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Thursday, 14 October 2010

New Mandala : New perspectives on mainland Southeast Asia





New Mandala was established in June 2006 by Andrew Walker and Nicholas Farrelly.  Hosted by the Australian National University (ANU), it provides anecdote, analysis and new perspectives on mainland Southeast Asia.  Since its inception the site has devoted its attention to the politics and societies of this region, and especially Thailand and Burma.
In addition to the material posted by Andrew and Nicholas, New Mandala hosts regular guest contributions from a network of regional experts who add their own voices to the website’s mix.  The site is also strengthened by the dozens of comments it receives each day.  New Mandala is proud of its ongoing contributions to scholarly and popular debates, and of its pioneering role in the digitisation of Southeast Asian studies.

The March to Putrajaya

October 11th, 2010 by Greg Lopez · 1 Comment

The Najib’s administration’s decision to ban The March to Putrajaya seemed ill-advised.
The grounds provided by the Home Minister for banning the book is nothing short of incredulous and contradictory. The book was banned on the grounds that it: (i) incited hatred against the Constitution; and (ii) makes baseless accusations and speculation against national leaders and (iii) incited hatred and anger among the people. (read here and here)
Incredulous. If the government believes that the author had actually done the following (since its actually in black and white), would not charging him in court be the mature moderate way to resolve this.
Contradictory. That having banned the book on the above grounds, the author has not been charged in court for the same.  The author has rebutted these charges (see here).
Had the book not been banned, it would have been sitting in bookshops with limited reach. But when The March to Putrajaya was banned, the publisher (a local company) allowed the book to go viral and now thousands of Malaysians (and foreigners) have access to it (it is available here).
And this from an administration that has offered to help the US and the global community understand Islam and promote moderation (read here).
This is not a book whose reach is likely to compare with Barry Wain’s Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamed in Turbulent Times, which argued that Mahathir squandered more than RM100 million in pet projects. Barry Wain is a renowned foreign journalist (nothing less than the former Southeast Asia correspondent, later Editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal (read here) and currently writer-in-residence at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, with the book published by a global publisher, Palgrave Macmillan. The Malaysian government had contemplated banning Barry Wain’s book but found it counter-productive.
Perhaps, that is precisely why The March to Putrajaya was banned! The March to Putrajaya is written by Kim Quek.
Who is Kim Quek and why is his book a threat to national security?
Kim Quek, whose real name is Yong Thye Chong, is a normal Malaysian, an elderly one for that matter (in his 60s) and of all things, a retired accountant (read here).
He, like many non-Malay middle class Malaysians, of the generation that experienced 13 May 1969, are moderates, and had accepted UMNO dominance in return for limited rights to security and to prosperity through individual hard work, as citizens of Malaysia. Most normal non-Malay Malaysians, especially after May 13, 1969, as moderates, are averse to conflicts and public displays of political preference, and expect nothing from the state except the guarantee of peace, stability and the right to pursue  personal development
However, over the years, Kim Quek has seen all of these dissipate (read hereand here). He has  taken the bold step of becoming an active political commentator since the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 and of all things unbecoming of a normal Malaysian, he joined Parti Keadilan Rakyat in 2007. (Watch video here).
This act by Kim Quek is representative of a growing number of Malaysians from the pre-13 May 1969 generation, who had consistently supported the Barisan Nasional but have now become disgusted with the ruling party, and have come out openly to register their displeasure. Kim Quek’s book does not have startling revelations of the Raja Petra Kamarudin style. In fact, true to his accounting profession, Kim Quek’s style is sober and meticulous.
The book is careful in analysing and explaining why certain actions by the government, is an outright affront to the constitutional rights of Malaysians. The attention to detail is noteworthy. The book discusses the following topics: (1) Why Malaysians should make the right political decision – against the BN; (2) The Perak Constitutional Crisis; (3) The Altantunya Murder; (4) The March 2008 political tsunami; (5) The Judiciary; (6) The Royal Malaysian Police; (7) Race and religion; and  (8) the previous administration.
Kim Quek is also the author of Where to, Malaysia? A Future with Anwar’s Reformasi or Back to Mahathirism? (Kuala Lumpur, SIRD, 2005). Kim Quek is no Barry Wain – but that is why he is so dangerous. He is an ordinary Malaysian, UMNO’s greatest threat.