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 in fact, 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.  In fact, 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 instead of calling for the blood of Catholic nobles.  They became  the main opponents of Mercantilism where trade between the Western powers and their colonies were monopolised.  Subsequently, the success of this focus led to the establishment of free trade  in Penang, Singapore and later Hong Kong by the English East India Company.  

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 StaĂȘl (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 orders 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 do 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)





(I have on purpose did not write down the title of books that I quoted from.  This is to prevent the ideas of this article being plagiarised.   Anybody can freely use this article, but the author’s name must be included in it.  If you are writing a thesis (university) or you are a politician or journalist, and want to discuss/debate this topic with me I would gladly obliged - please email.)




Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Malays too, suffered.

By: Choo Sing Chye
12-10-14


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
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/chinese-have-always-bullied-malays-isma-analyst-claims

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





     

Monday, May 20, 2013

Any doubts about Racism?


Look At This Picture carefully!


Still Having doubts?  
Now Look At this Second Picture.



Still don't get it....
Okay, don't
force yourself to think..

Just go and read

uTu-SuN



Friday, May 3, 2013

P. Waythamoorthy - a letter just for you


By:  Choo Sing Chye


Waythamoorthy, now that the 13th Elections is over, I hoped that you have passed the grade set by Najib’s government. 

Believe me, Waythamoorthy, there can never be a bright future for us in  Malaysia if we do not see and treat ourselves as brothers and sisters.

No one brother or sister can walk alone leaving their siblings in destitute, and at the same time holding their heads high.

It is inevitable that our society changes, but what matters is whether there is real change or just make-believe.  

P. Waythamoorthy, you wrote significantly on the loss of the  Ladang Batu Pekaka Hindu Burial Ground in Kedah in 2011 and the terrible cultural  impact that it had exacted on the Indian Community there.

Unfortunately this problem has its roots stretching back to late 1880’s.  In fact in 1939, the then Malaya sent a delegate to India to hold talks with the Chief Minister of Madras, C. Rajagopalachari.  The Malayan Deputy Controller of Labour drew up a budget showing how the rate of 33 cents a day was quite adequate for an Indian worker.  Rajaji replied: "I see that you have provided for every contingency, but not for his funeral expenses.  The Malayan Chief Secretary assured: "The Malayan Government will see to it, Sir."   (1)

Regrettably, the Malayan Government then and now Malaysia could only see to it, but had done nothing.

Even through the mid sixties, this problem still persist.  I spent my entire childhood living in the Hospital Labourer Quarters and it was near the old hospital mortuary.  Thus, inevitably,  my childhood was centred around it.

There was an Indian labourer who was given two jobs.  One, was to cart the dead  from the hospital to the mortuary and two, he had to make crude coffins for the unclaimed dead.

Majority of the unclaimed dead were old Indians, aged between 60 to 75 years and most of the time found by the roadside.  If we do our maths right, these poor souls would have come to Malaya in the mid 20’s, and spent their prime life slaving for the filthy rich planters.    And when they outlived their usefulness, they were left by the roadside to die.  

Nobody knew their names or who they were? The only possession they had were the worn out clothes which they were still wearing. We do not know which part of India  he came from, but at least we know how he was brought in.

According to K. Tambisamy, Manager of the Rawang Mines and a contractor, reported to an Enquiry Commission in 1890, the method of recruitment:

"I was sent over to India in 1886 to recruit coolies for (the Malayan) Government, and from the experience then gained I can con­fidently assert that not one single coolie who leaves India knows the real value of the rupee in this country, nor the cost of living here. The recruiters are, scoundrels to a man; they, not only make gross misrepresentations to the intending emigrants, but even employ force to bring them over. I cannot quote any specific instance of this, but I have myself seen men dragged from the depot to the steamer by force in the presence of Police Officers, who raised no remonstrance." (2)

Waythamoorthy , after 15 grueling days of campaigning with  BN, you would be certainly sucked into their ruse.  You would definitely  be enlightened firsthand by the fact that their subservient press and electronic media obligingly played up the political deception of  telling the rakyat that BN is their saviour and  they should be grateful to the Barisan Nasional government.

Remember Waythamoorthy, it's the same press and electronic media that demeans you and your Hindraf in 2007.

Uncannily eighty years ago in 1947,  the filthy rich planters from the United  Planting Association of Malaya (UPAM) said the same very thing to the estate Indians.  Strange?

UPAM told the estate Indians that:  "Your lot is happier than in any other countries. Where in the world will you find an industry that finds free lodging, free medical attention, space for gardens to grow your own vegetables, ground to graze your cattle free, and plenty of firewood for nothing?  How many of you Indians have seen the pathetically low standard of living of millions of your brothers in India, and how many of you Chinese know of the frightful conditions in China ? ...  It should be remembered that an increase in wage is no cure for conditions that are ruling today. An increase in wages causes the price of food and all other commodities to increase." (3)

Is your “lot”  a lot happier with the BN government even if they come in the shape of  Ravana ?

No, Waythamoorthy, the Malaysian Hindu community is a lot happier if help comes in the form of goodness and strong righteous principles, that’s the reason why they seek blessings from Lord Rama in temples across the land.




Photos of the May day Ceramah in Buntong, Ipoh.  A huge mix crowd of Indians and Chinese attended this Ceramah.   Speakers, Ambiga, Kit Siang, Kulasegaran, Nga Kor Ming and others.























1.         “Indians in Malaya, Historical Facts and Figures, Geogre Netto,
Self published, Singapore and the Federation of Malaya, P30
 
2.       Ibid., P26

3.       Ibid., P76




Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lim Kit Siang – a personification of political decency, honesty and civility


When Kit Siang visited Pasir Pinji market (23 April), well, I thought I’d have a chance to see him there and perhaps my old hawker friends.
I was the state assembly member there in 1990.
Pasir Pinji market is at the heart of what is going on in the Pasir Pinji state constituency, which is part of the Ipoh Timor arliamentary constituency.
The response to Kit Siang’s visit was enthusiastic and warm, and I could see in the hawkers’ eyes that they appreciated it very much that he personally took time off from the scathing battle in Gelang Patah, Johore, just to see them – his old constituents.
A surprising highlight and befitting end to the visit was when an old Indian Malaysian man, instead of shaking Kit Siang’s hand, gave him a spontaneous fatherly hug.
After this, I retired to have a chat with my long-time hawker friends. One former banker friend came and join us, and with a worried face, said that he was concerned that Kit Siang stands a very slim chance of winning the Gelang Patah seat.
I pondered for awhile and answered, “Yes, if Umno resorts to an intense xenophobic campaign aimed at him personally and the DAP, then you are right.”
“And if the avalanche of gutter journalism from the subservient newspapers and television is stacked against Kit Siang without impediment, then yes, the chance is very slim.
“And if Barisan Nasional pours in tons and tons of money donated by super-rich cronies into their campaign in Gelang Patah, then the chance is very, very slim.”
“And if the Election Commission heaps all its effort against the opposition, YES the chance is worse than slim.
“Then how if he loses?” asked the former banker.
“I hope not, as he is the personification of political decency, honesty and civility,” I replied.

Posted in Aliran at:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Teng Chang Yeow – You are a TRAITOR.



By: Choo Sing Chye


Okay, okay, I am not that nasty anyway to call you a traitor or anyone else who call for the restoration of the Penang Free Port status.  

Definitely it’s not my style  to affix this “T” label on anyone. 

Well, if you don’t believe me, go back and look up the Penang Hansard and leaf through the pages to the State  Assembly debate  on  9th June 1994.

The   debate was centered particularly on the restoration of the free port status in Penang.    

And in  this debate, our “ketikaran” (plenty smart) friend Azhar bin Ibrahim (BN Assemblyman) labeled all the DAP Assemblymen “TRAITORS” for calling for the restoration of the free port status.

There you are, Teng, I told you, its not me that use the “T” word.

Anyway, before you promote this idea to reinstate the free port status and solicit Penangites’ votes, you got to kick three butts.

First  is Azhar’s and the other two are, Koh Tsu Koon’s and  Kee Phaik Cheen’s.  

You see Teng, you said that it is advantageous and good  if the free port status in Penang is restored.   

But, Koh Tsu Koon’s and  Kee Phaik Cheen’s chose to differ nineteen years ago when they said that the restoration of free port status  was  “bad”  and  “harmful”  to   Penang.

Koh Tsu Koon in the Assembly said that the loss of free port status was a “blessing in disguise” for Penang.  He added that the restoration of free port status  was  “unnecessary”   and  “out-dated”.

Madam Kee Phaik Cheen, EXCO member in charge of tourism even went further by saying that the restoration of free port status would “distort the business economy of the tourism industry”.

I do not know whether they still hold this position or not, you better check on them before saying anything further on this issue.

When NST, “asked how DAP Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had been going about restoring the state’s free port status”.  You replied: “If the chief minister wanted it, he should have asked for it four years ago, not now.”

Teng, I do not know why you bluff.   In fact,  DAP Assemblyman, Teoh Teik Huat, moved a motion in the State Assembly calling on the Federal Government to restore the free port status in Penang, nineteen years ago.

He added that the free port status will assist greatly Penang's economic development especially in the field of tourism and making Penang  a truly  regional  service  centre  of the  northern  region (similar to you are saying).

But anyway as usual, the BN State Government
said, “NO”

So, when you promise to restore the Penang Free Port Status, it is pertinent for you, to check with UMNO’s fellows before you put this in the State BN’s Manifesto. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dr Chandra Muzaffar – just an open note for you


By:  Choo Sing Chye


Once your heart was  filled with egalitarian ideals which copiously   propagated into the pages of  your books and Aliran Monthly. 

I admired your courage to say these forbidden ideals which in the eyes of the UMNO’s kingpins were seditious. 

I believed that you have the  passion then, to offer solace for the poor without fear of offending the BN elites of the day.  

You didn’t speak for the Opposition, nor the BN government, but you spoke up eloquently for the poor and injustices.

In your heart you feel the anguish, despair, misery and wretchedness of the poor.

But today I see a different you.   

You have unmistakably  soaked up  the best tradition of the  5th Century Greek Sophist,  Thrasymachus  where he expounded his theory that  “justice is simply whatever is to the interest of the stronger party.” (1 )   

Today’s reality and challenges are the same as to the day you wrote this book in 1989, Challenges and Choices in Malaysian Politics and Society.  Below are some of the quotes from your book which are still as relevant as today’s woes: 

“The instability within Barisan parties, the cliques and factions that have emerged in some of them, the fierce and ferocious competition for power among groups and individuals, the buying and selling of votes even in divisional and branch elections, and indeed the foul filth that oozes out of every pore of Barisan Nasional politics…


“Perhaps most of all, it is the growing gap between word and deed, promise and performance that has disenchanted the people. 


“One talks all the while of trust and integrity and yet there is no determined, con­certed endeavour to unravel the truth about the shameful, scandalous BMF affair.    


“One talks all the while of the danger of corruption and money politics and yet corruption through cronyism and the politics of money are allowed to flourish.    


“One talks all the while of clean, healthy business practices and yet small but powerful cliques and coteries have entrenched themselves in the world of commerce and industry.  


“One talks all the while of thrift and austerity and yet there is lavish spending on prestige projects, tourist complexes, exclusive clubs, expensive mansions, grand celebrations, extravagant ceremonies, and costly trips and travels abroad. 


“One talks all the while of how important national unity is and yet one does not cease to divide the people by racialising issues.  


“One talks all the while of how liberal the administration is and yet one imposes the severest curbs upon ceramahs and publications.  


“One talks all the while of hard work and yet whenever the apostle of hard work visits a state or district everyone stops working!


“It is these blatant contradictions between what is said and what is done which has now led to a serious crisis of credibility. When a govern­ment's credibility is at stake, it must know that it is in trouble. For the crisis of credibility is the stage that precedes the crisis of legitimacy. Once a government faces a crisis of legitimacy, it ceases to command any moral authority. It is a sure sign of its downfall. Needless to say, our government is still some distance away from that stage.


“In this sort of situation, it is quite possible that unscrupulous elements among the ruling elites seeing that both their Malay and non­ Malay bases of support have been weakened considerably may in desperation try to create ethnic tensions which may lead to ethnic conflicts. They may then use the resulting ethnic breakdown as an excuse to set aside democratic procedures and rule by decree in order to consolidate and expand their power.


“If this happens, it would be a grave blow to the people's power. It would be a betrayal of the will of the rakyat. This is why though we may never be able to prevent a formal authoritarian regime from establishing itself, we should not do anything that will make it easier for anyone to impose such rule...”


I believe what you had written then was based on egalitarian idealism that was close to your heart and ours too.

Gone are days when you speak like an idealist, and today you speak like a BN politician and writes like The Star's columnists Joceyline Tan and Baradan Kuppusamy.

Whatever you write now does not matter to us and the poor anymore and perhaps to you now the “foul filth that oozes out of every pore of Barisan Nasional politics,” smells like roses..




  
  
Reference:

1.  “An introduction to Political Philosophy,”      .   R.M. Murray, Published by Cohen and West Ltd, London, 1953.