Thursday, December 28, 2006

South Johor Economic Region + Singapore = Shenzen + Hong Kong?

I was told by a close confidante of the PM that he got the idea of SJER while looking out from his hotel window at Kowloon, Hong Kong. What attracted him was the successful economic integration of the Pearl Delta Region.

Abdullah hoped to kill two birds with one stone. Politically, it is a viable move to strengthen his own political base within UMNO. Doing something significant for Johor, a heartland of UMNO, will raise the profile of Abdullah within the party.

On the other hand, after scrapping the 'scenic bridge' project Abdullah hoped that the SJER will divert attention away from Dr M criticism that his action was detrimental to the economic and political position of Johor.

SJER, when ready, is expected to attract millions of investment across the straits. Will this happen?

On Tuesday, a Malaysiakini report showed that the level of investment from across the Causeway into the state was low compared to the previous year - standing at a mere RM208.9 million, a massive shortfall of the total amount of RM1.9 billion in 2005. However, when its reporter spoke to a senior manager from Johor State Investment Centre (JSIC) who was confident that investment from Singapore will start coming in the final quarter of the year.

Unfortunately, his confidence is not shared by several Singaporean investors who said the environment was not good enough to invest in Johor. They generally do not share the state government’s optimism that money will start pouring in soon.

What are their reasons?

  • Increasing labour costs had driven the labour intensive industry to other countries which offer cheaper labour such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

  • Availability of other destinations for high-technology investments

  • Government agencies had shown no improvement in efficiency.

  • Singaporeans were being discriminated in Malaysia.

  • NEP detrimental to non-Malay SMEs and businesses

  • Security and high crime rates in Johor Bahru

  • Continuing spat between former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad with his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi caused fears of political instability in the country

One very important distinction is the different set of values practiced by both Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, the government is very aggressive in promoting meritocracy but Malaysia is doing a reverse - the Abdullah government is talking about rights, special privileges, protection and the Malay Agenda. This is the biggest detrimental force which will ensure that SJER and Singapore will not create a similar synergy such as Shenzen and HK.

Malaysia must adopt the right culture to be successful. Cultivating a sense of entitlement within the biggest community in the country will not help members of the community to improve, to compete and to acquire knowledge.

Can Malaysia Afford These?

In a Malaysiakini's commentary, it is obvious that the Abdullah Administration is desperate to show results. The government has announced a spate of mega projects which will be implemented in the 9th Malaysia Plan period. Below is an except of the report:

Going by official pronouncements, the era of the mega-projects ended circa November 2003, when premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi promised news ways of doing business. Closing the Umno general assembly on Nov 20 this year, he affirmed:

“In the past, wealth was generated not by innovation and creativity, but by foreign investment, government contracts and privatisation. Now that era is gone.”

Let’s match his words to deeds to date:

  • RM600 million ‘bonus’ for Class F contractors;
  • RM400 million for the new National Palace;
  • RM220 million for the Agricultural Expo project;
  • RM2.8 billion for the second Penang bridge;
  • RM50 million to overhaul KTM Bhd;
  • RM120 million for fabrication of bus-parts for Sykt Prasarana Negara Sdn Bhd
  • RM14.5 billion double-tracking railway project
  • RM1.2 billion Penang monorail
Meanwhile, the prestigious Iskandar Development Region covering 2,216 sq km in Johor is
to encompass an area about twice the size of Singapore and 48 times that of Putrajaya. The
Employees Provident Fund will invest RM3.4 billion in strategic projects, contributing to the RM47 billion required from 2006-10, and a further RM336 billion from 2011-25.

On Dec 20, Utusan Malaysia quoted government officials as saying that the cabinet had approved a 246km express rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan, where a new train
station will also be built. The federal government will bear the cost (not revealed) of the project between 2012 and 2015, delivered under the National Infrastructure Plan approved in October.
No more mega-projects?

There are more such projects in the pipeline. It should be noted that these are the projects Malaysia can ill afford. Recently, in order to join the bandwagon the Pahang government has announced a plan to redevelop Kuantan into an investment hub and a new metropolis. The project will probably cost more billions of public money.

This is a contradiction of Abdullah's initial paradigm shift. It is quite obvious that if he is serious in creating a knowledge economy (and a first world mentality), he should allocate more resources to strengthen several core institutions which help to develop minds and human capacity. For example, our tertiary institutions are in need of a serious revamp.

At a round table organised by the Edge, a fellow panelist Dr Nungsari lamented that the government should not have allowed the pro-Bumi NEP process to creep into the local universities. As a result of the affirmative action, many good non-Bumiputera Malay lecturers and academicians were driven away.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee was a prominent socialogist who was driven away by our university when his appointment as a chair in a prestigious Canadian university was rejected by UM - the VC insisted that the university should have the right to nominate whoever it wanted as a chair!

The Abdullah Administration does not demonstrate its understanding of the knowledge economy. Hence, in order to outdo his number 1 critic, Dr M, Abdullah is running to build even bigger (physical) legacy for himself. The Iskandar Development Region is a shining example.

The legacy may be the biggest white elephant in Malaysia.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2007

Dear Friends,

If you are visiting my blog this week, you might be disappointed with a lack of new update. Chill out! It is a holiday season.

I will be out for the entire week. Need to prepare for a few new engagements next year and hope to fill up my to-do-list as well.

I wish you and your family a merry and joyous celebration.

Best wishes,
Kay Peng

Friday, December 22, 2006

Voice of the Youth on NEP

At the Youth4Change forum on wednesday evening, I shared the floor with two other very eloquent speakers - Nik Nazmi and Amir Sari. Both of them are linked to the Parti Keadilan. The forum was not very well attended though. I was told that several other forums were running at the same time. Nonetheless, participation from the floor was encouraging. Youths of all races spoke in a singular voice.

My speech touched on the definitions of the NEP, the implications of a politicised NEP, NEP and the Malay Agenda and the way forward. On the original definition of the NEP, it was obvious that the language used to frame the policy was non-racial. I argue that the practice of communal politics and selective patronage system has changed both the meaning and the spirit of the policy.

Instead of eradicating poverty regardless of race, the ruling elites are too fixated on corporate wealth ownership which is a bad indicator of social well-being. As a result, Malaysians especially the Malay and indigenous communities who live in states which not on the development belt have suffered tremendous marginalisation. Poverty rates in Kelantan, Perlis, Trengganu, Sabah (24.7% - the worst) and Sarawak are well below the national average of 5.7%.

While the NEP has helped to create a larger Malay middle-class, it has also neglected many whom initially the policy was aimed at.

Later, the politicisation of the NEP took place. The policy was highjacked by the Malay ruling elites and used it to justify the Malay Agenda or 'ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacism). The original spirit of the NEP was twisted beyond acceptance by the non-Malay communities.

Special privileges to help the bumiputera to be able to compete on equal terms have been reinterpreted as special rights and linked to the social contract made between leaders representing the Chinese, Indian and Malay communities. It is this social contract that UMNO does not want to be questioned and probed. It is supposed to be sacred.

Unfortunate, power corrupts and the abuse of the policy has created deep-rooted corruption in the society. Who can deny that there are many Ali Babas and rent-seekers amongst us?

I argue that even the original NEP objectives are outdated. It was relevant when it was first introduced. Additional elements must be considered e.g. competitiveness, knowledge acquisition and globalisation.

Unfortunately, the ruling elites want the status quo to remain. It is unprecedented for any government to insist on a status quo of 50 years old to be respected without considering the 50 years of contributions and sacrifices made by all Malaysians to help make Malaysia what it is today.

The implications are obvious e.g. corruption (nexus between politics and economy), polarisation (Malay Agenda and 'Ketuanan Melayu' and brain drain.

I told the audience that towering personalities are not skin deep. They nodded with agreement.

Malaysians must move forward and break the racial barriers erected by these elites so that they can divide and rule us. It is time that we give back the rightful recognition and respect to the Malays who have succeeded through their own effort, hardwork and tenacity. With the NEP, many people will remain cynical of their achievements.

Learning Hanyu

The emergence of China as both a global economic powerhouse and a regional political powerhouse has intrigued me since I took up an interest in International Relations.

While pursuing my postgraduate degree at Warwick University, I wrote all my research articles and thesis on China's foreign relations and its capitalist development.

Back here, my interest grew and I enrolled myself in a hanyu character recognition course conducted by the Global Hanyu centre in Kuala Lumpur.

My classmates have similar interest in China as well. Stella is an internal auditor, Grace used to work in British Council and Chor Teck was a producer (of Spinning Gasing fame) but now running his family business. The lady in the middle, Voon Kuan, is our course instructor.

On my study, I will have a lot of catch up to do. It is fun learning hanyu, this I can assure you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Real Monument of Shame

Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin has alleged that a war monument in a private cemetary in Nilai was a memorial for Malaysia’s communists. Last Saturday, Zainuddin told Bernama that two such memorials exist in Sarawak and Nilai, Selangor. He said erecting such memorials were insensitive and disrespectful as many Malaysians were killed during the communist insurgency. “The people must remember that at one time, they were the nation's number one enemy,” said Zainuddin.

On wednesday, Zainuddin said the MCA has accepted his explanation over the issue of memorials for communists found at several Chinese cemeteries, and he considered the matter resolved amicably. He said he cleared the matter with MCA Vice-President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek at a meeting and did not dispute it if there had been members of the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) who felt they were not communists.

"I explained the matter to Dr Chua and he accepted the explanation. As such, we should end the issue," he told reporters when met after his ministry's post-Cabinet meeting, here. "As for me, only those who feel they are communists would be offended by what I had said," he said.

Several Chinese newspapers had highlighted the matter following Zainuddin's remarks that he was displeased that some insensitive people were erecting memorials for communists as this showed disrespect to those who had fought the communists.

Zainuddin, who is also the Member of Parliament for Merbok, had alleged during a speech at a Merbok Puteri Umno function last week that such memorials had been found at private Chinese cemeteries in Sarawak and in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan. According to him, memorials should only be erected for those who had fought for the country's independence or against the communists, irrespective of which group or movement they belonged to. "We should not pay tribute to one movement or group that involved only a particular race but individuals or larger organisations that had played instrumental roles for the benefit of all the races in the country," he said.

Claiming to be very well-versed in history, Zainuddin appeared to be ignorant of the fact that millions of Chinese Malaysians had suffered the worst treatment of the Japanese imperial soldiers. Prior to that, many of the Nanyang Chinese had contributed a lot of resources to China to fight off the invading Japanese armies.

Hence, when the Japanese invaded Malaya and Singapore in 1941, the first thing they did was to demand a 50 million pay-off from the Chinese community or face execution. Many of the businessmen had to sell off their properties and businesses cheaply in order to raise the money required.

Unfortunately, the community was only able to raise half the amount by the stipulated dateline. What happened next was well documented in history books. The attrocities of the Japanese imperial soldiers had pushed many young Chinese and even Malay to form the MPAJA.

Branding all the MPAJA members as communists is the most distasteful and irresponsible action. I have said elsewhere and I will say it here again. The MCA does not speak or decide for all Chinese Malaysians. What Zainuddin has alleged hurts the feelings of many Chinese Malaysians especially those whose ancestors had sacrificed their lives to fight the invaders.

The monuments of shame which should be torn down are the MATRADE building and the toll plazas which are monuments of corruption!

Then again, no one expects Zainuddin to be able to see the different. He ain' that bright.

Khoo Kongsi 100th year celebration

Last Sunday I attended a prayer ceremony at the Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi, the lesser known of the two Khoo's clan houses in Penang. With proper restoration, the clan house can become another prominent landmark in Penang.

Despite what the history (history is never apolitical) says, the construction of elaborate clan houses was a testimony that members of the Khoo clan had accepted Penang as their homeland and were determined to plant their roots here.

Many of the clansmen had contributed significantly to the development of Penang. More contributions will come in the following generations.

I am the 21st generation of the Hai Goh 'pang'.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Youth 4 Change Forum

I have been invited to speak at the Youth 4 Change forum tonight. Details as follow:

Alternative Course DVD Launching and Voices of Youth (VOY) on NEP

Date: 20 December 2006 (Wednesday)

Time: 8.00pm รข€“ 10.30pm

Venue: Humanity Library, Kuala Lumpur (near Monorail Station at Maharajarela)

Moderator: Amin Idris
Law graduate from IIUM and active student leader from GAMIS and SMM

Speaker 1: Nik Nazmi
Prominent blogger who earned his LLB from King's College London and Special Assistant to Anwar Ibrahim

Speaker 2: Khoo Kay Peng
A political and policy analyst at a local think-tank SEDAR

Speaker 3: Amir Sari
Project Coordinator from Institute Kajian Dasar (IKD) and former active student leader


7.30pm Admission
8.00pm Welcome Address and Launch the Alternative Course on Ethnic Relationship DVD
8.20pm Public Forum: Voices of Youth (VoY) on NEP
9.50pm Question and Answer (Q&A)
10.30pm Closing


The New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced as an affirmative action to eradicate poverty and rearrange the social structure. However, recently the debates followed the controversial research report from ASLI, a think-tank that revealed that Bumiputra already achieved more than 30% in the equity. The debate was emotional and divert from the academic purposes. At the same time, a lot of people started to question the achievement of the NEP. Are we achieve the goals set by NEP? How is the assessment been made? Did we involve in the discussion process on the achievement of NEP?

As a young people, a stakeholder of the society, what do we think about NEP? Are we benefit from the NEP? Why it always been seen as the racial issues or sensitive issues? How to engage in the discussion of the NEP? Why the young people cannot involve in the discussion which regarding the future of the nation?

All these questions will be discussed in the public forum by the young and prominent speakers. Come to share your views and witness the power of youth to bring changes and generate new ideas.

Language: English and Bahasa Malaysia

FOR ENQUIRIES: Please contact the Y4C Secretariat Office (03-77831164) or Khai Loon (013-3970519) and Yee Ling (012-7355025) or email to

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Penang Public Bus System - A Monument of Shame

In a Malaysiakini article, the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) chairperson Markiman Kobiran has been told to resign if he is not serious abut tackling the transport woes in Penang. The demand was made by the Penang-based Citizens for Public Transport Coalition (Cepat). Cepat member Dr Choong Sim Poey said despite two revamps - including tighter conditions and regulations for bus operators as well as funding to purchase additional buses - the situation has only deteriorated.

Earlier this year, the state government had revamped the public bus route in Penang in an attempt to improve its service. However, the situation turned worse after the 'overhaul'. Once I was left stranded at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal for nearly 2 hours waiting for a connecting bus to Komtar. As usual when people are at their lowest ebb, some people will turn up to take advantage of their helplessness. I was offered a 'kereta sapu' trip to Komtar at a rate of RM12.

A trackback search done at the Star Online website shows that the issue has been left outstanding since March this year.

On 22nd March this year, the state government said all 125 stage buses and 69 minibuses on the island will be tested for road worthiness before they are allowed to ply the streets when the state’s restructured public bus system starts operation on April 1. State Local Government and Traffic Mana-gement Committee chairman Dr Teng Hock Nan even warned that only vehicles that were in satisfactory condition would be allowed on the streets come April 1. Any bus found “unfit” would be taken off the road.

Until recently, we can still find buses in poor condition on the road. Penang Watch coordinator Ong Boon Keong said bus drivers and operators were still openly flouting the regulations despite the CVLB Act 1987 providing for punishment of infringements with fines up to RM2,000 and maximum six months imprisonment or both. “There’s non-compliance of the rules on such a massive scale and they’re getting away with it all,” he noted.

Some believe that a 'rentier culture' in public transport is flourishing. They allege that public transport licence holders stand to earn handsome commissions by subcontracting their licences to operators -- some of whom may be incompetent -- who are allowed to run their services largely unencumbered by any regulations or enforcement.

So bad is public transport that hundreds of thousands of Malaysians opt for their own motorcycles and cars. In Penang alone, there are some 1.5 million registered motor vehicles for a population of 1.5 million, with the registration rate increasing by 9.5 percent annually.

But there is a limit to road space as vehicles rapidly clog existing roads. Over the Chinese (lunar) New Year holidays last week, out-of-town motorists poured into the island city, choking up main arteries leading to the city and to tourist centres. Unlike the capital of Kuala Lumpur, Penang does not have a light rail transit system although the government resurrects talk of improved public transport each time an election draws near.

A columnist at a local newspaper lamented how he dreaded to go back to Penang during festive season. As a fellow Penangite, I can understand his disappointment. When I first came back from UK late 2004 and without a private car, I was forced to take the public transport for 3 months. Those had been 3 agonising months.

In April, the Paya Terubong assembly- man Dr Loh Hock Hun said people should not demand changes to the system so soon without giving it a chance to be effective. It is time that he eats back his words.

We have given the government almost a decade to fix the problem, not 10 days and not 4 days. It is timely that the people of Penang demand a change. Back in Penang this weekend, I spoke to a few friends and relatives and some of the most appolitical amongst them are talking about a change. They are just fed up!

The Next Wave of Brain Drain?

A report in a local newspaper (NST, 17th Dec) reported that more Malaysians are seeking greener pastures. The number has intensified over the last month, ironically right after the UMNO general assembly. It is important for us to understand this emerging trend or risks losing more skilled workers.

A migration consultant said these people are selling their properties and their cars."On an average, we used to receive between 15 and 20 enquiries (on migration) a day," said Desmond, a migration agent in Kuala Lumpur.

"However, over the last two weeks, our phones have been ringing non-stop."This "ringing non-stop" translates into about 6,500 enquiries for migration to Australia between Nov 14 and Nov 19.

There were 5,500 enquiries for New Zealand, and 4,000 for Canada,about 3,500 enquiries for other countries, including Norway andSwitzerland."The country of choice is Australia, followed by New Zealand.

"If they do not meet the requirements for these two countries, their next option is Canada."The most number of enquiries, according to Desmond, comes from professionals (60 per cent) and the rest from tradespersons like cooks, mechanics, tool-makers, carpenters and hair dressers.

And who exactly are migrating? For a start, enquiries come from those who are 24 and above."I do not have the exact details, but I think the callers were of allraces — Malays, Indians, Chinese and others," Max said.

Elsewhere, I have argued that the strength of an economy depends on its large middle-class. The government should consider appropriate measures and the right policy respond to reverse this trend before we are bleed (of talents) to death.

For a start, the BN government should strive to end racial politics, promote real democratisation, focus on enhancing our economic competitiveness and create more jobs.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mat Rempit Menace

The main problem with the UMNO deputy youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin is his poor judgement. Seen by certain quarters as an urbane and cosmopolitan young politician, Khairy has choosen to side with the dark forces. Perhaps it is his wish to be seen as an arrogant, angry and narrow-minded communalist in order to serve his own political benefit.

Instead of celebrating equality and meritocracy, he is promoting a pivotal race. As a foreign educated person, he knows fully well that today's towering personality is not skin deep. A person's value is being measured by what he can contribute to the society. Recently at a component party convention, he warned Malaysians against abuse of their freedom to speak.

However, the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) -headed by Ramon Navaratnam - today expressed its regrets and disagreements over Khairy’s ominous warning. “On the contrary, the CPPS maintains that the government should continue to increase openness, and encourage more public discussion on government policies as Malaysia has certainly matured in its democratic development in the last 50 years since Merdeka. He added “Any reversal of this growing freedom of speech will be a retrograde move and will only stifle the further maturing of our Malaysian democracy.”

I am sure many Malaysians still remember and are still upset over Khairy's move to embrace and rebrand the Mat Rempits. Many wonder why a UMNO deputy youth chief would want to waste his time and the country's resources on the menace of our society when there are thousands of poor indigenous people who are really in need of his hug and support.

Thousands of mat rempits have since joined UMNO Putera. The good gestures of UMNO youth leaders such as Khairy are being repaid in more menace to the society. A recent case in Penang speaks volume of the infallability of the UMNO youth leaders. A group of mat rempits vandalised a perodua kancil in an attempt to rob the passengers.

A scary account of a victim:

We thought they were after the helmet that we ran through and we apologized to them. They shouted at us to get out of the car. Panicked, we locked the car. One of the guys started hitting the driver seat windscreen with his helmet and smashed the windscreen. They then unlocked the car. One guy grabbed my handbag which I've placed near to the gearbox. The other guys opened the right door behind the driver seat and grabbed my sister's bag pack. At that very same moment, they threw a whole lot of an unidentified powder (which we later find out that it might be sulfur) which caused us to lose our vision and suffocate. Another guy opened the back door on the left and start grabbing my friend's waist pouch but to no avail. They gave up and sped away.

Later after the incident, my dad told us that as soon as he got out of the car, he saw 2 guys approaching and shouted to him about the helmet. When he is facing the guys, they shouted that they want bag. He is scared for the safety of the girls; therefore, he held both his hands up to indicate 'slow down and I'll give you'. That was when they started to surround him until he has no space to move and snatched off his wallet from his back pocket. My dad then made a turn to have a look at the girls and at that instance; he was attacked with the powder which caused him to lose his vision and breath.

It all happened in less than 2 minutes. In this incident, we lost approximately RM 3500 including cash, hand phones, a digital camera, a smashed windscreen, and a damaged interior of the car.Worse, all four of us were traumatized by the incident. We could have lost our lives. While we were lodging police report at Balai Polis Perai, another girl came to lodge a police report at the same police station. She too was followed and robbed by a group of 20 over Malay guys on motorcycles, whom the police suspected were committed by the same gang. The policemen who have came to us and whom we met at the police station seems to be aware of the so-called Mat Rempits and what they have been doing, and they pitied us with what happened. One of them even commented that "we were lucky that they did not sprayed chilly powder instead". ( this is what they can do-empathy)We also need to highlight that we arrived at the police station at approximately 5.30am . The entire report process took us around 6 hours which was also ridiculous.

The incident was reported on Star Newspaper dated 11th Dec 2006, on page 26. Nonetheless, the content of the report was inaccurate. The report itself sounded like "just another robbery".

This is a real abuse of freedom. What is Khairy going to do about it??? Continue to embrace the mat rempit and call them mat cemerlang?

Get real. Who the hell is Khairy?

Who the Hell is Khairy?

Last saturday, the UMNO deputy youth chief warned Malaysians against 'pushing the envelope too far'. Khairy Jamaluddin warned that there were limits to freedom. When opening the People’s Progressive Party Youth wing convention on Saturday, Khairy had argued that government could take back the freedom currently enjoyed by the populace.

Khairy's warning of a harsh action from the government to curb any abuse of the freedom leads most analysts to ask what legitimacy he has to speak on behalf of the government. Khairy is neither an elected representative nor a member of the ruling government.

He is the son-in-law of the prime minister. Is he speaking on behalf of the prime minister? Recently, PM Abdullah Badawi was criticised by his predecessor for allowing his son-in-law to run the government de-facto. He criticised the 'fourth floor boys' at the PM's office for their unhealthy influence on the prime minister. Abdullah had defended his son-in-law on numerous occasions. The latest at a press interview in Bangkok.

It is crucial for the prime minister to explain Khairy's statement at the PPP's convention. What is Khairy's role in the government and why has he made a statement on behalf of the government?

Friday, December 15, 2006

What is Wrong You People?

The PAS government in Kelantan has imposed a fine of RM500 on women (read Muslim only) who dress 'indecently' in public. The definition of 'indecent' is subjective. We have a different acceptable level of indecency. A man cup of tea maybe another man's poison.

I have spoken to some of my friends who are muslim. We agree that there are two negative implications to this kind of thinking. First, it will undoubtedly challenge the whole notion of equality and self-respect of women as human beings. Gender equality has been fought over the last few centuries. Yet, women are still being viewed through a male chauvinist lenses. On the basis of rights, we can argue that they muslim women have been suppressed. At the civility level, are we suggesting that a man is a filthy, lusty and sex-craze predator who will club the head of any woman he fancies and drag her to his cave(room)?

Second, will the ruling entices opportunists to take advantage of the situation? What if these men were to think that women who dress sexily and scantily deserved to be raped? Is non-compliant, an invitation to violate their body?

Some letters in Malaysiakini allow us to take a peek at the society's thinking:

I have close male friends who treat ‘sexy women’ with hardly any respect. They talk dirty, use them and then dump them, call them names, etc. Maybe they lack proper upbringing but surprisingly with me, they are on their best behaviour. Why? Because I have specifically but very politely made it clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated by me. And it is just not me. I have numerous women friends like me who say the same thing.

My respond:
Dump your male friends. They are first class male chauvinists and perverts. You think they are well-bahaved? Too bad, you haven't met real gentlemen.

Young Muslim Voter:
The party’s secretary-general accused PAS of not ‘upholding democracy and human rights’ and deemed the dress code as a ‘threat to their (the non-Muslims') daily lives’. Suddenly, the ‘right’ to exhibit one's breast's cleavage in the public space is treasured as if the Kelantanese non-Muslims' quality of live will sharply dwindle if they choose loose shirts or cheongsams or saris over tight bikini-like clothing.

DAP must acknowledge that a lot of Muslims in Malaysia are fed up with the incessant exposure of sexually-charged visuals in public, especially in the televised, print and outdoor media. These unwanted afflictions are a genuine nuisance to Muslims who have been divinely ordered to lower their gaze from scenes that rise even slightest tinge of sexual desire. I believe true followers of Dharmic and Abrahamic religions understand the danger of indiscriminate sexual vanity and narcissism.

It is common sense for all of us, especially male youths with raging internal hormones, to unconsciously put our unwanted sexual gratification on autopilot mode when confronted by the shape-revealing dresses of the opposite sex highlighting buttocks and breasts. Such exposures in public areas should have been banned long ago. Sexually-charged expression is best kept private within one's own marital sphere.

My respond:
Young man, instead of blaming your uncontrollable 'raging internal hormones' on girls who wear shape-revealing dresses, I suggest that you consult a mental doctor on your hyper-active animal instinct. I am a male. I was a youth a few years ago. I did enjoy looking at women wearing body hugging dresses (only a certain body shape) but my sexual gratification did not go on an autopilot.

Are you suggesting that muslims who are divinely ordered to lower their gaze are not conditioned to avoid unwarranted sexual gratification? Can legislations help solve the high number of rape and incest cases without examining the male offender mind? I believe it has more to do with a social culture than what a woman dresses.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Toll Rates Up 20-60%

Malaysians celebrating chrismas and new year are greeted with an early present from the government. Coming this 1st January, motorists have to pay 20-60% more for toll rates at the 5 highways.

The new rates are reported in Malaysiakini's breaking story.
  • Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) saw its toll rate rise from RM1 to RM1.60.
  • Kesas highway, the rate increased from RM1.50 to RM2.20.
  • The Cheras-Kajang-Batu 9 toll increased from 70 sen to RM1 while the Cheras-Kajang Batu 11 toll went up to 90 sen from 60 sen.
  • The Kuala Lumpur-Karak-Gombak toll is now at RM5, an increase of RM1.
  • The Kuala Lumpur-KG-Bentong toll increased by 50 sen to RM3.
  • The Guthrie Corridor Expressway toll rate went up from RM1 to RM1.40.

The Malaysian government is being criticised for not doing enough to improve the state of public transport system in the country's major cities. As a result, most Malaysians have to use their own private vehicles to travel daily to work. The increase in toll rates will trigger another round of inflation especially in Klang Valley.

Abdullah's Prudent Measures

Talks are rife about the possible increase in toll rates at 5 highways. According to a report quoting Reuters, the toll charges along the five highways are expected to increase by at least 10 percent.

The highest hike is said to be a whooping 50 percent for the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP). The other affected highways are Guthrie Corridor Expressway, Kesas-Shah Alam Highway, Karak Highway and Grand Saga Cheras-Kajang Highway.

The report quoted a source as saying that the toll hikes will go up by as much as 60 percent. “The new rates take effect on Jan 1. That's our New Year present,” said the source who attended an official briefing on the matter.

The same report in quoted Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumers Minister S Veerasingam who said the government had no choice but to increase the toll rates. "The government is already providing a lot of subsidies to the people. If we do not increase, we (the government) will have to pay the concessionaires of the highways," he said. "The cabinet has approved the hike," he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini also reported that the editors of all newspapers and television stations have been told not to play up the impending increase in toll hike on five highways, at a hush-hush briefing chaired by deputy prime minister Najib Abdul Razak yesterday. “They are afraid the issue would create another round of public fury,” a source told malaysiakini.

Nonetheless, the fury may have already been stroked. Critics are furious about the lack of transparency in the concessionary agreements made between the government and the highway operators which are said to be unfair to the government.

Previously, the deputy prime minister had ordered the media to do same on the haze pollution index. It is not uncommon for the government to display a 'thy-know-best' and 'what you don't know, don't hurt you' attitude. The irony is the government is not the one who suffers.

Urban folks are already facing a mediocre salary hike and a poor public transport system, the increase in toll rates will surely drive another round of inflationary pressure.

Consumer and industry leaders were quick to criticise the hike, saying it was unjustified following a steep petrol price hike in February and electricity rate hikes in June. They said that it will hurt the man in the street. Many Malaysians are using their own motor vehicles due to poor public transport system.

Government Priorities Are Being Questioned

While prices of public utilities and amenities are raised, a staggering RM11 billion has been spent by the government the years to bail out debt-ridden companies behind seven failed privatised projects.

Topping the list were the two light-rail transit (LRT) service providers Putra and Star, followed by national carrier Malaysia Airlines. The Seremban-Port Dickson highway, Kuching’s new prison, national sewerage system and a Muslim food and consumption research unit all required a government takeover as well.

Recently, the government has announced a speacial allocation of RM600 million which will be distributed at 193 parliamentary constituencies, a move largely seen as a political strategy to shore up Umno's grassroots support at the rural areas.

A number of Malaysians of all races have questioned the government's intention to build a new palace for the king at a cost of RM400 million. The announcement came at a time when Malaysia can ill afford to spend unwisely. To make the matter worse, the contract was given out to a construction firm which has been dormant for quite a while and with no proven track record.

The Malaysian economy has been sluggish for a while. Public confident is low and this has affected the growth of private sector investment and domestic demand. Entry level salary for a fresh graduate has remained unchanged for the last decade. At present, some 80,000 graduates are unemployed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Democratic Space and Personal Criticism (Updated)

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi spoke to journalists in Bangkok regarding criticisms levelled at his family members.

Malaysia's PM: Charges Of Nepotism Aimed At Toppling Him

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES, December 12, 2006 2:25 a.m.BANGKOK (AP)--Malaysia' s prime minister says accusations of nepotism by his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, are aimed at toppling him, and he suggested he is paying the price for allowing free speech and democratic space."I think the accusation of nepotism against a leader is one way of bringing him down, of eroding his credibility. They will do anything,"Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in an interview with theBangkok Post newspaper published Tuesday.

Mahathir, who handpicked Abdullah to lead Malaysia when he retired in
October 2003, has become the most bitter critic of the prime minister. Mahathir
accuses Abdullah's son Kamaluddin and son-in-law KhairyJamaluddin, both
businessmen, of using their closeness to the prime minister to line their
pockets. Abdullah said Kamaluddin worked overseas and won some contracts with state-owned oil company Petronas through open international tender. He had also bought out some companies."He does not build the company organically. He goes for mergers and acquisitions. That's his style of business. Although many people have come and asked him to go into joint ventures with government-linked companies, he says, 'No, I have enough money, I am rich'," Abdullah said.

Although Abdullah has denied Mahathir's accusations ranging from nepotism
to corruption to incompetence, this is the first time he has addressed in such
detail the question of favoring his family.
Abdullah told the Bangkok Post that Mahathir's allegations stem from the prime minister's benign leadership style, which allows people to comment and criticize, as well as his allowance of more space for democratic debate and discussion in the media.Mahathir's 22 years in office, although hailed for Malaysia's remarkable economic achievements, were also criticized for an authoritarian style that quashed most criticism and dissent.

Abdullah said freedom to speak shouldn't be used to lie and slander other
people."You want to speak the truth, by all means, I have no problem. You want to tell me something's wrong somewhere, tell me. Tell the leadership the truth. I am happy for people to help me see things that are not doing well," he added.

Abdullah said he was saddened by Mahathir's criticism, especially about his
son-in-law Khairy's stake in an investment company, ECM Libra. Mahathir had
questioned how Khairy, who is in his early 30s, could afford to buy the
multimillion- dollar stake. Khairy subsequently sold it. Abdullah said Khairy
sold the stake at a loss and is now in debt."

I did mention that the old man (Mahathir) practically smashed Khairy's pot
of rice. That's something about which I am very sad,"Abdullah said.

Abdullah also reiterated that he hasn't stopped the drive against corruption, which was part of his reform agenda when he took over the country."I have not forgotten about this," he said.Abdullah said he had added 300 new officers to a special investigative unit that wasn't required to wait for police to provide a reportbefore it investigated suspected corrupt officials."If they themselves receive reports or if they believe something is not right somewhere, they will go in," he said, adding that more than 100 investigations are under way.

An Open Letter to the PM:

Mr Prime Minister, since you wanted to hear the truth I am going to tell you the truth here. This may come from a layman's view of what the truth is but it is my perception of your leadership.

First, you do not own the democratic space which allows for freedom of speech in the country. The space and freedom was not given by you but guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. Rightly said, your predecessor curtailed it and suppressed freedom of speech. But as an elected representative, you should defend these rights. You are not above the Constitution.

Second, you said that your son won the contract to supply services to Petronas through open tender. Why isn't open tender the norm yet in public procurement and the award of public contracts? E.g. the Penang second bridge, the new palace, the Penang monorail and the list goes on. In fact, there was a newspaper article which criticises you on the lack of transparency in awarding public contracts. On your son-in-law, I am sure he is well informed of the legal avenue available to him to file a civil suit against those who defamed him. You have verociously defended him on the ECM Libra case, are you doing the same on his racist outburst as a deputy youth chief of Umno?

Third, it is evident that you did what your predecessor did as well - given ultimatum to the media for allowing more democratic space for the people to voice out their displeasure. You did close down a newspaper and imposed a temporary ban on another. Personally, I was warned by members of your BN coliation for criticising some of your policies. I wasn't personal. You said you wanted to hear the truth. Is it on the truth that compliments you? I hope not.

Finally, you said you are moving full steam to combat corruption. What happened to Zakaria Mat Deros? You still hailed his leadership as examplary in UMNO. Mr Prime Minister, I have an impression that you have been very selective in your action against corruption and abuse of political power. You merely smacked the wrist of your party members but clamped down hard on others who showed some dissent. Remember Ong Tee Keat and Sothinathan?

You wanted to hear the truth. But are you listening? Can you accept the truth?

Phuket Gutsy People

When the killer tsunami strucked Phuket in December 2004, more than 5000 people lost their life. Phuket was devastated. Slightly less than 2 years later, the community has picked up the pieces and once again the resort island is busy with activities. Foreign tourists are back! I was one of the visitors last month.

I was fortunate to be there during the Loy Katong Festival. Bangla Street was decorated with lights and fun. Visitors had a great time enjoying life performances and sampling various local food and delicacies sold along the street to celebrate Loy Katong.

Phuket is geographically quite similar to Penang. However, what it has in abundance is human spirit and enthusiasm to play a good host to foreign visitors. Penang is a resort island without a resort atmosphere.

Perhaps it is timely we Penangites reflect on what has gone wrong to our island in the last 2 decades.

One more thing, Phuket has a good public transport system. And clean and well kept beaches too!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Globalisation and Competitiveness: Where to Malaysia?

Are we in the globalisation race?

The economic performance of Malaysia is becoming a highlight of the foreign press. I was asked by a journalist from Singapore's Straits Times on the same matter today. I told him that we have several reasons to be worried.

First, it quite obvious that the country has not being able to reinvent itself since the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Instead of focusing on adapting the public policies and the implementation mechanisms to better support change, the framework of policy formulation remains largely the same. For example, the licensing regime is archaic and is prone to corrupt practices.

In the recent World Bank report, Malaysia ranked mid-table in the ease of doing business due to its licensing regime. The de facto implementation of the pro-bumiputera affirmative action through several governmental agencies has made the whole process of setting up a business, raising funds and bidding for public contracts more murky and less transparent.

Second, the foundation of our economy has not changed much. On industrial development, we are dependent on low cost labour from neighbouring countries to drive our cost down. Many MNCs have complained that while the government offers good incentives, the access to skilled workers is becoming more accute. Simply, highly skilled workers prefer better paid destinations and a more meritocratic environment. Malaysia has an 'entitlement' culture which breeds mediocrity and complacency.

Overall, the government did not do enough to reinvigorate and reinvent the economy. Many of the projects undertaken suffered from poor execution and management. One such project is the Multimedia Super Corridoor. When first launched, it was touted as the next high growth area in Asia. The buzz had awakened governments in Asia, from Hong Kong to Singapore. Since then, these economies have reinvented and repositioned themselves to capitalise on new regional opportunities created from the emergence of both China and India. Malaysia is still stucked with its race-centric and too inwardly focused 5-year development plan.

According to the UNCTAD report, Malaysia has fallen from a top 4 FDI destination to no.62 in year 2005. Private investment is barely 8 percent of total GDP and continues to drop double digit.

I heard immigration is becoming a buzzword in Malaysia again. I am not surprised. When situation gets bad, many choose to run away. While some politicians choose to blame the other communities for their fate. What they should do but did not do is to start being pragmatic and find new solutions to end our dilemma.

Fight Crime Before It Destroys Us

Security has been a major concern in Malaysia over the last few years. Security concern has made it to the top 3 ranking of almost all surveys conducted in recent years. While the police is still investigating a major cargo heist in Penang, a similar case happened in KLIA.

Meanwhile, many other minor cases of car-jacking, robbery, theft, road bully and others were reported throughout the nation. Reported in the Star, two Singaporean businessmen were abducted for a ransom in the notorious Johor Bahru. Two Singaporeans – a managing director of a gas company and his consultant – were released unharmed after a ransom of more than RM2.5mil was paid on Sunday. The ransom is said to be the highest single payout in the country in recent years.

High crime rates in Johor Bahru, a notorious gangland, will drive away investors and visitors and putting the whole Iskandar Industrial Park project at risk. It is high time that the government pays more attention to critical issues such as this one and not waste its time on petty racial polemics.

Monday, December 11, 2006

RM2.1 million for 96 Chinese Schools! MCA Should Be Credited for Such a Job Well Done!

In an AP news report:

Malaysian authorities have announced new funds to upgrade schools attended mainly by students from the ethnic Chinese minority, in a bid to curb concerns that such schools receive inadequate government support.

Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said late Saturday the government has approved an allocation of about 2.1 million ringgit (US$580,000) to improve 96 Chinese-language schools nationwide.The decision proves that the government is taking care of the welfare of such schools, Hishammuddin said in a statement carried by the national newsagency, Bernama. Hishammuddin said the approval was the result of a recent "heart-to-heart"meeting that he held with the Malaysian Chinese Association, the country's main ethnic Chinese political party, on efforts to boost multiracial harmony.

Chinese schools - which use Mandarin as a medium of instruction and emphasize Chinese tradition and culture - are a sensitive issue for ethnicChinese, who comprise a quarter of Malaysia's 26 million people.There are some 1,200 Chinese schools, whose teachers' salaries are generally paid by the government. But the schools' maintenance is often financed by communities through donations.The government is spending 10.4 million ringgit (US$3.0 million) this year on financial aid to Chinese-language schools, Hishammuddin said.

RM2.1 million to upgrade 96 schools and you can expect MCA to boast on their achievement. This amounted to less than RM22k per school. Even Zakaria Mat Deros mansion worth twice the amount. With increasing labour and building materials costs, what can these schools do with the measly sum of RM22k?

Even the PM official resident's alarm system is worth 10 times the amount allocated. No wonder, the DAP calls the MCA a 'Money Collection Agency'. All the party can do is to pass its hat around to collect millions annually to help maintain the 1200 Chinese vernacular schools - from the pockets of thousands of helpless parents.

MCA's 'heart-to-heart' talk or romance with the Education Minister is worth a paltry RM2.1 million. How do you expect Malaysian Chinese who send their children to the vernacular schools ought not to feel neglected?

If this situation continues, I am sure many of them would even cast their vote for a member of the animal kingdom rather than a MCA candidate. At least a dog will bark and bite when something is threatening its master. We don't need another tax collection agent. No double taxation, please!

China's Super-Achiever Attitude

At the recently concluded Asean-China Business Forum 2006 organised by Asli and the Malaysia-China Business Council, I was asked to moderate a session on trade and investment opportunities in China.

Trade between China and ASEAN in 2005 is USD130 billion. The trade volume is expected to reach USD200 billion by the year 2010. Malaysia's trade with China is the second largest in ASEAN after Singapore, at USD30 billion. We export mostly commodities products to China. Thus far, Malaysia enjoys a slight trade surplus with the economic giant.

At the session, Mr Peter Thong, a Malaysian who is based in Beijing over the last 20 years, told the audience what made China an economic superpower in less than 3 decades. He said that the Chinese people have a 'super-achiever' attitude, believing that poverty is a temporary thing. Many of them are willing to work very hard and invest heavily to acquire new skills and knowledge to become successful.

If we were to look at the emergence and development of China's first and second tier cities, it is without a doubt that this 'can-do' attitude has contributed significantly to the economic miracle of China.

I was in Chengdu, Sichuan, middle of last year and visited the Sichuan Normal University. A local working at the university took me around Chengdu and visited some streets within the city. I was surprised to see thousands of Chinese youths gathered at the streets in small groups. As I walked closer to them and approached some of them, I could hear them practicing conversational English with one another.

When Peter spoke about this 'super-achiever' attitude he saw in Beijing, I could confirm his observation that this could be a national phenomenal.

What are our youths doing at their free-time? Malaysians must wake up and wake up fast!

Some statistics why I say so:

  • Geely is poised to produce over 200,000 cars. That's nearly double the output of Malaysian's Proton, which had a 10-year head start. There are 120 carmakers in China. According to government data, Geely is No.8 while Chery is No. 3.
  • China became a net car exporter for the first time last year, selling172,800 units overseas. In the first nine months of this year, exports doubled to 252,000 units.China carmakers have made inroads in markets as diverse as Syria, Iran,Russia and now Singapore.
  • Both Chery and Geely have set their sights on setting up production bases inSouth-east Asia to take advantage of the Asean free trade agreement that will eliminate tariffs on car imports in the 10 Asean member nations by 2010.

Why can't Proton, with a 10-year headstart, set out to achieve the same? Mindset problem? Malaysia Boleh! is not equivalent to China's 'Super-Achiever' attitude?

Rethinking the Political Model (2)

My post on this topic attracted two responses. A reader, David Tan, commented that the idea has a merit. Tony Pua, of the EducationMalaysia Blog fame, asked:

"Will this 3rd block survive the next elections? Will they keep their allocated seats? Will they just become anonymous after a while?"

The idea of forming a third block is to free these political parties from the shackles of unreliable and insincere coliations and alliances. These political parties should not form any pre-election pack with other political parties. But these parties can decide to join a coliation government after the GE if their requirements and conditions are met.

Hence, these parties will be able to contest in more than their usual allocated seats. If the parties election manifestos are attractive, there is no reason for them not being able to survive the next GE.

I believe many learned Malaysians are looking for a viable alternative. If the parties can conduct themselves in a manner acceptable and relevant to the current needs, they will can become a force to be reckoned with. Just look at the developments in Taiwan, Thailand, Israel, South Korea and some other countries where newly formed political parties/blocks have made enormous impact.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rethinking the Political Model

When UMNO kicks up a fuss on the Malay Agenda and spews racist venom on other communities, the other BN component parties suffer. Yet, they choose to suffer in silence. Their inability to do anything to change their fate or the state of working relations with UMNO is both pathetic and pityful.

Pathetic because over the last few decades, most of the political parties have forgotten how to survive politically beyond the BN framework. Speaking to some of the leaders, I note a great sense of despair and helplessness. They said that they are not happy with the current behaviour of UMNO. But they are forced to stay put due to lack of alternatives beyond BN.

Perhaps these leaders should consider starting a third block, not BN and not the Opposition front, in the parliament. Politicians in this block will support good public policies and work with the government to implement programmes which benefit Malaysians but oppose public policies which are not.

Politicians who truly care for the nation must start to think out of the box. They are guardians of the next generations. If they choose to become bystanders and cahorts of some unscrupulous but influential politicians who are destroying and corrupt the present system, then there is no justifiable reason to keep these people.

Civil Rights in Dilemma

The Lina Joy case is a good barometer of the state of growing Islamisation in Malaysia. Lina Joy was a muslim before she converted her religion to Christian. Her conversion, or apostasy from Islam, is being challenged by the state Islamic Department. In Malaysia, there is no restriction for anyone to convert to Islam but not otherwise.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang has called on the Cabinet to amend Article 121 (1A) of the Constitution in view of the controversies relating to the burial of Muslim converts. He said “The Cabinet should be bold enough to consider an amendment to rectify the injustices which were never intended to be created by Parliament when the constitutional amendment was enacted in 1988,” he said.

Article 121(1A) states that the High Courts and inferior courts shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts.

Before of the previous amendment in 1988, the civil courts have refused to rule on cases which involved matters relating to Islam especially on conversion. In the latest case, Rayappan Anthony, 71, converted to Islam in 1990 following a second marriage and was said to have converted back to Christianity in 1999. He is said to have confirmed his Christian faith through a statutory declaration.

Rayappan died of complications from diabetes at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on Wednesday.
When his family went to claim his body on Thursday, Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) officers stopped them, claiming Rayappan was a Muslim.

On Friday, the Shah Alam Syariah High Court granted an application by Mais to claim Rayappan’s body but required the council to get the endorsement of the Federal Territory Syariah High Court.

The family claimed that the National Registration Department issued Rayappan with a MyKad in 2003 in his original name and stated his religion as Christian. They acknowledged that he had been a Muslim before but claimed he returned to Christianity seven years ago. (The Star)

Unless the lack of clear jurisdiction and the unwillingness of the judiary to correct the oversight of justice are rectified, we will continue to witness similar cases in the future. Over the years, the status of the Syariah Courts has been 'alleviated' to that on the same level with the civil courts. Hence, an amendment to the Article 121 (1A) was made in 1988 to reaffirm the Syariah Courts' position. The outcome of the amendment has created a grey area on cases involving non-muslims. The Rayappan case is an example.

Malaysia must work hard to restore its civil rights through the rejuvenation of its judiaciary system. There can only be a judiciary system which upholds the supremacy of the Constitution.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bangsa Malaysia (1)

Johor MB Abdul Ghani Othman is obviously from the Jurassic Park. In a Star report, the recalcitrant politician again rejected the concept of Bangsa Malaysia or a Malaysian race, which emphasizes equal rights and not biological assimilation. He said:

Any concept similar to that of a Bangsa Malayan under the Malayan Union
is unacceptable, and this includes the idea of a Malaysian Malaysia.

In making this point, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman
said if people understood why a Bangsa Malayan was rejected during Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar’s leadership, they should also realise why any concept akin to it could not be accepted.

“It is about everything being equal and this does not capture the hearts of Malaysians. "

“Therefore, regardless of whatever name is given, the concept is similar and this is against idea kenegaraan (the idea of nationhood) which we have inherited,” he said.

A politician such as Abdul Ghani wants the Malay community to depend on crutches forever. When members of an ethnic community feel that they are entitled to the wealth of the country, they are not likely to work hard to improve, to progress and to compete with others. This will become a form of cultural sickness which will weaken the Malay community in the long run.

Malaysians who truly support real unity should consider showing Abdul Ghani Othman the door. He is not fit to become a chief minister in the 21st Century with his 1940's mindset.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Culture of Fear (1)

Malaysia mulls Internet laws against bloggers

It was reported in both Bernama and the Star that Malaysia may introduce tough Internet laws to control bloggers and prevent them from spreading "disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies" on their websites, a report has said.

Deputy Science and Technology Minister Kong Cho Ha said moves such as registering bloggers would be difficult, but accused some writers of posting controversial articles to attract readers.

"We are talking about creating cyber laws to control those who misuse theInternet," Kong was quoted as saying in the Star newspaper."We need to have stricter cyber laws to prevent these bloggers from disseminating disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies," he said.

Kong cited the posting of a photo on an opposition politician's website last month of a Muslim male and Muslim female lawmaker, reportedly showing the man in a bathrobe with the woman lying on his chest, in what appeared to be a hotel room.The photo sparked a political scandal, since the two were not married (to one another), with accusations the pair had committed the Muslim sin of khalwat, or close proximity, when two unmarried people of the opposite sex are alone in eachother's company.

"We want our bloggers to be responsible, to keep within the rules and not put up seditious articles that can create disharmony and chaos," said Kong. Malaysian news websites and blogs are well known for providing alternate views to mainstream news coverage.

The deputy minister is equally guilty here of trying to hog limelight in the press for proposing something that won't work in Malaysia. Tough internet laws will be detrimental to the country's pledge to keep the Internet free of rigid intervention and legislation in order to promote its Silicon Valley or the 'MSC'.

I am sure both the civil and criminal laws are adequate cover offences mentioned by the deputy minister.

Kong should be open minded about the emergence of the internet as a tool to disseminate information. Instead of control measures, it is best that the government works on improving its battered credibility in the light of recent contradictions e.g. racist statements, NEP, battling corruption and others.

Friday, December 01, 2006

MCA Justifies and We Are Not Convinced

In the last few days, a number people who are pro-Nanyang/Sin Chew consolidation have tried to defend the action as a pure commercial acquisition. Today, the MCA is trying the same. It justifies the Chinese media consolidation by accusing NST-Utusan of doing the same. We should remind them that two wrongs do make a right.

MCA Online wrote:
The impending merger between the New Straits Times Press Bhd (NSTP) and Utusan Melayu will have huge implications to the Chinese community. The non-Malay’s voice in both the English and Malay language papers will be greatly reduced after the merger takes place.

My verdict: Yes, there will be a marginalisation of the critical voices. But then again, the Star is doing exactly the same. It can be more pro-UMNO than UMNO controlled newspapers. Do we need to quote you examples? I bet not. Too many.

However, the commentary is inconsistent and unpredictable. Reading the first paragraph would have led readers to speculate the opposition of MCA to the merger. But it tries to justify it instead:

The deal is unavoidable as it is driven by commercial considerations like pushing for a greater slice of advertising revenue and cost savings on expenditure for new printing machines and staffing. Taking into considerations the economy of scale, if the papers do not merge, they would not be able to sustain their operations in the long term.

To the MCA, protecting commercial interests is more important than maintaining the democratic voices of the people. Then, MCA inconsistency got uncontrollable when it suggests that:

The public should refute the allegations that certain individual has a hidden agenda to monopolize the mainstream Chinese media in the country. There is no way for any party to monopolize any media because we could not overlook the fast growing trend of Internet as the new media tool for the young people to express their views.

It is now trying to justify the selling of Nanyang stakes to Sin Chew's boss by saying that the media is still free because we have the internet. Its commentary says that since NST and Utusan are at it, why can't Nanyang and Sin Chew:

When owner of Sin Chew Media Corporation Bhd, which publishes two top newspapers, Sin Chew Daily and Guangming Daily decided to purchase 21.02% of Nanyang Press Holdings’ shares, the owner of Chinese dailies Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, they are only consolidating their operational base which is what NST and Utusan is going to do.

The commentary ended by preaching media diversity, the only sentence it got right in the entire article:

Those involved in the media industry should always champion for diversity in press to prevail to enable a healthy development of the media industry in Malaysia.

No wonder, MCA acknowledges UMNO as its Big Brother. Both are equally confusing, mischevious or outright stupid?.

When such a commentary is made to justify its action, no wonder we smell fishes.