Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Singapore and Malaysia: Portends of the Future?

You may call it data mining, or pulling out data to support my existing ideas, but here are some interesting headlines from the Straits Times (September 4, 2009).
PKMS [Singapore Malay National Organisation] fight ends with fractured skull; 21 arrested
I have never heard of this political party before but the headline indicates why the People's Action Party (PAP) keeps winning Singapore's general elections. It seems that two factions of the PKMS were vying for the leadership post and decided to take their dispute into the streets.
Governing a country, even a small and relatively homogenous one, is no easy matter. Without a credible opposition anywhere in sight the PAP is a shoo-in at the next elections.
Third World politics in a First World state?
[Malaysian] Minister rapped for defending protest
At a recent protest against the relocation of a Hindu temple some rabid Malaysians trampled on a cow's head. The symbolism is powerful and designed to evoke an emotional outburst.
The use of a cow's head in such a manner is no different from pigs being used to desecrate mosques or Muslim homes – something that erratically occurred in some Western nations in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The cow is sacred to Hindus and the killing of a cow can sometimes precipitate riots among Hindu communities 
It seems the local authorities in Malaysia have still not arrested the leaders of last week's protest. They are seeking some sort of a compromise solution with the protesters and the local community.
I am all for effective local politics. However, the price of appeasing the Muslim extremist fringe can be devastating. They will only be emboldened to make further demands if some red lines are not immediately drawn.
Further evidence of a creeping 'Islamization' of Malaysia – at the expense of its non-Muslim communities?
Demolition of village in Penang begins amid residents' protests
An ethnic Indian farming village is being relocated (aka destroyed) to make way for a condominium complex. The condominium development is legal and has been approved by the Malaysian high court.
As expected, the demolition has evoked strong reactions from Malaysia's Tamil minority community. Activists claim that the farming village is the oldest Indian settlement in Penang state and dates back to 1851. It is a small village of 24 families.
Tamil Indians have been part of the Malayan landscape for centuries. Their culture has contributed greatly to the rich heritage of Singapore and Malaysia
Not surprisingly, the villagers do not have a written title deed to the land and are in a weak legal position. Did British colonists hand out title deeds to imported labour (living in shanties) to work the Malayan rubber plantations?
The Chinese and Tamil minorities collectively form 30% of Malaysia's population. Any perception that they are being disenfranchised by the state will create a fertile breeding ground for future civil strife.

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