23 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?

A prepatory meeting for a World Forum for Muslim Democrats met yesterday in Jakarta to discuss the convening of the Forum’s first global conference.

Chaired by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim with the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in collaboration with the Habibie Center and the Foundation for Political Economic and Social Research (SETA) from Turkey, it was decided that the first conference will be held in Malaysia.

The primary goal for the World Forum for Muslim Democrats is to establish a common platform for leaders, intellectuals and professionals of the Islamic faith to articulate their progressive views on matters pertaining to freedom, democracy and justice.

Nevertheless, it was stressed that the Forum will be inclusive of the multifarious political and religious persuasions in order to promote greater understanding and dynamics in the discourse.

In this regard, it is envisaged the conference will attract participants from political parties, civil society organisations, intellectuals and the media.

23 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Program Ceramah Perdana bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Telok Intan; Ahad dan Isnin, 25hb dan 26hb 2014

25 Mei 2014

1) 9.00pm: Jalan Selat, Kg Terenganu, Durian Sebatang.

26 Mei 2014

1) 8.00pm: Perkarangan Bilik Gerakan KEADILAN, Bandar Baru, Pasir Bedamar

2) 9.00pm: Perkarangan Rumah Kedai, No 11, Tmn Desa Aman, Jln Maharajalela, Teluk Intan (Dun Changkat Jong)


23 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Leader of People and Justice Party (Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998 and Finance Minister from 1991 to 1998) of Malaysia visited Japan in February 2014. The Sasakawa Middle East and Islam Fund organized a lecture during his short stay in Tokyo in order to have candid discussion on the political situation in Malaysia with Japanese experts from various walks of life.

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, as the Leader of the Opposition, is among the most popular politicians in the present-day Malaysia, advocating political reform that aims to eradicate corruption from within the Malaysian polity. His political stance on Islamic justice has been highly regarded not only among the Malaysian population but also the moderate Muslims across South-East Asia.
Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim is also a well-known advocate of “Asian Renaissance”, as well as an activist for promoting global values that include universal human rights.

21 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?


It is that silly season again, when Umno gets in a tizzy over more evidence that its grand-sounding statement that Umno is Malay and Malay is Umno is just that, a statement and nothing more.

That umbilical cord between Umno and the Malays was cut a long time ago. And yet they still pretend to be the vanguard of the Malays.

Now, they are feigning indignation that Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud is contesting the Teluk Intan by-election on a DAP ticket.  She has been called an ingrate and a traitor. The sheer hypocrisy of the name-callers who tell Malaysians that we should be forever grateful to them.

In keeping with the Umno spirit, the Malaysian Insider offers five reasons we must “tabik” Umno politicians.

1) We must be grateful to Umno because they have blurred all the lines between right and wrong; and wiped out the offence of corruption. There is no more moral quandary thanks to Messrs Najib, Muhyiddin and Mahathir.

Malaysians can live beyond their means, cheat on taxes, buy cars and houses on ill-gotten gains and feel no remorse or guilt. Why? Because all Umno leaders do so. We repeat, all.

There is not one cabinet minister who will pass a lie detector test on how he or she accumulated their wealth and all will fail spectacularly even the most cursory check by the MACC on living beyond their means.

From classic Porsches to apartments in tony suburbs in London, they have it all. So, Malaysians must be grateful to them for showing how to live the good life without a conscience.

2) We must be grateful to Umno for showing us that family is important. Nothing must trump kin in the award of contracts, concessions to sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters, brothers, nephews. You get the picture by now.

So, we have the son-in-law of a senior Umno minister who is the proud owner of a super expensive bio-metric concession; a youngish son-in-law of another senior Umno minister who has a sweet heart deal; a brother of another senior Umno minister who is doing extremely well as a broker for foreign labour.

And then there are the countless children of Umno politicians who have suddenly become very rich individuals, some on the list of the richest men in Malaysia. And we have not even started on the First family and their kin.

So, thank you Umno for showing us that family is important.

3) We must be grateful to Umno because it is no longer an object of derision to spew nonsense in Malaysia; to speak with a forked tongue or to flip-flop on anything.

Ahmad Maslan, Rithuan Tee, Hishammuddin Hussein, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Ahmad Said… To steal a line from a famous budget airline: Now everyone can talk rubbish.

4) We must be grateful to Umno because they have demonstrated how to build up something with sweat and tears over decades and break it up overnight with wayward words and actions.

Granted, the Umno of old played an important role in building up Malaysia but somewhere along the way the culture of rent-seeking, the influx of morally-bankrupt individuals and a surge in chauvinism and fear of losing power combined to turn the ruling party into a wrecking ball.

To cling on to power, Umno has damaged institutions from the judiciary to the police, divided Malaysia along racial and religious lines and destroyed this blessed country. So, thank you for damaging this blessed country.

5) We must be grateful to Umno for charting policies and plans that allowed Malaysia’s education system to be where it is today: in the abyss.

Our primary schoolchildren are lagging behind their counterparts in Vietnam; our universities are non-existent in regional or global rankings; our graduates can’t speak or write proper English and these days, the entry of a product of the education system into Harvard is as rare as the prime minister’s presence in Parliament.

So, thank you Umno. We are grateful.

21 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?


There are enough laws to prosecute those who make disparaging racial and religious remarks but selective investigation and prosecution is a cause for worry, a former attorney-general and lawyers said.

Insisting that the Sedition Act be removed from the statute book, they said the law on sedition was stacked against an accused and it gave the prosecution an upper hand in obtaining a conviction.

They said this in response to Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam’s call to Putrajaya that the Sedition Act be repealed and replaced with a National Harmony Act as promised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2012.

Hasmy said recently, several opposition politicians had been prosecuted for allegedly making “seditious remarks” but the Suhakam chairman noted that there were other laws which could have been used to handle such matters.

Hasmy (pic, left) said Suhakam recognised that freedom of speech had its limits but Putrajaya must uphold the principle of equality.

Former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman said there was no point enacting new laws when the implementation was questionable.

“Every person is equal under our law. To be effective, all laws must be enforced fairly ,” said Talib who was the A-G between 1980 and 1993.

He said these days many were charged with sedition and there was a public perception of selective prosecution.

Talib said he had framed charges against a few individuals under the Sedition Act but it was done fairly to obtain a conviction.

He expressed reservation on the prosecution of DAP national vice-chair Teresa Kok over her controversial satirical video “Onederful Malaysia” last February.

“Is this case a suitable benchmark for sedition in this country?” he asked.

Talib, who is also a former Suhakam chairman, added that there were also adequate laws to maintain public order and national security.

Criminal lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu said the prosecution of opposition leaders for sedition only lent support that the law was used to muzzle legitimate dissent.

He said Putrajaya would have done its homework before Najib announced the repeal of the law.

“Yet, the public prosecutor sees it fit to charge opposition leaders and those against the establishment over the past one year.”

He said the conduct of current Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail ran contrary to the promise made by Najib.

Lawyer Edmund Bon (pic, right) said there were sufficient provisions in the Penal Code and also the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Act 1988 to act against those who used race and religion to make hate speech.

“I am for responsible freedom of speech but against using the Sedition Act,” he said.

Bon said under the sedition law, it was a presumption that the accused was responsible for inciting hatred when the burden of proof in criminal law was always with the prosecution.

“During trial, the prosecution need not prove intention of the accused and this makes it easier for them to secure a conviction.”

Lawyer Abd Shukor Ahmad said the intention of the sedition law, which originated in England, no longer existed.

“It was enacted to curb anyone from making derogatory remarks against the state during the reign of absolute monarchy,” he said.

Shukor said the law had lost its relevance in a parliamentary democracy and open government system.

“We are still stuck in a time warp if the law remained in our statute book,” Shukor said, adding that the legislation was against basic rights of citizens to criticise their elected government or offer differing views.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said individuals would be reluctant to make hate speech using race and religion if they were reprimanded severely by the media, community and political leaders.

“These individuals will think twice to use race and religious card to champion an issue,” he said.

Paulsen, however, lamented that these individuals became bolder because they obtained tacit support from politicians and the mainstream media.

He said offenders could be charged under the Penal Code as it gave them a fair level of playing field in putting up a defence unlike the Sedition Act.

21 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Program Ceramah MEGA bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Pulau Pinang

Jumaat, 23hb 2014

8.30pm – Dewan Sekolah Menengah Han Chiang, Jalan Lim Lean Teng, Pulau Pinang


20 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?


It is just supposed to be a parliamentary by-election but the battle for Teluk Intan is now between Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud (pic) and Umno, which appears to be rattled by her candidacy on a DAP ticket.

She has apparently struck fear in several Umno leaders, from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil  – who have all castigated the political novice for not joining Umno.

Even Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali has thrown his soiled fingers into the fray, urging Gerakan to use a photograph of him together with the 27-year-old DAP candidate as campaign fodder.

But Gerakan has refused to use the photograph as part of the campaign by their president Datuk Mah Siew Keong, the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for the May 31 by-election.

So why is Umno so afraid of the young UiTM law graduate, whose mother is an Umno member? Several reasons come to mind.

One. Dyana Sofya’s candidacy on a DAP ticket shows that Umno is not the only party for Malays, apart from PKR or PAS. Particularly when more Malaysians are seeing themselves as Malaysians and not identifying themselves along racial lines.

As more of that happens, Umno and other race-based parties and even groups like Perkasa will have fewer members and cease to exist or even be relevant in Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir, Shahrizat and even Ibrahim can’t allow this to happen because this will be the end of Umno and its dominance in Malaysian politics.

Two. Dr Mahathir is right, the younger generation have forgotten the hard work of the early Umno members and leaders. Perhaps that is because the old Umno was de-registered under his watch.

The Umno today is Umno Baru, a pale shadow of the Umno of Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein that fought for Malaya’s independence in 1957. The Umno today believes in keeping everything for itself, and only sharing the crumbs with others.

And every day, Umno gives Malaysians a reason to detest them. Every day.

Three. Dyana Sofya’s candidacy shows that there are political parties out there willing to gamble on youth and idealism rather than just rely on the tried and tested or the experienced politician.

There isn’t much of a queue in DAP unlike BN parties where party presidents and top officials are favoured as candidates over younger members. Perhaps it is also the fact that young talent have deserted the BN component parties.

Malaysia’s future belongs to Dyana Sofya’s generation, not the ones who have already tasted power and want to keep it for a while more.

Four. Dyana Sofya’s candidacy shows that young graduates, even from local varsities, such as UiTM, have the intelligence, mettle and leadership skills to strike their own path instead of following what their parents want them to do.

These young Malaysians can think and know they can make the difference. They are hungry and they don’t want to bide their time.

If anything, this mindset is the anti-thesis of a typical BN member who does what he or she is told and waits patiently in line for a shot at political office.

Only some, especially those in the inner circle, make it in BN. That might not be the case in DAP or other PR parties which have had to put up young candidates due to the lack of those willing to run for political office.

If more Malaysians, especially Malays, follow Dyana Sofya’s footsteps, then a party like Umno will come to an untimely end.

Umno cannot allow that to happen and it has to demonise, castigate, heckle and humiliate Dyana Sofya so that others will not follow her footsteps and join parties willing to take a chance on them.

Her success and victory in Teluk Intan will be more than just DAP keeping a seat in parliament or another young Malay becoming a DAP MP. It also means that Umno cannot assert itself as the only platform for the Malays to keep power or run Malaysia.

That is the sad state of Umno these days, that it has to fight a young woman just to keep power.

20 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic) has claimed that the cargo manifest for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 had been deleted by “people in authority” as part of efforts to conceal information on the plane’s disappearance.

In an interview by Caro Meldrum-Hanna for the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Four Corners programme yesterday, Anwar said his sources told him that the manifest had been deleted.

“I could not verify that, the only reasonable action I could take was to raise specific questions and demand the cargo manifest,” he said, adding that the matter had even been raised in Parliament but there was no response from the authorities.

“Even if it is deleted or not, the government must come (out and explain) in a transparent manner. You can’t expect the internatiomal community to have this huge search and rescue operation to find the debris. We have to know what is the cargo on the flight.”

Pressed by Meldrum-Hanna if his contact in MAS had actually seen the cargo manifest, Anwar said he wouldn’t know but people volunteer information to him in the strictest confidence as they were afraid of repercussions.

Asked why the government would conceal so much information, Anwar said: “The only plausible reason I could give is that either they want to conceal evidence in order to deflect (something) or (they are) fearful the infomation will cause further embarrassment.

“To my mind, it is not acceptable, you are talking about lives and national security.”

MAS had previously revealed that the cargo on board flight MH370 included 4 tonnes of mangosteen and lithium ion batteries.

Anwar was also asked about the failure of Malaysia’s military to respond when it had picked up flight MH370 on its radar.

“Yeah, I mean it’s a major scandal here, because this is of course amounting to a major threat to national security,” he said.

He said the military had breached the standard operating procedures.

“The Air Force will be alerted and will have to then be flown to that area to either, you know, normally to guide the plane to land or to leave the Malaysian airspace.

“They’re standard operating procedure and this was never done.”

Four Corners also quoted former first admiral of the Malaysian Navy, Imran Abdul Hamid, as saying that the military should have reacted to the plane passing over the peninsula.

“They should be responsible for what they are doing.

“They have to answer to the people of Malaysia for failing to react. So, the Chief of Defence Forces has to answer for it, the Chief of Air Forces has to answer for it.

“If they cannot answer it, I think they should leave the service for other people to serve the country,” he said.

Anwar said clearly there was no defence over the radar issue.

MH370 had flown almost directly over the top of Malaysia’s military radar station located on the island of Penang.

Four Corners said that a team of up to five officers could or should have been on duty at the nearby radar operations centre at Butterworth airbase.

Their job? To man the military radar screens, looking for unidentified aircraft entering Malaysia’s airspace.

In defending the Malaysian military in another interview with Four Corners, acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said that the military had been told to keep an eye on the plane but had allowed it to disappear off their radar after considering it as non-hostile.

This was the first time that Malaysia had said that civil aviation authorities told the military to keep an eye on the aircraft – a fact which was not mentioned in the five-page preliminary report on the plane’s disappearance released by the Ministry of Transport on May 1.

The much-criticised preliminary report had made no mention of the instructions from the civil aviation authorities to the military to monitor the plane.

Instead, the brief report, which had been sent to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), revealed a chaotic four hours after communications between Malaysia air traffic controllers, the flag carrier and other regional air traffic controllers before a hunt was initiated.

Hishammuddin, who appeared defensive in the interview, said that the military did not send a plane up to investigate the aircraft shown on their radar as “it was not deemed a hostile object and pointless if you are not going to shoot it down”.

He was defending the military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet after flight MH370 had disappeared from civilian radar on March 8 when its transponder stopped transmitting during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing around 1.21am.

The military radar had tracked it after it made a turn-back and turned in a westerly direction across the peninsula.

“If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” Hishammuddin was quoted as asking on the Four Corners programme.

Delays in pinpointing the Boeing 777-200’s location led to days of searching in the South China Sea before analysis from British satellite firm, Inmarsat, pointed its likely course as the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin had also said that had the jet been shot down with 239 passengers and crew on board, “I’d be in a worse position, probably”.

He said he was informed of the military radar detection two hours later and relayed it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who then ordered a search in the Malacca Strait.

20 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Program Ceramah Perdana bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Telok Intan, Isnin 26hb 2014

1) 8.00pm – Perkarangan Bilik Gerakan KEADILAN, Bandar Baru, Pasir Bedamar

2) 9.00pm - Perkarangan Rumah Kedai, No 11, Tmn Desa Aman, Jln Maharajalela, Teluk Intan (Dun Changkat Jong)



20 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Lim Kit Siang hari ini menyelar kenyataan Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yang menyifatkan calon DAP bagi kerusi Parlimen Teluk Intan Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud adalah untuk mengaburi mata orang Melayu.

Ketua Parlimen DAP itu berkata keny?ataan bekas perdana menteri berkenaan tidak memeranjatkan kerana itulah yang dilakukan selama 22 tahun memerintah Malaysia.

“Semalam Dr Mahathir kata orang Melayu mudah ditipu. Mungkin betul kerana dia tipu orang Melayu 22 tahun.

“Saya percaya Melayu, Cina dan India tidak akan begitu mudah ditipu kerana mereka tahu apa hak dan impian mereka,” katanya kepada media selepas menemui pengundi di pasar pagi di Teluk Intan hari ini.

Semalam, Bernama melaporkan ?Dr Mahathir berkata tindakan DAP meletakkan calon Melayu pada Pilihan Raya Kecil (PRK) Parlimen Teluk Intan merupakan tindakan ‘hiasan luaran’ parti itu bagi mengaburi mata orang Melayu.

Katanya, tidak mustahil ramai orang Melayu akan menyokong calon DAP itu kerana sejarah membuktikan orang Melayu mudah tertipu dengan tindakan seperti itu.

20 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Would the unflattering comparison irk Chinese readers? I reflected on this as the idea for the article bobbed about in my head like a lifeboat drifting in the Pacific Ocean.

I blame Yann Martel, the author of the book for this predicament. For it was he, despite the abundance of more dignified predators in the animal kingdom, who chose a hyena.

I nevertheless press ahead but not without first expressing sincere regret to those who might feel slighted by the hyena-Chinese reference.

If you thought director Ang Lee’s Oscar winning celluloid adaptation of “Life of Pi” was brilliant, then you should read the book, which I did over the past week. It is, in one word, magnificent.

For those not acquainted with this fantasy tale either in its cinematic or literary manifestations, allow me to recount the plot in brief.

A sixteen-year-old boy is sailing in a cargo ship with his family from India to Canada. On board with them is a host of animals, given that his father owned a zoo. The ship sinks, and the boy finds himself in a lifeboat with an injured zebra, a famished hyena, a 450-pound tiger and a seasick orang utan.

The hyena kills the zebra and orang utan. Later, the tiger butchers the hyena. And the boy spends the next several months on the lifeboat with the tiger.

Najib’s lifeboat is BN

As I devoured the pages, I could not help but allow imagination to saunter and entwine the plot in hand with the politics of our land. And so I pictured the prime minister in the role of the protagonist, Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi for short.

It occurred to me that Pi’s shipwreck saga, the version with the animals, bore a striking resemblance to the situation that Najib Abdul Razak finds himself in at this moment.

Though some might contend that it is not a male royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker that has him sweating but a ferocious tigress, whose name incidentally, also begins with the letter R, who prowls the corridors of Seri Perdana. Rumour has it that it was at her behest that he took up the job in the first place.

Fact or adversaries-conjured horror fables, Najib’s domestic woes are of no concern to us.

Given that these are sensitive times, I believe it would be best to convert Richard Parker into a religious extremist for the “Life of Najib” edition. Hence, the tiger shall be known as RidhuanTee bin Abdullah.

Ridhuan Tee bin Abdullah represents the conservative Malay/Muslims, the Umno hardliners as well as the likes of Isma. Whereas the hyena – once again with deep apologies – the Chinese.

As for the inconsequential zebra that is eaten alive – that would be the Indians, who lack both political and economical clout and have for decades been represented by politicians who, some would argue, rightly belong in a zoo.

The orang utan, another insignificant character in the storyline which dies soon after the zebra, is perhaps the indigenous population of both East and West Malaysia.

And the lifeboat, the last remnant of a large vessel which has since sunk, that is now floating aimlessly, would be symbolic of the BN ruling coalition.

Keeping the tiger satiated

At one point during his ordeal, Pi sums up enough courage to believe that he has a fighting chance against the hyena. But when he catches a glimpse of Richard Parker, he believes his fate is sealed.

However, he later arrives at the conclusion that keeping the tiger alive by supplying it with adequate food and water would in turn keep him alive as well.

Similarly, Najib is in no position to act against Ridhuan Tee bin Abdullah and the peddlers of hate speeches.

To crack down on those championing the cause of the Malay race and Islam would upset the precious votes preserving BN in power and further antagonise the ultras in Umno.

As for the Chinese, the prime minister cannot be too concerned about their sentiments or feelings. Whatever he does, their votes would not return. So why stick his head into the jaws of a tiger for them?

Pandering to their demands prior to the polls had earned the wrath of some influential people and the conservative Malays. It would not be wise to push his luck too much, for it is already a miracle that he has not been mauled after the last electoral debacle.

With parties like MCA and MIC being reduced to mere decorative items, it is the conservative Malays who hold the key to Umno and BN’s survival. With defeat nibbling at the heels, one is forced to up the ante on issues of race and religion.

Fear must be struck in the Malay heart that with the powerful Chinese DAP in the opposition bloc – handing Pakatan Rakyat the keys to the administrative capital would sound the death knell for their special rights and erode the significance of their religion.

So Najib and the so-called moderates in Umno can withstand the attack of the hyena. But should Ridhuan Tee bin Abdullah pounce, it would be end game. The tiger must be kept satiated.

But at least to Pi’s credit, he attempts to tame Richard Parker.

The nation crumbles

But Khairy Jamaluddin was spot on when he remarked that bigotry could be found in all races, parties and religions. It is not something exclusive to Umno, Malays or Muslims.

True enough. I have come across Chinese who frighten their children into finishing their meals with the “Indian man will catch you” threat. As well as Chinese and Malays who believe that all Indians are drunkards and criminals.

I have met Indians who believe that the Chinese would drink the blood of others and swindle them. There are Indians and Malays who believe that the Chinese are exploitative and would never promote a non-Chinese in their organisations even if the person is deserving.

I have also met Chinese and Indians who think that all Malays are bone-idle, sex offenders and not the sharpest of tools in the shed, who are undeserving of their positions and wealth.

And let us not even get started on the Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and God knows what else fanatics out there who deride the faiths of others.

However, the difference is that groups like Isma seem to have the tacit backing of our leaders and that is what bodes ill for this nation. It is the selfish shortsightedness of winning the next election at the expense of the next generation.

When the “pendatang” and “intruders” cross the line, even by a fraction, justice is swift. But such is not the case when Ridhuan Tee bin Abdullah embarks on a marauding rampage.

Police reports are lodged, investigation papers are opened, statements are recorded, evidence is gathered, and all of this is then submitted to the attorney-general’s office, where the files gather dust or are stamped “No Further Action”.

The politics of race and religion is this nation’s greatest bane, which has caused and continues to widen the fissures, where the focus over the decades has been on tolerance and not integration.

What is more disheartening is when those like the Oxford-trained Umno Youth chief also turn the wheels of this vicious political cycle.

One can understand the Ahmad Zahid Hamidis, Liow Tiong Lais or G Palanivels taking this route, for it is only in BN can such dim bulbs have a bright future.

But it is an ignominy when young and capable leaders who can alter the fate of this nation decide instead to focus on their own fates in terms of personal elevation.

With the sins of the past revisiting us and as we reap what has been sown in the name of greed for power and wealth, our nation crumbles in the harvest.

19 May 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Radio Free Sarawak

The team from the independent Iban language radio show Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) have won recognition in Australia, with a key award from the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

The Communication for Social Change Award 2014 was designated by the university’s Centre for Communication and Social Change to the organisation as a whole.

The other winner in the individual category went to a photo-journalist working in Afghanistan, Barat Ali Batoor.

The RFS team, who work mainly incognito in order to avoid harassment from the authorities in Sarawak, were delighted and cheered by the news:

“We have been struggling against persistent attempts to jam our show over the past weeks, which is an illegal interference of our right to broadcast. People in Sarawak have a right to choose alternative media to the relentless propaganda on the government controlled channels. There are legitimate dissenting voices against the programme of so-called development being put forward for Sarawak by Taib Mahmud and the state government and there are issues of corruption and human rights abuses that ought to be addressed.  We provide a platform for ordinary folk to have their say on this show about the enormous changes being forced upon them and we provide a rare opportunity for elected opposition politicians in Malaysia to be heard as well” says the programme founder, London based Clare Rewcastle Brown.

This is the second recognition of the work of Radio Free Sarawak in less than a month.

Peter John Jaban interviews a local headman

Peter John Jaban interviews a local headman

On World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, one of the station’s DJ’s Peter John Jaban, was nominated one of the worlds ’100 Information Heroes’ by the NGO, Reporters Without Borders.

Jaban, who has publicly acknowledged his involvement in the show, paid tribute to the team of determined broadcasters, who have kept the project going for the past 4 years and to the radio station’s key supporters around the world.

The nightly show is targeted at Sarawak’s indigenous rural communities, who have been confronted by industrial scale logging on their traditional forest lands and also land grabs for oil palm plantations.

The latest and most devastating threat for up to a quarter of the mainly riverine communities is the plan to build a series of 12 mega-dams across Sarawak’s river system, which will displace tens of thousands of native people.

This weekend the Radio station took part in a public exhibition in Miri with a stall to advertise the station to local folk. The broadcast regularly brings news on land conflicts and court cases, which are suppressed in the mainstream media. It also provides a platform for NGOs and the discussion of human rights issues in the state.

Sarawak's unparalleled rainforest turned into mass monoculture on eroding hillsides.

Sarawak’s unparalleled rainforest turned into mass monoculture on eroding hillsides.

A ‘virus’ that ‘poisons the minds of the people’?

Current Acting Transport and Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussain

The broadcast, which has developed a powerful following amongst native communities, has been condemned by local and national politicians, who have sought to accuse the broadcasters of illegal activity.

When Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein (of MH 370 fame) announced he would “leave no stone unturned” to discover crimes against the radio station:

 ”This is not about politics. This is about spreading malicious lies, the issue of unity and harmony among the races”, he said.

However, Hishammuddin was unable to find sufficient evidence under the stones he turned and prosecutions never resulted.

Likewise, the Sibuti MP Ahmad Lai Bujang is one of a number of local BN politicians who have likened RFSto a virus which must be avoided by the people:

“This is because the radio is meant to mislead its listeners by disseminating false information and spreading malicious lies that could jeopardise racial unity and harmony”, he claimed.

It has been pointed out that such words imply an accusation of ‘sedition’, a serious crime that carries a punishment of years of imprisonment and it has forced the broadcasters to conduct their legitimate right to freedom of expression clandestinely to avoid harassment.

The criticism has continued relentlessly, indicating that ruling politicians find themselves threatened by an independent source of information which they cannot control.

Another BN minister Douglas Uggah has called Radio Free Sarawak poison.  And the Deputy Information, Communications and Culture Minister, Joseph Salang Gandum announced, in reply to a parliamentary question:

 ”We know that several Sarawakians are involved in the broadcast and are liable to legal action”

The BN Assemblyman, the wealthy young Snowdon Lawan, son of a key crony of Taib himself, also spoke out  saying the state government should monitor activities by Radio Free Sarawak, because it was a pro opposition independent radio station “known to manipulate facts for the opposition’s political mileage in the upcoming general election”.

The Malaysian authorities have been clearly connected to persistent jamming of the radio station and cyber-attacks against its website at regular intervals over the past four years, particularly during election periods.

Emerging frontier – communicating change

The accolade from Queensland University is a powerful academic endorsement for the Radio Station, which has been the butt of so much virulent criticism from politicians in the ruling BN coalition in Malaysia.

The Centre for Communication and Social Change CfCSC is based at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland, one of Australia’s premier learning and research institutions. It was established in 2007 and is the only specialised centre in this field, in Australia.

“Our Centre is staffed by experienced researchers and practitioners who have global expertise in development and communication matters, including with the UN, NGOs and government institutions…. Communication for social change is an emerging frontier, the goal of which is to use communication processes, techniques and media to facilitate social, economic and technological development. The underpinning philosophy of CSC is that communication is not simply about transferring information and sending messages, but rather about listening, responding to, and helping people give direction to their own change, and supporting enabling environments for this change to take place.”[Centre for Communication and Social Change]

Malaysia has one of the lowest ratings in the world’s media freedom indexes. The government has regulated to ban  all forms of criticism from the licensed broadcast media and is quick to charge challengers with ‘sedition’ for undermining the reputation of the governing party.

RFS, however, broadcasts on shortwave from outside of the state and via the internet and is therefore not subject to such rules. The station is a sister project to Sarawak Report.

A native Penan listens to the show.

A native Penan listens to the show.

Switch to our mobile site