Author Archives: wcw

Mind your words, please

The colour orange: Oren refers to the orange colour of the T-shirts that those arrested by the MACC have to wear when they are brought to court.

THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been in the news almost daily with its arrests of politicians and businessmen, many carrying the Tan Sri and Datuk Seri titles.

This has become the subject of conversation among Malaysians.

To help foreigners, especially those doing business here in Malaysia, below is a compilation of terms that are often used to denote corrupt practices. To the clueless, these words could easily be misunderstood.

Worse, it could land unsuspecting expatriates in serious trouble with the law, especially with the MACC, if they use these seemingly innocent terms without realising their implications.

Here’s a list of everyday words and how they are used.

Jalan – this is a Bahasa Malaysia word for “road”. On the surface, it sounds simple and straightforward. Every road sign begins, mostly, with this word to denote, well, road. If only it was that simple. In reality, it could be the beginning of a corrupt offer.

If someone asks you: “You got jalan ah?” It doesn’t mean seeking assistance for a road direction. In the Malaysian context, it probably means “is there a way to resolve a complicated situation?” Some may argue the word need not necessarily be “illegal” as it could also mean finding a clever way out of a problem.

Kabel – the Malay word for “cable”. Cables are strong, thick wires, which are usually twisted or braided together. Well, in Malaysia, it also means someone in position – a very powerful person, often a politician in high office, or a senior government officer, who is able to help secure a big contract or deal. So, if someone asks whether “you have kabel?” you shouldn’t look puzzled or confused.

It simply means you need to have the support of an influential figure who is as strong as a cable. It’s no longer good enough to “pull strings” but you must be able to “pull cable” for your plans to get off.

Lubang – it literally means a hole. Most Malaysians grumble about lubang or the numerous pot holes along our badly maintained roads. The vulgar ones uses this word with a sexual connotation.

But in the more sleazy world of bribery, lubang means an opportunity, usually an illegal way, to make money. It has nothing to do with holes, as the word suggests.

Kau tim – this is a Cantonese word, which has actually become a Malaysian word, used by all races. It means finished, done or resolved. As simple as that.

But it is also a way of expressing agreement, or to settle a problem with bribery. For example, if you are stopped by a traffic cop for a traffic offence, you may say “boleh kau tim ah?” or the policeman may suggest “macam mana mau selesai, mau kau tim kah?”

Lu tak mau kau tim, mesti susah punya. Nanti kena pi balai, pi court.” (If you do not wish to settle, it can be difficult. You may have to go to the police station or even the court.)

Ta pau – I always thought that this Chinese word means to pack food or a take-away, but it has come to mean a greedy corrupt person who wants to take away the entire loot all for himself without sharing with anyone, as in “he wants to ta pau everything, how can? So greedy one.

So, no expatriate who has just arrived in town should go around telling everyone that he wants to “ta pau” everything he can lay his hands on. He can be sure of getting strange, hostile stares.

Selesai – it means to end or the end. It could be the end of a movie, the end of a meal or the end of a relationship. It’s a really simple word but in the Malaysian context of corruption, it means “how to resolve this?” or “it has been settled.”

Usually, the act of corruption will begin with a simple question – “So, macam mana mau selesai?” or “how do we settle this?”. For sure, it won’t be a challenge to a fight or a gentlemanly end to a problem with a handshake. Don’t be stupid. It’s an invitation to begin negotiation for, errr, a bribe.

The English version is also often used, as in “can settle ah?

Lesen kopi – This has to be the Corruption 101 lesson for our young drivers. It is the first step into the world of corruption in Malaysia. Nobody wants to admit it but going by hearsay and unsubstantiated remarks, many Malaysians taking their driving test believe that they need to bribe the examiner in order to pass the very first time. Lesen kopi means bribing to get a driving licence.

So, they earn what is known as “lesen kopi” or licences obtained via corrupt ways, or duit kopi. Small gratification for “coffee” for the testers. Coffee, not tea. Strangely, there is no such term despite our fondness for teh tarik.

It may sound terribly confusing to tea drinking foreigners but please don’t think that this is the reason why so many Malaysians kill themselves or each other on our roads.

Ikan bilis – it refers to anchovies, those tiny fish, usually fried, found in our national food, the nasi lemak. But it also means small fry. So when low-ranking government officers are arrested for corruption, the MACC is often criticised for just going after the ikan bilis and not the bigwigs, known as sharks in the Malaysian context.

Makan duitMakan essentially means to eat. There’s no way, literally, that a person can eat a ringgit note. But it is synonymous with taking a bribe. It may be confusing to a foreigner as it may seem impossible to eat stacks of ringgit notes but this is Malaysia. We are versatile as well as adaptive. Many people will tell foreigners that they are able to, well, makan duit. Can one, who say cannot?

Oren – It’s not orange juice. It refers to the colour of the round-collared T-shirts that those arrested by the MACC have to wear.

This is the dreaded colour for all suspects, in handcuffs, being led to court in full view of the press.

You can be in red or yellow but orange is a no-no. The new term now is “jangan oren” or “don’t be in orange.”

Did the media really misquote you?

BLAME the press – that’s what some squirming politicians do as they fumble after putting their foot in their mouth.

It’s an occupational hazard that journalists have to put up with.

After all, politics does not necessarily draw the most honest, righteous and noble individuals although almost all politicians would put up their hands and vouch that they possess all these values and more.

But anyone without a Machiavellian streak and a tinge of cunningness (a more polite euphemism for dishonesty) is unlikely to survive long in the job. Not even at branch level for most major parties.

Thanks to US President Donald Trump, easily one of the most unpopular persons on Earth, the words “fake news”, which he has made popular, are now being copied here by some of our own politicians or some of their spin doctors.

These words were used in a recent press statement by an Umno politician against the media although the whole thing didn’t sound like it came from him. It was just too “polished”.

Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya issued a statement which read: “In their reports and headlines, both the local and international media had given the perception that I condone rapists being allowed to marry underage victims to avoid punishment. This is inaccurate and misleading and borders on fake news.”

He went on to say that “it is regrettable that inaccurate media reports had misled the public and caused an unnecessary outcry.”

The media reports he was referring to involved his verbal fiasco while he debated the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017.

This lawmaker, perhaps to save his own skin following the storm he created, tried the age old, tested formula – deny, deny and deny. Blame and intimidate the press.

He caused the outcry and then blamed the press for causing “unnecessary outcry.” Brilliant.

Well, unfortunately for Shabudin, most people have watched the video and could clearly hear and understand what he had said.

For some reason, some of his fans decided to pick on The Star and the reporter who wrote the news item, forgetting that other news organisations, both online and print, all carried similar news.

Of course, that press statement completely omitted the fact that Shabudin spoke about how nine-year-olds who had reached puberty were ready, physically and spiritually, for marriage. To be blunt, ready for sex.

In a face-saving gesture, he also said he was “mulling” taking legal action against the media. He should really thank the media for making him an international news sensation because prior to this, most Malaysians didn’t know of his existence.

We won’t be wrong to suggest that most of us cannot remember a single sentence he uttered at the Dewan Rakyat before this.

But Shabudin has company. He isn’t the only one who has committed such a faux pax. The latest is former Selangor DAP state executive councillor Ronnie Liu.

He posted on Facebook following the open support by Selangor PKR for PAS’ Private Member’s Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355, asking “apa ni” (what is this) and that “it is hard when there are friends like this.”

He went on to say that he expected the MCA, SUPP and MIC to bash PKR and that the DAP, Amanah and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia will be “shot.”

It is a predicament that the Selangor DAP and PKR face in the state – the relationship with PAS is strained and the Islamist party is already on the verge of severing ties with PKR now.

But the irony is that, despite the hot air, PAS continues to sit with DAP and PKR every day to run the state government.

It is business as usual. Every week, they all sit together, probably pat each other in the back, in cozy company, as they deliberate the papers at the state executive council meeting.

The crux of the news issue, however one might interpret it, is this: why is PAS still in the state government and why did the DAP support PAS in the 2013 general election?

Liu, in his FB post, said he backed the late PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat then but not the current leader Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang. But is there any difference?

Nik Aziz was committed to setting up an Islamic state and to be fair to PAS, it has consistently stated its goal, and that is the reason for its existence.

Now, Liu is upset with Selangor PKR information chief Shuhaimi Shafiei’s open support for the controversial RUU355.

Liu’s party has a big problem concerning this issue, and he’d better work on this hot potato than distract attention and again, blame the press using Trump’s favourite two words – fake news – against The Star.

The media is not his problem. PAS is, and now PKR is ready to side with PAS and they are all in the state government. No other state has this problem.

And, as what most politicians like to say, Liu is also “reserving his right to take legal action.”

He musn’t forget that the media too has the right to act against politicians who make defamatory statements against it.

Accusing the media of publishing fake news is defamatory.

One Penang journalist did just that recently by suing Lim Guan Eng for defamation over a Facebook post criticising the Penang Chief Minister.

Guang Ming Daily senior journalist Ong Beng Siang filed the suit at the Penang High Court last month, seeking damages and an injunction to stop the Penang lawmaker from making further defamatory statements against him.

Once, a senior Barisan Nasional leader accused me of “deliberately misquoting” him but when I challenged him by playing back the recording of what he said, he put on a straight face and replied: “I may have said it but I didn’t mean it.”

We also know of a political leader, who eloquently champions the freedom of speech and press freedom but openly uses his assistants to bully and intimidate reporters, particularly those from the Chinese media.

He is fond of putting reporters down at press conferences, seemingly irritated by any form of questions that challenge his authority. Yet, he made a career of criticising the Federal Government.

Well, if we were to believe Trump, let’s not forget that prior to the US elections, he repeatedly said that the “system is rigged” and that he was preparing to face the possibility of being defeated and he could not state if he would accept the results.

Well, that rigged system had him win the elections and of course, he accepted it. We have heard similar claims of cheating in the Malaysian elections too but all the accusers have happily kept their seats and states, in some cases.

It’s a love-hate relationship between the media and politicians. Both need each other but sometimes, they loath each other.

Well, the silly season has started and the press is trying to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

YBs, please lend us your ears

IT’S disturbing, to say the least. We have economic issues that Malaysia needs to deal with seriously like the continuing uncertainty in the price of oil, market slowdown and slide in the value of our ringgit which is affecting our country’s coffers.

The cost of doing business has shot up against the backdrop of declining revenue and profits, which worries most Malaysians.

All of us, especially those in the middle and lower income groups, are grappling with the increasing cost of living. The worst hit are the wage earners living in major cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Penang.

If our elected lawmakers have any idea of what the rakyat is going through, they should be focusing on ways to help ease the cost of living.

Never mind if they have to talk in the Dewan Rakyat till 5am. And to our Yang Berhormats, don’t expect us to sympathise with you, because get this – no one pressured you to be a Member of Parliament. You chose to stand for elections yourself.

But sadly for us, instead of having the chance to listen to top quality debates on ways to help Malaysia find new sources of revenue and not just depend on oil and palm oil, again, we find some of our legislators preferring to channel their energy into religious matters.

Not that religion isn’t a priority for us. It is, but the reality is this: we will never reach common ground.

So, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has managed to table the controversial Private Member’s Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355, but the debate on it has been deferred. That’s the furthest he gets.

He can keep saying that it will not affect non-Muslims, but the majority of non-Muslims know this to be untrue.

We are a plural society and no one community lives in isolation. Our lives are intertwined and entangled as Malaysians. There’s no such thing as laws that do not affect the entire community.

Abdul Hadi says it isn’t hudud, but hudud is written all over the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment (1993) (Amended 2015) and if Abdul Hadi’s Bill is passed, it will only give life to such laws on a national level.

Remember, even a poster of a Bollywood actress pinned up at a watch shop in Kelantan resulted in a non-Muslim shopkeeper being fined because the authorities thought the photograph was sexy. And not to mention the unisex hair salons which have long been penalised.

Abdul Hadi expects us to believe him when he says that non-Muslims will not be affected. And if we go by his “logic”, non-Muslims have no say over the matter.

The majority of Barisan Nasional component parties do not want this Bill – it is that simple – and we are glad that the Prime Minister understands that the coalition operates on consensus.

The fact is that the MCA and MIC have stood by Umno, even when it was at its lowest, since our independence. These are proven friends of more than six decades and not newfound pals who got together because of common political expediency.

Let’s get real. Umno isn’t going to move aside and allow PAS to contest in any constituency in the general election, nor will PAS allow the same for Umno.

Malaysia is a multicultural country founded on the principles of moderation. This is not a Middle East nation, even though the Muslims make up the majority of the population. We should be proud of our unique Malaysian way of life.

I studied Malay Literature for two years in the Sixth Form, sat for the examination (and passed) and when I entered university, I signed up for the Malay Letters Department courses at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

I wanted to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the Malay arts. Not Arab arts. Malays are Muslims, not Arabs.

Over at the august House, even as Abdul Hadi became the focus of attention after tabling the Bill, we had to put up with Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, who at one point suggested that rapists be allowed to marry their child victims as a solution to social problems.

He can keep blaming the press, claiming that he was quoted out of context, but there are certain basic remarks he made that he cannot run away from.

You can watch the video recording of what he said a few times and pause at certain parts of the video. It is pretty clear.

A girl who is nine years old may have reached puberty, but is she old enough to have sexual intercourse after she marries? A rational person would say that she is a child and should be in school or the playground with her friends.

This YB has put Malaysia in the international news for the wrong reason yet again (shame, shame) …. and so soon after the Beauty and The Beast fiasco too.

We can only cringe when we imagine what the world thinks of Malaysia. This is not to say that we wouldn’t readily refute any suggestion that our beautiful country is swamped by paedophiles or nutty lawmakers who are apologists for child marriages.

So, in the end, when Parliament found itself running out of time, we will remember this meeting as one where religious issues were the main concern.

As far as I recall, at least from media reports, no one talked about how we could take advantage of our weak ringgit to get more tourists to come visit us and how we could carry this out with limited funds for international promotions. We also didn’t hear how we could boost the soft economy after two years.

Maybe financial and economic matters are just too complicated for some of these MPs, with their limited knowledge. And these are YBs we have entrusted to speak up for us. After all, we put the future of Malaysia in their hands.

For the love of titles

AT the rate some titled Malaysians – especially those with Datuk and Datuk Seri – are getting into trouble, the Prisons Department may have to build a new wing just to accommodate these VIPs.

Over the past two weeks, the number of Datuks implicated in triad activities has also increased and this does not include those nabbed separately by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

The hottest news over the week was undoubtedly the arrest of a businessman, with a Tan Sri title, who allegedly offered RM2mil to the Sultan of Johor.

He purportedly tried to bribe Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar to secure a recommendation to the King. With the recommendation letter, it would make it easier to get a Tan Sri title for someone.

After all, a recommendation from another brother Ruler would be taken more seriously than that from a politician, who would have to put his signature to lend support to all sorts of requests.

But the Klang-based businessman went to see the wrong Sultan – His Royal Highness certainly doesn’t need the paltry RM2mil. It was downright offensive and insulting to the Tuanku.

What has been happening over the past few weeks only suggests that awards are easily available, at least from one or two states.

Right or wrong, perception is everything. It may not even be factual but many Malaysians believe that titles can be bought. This is certainly not a good thing as it demeans these very prestigious awards.

Malaysians read about other Malaysians who are bestowed such awards and they question if these individuals have contributed anything towards the country or state.

We could argue that these individuals may have contributed quietly in various ways, without publicity.

Then again, we wonder how those with criminal records or those who have been occupants of the infamous Simpang Renggam detention centre for hard core gangsters could still become titled persons.

Surely, a background check is a requirement for vetting purposes or has the police been bypassed in some cases? I’m very sure the police would have been able to carry out these checks effectively and quickly as it merely needs a simple click of the button.

It has reached a point of incredulity or to put it bluntly, a state of scandal. We all want to protect the sanctity of the royal institution, which is so unique to Malaysia.

How would deserving Malaysians who have earned their awards feel when dubious characters secure these awards with ease? After all, respect and honour must be earned.

The Sultan of Johor is right when he said that if one threw a stone, it will hit a Datuk, but the stone will rebound and will hit yet another Datuk.

The Tuanku has done the right thing by bringing to MACC’s attention the case of the individual who attempted to bribe him.

It may be hard to prove the case but the point is this – anyone who is thinking of trying this trick better think twice.

In fact, it is a concern that over the past few years, the number of Malaysians with Tan Sri titles has gone up.

And the media is now receiving the roll of honour late into the night, sometimes just hours before printing time for newspapers. This is pretty unusual.

As trained journalists, it is our responsibility to raise questions as this is unprecedented. Questions like: What could possibly be the complications over a simple list of awards to individuals?

The individuals with the Tan Sri title are also becoming younger. There was a time when such titles were reserved for retired civil servants and these were esteemed individuals who were in their late 60s or early 70s, when they were conferred the titles.

But now, some individuals in their early 50s are holding such a high-level honorific.

None of us concerned Malaysians can do anything about the glut of Datuk and Datuk Sri except the Conference of Rulers.

Malaysians, and even the media, have lost track of how we should distinguish the various honorifics Dato, Datuk, Datuk Wira, Datuk Seri, Dato Sri, Datuk Paduka and Datuk Seri Panglima.

The press has standardised it by simply using Datuk or Datuk Seri but there are increasing calls from recipients to use their titles as given by the respective states.

That’s easier said than done because if this was to be carried out, the media will be carrying daily corrections. The best way is to simply cut down, if not momentarily stop giving out these awards. In reality, the damage has already been done.

Perhaps the media should just consider dropping these titles altogether and refer to commoners as Mr, Mrs or Ms. Just a thought.

Now, it looks like even in the afterlife, there are Malaysians who believe that the Datukship matters – it was reported recently that the paper effigies of a Lamborghini luxury car with a “Dato11” number plate, with ceremonial uniform, medal and sash, were burnt as an offering during the current Chinese All Souls Day (Qing Ming) for a deceased person.

Our young talents, our assets

Filepic: SPM top students in Sabah celebrating their excellence in SPM examination results after the announcement in Kota Kinabalu.

We should treasure our up-and-coming bright minds instead of confusing them and making them feel unappreciated. We want to keep our brains in this country, remember?

IT’S ridiculous, to say the least. Something isn’t right when rules are changed abruptly and top SPM students are not given prior notice. One wonders whether proper thought was given before the decision was made.

It took a Cabinet Minister – Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong – to step in and resolve the hotly talked-about matter with the support of Chief Secretary Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa and Public Service Department Datuk Seri Zainal Rahim Seman.

Something isn’t right when a simple education sponsorship programme has to be put right by those at the highest levels.

Rightly or wrongly, the deduction is this: Little Napoleons are at play here, wielding their clout and letting their prejudices and beliefs sneak in, even if it means changing the rules erratically.

Last week, the MCA deputy president successfully got the department to withdraw its new sponsorship programme for SPM students that required them to get straight A+.

This means that if a student took 11 subjects for SPM and scored 9A+ and 2A- or 2B, he is not eligible for the programme. He is only eligible if he scored 11A+.

Dr Wee, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, later noted that the PSD had reverted to its previous bursary eligibility of 9A+ or more.

“The matter was highlighted to me by many … that the JPA had suddenly changed its requirement for the bursary programme, which would only allow those who scored all A+ to be eligible,” he said, using the Malay abbreviation for PSD.

“Thank you KSN TS @AliHamsa & KPPA (Zainal) for taking immediate action in amending the bursary legibility,” he tweeted.

Under the now defunct 9A+ Sponsorship Programme, bursaries were only allocated to students with full A+ for all subjects they sat for in the SPM examination.

At a glance, it seems innocuous but it was totally illogical.

It would have meant that a student who scored all A+ in nine subjects taken would have qualified for a scholarship, another student who took 11 or 12 subjects but scored only 10 A+ would not stand a chance.

Instead of encouraging SPM candidates to sit for more papers and secure more distinctions, PSD would have ended up punishing students for pushing the limits.

The sudden change in rules was announced recently on the PSD’s Human Resource Development web portal called eSILA.

It was a departure from the original condition that full sponsorship be given as long as a student scored A+ in a minimum of nine subjects.

As expected, the surprising move caused an uproar among students, parents and teachers, as it affected the 2016 SPM scorers who thought that their application would be subjected to the condition in the old programme.

No proper or convincing explanation was given for the sudden change and because of that, there was suspicion, speculation and even allegations of foul play.

The new condition, if it had been carried out, would have affected the number of students taking up Chinese and Tamil language, and also Bible Studies subjects in future examinations due to fears that their chances of getting the scholarship would be affected.

Chinese language and Bible Studies are regarded as the most difficult subjects to score an A in.

In the long run, it would discourage students, parents and even schools from allowing candidates to sit for these papers.

Can anyone be blamed if they suspected the plan – to only allow SPM students who obtained straight A+ to be eligible – smacks of discrimination?

Many students are relieved and grateful that the new programme has been scrapped for now.

But the entire episode has also left many feeling let down by a system where fair play is seemingly overlooked.

The latest SPM results for students who sat for the examination last year were released on Thursday.

It was reported that there were fewer candidates who achieved straight A+, with only 102 getting full scores compared to 163 the year before.

It is not immediately known how many of these students took more than the minimum nine subjects.

Dr Wee revealed that the change in condition was never discussed by the Cabinet.

In short, it was the decision of some bureaucrats who took it upon themselves to implement this new plan.

Such flip flop decisions, which Malaysians are now quite familiar with, put the civil service in a bad light.

One needs only to do a little research on Google to understand the pattern of decisions on bursary programmes.

In 2012, the Government announced that all 1,609 students who obtained 9A+ and above in the SPM examination in 2011 will be automatically offered the Education Ministry bursaries for local pre-university courses.

The students were clearly told previously that they would be eligible for local or overseas scholarships for their tertiary studies from 2014 onwards if they met the required criteria.

Malaysia needs to encourage, recognise, support and keep our best young talents in this country. Make the best rule work to keep the best.

Much ado about a moment

Unkind cut: With Disney refusing to allow a four-minute snip to its adaptation of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Malaysians aren’t sure if they will get to watch the movie on the big screen. — AFP

Seriously, we should be more worried about having dangerous criminals, IS wannabes, racial bigots and the corrupt in our midst who are more likely to tear this country apart than a scene in a movie.

HERE’S a piece of surprising news: Disney’s latest release, Beauty and The Beast, is currently showing in Brunei, a conservative country which has imposed strict Islamic laws. Yet, the movie, with its much talked-about “gay moment” was actually approved without a snip over there.

It is unlikely that the authorities in Brunei were not aware of the controversy over the purported “moment” in the movie.

The film is currently showing at the tiny kingdom’s Cineplex in Times Square while the 3-D version is being screened at Empire.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority nation, has also allowed the movie to be shown without cuts with the condition that it is only for those above the age of 13. This is apart from Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh and Dubai.

But over here in Malaysia, we have to cringe in embarrassment over a decision to snip the scene, which has again propelled Malaysia in the world news for the wrong reasons. The latest news is that Walt Disney has filed an appeal with the Home Ministry over the decision.

Till now, Malaysians aren’t sure if they will get to watch the movie on the big screen.

If there is any consolation, a cinema in Alabama, the United States, has refused to screen the movie and has also made international news.

Disney has chosen to pull Beauty and The Beast from the Malaysian cinemas rather than comply with the request to cut four minutes of footage that supposedly involves the “gay moment.”

News reports have quoted Malaysian Censorship Board chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid as saying that the film was approved with a P13 parental guidance classification with a “minor cut.” That classification means that an adult must accompany any viewer under the age of 13.

With due respect, if it involves four minutes of editing as reported, then it is hardly a minor cut. Four seconds is minor but four minutes isn’t, let’s be real.

The board may just be doing its job but it’s an exercise in futility, really. It is absurd and a complete waste of time in the digital age, to put it simply.

Even a seven-year-old knows how to download a movie or look for these gay moments on YouTube and adults who are computer illiterate will just buy a pirated DVD.

Surely, no one is convinced that moments in the film which depicts homosexual characters or emotional confessions are enough for Malaysians to embrace the gay culture.

If the board’s logic is to be believed, then the cinema audience would emulate the violence they watched on the screens. We should then ask if we should just ban these movies as it would have influential impact.

In the 130-minute long film, the character LeFou, sidekick to the villain Gaston, is said to have expressed affection for his macho and egoistic boss and also dances with a man at a ball.

Honestly, most of us will get to watch any part of the movie in private and really, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

And now, those who had no intention of watching this remake of the classic cartoon will want to watch it. Thanks to the decision of a few powerful people on the board who decided what we can or cannot watch in our cinemas.

It would have been better if the movie was approved but with an 18+ rating, which is suitable for only the mature audience, applicable for movies with elements of violence, horror, politics or counter culture.

Even in Russia, a country known for its strong, even violent actions against gays, the authorities have allowed the screening of the movie albeit with a 16+ rating.

Singapore has also approved the movie by giving it a PG rating, meaning it is deemed suitable for all ages, with the caveat that parents are advised to accompany their children.

Against this backdrop of incredulity in Malaysia, there was a voice of reason from Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

Not many of our ministers dared to speak up against the tide of religious conservatism that seems to be affecting the country.

Nazri plainly described the blanket ban on movies based on a character or scene as ridiculous, saying that the movie had to be looked at in its entirety before a ban could be imposed against it.

He reportedly said that the presence of such characters in the film would not influence young children to consider delving in homosexuality.

“All these years, even without the homosexual character in the Beauty and the Beast, there have been homosexual people in the world. I don’t think it is going to influence anyone.

“We need to think, we must allow people to decide for themselves. There are stories about murder and by law, that is wrong, but do you ban it in a film? Where do you draw the line?” he told the press last week.

Nazri expressed support for Disney for being firm in wanting to screen the entire movie without edits.

Malaysia does not condone the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture but we should be more worried about having dangerous criminals, religious extremists, IS wannabes, racial bigots and the corrupt in our midst who are more likely to tear this country apart than gays.

For most of us older Malaysians, the word “gay” simply means “happy” and it is definitely not a word to describe a sexual preference although it is commonly and universally used for that these days.

And given the horrendous decline of the English language in Malaysia, we hope no one gets offended if many of us say we choose to be gay most of the time.

Stand up for our Malaysia

Prickly ties: The North Korean flag flutters in the concertina wire fenced North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. — Reuters

This is the time to put our differences aside and let North Korea know that it has no right to trample on our national integrity – or our kindness

IT is important for Malaysians to stand together as a people and a nation in the current diplomatic stand-off with North Korea.

This is the time to put politics aside. This is the time for all of us to stand up and let the North Koreans know that we will not accept an open murder, even if it involves one of their own, in our country.

They have openly trampled on our national integrity and spat on us following an insane, high-profile murder in a country which has been nothing but extremely friendly to them.

No country has given them free visa entry. They, however, used it as a loophole to gain easy access into Malaysia to commit a murder instead. And one involving Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half brother of the regime’s leader Kim Jong-un.

They showed how much they didn’t value the long friendship with Malaysia and instead chose to violate it. Surely, this is not a friend we need. And if this friendship were to continue, it could no longer be the same. This is not a country we can trust anymore.

While we have patiently put up with the bizarre plot, they crossed the line when they decided to keep our Malaysian Embassy diplomats, staff and family members under house arrest in North Korea.

House arrest is an understatement here, really.

To put it bluntly, they are holding our fellow Malaysians hostage. Obviously, they want something in return.

There are 11 Malaysians in North Korea – two United Nations staff members, three with the embassy and the rest their family members.

But on Friday, the North Koreans allowed two UN workers to leave the country. It looks like a change in tone, in yet another case of their yo-yo style diplomacy.

It appears an olive branch of some sort has now been extended with a diplomatic note sent to Malaysia but no one can tell what is next.

As nothing is unconventional and unpredictable, as far as dealing with North Korea is concerned, should we even be surprised that no family member has come out to claim the body? Presumably, it is out of fear on the part of his next of kin.

It’s already been a month since the murder at the KL International Airport 2 and the body still lies at the mortuary.

Although the Indonesian and Vietnamese women have been charged with murder, (they were said to have used a deadly substance to smear Jong-nam’s face and it killed him almost immediately) the North Koreans who plotted the murder have fled.

There has been suspicion that one or two others could be hiding in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier, a high-level North Korean delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur with three objectives – retrieve the body of Jong-nam, secure the release of their citizen from police custody relating to the murder and develop friendly relations with Malaysia.

The approach taken by the delegation was a far cry from the harsh stand taken by North Korean ambassador Kang Chol, who accused Malaysia of colluding with Pyongyang’s enemies in investigations into the murder.

But just as we thought the case was winding down following the decision to expel Kang, the reclusive communist country retaliated by doing the same. Fortunately, we recalled our Malaysian ambassador earlier but now, they have decided to bar our staff at the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang from leaving the country.

Like most Malaysians, I find this very disturbing and insulting. We cannot accept such fabricated stories against our police force – their tales of threat to make sure they remain alive when they return home.

This is the time we need to stand up, support our government for what they have been doing and are doing.

Yes, we could have handled things better, coordinated better and avoided contradicting statements on this issue but I support the statements made by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

Now is not the time to look for faults with the “we should have done this” arguments.

We have now entered a delicate situation where we need to re-assess our way of dealing with them, with the well-being of our Malaysians there in mind.

Malaysia is dealing with a country that does not respect human rights.

No, I rephrase – we are dealing with a country that does not respect human lives.

This is a ruthless regime headed by a leader who did not even blink when he had his own uncle executed in a most unimaginably brutal manner.

This is a man who ordered the murder of his half-brother and a month later, fired off ballistic missiles across the seas.

Do not expect North Korea to understand the meaning of gratefulness.

In August 1997, The Star launched a campaign to raise funds when the hermit country was struck by widespread famine.

As winter approached, it became even more imperative to provide food to the 2.6 million North Koreans who were slowly dying of starvation.

The Star stepped up with the North Korean Sall Fund, a three-month fundraising campaign to buy food for the famine victims before winter (sall means rice in Korean).

From August 1997, the newspaper spearheaded a campaign that reached out to both members of the public and corporate bodies, with articles highlighting the urgency of the crisis.

The campaign inspired a series of donation drives and fundraising events, the collections from which were channelled to the Sall Fund.

By October 1997, Malaysians, via the campaign, raised over RM12mil which was handed over to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to buy food for the North Koreans. It was a record sum.

But when we asked to see how the funds would be disbursed, together with the Red Cross, we were denied permission to even travel to North Korea.

They didn’t want The Star to be there after all we had done for their people. What The Star did was done in the true Malaysian spirit of giving, something which comes so naturally to us.

It was a painful lesson for most of us – and a grim reminder that the North Korean regime lives in a world of its own.

This is the time to keep the Malaysian flag flying high and to stand united to face this crisis as one people.

Keep race out of the issues

There are mindless people out there but I am certain that the majority of Malaysians are rational, moderate and fair-minded.

IT was an accident no one in his right mind would want to get involved in. A woman driver ploughed into a group of teenagers on modified bicycles, killing eight of them in the horrific 3am incident.

The 22-year-old woman, driving from Taman Pelangi, Johor Baru, slammed into the group because she could not brake in time.

The accident left behind grieving parents and a driver who was sent to the hospital badly traumatised. Police said the driver was not drunk or speeding when the incident occurred.

It was what followed next that was even more tragic. It probably involved just a small group of misguided individuals with a twisted mind but it has been heart wrenching for many rational Malaysians who care for the nation.

How could an accident be turned into a racial matter where the victims – whether the deceased teens or the driver – were viewed upon from a racial prism? But it did. Perplexing.

Soon, these racist remarks took a different form – it is alleged that the said driver was given special protection because her father was a rich tycoon with a Tan Sri title and he was close to the Johor royalty.

As ridiculous as it may sound, there were enough people who actually believed it. One or two actually called me up to verify the allegations, seemingly believing it too, but at least they made an effort to check.

The poor woman driver has had to move out of her family home since the accident. She is a shop assistant who lives in a single-storey house and she was certainly not hiding in a mansion.

At the time of the incident, she was driving a Nissan Almeira and not a powerful, luxury car. It wasn’t a BMW or a Porsche. Far from it.

Some angry netizens even posted her photograph, together with her address, on social media. Fearing for her safety, she left home and stayed somewhere else.

But the insanity did not end there. More idiots surfaced. They included a Datuk who allegedly posted offensive remarks about the accident.

The Datuk, who is a state Umno branch chief, was picked up at his home last week. One of his friends was also detain­ed in Kuala Lumpur.

Initial investigations showed that both men, in their 60s, had posted messages on their Facebook accounts, alleging that the police could be withholding information on the case as the woman driver was believed to be related to a VIP. The two men were brought to Johor Baru and remanded to assist in investigations.

The Datuk’s arrest brought to three the number of people detained over the last 48 hours for making offensive remarks or racial slurs on social media about the incident.

The Johor police said in a statement that three men had been detained in a series of raids in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Perak.

Amazingly, the Datuk and the other man arrested happily posed for the media when they were brought to court, with one of them even flashing the “V” sign.

He posted on his FB earlier, saying he expected to be arrested soon over his remarks, seemingly enjoying the attention he was getting.

Last month, a university student was killed when a BMW travelling against the traffic flow crashed into his Perodua Myvi along Jalan Tun Razak in the capital.

The deceased was identified as Ahmad Alrefaee M. Azmi, 21, from Bandar Mahkota Cheras, and again, the race issue raised its ugly head.

City Traffic Investigation and Legal Affairs staff officer Deputy Supt Shafie Daud said the BMW driver somehow entered the wrong carriageway from the KLCC tunnel and could not get back to the correct lane.

The driver had continued travelling on the wrong lane and crashed into the white Myvi along Jalan Tun Razak near the National Library in the 2am incident. In short, it was a freak accident.

It is disturbing that in both these accidents, the issue of race was brought up. Perhaps, such a play of race has become more prevalent due to the existence of social media where mindless comments are posted freely.

No one cares if feelings are hurt or sensitivities are trampled upon. Old-school journalists like me (who started out in the print media) are taught – from the day we took up the job as rookie reporters – to keep race out of our reports.

We do not mention the race of those involved in accidents or in crime reports. It’s simple. We are Malaysians and really, why is there a need to identify the ethnic background of those involved? Especially when it is already an emotionally charged case if it involves fatality.

We verify our information. But now, fake news are forwarded by many, without much care and thought of the implication of their action.

Tunku Temenggong of Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar Ibni Sultan Ibrahim must be commended for his timely statement, criticising those who encouraged others to gather and protest against the woman driver involved in the Johor accident.

In an Instagram post, he urged Johoreans to stop turning the incident into a racial issue.

“Is this how civilised Johoreans behave? Stop playing the blame game,” he wrote, adding that he, too, had personally encountered teenage cyclists riding dangerously in front of his car.

He pointed out that the children were on the road without helmets or any kind of protection.

“Let’s not blame the parents and let’s not blame the lady driver. She has more right to be on that highway than underage kids on bicycles with no helmets and other protection gear on,” he was quoted as saying.

Kudos must also go to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and his men for upholding professionalism.

He acted swiftly and impartially against those who instigated a protest, which smacked of racism, and took action against the Datuk, who posted the offensive remarks.

Many Malaysians are saddened by the accidents, loss of lives and the impact to race relations in Malaysia but I am still optimistic.

There are bad people out there but I am certain the majority of Malaysians are rational, moderate and fair-minded. I have enough good relatives, friends and colleagues, of all races, who give me hope for Malaysia.

Don’t let the small number of racists (and these are people of all ethnic groups) spoil it for all of us.

Police must act swiftly

(Left) Koh: Abducted in broad daylight. (Right) Sameera: Brutally murdered.

Several recent crime cases have shaken Malaysians quite a bit. We leave it to our police force to provide answers to this madness.

RECENTLY, several widely reported crime cases, which many Malaysians are following, have really shaken us.

Yes, Malaysians complain a lot, and rightly so, about the never-ending burglaries and snatch theft cases in our neighbourhood and streets but these are merely incidents involving petty criminals.

Yes, we lose money and sometimes, there are fatalities involved but most are non-brutal and the motives are established quickly. I am not even talking about the high profile assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Jong-un, at the KLIA2 which has grabbed the world’s attention.

The police have been swift – two women who committed the crime were arrested and other suspects were taken in while more North Korean suspects have been identified.

There has been plenty of noise from the North Korean embassy but the case is being wrapped up, with fresh leads being revealed to the public daily.

But what has disturbed me most is the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo, who is well-known among the Christian community in Malaysia.

It has been reported that on Feb 13, occupants of a van stopped the pastor’s car, a silver Honda Accord, along Jalan Bahagia, Petaling Jaya, and abducted him.

He had earlier left his Prima Sixteen Chapter Two home in Jalan 16/18, Petaling Jaya, at about 10am to go to the Puncak Damansara Condominium in Kampung Sg Kayu Ara, not far away. Koh’s family said the 62-year-old was en route to a friend’s home.

So far, there has been no ransom demanded or motive identified. We still don’t know the reason for the kidnapping.

A CCTV footage, currently with the police, purportedly showed the abduction taking place on a busy road.

It is believed that the pastor’s abduction involved several vehicles. It was professionally and very swiftly executed.

The case is under the personal attention of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who announced that a special task force has been formed to investigate the case, saying police had recorded statements from eight witnesses but admitted that there had been little information to go on.

The team is led by Selangor Criminal Investigations Department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Fadzil Ahmat.

The case is most baffling. Ours is not a South American or Middle Eastern country where people get abducted from busy streets.

The abductors appeared to be very organised, almost professional-like, in carrying out their task. One of them even diverted traffic while others grabbed Koh.

The fact that they have not demanded any ransom shows that they are not ordinary kidnappers looking for money.

The only possible answer is that some persons (or group) are not happy with the way he is handling his work. Koh’s colleagues have revealed that a bullet was sent to the pastor six years ago after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) conducted a raid on a thanksgiving and fund-raising dinner organised at a church in Petaling Jaya, where he was accused of proselytising to Muslims.

Religious leaders of any faith must be mindful that attempting to convert anyone is really crossing the line. The majority of Muslims will not tolerate any attempt of proselytising, even in the most subtle form, and leaders of other faiths must understand and accept the sensitivity and reality of the situation.

However, any grievances or complaints relating to religion, a sensitive issue, should be directed to the religious authorities and police. In this case, the pastor was snatched away with no obvious clues, and no claims have been made.

This is distressing, and his wife has understandably sought counselling in Singapore as the family agonises over the unexplained incident.

In the absence of any information, this has led to speculation and it is unhealthy for Malaysia as we take pride in our religious diversity and tolerance in resolving conflicts.

The other widely talked about case involved transgender Sameera Krishnan, who was brutally murdered on Thursday. She was shot, had four fingers severed and suffered head injuries.

The cruelty inflicted on her was horrifying and something Malaysians just cannot imagine. Interestingly, Sameera was the main witness in her own kidnapping case two years ago and the trial has been set to begin early next month.

In 2015, she was rescued by police after she was abducted from her home in Klang, and repeatedly sodomised.

Enough. Malaysians must stand up and demand for justice. While Malaysia does not condone LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender), this does not mean Sameera’s life is worth any less than ours. It doesn’t matter whether we refer to Sameera as him or her.

The fact is this – she was murdered and sexually violated. Her pride and dignity were snatched away from her and despite the prejudices of many Malaysians, this should not, in any way, diminish the diligence and commitment needed to solve the crime.

Her perpetrators must be brought to justice and if we have any conscience at all, we should all be furious. It will be abnormal to be indifferent about this. Sameera deserves justice, just like anyone else.

I believe that Malaysia is a country where minorities are protected. There are laws in our country and they are upheld.

The police have been professional, and I believe and respect our police force. They take every bit of information seriously and in my regular dealings with them, I have developed even more respect for them. They trudge on diligently despite their impossibly heavy work load.

I hope they will bring some sense and provide us answers to the madness and along the way, some reassurances to the public.

Cool it people, it’s only satire

Tweets from DPRK news service on the assassination of Kim Jong-nam.

Some Malaysians are so gullible that they make fools of themselves chasing demons and losing track of the truth.

IT’S incredible how many of us are so gullible …. or simply lack a sense of humour. A day after the widely talked-about killing of Kim Jong-nam at KLIA2 on Monday, the Twitter account registered to DPRK News Service (@DPRK_News) posted a very interesting tweet.

The “official news feed of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” claimed that the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supposedly died due to “indigestion epidemic”.

The tweet also accused “filthy Malaysians” of poor food handling and bad sanitation practices, and that these were to be blamed for Jong-nam’s death.

Most people, including Malaysians, who saw the tweet could tell it was a satire. The North Koreans may have lost their sense of humour a long time ago, no thanks to being in an authoritarian regime, but they are not crazy.

No official propaganda department will respond in such a bizarre manner, especially if they have decided to cover up this assassination job.

But strangely, there were actually those who fell for it and believed in the tweet. And this included even experienced journalists, those known to have zero sense of humour!

I was asked whether it was nasi lemak, laksa or roti canai that killed the prominent figure from North Korea. The questions were posed to me by those who put on poker faces.

These people insisted that I actually knew what was going on but I was not saying anything because the media was, well, covering it up. Or that I was just incompetent since I did not know what was going on.

Another person sent me a message via WhatsApp, demanding that I alert the Health Minister to reply to the tweet (on the “indigestion epidemic”) as it “has seriously damaged the reputation of the country.”

It was tough explaining to this person, who is usually tense and uptight, the meaning of satire and humour.

One deputy minister was quoted in a Bahasa Malaysia paper, expressing concern about the implications of the tweet.

“I have asked the officials at the ministry to investigate the allegations immediately to ensure that it does not affect the country’s reputation.

“Although the news is (sourced) from the social media and could only be a rumour, we cannot remain silent in this matter. Immediate investigations should be carried out,” he was quoted as saying.

He added that he did not want the news or allegations to put Malaysia in a bad light because the tweet suggested that food in this country was not safe for consumption.

Such brilliance.

This hot-tempered deputy minister, who is known to shoot from the hip, obviously responded without even looking at the tweet and the comments that followed.

Of course, he wasn’t thinking.

It is quite possible that the reporter who called this politician for comments on the issue must have also fallen victim to the prank – the current “it” word in the investigation into the killing of Jong-nam.

The two women arrested were purportedly used as pawns by North Korean spies – to put poison on Jong-nam, thinking they were hired to carry out a prank.

It is a satirical tweet, and at a time when the Government is trimming its budget, the deputy minister could really have saved taxpayers money without the need to call for such an investigation. Investigate what, I wonder?

According to a report, @DPRK_News has been posing as an official mouthpiece of the authoritarian regime for the last few years.

In 2014, it was reported that the parody account’s authors are actually bloggers for Popehat.com, a group weblog covering politics and news from a libertarian perspective.

Some notorious fake news – that a Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon who supposedly ran down the Malaysian government in a purported interview with an international magazine (which no one can produce) and more recently, the Chinese New Year lion dancers who refused to move in front of our Prime Minister. Sadly, many of us believed such blatant lies.

A day after a pastor was abducted, and the case is still unexplained, a fake message went around saying he had been found and “is now at the Kelana Jaya police station”. It’s bizarre that someone would actually take the trouble to post such a message and cause further pain to his family members who are already in agony, coping with his disappearance.

And when Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Azmin Ali tweeted a poser that a Malaysian minister had resigned, it created such a sensation that many Malaysians believed it. Maybe it’s the psyche of people wanting to believe it.

But for many, it’s a throwback to 2008. Then Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that more than 30 Barisan Nasional MPs were ready to cross over to Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of Opposition parties, now defunct, on Sept 16, 2008.

These were the days before WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook became hugely popular but many Malaysians believed it. Of course, that didn’t happen. But to his legion of fans, his credibility remains intact, and he is still talking about truth and accountability.

In 2007, PKR MP Tian Chua posted a fake photograph of then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda and an Altantuya Shariibuu look-a-like dining together.

It was a badly doctored picture, and Tian Chua later admitted that it was doctored but claimed it was a joke. But enough people believed him.

During the recent US presidential elections, the voters were swamped with fake news from campaigners.

We can expect the same scenario here when Malaysia heads towards the general election, widely speculated to be held at the end of this year.