Thursday, January 25, 2007

I would rather be coward

To: Rocky, Jeff and their supporters

Reproduced without permission from

When journalists go it alone
Fathi Aris Omar
Sep 26, 03 07:51am

Journalism is a serious endeavour but most of the time – it appears to me – nobody cares. Or that not many people are truly serious about it. I am doubtful to express my true feeling about many things.

"I would rather be coward than brave," prominent English novelist EM Forster once said, "because people hurt you when you are brave."

Zulkifli Sulong, editor of Harakah, is facing a serious problem with the Official Secrets Act breathing down his neck last Friday. To him, this kind of threat is not new. Just days before we celebrated World Press Freedom Day this year, he was found guilty under the Sedition Act.

Unlike other pieces of laws where brave journalists are only to be to be punished with a fine, the OSA will surely land you in jail. For a family man like Zulkifli, I can not imagine what he is thinking now.

A friend of mine on Monday suggests that, as representative of the Kumpulan Aktivis Media Independen (Kami), I should write a press release, responding to what is happening to Zulkifli. But I am hesitant – weird feelings suddenly engulfed me.

When Badaruddin Ismail and I wrote Rahsia Kotak Ezam, a book on the OSA and freedom of information after Keadilan Youth chief Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor was found guilty in August last year, we really dug into the opposition inner circles of this ‘psychological ambiguity’. I would like to be more frank but something inside me is strongly resisting the temptation.

Again, as what I had felt for Mohd Ezam, I now feel sorry for Zulkifli. It seems that a journalist has to shoulder it alone.

What is happening to him, and to Steven Gan and other Malaysiakini journalists early this year for instance, reminds me of Shabry Sharif of the New Straits Times almost 20 years ago. The defence correspondent pleaded guilty to his ‘crime’ - having reported on financial abuses in the Defence Ministry.

I was told by a former NST journalist that Shabry was asked to plead guilty, and was later fined RM7,000. The newspaper was not interested to defend him. That was before the 1986 amendment of the OSA, so there was no provision of mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence.

Luckily enough, the National Union of Journalists then took a very serious stance on this issue, and they did protest.

But I doubt that we will have this kind of campaign for Zulkifli or other journalists. Look at what happened to Ezam. In October last year, other prominent political leaders such as Abdul Hadi Awang, Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli and academic KS Jomo were all under OSA investigations. Then came the police raid on Malaysiakini.

Yet, we have not had any consistent, serious action.

I can’t say any further. If I do, it will be like opening a Pandora’s Box. The novelist Forster’s words: "I’d rather be coward", are banging on my mind. And I am not talking about the cowardice in going against the repressive government.

I am afraid of being alone again, or acting on serious issues like the OSA and other media-related Acts cosmetically. From my experience of publishing Rahsia Kotak Ezam, plus a score of other activities since my student years, I know the pain of being alone.

"People hurt you when you are brave." The ‘people’, whoever the novelist meant, are ... our friends and allies.



lubok melayu said...

adakah sdr rasa brothers kita rocky dan jeff "alone"? adakah sdr fikir mereka bermain permainan yang "foolish"?
adakah sdr rasa mereka pasti kalah?

Anonymous said...


U r not alone. Trust me.


Anonymous said...


U r not alone. I will always with u!


jebatsari said...

tulisan ini ikhlas

Rem said...

Well put and very perceptive! And, I couldn't agree more.

I wouldn't mind lending my sympthy, empathy and moral support to Jeff Ooi et. al. But at any given time, I don't see myself 'walking' their walks -- literally. Proverbially, may be yes.

And the reason for this? It's well described in this article. Sad and pathetic -- one may say. But that's the 'truest' truth!

the other side of fear said...

you only think or feel you are alone but you are not; trust me; dont lose faith in humanity; at this point of time, it's the only thing we've got...sayang :-)

sloone said...

i like the part where you said "reproduce without permission from malaysiakini"

vesewe said...

Discrimination in the private sector is everywhere. Even the Chinese businessman who is just starting gets discriminated against more established ones, unless he has a mentor to back him up.

As for career interviews, it is best to get a recommendation first. If I am using my own money, it is my right to choose whom I want - even to the extent of discrimination. Why would I want to hire someone that I cannot have lunch with, work with or converse with?

The BN government on the other hand is discriminating against the non-malays not with the malay money, but with probably the Chinese money as the latter pay the bulk of income tax collected in the country. That we are against.

ruyom said...

I am a New Zealander. My ancestors came to New Zealand less than 100 hundred years ago from Britain, Germany, Holland and the Middle East. But I don't identify with any of those places - I am a New Zealander, it says so on my passport.

Most Malaysian Chinese and Indians have a connection to Malaysia that far outdates my connection to New Zealand……….so I can't imagine how one could say that Chinese Malaysians should identify with China and not with Malaysia, or Indian Malaysians should identify more closely with India.

If it was natural to go to such extremes then why not just make us all citizens of Africa and be done with it?

Let me tell you, who are malays? Can't they just be some people that came from Indonesia long time ago? Or some Arabs came from Middle East centuries ago?

They do not necessary originate from Malaysia! Malaysia could be part of Indonesia or Thailand! What that in the history book does not necessary be the whole truth!

One friend said: "I am malay. My father was raised in a rural village outside of Kuching. He made it through without any of the bumi-biased aids in question and at one point worked for a multi-national organization. I have never requested for or used any educational aids. It is foolish of me to speak out against a system that would benefit me - but I still choose to do so. Truthfully, I dare go as far as to say, I am harshest against my own race."

My agree point being is that malays can make a difference if they are willing to work hard. Remember, there hardly is any substitute to success. Mahathir himself spoke out against the malays and said that they were lazy and laidback.

If you imply that May 13 will occur all over again just because the malays can't earn their way through things - this will show who the real gangsters are.

To stop whining when things are obviously biased will serve to make the government less accountable to the public. Remember, bumis policy has been around for decades, not days. The "backward" malays should have been already on their feet by now - if not highfliers themselves.

Moreover, about the quota system - if malay entrants are not qualified to enter the university but students of other races are, don't let them enter! That will force them to study harder to earn their way in.

If tertiary institutions compromise as quota system for university, what we would have are mediocre tertiary institutions that may go as far as lowering the passing mark so that more of these non-deserving students may pass. This will only degrade the Malaysia education system further.

In the paragraph mention racial harmony. In fact, the projected image of harmony is not entirely an honest one. There won't be true harmony as long as politicians take advantage by playing the race card. And many Malaysians living in Malaysia know that every dimension of life here is racially politicised.

My point was it is no longer a race issue. It is a class issue. While it is still important to realise that the "crime" of Umno was to make it all seem as if only the malays are at the worst end of development.

In other words, not only do the rural malays suffer - the rural Indians etc, are denied the opportunities too. Poverty is race-blind.

One cannot possibly aid a group at the expense of those who are affected by discrimination. While discrimination is present in the US, it is still very much a recipient of brain gain, Malaysia on the other hand is a victim of brain drain.

aston said...

Malaysia only hits the world's headlines when something goes wrong.

Nothing unusual there. Malaysia is regarded as a rogue state and whenever Malaysia is mentioned, it is always alongside countries which are corrupt and backward.

More recently, also a hotbed or a haven for radical Islam.

fong said...

I refer to the article - The Chinese are the biggest taxpayers.

Mahathir disclosure about the Chinese being the biggest taxpayers did console me to some extent. He has spoken what the Chinese dare not speak in public even though we knew all along the fact that the Chinese are a major contributing force to the building of our Malaysia nation.

Be it in the nation's commerce, economy, education, industry, achievements and well-beings and all other aspects, the Chinese have always been a driving force and a strong supporter of the government of the day.

This announcement is of great significance. It makes you wonder about how much money the rich natives of the soil actually contribute to the nation which they call their own.

A minister was robbed of RM350000, an ex-minister was caught with lots of loose change many years back. A captain of the industry got lots of money from the sale of his shares to the government.

Do all these rich people pay enough tax? Many beneficiaries of Mara scholarships don't pay back the loans. Do they pay taxes? They are the middle-class backbone of the sons of the soil. They consist 60 percent of the population. They form 90 percent of the civil service drawing quite good pay. Do they pay enough taxes?

The Chinese work their backs off to support the nation that they love so that the government can implement projects that benefit the nation. The Chinese do enough to support the nation and the government. They walk the talk. Some others only talk.

But who cares? If 'Chinese are the biggest taxpayers' comment was uttered by someone from the Chinese community, such a person will surely be condemned as being insensitive, racist and unpatriotic by certain malay politicians. He might be asked to go back to his country of origin (even though he was born in Malaysia).

Now, Mahathir has taken the words out of the Chinese mouth and confirmed the contribution made by them all these years. The malay politicians who have always accused the Chinese of being greedy, selfish and unpatriotic should shut up from now on.

Sometimes, majority does not mean right. Majority may not lead better. Majority may not bring good. Hence, if Umno strongmen can humbly admit the facts and remove the stumbling blocks, believe me, Malaysia can do much, much better than what we are today.

tim said...

I left the country some 10 years ago. I am very glad I made that decision. My children got the education they desired and both enjoying their chosen professions after completing university studies.

I enjoy tremendously living and contributing to my adopted country. I am an IT professional, so are many of my friends who left Malaysia with me in the 1980s.

Most of our children are professionals in their own rights. They earned their places in the society on their own merits. Many of them are in the engineering, financial, IT, legal and medical professions.

Dare I say many of them won various scholarships throughout their academic pursuits. Oh Malaysia! You don't know how much you have lost……….

I would never come back to Malaysia. It sucks……….control of malays. They have no rights for Chinese or whatsoever. The Chinese, Indians and other races worked hard to pay their tax while the malays just spend it. Where is the rights?

I did watch a documentary on the history of Singapore few days ago. There is an incident of the joining of Singapore and Malaysia.

The main reason Mr Lee Kuan Yew doesn't want to join with Malaysia is because Tunku Abdul Rahman wanted the malays to stay power on the political side and the others be second class citizens.

If during that time Tunku Abdul Rahman were to treat everyone the same……….Malaysia will be as famous and rich as Singapore today.

reek said...

I am very please Badawi admits that Muslim countries are among the world most-corrupted. Look no further, just look at Malaysia. Want to learn corruption? Come to Malaysia. We will set up universities to teach that.

It is the Muslims (those ignorant and confused) that are corrupt. Their leaders show very bad example and stop calling their countries Islamic countries. They are not Islamic countries - they are just countries run by false leaders - they are not Muslim leaders.

Right on, man. Could not agree with you more. Malaysia indeed is one of the few top corrupt countries in the world. Soon it will put Nigeria and Indonesia into shame! Using religion as a fascist front to enrich the BN gangs is sub-human and evil.

In fact, the whole religion set up in Malaysia is a direct duplication of the Hitler regime, with the Hitler youth now reemerging. Using this power to enrich the gangsters, as history shows it, will not last.

The World Bank has shown that reducing corruption by a small percentage will yield a 3 to 4 times rise in GDP per head. That talking about reducing poverty is a lot of bullshit. By just talking about reducing corruption in international arena to make fame without any knowledge of corruption's implication is sheer stupidity and we have it in Malaysia, time and again.

Islam itself is a corrupted religion. They copy Jews and Christianity religions. Then stole Pagan Temple and take away Hajar Aswad the Pagan God. Hmm what a shame?

Our prime minister is full of shit. When Israel attacked Lebanon, he voiced out. But when Umno Youth attacked MCA, he didn't know about it!

When corruption is so blatantly happening in Malaysia, he keeps quiet but can talk in conference about other Islamic countries. What! Look at the speck in your own eye first! Don't close one eye and peep through the other.

Why worry about others when our very own "half-past-six" ministers are worst than the armed-robbers, because they rob the whole nation under the pretext of helping the bumis.

yoy said...

In Japan people commit hara-kiri if they have erred. Here Malaysia we have half past six ministers pointing fingers at each other. See the big difference? Our ministers here their skin is thicker than Kobe beef.

romsam said...

The national parade will extol the greatness of nation history over these past decades.

But we need to create the space and the time for some serious discussions. It is about time that the nation stops to reflect in silence and prayer about the destiny of this tiny nation of 26 million citizens.

Over the past years, we have done well. Our development has brought great progress in terms of super structures, facilities, economics gain and amenities.

But lately, we are beginning to realise that despite all the progress we have attained, the country appears to be wallowing in a third world mindset and its many traps.

The on-going political fracas is not adding any solutions to the hour. While other regions are seriously battling the challenges of globalisation, we seem to be burning precious times and resources in slugging it out as to who is more right.

While the world appears to be divided on religious lines, we are unable to stand out as a beacon for all, given our more than four decades of experience as a multi-religious and multi-racial community. Instead we seem to be wasting too much time and energy debating on parameters that will only divide us further.

Our social fabric does not reflect the colours of material progress the nation has achieved. We litter, we hog the roads and break the laws. We cheat on the weights and quality of produce.

Reading is at an all-time low now so much that the cabinet has to address it. We do not spend on books and the prices are not getting any cheaper.

Our education system never seems to get out of its web of problems. The fact that tuition is moving ahead in a big way across the nation is a manifestation of how serious the problem is.

Our national drug problem has escalated to the tune of having some two million addicts. The rehabilitation centres are bursting at their seams. Snatch thieves and robbers are having a easy get-away while the citizens spend huge amounts on all kinds of security devices to the point, that we now live in homes barricaded with padlocks with metal grills from entrance to ceiling.

Corruption is taking on a new cloak. Traders shortchange. Imitation goods are going up in sales. Employees cheat on time. CD pirates thrive. Builders cheat on material quality.

We therefore need to ask: What good is all this so-called roads and buildings, infrastructure, developments, if our society has not matured in tandem with the growth? Of what greatness is our long history of peace if we are not able to go beyond the realms of religious tolerance?

What pride can we really take in the fact that the nation is a multiracial one when our politicians still sing along racial divides and we still call ourselves Malay, Indian, Chinese, or 'others' instead of Malaysian?

Let not our golden jubilee next year continues as another mere window-dressing.

coolooc said...

Fool of you, Muslims only 20% of world population, others 80%. The majority rules.

Why don't you Muslims become murtad, the world will become a much better place, no more suicide bomber, free flow of pork, alcohol etc……….Muslims are missing all these - that is why they are so backward.

Why are Jews so powerful?

There are only 14 million Jews in the world; seven million in America, five million in Asia, two million in Europe and 100000 in Africa. For every single Jew in the world there are 100 Muslims. Yet, Jews are more than a hundred times more powerful than all the Muslims put together. Ever wondered why?

Over the past 105 years, 14 million Jews have won 15 dozen Nobel Prizes while only three Nobel Prizes have been won by 1.4 billion Muslims (other than Peace Prizes).

Question: So, why are Jews so powerful?
Answer: Education.

Why are Muslims powerless?
Because we aren't applying knowledge.
Because we aren't diffusing knowledge.
Because we aren't producing knowledge.

Question: So, why are Muslims so powerless?
Answer: Lack of education. Quality education to be exact. Uncontaminated education to be precise.

It is already being mentioned in Islam that these Jews were gifted by God with knowledge. Jews is for Jews.

San said...

Racial polarisation in the country is not caused by the country's vernacular school system but more by the government political, education and economic discriminative policies, an educationist said today.

The prime minister and all the Umno ministers will never admit that polarisation arises more out of the race-based policies and privileges one race gets over another.

Similarly, there are other areas of our daily lives where terminologies used have made us view certain practices as privileges rather than sacrifices. For instance, the bumi discount for houses.

The total sale value to the developer is still the same. It is just that the non-malay buyer is likely to be required to pay for some of the discount given to the malays.

But the longer the NEP policies continue and the greater the vehemence with which Umno politicians issue threats, terminologies will change and more people will talk about these practices or policies in words that may not sound as pleasing to the ears of the beneficiaries.

Obviously, at that point we shall probably see a new round of discriminations and disagreements. Unfortunately, as long as only weak people take on leadership roles within Umno, threats will continue, NEP policies will be sustained and corruption will prevail.

That unfortunately is the legacy we have as Malaysians.

The basic building blocks of unity, whether you are uniting different ethnic groups in a country or trying to re-engineer a corporation of differing cultural values, are the same.

The principal parties have to be treated as equals - nor special privileges no favours that would favour one group over another. Any privilege that is given should be given to all on the same basis - for example, special privilege given to the financially poor regardless of race or ethnic origin.

It is only on this equitable footing that you can foster true nationalism and build lasting unity, since each component group will have the same stake in the nation and has equal likelihood in reaping the rewards or suffering the consequences.

My recommendation to the government, not simply as a businessman but also based on pragmatism, is not to waste any more taxpayer ringgit on nationalism programmes until it has established the pre-conditions for its success.

What is sad is that, after almost five decades of independence, we have been unable in Malaysia, to bring globally-vision leaders to the forefront - leaders who can see beyond racial boundaries to recognise the immense sociological and economic potential that can benefit all Malaysians.