The night Mahathir came to town

Yesterday evening was billed as a special session with the Malaysians living in Indonesia with the new old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It was part of his first official visit to neighbouring Indonesia where he would meet Jokowi.

I went with mixed feelings. I was curious to see the old warhorse, still flushed from his electoral victory in May, how he might have changed and how he was holding up. I was also curious to observe the reaction of the Malaysians living here toward him. At the same time there was a feeling of unease. After all, this is the man that set in motion most of the things that are wrong in Malaysia today, including Najib, his cronyism and the corrupt system and is now returning as a saviour of the people.

But go I did and these are some of the observations from last night.

Mahathir himself. He is still sharp and spry at 92. He was lucid but he seemed less intimidating than before, when I was a reporter in Malaysia in the mid 80s. Back then he seemed someone that you did not want to piss off at all. Perhaps he was tired from the trip.  Perhaps times have changed. Or perhaps I myself have changed.

In his speech he hit on the theme again about how his government was gathering the evidence to prosecute Najib for his corruption. This to me seemed unnecessary for a Prime Minister (and for his Ministers in the Cabinet). Prosecution of Najib should be carried out by the Attorney-General and investigations should be carried out by the Police or the anti corruption commission. The Prime Minister should stay above the fray to let the law take its course and to avoid any hint that the prosecution of Najib might be politically-motivated.

The audience. Was remarkable. Clutching their handphones they all wanted a piece of Mahathir. The adulation and hero-worshipping was almost embarrassing. Sure , Mahathir had achived something great by toppling the Barisan Nasional government in the polls, but surely the appreciation must be tempered by some wariness, considering the track record of the man when it comes to curbing press freedoms, using the draconian Internal Security Act to lock up political rivals, instituting a system of cronyism and other foibles? What I saw was the forgetfulness of crowds and their willingness to embrace heroes.

Then there was question time after Mahathir’s speech and it was absolutely cringeworthy. A Malaysian student used the time to ask Mahathir to attend a Malaysian-Indoensian student event they were organising in November, as if a Prime Minster did not have more important matters to attend to. Mahathir politely told him no.

A Malaysian woman married to an Indonesian asked if her husband and kids, all residing here, could have Malaysian citizenship. Mahathir explained that she and her husband had a choice to become Malaysians or Indonesian citizens. So do their children when they came of age.

A woman from ASEC, like everyone knew what ASEC meant, asked  how and when Malaysia would lead the ASEAN Countries to better economic integration. Even Mahathir was not clued in on what ASEC was and had to ask. Asean Secretariat it turns our ASEC was. His answer was diplomatic and cheeky: that is a question we will ask the ASEAN countries when we meet, but anyone with half a brain would have realised that Malaysia’s priorities were to overcome the massive national debt of $1Trillion that Mahathir talked about his speech and to get its house in order after a decade of Najib’s rule (also takes about in Mahathir’s speech) than to lead ASEAN.The conceit and self-enteredness of the ASEC woman was astounding.

Then there was grandstander, some Malaysian who imputed that he had been tod to get out of Malaysia from before who insisted on sharing his views to all and sundry when question time was for asking questions. He blustered on about values and things that mattered to him and no one else. Mahathir cherry picked and said something about values.

The only question that made some sense was a Sarawakian who asked when the Government was going to get the anti-corruption body the MACC to investigate the chief minister of that state. Mahathir said that for the government to investigate a report would have to be lodged. The questioner said that some Malaysian from Miri had actually filed a report. Mahathir averred.

The food. The only other interesting thing about last night was the food. For a country and people who are so proud of their cuisine it was a bit of a surprise that the Embassy was serving in their buffet Nasi Padang instead of some Malaysian fare. Chalk one up for bilateral relationships, one down for the yearning Malaysian palette.

All of these elements combined left a funny taste in the mouth but that is Malaysia today, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

Please help ensure this hater Jamal Yusof has no place to hide in Indonesia – and make Rp35 mio in the process

Indonesian friends, your help is needed to ensure that this man, who is not unlike those who incite hatred in Indonesia, doesn’t use Indonesia as a refuge from the justice he deserves in Malaysia.

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His name is Jamal Yunos and he used to be a division leader of Umno, the party that was under the control of now-ousted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Yunos was Najib’s hatchet man, the leader of the Red Shirts, Umno’s equivalents to Hitler’s Brown Shirts.

In his heyday, which has been the past few years up until Najib’s coalition lost the elections in May, Jamal has been terrorising Malaysian Chinese, Indians, Malays,  Christians and others who dared to disagree with Najib and Umno.

Here’s a video of his terrorising days, this one directed against Bersih supporters. Bersih was a movement by Malaysians to ensure elections. See the similarities of him an cohorts bullying others while police look on, even supporting.

 

Now that Najib has lost the election in Malaysia, Jamal is a wanted man in Malaysia. He escaped police custody and is now on the lam. He’s purported to have fled to Karimun in Indonesia.

Malaysian police are looking for him, Indonesian police say that they have not been served a request to arrest him and a businessman in Malaysia is offering RM10,000 (about Rp 35 million) for information leading to his arrest.

So if you see this scum, please take a photo or video of him and share on social media. Better better still get the attention of Kepong Member of Parliament (Twitter handle @limlipeng) and claim your reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tales of a Queer Muslim Indonesian

So proud of former colleague Zulfikar for starting this book project.

Here’s what I wrote about Zul’s upcoming book at the Maverick blog:

It’s great when one of us go on beyond the workplace to do new, wonderful and imaginative things.

So we are thrilled to learn of Forever Mavbro Zulfikar’s latest adventure – to write a book called So I Stopped Being Gay: A Story of Giving Up by a Queer Muslim Indonesian.

He is kickstarting his effort with Publishizher, which Zul explains as: “a NYC-based crowd-powered publishing company” that is helping him to write the book. They need your help to fund the production though.

read more

For more on Zul’s story

Hypocrisy in supermarket Iceland’s ban on palm oil

This is an opinion piece I wrote for The Palm Scribe:

Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker’s announcement that the frozen food chain will be banning the use of palm oil in its own brand products by the end of this year would strike some as a laudable and heroic effort to get the industry to be sustainable.

This is especially so when we see the youthful Walker being filmed, in a video released by Iceland Foods, braving forests, swamps  and what appears to be palm oil caused wastelands in Indonesia to uncover the truth about palm oil.

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In the video Walker is big on the word prove.

His visit to Indonesia, he said, has convinced him that “currently no major supermarket or food manufacturer can fully prove that the palm oil they use is truly sustainable and the damaged being cause to the global environment as precious rainforest continues to be lost.

he goes on, saying that Iceland’s ban on palm oil in its own brand products is a way to “prove to the food industry that there is no need to participate in the destruction of the rainforest.”

As such “removing palm oil is the only way we can prove to our customers that our products are not a cause of environmental destruction.”

Walker is young and idealistic. The 37-year old geography graduate from Durham University has been in this job for three years. Before that he was the International Business Director of Iceland. He is also the son of the founder and CEO of Iceland, Sir Malcom Walker.

Richard’s idealism is laudable. But has he been misguided in announcing the ban?

Here are three reasons why his decision may have been misguided:

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Why doctors are pissing themselves silly over an illustration of the controversial Dr Terawan

Been told by a doctor friend that the medical profession in Indonesia is pissing themselves silly over the infographic on the front page of Tempo above.

The source of this derision? Stroke specialist Dr Terawan has been in the news lately for his controversial “brain cleansing” procedure, resulting in him being kicked out of the profession

In illustrating the story surrounding Dr Terawan, Tempo’s artists have drawn him holding a catheter, supposedly for inserting into the blood vessels in the brain.

The only problem is that the catheter portrayed is the one used to insert into the penis for patients unable to pass water properly.

So it is rightful that the doctors are apparently taking the piss out of the paper in their WA groups.

Crisis Management Observers: Watch how Pertamina manages the Balikpapan oil spill

So far so bad. The company for four days ruled out the possibility that it was responsible for the oil spill.

It only admitted late yesterday that a raptured undersea pipe belonging to the company caused the oil spill that caused the deaths of several fishermen when part of the spill caught fire.

To jump to conclusions without first finding the facts and verifying them before making an major announcement is an early sign that this company has not been trained properly in crisis management principles.

Let’s wait to see how it makes this crisis situation in the next coming days.

Why one should never repeat an emotionally-charged negativism, even in denial

In media training we tell our clients that they should never repeat an emotionally-charged negativism, even when denying it.

This, appearing on the cover of the latest edition of Tempo, is a very obvious reason why.

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Former Armed Forces Chief General (Retired) Gatot Nurmayanto has been jockeying to get into big-time politics in the upcoming 2019 presidential elections. He’s been known to be courting lots of parties and factions to become the Vice president Candidate.

Here, he denies being a “Political Whore”.

What effect do you think that this denial will have on his image? When the front page quotes you as saying “I am not a political whore (literal translation of pelacur is prostitute) the only thing that such a denial does is to associate the idea you’ve just denied with you.

From now on, no one who’s seen the cover of the nation’s foremost  politics and public affairs magazine can look at Gatot and not think “political Whore.”

Normally public figures make a mistake like this when they are trapped by journalists trying to provoke them or out to snare a good headline. The journalist might ask, for instance, “Some people say that your courtship of various politicians including Jokowi and the religious right makes you a political whore. What do you say to that?”

if that happens then Gatot should ideally frame his answer that is the antithesis of that idea with an answer such as, “I stand on my principles and my desire to serve the people. I’ll work with anyone who’s embraces similar values.” It’s not the best answer but it would avoid the “I am not a political whore headline.”

Ironically, however, the journalist at Tempo wasn’t even trolling for a sensationalist quote when Gatot exposed his vile thought. In Page 41 of the 2-8 April edition of Tempo  the question put to him was: “Are you attracted to the idea of becoming President Jokowi’s  aide?”.

So go figure how someone like this could have become the Chief of the Armed Forces in the first place. What total hand, eye or mind could have selected him to possibly lead brave sons and daughters of the republic into battle?

But there you have it. Indonesian politics is replete with little Gatots running everywhere, especially during this election season.

People often ask why we avoid taking on politicians and political parties as clients. The answer is simple: We didn’t but even if we advised  and trained Gatot on what to say and how to say it would he have listened, or would the ego and bluster get in the way?