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Beth Yahp: Open letter to Abdullah Badawi November 12, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Democracy, Event, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.
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(My guest-blogger and award-winning author, Beth Yahp, who participated and witnessed 10 November, writes an open letter to the Prime Minister.)



Dear Prime Minister Abdullah,

26 September 2007 saw two thousand lawyers “Walk for Justice” to defend the good name and protest the sliding standards of their profession. “When lawyers march,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, President of the Bar Council, “something must be wrong.”

Last Saturday (10 November 2007), 40,000 people from all walks of life and all ages walked through rain-drenched Kuala Lumpur, skirting roadblocks, locked LRT stations, FRU batons, tear gas and water cannons, as well as weeks of misinformation and propaganda through the mainstream media and hacked alternative media. They marched to show their disappointment in the current electoral system and their hopes for reform.

Malaysian citizens travelled for hours through the night from all over the country to play cat-and-mouse in Kuala Lumpur with an intimidating array of security forces, whose role was clearly not to secure our safety.

I saw men armed only with shouted slogans beaten with batons and shields and thrown to the ground. I saw an old woman in a wheelchair halted by a barricade of troops, wielding a deafening siren at her ears. I saw a child clinging to his mother’s shoulders being crushed back, and back. He looked terrified, and rightly so.

This was at Jalan Mahameru, not Masjid Jamek where, in spite of what IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan described as police “restraint” (Sunday Star, 11 Nov 2007), unarmed marchers, including journalists, were beaten, teargassed and bombarded by chemical-laced water cannons. At Jalan Mahameru, we faced two rows of riot police, smashing batons against their shields. I saw and photographed people dropping to the ground around me.

This should be the journalist’s privilege, to be allowed to witness and report the uncensored fruits of that act of witness. But in this country, the journalists and their editors are not afforded even this, or any other kind of professional privilege, or protection, in order to carry out their jobs according to the Journalists’ Code of Ethics. That is, among other things, to pursue factual accuracy and report objectively, without fear or favour.

Instead, journalism in Malaysia seems to be ruled by a Code of Fear and Favour. Here, our mainstream journalists and editors are directly or indirectly on the State’s payroll, and therefore accountable to the State. Those who aren’t are kept on a tight leash of precarious licences and legislation designed to pit self-censorship against financial ruin. Which the bosses will prioritise is a no-brainer.

It seems to me our media professionals do their best to navigate these treacherous waters, getting by in terms of professional pride through little acts of bravery, defiance and subterfuge. The travesty of it is that, in a true democracy, they shouldn’t have to.

Our journalists and editors shouldn’t have to find themselves in the pitiful position of being cowed mouthpieces of the State, obediently failing to report once a news blackout is ordered, or “reporting” factual inaccuracies of an astounding magnitude.

Like most of your state controlled media, Prime Minister Abdullah, yesterday’s Sunday Star reported only the IGP’s version of Saturday’s events. Journalism 101 requires a range of eyewitnesses to describe an event objectively yet only your Ministers were allowed airtime; only aggrieved shopkeepers were interviewed and photos of traffic jams published, to support our Deputy PM’s lament that the march only served to disrupt traffic, create loss of business and “mar the general perception others have of our society”.

The police were depicted as being “forced” to use their batons, boots, shields, helmets, trucks, water cannons and helicopters against unarmed men, women and children (New Sunday Times, November 11, 2007).

This reconstruction of reality is one that I, and 40,000 other marchers, do not recognise. In spite of what we saw and experienced, we are told that we were only 4000 in number and that 245 of us were detained, as opposed to the 24 I later saw released at IPPK (Police Contingent Headquarters), Kuala Lumpur. It was later reported in the NST (12 November 2007) that the majority of detentions were pre-emptive, taking place outside Kuala Lumpur the day before. The reasons for arrest included being in possession of yellow t-shirts and bandanas.

Yes, there were massive traffic jams in KL that day, and yes, I saw shopkeepers hurriedly pull down their shutters, but only when the FRU and police amassed in battle formation at Central Market. However, logic tells us that the traffic jams were caused by numerous police roadblocks and other hindrances to public transport as much as by our march, which was marshalled and orderly.

We were constantly told to keep to the pavements, not to throw rubbish or disrupt public property, and even not to trample on plants along our way. Many people stuck in jams wound down their windows as we passed, smiling and shaking our hands. Others looked annoyed, of course.

I’m sitting at my local late night kopi tiam as I write this. It’s filled with college students chatting and watching football to go with their teh tarik and cigarettes. I can see how successful your media machinery is, Prime Minister, from what they say. They use the word “riots” to talk about the march, which even a police spokesman described as, for the most part, peaceful (RTM2 news, 10 November 2007).

This is no surprise given the propaganda clips that have been running as part of news bulletins on RTM1 and 2 for the past few months, intercutting flag-burning with demonstrators getting their heads bashed in. These, as any adman will confirm, effectively equate demonstrations of any sort with escalating acts of violence on both sides. “Ini bukan budaya kita,” are the stern words of warning.

On TraxxFM, I’ve heard an odd and therefore oddly outstanding song about democracy being played frequently, a lullaby sung in a soothing paternal voice, about how taking democracy to the streets leads to a loss of self-respect and violence, which is not our way. This song is in stark contrast to the ones TraxxFM’s hip and joking DJs usually play.

This psychological embedding seems odd, Prime Minister, in the year we celebrate our 50 years of Independence, which was won exactly by our forefathers taking their struggle for freedom, equality and justice to the streets, as well as the media and the discussion table. They did so peacefully then, as we did so last Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdullah, one of the reasons we marchers, men, women, children, and even incapacitated old folks, braved confrontation in the streets of Kuala Lumpur last Saturday was to call for “equal access to the media” as part of BERSIH’s push for electoral reforms, including the use of indelible ink, clean electoral rolls and the abolition of untraceable postal votes.

I didn’t wear yellow on the march because even though I’m a sympathiser with the struggle for electoral reform, I’m also a witness to both sides of the story. But I wore my yellow ribbon of “press freedom”, proudly, even though I’m not a journalist. I’m still wearing it now, with the poignant realisation that I can only write this letter, without fear or favour, precisely because I’m not a mainstream Malaysian journalist. Of course, whether any of your editors will publish it or not is entirely a different matter.

That little scrap of ribbon, like the seemingly frail ribbon of marchers patiently weaving their way from all over the city to the Yang Di Pertuan Agong’s palace last Saturday, is symbolic of something far larger and far more important than our aching legs or bruises or our shivers caused by sitting uncomplainingly in the rain while the leaders delivered our memorandum to the King.

It symbolizes what you have encouraged us repeatedly to celebrate and embrace: our “Merdeka Spirit” of independence that causes the rakyat to come out, in spite of fear and intimidation, to show their grave concern when the state of things seems very wrong indeed. This is, despite attempts at historical revisionism, a part of our Malaysian culture.

With all due respect, Prime Minister, your admonition on the eve of the march: “Saya pantang dicabar,” (Utusan Malaysia, 9 November 2007) is rather an odd thing for the leader of a democratic nation to say, given that the basic rule of democracy is the right of all citizens to challenge, and to defend against challenge. Everyone is entitled to this right, whether in their living rooms or in Parliament.

Challenges and debates also constantly take place in the media, whose fundamental role is to provide factual information and objective viewpoints by journalists and editors, as well as to allow equal access to publication and broadcast by proponents from either side of any argument.

Only in this way can we, ordinary citizens, partake in democracy. Only then can we weigh up differing statements and opinions against accountable facts. We may be allowed to vote, yes, but how can we choose effectively without freedom of media access and information?

When this integral pillar of any democratic system is obstructed, and belittled, as it is in Malaysia, we cannot claim to live in a democracy. Our mainstream media then becomes merely a tool of the State, used to hoodwink, brainwash and intimidate the people it should rightly be serving. Instead, we, the people, are spoon-fed, led and expected to go quietly like sheep to any foregone conclusion.

If we beg to differ, offer alternative information and viewpoints, or even protest, we are called beruk. I rather think it preferable to be a monkey, curious, inventive and mischievous, than a sheep trotting meekly to my pen, or the slaughterhouse, nose pointed to the ground.

Prime Minister, we are indeed not Pakistan or Myanmar, as your Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin blustered on Al Jazeera (10 November 2007), accusing them of presenting a contrary view to what has appeared on our Malaysian news, and of only talking to the opposition, not our Government representatives—even as they were interviewing him.

This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, since almost no opposition figures are allowed to speak in our mainstream media, although their images are used in conjunction with images of street violence, for example, to influence viewers’ opinions about them.

“Malaysia… is a democratic country,” Zainuddin fumed. But based on your State’s handling of the rakyat’s peaceful march last Saturday, Prime Minister, and your own media coverage prior to and about the actual event, it’s hard to entirely agree.

Unfortunately for Malaysia, this is the perception that will be further broadcast internationally, by journalists and editors who are fortunately less muzzled than their mainstream Malaysian colleagues.

Therefore, Prime Minister Abdullah, I sincerely urge you and your Government, as our democratically elected leaders, to “walk the talk” and unmuzzle our journalists, editors and broadcasters. I entreat you to fully and fairly endorse and practice democracy in our country. That is, democracy for everyone, not just a powerful few.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Beth Yahp
Petaling Jaya, 12 November 2007

(Beth Yahp’s prize-winning novel, The Crocodile Fury, has been translated and published in several languages. She wrote the libretto for the contemporary opera Moon Spirit Feasting premiered at the 2000 Adelaide International Festival of the Arts, with productions also in Melbourne, Berlin, Zurich and Tokyo. It won APRA’s Best Classical Composition Award in 2002. Beth’s short fiction, essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications in Australia, South-east Asia and Europe. She is currently Fiction Editor for Off the Edge, a Malaysian business/ lifestyle/ culture magazine.)



1. Antares - November 12, 2007

Very elegantly put, Beth, and I am heartened to know you were there too. When Badawi said “Aku pantang dicabar!” on the eve of the march for electoral reform, little did he realise he was only reinforcing Bersih’s claim that BN has been able to retain its predatory grip on the nation for five decades mostly through its control of the electoral machinery (including, of course, the Election Commission and the Judiciary, which have become mere branches of the federal bureaucracy).

AKU PANTANG DICABAR! Those are the words of a madman, a wannabe despot like George W. Bush. Clearly the current PM has been infected by the previous PM’s megalomania. Is the office of PM accursed? By uttering those fighting words, you have declared war on
everybody in Malaysia who doesn’t endorse cronyism, corruption, and
official cover-ups. On the 9th of November, 18th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall in Berlin, our PM has made his final stand as the Enemy of Decent and Honest People.

As a postscript to Beth’s open letter, Abdullah Badawi, I wish you an early retirement from public office and your rotten-to-the-core party a swift and painless death. That is the most compassionate and merciful thing I can wish.

2. Rights Seeker - November 13, 2007

The March is great – 40,000 civilians against 4,000 polices (Assuming all these numbers are correct!)
These 40,000 includes all walks – different NGO, different Parties, DR, Lawyers, Socialists, teachers, young and aged…. or, whatever one can think of!
They have ONE Voice – Fair Elections!! They understand their Rights could be manipulated! They want their Rights!!!
They are Malaysians!!!
From the last events for Subang Ria Park, I doubted anyone came from Subang Jaya?
Co-incidently, SJ is a Township of around 40,000. The Subang Ria Park is supposed to be a Town Park of around 58ha for all the Subang Jayans. The State, MPPJ. MPSJ and the Developer had manipulated the land such that a private title of around 30ha was “wrongly issued. So, at least 28ha is missing!

Instead of working on the cancellation of the “wrong” title, MPSJ and USJ RA or JKP (appointed by MPSJ) aroused 1500 to a nonsense objection hearing and a kind of “buyback” from the developer. The Rights of 40,000 been mis-appropriated, abused and manipulated. The councilor is waiting for the next “move” of the Developer!! Then the matter is quiet!!

From the events in Wangsa Baiduri, SJ, I wonder anyone from Wangsa Baiduri
The Project was a “Condominium” with club facilities since 1986/87. The Club or a piece of normal Green land had never been delivered to the Townhouse up until today. The residents say nothing after a lousy court case. A lawyer residing is “happy” to be without facility!

The Condo buildings in Wangsa Baiduri were much delayed with Strata Titles and dragged with Transfer for more than 2-3years and finally the Club facilities that qualified the status of Condominium was discovered to has turned into a Hotel with the help of MPPJ in 1995/6 under the same councilor now in MPSJ. One Building even have their Strata Title as Apartment. The Developer and a few “owners” manipulated the management with a million of revenue per year for building without facilities, except car park, lift and securities.
The Common Properties were in the name of the Developer and the Council signed the deed to give away the Common Properties!!

ONLY ONE is working on the matter, get caught in a Defamation case of million! Knocking on doors of PTG, PTP, MOH, KPTG, MPSJ. MPPJ, IBU, ACA, MCA, …….and even almost thrown out of EGM with the silence of 10-20 owners and the tyrants of the few councils!!

Had any one from the Development in the March?

The ONLY ONE was jeopardized by BAR, the Lawyers engaged, the only ONE spoke at least for the 40,000 Subang Rayans !! The lawyer iignored more than 10 reminders, unattended 4 mentioned dates to court!!
The ONLY ONE is not Malaysian!! But, he is fighting for all the Malaysian so concerned!! – The Housing Rights!!

3. Sharing - November 13, 2007

Rule by Wisdom!!
Truth need not tell
when video is on the trail.
Should Riot police & Bomba there
on checkpoints everywhere?

People have Rights to appeal to the King!
What rights has the PM
to stop the men?
Or, a respect to the King not remain?

They want to cut
so only 40,000 seems to show up
but a lot more being trapped
so much more learn the facts.
Only Masjid & Istana should be affected
But the wisdom (?) blocked all roads in connect
So, they got themselves in a net!
Do they know the number being trapped?
At the end, much more than 100,000 out of their expect!
In areas much much stretched!

So why not dredged
instead of trapped?
Same to the Truth
when people cannot be fooled!

Hope Agong will see the system
why people should seek his wisdom
for a freedom
to select those Right for his kingdom!!

4. From Beth to Bad.awi « Wattahack? Don’t Block My View!!! - November 13, 2007

[…] Beth to Bad.awi 12Nov07 Beth Yahp: Open letter to Abdullah Badawi November 12, 2007 ( post tagged for Malaysiakini by wattahack? […]

5. yh - November 13, 2007

the thousands that read this blog are with your thoughts. no, zam and the gang will have to continue this path of destruction of the MSM’s credibility in order to hoodwink the uninitiated. the time of truth will come but with loads of pain and sufferings. it aint confine to this country but nhstory is full of similiar liberalisation stories. truth and liberalisation will prevail, that i am sure.

6. monsterball - November 13, 2007

Great write up!
But if 40,000 walked and Pak Lah said it is an election gimmick by the oppositions…ignoring totally the shouts…’Daulat Tuanku” and ‘We want clean election”….what opposition parties messages are these?
And he went on to say..we are trying to make the King take sides in politics.
Have not the King..receiving te memorandum through his representatives taken side? Have not many royalties spoken out…taken sides?
Politics is people..and there is no way….the King is not concern for his people in all countries..but in Malaysia…UMNO has gone from bad to worst….to as if they own the country….do as they like….and treat the voters like a bunch of slaves…to listen only to them…shutting up all opposition news.
King in Thailand is wise and love his subjects sincerely. We want our King to know all Malaysians love and respect him…..that’s all. Why is UMNO so afraid?
It was the biggest rally ever assembled in Malaysia against the government and supporting the King.
I am so fortunate to be able to be one of them.

7. Sharing - November 13, 2007

Should Wrong be Right if only 4000 be right?
Voting is an addicts
so everything numeric
even justice be the logic
and not politics!

If things be correct,
can NGOs collect
40,000 with risks of arrest
without much direct?

PM takes this as politics
tells the King not to give credits.
So who is panic
to change 40,000 to 4,000 by magic?

Having wisdom is terrific
and talk not on politics
but realistic.
People only be optimistic
if election Commission be specific
with ethics!

Let us see the wisdoms
not repeating the old rhythms!

8. Azlan - November 13, 2007

Hi Elizabeth,

I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog to read this eloquent letter written by Beth Yahp. Thank you for posting it!

May I forward it through email? Every Malaysian should be reading this (especially the Malaysian it is intended for! I hope he reads it…)

EW: Oh yes, pls do forward it to your friends and contacts, TQ.

9. Kenny Law - November 13, 2007

Kagum. That is one great letter. Thank you Beth.

10. oA - November 13, 2007


If he had the mental faculty to discern the situation as perceived by the people he would have shown the humility of a good leader to act accordingly but alas his head is overblown with hubris. This is the corner stone of this useless government.

Pressure him with high expectation he would be dozing and snoozing off hoping to sleep thru the problems.

And when given low expectation he would be spewing garbage like the rest of his sycophantic gang. Sure sign of leadership by example as exhibits by bn.

Your precious time should have been put to better use.


11. YoungMalaysian - November 13, 2007

Thanks EW, Beth,

Excellent piece ! I am a young Malaysian, raised in a country which I love, but of late, I’m not so sure where its heading. Everything seems to be going haywire!

Since when was it wrong to stand up and say “Hang on, I don’t think this is right! “. If we the people (or rakyat as the politicians love to say) allow themselves to be constantly intimidated and frightened into submission, how much different is the government from a lowly neighbourhood gangster ? A rowdy that roughs you up every time you think you’ve gathered enough courage to speak ?

The very concept of democracy has been corrupted, we know now that even the justice system is perverted, God only knows what else they’ve swept under the rug and hope we don’t find.

Truth is, one can only choose to remain ignorant for a while, after that your sense of what is right and what is wrong kicks in and you’re disgusted….I wasn’t at the rally, but I now wish that I was, to stand up for what I think is right and exercise my democratic freedom.

It was a peaceful protest after all, it wasn’t a march by the opposition, it was a march by the people regardless of their political affinity…..for electoral reforms. All we want is our votes to count, for it to mean something. We’re sick of our votes being drowned out by votes from people long departed and postal votes from Timbuktu. Enough is enough.

I’m deeply saddened that the people in power decided to deal with the issue in such a heavy-handed way. Preventing a peaceful protest with roadblocks, physical intimidation, using chemical laced water cannons, tear gas, FRU personnel roughing up peaceful protesters…..and yet they deny it….even those who weren’t there saw it live on Al Jazeera.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, ini bukan soal cabar mencabar, ini soal kebajikan dan kepentingan rakyat. Adakah Tuan mengatakan menyahut cabaran pihak lain lebih penting daripada menjaga kebajikan rakyat dan mempertahankan martabat dan maruah Negara di mata dunia ?

Makes me wonder, are we any different from Myanmar and Pakistan ? After all, we’re all yearning for the same thing….true democracy, not merely an illusion of it.

12. kjgfjyue - November 13, 2007

The old fella’s answer: “Saya pantang dibangunkan dari tidur!”

13. k.esu - November 13, 2007

The monsoon rains begin for the SPR:

SPR, Perak given 14 days to reply

I have asked the Pengarah, Pilihanraya Perak to let us have a reply in writing within 14 days to confirm the correctness of the report in Malaysiakini dated 9th October, 2007 regarding the alleged increase of 8,463 voters in Ipoh Timur.

If confirmed to be correct, I have asked him to clarify how the increased postal voters were arrived at and to confirm whether there has been any increase in the number of army barracks and police stations in the constituency and if so, the number.


14. k.esu - November 13, 2007

BADawi is a dim wit, with a coterie of parasites who do not understand what `Free Elections` mean.

15. Dan-yel - November 13, 2007

Hi,outstandingly put! Can I forward this by email to my friends and perhaps on my blog as well. Mind to ask Beth for me? email me or reply in blog, whichever possible. Thanks

16. toot hoot - November 13, 2007

“As police we’re not experts in dealing with monkeys. We can deal with mad bulls but monkeys are more difficult,” he said.

No wonder BN esp. KJ/Nazri/Zam get away with their non-sense.

17. povege - November 13, 2007

As mentioned by YB Lim Kit Siang, the government’s reaction is disappointing but not unexpected. This had been a common practice for them, to close a deaf ear on our cries, to keep their positions secure and to feed their wallets fat. The judiciary, the elections, the legislations and everything they can get hold of, and even those that they can’t ie blogs, are manipulated to their benefit. Often I wonder: Where is your conscience? Have wealth and absolute power corrupted your souls and turn you human-less? Absolute power corrupts absolutely! Look at what is being said in the parliament. Words we’d tell our kids not to speak or severe punishment will be imposed. Behave yourselves! Think back on what you’ve done and ask yourself: Are you sure you can rest in peace on the suffering of so many others?

18. Yellow Ribbon - November 13, 2007
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20. klconfidential - November 13, 2007

I’m so glad I stumbled on this site, Beth. You have a good writing style and I believe your writing can change many views about the BERSIH rally.

Many people were annoyed that the rally caused a traffic jam but you and i know that it was caused mainly by the many many police roadblocks throughout the country and city centre.

Have you sent this letter anywhere? If not, could i send it out to my friends?

I wish I came to this site before the rally and not after. I would’ve looked out for you in the crowd.

Something to think about:
Many (including me) are concerned that this rally is being hijacked by the opposition. I attended this rally as a person without party affiliations, just as a citizen. But many of my friends and i are concerned when the opposition leaders were the ones who handed over the memorandum. Why didn’t they get someone more neutral? Someone like haris ibrahim (who started the petition) or Raja Petra (although he clearly does not like the present administration, as far as i know, he is party-less – correct me if i’m wrong)

Also another rally is being called by Anwar Ibrahim. Somehow this doesn’t sit well with me. This may give the impression that BERSIH is a tool of the opposition. I think it would be best if we remain neutral, and show others that we are neutral. Impressions count. Many Malaysians are BN/UMNO supporters yet they support the call for judicial and electoral reform. But if opposition leaders are leading the pack, i think they would think twice before joining us.

21. gaik cheng khoo - November 13, 2007

Beth, good to see this eloquent piece of writing to the PM. I wish I were there in KL instead of being overseas. I’m glad for the numbers and can’t help but think that it reflects the rakyat’s overbrimming frustration with the current situation. Everything was building up to this. Malaysians never go out to protest on the street unless they have no more recourse and from the Nov.10th event, you really sensed that it was just more than wanting something as abstract as fair elections. What with one thing or another in the past few years, the corruption at all levels, the curbing of various freedoms, the deadset-ness to stay the course when it comes to the NEP…letting otak udangs rule as politicians and say bigoted racist statements without any penalty…. it is getting a bit overwhelming.

22. azhan - November 14, 2007

i got your article from a forwarded email.

first of all, i’m proud of you and many other 39,999 people out there and really wished i was there. a friend of mine who was an exchange student here before who loved this everything about this country except the politic revealed the embarrassing video of al jazeera in you tube. its a disgrace to see what kind of media information we get. even on the malay sunday newspaper, its so obvious that the news has been canceled last minute and replaced by a young boy and his winning for saving his brother/family from fire. he fortunately was a hero but it was too obvious that there was a bigger story behind the news.

talk about the freedom of press, or even freedom of rights. after 50 years, we are still.. not exactly entirely independent.

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24. Fanner of Flames - November 14, 2007

Hi! Very very well done, Beth and Elizabeth… May i forward the letter to my blog? I believe that this is something that all young Malaysians should read, as most of us are distressingly oblivious to what is really going on in our own country… If it’s possible, please drop a message either on my blog chatbox or email me… Thanks, and do keep up the great work!

25. Beth Yahp - November 14, 2007

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for your encouraging thoughts and responses. Yes, please do disseminate this letter widely – I’ve mostly had a wall of silence from the mainstream press that I sent my letter to, and one reply saying: “Your articulate open letter was a pleasure to read. However, for the reasons you describe so well, we cannot risk publishing this. Thanks for speaking up for Malaysian journalists.”

Yes, it seems to me important for us to speak up now, everyone of us with eyes and a conscience. I would include journalists in this category – whether officially gagged or not. As well as providing objective information, they are the frontline defenders of our freedom to think and express our thoughts and experiences to the wider community. When journalists have lost their courage to speak up, when they are forced to accept the status quo without any questions, things are very serious for the rest of us indeed.

As Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor reminded journalists: “On this earth, we can do whatever we like, but you must remember that when you die, you have to answer to someone. So whatever you write, especially the press, write responsibly… I’m not asking you to write truthfully, but write responsibly…” (Malaysiakini, Oct 4 2007)

Apart from the fact that this violates the journalists’ Code of Ethics, which is akin to the Hippocratic Oath for doctors, what he doesn’t elaborate on is who journalists are supposed to be responsible to: those holding the strings of power? Or the rakyat?

It seems to me so very important to go on the record now, because things seem to be reaching Monty Pythonesque proportions in terms of the cartoon reality we are expected to swallow, and the stringent limitations enforced on what we are allowed to see, say, hear, read, think and do – and what we are allowed to “believe” is real… I keep expecting a giant cartoon boot to fall out of the sky and crush me at any moment, accompanied by tinny circus music.

A note on historical revisionism and DPM Najib Razak’s continuing to insist that “street demonstrations are not part of Malaysian culture” (The Star, Nov 12) – please see Fahmi Reza’s fine posts on http://10tahun.blogspot.com/2007/11/demonstrasi-bukan-amalan-demokrasi.html which reproduce pages from our own newspapers – reporting on Malaysia’s struggle for independence in the late 1940s. These news reports show in black-and-white our forefathers’ (and mothers’) struggle in the streets against an oppressive regime.

Definitely, and hearteningly, a part of Malaysian culture!

Perhaps, in Monty Python mode, what our current newspapers should be running as headlines is: “Dulu British, Kini UMNO”?

If anyone could translate and disseminate the open letter in Malay, Tamil and Chinese, that would also be appreciated.

Thanks and cheers!

26. Rawan hati « Kopivosian… - November 14, 2007

[…] 10 November itu haram. Tapi kita punya hak. Tidak percaya? Tanyalah SUHAKAM.  Beth Yap menulis Open Letter kepada Pak Lah dan Elizabeth Wong ada menyuarakan hak sebagai rakyat. PDRM lebih baik mencari […]

27. Iskandar - November 14, 2007

I used to respect Pak Lah’s style of leadership as the correct style for today’s Malaysia. However he has fallen well short of all expectations. Racism, cronyism, corruption & all the isms we can ill-afford at this stage of our nation’s development. Do our leaders not realise that we stagnating or worse, regressing??
But what do u expect when we hav leaders like Nazri Aziz, Yusof Said, Khairy, Zam, Hishamuddin et al..???
We r lucky we have pertroleum.. otherwise we’d revert back to a 3rd World country..

28. idris - November 14, 2007

Our politicians should be given a tour to Australia (a country the PM is fond of visiting) which will be having its general election on 24 November.

Here the oppositon is given EQUAL exposure in newspapers and televisions. Of course there are opinions by journalists in favour of which party they think is the better one – and that’s ok – they are entitled to their opinions. Letters are also published supporting either side.

Not a day passes without the govt or oppositon leader appearing in all the news channels. And every other day both leaders are given five minutes of airtime on tv to say their piece. The launch campaigns are aired over TV and radios, as do advertisements/commercials by both parties.

They even have DEBATES between the leaders and ministers from both the labour and liberal parties, lasting one and a half hours, followed by question time (more of grilling, really – very hard hitting questions) by leading journalists. These are very well conducted – chaired by the president of the press club and TELECAST LIVE on national tv channels.

This is democracy at its best.

29. tourman53 - November 15, 2007

Abdullah Badawi is still waiting for his inspiration. Lets see what he has he got to come out with for the next election?

30. monsterball - November 16, 2007

Pak Lah? When we walked…he was in Sarawak.
Rafidah was in London.
Both talk cock after the walk….seeing how peaceful we were.
He is sleeping all the time…and know next to nothing…what’s going on ..yet he said he is people’s PM.
This is the most useless PM we ever had…..and that is the last call for UMNO. Come general election…Nazri….Hussein….Rafidah..Samy….Ka Ting…will be out of the cabinet…as they will loose the election and UMNO have no power to govern the country anymore …like Golka party from Indonesia…..peole’s power took over…end of Golka and boasst 85% majority for more than 50 years also.
We have enough of the massive mis-managements of UMNO…always pass the buck to the people to make back losses …race and religion dirty politics …to divide and rule type of politics…and downright day light robbers that fear no one…as everyone is on the take…big and small….like it is a God given way of life in Malaysia.

31. JerryWho - November 18, 2007

beth! and eli!
(though technically both of you can be known “beth”)

Mandarin version coming up on monday (my servers are down for 24 hours).


let’s do SS2 some time.

32. Empathy : Bolehland - November 19, 2007

[…] natural. On November 12th SUARAM secretariat member Elizabeth Wong reproduced author Beth Yahp’s open letter to the Prime Minister, which described an entirely different […]

33. klconfidential - November 23, 2007

Hi Elizabeth!

I posted this letter on my website earlier and have received a long letter directed to Beth. I was wondering if she could respond to it. I am writing a response now, but since it is directed to Beth, it would be good if she or you could address this person directly.

Here’s the mentioned letter by Da Real Deal:

Dear Ms Yahp,

Why was it necessary for the one thousand odd lawyers joined by others to walk in protest while they could’ve met the Prime Minister to discuss the matter of their grievance through the good office of the Bar Council? Was the Council’s effort to secure a meeting with the PM frustrated which would justify the march?

On 10th November 2007, 40,000 people perhaps 80% of whom were members of the opposition parties gathered illegally to show the world a dark picture of our beloved country.

I’ve viewed most of the videos on the event in Malaysia Today and not one of them showed any evidence of people being beaten by the authorities. In this day and age where cameras and videos are incorporated into mobile telephones, I doubt if such an opportunity would have been missed by those in attendance.

Security forces are usually not deployed to safeguard the safety of those defying the law. They are there to enforce the law. They are not responsible to handle with care children who were “lovingly” brought by their “responsible” parents to an unlawful gathering.

It is certainly a journalist’s privilege to witness and report the event in full. Foreign journalists had no problems getting in. Even Harakah journalists did a full coverage on it. If the proper identification tags were displayed, I’m sure they would have been accorded the protocol. Today there are many parties claiming to be members of the media. Even bloggers claim to be such just because they do some pieces of reporting here and there.

You mention of “ state controlled” media like Malaysia is the only country in the world that has this practice. I urge you to look not to far in our neighbours. Our “state controlled” media at least are allowed to whack government officials and even cabinet ministers. Which other “state controlled” media in which other country will allow this? Perhaps being a non-Malay you may not subscribe to the Harakah Daily which is the opposition controlled newspaper. This newspaper goes to town with just about anything against the government but unlike its counterpart, they don’t highlight the wrongdoings of their leaders. On that score, I’d say the state controlled entity gets my vote.

This obedience that you speak of in journalists occur everywhere. State owned ones will take orders from the government leaders while the opposition ones do just the same with their leaders. So why are you complaining as this is not the fault of the bosses? On the contrary, it is the journalists whom we should blame for being normal human beings; loyal to the paymaster as long as they are on the payroll. The classic example is in the former “state owned” newspaper journalists who are knowned bloggers today, complaining about how the newspaper editors write their columns to suite their bosses when in truth, they did the same damned thing when they were in under a different leader.

“Riots” were used by the foreign media trying to amplify their description of this peaceful gathering. I say it was relatively peaceful because I didn’t see any water cannons nor tear gas being applied at the rightful venue where the 40,000 were, which was at the Istana.

I hope you have couriered the letter that you have written to the Honourable Prime Minister while posting it in here. It is only fair that you do. I‘m sure that despite the fact that the event was illegal, high-jacked by a knowned corrupt and abusive former leader of the government, the PM will take into account of the grievances put forth. As it is, the government has agreed to use indelible ink and transparent boxes as demanded by the people. This is evidence that the people’s grievances have not fallen on deaf ears.

In saying that he “pantang di cabar”, it doesn’t mean that he cannot be challenged. It means that he will take on the challenge if it comes his way. As it is every citizen’s right to challenge, it is also his right to defend or even counter-challenge as he is too a citizen of this country like you and I.

I urge those complaining too much about the freedom of speech, press and what not to step back and re-look at the whole picture without blinkers. I’ve watched several live telecasts of a forum which includes the opposition and they get to say more than their piece on national television at prime time. Also, while the live telecast was on, the bottom strip was running with text comments from the viewers and several of them even ran down the PM. So I hope the detractors would use another line to defame the government as this no longer holds water.

Ms. Yahp,I am a normal citizen of Malaysia. I’ve lived in many countries in four continents lasting 17 years. In my experience abroad I have found that there is no such thing as an absolute democratic country like the one you’re wanting. The most popular country that prides itself with democracy even beats people up in front of the United Nations in New York.

This is still the best country to live in, even for members of the opposition who are free to whack the government, yet still live luxurious lives with their families in tact. Take a hard look down south, and be grateful for what God has given us.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I remain,
Da Real Deal Esq.

34. holytounge - November 25, 2007

” jangan cabar orang kita”

35. holytounge - November 25, 2007

” jangan tidur untuk saya,tidur bersama saya”new punch line…….for my beloved…………

36. Faiza Mardzoeki - January 3, 2008

Hi Elisabeth Wong,
Hi I am Faiza
I met you in Jakarta, 1990 and in Sydney 1992!..its a longggggg time ago. Got your blog by coincident…):

Beth Yaph also my friend in Sydney….

salute for what you’re doing!

cheers from Jakarta

37. aznahar aziz - April 2, 2008

pak lah please resign we want better malaysia.

38. KEN C.S.OOI - June 29, 2008

Pak Lah,

Please save MALAYSIA !!!Our Lovely Country,It’s badly Sick and in Deep Trouble at this point of time.

No Matter What,MALAYSIA Need U,We(Citizen) Need U,Pls Wake Up and CURE this Lovely country!!!



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