Political Dinner

Honda CR-Z
Honda CR-Z (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK. I’ll have to admit that I’ve never attended a single political fund-raising dinner in my life. In fact, I’ve avoided them like the plague. However, I was invited to attend one tonite, by a friend, and I thought that I should just go to experience it. Boy, was it an interesting experience.

The venue was huge – a Chinese restaurant capable of catering to probably 150 tables at least. The food was your standard Chinese eight course dinner fare. Being a standard Chinese dinner, it started late, well past the agreed upon hour. Then, the food came out slowly as well. Each dish was accompanied by a half hour political speech from current and would-be politicos.

While the food wasn’t great, the speeches were certainly entertaining. And the way that they arranged the speakers – it ended with a climax. I learned so much about Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary tonight that it has put a damper on my plans to buy a Honda CR-Z hybrid. So, I guess that I’ll need to shop around for something else to buy then. Damn!

Now, this was a fund-raising dinner organised by the DAP, with participation from both PAS and PKR representatives. What first surprised me was the fact that this was held in a non-Halal Chinese restaurant with pork dishes served during dinner. While the Muslims had their own table with separate food, it was interesting that the PAS leaders would even grace the event with their presence. I have many Muslim friends who would not blink an eye when consuming pork but this was certainly atypical PAS.

Another thing that I found interesting was the racial rhetoric. Some of the speakers could openly say that they do not see race, and then proceed to classify the races, all within the same sentence. I found that thoroughly ironic. However, at least they are clear on their different position vis-a-vis that of the incumbent coalition.

However, the most amazing thing that I found was that the people were there to listen. Almost everyone stayed through to the end of the dinner, which ended just before midnight. Some of us jokingly said that we should have just had some McD downstairs instead. However, the restaurant was packed right up to the end.

And the most interesting thing that I got to see was the Ubah video. Man, it had much better production quality than the Janji Ditepati music video. It was also far more meaningful and heart-felt. I honestly think that they should buy a national spot and air the damn thing. It’d win them the elections.

PS: Besides the interesting speeches, I got to meet some friends – new and old ones. I had an enjoyable time sitting at my table.

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Sumptuous Erotica

Erotica #1
Erotica #1 (Photo credit: Tiws)

Disclaimer: Some adult thoughts ahead.

Update: I highlighted some legal issues in my Law blog.

A cross-border international scandal involving a couple of young Malaysians seem to have erupted in our prim and proper neighbour, Singapore.

In it, stars two very young people – Alvin Tan Jye Yee, a Law student in the National University of Singapore, and an ASEAN scholar; Vivian Lee – his girlfriend, a Malaysian. There doesn’t seem to be very much to say about these two, since they are still so young after all.

The scandal involves a couple of single consenting adults having sex, which thankfully nobody is throwing the morality hammer at yet. The issue at hand is that they actually posted their exploits graphically, online, in a public blog, for the view of all and sundry.

Both people have been interviewed and they both defended their right to continue doing whatever it is that they were doing. Twitter is ablaze with various parties commenting on this.

Nobody really cares about what I have to say but I shall say this.

Those people who think that they are wrong to post their sexual exploits on-line, are walking down a very slippery slope. Regardless of whether we think that what they are engaging in is right or wrong, the main issue at hand is why this has turned out to be such a scandal.

The primary issue that I am concerned with is freedom of speech.

I believe that they have every damn right to do whatever they want to do and to even publish it online for the world to see. The key thing here is that they never did force anyone to actually go view it. Nobody can accidentally stumble upon their content either. Therefore, there is no compulsion from their part for anyone to view it.

Also, they have not gone out to offend anybody’s sensitivities. If your sensitivity is offended by viewing such things – who the hell asked you to go view it in the first place? And if you have viewed it and are offended, the only person that you have to blame for it is yourself. If you need to ritually cleanse your eye-balls after that, it’s your own fault.

I don’t see the difference between this form of freedom of expression and another highly controversial form of freedom of expression – political speech. If these two had been blogging as Locke and Demosthenes, we would probably see things differently. However, there is essentially no difference between the two.

What is more private than a person’s innermost thoughts that are published online? That is how the whole blogging trend started – when some people decided to use the web to keep a log or journal of their private lives. This thing is just a natural progression of that trend.

If we think that they should be censured for publishing their private acts publicly, we should also go around censuring anyone else publishing photos of themselves eating dinner (I know that Malaysians love food). Honestly, what someone chooses to shove down their alimentary tract is private too.

How about photos of them sleeping in their beds?

Honestly speaking, these two have brought no greater harm onto our nation or society as a whole that has not already been done by someone else.

If there is one thing that needs to be blamed for this whole issue, I would put the blame squarely on our voyeuristic culture. We have become a voyeuristic society globally. This is what Youtube has done to us across the world. We’re constantly pushing for more interesting content as our attention spans drop to that of a 3-year old’s. It’s our fault that these two decided to feed that demand.

Personally, I do hope that they keep doing what it is that they are doing – as long as they are mature enough to understand that every action has its consequences. They need to know that there are many out there who would not look on their acts as liberally as I do and may choose to act on that. Also, there may be legal consequences of their actions such as public indecency Laws (archaic), etc.

As for the whole legal mess that this creates, I have no idea how anyone is going to solve it. If they broke some S’porean/M’sian Law, can they be successfully prosecuted for either of it? Jurisdiction is going to be a bitch. That’s a question that I leave to the courts to decide.

Discounting PTPTN

Loan
Loan (Photo credit: Philip Taylor PT)

According to the recently tabled government budget for 2013, amongst the many goodies given out to the young adults is a gem – the discounts being given on PTPTN loans.

PTPTN study loans became a sticking point this year when some groups asked for the writing off of all PTPTN loans and the dismantling of a system that was accused with pushing fresh graduates onto the downward debt spiral. This ensured that the PTPTN issue would become a hot election issue in the coming GE13.

However, I have to tip my hat off to the government for how they chose to handle the issue.

The government announced a one-time 20% discount for those who are able to repay their loans in a lump sum payment and a 10% discount for those who are paying off their loans regularly. When I heard it announced on TV last week, I was shocked by the brazenness of it all.

In one fell swoop, the government ensured that it would collect on a sizeable amount of revenues next year. This much needed income was important as the government was handing out election goodies to almost every segment of the electorate except me. Someone had to pay for it all and PTPTN loans were one way to do it.

According to various numbers, the amount of outstanding PTPTN loans were between RM30-RM48 billion in total. If only a fraction of these people decided to take up the 20% discount to repay their debts in full, we’re talking about collecting billions in revenues next year.

Unfortunately, in the same step, the government has ensured that problems that plague PTPTN in collecting on its loans will continue. Malaysians now know that when the government needs money, they will dole out discounts on everything from traffic summons to student debt. Therefore, there is absolutely no incentive to pay up loans nor debts to the government.

On the other hand, the rakyat are now given the incentive to wait – for Mega Sales! PTPTN defaulters everywhere should learn a lesson from this – to never repay your loans and to force the government to beg for money. This is the wrong message to send. PTPTN can forget about ever collecting any debt again.

What kind of nation are we building up – where one can borrow money from the government, and expect to get huge discounts when the government is in need of cash – a nation of law breakers and free loaders. Personally, I think that this move thoroughly stinks of irresponsible government.

Our PM even had the cheek to comment on the PR’s suggestion to cancel all PTPTN debts. To me, that’s essentially the pot calling the kettle black. Neither action is a responsible one and gives people the incentive to refuse to pay back debts.

Debts must be repaid – in full, and on time!

Seditious Ruling

Flag of the Supreme Head of Malaysia
Flag of the Supreme Head of Malaysia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish that our government should stop using the word rule when they talk about themselves. They seem to have forgotten that a government merely governs, it does not rule. Only the Rulers rule.

This is a symptom of being in power for far too long. They have forgotten that they merely govern and I’m sure some of them have styled themselves as de-facto Rulers by now.

Which is why I think that the bunch of kids are being hauled up for acts of stepping on the PM’s photograph under the Sedition Act is unlawful. In the Act, S.3(1) defines seditious acts as:

(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government;
(b) to excite the subjects of the Ruler or the inhabitants of any territory governed by any government to attempt to procure in the territory of the Ruler or governed by the Government, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any State;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia or of any State;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia; or
(f) to question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of part III of the Federal constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution.

The only way that I can see that stepping on the PM’s photograph is wrong is if he is defined as the Ruler for he is certainly not the government but merely the head of one branch of government.

Let me reiterate this – our PM is not the government. So, how could the Sedition Act apply to an act of stepping on his face – unless of course he styles himself as the “Ruler”, which would itself be seditious.

Then again, maybe I’m just too stoopid to understand these things.

Also, it’s OK to step on a Chief Minister’s photograph but not so to step on a Prime Minister’s photograph. I wonder what would happen to someone who uses the photograph as target practice in a range.

Malaysia Boleh!

Anti Hopping Constitutional Convention

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting
English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had this rather unsatisfying discussion with Prof Johan in Constitutional Law class about anti-hopping laws (good thing it did not come out for my exams). We were learning about Article 10 of the Constitution, particularly in relation to the Nordin Salleh case, when this issue came up.

Now, the Constitution clearly does not recognise any concept of a ‘party’ or a ‘coalition’. So, it is clear that the Constitution only cares about voting for the person as the elected representative – it should not matter which side the person takes as long as he/she takes the side of the people he/she supposedly represents.

That is all fine and good in theory. However, we’re often asked to vote along party lines regardless of which donkey or monkey is running. The reason is that the party will fight for our struggles and not any specific elected person. The party maintains discipline by ensuring that all elected representatives tow official party lines.

The Constitution was drafted with the assumption that people will vote for the person. As the elected representative of the people, he/she should be free to associate, in the best interest of the people. However, in practice, we end up electing the representative of the parties who end up working in the best interest of the party who put them there, not the people.

This is the crux of the problem.

My argument was that while Article 10 right to freedom of association is sacred, this must be balanced against the voice of the voters to be heard – the trouble being the archaic tradition in Malaysia of voting for the party and not the person.

Until the day comes where our electorate are mature enough and our candidates are human enough for us to vote for the person, we will need better controls. However, I too believe in protecting the liberty of a person to associate freely.

The solution that I propose is a simple one.

We strike a balance between the freedom of an individual to associate with that of the voice of the people to be heard. Both rights are sacrosanct and important in a healthy democratic system. So, the simplest solution would be to vacate an MPs seat if he/she changes parties after the elections.

The way I see it, it’s like a sort of an agreement between the MP and the electorate. During campaigning, the MP promises to accomplish certain things in return for the trust that the electorate puts in him/her. If the MP decides to change parties and thus change the objectives that they have promised to accomplish, he/she has reneged on that trust.

So, the proper way would be for the MP the seat to be vacated and to ask for a fresh mandate from the people. This way, the MP is still able to freely associate and the voice of the people can be clearly heard. I call that a win-win.

Now, there is no Constitutional provision for this though there is no reason that any Law that requires the MP to seek for a fresh mandate would be ultra-vires the Consti. That said, it would be painful to enforce this.

If we want to mandate that the seat be vacated upon switching parties, the Constitution would need to be amended to recognise the concept of a party. That would bring a whole world of pain on its own. The same problem would occur if we wish to mandate that an MP shall resign his/her seat when switching parties.

This is where the concept of Constitutional Conventions come in. The best way to solve this problem is to make it a convention. Alternatively, party constitutions can be amended to bar any MP who ran under other party banners from joining a new party without first vacating their seats.

It is actually in the best interest of all parties to avoid jumpers.

However, praying for politicians to act in the best interest of anyone other than themselves, is folly.

Hudud and Malaysia

English: A green version of http://commons.wik...
English: A green version of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Allah-eser2.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to the limited knowledge gleaned during my Islamic Law class, I’ve come to form my opinion on the situation and it is really simple: all sides are talking about different aspects of the same issue. As a result, the message to the public is one that is thoroughly confused and pushes everyone back into their own corners, in fear.

On one side, we have PAS who are adamant that Hudud has to be implemented in Malaysia, no questions asked. This position is simple to understand once we realise that Islam encompasses all aspects of life, not just religious rituals. That is why we have such things like Islamic Finance and Law.

For a person’s faith to be complete, they must accept all aspects of Islam, including the complete implementation of Islamic Laws – lock stock and barrel. It’s an essential item of faith. Therefore, it is necessary for all Muslims, including those in PAS, UMNO or otherwise, to accept Islamic Law.

This is the hard-line stance taken by PAS leaders.

That said, it’s not wrong to question the details and implementations of these Laws. In fact, such things are explicitly welcomed. While the Quran lays down general principles of Law, it is often sparse on details, leaving these to be filled by man. It is also important to take stock of present cultural and/or societal norms into consideration.

In the case of Malaysia, this often means taking into account the wishes of the large minority of non-Muslim people in the country. While one may argue that Islamic Laws only apply to Muslims, it is enough to observe current events in our country to know how this separation quickly becomes messy in real-life.

This is the song sung by the UMNO leaders.

Then, the general view of most non-Muslims that Hudud is a Bad Thing and is against our core ideas of justice, right and/or wrong. This view is further strengthened by the Constitutional argument that our country is not an Islamic State. As a result, Hudud cannot be implemented in Malaysia.

Let’s not forget that Islamic Law is already part of our legal system. Whether or not Hudud ever becomes Law in Malaysia is a question that is to be answered by the future generations. Maybe a day will come when everyone in the country can accept it. Then, introducing it would merely require a Constitutional amendment.

However, for now, I would ask that we sort out the legal mess that is our dual-legal system first. Until and unless we can work out all the kinks and loopholes, it would be folly to try to stack more stuff onto the system.

So, my question to all those making so much noise about Hudud is simple – what are you going to do about fixing the current mess first. Then, we can talk about how Hudud can be implemented in Malaysia.

Sensitive Domains

Interesting. I just received an email from our local domain registry, which is in charge of tracking all internet domain names ending with the “.my” suffix. The part that interested me was this part:

The Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (“KLRCA”) has been appointed to administer complaints that may be lodged against you by any party that claims that a domain name contain word or words in English, Malay and Romanized Chinese (including dialects) and Indian dialects which are, amongst others, sensitive to the Malaysian public or are obscene, scandalous, offensive or contrary to Malaysian public norms or policy.

Wow!

I randomly tried a few ‘juicy’ domain names and got an interesting response:

Domain Name penis.my does not
follow the Rules Of Choices of Domain Name

I think that we Malaysians are an extremely ‘sensitive’ lot seeing that our government has to always protect us against all sorts of issues, the latest being domains with sensitive names that may not be suitable for public consumption.

I wonder who keeps the gazetted list of ‘sensitive’ words in Malaysia. I think that it is necessary for someone to do this. Trademarks are gazetted and can be easily proven in court. Otherwise, things would become far too arbitrary.

We’re slowly progressing towards 1984. Newspeak!