Saturday, August 30, 2014

Raising a family of true Malaysians – by Prof Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi

Raising a family of true Malaysians

– Prof Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi
The Malaysian Insider
27 August 2014

In many senses, it seems funny that Malaysians, particularly the Malays, find great difficulty in the idea of a united, harmonious and happy Malaysia. I am a Malay. All my Malay friends at UTM and other universities and all my relatives and that of my wife are… racist. If I were to invite all of them to a marriage ceremony, the number would easily reach 3,000. Based on a simple sampling of 5% of this population that I engage in socialising, I have established that they know nothing about the idea of “Malaysia”. All they know is the condition of “we just have to tolerate those immigrants and make sure they don’t make us like Singapore” mind set. 

I have always thought that some of my friends and relatives whom I respect as very pious Muslims would be different, but they too turn out to be racist when political issues are discussed. It came as a shock to me. I thought that Islam would be one of the answers to eliminate racism, but apparently, the “Malay-view” interpretation of Islam always take precedence. Islam is NOT the problem but its racist interpretation is. I know this for a fact because of my vast reading of Islam, thousands of hadiths and many versions of Qur’anic Tafsir.

In this Merdeka celebration, the “idea” of Malaysia seems only in a dream or in a Petronas or a DiGi commercial. The idea of Malaysia does not exist in our schools, in our public universities, at our housing and our cities. But I still remain optimistic. Why? Because my family is NOT racist. My wife who is a retired teacher is not racist. My 28-year-old lecturer daughter educated at IIUM is not racist. My 26-year-old journalist daughter educated at TAR College and Taylors University is not racist. My 23-year-old son in his third year at UCSI University is not racist. My 20-year-old SEGi University daughter is not racist. And my 18-year-old Inti University son is also not racist. How did I manage to form my own small country of “Malaysia”? There are a few simple strategies that I had developed. I will save the most important one for last.

One of the simple strategies I used was the choice of schools for my children. All of my children had gone through SOME years at a public school. When we could afford it, I sent my eldest daughter and second child for two years to an all-Malay private religious school so that they could immerse themselves in some Islamic culture. However, I was most careful to take them out after two years and put them back in the public school because I did not want them to grow up without having any Chinese or Indian friends. 

All my daughters’ friends who had gone through 11 years of “Islamic” education are racists. When my daughters were put in a “special Arabic” class in a public school which was a poor excuse to put all the best Malay students in one or two classes and given the best attention, I wrote to the school, much to the dismay of my wife, to take them out and put them back into a multi-racial class. I did not want my children to grow up knowing Islam as being synonymous with racism and bigotry.

For my three other children, I was able to send all of them for two or three years at private international schools, but following the national curriculum. If I had more money, I would have insisted on an international curriculum. But sending them to private schools was already a strain on our two salaries. We were both extremely happy to see the three of them playing, gossiping, going to McDonald’s and movies with Chinese and Indian friends without any shred of racist thoughts. 

My two sons are not as intellectually-developed as my three daughters and the private schools did not have the best teaching staff. I even had to take my sons out for 2 months to coach them personally before their SPM. But we were both happy that our children were free from the racist and bullying issues of public school life. My children would sometimes spend the night at their non-Muslim friends’ and we always welcome their friends at ours. I made sure that our children grew up in a well-balanced society and not stuck in a Malay or Malay-Muslim centred social prison.

When the time came for my eldest to choose a college or university, I had already decided as a grand strategy for creating a new Malaysian citizenry that none of them would ever step foot in a public university like UTM, UKM, UM UPM, USM and worst of all… UiTM. Let me explain why. Firstly, I would like to go on record as saying that our public universities have the best trained academic staff to turn our children into architects, engineers and doctors, regardless of race. That Chinese students dominate the honour lists is testament to the non-racist policies of public universities in terms of academic teaching and instruction. 

But the racist attitudes of the Malay lecturers, professors and administrators are a different story altogether. I have 28 years of seminars, administrative meetings and socialising with academics and administrators as well as private conversations with graduating non-Malay students to testify to this fact. The university culture of students choosing group work members of the same ethnic background still persists and this was one of the things that I had wished to avoid.

However, at the public universities, I was not as concerned about racism as I was about the freedom of my children to be exposed to political consciousness. What I mean by political consciousness is not about joining DAP or PAS or Umno, but a keen awareness of the social and political issues of the day and the freedom to contribute towards solving these issues through organising clubs, societies, meets and even dialogues with political leaders of all parties. At the time my daughter was 18, I had already had 20 years of experience in the university and I knew for a fact that my children would never have the opportunities to grow politically like I had at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA. 

In my assessment, our public university students from undergraduates to PhD graduates are politically “dumb”. Not because they are stupid or slow thinking, but because of the academic culture that thrives on praising the “political masters”. I, in my classrooms always remind the students that Umno and BN are NOT the “political masters” of this country and that PAS or DAP are NOT “political masters” in their respective states. They are all our “political representatives”. The real political masters are you graduates in the classrooms that are over 21 years of age. I always tell the students to “take back” their country from those who seek to milk its wealth selfishly. In private conversations, it seems mine is the only class that seeks to inspire the students to be true democratic Malaysians at our faculty in UTM. You do not ever get that kind of talk from the vice chancellor, dean or head of department.

It was then to my wife’s dismay and surprise that I suggested my eldest daughter go to TAR College. My plan was to send my children to private universities and colleges away from public universities. But my eldest wanted to go to the International Islamic University. Why? Well… her boyfriend was there. If it were before 1997, I would have said okay, but the Anwar-saga left me dangling in the shredded faith of a true Malaysia by a political party that I had voted for twice before that and from a prime minister that I had once had the privilege of meeting with other student leaders in his hotel room in Chicago. But I reasoned that IIUM still had a strong Islamic spirit from its international staff that would be void of a racist flavour. And so I said yes, and so she went through an education that still had a pure spirit of non-racist Islam for 5 years. However, her political consciousness suffered because IIUM was becoming a political prison. Fortunately, I was able to light this fire of consciousness through my many discussions with her about the social and political events after 1997.

My second child had no problems accepting my idea of TAR College. Although she had enough subject distinctions to attend public universities, she did not like the Malay dress code imposed there and I supported her simply because of my political strategy. Between the two of us, we outvoted my wife. After her diploma, she spent a year at SEGi University but changed to Taylors University with a MARA partial loan. In all this time, I monitored closely all her assignments and smiled inwardly as they took on a more critical discourse of local social and political events that would have been a taboo subject matter at any local university. 

I noted also that Taylors University had invited Nurul Izzah Anwar for a talk a month after inviting Mahathir for a special speech. In a public university, the likes of Lim Kit Siang, Anwar Ibrahim and Mohamad Sabu would never grace the podium of a lecture hall but at Taylors perhaps they still could. If I were a rich man, I would spend every cent on educating my children overseas so that they could bloom into a whole human being conscious of social, spiritual and political issues and with the inspiration to change the world. You can’t do that at local universities, and I suspect eventually at the private universities also.

It was thus that my wife finally accepted my grand strategy of developing our children at the private universities. As a Muslim mother, my wife was very concerned that our children would grow up “wrong” Islamically because her definition of Islam was restricted to tudungs or head covers and prayers. However, after listening to religious scholars and leaders spouting racist statements and tudung-ed individuals with vileness in their hearts against other religions and races, she began to accept that though our children were not too ritualistically Islamic with the tudung and prayers, they were good-hearted individuals without a shred of racism in their hearts. 

This proved beyond a doubt that the religious curriculum of our country, not through the fault of Islam per se, is the most important contributor to the sustaining of racism in this country. Thus, if our children had had a “proper” religious education, they would eventually turn up racist also. I had the fortune of being transferred to a national-type Chinese school in Taiping where I chose to stop learning Islam from Form 2 onwards even though the Chinese head teacher wanted to hire a single ustaz to teach me alone. I was, therefore never indoctrinated, and being in USA for graduate and post-graduate schools, I was further away from a Malay-centric Islamic university education.

Amidst all these strategies of choosing schools and universities, I would constantly engage my children in private conversations on the simple values of human survival and what they mean for being a Malaysian. Firstly, the Prophet Muhmmad taught a non-racist Islam and that all other religions like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism are God’s guidance to mankind to rise above petty ethno-centric concerns to rise higher than the angels in human kindness that is a key to a peaceful existence. 

When you stand in front of God on judgement day, you stand alone with your deeds and values, not your race or social status. Secondly, motivation gurus and western spiritualists teach us that our differences in race and religions are our strengths and not a cause for conflict. No man can live alone and so likewise no race or society can exist. A simple example would be a husband and wife. Two completely different individuals with completely two different physiological and psychological make-up have to live together to raise five to ten other individuals with different ideas and emotions. 

If we can accept our spouse and children’s different views and concerns, why can’t we accept other races and religious concerns? Thirdly, although man can determine many things in life, there are four things that he cannot: his time of death, a natural disaster and his fate in heaven or hell. Do not judge poorly or look down on others, for it may be the grace of God that they may be favoured more. Finally, in a democracy, you control the destiny of your children and never let any politician tell you otherwise.
In closing, I have written this anecdotal piece to politely tell Malaysians that we have serious problems in our school values and in the way our universities produce the next generation of professional Malaysians. If things do not change politically, I told my children that I will leave them with one house each, one car each and a RM20,000 start-up capital so that they can start saving to be able to educate their children in private schools with international curriculum and finally send all of them off overseas. 

This is the only way that they will be free from a Malay-centric Islam and a university system that thrives on producing a professional slave labour force dancing to every racist beat choreographed by irresponsible political leaders that have defiled our Parliament.
Only then can our sons and daughters return to rebuild and reignite the dreams of Datuk Seri Onn bin Jaafar and our politician forefathers of a united, harmonious and intelligent society deep in spiritual consciousness. Happy Merdeka! – August 27, 2014.

Understanding Wahhabism & ISIS -- dystopic history of Saudi's control over 'Islam'.... by Alastair Crooke

You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT -- The dramatic arrival of Da'ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed -- and horrified -- by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia's ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, "Don't the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?"

It appears -- even now -- that Saudi Arabia's ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite "fire" with Sunni "fire"; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da'ish's strict Salafist ideology.

Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan -- please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.

Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da'ish (ISIS) -- and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia's direction and discourse.

Saudi Arabia's internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom's doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader -- amongst many -- of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz's subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse -- and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export -- by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.

But this "cultural revolution" was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab's Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him -- hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.

The American author and journalist, Steven Coll, has written how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised "the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca."

In Abd al-Wahhab's view, these were not Muslims; they were imposters masquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behavior of local Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab by their honoring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their "superstition" (e.g. revering graves or places that were deemed particularly imbued with the divine).

All this behavior, Abd al-Wahhab denounced as bida -- forbidden by God.

Like Taymiyyah before him, Abd al-Wahhab believed that the period of the Prophet Muhammad's stay in Medina was the ideal of Muslim society (the "best of times"), to which all Muslims should aspire to emulate (this, essentially, is Salafism).

Taymiyyah had declared war on Shi'ism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He spoke out, too against visiting the grave of the prophet and the celebration of his birthday, declaring that all such behavior represented mere imitation of the Christian worship of Jesus as God (i.e. idolatry). Abd al-Wahhab assimilated all this earlier teaching, stating that "any doubt or hesitation" on the part of a believer in respect to his or her acknowledging this particular interpretation of Islam should "deprive a man of immunity of his property and his life."

One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab's doctrine has become the key idea of takfir. Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority (that is, the King). Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God, and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any prayer to saints and dead loved ones, pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, religious festivals celebrating saints, the honoring of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and even prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.

"Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. "

Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity -- a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.

There is nothing here that separates Wahhabism from ISIS. The rift would emerge only later: from the subsequent institutionalization of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's doctrine of "One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque" -- these three pillars being taken respectively to refer to the Saudi king, the absolute authority of official Wahhabism, and its control of "the word" (i.e. the mosque).

It is this rift -- the ISIS denial of these three pillars on which the whole of Sunni authority presently rests -- makes ISIS, which in all other respects conforms to Wahhabism, a deep threat to Saudi Arabia.

BRIEF HISTORY 1741- 1818

Abd al-Wahhab's advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town -- and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab's novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.

"Their strategy -- like that of ISIS today -- was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear."

Ibn Saud's clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab's doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of jihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.

In the beginning, they conquered a few local communities and imposed their rule over them. (The conquered inhabitants were given a limited choice: conversion to Wahhabism or death.) By 1790, the Alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula and repeatedly raided Medina, Syria and Iraq.

Their strategy -- like that of ISIS today -- was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: "They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein... slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants ..."

Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, "we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: 'And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.'"

In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab's followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.

But in November of 1803, a Shiite assassin killed King Abdul Aziz (taking revenge for the massacre at Karbala). His son, Saud bin Abd al Aziz, succeeded him and continued the conquest of Arabia. Ottoman rulers, however, could no longer just sit back and watch as their empire was devoured piece by piece. In 1812, the Ottoman army, composed of Egyptians, pushed the Alliance out from Medina, Jeddah and Mecca. In 1814, Saud bin Abd al Aziz died of fever. His unfortunate son Abdullah bin Saud, however, was taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul, where he was gruesomely executed (a visitor to Istanbul reported seeing him having been humiliated in the streets of Istanbul for three days, then hanged and beheaded, his severed head fired from a canon, and his heart cut out and impaled on his body).

In 1815, Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians (acting on the Ottoman's behalf) in a decisive battle. In 1818, the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more. The few remaining Wahhabis withdrew into the desert to regroup, and there they remained, quiescent for most of the 19th century.


It is not hard to understand how the founding of the Islamic State by ISIS in contemporary Iraq might resonate amongst those who recall this history. Indeed, the ethos of 18th century Wahhabism did not just wither in Nejd, but it roared back into life when the Ottoman Empire collapsed amongst the chaos of World War I.

The Al Saud -- in this 20th century renaissance -- were led by the laconic and politically astute Abd-al Aziz, who, on uniting the fractious Bedouin tribes, launched the Saudi "Ikhwan" in the spirit of Abd-al Wahhab's and Ibn Saud's earlier fighting proselytisers.

The Ikhwan was a reincarnation of the early, fierce, semi-independent vanguard movement of committed armed Wahhabist "moralists" who almost had succeeded in seizing Arabia by the early 1800s. In the same manner as earlier, the Ikhwan again succeeded in capturing Mecca, Medina and Jeddah between 1914 and 1926. Abd-al Aziz, however, began to feel his wider interests to be threatened by the revolutionary "Jacobinism" exhibited by the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan revolted -- leading to a civil war that lasted until the 1930s, when the King had them put down: he machine-gunned them.

For this king, (Abd-al Aziz), the simple verities of previous decades were eroding. Oil was being discovered in the peninsular. Britain and America were courting Abd-al Aziz, but still were inclined to support Sharif Husain as the only legitimate ruler of Arabia. The Saudis needed to develop a more sophisticated diplomatic posture.

So Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary jihad and theological takfiri purification, to a movement of conservative social, political, theological, and religious da'wa (Islamic call) and to justifying the institution that upholds loyalty to the royal Saudi family and the King's absolute power.


With the advent of the oil bonanza -- as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to "reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world ... to "Wahhabise" Islam, thereby reducing the "multitude of voices within the religion" to a "single creed" -- a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were -- and continue to be -- invested in this manifestation of soft power.

It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection -- and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America's interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam -- that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz's meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.

Westerners looked at the Kingdom and their gaze was taken by the wealth; by the apparent modernization; by the professed leadership of the Islamic world. They chose to presume that the Kingdom was bending to the imperatives of modern life -- and that the management of Sunni Islam would bend the Kingdom, too, to modern life.

"On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism."

But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system -- hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.

On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.

ISIS is a "post-Medina" movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis' claim of authority to rule.

As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal's modernization campaign). The "Ikhwan approach" enjoyed -- and still enjoys -- the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.

Today, ISIS' undermining of the legitimacy of the King's legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.

In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba'athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.

After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan -- and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.

Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar's Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised -- knowing a little about Wahhabism -- that "moderate" insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of "One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed" could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?

Or, perhaps, we never imagined.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nuclear energy is not a viable option by Dr Ronald S McCoy

Nuclear energy is not a viable option
Dr Ronald S McCoy, malaysiakini 22.08.2014

A speech last week by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mah Siew Keong, at an event organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) was reported in Malaysiakini.

The minister urged critics of nuclear energy to keep an “open mind”, as the government had decided to table the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill in Parliament later this year.

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, to be "open-minded" is to be willing to listen to, think about or accept different ideas. It is the opposite of "narrow-minded", which is to be unwilling to listen to new ideas or to the opinions of others.

The report left me open-mouthed. The dictionary defines ‘open-mouthed’ as having your mouth open because you are surprised or shocked.

When I got to the part where the minister claimed that the nuclear debate revolves around three groups - those who are vocally for it, those who know absolutely nothing about it or those who believe in it as long as it is not in their backyard - my mouth opened wider, the same way it does when I cringe in the dentist’s chair.

Perhaps it slipped the minister’s mind that there is a fourth group who have carefully thought about nuclear issues over a long period, thoroughly researched the subject of nuclear energy - its economics and finances, its hazards and disasters, its false promises and untested premises, its misinformation and mythology - and have come to the rational conclusion that nuclear energy is not cheap, clean or safe and therefore not an option for any country, particularly a country with democratic deficits, a fettered judicial system, a suppressed media, and disreputable regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

Nuclear energy carries inherent health, security and environmental risks. It is not known to be reliable, affordable, viable, socially acceptable or environmentally sound.

The global consensus is that nuclear energy has failed the ‘market test’. 
Forbes magazine has called it “the biggest managerial disaster in history”.

Amory Lovins, an energy expert, has called it “the greatest failure of any enterprise in the industrial history of the world”, with a litany of financial disasters, including a loss of more than US$1 trillion in subsidies, abandoned projects and other public misadventures.

Nuclear economics
For the sake of open-mindedness and respect for the customary dental stance, I would strongly urge the minister and his cohorts in the Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation to study the recently-published World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014 (WNISR 2014).

It analyses, over 139 pages, the rapid changes in nuclear economics, the technology revolution in the power sector, and the impact of renewable energy on the financial viability and status of nuclear power.

The report predicts that the use of renewable energy will increase rapidly, that investment in renewable energy sources will be dominant, and that investment in solar and wind power will exceed investment in fossil fuels or nuclear power.

 Cheap nuclear energy is a myth. Misleading claims that it is cheap are often based on unverifiable bottom-line results or ‘justified’ by analyses with hidden assumptions that are highly favourable to the nuclear industry.

The total economic cost of nuclear energy is difficult to determine, as the industry’s accounting methods lack transparency. Costs for accident insurance, waste disposal and decommissioning are often buried in enormously generous government subsidies or conjured into debt legacies for future generations.

The nuclear industry is in decline worldwide. Today only 31 countries are operating a total of 388 nuclear reactors, compared with 438 in 2002.

Several nuclear reactor projects have been indefinitely delayed or cancelled. The share of nuclear power in the world’s power production has declined from 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013.

Only 14 countries have plans to build new reactors. Sixty-seven reactors are currently classified as “under construction.” Forty-nine of them have met with significant delays, ranging from several months to several years.

Eight of them have been “under construction” for more than 20 years, including one in the United States which began in 1972. France, Finland and China are working on “next generation” reactors which they claim have “higher efficiency and advanced safety systems”, but they are bogged down in delays and cost overruns.

The cost of constructing a reactor largely determines the final cost of nuclear electricity, particularly when numerous construction delays and cost overruns impact budgets significantly. Estimates of investment costs have risen in the past decade from US$1,000 to around US$8,000 per installed kilowatt.

According to the French Court of Accounts, the cost of generating nuclear power increased by 21 percent between 2010 and 2013. Germany, Sweden and the United States are closing down reactors because projected income does not cover operating costs. Debt levels remain very high amongst European nuclear power companies.

The two largest French groups (EDF and GDF-Suez) and the two largest German utilities (E.ON and RWE) equally share a total of more than US$173 billion in debt. Since 2008, Europe’s top ten utilities have lost half of their US$1.4 trillion share value.

There is conclusive evidence that electricity generated from nuclear power is far more costly than electricity from fossil fuels or renewables.

The ratings and risk firm, Moody’s Corporate Finances, recently estimated that nuclear energy’s capital cost per kilowatt was 275 percent higher than that of wind energy and 150 percent higher than solar energy.

It predicts that nuclear costs will rise further, while the cost of renewable energy sources will be substantially reduced.

Accidents are inevitable in nuclear power plants. Between 1952 and 2009, there were 99 minor nuclear accidents worldwide, each with the potential to develop into a major disaster.

Major nuclear reactor accidents are not common, but when they do occur they can be catastrophic, as in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
The meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Fukushima in March 2011 has brought Japan to its knees, reinforced worldwide fears of nuclear accidents, and highlighted the nuclear industry’s failure to prevent accidents and near misses.

A Greenpeace report, Lessons from Fukushima, has revealed that the Fukushima accident was caused mainly by the institutional failures of the Japanese nuclear industry, its regulators and the Japanese government.

There was failure to acknowledge and anticipate nuclear risks and to enforce appropriate nuclear safety standards.
After the accident, there was failure to protect the public in a dire emergency situation and later to provide appropriate compensation for the victims.

Since the disaster three years ago, serious challenges remain. Radiation readings inside the buildings continue to make direct human intervention almost impossible.

Massive amounts of water, about 360 tons per day, are still being pumped into the destroyed reactors to cool fuel rods.

This constantly increasing volume of contaminated radioactive water is stored in tanks which have started to leak. Experts say that the Japanese government will soon be left with no choice but to release radioactive water into the ocean.

Thousands of Japanese are still exposed to radiation, while the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company flounder in their efforts to contain the disaster. Their daily lives have been disrupted and they have lost their homes, their jobs, their businesses, their farms, their communities, and their way of life.

More than 130,000 people in Fukushima have been evacuated. and another 137,000 people are living in temporary housing. About 1,700 deaths have been officially recorded.

The truth is that no one in the world really knows how to deal with the Fukushima accident. It is a wake-up call for all 30 countries operating nuclear power plants and for those governments still planning to build nuclear reactors, such as Malaysia with its defective safety and maintenance culture and unreliable regulatory attitudes.

Chernobyl and Fukushima have made it clear that there is no such thing as nuclear safety or a fail-safe nuclear reactor. Human error and unpredictable events are unavoidable.

Murphy’s Law is inexorable: If anything can go wrong, in time it will go wrong. A major nuclear accident in Malaysia could render large areas of land uninhabitable for thousands of years.

Interminable radioactive nuclear waste
Nuclear waste remains radioactive for thousands of years, making nuclear power inherently and irredeemably hazardous. There is still absolutely no way to safely and permanently dispose of the waste.

This is the most dangerous and unacceptable feature of nuclear power plants. In other words, the promotion of nuclear energy by the Malaysian government is tantamount to the promotion of interminable, lethal, radioactive nuclear waste.

The nuclear industry’s so-called solutions to radioactive waste only exist in theory, such as the theoretical Generation IV Integral Fast Reactor for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel or alternatively the burying of nuclear waste in deep geological repositories. None of these so-called ‘solutions’ exists anywhere in the world. Nuclear power plants continue to store their radioactive waste temporarily under water in pools, located alongside reactors.

For example, plutonium has a half-life of 24,400 years. In other words, it will take 24,400 years (or 244 centuries) for the radioactivity of any given quantity of plutonium to be reduced by half.

And, it will take another 24,400 years for the remaining radioactivity in the plutonium to be reduced by another half. In practical terms, there will be no end to its radioactivity.

If medieval man had resorted to nuclear power, we in the 21st century today would still be burdened with the management of his waste, assuming it had not terminated life on the planet.

If the Malaysian government opts for nuclear energy, it will knowingly bequeath unmanageable lethal nuclear waste to future generations.

If we don’t stop this move, we will all be guilty of premeditated genocide, especially when there is an alternative sustainable energy source - renewable energy.

Renewable energy
In 2013, renewable energy emerged as a safe, flexible, easily deployed energy source, with a lower carbon footprint than nuclear power. Many governments have recognised that fact and have sensibly started to develop and rely on renewable energy.

Spain has generated more power from wind than any other source - wind power represents 21 percent of total power and exceeds nuclear power.

It is the first time that wind has become the largest electricity source over an entire year in any country. Excluding large hydro-power, Spain, Brazil, China, Germany, India and Japan produce more power from renewables than from nuclear power.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that reducing carbon emissions will require a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and an increase in low-carbon energy sources.

Renewable energy accounted for just over half of the new electricity-generating capacity added globally in 2012, led by growth in wind, hydro and solar power.

The IPCC envisages the gradual phase-out of nuclear power, within the framework of meeting carbon emissions reduction targets.

Global investment in renewable energy - excluding large hydro - amounted to US$214 billion in 2013, four times the 2004 total of US$52 billion. Since 2000, there has been a 25 percent annual growth rate for wind and 43 percent for solar PV, while nuclear power declined by 0.4 percent.
Variable renewable energy sources (VRE), like solar and wind, are weather dependent and not fully predictable. By predicting ahead, traditional base load is likely to disappear completely in several countries at certain times of the year.

The concept of a centralised base-load capacity is being re-examined in many countries with the likelihood that it will be replaced with a new, flexible, decentralised energy system, with smart distributed grids, renewable energy sources, and high levels of efficiency. There is no place for nuclear energy in such a new system.

In June 2009, the Malaysian government singled out nuclear energy as one of the options for electricity generation, in order to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels, to meet future energy demands, and achieve energy diversification.

A year later, the deployment of nuclear energy was identified as one of the Entry Point Projects in the Economic Transformation Programme and the Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) was assigned the role of spearheading, planning and coordinating the implementation of a nuclear energy development programme that is expected to culminate in the delivery of Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant by 2021.
The MNPC argues that nuclear energy is a valid energy option, if there are suitable sites for nuclear power plants, strong community support, and international safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which promotes the peaceful uses of nuclear energy but is seen to be a creature of the nuclear industry, with obvious conflicts of interest.

There is a lot of disinformation about the virtues of nuclear energy and the Malaysian government and nuclear proponents need to answer some serious questions. Where is the strong community support in the country for nuclear energy? Where is the process of genuine dialogue, debate and consultation with the people of Malaysia?

Where is the evidence that nuclear energy is cheap, clean and safe? What is the real cost of nuclear energy? What about the enormous subsidies required?

How concerned are you about the serious health and environmental dangers of nuclear energy? And most critically, how are you going to manage the safe disposal of lethal nuclear waste which will remain radioactive for thousands of years? Do you not have a moral responsibility for the safety and welfare of future generations?

There are times in the history of a country when critically important decisions must be made correctly and democratically, with considerable care, honesty, and wisdom, because such decisions will have a lasting and crucial impact on the country’s future.

Whether or not to opt for nuclear power is such a decision. In determining Malaysia’s portfolio of energy resources, we must isolate and quarantine the issue of nuclear energy from politics, cronyism, personal gain, duplicity and foolishness.

Most governments in the world have seen the writing on the nuclear wall and are phasing out nuclear energy and investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies and energy conservation.

The Malaysian government will be seen to be indifferent, if not delinquent, if it ignores sensible global trends and proceeds to build a nuclear power plant, which could be potentially catastrophic, nation-crippling, and a radioactive time bomb for future generations.

DR RONALD McCOY is a former president of the Malaysian Medical Association and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Of moral policing and lopsided values...

Of moral policing and lopsided values...

Are we getting close to this holier than thou intolerance and moral policing and prosecution?

Consider the recent Penang nudists-naturists whose only 'hurt' to others is our reactive 'immoral' touchiness being pricked. These exposed 'deviants' have now been purposely pilloried, shamefully harassed,  paraded and publicly humiliated!

Don't get me wrong, I think these youths are simply mindless and anachronistic, to imagine that Malaysia is a testing ground for their show of derringdo! They're clearly lost in time, locale and space! Penang or Malaysia is certainly not the permissive beaches of Spain or France or Europe.

Malaysians are simply not this sort of 'perverse' permissive people! So get used to it! But, I have no doubt these thrill and dare-seekers are just stupid behaviour trying to push the cusps of bravado or some dangerous dare at foolish exhibitionism!

So this showy punishment is to deter what, or who? Of course, to warn others not to follow suit, to not tarnish our pristine Malaysian sociocultural morality and superiority! Our prickly sensibilities!

Whose sense of outrage are we appeasing? Or are we merely assuaging our so-called misdirected 'colok-mata' sensibilities?

Yet conversely, we condone the most outrageously extremist ethnic & racial baiting, in-your-face corruption, political shenanigans, our terrible record of selective police prosecutions, inexcusable detainee actions, unabashed custodial deaths, inexplicable and warped arbitrary judicial decisions, and shameful religious supremacist bigotry, etc. as if these jarring hatred-provoking behaviours are more acceptable, so mainstream, so 'right', to be encouraged with impunity and with such ungracious silence!

We've an increasingly warped sense of morality, of what's right and wrong. We've made moral decisions arbitrary and colored through the monstrous lenses of distorted ethnic and religious prejudices.

And we're chasing all the wrong values and virtues! We've lost our civil society's checks and balances! We need to return to some form of balance.... now increasingly lopsided and listing precariously into social chaos and anomie...

Whither our beloved Malaysia Truly Asia, 1 Malaysia even?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Tribute to Robin WIlliams (1951-2014)

Nanoo Nanoo! Gooooood morning Vietnam!

Robin Williams is no more (August 12, 2014) ... another victim of celebrity falling prey to loneliness, substance abuse and depressive illness...

Immortalized movie roles and iconic identities:
Mork, Vietnam's Adrian Cronauer, Dead Poet Society's John Keating, Mrs Doubtfire, Bicentennial man, Reverend Frank, Father Moinighan, Worlds' greatest dad Lance Clayton, Good Will Hunting Sean McGuire, Jakob the Liar, Dr Patch Adams, Fisher King, Aladdin's genie, Hook's Peter Pan, Awakenings' Dr Malcolm Sayer, Baron Munchausen, Popeye, Being Human's Hector, Seize the Day Tommy Wilhelm, TS Garp, etc, etc...

Obama the president... As always the pithy, mot juste and eloquent Obama! Alas if only reality is as smoothly eloquent and as simple to preside over.... RIP Mr Williams!
"Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams."
~ President Barack Obama

But let's celebrate what this illustrious actor and comedian had left for us... more laughs, more smiles, more tears, more tenderness...

Words and ideas can change the world for the better, or worse...

That is why most autocratic and oppressive governments fear knowledge, the internet, liberalism and EDUCATION!

Leave some traces of goodness, smiles and love in our lives, our erstwhile sojourn of finite decades, no matter how small, these traces would be like the quantum flutterings of a butterfly, immeasurably but in some nonlinear manner, trigger similar goodness in another time and space.

I believe the Good trumps and outweighs all Evil, these checkered millennia of mankind, that's why we're still here today... from barbarity to civilised society! But we have to keep Evil in check by espousing and sharing Good with constant civilisational dialogue, personal growth and human development especially from the standpoint of mental, psychological, sociological and philosophical advancement.

We have to want to build a better humanity for All, and not hanker for a changed world just for a few chosen ones, for some arbitrary fraternal interests and exclusive man-made self-centred or ethnocentric or religious communalism!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Every death diminishes me...

My Sunday prayer:

Something to think about...

 Every death diminishes me
as a human being...
a little dying inside
each and every one of us...

We've become hardened,
inured, desensitised,
of these terrible
painful violent occurrences,
so commonplace,
so frequent, so every day,
so expectedly newsworthy...
 heart-wrenching realities,
so far away,
remote, forgettable,

Let's pray
that common sense,
tolerant humanity return
from the cusp
of self annihilation,
to peace and tranquility...

Let every human soul
be given the chance,
the potential
to self-actualize and grow
to celebrate
to rejoice
in this great
multi diverse world,
to evolve, to create,
to agglomerate
a humane collective
and development that
 supersedes our selfish
parochial individual selves!

Let not
any single soul
be prematurely
by the gratuitous violence
that we see
in so many parts
of our troubled
amoral and 'godless' world...
in the incongruous name
of self-righteousness,
religion and race...

Let us pray for humanity...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

China's unprecedented quest for a peaceful rise.... by Jean-Pierre Lehmann

China's unprecedented quest for a peaceful rise
Jean-Pierre Lehmann says with no precedent to follow, China's quest for a peaceful rise to global power status is understandably challenging, for itself as well as other 'responsible stakeholders'

China is the first new great global power to emerge in over a century. It is receiving a great deal of unsolicited advice in the process, notably then US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick's 2005 admonition to Beijing that it should be a "responsible stakeholder".

(Note: that was two years after the invasion of Iraq!) It was logical, therefore, that the Chinese should ask how the preceding emerging great powers got there. One result of the inquiries was a brilliant 2006 CCTV series, The Rise of the Great Powers.

The series begins with Portugal in the 15th century, the first great global seaborne power with an empire stretching from Brazil, across the Atlantic, to both West and East Africa, through to the Indian Ocean with an outpost in Goa and thence to the Western Pacific in Macau.

Following Portugal, the series describes the rise of the next eight great powers: Spain, the Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and the United States.
One major conclusion is that not a single one of the nine could have been described as a "responsible stakeholder" during their rise to global power: in every case, conquest, destruction, enslavement, executions, looting and the like were the order of the day.

The rise of Zoellick's own country, the US, entailed slavery, the genocide of native American Indians, wars and territorial acquisitions (notably from Mexico), the control of neighbouring countries in the Caribbean through the expulsion of other powers, the imposition of the Monroe Doctrine declaring Latin America a US sphere of influence, culminating in the Spanish-American war whereby Washington acquired Puerto Rico (as well as Guam and the Philippines) and Spain was expelled from Cuba.

In his compelling book, Asia's Cauldron: the South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, Robert Kaplan draws an intriguing parallel between US perspectives on the Caribbean in relation to its national security and China's on the South China Sea.

Arguably, the most relevant chapter of the CCTV series is that on the UK. It was Britain that woke China from its slumber and forced it, screaming and kicking, into the modern age. Imperial China, which just before the outbreak of the first opium war corresponded to over 30 per cent of global gross domestic product, was almost certainly unsustainable.

The system was obsolete and violent peasant risings had been raging for decades. But it is the manner in which Britain behaved that remains for China and Britain - and for the rest of the planet - a deep moral quandary.

As the totally illicit opium trade caused economic and social ravages, the Chinese pleaded with Britain to be a "responsible stakeholder". In an impassioned letter addressed to Queen Victoria just prior to the outbreak of hostilities, commissioner Lin Zexu(林则徐) appealed to Her Majesty's better moral self to intervene so that the heinous trade be brought to an end.

Commissioner Lin pointed to the flagrant double standards (a recurrent theme among risen Western great powers) in noting: "I have heard that the smoking of opium is very strictly forbidden by your country; that is because the harm caused by opium is clearly understood. Since it is not permitted to do harm to your own country, then even less should you let it be passed on to the harm of other countries - how much less to China!"

Queen Victoria never replied to the letter, except in the form of gunships in the first opium war, followed by a second offensive from 1856 to 1860, in which the French joined the British, culminating with the looting of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing - somewhat equivalent to the Chinese looting the British Museum and the Louvre.

If the Portuguese seaborne empire is the first chapter in the rise of the great powers, the opium war is the first chapter in China's century of humiliation. By the year of liberation (1949), its share of GDP had plummeted to 4 per cent, while in the process there were incessant foreign military invasions, as well as the moral injury of the treaty ports, the coolie trade and other forms of humiliation. Though China, unlike India, was not colonised by a single imperial power, in the words of Sun Yat-sen, it was a "poly-colony" with multiple countries helping themselves to bits and pieces of Chinese territory in what were called "spheres of influence".

In looking back over the past 500 years, it is clear that the narrative of the peaceful rise of a great power has never been written. Every single rising power from Portugal to the US has been bellicose, brutal and at times barbaric. It was after they had caused disorder that they sought to impose order - their order. If China wants a model of "responsible stakeholder", the fact is that it does not exist.

The term "China's peaceful rise to great power status" was coined by Chinese thought leader Zheng Bijian in 2005. The future of humanity very much depends on whether, as it rises to become a great global power, China will behave with the same ruthless cynicism and cause as much misery and mayhem as its nine predecessors, or whether it will break the pattern and tear asunder the great-power-rising paradigm by rising peacefully.

It's a tough challenge; especially, I repeat, as there is no precedent, no guidebook one can take off the shelf, no historical mentor one can turn to. Whether China ultimately succeeds or fails will of course greatly depend on China, but it will also depend on the attitudes and acts of the existing and erstwhile great powers. Western sermons are not helpful.

To construct a better and more peaceful world, a collective constructive approach is quintessential. As is a degree of humility on the part of the Western powers (and Japan). They should recognise that they did not rise peacefully and indeed, as they rose, China was abused. This might go some way in avoiding a Chinese syndrome of revenge.

A first concrete step in that direction might be for Queen Elizabeth, before she leaves the throne, to apologise to China on behalf of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, for her rudeness in never having properly replied to Lin Zexu's letter. A small act of this nature could have a huge impact.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor of international political economy at IMD, Switzerland, founder of The Evian Group, and visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong and NIIT University in Neemrana, Rajasthan