Thursday, May 15, 2008

Speech of Dato’ Syed Ahmad Idid at BUM2008

Thursday, 01 May 2008 16:00

Speech of Dato’ Syed Ahmad Idid at BUM (Bloggers Universe Malaysia) 2008 held at the Lake View Club, Subang Jaya on 1st May, (Labour Day) 2008. (in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day)

With compliments from Dato’ Syed Ahmad Idid (Former Judge of High Courts for Borneo & Malaya. An Invited Guest at BUM 2008.)

Dear Mr Chairperson, Fellow panellists and Bloggers of all shapes and sizes, colours and antecedents, whether you blog and turn MPs or you were VIPs now turn bloggers. I am neither.

I am asked to say that “bloggers are smart people with forward thinking views”. I agree in a majority of cases and I heartily congratulate you.

I am glad we have several professionals in the house and that none of the doctors “is a person who kills your ills and kills you by the bills”. Luckily you call this an event. If it is a conference then you can have the confusion of the speakers multiplied by the number present.

Thank you for this invitation to meet bloggers and to speak at such a significant event. I was informed that this meeting is open to those in the Government and the Opposition and is meant to be a happy hunting ground for both.

I had been afraid that I was to come in pyjamas because some time in March a company, claiming to be “Asia’s first and leading” in blog advertising, had assembled about 300 young male and female bloggers of Malaysia and Singapore for fun and games…in pyjamas! Thankfully we are not in that grouping.

Oon Yeoh of the Star has commented (on 24th April) that “socio-political activists, retrenched editors and Opposition politicians used to be the only people who did political blogging. These days Barisan National Politicians are falling over themselves trying to get into the act. A former BN Menteri Besar, a current BN Chief Minister and a current BN Federal Minister have started blogging”.

We also have Mr Lim Kit Siang and Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders holding their own blogs and “speaking” to whoever wish to engage with them.

In the spirit of blogging, I shall save time by not addressing anyone like Tun, Tan Sri, Datuk and so on. In that way, I do not disappoint anyone that I may miss out. I must however do justice today by noting that I am among seasoned journalists[2] or SOBs [3]. I will just note them in my Paper here (in the session “Fostering Civil Society – Various Voices”: Ahiruddin Atan @ rockybru, Prof Dr Azmi Sharom (of University of Malaya), Dr Lim Teck Ghee (Director of Centre for Policy Initiatives) and Ms Jacqueline Ann Surin (Journalist). Then the next session (“The Fifth Estate (Bloggers) as Agency for Change”) will have YB Jeff Ooi (now MP), YB William Leong (Lawyer MP), Haris Ibrahim (Human Rights Advocate), R Nadeswaran @ Citizen-Nades plus a special (mystery YM Raja Petra Kamarudin) guest.

Without any further introduction, let us dash into the topic “Fostering Civil Society – Various Voices”[4]. From what you have placed before us, you accept that we are not yet a Civil Society. And BUM 2008 want us to inch our way or drive there or surf the net until we can improve our society which earns the description of “Civil Society”.

At this juncture, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me point out that “Civil Society” itself has two meanings at least…firstly that such society comprises of voluntary civic and social organisations as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state. Those interested can refer to Adam Ferguson and Georg Wilhem Friedrick Hegel[5] and some writings by Malaysians. Believe me when I say that “civil society actors have obtained remarkable amount of political power without anyone directly electing or appointing them”.[6] In this respect, just about any organisation outside of Government or GLC[7] can be within the Civil Society.

The second meaning is that Civil Society is the “Third Sector” as distinct from the Government and the Business.

But be warned: “A regime in which only civil society existed would be a regime of anarchy”…hence the requirement for Law & Order or Governmental regulations whereby the conduct of the population is maintained for the greatest good of the majority.

The growth of civil society has been one of the most significant trends in international development.[8].

I managed to peep into Greece…they have a Civil Society Index Diamond[9]. But after research, they found that their situation is not balanced … the four dimensions are the structure, environment, values and impact.

I think what the BUM 2008 organisers have in mind when they put “Civil Society” in the topic is one where our Society or population conducts itself in a civil manner! Hence the two definitions that I had dealt with do not apply except that you know that bloggers come within the description of “Civil Society”.

That being the case, it is now time that we seriously think, weigh and consider the blogs that we have and what these blogs can do for our country.

First the BUM 2008 Chairman Mr Y L Chong (or Desi) appeared in the daily under the title “Change mindset on blogging”. U-en Ng writing a letter to the newspaper said that “Blogs (are) merely a medium of communication” (25/4/08). The executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, V Gayathry, cautioned that “leaders should look into the content, the messages and not the blogs”. This is where differences emerge – blogging can empower each of us to have our own website and we can express our thoughts, deliver ideas and share our experiences. Generally bloggers try to be honest in their postings but then again some can be biased or offer unfair comments (and a few can even be downright liars!) So we must start with ourselves…if we can offer the truth and convince our readers and those whom our blogs can reach, we can have a fresh start to getting them to act in the best interests of the community.

If any blogger, just because he/she sees himself or herself as being free to write anything vile or vicious or seditious takes the opportunity and brings out bad vibes, then that blogger is not a credit to our happy bloghood[10] and ought not to operate in the blogosphere[11]. Having said that, bloggers appear to be free to move about and help our community to achieve “Civil Society” status.

Bloggers should be aware of their limitations in respect of copyright, trademark, defamation[12], Official Secrets Act and Sedition. (You might want to read “Blogging – Are you exposing yourself to legal liabilities?” by Sabrina Mohamed Hasshim (2007) 2 CLJ i.)[13] and some 12 Dos and Don’ts for Blogging and Copyright Law. I have provided the organisers a copy in case some of you might want to read at leisure.

Now comes the crunch.

Since you have asked me to deal with “Fostering Civil Society…” I take it that you want suggestions as to what bloggers can or must do to achieve such a noble objective. And I think what you meant was “Civic Society”. (Civic with a “c” and not “l”.)

We must be quite relieved that the situation in Malaysia is unlike in the Philippines, some countries in South America and Africa (Zimbabwe included) and recently in Sri Lanka. You can recall that President Musharaf, upon taking office, allowed the increase in radio/TV stations and newspapers. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi allowed more discussions and publications among Malaysians and did not fetter the printing of news and complaints. Result? Both in Pakistan and Malaysia, the Press (and naturally the Alternative Media or the Blogs) heavily criticised the Government leading to their current political situations.

The PM admitted that the BN lost the online war. “We did not think it was important. It was a serious misjudgement”. (at the Invest Malaysia Conference). But compare the Singapore Prime Minister’s cautious stance: “….laws would be relaxed but only carefully…” Some observers believe that the Malaysia-style digital coup is not possible in the island republic.

What I wish to stress here is that the Blogs can be used and/or misused. And I am happy that for this event, we want to know how Blogs can foster Civic Society. (And so I shall not touch the politics or politicians…may they behave themselves in and out of Parliament or the State Legislature, especially those who smoke cigars).

There are many and various problems we confront daily. As a result we are not yet a civic society. The challenge is for bloggers who are present here today and members outside to wield your power (of persuasion) and your authority (via your expertise and knowledge) to reach more Malaysians, get them to be active in their community and interact in order to identify non-civic problems and those situations which cause our country to be less civic!

First and foremost let us examine each of us. How civic-minded are we? How do we treat our neighbours? How do we conduct ourselves and driving on the roads? The accident rate is excessive for a nation of “sopan santun”. And our buses run Off the Roads into ravines? Is it because the tolls are too high and too many? Is there hanky-panky in the licensing of bad drivers? Or we paid too much for low-quality roads? This is a fertile ground for bloggers to delve into and raise the issues in the blogosphere and then get more citizens to be concerned.

Safety and security: do citizens have to be fully responsible for our own – at home, in offices, outside, while travelling? Or do the Authorities and Police have a bounden duty to perform? Here the bloggers can investigate the misconception (eg what are taxes for?), areas of responsibility and duties and bring to bear to all concerned so that a good system can set in and a proper standard of safety and security can be maintained…for the sake of our families and children (and their future).

The Poor….how can our rich country still have very (or hard core) poor in our midst? There are cries that in many areas, where money is collected, a lot of cash have slipped away or mismanaged. From my rough calculation, if every sen (or now every 5-sen) is honestly collected, we can build a luxury kampong every few months. We can provide the poor with houses complete with water and electricity and organise an industry in which they can work in. Poverty is then eradicated. Some bloggers can go into this area and figure out the “leaks” and put your corks to safeguard the cash.

Remember also the women and children.

New Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek has said that “bloggers are important” And he wished he could see bloggers[14]. He added that “everybody wants to know what’s happening in the country”. This naturally is one clear path on which bloggers walk on. Here then is testimony that bloggers can do your part in fostering civic society.

The services by local and city councils can and must be monitored. Their work impacts on how our daily lives are geared and whether we pay more for less or do we get value in the process. The activities in the respective constituencies and areas help in the development of civic consciousness which in turn fosters the civic society that this event BUM 2008 desires. So some bloggers will need to dig deep into the various aspects and write (and be read by as many) in order to gain the involvement of the residents.

I need not list here the various aspects as we can discuss these and come to come conclusion in due course. But write you must and get readers to be interested. In the billions and billions[15] of words posted by millions and millions of bloggers world-wide, one outstanding element helps spread the importance and impact and that is “the connection” or links that each blog can garner to reach the wider audience…

Cleanliness and health. In these areas of concern, bloggers can find out the respective facilities that exist and those that are lacking and bring to the attention of those given the duty to take care. Are the medicines genuine? Is there any shortage of medical staff and doctors? What can be done? Bloggers (or other citizens) ought not to just complain but should suggest solutions. Are the aged and the disabled being adequately taken care of? If not, why not? The standard of civic conscience and civic conduct is measured by the care we give to the parents and grand-parents, the infirm, and the disadvantaged.

When we reach a certain standard in this aspect, we can say we have achieved Civic Society quality.

I hope these broad areas will open your eyes to more details and minor issues of concern.

All in all, when all of us conduct ourselves well in the world arena and within our community, we can truly claim that our Civic Society is of international status and we can justly be proud. To bloggers who help in this direction, I say “Heartiest Congratulations” and “Thank you”.

By Dato’ Syed Ahmad Idid


[1] Former Judge of High Courts for Borneo & Malaya. An Invited Guest at BUM 2008.

[2] “Bloggers can be journalists and journalists can be bloggers. See Apple v Does.

[3] Successful and Outstanding Bloggers.

[4] There are differing definitions, interpretations and meanings to “Civil Society”.

[5] A German Philosopher.

[6] Wikipedia.

[7] Government Linked Corporations.

[8] The World Bank.

[9] Do you know that our Malay dictionary describes this as “bentuk ketupat”.

[10] Collection of local blogs.

[11] Collective Community of all blogs.

[12] Remember the lawyer who wrote the judgment for the Judge and put high liability?

[13] I am grateful to Encik Hamid Ibrahim (you all know him in CLJ) for bringing this to my attention.

[14] Bloggers…where are you? Why did you not invite the Menteri to this event?

[15] Do you wonder where those words (you write, you delete?) go to? One pessimist thinks these billions are being collected by an unseen (and misunderstood force) and kept in the stratosphere and will in due course cover and blanket the earth in darkness. BB Bloggers beware!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

MSM Coverage of BUM2008

The BUM2008 Organising Committee thinks it's Worthwhile for Bloggers to Engage the Fourth Estate! Some 20 members of the mainstream media attended the Bloggers Universe Malaysia Gathering. It's a New Landscape out there at the Fourth Estate vis-a-vis interacting with the Fifth Estate, and such discourse and conversation will only contribute to a Better Malaysia ~~ Desi

Saturday May 3, 2008
Bloggers organise discourse to network and brainstorm

BLOGGERS are here to stay. Relegated once to the insignificant list, the latest shift in the political arena has redefined their presence and given them the due recognition.

As a testimony to their emerging influence, a special discourse was held recently featuring several personalities from the blogging world, media and academics. More than 150 bloggers and non-bloggers attended the Bloggers Universe Malaysia (BUM) 2006, a half-day discourse at the Lake View Club.

Themed Towards A Civil Society, BUM 2008 was organised by a group of bloggers in their individual capacities in association with the Centre for Policy Initiatives.
Journalist and blogger: National Alliance of Bloggers president Ahirudin Attan @ Rockybru questioned whether self-censorship would be imposed on blogs and online news.

“This event is an avenue for people to come together to network and brainstorm with leading members in specialised areas, in light of the tremendous changes in the political landscape and even media field,” said BUM 2008 organising committee chairman YL Chong @ Desi.

“We need to engage each other, whether those from the fourth estate (mainstream media) or fifth estate (new media).

“A blog is merely a channel; the brainpower behind it determines its quality and contest so the cyberworld can accept it,” said Desi, stressing that newcomers in blogging need to know their core strengths and specialise in that area in their blogs.

The talk's afternoon session featured National Alliance of Bloggers (NAB) president Ahirudin Attan @ Rockybru, ex-judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid, academician Dr Azmi Sharom, Centre for Policy Inititatives director Dr Lim Teck Ghee and journalist Jacqueline Ann Surin speaking on the topic Fostering Civil Society - Various Voices.

The evening session, entitled The Fifth Estate (Bloggers) As Agency For Change, featured laywer-cum-MP William Leong, human rights advocate Haris Ibrahim, journalist R. Nadeswaran and blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin.

Rockybru outlined the possible challenges for blogging and the civil society, and questioned whether self-censorship would be imposed on blogs and online news.

On an ideal civil society, he said: “If the judiciary and media aren't free, it won't create the civil society we're hoping for.”

Dr Lim paid tribute to the community of political bloggers who have provided important information, analysis and feedback on key issues taking place in the country.

He said the impact of bloggers could be seen in the results of the recent general election.

Syed Ahmad pointed out that “civil society” had two meanings. “Firstly that such society comprises voluntary civic and social organisations as opposed to the force-backed structure of a state.

“The second meaning is that civil society is the 'third sector' as distinct from the Government and the Business,” he said.

“But be warned. 'A regime in which only civil society existed would be a regime of anarchy', hence the requirement for law and order or government regulations whereby the conduct of the population is maintained for the greater good of the majority.”

Dr Azmi said one could be within society and make a change.

“My students were excited after the recent election. For the first time, young people saw that their vote made a difference and that it mattered.

Paying tribute: Centre for Policy Inititatives director Dr Lim Teck Ghee speaking at the discourse.

He said the internet could provide an alternative to the mainstream media.

Surin focused on blogging becoming an alternative source of news and guidelines for posting comments on blogs, citing, the site she created with two journalists to cover the recent general election.

“News publishing doesn't belong to major establishments anymore. As a result of shift in power, there is a higher level of participation in newsmaking, thus creating a more vibrant democracy,” she said.

Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who is also a blogger and a guest at the event, said it was good to see that bloggers were given the recognition they deserved.

“I hope this trend continues to grow and that bloggers become a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

A blogger who wanted to be identified as Shanghai Fish said BUM 2008 was a good way to meet and socialise with fellow bloggers, while getting new input from the speakers.

“As a blogger, I don't write anything I don't take full responsibility for. Everything that I've posted was done with a clear and honest conscience,” said the NAB member.

The above article & photo taken from the Star

Saturday, May 3, 2008

MSM Coverage of BUM2008 - Sin Chew













* 國內

2008-05-02 19:57










* 國內

2008-05-02 19:51

(布城)經濟學者林德宜博士認為國家原則局(Biro Tata Negara)是鼓吹馬來人至上主義的政府部門,使馬來青少年新生代,自小就存有馬來主義至上的觀念。









MSM Coverage of BUM2008 - Nanyang Siang Pau

- 国内新闻 -

林德宜:政府打压失民心 “勿把部落客当敌人” 2008/05/02 18:13:33











- 国内新闻 -

部落格设求变议程 “我们应拿回决定权” 2008/05/02 18:13:45







- 国内新闻 -

阿希鲁丁赞扬部落客 推动公民社会有贡献 2008/05/02 18:13:45








Friday, May 2, 2008

Bloggers Buzz at the BUM2008!

Picture taken from

Since Desi was dead-tired from running helter-skelter for past 24, here's mitigation for stealing one back from mGf Ahirudin Attan, also President of Interim Council of the National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs), drinking bir (rut ke?) dan tehtarik at, just one pint! :) ~~:)
Those who did not find time nor the dime to land at Lake View Yesterday -- when all Bummers' troubles seemed so far away -- YOU really missed the Hap Bloggers' Event of the Year! But, never mind, come to BUM2009; meanwhile, here is a Virtual journey back 24! ENJOY! ~~ Desi


The 4th estate has failed us? Politically-appointed editors to blame?

The role of the mainstream media (MSM) came under heavy scrutiny at the Bloggers' Universe Malaysia 2008 held for the second year in a row at the Lake View Club, Subang.

Pics taken from Maverick's blog

Haris Ibrahim of People's Parliament says the 4th Estate has failed the people and called on Malaysians to reclaim the integrity of the profession.

Citizen Nades defended journalists and blamed politically-appointed Editors and draconian Press laws for the failure of a big chunk of the
MSM in serving the people.

Zorro, Kee Tuan Chye, Jeyapelan Mahesan, and Desiderata, among others, spoke on the the issue.

Jeff Ooi took part in the conference via a pre-recorded video clip. Steven Gan could not make it but BUM 2008 had Nades and RPK.

I spoke of what the National Alliance of Bloggers was up to the last one year and of my fear that the New Media, bloggers in particular, may one day entertain self-censorship as a compromise with advertisers and Government. The 2pm-midnight event attracted some 200 bloggers, activists, journalists and politicians.

Desi and Zorro moderated the two sessions and they have both kindly agreed to plan for BUM 2009. (Rocky, Did I? Zorro, I did? Someone or me was high on rut bir! ~~ Desi) Syabas to Desi and Gang for another excellent party!

p.s. RTM, Bernama, the Star, Utusan, the (new!) Malay Mail and several other papers covered the event.

PS: Mine, desi's -- knot rocky's, as Chair of BUM2008 Organising Committee, I have delight in abusing my privileged position!) so that the following ONE-LINER can be used as evidence in any court of law only against desi, not rocky! ~~ As Chair, I invited the MSM to the Hap Event everyone, who just has one eye open, would agree that the Malaysian landscape, including in the mainstream media (MSM), has changed lots since March 8, 2008; hence, in accord with the spirit of BUM2007's theme, let's all "Engage and Embrace", whether you're in Fourth, or Fifth, or real or virtual Estate!


* BUM2008 Report:

* Coverage at BUM2008:

* BUM2008 Fantastic Night:

* Scenes from Around BUM2008 in Subang Jaya:

* BUM 2008 - View from the Bridge :)

Dear Esteemed Readers (ER in blogspeak:):

Please send a Comment here if you have a Post covering BUM2008, and we will pick it up
to LINK HERE - alike the above first Famous Five (OMG, do you still read Enid Blyton's! That's a rhetorical Q!:) -- for posterity. Desi's not compleatly altruistic hear! -- enhancing his Blue Heaven to try reach that rainbow of 20million. See you here, or there, or wherever GreAt Minds Think, not necessarily Alike, as long as you defer to Desi, last word from the Chair. I promise -- Thanks mateys awe:) "Mucho Gracias", in the words of Sdr Teck Ghee, who I must say enpowers Desi lots in this Bloggers' Abencha!

* Double Happiness & BUM2008:

* BUM2008 Buzz:

* Standing Out or Fitting In?

* Gathering of Malaysian Bloggers 2008: Live Blogging