When Mainstream Becomes Fake, and Fake Becomes Mainstream

By Faiz Al-Shahab


The Game of Thrones season finale craze have brought about once again the smoking corner small talk over the similarities of the Malaysian 14th General Election with the HBO sensational series.

In this fantasy drama that is a closet political science case study journal, the uncanny resemblance – of rivalry and hatred between Malaysian then opposition parties in GE-14 and the ruling families portrayed in the series whereby everyone had to put aside their differences in the name of survival and to defeat the army of the dead – is pretty obvious.

Except today…there will always be an “except” for Malaysia…the army of dead is far from dead, and the ruling families are at each other’s throats again, with hardly any reform put through.

Besides economy and education, some of the issues the mass were most upset about, such as the police system, judiciary system and the civil service, are still left as it is.

Perhaps challenging these orders will cause too much commotion in this rather peaceful country, hence easier to let it be.

However, one component of the country’s system which should already by now have gone through an overhaul, is the media.

One would think that the media is not as “invincible” as the ones mentioned above, but turns and twists in the country have left the media to still maintain status quo.

The funny part to all this is that journalism, just like engineering, architecture, and discipline of medicine, pillars on integrity and professionalism.

Well, one can argue that law and accounting are also one of those professional career that stands on good values, but look at them, turn your head away and many will indulge in crime and corruption.

I guess professional integrity in this context is a weak argument after all.

Media in this country, despite of a liberal environment now in Malaysia, remains despicable.

Reasons to why there are so much fabricated news and civilians taking matters in to their hands in spreading none curated news is simply because the mainstream media are nothing more than just prostitutes to corporations and politicians.

For instance, there are not many work of investigative journalism taking place.

The Education Minister rant for two hours on plans and policies, and yet the media chose to pick up a petty issue regarding black or white school shoes and turn it to a debate which wasted everyone’s time.

The Prime Minister spoke for half hour on what the nation need to do to bring it back on the right track heading towards Fourth Industrial Revolution and the media picked up on his statement over so much money is spent on killing people.

It was a pact deliberated by the media, because all of them came up with the same headline, despite of no official press statement on the comment.

Usually, most media agencies will bow down to invites of VIPs and will rather swamp a media conference for official statements rather than seeking the truth.

To some extent the perception above is very unfair.

Some media friends have express their guilt and dissatisfaction of forced involvement in orchestrating news, but it is a small trade off to having their families being followed and harassed.

And so because of safety we leave politics alone, and look at commercial products instead.

Disappointingly, similar resentment in commerce too as the media will remain loyal to the brand owners who feeds them with advertising money.

Pathetically, in many cases too, media will praise and hide all defects of a product with the thinking that the corporation behind the product will eventually become their advertiser.

In all of this, whilst the so called professionals are busy trying to make money at any cost, whilst the law and judiciary system sympathizes corporations, the losers remain to be the Malaysian public.

This is mainly due to the notion that effects of partial truth in information and news is not as severe as signing off a poorly designed bridge or multi-story building.

Whilst the foresight is that misleading information will only cause loss of money to the mass fools, a collapsed bridge signed off by a dodgy engineer can cause deaths.

What was not taught in school is that partial truth can also cause death of lives.

So anyway, what is needed from Malaysian media?

The citizens is in dire need of investigative journalism, meaning more questions and digging.

This may not be welcoming by many, but it is the only way that voice of integrity can be restored again in this country.

So much so that the downfall of previous ruling party was the work of a foreign journalist, whilst for years, the local journalists witness all the buffoonery yet kept their mouth shut.

The media should do their bit, and grow more guts!

Commercial product whom have benefited from rogue media will continue bluffing the public, and public will continue falling into the traps, until one day, the trust is completely destroyed.

That day, advertisements and social media will not work anymore.

Perhaps there is a sneaky suspicion that our media does not understand the subject matter that they are reporting.

Therefore they will report only on parts that they understand, which at the end of it, is missing the point completely.

Malaysia need cleverer and smarter people, reporters included.

What the country can opt for is probably a platform for community journalism.

This platform, where the reporters are members of the public graded by public rating, hopefully will bring news that are more related to us, news which can reveal the hidden truth, and news that are valuable and trustworthy and free from commercial bribery.

With time, we shall wait and see if this can reduce the fake news movement in the country.

Meantime, Ramadhan Kareem everyone.


Other articles by the Author:

Malaysia: The Inferior Nation Series

Malaysia: The Inferior Nation

Malaysia: The Inferior Nation [Part II]




Artikel Bahasa Melayu

Perangkap Minda Arus Perdana

Dekad Baharu, Nekad Baharu

Peristiwa Terrorisme 1975 menjadi Renungan untuk 2020


English articles

Made in Malaysia: A Prejudice in Disguise




Case Nine


Retired Salvation Army major Janet Gilson was on one of her regular visits to her Hong Kong-based niece, Julia Fareed, when she disappeared. When her body was found in a couch at Julia’s flat, suspicion fell on Julia’s estranged husband Ahmed. He denied any involvement. But the forensic evidence had its own story to tell.

Julia Fareed met her husband Ahmed in 2003 when they were both working in the same hotel on the idyllic tropical paradise of the Maldives: a chain of 1192 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. They married in Hong Kong in 2007 and their daughter Jasmine was born in March 2008.
In Hong Kong, the couple found another idyllic place to live, settling down on Lamma Island. Just 3 km off the southwest coast of Hong Kong, Lamma was – and still is – famous for its unspoiled rural beauty, its beaches, its excellent seafood restaurants and its population of endangered species: Romer’s tree frogs, green turtles and porpoises. An attractive destination for expatriates and bohemians, the island also boasted rents that were (then) far below the usual astronomic mainland China or Hong Kong Island rates. And it was only a 40-minute ferry ride away from Julia’s job on Hong Kong Island: a journey that a New York Times travel piece described as “one of the most delightful commuter runs in the world”.

Julia Fareed’s married life on Lamma was less idyllic. Her husband’s ongoing drug use became a continuing source of conflict. In 2009 he was convicted of possessing dangerous drugs. The following year he was jailed for two months after being found guilty of “criminal intimidation”.
By 2011 the couple had separated. Julia and Jasmine moved to a small two-bedroom ground floor flat in Yung Shue Wan, and Julia began divorce proceedings. Although they had agreed on a schedule for Ahmed to have access to their three-year-old daughter, Jasmine, Ahmed’s aggressive behaviour prompted his ex-wife to go to court to get a “non-molestation” order, preventing him from entering her home.

In March 2011 Julia was happily awaiting the pleasant diversion of a visit from her UK-based Aunt Janet.
More of a mother figure to Julia than an aunt, Janet Gilson was a retired Salvation Army major who lived in the UK town of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex and had made regular trips to Hong Kong in previous years. In fact this trip was her fifth in as many years. As usual, she would be staying at Julia’s flat. The place had no guestroom but Julia was happy to sleep on the living room couch, so she could give her aunt her bedroom.
Janet Gilson arrived on March 5. But Julia had the chance to enjoy only the first week of her stay before the ongoing difficulties with her ex began, once again, to blight her happiness.

A row with her ex

Hostilities flared on Sunday March 13 when Ahmed failed to return Jasmine home by 5.30 pm, and Julia had to go looking for him. After she finally tracked him down at a local restaurant and retrieved their daughter, he came round to her flat – a breach of the “non-molestation” order. Claiming that he had Jasmine’s water bottle and hat, he insisted that she let him in.

When she refused, he started banging on the door, swearing at her and threatening to cause her “big trouble”. She called the police, who promptly arrested him. The next morning, Monday March 14, the couple were back in the Family Court where the judge told Ahmed off and ordered him to return to court in a week’s time.
The only positive aspect of this dispiriting situation was that they had at least been able to reach one agreement. Ahmed was unemployed and unhappily dependent on his wife for money. With their final divorce only weeks away, he had agreed that he had no future prospects in Hong Kong and would be best off returning to the Maldives. Julia would be paying his fare.

That night Julia arranged for Jasmine to stay at her maid/babysitter Karen’s place. The day’s events had been exhausting. She wanted to sleep in her child’s bed and enjoy a better night’s rest than she had been getting on the sofa.
The next day, Tuesday March 15, 2011, she left home at 7 am as usual, catching the 7.20 am ferry to Hong Kong Island where she worked for a local hedge fund.
Her morning was plagued with interruptions, all of them related to Ahmed.

Phone calls and texts from Ahmed

His first call had come when she was still on the ferry. He wanted Karen to collect a suitcase of Julia’s from him. Supposedly this was part of his preparations to pack up his stuff, leave Hong Kong and return to the Maldives.
Julia was at her desk by nine. But there was more to-ing and fro-ing by text. Ahmed hadn’t turned up for the meeting with Karen. Then he asked her to re-schedule it. Shortly after 11.30 am, she received a text message from her Aunt Janet. The message was entirely innocuous.
“Went to Sok Kwu Wan,” it read. “Going to have some food here and then will take the ferry to Aberdeen. I will tell you when I come back later. Love, Jane.” Sok Kwu Wan was a village, a couple of kilometres away from Julia’s home.
The text arrived at exactly 11.37 am on Tuesday March 15, 2011. Later Julia would recognise that moment as the point at which her life changed forever.

At the time, however, she had simply read the text and got back to work. As a personal assistant, she always had plenty to do. Certainly she had enough time to note that it was a bit strange to be receiving a text from her beloved aunt, who was not a texter. Like many retired 64-year-olds from sleepy British seaside villages, Janet Gilson had a mobile phone but used it like an old-fashioned landline: just for phone calls. The text was also signed “Jane” rather than Janet.
But Julia wasn’t a worrier by nature and she was too busy at work to let her mind start wandering. After all, this was her aunt’s fifth trip to Hong Kong and she knew her way around. If she’d had time to think about it, Julia might have wondered if her aunt had got talking to someone – a friendly woman at an adjacent restaurant table perhaps. Maybe that person had taught her how to text, in between chatting about the delights of the seafood restaurants of Aberdeen.

She didn’t think any more about the mysterious text until she got home and found that her aunt was still out.

Had something happened to her aunt?

It was then that she started to worry that something could be seriously wrong. For a start, her aunt wasn’t answering her phone. More perplexing was the fact that she seemed to have left the house in a terrible hurry. Her room was in a mess and she had left the bathroom water heater on.  Janet Gilson’s handbag and its contents, including keys to the premises, a wallet and her passport were missing, as expected if she had headed off for a day of sightseeing. But she hadn’t taken her glasses, or the shoes she usually wore when out and about. She had also put clothing out on the bed, presumably to wear after taking a shower. The garments were still lying there.
Something had caused her to leave the house in a mad rush.

But what? Julia continued to try her aunt over the next few hours. She waited until 10.30 pm, in order to check that she was not on the last ferry from Aberdeen, which docked at that time. Then she went to the local police post and reported Janet Gilson missing.

The police responded quickly.  On Wednesday morning an extensive search was launched. Police took a quick look around the house. Then 20 police officers with tracker dogs scoured the area between the village of Yung Shue Wan and nearby Sok Kwu Wan, where the text supposedly sent by Janet said she’d gone. There was no sign of Janet Gilson. The following day, another 20 police and 20 Civil Aid officers joined the search. Meanwhile Julia posted photos of her aunt around the island and went from shop to shop trying to find someone who might have seen her.
Julia felt more distraught with each passing day. But she had to pretend to behave normally for her daughter’s benefit.

Red stains on the floor
On Saturday morning, when she was lifting her daughter on to the sofa she noticed some red stains on the floor tiles. They hadn’t been there on the Monday night when she’d been sleeping on the sofa. She also noticed an unpleasant smell in the house – a sickly odour that refused to budge even when she opened all the windows.
Once again she called the police.
Requesting Julia to remain outside, senior inspector Chung Shing Keung immediately ordered his men to lift the sofa. A long cut had been made into the black material undercover of its yellow foam base, creating a cavity. In it they found Janet Gilson’s body. It was obvious that she had met a violent and undoubtedly painful death.
There were no signs of a forced entry into the apartment. Mrs Gilson had either let her killer in because she knew him – or the killer had used a key. Julia’s spare keys had gone missing. Who would have both the opportunity and motive to steal them? There was also only one person to whom Janet would have opened the door.
That individual was, of course, Ahmed Fareed. According to his daughter’s maid/babysitter, he had been rifling through drawers at his ex-wife’s house some ten days earlier.

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Part III – of a continuing series

By Faiz Al-Shahab

I remembered my childhood days living in England, where my family were the very few coloured existence in the suburb of Salford city. From time to time, we make our way to the city of Manchester to meet up with the Malaysian community, the only chance we get to eat satay and laksa at the time. For those who never experienced living abroad in the 80’s and 90’s, Malaysian community overseas especially the students and post-grad students live modestly. They buy cheap old cars, and rent cheap homes, contrasting to their lifestyle back in Malaysia.

Evidently it is due to the exchange rate that gives Malaysian studying community overseas a smaller buying power, but it is also due to the fact that everybody’s goal was to save money and buy bone china, mini-compo, wallpaper, a car or two, and Western brand accessories, all to be fitted into a shipping container heading back to Malaysia at the end of the stay. In the meantime, standard of living abroad suffers, but it was never an issue because status and style did not come into equation amongst Malaysian community abroad, accept for the ones in London.

Bear in mind, these people in that community later on in life sat in high positions in government and corporate offices of Malaysia. Many became Secretary General and Director General of Ministries, deputies, CEO’s and MD’s of corporations, Directors, you name it.

It demonstrates that downgrading on lifestyle is perfectly fine, and we can benefit from it. Nonetheless, once in Malaysia all that is put aside.

Today unfortunately, the heated topic still revolves around the dire straits situation of our economy. The bad news is, we have yet to go through the worse of it.

Nonetheless going through bad times can open up to new opportunities and provide us reasons for changes.

We at e-Sentral urge our society and organisations be it government or corporate to take austerity measures in printing medium, to reduce expenditures. If we cannot make big changes, do the small things that we can first. Slowly slowly catche monkey. By making our annual publications such as annual reports, news bulletins, manuals, informative books, boss’ biographies, and company’s audit in digital book form, entities can save huge amount of yearly expenses. Many have joined the band wagon and made savings.

Of course, this comes with having to change our mind set and the way we do things too.

Running a tight ship is not for everyone, but we have to be smarter and increase our value and dignity.

This is the best time to reflect at how we can improve in doing things we have not changed in many years.

For local Universities par example, the press and publishing houses should publish more textbooks and academic materials for own consumption rather than using far more expensive foreign publications. If our lecturers and professors deem that local materials are not good enough, then there is no point to have university press and publishing houses in the first place. The local lecturers in a way are saying that their own writing is not good enough for our students. Moving ahead, there will be no room for this kind of mentality.

Tighten your seat belts. strong waves ahead! Prediction for the near future will not be so forgiving either, with fuel price forecast to go up, it will only set the left overs suits and ties of the oil and gas club back to its arrogant mode, but for other industries, austerity is still very real. So lets take the opportunity to be smart about things, and make effective spending.

Other articles by the Author:

Malaysia: The Inferior Nation Series

Malaysia: The Inferior Nation

Malaysia: The Inferior Nation [Part II]



Artikel Bahasa Melayu

Perangkap Minda Arus Perdana

Dekad Baharu, Nekad Baharu

Peristiwa Terrorisme 1975 menjadi Renungan untuk 2020


English articles

Made in Malaysia: A Prejudice in Disguise

When Mainstream Becomes Fake, and Fake Becomes Mainstream



Malaysia: The Inferior Nation

Part I – of a continuing series

By Faiz Al-Shahab

Wasp, in a dictionary will normally be described as a social winged insect which has a narrow waist and a sting and is typically yellow with black stripes”.  When it bites you, you will cry, if not die.

This is my understanding of the meaning ‘wasp’ until my university days. A friend used the word ‘wasp’ to describe profile of fraternity boys in a North American university I was studying in. ‘Wasp’ in this context is an abbreviation referring to White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, usually tall, blue eyes, well-built boys originating from New England or the more pristine areas of Canada. I kept the laughter to myself about the whole thing and took it just as another stereotyping in process.

I am Malaysian, but my childhood was spent in slumps of Greater Manchester in what was still remembered as the dark 80’s – a bad era of recession in North West England laced with high crime rate and racism. After university, I served in the automotive industry as a manufacturing engineer in a factory in North West England, a career which led me to become an European division manager in this industry. I was responsible for 6 engineers and 14 technicians from different races and religions. At 25, I made a bit of corporate history by being the youngest, non-wasp serving manager in the company.  Working in a multi-racial company made me blind to skin colours and learn to judge people by their ability and character. Come to think of it, I did work and integrate with many ‘wasp’ during that time, of which some I love and some I despise till this very day.

Returning back to Malaysia in 2007, I had to quickly adjust to work pace here, which until this very day I am still not completely integrated with. When immersing yourself in business here, you start to notice an evidently clear lack of self-confidence with Malaysians in general, be it private or public sector. Then, you notice that Malaysians will pay twice attention when foreign Caucasian folks talking to them, although half the time they don’t understand what has been said. In other words, they like ‘wasp’.

Malaysians tend to badmouth white folks all the time, prying about past colonial history and how cruel and unjust things were under white rule. But the moment a Malaysian sees a white folk…

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