Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Battle of the Giants? Not Likely...

The political temperature has risen in Penang since the DAP's announcement. I believe that DAP Secretary General has called for another press conference in Penang to follow up on his last announcement that Penang is DAP's frontline state.

For many of you who are expecting a grand battle of giants, you might be disappointed. First, both sides (opposition and the Chinese-based component parties) have not been impressive in the state. Since 1995, DAP in Penang is a spent force in state elections. It has, however, held on consistently to 4 parliament seats (2 on the island and 2 on the mainland). It managed to win only a state seat from 1995 to 2004. Its defensive record at the state level has not been impressive. Danny Law lost its stronghold of Batu Lanchang in 2004.

There are a few things that the DAP needs to do right before it can hope for a major breakthrough at the state level. First, it has to strengthen its candidate line-up in Penang. For most pragmatic voters here, the quality of candidates is a major criterion for their approval.

Second, the DAP machinery is poor and almost not visible. This can be very tricky if Lim Guan Eng is expected to contest for both a parliament and a state seat on the island. He would need tremendous support from his party's machinery to build up his political base there. The irony is the earlier his intention is detected, the worse would be for him and his chance. With superior resources and machinery, the BN component parties would ensure that he is thumped and surpressed early.

Third, the DAP Secretry General appears to be still unsure of his intention despite the announcement. Anyone else apart of Lim, the DAP's challenge would a mere storm in a tea cup.

More to this space!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tanjong 4?

Dap Secretary General Lim Guan Eng has announced his party's intention to make Penang a frontline state in the next GE. NST's Chow thinks that it is not yet a Tanjong 4. DAP under the leadership of Lim Kit Siang (Guan Eng's father) had made similar bid in 1986, 1990 and 1995.

But he thinks that the understanding cultivated between DAP and Anwar Ibrahim will enhance the party's chances.

"For DAP, this was a shot in the arm for its efforts to win more seats in Penang. Specifically, Keadilan and Anwar can help DAP secure Malay votes which DAP badly needs. Although Keadilan won only one parliamentary seat in 2004, it will probably do better in the next election with Anwar on the campaign trail."

Although the possibility of Guan Eng contesting in Penang may enhance DAP's chances but the Penang voters are more sophisticated than many thought. The voters are very practical. Their main considerations are stability, economic prosperity and social harmony.

It is too early to call if the opposition parties can make huge gains in the next GE in Penang.

Batu Talam: A Convincing Win for BN?

On the outset, I would say that the turnout of 68% is a big victory for BN despite the boycott call of all opposition parties. However, it will a mistake if the BN were to take the result as an indication of their support nationally.

First, the independent candidate hardly put up a fight. Second, he is an ethnic chinese standing in a Malay majority area. The electoral pattern in Malaysia in very race centric. Thirdly, some issues were not so visible for a semi-rural area such as Batu Talam where the main economic activity is agriculture.

If a by-election were to be held in a big city, the outcome may be quite different. The opposition parties would have scrambled to nominate a candidate.

The outcome of the election exposed the weakness of Malay opposition in the country.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What is So Secret About The Toll Agreements?

In the Sun today, Works Minister Samy Vellu told the press that the Cabinet is not prepared to make public the toll agreements inked between the government and highway concessionaires.

The gung-ho and sometimes arrogant minister added:

"I have also suggested that the Cabinet take appropriate action against the person (or persons) who had stolen and exhibited an agreement. The agreement is solely between the government and the company and it is a secret document," said Samy, adding that he brought up the matter at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"It is classified secret ... a restricted document of the government. It has been stolen by some people and we have suggested we are going to ask the Attorney-General's office to take appropriate action against those who stole the document and exhibited it without the authority, and they have to pay for it," Samy said.

On another report in the Sun, Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) said the government should explain why the government's water concession agreement with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), and the auditor-general's report on its non-revenue water (NRW) reduction are classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Its president Ramon V. Navaratnam said TI-M was concerned with Energy, Water and Communication Minister Dr Lim Keng Yaik's statement yesterday that the two documents were classified under the OSA and could not be made public except with the cabinet's approval.
He said the classification of such information as "official secret" went against the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance. These concessions pertain to issues that are of vital public interests with direct impact on public funds and taxpayers' and consumers' interests," he said.

Similarly, the toll concession agreements should be made public. Being a senior minister, Samy Vellu should fully understand the function of a government. The government should represent the people's interest. While making any contractual agreements on behalf of the people, a government must be fully accountable to the people.

In this context, there is no such thing as a secret document. The cabinet must be fully accountable to the people especially on concessions made which involved public funds.

Samy Vellu must explain why he made the suggestion to the cabinet to take action against those who exhibited the contract.

Who is Samy trying to protect? The interest of poor Indians affected by the rising cost of living or the concessionaires?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tell Us that We Are Rich?

I brought my car for servicing yesterday at the Suzuki service centre. At the waiting room, I spoke to Ahmad about his outlet performance. He told me that his sales performance is sluggish. His outlet sells about 2-3 cars a month. To achieve the figure, he has to offer 0% interest or RM10k cash incentive to buyers.

He told me that the second hand car market is sluggish too. Hence, many potential customers are not willing to trade-in their cars at a lower value. The private car market is a good indication of our economic performance. If the confidence level is high, a lot more people will buy new cars or upgrade their vehicles.

At a meeting, Gerakan President Dr Lim Keng Yaik has requested for the Prime Minister to conduct a briefing session on the state of the economy to all BN members and leaders. He said that since the economy is doing well (FDI figures are up and well), the people should be given the correct feedback on the economy. This may be a sincere request but then again do we need the government to tell us that the economy is doing well if it is really doing well?

In 1995, the people told the government that they were very happy with the economic performance by reversing a huge mandate over to the BN in the general elections.

A deputy minister told me that the FDI figures reported in the UNCTAD report is a tad lower than what the country got. It this is true then the government should respond with the right figures. It should not stay silence on any misreporting because at the international level, the UNCTAD report carries more weight.

In reality, perception of the economy is not too good especially amongst urbanites. This must be addressed before it affects local consumption.

Anwar's Return to Politics - AFP

My comments reported on AFP. If you want to listen to my comments on Anwar in Radio Singapore International, click here.

Anwar: Umno is 'rotten to the core'
Jan 25, 07 12:00pm

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim is on the attack after returning to the political stage, launching a series of broadsides against the ruling party which he says is "rotten to the core". Anwar was a celebrated deputy premier and heir-apparent to former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad until 1998, when he suffered a spectacular fall from grace, facing sodomy and corruption charges that landed him in jail for six years.

He was freed in September 2004, but until last April led a nomadic existence with stints lecturing in Britain, the US and Australia, and only in recent months has switched his focus back to the political scene.

"Like any established, long-serving, ruling party they tend to rot," he said of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) of which he was once a leading light, serving as a talented finance minister with strong Islamic credentials. "They lose their ideas and massive corruption, lethargy and indolence are creeping in. They are all signs of a major disease," he said in an interview with AFP. "They are rotten to the core."

Attacks on corruption

Anwar's sodomy conviction has been overturned but the corruption conviction still stands, barring him from standing for public office until April 2008. National elections must be held by early 2009, but there is speculation that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who replaced Mahathir three years ago, will go to the people before that, effectively preventing Anwar from taking part.

In the meantime his party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) - or the People's Justice Party - is formally run by his wife and its only sitting parliamentary member, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Anwar has been lobbing blistering attacks on the government, mostly centred on the corruption which has calcified Umno over its five decades in power and which Abdullah has been criticised for failing to address. In a recent press conferences at his sprawling home, he has called for a probe into the high-profile murder of a Mongolian model to determine whether the well-connected political analyst accused of organising the crime used government connections to do so.

He has also demanded the government investigate a US$900 billion Russian fighter jet deal, which he said was "blatantly corrupt" and for which a former cabinet minister received a massive commission. However, the hard-hitting accusations receive little airtime in Malaysia, where the tightly controlled media rarely publish any of his pronouncements - just one of the problems he faces as he tries to re-establish his political relevance.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng says PKR has the potential to be an effective opposition, particularly after its coalition with the fundamentalist Islamic party PAS, but Anwar has a lot of work to do.

Coy about intentions

"If he's making a political comeback he needs to show a lot more commitment. He hasn't made many clear positions, he wasn't even here (in Malaysia) until a few months ago," he said. "People remember his past associations, he hasn't created a new political identity. Anwar 'the opposition leader' is not established in the people's minds yet."

Anwar is keeping up a frantic schedule of public speaking engagements and rally appearances where he airs his charges of high-level corruption within the judiciary, the media and the electoral system.

"You try to talk about the murder and corruption and they pretend not to hear. (They behave) with impunity, bribing people, having lavish entertainment and having total control of the machine," he said.

But when the talk turns to his intentions and political plans, he is somewhat coy, even with regards to his role within his own party. "I'm not going to be presumptuous, I've been asked to be more involved, but I'm not yet a candidate," he said. - AFP

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ethnic Relations Module

At the house of the late Professor Syed Hussien Alattas, I met Dr Denison of YSS who told me that the ethnic relations module for undergraduates will be launched today. Coincidentally, Professor Shamsul Amri, the chief coordinator of the module arrived while we were having a conversation. He confirmed that it will be launched at 3.30pm today, despite its weaknesses and errors.

By launching the module without correcting these errors and balancing some views, we are doing a great injustice to our next generation.

I am posting here my observation of the latest draft:

Main Observation:

  • This draft took a progressive ‘bottom-up’ approach to address ethnic relations. This perspective is more productive and inclusive than the earlier draft.
  • A point which has to be noted is the composition of writers. All except one of the writers are Malay. Although the evaluation committee consists of academicians of other races, it is not known if their views and feedback are incorporated into the book. The impression of this evaluator is their views may have been incorporated but these views are superficial at best.
  • This book is lop-sided, much heavier on the historical narration of the various political, economic and social development programmes and events in the past but lacked a contemporary narration to depict and illustrate modern-day examples of interethnic relations in the society. For example, the Chapter 3 of the book noted at length the impact of implication of colonialism on the Islamic administration and Islamic education. It argues that the Islamic law and jurisprudence was misunderstood and neglected by the British administration and this had led to the decline of the Syariah Law. Similar argument is made to explain the decline of the Islamic education system or referred to as ‘sekolah pondok’ as well. What is missing is an objective comparative analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems – civil vis-à-vis syariah and Islamic vis-à-vis Westminster – and an examination of their role and contribution in the context of a plural society like Malaysia.
  • It should be noted that while some attempts were made to discuss the social landscape of a multicultural and multiracial society, the book gives an impression that it is addressing only the 3 major ethnics – Malay, Chinese and Indian. The message given to each of the 3 communities is quite distinct too. Malay students are told of their special rights, the prominence of Islam and the application of Islam Hadhari as a tool to promote national unity and pluralism and the other races especially the Chinese are told to respect the social contract, not to question the special privileges of the Malay, the prominence of Islam and the status of the Malay language as a national language.
  • In a section of the book (pg. 24), the writers claimed that both the Indian and Chinese migrants were ‘forced’ (seolah-olah ‘terpaksa’ berhijrah ke Tanah Melayu untuk memenuhi keperluan ekonomi mereka) to move to Malaya for their economic survival. While the Malays have been here indefinitely (sekian lama mendiami TM). Such a depiction is not only an over generalisation but historically inaccurate as well. Later parts of the book did briefly mention about the ‘baba-nyonya’ and the Indian ‘chetty’. The Chinese and Indian migration and socialisation with this region predated the colonial rule and even the time of the Malacca sultanate. Again, it is more useful for the textbook to adopt a more contemporary outlook so that students can better relate the contents and messages to their current conditions.
  • The ethnic theme is very strong in this book. The society is largely viewed from the ethnic lenses. The book accepts our highly racialised history construction and social development. It does not present or advocate a possible paradigm shift towards a less racialised society, epitomised by a truly Bangsa Malaysia or a Malaysian Nation (to quote Prof. Khoo Kay Khim).
  • As a tertiary level textbook, it has weak referencing, not much comparative analysis on inter-ethnic relations and not contemporary enough. It is a Grade-C textbook at best or high-school grade.

We hope that better senses prevail. Otherwise, our efforts put in to create a better inter-ethnic relations will be futile.

Watch this space!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Never Ending Problem - the Penang Transport System

In a news article from Malaysiakini, a social reform grouping Aliran treasurer Anil Netto said that, since Penang is surrounded by sea, it should only be natural for the authorities to utilise the water to upgrade the public transportation system. He urged the government to follow Bangkok's example. This is not such a bad idea.

I visited Bangkok twice. The boat transport system is a tourist attraction too. Hotels and restaurants are built along the river. I am not too sure if this is feasible or doable in Penang because the government does not have a control over its coast lines. Many private residential apartments, condominiums and housing projects have occupied the coast lines. For more development ideas, the government should take a good look at Phuket.

Netto further suggested the re-introduction of tram-buses as a cost-effective, reliable and affordable transport system for Penang, rather than embarking on such “mega projects as the monorail, light rail transit, bridges and outer ring road”. "The modes (like tram-buses) would be environment-friendly and add value to the heritage and tourism sector in Penang," he said.

I agree with Netto on this point. Penang is so densely populated and the hub-and-spokes road systems will make the second bridge or monorail inconsequential. What we need is a good public bus system or even a 'tut-tut' system like what you find in Bangkok, Hatyai and Phuket.

The government has to think out of the box. If possible, throw the box away!

Protect That Bridge

Over the weekend, I attended a workshop of a political party. At the workshop, a Member of Parliament approached me about a recent article I wrote on the Malaysian dilemma and some probable causes of the erosion of the prime minister's goodwill. You can find the article in my blog.

He said that I should not have criticised the prime minister in my article. I had pointed out that the PM should have stayed away from being too inwardly focused just because he sensed a threat on his leadership in UMNO. By promoting a communal centric agenda, he is driving away the other communities especially the minorities.

This is the main dilemma faced by all non-UMNO MPs. While many of them are not too happy or satisfied with some of the political actions and direction taken by UMNO, they are very afraid to speak up and risking antagonising the UMNO leadership. In short, the MP said I must be very careful in not destroying the 'bridge' between his party and UMNO.

But helping to perpetuate a policy that is not suitable or beneficial to the society at large is worse. As a self proclaimed chief critique of his party, I am surprised that he is more interested in protecting the 'bridge' between his party and UMNO i.e. a warm and cosy relationship with UMNO than standing up for what is just and right for the people. If you want to protect such a relationship, which is not wrong in a pure commercial partnership, it is inevitable that you will have to overlook some of your partner's bad behaviour and over indulgence.

Many of the non-UMNO MPs are still unsure who they should be accountable to. The people or the UMNO leadership? This is an elitist syndrome. Why stop the gravy train?

By the way, I like this MP as a friend. Yes, he is frank and brutally direct. But on political principles, I have to deduct some marks. First, I remembered he opposed the 'cai dan' (menu) party (of his party) election process until he was included in the menu and won the highest votes from the delegates. Secondly, since now he is part of the regime he thinks that it is wrong to criticise any wrong doing of the regime.

As a mere mortal I can understand that he needs to protect his own rice bowl. As a leader, this sort of political stand is forgetable.

He is accountable to his next generation because he is part of the system but did nothing to change it. The next time he feels like criticising he should look at the mirror. That is the best place to begin.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Media Battle: First Stop - Bloggers

Influential bloggers, Jeff Ooi and Ahirudin Attan, have been served with different suits relating to blog posts in their respective websites.

The lawyer who served the notice to Ahirudin represented News Straits Times Press (NSTP), its deputy chairperson Kalimullah Hassan, chief executive officer Syed Faisal, group editor-in-chief Hishamudin Aun and former group editor Brendan Pereira.

In Nov 2006, Ahirudin and Jeff were embroiled in controversy with NSTP when they revealed that a column in the New Straits Times on Oct 30 under group editor Brendan Pereira’s by-line bore a strong resemblance in style and structure to a column by Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press of Sept 10, 2006.

The reason behind the suits could be more than a mere defamation. The blogs have been a thorn in flesh to some business and political personalities in the country with their sharp and critical remarks and commentaries.

Other bloggers have reacted furiously to the 'attack' by a traditional media, seen as a mouthpiece of UMNO. They have launched a campaign called "Bloggers United" and have toyed with the idea of setting up a legal fund to defend both Jeff and Ahirudin.

Are bloggers really united? This is the best test case.

Nonetheless, the freedom of expression must not be curtailed by multimillion law suits. A prominent politician once said: "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it".
The dictum is not applicable here. I was harrassed by legal letters too. Jeff knew about this.

Chinese Language Society Only For Chinese?

This is what it seemed when UPM's student affairs deputy vice-chancellor Prof Dr Azali Mohamed was quoted in the society's bulletin as saying registration was not allowed because the society was only for one race and language. "Malaysia is a multiracial country. A race-based society would disunite the people," he was quoted as saying.

However, the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)'s Chinese Language Society president Wong Keen Yee begged to differ. He said that a language society should not be blamed as the cause of disunity. I support his argument.

As a matter of fact, more than 60,000 students in the chinese vernacular schools are not ethnic Chinese. Yayasan Kajian Strategi Melayu's Radzi Latif, who heads an UMNO linked think tank, sends his son to a Chinese vernacular school to learn mandarin because of the visible market opportunities in China.

If the government is consistent and serious about national unity, it should abolish all race-based societies and organisations including UMNO, MCA, MIC, Malay Colleges and others.

Why pick on other races?

Is DAP in trouble?

I was quoted in a NST report on the Democratic Action Party (DAP). My additional comments (in bold) before some unscrupulous people label me as a DAP sympathiser.

DAP crisis not as serious as it looks
By Comment by Wan Hamidi Hamid
18 January, 2007

ON the surface, it looks like the DAP is embroiled in yet another crisis as its Negri Sembilan vice-chief has quit the party and the Selangor committee has sacked its chief — all within a week.

On Monday last week, Negri Sembilan DAP vice-chairman Lim Fui Ming, also Bahau state assemblyman, resigned after claiming that he was marginalised by other committee members.Last Friday, the party’s Selangor chairman, Ong Chee Keng, was ousted in a vote of no-confidence. The state party’s secretary, Ean Yong Hian Wah, took over as chairman.It seems the DAP is going through another round of political crisis as it did in the 1990s when some leaders tried to oust leader Lim Kit Siang. Is the current problem as bad as it was then?

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng does not think so."Conflict is not new for DAP. When it’s close to a general election year, some factions within the party will try to jostle for positions. This time, it’s just some minor problems at the state level."He said the DAP was not a grassroots-based party and therefore, problems in Negri Sembilan and Selangor would not have serious repercussions elsewhere in the country.

The problems DAP faces in Negri Sembilan and Selangor do not involve deeply rooted factionalism which poses a threat of pulling the party apart at the national level. Almost all political parties have some minor storms brewing in a tea cup. Unless these conflicts dragged in its national leaders, the party will not be badly affected. The conflicts have minor electoral impact on the party. Current disgruntlements of the people are not created by the DAP but by the BN itself. Hence, the ruling coliation should not take this (mis)fortune too seriously.

While Khoo does not make much of the situation, Ong — who was kicked out by his colleagues in Selangor — alleged that it was a move to install secretary-general Lim Guan Eng as state chairman.Unhappy with his removal through a vote of no-confidence, he said he would submit a complaint to the central executive committee (CEC).

Guan Eng welcomed Ong’s plan to refer the matter to the CEC, but dismissed claims that he would take over Selangor DAP.He admitted that the idea was mooted about a year ago, but he had rejected the offer, saying that he had confidence in the Selangor state committee."It’s unfair to blame me.

I hope Ong will use internal mechanisms to resolve the problem," he said."I also hope Ong will look at the larger party interests and that he’s still committed to the party." DAP insiders believe the Selangor state committee members were unhappy with what they perceived as Ong’s lack of leadership, allowing rivals MCA and Gerakan to take up issues that could benefit the party.

In last year’s case of 11 men whose heads were shaven by police for alleged involvement in gambling, Selangor DAP members were upset with Ong for declining to take up the matter. MCA championed the issue."Ong has been the state chairman since 2004, but he didn’t move the party. When some committee members asked him to step down, he refused," said a party insider. "When they couldn’t tolerate his no-action attitude, they called for an emergency meeting and ousted him."

Ong is said to have commanded support from seven of the 40 branches in Selangor. Of the 20 Selangor DAP committee members, 14 of them were against Ong.Will Ean Yong, the new state leader, be better? "Based on the current sentiment, anyone is better than Ong," said another DAP source.Still, some DAP leaders are worried that Ong’s departure could affect the party’s image.

In the case of events in Negri Sembilan, however, many appeared unfazed. Political analyst Liew Chin Tong said it was more of a merajuk (feeling slighted) case as the 61-year-old Fui Ming was unhappy with committee and ordinary members for not supporting him.

Although Fui Ming, who joined the party from the MCA in 1988, was voted as Bahau state assemblyman due to his personal popularity, Chin said the DAP’s strong support in the area helped him a lot."DAP still has a good chance of retaining the Bahau seat in the next general election," he added.

"Unless the situation deteriorates and affects the national leadership, I don’t think the DAP will face serious problems," said Khoo, who is aligned with a think-tank linked to the Gerakan.

The leaders involved in both conflicts are not popular national leaders. After the fallout of Kerk Kim Hock, there is no visible division amongst its national leaders, yet.

Penang - Most Polarised?

Reported in NST today that Penang is one of the three states with the most incidences of racial friction. The state government has expressed surprise over a recent finding that Penang had the most cases of racial friction in the country. This is the reaction of State Local Government, Information and Community Relations Committee chairman Dr Teng Hock Nan when asked about the finding.

Dr Maximus Ongkili said on Tuesday that Penang, Selangor and the Federal Territory topped the list of incidents of racial conflicts last year.Ongkili said the issues ranged from social concerns and neighbourly disputes to religious matters. Penang had 21 such cases.

The country recorded 274 cases last year — 104 related to social concerns and 78 related to religious sentiments.

From the 21 cases, the minister should perhaps find out how many are related to the UMNO protests in the state on the alleged marginalisation of Malays in Penang. A cursory look might put the number at half or more. Granted that there is racial tension as a result of racial politicking in the state but Ongkili should provide more information on his department's finding.

Statistics alone are inadequate. We want a solution.


Malaysian of the Year (4)

We rarely look or consider people who have brought so much joy and entertainment to our lives. As a potential candidate for Malaysian of the Year 2006, I would like to nominate our very own Malaysian singer Michael Wong or better known as Guang Liang.

Michael hailed from Ipoh. He started his career as a computer support officer soon after his graduation. Michael discovered his talent in musical composition and singing after he was persuaded to join singing competitions by his mother.

Together with Ping Guan (Victor Wong), Michael & Victor won the new comers award in Taiwan in late 90s. The duo have parted company but they have since launched their successful solo career.

Michael's albums 'Dong Hua' (Fairy Tale) and 'Yue Ding' (Commitment) were big hits in Asia. He won the World Chinese Songs Festival Gold Award in 2006 and recently beat Jay Chou and Lee Hom to become the hottest male singer in Taiwan.

Michael is also the Malaysia's Tourism Ambassador. He has represented us well! The government especially the Ministry of Information should provide more support and publicity to our local artistes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2007 Economic Highlights

Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia expects the economy to record strong growth of 6 pct in 2007 due mainly to a "pre-election boom" in government spending. Joseph Tan of Standard Chartered Bank said that fiscal spending will rise ahead of a likely elections in 2008 and to counter economic weakness.

Already the government has announced a spate of big ticket projects for the coming 18 months. While the fiscal spending is likely to cover the economic weakness in the short term, Malaysians should be concerned about the quality of projects announced. Some of the infrastructure and construction projects may not bring productive benefits to the economy.

Inflation is forecast to remain high before it trends lower inthe second half of the year, bringing the average inflation rate for 2007 to 2.5 pct. Bank Negara Malaysia is unlikely to cut its overnight policy rate in the short term, given that inflation is expected to stay at a relatively highlevel before March. The consumer price index rose 3.1 percent from a year earlier after gaining 3 percent in November, according to the median forecast of 16 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Still, the government allowed five companies operating highways in andaround Kuala Lumpur to raise tolls by as much as 60 percent this month.Water rates in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya were raised by as much as 18 percent in November. Inflation rate is likely to stay 3 percent throughout 2007.

Malaysia's government workers have asked Abdullah for a pay rise, saying the nation's poorest civil servants, paid less than $5 a day, are struggling with rising fuel, electricity and road- toll costs. Some civil servants have been forced to take second jobs as taxi drivers and security guards to makeends meet, Omar Osman, president of the Congress of Unions of Employees inthe Public and Civil Service, said last week.

Falling crude oil prices may pose a risk toMalaysia's budget deficit target of 3.4 pct of gross domestic production(GDP) for 2007. Against the backdrop of falling world oil prices, rising government spending and lower revenue as a result of the cut in the corporate tax rate,there is a "risk of budget deficit overshooting, " added Tan.

Oil related revenue is expected to account for 39.9 pct of Malaysia's total revenue in 2007, compared with 37.3 pct of the total in 2006, according to official data. Malaysia's over dependence on natural resources to fund its development and government's expenditure can be detrimental to its intention to become a knowledge economy.

Malaysian of the Year (3)

I told a friend that I am running a Malaysian of the Year series on my blog. She suggested Shahrir bin Abd. Samad, the Public Accounts Committe Chairman and BN backbencher, as a worthy candidate.

Shahrir is the current MP of Johor Bahru. He made a political comeback in the 2004 general elections. A former cabinet minister, he was said to have been offered a cabinet position but rejected the offer so that he can provide a valuable check and balance within the government.

As the former BN Backbenchers' Club (BBC) Chairman, Shahrir has supported the independence of the parliament's administration. His decision to support a motion put forth by the Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, which was rejected by other backbenchers, had resulted in his resignation as the BBC Chairman. Largely known as a man of integrity. Shahrir is definitely a worthy candidate.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sex Pervert - Beware

Folks! Beware of a 30+ Chinese guy who drives a black Kenari bearing a number plate: WMR 1614.

He tailed my friend's car to my apartment at Pusat Bandar Puchong and eventually parked beside her's. He later signalled to her that one of her car tyres is punctured. When she walked over to have a look, he flashed his penis at her while still in his car.

Beware of this sick sex pervert.

Article 11 Lives On...

Some good works of the Article 11 live on. At the Bar Council's forum on NEP, I chanced upon Harris Ibrahim, a civil rights lawyer, distributing pamphlets on the Article 11 group. The group of 13 NGOs had conducted five public forums to explain the rights to religious freedom contained in the Federal Constitution and to create an awareness of the supremacy of the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Unfortunately, two of the forums were distrupted by protests organised by an anti-IFC group (BADAI) which accused the Article 11 of attempting to revive the IFC and of insulting Syariah law and Islam. The government eventually sided with the rowdy protestors and banned the Article 11 forums.

My press statement then:

The recent stop talk order given by the prime minister to the Article 11 forum organisers sends a wrong signal to the international community on Malaysia’s intention to join the ranks of the civilised world. The action is an antithesis to the perception painted by the government to the international community that Malaysia is a modern, moderate and democratic nation which celebrates its religious and cultural diversity. The gag order bears serious constitutional consequences for all Malaysians.

There are a few pertinent questions that ought to be answered: first, are Malaysians legally allowed to discuss issues pertaining to their rights enshrined in the federal constitution even if these issues are related to ethnic relations, religion, cultural and social rights? Who is to decide if the average Malaysians are ready or not to discuss ethnic relations and religious issues affecting them?

Second, is the action taken by the state in stopping a legally constituted forum an act of undermining the rights to freedom of speech enshrined in the federal constitution?
Third, what are the constitutional consequences faced by all citizens in the event that their constitutional rights are usurped by the state? What the recourse available to them to seek protection of their constitutional rights?

Fourth, by stopping any civilised discourse on ethnic relations or religious freedom can the state find an amicable solution to the inherent issues surfaced in the Moorthy, Sharmala and Linda Joy cases or the ethnic biases which appeared in several ethnic relations and history publications? A democratically elected government is responsible to defend and protect the constitutional rights of its people to freely exercise their rights within the boundaries of the nation’s legal framework. In this case, the anti-IFC protesters can continue their peaceful and non-violent protest against the proceedings of the Article 11 forum but the forum should be allowed to continue. The role of the state is to ensure that the action of the opposing parties is not affecting the rights of the other.

With the control of coercive instruments of power including several draconian legislations e.g. the Internal Security Act at the disposal of the government, it is beyond doubt that the threat from the government to act against the continuation of the discourse is real. The only thing that we can do is to remind the government that its action is a recipe of authoritarian rule. The price is Malaysia’s international standing as the champion of the oppressed nations. We should not preach what we cannot practice.

Khoo Kay Peng

Ethnic Relations Module

An attempt by the Ministry of Higher Education to introduce an ethnic relations module in public universities continues to be tainted by controversy. While the intention is good, the contents of the module are not too noble.

I have helped to review the last two drafts for the leaders of Parti Gerakan. The first draft was a total disaster. As an academic book which will be introduced at the tertiary level, it was a Grade D production. On the outset, all the writers were of the same ethnicity except for one Sarawakian. The team was lead by Professor Shamsul Amri of ATMA. As a result, it was an attempt to look at ethnic relations through a Muslim Malay lenses.

The second was a toned down version of the first. A number of non-Malay historians were incorporated to review the draft. Nonetheless, the second draft was too historical centric. I made an observation that an ethnic relations course should be contemporary and include important current examples on interethnic relations.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the module is the promotion of Malay and Islam dominance and hegemony as the framework for interethnic relations in Malaysia. While it may not achieve its objective of enhancing interethnic relations amongst undergraduates, the module may actually worsen polarisation in the universities.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee has voiced similar concern and asked for the module to be made public on the Internet. Public feedback is very important. Lets not allow any closet communalist to upset our harmony. Responsible Malaysians must insist that the document is made public for thorough scrutiny.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Y4Change and Bar Council Forum on NEP

I was at the Bar Council's forum last night. Attendance was very good well above the expectation of the organisers. The speakers were Dr Lim Teck Ghee and Tan Sri Abdul Khalid (Treasurer of Parti Keadilan).

Dr Lim took us through some of the figures which showed the weaknesses of the NEP. He said that it is time that a new policy which is based on needs is introduced to replace the race-centric NEP. For your information, the NEP became race-centric only when it was politicised as a tool to perpetuate racial politics.

Abdul Khalid readily admitted that he was a beneficiary of the NEP. He spoke about the need to work hard for one's keep. He spoke about his experience working under the dedicated late Tun Dr Ismail Ali. Today, dedicated politicians in the mould of Dr Ismail, Tan Siew Sin and others are extinct, he told us.

Nonetheless, overall we are still too happy with looking at the past and imagine what would it be without NEP. Would it be worse? Would it be better?

Why don't we start to look forward? Read my thoughts here.

My New Look

Been thinking of an image change since late 2006. I was walking around Bukit Bintang yesterday and decided to pop over to Star Hill's Snip Saloon for a cut and restyling. It was an expensive decision.

See for yourself if it is worth it? Anyway, after all the gloomy news need to uplift my spirit. Maybe you guys should try it too. The pics should tell the difference.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Poor Business Sentiment and Confidence Level

Yesterday, I was invited to speak to a number of CEOs in their usual TEC session. During the feedback and Q&A session, many of the CEOs and business owners were not very bullish about the Malaysian economy.

Their main concern is the state of our domestic politics. Is the NEP debate affecting their confidence level? Yes. I think the debate and the reintroduction of the NEP has done us a great disservice.

Outright, we know that the NEP was highjacked by the politicians. The original NEP, introduced in 1970, is no longer adequate to bring us forward. In the last 37 years, the world has changed.

But why haven't we?

If you are affected by the NEP or are concern about the domestic politics. Let me hear from you.

Penang Airport Fiasco

There was no typoon, no earthquake, no terrorist attack, no natural disaster but the Penang Airport was closed from 12.30pm to 3pm on Tuesday for extended work on the runway. As a result, more than 20 planes were diverted to other airports and many others were delayed.

What is the reason? Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said in Penang yesterday that the appointed contractor could not finish resurfacing the runway on Monday night. He slammed the contractor for failing to complete the task because of a lack of premix.

I hope the lack of premix is not because the contractor has run out of money to buy more. It could be another Ali Baba contract where the contract has been passed down through a number of parties.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy has ordered an investigation into allegations that the recent resurfacing of the Penang International Airport runway could not be finished on time due to inadequate premix material. Only days ago, the Star ran a full page on the Minister and how well he has done in his job.

On the other hand, things don't really look good for Penang. First, the economy does not see a turn around very soon. Many people in the island state are getting restless with the lack of dynamism lately. Then, the horrible public transport system problem.

Poor urban planning is rearing its ugly head too. Just hop on to Tanjung Bungah, you can see four blocks of 40 storeys high class condominiums piercing through the sky. Traffic problem will inevitably get worse.

Visit Malaysia 2007? Can the state put its act together? It even missed the anniversary of Georgetown as a city in January 2007. Too bad, too late.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Malaysia in Perspective 2007

Malaysia in Perspective: Dilemmas, Challenges and the Way Forward

In the year 2004, the nation was in a buoyant mood. The new administration’s election manifesto was well received by the people. It had promised to bring the nation forward through a series of concerted programmes including a mindset shift i.e. from a third world to a first world mentality, to inculcate a new culture of excellence, to combat corruption and to implement tough reforms to enhance the public service delivery system.

In return, the Abdullah administration recorded a historic win at the parliament, winning 91 percent of the 219 seats. The new administration was given a huge mandate to implement the reforms it had promised.

Over the last short 3 years, the public sentiment has shifted from jubilant to despair. On whether the sentiment is uniform throughout the country is arguable but this the sense of hopelessness and helplessness is being felt in the urban areas. What went wrong?

This article intends to study the causes of the shift in the public perception, to highlight some of the challenges faced by the country and to propose a way forward.

One of the biggest dilemmas faced by the new regime is the baggage of the old. While promising reforms, the new regime soon found that resistance to change within the system is great. Corruption which runs through the veins of the administration and the ruling political parties has made the reform process frustratingly slow. At times, the reaction from the system is detrimental even to the new leader.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi found out the hard way. He called for a Royal Commission of the Police Force but was not able to implement the foremost important recommendation of the royal commission to establish an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). It was an open secret that the ruling politicians need the support of the special branch officers during general elections to gather information on voters’ sentiment and grouses.

His failure to establish the IPCMC swiftly was the beginning of the credibility decline of his administration. His anti-corruption campaign was seen as more of a PR stunt than a steely action to eradicate corruption at all levels of the government. The fact that Rafidah Aziz, Zakaria Mat Deros and the Jasin MP are still around showed that Abdullah is not willing to antagonise the warlords in his party.

To his credit, Abdullah tried to correct some of the excesses of the last administration. Some of the public projects and government-linked companies he inherited were not in the best of shape or even relevant at present time.

The building of the crooked ‘scenic’ bridge would have been an international relations disaster for both Malaysia and Singapore. The national car company, Proton, is facing sagging sales and sloppy management. The faulty national car policy has not only limited the choices to consumers but promoted private car ownership to the extent of neglecting the public transport system. In the end, it’s penny wise pound foolish. The oil subsidy of RM15 billion paid annually could have been used for better developments.

When commented on the higher toll rates, Dr Mahathir admitted that toll concession agreements were not very well negotiated between the government and the operators. This not an isolated case but previous privatisation agreements involving the independent power producers and Tenaga Nasional were similarly one-sided. Hence, Abdullah is partly a victim of the old baggage.

When his predecessor sensed that Abdullah was trying to define his own path, a war was waged against him. To survive, Abdullah had to shift his direction and focus from the reforms he promised to pure power consolidation within his party. The shift has worsened his public perception especially amongst the non-Malay Malaysians. In order to solidify his Malay support base, Abdullah reignited the revival of the NEP which emphasises narrowly on the percentage share of Bumiputera corporate equity.

This brings us directly to the second cause of his erosion of popularity – inconsistent paradigm shift. He started promisingly by promoting a first world mentality. To many in the developed world, a first world mentality is synonymous to a merit-based system. By reintroducing the ‘old’ NEP into the national socio-economic development blueprints, the 9th Malaysia Plan and the Industrial Master Plan 3, Abdullah made a quantum leap backward to the days of communal centric affirmative action. To his detriment, his deputy Najib Razak even trumpeted that the 400 years of marginalisation the Malay community suffered in the face of colonialism cannot be repaid in merely 30 years. Overnight, the New Economic Policy became a Never Ending Policy. Abdullah is painted as a flip flop prime minister.

Some forward thinking Malay politicians and businessmen have distanced themselves from the NEP. Kota Bahru MP Zaid Ibrahim and prominent banker Nazir Razak have both questioned the relevance of the NEP. I argue that the original objectives of the 1970 NEP are not adequate in today’s context. Eradication of poverty regardless of race and the eradication of identification of an economic function to a race may still be required but additional thoughts have to be given to issues concerning competitiveness, capacity building and forces of globalisation. In short, the NEP has to be restructured or even ditched in order to introduce a more comprehensive and forward looking strategy to manage our socio-economic development.

The second dilemma leads us to a third one, the lack of a national vision or direction. Due to the divergence in public policy and political paradigm, a lot of Malaysians are at a lost as to where the nation is heading. While Abdullah said that the era of privatisation, big projects and generous government contracts are over, he recently announced a spate of big projects and generous handouts to lower class contractors. The icing on the cake is the RM47 billion Iskandar Development Region which could yet turn out to be the biggest white elephant in the history of the country.

On the push to become a first world nation by the year 2020, many analysts would have preferred the government to focus its resources on processes, programmes and institutions which can help to enhance the capacity and knowledge of our human capital. At present, the education system is in a mess. Meanwhile the bloated bureaucracy has sucked out our competitiveness and efficiency. Our economy is becoming the region’s laggards. Many joked that our economy is similar to our football team. Both received a lot of attention and resources but do not have much success to show.

Brain drain is happening at an alarming rate. In the month of November 2006 alone, more than 6550 applicants have applied or enquired to leave the country. Our brain gain programme paled in comparison whereby a ministry statistics showed that less than 970 applicants have applied to come back since 2001. Half were successful in their application but many have since left the country again.

For whatever it is worth, the Vision 2020 has provided a good rough guide to where we should head in the future. Abdullah should have stayed away from being too inwardly focused just because he felt that his political position and grip on the leadership is being threatened. By not giving enough emphasis to the last mile of the Vision 2020, we have lost our general essence and a sense of commitment to push forward. As Thomas Friedman said in his book, The World is Flat, if a community is made to think that it is entitled to the wealth of the nation it will not work hard to improve, to change and to compete.

By politicising the NEP for political gains, we are bound to lose more than we thought we could have gained. It is not even a zero sum game. The society generally will become poorer and more polarised if we choose to focus on wealth distribution instead of wealth creation. All the newly emerging developing countries with high economic growth and attracted a lion share of foreign investments are focused on wealth creation and growing the economic pie.

By the year 2050, China’s economy is expected to register USD44.45 trillion and India’s USD27.8 trillion, effectively the largest and third largest economies in the world. Indonesia’s FDI in 2005 has grown by 177 percent by embracing a more open and inclusive political model. After decades of racial violence and marginalisation, the Indonesian constitution was amended to recognise Chinese Indonesians as equals.

One of the most serious challenges faced by the country is our government’s propensity to look backward than to look forward. Rather than focusing on how we Malaysians can unite to face the globalisation onslaught, the ruling elites are preaching about our divisive and communal past and about how to preserve the 1957 status quo. A nation that spends its time looking backward will not have the time to think about the future.

We need to lose our sense of denial that things are going ahead as planned and by the year 2020 we will instantly become a developed nation. There is no magic in the slogan, “Malaysia Boleh!” Unless Malaysians of all races wake up and come to senses soon that we need to work as a nation and a society, the downward spiral will continue. In the year 1990, we were the 4th most attractive destination for FDI and we are now ranked 62nd. The economy used to grow above 8 percent per annum and can still grow up to 8 percent but we are growing at a mere 5 percent presently. We must realise that our failure is not due to another fellow citizen but of our own wrong doing.

Politics is an important catalyst to enable us to move forward. Good policies and effective policy implementation can contribute positively to our overall well-being and bring necessary progress to the society. Unfortunately, good policies are made by responsible and high quality politicians. To our dismay, leadership quality has not been proven to be genetically inheritable.

We have a few classic cases in Malaysia. A leader can be farsighted, open and honest but down his lineage his grandson can be the most vicious communalist. Our political system is feudalistic apart from being both dynastic and ritualistic. Public and political positions can be inherited and this has become an acceptable norm in our society. Works like a pension system, a son can reap the reward of his dad’s contribution and services rendered in politics. Ended up, many of the sons act like princes in political parties which are supposed to be accountable to the people. Like feudal lords, it is a taboo to criticize our political leaders.

Moving forward, we must decide our destiny. The outcome of keeping the existing communal political model is clear and the consequences are catastrophic. We need the openness and magnanimity of forward looking Malay leaders to bring back the minorities and embrace them as equals in our multiracial society with the Malay community forming its core. Our future can be best protected only when Malaysians can unite on the desire to create a better nation and a better home for all of us.

Towering Malaysians are not skin deep but personalities who can contribute the most to the nation and society.

Khoo Kay Peng
10th January 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Malaysians of the Year 2006 (2) - updated

Dr Lim Teck Ghee wrote to me and thank me for the recognition given to ASLI CPPS. He proposed Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang as a candidate for Malaysians of the year 2006. In his email, he said that Lim has contributed immensely to the country as a parliamentarian (correction: LTG did not mention parliamentarian but I deleted his previous email so I made a wild guess). What he actually said was:

"The truly towering Malaysian - head and heels above everyone else - is Kit Siang for his unwavering principled stand on behalf of justice,truth and equality over all these years."

I guess whatever the cat as long as it is a good cat. A good cat will ensure that the rats don't tear the house down.

Road Tax and Toll Rates

Someone send me this over the email, it is interesting:

Road Tax Reduce & Toll Rise in Malaysia.

Road Tax Reduce
Some Malaysian is very happy with the Road Tax Reduce…
Let we; have a look at the simple calculation below…

Road Tax Reduce = RM50 for 1 year
For per day = RM50/365
= RM0.1370/day (WAU!!!!!! What a big saving for Malaysian)

Syabas !!! To our Government!!!

Toll Rise

Imagine a person is using Kesas Highway from Klang To K.L. (To & From)
(That’s mean - using a full package on this Highway)
Past Toll Rate = RM1.50 per toll x 6 tolls = RM9.00 per day
Present Toll Rate = RM2.20 per toll x 6 tolls = RM13.20 per day
Different = RM0.70 per toll

For 1 day = RM0.70 x 6 tolls (To & From)
= RM4.20 / day

Normal Working Days for Normal Person = 240days / year

For One Year = 240days x RM4.20
= RM1008.00 (Different - Old & Present)

If in full Calculation = RM13.20/day x 240 days
= RM3,168 per year

But Some Crazy Guyz Work for 365 days / year

For One Year = 365days x RM4.20
= RM1533.00 (Different - Old & Present)

If in full Calculation = RM13.20/day x 365 days
= RM4,818 per year

For others toll ; you can calculate on your own... using the same method
If Average Malaysian Salary is RM2000.00/mth. (For easy calculation purpose)
That’s means he/she will be spending his/her 2 months salary / year just to pay on his toll.

Syabas !!! To all Malaysian…. For Being Deaf & Dumb….

Time for A Multiracial BN - Zaid Ibrahim

At the Edge forum last November, Zaid Ibrahim said that its time for BN to reconsider the proposal of the late Onn Jaafar to create a multiracial political party which represents all Malaysians minus the usual communialism.

In the Star today, Kota Baru MP Zaid Ibrahim has proposed (again!) that the Barisan Nasional coalition component parties merge and form a single political party for the country. The timing is suitable now, unlike in 1951 when Umno founder Onn Jaafar had proposed a similar political format, he said.

He added: Barisan coalition parties were now facing issues onthe economy, religion and cultural aspects. The ability to discuss sensitive issues is still there, but the effectiveness to impart it to the people, is not. This has caused various coalition parties to have their own agenda in dealing with the issues. The diverse approaches have only led to unresolved problems andconfusion. So, a single party entity is best.

I could not agree with him more today compared to the last time he said it in the Edge forum where I was also a panelist.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Aku Janji for Pig Farmers?

Reported in The Sun today (pg.10), the media company translated a report in Sin Chew Daily which quoted Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agrobased Mah Siew Keong who said that the government has made it mandatory for pig farmers to sign an Aku Janji pledge before a commissioner of oaths that they will not feed their livestock with beta-agonist, a banned growth substance.

Anyone caught using the banned enhancer will be charged in court. In Utopia, probably those who signed the pledge will keep their promise. In Malaysia, these buggers are killers and conmen. Will the Aku Janji pledge be effective? Unless, there is a charm in it which makes those who broke the pledge lose their dick.

What is needed is pure enforcement and consumer education. Don't eat or buy pork if these farmers can't be bothered about your health.

Low Yat = Low Price?

Whoever wanting to buy computer accessories will normally go to Low Yat Plaza for bargain hunting. I wanted to buy a thumb drive and voice recorders for a project that I am currently undertaking. Like others I went to the plaza for my bargain hunt.

It seems that there an art to be mastered in bargain hunting. I did not get my bargain but ended up paying more than what I should for a 2G Kingston's pendrive. Upon checking with other stalls I went back to the seller, Atom Computer (KL) Sdn Bhd., and told him that I was overcharged by RM7 for the pendrive.

The manager of the shop rudely told me that he meets people like me everyday, trying to bargain after a purchase has been made. He said I can do whatever I wanted about it. Hence, I am doing as he told me to do here...blogging and bitching about it!

I wonder how many people this rascal has cheated RM7 off!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Penang Bus System: Wait is there a system at all?

Reported in the Sun today, "Months after demanding a meeting with the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), Penang's coalition of 25 NGOs in Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat) finally met up with the authority to present its views and solution to tackle the deplorable condition of public transportation in the state."

The meeting was attended by Cepat coordinator Dr Choong Sim Poey, Penang Traffic Management Committee chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan's office today, CVLB chairman Markiman Kobiran, CVLB northern branch chairman Shah Headan Ayoob and Cepat coordinators Ong Boon Kean and Joachim Xavier.

The "promises" made by CVLB are: a public feedback mechanism similar to the one created by Cepat in April last year; open tender system when appointing operators for the Bas Negri Pulau Pinang (BNPP) and also transparency when appointing the new CEO for the new bus company;
setting up of a citizens' advisory body which will work independently to monitor public transportation in the state; and increasing the number of enforcement personnel in Penang to tackle the menace of unscrupulous taxi drivers and to ensure bus operators conform to regulations.

Sadly, I hope the state government realised that public transport is the one reliable mean for the less privileged people to move around in the island. Without a reliable access to their working places, the poor cannot help but to look for jobs around their neighbourhood.

In a densely populated island such as Penang, much cannot be achieved with a monorail. The project sounds good but does not have as much impact as a good and reliable public bus system. Hence, instead of spending almost RM2 billions on the monorail the government should have invested RM200 million on new buses instead.

For god's sake, please get better operators to run the public bus transport system. We don't have to 'NEP' every damn thing around us. Give us an efficient public bus system!

Malaysians of the Year 2006

I intend to name some candidates for the Malaysians of the Year mention on this blog. Yes, there can be more than a winner. We can name people and organisations that have made a contribution to the betterment of Malaysia in 2006.

I will start with a few:


  • - the news website has contributed significantly to the opening up of democratic space in the country. Views and opinions are allowed to be expressed freely and responsibly on its website.

  • The Sun - the newspaper has revived the old activist role media companies used to play before Operasi Lalang in 1988. The newspaper has taken bold position in 2006 on local councils, NEP, corruption and others. In fact, I have spoken to Tan Sri Navaratnam (President of Transparency International Malaysia) that the Sun be given an award for media contribution to transparency and accountability in Malaysia.

  • ASLI CPPS - The then Director of CPPS Dr Lim Teck Ghee has contributed significantly to open up the pandora's box on the Bumiputera corporate equity ownership issue. He has boldly stated that the NEP target has reached 45% and that the NEP must be reviewed. The government has since responded with three different statistics e.g. 18.9%, 21.64% and 36.67%

  • Article 11 group - the group of 13 NGOs held several forums on freedom of religion and the role of the judiciary in protecting the rights to freedom of religion must be congratulated for their boldness to uphold the integrity of the federal constitution. Their efforts were trunciated by a group of rowdy anti-interfaith members.


  • Nicol Ann David - she has shown us what we can achieve if we believe in hardwork, tenacity and competitiveness.

  • Citizen Nades - the well-known columnist in the Sun for his tireless effort to unearth wrongdoings and abuses in the local councils. Thanks to him that people such as Zakaria Mat Deros and the MPPJ are taken to task. We hope more columnist can be like him and not hiding their balls.

I would like to hear more from readers of my blog. Submit your candidates name and tell us why these people deserve our recognition.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A 'Bodek' Event to Start 2007

I received a copy of the programme late last year but did not pay any closer attention to it. Then, I received an early sms yesterday from Dr Denison Jayasooria (YSS) to come to the Prince Hotel after the closing of the event for a meeting.

Apparently, YSS, USM and ASLI are organising a seminar entitled "Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Three Years in Putrajaya: Trailblazing a Brighter Future for Malaysia" on that day. In the seminar, generous praises were lavished on the prime minister.

Understandably, newly minted senator Muhammad Taib praised Abdullah for his success in bringing a new climate to the leadership and administration of the country encompassing domestic and international affairs. What comes out from Mat Taib's mouth should be measured with a pinch of salt. I will not jubiliate with joy if a crook were to praise me.

Meanwhile, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Mohamed Jawhar Hassan said that it might be too early to evaluate Abdullah’s performance as he had been at the helm for only 38 months, but it needed to be done as democracy demanded so. After the demise of Nordin Sorpie, it is obvious that ISIS has slowed down considerably.

To ISIS, 38 months is still too early, too soon. That is almost a full US President's term. In a private company, the probation period is 3 months and not 3 years. A friend at a lunch today joked "In a government department, the probation period is 3 years". Even if the probation period is 3 years, Abdullah should be told that honeymoon is over.

Then again, I am amused that a university and two think tanks have spent their time and resources on a 'bodek' seminar. Ironically, I just received a call from Terrence Gomez who wanted me to speak to a group of concerned Indian NGOs on the challenges faced by the Indian community in Malaysia amidst growing competition and globalisation. YSS should spend more time on such topic.

Restructuring the NEP

In a Malaysiakini news article, the CEO of CIMB Bank, Nazir Abdul Razak, - who is also the brother of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak - has called for a thorough review on the controversial New Economic Policy.

Like my own commentary in the Edge roundtable on NEP held November last year, Nazir believed that the multiracial society of Malaysia will need the NEP “for a long time to supplement conventional economic instruments to achieve growth with equity”. This is because a capitalist system will inevitably create a disparity of wealth and access to opportunities for different classes people in a society. The rich will get richer and the poor get poorer.

Nazir wrote “But I also believe that a through review of the NEP and its implementation has become critical” in the most recent issue of financial weekly The Edge under a special focus on ‘How to make Malaysia competitive’.

On the financial market, Nazir commented “In our little corner, in the capital markets, for instance, if we have moved to free pricing for IPOs (initial public offerings), how dangerous is that we insist that bumiputeras have preferential allocation?” said Nazir.

"Potential issuers today are being courted by exchanges throughout the world; in its present form, the NEP discourages companies from listing on Bursa Malaysia; how helpful is that to the country or indeed the bumiputera community?” he asked.

Nazir is right about the need to restructure the NEP. This is the reality of globalisation and global competition. Morover the world does not owe us a living. If you are a bumiputera and wants to establish yourself at the world's stage, you will have to work as hard as another non-bumiputera to make it. The others out there are not going to give you an advantage, a privilege or a special pass to get through the gate.

Ask Zaid Ibrahim, the present Kota Bahru MP, about competitiveness and he will tell you the same thing.
The Malay community must wake up. NEP being used and interpreted as its form now by some politicians is akin to opium that weakens the Chinese in the 19th century. It will weaken your spirit, will power and desire to excel.
The survival of the Malays is dependent on the restructuring of the NEP and the removal of the clutches.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bursa Malaysia Soaring Amidst Sombre Mood

Bursa Malaysia made its biggest rally in 2007 yesterday soaring 21 points to 1171 points. This was boosted by a stronger ringgit against the USD and buoyant regional markets. However, buying interests remained only at higher cap stocks.

Today, I spoke to a group of local CEOs and executives at a private function. Their mood on the economy remained sombre and not upbeat. Many of them are worried about the mid-term and long-term prospects of the country.

My speech addressed several key issues and the overall public perception of the government. I argue that overall the government lacked a clear national vision to lead this country forward. The current economy strategy is resource-centric although the government has announced its intention to promote first-world mindset.

Rightly, resources should be invested in institutions and processes which are aimed at enhancing the capacity and capability of the people. Human resource development is key to our long-term prosperity.

On macroeconomy, the government does not have a good regional strategy to help link Malaysian companies to the emerging regional economies. Most of our companies go abroad on their own and ended overwhelmed by other competitors in size and resources. This makes going overseas an expensive attempt.

Several CEOs are very concerned about the political situation in the country. One of them said that the current racist model is not tenable and not feasible as we move forward.

However, most of us felt helpless because we believe that racist politics will continue for a long time to come unless the dominant political party, UMNO, can catalyst change on their own will or when there is a change of ruling regime.

If the situation continues, the participants felt that it is inevitable that capital will continue to flow out. Brain drain is noted as a popular trend again, making it difficult for companies to hire and retain good people in the country.

A CEO of a large construction company wants me to write this: when he graduated in engineering from UK almost 25 years ago, his starting salary was RM1000 and today (25 years later) the starting salary of an engineering graduate is barely RM2000. The increase is about 100% but the salary of a similar position in UK would have gone up by 12.5 times over the same period!

This translates into their mood of the economy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Either We Are Deaf or You Are Mute...

The only thing Chinese about MCA is its middle initial. The Star, 2nd January, reads "MCA the voice of the Chinese". First two paragrahs read:

The MCA has, without fail, voiced the feelings of theChinese community at all internal meetings in the Government and Barisan Nasional, said MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.

“We do not run away from or avoid any issues. We believe in results and actual consequences rather than in making superficial statements and leaving problems unresolved,” he said in an interview with The Star yesterday.

This is the problem with MCA when it claims to speak the voice of the Chinese. Most of the time we do not hear the spoken. Either we are deaf or the MCA is mute. If MCA truly speaks the voice of the Chinese, why must it insists on speaking only behind closed doors? If the Chinese are 'TULAN' (hokkien=fed-up) with the way they are treated then the MCA should just tell some of their partners what the community feels.

Ong Ka Ting added:

I must stress that all the issues concerning the Chinese community last year were addressed firmly by the MCA. We do not run away from or avoid any issues. We believe in results and actual consequences rather than in making superficial statements and leaving problems unresolved. However, we also take note of the fact that in politics, we have to speak up from time to time to create an impact in public perception.

Mr Ong said that all issues have been addressed and he believed in results. So, what about the NEP and the Bumiputera corporate equity issue? What about the Malay supremacism issue? What about the overcrowded Chinese schools issue? What about the social contract issue?

What has been resolved? Either I am deaf or you are mute....



PAS Fear?

I was at a friend's house warming gathering. At the gathering, we spoke about several top issues of the year 2006. Some of these issues such as growing polarisation, poor governance, corruption, rising inflation and a lack of economic direction troubled all of us.

Since she is a journalist, I thought she would be quite concerned about the state of democracy and leadership quality in the country. I told her that perhaps the government and their capitalist partners have sold us out in the recent toll rates hike in Klang Valley. I asked if she would seek to strengthen the opposition voices in the next parliament.

She said that she would rather pay higher toll rates than to vote for Islamism. Apparently the only opposition candidate in her area is from PAS.

Is PAS more fearful than UMNO in the Islamisation process? PAS is more outrageous than dangerous. What about UMNO?