Thursday, November 21, 2013

Can PAS Skirt The Trap?

The PAS’ Muktamar has already kicked off in Shah Alam and the main question is whether Mat Sabu will still remain as the deputy president or will it be Nik Amar taking over instead? We’ve also seen how the mainstream media, especially the Malay dailies as well as a majority of politicians hoping for the “theological” faction of the party to win big in this edition’s Muktamar. 

If one can understand the present political lines in right now, having the theological faction to win is actually, and many still do not know that the party is walking into the trap setup by their rivals, UMNO. UMNO, considering that they have lost much support from their non-Bumi partners managed to scrape through in the general elections. The assessment from the election is that those votes and support are a foregone loss for them. For that reason, the direction that is to be taken by them is that they need to portray themselves as more Malay and Islamic as well.

That sets up the ante for PAS to match them. If PAS is to better them, they need to be more religious and pious in nature by them, hence the theologians must lead the party – according to UMNO’s view. But indirectly, they will lose the support of their non-Malay partners who supported them as the alternative to the non-Bumi BN parties (MCA / MIC). They must understand again and again, that their support is not because people are pro-Pakatan, but a result of frustration and anger over the incompetence of the BN regime.

While I do not have much to comment but to wish that Mat Sabu continues another term as PAS’s no. 2, it is clear that the PAS party must be willing to adopt a more progressive and pragmatic approach in the view that it is now the 21st century and the fact that many people are tech savvy, Gen-Y in particular and no longer place religious and tradition restrictions on them in their quest to pursue their interests and stretching their creativity.

Turkey, in the pre-Erdogan and from the start of the Ataturk period has demonstrated itself as an ideal model society with the rules that the country is predominantly consists of Muslim people. The reason is because that the country’s constitution, as I have written previously, is silent on the official religion of the country. Instead the constitution puts that as neutral, while the Ataturk administration strictly forbids the factor to be included in the daily administrative affairs. As what Ataturk described in his own words, “the religion will be elevated by itself, if it ceases to be a political instrument.”

Should Mat Sabu wins, it can be said as putting UMNO’s trap back to the drawing board and PAS’s successful clearance of a trap hurdle. But their fight is not over for there’s still plenty of members who have yet to understand the real big picture. Their agenda, even as to compete with UMNO will never get past the final hurdle: consent of the Ruler’s council, for the Rulers themselves also have to take into consideration of their non-Malay subjects as well.

The most important thing is right now as what some commentators have said is to get PAS progressives leading the party, rather than walking backwards.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Leaked I.P.R. Chapter The Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Wikileaks has just released one of the 29 key chapters of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The 95-page document, chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states. 

The chapter is all about the IPR: Intellectual Property Rights. This chapter was distributed among the chief negotiators by the US trade representatives following the 19th round of talks in Brunei at the end of August 2013. The next round of talks will be held at Salt Lake City, Utah from next Tuesday to Sunday (19-24 November). 

"The TPP negotiations are currently at a critical stage. The Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty in a manner that will prevent the US Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013." - Wikileaks

The longest section of the chapter is in regards to enforcement. Malaysia is designated as MY, and there are noted remarks on which country proposes, agrees or opposes to the list of clauses / subjects under the chapter itself. Jumping straight to enforcement  (Section 8 of the document): 

Example: if there is a case of infringement of trademark, the country is obligated to provide "personal information" of the person(s) or entities alleged to be committing that to be sued for damages by the copyright holder. For certain countries, the damages can be determined by the holder.

For infringement via digital technology, not even Internet Service Providers are spared from the potential spilled liability that could be incurred.

Quoting from KEI's brief analysis:

The document confirms fears that the negotiating parties are prepared to expand the reach of intellectual property rights, and shrink consumer rights and safeguards. 

Compared to existing multilateral agreements, the TPP IPR chapter proposes the granting of more patents, the creation of intellectual property rights on data, the extension of the terms of protection for patents and copyrights, expansions of right holder privileges, and increases in the penalties for infringement. The TPP text shrinks the space for exceptions in all types of intellectual property rights. Negotiated in secret, the proposed text is bad for access to knowledge, bad for access to medicine, and profoundly bad for innovation.

The text reveals that the most anti-consumer and anti-freedom country in the negotiations is the United States, taking the most extreme and hard-line positions on most issues. But the text also reveals that several other countries in the negotiation are willing to compromise the public’s rights, in a quest for a new trade deal with the United States.

In Julian Assange's summary: “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Assange mused during the live session: "I think this release could be kill the deal."

The session ended at 10.21 pm local time.

Full leaked chapter (here) and analysis (here) by KEI


Putting Religion Neutral and At The Back Seat

To manipulate a man is a careful project. Too light a hand and he follows on his own whim. Too heavy a hand and he will turn on you.

Malaysia still remains on autopilot mode while religious NGOs have been making plenty of noises, bickering trivial matters that is as like intruding people’s privacy, and religious authorities have a hand in making policy decisions that goes down to every individual. All this remains and yet the government is not very firm in making their stand on these matters. While these people bicker, thumping their chests declaring themselves holier than thou, the fabric of society and economy in Malaysia is slowly disintegrating, as there has been countless number of cases of blood of innocent people spilled, being crime victims, people being discriminated, places being torn down, and so forth.

Why? One of the answers would be that bear in mind that Malaysia to this day has only ratified two of the nine articles of human rights, namely articles regarding women and children. But other articles like civil / political rights, economy / social / cultural rights, refugee status, racial discrimination, torture and cruel degrading punishment, disabled persons and even migrant worker protection rights (signed) were never ratified at all. This has indirectly given a loophole in law to allow bad apples in the authorities / enforcement entities to do things that can be kept secret. It is no doubt that there have been plenty of reports from various human-rights NGOs in Malaysia about third-degree interrogation (beating in custody) and all the misconduct coming from the authorities (just because of a few bad apples).

Human rights NGOs have been heavily whacked to and fro by Muslim NGOs, ISMA in particular. Likewise, even MPs have accused other MPs for supporting LGBT. Most individuals in the accusing NGOs have demonstrated emotional vulnerability and inferiority complex when they commit such accusation. What they are unaware of is that their statements indirectly hint of the tendency to put aside these groups of people, who are even humans, who cry for help, but yet treated like lepers. 

Most youngsters today are no longer the same in the mindset against the previous generation. Sometimes, their actions have drawn the ire of the older generation, old men in particular who have called various measures to stifle them all for the reason of security and public order. The question remains on where do we exactly draw the line or, if there’s a line being established, rather to raise the line or lower the line to the point of being considered of committing something out of order.

Example: some concerts from international artists that youngsters of all races have been waiting for were cancelled at the last minute. The last hurdle towards getting the permit to perform at any venue is always the conservative dress code. Make fans happy and you are actually forcing these people to go to either Bangkok, Jakarta or even Singapore just to see this show as result of not letting them have their fun in their lives. Boohoo.

There is now a trend of Muslim youths shifting towards freethinking and atheism in the Middle-East. The trend kept on expanding despite the popularity not being reported in their own country’s presses? While many think that the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Tunisia and Egypt seem to make people turn against people who thinks liberal, secular, and trying to think beyond the boundaries of religion, on the contrary, it had a reverse effect. The myth that Western influences over them is not entirely true and accurate. However, it underlines the notion that is that the heavy hand of religious interference has impede the ability of think further in the advancement of knowledge and science

Few may understand that some of the social-related authorities in the country are their own worst enemy. They have introduced various measures that are tantamount to violating a person’s privacy. Even the raids on people suspected of committing acts of adultery and indecency are also not even spared. On the worse cases, it seems that the some of the Friday sermons that were reported by the news were more or less going astray from the original teachings. Some of the instances include the (GST) sermon or even the Chinese bashing were already showing that the organization uses the religion as cover and a political instrument to coerce agreement (manufacturing consent) by force, by drilling the falsehoods for the people to turn against their fellow non-Muslim Malaysians.

I am quite surprised to see a remark from the Islamic affairs minister that there would be a proposal brought forward to arm religious officials with guns, bringing them on the same status with the police. Oh my, you mean if they are going for those raids, they can bring their new toys and point those things at people? Religion at the whims of a gun barrel? So the national society has gone cuckoo.

Look around. I thought Malaysians would be exponentially highly educated after 50 years, but it has gone roller coaster from the mid-70s until now. Literacy rate instead is around the precarious levels of dunces. Most of them can’t even speak perfect English, most of them don’t get those professional level jobs, and many of them would rather skip the knowledge and feel of hard work to get the quick buck. I guess the English and the Dutch’s (colonial)’s negative assessment of the natives here was right after all after more than four centuries here.

Kemal Ataturk was ultimate proven right after all, 75 years after his death. He knew that if religion being mixed into administrative affairs it will hamper the society’s progress in facing with the rest of the world. He would rather let the religion be elevated by itself; it should not be a political instrument that can be wield by any party ruling or otherwise. The 1928 amendment, one of the first since the republic’s foundation removes the clause of “Islam as the official religion” was part of the goal of establishing a more real democratic Turkish front. As for religion, the stance as specified in their constitution was put at neutrality.

It is more or less being left up and giving to the people to believe and decide for themselves, while having a special department administering. In his Kastamonu speech in he did say the following:

In the face of knowledge, science, and of the whole extent of radiant civilization, I cannot accept the presence in Turkey's civilized community of people primitive enough to seek material and spiritual benefits in the guidance of sheiks. The Turkish republic cannot be a country of sheiks, dervishes, and disciples. The best, the truest order is the order of civilization. To be a man it is enough to carry out the requirements of civilization. The leaders of dervish orders will understand the truth of my words, and will themselves close down their lodges [tekke] and admit that their disciplines have grown up.[56]

The bottom line is that young people already have enough of what religious authorities are trying to tell them to do. Many are still in the time warp, particularly the older generation. Many inherited the response and the inferiority complex from the British mindset 60 years ago. Today, the English mindset has totally changed. It is no longer the same as was before Merdeka. The Malaysian society has to rely more on knowledge and science, and not material and spiritual benefits from the clergymen. 

Part of the way to achieve that is also via what you dress as well, although not to the extent of making it a by-law but to provide encouragement and the clear reason of professionalism and an identity in facing the futuristic age (in fact the age we’re living is still considered at the infancy of advanced tech age). Since we’re in a world where order is based on the “survival to the fittest” mantra, Malaysians, not just Malays must get out of the need for protectionist. There’s still the complacency thing being underlined from news reports that are designed to elicit manufacturing consent from the public.

No wonder some of the other articles written by other a few other writers cited here are exactly what I am trying to say. It’s time for politicking religion to take a backseat permanently, while giving women more chances to stand up in their skills as well rather than making them mundane.

Reference reading material:

Malaysia Today – RPK’s No Holds Barred
a1   It’sA Man’s World (11 November 2013)
b2   Can I Know Your Stand? (14 November 2011)

The Nut Graph:
a1     HumanRights: What’s Stopping Malaysia (10 December 2008)


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