What Stephen Doss Did ? Article 4 – Are You Spin Doctor?

[Sources From Bobjots.org – 5th March 2008]

Of Former Comrades And Spin Doctors

Many many moons ago, I was approached by a group of University of Malaya students who were enthusiastic about wanting to bring about positive change in our society and they invited me to tag along. We had the facilities provided by the office of a particular head of department in the university and used it to discuss strategies, make flyers which we proceeded to go around town pasting and putting into mailboxes. Then suddenly the apparent leader of this group of students dropped out of sight.

A few months later, he resurfaced (with a new car and a nice new job) and claimed to represent a national students body which nobody had heard of until then. He took a decidedly pro-establishment stand which got some of us curious.

I think I’ll leave it to people like one his former lecturers and others to give an account of the character of this person – the one and only notorious Stephen Doss.

This brings me to the main point of my post. The head of that particular department in the University of Malaya eventually played an active role in the Reformasi movement and was fired from his position in the university. Now for some reason, he too sort of disappeared from sight, notably after the merger of Parti Rakyat Malaysia and Parti KeADILan Nasional (where he was a vice president) and sort of re-emerged again after a while.

Now, I generally have always taken this guy with a pinch of salt (and other condiments if I could find any). I started reading his writings in the days when he was the founding president of Aliran. After many years helming that organisation, he was replaced (or stepped down – I don’t remember which) as Aliran’s president. He re-emerged as the head of a new organisation called the International Just World Movement and suddenly his positions took a decidedly different swing from what it used to be when he was in Aliran. Hence began my nagging doubts about the integrity and credibility of this guy.

This guy recently appeared in the press claiming with alarm that it would be a “Disaster if Anwar is PM”. A non partisan fence-sitting friend of mine sent me the link this morning asking me to evaluate what was said about Anwar (perhaps she was concerned that I was being badly misled).

I wrote her this reply with some anecdotal rebuttals :

Dear XXX,

A lot of these allegations have been dealt with by Anwar over the years :

Bahasa Malaysia -> Bahasa Melayu

In Tunku’s time, it was actually known as Bahasa Kebangsaan and the proposal to change the term to Bahasa Malaysia only came about after May 13 as part of the proposal to strenghten national unity.

The term “Bahasa Melayu” was adopted in response to clamour within Umno itself to have it changed. It did not occur overnight but have been part of a long standing campaign since the 1970s.

Non-Chinese Educated Administrators in Chinese Schools
This again is a result of Umno policy. The minister merely executed the policy that was decided collectively by the Cabinet. Interestingly many of those who made the collective decision then still are in the Cabinet today.
On a personal note, I don’t see why this is a problem. I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t understand it now. School administrators are essentially that – administrators. They basically are the liaison between the various state education departments and the school. To open up the recruitment beyond the previously limited scope is not necessarily a bad thing – especially when there were a lot of highlighted cases where administrators could not understand the circulars and letters that were being sent by the departments to the school (those days Chinese educated meant wholly Chinese educated, ie. independent school types).
The same arrangement exists today and I don’t see vernacular schools losing out because of it. I think this is more of a manifestation of Chinese prejudice rather than anything else and these people are playing it to the hilt.

Kg Jawa clash
I am afraid Chandra is misinforming here. He failed to mention that Anwar was the only cabinet level minister who actually took the trouble to visit the hot spot and an equally harsh warning was given to the Muslim community to stand down.

The quote was made by a local Umno man and was misattributed to Anwar as contemporary press reports from that period testify to. A closed door dialogue was brokered between the Hindu and Muslim community and the matter was eventually resolved without further bloodshed and police intervention.

Section 21 of the Education Act 1961

We have Keng Yaik’s word here that Gerakan fought to repeal it. It was the Opposition that fought tooth and nail to get it repealed and many paid for it with incarceration in Kamunting. Part of Operasi Lalang was due to that. We had MCA and Gerakan acting as apologists as to why Section 21 ought to be retained for national harmony et al and Umno very militant about it.

It was only repealed when there was a fear of a mass exodus of Chinese votes at a time when Malay votes for BN was very shaky (post Anwar).

I’d like to see them actually have a proper unedited dialogue; Opposition as well as Barisan people; which is open to the public – either televised or otherwise. Otherwise, this is a lopsided affair.

While they control the airwaves and the mainstream press with access to millions of Malaysians in the comfort of their living rooms, the Opposition has to contend with speaking to gathered crowds in open spaces, rain notwithstanding, and their own party publications which are subject to limited distribution due to permit restrictions as well as financial limitations.

While the Elections Offences Act places a cap of RM100,000 per candidate in Parliamentary constituencies for campaigning purposes, the Barisan Nasional allocates RM2 million per constituency and gets away scot free due to a loophole (they distribute the monies to component parties as well as state machineries which essentially are used for BN campaigning purposes).

Even this access to the public is severely curtailed after the Elections campaigning period. The various “demonstrations” et al that we’ve seen – the fact is that a lot of them were ceramahs and public rallies that were violently broken up by the police. When you have 3 – 4000 people gathered in one spot to listen to a public rally, and the police start shooting tear gas and firing their water cannons into the crowd, you are going to have pandemonium and the victims end up being labelled hooligans and terrorists!

To conclude, I think we just need to have a look at how the BN is running their campaign this time? What is the underlying message? That the BN will change things? That the BN will take measures to reverse the abuse that they’ve been a party to?

I fear the answer has to be an emphatic no. Their underlying message is FEAR. They are playing up the people’s fear of the unknown and asking them to settle for much much less. Don’t complain so much, because you never know what the Opposition will bring in (then they proceed to tell you what THEY think the Opposition will bring in).

A good rule of thumb during the Elections campaign period is not to read/watch the mainstream media .. period. All pretences of objective news and journalism is dropped during this period and they don’t even pretend to be fair and unbiased.

We have a lot of other sources for news and information.


I know there’ll be some who’ll claim that I’ve also been bedazzled by Anwar. Anwar’s tenure as Minister of Education spanned the period when I transitioned out of primary school all the way until my Fifth Form. Being fairly politically aware, even as a teenager, I had plenty of reasons to despise this man and for quite a while, I certainly did.

Even after the merger of my party with Parti KeADILan Nasional where some of us were dragged in kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking, of course), my skepticism for Anwar remained and was still alive and well for quite a while after his release from prison. But I reckon that after witnessing quite a few sittings of conversations, as well as seeing his consistent positions, both public and private, it made me warm up to the man a bit.

Honestly speaking, I definitely still have some lingering doubts about Anwar, as I would any other politician. Do I trust Anwar? Heck, I can’t even trust myself 100%.

But I’ve reached a point that I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and entrust the party leadership to him (well as must trust as one delegate’s vote in the party’s congress can give anyway). I know many people in the party who feel the same way but are willing to give Anwar a shot to see if he delivers.

As he’s wont to say, if we don’t deliver, kick us out. I think this challenge applies for himself personally as far as his leadership in the party is concerned. At the very least, I’ll be taking his word very literally.

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