For my son, when he grows up, this site will be my legacy for him. The decisions his mother and I made for him, to understand them, to learn from them and to lead a life without prejudice and to succeed in it on his own merit.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


RM300 “gift” mystery unsolved
The Nut Graph
by Teo Nie Ching

ON 16 Jan 2009, during the Kuala Terengganu (KT) by-election, more than a dozen journalists were asked to list their names, organisations, and telephone numbers on a blank piece of paper. The request was made by a staff member at the KT by-election media centre. At around 3.50pm on the same day, each of the journalists was given a white envelope containing six RM50 notes.

A number of journalists later returned the envelopes to the media centre staff. Two journalists from Chinese-language online news portal Merdeka Review immediately lodged a police report at the Terengganu police headquarters. In their police reports, they provided the name of the media centre staff who distributed the white envelope. They were later informed that the case would be referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for investigation.

After this incident, I submitted a question to Parliament, seeking an answer from either the prime minister or information minister. My question was worded thus:

Puan Teo Nie Ching [Serdang] minta Perdana Menteri menyatakan atas arahan siapa pegawai bertugas memberi sampul surat yang mengandungi RM300 kepada wartawan-wartawan di pusat media Kuala Terengganu pada 16 Januari 2009 dan apakah tindakan/siasatan yang telah ataupun akan diambil ke atas insiden ini.

I had requested for my question to be answered on 17 Feb 2009. However, I was informed by the secretary of the Dewan Rakyat that my question was rejected on grounds that it violated Rule 23(1)(c) of the Standing Orders:

A question shall not contain any argument, interference, opinion, epithet or misleading, ironical or offensive expression nor shall a question be frivolous or be asked seeking information on trivial matters.

Until now I still can't figure out how or why my question breached Rule 23(1)(c) of the Standing Orders. Does my question contain any argument, interference, opinion or epithet? Or is this a frivolous or trivial matter? Or perhaps, the minister simply found my question too offensive to answer.

The information minister through his press secretary Hisham Abdul Hamid has denied making any payment to journalists covering the by-election. He claims the ministry had never directed any of its officers to do such a thing.

However, when questioned about the source of the money, the media centre staff could not offer any answers. Why? Did the envelopes just fall down from a tree like durians? Did the staff suddenly decide to play Santa Claus after waking up that fine morning?

"Envelope" journalism

Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek boasted in Oct 2008 that Malaysia did not practise "envelope" journalism — a norm in certain developing countries where journalists are paid to highlight certain stories. In less than three months, Shabery was proved wrong in the KT by-election media centre.

It is easy to still preserve the accuracy of his statement and to clear the name of the ministry. What he needs to do is simply take the initiative to investigate the matter and tell us who instructed the staff to offer the envelopes to the journalists.

It is equally important for him to prove that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is all out to fight corruption and that the prime minister is not the only person apparently concerned about this. The information minister should immediately sack the media centre staff and the individual(s) who instructed the staff to give out the envelopes. Sadly, none of this has been done.

It is also sad that the MACC on 20 Jan 2009 decided not to investigate the case because it said the reporters could not identify the media centre staff.

This is such a lame excuse. The reporters from Merdeka Review had provided the name of the staff. Furthermore, there were more than a dozen journalists in the media centre that day. What is so difficult about identifying the staff?

Did the MACC call the rest of the journalists and investigate to the best of its ability before concluding that the culprit could not be identified? There is a suspicious lack of initiative on the part of the MACC to respond to what was clearly an attempt to bribe journalists covering the by-election. This is totally unacceptable.

People are smarter

Voters in KT were apparently not influenced by these dirty tricks and the Pakatan Rakyat won the by-election with a 2,631-vote majority. This does not prove that there were no attempts to bribe voters and journalists in KT. It just shows that people are cleverer these days and bribes like the one attempted in the by-election media centre were not successful.

The approaches adopted by the information ministry and MACC make a mockery of the so-called reforms towards a corrupt-free society belatedly announced by the prime minister. It further shows that the BN government is only paying lip service to the principle of honesty and the battle to fight corruption.

Even though the KT by-election is now over, it is important to ensure that real actions are taken against the dirty trick that occurred in the media centre. To demonstrate zero tolerance towards corruption, the information minister should assure the public that serious action will be taken against the media centre staff. Additionally, he should guarantee that such an incident will not repeat during the upcoming by-elections in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.

Without this assurance, the battle against corruption will ring hollow and false

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Shape Of Things To Come

My wife, Vivian, sent me this mail by a friend of hers from Australia. Rightly so, as the initial purpose of this blog is to delve on complexities of mental perception. How we react to circumstances now, and how we will react to it in years to come. To assume we will accept things as they are now and to still perceive the same later, is like a baby continuing to crawl on all fours even into adulthood. There're no good thing and there're no bad thing. We simply evolve.

SCHOOL -- 1957 vs. 2007

Scenario : Jack goes rabbit shooting before school, pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack.

1957 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's rifle, goes to his car and gets his rifle & chats with Jack about guns.

2007 - School goes into lock down, Star Force called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his ute or gun again. Counsellors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1957 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2007 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Robbie won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1957 - Robbie sent to office and given 6 of the best by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2007 - Robbie given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Robbie has a disability.

Scenario : Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario : Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1957 - Mark gets glass of water from Principal to take aspirin with.

2007 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario : Pedro fails high school English.

1957 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2007 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. AFRE files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario : Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a bullant nest.

1957 - Ants die. And Johnny decided he wants to become a rocket scientist one day.

2007 - Star Force, Federal Police & Anti-terrorism Squad called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, Feds investigate parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario : Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1957 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2007 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

This should be sent to every e-mail address to show how stupid we have become!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Throw In The Kitchen Sink Too

While the large corporations can arm themselves with the latest and finest expertise from each and every industry with their expansion and profits earned, government tend to relied heavily on available resources and manpower within the ranks and file of it’s civil services. This is not to say they could not afford such professionals with the required experiences, but being in government, the mentality of ownership, a nurturing sentimental value to the entity and to work out the best deal for the benefits of the nation, seems to be lacking during negotiations on privatization projects and the closing of deals are but a way considered successful once it is off their hands. Not to forget that money exchanges hands and hidden offset deals made away from public scrutiny.
It's a win-win situation alright. A sure-win for the corporation securing a already monopolised industry and a sure-win for the government to relinquish their responsibilities albeit with surplus funds from the deal and could most likely be utilize for other mammoth projects. But it goes much further. It's actually a win-win-lose. The people and mandatory consumer loses because charges and rates are at the mercy of these corporations.

Welcome to Malaysia, land of the sweetheart deal

First, take a one-sided concession agreement, in favour of yourself of course. Then get a federal government guarantee. Throw in an enormous profit margin, of say 50 per cent over 30 years, and you've got yourself a triple-A rated sweetheart deal.

Welcome to Malaysia, where privatisation has often favoured concessionaires over consumers and taxpayers, and indeed the federal government itself.

Water assets, toll highways, power plants: the list of infrastructure deals with deliciously generous terms handed out under the previous administration of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad just grows longer.

Yesterday, for example, it was revealed that Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd effectively collects a toll from every passenger who goes through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

It does not matter if these passengers use the high-speed KLIA Ekspres service to Kuala Lumpur Sentral or take a cab: ERL is paid a portion of whatever Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd collects in passenger service charges.

Even passengers at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) pay ERL.

Like several lucrative highway concessions, including one for the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong, such deals protect the operators from falling traffic through subsidies, either direct or indirect.

According to declassified concession documents, the LDP concessionaire has to date received compensation from the government equivalent to about half the highway's construction cost.

It was either that or a guaranteed rate hike, take it or leave it. So far, the federal government has mostly taken it.

The same kind of ultimatum has been put to the Selangor state government by the private water companies. Basically, if the state government doesn't buy them out by April, Selangor's households will pay more for water. Of course, this situation is the product of a combination of factors, and not of the water concessions alone.

Years of cumulative privatisation, nice, easy terms and, finally, a last desperate attempt to rationalise Peninsular Malaysia's water system, have put a loaded gun to the Selangor state government's head, wielded by companies such as Puncak Niaga Bhd, which controls Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), and Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Holdings Berhad (Splash).

And don't even mention sewage company Indah Water Konsortium, whose failed existence might one day need yet another sweetheart deal.

There's nothing wrong with privatisation in itself. But these deals seem to show that everything that should have been done was not, and everything that should not have, was.

There was the first-come-first-served policy. Whoever came up with the first privatisation proposal of its kind pretty much got the deal. This of course begat a surge in half-baked, badly-priced, poorly designed proposals of any and all kinds. Build over the Klang River and call it the Kuala Lumpur Linear City? Sure. Charge households individually for sewage treatment? Why not, eh?

Then this was aggravated by the sometimes complete absence of oversight. Infrastructure development is an old, well-established game, and pricing in construction, materials, expertise and the odd consultant or two is not rocket science.

There are rules of thumb, formulas, guidelines, set pieces of negotiations even. Except in those heady days, Mat Salleh financiers fell over each other trying to lend money to the then United Engineers Malaysia Bhd and its North-South Expressway project because the deal was so yummy.

So juicy were the terms that it just had to be kept a deep, dark national secret, and taken just over 20 years for Malaysian motorists, consumers and taxpayers to be told what exactly those terms and guarantees were.

So with humongous loans hanging over your head, with repayments stretched out over your remaining lifetime, and money collected in small change every day, where's the profit to be made?

That's why you should always award the construction of the dam, highway, treatment plant, power plant, fill name of infrastructure project here, to a parent or sister construction company for the first round of short-term profit. Then float your company on the then-booming Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange and sell a chunk of it to the Employees Provident Fund, and there's your second round. Rinse, repeat.

Leave all the risk to the Government of Malaysia and its shareholders, the taxpayers. Much like KLIA's passenger throughput, it doesn't matter if you drive, or bathe, or fly, or don't. You're paying anyway.

Monday, February 23, 2009

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka

This is a extension to my earlier post "The Will And The Willing" which I could not download the video at the said website then but managed after searching thru youtube. Instead of inserting it there, thought it might be better to put in a fresh post with the video included.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Everything Is Just Fine

Everything is fine. Malaysia is like a happy go lucky person with a cancerous tumor one day will slowly eat away every part of it’s body. Our doctor politicians have done a marvelous job suppressing and hiding this sickness and once a while throw in other symptoms for the benefits of distraction away from the more serious health issues. Why people continue to stand by such hypnosis is the very fundamental of survival and feel good factor one can associate with. Maslow Abraham and his theory of hierarchy needs really put it in clear perspective of our basis for accomplishment level and self recognition.

Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone

Today, I begin a new life as a columnist for Sin Chew, an experience that I know I will enjoy enormously.

Two days ago, I had lunch with a parliamentarian and two senior bureaucrats from Germany on their first official visit to Kuala Lumpur. They came, they saw and were impressed with our capital city and the development they had seen so far as they travelled around KL and its environs. They had obviously been well-briefed by their own government agencies about the social and political climate in our country and apparently were extremely well informed on Malaysian affairs. The Germans, as we all know, are meticulous in everything they do, and so I was not at all surprised when one of them who headed his organization's foreign department asked this penetrating question.

"Why is there all this flurry of activity to bring about a regime change when the government has brought so much prosperity to the country?" I must admit that for a while I was stumped for words. Why indeed! When at last I recovered my composure, I explained between mouthfuls of tasty offerings that what was apparent was not always real. In our wide-ranging conversation I reflected aloud our national concerns in the following terms.

Underneath all the glint, gleam and glitter of aluminium, stainless steel and plate glass lies a sad tale of greed and corruption, involving the political and bureaucratic elites who govern and administer this land. There will be official denials galore. Some years ago, Transparency International estimated, somewhat conservatively many thought, that Malaysian public infrastructure projects cost 30% more than they should. As far as political corruption is concerned, a major component of the ruling coalition has admitted that problem exists among its membership and the party is wrestling with it as best it can.
In any case, if corruption in national life had been robustly confronted instead of wasting scarce resources and time on cosmetic touch-ups, if fine rhetoric was backed by resolute deeds, and if there was more of that all important ingredient called "political will", Malaysia would have emerged economically, socially and politically stronger as a society.

Instead, close to three decades of the Mahathir and Abdullah stewardship of this nation, our ratings, judged by every social, economic and political indicator, in one survey after another, have continued to take a tumble with regular monotony, with little or no prospect of improvement any time soon.

The real issue here is not just how well we have done, but, more to the point, how much better we would have succeeded in all aspects of national development and social integration if we had adopted policies that were fair for all. For example, much of the sense of marginalisation felt by certain ethnic groups as well as the rural poor could have been avoided had more thought been given to the needs of our citizens irrespective of race or creed. Instead, for much post-Merdeka period, we spent our time and energy on implementing policies that have tended to divide rather than unite us.

In earlier times, we were happy enough to put up with restrictions on personal liberties and human rights violations, up to a point. We believed when we were told that a developing country that had just broken away from colonial subjugation and, since 1948 for close to two decades, living in fear under the menacing, dark sky of militant communism, could not expect to enjoy the luxury of life taken for granted in a full blown democracy. Sacrifices were demanded and given, on the whole, without a murmur.

However, as the country developed from a plantation economy to a much more complex industrial society, and as Malaysians became better educated, they began to claim their rights under the Constitution and to question the manner in which their country was being governed on their behalf by elected representatives more interested in feathering their own little nest than performing their work in the public interest. They had seen with their own eyes how the institutions of government once admired and respected had been systematically compromised by a government that threw ethical behaviour out of the window.

Coupled with policies that ignored the need for inclusiveness in a multi racial society such as ours, public confidence in the BN coalition, already fragile to begin with, following one scandal after another, evaporated into thin air. The steady slide down the slippery slope had begun. The people, having decided enough was enough, voted with their feet in the 12th General Elections to deny the ruling Barisan Nasional not only the 2/3rds parliamentary majority, something BN had always assumed as their birthright, but also succeeded in ousting the BN governments in five states. Change had indeed arrived and with it the realisation that ordinary Malaysians had come of political age by rejecting, in a totally unexpected demonstration of their power and judgement, the racial politics of fear, and in one dramatic gesture buried once and for all the ghost of 13th May 1969 that Barisan Nasional had refused to put to rest. It had become their stock in trade. People obviously could think for themselves, and could no longer be taken for granted and ignored.

As we sipped coffee towards the end of the meal, I made my final observation that material progress measured in economic terms alone was no substitute for an incorruptible regime that put great store by sound ethical governance principles and practices. My German friends left, I hope, with a better understanding why the well-fed people of this strange country wanted more than bread to sustain them in their relentless quest for a new Malaysia that is grounded on democratic principles, justice and equality for all. Therein lies the soul of a country.

He is South East Asian Coordinator of the Caux Round Table and formerly served as Special Adviser on Ethics to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Much To Do, More To Go

You are not alone. Yet all of us feel so helpless that the only thing we are able to do is continue to chant for “reformasi” in the face of our adversary, the stubborn and controlled authorities and the elite rotting our resources away. We may not see the change in our life time, but what we are doing now sets the foundation towards change for the next generation and hopefully takes it to victory.

Where do we go from here?
By Hakim Joe

I wasn’t born the year Tunku Abdul Rahman stood up clenching his upright fist at Merdeka Stadium declaring Malaysia’s sovereignty and because of that, I have always taken for granted the privileges accorded a Malaysian citizen and was misled into thinking that there was freedom and equality in a democratic country.
513 did not make much of an impact on a four-year-old child in Ipoh as the curfews came and went. Racism was not that much of an issue to me as Ipoh town was predominantly a Chinese enclave. When I was old enough to attend school, the sacrifices made by a few great leaders of this nation failed to impress me as I had better things to consider, like how much pocket money was I getting and how was I to stretch it till the end of the week and those prevalent teenage years were spent chasing skirts and politics were the farthest thing in my mind. After graduating from Sydney University, obtaining employment in Malaysia that pays more than my expenses were the first and foremost priority. Fast women and even faster cars take precedence over almost everything. A time of innocence, a time of ignorance.

Now I am in my forties with a family to take care of. Up until the Perak Constitutional Crisis, the precarious position I was in did not fully register in my mind. Yes, there are the NEP and its transformations, the Ketuanan Melayu, human rights violations, manipulation of the media and ISA but ever since the Political Tsunami, everything seemed headed in the right direction. The Opposition had more than a voice in Parliament, they were in control of five state governments. The BN coalition was pegged back and this was supposedly the onset of full democratization of this nation after more than half a decade. I am speaking here and now as a non-bumiputera in Malaysia. Up until the day when the Sultan of Perak dismissed the legally elected Menteri Besar, I failed to recognize how the Word of Law can so easily be distorted, and how the interpretation of the Constitution is so indistinct that it can be disregarded without summary intervention by the Judiciary.

As the only son of a former MCA member in Ipoh, I have always had a passing fancy in Malaysian politics and I sincerely respect those that have fought hard for the many issues still plaguing the Malaysian society – Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Government Transparency, Rule of Law, Judiciary Sanctity, Abuse of Temporal Powers, etcetera, but it has never crossed my mind that I would one day, sit down and contemplate the political situation here in my country of birth. Neither have I deliberated that I would one day be writing this article to express my discomfort at the manner in which the central government is ruling this country, nor the chaos unleashed to unsettle its citizens. (To be fair, the Opposition Party does not exactly exude confidence either.) Racial disunity in a multi-ethnic society is but one of the many weapons being utilized to advance the personal agenda of those in power and preventive detention meted out to those who either fail to conform to their views or those they cannot silence. Is this a perverted form of democracy that is being experienced here or is this the dire consequence of having an ultra dominant political party?

Denying the BN coalition the two-thirds majority in Parliament is but the first tentative steps to the creation of an authentic democratic Malaysia. The next step is the formation of either a strong two-party (Republican vs. Democratic in US) or three-party (Liberal vs. Conservative vs. Labor in UK) system. We have the beginnings of the former here but the sustainability of Pakatan Rakyat’s coalition partners is fragile due to differing ideologies. Half a century of decadence is not something that needs to be tolerated anymore.

However, until the Opposition camp can prove to the voters that this coalition can (and will) work together for many years to come, this option remains vulnerable. Additionally, until the these leaders are capable of selecting honorable candidates who understand the word “integrity”, this charade of uniformity is but a method in which the frogs accomplishes their “instant-get-rich-scheme”. To the public eye, these generals must be seen to be leading from the front and not merely churning out unwarranted proclamations (from the rear). 916 is an experience no ardent supporters of the Opposition would desire to endure ever again.

It is therefore imperative that Pakatan Rakyat prioritizes their main concerns before the next federal elections scheduled before 2013. Set forth the momentum that will carry the day thence. Four years is too short a time in politics.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Only Purr... No Barking

Each time I watched the TV news, there is a distinct lopsided reporting on the favoured BN politicians in comparison with the oppositions. News casters tend to forward their comments (albeit prejudice to a great extend) on statements made by the oppositions while the ruling government politicians were lip added or elaborated on by the reporters. Our national TV’s station is getting no wiser with this strategies and it just goes to show how much more are cleverly blanketed over each time I surf thru the webs with more views not highlighted by these government controlled media. Each day, we are being presented with news which seems to project only selected opinions and only a fraction of the facts thrown at us. Still, I will continue to patronize them to get a even scope of the entire scenario.

Arrogant Barisan has to earn voters’ respect if it wants respect
By John Lee, The Malaysian Insider

Unlike a lot of people who have been making noise about Elizabeth Wong in the past week, I have a couple of links to Eli: I personally know her, and she is my representative in the Selangor state assembly. I have a real stake in what happens to her, and in how the present political crisis in Malaysia is resolved. And I am mad as hell with what is going on right now. As far as I’m concerned, nearly all of the political machinations since the beginning of this year have done little but undermine the will and the fundamental democratic rights of the Malaysian people, and I’ve had quite enough of it.

My former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo thinks Eli ought to quit for having a boyfriend who — horror of horrors — has access to her apartment at night. That’s not a crime. As far as moral offences go, it might as well be a virtue. I’d much rather be represented by a politician whose only fault is trusting her boyfriend too much, instead of a politician who went on television a few days ago to pour a heap of scorn on my rights as a Malaysian citizen.

There is a pattern to all that’s been going on lately, and that pattern is pretty clear: most of our politicians, especially prominent leaders of Barisan Nasional, aren’t very interested in protecting the rights and liberties of the citizens they supposedly serve. Look at the body language of the four katak Perak state reps at the press conference Barisan excitedly threw to welcome them — how many of them were actually excited about joining Barisan? Barisan’s own politicians are not very keen on being a part of Barisan, and that is because unlike Barisan’s top leadership, they understand that there will be a judgment day, and when that day comes, the Malaysian people will judge Barisan very harshly for what it has done.

After all, Barisan decided to kick off the year by subverting the popular will of one of the most prosperous and advanced states in the country. As has become so transparently clear ever since his fall from power, the former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin is so wildly popular that he has become a hero to Malaysians across the country — an unlikely fate for a former political unknown from Pas, whose initial appointment as menteri besar was so controversial amongst people of all political persuasions. Just under a year ago, a majority of the voters in Perak decisively threw their support behind Pakatan Rakyat; the subversion of their will has been a complete and utter betrayal of the democracy we supposedly believe in.

Meanwhile, the campaign against the Pakatan Rakyat government of my state, Selangor, seems to be already well under way. Before anyone could even react to the shocking news about Eli, Khir Toyo was already out there calling for her to resign — shockingly arrogant behaviour for a menteri besar whose administration was marked by incredible tolerance for corruption and mismanagement, far worse crimes against the Malaysian people. My family, my constituency, my state voted for a Pakatan Rakyat government, and we’ll be damned if Barisan politicians like Khir think they can just waltz in and undemocratically topple the government we elected.

Of course, Khir does think that, because like many of his Barisan colleagues, he really does not believe in democracy or in the constitutional rights of the rakyat. At his recent televised debate with two other contenders for the Umno Youth chief post, he persistently argued that it is unconstitutional to regard non-Malay Malaysians as equal to their Malay fellows. I wonder if Khir is this forthrightly bermuka tebal about non-Malay inferiority in casual conversation with his non-Malay friends.

As comfortable as Umno politicians like Khir are with playing this nonsensical game of denouncing the rights and prerogatives of half the country they serve, they would be as uncomfortable as ever saying this tripe to their non-Malay colleagues. This doesn’t just insult the citizenship and freedoms of non-Malays — this is a challenge to every Malaysian. My Malay friends treat me as their equal, and I treat them exactly the same way; Khir’s preposterous argument that it is an insult to the Malays for the non-Malays to be their equal is essentially saying that the Malays are so small-minded, so bigoted, so insecure that they can never engage their fellow Malaysians as equals.

The truth is, Khir is just projecting his own problems and insecurities onto the Malays he so vocally claims to serve; as with most politicians from his party, he is the one who is small-minded, bigoted and insecure. It’s no wonder; Barisan can now no longer count on the support of Malaysians, and neither can its leaders. Respect is something you have to earn, and can easily be lost; while Pakatan has been slowly building up respect, Barisan has only seen its reputation shredded over the years.

If Barisan wants to lead, that leadership role is not going to be a free lunch. The politicians of Barisan need to win back the support of the voters. Toppling democratically-elected governments and inventing scandals out of whole cloth is not going to do that. Respecting the voters, engaging them in thoughtful discussion, and attempting to meet their needs is what wins hearts and minds.

That is why Pakatan is on the upswing, while Barisan goes from defeat to defeat. As I write this, Barisan is now angrily lashing out at the speaker of the Perak state assembly for suspending its supposed menteri besar and his exco. Instead of calling for fresh elections, as they undoubtedly would have done themselves if Pakatan had successfully lured 30-plus MPs to its side last September, Barisan leaders whine about Pakatan disrespecting the will of the Rulers.

There’s a lot of good things to be said for the Rulers, and there’s a lot of good things to be said for Barisan. You can’t deny what they have done for Malaysia in the past. But you can’t deny that they are what now seem to be holding us back from the democratic ideals we aspire to. Like it or not, this is a constitutional and democratic monarchy, with rules we have to follow. You can’t topple the constitutionally-elected and appointed government without expecting severe consequences. You can’t subvert the will of the rakyat without expecting to run into major difficulties.

At least when Pakatan courted crossovers from MPs, it was open with the public about its actions and the need for feedback and dialogue; Barisan’s smug, arrogant “we know better” attitude throughout the recent political storms has only cemented public opinion against it. Barisan does not even care enough about the voters to engage them through the press or to seek their approval, as Pakatan did in its own ethically debatable crossover campaign. Barisan simply does not care about its constituents; it claims to be their legitimate representative, in spite of going behind the public’s back to topple their elected leaders. If you want your leadership to be respected, you have to earn that respect — and that respect can only be earned by first respecting those you seek to lead.

The arrogant Barisan persists in asserting that it knows better than the voters, that it has the right to overturn the constitution, the laws, the democracy we have in place. God knows that for the last few decades that’s almost all they have been doing. But last March, Malaysians decisively told Barisan to shape up or ship out: that we can have a Malaysia without a Barisan government. If Barisan truly wants our respect and truly wants to lead, it has to start by respecting this verdict. As long as it persists in inventing scandals and excuses to topple our democratically-elected leaders, we the rakyat will be glad to continue rejecting the false and undemocratic leadership of Barisan Nasional.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ketuanan Melayu My Shit!

Level playing field. This is what we should strife for. Start off equal and may the best man/woman wins. Privileges such as the Ketuanan Melayu here seems like a dirty word nowadays if one were to surf thru the blogs and webs expressing the equality of treatments and selections. With the statement made by three potentials leaders from UMNO, it is crystal clear that we may never see the daylights of a level playing field as long as such leaders continue to perceive their root heritage as a distinction between merit and hardwork. Half a century of independent and these bastards are still clinging on to their training wheels and not elevating themselves to world standard or even able to compete at international level – business, sports, educations, etc, etc. No surprise we lose talents year in and year out.

3 princes battle to decide Umno's future
The Malaysian Insider
by Adib Zalkapli

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — With less than two months before the departure of Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin said Tuesday night the transition of power to Datuk Seri Najib Razak scheduled for early April must be followed by promised reforms.

His opponents in the race for the coveted Umno Youth chief position, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, also spoke on the need for reforms to Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) in a nationally televised debate Tuesday night.

But all three contenders agreed that the country's affirmative action policies favouring the Malays would have to be continued because they felt the community was still lagging behind economically.

“Do not think that the transition of power will solve everything. The transition is just like laying the foundation. Without reform, the transition will be meaningless,” said Khairy.

The Rembau MP was responding to a question from the host, Dr Agus Yusof on the reason why Umno performed badly in the general election last year, to which Khairy replied that the Malay nationalist party still managed to retain most of its support base.

The three candidates were subjected to a series of tough questions including one on which they were asked to comment on Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Ketuanan Rakyat slogan.

“I am concerned that this Ketuanan Rakyat means Malays and other races, Islam and other religions will be placed on a level footing. The fact is Malays have a special position while Islam is the constitutional religion,” Dr Mohd Khir said, in what appeared to be an attempt to appeal to the more conservative Malay ground.

“The social contract is not unfair. I challenge those who do not agree to get into Parliament and change the Constitution then.”

Khairy said Umno's failure to maintain the support level it enjoyed in the 2004 election was because the party has failed to deliver on the promises of change it had made.

“We must return to the message of hope in 2004. In 2008 we failed because we failed to manage our biggest victory ever,” said Khairy.

Mukhriz promised to emulate the leadership qualities of his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who ruled Malaysia for 22 years, while Khir said Umno needs to return to the foundation which it was formed which is defending the Malay rights and Islam.

The Selangor Opposition Leader attributed the party's poor performance in the last election to its failuare to defend Islam and the Malays.

“When we are seen not to be fighting for religion, those who are religious would support Pas,” said Khir.

He added that the scheduled transition must emulate the similar hand over of power that took place after 1969 when the then Alliance lost its two-thirds majority in the Parliament.

“The renewal led to Pas joining the Barisan Nasional,” said Khir.

Both Mukhriz and Khir also expressed their disappointment at the government for not invoking the Internal Security Act when dealing with street protestors.

The Jerlun MP said the high number of protests led to BN losing the two by-elections.

Khir said that ISA would stop the proliferation of street protest.

“In the case of Karpal Singh, where more than 100 reports have been lodged, but no action has been taken. This is the root of people's disappointment leading to street demonstration,” said Khir referring to the treason allegation against the DAP chairman.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Maybe, Just Maybe We're On The Way

Old tricks get one hot under the collar
By Terence Fernandez of Down 2 Earth (The Sun)

MONDAYS are never easy for most of us. Getting out of bed early, enduring peak-hour traffic and anticipating trudging through the week. Suffice to say most of us are not in our best moods on Mondays.

Thus, I went ballistic when I received this message from Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor K.W. Mak yesterday: "We were nearby ur area. Some billboard guy wanted to take away 2 car park lots. Just wanted ur comments."

Although knowing my mother will frown on my choice of words, I could not help it and replied: "Tell him 2 **** off! We have so many problems with limited parking as it is!"
My outrage though was understandable. The two parking lots are near a drain reserve and close to the junction. Moreover, there was already a billboard there! On top of that, due to poor planning, the area where the office is located, has inadequate parking bays.
Mak responded: "Relax. We told him that it was against road transport act n street, drainage n building act to block road. Just that d guy was pleading, so I thought u ought to hear. Ha Ha!"

While Mak may not be too happy with me reproducing our communication, it is important to disclose them to the public to show three things:

» that some of those in the billboard business are still trying their luck to get the local authority to bend the rules;

» that the new breed of councillors in MBPJ have time and again proven that it is NOT business as usual in Petaling Jaya; and

» that the new-and-improved MBPJ adopts the spirit of consultation with all stakeholders.

So kudos to Mak and his colleagues for standing their ground. It is not easy doing what they do, especially on an allowance of only RM750 a month. But they have displayed dedication in carrying out the people’s will for the good part of the last 11 months.
Hopefully this demonstration of their policy of good governance will trickle down to the staff of MBPJ as they carry out their duties. The council’s blitz in taking down illegal billboards has been a long time waiting for ratepayers here.

But that councillors have to be present during the enforcement operations illustrate two things: as a show of support to enforcement officers who are frequently intimidated by thugs employed by the PJ Mafia, ie (some) billboard operators; and that it is necessary to ensure that brown envelopes don’t exchange hands, bringing the blitz to an abrupt end.
So, the concerned company should look for another site to put up its uni-pole or billboard. The company should also ensure that its site fulfils regulations, and does not affect parking lots and drains.

Don’t try pleading and appealing. Old tricks, it seems won’t work – at least with the current administration.

And just as I had simmered down from the audacity of the billboard operator, my blood begun to boil again as I received requests from several parties for "nude pictures" of the assemblywoman front-paged in our report yesterday.

These voyeurs should learn to leave the woman alone. As far as one is concerned, she is the victim here and must be accorded her privacy. More so, she has to be allowed to continue to perform her duties as an assemblywoman and executive councillor, which I am told have been exceptional.

If this is part of the political warfare as claimed by her supporters, then shame on those who would stoop so low. This takes gutter politics to record depths and would backfire on anyone who intends to score points by taking a moral high ground.

As far as I am concerned, she is not sleeping with anyone’s spouse, had not taken nor given bribes, stolen land from schoolchildren or alienated green lungs to cronies – which in the books of any right thinking human being are capital sins.

So those who are calling on her to step down should first study her track record and ensure that they are also whiter than white.

Terence says those living in glass houses should not cast stones. He is deputy editor (special reports & investigations). Feedback:

Monday, February 16, 2009

A 52 Years Old Child

Malaysia is still a young person morally and being exposed to scandals is like walking naked in public riddled with thunderous shame. Modesty of oneself is still clouted with shame and reservation. When parents tells their children, “do not run around showing your penis to everyone” (boys), or “do not run around showing your chest to everyone” (girls), one might think that nudity in our country is still something so taboo that even the slightest reveal is shun upon, or even goggle at discreetly by men without a shred of admiration. Yet, they can only do so in the privacy of their home, a castle, where one can self express themselves easily in that domain. But once made public, it changes our lives and the onslaught of morality becomes a questionable subject. The public seem to own your life to some extend. And the public, our nation in general, may still have a lot of growing up to do, this 52 years old child.

Privacy and Our Political Culture
By Farish A. Noor ~ February 16th, 2009.

Politics, we must remember, is something that takes place in the public domain. And it is in that public domain that politicians are judged for their actions, good and bad, right and wrong. The worth of a politician and his/her standing depends entirely on his/her conduct in the execution of the responsibilities that have been entrusted upon them by the public who voted them into office. And if they fail in the execution of those duties, then we the public have every justifiable right to demand an explanation from them. In the final analysis, it is we the public who determine the fate of the politicians we elect to represent us, and never vice-versa.

Politics, however, has its limits and the frontier of the political ends where the private domain begins. Politicians are human beings and it would be the mistake of the public to assume and expect our politicians to behave in a manner that is extraordinary by public standards. For that simple reason the public also has no right to expect politicians to be and remain politicians every hour, every day and every year of their lives; for politicians too have every right to be human and to have the privacy that we expect for ourselves. In the same way that we hope and wish that our elected representatives will defend the privacy of our lives, so should we extend that very same right to them, for they too are ultimately citizens like the rest of us.

It is therefore sad, to say the least, that the level of Malaysian politics and political culture has descended to a new low with the latest revelation of yet another sex scandal that involves a democratically elected state assemblywoman serving in the state government of Selangor, Ms Elizabeth Wong. This comes not too long after another sordid scandal involving another politician – Chua Soi Lek – who was likewise scandalised by revelations of his private life being made public. In both cases one can only assume that the motivation behind this intrusion into the private domain was political in nature.

Much has already been written about the two cases and the facts remain unclear over what actually happened in the case of the unfortunate Ms Wong, so I will not dwell upon that here.

My contention however is this: When will we Malaysians come to understand and accept the fact that living in a modern plural constitutional democracy means having to respect the private space and private lives of all citizens, be they politicians or shopkeepers?

Political motivations aside, the core of the matter is that another Malaysian citizen has had her private space intruded into and has been personally violated in the most abusive and despicable manner. This is something that no-one should relish, not even for the worst of our enemies. When it happens to a politician whose commitment to democracy and human rights is well known to all, then our sense of moral outrage should be all the greater.

Let us remind ourselves of the simple fact that the private lives of the victims in question have been without any taint whatsoever. Ms Wong is an adult woman who is capable of making decisions and choices of her own, and like any of us she is entitled to live her private life in the manner she sees fit. No crime has been committed, no public funds embezzled, no state secrets revealed and no Mongolian models blown to bits. The pathetic demonstration of moral outrage on the part of some conservative quarters should therefore be exposed for what it is: an instance of gross hypocrisy and double-standards at their most vile.

In the wake of the elections of March 2008, Malaysian society has demonstrated our desire for change, and for a new politics that befits and mirrors the new Malaysia we live in. This was the clearest call ever for a new political culture where feudalism, corruption, nepotism, hypocrisy and double standards are done away with once and for all. We are sick and tired of the vacuous moral claims of those who speak of morality and religion on the one hand, while robbing the state and eroding our fundamental human rights at the same time.

Defending the private lives and private spaces of our politicians is therefore part and parcel of the process to regain and defend the private domain of all Malaysians, where we may live, love, pray, hope and strive for the betterment of ourselves and the fulfilment of our destinies in peace. It is that fundamental right that entitles us to be what we are.

No human being should be denied that privacy for the loss of that privacy entails the loss of something greater: the loss of the right simply to be what we are. The entire democratic process and democratic endeavour rests on that.

For now however, it is our moral obligation to rally in support for a fellow Malaysian whose right to privacy has been violated. Let us not be indecisive here, for we clearly know who has been the victim. For those whose lives have been violated thus, one can only imagine the personal anguish they must be going through.

History books tell us that when King Charles the First faced his penultimate judgement, he was robbed of all his rights and dignity. King Charles was known to be a man who stuttered and faltered whenever he spoke; but at that defining moment of his life when his very existence was at stake, he delivered what was said to be the most eloquent speeches he ever gave; which til today ranks as one of the most beautiful and elegant pieces of prose in the English language.

Each and every one of us will sooner or later face such a defining moment in our lives, when our mettle will be tested and when we will finally realise who and what we are and what resources we possess. Perhaps this is the defining moment for Ms Wong. We hope that she will meet this challenge with the dignity that she possesses, and emerge stronger. So chin up, Elizabeth; and keep a smile on your face. Don’t let the detractors get you down. The struggle for a better Malaysia has just begun, and there is still a long road ahead.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blur Party

Sometimes, success ride on past experiences and results, warranting methods tried and tested. Physically, materially and visually, that always proved to be the benchmark. Why change something that's not broken. But perceptions and mentality have changed. So we need to align and embrace new approaches and change our mindset too.
Barisan still in denial
By John Lee (The Malaysian Insider)

Poor Barisan Nasional. No matter what, in the eyes of Malaysians, Barisan can do no right.

Anywhere between one and five by-elections may be coming soon, and it is a virtual certainty that Barisan will lose each of them, quite possibly by immense margins. Barisan is still busy patting itself on the back for toppling the popular Perak government; it hasn’t done anything to address the fundamental reasons why the voters consistently reject its leadership. Eventually, Barisan will have to face the public, and when it does, it will not have even the slightest fig leaf to cover its blatant failures.

Last March, was shell-shocked beyond belief when the polling results came in. Barisan leaders could not understand or comprehend the unprecedented and massive rejection they encountered at the hands of Malaysians. In the wake of March 8, Barisan conducted much “soul-searching” in an effort to figure out exactly what happened. Surely, they would come around eventually, get their act together, and try to win back the hearts of the people.

But a year later, Barisan is still as shocked and in denial as ever before. Just looking at their actions in the recent Perak crisis, it is crystal clear that they still think they are facing the same political situation as they did several years ago. Barisan leaders were clearly not expecting the massive backlash from Perakians and Malaysians; the Prime Minister-to be and other top Barisan leaders have been pulling out from various scheduled functions because of “security concerns”—the moment they show their face in public, they will be tormented like no Malaysian leader has ever been before. They have clearly misjudged public sentiment: Barisan really seems to believe that all it needs to do is to claw its power back from Pakatan Rakyat, by hook or by crook, and then all will be well again.

Barisan does not seem to grasp at all that at some point or another, it will have to face the public at the ballot box. Even if Datuk Najib Razak hides his face for the next four years, he will have to face another electoral battle eventually. And as long as Barisan does not address any of the reasons why public sentiment is overwhelmingly behind Pakatan, the public will continue to reject Barisan’s leadership in ever larger numbers.

Barisan does not understand that the public voted for Pakatan because they actually believe in the ideals and principles Pakatan stands for. Malaysians are tired of age-old economic inequities and political injustices which Barisan persists in shoving under the carpet. Pakatan went beyond acknowledging these problems; each of its component parties unveiled substantially similar plans to address them.

Amongst all the states in the country, it is not an exaggeration to say that until last month, Perak was one of the best governed. Pakatan proved in Perak that its loose coalition is more than a marriage of convenience. In spite of having a Pas menteri besar in a substantially non-Malay populated state with numerous DAP state representatives, the Pakatan government not only proved to be administratively efficient, but keenly tackled injustices which had previously been ignored by Barisan governments. It is no accident at all that Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin is now a household name throughout the country, nor that excitable bloggers are now proclaiming him to be the best menteri besar Perak has ever had.

Perakians and Malaysians at large are now angry and upset, not just because Barisan has toppled a democratically-elected government, but because Barisan has toppled a very real and effective symbol of justice and efficiency in our country. During his 11-month administration, Nizar ran a tight ship based on the principles Pakatan stands for. In Perak, Pakatan delivered on its promises.

If Barisan wants to cut its losses in the court of public opinion, it has to become more like Pakatan. The public is not supporting Pakatan just on a whim; the public is throwing its support behind Pakatan because no other party or coalition is intent on addressing the problems Pakatan raises. Barisan continues to act as if the voters owe it a favour, instead of trying to understand and address the problems voters face.

Unfortunately for Barisan, it looks as if its leaders will not be changing their tack any time soon. Judging from their handling of the Perak crisis, it is clear that Barisan still believes it can hang on to power and ride out the challenge from Pakatan. But as long as Barisan ignores the problems Pakatan tackled in Perak, and continues to tackle in four other states, it cannot hope to ever win back the support of the public. As long as Barisan persists in ignoring corruption, injustice and incompetence, it can count on the public rejecting it overwhelmingly at the polls, time and time again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Hard Work, Cronyism

This is how wikipedia define cronyism:-

Cronyism is partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy. Cronyism exists when the appointer and the beneficiary are in social contact; often, the appointer is inadequate to hold his or her own job or position of authority, and for this reason the appointer appoints individuals who will not try to weaken him or her, or express views contrary to those of the appointer.

Politically, "cronyism" is derogatorily used. The word "crony" first appeared in 18th century London, believed by many to be derived from the Greek word χρόνιος (chronios), meaning "long-term", however, crony appears in the 1811 edition of Grose's Vulgar Tongue with a decidedly non-collegiate definition, placing it firmly in the cant of the underworld. A less likely source is the Irish Language term Comh-Roghna (pron. ko-ronə), which translates to "close pals", or mutual friends.

Governments are particularly susceptible to accusations of cronyism, as they spend public money. Many democratic governments are encouraged to practice administrative transparency in accounting and contracting, however, there often is no clear delineation of when an appointment to government office is "cronyism". It is not unusual for a politician to surround him- or herself with highly-qualified subordinates, and to develop social, business, or political friendships leading to the appointment to office of friends, likewise in granting government contracts. In fact, the counsel of such friends is why the officeholder successfully obtained his or her powerful position — therefore, cronyism usually is easier to perceive than to demonstrate and prove.

In the private sector, cronyism exists in organizations, often termed 'the old boys club' or 'the golden circle', again the boundary between cronyism and 'networking' is difficult to delineate.

Moreover, cronyism describes relationships existing among mutual acquaintances private organizations where business, business information, and social interaction are exchanged among influential personnel. This is termed crony capitalism, and is an ethical breach of the principles of the market economy; in advanced societies, crony capitalism is a breach of market regulations, e.g. the Enron fraud is an extreme example of crony capitalism.

Given crony capitalism's nature, these dishonest business practices are frequently (yet not exclusively) found in societies with ineffective legal systems. Resultantly, there is an impetus upon the legislative branch of a government to ensure enforcement of the legal code capable of addressing and redressing private party manipulation of the economy by the involved businessmen and their government cronies.

The economic and social costs of cronyism are paid by society. In the form of reduced business opportunity for the majority of the population, reduced competition in the market place, inflated consumer goods prices, decreased economic performance, inefficient business investment cycles, reduced motivation in affected organizations, and the diminution of economically productive activity. A practical cost of cronyism is manifest in the bad workmanship of public and private community projects. Cronyism is self-generating, cronyism then begets a culture of cronyism. This can only be apprehended by a comprehensive, effective, and enforced legal code, and empowered government agencies who can effect prosecutions in the courts.

All appointments that are suspected of being cronyism are controversial. The appointed party may choose to either suppress disquiet or ignore it, depending upon the society's level of freedom of expression and individual personal liberty.

Some instances of cronyism are readily transparent. As to others, it is only in hindsight that the qualifications of the alleged "crony" must be evaluated.
The Crony Flow Chart

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Chimps Keep Marching In

Short note: Politicians used to get peanuts from serving the people. Then again, they do it for the love of the country and it's people. Politics is no longer peanuts, what with multi-million ringgit commission from those in power. Yet, we are still left with monkeys running the show.
The Monkey Handler
M. Bakri Musa

In the few months that he has before assuming office I would have expected Prime Minister-in-waiting Najib Razak to be focused on forming his new leadership team and formulating his major policies. Instead there he was in Perak smirking with renegade state politicians who had crossed over to his Barisan coalition. Najib looked like a mischievous monkey handler who had successfully enticed a couple of wily monyets from the neighbor’s coconut tree to his.

In these perilous times Najib is more a slimy backroom political operative consumed with concocting shady deals than a national leader ready to steer the nation through tough economic and other challenges. This latest and unneeded upheaval in Perak only adds to Malaysia’s already muddled political climate, and comes at a time when the nation can ill afford this distraction. Najib is oblivious of the evolving global economic disaster and its inevitable impact on Malaysia.

These handlers too behave like the monkeys they keep. After finishing his latest act in Perak, Najib stayed away. The monkey handler’s interest, like that of the monkeys they keep, was only in creating mischief. Once that is achieved, then he is gone so as to avoid getting entangled.

Initially Najib had planned to join in the Chinese New Year celebration in Ipoh to soak in what he expected would be a sea of public applause to his latest monkey act. Instead because of the unanticipated sea change in public mood, Najib wisely skipped the event. At least he knew when and where he would no longer be welcomed.

Najib should remember that Abdullah Badawi rode into office with the highest approval ratings, and an untainted “Mr. Clean” image to boot. Yet today, less than five years later, Abdullah is being pushed out of office, and his legacy is anything but clean. Najib has yet to assume office and already his approval rating is under 50 percent, and his public image severely tainted by assorted sordid scandals. His public portraits are now being used for stomping muddy shoes. Rest assured that these are only the beginning.

A Chinese proverb has it that it takes three generations to destroy an enterprise. The first starts it; the second builds on it; while the pampered third squanders it. Najib Razak is determined to truncate that process. He is set to destroy a once proud and successful organization – UMNO – which his late father was so instrumental in starting and building.

Najib will bring UMNO down with him, as prophesied by some ancient soothsayer’s “RAHMAN” theory of leadership. The challenge is to ensure that UMNO’s inevitable implosion under Najib would not also take Malaysia down with it.

Our Cultural Burden

If not for his family and political pedigrees, Najib Razak would today be like thousands of other Malays with similar qualifications, nothing more than a midlevel functionary in the civil service or one of the many Government-linked companies.

He was just old enough when his father died to benefit from the generosities and tributes of a nation in need to express them in gratitude to a great patriot that was his father. Remembering the father’s many great deeds, the nation could not do enough for his son; hence Najib meteoric rise.

The dilemma with having your path smoothed out for you is that once you reach the top, there is no one there to grease the trail ahead. From then on you are on your own, and you ill prepared for it.

It is our cultural tradition that such generosities and tributes are showered almost exclusively upon the first-born son. The assumption is that he is the carrier of the father’s traits. This of course is not unique to Malay culture; nor is there a biological basis to that assumption.

I wish we had not been a slave to our culture. By all means shower our gratitude to the late Tun Razak’s family, but then let us be more prudent and choose the smartest or most promising from among his five children to groom, not necessarily only the first born.

Tun Razak’s other sons are way head and shoulders above Najib. The youngest, Nazir, is a banker. Even though he is not a politician, nonetheless his public utterances reflect not only a first-rate mind but also someone very much aware of the many challenges facing our nation. He has also put forth novel ideas on solving them. Unfortunately, Najib is culturally constrained from taking advice from his youngest brother Nazir.

Last year Nazir suggested granting amnesty to corrupt individuals in return for their confessions and making good their loot, prior to implementing tougher laws. To say that it was a radical idea would be an understatement but on reflection, there is considerable merit to his suggestion. At the very least we would get a measure of the magnitude of the problem and its infinite variations. That could help us design better laws and ways to combat the scourge.

Recently Nazir chastised the leadership for not going beyond orthodox fiscal stimulus and monetary measures to meet the current economic crisis. He suggested re-examining the New Economic Policy, with particular reference to minimizing its drag on the economy. He also called for greater collaborations with the emerging giant economies in the region, specifically China, India and the Middle East. Most of all I like his idea of attracting foreign talents, especially into the education sector.

These are the kinds of innovative thinking we yearn from our leaders, not their endless monkeying around with fence-hopping politicians. In chastising the “leadership,” Nazir has shown that he is not constrained by our cultural norms; he has in effect criticized his oldest brother’s leadership.

Monkey Story

There was this story of a peddler of hats who one day fell asleep under a tree in the heat of the day. When he woke up, his hats were all gone except for the one on his head. On looking up he saw the monkeys in the tree with hats. The peddler tried all manner of tricks to induce those monkeys to part with their newfound toys, but to no avail. In disgust he threw his hat to the ground and stomped off. In the finest “monkey see, monkey do” mode, the apes did the same, and that was how the peddler recovered his merchandise.

A generation later it was the peddler’s son who fell asleep under the same tree. He too lost his hats to the monkeys. Remembering the lesson imparted from his father, the young man threw his hat to the ground. At which point the monkeys laughed at him. “You are not getting your hats back,” they scoffed, “we learned your trick from our parents!”
When Najib enticed those monkeys of politics to Barisan, he stole a play from Anwar Ibrahim’s game book. Anwar may rightly feel flattered by Najib’s imitating, or more correctly, aping. However, like the hat-peddler’s son, Najib may have learned his lesson well but what he may not realize is that those political monkeys too had learned their lessons! They are making a monkey of Najib.

When you have a bunch of monkeys and an equally mischievous as well as irresponsible handler, there is no telling what lasting damage they could inflict. It is time to let Najib out of his monkey business and free those monyet under his keep to once again roam the jungle where they belong. If out of habit they still hang around us waiting for their bananas and making a pest of themselves, then we should kill a rooster or two. That would scare away those monkeys.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Will And The Willing

An activist friend recommended me to a site called EngageMedia and forwarded me a link to a documentary clip about Malaysia’s ten years before independent titled "10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka". An interesting thought provoking piece by Fahmi Reza.
October 20th, 1947 was a historical day in the rakyat's constitutional struggle for independence from British colonialism. This documentary chronicles the events that culminated in the Malaya-wide 'Hartal' (civil disobedience) day of protest against the undemocratic Federation of Malaya Constitutional Proposals devised by the British Colonial Government and the UMNO, and the rise of the people's democratic movement in Malaya, ten years before Merdeka.
This is a short brief of their intro:-
EngageMedia (based in Melbourne) is a video sharing site focusing on social justice and environmental issues in the Asia-Pacific. It is a space for critical documentary, fiction, artistic and experimental works that challenge the dominance of the mainstream media.The growth of digital distribution tools mean distributing video online has become a viable option for artists and activists looking for ways to get their work out there. Huge potential exists within these new technologies to bypass the control of big media conglomerates and create our own distribution channels.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It All Goes Back To Polaris

Perak, PR, BN and Gamuda - It’s all about Business, Stupid

Dubai is probably the best yardstick to measure the economy of the Gulf region; at least Dubai was the most prosperous city within the region. People might not know where Oman is but they can’t miss Dubai. For years people have been flocking to this city hunting for their first pot of gold. As with the normal cycle property market was booming with tons of first-time speculators snapping up properties as if they were buying tiramisu cakes. Money was stretched to the limit in order to buy maximum number of properties possible. These properties would then be rented out without much problem, thanks to the booming economy, and thus generating positive cash-flow. It was a no-brainer method to generate wealth until now.

Now that the property bubble has burst, thanks to global economy recession, these novice speculators are selling their once-cash-cow to anybody at fire-sale discount. Effectively most of Malaysian construction companies were crying as projects agreed got hold or cancelled. Gamuda Berhad (KLSE: GAMUDA, stock-code 5398), the country’s largest construction and engineering with interests in construction, water, toll and property development is feeling the heat (7% of Gamuda's outstanding order book comes from the Gulf region) after the WCT Berhad and Meydan LCC joint venture to build a RM4.6 billion race-course in Dubai was cancelled. Gamuda generated investors’ interest recently when the founder and Managing Director Lin Yun Ling cashed-out early 2008 sending the stock price to the south.

Another interesting fact about Gamuda - the largest shareholder is also the second richest woman on the 2008 Forbes 40 Richest Malaysians at #35 spot. She is Raja Datuk Seri Eleena Raja Azlan Shah, the daughter of the Sultan of Perak, Raja Azlan Shah. She was worth RM773 Million ($228 Million) at #25 spot in 2007’s 40 Richest Malaysians but this figure dropped to RM510 Million ($150 Million) in 2008 at #35 spot. Based on today’s stock price of RM1.91 a share her fortune is only at RM287.46 million based on her remaining stake of 7.5% in Gamuda via Generasi Setia (M) Sdn Berhad. Naturally when his father refused to dissolve the state assembly for a fresh election various rumors and speculations began its circulation.

Malaysian politics is perhaps the dirtiest but you can’t blame the public to have a perception that the federal government was twisting the arms of the Sultan (silly assumption, is it not?). However on the business perspective you do not need to wake Einstein up from his grave to tell you that Gamuda is basically at the mercy of the Federal government. With water taps closed by the federal government to three of the most developed states, Selangor, Perak and Penang, Gamuda is screaming for projects. Certainly the nation has the money. In fact the country is flushed with more money than before the Mar 2008 general election simply because the federal government does not know where to pump the money to since the most developed states such as Selangor, Perak (was) and Penang are controlled by opposition parties.

PM-in-waiting Najib Razak is set to take over the premiership end of Mar 2009 so expect more goodies and good news (lower electricity tariff soon?). The first RM7 billion stimulus package may have been “well spent” into certain pockets already. Najib’s mentor, former dictator Mahathir, has hinted that the second stimulus package should be about RM35 billion or 5% of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) so you can expect the figure to be announced by Najib. Whether this whopping RM35 billion will go into stock market or projects everyone is drooling for a piece of the cake – including Gamuda. Hmm, Najib may be right after all that the country may not enter recession. So, is it good time to accumulate some Gamuda shares *grin*?

Anyway let’s imagine (it’s Friday dude) a conspiracy theory and this Perak crisis is just the tip of an iceberg. Let’s assume Anwar has the number to take over the federal government but at the same time he’s also aware that to do so could backfire badly. He needs to start the ball-rolling and he announced about the defection, 916 and so forth.

After Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu, he knew Najib is desperate for trophies so the plot was to sacrifice Perak. He accepted the bait (was it?) offered by Najib with this fella Nasarudin. A good strategy to test water (effect of defections) and to flush out traitors within PKR, Perak has to fall to BN. Now Najib has gotten Perak State as the trophy to show off during the coming UMNO election and claimed it was Anwar who started the defection plan and he simply finished it. The next episode will see that Anwar will snatch the federal government with the readied defectors while screaming “Najib started the battle so I'm just finishing the war”.

What a wet dream!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Impression First, Performance Later

Will Najib flatter to deceive?
By The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Every new prime minister flatters to deceive.
For the first 100 days, they speak the language of reform and behave like healers, promising to nurse back to health the damaged psyche of the nation and its hollowed-out institutions.

They penetrate the cynicism and reignite hope in the most cynical of Malaysians. For a while, many become believers, believing that this time the talk has substance; that this time the man at the top really wants a better Malaysia.

And then they disappoint. It was the case with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It certainly was the case with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Will Datuk Seri Najib Razak follow this same path of hope and despair like his predecessors?

Will he also roll out a grand sounding 100-day plan, spliced with slogans (work with me, don’t work for me) and then recoil at the first sight of his party faithful baring their conservative spine?

His supporters say that he should not be judged by the track records of Dr Mahathir or Abdullah, pointing out that Najib truly understands that the country he will lead will be the most polarised and divided in history.

They also note that Najib is aware that he will not have the luxury of the benefit of doubt, the same benefit of doubt Abdullah was given in March 2004 by many Malaysians who had grown disillusioned with Umno/Barisan Nasional during the Mahathir years.

Many of them would have voted for the Opposition in 2004 had it not been for the promise of change by Abdullah.

The change did not materialise and the postponed swing took place on March 8, knocking the wind out of BN and sealing Abdullah’s retirement plans.

Malaysians are not likely to be as charitable with Najib as they were with Abdullah. They have grown weary of prophets bearing false promises.

So Najib will start his premiership from a disadvantaged position, with more baggage than any other new leader and without the huge dose of benefit of doubt which voters are traditionally willing to give any new leader.

Yet, his supporters say that he is not sitting around with his heads in his hands.

During a closed-door meeting with Perak Umno leaders in the run up to the political crisis, Najib told them that he had ideas how to rejuvenate the party and country and will unveil them once he takes over as president of Umno and prime minister.

He has also been meeting politicians, Malay grassroots organisations, corporate captains to mine them for ideas to capture the imagination of Malaysians.

A word of caution: He and his team should study how Dr Mahathir and Abdullah flattered to deceive. And avoid taking Malaysians down this road, once again.

When Dr Mahathir became prime minister in 1981, there was considerable unease over what type of leader he would be. Would he wear his Malay ultra stripes on his sleeve? Would he act like a dictator and trample on all dissent?

There was a reason for this disquiet among Malaysians. As the Minister of Education, he tolerated no nonsense and put down student demonstrations in universities. He was also responsible for legislation which regulated foreign investments and equities in Malaysia.

He surprised many with a war against corruption and a revamp of the civil service, marked by the Bersih, Cekap and Amanah campaign. Civil servants had to wear name tags and clock-in for work while senior government officials had to declare their assets.

But there was always more form than substance in this more “liberal’’ phase of the Mahathir years. He did not empower the courts; was suspicious of the media and tired of having to subject his ideas and vision to scrutiny by his Cabinet colleagues and others.

He concentrated more power in his hands as he was challenged inside and outside Umno. Historians and political pundits argue that while he was successfully in turning Malaysia from agrarian society to one of top trading nations in the world, his era marked the death of the country’s vibrant institutions and the beginning of the culture of excesses.

The sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 followed by the loss of Terengganu in the general election a year later was probably the low point of the Mahathir administration. There were fears that the green tide of Pas would sweep across Peninsular Malaysia in the next polls because of residual anger among Malays against Dr Mahathir and growing pull of Islam here.

The tide did not come in 2004 because Dr Mahathir had left the scene. His successor, Abdullah, promised a sea change. He pledged to create a First World Parliament, restore the independence of the judiciary, tackle corruption, improve the police force and revamp the public delivery system.

Let us just say that he did not walk the talk. He will leave office in March with a mixed report card and the disappointment of many Malaysians.

His supporters say that he:

a) Meant well but did not have the support of Umno.

b) Was making progress and would have completed his reform agenda in the second term.

c) Underestimated the resistance from the Malay ground.

d) Was one man fighting against inertia and apathy.

Left out from that list is the simple fact that Abdullah may not have had the political will to make Malaysia a better place. He became a prisoner of what Umno wanted, and not what the country needed.

His 100-day programme became like an iron ball around his ankle, a constant reminder of his failings and of his limitations.

Will Najib suffer the same fate?

Yes, if he and his team focus on grandiose objectives. Yes, if he believes that he has to pander to what Umno wants.

Yes, if his vision of one Malaysia remains a hollow political slogan. Yes, if he does not move quickly to assure Malaysians that despite all that has been said and written about him; that despite the failings of those before him, he holds some promise.

A good start would be to adopt some of the views his brother, Datuk Nazir Razak, put out in the public domain this week.

Not adopt it as part of his lexicon but put it into practice — restructure the economy and relook the New Economic Policy.

Next stop: the Cabinet. Najib can only win over doubters if he makes substantial change to the Cabinet. A tweak here and there may have bought Abdullah some time but Najib will not have that luxury.

Today’s Cabinet invites despair and hopelessness. He may need to go beyond the confines of party politics to find the suitable men and women to serve in the Cabinet.

The point is this: Dr Mahathir and Abdullah have used up the Malaysian quotient for slogans, nice-sounding promises and pie-in-the sky ideas.

They know that every new prime minister flatters to deceive.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hiding Behind Monarchy With Vested Interests

The Real Question on Perak
By Amer Hamzah Arshad

Historically, before the existence of Malaysia, the Malay States fell into the hands of the imperialists due to greed and power. It was about the power struggle amongst the royalty which eventually led to the colonisation of the States.

Pre-Merdeka, with the emergence of the insurgencies by the left, a "deal" was struck among the capitalists, the royalty, the royalists and the imperialists with the sole purpose of maintaining and guarding "their" positions and influence in Malaya. The collateral outcome of the "deal" was the independence of Malaya. It was a decision motivated by the need to protect and safeguard the vested interests of these actors. It was not about the rakyat. It has never been!

Fast forward 52 years after independence, we see how the same actors have again colluded to stage a modern day "coup" in the State of Perak. Again this was not done in the interests of the rakyat. Those who have heard about the true colours and the personality/ies of the various decision-maker(s) will not be surprised by the recent decision(s).

Ultimately, one important question that needs to be answered is "what's in it for me?". That was the question that Pakatan Rakyat could not answer.

No doubt there are several legal and moral issues that have arisen from the Perak fiasco. But the real issue that irks the rakyat is the fact that the capitalists and the royalty have robbed the State government from the rakyat.

Regarding the legality of the Sultan's decision to call for the resignation of the Menteri Besar (MB), I am prepared to say that the decision is wrong in law. Based on the Perak Constitution, the MB does not hold office at the pleasure of the Sultan.

The only way the MB goes is by way of a no-confidence motion in the State Legislative Assembly. The Sultan cannot just ask MB to vacate his office.

Article 16(6) of the Perak Constitution states that:

If the Menteri Besar ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly, then, unless at his request His Royal Highness dissolves the Legislative Assembly, he shall tender the resignation of the Executive Council.

The question then is: who decides whether the MB ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the State Legislative Assembly? Should it be the Sultan or the State Legislative Assembly? How and where should such issues be decided?

The answers to these questions are obvious. Matters of grave importance that affect the interests of the State should be decided in the hall of the State Legislative Assembly, NOT along the corridors or halls of the palace.

The next question then is: who holds the majority at the State Legislative Assembly?

To answer this question, one must first ascertain the status of the three so-called "independent" members who have tendered their resignations. There is a dispute in relation to their status as members of the State Legislative Assembly. Their views therefore should not be taken into account until their status have been definitely resolved.

Against this background, how can anyone say that the Barisan Nasional commands the majority?

Some have replied saying that since the Election Commission (EC) did not recognise the resignation letters of the three "independent" members, therefore they are still members of the State Legislative Assembly.

This throws up the further question whether the EC has the power and jurisdiction to adjudicate on the status of the resignations.

From the legal perspective, the EC has exceeded its jurisdiction. There is nothing under the Election Commission Act 1957 and the Elections Act 1958 that confers power to the EC to adjudicate on such matters. Consequently, the EC's decision on this matter is ultra vires and is of no effect. Unless the decision by the Speaker to declare the seats vacant is set aside or overturned by a court of law, the EC must accept the decision of the Speaker. However, we have witnessed how the EC has facilitated the "coup" by disregarding the Speaker's decision.

Leaving aside the legal questions - on desirability - in view that the current political scenario in Perak is fragile and uncertain, coupled with the fact that there is no guarantee there will not be any further and sudden defections that may affect the composition of the State Legislative Assembly, the best decision to make is to have dissolved the State Legislative Assembly.

Unfortunately, wisdom may not be the virtue of some.

Who will benefit from this episode? The "decision-makers"? Those who "orchestrated" the situation?

Unless the question of "what's in it for me?" is fully answered, then no one will receive the truth.

The State of Perak was robbed by the capitalists and the monarchy.

The fate of the State should not lie in the hands of allegedly corrupted politicians and a Sultan. It should be in the hands of the rakyat! Let the people of Perak decide the fate of their State through fresh elections.

For the record, I am not a monarchist or a royalist. I have little admiration for slogans such as "Daulat Tuanku" and the related "mumbo-jumbo". Some may say that this article and the fact that I am doubting the wisdom of the Sultan of Perak may be construed as an act of "derhaka" (disloyalty). As far as I am concerned the issue of "menderhaka" does not arise.

And my reply is "derhaka terhadap siapa?". Can I "derhaka" towards an institution that I don't believe in? Can I "derhaka" towards an institution that ignores the will of the rakyat?

It is apt for us to be reminded of what Hang Jebat once said:

Jangan! Jangan sembah aku. Aku bukan gila disembah. Aku bukan sebagai Sultan Melaka yang mengagung-agungkan pangkat dan kebesarannya. Aku Jebat, rakyat biasa. Pangkat aku untuk kepentingan rakyat. Bergerak aku untuk membuat jasa kepada rakyat, dan aku rela mati untuk rakyat.. kerana aku mahu keadilan, keadilan. Keadilan!

The time is ripe for a revolution.

So are you game?

Salam revolusi!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rituals Of Politics

Cliches from a political crisis, again!
By The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — The crisis in Perak has seen a riot of clichés being employed by politicians, pundits and journalists. This is The Malaysian Insider’s take on how certain phrases accurately describe the events that led to the wresting of control of the state by Barisan Nasional, and its possible aftermath.

• Time heals all wounds.

They forgot 1978 and they forgot 1994. So why should anyone expect the voters of Perak and Malaysians in general to carry the same anger and hurt they feel today with them for the next three or four years.

Why should anyone believe that Barisan Nasional will be punished at the ballot box by voters who do not approve of the manner they have come to power in the silver state?
The evidence shows that Malaysians are a forgiving and forgetful lot.

In 1972, Pas agreed to join the Alliance, with several Pas leaders getting some federal positions and Umno having a share in Pas-controlled Kelantan.

In 1974, Barisan Nasional was formed. Not long after that, problems cropped up between Umno and Pas, with the latter accusing Umno of meddling in Kelantan. The problems came to a head and led to a decision by Pas to remove the incumbent Mentri Besar Mohamed Nasir for defying party instructions in 1977. PAS called for his resignation, but he refused, and presented himself as the champion of an honest and clean government. A “no-confidence” motion was tabled in the state assembly and carried by 20 PAS votes after 13 Umno and one MCA assembly members walked out in protest.

A legal impasse followed when Mohamed Nasir called for the dissolution of the state assembly. His supporters demonstrated in the streets, and violence and looting erupted. This led the Federal government to ask the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare emergency rule.

The anger among Pas supporters was palpable but in the March 1978 state elections, Umno formed the state government.

Fast forward to 1994 in Sabah. Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) won a narrow 25-23 victory over Barisan Nasional in the state election. But a few days later three PBS assemblymen -- Datuk Lajim Ukin, Datuk Rubin Balang and nominated assemblyman Datuk Zaini Isa switched over to the BN.

Further defections followed and it was clear that the PBS government’s position was untenable. Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan attempted to dissolve the state legislative but this was rejected by the Yang Dipertua Negeri. BN took control of the state and there was great unhappiness on the ground.

Still five years later, they won the state elections by a larger margin. So history says that the riots and show of force in Perak may not amount to much. Anger dissipates, people get on with their lives and after a while, the events of February 2009 will become a blur. Not everyone believes that Perak 2009 will be consigned to the memory bank the same way that Kelantan 1978 and Sabah 1994 have been.

They point out that Malaysians of this era are more demanding, cynical and prepared to make their vote count. They point out that young Malaysians do not have the same affection and respect that their fathers and mothers had for BN.

They point out that the blogs and Internet tell the story of a raging Malaysia, not the staid mainstream media. They point out that the Internet penetration among those aged 16 and 24 is 80 per cent and many in this age group will be voting in 2013.

They say that this generation does not forget or forgive easily. We shall see.

• Pick the low hanging fruit

Targeting Changkat Jering assemblyman Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu and Behrang assemblyman Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi was a no-brainer from the start. From the day they were charged in court with three others for allegedly accepting bribes to approve a RM10 million housing project, they became a liability for Pakatan Rakyat and ripe for the picking by Barisan Nasional.

If they are convicted in court, it would spell the end of their political careers. There was little upside for them to remain in PKR. So when BN officials came a-calling, the duo was all ears. After all, they both could be facing jail time soon and having powerful friends in their corner could be useful.

Hard to blame BN for zooming in on Mohd Osman and Jamaluddin. They were ripe and rotten for the picking.

• He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will have a tough time living this down. The arrows are being fired at him, with his critics accusing him of putting crossovers on the political agenda in Malaysia; with pundits accusing him of putting the cart before the horse.

Instead of focusing on getting his colleagues in Pakatan Rakyat to govern the five states well and to come up with a common platform to make this nascent alliance more durable, his focus was on crossovers.

For months, he predicted the collapse of the Barisan Nasional government. He said that he had the numbers, and even demanded a sit down with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Not everyone in Pakatan Rakyat was comfortable with this sabre-rattling. They argued that Pakatan Rakyat should stand for something pure and principled, and should not use tactics from the soiled playbook of BN.

But after Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu, there was no stopping him. He was energised. Pakatan Rakyat was on a roll. And Datuk Nasharuddin Hashim presented a great opportunity to drive another nail into BN.

He forgot one thing — Umno invented the dirty tactics textbook. He was up against a formidable enemy. Weakened yes but still formidable. An enemy that revels in playing in the murky area between black and white called grey.

• It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game

The temptation is great. The temptation to take to the streets, fight to the last is great. But 48 per cent of Malaysians gave their vote to Pakatan Rakyat in March 2008 not because they wanted Anwar to become the prime minister or they craved for a political sideshow every few months.

They wanted to give a political movement which stands for democracy, transparency, good governance and the rule of law an opportunity to take root in the Malaysian landscape. They had grown weary of the double-speaking and bullying ways of Umno/BN.

When they looked at Pakatan Rakyat politicians, they saw people they could invest their hopes in. They saw a completely different product that had been shoveled at them for decades.

Taking to the streets, clashing with policemen and appearing belligerent only pleases the troops and the converted. For the rest of us, it blurs the line between the good guys and the bad guys.