Author Archives: wcw

Dipping unwittingly into danger

Maria Chin Abdullah (left) and Wan Saiful Wan Jan (right). -The Star filepic

TWO prominent activists, Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah and Institute For Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) think-tank chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan, have taken their head-first plunge into politics and abandoned their roles in civil society in the process.

They have effectively now become political players and risk their reputation by swimming with sharks.

For their sake, I hope they know what they are doing and have negotiated well for a seat to contest in (preferably a safe parliamentary one). And hopefully by May, if the general election is held by then, they will be sworn in as Yang Berhormat.

This concern is raised because non-governmental organisation activists and academics seldom last long in politics. They have a dismal record of survival due to a variety of reasons, including lacking a following at the grassroots level, inadequate resources and inability to withstand cut-throat internal politicking. Ultimately, after a while, they realise they haven’t the stomach or guts for this dirty game.

Last week, Maria announced that she wasn’t joining any party and would be an independent candidate contesting under the Pakatan Harapan ticket instead. It’s difficult to fathom how any of the component parties will work for her in that odd situation, which will be nothing short of an uphill climb.

Unlike Wan Saiful, who was by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin’s side at a press conference, Maria merely revealed her decision to be a politician.

She had said on Tuesday that she would only contest in the 14th general election (GE14) if handed a parliamentary seat by Pakatan, adding that “Federal is the one that makes the decisions”.

Word is that the DAP has no plans of offering her a seat since they have sufficient candidates, the sentiment being that the party need not ride on Maria’s coattails, indicating it would only benefit her instead of the party.

PKR has remained coy, with vice-president Tian Chua politely welcoming her ambition but saying that the former Bersih 2.0 chairman’s contesting location would have to be “worked out”.

The Batu MP said that Pakatan wouldn’t have problems allocating a parliamentary seat for her to contest in, with 222 to choose from.

So, don’t expect the PKR to offer Maria a safe seat, especially with Chua insisting that her placement is just a technicality.

Pakatan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the Opposition coalition has yet to decide on her candidacy.

Perhaps she has already cut a deal she isn’t prepared to divulge publicly yet, but time is fast running out with the elections impending. For a dose of reality though, no party grassroots accept “parachute” candidates.

Of course, given that they have been toiling in their respective constituencies, they naturally expect to be fielded as candidates as just reward for their sacrifices for the party.

Wan Saiful, in explaining his decision, said: “We need a solution at a political level. Our country needs an administration with a political will to change.”

He added that he was expecting public backlash for joining a race-based party.

“We must choose an existing platform that has the best potential to achieve our goals. People will only take a party seriously if it is able to shape the perspective and thinking of the people, and only Pribumi is able to do this at a national level,” he said.

When queried on his contesting constituency, Wan Saiful revealed that it was the party’s decision.

Speculation is centring on him contesting the Putrajaya parliamentary seat, where he will lock horns with Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

If it’s true, then he is taking on a Herculean task in a constituency predominantly “ruled” by civil servants.

In the 2013 polls, Tengku Adnan retained the seat for Barisan Nasional for the third consecutive term, defeating PAS’ Husam Musa with a 5,541-vote majority. 

Tengku Adnan garnered 9,943 votes against Husam’s 4,402 votes, hence dashing PAS’ hopes of capturing the federal administrative capital. In the 2008 elections, Tengku Adnan defeated PAS candidate Mohamad Noor Mohamad with a majority of 2,734 votes.

Malaysian politics is littered with casualties from civil society, including Aliran founder Dr Chandra Muzaffar, the once-PKR deputy president who offered to contest in the Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary seat.

However, he was left reeling from internal backstabbing as he walked out of a party bent on toppling him in the name of “reformasi”.

Chinese educationist and human rights activist Dr Kua Kia Soong joined the DAP and was given its stronghold of Petaling Jaya to contest. He won handsomely in the 1990 general election, but his time in the DAP was fraught with bitterness. He even wrote a book titled Inside The DAP: 1990-1995, detailing his unhappiness in the party.

The educationists in Gerakan and MCA, like Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn and Tan Sri Dr Ting Chew Peh seem to have done well in national politics.

Former political science lecturer Dr P. Ramasamy has likewise done well in the DAP, stepping up to become Deputy Chief Minister.

But it won’t be plain sailing for both Maria and Wan Saiful.

The former has already found herself defending her agenda in leading the Bersih movement, and her plans to contest as a Pakatan candidate prove that Bersih is a tool of the Opposition.

Others claim her value in Bersih has dipped following the withdrawal of support from PAS, dramatically shrinking the number of Malay participants.

For Wan Saiful, suspicion abounds through his writing, what with him recently doubting his new party’s role in safeguarding Malay interests.

“I am not sure if Pribumi can convince the country with this narrative quickly enough for GE14. Umno is entrenched in the psyche of both rural and urban Malays. Dislodging it from that position is not going to be easy.

“In fact, I think among the Malays, the urbanites are more difficult for Pribumi to attract than rural villagers. They can be more educated and analytical, but they have a lot more to lose if a change were to occur.

“The urban, middle and upper-class Malays also tend to complain in private, but the pretend heroism does not follow outside their comfort zones. Pribumi will have trouble getting them into its ranks before GE14,” he wrote in his column on Jan 3.

Not long after, he announced his decision to join Pribumi, the party he has reservations with in making an impact to secure the crucial Malay votes which will determine the outcome of GE14.

The two appear to have jumped into waters infested with the ocean’s greatest predator without the appropriate protective gear.

Keep ‘low-class’ squabbles out

SOME of our politicians seem to have a knack for sticking their foot in their mouth. They likely enjoy doing it with the belief that their bravado helps authenticate their manhood, but they unwittingly make us cringe with embarrassment instead.

It’s obvious by now that some of our leaders don’t put their grey matter to good use and it sure looks like these serial ill-mannered recalcitrants have little care for the implications of their recklessness which, as expected, has made headlines internationally.

No surprises then that our country has become a laughingstock yet again, thanks to these politicians who probably still think they are heroic alpha males. Their senseless outbursts have made us look like angry and ignorant Third World natives who are unable to articulate our thoughts reasonably and in a civil manner.

This is especially disturbing, given their position as ministers. We expect them to be above making deranged comments and name-calling, the norm on social media.

But like it or not, we have gone down the gutter and sadly, they barely display any remorse. They also don’t think of the damage they cause to the nation.

Surely, they can do better than to pounce on an allegation made by a fugitive blogger and add more life to half-truths and fantasies?

It isn’t about Robert Kuok being Malaysia’s richest tycoon. It also isn’t because he is ethnic Chinese.

The bottom line is that uncouth behaviour is unacceptable, irrespective of us being Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban or Kadazan. We all place great importance on reverence and respect for our elders, it’s as simple as that.

If we disagree with them – after all, our elders are not always right – we offer our views, try to get them to appreciate our opinions and courteously rebut them if we see things differently. This is called having adat, sopan santun and berbudi Bahasa – a truly Malaysian way.

The same principles apply to Kuok. He is powerful and rich and he, of course, can be “corrected”.

But surely, as ministers, our politicians can counter opinions in a mature, dignified and refined manner, unless they are telling us they are incapable of doing so.

Really, it boils down to one word – arrogance. The way Kuok was torn apart by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz typifies that condescending attitude.

(Last week, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin posted three articles on his website Malaysia Today, alleging that Kuok was funding various political parties to overthrow the Government. In response, Kuok refuted the allegations, saying he reserves the right to act against the portal.)

A couple of other ministers also took the same imperious stand, as if on cue, even when no clear evidence was forthcoming of Kuok’s purported funding of an opposition party.

Like it or not, the multi-billionaire has deep connections in China. He can reach Chinese President Xi Jinping if he wants to. He offers great assistance to our leaders as an emissary, and simply as a helpful Malaysian, if we need the ears of the Chinese.

He is an asset, not only because he has donated to Umno and MCA or because he pours millions into Malaysian charities. Or because he was prepared to invest heavily in the sugar refinery trade and a shipping line with government aid, but mainly because he has remained a Malaysian.

A simple gesture by Kuok to have the Shangri-la Hotel at Melbourne’s Sapphire By The Gardens Tower has added millions of ringgit in value to SP Setia, the Malaysian government linked company building the 57-storey residential tower there. And word that Chinese business magnate Jack Ma bought the penthouse there has made the address even more prestigious.

It’s mind boggling that there were political operatives that would want to attack Kuok who has put Malaysia on the global business stage. Many countries would have willingly taken their place in the queue to offer him citizenship, yet here, we have people throwing eggs in his face.

But that isn’t the sole issue that has riled many rational Malay­sians.

Who would have thought that when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak shared he consumes quinoa, it would become an issue?

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang claimed he had never heard of quinoa, “let alone of it being in existence”. That is hard to believe because surely he knows that a large segment of Malaysians, especially those with diabetic concerns, have no choice but to turn to quinoa and brown rice as their staple food?

Quinoa is widely available at supermarkets but of course, we don’t expect many of our politicians to visit any kind of market, except for making themselves available during election campaign time, when they shake hands with the public for photo opportunities.

For those of us who have been eating white rice our entire lives and are forced to cut down on carbohydrates and sugar, quinoa or brown rice will never taste as good. It is almost incomprehensible to add quinoa to nasi kandar. It is a mockery of this national dish – almost a sin, in fact. So, regardless of its price, quinoa makes up part of a diet most people with blood sugar issues would rather not have if they could get away with it.

Lim claimed that quinoa is 23 times more expensive than the standard white rice consumed by the average Malaysian.

Former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad waded into the debate too, saying he only ate white rice – and found himself reminded that eating quinoa was surely cheaper than having to feed his stable of purported 40 horses.

Soon, the argument degenerated to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng being asked to reveal the amount of beer he drinks.

The childish mud-slinging continued with discussions on the use and availability of plastic bags.

Selangor Barisan Nasional declared that they would get rid of the Selangor government-mandated 20 sen surcharge for plastic bags if they won in GE14. Turning free plastic bags for the public into an election promise is incredulous, particularly in a day and age when we should be more environmentally conscious.

The joke continues with Pakatan Harapan Youth promising that English Premier League (EPL) football matches will be free again if it rules the nation. PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said they want EPL fans in Malaysia to enjoy the most popular football league in the world.

The free-to-air EPL suggestion is among 10 proposals the youth wing intends to use to attract young voters in the elections. Nik Nazmi said the broadcasting rights for major sports should be open to everyone and not just pay TV such as Astro.

Clearly, he has no idea what he’s talking about or how he has made a fool of himself. Of course, the bid for the broadcasting rights of EPL is open to all TV stations – just cough up the dough. Astro pays over a billion ringgit for its coverage of sports events and the EPL makes up a big chunk of it. It would be interesting to know if Pakatan really would fork out a billion ringgit to provide free coverage for Malaysians.

Politics here is clearly in a sad state. We have had to listen to low-level quarrels over quinoa and rice, Argentinian horses and carrots, plastic bags and paid bags, and outrageous promises of free EPL broadcasts.

Not to forget politicians from either side of the divide acting as though they aren’t receiving funding from businessmen, be it Malaysians, Chinese or Saudis.

Will our politicians next bicker over pitting wholemeal wheat bread against white bread, or organically grown vegetables against ordinary ones?

As Hafidz Baharom wrote, politics in this country has reached a pathetic crisis.

“No one is discussing what truly matters in this country, which are the solutions of everyday Malay­sians. Instead, they insist on taking potshots like kindergarteners arguing over a swing set,” he wrote.

Yes, it’s the silly season before the general election, but some politicians have simply become sillier than others.

Telling fact from fiction

Easy target: Fake news is a big problem here because many of us are too impressionable when it comes to news on the Internet.

HARDLY a day passes without someone sharing a video with me. No one bothers to check, not for a minute, if this could be nothing more than a fake video gone viral. Yet, amazingly, they are quick to forward such things to me.

And that doesn’t even include the unsolicited political messages, through which senders expect their receivers to echo their political enthusiasm.

More alarmingly, residents chat groups on uncollected rubbish or poor maintenance, suddenly see political messages popping up in them. Even prayer and old classmates chat groups aren’t spared, my goodness.

Blame it on what is often dubbed “silly season”, leading up to the general election, but don’t test our patience by diverting our attention to something trivial. It is downright irritating and insulting. And who cares about these politicians, anyway? Not everything in life is about politics, after all.

On Friday, a video went viral on what looked like a gun fight between the police and a notorious gang in Kuala Lumpur.

Some truth-seekers took the trouble to check with the media, but most would have despatched it to their friends in no time at all.

As trained journalists, we obviously scrutinised the video to look for give-aways. It doesn’t take a detective to pick out the holes, but then, there are many gullible Malaysians.

For one, the tiny yellow taxis in the video don’t exist in KL. There is no such building with that staircase structure in the capital, either, and there was a camera crew in plain view running around filming the action scenes, clearly indicating a movie set.

Most of the cars in the video aren’t even models we regularly see in Malaysia, and there was also a guy who ran by wearing what appeared to be heavy clothing.

On Thursday night, it got even sillier.Leaping out of the world wide web was a video of what’s been made to look like a Malaysian student being bullied in a classroom.

The comments by some racist airheads really infuriated me. With the victim appearing Chinese, the bully possibly Malay – he looked Indian to me – it became fertile ground to sow the seeds of hate.

At no point did it occur to them that this video could have come from Singapore. It didn’t even cross their minds that Malaysian students no longer wear uniforms entirely in white. The last time students were decked completely in white was probably in 1979 – during my time as a student. And desks and chairs in green? In our schools?

The Education Ministry has come out to confirm that the incident in that widely-shared video happened in Singapore on Feb 9.

Describing the footage as a “severe case of bullying”, Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan urged netizens to stop spreading the clip.

“This happened at Westwood Secondary School in Singapore. Please don’t spread this video and claim that it happened in Malaysia.

“Before forwarding anything, it would be wise to authenticate its veracity to avoid confusion and misinformation,” he added.

A group of students from Westwood Secondary School were filmed punching, kicking and throwing chairs at a classmate in a video that then went viral, reported Singapore’s The Straits Times on Feb 18.

In the video posted on Facebook page Fabrications About Singapore on Feb 15, a student can be heard egging his friends on to “teach” one of their classmates a lesson.

Two students were captured throwing chairs at a boy seated at his table in a classroom while on his mobile phone. The boy is stunned when a chair hits his head.

A student then slaps the boy, before throwing a series of punches and kicks at him.

Then, the student overturns the boy’s chair, shoves him to the floor and continues to pummel him.

Then, there was the fake sex video, which purportedly featured national badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei as a “movie star”.

I meet my fellow Penangite regularly, and I can safely say that I have observed him up close and personal.

I can tell that Lee is much more muscular than that skinny, presumably, porno actor in the video, and the hairstyle doesn’t even match our sports idol’s.

Lee has done right by making a police report, and let’s hope the police, with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, swiftly track down the culprits of this vicious smear campaign.

It’s obvious that some people not only want to discredit the three-time Olympic silver medallist but are looking for maximum mayhem by aligning their dubious act to coincide with the release of his feature length biopic Lee Chong Wei: Rise of the Legend next month.

And that’s far from the end of the tall tales. There’s also this pathetic fake news about rejected Musang King durians from China – timed to perfection to be “reported” right before the International Durian festival in Bentong.

The Internet burned with a doctored picture depicting a mountain of the “rejected” fruits, which were said to have been exposed to extremely high levels of insecticide.

Those who shared that piece of poor journalism – either because they were sincerely concerned, genuinely ignorant or politically motivated – didn’t know, or cared to find out that Malaysia doesn’t export durians in its original fruit form but rather, as frozen pulp in packages.

And for sure, the Chinese wouldn’t have wanted to bear the freight charge to return these bad durians to Malaysia. The life span of our durian is only a day or two. How could it have been stacked up like that in the picture?

Durian lovers who inspected the picture could tell they were not Musang King, but instead, something of Thai origin.

With the general election looming, the recycled rumours of Bangladeshi phantom voters arriving by the planeloads at KLIA2 have resurfaced. Even an opposition state assemblyman, in her Chinese New Year video criticising the #UndiRosak activists, cheekily added that “even the Bangladeshis want to vote.” Can you picture 40,000 of them milling at our airport?

Although not a shred of evidence has come to light to back up the incredulous claim, the myth continues to be perpetuated, and it’s a given it will be rinsed and repeated. Perhaps it’ll be the Nepalese or Rohingya this time?

While the ordinary Malaysian can be forgiven for being easily swayed, it’s an entirely different story when journalists find themselves duped, or God forbid, spreading the “news”.

In the 2013 general election, a prominent TV presenter posted on his Facebook page claiming a blackout occurred at the Bentong counting centre, which led to the Barisan Nasional winning the parliamentary seat, slyly implying the coalition cheated during the result tabulation.

He got his network into hot water when he returned to his FB profile to say, “when my child is born, I will ask him to write an essay with the title ‘The Blackout Night’. The beginning of the essay would be on May 5, 2013, there was a stiff fight in the Bentong seat. Someone had said that he would cut his ears if it is lost, and then the counting process started, blackout …”

To credit MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s opponent, DAP challenger Wong Tack denied the rumours. But let’s hope this presenter has since matured, and perhaps, become more cynical as a journalist or presenter, at least.

The most frequent fake news that sparks to life every few weeks would be the dates of the Parliament’s dissolution and polling.

Interestingly, in the case of the polling date “report”, it involved the Prime Minister having an audience with the King, accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister and Speaker.

It’s all very simple, really – the PM doesn’t need anyone tagging along, and after meeting the King, he surely can’t be fixing a date since that job belongs to the Election Commission.

A news portal reported that fake news is a big problem here because many of us are too impressionable when it comes to news on the Internet.

The Asian Correspondent reported: “Without questioning the veracity of certain claims and announcements, it seems that oftentimes, anything resembling a news story – whether shared on social media or via mobile messaging apps – is swallowed wholesale.

“Let’s look at how WhatsApp has become a popular platform to spread news. How many of you have received forwarded messages that clearly resemble fake news and could have easily been dismissed as such? I’m sure so many have, and speaking from experience, it definitely gets frustrating.

“The worst part is that when you question the person who unwittingly forwarded the news, he or she would say, ‘I don’t know if it’s true or not. I received it from someone else, so, I’m just forwarding.’”

This has happened continually because no one is punished for their unscrupulous and reckless deeds, even if their actions lead to undesirable consequences amounting to racial tension, riots and even death.

And the campaigning hasn’t even begun! So, let’s put on our thinking caps and brace for the inevitable soon – a deluge of fake news.

Pooch and prejudice

No puppy love: To immortalise Hachiko’s loyalty, a shiny bronze sculpture stands near the Shibuya train station.

I decided to celebrate Chinese New Year away from Malaysia this year, so my wife and I chose Tokyo as our destination.

We wanted somewhere that was a short flight’s distance for a brief getaway to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary, an occasion marked auspiciously by Valentine’s Day and of course, this time around, the Chinese New Year holidays too.

Now, the problem with Tokyo is the absence of any form of Chinese New Year mood there since it is not observed by the Japanese. But the cool weather was a refreshing change from the stifling heat currently enveloping Malaysia.

That said, the Year of the Dog would not be complete without tipping the hat to Japan’s most revered dog at Tokyo’s Shibuya metro station.

There, a statue of the faithful and fabled canine Hachiko has been erected as a homage, where selfie opportunities are mandatory for anyone visiting Tokyo to realise their trip.

The dog, from the Akita prefecture, has long become a symbol of faithfulness, a trait familiar with dog lovers.

This legendary canine was born in the city of Odate but ended up being owned by university professor Hidesaburo Ueno, who lived in the Shiba neighbourhood.

Hachiko would wait patiently at the same spot in the train station for his owner to return on the 4pm train from his workplace, the Tokyo Imperial University.

But one day in May 1925, the professor never returned to greet his loyal friend after suffering a fatal cerebral haemorrhage on campus.

A forlorn Hachiko would return to that same spot for the next 10 years, hoping to be reunited with his master.

“It is said that the dog would wait outside the station every evening – a model of fidelity and patience,” the Japan Times reported.

To immortalise the canine’s loyalty, a shiny bronze sculpture stands at the Shibuya station. The art fixture was put up in 1934 and has since become one of the area’s main tourist attractions.

The story inspired the 2009 film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere. And less known, perhaps, is Hachiko Monogatari from 1987, which relates the same tale.

The body of golden-brown Hachiko, which has been described as the most faithful dog in history, was found in a Tokyo street in 1935. He had died of old age. To keep his memory alive, he was preserved and placed on display at the National Science Museum.

He also has his own memorial beside his master’s grave at the Aoyam cemetery.

In 2015, a new statue was installed at the University of Tokyo, the new name of the imperial university, to mark the 90th anniversary of Ueno’s death and the 80th of his dog’s.

“The statue depicts a joyous image of the professor and his loyal dog being reunited. It tells a happy tale of master and dog reunited forever at last,” a news article reported.

As we celebrate the Year of the Dog, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department must be applauded for assuring Muslims that using images of dogs for Chinese New Year celebrations “is something that must be respected by all” and “according to the Islamic concept of co-existence, as well as Malaysia’s practice of moderate Islam”.

Jakim director-general Tan Sri Othman Mustapha’s statement was certainly welcome and was even a pleasant surprise for many non-Muslims, who often view the authority as conservative.

After all, this is the same agency that insisted popular pretzel chain Auntie Anne change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage”.

Non-Muslims have always been respectful of how Muslims consider dogs unclean under Islamic tradition.

Some have gone to ridiculous lengths to ensure that such sensitivity is observed – even leaving out the likeness of two animals, the dog and pig, from the Chinese zodiac!

Believe it or not, a T-shirt maker printed tops like these to represent the 12 zodiac animals for the Chinese New Year recently.

And some malls even chose not to use image of dogs in their Chinese New Year decorations.

Not surprisingly, the over-reaction of these business entities have irked their Chinese customers, judging from the response on social media.

It may seem surprising that Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has produced some of the best veterinary doctors in this country, the majority of them Muslim.

My late dog Jezz, a gorgeous white Spitz, lived for 16 years and endured that long because of the loving affection of a Muslim vet at UPM.

She showed her care, not just as an animal doctor, but as someone who consistently reminded her students and visiting pet owners that dogs are also God’s creations.

A young tudung-clad Muslim vet from a clinic in Aman Suria, Petaling Jaya, has also been doing a wonderful job of looking after the health of my poodle, Paris.

In all my visits to consult these two doctors, neither has ever displayed any apprehension or disdain in handling my pets. They have always been professional and are true animal lovers, even graciously accepting dogs.

Next year, the Chinese will celebrate the Year of the Pig. For whatever reason, we have become more afraid these days, a situation far different from the past.

Well, the last time we celebrated the Year of the Pig in 2008, nothing untoward happened and the chubby animal didn’t disappear into thin air then either.

I have always had complete faith in the sense of reasoning and maturity of our people, and I believe no one will lose their head over a zodiac sign.

When tongues wag and tales grow

I love dogs. I’ve always had one, from since I was a child, and now, I have three – two Siberian huskies and a poodle.

Despite their differences – in age and breed – they truly love each other, and it’s a real blessing to have this trio of girls in our family.

But I can’t echo that sentiment for some of our politicians. Politics in Malaysia has gone to the dogs. The concerned players are already in dog fights and the general election hasn’t even been called yet.

It’s still early days, although everyone reckons polling is on the horizon. And we’re all too familiar with the dog-eat-dog nature of politics.

Politicians are already snarling, slobbering and barking at each other. Everyone seems to be calling each other liars and running dogs daily.

Therefore, this has left many of us confused. Who is telling the truth? The incessant snapping doesn’t seem to be seeing an end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

Well, it was the Penang undersea tunnel that got the ball of nastiness rolling. There’s no resolution in sight, for sure, and if you think we should only cross the bridge when we get there, forget it. It’s under-utilised, at least one of them, anyway.

Well, as the saying goes, every dog has its day, but at some point, it’s going to be dog-gone for any politician who can’t stick to the truth or remember the lies he told. For certain, it will be one hell of a dog day afternoon when that happens.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been criss-crossing the country telling his audience that Malaysia will go to the dogs if Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak remains Prime Minister. Yes, those are his exact words – go to the dogs.

There’s still plenty of fire in his belly, like a dog with a bone on issues, although he called off a few functions last week, presumably because of health reasons.

On Friday night, he was admitted to the National Heart Institute. Guess he must be dog tired. He’s still a crowd puller and has the knack of explaining issues in simple language and in a low, calm voice, as opposed to the thunder and lightning approach favoured by his DAP partners.

His deadpan expressions and trademark sarcasm are enough to draw laughter and keep the crowds entertained. But he has been continuously dogged by the ghosts of his past. The palaces are in an unforgiving mood for what he has done previously, when he was at the helm for 22 years.

It was Dr Mahathir who launched the campaign to amend the Federal Constitution to remove the Sultans’ immunity in the 1990s.

Dr Mahathir has also been asked to return his DK (Darjah Kerabat Yang Amat Dihormati) title, the highest award in the state, which was conferred on him in 2002. The move by the Kelantan palace to revoke the Datukships of two top Parti Amanah Negara leaders from the state has sent ripples through political circles.

Amanah vice-president Husam Musa and his state chief, Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah, returned their titles to the palace several days ago after being instructed by the State Secretary’s office to do so.

In December, Dr Mahathir returned the two awards he received from the Selangor Sultan, a move believed to be related to the palace’s outrage over his remark on the Bugis, whom he describes as pirates, irking many, including several Sultans.

The chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi) was the recipient of two medals of honour from then Selangor Sultan in 1978 and 2003. One of them was the Darjah Kebesaran Seri Paduka Mahkota Selangor (SPMS) (First Class).

Dr Mahathir reportedly told a Pakatan Harapan rally that Malaysia was being led by a prime minister who is a descendant of “Bugis pirates”.

That comment triggered outrage from the Johor Palace, Bugis community and associations in Malaysia, and even from some parts of Indonesia.

Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah was also incensed by Dr Mahathir’s remarks in an interview with The Star.

Last January, the Sultan of Johor said he was “deeply offended and hurt” by the political spin used by certain politicians against mainland Chinese investments in the state, saying if left unchecked, would drive away investors. A visibly upset Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar singled out the nonagenarian for “putting political interests above Malaysian interests, particularly Johor”.

To put it simply, it appears that Dr Mahathir has run into serious problems with the powerful Rulers, and anyone who understands Malay politics will surely appreciate the relationship between the executive and the Rulers.

The Pakatan Harapan may feel that they should unleash our former PM since he was their top dog to best reach the Malay audience, but plans have run aground somewhat.

Politicians come and go, but Rulers remain, at least for longer than politicians. Rulers determine the laws, in many ways, and it would be foolish for a politician to take on these highly-respected royalty.

It will be hard for Dr Mahathir’s younger party colleagues to communicate with him – he comes from another generation all together. And as the adage goes, it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. He’s known to be stubborn and one who will doggedly talk about the issues of his choice.

The odd situation is that it is unlikely that any of the Pakatan Harapan leaders will come out openly to defend him. It’s a classic case of tucking their tails between their legs, with the whining kept private.

It’s truly the Year of The Dog. Let’s hope the GE will be called soon because most Malaysians just want to get it over and done with. We have already let the dogs out, and we hope to bring them home soon!

A happy Chinese New Year to all Malaysians celebrating. Gong Xi Fa Cai.

The truth is out there

Field of green: A paddy field in Kota Marudu, Sabah, one of the lesser known parliamentary seats in Malaysia.

OVER the past month, I have been receiving a steady stream of visitors who want to hear my views on the upcoming general election.

I offer the same advice to all of them – don’t listen to me. Talk to voters and by that, I mean a cross section of Malaysians who live in the urban and rural heartland of the country, to get a fairly accurate assessment of the sentiments on the ground.

To foreign reporters, I tell them that they will be wasting their time and money if their only source of information is taxi drivers, bartenders, fellow journalists and the crowds at rallies.

It’s even worse if their idea of criss-crossing the country is confined to Bangsar, George Town, Johor Baru, Kota Kinabalu and Kota Baru. And from these visits, they confidently assume they have tapped into the pulse of the nation.

But this will not draw them apart from the average Malaysian, who has likely never ventured out of his or her neighbourhood or circle of friends and colleagues, yet conspires to make political judgments.

The key to winning the Malay­sian general election is to secure the rural parliamentary seats. Some Malaysians draw blank when asked if they have ever set foot in Kudat, Silam, Stampin, Kota Marudu, Sepanggar, Putatan, Batang Lupar or Selangau, or even know of their existence since they are part of the 222 parliamentary seats in the nation.

And there are urbanites who aren’t even aware of the numerous ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak or the names they go by.

Semporna, for example, which Parti Warisan Sabah chief Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal regards his fortress, has a strong influence because of the Suluk ethnic factor – and it’s safe to say many urbanites in “Semenanjung” have little knowledge of this group.

In Kota Belud, Sabah, the Bajau call the shots. Umno leader Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak is most powerful here.

In the 2013 general election, 108 out of 133 seats won by Barisan Nasional came from rural seats. A total of 72 out of 89 seats won by Pakatan Rakyat came from urban and semi-urban seats – with plenty of help from Chinese voters.

The DAP, in particular, encouraged every Chinese voter returning to their hometown to vote against Barisan, conjuring the belief that the community could determine the electoral outcome, including even giving PAS votes.

There are only about 30-odd Chinese majority seats in the country. As expected, the DAP won all of them, but the huge turnout of Chinese voters could not knock Umno out.

What was worse, they helped vote in PAS, including hardliners like Nasrudin Hassan (PAS information chief) in Temerloh, despite his open contempt against concerts and Valentine’s Day celebrations.

The Opposition, particularly the PKR, did well in Malay-majority seats in semi-urban and urban categories because of the support of other ethnic groups.

But it was clear that Barisan firmly held the rural seats because in terms of the popular vote, the coalition obtained 57% in rural seats, 47% in semi-urban seats and 36% in urban seats.

Of the 108 rural seats won by Barisan involving more than 4.5 million voters, 66 were Malay-majority seats, 15 bumiputra Sabah-majority seats, 18 bumiputra Sarawak-majority seats and nine mixed, according to research group Politweet.

The 2018 general election won’t be any different. It will be fought in the rural Malay villages.

The Opposition has grudgingly nominated Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lead the pact because they know that only the former prime minister can reach the Malay villages. They are fully aware of their weakness in the rural areas.

In this context, rural areas refer not just to the seats in the peninsula, but the bumiputra Sabah-majority and bumiputra Sarawak-majority seats as well, which are even more complicated.

The interior seats in these two states are difficult to reach, with some constituencies bigger than certain states in the peninsula and the voters scattered. Reaching these rough terrains means spending days of trekking or commuting via helicopter and boat.

Voters in Sarawak are often perturbed when Semenanjung folks tell them condescendingly that they should not have an MP to represent such a small number of electorate, compared to the huge number of constituents in Cheras or Kepong, for example.

Some urban folks are simply ignorant – they have no idea where Banggi is, for instance, and they just can’t fathom that these villagers have to travel four hours in choppy sea conditions to reach the nearest town of Kudat to get groceries.

For city dwellers, it would probably take them nothing more than a couple of hours to brave snarling traffic conditions to get where they want to.

The Barisan machinery excels beyond the fringes of the city because it is fully entrenched in the network of support in the villages, whether it’s via farmers’ or fishermen’s cooperative or village security committee. And it knows the political allegiance of every voter, too.

The test this time around will be the 54 parliamentary seats in Felda areas, almost all of which are rural in nature, and they involve the settlers and their children, who are likely working in urban areas now.

I politely told an American journalist that he should not get too excited by the size of our rallies, whether Opposition or Barisan, but to open his ears and listen to the voices of the rural folk instead.

One grievous error the American press committed during the US presidential election, where they failed to see the advancement of Donald Trump, was how out of sync New York-based media establishments were with the largely rural population that voted for Trump, “the disenfranchised voters who looked past his cheesy exterior and his penchant for half-truths and heard a message of hope, however twisted”.

Washington DC and Los Angeles urbanites, for example, were loudly against Trump, but no one bothered to seek the views of rural folk, which was probably deemed unimportant to the media houses. Perhaps they thought they knew better.

As David Farenthold of the Washington Post wrote: “One of the downsides of the fractured media landscape is that it’s easier than ever to sit in an echo chamber or filter bubble and preach to the converted. Newspaper readers believe what they want to believe, and so do those on Facebook – and never the twain shall meet.”

One way or another, most of us are guilty. Our friends who send us messages in chat groups or social media automatically assume that we share the same political enthusiasm as them, though that’s not necessarily the case.

Malaysia is much more complex than meets the eye. It is vast and the rural-urban political divide persists.

Spotlight on the voice of youth

Power of the ballot: Unlike these young voters, an increasing number of Malaysian youths, disillusioned by the politics of today, are willing to give up their democratic right to vote.

THERE’S little point in venting our frustrations at politicians on social media if we are not registered as voters – it’s that simple.

A staggering 3.8 million Malaysians who are 21 years old and above as of September 2017, have yet to register as electors, according to the Election Commission.

Based on statistics, about 45% of Malaysians are young people and they make up the bulk of these unregistered voters.

There are many reasons why people may not want to exercise their democratic rights: not understanding the power of the ballot, the absence of facilities (especially in rural areas) or simply, the lack of interest.

And now, the young are calling for the boycott of the upcoming general election via the social media initiative #undirosak.

Little attention was paid when the campaign began, but it has started to gain serious traction, enough to now send politicians scrambling to stop their plans.

The voice of discontent is distinctly growing louder, with the youth urging voters to spoil their ballot papers to send the message that they are fed up with politicians from both sides of the divide.

The assumption has always been that the young are most likely vocal, idealistic and thus, anti-establishment.

But the revolt began when Pakatan Harapan announced its Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister candidates.

It’s difficult to expect the young, and even the not-so-young, to accept a 93-year-old former prime minister to lead the opposition and to be the interim PM if it wins.

Yes, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is much respected and revered – and rightly so, too – but he’s not exactly Justin Trudeau or Emmanuel Macron to the young, who have great expectations.

Dr Mahathir himself has conceded to the lack of enthusiasm displayed when he fraternised with the young recently – the core target voters. He would surely have detected what was coming.

After a two-hour meeting in Petaling Jaya with about 200 Malaysian youths last year, Dr Mahathir apparently left the hall “with the impression that young people feel changing the government is not going to solve the ills besetting the nation, such as corruption and abuse of power.”

The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman revealed in his blog the take home point for him from that session was that the young believed the problem lies with the system and that “if the system is right, then everything will be fine”.

His advice to young Malaysians is that they should not be apathetic, but instead, work to change the government, lest they regret it later.

And that was even before Pakatan Harapan announced Dr Mahathir as its choice for PM. His ratings are said to have dropped down further among the young since they expect a younger set of leaders to head the government.

The young are obviously not happy with the incumbent, Barisan Nasional, either. Various contentious issues, from corruption to the high cost of living, have all bothered them.

The ruling coalition would obviously need to work harder, and expand beyond its mantra of political stability. To the millions of millennials who never faced the nation’s struggles, their life of comfort is a given right and not something to be eternally thankful for.

Unfortunately for politicians, this is a responsibility, not a privilege. After all, representing the people was a choice, not an instruction, so gratitude is a moot point.

#undirosak is appealing because there is an increasing segment of Malaysian youths that is politically aware but disillusioned by the politics today, so much so that these young ones are willing to give up their right to vote.

And because the young are well-read, they find it hypocritical of politicians who used to berate Dr Mahathir are now hugging and kissing him, slapping each other on the back and conspiring with the sole purpose of unseating Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The desperate clambering for votes of the young, meanwhile, has become a frenzied affair, with PKR promising the broadcast of the English Premier League on RTM. Of course, they are not gullible and know Astro pays a bomb for the rights to televise the games, an astronomical figure said to be close to RM1bil.

But Dr Mahathir is a veteran campaigner and must have realised that the earlier one-issue strategy – 1MDB – was not gaining momentum.

Even the term, kleptocracy, or a government of corrupt leaders, was hard to cement in the minds of the people. To the young, it was easier to identify with Krypton, the fictional home planet of Superman.

So, it’s now back to the drawing board – reminding the young, especially jobless graduates, that the Government has failed them since they now have to become petty traders to earn a living.

Dr Mahathir opines it is a waste to train university students in speci­fic fields such as engineering and medicine, only to see them ending up selling nasi lemak or becoming Uber drivers due to the lack of employment opportunity.

He blamed the Government for not being able to provide appropriate jobs that could match the graduates’ skills.

“People who send students to universities have hopes that they will graduate and be able to land high-paying jobs.”

Finger-pointing is what politicians do best. But the effect on our local graduates, who have problems securing jobs, did not start yesterday.

Decisions on our education policy, many made during Dr Mahathir’s 22-year tenure as PM, have left many Malaysians – of all races – mediocre.

Numerous aspects of the education system and the reluctance of our present leadership to tackle the epidemic, hasn’t helped the cause. Education has always been politicised, unfortunately.

Many of our graduates lack proper command of English, and now, with the rise of Mandarin, they find themselves at a greater disadvantage.

In the past, they could easily be absorbed into the civil service, but now, it is grossly bloated and causing us to struggle with a huge wage bill.

It doesn’t help that we never train our graduates to be entrepreneurs, so that they could be creating jobs instead of looking for them.

It is totally unrealistic for any fresh graduate to join the workforce and expect to be instantly paid well. It’s not happening in Malaysia, and certainly not in the United States or many parts of Europe, either.

Well, the days of talking down is over. It is time for our politicians, who want the votes of the young, to listen. Stop talking, just listen.

For the love of country

MUSLIM cleric Ismail Mina Ahmad is clearly ignorant of the country’s history, especially the period when we fought communist insurgents. He either doesn’t know about the past, is pretending not to know, or is attempting to rewrite history.

Recently, he said that only the Malays had battled British colonists, Japanese occupiers and the communists.

He has now claimed he was misquoted by the press, insisting his statements were deliberately manipulated by the liberal media “to create chaos in the (general) community”.

Ismail said that the issue he highlighted depicts how Bintang Tiga (Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army, aka the communists) killed many Malays, especially during the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The ustaz clarified that the mention of Malays defending our country was “taken out of context” by two reporters covering the event on Jan 13. It’s a wonder how a pair of journalists from different media companies could get it wrong, as he claimed.

And this is precisely the point where history lessons are required, not just for Ismail, but for Malaysians in general as well.

As chairman of the Ummah umbrella group for Muslim organisations, what he says certainly matters, and this is where his reported rhetoric and ignorance is deeply distressing.

I believe I can offer an educated opinion on this issue since I studied history while at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, where I spent time researching the Emergency period from 1948 to 1960.

Let’s start with the basic facts: the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) or Bintang Tiga, mainly comprised Chinese. It shouldn’t be surprising as the Chinese suffered the most at the hands of the Japanese during the war.

Bintang Tiga, as the name suggests, supposedly represented the three main races – Chinese, Malays and Indians – but it clearly was about the Red Star, or communists.

They were not freedom fighters. The MPAJA was a front for the communists.

There were other left-wing Malay organisations which were “facades” for The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), such as the Malay Nationalist Party and Revolutionary Malay Nationalist Party.

The communists even went to the extent of creating Parti Persaudaraan Islam – Paperi – to carry out activities with religious leanings.

Also, CPM, which the MPAJA evolved into, had Malay leaders such as Abdullah CD, Shamsiah Fakeh, Suriani Abdullah, Abu Samah Mohd Kassim, Musa Ahmad, Ibrahim Mohamed and Rashid Maidin, who all held top posts.

Not all CPM members were poor though. Its richest was William Kuok, the brother of tycoon Robert Kuok who was head of CPM’s propaganda division. He was killed in 1952.

It is also well known that the non-Malays resisted the communists. Many paid with their lives, including family members who were killed because their fathers or brothers were either in the police or army.

This is all well documented and any history student well versed with the Emergency period and CPM will know that this is basic information. It’s not news, except maybe to people like Ismail.

But many young Malaysians, and perhaps even older ones, too, like Ismail, might not know one name which was instrumental in combating the CPM.

The late Tan Sri Dr CC Too was the country’s mastermind in the uprising against the CPM.

He was, in fact, regarded as one of the world’s top experts in psychological warfare and counter-insurgency.

Until Chin Peng’s escape to China, the late CPM leader “had been at the receiving end of CC Too’s sharp and keen ideological foil”, in the words of an author.

In the book The Story Of A Psy-Warrior: Tan Sri Dr CC Too, Lim Cheng Leng, a former senior Special Branch officer who crossed swords with the CPM, wrote: “Too could read the Communist mind like a communist, owing to his early exposure to some of the leading comrades who had come to town following the Japanese surrender in 1945.”

And while late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew claimed credit for fending off the communists in his backyard from 1962 to 1963, it was Too who, in fact, provided him with a copy of the communists’ master plan in Singapore.

Too’s contributions would have remained lost in the mists of time had he not revealed his exploits in a news article in 1989.

Author Lim was an eye witness of the proceedings and was briefed about the Singapore mission, where he was given detailed notes.

In short, Too helped save the Singaporean PM and the PAP government from being toppled by the communists.

I had the honour of meeting the late Aloysius Chin, who was senior assistant commissioner of Police Deputy Director of Special Branch (Operations).

He was in the police force for 38 years, 30 of which were spent in the Special Branch studying and thwarting the communists.

His book, The Communist Party of Malaya: The Inside Story, bears testimony to the role Malaysians of all races played in the war against the CPM.

Surely, a man like Ismail, at his age, would recall the assassination of Perak Chief Police Officer Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong. There was also the plot to kill Singapore Commissioner of Police, Tan Sri Tan Teik Khim.

The violence knew no boundaries, and even a Chinese clerk attached to the Special Branch in Kuala Lumpur was shot at because he was mistaken for an officer.

One incident which detailed the cruelty of the communists was the murder of the pregnant wife of a Chinese Special Branch officer on Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur, just as the couple were walking out of a restaurant.

The CPM’s hatred was largely directed at Chinese policemen who were regarded as “running dogs”, as far as Chin Peng was concerned.

The party feared these brave and dedicated law enforcers because many of them sacrificed their lives for the nation in their attempt to infiltrate the movement, going as far as to disguise themselves as communists in the jungle.

It would have been impossible for Malay policemen to pose as CPM fighters even if there were senior Malay party leaders because of the predominantly Chinese makeup of the guerrillas.

Reports revealed that between 1974 and 1978 alone, at least 23 Chinese SB officers were gunned down by the CPM, with thousands more Chinese civilians perishing throughout the Emergency period.

According to the late Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, an authority on CPM, “during the Emergency (1948-60), security forces lost 1,865 men, with 2,560 personnel wounded. Civilian casualties were heavier – 4,000 killed or wounded and 800 missing. The communist side reported that over 6,000 died, 3,000 surrendered and 1,286 were captured. In 1952, the worst year for police casualties, 350 policemen of all ranks, races and branches lost their lives in action”.

It should be noted that the MPAJA embarked on a reign of terror when the Japanese occupation ended.

Dr Cheah, in his book Red Star Over Malaya, wrote that one source told him that “about 70% of small towns and villages throughout the peninsula fell into guerrilla hands”.

The lawlessness which prevailed in Malay villages, with the emergence of armed Chinese communist guerrillas, fuelled racial tension which eventually exploded into well-recorded clashes – incidents chronicled in the book.

In my research on how Malaysians of all races sacrificed for the country, one of the saddest news articles I stumbled upon – published in 1976 – was about Captain Hardev Singh of the 6th Malaysian Infantry Brigade.

He was killed in an ambush in Kota Ayer near the Thai border. Four others were also killed.

Hardev was just 25 years old when he died. He was shot more than 10 times by the communists. However, what saddened me most was the revelation that he was looking forward to celebrating his first wedding anniversary.

There are many names which need to be cited in our history books. And if we don’t, we breed contempt and plain ignorance.

Only the brave teach

Show of solidarity: Fellow teachers and unionists gathering at the Seremban magistrate court last month in support of Cikgu Azizan (centre in white).

ONE tight slap – I still vividly remember that hard, stinging smack across my cheek as my teacher flew into a fit of rage after I did something naughty as a primary school pupil at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.

I can’t recall which teacher hit me, but there must have been more than one. They pinched my stomach and even my nipples. Many of my classmates can attest to that, even 40 years on.

There was also the occasional caning, which I felt was an act of gross injustice and, perhaps, even one of perversion on the part of our disciplinary teacher. To me, back then, he was an unfair individual, and my opinion still stands. To this day, I have no idea why I was caned and not given the chance to defend myself.

But, bless his soul, because he has passed on. Most students from back then would have forgiven him by now, for he probably knew not what he was doing.

However, one thing is certain – as far as I know, none of us returned home and complained about this disciplinary action to our parents.

Comedian Harith Iskandar always reminds his audience that if one complained to their parents, they can expect to get another tight slap that “would burn your face and send an electrifying chilling effect to all parts of your body,” and consequently, leave a lifetime’s reminder.

So, the smartest thing to do, as most older Malaysians can testify, was to keep quiet. Of course, we also warned our classmates, some of whom were our neighbours, to swear to keep things under wraps and not tell their parents about the drama at school.

The caning and slaps, by disciplinary standards, were the “final” punishments. We surely remember the use of rulers, feather dusters, belts, black board dusters and in my case, even a shoe that flew in my direction.

And I wasn’t even in the naughty boys’ category. I didn’t get into fights or was caught loitering with the bad hats after school.

As one writer, Adrian Lee Yuen Beng, wrote in Aliran: “The teachers were our ad hoc parents who taught with joy and passion, and like their predecessors, never demanded any recognition. They customarily stood at the back of the class, silently rejoicing as the students celebrated their exam success.

“We received an education steeped in tradition as mission schoolteachers took teaching seriously; it was not a mere job, but a vocation, nay, a calling.

“Our teachers were proud of their lessons and believed in their form of education. They shaped us into intellectuals, sportspersons, politicians, educators, religionists, physicians and other important societal figures.”

Fast forward to today – and it’s the total reverse. The guilty party – the student – runs home to complain to his parents.

Now, the father and mother fly into a rage and decide to confront the teacher at school the following day. What unnecessary drama!

Adding insult to injury, the parents then seek the help of a politician, who has likely been deprived of the media’s glare for a while. Then, all three confront the teacher.

Lodging a police report is, of course, the next thing they do, and to embarrass the teacher and school further, they call for a press conference.

This is modern Malaysia. Perhaps, today’s family is smaller. There are only one or two children in a family, and they are, invariably, pampered.

During my time, there were at least four or five siblings and even so, we were still regarded a small family. Dad was always too busy earning a living, trying to put food on the table, so, he was thankful that the teacher played surrogate father, at least during school hours. The lesser-educated father would have been equally respectful of teachers. After all, it’s accepted that teachers mould the character, calibre and prospects of their students.

However, the modern-day father thinks he’s smarter and earns more than the teacher, his condescending and confrontational attitude not boding well for the situation.

He probably thinks the teacher has a dead-end job or is too busy distributing business cards to pupils for after-school tuition.

But, for an old-school type like me, I find it difficult to accept news of teachers being hauled to court for purportedly hurting their students.

Honestly, don’t the police and prosecutors have better things to do than to charge these teachers who were merely trying to discipline the children – responsibilities which may have been neglected by their caregivers?

In December, a teacher facing the charge of hurting his student, was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal by the magistrate’s court.

Magistrate Mohd Zaki Abdul Rahim delivered judgement after the prosecution told the court that they wished to withdraw the case.

Azizan Manap, also known as Cikgu Azizan, claimed trial to the charge of slapping an 11-year-old male student on the left cheek in April for indiscipline, the misdemeanour including sniffing glue, bullying and playing truant.

He was charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt and was left facing a jail term of up to a year, a fine of RM,2000, or both, upon conviction.

Leading up to his discharge, several hundred people, including fellow teachers, gathered at the court in a show of solidarity for Cikgu Azizan.

By all means, go ahead and Google it: there are numerous reports of teachers threatened or roughed up in schools, and surprisingly, we seldom hear of offensive parents charged in court for criminal intimidation or causing bodily harm.

We have now been made to understand that the old ways don’t work anymore. The children need counselling and their hair needs to be stroked to motivate them. Have these methods worked better? That remains to be conclusively proven.

One thing’s for sure, though, the tight slap was unbeatable in my time in instilling discipline. Now, when I enter a lift, the millennials are too busy looking at their handphones, so don’t expect them to address you as “sir” or even greet you.

You’d be lucky if they called you “bro” and gave you an enthusiastic high-five, instead.

Would the proverbial one tight slap work today in curing disciplinary ills? Hardly likely.

Let the games begin

IBRAHIM Suffian, who has made a name for himself for his many surveys, walks a fine line. He gets shot at each time the findings of a survey don’t favour a particular party.

If his survey touches on the high cost of living here, he riles up Putrajaya. That’s what happened when a recent study revealed that despite the Government’s continued efforts in highlighting the country’s economic growth and addressing the cost of living, a large number of Malaysians are still left lamenting their economic woes.

His methodology, including sampling size, location and margin of error, was immediately called into question.

The chief of the Merdeka Center said a survey found that 15% of Malaysians are skipping meals to save money while some 11% are reported to have pawned their belongings to make ends meet.

The survey, carried out by the Merdeka Center from Nov 4 to 14 last year, involving 1,203 registered voters, was conducted to gauge voter perception on current developments and functioned as a follow-up to a similar survey done in January.

Ibrahim found himself in the crosshairs of pro-government bloggers and commentators in social media. He, like many Malaysian journalists, faces the same predicament in an emotional and highly divisive political scene ahead of the coming general election.

It will worsen once the campaign begins since our countrymen largely prefer to listen to and believe what they want.

This time, though, Opposition supporters are upset with Ibrahim, with some accusing him of going on the take by releasing his findings which favour Barisan Nasional.

Last week, Ibrahim gave a talk at CIMB on the general election, noting with confidence that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would continue to be Prime Minister.

He described Barisan’s projected victory as “a near certainty” and that the support for Najib is growing, although not yet on par with that enjoyed in the 2013 elections.

Ibrahim added: “Barisan is 13 seats from regaining a 2/3 majority, may be in a position to regain.”

During his presentation, Ibrahim – referring to one slide titled “Opposition Prospects Slim to Zero” – said PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang “appears keen to prevent a Pakatan win” and that the “redelineation would favour Barisan in some seats and Selangor”.

He predicts the elections “may see the loss of Kelantan and Selangor” but that “non-Malay Opposition seats will not be affected”.

What Ibrahim shared isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. Others, like the respected London-based Economist magazine and The Straits Times of Singapore, have offered the same projection. Likewise the Swiss-based multi-national financial services company, Credit Suisse.

Only the most hardcore Opposition voters believe that the Barisan government will collapse in the coming general election.

Much of this enthusiasm comes from wishful thinking, coupled with the belief that the iconic Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will deliver the Malay votes.

Note that even anti-establishment supporters are not saying Parti Keadilan Rakyat or Parti Amanah Negara, but Dr Mahathir. That in itself suggests that the two Malay-based Opposition parties are not sufficient in making the required changes.

More importantly, without the predominantly Malay electorate, nothing is likely to change.

Winning a general election is more than just securing popular votes. Changes to the parliamentary seats this time will make it even tougher for the Opposition to unseat the Barisan, especially with some Malay seats.

The DAP will hold onto its urban seats and may even win more popular votes, but that won’t increase its numbers. The figure will remain, more or less, the same, but with the redelineation changes coming up, the Opposition party may even lose a few seats.

Truth be told, angry DAP voters can’t dispose of Najib despite their loud voices because the political system and gerrymandering effect will not amount to that. That is how the first-past-the-post voting system, based on the Westminster electorate method, works. This means, the candidate with the most votes wins.

This is in contrast to the European proportional representation system, where seats are allocated based on a specific threshold of votes and the number of votes obtained.

But Chinese and Indian votes are crucial in tightly-fought, predominantly Malay constituencies, especially if Barisan and PAS are contesting, but a three-way fight between Barisan, PAS and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia or Amanah/PKR now looks on the cards.

And after the 2013 debacle, it is almost certain that the non-Malays will not be supporting PAS this time around.

In fact, they should be worried if the Malays vote for PAS instead of Barisan. In the end, as the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Chinese Opposition voters are fond of telling each other that “their Malay friends have given up on Barisan and will back the Opposition this time”.

There are elements of truth in this in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, and possibly parts of Johor, but a “Malay tsunami” is not anywhere on the horizon.

Said analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs: “Umno is entrenched in the psyche of both rural and urban Malays. Dislodging it from that position is not going to be easy.

“In fact, I think among the Malays, the urbanites are more difficult for Pribumi to attract than the rural villagers. They may be more educated and analytical, but in reality, they have a lot more to lose if a change were to occur.

“The urban, middle- and upper-class Malays also tend to complain in private, but the pretend heroism does not follow outside of their comfort zones. Pribumi will have trouble getting them into its ranks before GE14.”

In short, many Malays have benefited, one way or another, from the system, and they are unlikely to want to rock the status quo.

But while Ibrahim believes that a 2/3 majority may be possible for Barisan, it will be most challenging for the coalition to hit that target.

In most democracies, and not just in Malaysia, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain that kind of huge mandate. Clear examples include the United Kingdom and Australia.

It doesn’t help the Opposition’s cause that a feud seems to have erupted between Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim before the first vote has even been cast.

It strengthens the perception that the game plan is merely to, first, finish Najib off, and then finish each other off after that.