Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Slight Price Increase Is Okay"

The Tale of Oil Money

Rumours of an increase in petrol and diesel prices were circulating in early February 2006. For the record, the price of fuel had increased 3 times since Pak Lah became Prime Minister - it is a record of sort for a Malaysian Prime Minister.

In July 31, 2005, petrol price went up 10 sens. in May 5th. 2005, it went up by 10 sens. In 1st October 2004, it went up 5 sens.


PM denies fuel price rise


It is not true. There will be no fuel price increase just yet, said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in denying rumours that were circulating nationwide. “Rumours are never correct,” he said when asked by reporters on talk that petrol prices were going up by as much as 20 sen. He said no decision had been made on the matter.






PM says, some increase is OK!

Finally, 28th February, the news rocks Malaysian - 30 sens increase per liter!!!




What's going to happen? What would be the repercussions?

It will definitely forced all other industries to balance their cost via a price fluctuation of all goods and materials.

Hardest hit will be the middle income and lower income earners. The impact is not just fuel cost for their motor vehicles. The fuel price increase at a substantial 30 sens per litre is going to fire up inflation to a level that would be insidious to the economy in general and possibly cause widespread discontent and upsets.

This "courages" step by the government could have negative effect on the current administration. Added to this high increase in fuel price are other factors and uneasy news of the possible hike in electricity tariff, water tariff, assessment tax and local council taxes.








Domino Effect?

Certainty!



Datuk Mustapa Mohamad, the then Minister in the Prime Minister Department emphasized that diverting oil subsidies to development project would stand to benefit more people. In Mustapa words, Petronas is not set up to be a cash cow to benefit a few people but for everyone.



Will the reduce in subsidy benefit the whole spectrum or will it just be another of those things in life ... the price rakyat had to pay for ineffciency???!!!!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"If you want to fly a kite, you need to release the string and let the kite fly loose"


"If you want to fly a kite, you need to release the string and let the kite fly loose. When the kite finds its direction, then you control the string and then you manoeuvre the kite. If you hold on too tightly, the kite will spin out of control."

Friday, February 17, 2006

"MITI plays the Secretariat role in the implementation of any policy or decision made by the committee"

"Who's Your Momma!": Baru 3 Days Selamat Only , Sudah Controversy

Hope I'm not too late to blog about this coz I can't resist after seeing Taiko's and this latest news.

Baru 3 Days Selamat Only , Sudah Controversy.

Before this:

“I am still in charge of the APs,” Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz declared.

The International Trade and Industry Minister made this point clear yesterday, at her first official function since the new Cabinet line-up was announced on Tuesday.

Despite the committee set up in the Prime Minister’s Department and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to look into AP-related issues, Rafidah said matters relating to the issuance of approved permits for car imports were fully under the jurisdiction of her ministry.

Only when problems arose would the committee be involved, she said.

“The committee, of which I am also a member, will handle problems like vehicles being stuck at ports,” she told newsmen after announcing the performance of the manufacturing and related services sectors last year.

”This is the kind of matters that the committee will deal with, things that are related to the Customs Department and which have nothing to do with the ministry.

“It does only that. Administrative matters concerning APs are still under Miti.”

...and also this.

"You wanna know who's your momma, let me show you who's momma. I've got God's mandate (and build The Great WallAP), you know!" Picture via http://www.fabric8.com/bazaar/images/MG0100_alt.gif

But just not too long ago, she had her foot in her mouth:

Committee In PM Dept Fully Responsible For AP, Says Abdullah

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 17 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Friday clarified that a committee in the Prime Minister's Department, chaired by his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, was fully responsible for considering and deciding on policies related to the Approved Permits (APs) for vehicles.

He said the committee was also responsible for resolving any problems arising from the implementation of policies related to AP.

These would also include problems that arise involving the roles played other agencies such as the Customs Department or the Transport Ministry, he told Bernama here Friday.

"The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) plays the Secretariat role in the implementation of any policy or decision made by the committee," Abdullah said.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz is a member of the committee, the prime minister said.

An English daily newspaper Friday claimed that Rafidah had said at a function in the city Thursday that she was still responsible for the AP and that the committee would play a role only in the event of a problem.

In the cabinet reshuffle announced Tuesday, Rafidah was retained in her portfolio, with Abdullah saying that his decision was based on the fact that Rafidah's expertise and service were still required.

The AP issue became a controversy last year when several factions raised questions on the manner in which the APs were issued by MITI.

"Expertise and service were still required". Erhmmm....

I sense that she bears some sheer resemblance with someone here...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"Keeping The Faith"



Malaysia: Abdullah's long honeymoon over
By Liew Chin Tong

KUALA LUMPUR - Hopes that Abdullah Badawi's nominally reformist government would shake up Malaysia's political status quo have started to fade about two-and-a-half years after he succeeded strongman Mahathir Mohammad.

February was a rough-and-tumble month for Malaysia's leader, one in which his reformist credentials were firmly brought into question. Abdullah was notably on the defensive after his February 14 cabinet reshuffle failed to dislodge Mahathir loyalists and promote younger reformers in his government.

His government also cracked down hard on the media, shutting one Malaysian newspaper and suspending two others temporarily after the publication of controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, eerily similar to the heavy-handed tactics Mahathir used to undermine the press and quell criticism. And Abdullah appeared to expend his last store of political capital when he reduced subsidies and hiked gasoline prices by 18%.

Until recently Abdullah, widely viewed as one of the world's more moderate Muslim leaders, had enjoyed a long honeymoon period. He was officially anointed Mahathir's successor in June 2002, and was finally handed the leadership baton in October 2003. In a March 2003 speech, at a time when many political commentators had written him off as a puppet transitional leader, Abdullah firmly established his reformist credentials by publicly distancing himself from Mahathir's spendthrift, monument-building ways and vowed that his government would work to root out corruption.

In that memorable speech, the premier-in-waiting cited the unfortunate combination of "First World infrastructure and a Third World mentality" as the "malaise" undermining Malaysia's global competitiveness - lightly veiled criticism of Mahathir's supercharged, and often controversial, economic policies. While crediting Malaysia for having one of the most stringent anti-corruption laws in the region, he said that "is not sufficient if we are unable to empower legislation with enforcement".

To Abdullah's credit, he followed up those tough words with tough actions, positioning himself as a transformational rather than transitional leader. In the months leading up to the March 2004 general election, Abdullah galvanized reform hopes when his government charged with corruption then land and cooperative development minister Kasitah Gaddam and a former managing director of a state-owned steel company, Eric Chia.

The government also announced in 2004 that some 18 other cases involving prominent personalities were being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), and the "National Integrity Plan" aimed at reducing corruption was launched with great fanfare.

Widely portrayed as a pious Muslim from a family of prominent Islamic scholars, the soft-spoken premier captured the national imagination that sweeping change was imminent when he initiated a royal commission to make proposals on police reform, a plan to improve the transparency and performance of state-linked companies, and a commitment that future government contracts would be distributed only through open tender.

The Federal Court's release in September 2004 of imprisoned former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who made the mistake of challenging Mahathir's hold on political power in the wake of the 1997-98 regional financial crisis, indicated that Malaysia was clearly headed toward a more liberal era under Abdullah.

Indications were that the general public approved. Abdullah's ruling coalition won the 2004 elections with the second-highest popular mandate in history, which yielded a commanding 92% control of parliament. His party resoundingly trumped Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), which holds sway in the country's north, and Abdullah's landslide victory was seen as popular approval for his brand of moderate Islamic rule.

But Abdullah's reform movement arguably lost momentum in late 2004 with the defeat of his allies - including three of his reform-minded cabinet ministers - during United Malay National Organization (UMNO) internal party elections. The refrain then from Abdullah supporters to those who were not satisfied with the speed and direction of reform was that the premier needed more time to consolidate his political base.

The nearly three decades of Mahathir's rule resulted in a cohort of old-style politicians, with the premier personally defusing internal competitions within UMNO and openly rewarding loyalty over competence. Most of those politicians have a vested interest in politics as usual, and they are widely viewed as antagonistic to Abdullah's reform drive.

Many observers were taken aback by the re-emergence of so-called "neo-Mahathirists" and the dearth of new, young blood during Abdullah's latest cabinet shuffle. Indeed, expectations of a major political overhaul that would have replaced Mahathir's old cronies and appointed younger pro-reformers clearly failed to materialize.

Analysts cite the re-emergence of former agriculture minister Effendi Norwawi, who was elevated at the request of the coalition's powerful Sarawak United People's Party, as one clear example of a resurgent old guard. Similarly, Abdullah has found it difficult to remove heads of UMNO's coalition partners, which explains the continued presence of the controversial Works Minister Samy Vellu, 70, also seen as a defender of the status quo.

Moreover, known Mahathir loyalists, including former federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Deputy Information Minister Zainudin Maidin, made surprising comebacks. Both of those men were appointed by Mahathir in his November 2002 cabinet shuffle to avoid a lame-duck fate after he shocked the nation, and the world, during a teary-eyed national address when he unexpectedly announced his intention to retire that year.

Mahathir's actual influence on the day-to-day running of Abdullah's government is minimal, government insiders say. Yet his way of running the business of government - which Abdullah vowed to change - is still entrenched and strongly influences the policy process.

Abdullah now presides over a cabinet room packed with ministers who have accumulated plenty of baggage as a result of their long tenures without independent scrutiny. It is not surprising, then, that they are loath to open up the reform floodgate, which could lead to probes into their past records. In the course of protecting their own interests, they have also ensured that many of Mahathir's suspect policies will not be subject to backward-looking investigations.

Indeed, it appears the "neo-Mahathirists" are effectively protecting their interests against uncomfortable scrutiny. International Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz, 63, is one such politician who, though she has fallen out openly with Mahathir, has made clear her aversion to Abdullah's reform program. Last year Rafidah emerged unscathed from alleged corruption involving the approvals for imported cars, a story that had surprisingly made headlines in Malaysia's media.

Until now, a freer, more scrutinizing local media was seen as one of the hallmarks of Abdullah's more liberal administration. Malaysian newspapers are still regulated by stringent laws that require annual renewal of their licenses, and the internal security minister has discretion to revoke permits for arbitrarily defined reasons. Malaysian media companies are owned mostly by individuals and corporations with strong connections to the ruling elite.

Even so, media practitioners, members of the opposition and even some dissident groups agreed that the space for political discourse had expanded considerably under Abdullah's watch. That honeymoon period, however, has come to an abrupt end. Two top editors of China Press were removed by government authorities in January for wrongly identifying as a Chinese national a Malay woman mistreated by the police.

Meanwhile, a witchhunt of newspapers that reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed has undermined Abdullah's professed commitment to media freedom and brought down international criticism on his government. Clamping down on the three newspapers was intended to shore up his popularity among Muslims and demonstrate his government's willingness to defend the Islamic faith.

This was followed by the squabbles between the seemingly more open-minded Abdullah lieutenants at the New Straits Times, the country's oldest paper, which is known to be run by UMNO, and the newly appointed Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, whose background is more in propaganda than in straight news.

Zainuddin led the chorus calling for the New Straits Times to be punished for publishing a syndicated cartoon, notably not part of the 12 condemned Danish caricatures, a decision by the newspaper that hinted that drawing caricatures of the Prophet was a permissible act.

Mahathir weighed in that the paper should be allowed to continue to publish while its editors should be suspended for two or three months, and a cabinet meeting chaired while the premier was overseas by a known "neo-Mahathirist", Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, resulted in a threatening letter to that effect being sent to the newspaper.

But perhaps most worrying to Abdullah has been the furor surrounding his government's decision to hike fuel prices. UMNO's main constituency is the ethnic-Malay lower middle class, and while criticism of cabinet shuffles and media freedom are often dismissed as normal cut-and-thrust elite politics, fuel-price hikes have hit Abdullah's main supporters where it hurts - in the pocketbook.

The recent 30-US-cent gasoline price hike - the highest in the country's history - outraged nearly everyone. Pump prices have rocketed from RM1.35 (36 cents) to RM1.92 (52 cents) a liter, a whopping 42% rise, since Abdullah took office. Global market forces are pushing up fuel prices everywhere, but many Malaysians believe that as a net fuel exporter, the government has the room to temper price hikes and that subsidized fuel prices could give the country's exporters an important competitive edge.

But it is apparent that Abdullah doesn't see it that way, and his political popularity has taken a hit as a result. Malaysia's economy grew modestly at 5.3% in 2005, compared with 7.1% in 2004. But with the fuel-price jump, the threat of inflation and a decline in domestic consumer demand will arguably put pressure on overall employment and economic growth.

A hastily arranged television briefing by the deputy prime minister, who asked the people to "change their lifestyle", failed to assuage critics and instead backfired. As discontent mounts over the policy, Abdullah has since conceded that it was an unpopular but necessary decision.

And so the record numbers of Malaysians who voted for his promise of a more reform-minded government are increasingly being disappointed. And it is unclear how an embattled Abdullah will deal with criticism of his nominally reformist government. So far, however, the signs don't look good.

Liew Chin Tong is a research associate with Research for Social Advancement, a Kuala Lumpur-based non-governmental organization.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Islam Hadhari ("Who Speaks For Islam? Who Speaks For The West?")

Oleh/By : DATO' SERI ABDULLAH BIN HAJI AHMAD BADAWI
PERDANA MENTERI MALAYSIA
Tempat/Venue : SHANGRI LA, KUALA LUMPUR

Tarikh/Date : 10/02/2006
Tajuk/Title : KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI, PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE “WHO SPEAKS FOR ISLAM? WHO SPEAKS FOR THE WEST?”


KEYNOTE ADDRESS
BY THE HONOURABLE ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI,
PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA
AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
“WHO SPEAKS FOR ISLAM? WHO SPEAKS FOR THE WEST?”
10 FEBRUARY 2006, SHANGRI LA, KUALA LUMPUR


Excellencies
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh
and good morning.


It is a real delight for me to see so many renowned scholars and thinkers assembled in Kuala Lumpur to discuss such a pertinent issue as who speaks for Islam and who speaks for the West. It is auspicious that this dialogue begins on a Friday, which is observed by Muslims everywhere, every week, as a special day. To those of you who have come from afar, I bid you a very warm welcome. I do hope that your stay in Malaysia will be both pleasant and rewarding.

2. The two questions: “Who Speaks for Islam? and Who Speaks for the West?” are amongst the most fundamental issues in the interface between two great civilizations - the Islamic World and the Christian West. Their answers are not only important in determining the relationship between Islam and the West but are also vital in shaping the future of humankind because Christians and Muslims make up at least half of the world’s people. There are 2039 million Christians accounting for 32% of the world’s population and there are 1226 million Muslims making up 19% of the total.

3. When we ask you to search for the answers to the two questions, it is not our intention to point fingers at any religion nor to apportion blame on anyone regarding the state of affairs which now exist between the Islamic World and the West. What we seek is the truth which can serve the best interests of all humankind, and help bring peace to this troubled world of ours. Let us pray to God the Almighty, so that He gives us wisdom, courage and determination to discover the answers.

4. I do not suggest for a moment that “Islam” or the “West” are monolithic entities. There is tremendous heterogeneity in both civilizations. Both manifest diverse and sometimes contradictory trends and tendencies. Having made that clarification, allow me to continue to speak of Islam and the West in the way they are normally understood.

5. Let me say at the outset that while there are a multitude of voices that speak on behalf of Islam on the one hand, and the West on the other, there are certain voices, which I feel, do not do justice to either Islam or the West.

6. I hold the strong view that, in the case of Islam, those who deliberately kill non-combatants and the innocent; those who oppress and exploit others; those who are corrupt and greedy; those who are chauvinistic and communal, do not speak on behalf of Islam.

7. In the case of the West, I do not regard them as defenders of Western civilization those who invade and occupy someone else’s land; those who systematically cause innocent children, women and men to be killed; those who oppress other people and exploit their resources for their own selfish ends; or those who are racist in outlook and bigoted in their religious beliefs. Anyone who seeks to dominate and control, who attempts to establish global hegemony, cannot claim to be spreading freedom and equality at the same time.

8. Who then speaks for Islam? Who then speaks for the West? The Noble Quran speaks for Islam. At its core is an eternal message of justice and compassion, of equality and humanity, of peace and solidarity. There is, besides, the Prophet’s exemplary life and mission which reflect the quintessence of Islam. Through their struggles and sacrifices, the illustrious caliphs from Abu Bakr to Salahuddin Al-Ayubi (Saladin) also succeeded in bringing to the fore the authentic face of the religion.

9. In a sense, the great accomplishments of Muslim civilization - in science and medicine as in agriculture and architecture - served to enhance the image of Islam. The scholars who were responsible for these accomplishments such as Al-Kwarizmi and Ibn Sina should be regarded as the true voices of the religion.

10. It follows from this that in the contemporary world, it is those who uphold justice, who fight tyranny, who seek liberation from oppression, who are honest and upright, who are universal and inclusive in word and deed, are the ones who represent the real message of Islam.

11. One should also add that those who protect the rights of the human being, those who treasure the dignity of women and the welfare of children, those who preserve the integrity of the family, those who help the poor and feed the hungry, those who live in harmony with the environment, are also speaking on behalf of Islam.

12. In a nutshell, all Muslims anywhere who sincerely endeavor to live according to the universal values and principles of the Quran are the true spokespersons of Islam. What this means is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who by and large lead decent lives, are already speaking for the religion.

13. To express the principles of life that are important to ordinary Muslims as demonstrated in Islamic civilization, I have personally sought to promote an approach which I call “Islam Hadhari” which we have defined as “a comprehensive approach to the development of mankind, society and country based on the perspective of Islamic civilization”. The 10 principles of Islam Hadhari embody universal values which have endowed the religion with strength and character through the ages. The ten principles are, namely :

I. Faith and piety in Allah;
ii. A just and trustworthy government;
iii. A free and independent people;
iv. A vigorous pursuit and mastery of knowledge;
v. A balanced and comprehensive economic development;
vi. A good quality of life for the people;
vii. The protection of the rights of minority groups and women;
viii. Cultural and moral integrity;
ix. The safeguarding of natural resources and the environment;
x. Strong defense capabilities

14. I consider this fresh approach as a necessary part of the reform and renewal that is needed in Islamic countries and in Muslim societies as a whole. Malaysia feels that it is well placed to begin this journey of reform and renewal because it is a multi-racial and multi-religious country in which we treat our diversity as an asset to be nurtured. In fact, we are merely building upon the tolerance we have observed and the inter-faith co-existence which we have practised in the country for decades. We wish to show by example that a Muslim country can be modern, economically competitive, democratic and fair to all its citizens irrespective of their religions.

15. Islam Hadhari is not a new religion or mazhab. It is not a new ideology. It is not meant to pacify the West. It is neither an approach to apologize for the perceived Islamic threat nor an approach to seek approval for a more friendly and gentle image of Islam. It is the way for practising the religion in these modern times but firmly rooted in the noble values and injunctions of Islam.

16. Islam Hadhari is what Muslims should emphasize in the contemporary world, the pursuit of knowledge being one of the most fundamental. It is another way of saying that there are certain civilizational principles in the religion whose realization will bring greatness and glory to the Muslim Community, the Ummah, today, just as they had propelled the Islamic civilization to such splendour and magnificence in the past.

17. Western civilization too has its share of greatness and majestic accomplishments. We must acknowledge that in the West, principles such as freedom and equality have found concrete expression in the rule of law, public accountability, acceptance of political dissent and respect for popular participation. We must also acknowledge that many great statesmen and reformers of the past made sterling efforts to redistribute wealth, to equalize opportunities and to achieve equity and social justice. They may be regarded as the true spokespersons of the West. Admittedly, the West is also the civilization that has given birth to a whole host of scientists and researchers, from Newton to Einstein on the one hand, and from Marie Curie to Alexander Fleming, on the other, who have contributed immensely to the well-being of humankind.

18. However, for a lot of Muslims today, this is not the face of the West that they see. It is the hegemony of the centers of power in the West that is most visible to them. They see the subjugation of Palestine as an indirect concretization of this hegemony. They see hegemony manifested directly in the attack upon Afghanistan and in the occupation of Iraq. These are some of the realities which confront the Muslim masses today.

19. Of course, there are other manifestations of hegemonic power which have also made a deep impression upon the Muslim mind. These include foreign military bases in Muslim countries; the dominant presence of huge Western corporations; the pervasive impact of currency markets; the ever expanding security tentacles of the super-power; plus certain negative traits and influence of western culture and ideas.

20. At the popular level, the West is perceived as “biased” against Islam and the Muslims. Muslims feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have become the victims of double standards and selective persecution. More specifically, Muslims see those responsible for the devastation of Jenin and Fallujah, and the humiliation of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, as the ugly face of the West that speak for the West.

21. Similarly, many in the West see Islam as synonymous with violence. The Muslim is viewed as a congenital terrorist. They think Osama bin Laden speaks for the religion and its followers. Islam and Muslims are linked to all that is negative and backward. For example, Muslim men, it is alleged, oppress their wives. Women it is said, have no rights in Islam. Some so-called Western “experts” on Islam argue that Muslims invariably discriminate against non-Muslims. They say Muslims are intolerant. They say Islam is incompatible with democracy and modernity. The demonization of Islam and the vilification of Muslims, there is no denying, is widespread within mainstream Western society.

22 It is the duty of all people of goodwill to work hard to change these negative perceptions on both sides of the divide. Undoubtedly, the task is not going to be easy. For these perceptions have deep roots. Since the advent of Islam at the beginning of the 7th century, Christian, and to a lesser degree, Jewish antipathy towards the religion and its Prophet, Muhammad, has grown into active antagonism. The crusades, Western colonialism, the imposition of Israel upon the Arab world, post-colonial hegemony and the Western desire to control oil and gas, especially those supplies coming from the Muslim countries, have all contributed in one way or another to the huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam. The targeting of so-called “Islamic terrorists” in the global fight against terrorism aggravated the situation and the senseless violence of the terrorists themselves has made things worse.

23. Quite clearly, we will not be able to change the situation by mere talk, dialogue and being nice to one another. We must be brave enough, and we must be honest enough, to admit that as long as there is hegemony, as long as one side attempts to control and dominate the other, the animosity and antagonism between the two civilizations will continue. This is why hegemony must end. Mutual respect for one another should replace hegemony. Reciprocity should become the ethical principle that conditions relations between the West and Islam. The West should treat Islam the way it wants Islam to treat the West and vice versa. They should accept one another as equals. Respect, reciprocity and equality: these are the essential prerequisites for a happy and harmonious relationship between the two civilizations.

24. It is significant that in both civilizations, there exist men and women today who are working towards a genuine transformation in relations, which will bring to an end the animosity and antagonism of the past and the present.

25. There are many in the West for instance who realize that the exercise of hegemonic power and the demonization of Islam are not conducive for inter-civilizational peace. It is these voices that the world should listen to. Likewise, there are numerous groups and individuals in the Muslim world who are deeply distressed by the violence and terror perpetrated by certain fringe groups within the Ummah, just as they are equally uncomfortable with the sweeping denunciations of Christians, Jews and the West. They do oppose hegemony and occupation but their words are authentic voices of Islam.

26. Certain voices, both in the West and in the Muslim world, are not given the prominence they deserve. The mainstream media should give much more attention to them. It is only too apparent that these two groups - one in the West and the other in the Muslim world - share a common perspective on some of the critical challenges facing both civilizations and the world at large. Both are opposed to hegemony. Both reject violence and terror. Both yearn for a just and peaceful world. Both are united by a common bond. It is this common bond that makes them bridge-builders.

27. It is such fine men and women who are capable of reaching out to one another, who are willing to transcend the civilizational divide, that we need badly at this juncture in history. It is a pity that there are not enough of them. One of our most urgent tasks is to multiply the bridge-builders. We must develop through the family, through education and the media tens of thousands of men and women who can be critical of the weaknesses and wrongdoings of one’s civilization and, at the same time, are empathetic towards “the other” civilization. When the bridge-builders reach a critical mass, their collective power would become so overwhelming that it would destroy the walls erected by those who are hell bent on keeping Islam and the West apart.

28. At that point, when the bridge-builders reign supreme, the people of the West will speak for Islam and the Muslims will speak for the West.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

29. Let us start now by curbing the extremists in our midst. We must put a stop to the mockery of any religion or the sacrilege of any symbol held sacred by the faithful. Let us not underestimate the power of religion as an imperative for people to act. In the face of fanaticism and hysteria, we must take action to counsel moderation and rationality. The rhetoric of war will not help. The writings of the mighty pen based on prejudices will also not help.

30. On that note, let me conclude by congratulating the Malaysian “Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations” and “Dialogues: Islamic World - U.S - the West” for organizing this very important conference and for bringing together to Malaysia a prominent group of people who are serious about the subject of dialogue between civilizations. I would like to propose that this conference be held as an annual event. A dialogue such as this can serve as a Confidence Building Measure.

31. For those who have come from abroad, I invite you to take this opportunity to look around you and witness for yourself the Malaysia that you might have heard of. I hope you will be able to bear witness to our efforts at nation-building in which inter-faith and inter-ethnic harmony lies at the core of our national development programme.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

"If those responsible had done something which is against procedures, then the police top brass must institute disciplinary action"

Malaysia's PM orders probe into shaving of detainees' heads by police: Report


AP Worldstream
02-05-2006
Dateline: KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
Malaysia's prime minister has ordered the police to investigate if officers had followed procedures in shaving the heads of 11 men who had been detained for alleged illegal gambling, local media reported Sunday.

The police action triggered widespread criticism from the public and rights groups, but the officers claim it is allowed under lockup rules.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called on top police officials to investigate, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.

"If those responsible had done something which is against procedures, then the police top brass must institute disciplinary action," Abdullah was quoted as saying.