Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
On Monday the first basketball league of South East Asian Countries was set into motion trying to popularize the sport. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia (the Kuala Lumpur Dragons), Phillippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand will all have teams and hopefully more join.
While illegal, drinking alcohol as a punishable offense has rarely been enforced, in large part due to the country's attempt to appear modern and moderate to other countries. If the punishment stands, analyists fear it will damage the reputation of Malaysia. The women being punished, Kartika Sari Dewa Shukarno, has asked to be punished in public.
by William Muck
by William Muck
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The week of Oct 1 is always a joyous time in China. Known as Golden Week, it is one of three week-long holidays throughout the year where students get a break from school and workers from their jobs. Everyone travels to their hometowns to spend time with family and/or visit historical sites and cities. It's importance surrounds the first of the month; the birthday of the PRC. This year, communist China turns 60.
Not only are our own ethnic Chinese of Chicago celebrating this historic event, but in addition so is Malaysia.
As posted early in this blog, Malaysia wants to keep ties with its ally friendly and close. The country has gone about this in numerous ways. Majid Ahmad Khan, former Malaysian ambassador to China and current president of Malaysia-China Friendship Association (MCFA), said:
"I hope, for many years to come, the Malaysia-China relation will go stronger and stronger, particularly in economic relations and diplomacy, as well as in our regional understanding . . . I would like to take this opportunity to convey, on behalf of our association, the heartiest congratulations to the people and government of China for the excellent achievements."
He added one of the greatest accomplishments of China to date has been the country's ability to drastically lower the poverty rate. While this may be the case for both China and Malaysia, critics state human rights abuse still has a long road ahead.
by: Calaya Van Dreel
Currency has been on the rise in Southeast Asia. Currency, excluding the Yen, is the highest that is has been in 11 months. The won rose 1.8 percent this week to 1,186.00 per dollar in Seoul, the Philippine peso appreciated 0.7 percent to 47.320, and the Indian rupee gained 0.2 percent to 47.995 in Mumbai. The Ringgit is up 0.3 percent on the week.
The article suggests that investors should buy the Ringgit against the Singapore dollar because Malaysia is expected to grow 2 percent in comparison due to the growth in the rubber, crude oil, and palm oil industries. Good news for us.
On the 40th anniversary of the Organization of Islamic Confrence(OIC), Malaysian PM Najib Razak has renewed his call for Muslim nations across the globe to act as a community. His speech specifically talked about using the combined resources of the more advanced Islamic nations to economically help the others in expanding their economies and reducing the level of poverty in those nations. Another overarching theme was the need to readjust to a post 9/11 world. Najib also reiterated Malaysia's support for the Palestinian people and their struggle.
This speech is not unexpected from PM Najib, as his government constantly bills itself as the future of Islam: economically successful and traditionally religious.
By: Liz Hasseld
While polygamy in Malaysia is not widespread, it is legal. At least, it is legal for Muslims. An article by the Associated Press highlights more of the cultural differences that exist in Malaysia. However, even if the practice is legal for Muslims, not everyone agrees that that is how it should be. Those who agree with the practice of Polygamy say it will help older women, single mothers, or even reformed prostitutes get married. Kartini Maarof, a divorce court lawyer, says multiple wives can even be beneficial for the women in the relationship. She works full time, and relies on her husband's second wife to take care of the home. The second wife was once a client of Maarof.
However, not all are thrilled with the practice of Polygamy. Opponents say that it is out of place in a modern democracy and no good for women.
The practice of polygamy has other issues beyond who likes it and who doesn't. For instance, only men are allowed to have multiple wives. A woman cannot have mutliple husbands. This is blantant sexism. And the practice is only allowed to muslims. One third of the population of Malaysia is denied even considering polygamy simply because of their religious practices.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
By Soch Mel
There have been some serious tensions between the Malaysian government and many migrants. Migrants came to Malaysia either for working opportunities or are in refuge as refugees. However, these arrivals have caused the anger and resentment of the established Malaysian population. These migrants have been the targets of harassment, arrest, whippings, imprisonment, and deportation.
New York Times article
In the New York Times Article, Mr. Kang Long, an ethnic China refugee from Burma, talked about his experience as a refugee/migrant in Malaysia. It is estimated that there are 3 million foreign workers in Malaysia working the farms, factories, constructions sites, and the service industries; about .5 million are presume to be in Malaysia illegally.
In 2005, the Malaysian government converted its’ self-defense corps from fighting Communists in the 1960s into a hunting group tracking down the migrants. Rela, as it is called, has about .5 million people, majority of whom are untrained volunteers, to combat the growing migrant problem. The leaders of Rela have the right to enter a person’s home and can search on person on the street without a warrant. It is stated that there are between 30 and 40 raids per night carried out by the volunteers of Rela.
“They break into migrant lodgings in the middle of the night without warrants, brutalize inhabitants, extort money and confiscate cellphones, clothing, jewelry and household goods, before handcuffing migrants and transporting them to detention camps for illegal immigrants,” Human Rights Watch said in a report in May.
And here’s another interesting quote from the New York Times Article.
“In an interview, Rela’s director-general, Zaidon Asmuni, dismissed the concerns of human rights groups, saying the nation’s security was at stake, and demanded an aggressive defense. ‘We have no more Communists at the moment, but we are now facing illegal immigrants,’ he said. ‘As you know, in Malaysia illegal immigrants are enemy No. 2.’ Enemy No. 1, he says, is drugs.”
From these two perspectives, we can see that the Malaysian Government paints all migrants as an evil to Malaysian society and culture. However, does that fear give the Malaysian government the right to allow its volunteers go and conduct raids, potentially not just migrants but other Malaysian citizens as well.
What the issue also brushed over is that refugees get caught up in this battle. Mr. Kang Long is a refugee from Burma; like other refugees they are registered with the United Nations. However, Malaysia did not sign the United Nations Refugee Convention.
When the refugees get deported, the situation becomes even more devastating. Human traffickers are waiting for them in Thailand, where refugees from Burma have been facing harassment and persecution from the Thai government and police. If the migrants can pay $450 dollars, the traffickers smuggle them back to Kuala Lumpur; if they don’t have money, they are sold as laborers to fishing boats or enter the sex trade.
Because of these raids and fear of Rela, many migrants and refugees flee their urban apartments for shacks in the jungle. However, they are still being chased by Rela who then take away their valuables, burn their shacks, and further displaces the migrants according the medical aid group Doctors without Borders.
Rela is searching for anyone who looks like an Asian Foreigner as most of the migrants came from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Vietnam, and Burma.
This issue does not only affect Malaysia, but will also affect its relations with many of its neighbors.
Second New York Times Article
Recently, the after-effect of Rela and the Malaysian government crackdown on foreign migrant workers has led to serious economic problems. Malaysia is now facing a labor shortage issue. Case example is this one restaurant owner who had to lay off many of his workers who are of foreign origin. Because he is short on staff, he may be forced to close one of his restaurants.
The Malaysian government only allows a maximum of 5 years for foreign workers before they have to go back.
Other industries and business are also facing labor shortages since many migrants are hired as a cheaper option than local Malaysians. Productivity is on the decline. In January of 2009, the Government decided to place a quota on hiring foreign workers in the manufacturing and service industries.
Check out these quotes by Syed Hamid Albar, and Fajasekaran Govindasamy.
“‘There is no valid reason to bring in foreign workers at this time,’ Syed Hamid Albar, the home minister, told the paper.”
“‘Because of the global economic downturn, we were worried about the impact on jobs for Malaysians as well as foreigners,’ said Rajasekaran Govindasamy, the group’s secretary general. ‘We don’t want workers to be brought in and abandoned, because that then causes hardship.’”
Clearly, the crackdown and regulations placed on migrant workers is now a factor in the downturn or slowdown of the Malaysian Economy. If Malaysia doesn’t seek a different approach, it will have issues with the other Southeast Asian countries.
Friday, September 25, 2009
This article pertains to a lot of our readings in Beyond the Veneer. With political corruption as a main concern in Malaysia, there is a new finding that a lot of corruption stems from relationships between businesses and politics. In this article, reporter LIM SUE GOAN, describes the corruption as a "revolving door between civil service and private sectors." In 2008, the Corruption Perception index ranked Malaysia 42 out 180 countries on the list of corrupt countries. Side by side this statistic, the Index claimed that 42% of Malaysians believe that most of its corruption comes from political government corruption. However, with examples such as Port Klang Free Zone Project, it is clear that business is corrupt. Malaysia has a history of having elite businessmen running companies. These business men also prove to have heavy political backgrounds. How is this possible? It is possible through strong connections between government officials and these "business men". Many of these ideals stemmed from the "joint company" idea, that was heavily encouraged during the Mahatir Mohammad era. Many politicians of this time worked closely with entrepreneurs to gain political status. It is up to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to take action to resolve this clearly evident corruption that is growing within Malaysia.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Malaysia has denied that it has supplied weapons to terrorists and that it was just a vicious rumor. It also claims that it has worked with surrounding countries to fight terrorism and will continue it's efforts.
BMW's withdraw from the Formula One series at the end of this year will leave a gap in the FIA's lineup, a gap Malaysia and Lotus F1 Team are all too eager to fill. In a joint venture between the Malaysian government and Proton Motors (Malaysia's home-grown automaker and current parent company to Lotus Cars), as well as numerous other businesses will see the genesis of 1Malaysia F1 in the 2010 season. While there is much excitement about the first new Lotus chassis to hit the tarmac in nearly fifteen years, major concerns about funding have begun to arise. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak may have been a little short sighted with 1Malaysia F1; only the most budget minded teams squeak by at US$45.6 million a year (RM 158.7 million). The major players in F1... Ferrari, cough, cough... spend upwards of US$445.6 million, which translates into RM 1.55 billion. And that's just for the team's operating costs. 1Malaysia F1 is also looking to move its headquarters to Sepang International Circuit, which also means a wind tunnel, R&D center, offices, and all other miscellaneous bits of infrastructure needed to run the team. The costs incurred by this little venture will be anywhere from the hundreds of million Ringgits, to billions. Prime Minister Razak, from one race fan to another, is it really worth hemorrhaging that kind of change for what? A yellow* Lotus and a name?
*Yellow is Malaysia's official International Auto Racing Color
By Caleb B. Ray
Source: The Sun Daily
Image Credits: Lotus Enthusiast
by William Muck
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By: Gina Fazio
At Kajang Prison, a spa has been set up, but not for the inmates. This spa is run by the inmates who perform various spa treatments from facials to pedicures and even haircuts. These services are provided to the general public who wish to come to the "Jail Spa". The inmates hired to work in the spa are only those who have not committed violent offenses. They work for a small allowance and the rest goes to the prison to promote various rehabilitative programs such as a bakery and sewing classes.
What I ask myself is why don't American prisons do this? Perhaps at first the idea of a "Jail Spa" is laughable, but customers of this spa say that they feel safe and the chief inspector of the prison says that it teaches inmates valuable skill as well as how to interact/adapt to society. In America we have high recidivism rates simply because what ever we do in our prisons is not a powerful enough deterrent to make people not break the law. But perhaps getting a bigger stick isn't the answer. A lack of rehabilitation in our prison system might be detracting from the value of any jail sentence handed down in the United States.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The end goal is to raise Malaysia's self-sufficiency level (SSL) from its current 72% to 86%.
While this all may seem mundane and run-of-the-mill information, what interested me the most in this article was the following quote by Deputy of Agriculture and Agrobased Industry Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim:
"This rice bowl project is very crucial and must be carried out for the sake of the country's security."
I can understand the need to develop self-sufficiency levels in rice production in order to feed people and increase trade potentiality. However, how that relates to national security alludes me.
One must takes this quote seriously, for it is reflected in the program's cost.
The minister stated that the federal government had given RM161 million to the state government for the project. RM20 million of that is for the development of the new rice padi in Sarawak.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
On the 29th day of the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, the last iftar [break of fast after sundown] is known as Eid al-Fitr ; Eid for short. It is probably one of the most important holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world. Due to the Islamic calendar being 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan rotates along with the holidays celebrated within it. This year, Eid fell on September 20th. Some countries celebrated Eid today but others are waiting for tomorrow. In Malaysia, the morning begins with prayer as on other days during the month. After this is finished, family graves are visited and surahs and prayers are said for the deceased. All in all, it is a very joyous celebration for family members to enjoy each other's company and great food.
One downside to it being a major family holiday is the resulting mass movement of people. In neighboring Indonesia over 500 people were killed last year due to the number of Indonesians crowding the roads.
Here are a few websites displaying first, Eid around the world and second just in Malaysia. [It seems the King and Queen received some amazing cakes at the Palace for the festivities...]
A recent meeting between Chinese and Malaysian business officials highlighted a thirty five year relationship that according to some has brought great gains to both countries. Both countries have had a give and take business relationship with the other. Malaysia has enjoyed cheap Chinese products and an accepting Chinese market for exports, as well as adopting some of China's lessons on economic growth. China has found a large, rising market for exports, and has been rewarded with an friendly investment environment. Officials from both countries said these business dealings could expand further into areas such as tourism and expanded trade.
A feud is brewing between two Malaysian princes.
Tunku Nadzimuddin Tunku Mudzaffar from Negri Sembilan has brought public attention to an alleged attack from a prince from southern Johor state. Tunku Nadzimuddin claims while he was at a nightclub last year, a fight broke out. Later, he was invited back to a hotel room for an apology when he was held at gunpoint and beaten.
Tunku Nadzimuddin went to the police, but held the press conference to show his disappointment that nothing has been done yet. At this time 41 people have made statements to the authorities, but the Johor family has said nothing yet.
In Malaysia's constitutional monarchy, 9 of the 13 states have a royal family, and they rotate the monarchy. It is considered extrememly unusual for members of royal families to criticize one another.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
However, the Black Eyed Peas decision was reversed (with some very heavy conditions) and, now, it appears that Beyonce is going to try Malaysia again. There are some more heavy conditions, however. All female performers must be covered chest to knees and cannot engage in any excessive jumping, shouting, hugging, or kissing on stage. Could this be a representation of public desire to become more liberal? Not saying that this is the beginning of a cultural revolution, but it could be indication of a country grappling with the placement of religion in modern day society, a battle of generations- old and young. Maybe we could be seeing a situation similar to Turkey...
Abdul Kahar (59) contacted the prime minister and the king so they can affirm him as a prophet , where he is claiming that he has been appointed by God just like Prophet Muhammad. In 2006 he was charged for spreading false teachings, blasphemy, and violating religious precepts; he pleaded guilty and went into hiding to avoid the charges. "Abdul Kahar is spreading false doctrines and appears to be insane," Nazri said. His trial has been set to Oct. 7th, if found guilty he will receive up to 11 yrs in prison and 6 strokes of the cane.
As a side note, reasons as to why he might have claimed to be a self proclaimed prophet is because due to all the chaos and the violence that is going on between the "Muslims" in the middle east they feel like they have lost the sense of direction according to the true Islam. Muslim are told in the Quran that when Islam needs to be restored back in a case(s) like this, there will appear a Messiah, a reformer who will help lead the Muslim people and implement the true teachings back into their lives. There is 1 branch of the Islam that believes that the reformer/Messiah has already appeared in the Latter days and there is a large population that is still in search of this person.
A recent trend has been growing in East and Southeast Asia. The governments of countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, S.A.R. Hong Kong, and South Korea have been pushing for more and more foreign students to come and study in their countries.
As a quick side note, South Korea is building an Int'l University in New Songdo City located inside of Incheon. The purpose is to have an up-to-date facility teaching all students classes in English so that they can earn their degree here rather than somewhere more expensive like the United States.
Currently Malaysia is seeking to gain at least 100,000 students from overseas to attend a university in Malaysia by next year while Singapore plans to increase it's number from 97,000 students in 2008 to 150,000 students by 2015.
Though Malaysia is absent from the the world's top universities ranking, Malaysia is working hard and is progressing towards it goal. Currently, most of thee 71,000 students foreign students enrolled in Malaysia are in private institutions since Malaysia has a 5 percent cap for foreign students who attend public universities; 5%. Malaysia has also made progress in that it liberalized education by allowing private institutions to be set up in the 1990s. Malaysia has around 20 public universities, 36 private, and 5 foreign branch campuses.
Here's an interesting quote.
"Morshidi Sirat, director of the National Higher Education Research Institute at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, said that now that more Malaysians of Chinese and Indian ethnicity can enroll in public universities, thanks to the removal in 2004 of a quota system that had favored ethnic Malays and indigenous groups, local enrollments have declined slightly at private institutions. Private providers have been trying to attract more foreigners to take their place, he said."This was interesting in that it talked about the ethnic tensions that we have discussed in class. It was also stated in that article that after 9-11, students have been looking at other options since US Visa requirements became stricter; so Malaysia benefited by receiving more students, probably Muslim students and other students in Asia. We'll see how the education is in Malaysia in the future, the article only mentioned numbers. It didn't make any reference to the quality of education that Malaysia has.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Noordin Muhammed Top, the leader of al Qaeda in Southeast Asia, was killed in a raid on Thursday. He has been on the run for nine years and terrorized Indonesia with al Qaeda funded bombings. Along with Noordin, three other terrorists were killed in the raid in central Indonesia at a secret 'hide-out'. Fingerprint matches have been confirmed but DNA tests have not been conducted yet. "Hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of explosives, M-16 assault rifles, grenades and bombs were removed from the house as ambulances shuttled away the dead and injured."
Noordin, a Malaysian citizen, came to Indonesia in 2002. After 9/11, Muslim extremists were being closely watched in Malaysia. He has been linked to "bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005 that together killed 222 people."He has also been linked to major attacks in Indonesia, which include a pair of suicide bombings at Jakarta's J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. Although this is not the end to terrorism in Southeast Asia, it has definitely taken a significant hit.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This last August a feud broke out between Indonesia and Malaysia after the Discovery Channel made a mistake in one of their television advertisements. Apparently the advertisement implied that Malaysia was taking cultural credit for an Indonesian-Balinese dance called the Pendet dance.
Indonesians accused Malaysia of trying to promote tourism with the dance being featured on a commercial, but in reality it was the mistake of the Discovery Channel who included it on a commercial for one of their shows.
The foreign ministers of both countries decided that because the two countries are neighbors and have similar cultures they would fix things.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
A waitress who is nameless is pleading guilty today for serving beer to the recently sentenced model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno. These are the first two cases where women have been sentanced to caning in Malaysia. For Muslims in Malaysia, Shariah law prohibits drinking in public but does this also punish the server of alcohol the un-named waitress?
By Caleb B. Ray
Source: The New York Times
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The authorities of Malaysia have decided to wait on moving the 150-year old Hindu temple. The original plan was to move six in attempt to "cluster" the sacred shrines, but the 1.5 million Hindu population rose up in protest against moving the temples. With protests violently getting worse and worse, on August 28, Hindus presented a severed head of a cow to show just how upset they were. This being a holy representation of Hinduism made the authorities rethink their decision to move the temple. Federal Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein stated that the cow head had nothing to do with the change in plans of relocating the Hindu temples. They decided to rest on the idea due to justice and law.
Organizers of the upcoming Black Eyed Peas concert in Malaysia announced that the government has reversed its ban on Muslims attending the show. Previously the government had said that attendance was open only to non-Muslims over the age of 18. However, the ban on the sale of Guinness (the concert's sponsor) as well as the use of any Guinness logo remains. The government has also postponed the whipping of a Muslim women who had been found guilty of violating Islamic law by drinking beer in public. Malaysia appears to be struggling to find the appropriate balance between a secular and religious political environment.