Category Archives: writing

Two ministers, an MB, an A-G, and it was that easy?


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Two ministers, an MB, an A-G, and it was that easy?
By Zan Azlee

In the past seven or eight months, we have seen three top leaders in Umno who have been forcefully and dramatically removed from their positions unwillingly.

The most recent one that is still fresh in our minds is that of Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, who is now no longer the menteri besar of Kedah. He was forced to resign two days ago after losing majority support.

The other two might not be so fresh in our minds. I dare say that some of us might even have forgotten who they are. So let me remind everyone.

July of 2015 saw Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister who also held the education portfolio, and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, then rural and regional development minister, being dropped from the Cabinet.

Oh, and then there was also the removal of Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail as the attorney-general in the same month, with Putrajaya citing his health as the reason.

And now, I am seriously wondering if in a few months, we would also start to forget about Mukhriz, just as how we are slowly starting to forget Muhyiddin, Shafie and Gani?

The reason I wonder is because it seems to me that the dropping of these three top leaders from Umno went ahead without much resistance or fight.

There was hardly a fight given by Muhyiddin and Shafie when they were dropped, while Gani had to accept his removal. And now, we can also see how easy it was for Mukhriz to go with just a simple resignation.

What I was really hoping for is that the three Umno bigwigs would have put up a strong fight to remain in their positions if they really felt that their removal was unjustified.

I can’t really say what I was expecting them to do to defend themselves, but I definitely wasn’t expecting them to go so easily as they did. Did any of you?

In Mukhriz’s case, does this set a precedent now? Anyone can be replaced without any strong reason? All it needs is a vote of no confidence? And even then, it doesn’t have to be in a real assembly sitting?

But then again, nothing illegal was done. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had full prerogative and authority to drop both Muhyiddin and Shafie from the Cabinet.

Gani resigned a few months short of his retirement and Mukhriz quit when he realised he did not have the support of a majority of the state assemblymen from his own party.

If that is the case, then I am very worried with how the governance of the country is going to be in the near future. It means that a few people at the top of the chain have the most power.

I realise that when we dish out criticism, it is always best if we also provide suggestions and potential solutions. But at this particular point in time and situation, I am scratching my head as to what to offer.

Hopefully, my lack of positivity will not last long and will not spin me into eternal scepticism and cynicism. And I hope the same for my fellow Malaysians too.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

And here’s a little #ICYMI!

Fat Bidin presents
The Minute Men (Ep 80) – Political funding in Malaysia

All you need to know about political funding in Malaysia in ONE MINUTE!

New episodes out every Mondays.

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Blasphemy is man-made, so question away


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Blasphemy is man-made, so question away
By Zan Azlee

ISLAM is a fairly unique religion in the sense that everyone is considered equal no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what race or creed, and especially not in rank or position.

It is one of the few faiths where ordinary people have the right to be leaders. For example, any sane adult is allowed to be an imam and lead a congregation in prayers.

And, there is no intermediary between an individual and God. We do not need any religious authority figure in order to pray or to communicate with God. The line between us is always open no matter who you are.

What that means is that there is no one who is above the other when it comes to the religion. And in that sense, Islam is quite democratic, to put it in modern terms.

So when certain quarters say that people should stay silent and not comment about the religion because they are not in the position to do so, I find that highly oppressive.

Any Muslim (or anyone for that matter) should be able to question or even voice out concerns when it comes to Islam because it is their right to do so and no one can take that right away.

And this is especially so when it comes to public matters such as governance and jurisprudence because as it already so obviously states, it has everything to do with the public.

There is such term as Shura in Islamic governance whereby the consultation of the people is obligatory in order for a particular government to function.

The Majlis Shura should also consist of members from all layers of society and not just those deemed to be of authority. Hence, everyone is represented when consultation is made.

This, in essence, already shows that Islam strives to achieve a society that gives equal opportunities to every and any individual to have a voice and to participate in society.

It should also be pointed out that there has never been, in Islam, the concept of blasphemy. This is a concept that was created by those who didn’t want their authority to be questioned.

I truly believe that Islam is a religion that calls for it’s followers to constantly criticise and ask questions in order to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to improve themselves and society.

Society will only be able to open up to intellectual discourse and debate when there exist a culture of constant questioning and criticising, This should definitely be encouraged because only then will we evolve.

We should not be scared to question and discuss things we do not understand because how else will be able to find the answers and to clarify things?

I would like to take a peek into history to see how a civilisation that does not consult the people and denies them the right to question things fared in its survival.

One of the greatest Islamic empires was the Abbasid Empire which ruled their land from 750 to 1517. They ruled all of the Arab peninsular, North Africa and parts of Asia Minor.

But their downfall came when they became too authoritarian. They felt that their rule was bestowed upon hereditary terms and that they were born to do it. Hence, they became more feudal.

They ceased to realise that individuals must have a say in how their lives are governed. And their empire that had lasted for centuries came to an abrupt end.

So let’s encourage constructive criticism, questions, discourse and debates. Everyone has a right to comment. Hopefully, society will benefit and we will evolve into far better people. It’s just the Islamic way.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

And here’s a little #ICYMI!

The Fat Bidin Vlog
Ep 25 – An ancient train ride to Johor Bahru!

Took the overnight train from KL to JB to spend a foodgasmic weekend with the family!

*Pay attention to the video and you might win a free t-shirt and sticker pack!

New vlog episodes are out every Wednesdays!

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The radicalisation of Malaysia


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The radicalisation of Malaysia
By Zan Azlee

Since when has “liberal” and “pluralism” been considered bad words by Islam? This is quite surprising for me since I consider myself to have traits of both these words, and yet I consider myself a Muslim.

It was reported in the media recently that certain Islamic authorities in Malaysia are of the belief that thoughts relating to liberalism and pluralism has the potential of being radicalised, and hence, is a threat.

As far as I can observe, there are yet to be any person or groups of people who picked up arms and acted violently and also considered themselves liberals or pluralists.

But please do let me know if you have evidence otherwise because I could be biased since I identify with these thoughts. Then I would need a light to be shone down on me.

This is extremely disturbing, especially when Islam is facing extreme challenges (with the likes of Islamic State). Radicalisation is a serious problem and it should be dealt with accordingly.

We need Islamic leaders who are forward-thinking and not those who have an archaic perspective on life and of the religion. Because what is radicalisation if not the rejection of contemporary ideas?

I used to think that those who were attracted to Islamic radicalism were those who were uneducated and lacked knowledge. Hence, it would be easy to manipulate and fool these people.

But I think I may be wrong since it seems that there is an increasing number of people with high formal education joining the ranks of the Islamic State (Isis) in the Middle-East as well as in Southeast Asia.

Another thought that I had is that extreme poverty would cause people to be desperate enough to join a cause that took extreme measures in order to justify the desperate times.

But again, I think I may be wrong. There is evidence that shows that many of those with respected and professional jobs are leaving their comfort zones to join Isis as well.

Then I heard something that made sense. A professor of foreign policy at Georgetown University in Washington DC, Haroon Ullah, said that mainly well-read and well-fed people of the middle-class were attracted to radicalism.

In a short video, Haroon, who also works with the US State Department, explained that these people craved for order and wanted a stop to inefficient governance and corruption. And Islamic radicals offer these, even if it is at a high cost.

If you think about it, out of all the different countries that are trying to battle radicalisation, Malaysia, although wanting to battle it as well, seems to be the only one that is actually embracing it.

The Pew Research Centre recently conducted a survey and it said that 11% of Malaysians actually have a favourable view of Isis and another 25% more say they don’t know.

More shocking is that 80% of Malaysian Muslims also think that suicide bombings are justified. Now this is a very scary thought indeed for me. I don’t know about you!

The one thing people need to do is to show that Isis and similar militant groups actually do not bring about change. What they do bring is more violence and deaths and this cannot be glorified.

The political leaders in Malaysia also have to stop the politicisation of Islam because it could well be that it is one of the reasons that is conditioning such thoughts to develop among Malaysian Muslims.

And definitely the government has to address the fact that people are desperate for change. Hence, they need to make sure that there is efficient and clean governance.

The recent attacks by Isis in Jakarta and the arrests in Malaysia show that the situation is critical in this part of the world. Maybe it’s time to really do something about it.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Seriously now, who really understands the TPPA?


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Seriously now. Who really understands the TPPA?
By Zan Azlee

I attended the #BantahTPP rally that took place last Saturday in Kuala Lumpur because I wanted to see how many people were really against Malaysia signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The TPPA is something that I am particularly interested in and have read a lot about, as well as sitting down for a one hour interview with Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industries.

Surprisingly, the turnout for the rally was much bigger than I had expected. The event’s Wikipedia page said they expected 20,000 people to attend. But my rough estimate would be less than 10,000.

The protesters were not allowed to gather at Dataran Merdeka, which was their initial proposed location, and the city council granted them the use of Padang Merbok instead.

There was heavy police and city council presence at Dataran Merdeka on the day, but the protesters were very well-behaved and marched past them towards Padang Merbok in a very orderly manner.

Once they arrived at the approved Padang, the politicians and NGO leaders were already there speaking rhetorics, which were mostly about how we are selling the country off to Western powers.

And this is where I have a problem with the reasons for this group wanting to protest against the TPPA – there didn’t state any solid and valid reasons that the TPPA is detrimental to the country.

I spoke to a few protesters who were there because I really wanted to know what their understanding of the 6,300 page TPPA document is. And the answers I got were quite vague.

Zainab Abdul Rani, who hails from Klang, said that she was worried no one would help to save the next generation. Not understanding what she said, I pressed further by asking for more details.

“There are a lot of negatives aspects of the TPPA. Firstly, our national resources. There are more bad than good when it comes to the TPPA. We need to defend our country’s integrity and economy,” she said.

Not really the kind of answer I was looking for, but it was her answer and I didn’t want to put words into her mouth. So I moved on looking for others who could explain things better to me.

Basir Saad, who came all the way from Taiping to protest against the TPPA, had a little it of a clearer explanation for me when I asked him for his reasons for being there.

“The prices of goods and products might increase such as medicine. And there might be an import of food stuff such as rice that might be cheaper but would mean taking away the income of our locals,” he said.

KL-ite, Siti Rubiah, said that it is a responsibility she had because of the bad economic situation the country is in. The rakyat has the right to oppose this during such dire times.

“With the economy in such a state, we don’t need outsiders meddling in our business. We can manage our own country. They just want to control our economy,” she explained.

Adam Mohd Farid, a student who comes from Sabah, said that he thinks it is fishy that the whole TPPA discussion is blanketed in secrecy.

“There is the possibility that we are actually selling our country away. Foreign corporations will come into the country and our local companies will have to compete with them,” he complained.

If I may be honest, I didn’t feel that the answers given by those who I spoke to to actually show an adequate understanding of the free trade agreement.

Wouldn’t it actually be a good thing if it means that Malaysia will have to adhere to international standards if they want to be included in the group? It would mean improving ourselves, wouldn’t it?

And if they are so afraid of international corporations coming into Malaysia (who says they aren’t already here), why can’t they look at the perspective of Malaysian companies having the opportunities to go out?

But then, if I may continue to be honest, even I do not have enough understanding of the TPPA to decide whether I am in support or I am against it.

It’s 6,300 pages long and although it is released for the public to see, I doubt that the lay person would have the ability to understand it comprehensively.

Also, if negotiations of the TPPA began 5 years ago, how come the government only started to release information about it to the public and the members of Parliament less than a year ago?

Now, they are debating in Parliament. By the time you read this article, a decision would have already been made. Was there adequate time for everyone to actually study and understand everything there is to know?

If there is one thing the protesters got right was the fact that there was so much secrecy throughout the TPPA negotiations. And when it came down to making a decision, not enough time was given to digest it.

And hence, that should be the main reason why they were protesting.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Sacrifice education last during financial crisis


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Sacrifice education last during financial crisis
By Zan Azlee

A man has just lost his job and is on the way home to his family. He is feeling sad, confused and nervous. He doesn’t know how to tell his wife that he is now jobless.

When he arrives home, he sees his two daughters playing in the yard. His wife is in kitchen about to get dinner ready. He hugs the two kids and walks straight to the kitchen.

He tells her the bad news. She looks calm and tells him that everything will be alright. Her part time food business is still going on so they aren’t totally income-less.

In the morning, they sit down to plan out their finances. They realise they need to start cutting back on the spending. They just need to prioritise and see what has to be sacrificed.

First thing to go is the regular eating excursions on the weekends. They will still go out to eat every once in awhile, they just need to cut down and not eat at expensive restaurants.

Then, they next thing they have to sacrifice are the annual holiday trips overseas. They know that they can still enjoy time together as a family even if it is just Cuti-Cuti Malaysia.

Still going down the list of cutbacks, he realises that he can’t indulge in his love for cameras anymore. He needs to contend without any upgrades like new lenses and whatnot for now.

They continue to see where else they can reduce spending. She hesitantly agrees to brew her own coffee instead of always going for expensive designer coffee at fancy cafes.

Slowly, as they work down the list, they start seeing that it would actually be possible to survive the current financial predicament that they have found themselves in.

Also by prioritising on what they cut back, they have been able to preserve what is truly important, and that is to still afford to send their daughters to the school of their choice.

The regular savings that they make for the future education of their children will also not be affected. They can’t because they realise that education is something that cannot be sacrificed.

They will scrimp on anything else except for education. That is the promise the man and woman made to themselves. They will sacrifice so their children won’t have to.

Now cut to the bigger picture.

I think that it is unfair that the government has decided at such an early stage of the financial and economic crisis that the country is facing right now to sacrifice something so important.

The move to freeze the Public Service Department’s (JPA) scholarships for students who want to pursue bachelor degrees and pre-university programmes is a bad one.

I am sure that there are many other areas the government can cut back on when it comes to financial spending and costs instead of cutting back on education.

The government can take a page learning from the the man and woman from the story above. It’s pretty simple. Just prioritise and determine what is important and what isn’t.

Sacrificing education is like killing our future. By doing so, when Malaysia comes out of this crisis, what would be the state of our society when so many had been denied an education?

I really hope that the government will reconsider the freeze. And what I really, really hope is that they won’t cut expenditure for another important area – the public health and medical services.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]