Press statement by Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 29 Feb 2016

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 claims to “develop 21st Century skills such as critical and creative thinking” and further laments that our graduates lack critical thinking and communication skills.

How does this noble intention square with the latest pronouncement by the Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar that he wants to ban a course on Marxism organized by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)?

The revival of interest in Marxist analysis

Ever since that most catastrophic crisis of world capitalism in 2008, the revival in interest in Marxist analysis has seen the sales of Das Kapital, Marx’s masterful critique of political economy soar to unprecedented levels. Young people in the West are especially keen to know the source of the capitalist crisis as workers and other tax payers have bailed out the banks to keep the capitalist system going amidst increasing debt, job insecurity and austerity measures.

Recently, as part of its ‘Masters of Money’ series the BBC looked at the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and finished by looking at the economic ideas of Karl Marx.  The presenter thought there were important insights to be found in Marx, particularly his perspective on the inequality of capitalism and its instability.  She also made the observation that Marx’s description of capitalism is truer now than when it was first made, noting the compulsive nature of the drive for profit within the capitalist system which is also the source of periodic crises.

Marx’s theory of surplus-value expounded in Das Capital is his most revolutionary contribution to economic science as well as the materialist interpretation of history. His discovery of the development trends of the capitalist mode of production also constitutes an exposition of recurrent crises of capitalist development.

Although Marxist analyses are now resurfacing in public dialogues about economy and society especially after perhaps capitalism’s worst crisis since the 1930s, Marx and Marxist thought have always been part of the essential curriculum of Social Science courses in the best universities of the world. This is the case in Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge as well as Moscow and Beijing universities. Marx with Weber and Durkheim were the main social thinkers in the Sociology courses at my university in Manchester where Marx and Engels lived and researched much of their analyses of the capitalist mode of production. When I was teaching Sociology at the National University of Singapore in 1978-79, Marx was also an essential part of the curriculum there. I cannot imagine our Malaysian universities banning Marxist thought and analysis from their curricula.

Thus the bright young thinkers in PSM should be congratulated for initiating the discussion of Marxism and the analysis of our challenging times. Instead of being hailed as the standard bearers of our Education Blueprint vision to develop the 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, it seems they are being denigrated as the purveyors of subversive teachings.

Just as Einstein’s insight into gravitational waves has just been vindicated, let us not forget his well-known admonition that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It would be the height of irony and an insult to the government’s Transformation Programme if the content of Malaysia’s Education Blueprint is going to be dictated by the Inspector General of Police…

[The Malaysian Insider] Suhakam starts probe into Sosma detainees’ torture allegation

Suhakam starts probe into Sosma detainees’ torture allegation

Published: 25 January 2016 5:52 PM

Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has initiated an investigation into the allegation that several detainees under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) have been abused by the authorities.

The commission said it had contacted the police to inquire on the matter through a letter dated January 19 and requested to meet with the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) soon to discuss the issue and possible cooperation to shed light into the allegation.

“We are still investigating the case since receiving a memo from the family of a Sosma detainee in November last year,”

“So far, we have recorded statements from four detainees (we got three other names from the first detainee),” Suhakam told The Malaysian Insider today.
The commission, without providing further details, said that several other statements were also taken in December to facilitate the investigation.

Last week, human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) disclosed letters penned by seven Sosma detainees, who alleged mistreatment during their detention.

Many of the detainees claimed they were beaten up and threatened, while one said he was forced to strip, crawl like a dog, kiss an investigating officer’s foot and do other degrading acts.

Some of the detainees also claimed that police threatened to harm their family members, forcing them to follow statements provided by the police.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed (pic, right) yesterday said that the ministry would probe into any case of detainee abuse if complaints are made through formal channels.

“The SOP used by the interrogators must be reasonable and take into account the human rights of the person. The ministry will investigate any complaints made to it through formal channels,” he said, responding to the matter.

He added that the accused had a right to inform someone of his detention and can make a formal complaint if the interrogation did not follow the standard operating procedures.

Suaram would be meeting with lawyers and detainees’ families to discuss the next course of action after some of the detainees’ families had also lodged police reports on the allegations. – January 25, 2016.

– See more at:

Penderaan dan Kekerasan oleh Pihak Berkuasa Perlu Disiasat dan Dihentikan dengan Segera

Photo courtesy of Malaysian Insider
Photo courtesy of The Malaysian Insider

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) mengecam sebarang tindakan kekerasan terhadap individu terutama sekali yang melibatkan salah guna kuasa oleh pihak berkuasa dalam menjalankan tugas, di mana hal yang demikian adalah bertentangan dengan prinsip hak asasi manusia dan undang-undang antarabangsa.

Pihak SUARAM telah mendapat maklumat daripada sebahagian tahanan SOSMA melalui peguam dan ahli keluarga berkenaan penderaan fizikal dan mental oleh pihak berkuasa terhadap tahanan-tahanan yang mana penderaan tersebut dilakukan dalam tempoh siasatan selama 28 hari menurut s. 4(5) SOSMA 2012. Selain itu, ada di kalangan ahli keluarga tahanan-tahanan tersebut diganggu oleh pihak polis dan diugut untuk memberi keterangan. Hal yang demikian amat membimbangkan dan mengejutkan, di mana ia tidak jauh bezanya dengan apa yang pernah dilakukan terhadap tahanan di bawah Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri 1960 (ISA) sewaktu dalam siasatan polis. Perbuatan tersebut adalah jelas suatu penyalahgunaan kuasa oleh pihak polis dan setakat ini tiada sebarang tindakan diambil terhadap pelaku-pelaku tersebut.

Tidak dinafikan bahawa ancaman terrorisme semakin menular pada masa kini dan perlu ditangani demi keselamatan negara. Walau bagaimanapun, setiap individu, termasuk saspek-saspek dan/atau tertuduh-tertuduh dalam kesalahan keselamatan turut mempunyai hak untuk tidak di didera secara fizikal mahupun emosi dalam proses undang-undang. Penderaan yang dilakukan terhadap mereka ketika di dalam siasatan seolah-oleh ‘menghukum mereka’ atas suatu kesalahan yang belum dibuktikan. Ini adalah bertentangan dengan prinsip undang-undang di mana setiap orang adalah dianggap tidak bersalah melainkan dibuktikan sebaliknya.

Memandangkan isu ini amat serius kerana ia melibatkan penganiayaan terhadap individu dan integriti pihak berkuasa yang memainkan peranan yang besar dalam sistem keadilan jenayah di Malaysia, SUARAM menuntut agar pihak Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia (SUHAKAM) dan Suruhanjaya Integriti Agensi Penguatkuasaan (EAIC) segera menyiasat penderaan oleh pihak berkuasa terhadap tahanan-tahanan tersebut.

SUARAM juga menuntut supaya kerajaan Malaysia menubuhkan suatu Suruhanjaya Penyiasatan Diraja berkenaan tindakan penderaan tersebut dan seterusnya mengeluarkan suatu kenyataan yang jelas dan tegas mengecam sebarang bentuk penderaan oleh pihak berkuasa.

Di samping itu, SUARAM percaya bahawa penggunaan penyeksaan hanya boleh berlaku jika tiada pengawasan kehakiman dan prosedur siasatan yang telus. Bagi menghentikan penggunaan penyeksaan, undang-undang seperti Akta Kesalahan Keselamatan (Langkah-Langkah Khas) 2012 (SOSMA), Akta Pencegahan Jenayah 1959 (POCA), Akta Pencegahan Keganasan 2015 (POTA) dan Akta Dadah Berbahaya (Langkah-langkah Pencegahan Khas) 1985 (DDA) yang memberikan ruang untuk penyeksaan berlaku mesti dimansuhkan.

Akhir sekali, SUARAM menuntut supaya Kerajaan Malaysia menandatangani KonvensyenBangsa-bangsa Bersatu Menolak Penderaan dan Tindakan serta Hukuman yang Kejam, Tidak Berperikemanusiaan atau Menjatuhkan Martabat (UNCAT) demi membuktikan bahawa kerajaan Malaysia tidak mengiktiraf sebarang tindakan kekerasan yang bertentangan dengan prinsip hak asasi manusia dan undang-undang antarabangsa.

[Penang Monthly] Giving the people a say – it’s their money after all

Folks in Machang Bubok find themselves empowered with the novel – and perhaps even revolutionary – idea of deciding what to do with public funds.

Sometime in December last year, at a forum on the state and national budget organised by Lee Khai Loon, the state assemblyman for Machang Bubok, I threw out a challenge which Lee and I eventually picked up ourselves: At which point can the people intervene in the government budget cycle?

We are definitely not in a state of normalcy

There are many things to fix in our democracy. We are definitely not normal.

We cannot even achieve the most basic thing in modern democracy, i.e. choosing our government. Today we have a federal government that has only 48% popular support.

We do not get to elect our local government. How serious is that, you may ask; it’s just the city council.

Well, the city council of KL has an annual budget which averages about RM2bil, making it bigger than the budget of every state government in Malaysia save for four: Selangor, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak. The decision makers of the city council are not elected, hence they do not answer directly to the people.

In Penang, the MBPP has a budget of RM400mil, while the MPSP has a budget of RM200mil.

That’s our money. If, in a democracy the people are the boss, then we should have a say in how it is being spent.

Penang leads in participatory budgeting

To be fair, MPSP has since 2012 organised annual budget dialogues to which members of the civil society, residents’ associations, rukun tetangga, and village/ community development and welfare committees (JKKK) were invited to give their opinions on budgetary matters. There were also budget survey forms which were distributed all over the municipality for feedback on what the people want in the next budget.

In 2014, #BetterPenang, a nongovernmental movement working on how we can make our cities and towns better, worked with MPSP local councillor David Marshel to come up with an innovative way to gather public opinion on priorities when spending municipal monies.

The project, called Projek ARM (Apa Rakyat Mahu) is a one-question survey, quite unlike the official MPSP survey that had 80 questions and sub-questions. Mobilising volunteers from JKKKs and using a specially designed smartphone application, Projek ARM respondents were asked: “If you had RM250 next year, how much would you spend on the following items: 1) Cleanliness, 2) Infrastructure, 3) Drainage and flood control, 4) Parks and landscape, 5) Community activities, 6) Enforcement, and 7) Strays and disease control.

That way, the complicated and often tedious budgetary discourse was made simple. We received feedback from 1,500 respondents and managed to produce a very informative report from the data. It certainly helped local councillors to form a clearer picture of the people’s actual priorities when it comes to spending money on municipal services.

“Our Money, Our Say”

Now, let’s go back to the budget forum in December last year.

As mentioned, Lee and I decided to take up the challenge I posed at the forum: to let the people play an active part in deciding on government spending.

Thus, this year, both of us allocated RM50,000 each from our constituency fund – that’s a quarter of my total fund – to a participatory budgeting experiment, “Our Money, Our Say”. In short, through this project, we are allowing the people of Machang Bubok in Bukit Mertajam to vote on how the RM100,000 will be spent. This is not imaginary abstract social science or political science stuff – this is real money, real power.

How does it work?

This project is a one-year four-phase programme: 1) demographic survey, 2) focus group discussion, 3) voting, and 4) planning and implementation. The title of each phase should be self-explanatory.

Sim at a survey with JKKK Taman Selamat during the first phase of the programme.Projek Penyertaan Machang Bubuk. Sim at a survey with JKKK Taman Selamat during the first phase of the programme.
The implementing units are the 17 JKKKs in the constituency of Machang Bubok. Coordinating agencies include the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC), MPSP, the Central Seberang Perai District and Land Office, and both the MP and state assemblyman’s offices.

Phase One was launched in July 2015 and is now nearing completion. Members of the 17 JKKKs were given training in survey methods and even an introductory session on how to use the statistical analysis software, SPSS. In the process of doing participatory budgeting, we are also building the capacity of our grassroots leaders so that now they too take part in formulating government policy and not just deal with municipal complaints as they were previously accustomed to.

Immense challenges ahead

Although now merely at an experimental stage, it is still very much a large scale and ambitious project. We are talking about allowing the 30,000-odd voters of Machang Bubok to literally vote on how they want their tax money to be spent.

It goes without saying that such a project comes with many challenges. From training our JKKKs to conduct demographic surveys, and organise and facilitate focus group discussions to sending out the message so that enough people are aware of the project and will take part; from dealing with grouses about the copious work needed to accomplish the year-long project to angry residents telling us in our face: “Hey we voted for you, why should you now kick the ball back to us (to make decisions)?”.

It is definitely a new concept. Over the past three years, we have consulted experts and practitioners from both local and foreign academia – from countries such as Brazil, Germany, India, the Philippines and the US, and even the UN. But we have no choice; we have to learn as we go – all of us who are involved in this project. There is absolutely no precedence of any kind in Malaysia, other than the smaller scale participatory budgeting projects PWDC has done in Penang since 2012.

In a democracy, the people are the boss. As such, what power should be vested in them? Equality, justice, human rights – all these are very important. But what’s the use of being boss when one has no say about money?

It is no longer enough to just tweak the system and go about our business as usual. We need to change the equation. Imagine the effect on our democracy when the people begin to realise that they can and should decide how tax money is spent. Imagine the effect on governance. Imagine if, for a start, the local council in Bukit Mertajam, which spends about RM200mil a year, decides to adopt the idea even partially and allows the people to vote for just five per cent of its annual budget. That would be RM10mil in our hands.

Now imagine if the notorious figure RM2.6bil – a mere one per cent of the federal budget – was given to such participatory process. The people will effectively become the boss.

[GHAH] Terkilan, Namun Menyambut Baik Pembebasan Khalid Ismath

Mahkamah Tinggi Johor Bahru hari ini membenarkan aktivis sosial, Khalid Ismath, dibebaskan dengan ikat jamin sementara sebanyak RM70, 000 (RM5, 000 bagi setiap pertuduhan), sebelum menunggu semakan isu jamin pada 11 November ini. Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) melahirkan rasa terkilan dengan jumlah ikat jamin yang terlalu tinggi, yang dikenakan hanya untuk menunggu pendengaran semakan, namun menyambut baik khabar gembira pembebasan tersebut.

Khalid Ismath yang ditahan pada 7 haribulan Oktober 2015 itu, ditahan hampir 23 hari sebelum dibebaskan dengan ikat jamin sementara pada 29 Oktober 2015, hanya kerana kenyataan beliau di media sosial yang dikatakan berbaur hasutan. Hal ini tidak boleh diterima, kerana bukan sahaja kenyataan Khalid tersebut tidak berbaur hasutan, malah ia melanggar Perkara 10 Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang menjamin hak setiap warganegara Malaysia untuk bersuara dan memberi pendapat.

Kerajaan dilihat terus sahaja menggunakan akta tinggalan penjajah ini untuk menekan dan mencengkam rakyat. Tahun ini sahaja, tidak termasuk 160 orang yang ditahan dan disiasat di bawah Akta Hasutan kerana menghadiri konsert muzik di Rumah Api, lebih dari 40 orang telah disiasat di bawah Akta Hasutan 1948.

GHAH dengan ini akan memberikan komitmen penuh untuk mempergiatkan kempen di seluruh Malaysia sehinggalah tuntutan yang dikemukakan, diterima oleh kerajaan.

Mengulangi semula tuntutan yang diperjuangkan oleh GHAH sejak sekian lama; dengan perkembangan hari ini yang menyaksikan bahawa Akta Hasutan 1948 kekal digunakan biarpun dengan begitu banyak hujah yang mewajarkan pemansuhan dan ketidak berperlembagaannya, kami tetap dengan keras menggesa kerajaan untuk memansuhkan Akta Hasutan 1948 dengan serta merta, gugurkan semua pertuduhan dan bebaskan semua tahanan serta tiada akta gantian lain dengan peruntukan yang sama zalim.
Mansuh Akta Hasutan!

Disediakan oleh,

Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH)