FTA: Malaysian government should walk away

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This is another form of neo-colonialism which I dearly despise since 2 years ago. The struggle to end this negotiation is still in the pipeline. Sadly not many of the political parties the likes of PAS, DAP and Keadilan are serious enough to engage in this matter. Only few NGOs that are being spearheaded by Jerit, Parti Sosialis Malaysia and CAP putting this agenda as one of the serious cases to fight against. Remember, this is not about narrow minded political issues but a matter of this nation survival. I bet Pak Lah and co. are clueless about the impact and the one who going to taste this is my generation ( including Khairi’s newborn son) in the future! I will not let MITI sell off our country so cheaply to the giant capitalist who can never be trusted! Check out this press statement made by S.M Idris, president of Consumer Assoc. of Penang:

On Jan 14, the US and Malaysia resumed formal negotiations on the proposed Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after talks were deadlocked early last year over 58 contentious issues.

Among the contentious issues were government procurement and financial services. Policy space on these issues is important for Malaysia’s development. Government procurement is a valuable macro-economic development tool that can help address socio-economic imbalances. And in light of the Asian financial crisis, Malaysia has been very careful in the sequencing and timing of financial services liberalisation, making decisions at its own pace and in national interests.

A news report quoted US ambassador to Malaysia James R Keith as saying: ‘A bottom line for us [the US] on government procurement is transparent and reciprocal market access … We have to have that. If we don’t have that, then it would become a deal-stopper’. Moreover, Keith has admitted that the US is seeking ‘substantial market access’ in areas including financial services.

Previously, the government has made assurances that it will not sacrifice our national interests in order to forge a deal with the US. International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz has said that the government would not be moved on its bumiputera policies nor on liberalising the country’s financial services sector.

Unless the government has reneged on its promises, it appears that the US and Malaysia are irreconcilably at odds on fundamental issues. Given this, why is Malaysia even persisting in negotiating with the US?

The proposed FTA will have far-reaching impacts on the economic and social well-being of Malaysians and we are likely to emerge as a net loser. Up till today, despite numerous requests, no comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the FTA has been made available to the public.

Instead, negotiations have not been transparent and there has been little consultation with the public. In fact, the level of transparency has even decreased. There has not been any feedback on whether the 58 contentious issues have been resolved or whether any concessions were made by the Malaysian government in order to reach an agreement.

The government appears to be prepared to give in to US demands on intellectual property rights that will harm consumers, patients in need of medicines and the local industry including generic medicine manufacturers. Even if the FTA negotiations were to fail, the US will continue to press for unilateral changes in Malaysia’s intellectual property laws knowing already what the government is willing to give up in spite of public objections.

We strongly reiterate our deep disappointment at the government’s blatant disregard for the nation’s long-term interests. The right thing for the government to do is to walk away from these negotiations.

The writer is president, Consumers Association of Penang.

Five lessons we can learn from the history of Malaysia, from Merdeka to the present day.

By rausyanfikir ( this article was written for an essay competition which I won consolation prize for it)

On 31 August 2007, Malaysia will celebrate her half-century birthday with prosperity and a colourful progressive society. Many would say history does not have a place in this cyber age, especially to the youth. Maybe this happened due to our fast pace changing world that requires us to look forward always rather than the past. Alas, I do not agree with that. George Santayana, a famous historian has a great saying about history, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.1 I believe in him and due to that, I position myself as a neo-age social activist to analyze five great lessons from history of Malaysia. The subjects are racial based politics, the highly-debatable New Economic Policy, freedom of youth activism, Islam and the role of other religions in promoting national unity and common goal as the hidden strength for Malaysians that need to be addressed as a reminder and catalyst in our journey to be a ‘Greater Malaysia’ in 2020.

I think one of the most sophisticated culturaltj pluralism nations in the world would be my own country, Malaysia. The diversity of our culture can be seen through the lenses of different races like Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indigenous people. The diversity is seen as a positive resource and not a difficulty or a barrier as Malaysia’s brand of multi- culturalism is based on an integrative model (Abdullah and Pedersen 2003). One lesson should be learnt by all Malaysians on this diversity would be racial based politics can go nowhere without cohesion and synergy between respective sides in giving the best for the citizen. For me, the most powerful period when we can observe clearly how unity can be achieved in total diversity was during the road to nationhood way back during pre-independent period even though some academicians referred that as ‘Bargain of 1957’ (Yap 2005). The spirit of nationhood was characterized by a sense of goodwill and racial tolerance and, despite the existence of racial and geographical polarization (Hock 1991). However, that was long time ago. The merry of independent had turned ugly when 13 May 1969 incident occurred. Despite the economic growth in the sixties, disparities in income and unemployment rate increased and the economic inequalities came to be perceived along ethnic lines (Yap 2005, Hock 1991). Communist influence was also another evident factor in this crisis, which continues from previous minor clashes along the years before (Rahman 1969). We, human being are usually crisis oriented and basically reactive towards it. People tend to react to any crisis when it threatens to upset or destroy the status quo and quite often, they only react after the process of destruction has already begun (Hock 1991). The crisis was sparked by extreme communal politics and they sure did not consider the terrible consequences out of it in the first place.

Personally, I see the “white man’s burden” quest solely relied on the greed for wealth. The theory of comparative advantage by Adam Smith4 could be seen in Malaya when most of the mining, and rubber industry were being outsourced to the best people who could do that which are the Chinese and Indian. Despite the wealth, the only return we could get were disparity and polarization between the multi-racial society in Malaysia, which served as the best recipe for conflict, violence and disaster (Kaur 2001). Whether we live in a single ethnic society or ‘melting pot’ like ours, one lesson we can learn from the past would be distribution of wealth with proper planning is very crucial to avoid national crisis. Thanks to our visionary leaders like Tun Abdul Razak, the aftermath of 1969 crisis had given birth to the New Economic Policy (NEP). NEP was formed to create the socio-economic conditions for improved ethnic relations by reducing poverty and “restructuring society” to eliminate the identification of race with economic function, especially through state intervention to accelerate the growth of Malay business and professional communities (Jomo 1989). So how does NEP fare today? Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi in recent UMNO assembly stated the failure of NEP was caused by poor attitude of the Malays (Berita Harian 2006). I could not deny there were still some successes being brought by the policy to our country notably the nationalization of our Oil and Gas industry that rise from the impetus of NEP. Starting with capital worth RM10 million given by the government, PETRONAS has become a multinational company spanning over 34 different countries around the world and is the leading source of income for the nation, spearheading industrialization and regional development (Hashim 2004). It proves NEP is not a total failure but in dire need for protection to avoid abuses in implementation to ensure that, the real priority is achieving, rather than undermining national unity (Jomo 1996).

My dad said, 1970’s-era students were more dynamic and patriotic thus many of the student leaders have become Ministers in the government. I agree with his statement. As a youth in the 21st century, I can see there are many loopholes for my generation to continue the legacy of producing national leaders at tertiary education level thanks to unilateralism meritocracy2 and the controversial University Act3 as the obstacles to produce vibrant leaders like Tun Dr Mahathir. The act was handed to ensure our student focus on their study rather than doing street demonstration, nonetheless the act is ‘killing’ our youth activism spirit, which my MTV generation clearly depicts today. I was so shocked to read the recent Malaysian Youth Index report in the newspaper about the state of Malaysian youth. They are passive, ignorant and selfish when it comes to national issue. We have seen before without the act, former student leaders of the past had turned out to be high-ranking government officers and our current Prime Minister was one of the quality products before the implementation of the act. Universiti Teknologi Mara Centre for Asean Studies fellow, Umminajah Salleh shared her view that, she was confident Malaysian youth would rise to the occasion if given the chance by those in authority. She said youth had the potential to lead and make a mark in civil society or even in the political scenario, if they were given the faith, the trust and the chance to show their prowess (News Strait Times 2006). I think it is better for the authority to abolish the University Act and draw a proper guideline that guarantees the lifeline of creativity, bravery and patriotism for Malaysian youth. From that experience, we should learn the importance to galvanize our youth to be more responsible towards our nation. It is still not too late to revive the driving force of the past for future glory of our country under the banner of Malaysian-mould democracy.

Islam is synonymous to Malaysians of the past and today. Tunku Abdul Rahman was the founder of the current Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which now currently being presided by our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir’s outspoken policy towards Western hegemony in Muslim world was enough to prove our role in Islamic issues at the International scene. Locally, Islam holds a special place in Malaysian constitution as stated in Article 3 (Federal Constitution 2006), and majority of the people are Muslims. One lesson we need to learn from here would be Islam and any other religions are very hard to be ignored by all Malaysians due to its role in promoting national unity of our people. When you talk about national unity, most of us would be relying upon external factors to deal with it such as equality in economic distribution, social justice and cohesiveness in politics. Rarely religion plays a leading role to promote the solution and understanding for Malaysian in our path to national unity. I am not surprise with the situation we are facing today because the mould of our political, economic and social point of view has never been emphasis greatly through religious scope. Be it in Islam, or any other religions. This is our weak point. In a forum entitled Racial Unity: Religion Plays an Important Role that was conducted by Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (IKIM), Professor Khoo Kay Kim single out that Malaysian need to be given a thorough explanation about religion. He commented that it was true many of non-Muslim do not really understand about Islam. This has caused some sort of uneasiness whenever issues regarding polygamy, apostasy, unclear status of Muslim converts to highly debatable kongsi raya issue being raised by the media. Clearly from all of the above controversies that have surrounded Islam, Malaysian need to buck up the understanding of religious matter in order to reinforce back one of the principle in Rukun Negara which is believed in God. Whether the issue is an Islamic one or related to other religions, all of us need to gear up ourselves based on our purely religious teaching to find the commonalities and resolving the conflicts that has been plaguing our society for long enough.

We have gone into torrid times as Malaysian in the past and we too, have achieved success by being a Malaysian. Whenever we enjoy our country’s success, we will always refer it to be everybody success. Rarely seen in the mass media where those successes were anointed to a particular race in Malaysia. Therefore, I consider this as another precious lesson, which came through solidarity in achieving common national goal, is our true strength to national unity. I think this lesson can be best viewed through our sports scene in Malaysia. I have never seen any team in Malaysia whether they are competing locally or internationally with only one race participating in it. When we see our squash darling, Nicole David whom also a daughter of an inter-racial marriage parents achieving sporting glory, we are proud that she is a Malaysian. It is her success as an individual but yet she tributes the success as a Malaysian’s one. To push my idea further, I would like to quote one of the most outspoken Opposition members, Lim Kit Siang in one of his speech in Penang during the 1997-98 financial crisis:

I believe that Malaysians regardless of race, religion or party differences can rise up to the challenge to unite and put the national interest above everything else if they are taken into the full confidence of the government about the full facts of the national economic crisis and the remedies necessary to overcome it (Siang 1999)

Rhetoric or not, at least he has shown his commitment to protect our nation from such disaster by collaborating with the government for the betterment of all Malaysians. I guess our motto ‘Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu’, which means ‘Unity is Strength’, really played its part in all of our success as a Malaysian.
We have come across five of many more lessons that we can learn from our rich history. None of them will be useful if we submerge ourselves with the past glory and sidelining the untold future. We have glorified our past leaders for their quality leadership but all of them were still representing our past. According to Saidina Ali5, one of the closest companions of Prophet Muhammad, “if you want to see the future leader of a nation, look upon their youth.” Also another great commentary by Vandana Shiva6, during her famous anti-globalization rally in Seattle:

The first globalization was colonialism and it lasted 50 years. The second globalization was so called development and it lasted 50 years. The third globalization was free trade and it only lasted 5 years and since Seattle, we are now into 4th globalization which is people’s globalization which theorized as ‘globalization from below’.

I could not agree more with them. It is my generation will be shaping the things to come. Human factor has never been so important than before. I am sure our Prime Minister will agree with Saidina Ali and Vandana Shiva statements and that it is why he really emphasis ‘Human Capital Development’ as the driving factor for our nation progress in 15 years time before the D-Day of 2020.

End notes

  1. This quotation has been repeated in almost every pages of form 5 history text book. It will be sad if the students were found to be ignorant about it.
  2. According to our meritocracy system, student who score more A’s will be eligible to entitle scholarship and securing a place to study any local universities. Let say the passing requirement is 7A’s. A fisherman’s son got 6A’s while a doctor’s daughter got 7A’s. Based on the system, the doctor’s daughter will get the reward even though the fisherman’s son is more deserving for it. It is not a fair system due the socio-economic factor of students in Malaysia are not the same.
  3. Popularly known as AUKU in its Bahasa acronym. Obstructing freedom of expression for the students to voice their concerns and opinions. Lambasted by Opposition parties as it curtails the activism spirit of the youth
  4. Adam Smith was considered as the father of free market by many and his comparative advantage theory is being used in today’s complex international trade system between nations.
  5. Alī ibn Abī ālib (599661) was an early Islamic leader and fourth Caliph. He is revered by Sunni Muslims as the last of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs and as a foremost religious authority on the Qur’an and Islamic jurisprudence. Shi’a Muslims consider him the First Imam appointed by the Prophet Muhammad and the first rightful caliph. Ali was the cousin of Muhammad, and after marriage to Fatima Zahra, he also became Muhammad’s son-in-law.
  6. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, environmental activist and author. Shiva, currently based in New Delhi, is author of over 300 papers in leading scientific and technical journals. One of the serious opponents to globalization.


Bibliography

Abdullah,Asmah and Paul B.Pedersen. 2003. Understanding Multicultural Malaysia:Delights,Puzzles & Irritations. Petaling Jaya: Prentice Hall.

Federal Constitution compiled by Legal Research Board. 2006. Petaling Jaya: International Law Book Services.

Hashim,Ismail. 2004. The Young Turks of PETRONAS. Self-published title.

Hock, Oo Yu. 1991. Ethnic Chameleon: Multiracial Politics in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya: Pelanduk Publications

Jomo K.S. 1989. Beyond 1990:Considerations for a New National Development Strategy, Kuala Lumpur: Institue for Advanced Studies, University of Malaya.

________. 1996.Deepening Malaysian Dmeocracy with more checks and balances. Said, Muhammad Ikmal and Emby, Zahid (Eds). Malaysia critical perspectives: Essay in honour of Syed Husin Ali. Petaling Jaya: Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia.

Kaur,Hardev. 2001. Malaysia as a Moderate Muslim Nation in the New World Order. Richter, Frank-Jurgen and ThangD.Nguyen (Eds).The Malaysian Journey:Progress in Diversity.Singapore:Times Edititons.

Rahman, Tunku Abdul.1969. May 13 before and after. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Melayu Press Limited.

Siang, Lim Kit. 1999. Economic and Financial Crisis. Petaling Jaya: Democratic Action Party Economic Committee.

Yap,O.Fiona, Citizen Power, Politics, and the “Asian Miracle” reassessing the dyamics. Boulder: Lnne Rienner Publishers,Inc.

Internet source

Laporan Persidangan Agung UMNO 2006. http://www.bharian.com.my/Misc/Umno55/artikel/laporan2005/20050722121421/Article

Chok Suat Ling. Opinion: Give youth chance to make mark in society. http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/nst/Monday

Resist and Change: A slogan for a Better World

Think

It’s not to late to be aware upon the real situation that we have been living with. The reality is still being hidden beneath our consciousness but it is alive and waiting to be unearthed. This site is fully dedicated to a fight against neo-colonialism, a new phenomenon which replacing the classical colonialism upon every good, law-abiding citizen in this planet. It is more dangerous than the classical one due to the complexity of our modern days in various fields of life.

Occidentosis is a translated word of Persian language by the name of Gharbzadegi which is also a name of very important book that studies the Westernization effect. It was written by Jalal Ali Ahmad, an Iranian thinker and writer that lives on par with Ali Shariati in their quest to mobilize the Iranian people to fight against the dictatorship of the Shah of Iran. He was a celebrated fiction writer and his works have influenced the Iranian people as much as Ali Shariati’s contributions.

I suppose, to walk in Jalal Ali Ahmad shoes is something impossible to do with my current capacity, nonetheless as a human being, I believe in spiritual guidance that God has given to us to confront the challenges that exist in this life.

The TRUTH MUST BE SET FREE to liberate human being from the deception that has chained our mind for so long. Welcome and hope we will be able to contribute more in this struggle.