Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ethic versus ethnic

Har Wai Mun | Dec 12, 08 12:43pm
(Available at

They look the same, sound the same, but they are not the same. Correct! Correct! Correct! Ethic is different from ethnic but unfortunately, in Malaysia, the latter is misused to camouflage or even suppress the former.


Some clear examples include the debate on the New Economic Policy (NEP). The opposition alliance is actually questioning the ethical reasoning behind the implementation of this policy and want it revised to benefit all, regardless of race, instead of an elite few.

However, many others are trying to divert the issue of ethics by bringing in the Malay supremacy issue.

Ethnic was also used to camouflage the rationale of Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s two suggestions, namely reserving 10 percent of places in UiTM for non-Bumiputera students and foreigners, and the appointment of Low Siew Moi as acting head of PKNS. Recent suggestions regarding education from various parties have been instantly met with an ethnic-sensitivity-roadblock without proper debate.

Negative effects of deteriorating ethical standards, results of political plays on ethnic and religious sensitivities, are ample and recent: Malaysia’s high ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index, the low ranking of local universities, alleged misbehaviour of some rescue personnel in the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy, a tarnished judicial system, the Lingam case, the resignation of Zaid Ibrahim and the proposed ‘toothless’ Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC).

Despite the significant reduction in petrol prices and the looming economic crisis, prices of goods have not dropped. Materialistic attitude and greed seem to have successfully orchestrated an invisible consensus among local sellers to maintain higher prices as well as attract investors to continuously bet on the stock market and encourage the over commercialisation of the education sector in Malaysia.

Ethical standards in Malaysia have dropped to make way for the rule of might based on the power of politic and money. This situation needs to be reversed as soon possible.

I hope the process of healing the country can start with the abolition of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the restoration of a transparent, empowered judicial system. The quality of our academic system must also be improved, to educate Malaysians on the importance of ethics and the need to think beyond ethnic lines.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Malaysia-West Asia Relations and Foreign Direct Investment: Proposal for an Ummah Network based on Social Capital Concept

Har Wai Mun, Lam Zheng Ling & Liew Khai Yi

[UKM Institute of West Asian Studies national conference on "Malaysia-West Asia relations: Prospect and challenges" on 1st -2nd December 2008]

Research on foreign direct investment (FDI) often ignores the psychology aspect of relationship. The role of relationship is embedded in Bourdieu’s social capital, believing that networking and friendship could be valuable factors for attracting business. In macroeconomic context, international relations could be an important determinant in attracting foreign investment. Manifestations of this conceptualization are guanxi and “Bamboo network” in Chinese business culture. Applying to Malaysia international relations with Islamic countries of West Asia, an “Ummah network” can be established to enable win-win situation in investment decision. This is in contrast with the rational behaviour of profit maximization motive of the classic school of thought. In reality, foreign investors with higher degree of negotiation power may seek maximum incentives at the expanse of the welfare of the host country, thus evaporating any possibility of win-win outcome. Given close relationship between Malaysia and Islamic countries of West Asia through Islam brotherhood and membership of Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Malaysia is in the best position to utilize its social capital to attract mutually beneficial FDI rather than giving excessive incentive to profit maximization oriented investors. Furthermore, growing tension and suspicion between Western world and Islamic countries strengthen Malaysia’s position to build up long term investment relationship with West Asian countries. Hence, this paper aims to explore potential mutually beneficial Malaysia-West Asia partnership through the perspective of social capital networking with the focus on foreign investment. The ultimate objective of this paper is to propose a framework for the establishment of a relationship-based “Ummah network” between Malaysia and West Asia.

[Full paper and presentation slides available at:]

S.H.E. vs Nameewee and multilingualism

Har Wai Mun | Nov 28, 08 4:00pm

(Available at:

I refer to the Malaysiakini report “Namewee in a new video controversy”.

Recently, we were presented an example of Newton’s Laws of Motion (Third Law) with regard to Mandarin language and particularly in referring to Nameewee’s (Wee Meng Chee) latest controversial video clip.

According to Newton, ‘to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’. In social science dialectic, one may rephrase this theory as ‘on one hand...on the other hand’.

Back to Nameewee’s video clip, he seems portray Mandarin language as of ‘no value’ when compared to English in Malaysia. This is in complete contrast with one of S.H.E’s (a Taiwanese female band) songs entitled ‘Mandarin (Chinese) Language’.

In their song, S.H.E. claim that ‘among the different people of the world with different skin colours, hair, nationalities and tastes, the Mandarin language is the most popular choice’.

It continues: ‘The whole world is learning Mandarin’ because ‘Mandarin is being more and more globalised’ and therefore, ‘this (Mandarin) language we (Chinese) speak makes all other people listen seriously’. Mandarin in the S.H.E. song is a marvelous and valuable language.

The equal and opposite reaction to the S.H.E song is Nameewee’s video, portraying Mandarin language as ‘shameful’ and ‘useless’. In his video clip, knowing Mandarin without mastering English mean it is hard to get employment in the urban areas.

Being told to balik kampung actually juxtaposes Mandarin as a village language to English as an urban language in the Malaysian context.

Attention should also be paid to the issue of the over- domination of the English language in both as the medium of instruction in Malaysian colleges and for employment until Mandarin-speaking Malaysians are isolated and discriminated.

Besides Mandarin, Malaysians should also do a reality check on the survival of the Malay language as well as other minority languages. I have regularly been getting responses in English from even Malay speakers despite the fact that I spoke to them in Bahasa Melayu.

This reflects a choice to speak in English, which is an early symptom of the extinction of a language.

One should realise that language is a hidden resource to unlock knowledge, bridge differences (particularly due to mis-communication), to foster relationships for social harmony or business and to reflect on human civilisation (as in a Malay saying, bahasa jiwa bangsa).

Hence, multiracial Malaysia should encourage multilingualism to blossom but not over-emphasisie on a particular language be it the English or the Malay language.

Neither should we politicise or threaten any expression of dissatisfaction due to language matters, but debate them constructively.

Complication of mankind’s destiny in all aspects has created a spectrum of colours between black and white. S.H.E.’s song and Nameewee’s video (Mandarin and English) could represent the opposite ends while our debate (other languages) could fill up the in-between with variety.