Malaysian churches are opening their doors to politicians from both camps in an unprecedented way as they strive to explore their political voice, perhaps for the first time in Malaysian history.
Traditionally apolitical here, the churches have so far generally still stopped short of endorsing any party or camp, perhaps for fear of being perceived as seeking to be a political power block in this religiously sensitive country.
But they are encouraging political debate, which itself is unusual.
For example, at the Loyola Hall at Saint Francis Xavier Church in Petaling Jaya, 300 parishioners gathered a couple of nights ago to hear the incumbent Gerakan state assemblyman for Bukit Gasing Dr Lim Thuang Seng and another Barisan National representative face off with Mr Edward Lee from the Opposition DAP.
The toughest words came from the floor when the panellists took questions.
Many issues were brought up, most of them reflecting secular concerns, from overpriced land assessment fees and concern over corruption and other rising criminal activities to oil subsidies and the brain drain from Malaysia.
The parishioners did not mince their words when it came to sharing their opinions.
“In the last five years, I find that my religious and fundamental rights have been encroached and eroded. Are you recommending that I vote for Barisan Nasional so that my rights can be further eroded over the next five years?” asked a Chinese man in his 30s, stumping the two Barisan Nasional representatives.
The highlight of the evening remained a rather more secular concern from Mr Victor Oorjitham, Maxwell Towers PA chairman, who requested the two BN men to make a pledge "to support that no development on Bukit Gasing takes place".
Mr Oorjitham has been campaigning for the past three years to preserve the green lung.
He received a standing ovation.
Despite the tide against him, Datuk Dr Lim was firm: "I'm not going to sign this pledge... because I don't want to make empty promises. God has put me here to serve you, and serve you well.”
Another parishioner Mr Martin, 57, declared himself unconvinced.
“Pretty much what I expected. The incumbent politicians will never give direct answers and the Opposition will always give promises. I have already decided whom I will vote for. The talk didn't change my mind. I hope to deny the ruling government the two-thirds majority. It's a wake up call – time for change,’’ Martin told The Malaysian Insider.
Driving the churches to discover even a limited political role in encouraging such debate is a widespread sense of disillusionment over the way the Government has managed religious interests in past years, say analysts and political observers.
The response at a higher level is mild, but still clear.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism issued a statement this week asking their followers to pray for candidates that live up to common religious values and who strive for greater national unity.
On the ground, there appears to be tide of desire to register a point.
But one long-time political observer, who requested anonymity, pointed out that this could backfire as the demographics were against the church – Christians make up fewer than 10% of the population.
“Any move that is perceived as building a power block will draw a negative reaction from the Muslim majority so they will have to think through what they’re doing,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
A noted political commentator Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin echoes that view, saying that if the largely urban non-Muslim population choose to sent a negative signal to the ruling Barisan National, it could lead to polarisation of the Malaysian electorate. “On the one hand, a predominantly Malay rural population will support BN and a growing urban non-Muslim population will support the Opposition. This cannot be good for the country.’’
But he adds he still believes the emotion that is driving some of the anti-establishment feeling will be replaced by reason and pragmatism by March 8, polling day.
“The defining question is whether non-Muslims believe that a vote for the Opposition will bring a solution to all their concerns. Deep down they know the answer is no.’’ - THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
My first political contribution ever.
Not a DAP person but this chap has good head and a bigger heart.
Sure , it is not taxable and probably only can buy some chicken rice for the volunteers.
Heck , got to put money where your mouth is , not?
But I do support Jeff Ooi as a candidate for parliament where he can then help other people.
I do see the seriousness of their conditions that they want to put their lives at risk to demand justice to their community and to the 5 people who were caught under ISA. I also see the need for police to ensure peace in the country , but their actions are too harsh.
Abdullah's government should talk to these group instead of pushing them to a corner.
Bad decision making skills.
Both are marked with RED colour ... the colour of vilarity.
I remember my first date on the year where the Chinese ( Chap Goh Meh ) and Western Valentine Day happens to meet. It was a year of exasperation , especially for a man who were just freed from the shackels of ALL GUY secondary school.
A blessed New Ratty year full of love, relationship and friendship - vertically and laterally.
Happy Valentines day Mok Kie dear.
At the age of 30++, this chinese new year bought a pretty good surprise. Although I did not make the effort to vist friends this year, there are a few friends whom I manage to meet. It was otherwise a family time. And one of those whom I managed to meet ( hauling my big ass out of the TV couch) is an old friend from the neighbourhood.
To cut the long story short, talking to her make me realize that I am blur & help me to rethink about my first 'romantic' love. I always benchmark the first Chinese-Western Valentine date as my first romantic love event but I was proved otherwise. I actually had an admirer when I was in Form 2! .... and must say that i was quite shyly smitten by her then. She was charming, womenly type, brainer with good physique .. probably a shoulder that is broader than mine. ha.
It was quite a frank discussion between 2 adults and I kinda enjoyed those reminiscences. The stories about taking peeps of each other, noticing each other from afar, pretending to do scouts social work and got scolded by the girls father ... . We actually did not talk to each other till years later in university and had our first , friendly chat then. And it was during Chinese New Year too.
I remember talking to her via a public phone and visiting her in her university from my workplace in Seremban. She just broke off and I was patiently, hopefully waiting. One rainy day as I fetch her from her first workplace in Subang for dinner, she told me that she has got a new boyfriend. Never got to tell her the undercurrents in my mind then.
Other things happen till now and we are still good friends occasionally. :)
So, i was quite amused from this year's CNY chat to know that she actually likes me too. I guess i was just not noticing it then. But the question that she 'tested' me then was :-
Q: When do you plan to get married?
A: ( I was 22 or 23 yrs old then). I think probably 30 years old, nothing before.
And she took it as I was not interested in her from my reply. :) Alamak... dun understand girls still . hehe
Anyway, it was a would be fairy tale story that gone funnily different. I think both of us are happy ( She is happily married ya. ) with our lives and acknowledge that things happen for the good.
Hope this light story will amuse you during these celebrations. I guess the best love is still those from God. May you find yours.
Commotion started when I saw some attendants rushing to see what is happening behind me.
2 Malay and 1 chinese man who identified themselves as police stopped a car and ask the occupants to come out. Then started the big arguments about " Lu Siapa".. " Saya Polis" with heavy shovings and finger pointings in the face. At one point , the indian man shoved the 'police' and got himself arrested.
Then another group of 5-7 Indians came and began another huge shouting, shoving and chasing each other thingie. Apprently , one of them spoke like he too was a police and both 'police' does not know each other. It was frightening. They surrounded the 3 earlier man and hassled them. The rest of the us just kept quiet to watch the show & i was trying to take the video of the incident without getting caught or bashed up. At one point of a time, it was going to be a huge fight. Went off after some time while both parties try to 'settle'. ( with money, grand daddy's etc)
I wonder .. who is telling the truth?
The chinese man does not look like a police and claims to be one by having a laminated badge. How does he get it?
The original 'police' came in a Proton Satria red colour. Even if they really are plain clothes policeman, would there be any real protocol to follow? How did one of them have wrist cuffs?
And if both side really have policemen then, why are they helping these thuggish man?
It looks real nasty for a civil society if we degenerate into this .. where might is better than rights! Surely, it does not bring comfort to the normal civilians.