Thursday, November 30, 2006

Media Consolidation or Media Dualpoly?

Two media groups closely linked to UMNO have announced their intention to merge into a consolidated media entity. This following the acquisition of a major stake in Nanyang Siang Pau Group by the media magnate Tan Sri Tiong of Sin Chew Jit Poh. The tycoon is said to have a close ties with MCA.

The shares of Nanyang Siang Pau were purchased from Huaren Holdings, the investment vehicle of MCA. MCA made the divestment after the Chinese community rejected the takeover of Nanyang by Huaren, which is the biggest stakeholder of the Star publications.

Directors in Sin Chew Jit Poh accused the civil society and political pundits of double standards. They alleged that similar objections were not recorded on the Utusan and NST merger.

They missed an important point. Both Utusan and NST were already seen as UMNO mouth pieces. Being a communal party, UMNO has used both newspapers to promote its Malay Agenda to court the Malay community support.

Nanyang and China Press were both critical of MCA before the takeover of Huaren due to the political party's failure to champion the cause of the Chinese despite its self pronouncement as a vanguard of the Chinese community.

The takeover of Nanyang by Huaren is see an act to clamp down on the vocal newspapers. Hence, the consolidation of both Nanyang and Sin Chew Jit Poh is met with mounting disapproval from the community.

Not Impressed

Lim Kit Siang, the opposition stalwart, is not impressed with PM Abdullah's response to his critics. Lim echoed Mukriz Mahathir's sentiment of the PM speech at the recently concluded UMNO general assembly and he thinks the response contained nothing new.

Some observers I have spoken to have voiced similar sentiment. They said it is best for PM Abdullah to listen, take note and respond with swift policy actions on several governance and economic issues instead of brushing off his critics. It seems that some of Abdullah trusted old buddies have stopped advising him too. They opined he has stopped listening.

We shall see in the following months if the PM has stopped listening or not.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

PM Abdullah Answers Critics

As reported in the NST today, PM Abdullah addresses his critics. Lets examine some of his answers and see how well he did to shut up his critics.

On the economy:

What the cynics say:"There has been this perception that the prime minister has made good promises. Now they say, we would like to see what you’ve done. They say, ‘Pak Lah, we’ve read about the 9MP, we understand it, but what are you going to do about it now?’"Some wonder whether the 9MP will succeed and say that Malaysia is good in planning but short on implementation.’’

The prime minister’s reply:"We are committed to the people and we have a job to do. We want to ensure it is done effectively. The cynics, there will always be people like that. "I know that people want to know about the implementation of the 9MP, but there are certain limits in trying to hurry up."

My verdict: What are the limits? Tell us how we can help you to overcome these limits? The lack of confidence in the 9MP is justified. The government is seen as throwing money over bad programmes, which some have called them handouts. The government has not presented its economic strategy in a convincing and precise manner. What PM Abdullah should do is to be transparent on his policies and implementation methodology. We need to know your milestones.

On the stock market:

What the cynics say:"Talk of inefficiency of the stock market has been going around. Some people say that there is no excitement in the stock market because there are no good projects. "The perception is that what’s happening here is not good."

The prime minister’s reply:"We’ve announced many things but some people have their own attitude. Today, there is better market sentiment. But I don’t want to see a yo-yo effect. I would like to see steady growth".

My verdict: It means that the government is suffering from a serious credibility issue if the foreign and local investors are not responding to these announcements. PM Abdullah should look into the quality of these announcements. Mergers and acquisitions will not tempt big regional investors if they do not have a good perception of the country's mid-term and long-term prospects. The government should focus no building core competitive strengths in courting these investors e.g. reform the education sector, promote meritocracy, ease red-tap, review the corrupted licensing regime and start to preach globalisation. We do not have a choice on either to accept or reject globalisation. It is more of a choice of progressing or regressing within the globalising world.

On the fight against corruption:

What the cynics say:"It is all about perception. If a certain person is not investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), they say that person is being protected by the government, or somebody told the courts and the judge not to try the person. If he’s convicted, then they say he’s not a friend of the prime minister. "How can you do work with this kind of people around?"

The prime minister’s reply:"I’ve asked the ACA to improve itself. We’ve increased the number of officers. Recently, the ACA added 300 more officers. I want them to go to the ground. "Begin their investigation as soon as possible without having to wait for the police report. Investigate, get the proof, bring them to court."

My verdict: PM Abdullah is again off-the-cue on his much publicised anti-corruption campaign. If his party still insists on protecting someone like Zakaria Mat Deros and other corrupted party leaders who flouted the law and abused their power, then pointing his finger at the ACA would not help to shore up people's confidence of his administration. The (mis)administration of justice on several high profile cases such as the recent case involved Abdul Razak Baginda, a highly connected political analyst, does not augur well on the justice system of the country. It gives a perception that the judiciary and the ACA are being influenced by the politicians.

On not netting the big fish:

What the cynics say:"They always say we don’t catch the big fish, that we always go for small fish."

The prime minister’s reply:"When a person commits a small offence of corruption, it’s easy for the ACA to investigate and convict him. When some people say, what about the big fish, well, big fish are not easily caught. But the ACA is doing its best."He also told the ACA to be more careful when handling corruption cases, as "it is not right if they drag people to court just to show that they (ACA) are doing something". "If the prosecution does not get a conviction, the person’s reputation would have been spoilt, his life would be in a mess and his company would not do well any more as the people would already have a negative perception of him."

My verdict: On the contrary, small and menial borderline offences are much harder to prosecute. Prosecution is evidence based. The PM should not be too worried about whether a person reputation would have been ruined or not if he is not convicted. Quite opposite, it will provide a person with a good platform to clear his name and ended up more credible after the whole process.

Overall, the PM's response to his critics is not convincing enough. There is a huge difference between deflecting criticisms and answering them. It appears that PM Abdullah has chosen the former.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cyberspace Talents

In the Sunday Star, Joceline Tan wrote the DAP’s search for new faces as candidates in the next general election has extended into cyberspace and these may range from an Oxford graduate to a well-known blogger.

I was mentioned as one of the possible candidates DAP would like to have on their list:

"Of course, the DAP would love to have Khoo on their list but he prefers the role of an independent observer. In fact, Khoo is already seen as an emerging intellectual, someone who articulates public issues in an honest and impartial way."

Yes, I am honest and honestly, I cannot imagine being a politician in Malaysia. If you want to know why I say so, just look at the recently concluded UMNO general assembly. Our parliament is soon becoming a farm house, with no due disrepect to some very good MPs.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Yes, We Were Shell Shocked!

In the NST last Sunday, the UMNO Youth Deputy Chief Khairy Jamalluddin and several columnists tried to calm the ruffled feathers over the racist, violent and seditious speeches made at the recently concluded UMNO general assembly.

According to Khairy, the debate this year was similar to the previous ones e.g. equally emotional, spiteful and racist. But it contained nothing new. It was a recycle of old rhetoric and the only thing different is it was carried ‘live’ on television. He said that this was to be expected because the raison d’etre for a communal party like UMNO is its struggle for the Malay community.

In earnest, I fully concur with Khairy that the proceeding was a culture shock to most Malaysians. I say this for two reasons. First, we are shocked because the world we live in has changed, the society has changed, the competitive landscape has been reshaped by ongoing globalisation and these changes require different approaches. But UMNO is still reluctant to change and expected others to adapt, tolerate, accept and celebrate its way because it is a communal party.

Most countries in the world today have moved on and left their communal political framework behind. It is even more pertinent for a multiracial and multicultural country like Malaysia to abandon such parochial political model. As a dominant political party and, as touted by columnist Johan Jaafar, the epitome of democracy in Malaysia, leaders of UMNO should take cognisance that it is not possible to wish away our diversity overnight. The history of Malaysia has and will always be a colourful one, decorated by the various shades of our cultural and religious diversity. To stride forward, we must learn to live together with one another and shed the dominant mentality.

It is wise for UMNO leaders to read carefully the thoughts of an imminent Malay royalty, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, on interethnic relations. On leadership, he said “leaders can either appeal to our lowest, basest instincts or they can inspire us to achieve greater things”. What he meant by appealing to the community’s lowest and basest instincts is by fanning up religious and ethnic polemics. He advised against parochialism in a globalising world and warned that it will do more harm than good to our society.

This leads to my second fear of an UMNO trying to justify its existence through fiery racist speeches. Its way of justifying its existence will most probably invite an opposite outcome. Instead of being a crucial block in nation building, it is slowly but surely turning itself into a road block in nation building.

Contrary to Khairy’s belief, the BN major component parties do not represent the general sentiment of the people regarding the state of ethnic relations in the country. If the other BN component parties do not mind being a punching bag of UMNO, the non-Malay communities do not find the criticisms and blaming game of its leaders amusing and tolerable. Definitely not the Indian community who just found out that their share of the economic pie has shrank to a mere 1.3 percent or the small Chinese businessmen who had invested their entire life saving into their businesses and are struggling to survive. These Malaysians did not contribute to the failure of the Malay community to achieve their desired equity ownership target despite the fact they have been given all the opportunities UMNO could muster. It is necessary for UMNO to find why the intra-community income disparity of the Bumiputera community is the worse compared to the rest.

Hence, Khairy’s communitarian and communal view is not going to contribute positively to our understanding of the problems and issues faced by the nation. It is more productive for him to reflect on the failure of his community and to try to persuade UMNO to adopt new approaches to address the weaknesses in the Malay community. Perhaps this is more effective than repeating the same silly racist rhetoric year after year and ended up with nothing much being achieved.

Moving ahead, sensible leaders of our beloved nation must not be overly fixated with the old deal but move on to embrace a new deal which represents the spirit and aspirations of a truly fair and united Malaysia. The new deal must not fail to recognise the efforts and sacrifices made by all communities in the making of a modern Malaysia.

Instead of being jealously fanatical about the ‘social contract’ and interpret it in a divisive manner, it is more constructive for all Malaysians to explore measures, ways, ideas and collaborative efforts which are inclusive and progressive. We must not deviate from our mission to become a successful developed country by the year 2020. To do so, we should stop fiddling before the opportunities dry up.

In the words of Raja Dr Nazrin, ‘The existence of a dominant race, religion or ideology does not guarantee unity. More important are mutual understanding and genuine respect for each other. The recognition that we are all God’s creation and that each deserves to be treated with dignity”.

This is precisely what we asked from all political leaders especially those from UMNO – to treat each Malaysian regardless of race and religion with dignity and respect.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hegemony of UMNO (2)

In NST today, Minister at the PM department Nazri Aziz vowed to take action against UMNO leaders who made seditious statements in the movement's recent assembly. I urge him not to spare anyone and not to be selective in the prosecution. Haul in the big fishes too. Often a fish starts to rot from the head.

Nazri said:

When it was telecast live, the assembly was no longer a party matter confined to the Putra World Trade Centre but it became a public event."Those who made speeches which were seditious will face the music."The police would investigate the matter and make their recommendations to the Attorney-General.

Taking a necessary action against these culprits will enhance the confidence of the people in the rule of law. No one is above the law, not even an UMNO hotshot.

Punch lines Controversy

I have been warned by a higher authority of the language used in my articles. Folks, there are people out there who are interested in reading my 'punch lines' only. In a recent article about the verbal spat between Dr M and Abdullah. I wrote:
  • "The fact is Dr Mahathir would not use his own money to buy a Proton car." I was told that the sentence had implied that Dr M got his Proton cars for free. Duh! Of course, he got to use those Proton Perdana cars for free. It is part of his government's perks. But is it seditious?
  • "Whose son got a bigger contract will not make any of them look like a worse leader". Abdullah had alleged in his CNN Talk Asia interview that Dr M sons got bigger contracts than his son. Is this seditious or factual?

I am sure some of you who are familiar with my writings will be able to gauge for their accuracy and credibility. But I know who are out there to discredit me. These people are lapdogs of certain people. They are parasites in their respective organisation but are bestowed with high positions.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hegemony of UMNO (1)

Ordinary people and outsiders who listened to the speeches delivered by some UMNO leaders at the movement's general assembly would have thought that Malaysia is gearing up for another racial riot.

I am not convinced by the reason given by Najib Razak that they were first-timers and did not know the dos-and-don'ts of the convention. Playing to the gallery, they were.

Primarily, their speeches were motivated by the prevalent thinking in UMNO and the racist calls to defend the Malay rights and the Malay supremacism. Seasoned leaders such as Abdul Ghani, the Johor MB, did the same when he rubbished the 'Bangsa Malaysia' concept and said that the concept is a challenge to Malay supremacism.

In NST today, Najib said the party had identified several speeches which were deemed "exteme", and would leave it to the "relevant authorities" to take action. We will wait to see if actions will be taken against Abdul Ghani, Khairy Jamalluddin and Hisammuddin Hussein as well.

Please don't go after the small fishes. We want Najib to walk his talk.

Gerakan-PPP Merger (3)

Folks, it is confirmed. M. Kayveas is desperate for his own political survival. Out of desperation, he calls Gerakan President 'narrow minded'.

Now, he wants to assume merger talks only after Dr Lim retires. He said that younger leaders like Gerakan deputy president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and secretary-general Chia Kwang Chye, he added, were more open to the idea of a merger. From an unofficial but trusted channel, these Gerakan leaders are merely being polite when they said they will consider his proposal.

Kayveas added “I am quite disappointed with Keng Yaik’s views, he is being narrow-minded on the matter. Perhaps, he thinks I will try to wrest a party post after merging with Gerakan."

I am sure Kayveas is only joking when he said "but don't kacau my seat in Taiping". Afterall, he is not interested in position.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gerakan-PPP Merger (2)

In the NST today, Gerakan Sec-General Chia Kwang Chye said his party is open to the proposal but gave no deadline to respond to PPP.

However, not many within the Gerakan party are taking the proposal very seriously. PPP holds the parliamentary seat of Taiping through its president M. Kayveas. It failed to win a state seat in Perak when its state youth chief lost the bid to a DAP candidate in the 2004 GE.

Many pundits see the proposal as a strategy employed by Kayveas to save his own political career. Talks are rife within both Gerakan and UMNO about the fate of the Taiping seat in the next GE. Kayveas is already sidelined.

Apologize Not Justify!

When asked about several racist and seditious statements made by the UMNO delegates at the movement's general assembly, the UMNO Deputy President did the predictable - justify and not apologize unreservedly.

He told the press:

Some speakers at the Umno general assembly they were inexperienced when debating sensitive racial issues. However, he cautioned those angered by these speeches not to assume that what "one or two delegates" said represented the stand of Umno.

Najib said sometimes inexperienced speakers got "carried away" by the occasion and ended up playing to the gallery."But they should realise that when they speak, others outside the party arealso listening to their speeches," he said.

Some of the vicious statements:

  • Malacca delegate Hasnoor Sidang Hussein bluntly stated that "Umno is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood in defence of race and religion"
  • Umno Youth exco member Azimi Daim, a veteran at Umno assemblies, said"when tension rises, the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins"
  • Perlis delegate Hashim Suboh, also no newcomer to the assembly, directed his question at youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein: "Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to askDatuk Hisham when is he going to use it."

These speakers are not first timers but UMNO veterans. Nevertheless, getting carried away is not a good reason to justify the racist statements. UMNO must apologize unreservedly for the statements made by its leaders.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gerakan-PPP Merger: Kayvaes' Key To Political Survival

Out of desperation to keep his parliamentary seat and to safeguard his political survival, Kayvaes has offered to merge his party with Gerakan.

Read the full article here:

Datuk M. Kayveas made the surprise announcement during his speech at the opening of the state PPP convention by Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon here yesterday. “I’m open to this idea and we can start talking about it after April next year (when Dr Koh takes over as party president from Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik).

“But, don’t kacau (disturb) my parliamentary seat in Taiping,” he said.

UMNO had indicated to Gerakan that it wants back the Bukit Gantang seat and the latter is to take back the Taiping seat. Hence, Gerakan Wanita Chief Tan Lian Hoe was recently made the head of BN Taiping.

Looks like Kayvaes is even willing to trade PPP for his own political survival. Of course, Dr Koh Tsu Koon's respond to Kayvaes was lukewarm. His party can do better without a loose cannon.

Fiery But No Fire = Racist Statements But Not Racist?

Some leaders of the BN component parties were upset with the mood and statements made by the UMNO delegates at the party's general assembly last week. Some of the delegates openly blamed the Chinese community for the failure and weaknesses of their own community.

Some even wanted the UMNO leadership to take aggressive and oppressive measures to silence the Chinese community. These statements, according to Khairy Jamalluddin, were fiery speeches but with no fire.

The UMNO strongman said other BN component parties should be able to accept these statements and maintain the spirit of BN. Do they have a choice of not accepting the situation?

Will UMNO be able to do the same in the event that we blame the Malay community for marginalising the rest?

Dr Mahathir's son got to know the answer the hard way. He was asked to apologize to Abdullah for his mild criticism of the UMNO president's speech.

But as usual, the leaders of Gerakan, MCA and MIC had to grasp the last straw as a face saving measure. They were relief that Abdullah's winding up speech was his commitment to speak for all Malaysians. A double speak at best. But it was enough for many of the leaders to lavish praises on his speech. This group of leaders are so easy to please.

But many New Malaysians are angry. Many like me are determined to let our displeasure show at the ballot box!


Friday, November 17, 2006

Friends? Friends Do Not Heckle One Another

At the UMNO general assembly, things have become more intolerant and disrespectful. Most of the delegates who spoke at the convention spewed more racist venom and expected other races to accept that this is the way UMNO conducts its business.

Joceline Tan of the Star observed, "This has definitely been one of the most Malay of Umno general assemblies in years". She noted the non-Malays have been at the brunt of much of the criticism during the debate, be it about Malay equity, education or race relations. What is obvious is the lack of self-introspection on the failure of the Malay community to keep up with the pace of development.

Years of spoon-feeding and hand-outs have created some spoilt brats, some opportunists and some rent-seekers. With finite resources, a multicultural social setting and a competitive world out there the Malay leaders should grow up soonest. The act of criticising and blaming others for their own delusion and failure is akin to a wise Malay proverb: 'Meludah ke langit, akhirnya jatuh ke muka sendiri'.

The offensive tone set by the UMNO Youth chief would have a profound impact on race relations in the country. On the outset, the condition of the race relations is not determined by the state of relations between BN Youth leaders.

The public does not care if MCA Liow Tiong Lye, Gerakan Mah Siew Keong and MIC Youth Chief are on good terms with Hisammuddin Hussien or not if the latter continues with his racist statements and innuendos.

UMNO alone cannot rule the country. Leaders of UMNO must respect the existence of other races or risks being isolated by them.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

NEP and Malay Rights

Media Statement

For those who had hoped for some of the UMNO Youth leaders to be more sober in making their speeches, they have enough reasons to be disappointed. At the movement’s annual national assembly, its chief Hishammuddin Hussein warned against any intention to question the Malay special rights and the position of Islam.

Hishammuddin said the people should not gamble away the future of the country by championing race politics. The irony is he does not have to look too far for such people. His deputy, Khairy Jamaluddin, in an UMNO Youth divisional meeting said that the Chinese community will take advantage of the Malays when UMNO is weak. His statement was repeated by several UMNO Youth delegates in the recent general assembly.

What Khairy and some of the UMNO Youth leaders did was to champion race politics. They have explicitly acknowledged their intention and saw no wrong in doing so. It is obvious that Hishammudin did not point his finger at his own colleagues for wrecking the future of the country. Instead, he is blaming those who questioned the continuation of racist policies as the major culprits.

The problem here is not because Hishammuddin is wrong to say that we should not become racial champions. He is wrong because he did nothing when his fellow colleagues in UMNO Youth are making all sorts of racist statements. He is wrong when he is equally guilty of doing the same – championing his own race. Being racist is not limited only to those who appeared to be challenging the Malay special privileges but also those who are championing their own race blindly and causing a discomfort to others.

It is better for the UMNO Youth leadership to realise now that the original spirit of the New Economic Policy (NEP) was meant to help the poor and truly marginalised Bumiputera community to catch up with development. The policy was meant to assist them to reach a level playing ground with other communities.

The post-independence government acknowledged that poverty and economic marginalisation involved other communities as well. Hence, the first objective of the NEP was to eradicate absolute poverty regardless of race and later to reduce relative poverty within communities. Since then, absolute poverty was driven down to a mere 5.7 percent.

Based on the first objective of NEP, there is no connection between the policy and the Malay Agenda. On the contrary, when the policy was introduced the language used to frame the policy framework was non-racial e.g. ‘eradication of absolute poverty regardless of race’. It was implied that those who had been successfully alleviated from the poverty line will have to compete like the rest so that limited resources can be generated to help those who are still at the bottom income rung.

Unfortunately, over the years the NEP was manipulated as a tool to breed patronage politics. Patronage politics is the chief cause of corruption. It is the kind of political system which is used by the little ‘Napoleans’ to perpetuate their corrupt practice and their hold on power. A respected analyst wrote, “Often the wealth restructuring policy tool is being used by the ruling capitalists to control even more wealth in order to strengthen their power and control over the society. This selective patronage system created out of the NEP will worsen intra-ethnic cleavage.”

Sadly, at the same time the 30 percent Bumiputera corporate equity target was set and became the fervour on how the equity cake should be divided and allocated. The government and the nation became fixated over the equity target while right under their nose intra-ethnic income disparity continues to widen. As a result, we enriched the well-connected and privileged few but neglected the poorest 40 percent of the society.

The second objective of the NEP was to restructure the society to eradicate identification of an economic function to a particular race. A commendable success was recorded here too. The number of Bumiputera professionals is rising averaging 39 percent of all sectors e.g. accountancy, architecture, medical doctor, engineering, law but excluded teachers and lecturers. However, the number of non-Malay Bumiputera professionals, especially the indigenous people, remained unimpressive.

Again, the implementation of the NEP has created a public sector grossly dominated by the Bumiputera Malays. The situation is so acute that it is no longer possible to reverse the situation in the next 10 years at least. UMNO leaders may not find anything wrong with the Malay dominated public service because the private sector is dominated by the non-Malays. What is wrong is that we are worsening the identification of an economic function to a particular race and not helping to achieve the second objective of the NEP.

Even if the government is trying to do something, it should have realized that this cannot be done through legislation alone. We need to build up the confidence level and comfort level amongst the races and encourage them to forge equal and mutually beneficial partnerships.

It is the distortion of the NEP policy implementation that we criticised. We support special privileges to be given to the poor regardless of race so that those at that socio-economic level can use the extra assistance to make a better a living. Privileges should not accorded to those who are already living comfortably. The NEP is not a privilege to help people of a certain skin colour exclusively.

UMNO President Abdullah Ahmad Badawi outlined 12 key pillars in his policy speech. The first pillar is on an exemplary political leadership which is the prime mover for other types of leadership. He welcomed constructive criticism. He said that leaders are mere mortals and mortals are imperfect. Hence, policies made by mortals are also not perfect.

Therefore, questioning the methodology used by the EPU to calculate the corporate equity ownership is not the same as accusing the government of lying. Neither is it an act of trying to undermine the position of the Malays. A methodology used since 1971 should merit a comprehensive review so that we do not leave out some important but marginalised segments of the society. We need to find out why after 30 years of the NEP the poorest 40 percent of the society are becoming even poorer.

It is precisely the concern for the poorest, who are largely Bumiputeras, that we urged the government to end its obsession with the 30 percent or 70 percent corporate equity ownership for the Bumiputera if it is going to enrich only a selected few. The government should focus on closing the income gap between the poorest and the richest regardless of race. One effective way is to focus on capacity building and enhancing access to economic opportunities and means.

Abdullah told us to work with him and not for him. We should hold him to his words. A good leader is also a good listener. He should be able to differentiate between the constructive criticism and the polemics.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Malay Supremacism Resonates at UMNO Gathering

For those Malaysians who had hoped for UMNO Youth leaders to sober up and to take a wider world-view in their political approach would have enough reasons to be dissappointed. Not only that some of the leaders, especially UMNO Youth Chief Hishammuddin Hussein, wanted the Malay special rights and the position of Islam not to be challenged, they also demanded for the Bumiputera corporate equity to be raised to 7o% instead of the current 30%.

Hishammuddin made some atrocious demands:

  • On Syariah courts should be allowed to hear and judge cases involving Islam, not the civil courts. What about in cases which involve a non-Muslim as a party? At present, there is no avenue for them to seek justice. This is contrary to a just democratic system. Malaysians must reject theocratic rule!
  • No to Interfaith Commission. UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott came to Malaysia to 'study' Malaysia's model of IFC which he said was a success! He must have gotten the wrong information from his embassy.
  • No to any debate on race and religion. The irony is some of the UMNO Youth leaders made racist statements at the gathering.

    Read what Farish Noor's view on this issue

    At a time when the nation should be thinking of new ways of re-imagining itself and its place in the world, it is sad - nay, pathetic - that such narrow-mindedness should prevail among some of its political elite. While the younger generation of New Malaysians are looking for ways and means to bridge the divisions of race, ethnicity, language and religion, the old guards are still harping on about the good old days and the good old ways when this land was referred to as 'Tanah Melayu' (Land of the Malays). So once again we are brought back to the homespun colonial fictions of the not-too-pleasant colonial past.

    How long can this fragile balance be maintained before the very socio-cultural fabric of Malaysia rips itself asunder? Faced with the realities of a globalising world where parochialism of any form - be it religious or ethnic-racial - would be detrimental to the health and future of a nation-in-making, the falsehood that is at the heart of Malaysia's racialised political culture has to be exposed for what it is.

    Ethno-nationalist politicians will undoubtedly find it hard to change their spots and stop themselves from playing to the gallery. The clarion call of'the Malays in danger' rings sweet in the ears of those conservative ethno-nationalists for whom the keris is a potent symbol of power and hegemony.

    But Malaysian society today is more complex, plural and hybrid than ever; and it is the complexity of Malaysia that may well save it in the long run, opening up cultural and historical bridges to other countries (not to mention the rising Asian economies of India and China) in turn.

Malaysians must use the ballot box to determine the kind of government they want for themselves and their children. Ethno-nationalism is a deadly political tool. Play with it and it burns you.


Are You Outta Your Mind?

Sexy attire remark utterly baseless

Some men are perverted. They shamelessly hide under the cloak of religion while making their perverted and sexist statements. Penang Municipal Council Abu Bakar Hassan is an example of such a man.

In the recent incident which involved a female reporter at a Citi Hall function, her 'sexy' attire was blamed for the intrusion of her privacy by the CCTV installed at the City Hall.

Apparently, the closed-circuit television camera which was supposed to shoot the proceedings zoomed in on the women's thighs instead.

It was reported yesterday that Abu Bakar had blamed the sexy attire of the female journalists as the cause of the cameras zooming in on their thighs instead of focusing on Friday's council proceedings.

Take a good look at her attire here. Does she need to wear a 'burqah' (an Islamic dress which covers the whole body except for the eyes) to be considered appropriately dressed? Or these men should be send to a mental institution to have their brain examined?


Journalist Melissa Darlyne Chow, who lodged apolice report in which she alleged that the CCTV operator had outraged her modesty, wearing the same clothes she had on during the Friday council meeting.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Malaysia Should Avoid Marginalisation

Citigroup's Report on Malaysia released on 27 October 2006

The political culture of self-denial is still rife in the country. Many Malaysians believe that the prevailing racist political framework is what keeping us from breaking apart. Hence, in the recent Johor UMNO divisional meeting the Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani spoke up against a very important tenet of national unity - the creation of a truly fair and equitable 'Bangsa Malaysia' or the Malaysian race.

According to him, the concept of 'Bangsa Malaysia' is a threat to the Malay race superiority. Any nation building concept must take the Malay community as its key pillar - his idea of the Malays as a 'pivotal race'.

In the 21s century, superiority = know-how + capability + knowledge + respect. Sadly, these elements cannot be legislated. You either work hard to acquire knowledge or find yourself being left behind.

In the recent report by the Citigroup on Malaysia's economic competitiveness, here's the summary:

  • Malaysia today is a pale shadow of itself compared to ten years ago. Whether measured in terms of FDI draw, stock market capitalization or trading volumes, Malaysia is slipping down the ladder. The latest UNCTAD FDI rankings put Malaysia at 62nd place. Stock market capitalization is now the sixth largest in Asia ex-Japan, down from second in 1996. Trading values are now one-third of Singapore and half of Thailand. Private investment has fallen to 12% of GDP
  • It is not that Malaysia is moving backward, but simply that it is not moving forward quickly enough. The forces of globalization are being resisted. The preservation of the status quo and incumbency looks far easier to manage than the uncertainties and competition unleashed from opening up
  • We think there is scope to arrest the slide by removing the last remnants of the capital controls; internationalizing the ringgit once again; fine-tuning the NEP policy to minimize market distortions and introducing shelf-lives; and allowing greater foreign investment in the service sectors. Complacency will risk further marginalization
  • Accepting the NEP objectives, the debate should shift to how best to achieve the 30% bumi equity target with minimal market distortions. Direct subsidies and preferential treatment in social services, such as education and healthcare, are preferable to NEP requirements that
    distort the property, labor and stock markets. Price discounts are preferred over fixed quotas in terms of minimizing deadweight losses. Even a race-based income tax system could be a more
    efficient substitute

The precent policy is impoverishing Malaysians not just materially but also intellectually. In the age of globalisation and capitalism, you have to earn your keep. The is no free lunch. We have to shape up or get kick out!


Thursday, November 09, 2006

The False Sense of 'Malay Superiority'

Johor is fast getting more popular not merely for high crime rates but for a high frequency of its leaders to say something stupid and malicious. This time, Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman is the idiot. He is dead against the creation of a truly Bangsa Malaysia.

He said that the concept is seen as a threat to the Malays and the special position provided for them in the Constitution. On the use of Bangsa Malaysia, he said that Malays should be made the exception:

"Even if the term Bangsa Malaysia is to be used, it must only be applied in the context of all the peoples of Malaysia with the Malays as the pivotal race," he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Bernard Dompok expressed his concerns over the rejection of the Bangsa Malaysia concept by the Johor Menteri Besar. Dompok is extremely concerned by the emergence of a new terminology - 'a pivotal race' - arising from Abdul Ghani Othman's policy speech at the Johor Umno convention on Sunday.

Abdul Ghani should know better that the only way for the Malays to walk tall is through competition with other communities and to prove that they are able to progress on their own steam. The concept of a 'super race' cannot be legislated. Is Abdul Ghani proposing we implement apartheid in Malaysia?

If the government is truly committed to its multiracial pledge, then the BN supreme council should sack Abdul Ghani before more Abdul Ghanis are being created.

Bumiputera Corporate Equity Ownership at 36.6%!

After weeks of denial, the government has announced on 7th November that Bumiputeras owned 36.6 per cent or RM78.4billion in shareholding value in companies listed on the main board andsecond board of Bursa Malaysia up to Dec 31 last year.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin said shareholding by non-Bumiputeras stood at RM100.4 billion (46.9 per cent) while anotherRM55.2 billion (16.45 per cent) was held by foreigners.

However, the government is adamant that the NEP should be continued. Earlier, it had rejected two reports from Asli and UM which suggested that Bumiputera corporate equity ownership is more than 30 percent.

For more debates on the NEP, please get your lates copy of The Edge weekly. You will be able to read my comments there. Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, a fellow panelist, has urged UMNO to change in order to create better social justice.

Happy Birthday! Yes, My Birthday...8th November

I had a rather quiet birthday celebration yesterday. Some friends came over and I had this cute tiny cake for my birthday.

Earlier, I attended a breakfast discussion session at the house of US Embassy Deputy Chief De Mission on the US Senate and House of Representatives elections. By 10.30 am, I was already at the parliament to meet Sara and Kimber of the International Republican Institute to discuss some possible collaborations between our respective institute. MP Lee Kah Choon joined us at the meeting.

I had to cancel the evening dinner meeting. Just feeling too tired after the trip.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bumiputera Corporate Equity - The Truth Beckons

The debate on the Bumiputera corporate equity ownership rages on with another set of analysis compiled by by Universiti Malaya academician Dr M Fazilah Abdul Samad.

She found that the bumiputera equity ownership hit the target set by the New Economic Policy in 1997, when it reached 33.7 percent. The research, published in 2002, was based on a 10-year analysis of bumiputera equity ownership between 1988 and 1997 of public listed companies on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE), now known as Bursa Malaysia.

However, the report did not cover the post-financial crisis period of 1997 and beyond. Nevertheless, Fazilah found that both bumiputera and non-bumiputera companies were dealt an equal blow by the crisis.

This scholarly report is another indication to the government to come clean on the real Bumiputera corporate equity figures. The lack of transparency and its insistence of continuing with the policy without any real justification is eroding the credibility of the ruling elites.

What is obvious is the income contraction of the poorest 40 percent of the society. They held only 13.5 percent of the total wealth.

Some highlights of the NEP outcome:

  • Absolute poverty level at a mere 5.7 percent from a double digit figure when the policy was first introduced
  • Household income for all communities has increased between 3.5 percent (Indian) to 9.4 percent (others). Chinese (3.6 percent) Bumiputera (4.9 percent).
  • Income disparity between communities has reduced: Bumiputera:Chinese = 1:1.74 (1999) to 1:1.64 (2004), Bumi:Indians = 1:1.36 to 1:1.27
  • Percentage of Bumiputera professionals is on the rise = averaging 39 percent of all sectors (accountant, architect, doctor, engineers, lawyers but does not include teachers and lecturers)
  • Meaningful and substantial participation of Bumiputera in all important sectors of the economy: financial institutions, aviation, logistics, public transportation, tertiary education, public service, telecommunication services, media, agriculture, defence support, oil and gas and others.
  • In the case of Malaysia, instead of creating a larger pool of middle class (bell shaped graph) we are creating a larger intra-ethnic disparity or a bigger difference between the richest and the poorest (bar-bell shaped). As a result, the gini-coefficient which measures the relative difference has increased for all communities (0.452 to 0.462) – Bumiputera (0.433 to 0.452).
  • Top 20 percent of the society own 51.2 percent of total wealth (from 50.2% in 1999) and bottom 40 percent own a mere 13.5% (down from 14%).
  • Inter-state poverty disparity is huge: Penang, Selangor and KL (0.3% to 1.5%) but Kelantan (10.6%), Trengganu (15.4%) and Sabah (24.2%).

Abdullah's 'Half-Past Six' Anti-Corruption Campaign

The newspaper report on the Zakaria's controversy said it all..."Port Klang state assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Md Deros has finally decided not to continue as Klang municipal councillor".

Read: He was not sacked. He quits.

On why Zakaria's posts in UMNO were not affected, Abdullah replied when asked by a reporter:

Datuk Zakaria has created an embarrassment to Umno and the government. Whyis no action taken on his political position?

Abdullah: This is a government related matter and it is sufficient that he is not reappointed as a member of the (local) council. His transgression is an issue that has to do with his membership in the local council. It's confined to that. It's not a party matter.

Abdullah must realise that it is UMNO which leads the BN ruling government. It is impossible to separate a leadership of a public office from the political party. Both are intertwined. His statement is obviously making the corrupted UMNO leaders as the 'untouchables' so long that they did not break any party rules.

This is a classic case of 'harap pagar, pagar makan padi'.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bakri Musa's 'The Ugly Malay'

In his blog, Bakri Musa lamented on the recent scandal docking the infamous Port Klang assemblyman, Zakaria Mat Deros. On the lack of public condemnation, he has this to say:

I can appreciate the reticence of non-Malays to this Zakaria scandal. For one, there is always the fear of being branded as anti-Malay, a particularly damaging accusation. For another, they could be just as guilty in tolerating as well as participating and thus encouraging such corrupt practices. One wonders how many of the contractors working on that mansion also have simultaneous government contracts and at what inflated prices.

On the lack of public interest from the Malay community and intellectuals:

For Malays however, the damage is considerable. We are sending precisely the wrong message to our people. That is, in order to succeed or afford a mansion and other trappings of the “good life,” we do not have to study diligently or work hard but merely ingratiate ourselves to the powerful in order to hog our own little spot at the public trough.

According to Bakri, the incident and the lack of subsequent public reaction to the scandal has created the wrong perception of the Malay community:

The message we send to non-Malays is equally destructive. That is, we Malays are a race of rogues. We tolerate such nonsense because we harbor our own secret ambition to be like them. This more than anything is what makes me mad and angry with these scoundrels.

He went on to assure the non-Malay communities that the personalities involved in the scandal are not representative of the Malay community, not yet:

Let me assure non-Malays that the Zakaria Mat Deroses and Khir Toyos are not representative of my race, at least not yet. These “ugly Malays,” to borrow Syed Hussein’s phrase, are fast becoming and will be the norm if we do nothing, by in effect tolerating them. We do have our share of the hard working, the honest, and the frugal. Yes, we are fast shrinking, that we sadly agree.

Bakri's advice:

It is in the interest of all, Malays and non-Malays alike, not to tolerate such sinister and shady characters. Unchecked, they would soon spread to all Malaysians.

Bakri's advice may be timely but I am afraid to say that the disease has spread to a large segment of the society, not only amongst the Malays. Some non-Malay politicians are equally feudal and corrupted. Do a search in their closet and do not be surprised to find some skeletons in it.

We need to treat the symptom before it turns cancerous. The only way forward is to decontruct the current politicial system which promotes might and power over the rule of law.