Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Democracy Should Be Easier by Julian Tan

This is an interesting read taken from the internet. If our overseas students take the trouble to travel the distance to fulfill their duty to vote, we here should take the time also to cast our vote on 5 May 2013. (Click on the Title for the Original Source)

Posted: 29/04/2013 00:50

"It's not on the list," said the lady in the pink floral scarf.
"What do you mean?" I firmly asked, trying my hardest to suppress the imminent trembling in my voice.
"Your name - it isn't on the list," she said monotonically, pushing her bifocals along the bridge of her nose.
My heart sank, fears were realised. I didn't just wait for over a year since registering to vote in that very same office and then taking the 7.32am train to London, to be turned away from being a first time voter.
I swiftly whipped out my iPhone, tapped on the fully bloomed sunflower icon that is my photo album to look for the screenshot of my voter status from the Election Commission's website. There it was - 'Julian Tan Lip Yi - Registered (absentee voter), Voting method: Post'. I pinched the screen of my iPhone to enlarge the view of this certainty and handed my phone over to the lady.
She had a quick glance and then flipped through the booklet of papers in the folder that contained "all" registered voters in the UK - the corners of the pages now slowly forming dog-ears from the inspection.
"Tan Ying Hong... Tan Chiu Yeng... Nope, no Julian Tan Lip Yi."
At this moment, the man next to her looked up at me and began quizzing me about the details of my registration - where did I do it, when did I do it, where is my constituency.
"I did it here in this very office early last year. Kelana Jaya." I replied, beginning to be annoyed.
"I'm sorry your name is not on the record."
"But I am registered to vote! Look at this!" I said pointing to the screen of my iPhone.
A tall man from the corner of the room, well dressed in a smart navy blue suit emerged and told the lady who was tending to me, "If his name is not on the list. Escort him out. We do not have time for issues like this."
Issues like this? What did he mean? Is the issue of a registered individual being unable to vote because of a fault in your system not important enough to you? I am Malaysian. I have registered. And I have a right to cast my vote.
"Where did you come from?" asked the lady, in a voice so meek, trying to diffuse the tension.
A slight pause followed. She turned to the man in the suit and said, "He's from Cambridge." And then turned to me and said, "You have a seat first, we will have a look."
Did the namedropping of my university put me back into the more respectable position I am used to? I didn't care. I just wanted to vote.
I took a seat by the mahogany furniture and waited, staring at the screenshot I took. 3 minutes later and they came back with my ticket.
"It was in a different folder," he said as he nonchalantly passed me a slip to be used to obtain my ballot papers.
A different folder? Perhaps this was for people who had applied directly through the London office. I didn't want to jump to any conclusions. After all, coordinating so many names and details must be very tedious and errors are sure to creep up. I was only so happy to be able to have a voice in the future of my country again.
I guess the reason I chose to relay this story to you is because I feel that if I hadn't been adamant enough, or lucky enough, I would have been turned away despite having all relevant ballot slips ready for me in the room next door. If a person had not been as uncompromising or resolute as I was, they would have left the building without casting their votes!
I genuinely feel that what I experienced probably was an honest mistake but it is mistakes like these that fuel speculation about the credibility of the 13th Malaysian General Elections.
We hear so many stories about phantom voters. We are expected to thoroughly examine our ballot papers, making sure no printed marks are present that could make our votes void. We have to deal with trying not to stain our ballot papers with indelible ink (because the ink is applied BEFORE the casting of the vote - how does this make any sense?). We shouldn't have to worry about these things when exercising our basic right to deciding our government.
The election procedures feel so archaic. So much is said about how these measures are in place as dirty tricks for the ruling coalition, The National Front to stay in power. If this is untrue, not much is being done to refute these claims - the election procedure for some reason does not feel very fair. Democracy should be easier.
As an example, the top left hand corner of the ballot papers I received contained a serial number that was also printed (number for number) on a separate witness form together with my name and identity. I politely asked the officer how the vote would be anonymous with this glaring actuality. Some moments passed before he resigned to saying, "I don't know. This is what is being given. That's a good observation." He then continued to explain to me the procedures of voting, unfazed by the confrontation.
I interrupted him and asked if he could get back to me about this before I marked the 'X' in the box. He said he could get back to me by the end of the day. The end of the day? I didn't have that sort of time. He then suggested that I leave and come back later and before I could respond, he took a stamp out, pressed it firmly into the inkpad and was about to stamp my envelope.
"No no, I will just vote now," I exclaimed, pulling the envelope from his tight grasp. I was admittedly afraid that the stamp would somehow make things more complicated than they already were.
I looked around and every one else had serial numbers on both their ballot slips and witness forms. So, I resigned to following the rules.
"If you could get back to me about how anonymity is maintained by this procedure, I would very much appreciate it," I then proceeded to say, before heading to vote for the very first time.
So much can be speculated and some people have told me that my story is why they refuse to vote - it is just too much trouble, too much uncertainty to make any real impact. How do I even know if my vote will be counted in the end?
To them I say, suspicion is easy but gets you nowhere. In fact, suspicion is why we need to vote. We can only do as much as we are able to. And in a democracy this means that the least and indeed the most you can do on polling day is to head to the polls and vote!
As 6 May looms (the date after the final votes are cast in Malaysia), I feel a certain excitement and dread for what the future holds. But I rest in the solace that I have done my part, and I hope you do yours too, fellow Malaysians.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Christians should come out to vote, even on a Sunday

This article is taken from Malaysiakini. Click on the Title to read from the Original source

William de Cruz | 9:44AM Apr 29, 2013

Christians are getting a bad name for themselves in Malaysia, and some of us may only have ourselves to blame as fence-sitters, fear-mongers and fantasists.

Case in point - hudud, which might as well be a four-letter word for the obscenity of fear and paranoia it has ingrained among some followers of the faith.

In spite of history showing the system has not been imposed on two east coast states that have been under the rule of PAS for years, Christians continue to question the credentials of the opposition coalition on one, logic-defying notion: that a vote for Pakatan Rakyat will transmogrify Malaysia into an Islamist state where, like an advocate for change recently said, armless men will walk the streets in Putrajaya.

The truth of the matter is, it won't happen for at least the first five years of any new government, and in fact any party at any time in the future would need a two-thirds parliamentary majority in order to effect such a fundamental, anti-secularist change in secular Malaysia.

So, if you cannot imagine PAS commanding such overwhelming numbers in the Dewan Rakyat, the odds of the Islamist party imposing hudud are next to nothing, or worse.

BN won't do it and is in fact campaigning on the bogey that PAS will, and if we believe DAP and PKR will agree with PAS on such a fantastical move, we will have snow in Kuala Lumpur.

In other words, the imposition of hudud is plain impossible, even in spite of the best efforts of Karpal Singh of DAP, who continues to cry ‘over my dead body' every time someone gives vent to the fear of something so improbable as to be beyond any immediate, medium or long-term reality, and who should know better as a lawyer but continues to inflict damage on his own opposition coalition with an infuriating and totally uncalled-for war cry.

Most sacred duty

As if the haunt of the hudud is not enough, Christians using the same, defective moral compass are also complaining about the insensitivity of an Election Commission, which chose a Sunday as voting day, and has delivered to church-goers the inconvenience of having to forego their obligation to worship because they may have to vote on May 5, and God won't absolve you of your wrongdoing simply because of the queue at the polling station.

The entire country is gearing up for the most critical and historic federal election Malaysia has ever seen, and some Christians see a higher calling in going to church.

Oh, my God, how we pain you, through our fault, through our fault, through our own most grievous fault.

There can be no greater Christian duty on May 5 than lodging the vote, and if all leaders and followers of the church don't begin telling their respective flocks that they are relieved of their obligation to worship this fateful Sunday, they will be failing in a most sacred duty to their fellow Christians, and all other Malaysians.

To be sure, some priests are already telling their parishioners to prepare for meeting your obligations in a Saturday sunset Mass, as it should be. And yet the public voice of the church is loudest when it complains of the EC's ways, as if this particular insensitivity is the worst of its sins as a constitutionally-mandated commission.

One begins to suspect that if Christians are factoring hudud, impossible as it is, as they decide where to put their cross on the ballot form, and speaking of Sunday worship overriding the need to vote, they are actually in search of a reason to keep the status quo in parliament and ease their conscience at the same time.

In a perverse extension of the spurious argument that we might all have to live under the yoke of corporal punishment, legless and armless some of us, if not stoned to death, there are yet Christians who will say that, even if the hudud were introduced, they should have no cause for fear, because it would only be for Muslims - as if by deviant design Muslims are not Malaysians.

Malaysia will never rise from the trenches of religion, or race, if we keep denying that one Malaysian's problem is the whole country's problem.

If a Muslim ever faced having his or her limbs cut off, it is not an Islamic issue - it is a human rights issue that must concern all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion.

If the EC chooses to insult Christians by calling GE13 on a Sunday - precisely because it thinks it will make for a lower voter turnout - all the more reason we must defy their foolhardiness, as Christians.

Flying home

For the record, Christian Malaysians are among the citizens who are flying in from all over the world to vote in this coming election.

If jet lag and the polling queue conspired to keep them away from Mass on that day, they are no more sinners than the man in East Malaysia who chooses the ‘pondok pilihan' over an ‘attap' house of worship because the ‘sampan' can only do so much on 5 May.

One Bersih activist will leave Sydney on May 4 morning, and return within days to her job. Another from London will arrive on Saturday, and catch the return flight on Monday.

Christians seem to forget that the very man whose name has been given to their faith was himself a politician.

He fought against the rulers of his time, railed at the temples of government, and in the end defied Pontius Pilate himself, who begged Christ for a reason that would allow him to set free the rabble-rouser.

Ultimately, to set the example for the rest of us, Jesus voted with his life, so we may live, to do the right thing in his name, to cast our ballot, even on a Sunday, and to think of all Malaysians, not just Christians, as we put cross to paper.

Only a record voter turnout, in excess of 85 percent of the roll, can bring about any meaningful change, and Christians must count in that number this Sunday.

If by his example, Jesus did not tell us to do the right thing this coming Sabbath, we must be God forsaken.

WILLIAM DE CRUZ is a Christian Malaysian based in Australia. He has returned to Malaysia to vote in GE13.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Church in this season By NECF

NECFGE13 Pastoral letter - The Church in this season
(Click on Title for the Original source)
15th April 2013

Dear Pastor/Elder/Leader,

Re: The Church in this season

Greetings in the Lord Jesus!

The nation will enter into her 13th General Election on 5 May 2013. In the past year, the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Prayer United and NECF have issued advisories on how to pray and prepare for the election. These resources can be found at www.necf.org.my.

NECF is non-partisan but to assist churches in this critical period, we wish to share a general framework for the benefit of churches.

The Church and Political Engagement

The church is not a political entity but the body of Christ. As such, her engagement is informed by Scripture and premised on a Christian worldview. A consistent reading of Scripture would show that the truth of the Gospel must speak to every area of life, including the political. In the Book of Genesis, we are told to be stewards of God's earth and everything in it.

As stewards of God's creation, the church is commanded to be a blessing to the nation and the world. She is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Therefore, the church in this season is to be a moral voice and a public conscience to our political leaders, reminding them to be just and fear the Lord (Exodus 18:19- 21) and to hold them accountable to the standards God places on earthly rulers.

Discerning with Integrity

To be a blessing to the nation, the church must strive for what is true, honourable, just and commendable in the interest of all people (Philippians 4:8). This would require the church to not only be non-partisan but with discernment, speak and act on moral and spiritual issues affecting the nation. The Church is "obliged to declare the criteria by which the nation will be ultimately judged and [the] divine standards to which man and society must conform if civilization is to endure" (Carl Henry). In the Bible, this was what the Old Testament prophets did when they acted and spoke truth to the powers that be and to sinful nations, including the leaders of Israel and Judah on issues such as corruption, abuse of power and taking advantage on the poor and destitute.

Vote with Truth and Wisdom

While the institutional church is to remain non-partisan, individual Christians as citizens of the country, on the other hand, have every right to make a stand for the political party or candidates of their choice. In so doing, Christians ought to bear in mind their identity as God's witnesses in this sinful world. Christians must therefore vote with truth based on objective information as can be obtained and to the best of their knowledge. There is a need for wisdom to vote according to one's conscience as guided and informed by the Holy Spirit.

For this purpose, Christians ought to be mindful of the various election strategies employed to garner votes. Such strategies are often politicised, abused or misused. Christians should not be swayed by such strategies but exercise the democratic right to elect men and women of righteousness, the persons of God's choosing who possess the moral and political will to serve and contribute effectively to nation building as well as to truth, justice and righteousness for our nation.

Upon conclusion of the election, churches must continue to hold our parliamentary, and state elected representatives as well as elected officials accountable to what God desires in them in line with their oath of office as political leaders of the country.

Worship Services to Facilitate Voting

Since polling day falls on Sunday, it would be encouraging if churches could make the arrangements deemed appropriate to facilitate the participation of the electoral process. Holding Saturday services or early Sunday services may be wise. In East Malaysia, some polling centers close as early as 1pm, so this change might be helpful.

A Call to Righteousness and Prayer

In this season where our nation is at the crossroads, let us as Christians engage one another, our fellow citizens and leaders with grace, compassion and mercy alongside the truth founded on Biblical principles that speak of God's heart for the nation.

It is for these reasons, churches and Christians ought to double all efforts to sound the trumpet, consecrate a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the people, and assemble the elders, the congregation and children to return to Him with all our hearts as acts of consecration (paraphrase of Joel 2:12-16).

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me." - Ezekiel 3:17

God bless Malaysia!

In Christ,
Eugene Yapp
NECF Malaysia

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pray & Vote

(click on the image above to read the Article)

(Article taken from Berita NECF Articles, Jan - Mar 2013 Issue)
ADVISORIES on how to pray for the election and how to vote have been issued by the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Prayer United and by NECF Malaysia. Christians are by now well-aware of their role in nation-building and of their duty to cast their votes as part of biblical stewardship over the earth.
However, there are certain views on the relationship between the church and politics, and the view that the church must remain 'apolitical'. NECF does not endorse any particular party or candidate but we wish to share a general framework to guide Christians on such views.
Firstly, the church is not a political entity but the body of Christ. As such, her engagement is informed by Scripture. A faithful reading of Scripture would show that the truth of the Gospel must speak to every area of life. Genesis carries the divine mandate to humanity to rule and be stewards of God's earth and everything in it. This includes upholding justice for the common good of all human beings as creations made in the image of God and who are invested with dignity.
As stewards of God's creation, Christians are commanded to be a blessing to the nation and the world. We are also to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5: 13-16). We are reminded that we are not to conform to the world but to be a positive influence. We require our leaders to be just (Exodus 18: 19-21) and we hold them to the standards God places on earthly rulers.
If the church as salt and light is to influence the world, calls for the church to be apolitical are then self-contradictory. The meaning of "apolitical" is to be completely uninterested in politics, which cannot be if the church is to bring blessing upon the nation and fulfil her responsibilities in the interest of the common good.
To fulfil this mandate, what the church should be is non-partisan but must speak on moral and spiritual issues affecting the nation. The words of the Evangelical theologian, Carl Henry, are instructive, that the Church is "obliged to declare the criteria by which the nation will be ultimately judged and [the] divine standards to which man and society must conform if civilization is to endure". In the Bible, we see that this is what the Old Testament prophets did when speaking truth to power to sinful nations, including the leaders of Israel and Judah.
Religion, as part of Malaysian politics, has been politicised, abused and misused as an election strategy. Let the church have no part in that but let this not deter her either, from her mandate of speaking God's truth to our nation and leaders.
For this season where our nation is at the crossroads, let us as Christians engage one another, our fellow citizens and leaders with grace, compassion and mercy alongside the truth founded on Biblical principles that speak of God's heart for justice and righteousness