the centre with his recent posting telling the Red Shirts not to go out. (Read Article)

Too late, if we read all his previous postings which were solely focused on hatred of the non Malays especially the Chinese, we would not have any doubt that these postings had a profound influence on the Red Shirts. The burning of Lim Guan Eng and Lim Kit Siang's effigies bears testament of this.

What did he say about the numerological belief of the Chinese towards the digit 4 that manifest in his inability to write or say things intelligently – a kindergarten intellect?  

The Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin lecturer also went on to say that the Chinese who joined Bersih 4 no longer believed in the superstitions attached to the number “4”, which is said to symbolise death. He said these Chinese rally-goers were no longer “afraid to die” as they now want to “bring death” to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang. (Malay Mail Online – September 7 2015) 

Just the digit, “4,” Riduan Tee had managed to beat, hamper and forge it  into a raw and hateful premise with the malicious intention to enrage the Malays.  To say that the Chinese rally-goers motive is to bring death to Najib Razak and Hadi Awang is  dangerous talk. 

If there is an opportune time to explain to the people the need to have the Sedition Law in Malaysia - this is the time! 
Now, let’s shift our attention to one article posted in the blog - OutSyed The Box:

Did you know that Malaysia is the ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD where all the 90 odd gomen universities (IPTA) do not have even one School of Philosophy? … Philosophy is learning about how to think and how to debate or argue a subject”. (September 9, 2015)
Anyway, Philosophy is much more than “learning about how to think and how to debate or argue a subject”.   Logic, one of the component of  Philosophy teaches us to be inquisitive so as to detect FAULTY arguments similar to the one put out by  Riduan Tee and company. 

One interesting fact about  Logic is that we can easily pair Riduan Tee’s argument  with another similarly premised piece in order to bring out the stupidity of his argument with more clarity. 

In Riduan Tee’s dim-witted argument  we can see the parallel premised piece below: 

Alexander the Great stopped a beer barrel. 
Alexander was buried; he who is buried becomes dust; what becomes dust is earth; earth is probably made loam; what probably made loam would stop a beer-barrel; therefore Alexander stopped a beer-barrel.

It is time for the politicians and academics to reflect logically when verbalising their arguments.
Whenever men debate, discuss, and argue, Logic is a court of appeal in the background…Logic trains the mind to draw the right conclusion, and to avoid the wrong, to make the true inference and not the false.”   (A.A.Luce – Logic) 

Nurul Izzah's No Compulsion view - A case of misinterpretation

The recent HAKIM members’ letter (1) to Malaysia Today had prompted me to write this article. Since I am not an expert in Islam, I will not delve into the merits of the letter, and also, what had been said in the press by UMNO politicians and supporters. I only comment on the common faults of politicians in construing something that had not been said.

"Precision is the first fruit of the study of logic and precision will sharpen your statements, and add points and force to your arguments correctly.

"Lack of it, shows itself in the ‘deficiency diseases' of the mind i.e. vagueness, woolliness of expression and feeble grip of the matter at hand.

"Remember this, logic at its lower levels blends with grammar and at its height, merges in philosophy."

So true, look at the arguments of our local politicians and the writings of the BN leaning columnists and journalists and compare them to the West. You be the judge.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

1MDB, GST - The Ox and the Rope.

By Choo Sing Chye

The other day I met a guy whom, after several minutes, recognised him as a helper for the opposition during the recent General Elections.   One thing that striked me as odd was that he was confused over the issue of 1MDB and GST.

Apparently with Ahmad Maslan, Heng Seai Kie  and the whole wagon load of BN ministers as Chief Explain/ers of these two main issues,  it was normal to be confused.  I reassured him that there was nothing wrong with his mental capacity to reflect on issues logically.   

“Then explain these issues to me as plain as 1 – 2 – 3.”  He uttered with a huge dash of cynicism.

“Do you know the story of the Ox and the Rope?”  I asked.  “Nope!” Came the reply.

“Okay, here’s the story.”

In a bar somewhere in England, an old ex-convict was lamenting how he was unjustly put into goal.  Then a curious customer on hearing his plight, enquired the reason why?    

"Why, it was just nothing at all," the ex-convict explained easily. "I was strolling along the edge of the canal, when I happened to catch sight of a bit of old rope. Of course, I knew that old piece of rope was of no use to anyone, and so I just picked it up, and took it home with me."

"But I don't understand," the curious customer exclaimed. "Why should they punish you so severely for a little thing like that? I don't understand it."

"Beats me, I don't understand it, either," the ex-convict declared.

The curious customer went back to his drink.  Minutes later, he went to refill his glass, with the story still ringing in his head, queried the bartender.

“That poor fellow over there was thrown into jail because of a piece of unwanted rope, so sad, so unjust, what this world is coming to?”  

The bartender replied, “so you are new here, did he tell you that  there was an ox at the other end of the rope....?"  (END)

The guy laughed and said, “I understand clearly now, so the whole Barisan Nasional rationalised the whole issue as the rope and Tun Dr Mahathir and the opposition, the ox...”

The story above is taken from the book, JOKES FOR ALL OCCASIONS By EDWARD J. CLODE, with some changes here and there.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A letter to Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek – Eric Pausen’s twit and Charlie Hebdo massacre .

By: Choo Sing Chye

What you say as Communication and Multimedia Minister a few days ago should be the words spoken by the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. 

I can see your intention is noble for calling JAKIM  to use a  “soft power” approach to correct Paulsen's misconceptions”.   (1) 

Let me quote Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677), to reinforce what you had said above: 

the true aim of government is – Liberty – it is not supposed to rule, or restrain by fear nor to exact obedience, but contrawise, to free man from fear that he may live in all possible security, in other words, to strengthen his natural rights to exist and work without injury to himself or others”. 

And when you said, “In the context of freedom of expression, I feel there is no problem (for a live debate over RTM). We can ask the lawyer to come to RTM. If Jakim agrees, I have no issue with it” – it's professionalism your are talking about, not politics.  This should be the way to conduct business as a minister. (2)    

Anyway, I believe that the tiny sparks of the “46’s spirit” still lingers in you.    

But  sadly the platform for debate had already been chosen – the lockup.  

Yes, I totally agree with you when you said in the media that “Freedom of expression is not just expressing one sentence. You have to articulate it so that the people understand and can explain it further.”  (3) 

For the sake of  argument, can the government controlled media like RTM provide a platform and time to have Paulsen’s misconceptions annul by Jakim in a non-combative environment?

Remember Tun Daim Zainuddin’s statement in the Malaysian Insider, three days ago.   He said, “TV3 which would not give 2 minutes of air time to Pakatan, has aired the PKR press conference no less than 3 times. The NST and Utusan have also carried this news”.  (4)

Ironically, the above statement says it all. We don't need to ponder any further.

But, some 60 years ago Martin Luther King also faced the same problems of  media black-out by the White controlled media.  

But nonetheless, he overcame this debasing act and turned his non-violent movement into one of the most successful  movements in  US history.  

Encompassing this lead was the easy to use and easy to understand catch-phrase theme, “Democracy is the Freedom to change Unjust laws”.  

The theme of these little eight words was articulated so eloquently by Martin Luther King that it reverberated throughout the land and  pricked the conscience of White America.   

The march on August 28, 1963 from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial is celebrated as in one of the biggest  freedom marches in US history.  And all these climaxed  into one of the most enduring speeches  that Martin Luther King had ever made  - “I have a Dream”

This time, his dream of freedom, justice, peace and the brotherhood of  man was beamed throughout the US, thus ushering in a dawn of a  new America. 


Charlie Hebdo massacre 

Freedom of speech/expression is the fundamental condition for a thriving, and peaceful world.  

The Charlie Hebdo massacre had again opened an endless debate on Free Speech/Expression all over the world.  

How do we argue on this issue?

First, we must understand that the content of the caricatures should be put on trial and not the vehicle (the freedom to express) that delivers it.   

Even if we take a thousand years to debate on the practice of free expression, we will not find an answer to this issue, because we are not looking at it.  But what we should be looking at, is its contents and debate judiciously on its correctness or its inappropriateness.    

We have to seriously come to a benchmark where we can agree on certain viewpoints which do not qualify to be express freely without a moral boundary.

How wide should we draw this moral boundary?  Well, this is where we need a platform where all the ideas from all the religious leaders, politicians, philosophers, authors  and scientists to discuss this boundary.

Apparently this issue has gone beyond the benchmark of rationality to  say it is okay to publish these caricatures which metaphorically associate the image of Prophet Muhammad as a symbol of insult/hate is downright unethical.

First, drawing an image of Prophet Muhammad is disallowed in Islam and secondly, he did not say or do things that were promoted by ISIL, the Al Queda or other extremists.  

So,  do they deserve to die?  

NO!  They don’t deserve to die or to be jailed! The only crime that they were guilty off was their poorly conceived caricatures did not meet the standard of fair-comment. 

The innocent victims who were killed by ISIL, Boko Haram and Al Queda  too, do not deserve to die.    

Nobody deserves to die. But we have to relook  at this episode in a very different light from now on and altered our bias perception on certain things that are different from us.   

We can do this to prevent the moderate Muslims from being the target of “collective” insults  as result of these caricatures.   This will at least prevent the influence of terrorism from spreading to the moderate Muslims.

And finally, the best maxim that I could find to sum up this letter is: “Free Will - just because you could, it doesn't  mean you should”.

To commemorate Luther King's birthday on the 15th January, I decided to post the complete speech here.............. 
(Click http://singchyeblog.blogspot.com/p/i-have-dream-by-martin-luther-king-jr.html  

1) “Up to Jakim to debate Eric Paulsen says minister,” Malaysian Insider, Bernama, January 16, 2015

2) “Shabery: RTM can host Paulsen-Jakim debate,” Malaysian Insider,  January 15, 2015.

3) Ibid.,

4) “I know those behind media spotlight on me, says Daim.”  Malaysian Insider, January 15, 2015.

5) “Mock Islam, and expect a punch.” Sky News 16-1-2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

A reply to Prof. Madya Dr. Ali Salman -Pluralism not acceptable in Islam, but show respect to all.

By: Choo Sing Chye.

It is good that your reply to my article is without amity.

To begin with your letter, I ponder, where is the issue?

Firstly, The logical representations of your reply is that you reject Pluralism because it  means Religious Pluralism, and in this setting, all religion cannot dissolved into one. 

This is the very same  argument that I am advocating, i.e. Religion cannot be moulded into one super-valued entity (Value Pluralism).  It cannot be done.  If it can be done, then what you call the new moulded religion?  But, it is not the same with Pluralism, it does not  mould all religion into one, it only bring all races together peacefully and unite them, to become Malaysians.
When you use the term, Pluralism, you think of Melting Pot, that is the reason why you say “dissolve”.   In Pluralism, there are two constructs of uniting the people, one is the Melting-Pot (USA) and another is the Mosaic construct (Britain, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia and many others).  

This explanation will be given in part 2 of  my article.  Therefore, you should wait for my second part.  I hope you would email me direct to debate on points that I will be bringing out in part 2 of my article. 

Secondly,  Professor, you  mean that  we cannot imply/say that leaders are unintelligent, and if we do, we are unintelligent too? Sir, Tun Dr. Mahathir too, talks about unintelligent leaders in UMNO.

Please read with care my article, I only criticise unintelligent leaders, not the intelligent ones. 

My statement says: “We have  weak, and unintelligent leaders in UMNO to begin with”.  I, on purpose said, “we have”  which means to say that “we have”   intelligent leaders in UMNO too.    I didn’t say, “We do not have strong and intelligent leaders in UMNO to begin with”.   This statement means what you mean in your reply.

Thirdly, of course, I am biased and against unintelligent  leaders in UMNO because UMNO is the GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY, and whatever policies they passed in Parliament affect my family, and the whole country.  

Fourthly :  You said in your reply: “Look at Malaysia today. That (There) is enough testimony of the farsightedness of the leaders in containing racial tensions and moving the country forward. Of course the leaders are not infallible, but they deserve credit and credit should be given where it’s due”.

My Reply:  It’s the other side of the coin that you are answering from, but do give some strong facts, if not people will see you as a “apple-polisher,” but not me.  I stand on the principle of the Greek Sophist Protagoras’ (500-430 BC) that  “Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not.”  

Simply said, “things are to me as they appear to me and to you as they appear to you.”  This is same as yours,  “for you your way of life and for us our way of life”. 

In sum,  Professor, don’t you think we are talking and agreeing on the same argument, but not the term. I, too, disagree with Religious Pluralism, and not Pluralism, because Religious Pluralism is not plausible, and it is not represented in the mainstream arguments  by philosophers/intellectuals/professors past or present as in the form you are talking about.   Most importantly, in reality, it  cannot latch onto any society anywhere in the world.

We should not use the word “religious” as a NOUN or an ADJECTIVE, to describe Pluralism, because its like treating  Pluralism as water which takes the form of any container when poured into it.   This is incorrect,  and it will cause  misunderstanding if our minds are not precise enough to tell the difference between the container and the content of the water.

I hope that you would kindly send me brochures, pamphlets or give me title of books that you think I should read about Pluralism. Thanks

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pluralism is neither a fatalistic nor a sinister philosophical/political idea – Part 1

By: Choo Sing Chye 

Let us break free from the shackle of hate, and make 2015 a  year to rekindle our hopes of goodwill, and harmony in Malaysia.  We have forgotten the feelings of brotherhood, and sisterhood which had been residing in our hearts many decades ago.  

Needless to say that it is already a known fact that the hate-peddlers dwell comfortably in UMNO’s ironic One-Malaysia home.   We have  weak and unintelligent leaders in UMNO to begin with, and because of this, they are unable to  provide an effectual injunction against these hate-peddler’s misdemeanours.  

Their lack of intelligence, and political will, have left  a large patch of  fertile ground for this consortium of hate-peddlers, the yelling right-wingers, thugs and the pseudo-intelligentsia to flourish and expand.  

In short, these hate-peddlers dominate everything from influence peddling to national debate.  They even dictate the vocabulary of Human-rights, Democracy, Pluralism and Liberalism.  

Malaysian Pluralism.

Pluralism, like Liberalism is neither a fatalistic nor a sinister philosophical/political idea, it just needs a keen mind to comprehend, and decode its significance so that it could be applied effectively to our society in the form of good policies.   

But, with our tiny minded politicians, and activists dominating the mainstream debate, throwing ideology like Pluralism into the ring would in an instance hurl them into a violence epileptic fit. 

What many do not know is that Pluralism is the key to our political survival, and it forms the back-bone of our society whether we like it or not.  In fact, Barisan Nasional, and the Pakatan Rakyat are fashioned toward diversity incorporating several different ethnic political parties under its wings vying to become the government of the day.

Pluralism held on well during the preliminary years after Merdeka.  Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister, continued with the British Federalist policy of governing Malaya/Malaysia.  But sadly, almost 12 years later, May 13th riots broke out, and it sent the country into an uncontrollable spiral entering one the bleakest episode in our history.  This was the day Pluralism stopped working. 

Yes, Pluralism literally died on that day.  The Malays and the Chinese were at each other's throats, and hatred for each other reign the day.  No more neighbourly or brotherly love – just pure hatred.  

It was Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr. Ismail who resuscitated Pluralism when they reinstated Parliament  and moulded the Rukun Negara into the Malaysian consciousness. 

Today, Pluralism had fallen into disrespect and torn into tatters by the yelling hate-peddlers.  Unintelligently, these acts are being cheered on by none other than our Barisan Nasional’s future and present leaders, notably from UMNO.

Now, why is the real meaning of Pluralism not in our national debate or in our consciousness anymore? 

It is crystal clear that these unintelligent hate-peddlers have misplaced the correct meaning of Pluralism.  They seem to focus entirely on the presumption that Pluralism has a hegemonic value attached to it.   

They refused, and in most cases, unable to think intelligently.  They  inferred that our society with different set of values are made equal, and forcibly moulded together into one gigantic Super-Valued Pluralism.  (1,  Value Pluralism).     By this, they insist and believed that Islam is placed at equal footing with other religions.   

This is  pure nonsense, because in reality, Pluralism cannot be super-valued into one huge entity where everything are forcibly made equal.   Islam cannot  be reduced in value to be made equal to other religions. It simply cannot be done!

The Malaysian Constitution is a Federalist document, and not a Super-Valued one.  It positions  Islam eminently as the religion of the Federation (official religion), and it is placed under the domain of the Malay Rulers, while the non-Muslims are given space to freely practise their religion in the Federation. 

UMNO’s politicians, and the yelling hate-peddlers shouldn’t have fallen into these hostile and antagonistic trappings. They have all the highly paid consultants, government owned media practitioners,  public university professors, and yet they can’t even understand the correct meaning of Pluralism.

In fact, UMNO having all these advantages would have easily sailed through explaining the significance of having a thriving pluralistic culture in our society.    But the opposite is true, none of their scornful, thoughtless, nasty and silly speeches  reflect the correct meaning of Pluralism. 

As a consequence, things that are good can be made bad with the twist of the yelling hate-peddlers’ tongue.   Let us take the hypothetical example, even the simplest meaning like SWEARING can be misplaced and manipulated.

To prove a point, the word swearing can be banned from our courts if  these hate-peddlers bypass their brain, and jump in a haste to believe this syllogistic layout: “Swearing is forbidden by  God; swearing is practised in our Courts of Justice; therefore something practised in our Courts of Justice is forbidden by  God.”   So,  should it be removed from our court’s system?  

This is a simple hypothetical example to illustrate what can happen to a term when its meaning is not comprehended, and misplaced by us, just like Pluralism.    

Thus, what we need today are intelligent, and competent leaders to carry the torch of pluralism/diversity needed to secure all Malaysians a place in the sun, and sadly this is not the case.

Undeniably, it is an insurmountable task to correct the consortium of hate peddler’s perceptions.  But fortunately, we have the Group of 20 plus 11 coming out into the open to voice this concern.  This has definitely offered us a small glimmer of hope against this Consortium of haters.  

I hope this group and others would flourish throughout 2015 and beyond.

1) E.R.Chang, Value Pluralism – Keywords: Pluralism, Monism, Values, Reduction, Regret, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Relativism, Pleasure, Rational choice, Incommensurability, Incomparability.  Dept. of Philosophy, Rutger University, N.Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Are UMNO leaders fit to wear the badge of Ketuanan?

By: Choo Sing Chye

UMNO’s convention this year has given us a brief interlude, a small window to peep into the inner sanctum of  UMNO.   Instead of an innovative leap into the arena of fine and intelligent debate, we see a parade of UMNO’s so call future leaders and silly-intellectuals promoting their wares thoughtlessly without any sense of etiquette or nobleness.

Unquestionably, this deep-seated demeanour has become a customary dictate of every UMNO convention and it has spawned into a huge centre-stage for these unthinking characters and unintelligent  debates. 

They scream, disrupt, scold, threaten and bully their way through an argument which ultimately every bit of  these scorns and biddings would finally end up as  future policies which you and I had to follow.

In fact, all these scorns are never a showcase of  a Ketuanan in the Malay sense.

The true concept of the Malay Ketuanan leans more to the side of sovereignty and eminency rather than to the racial supremacist scheme of the fascist.  In short, a Malay gentleman.

Ironically, without doubt, it is  common knowledge that every UMNO leader aspires to be a tuan to all races like the British.  But seemingly, one of the most important aspect of  a tuan which often slips from their minds and actions is etiquette. 

In so saying, the legitimacy of the ketuanan Malays rests on the pillar of strength, humility, conscientiousness, nobleness, justice, responsibility, and lastly, the most important is etiquette.  

All these mean that they must not treat one half of the governed with justice, and the other half with scorn.   

Without all these senses, it is hard for the ketuanan UMNO leaders to convince citizens from other races that they are not just another bully or kepala samseng where bullying becomes the central core of their creed and doctrine.

UMNO leaders should not look at their neighbour’s cake and complain that it shouldn’t be bigger than theirs.  They have unlimited access to the country’s wealth, and it shouldn’t be difficult for them to purchase a super  large oven and employ the best chefs to bake a super large cake.  If they wish so, no non Malay can stand in the way.   I do not know why UMNO leaders are not doing so?   Instead, they  torment their neighbour until the day he/she bakes a smaller cake.

Today most of the UMNO Malay tuans have forgotten how to act and talk like a gentleman tuan.  

Isabella Bird, in her book, The Golden Chersonese (1883), she wrote about the relationship between Hugh Low, the ketuanan British Resident,  and the Malays:

It is very interesting and pleasant to see the relations which exist between Mr Low and the Malays. Mr Low is only a little over fifty now, and when he first came, the rajas told him that they ‘were glad that the Queen had sent them an old gentleman’! At this moment three rajas are lying about the veranda, and their numerous followers are clustered on and about the stairs. (Mr Low) never raises his voice to a native, and they look as if they like him, and from their laughter and cheeriness they must be perfectly at ease with him. He is altogether devoted to the interests of Perak and fully carries out his instructions which were ‘to look upon Perak as a native state ultimately to be governed by native rajas’, whom he is to endeavour to educate and advise ‘without interfering with the religion or custom of the country’. He obviously attempts to train and educate these men in the principles and practice of good government, so that they shall be able to rule firmly and justly.” (1)

Are today’s tuan, be they,  Malays, Chinese, Indians or others, copies of the  first acting Resident of Perak,  J.W.W. Birch? 

Birch was tactless, dishonest, rude and arrogant.  He borrowed large sums of money from the Capitalist farmers in his capacity as Colonel Secretary and with the intention of not returning it.  (2)

In fact, he gave lucrative contracts to the Farms when he was acting Resident of Perak. Contracts like collection of duties from the sale of liquor and opium which then were deemed  government monopoly. (3)  

Apparently all these facts were omitted from history books written by Western historians. 

John Simons Atchison, a lawyer, acting on behalf of his client, wrote:

It is stated on undoubted authority (that of the farmers) that the present Colonial Secretary (Birch) is indebted to their Farms in the sum of $5,000 or $6,000 and to Mr. Tan Seng Poh (son of the first Perak Kapitan China) the principal farmer in a sum of over $1,700 and that without security. It is also perfectly well known that this official was indebted to another well known contractor in a sum of $4,500 still unpaid, and has other improper obligations degrading to his office and bringing contempt upon Her Majesty’s Public service.” (4)

In a letter to the Straits Observer (Singapore), 29th March1875, critically alleged that:

Weeks ago we said that Mr. Birch was not doing as he was expected to do, and had neither made friends with the Sultan nor the Chiefs, and had disgusted capitalists who wished to make ventures in the new territory… It is well for the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Andrew Clarke’s popularity that he is soon to leave the colony, for His Excellency appears to be fast drifting into the same stream that swamped his predecessor. By placing too implicit confidence in the shallow advisers around him and appointing to offices in the new territory men who are unworthy or unfit, he thus endangers the success of his otherwise well considered policy.” (5)

Unfortunately, Andrew Clarke personified the way our leaders do business today.  

His hallmark of leadership was the “placing too implicit confidence in the shallow advisers around him and appointing to offices…men who are unworthy or unfit.”

Yes, this 139 year old letter cannot express better the predicament that we are  in.

(1)  N.J.Ryan.  Malaya through four centuries. Oxford University Press, 1959.  With cooperation from the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar.

(2) Khoo Kay Kim, J.W.W. Birch: A Victorian Moralist in Perak’s Augean Stable?
Journal of the Historical Society, University of Malaya, Volume IV 1965/66).

(3)  – ibid.,

(4)  – ibid.,

(5)  – ibid.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

So you say you know Liberalism - really do you?

by: Choo Sing Chye.

Many of us are still ignorant of the fact that Liberalism comes in many forms and narratives.   

At the end of the 18th Century onward, saw the creation of the “Republic of Letters,” an imagined or virtual “Empire of thought” whose members were philosophers, scientists and novelists, living in different countries but connected by letters and literary and scientific journals.

These philosophers, scientists and novelists provided the society the impetus to apply brakes on the excessive power of the government.

All these narratives and debates changes in a zigzag manner throughout the century to the present wrapped-up (summarised) version of Liberalism which is to a large degree, rights-based, focusing particularly on the relationship between the state and the people.  In fact Liberalism is the summations of all these ideas and thoughts. 

Basically, this wrapped-up rights-based version of Liberalism is synonymous with Western Democracy, and it has  become the  cornerstone of  Liberal Democracy.  

No philosopher or writer can lay claim that his or her view points are in every respect represent Liberalism.  Certain narratives are better than others, but nobody in the past or in the present could really pin his/her finger at a particular theory and safely said that this is the better one.  It is not easy to pinpoint what Liberalism is, than what is not. 

For an example, many have inaccurately attached the liberal label to the British Liberal Party in the early years of its existence.   In 1680, English politicians who wanted to exclude from the throne any Roman Catholic monarch were derisively called the Whigs. The Whigs nobles dominated the anti-Tory forces until the appointment of Gladstone as Prime Minster in 1868.  From that date on this anything-but-Tory force was called Liberals instead of Whigs.

Thus, in this later part of the 19th Century, the British Liberals divert their focus to free trade opposing the monopolistic mercantilists of the the major Western powers, instead of calling for the blood of Catholic nobles.  By then free trade had already gained foothold in the East – Penang, Singapore and later Hong Kong.  

Another case of mistaken identity was Benjamin Constant (1767—1830), in his celebrated address at the Royal Academy in Paris in 1818, counter posed liberalism to democracy and focused on private property: 

The ancients aimed at a distribution of power among all the citizens of a given state, and they referred to this as freedom. For the moderns, the goal is security in their private posses­sions. For them, liberty refers to the guarantees of these possessions afforded by their institutions”.

By saying this, he had relegated the idea of democracy, one of the main pillars of Liberalism  to the fringe and yet, surprisingly, he was called the uncompromising, thorough going liberal of his time. In modern time, he would be aptly called a Conservative.

Stepping away from this narrative was his mistress, Madame de Staêl (1766-1817), also a Liberal but of a different sort. 

In 1814, she bravely took   on the undemocratic French Ultras, which at that time was considered political suicide:

Will it always be necessary to rule 300 years behind time, or will a new Joshua order the sun to stop in its course!...It would be interesting to know to which generation of our forefathers infallibility had been granted…they want an absolute king, an exclusive religion and intolerant priests, a nobility at court based on inheritance, a Third Estate raised from time to time to the nobility, an ignorant people with no rights, an inactive army, minister without responsibility, no freedom of the press, no juries, no civil liberties, but police spies and hired papers to flaunt this work of darkness”.

She could have gone to jail was she not the daughter of Louis XVI’s Finance Minister. 

Parallel to this narrative, Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677), on free speech, he wrote:

To impose uniformity of speech and to force men to speak only according to the dictates of the supreme power would represent a tyranny against nature and a calamity both for the state and individual, which would perhaps accepted by the voracious, the flatteners, and the numbskulls, who think supreme salvation consists in filling their stomachs and gloating over their money-bags, but always resisted by those whom good education, sound morality and virtue have rendered more free”.
Spinoza narrative on the  freedom of speech would have touched the raw nerves of the present day yelling right-wingers.

Liberalism does have moral and judicial brakes.

Finally we come to the wrapped-up (summarised) version of Liberalism in the 20th  and the 21st Century.  

Liberalism always converge on the Right-based liberal state which has clear and unambiguous moral and legal brakes which is articulated  precisely in this book, “Liberalism and Democracy” by Norberto Bobbio :

The rights-based state is generally understood as a state in which public power is regulated by general norms (funda­mental or constitutional laws) and must be exercised within the framework of the laws which regulate it, while citizens have secure rights of recourse to an independent judiciary in order to establish and prevent any abuse or excessive exercise of power”. 
But, In Malaysia, Liberalism has become a casualty of the yelling unintelligent right-wingers in the Barisan Nasional and pro-government NGOs.  To be fair, this confused state of mind also afflicts the Opposition and independent NGOs. 

To them, Liberalism has no moral and legal brakes and is the embodiment of every thing that is bad – an unguided democracy, obstreperous manners,  absolute freedom, free for all, anything goes and free sex – a devil’s incarnate.

I do not know whether the water or weather is affecting their views on Liberalism. But one thing is certain, is that they are expounding an assumption that is not even in the Liberalism’s ball field.  

What they are assuming does not tally with Liberalism – it tallies with Anarchism, a doctrine advocating free association of individuals, without armed forces, courts, prisons, or written laws, and the abolition of organized authority.

Finally, we must at least know what Liberalism is before building an argument – for or against.   It is  very tedious  to argue back and forth when we do not know where to begin and when to stop.    

Since Malaysia is now a member of the Non-permanent United Nation’s Security Council, our leaders should not make a fool of themselves in front of other members by parroting the yelling right-wingers who themselves do not know what they are yelling about.

For the benefit of the our leaders who want to debate in the international arena, care must be taken not to cross mix the macro and micro arguments of Liberalism with other restrictive political systems.  A dull mind always cross mixes both.  

For an example, one cannot argue that free speech, free press and free elections could exist in a dictatorship or in an authoritarian government – it is silly and does not make sense. 

Liberalism in the macro sense is the opposite of despotism, tyranny. dictatorship, totalitarianism and authoritarianism. And in the micro sense, Liberalism is about  human rights, toleration, rule of good laws, free elections, free press, independent judiciary, professional policing and etc - 
(P E R I O D)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Malays too, suffered.

By: Choo Sing Chye

When an  analyst  from Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) postulated that the Malays were bullied by non Malays, especially the Chinese, it changes the dynamics of the Malaysian history.  

This likened him to contortionists who are able to squeeze their bodies into very tight spaces.  Similarly, the Isma's analyst  is doing the same by cramming  volumes of historical facts into one  word -  bullying.  

The so-called historical  analyst conveniently left out a huge chunk of facts concerning the Siamese interferences, 'bullying' and wars with the Malay states from 1402 to 1909. Five hundred years worth of facts were strangely not included in his research?

The Isma's analyst   must  understand that HISTORY must be written as it was and not what it should be,  eventhough it is painful to write.   In history, there were no heroes or crooks; they were just either the victors or the vanquished.   

I concur with the Isma's analyst  that  ordinary Malays had without doubt suffered tremendously through the course of its 500 over years history but not on the  assigning of blame. 

Here is one incident which illustrates the callous way unfortunate Malay slaves were treated which was witnessed by Frank Swettenham while he was staying in Langat, Selangor.   He penned it in his book, ‘The Real Malay’:  

My nearest neighbour was a raja, who shortly before my arrival had constituted himself the tracker, captor accuser, and judge of three debt-slaves, who had run away from the house of the Sultan of the country.   The system of debt-slavery (a position of serfdom entailed by inability to pay a real or imaginary debt to some powerful chief) used to be a great institution in Malaya, and the tortures suffered by the unhappy victims were almost incredible. Three so-called debt-slaves – a boy and two girls, all under 20 years of age – had escaped from the house and custody of the Sultan, and runaway.   They were pursued and caught by my neighbour, who brought them back to his own hut on the river bank, a hundred yards above my dwelling.

The boy was taken into a field and krised, i.e. stabbed to death with wavy snake-like kris.It was not the custom to kris girls, so my neighbour’s wife called the 2 runaways to accompany her to the river, where she was going to bathe.  They did so, and followed her on to a log, which stretched from the shore out into the stream.  There they were seized, and one was held, while a retainer took the other by the hair, pushed her into the river, and, still, holding here hair, pressed her head under water with his foot until she was drowned.    The other girl, a compulsory spectator of the scene, was similarly treated, as soon as they had time to attend to her.   The corpses were left lying on the muddy bank, till friends came and removed them. 

I was told that my neighbour went to the Sultan, and sought credit for his zeal saying, ‘I have got rid of those children who ran away.’   But the Sultan expressed his displeasure, and my neighbour, a man of rank and authority, in a fit of disgust and unwonted generosity, provided winding-sheets for the corpses.”    (Malaya Through Four Centuries – An Anthology 1500 – 1900, N.J.Ryan) 

Without doubt  ordinary Malays, Chinese coolies and Indians rubber tapers  collectively suffered in the 18th and the 19th  Century.  

There is no contention about this fact. No local historians had denied this, but not with the politicians and NGOs be they, the Malays, the Chinese or the Indians.

ISMA ARTICLE - get here

Mohd Zul Fahmi Md Bahrudin, an analyst of Malaysian history and constitution under Isma-linked Institut Kajian Arus Baru Malaysia.