Thursday, August 30, 2007

#1 Merdeka Sin

I am surprised to read the allegation by Deputy Minister of HR Abdul Rahman Bakar that Malaysian Trades Union Congress members are fed up with its leadership because it is anti-establishment.

He continued: "They are influenced by the opposition whose leaders are always present at rallies organised by the MTUC," he said, as he rattled off the names of opposition stalwarts.

Rahman said the opposition kept harping on things like minimum wage and other pet issues of the MTUC."The opposition is doing this to get their sympathy. It is not interested in their cause but is out to score points with workers."

Rahman should take note that the MTUC leaders do not have a choice but to accept the support of opposition leaders who are sensitive to the cause. This happened because the BN is overly focused on the employers and not the average working class Joe.

Is the MTUC fight for a minimum wage (RM900) and COLA (RM300) deemed unreasonable? It is impossible to expect workers especially those in the private sector to live comfortably with something lower than that amount. In fact, it would be deemed inhumane! No wonder, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

It showed that Rahman is so out of touch as a politician and a deputy minister of HR. He is shouting 'wolf' on every movement in the woods.

He gave an example of the hotel workers and commented that it is another lost cause to try to get a minimum wage for hotel workers."They have allowances, accommodation is provided, food is provided and they get bonus."

I am not sure where he got his details about the hotel industry. In fact, some workers take home such a small pay check that it is impossible to motivate them to provide a top notch customer service.

It is time for Rahman to 'turun padang' and if he needs help, I am sure many of us are willing to point him to the right direction.

In the mean time, stop being so arrogant, for goodness sake!


I am proud to be a Malaysian. I urge you to join me in a celebration of our nation's freedom tomorrow, starting from a countdown tonight.

Freedom must not just be a label. Our people must be truly free from all trappings of power and attempts to put us under siege again.

Of late, we have witnessed how our freedom can be sacrificed in order to 'protect' some racial and religious rights. But is our religion and ethnicity being threatened? No right minded Malaysian wants to obstruct another person from practicing his/her own religious belief.

No, we are told that these issues concerning religion and race are sensitive because some politicians are seeking to politicize these issues (using both religion and race as shield) to advance their own interest and to divide and rule.

At the 50th anniversary of our independence, it is time we demand for true freedom.

Haris Ibrahim of the People's Parliament has requested that I assist him to organise a Merdeka gathering in Penang. We will bring a true sense of Merdeka to you.

Please watch out this space for more information.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What is Wrong With The Sun?

Once, I even proposed to the TIM President Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam to award The Sun with a social activism prize for making responsible and criticial reporting on issues which affect us all e.g corruption, poor governance, bad economic policies, irresponsible politicians etc.

Many politicians including many from the BN hold the paper in high regards. Hence, I am surprised when the Minister of Information Zainuddin Maidin criticised The Sun for being a DAP mouthpiece. This accusation which came from the incumbent minister of information showed that he is outdated and outmoded. Previously, Zam likened the bloggers to communists. Little does he know that communism as an ideology is long dead (pretty much like his brain).

He said Gerakan adviser Dr Lim Keng Yaik's assumption that the Malay and Chinese newspapers favour certain parties and are not fair to all the races was inaccurate. I wonder if he reads the Utusan Melayu. On the contrary, in many issues, "the Chinese and Malay newspapers are fairer to Malaysia than certain English newspapers.

"To say that theSun newspaper is a champion of Bangsa Malaysia shows that Dr Lim Keng Yaik sympathises with the newspaper which has all this while fought more for (the DAP's) 'Malaysian Malaysia'.

"In many issues, theSun newspaper has touched on matters that offend the Malays, including the special rights of the Malays, the New Economic Policy (NEP), the social contract among the races that was agreed upon before Merdeka and also the question of unity in the society," he said.

What is wrong with the concept of Malaysian Malaysia? Does Zam expect unity where the minorities in this country are treated as second class citizens? Is the concept of 'ketuanan Melayu' consistent with Islamic values?

Zam's statement proved that he is out of touch with the present generation of Malaysians who expected to be treated equally. None of the non-Malays would agree that the affirmative action to help the poor Malays and other indigenous people should be stopped. In fact, many non-Malay middle-class have donated generously to the tsunami charity drive to help many kampung folks in Kedah, Perlis and Penang.

I would like to remind Zam that almost 43% of Malays did not agree that the NEP has helped them but instead the policy has benifitted the UMNO Putras.

If Zam does not agree that all of us should become more Malaysians, then he is welcomed to go back to his ancestors' homeland.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2007 - Is it Necessary?

We met up with the MTUC leaders lead by Syed Shahrir yesterday to discuss the amentment to the Industrial Relations Bill 2007. The MTUC leaders were disappointed because the Minister of HR gave the impression that the group was met and their views were sought prior to the draft amendment was submitted to the parliament for its 1st reading on 2nd July.

They told us that a total of 6 meetings were called by the ministry but none of the meetings specifically touched on the amendment. Hence, the government did not fulfill its tripartite commitment before making the amendment. MTUC has since pulled out from all tripartite committees.

Fong had irked the Opposition with his claim that his ministry had consulted the MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation over the amendments to the Act.

"I have heard both sides. Whatever, the MTUC says the MEF will oppose and whatever MEF says, the MTUC objected. We (the government) have to make a decision and we did," he said.Fong said he never offered to withdraw the Bill or make changes to amendments at a meeting with the MTUC.

"I did not give specific assurance on this. What I told them was that the amendments were not cast in stone," he said.

The MTUC had been up in arms over a ruling capping compensation for wrongful dismissal of a worker at 24 months of his salary. We have deliberated on this issue and found out that the cap can be misused by any unscrupluos party to sack a long serving employee by paying a maximum of 24 months salary under the newly approved amendment.

The amendment also takes away the discretionary power of the judiaciary to award a just compensation to any aggrieved party. The manner in which the amendment is rushed through will not benefit the government.

Moreover, it will put Malaysia's commitment to workers' protection in a regressive light. This does not augur well with the government's intention to promote Malaysia as a first-world nation.

Dr Fong must exercise his ministerial discretion and goodwill to correct this wrong. Otherwise, he will go down in history as one of the worst ministers of HR.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Reported in Malaysiakini, Student rapper Wee Meng Chee came under fire from an Umno MP over the Negarakuku lyrics.

Mohamad Aziz (BN-Sri Gading), in posing a supplementary question to Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Rais Yatim, called Wee “an animal” in the Dewan Rakyat today.

I am not sure if the general public can agree with Mohamad Aziz. But many would would readily agree that Mohd. Aziz could have been called worse names judging from his performance and statements in the parliament.

Picture courtersy of

Knee-jerk Reaction, What a Mess...

Last friday, I took an express bus from Puduraya back to Penang. My bus was supposed to leave Puduraya at 1.30pm but we managed to take off only at 2.45pm. It was a MESS in Puduraya.

The ticketing agent told me that all buses will be delayed because the authority is running urine test on drivers.

I am not against any test being conducted to weed out drug abuse amongst drivers but it should not be conducted during peak hours (school holidays).

The authority should instead be more vigilant in conducting consistent tests (including checking for summonses, vehicle safety etc.) on all drivers at all times. Not just when an accident happened and lives lost.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

CIMB Wealth Advisors Bumi and Non-Bumi Dichotomy

I am an investor with CIMB Wealth Advisors. However, I do not see why the company should differentiate its clients between bumiputera and non-bumiputera.

I told my agent while I am keen to support a Malay company, I am totally against such distinction. It does not make business sense for the company to do.

The company must take out these two boxes from its investment application form or lose more investment from us.

Judiciary Confusion?

Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said that there was no need for Malaysia to refer to the English common law as there were many legal experts here who could help to solve legal matters.

At the opening of the "Ahmad Ibrahim: Thoughts and Knowledge Contribution" seminar in Petaling Jaya yesterday, Ahmad Fairuz said despite being independent for 50 years, Malaysia had yet to be truly free from colonialism because of the provision in the Civil Law Act. He suggested that the seminar participants discuss the common law issue to see if it should be retained or substituted.

I do not agree with the chief judge that just because the foundation of our legal system is based on the English law, we are still submitting ourselves to colonialism. It is more important for the legal system to stay flexible and be able to extract important and strong elements from other jurisdictions to ensure that justice is dispensed fairly.


A former law professor said the English common law has a role to play in the Malaysian legal system.
He said Sections 3 and 5 of the Civil Law Act provided for the use of English common law where there was no Malaysian statute to deal with the case.

"The English common law is particularly important for commercial law." He said that being a legal practice that was recognised internationally, the English common law would strengthen the credibility of Malaysia's legal system in the eyes of the world, such as among foreign investors.

The Malaysian judiciary may risk insulating itself if it were to stop referring to the English common law and English judgments, former high court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid said.

Syed Ahmad said while Ahmad Fairuz might prefer more decisions from Islamic courts to be cited, it would be up to the judges to decide whether they wanted to accept the principles in these judgments.
He added that Ahmad Fairuz could also mean that we cease to refer to English judgments.
"Well, we can be insulated by referring to our own!" he said.

"But I miss the days when Malaysian judgments were cited or referred to in many Commonwealth Courts."
Syed Ahmad said the Malaysian legal system is based on the English common law.

"The laws we observe, while many term them as our civil law, are grounded on common law and common law is also called Anglo-American law, which simply encompasses the body of judicial decisions and reports of decided cases.

"Some experts refer to the common law as laws that receive its force and authority from universal consent and practice of the people. Others call it 'unwritten law' because it is not written by politicians but rather by judges," he explained.

Lawyer and Kota Baru member of parliament Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said the judges had always made decisions based on Malaysian laws.

He said that at the same time, the judges also adopted certain principles from other laws, not only the English common law but also laws from India and Australia, to arrive at a decision.

Bar Council has voiced out a similar concern that the courts should stop referring to the English common law.

What is the real basis of the chief justice's suggestion?

Meanwhile, Nazri Aziz said the government will look into Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim's suggestion that Malaysia should examine whether there is still a need to use the English common law, 50 years after the nation has attained independence. He mentioned that any change would have to be rational and have a basis.

Is this a start of judiciary revamp? Will this make the syariah courts and Islamic law more powerful? Read Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang's blog on this issue.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Divisive, Very Divisive

I just ran through a google check on "Wee Meng Chee" and read some messages posted on various blogs. My observation is the issue is over sensationalised by various parties especially the Malay press.

It is divisive, fellow Malaysians. Certain politicians want to use the issue to distract us from other major issues in the country. We have better things to focus on. It is not the time to talk about pride and ego. If what Wee said is not too kind to our ears, I am sure many of you have said it worse even if you do not know the other party you have criticised. You are only as good as your responses.

Wee is a product of the system. He is conditioned by the environment he was brought up. My friends observed this event and told me that they dread the situation will turn into an ugly socio-political wildfire which threatens our social harmony.

What will happen if a Chinese no longer feel safe and comfortable living beside a Malay vice versa?

Read this letter in Malaysiakini.

See the Human Factor, Not Race

I would like to applaud Tun Musa for his wisdom. He said in a book launch recently:

"Malaysians have been urged to stop thinking in racial terms and instead see the human factor."

Former deputy prime minister, Tun Musa Hitam, said it was important to step out of the "shackles of racial interpretation"."Corruption, for example, is all to do with greed as a human trait which affects all races, not just one or two ethnic groups.The challenge for all Malaysians is to see only the human factor and not the racial element."

His statement is apt in a country which is continuously divided by race and religion. He encouraged inter-faith dialogue as a mean to enhance religious understanding and not as an attempt to undermine any religion.

Most of the religions we practiced today have a long established history. Often times, it is the followers of a certain religion who are not confident of their own faith. Dialogue and discussion is a way to establish that faith.

He spoke at the launch of a book "In Good Faith" by prominent lawyer and Kota Baru member of parliament, Zaid Ibrahim. The book, priced at RM30, comprises 21 essays written by Zaid, eight of which have been published in the New Straits Times and other newspapers.
Picture courtesy of NST.

Power Arrogance

Folks, you and I have witnessed what absolute power can do to all of us. It can cause us irreparable social, economic and moral damage. What we are experiencing in Malaysia is an odd situation.

Through our polarised form of ethno-religious politics, the society is distinctively divided according to racial and religious lines. Unfortunately, these politicians are able to use the democratic process to regain legitimacy to rule and misrule.

It is odd that many us, although expressed our concerns, are not able to change this situation through our own prejudices and misconception that we need political stability regardless of the abuse and corruption.

Any political party or politicians holding on to power for such a long time will not govern by law but will dominate by law. Hence, the Seditious Act, ISA and other draconian laws are used at the whims and fancies of these politicians to suppress democracy.

It is a wake up call, folks. We must work together to weaken a certain party which is so dominant that they begin to think that they are laws and order.

Do it now before it is too late!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Super Efficient Bureaucracy

Within days of the "Negarakuku" controversy, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will investigate if student Wee Meng Chee has broken the law by posting a video parody of the national anthem.

It showed that the government bureaucracy can be very effective and efficient if it chooses to be so. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy is not so efficient when it has to act on its own kind especially when there is an internal controversy.

We should be surprised that we do not have an answer yet for the biggest corporate scandal in the history of Malaysia, the Port Klang Free Zone, which required a RM4.6 billion bailout from the government.

There are a host of other corrupt cases and malpractices which have not been resolved and faced with a muted response from the government.

Why so efficient now?

A Mature Society

Celebrating our 50th year of independence and 44 th year of nation building, it means very little if the society's mindset refuses to grow in tandem with our age. Yes, Malaysia is a mid-aged adult but we are still displaying a child's immature tendency.

I agree with Ong Tee Keat's assertion that politicians must not doublespeak. His statement was reported in yesterday's 8TV mandarin news. He was referring to the Wee Meng Chee's case whereby politicians say one thing and act something else. Surely, we can agree that an apology accepted cannot be followed up by a punishment.

Regarless of our faith or creed, we do not forgive a person and punish the person at the same time.

Granted, what Wee wrote in his songs are not very nice to the ears of some people. His generalisation of race is not very helpful. However, this is a sad reflection of our society. You just have to read some of the comments posted on my blog to understand what I mean by the thick racial prejudices we have for one another. It is so sad.

Yeo Yang Poh, in yesterday's Sun, said it quite accurately that Wee is the product of our flawed system. We helped to perpetuate and protect a communal centric system for nearly 50 years. Who should we faulted then? Only Wee or the rest of the nation's leadership, including you and me?

It is timely that we wake up to the perception we have on each other. I used to patronize Malay eateries and restaurants but I seldom go to one now because I could feel a certain coldness in their service for me. This is a wake up call, fellow Malaysians.

Do something now before it is too late. Do not let racist politicians highjack our society.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nazri is Calling for Blood

A day after Wee's father appeared on the TV with an MCA minister, Dr Chua Soi Lek, to convey Wee's apology to the nation, today the cabinet incited by Nazri Aziz wanted to the AG office to take action on the 24-year old student. This action is a smack on Dr Chua's face.

The cabinet has not accepted 24-year-old Wee Men Chee’s apology over his Negarakuku rap song, which was described as an insult to the nation. In announcing this, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz said the cabinet was in no “position to forgive him” and that the Attorney-General’s Chambers will decide whether to prosecute Wee.

Wee could be charged under the Sedition Act because he had insulted the symbol of the nation, he said.

“We cannot be like the West where you can have the underwear with the design of the Union Jack. In Britain, you can insult the Queen or the flag, I don’t care, but in this country we have laws and we cannot create a precedent where you commit an offence, apologise and get away with it,” Nazri was quoted as saying by the Star.

This is a political decision mostly lead by UMNO's intention to ensure that dissenting voices from other communities especially the minorities do not grow. Its vice-chairman, Muhiyiddin Yassin, has called for a new consensus amongst races in an attempt to suppress freedom of expression. UMNO wants to flex its political muscles against MCA. This appeared to be a political respond to MCA's earlier stand on Malaysia as a secular nation.

Dr Chua had asked for all parties to accept the apology and move on. Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin echoed similar sentiment.

In our recent memory, Nazri had gone an extra length to protect and defend two 'bocor' BN MPs who had insulted all women in the country with their sexist and degratory remark. Similarly, at the UMNO general assembly no action was taken against delegates who made threatening remarks and gestures against other races especially Chinese Malaysians. A few days ago, UMNO information chief Muhammad Taib warned that the 1969 racial riots may happen again if the Malay rights are not respected.

These actions and remarks cannot be taken lightly as well. But no politicians outside of UMNO dare to call for action against these culprits and racist personalities.

Malaysians must VOTE OUT recalcitrants and tyrants of democracy and multiculturalism. The first to go must be Nazri Aziz. Show them who is the real boss.

Remember this face!

Unmasking a Fool

Want to know more? Read here.

Who is Going to Apologize to Wee Meng Chee and Many Youths Who Shared His Sentiments?

Dr Chua Soi Lek, MCA vice-chairman, said the MCA had accepted his apology and urged all Malaysians to accept Meng Chee’s apology in good faith too.

(Wee did not offend MCA and why would his apology being accepted by MCA? On whose behalf?)

He said, “There should be room for dissent but this dissent must be within the confines of the country’s Constitution."

(Which part of the constitution did Wee broke?)

Who should apologize to Wee and others who shared his sentiments? Nothing happened without a reason, definitely not that song.
Picture courtersy of The Star Online.

BN Over the Past 50 years

My views can be found here.

Interviews in Bahasa Malaysia

My interviews in Radio Singapore International Malay Channel. Click here to listen.

Rakyat Mesti Membuat Pilihan

My article which will appear in Malaysia Think Tank London's publication (thanks to Wan Saiful for the translation):

Tatkala Malaysia menyambut ulang tahun ke-50 kemerdekaan, rakyat Malaysia masih lagi bergelumang dengan isu-isu yang membabitkan identiti nasional, keluhuran perlembagaan, kekuatan institusi-institusi demokrasi, kredibiliti ahli politik parti pemerintah, dan pelbagai lagi persoalan sosial, kebudayaan dan agama.

Malahan, kita boleh mengatakan bahawa semakin dewasa negara kita, semakin banyak pula kebebasan individu, proses demokrasi dan kebebasan yang hilang dan dirosakkan. Ini merupakan perkembangan yang menyedihkan.

Sebagaimana yang dikatakan oleh Wan Saiful, sebuah perlembagaan yang baik tidak akan memaksa rakyat untuk menerima atau mengamalkan sesuatu fikrah atau ideologi. Kitatidak boleh menafikan bahawa di sesetengah negara, kuasa kerajaan ada yang digunakan untuk untuk memaksa rakyat menerima fahaman tertentu. Kerajaan-kerajaan tersebut tidak boleh menerima perbezaan pandangan, bantahan rakat, ataupan kepelbagaian pendapat.

Pelbagai pindaan yang signifikan telah dibuat terhadap perlembagaan federal sehingga terdapat hak-hak fundamental rakyat yang telah dikorbankan atas nama memelihara kestabilan dan keamanan sosial. Ini amat membimbangkan. Akibatnya, hari ini isu-isu membabitkan bangsa, agama, hak istimewa bumiputera, dan kedudukan Raja-Raja menjadi isu yang tidak boleh dibahaskan secara terbuka. Ahli politik dengan bebasnya menggunakan isu-isu sensitif ini untuk melindungi diri mereka dan beberapa tindakan korup dan salah guina kuasa mereka daripada dipersoalkan.

Ada pemerhati yang berpandangan bahawa sebuah masyarakat pelbagai kaum dan pelbagai agama tidak boleh dihalang daripada membicarakan isu-isu ini. Salah faham pasti akan berlaku jika dialog yang tulin tidak diusahakan untuk membina persahabatan dan persefahaman.

Bagaimanapun, sistem politik berasaskan kaum di Malaysia menyebabkan isu-isu sensitif hampir mustahil untuk diperdebatkan. Jika kita cuba membincangkan isu-isu ini, pasti akan ada ahli politik yang mengambil kesempatan untuk menaikkan semangat perkauman. Maka, setelah 50 tahun negara kita merdeka, kita masih lagi tidak dapat membina sebuah asas sosial yang kukuh, berteraskan semangat persefahaman bersama dan kesaksamaan. Malaysia masih lagi bergelut dalam mencari satu identiti nasional yang dikongsi oleh semua.

Bagi saya, salah satu sumber identiti nasional ini mestilah lahir daripada penerimaan mutlak perlembagaan federal. Inilah undang-undang tertinggi negara kita. Semua bangsa di negara kita terlibat dalam proses menghasilkan perlembagaan federal. Dan perlembagaan federal juga telah diterima oleh semua bangsa. Semangat perlembagaan federal mengiktiraf kepelbagaian bangsa di Malaysia, dan pada masa yang sama turut mengiktiraf kedudukan rakyat majoriti yang beragama Islam.

Semua bangsa bersetuju bahawa agama memainkan peranan penting dalam kehidupan mereka, dan ini digambarkan dalam Rukunegara – Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan. Bagaimanapun, pentafsiran perlembagaan yang tidak berdasarkan agama juga turut diiktiraf, dan ini memberi jaminan hak-hak rakyat Malaysia tanpa mengira bangsa atau agama.

Kita melihat sejak kebelakangan ini terdapat beberapa pemimpin tertinggi parti pemerintah secara unilateral mempersoalkan semangat sebenar di sebalik perlembagaan federal. Timbalan Perdana Menteri Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, contohnya, baru-baru ini mengumumkan bahawa Malaysia bukanlah sebuah negara sekular[1]. Sebaliknya, beliau mengatakan bahawa Malaysia ialah sebuah negara Islam. Kenyataan sebegini merupakan satu kejutan bagi rakyat Malaysia yang bukan beragama Islam. Ramai yang bimbang bahawa kenyataan tersebut akan membawa kepada proses Islamisasi meluas yang ditaja oleh kerajaan secara terang-terangan.

Jika kita teliti, sebenarnya kenyataan tersebut adalah ironik kerana Barisan Nasional (BN) disokong oleh rakyat hasil daripada kebolehan mereka mewujudkan imej representasi masyarakat pelbagai bangsa melalui parti-parti komponen dalam BN.

Saya boleh faham kenapa Wan Saiful memberi amaran kepada kita mengenai bahaya tirani majoriti. Sistem pilihanraya ‘first-past-the-post’ yang kita amalkan membolehkan pemenang menguasai segala-galanya. Maka, tidak wujud perwakilan yang bersekadar (proportionate representation) di parlimen. Pemerintah yang mempunyai majoriti yang cukup boleh melaksanakan kehendak majoriti, dan juga menafikan kehendak minoriti jika mereka mahu. Wan Saiful menyatakan bahawa perlembagaan yang selaras dengan nilai-nilai Islam mestilah menghalang penafian hak golongan minoriti dan juga menghalang percubaan untuk memaksa mana-mana individu mengikut kehendak golongan majoriti.

Wan Saiful juga menyatakan bahawa sistem kehakiman dan parlimen mestilah memainkan peranan dalam mempertahan kesucian dan keulungan perlembagaan, dalam rangka menghalang tirani majoriti. Sepanjang dua dekad yang lalu, Malaysia melalui satu era yang mana kuasa eksekutif amat kuat sehingga menenggelamkan parlimen dan juga kehakiman. Sepanjang dua dekad tersebut, beberapa ‘serangan’ telah juga dilakukan oleh pihak eksekutif terhadap ahli-ahli sistem kehakiman dan parlimen.

Beberapa hakim yang berfikiran independen dikeluarkan secara paksa atau dipecat. Ada juga ahli parlimen pembangkang yang ditahan dibawah Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri (ISA) yang drakonian. Akta ini membenarkan penahanan tanpa perbicaraan. Serangan-serangan ini, seperti yang dikatakan oleh Wan Saiful, memang tidak Islamik dan telah merosakkan konsep pengasingan kuasa di Malaysia.

Saya menyokong cadangan Wan Saiful supaya institusi-institusi ini dikembalikan. Kita memerlukan institusi-institusi ini untuk memastikan ada sekatan dan imbangan (check and balance) yang menjaga kesempurnaan demokrasi di Malaysia. Saya juga gembira dengan kenyataan beliau bahawa nilai-nilai Islam yang sebenar pasti tidak membenarkan pemangsaan dan penghambaan sesama manusia.

Walaupun begitu, saya mungkin tidak berkongsi keyakinan beliau bahawa perkara-perkara ini boleh dicapai dengan mudah di Malaysia melainkan jika rakyat negara ini bersungguh-sungguh dalam memilih jalan yang betul. Untuk mencapai sebuah Malaysia yang sejahtera, kita semua mesti berusaha sepenuh hati untuk hidup bersama dengan harmoni. Jika tidak, 50 tahun lagi Malaysia akan tetap kekal sebagai koloni-koloni bangsa yang berbeza dan kita tetap tidak dapat menikmati kebebasan yang sebenar.

Khoo Kay Peng memperolehi ijazah dalam bidang ekonomi daripada Universiti Malaya. Beliau kemudian menyambung pengajian peringkat sarjana dalam bidang Perhubungan Antarabangsa di University of Warwick, United Kingdom, sebagai Chevening Scholar. Khoo mempunyai pengalaman luas sebagai penasihat korporat dan juga sebagai penganalisis politik dan polisi bebas. Sebagai seorang Anak Malaysia, beliau ingin melihat lahirnya sebuah 'masyarakat Malaysia' yang tulin dan juga tadbir urus yang baik. Khoo juga merupakan Pengarah Eksekutif Socio-Economic Development and Research Institute (Institut SEDAR,, sebuah badan pengkaji yang berusaha mewujudkan masyarakat yang adil dan sejahtera di Malaysia.

Port Klang Free Zone's Saga

Reported in but blacked out from most mainstream newspapers, the PKFZ project has turned into potentially the biggest corporate scandal in the history of the country.

There have been reports about massive cost overruns to the tune of more than RM3 billion, claims of conflict of interest and interference by political figures with vested interests in PKFZ, and a dubious land deal.

Facts are now emerging that the parcel of land sold to the Port Klang Authority (PKA) for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) for a hefty RM1.09 billion was originally bought for a much lower price.

The land - sold by Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) to PKA in November 2002 - was purchased from a local cooperative at only eight percent of the selling price. Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative Bhd (PLDCB) had sold half of the 405-hectare land on Pulau Indah to Kuala Dimensi in the early 1990s for RM30 million, while the remaining half was sold after the 1997 financial crisis at RM65 million.

Matters came to a head this week following media reports indicating PKFZ’s problems are compounded by red tape, inaccuracies in the minutes of meetings and attempted tax evasion.

It was these problems that reportedly led to the split between PKFZ and the Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) which had been appointed to manage and promote PKFZ. Jafza pulled out of its 15-year contract last month.

The involvement of political cronies in the project is an eye-opener. Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy evaded questions on the scandal-ridden Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) today, saying “a statement will be issued soon”. (according to a Malaysiakini report, his nominess Ms Phang was appointed GM of PKFZ).

Shahrir Samad, the PAC chairperson, has called for a hearing. He wanted to know if public's money will be used to bail out the project and how will the scandal affect both the NCER and IDR.

I would be astonished if public's money is used to bailout the project without bringing the culprits to book.

The PM has promised us reforms and a total war against corruption. It is time to deliver the promise.
It is time we fight for distributive justice. This cannot be achieved in a corrupted society.
Pictures courtesy of Malaysiakini.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is MCA Still Relevant?

By accusing Wee Meng Chee, a 24-year old Taiwan-based undergraduate, of mocking the national anthem, MCA Youth Chief Liow Tiong Lai has missed the opportunity to find out why Chinese Malaysian youths are not satisfied with the ruling government.

Instead of hurling an accusation against Wee which is hard to justify, Liow should have engaged Wee to find out why he wrote the song. His sentiment could be shared by many Chinese Malaysians who are struggling to be accepted as Malaysians of equal status with the majority.

Wee had recorded a parody using the tune of “Negaraku” and the lyrics of his song contained stinging criticism against the government’s racist policies and the ineptness of police force. His song which was listed on was accessed by almost 400 thousands visitors.

It cannot be denied that since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Chinese community felt that they have lost their sense of direction. Three main elements are very important to the community, namely, economic and employment opportunities, political stability and social harmony.

Since the financial crisis, the domestic business climate remained mediocre although the national economy continues to grow between 5 to 6 percent. The growth is attributed to the primary commodities, oil and gas and public sectors. These sectors are dominated by large and government linked companies. The inept performance of the economy has caused frustration and dissatisfaction of both the Chinese and Malay businessmen.

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on growing the economic pie to help uplift the economic well-being of all races UMNO called for a redistribution of private equity ownership and wanted the NEP to continue indefinitely. Moreover, the allegation that Chinese Malaysians monopolized the country’s wealth obviously did not go down well with those who are struggling to stay afloat in a mediocre domestic market and a competitive world out there.

Since April 2004, governmental agencies and departments were told to procure directly from Malay suppliers for purchases more than 10 thousands ringgit. Within UMNO, the party had established a unit to monitor any leakages of contracts from the Malays to other communities. Until recently, MCA ministers appeared to be ignorant of the directive.

Without any access to the government procurement which seemed to be favouring a special segment of the society and a lackluster domestic economy, the non-Malay owned small and medium companies are neither expanding nor creating employment opportunities. Many are struggling to cope with rising costs of transportation, utilities and raw materials.

Recently, the eminent Professor Emeritus Mohd Ariff voiced his concern that the domestic economy is not generating enough vacancies to cater for the local workforce. His concern is evident judging from the unemployment statistics of the fresh graduates and new entrants to the labour force which is growing to an unhealthy 80 thousands or more.

Some of the detrimental implications are the growing intra-ethnic inequality which has increased from 1999 to 2004, decline in earning premium of university graduates and the growth of cheap foreign labour (almost 3.5 million) in the country.

On the economic front, MCA has failed to provide a leadership to the community it claimed to represent. It is evident that the party was not consulted in the process of drafting the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010). The plan marked an unprecedented occasion where both Islam Hadhari and Malay Agenda were listed as a comprehensive development framework and a target for the socio-economic blueprint. The inclusion of Islam Hadhari as a comprehensive development framework of the blueprint has turned the 9MP into a divisive document.

The lack of participation and engagement in the policy making process did not allow MCA to present the interests and needs of the SMEs which are predominantly controlled by Chinese Malaysians to Cabinet for consideration. As a result, there is no sense of direction for the local SMEs. In addition to the mediocre domestic economy and intense competition outside, these SMEs are faced with prohibitive laws such as the Industrial Coordination Act and the Distributive Trade Act which are detrimental to their business growth.

While the party has launched numerous initiatives, none of these initiatives is able to comprehensive present a roadmap to the Chinese community on how they should prepare themselves to face global competition and what they should do to thrive domestically. Instead of paying lip service, the party should find a political solution to the lack of direction of the Chinese owned businesses in the country.

Politically, the Chinese community is quite disturbed with recent gestures and statements made by leaders of UMNO which are laced with violence and racism. Many viewed the provocations as unnecessary. If MCA wants to remain relevant to the Chinese community, it must reassess its position in the BN vis-à-vis UMNO. In a rebuttal to UMNO Youth Chief Hishammudin Hussein on the Islamic state declaration by Najib Razak, Liow retorted by saying that MCA is an equal partner in BN and not a slave.

Rhetoric aside, it is pertinent for MCA to access its real political influence in BN and how the party can play a role in ensuring the policy making process and the state machineries are not dominated by a single party. The party launched its ‘Rakyat Malaysia’ campaign last year and tried to win detractors over by arguing that it is more realistic than ‘Bangsa Malaysia’. ‘Rakyat Malaysia’ or Malaysian citizen focuses on rights ascribed to the Malaysian citizenship.

It is an irony that after almost 50 years of independence that the party is still talking about citizenship rights and the federal constitution. Is it a self admission that the party has failed to integrate the Chinese community within the larger Malaysian society? As a result, the question about equal rights continues to linger in the thoughts of most Chinese Malaysians. I have argued elsewhere that Chinese Malaysians still think like migrants. Their lack of self-belonging to the nation is evident.

In the last 10 years, more than 80 thousands Chinese Malaysians have taken up foreign citizenships. Hundreds of thousands more are living abroad as permanent residents or students. Their situation is not helped by an overdose of ethno-religious politicking and a politically weak MCA. The perception of marginalization and helplessness is thick amongst Chinese Malaysians. Wee’s song which detailed his sentiment is an example.

Socially, the party was not able to do more than providing matchmaking services for its members. Chinese vernacular schools received about 3 percent of the total allocation for education. MCA is claiming credit for successfully relocating and rehabilitating more than 60 primary Chinese vernacular schools in the country. However, the number of children attending Chinese vernacular primary schools has grown by almost 40 percent in the last 10 years. Today, almost 95 percent of all Chinese Malaysians aged between 7-12 years old are attending the vernacular schools. But the number of schools has decreased since the early 70’s.

A young MCA upstart and a celebrity defended MCA in a talk show and said that the party has successfully increased the number of government scholarship recipients. He did not mention the yearly agony of thousands of youths who have to beg and appeal for places in the local universities to study courses of their choice despite obtaining good results at the public examinations.

The community does not need an MCA which acts like a welfare organization or a complaint bureau but an MCA which can aptly represent their political, social and economic interests. Only a politically potent MCA can act as the guardian of the community.

My criticisms of the MCA do not mean that I condone racial politics but merely to point out to the party leadership what it has failed to do in the last 38 years since 1969. It cannot claim to represent the voices of the Chinese community in Malaysia if it is only interested in playing fringe politics.

Liow Tiong Lai’s reaction to Wee Meng Chee’s harmless song is a good example of a lack of political acumen. By wrongly accusing Wee of mocking the national anthem without looking deeper at the content and intent of the song, Liow should be reminded that his own honeymoon as the MCA Youth Chief is over.

Parliamentary Roundtable on Malaysia As a Secular State

Live Updates...

The parliamentary roundtable started by the parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. He said that the country is a secular state with Islam as an official religion but it is not an Islamic State. During the period of the first 3 prime ministers, Malaysia's position and identity is quite clear. However, the last two prime ministers had tried to change the spirit of federal constitution unconstitutionally.

Lawyer Malik Imtiaz lamented at the weak democratic structure in Malaysia. He said that as a weak democracy the separation of power between the judiciary, legislature and executive is blurred. He argues that the executive has usurped the power of the legislature through the overwhelming majority enjoyed by the ruling party.

He said that in Malaysia there is an evident of a rule by decree. Statements made by the nation's political leaders are accepted as binding laws. Hence, the announcement made by the deputy prime minister Najib Razak that Malaysia is an Islamic State should be taken seriously. He said that the pronouncement is not merely a label.

It is obvious that after 1999, the Islamisation process has created a confusion between the civil courts and the syariah courts. This did not happen prior to 1999. He warned that a civil service which is made of predominantly a single community professing a single religion is going to make the announcement a reality.

Dr Farish Noor warned that post colonial states are facing a crisis because the ruling elites there are mixing politics with race, religion and language to satisfy their sectarian needs. He quoted examples of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Middle East states and some African countries.

He said that what we are seeing in Malaysia today is the exerting of a sectarian interest while ignoring the interests of the larger society. He argues that secularism does not focus on the exclusion of a particular religion alone but also other communities and communal principles. It means that the rights to participate in the economy, political and social sphere lies on the universal rights of an individual.

Honey Tan commented that most of religious freedom cases involved women i.e. Lina Joy, Revathi, Kamariah etc. The politicising of Islam has affected the protection of women's rights against domestic violence. Malaysia has signed CEDAW convention but the country is still unsure about the international legislation and has been domesticated because of the position of syariah on the rights of women. She wanted the government to implement legislations which promote gender equality and not allow religion to colour their senses.

Other speakers include Lim Guan Eng, Andrew Khoo of Bar Council, Dr Nasir, Honey Tan of Awam and Dr Hacharan Singh. The roundtable attracted mostly NGOs, opposition parliamentarians and the press.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Namewee and Patriotism

Malaysian student Namewee or Wee Meng Chee's latest parody of the national anthem has been severely criticised by politicians. Wee has come under fire for mocking the national anthem and making statements many found offensive because they contained racial slurs.

Wee, a 24-year-old mass communications student at Ming Chuan University in Taiwan, has insisted that he is patriotic. “I wrote the song in conjunction with the country’s 50th anniversary of independence and it is my gift to the country,” the Johorean said.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum said police would investigate the rap video while MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said Wee had insulted the national anthem.

I have seen the video found on and did not find any evidence that Wee had insulted the national anthem. In fact, Wee was trying to drive us a point. If we are patriotic citizens of the country then we should work hard to eradicate corruption, racism, nepotism and all other ills.

The tune of national anthem sets a background of our collective responsibility to our beloved country.

I am surprised that Liow said that Wee had insulted the national anthem. Liow should instead demand that UMNO takes action against their own delegates who had made seditious, violent and racist remarks and gestures at the party's annual assembly last year.

Wee speaks the truth and it is the truth that hurts people like Johari Baharum and Liow Tiong Lai.

Kayvaes Ate Humble Pie

Just a week ago, the PPP president M. Kayvaes told the press that PPP will pull out of BN if its request for additional parliamentary and state assembly seats is not met.

He was criticised by several UMNO leaders and he even responded to some of the criticisms.

Yesterday, M. Kayveas ate humble pie and declared that his party will remain within Barisan Nasional no matter how many seats it is allocated.
He said he would leave it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to decide the number of seats the party would be allocated at the next general election.

Two things are very clear here. First, PPP cannot survive electorally if it goes out of BN. Party politics is not about the number of members a party has but the number of seats held by the party. PPP has only 1 parliamentary seat.

Second, it is obvious that whose interest Kayvaes is championing. Not PPP's but his own. He is happy enough if given a seat to contest in the next GE. The man is merely using PPP as a platform to develop his political career. What has Kayvaes done for PPP and the Malaysian politics? Our assessment will be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

I have spoken to several BN senior leaders and they told me that likely PPP will not be allocated a seat. Gerakan is poised to take back Taiping while returning Bukit Gantang to UMNO. There is no available seat in Perak and no more room for Kayvaes.

When asked about the Taiping seat, he said, "The dispute is whether the seat remains with me or is taken away. Let the PM and menteri besar decide," he said yesterday, adding he had met Abdullah on the issue.

"If the seat is given to us, then we will continue with our work. If the seat is taken away, we hope another seat will be given to replace it. "If we don’t get one — well, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there," he said.

We will wait for the day when Kayvaes decides to cross the bridge and the moment will not be too far from now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An Identity Crisis

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi contradicted his deputy Najib Razak by declaring that Malaysia is neither a secular or an Islamic state. His statement, seen by many pundits, is a political statement seeking to appease the different groups in the country. Suddenly, we are neither here nor there. After 5o years of nation building, we are confused with our identity.

On clarity, Abdullah did very little to help us better understand our national identity. When I was in school, I was taught that Malaysia is a secular country, a parliament democracy and it respects the position and role of religions in the society.

Earlier, his deputy Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia is an Islamic state that adheres to the fundamentals of Islam, and having a Constitution which states Islam as the official religion.

He said, "We have never been a secular state”. Najib said that being an Islamic state did not mean that the rights of non-Muslims were not respected.

Unfortunately, some non-Muslim politicians in the BN are begining to accept the Abdullah's 'neither-here-nor-there' declaration that Malaysia in neither secular nor an Islamic state. I am worried for them. Whatever these politicians say, accept or embrace will have a significant impact on our country.

I told them that the word 'secularism' has been bastardized by the Muslims in their ideological contestations with the Western pseudo-christian values. Secular is only a term to describe the position and essense of the constitution. Secularism is not anti-religion.

It merely states that non-religious principles and values are used to adjudicate and dispense justice. However, these good values are consistent with the values of all religions. On how justice is dispensed through the federal constitution, I am sure, is not un-Islamic.

Hence, I would like to urge all of us to resist any political attempt to change the spirit and essence of the federal constitution. If they want to make this country an Islamic state, do it through a legal way. That is all we asked from them.

Meanwhile, all Malaysians have to accept the secular spirit of the federal constition.

Growing Intolerance

Raja Petra Kamarudin’s wife Marina Lee Abdullah was summoned by the police for questioning over comments and articles which appeared in her husband’s Malaysia Today website.

I met both RPK and Marina at Bangsar over breakfast last month. It is unimaginable for the police to think that she has anything to do with Malaysia Today.

When the rule of law has turned into rule by law, we should be very concerned that the ruling regime has become intolerant of dissent. Sedar's Chairman and Penang State Exco member Dr Toh Kin Woon had warned of the same in a letter to Malaysiakini and his interview in The Sun.

This is a clear cut case of intimidation. For Pete's sake, you have 91% control of the parliament and a full control of all coercise instruments and yet you think a few harmless bloggers are threatening?

We are more afraid of you than the other way round. It has been proven isn't?

Malaysians must now go to the ballot box to correct the wrong!

The New Media is Credible and It is a Threat to the Dinos

My comments in The Star Joceline's piece last Sunday.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Wisdom of Raja Nazrin

The Raja Muda of Perak yesterday underlined the importance of having leaders who are earnest in maintaining unity, never resorting to religious or ethnic posturing to further their political careers at the expense of peace and security.

“If they fail in this respect, they must be held accountable and answerable before the law,” added Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.

Raja Nazrin touched on the sanctity of the federal constitution, the importance of good governance and leadership and the need of a thriving civil society.

Elsewhere, UMNO Youth Deputy Chief Khairy Jamaluddin refuted the allegation that UMNO is racist.

“I don’t understand how the accusation come about – calling us racist. In fact, Umno always emphasises on the power-sharing concept and history has proven it.

“Ijok is a good example, where an Indian candidate was nominated despite a Malay majority in the constituency. This had been repeated in many other constituencies.

Yeah right, Mohd Khir Toyo elected an UMNO representative in Ijok. I bet the representative from UMNO is more powerful than the MIC assemblyman.

“How can we be racist, when we are defending equality?” he asked after opening the Kapar Umno division youth delegates meeting here yesterday.

But would Khairy support an affirmative action based on needs and not colour of the skin? You can't shout "Hidup Melayu" and drum on the "Malay rights" beat and claim that you defend equality at the same time.

The ones who should be demanding equality are the bottom 40% poorest of the Malaysian society comprises of all races.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Who is Learning From Who?

Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaludin said: “The (coming) general elections is not about politics but the future of the Malays.”

I say, the next general elections is about the future of democractic and multiracial Malaysia. We must stand up against any form of racism.

Khairy said the movement was angered by Anwar’s persistence in wanting to do away with the New Economic Policy, a cause close to the hearts of the Malays.

“He wanted to abolish it simply because he wanted to win the support of the non-Malays,” he said.

If what Khairy said is true then Anwar must be a fool because Malays are the majority in this country. That is why politicians like Khairul is beating his racist drum. Anwar, on the other hand, calls for a New Malaysian Agenda.

"Gerak Gempur" or 'Ready to Rumble' is Khairy's tagline for the BN Youth to emerge victorious at the next general election.

With such a tagline it is not too difficult to tell that Khairy is getting quite cosy with the Mat Rempits lately. Who is learning from who?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An Assessment of the NCER

The government has launched the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) covering four states, namely Penang , Perak, Kedah and Perlis, by announcing impressive and ambitious targets. NCER is expected to draw in a total investment of RM177 billion, with 30 percent of government funding, in the next 15 years. The rest will be funded via private finance initiatives (PFI).

Among the targets are to make Penang a regional logistics hub through airport and port expansion and the construction of a central transportation terminal in Butterworth. Penang city centre will undergo major transformations starting with the proposed RM18 billion PFI initiated Penang Global City Centre (PGCC). PGCC will be undertaken by the Equine Berhad and will be located at the current turf club’s ground.

Meanwhile, the NCER blueprint aims to extend the electronics and electrical industrial hub from Bayan Baru-Gurun to Taiping. Other sectors will be received major boost are agriculture, tourism and new growth sectors such as ‘halal’ food production, biotechnology and medical tourism.

There are a few important characteristics of the NCER which are worth further analysis. This article aims to dissect some of these characteristics and to discuss some of its targets which are impressive on the outset but appeared to be quite lofty if properly analyzed.

First, the major prime mover of its development is a GLC, Sime Darby. Ironically, the company is undergoing a merger exercise and will be incorporated into a new listed vehicle, Synergy Drive Berhad. Once the merger is completed, it is not known how the new entity will be able to resume the responsibility of Sime Darby to spearhead the development of NCER. The new entity will also be facing common internal issues post merger such as operations and management realignment and financial consolidation.

Hence, once again Khazanah Nasional has been directed to set up a branch in NCER to support the project. The danger of overloading GLCs with these developments, IDR and NCER, is quite grave. Operating like any other profit oriented companies, these GLCs do have to focus on their own investment portfolio and core businesses. How well the GLCs can cope successfully with the huge responsibility is not known if they do not strengthen their own management and operational teams to cope with the excess demand and high expectation.

Second, the development strategy involves a heavy participation of GLCs and major local corporations. Most of the projects earmarked e.g. logistics and infrastructure required high financial outlay and are not suitable for local small and medium industries. Moreover, due to lack of technical expertise and financial capability some of the local companies involved in the projects are merely acting as fronts for foreign companies e.g. the Penang second bridge and monorail projects. Hence, the economic spill over effect to other local SMEs is not significantly anticipated. What is clearly lacking is a concise plan to develop and promote local SMEs in various industries primarily in manufacturing and services.

The government expected to create additional 500 thousands jobs by year 2012 and another 1.5 million jobs by 2025. The numbers appeared achievable but how many of the positions will eventually be filled up by locals and not cheap foreign labours?

The government has to address the current structural impasse of the economic system. Without strengthening and expanding the economic participation of the local SMEs, many of the employments will be generated via multination companies who are here to take advantage of investment incentives, better logistics and facilities and lower labour cost. In the end, we will never be able to grow our own local champions or global brands.

The government’s reluctance to endorse a minimum wage rate for the private sector does not reflect well on its commitment to move away from a cost competitive to a value-added economic structure. If not properly managed, the NCER will become yet another low cost export hub for MNCs.

In order to promote the participation of more local companies and to increase domestic investment into NCER, the government must set the right policy direction which is at present appeared to be unclear, directionless and fragile. Our socio-economic policy is largely driven by a pro-Malay affirmative policy or the NEP which has caused the lack of a national consensus on how to move the national economy ahead.

Worse, the overzealous interpretation and implementation of the NEP had generated several inhibitive policies such as the Industrial Coordination Act, the Distributive Trade Act and other direct interventions which favoured the Malay majority but prejudiced the other communities.

As a result, most of the non-Malay businessmen did not see an incentive to commit their investment in the country. Most of their investment went into short and medium term projects such as property development, trading, capital market and others. Professor KS Jomo, in his recent economic lecture, opined that these inhibitive policies were a major prohibitive factor to the growth and development of local industries.

However, the recent government rhetoric appeared to be unchanged. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the NEP is needed to help ‘pay back’ what the Malay had lost and suffered during the 400 years of colonialism. Several UMNO leaders have argued for the perpetuation of the NEP in order to promote and defend the Malay Agenda NEP is seen as a key policy to project the Malay supremacism and lordship of the land. It is useful for them to note that all other major communities in the country had suffered the same treatment under several colonial powers in their ancestors’ homeland.

Unless the thick communalism in governance and politics is abated, the potential of a project such as the NCER will not be fully realized. The sheer size and financial commitment required to make this project a reality suggests that it takes a binding and solid national effort to make it a success. Hence, the government must move away from an opaque communal centric policy formulation and implementation mindset to a more open, trusting and inclusive national centric mindset.

Third, it is right time to review the current state and federal government relationship. Our overly centralized governance model is detrimental to the development of the proposed regional corridors. At present, almost all economic policy initiatives and direction are made and decided at the federal level. The state governments’ role is purely administrative and maintenance centric.

Tax collections e.g. direct and indirect taxes are not shared between the state and the federal government. All collections go to the treasury and then redistributed back to the state in the form of budget allocation. This leaves some states especially Penang with barely enough to pay for its civil servants’ salary and other maintenance expenses. Other expenses to stimulate the economy have to be endorsed and committed by the federal government. Hence, most states do not have the resources to spend on improving their own economic infrastructures and amenities. For example, the public transport problem in Penang dragged on for nearly two decades until the intervention of the federal government via a Ministry of Finance controlled company, RapidKL.

The main obstacle of the current state-federal relationship model is the lack of speed in responding to the regional economic changes and challenges. Some of the emerging regional economies adopted a highly decentralized system such as China and India . This system encouraged internal competition between different provinces to attract investment and businesses which are healthy to the overall development of their country.

In the case of Malaysia , it is difficult to be convinced on how the federal government and its ministries are able to commit their equal attention to the various corridors including several industrial parks e.g. Cyberjaya, Port Klang FTZ and others. The right thing for the government to do now is to share some of these responsibilities with various state governments through a proper and effective decentralization and revenue sharing system.

Finally, the most important success factor of the NCER and other regional economic hubs is the ability to nurture skilled, hardworking, committed and capable human resources. Hence, the longer the government intends to make a large segment of our society believe that they still need to walk on clutches the longer it will take for our dream to be fulfilled.

Before we even start to think about the nuts and bolts needed to construct some of the most spectacular structures identified for the NCER, we should first address the important need of a mindset shift. Recent announcement of public project bailouts amounting to billions of ringgit, the negligence of public properties, environmental destruction, poor business ethics, corruption and others must be addressed soonest because these are symptoms of the current culture which must be deconstructed and reeducated. The new culture must put emphasis on meritocracy, transparency, accountability, professionalism and public responsibility.

Most importantly, the billions which are going to be spent on the various regional economic corridors must be justified through the end results or else we will be made to pay through our noses for generations to come for the failure.