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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Swee Tan, part chinese, part NZ and part Jedi

This article was emailed to me by a friend in New Zealand. Extracted from the website New Zealand Listener, below is the news I copied. Read on..... I shall not draw any analysis here, rather, such news have been aired countless times over the years. Read and tell me if you know the reality of things here. And I took the liberty to send this to MT, simply good news worth sharing to a wider audience.
Introducing Cells to suicide
by Jane Tolerton

A breakthrough strawberry-birthmark treatment discovered by a New Zealand surgeon and his team points the way to treatments for other tumours. Swee Tan is a master of the rhetorical question. Outlining how his research into strawberry birthmarks could lead to a new way of treating cancer, he asks: “Would that be a good thing?” Suggest he could be making big money in cosmetic surgery overseas, and he asks, ‘Would I be a happy man?”

Hutt Hospital’s director of surgery should be happy enough – because what began as his research into disfiguring strawberry birthmarks has just won his four-strong research team a major international science prize. The implications for cancer treatment and regenerative medicine are so valuable that news of the award has been under wraps for a couple of months while the intellectual property involved has been registered internationally.

But the prize Professor Tan really has his eye on is a national research institute he plans at Hutt Hospital, being named after the two great pioneers of plastic surgery, New Zealanders Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe. That Tan and his team have done their breakthrough research without such facilities and with little funding is testimony to their dedication – and their willingness to spend huge amounts of time working for free.

Strawberry birthmarks grow from nothing into tumours that often cover much of the face within a year – and then shrink over about a decade. The usual strategy then, in the absence of an easy, effective treatment, was “just sit and wait”.

In one in 10 cases doctors had to intervene as a birthmark moved to cover an eye or obstruct the windpipe, threatening death by asphyxiation. High-dose steroids were the first line of attack. “This is a terrible thing to do to young children,” Tan says. “It’s like using a machine gun – and it doesn’t necessarily work. In 30% of cases the birthmark shrinks dramatically, and in 40% it stops growing – but in 30% it just keeps growing. When we got desperate, we used to use daily injections of interferon – with the side effect, in one in four children, of spastic in the legs. Because of that, people moved to chemotherapy. Treating a birthmark with chemotherapy – you have to be pretty desperate.”

That moment in April when Tan’s team won the John Mulliken Prize for the best science paper at the conference of the International Society for the study of vascular anomalies amazed their international colleagues. But Tan must be getting used to being considered amazing. Vicki Lee, the CEO of Cure Kids (formerly the Child Health Research Foundation), calls him “a cross between a genius and a saint”. The Museum of Wellington has made him a Living Treasure. Nicholas, a patient who blogged about his operation and recovery declared, “Swee Tan is part Chinese, part New Zealand and part Jedi.”

Tan has a gentle charisma. But within the velvet glove of charm, the iron fist of determination is clearly evident. His wife, Sanchia, says people once told him he could never be a surgeon with his hands, roughened by hard physical work as a child.

One of 14, he was born in a little village in Malaysia. “As children, we worked in the plantations – coconut, coffee, palm oil. Life was always a struggle, but I wanted to rise above that and have a professional life, and being a doctor was my dream.”

His father had only primary-school education, his mother none. They sent Tan to a Chinese school – “which means you can’t go anywhere, not even to the local university. It was madness, but they believed they should keep the heritage. In order to go to a Western country, I had to learn English. So after high school, I went to a college run by Australians in Kuala Lumpur for nine months. The way I learnt English was to read the newspaper from page one to the last page every day. But if you want to go somewhere, that’s what you’ve got to do. You can feel sorry for yourself and do nothing or get up and do something useful – and look beyond what you’ve got.”

Australia was offering free tuition to a limited number of students from developing countries, and having gained a place Tan started at the University of Melbourne’s Medical School in 1980. He got up at 5.00am three times a week to clean a supermarket. “In my final year the surgical registrar took me aside and said, ‘I don’t think it’s good for you to be half an hour late every morning’, and I had to tell him. He said, ‘Why don’t you take out a loan, and I’ll be the guarantor.’ He took that risk with me and gave me a hand. This is something I never forget and I do for the next generation – because it is the right thing to do.”

By then he had already experienced life across the Tasman. In their fifth year students could do an elective anywhere in the world, “so I came to New Zealand – and fell in love with this country. People here are so friendly, just so accepting, interested in you, not pretentious – and they are colour-blind.”

In 1987, having worked for a year in Melbourne Hospital, where he met Sanchia, then training as a nurse, he had to leave Australia under the terms of his scholarship. He took a job at Waikato Hospital, and Sanchia joined him after graduating.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

History, wonderful history

For those who read about it, you will recall that in 2005, the Malaysian Govt. was excited about accidentally finding an ancient civilization in Johor . This was reported in the various newspapers. There was talk about excavating the huge site to rediscover this civilization. And then.....silence! After that, no news at all about this discovery.

A number of times I have discussed with friends that there was definitely a cover-up because the authorities did not like what was discovered - something that is contradicting what the Govt. is trying to claim. And so many years passed and now I received this email revealing what I suspected to be true! Read on.......

Good to know who are the real Pendatang... The Indians and Chinese were here way before the Malays ... You have to start learning the correct history.

LEE Ong Kim (Dr)
Associate Professor and Head
Policy and Leadership Studies
National Institute of Education
NIE2-03-54, 1 Nanyang Walk,
Singapore 637616
Tel: (65) 6790-3236 GMT+8h Fax: (65) 6896-9151

An Institute of Nanyang Technological University

A small piece of History for our future generation..Why Kota Gelanggi (lost city) touted as earliest civilization in Malay Peninsula news were banned as they were Buddhist.

The Johor find of 2005 which was quietly dropped was none other than Kota Gelanggi lost city reflecting Srivijaya and its Buddhist splendour. But they deliberately disregarded it because that would have sidelined Malacca Empire and Islam which was smaller and came some 500 years later. I met Dr Lee Kam Hing, a former History prof at MU in Singapore recently at a seminar.Dr Lee, who is now Star research director, told me he was trying his best to highlight Kota Gelanggi, but that the govt killed it off. This is clearly another case to cover up the real history of Malaya and fool the younger generations into believing that our history only began from Malacca 1400.. Not only that, they try to show Parameswara as Malay and Muslim, but actually he was Hindu! If one were to condemn these UMNO scumbags on how they distort history, it will never end......the condemnations will more than cover 10 PhD thesis!

A small piece of History for our future generation Hitler's public relations manager, Goebbels, once said, 'If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.'

Once again our government wiped out any references to a famous Melaka prince as being Hindu and belonging to the powerful Hindu empire Sri Vijaya.So all of a sudden our museums, school text-books etc. all refer to Parameswara as a Malay prince.

What race ruled or did not rule is besides the point. What is important is not butchering history to create your own truths. You cannot change your race even if you convert - Parameswara could have been responsible for Umno's proud heritage of ' Ketuanan Melayu '.

If this is what it is based on, there is no ' Ketuanan Melayu '. The lineage of Melaka Sultans are Indians, not Malays.
It is no secret that Parameswara was an Indian and a Hindu prince.

It is clear from records that Parameswara never converted to Islam. He was an Indian Hindu who fled Palembang in Sumatra to eventually found Melaka circa 1400 AD. It was Sri Maharaja who converted himself and the court of Melaka to Islam, and as a result took on the name of Sultan Muhammad Shah sometime after 1435...

The most famous of Indian Hindu Kings were Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola who invaded Southern Thailand, Kedah, Perak, Johor and Sumatra about 1000 AD. This is Raja-raja Chola - the Indian/Hindu kings and not Raja Chulan - a Malay king. But what is really sad is that our children are taught as though Malaysian history suddenly began in 1400 with an Islamic Melaka.

We are led to believe that the Indians and Chinese first arrived on the shores of Malaysia in about 1850 as desperate indentured labourers, farmers and miners . Nothing could be further from the truth.

The cultural influences of India in particular, and China, in South East Asia span over 2,000 years, starting with the arrival from India of the Brahmanical prince/scholar - Aji Saka in Java in AD78, through to Vietnam, Cambodia (Indo China), Thailand,Burma, Indonesia, Bali, Borneo, Brunei and beyond.

The findings at Bujang Valley speak of an ancient Indian/Hindu presence in Kedah. There were Chinese settlements in Pahang and Kelantan around the 13th-14th century and in 12th century in Singapore .

The early Brunei Sultanate had a Chinese Queen. One need not ponder at length the implications of Angkor Wat and Borobudur or that 40%-50% of Bahasa Malaysia comprises Sanskrit/Tamil words. To illustrate, some of these word are :

bumi = boomi
putra = putran
raja = rajah
desa = thesam
syakti = sakthi
kolam = kulam
bahaya = abahya
jaya = jeya
maha = maha
aneka = aneha
nadi = naadi
kedai = kadai
mahligai = maaligai
mantra = manthrum
tandas = sandas
(This list can go on)

An extremely important archeological find that pointed to one of the greatest empires in history - the Raja Chola empire that ruled from the Maldives through India , Sri Lanka and right down to South East Asia found deep in the jungles of Johor a few years ago and made headlines in the mainstream newspapers in 2005, suddenly disappeared from the news…..

The time has arrived for us to record our history as the facts tell us and not as we would like to wish it.

The truth will never hurt anyone. Lies, always will .

National Institute of Education ( Singapore )

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Malaysia's Economy: The great decline

Kenny Gan, Malaysia Chronicle

ANALYSIS What has happened to the Malaysian economy? We were once one of the most promising emerging economies in South East Asia and blessed with bountiful natural resources including oil and timber.

In the 1970s Malaysia was on par with other developing countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong but these countries have progressed far ahead of us.

Their per capita incomes and currency values are a few multiples of ours. For example Singapore and S. Korea’s per capita incomes are US$35,400 and US$16,700 respectively while Malaysia is lagging badly at a mere US$8000. S. Korea has also exceeded us in technological products and has many global brands while all we have is Proton which cannot compete outside its domestic protected market

We appear to be stuck in the middle income trap. On one hand we are unable to compete with low cost countries such as China, India and Vietnam but on the other hand we are unable to move up the value chain to a high income knowledge based economy due to lack of skilled workers. We are unable to attract skilled foreigners to our shores while skilled Malaysians are leaving in droves. Meanwhile we are importing masses of low skilled foreigners which depress our wages. As a result our wages have remained stagnant for the past 15 years while the cost of living has escalated. The net result is that the standard of living of ordinary Malaysians is regressing due to depreciation of real income while our income gap is the widest in Asia.

The economy of a country cannot be treated in isolation to its social, human and political factors. It is closely interrelated to education, meritocracy, corruption, natural resources, productivity, creativity, democracy and rule of law among others. A strong and robust economy is the net result of good governance, good policies and proper use of resources and is reflected in the happiness and wellbeing of its citizens. In this article I shall try to explain how Malaysia has stumbled and sowed the seeds of its economic decline.

Racial policies
If any single factor can be blamed for the poor health of the Malaysian economy it is racial policies. Meritocracy is the natural selection of the economy; it ensures that the best and brightest people and companies rise to the top just as natural selection in the ecosystem ensures that the strongest and fittest organisms survive and propagate for the wellbeing of the species. If race has replaced meritocracy as the qualifying factor it means that we are not making full use of our human and natural resources with detrimental effect on our competitiveness.

Even worse, racial policies as embodied in the NEP has encouraged rent seeking and created a culture of bumiputraism where rewards are expected by a privileged group without the requisite effort. It has also led to patronage in the form of negotiated and bloated contracts such as those given to IPPs and toll concessionaires which distort economic efficiency with consequent higher cost to consumers.

Exclusion of other races from government tender and procurement means that the government does not get the best price or the best vendors. The preferential treatment and government assistance given to bumiputra contractors, suppliers and entrepreneurs shield them from real market forces which would have made them stronger and more competitive.

The special economic privileges espoused by bumiputraism require the productivity of other races to sustain. The government cannot give something for free to anybody without taking it from someone else who must give it up for free. Essentially this means a lower overall productivity and an injured entrepreneur spirit among the minority races.

Unfortunately Malaysia’s racial policies cover more than just economic privileges, it also intrude into education, employment, sports, licensing, government linked investment funds, buying houses, petrol station dealerships and new share applications and indeed into every facet of human endeavour. It is sad to say that racial policies are woven into the very fabric of Malaysian society.

The Chinese have fared better under Malaysia’s racial policies due to various factors such as their emphasis on education, their clans, the large domestic Chinese economy and their entrepreneur spirit but the Indians have become an underclass. However if any community is held back from achieving its full potential the whole country suffers.

The difference in economic opportunities and the lack of meritocracy lead naturally to a brain drain as the best and brightest Malaysians disadvantaged by race take their talents overseas. In a globalized world the educated and the skilled are extremely portable as there is a huge competition for skilled labour. Although there are pull factors enticing them away the push factors originating domestically is no less compelling.

Education is the future of the county but unfortunately education in Malaysia has not been spared the deleterious effect of racial policies. As racial policies essentially mean that meritocracy takes a backseat to ethnic origin this is extremely injurious to education.

Students face race based policies after Form 5 when Malays are streamed to matriculation with a token 10% for other races while non-Malays either opt for Form 6 which is longer and harder route to university or private colleges which require considerable financial outlay. Those who go to matriculation save one academic year compared to those who go to Form 6.

Even more unfair is that the grades acquired in matriculation are taken as equivalent to the grades acquired in STPM (Form 6) for the purpose of university entry although they are in no way comparable. Matriculation students sit for segmented internal exams and a large portion of the final marks may come from projects done throughout the year while STPM students sit for a difficult final public exam which are marked externally.

After Form 6 non-Malay good achievers are confronted with unfriendly racial quotas at the gates of tertiary institutions. If they are accepted into public universities they are likely to be shunted into less popular courses with little commercial value such as fisheries, forestry and philosophy. This is despite many universities, colleges and technical schools reserved for one race only which is found in no other country in the world.

Pre-tertiary students in private colleges will continue their studies in local private institutions or overseas which again entail heavy financial commitment. Scholarships for non-bumiputras are hard to come by and every year we hear of heart-breaking stories of top students who fail to secure scholarships.
The upshot is that non-bumiputra parents have to spend a lot of money to educate their children to tertiary level. Those students who do not have well-off parents and not lucky enough to gain a place in public universities or win a scholarship are forced into the job market.

It is clear that standards in public universities have fallen drastically due to the lack of meritocracy in intake of students. This is compounded by race based preference in the employment and promotion of academic staff. Standards have also been marked down to make it easier for bumiputra students to graduate. Our universities have long dropped out of the ranking of the 200 best universities in the world. They are churning out low quality unemployable graduates who do not know how to speak proper English to join the bloated civil service or the ranks of the unemployed.

The result of our two tiered education policy is to contribute to the brain drain of young non-Malays incensed by the racial inequality in education opportunities. They head for the exit as soon as they have acquired their tertiary education while those who remain behind are a fertile breeding ground for opposition supporters. Parents have also been known to migrate in order to obtain affordable tertiary education for their children.

Corruption is a drain on the efficiency of the economy as it upsets the principle of getting the most optimal prices for the best goods and services. As a result of corruption the buyer is likely to end up paying inflated prices for shoddy products.

Even worse the result of public corruption is to pass on the cost to the man in the street who ultimately pays higher taxes, higher utility bills, higher tolls and more expensive goods and services. Corruption is essentially a re-distribution of wealth from the poor and the middle class to the rich elite who becomes super-rich. The result is a widening income gap and a weakening middle class until only rich and poor remains as what happened in Suharto’s Indonesia.

Although corruption happens in all countries in Malaysia it has become endemic and massive due to the synergistic boosting effect of corruption and racial policies. The distribution of resources and economic opportunities by race as implemented in the NEP provides an ideal vehicle for these resources and privileges to be grabbed by the powerful and the well connected.

The NEP which was originally an affirmative action plan to uplift the poor of all races has degenerated into an umbrella to shelter all kinds of corruption, cronyism and nepotism to enrich the political elite under the guise of helping the poor Malay masses who have largely remained poor.

Bloated negotiated contracts, rent seeking deals and privatization of public assets which bring windfalls to favoured cronies while increasing costs and a lower standard of service to consumers are just another form of corruption.

Accelerated spending on defence when no threat is present and economically senseless white elephant projects continue to bleed the country Can a small developing country like Malaysia afford to spend RM6.75 billion for locally made naval vessels which were never delivered, RM12.5 billion for the PKFZ white elephant, RM3.7 billion for two bare Scorpene submarines, RM8 billion for 257 locally made armoured personnel carriers, RM2.2 billion for 3 navy supply ships, RM12.5 billion for economically senseless double tracking railway from Ipoh to the Thai border and RM811 million for a new palace? These are just but a sampling of countless huge financial scandals.

Corruption has become so massive that it is now measured in hundreds of millions and even billions for each corrupt deal. No developing country of Malaysia’s size can withstand such massive leakage and wastage without depreciation of its currency, yawning fiscal deficit, damage to its economy and hardship to its citizens who face rising cost of living and depreciation of real income.

Although it may not seem obvious the economy is also directly affected by democracy, rule of law and treatment of human rights. The economy is nothing if not driven by human emotion and sentiments such as industriousness, entrepreneurship, motivation, creativity, confidence and most of all, hope. Authoritarian regimes inevitably have poor or broken economies because of their abuse of human rights which crushes the human spirit.

Foreign direct investment which is vital for a small developing economy is affected by concerns over political stability, adherence to rule of law, fairness of the judiciary, protection of human rights and crime rate as well as government policies, cost of labour and education level of the workforce.

Unfortunately Malaysia’s record of upholding democratic principles and human rights has been poor. We live in a pseudo-democracy where institutions such as the police, the MACC, the Attorney-General chambers, the judiciary and the press are subverted to serve the ruling party to maintain its power. They are abused to harass the opposition while turning a blind eye to the corruption of the political elite.

Death in custody is common in the police force who seems more interested in going after opposition politicians for minor and dubious transgressions than in fighting crime. This has contributed to a high crime rate which has seen gated communities springing up willy-nilly as citizens take measures to protect themselves, sometimes illegally.

Nowhere can the breakdown in rule of law be seen as clearly as in the infamous Perak power grab where BN toppled the Pakatan Rakyat government by enticing its elected representatives to defect by immoral means and hung on to power by brute police force and controversial judicial judgements while ignoring the calls of the citizen for new elections.

Nowhere can we see a greater abuse of our democratic institutions as in the odious sodomy case against Anwar Ibrahim where the whole apparatus of government, enforcement and judiciary were employed to drag an opposition leader to court on the most flimsy and dubious of charges while employing disreputable and unlawful court processes to deny justice to the accused.
These negative factors in conjunction with racial quotas make the country less attractive to investors who are spoilt for choice over where to put their money. Foreign direct investment (FDI) to Malaysia has been falling steadily for the past decade and we now lag behind countries like Vietnam and Indonesia in attracting investments. In fact Malaysia recorded a negative FDI inflow in 2009 which is a rare phenomenon in developing countries and points to signs of capital flight.

Private investments which include both foreign and domestic investments have been declining since the 1997 financial crisis and now stand at a mere 10% of GDP from its peak of 37% pre-crisis. This ranks among the lowest in Asia so it appears that not only foreigners but Malaysians are also losing confidence in their own economy.

Towards a precipice
Hence we can understand why the Malaysian economy has fallen way behind other countries which it was once on par with despite our rich natural resources. The economy has been clobbered by racial policies, falling education standard, brain drain, massive corruption and a damaged democracy.

If any one reason is the root of all reasons it is racial policies which has resulted in economic inefficiency and distortion, affected meritocracy in education, caused a brain drain, become a vehicle for wastage and leakages and resulted in the abuse of democratic institutions to protect the lifestyles of the ruling elite. They are also responsible for dampening the human spirit required to drive the economy.

Things would have deteriorated much faster if not for the revenue generated from oil which is now supporting 40% of the national budget. What would happen when oil runs out?

Efforts to resuscitate the economy must tackle the myriad of racial policies in education, business, commerce, financing, investments, employment, licensing and countless other sectors. This requires great political will and a prime minister with considerable political skills to wean the Malays from their racial privileges.

However BN being a Malay nationalist party is unable to muster the political will despite lofty rhetoric that the New Economic Model will remove rent seeking and inefficiencies while striving towards a market driven economy. After pressure from right wing groups the 10th Malaysian plan rolled out can only offer more of the same old affirmative action for bumiputras and setting a superfluous bumiputra equity target of 30% which is all but unachievable due to constantly moving goalposts.

In the near future Malaysians will be hit with rising prices due to planned removal of subsidies and a spike in inflation when GST is implemented while salaries remain stagnant. This will put pressure on the poor and middle class who are already struggling to make ends meet. Despite this the BN regime does not appear to be curbing its profligacy in spending nor in curbing leakages.

Should BN continue to govern after the 13th general election there is every chance that Malaysia will become a maid exporting country five years later. Economic decline is not linear but exponential because negative factors compound and feed each other. It declines slowly at first then it gathers speed before falling off a cliff. We are probably at the edge of the precipice.

A political solution is required to fix the economy and pull Malaysia back from the precipice. Only an inclusive ruling coalition based on social justice and fair treatment for all races has any chance of uplifting the economy.