Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Malam Bangsa Malaysia

The future of this nation cannot be secured on its racial past and present. We have been talking about national unity for far too much and too long. Billions of Ringgit have been spent on national unity programmes without much success. Why?

The main reason why we cannot bridge the racial divide is because our political model does not allow us to do so. Mainly because our politicians are reluctant to change and claimed that the society is not ready for the change.

Then why are they wasting our money and time on national unity programmes? And at the same time beating their racial drum in their annual meeting.

Lets come together to correct this social ill before it consumes all of us. Come join us at the Malam Bangsa Malaysia on 3rd November 2007 at the Dewan Sri Pinang, Bilik Tanjong.

Registration starts at 4.30pm.

East Coast Economic Region - RSI Interview

Please click here to read or listen to my interview.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Walk For Justice - The Right Thing To Do

In a Malaysiakini.com report today, Prime Minster Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has reprimanded the Malaysian Bar over its recent ‘Walk for Justice’ in Putrajaya, saying it should have anticipated the repercussions of its public protest against the state of the judiciary.

"(The) demonstration gives the impression that a problem has reached an intractable impasse, even when in reality, it has not. I believe it has not,” he told some 500 lawyers and their guests.

"(It also sends negative vibes to domestic and foreign investors, undermining the tireless efforts of industry and government in attracting investments (...) the creation of negative perception, through over-reaching and unfounded public accusations, is difficult to overcome.

"Even on its own, these damaging perceptions can potentially be all that it will take for us to fall behind other countries in this increasingly competitive global environment.”

Rightly so, Mr Prime Minister. The response from your de facto minister of law has worsen the public perception towards your government. Nazri Aziz has tried to shut out an open and transparent enquiry by an independent royal commission by announcing that the CJ was not involved in the case.

Until now, Ahmad Fairuz has not come out in the open to deny his involvement. Neither has VK Lingam, the senior law caught talking on his mobile phone in the video.

The Prime Minister should have anticipated the reaction of the Bar Council when initial responses to the issue were that of denial and irresponsible governance. It can be understood that any ruling government will try to curtail total freedom. But the nexus between the executive and the judiciary has been exposed in this video. That alone, without the Bar Council's walk for justice, would have done an irreparable damage to our country's credibility.

If you want foreign investors to trust us, set up an independent royal commision now! Otherwise, the lawyers must do their walk even if there is a need of a 10,000 persons march in near future.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lost Hope in the Country?

I had lunch with a friend today. He told me about our common friend who has decided to migrate to another European country because he does not think there is hope in the country.

This friend of mine, a smart and decent chap, is a partner in a legal firm. He shared the same sentiment and told me that he had voted for PAS even.

The other day, at a scholars' reunion dinner, a few friends who sat on the same table with me told me similar sentiment. Some of them are already based abroad and they have committed to come back to vote for the opposition in the next general elections.

At a conference, a number of businessmen shared with me their pessimism.

I believe it is time for us, Malaysians, to take a long, deep and broad reflection of the country's future and direction.

Can we change the current reality or should we abandon ship?

What is the Parliament Good For?

Parliament will not be debating the controversy surrounding the Lingam tape as an opposition motion on the matter was rejected by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Ramli Ngah Talib today.

Ramli said the urgent motion from Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR-Permatang Pauh) to debate the need for a royal commission of inquiry was dismissed because the issue was already being investigated by the authorities. He also said that the government has set up a three-member panel to probe the tape.

Ramli is known to have rejected many motions, rarely allowing a motion to discuss important issues including the controversial Port Klang Free Zone.

Perhaps we should kick Ramli out of the parliament and install a new speaker who is more committed to the role of the parliament.

Political arrogance of a certain political party has shot off the roof. It is time we should weaken their representation in the parliament since they are not committed to the nation's democractic process.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lingamgate

This is what Nazri Aziz said:

There is a need to first verify the authenticity of the video clip featuring a prominent lawyer purportedly brokering the appointment of judges before there can be any investigation into the judiciary or formation of a royal commission of inquiry, said Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said it was therefore important for those with information on the video to come forward and assist the independent panel set up by the Government to investigate if the video was genuine.

For f**k sake, if you want to verify the authenticity of the video clip get the help of technical experts. Send the clip to FBI if possible, just like the Nurin case. I am sure the voice and video experts there will be able to verify its authenticity.

Nazri, you are creating more doubts with the people. I am a sense now that the government is trying to buy time and lure the whistleblowers out in the open instead of going after the culprits. Where are both VK Lingam and Ahmad Fairuz? They should give us a good explanation by now. They should sue PKR and its de facto leader, Anwar Ibrahim, if the clip is fake.

Stop the wayang kulit, for f**k sake!

Single Track Mindset

Ask the Minister of Youth and Sports on how to reduce the number of Mat Rempits, she (Azalina Othman) said 'build more race tracks'.

“Proper tracks can also help reduce the number of Mat Rempit on the streets,” she said at the inaugural launch of the Asian International Motorcycle Expo 2007 at KL Convention Centre here yesterday.

Does she understand the mindset of Mat Rempits? Many of them get a thrill from committing crime and breaking rules. It is not about motor sports. I am surprised how a minister of youth and sports can be so simplistic in her mindset.

Malam Bangsa Malaysia

The organising team has asked me to make the following announcement.

Event : Malam Bangsa Malaysia
Date : 3rd November, 2007
Time : 8.00pm
Venue : Room A, Dewan Sri Pinang, Pulau Pinang.

There will be a charge of RM10 per person to cover rental and refreshment costs.

The event can only accomodate 200 people and attendance is by invitation.

There will be a forum before the social event:

'One People, One Nation’

It is open to all who are registered to attend the get-together later that night.

The forum is scheduled to start at 5pm. Registration starts at 4.30pm.
Speakers for the forum are :

1. Dato Lim Chong Keat (pending confirmation )
2. Khoo Kay Peng ( independent political analyst )
3. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
4. Haris Ibrahim
5. P.Ramakrishnan (pending)

What you need to do to get an invitation:

Firstly, as places are limited, please be sure that you can attend before you ask for the invitation.

If you are very sure that you can make it, please send an e-mail to bangsamalaysiapenang@gmail.com

In your email, please provide the following details :

1. Name ( as per IC ) and IC number
2. Contact number
3. A liitle bit about yourself ( where you’re from, what you do ). Also tell us what your feelings are about the last fifty years of independance and what your hopes are for the coming fifty years. Also, share your thoughts on what you think needs to be done to make the aspiration of one people, one nation a reality in Malaysia.

All e-mails will be replied.

All particulars furnished will be treated with utmost confidence.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Brace For Another Price Hike

We wasted billions in failed projects, through corrupt government procurement, irrational projects etc.

But we are told to tighten the belt and get ready for another price hike. Shafie Apdal told Malaysians to use less fuel and brace themselves for any increase in fuel prices in view of rising world oil prices. He said the Government might not be able to continue giving subsidies in view of the high international oil price and other factors.

Then, for goodness sake stop the wastages! It is not your money but our money too.

PGCC and Some Serious Concerns

I have spoken to some trusted sources and they told me that the developer had calculated the hilly land (about a third of the land area) as part of the green reserve. This is not acceptable. Any green reserve should be calculated and partitioned from the land area which is usable.

In the NST today, the state government has given an assurance that it will address all issues raised by the people and non-governmental organisations here regarding the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project. Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon also hinted that there may be some modifications to the project.

This is a welcoming news. Another aspect which must be looked is the density allowed for the area. In a normal practice, any buildings constructed around the area cannot be more than a certain height. I am sure the local authorities will look into similar precedence before approving the project.

I was cautioned that the councillors may not be able to do much to defer the approval because they may be outvoted in the council's meeting. This project is seen as a project with a huge political cable to the very top. Only God can stop this development and perhaps a rising people's power in the state.

I dare not speculate. Some 'hired' hands have posted some comments in my earlier post on PGCC and some of the comments sounded very personal. Rest assured I will find out who they are.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What USD25 million Can Do For You?

"The US$25 million (RM84.3 million) agreement for a Malaysian to fly to space was negotiated in 2003 with a US$900 million deal for Malaysia to buy 18 Russian fighter jets."

This is exactly how much we spend on Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor's trip to space. Other short term visitors paid the same amount to go space travel too. Back home, the Malaysian is hailed as the first Malaysian astronaut. I am sure many are amazed with the achievement of Dr Sheikh but many have criticised the money spent by the government (means our money lah!) on his trip.

A letter writer in Malaysiakini.com is furious, "We have spent an appalling US$925 million, or RM3.1 billion, to send one Malaysian for a 11-day return trip to space with a throw-in deal of 18 Russian fighter jets (Actual condition and value of the jets are unknown)."

After some days in the space station, we have not heard of him doing any important experiment yet. We would definitely want to know the progress of the tasks he was asked to do up there.

I hope UMNO can now do away with the race affirmative policy since the Malay community has chalked up a landmark progress which other communities in Malaysia can only dream to do. If not we will intrepret this entire Angkasawan's episode as a political sandiwara and a 'smoke screen' to blind our vision of our sand castle achievement.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Holiday Thoughts

On Singapore-Malaysia Merger

Singapore's MM Lee Kuan Yew commented that Singapore-Malaysia merger is possible if Malaysia catches up with the republic in the future. He said a similar thing 1996 when asked about a possible merger.

Lee had said that Singapore would be happy to rejoin Malaysia if it surpassed the island's success."They have the resources. If they would just educate the Chinese and the Indians, use them and treat them as citizens, they can equal us and even do better than us. "

However, political analyst Ooi Kee Beng of ISEAS opined that the chance for it to happen is zero. He said that the Malays will find it appalling.

LKY's comment drew a stinging criticism from Deputy Information Minister Chia Kwang Chye who told Lee's not to pass uncalled-for remarks about Malaysia and its people.

Referring to comments by the former prime minister published by the local media yesterday, Gerakan secretary-general Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye said the remarks were "unstatesman-like". Chia urged "Let's build on this and not dwell on history."

LKY's arrogance is well documented but sometimes not unfounded. Singapore is indeed more successful than us in human capital development because it practices meritocracy. However, I tend to agree with Ooi that our chance for a merger is remote at the moment. Both societies have developed differently since 1965.

Nonetheless, I still hope to see a Malaysia which can move beyond its own racial path. Taking a heed from Chia's advice, Malaysians should not dwell on our past too and forge ahead as a united society regardless of race.

On Lee Hwa Beng's Comment

Subangjaya assemblyman Lee has been noted as a hardworking person. He has served his constituency well and this fact is acknowledged by an opposition leader who told me that Lee 'has fulfilled more than 40% of his constituency demands'. This is an impressive record.

However, on the issue of non-racial politics Lee showed that he is still an old school politician. He said that is BN were to merge into a single party leaders of other communities will lose out because Malays will elect their own kind to represent them.

I am not surprised to find out about Lee's racial mindset. To him, leadership is skin deep. To tell you the truth, many of us will still cast our vote based on leadership capability, integrity and dependability. Many of us will not elect a racist to be our leader.

To take a first step towards deracialising the nation's politics, we must be willing to make a small sacrifice. Lee appeared to love his divisional chief position more than creating an equal, just and non-racial system for all.

On Dr Toh Kin Woon's Interview

Some 'little birds' told me a few Gerakan members are not too happy with Dr Toh's remarks in his interview with Malaysiakini.com. They were particularly unhappy when Dr Toh said that it would be healthy to have a strong civil society and a strong opposition. They are worried that Toh's view can be manipulated by opposition parties in the upcoming general elections.

Possible. But I would call an attempt to politicise his view as 'cheap politics'. Give him a break. Toh is speaking as an outgoing politician and a state leader. I am sure he would rather speak with sincerity and frankness than to sound diplomatic and apologetic on issues he felt strongly for.

We should respect his views and respect his individual rights to speak up. Like Lee, politicians should not be too preoccupied with winning elections but ended up losing the country's direction.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Malaysia's First Astronaut


I would like to congratulate Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor for being chosen as the first Malaysian astronaut.

A Soyuz rocket carrying Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and Nasa's Peggy Whitson, thrust into the clear evening sky over the Kazakh steppe on a two-day voyage to the orbiting ISS.The Soyuz TMA-II rocket lifted off at 9.21pm Malaysian time from Baikonur Cosmodrome and is now in orbit heading towards the space station.

As a Malaysian, I am proud to witness the event live on TV.

If Malaysia can send an astronaut to space, I am sure we are ready to go the next step. Dr Sheikh is a native Malay and he was chosen from a field of almost 1400 applicants. He made it on his own merit.

His success showed that Malays are not backward as claimed. It is time for the government to end its pro-Malay bumiputera policies. We should instead focus on those who are really under privileged regardless of race.

The Malay race is the first amongst all races in Malay to have taken a huge step forward with the successful launch to space of Dr Sheikh.

UMNO, no more excuses please!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Nazri, Stick to Your Original Portfolio


I met some gullible politicians (who haven't visited my blog) who accused of 'scolding' people in my blog. I will not apologize for really doing it this time.
I would like to urge another gullible minister and politician to stick to his original portfolio as the minister in charge of parliamentary affairs instead of pretending to be one who is taking charge of legal affairs.

For goodness sake, he is not fit to become a minister in charge of legal affairs if he does not even know the laws.

PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said there is no evidence of such a crucial bill being tabled in Parliament in the last sitting.

Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang was also similarly baffled by Nazri’s reference to the Witness Protection Act, stating that no such bill had been tabled in Parliament.

Former United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyer Param Cumaraswamy asked “What Witness Protection Bill or Act is Nazri referring to?

From searches made there is no such legislation either passed by Parliament or even in a bill form before Parliament,” he said in a statement today. He also advised Nazri as the minister in charge of legal affairs to exercise caution and check his facts before making public statements. “Incorrect statements such as these could embarrass the government,” the former Malaysian Bar president added.

For more of the story, read here. It is without a doubt that a royal commission must be formed to limit the damage of credibility of both the judiciary and the government.

Tan Lian Hoe: A Beacon of Hope for Gerakan's Women

Reported in Malaysiakini.com and witnessed 'live' by myself, Gerakan Wanita chief Tan Lian Hoe, in a strongly-worded winding-up speech, said merely listening to the grouses from the rakyat will be insufficient as what the people wanted are for swift actions to be taken.
She was referring to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s opening speech yesterday that the latter wanted to hear the truth even if it hurts.
“Listen, listen, listen but no action taken. The people are actually disappointed, frustrated and angry,” Tan, who is also the Bukit Gantang member of Parliament, told the delegates. “It is useless that we only listen but no firm and swift action is being taken.
This would not solve the problem,” she added, pointing out that those who voiced their grouses against the government should not be deemed as ‘traitors’. “They are not traitors, they just want to air their views. The real traitors are those who are corrupt, do not have integrity and dishonest,” she added.
Tan's statement must be carefully studied by all politicians and government leaders. Many leaders, especially those in the BN, are swift to take stern action against those who criticised the government but are not as quick to respond to real grouses and malpractices. The PM has said that he is prepared to listen hard constructive criticism. The other leaders should encourage people to tell him the truth.
Leaders should emulate Tan and start to act like true patriots. True patriots must answer the call for action when things in the country start to go wrong.
They should focus on substance and not form.
Picture courtesy of Malaysiakini.com

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gerakan: Set Up Royal Commission


In his maiden speech as the acting chief of Gerakan, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon asked the government to seriously consider setting up a royal commission to investigate the controversial video clip or infamously referred to as 'Lingamgate'.

According to Malaysiakini.com, Gerakan became the first BN component party to come out strongly on the clip, which has ignited an uproar within the legal fraternity and among the public since it was exposed on Sept 19 by PKR's Anwar Ibrahim.

As reported:

“We note with concern that public perception about the judiciary has been adversely affected by this and other revelations and allegations,” he said in his speech at the party’s national delegates conference held at the Gerakan headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

“If need to, a royal commission should be seriously considered,” he said to the applause from the 1,000-odd Gerakan leaders and delegates attending the three-day meet.

Koh - who is also the Penang chief minister - stressed that the integrity of the judiciary is important because it is perceived as the “very custodian and dispenser of justice”.

“Moreover, a sound legal system with independence of the judiciary is one of the most important factors in attracting and sustaining investor confidence, both foreign and domestic,” he noted.

His call should be supported and seriously considered by the leadership of BN. A royal commission is necessary to ensure the protection of whistleblowers.
Picture courtesy of Malaysiakini.com

Gritty Hui Yi



The story of two families who donated their respective son's heart to enable a young girl to live is touching.

I congratulate an anonymous Malay family and Chin Tak Siong and wife Mong Soon Peng for their humanity and loving kindness.

It has proven that love and life is not skin deep. Humans are all the same.
Pictures courtesy of NST.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Singapore Straits Times on Toll Hike Delay

Toll hike delayed for fear of voter backlash

But it will have to compensate toll operators if it disallows the hikes
By Carolyn Hong, Malaysia Bureau Chief The Straits Times

TOLL charges on eight Malaysian highways are slated to increase by 10 per cent next year, putting the government in a dilemma as it struggles to tackle public anger over rising inflation.With three months to go, the government has been waffling about this issue because it can ill afford to upset voters when the general election is around the corner. The last time toll charges were raised earlier this year, hundreds of people held street protests for several weeks.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations said a toll hike would mean higher prices all around. Aware of the political impact, the government has been quick to deny that a hike is imminent. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was quoted by The Star yesterday as saying that the Cabinet had yet to decide on the issue.

But if the government refuses to raise tolls as allowed under the agreements with toll companies, it will have to pay them millions of dollars in compensation. This no-win situation underscores the government's difficulty in trying to roll back subsidies without stoking public unhappiness too much. Surveys have shown that the cost of living is likely to be a big issue in the general election, as spiralling inflation has hit the people's pockets hard. The local media has been reporting daily complaints about higher food prices, partly due to higher global prices for corn and wheat.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said people's resistance was to be expected as only 10 per cent of the country's 11 million workers earned more than RM3,000 ($1,300) a month. For low-income earners, half of their pay typically goes to food and transport. 'People find it hard to cope,' Mr Khoo said.

But from the government's perspective, it spends more than RM25 billion on subsidies a year - nearly 10 per cent of the annual budget. It has said that the money could be better used for building schools or roads. So far, the government is treading cautiously, and is likely to hold off unpopular measures such as toll hikes or raising fuel prices amid expectations that elections could be held within the next six months.

Last year, when the government raised fuel prices by 20 per cent after global oil prices rose above US$70 a barrel, hundreds of Malaysians protested on the streets for weeks. Crude oil prices have since risen above US$80 a barrel.

The government has promised to maintain fuel prices for the rest of the year, and has held off a request by national oil company Petronas to raise the price of gas used for cooking, natural gas-powered vehicles, and generating electricity.

Like many analysts, Mr Khoo said the government cannot continue paying such hefty subsidies. 'It has to address fundamental issues like creating a more vibrant private sector and raising income levels,' he said.

Is There Still A Hope For Malaysia?

When Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over the premiership from his predecessor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in November 2003, he promised to usher in a new era of development for Malaysia . His inaugural speech as a prime minister at the Oxbridge dinner the same year was hailed as visionary and pragmatic.

In his speech, Abdullah clearly identified the problems faced by the nation and had proposed an important step forward which gave hope to many Malaysians. He lamented at the fact that Malaysia is a nation which can boast of having first world infrastructures but a third world mentality. He opined that for Malaysians to move forward, we must focus on building capacity and the knowledge repository of the country. His emphasis on capacity and knowledge building silenced even the loudest critics of the government.

His next move was to reduce budget deficit by canceling big, expensive and inappropriate projects. The new prudence was welcomed by some but fiercely criticized by others who saw their lucrative contracts terminated. However, these contractors were well compensated by the government, thanks to the overly generous contractual terms agreed by the previous administration.

However, in the recent months some his prudent measures were conveniently forgotten. On the other hand, Abdullah has announced the implementation of three regional economic corridors which are estimated to cost more than RM620 billions to build. These developments are unprecedented and unmatched in terms of value and size in the entire history of Malaysia . The total amount committed to these corridors – which are mostly going into real estate and infrastructure building – has raised an alarm of a potential side effect to the local economy if the world’s economy is not growing as projected in the coming years.

In fact, one of the triggering factors of the 1997 Asian financial crisis in some of the regional economies was an excessive investment in real estate development. Although companies, mostly government-linked corporations, involved in the projects are expected to structure their project financing more carefully, there is still an impending risk from an overdependence on cheap borrowings from abroad especially Japan. Japan ’s interest rate was kept at an artificial level of zero percent for the past many years and it is inevitable for the government to raise interest rate in the future to bring their domestic financial market back to normalcy.

Despite the government laying high hopes on the success of these regional corridors, we have not seen a surge in foreign direct investment entering the country on a similar pattern to what we have experienced in the early 1990s. This article intends to study some of the reasons for the lukewarm response from foreign and local investors. It intends to point out some inept policy responses which are detrimental to new economic initiatives.

Before we start leaping with joy over some RM4 billion of Middle East investment which came into the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), it is important to note that the investment will not bring in the much needed technology transfer and technical know-how which are sorely needed by our economy in order to move up the industrial value chain. Unlike the mid-eighties to mid-nineties, Malaysia had successfully attracted high quality investments from multinational companies especially in the high-technology sector. However, similar investments are difficult to come by these days. The manufacturing sector is expected to register a moderate growth of 3.1 percent in 2007. More will have to be done to ensure that this important sector is rejuvenated.

For the regional corridors to be deemed successful, the country must be able to attract both foreign and local companies to commit their productive resources to build real value added processes into our key sectors e.g. manufacturing and services. Unfortunately due to a lack of strategic vision in our economic development policy, funds given to spur the development of entrepreneurship, technopreneurship and specific skills through special purpose institutions like Mimos, Mara, Smidec and public tertiary institutions did not justify our investment. From the ship building project to various e-government initiatives, it was obvious that we did not create global champions but national nightmares.

On the global front, competition for the limited FDI stock will continue to intensify as many more regional economies are liberalizing their market to ensure less entry restrictions, improving ease of doing business, implementing stricter and professional corporate ethical code, training and producing more skilled labour and enhancing public governance. Hence, several key factors must be in place before these investors can be convinced to commit their resources in an economy.

First, investors will inevitably evaluate the quality of public policies in a particular country. On this aspect, the government did not do too badly in offering an array of incentives to the export-focused manufacturing sector in the country. As a result, a number of foreign companies have enjoyed preferential treatment and generous tax exemptions especially for those operating in the free trade zones.

However, companies which are interested to move up the value chain, sell to the local market and participate in the public procurement process will face difficult challenges. These companies are subjected to the several New Economic Policy (NEP) related restrictions and terms of doing business. As related by Tunku Abdul Aziz in one of his articles, some of these companies are asked to find a local partner and are often introduced to potential Bumiputera partners who are related to some of the government officers.

If Malaysia wants to attract foreign investors, it cannot continue with such a practice. The insistence of the government to hold on to the NEP reflected their lack of vision and strategic purpose to truly help to raise the capacity of the Bumiputera community so that members of the community are well prepared to stand on their own feet to face the onslaught of globalization.

Any socio-economic transformational strategy if is not focused on building capacity and enhancing the productivity level of the community is bound to fail. Unfortunately, NEP has deviated from its original twin socio-economic purpose and became a socio-political tool to protect and project the hegemony of the Malays through the Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera dichotomy.

Due to the lack of a transparent political culture and free access to information, abuses of the NEP are difficult to trace, deter and prosecute. As a result, the disclosures of the Auditor General’s report are often left off the hook. The controversial Port Klang Free Zone project is a fine example of how foreign companies, especially the reputable ones, will react to malpractices enabled by the policy.

In the end, whom the NEP had actually benefited or will continue to benefit? Not the targeted audience – lower strata of the society regardless of race – but those who had/have the power to abuse the policy. For fear of the continuation of NEP, Singaporean investors are adopting a cautious approach when invited to invest in the IDR.

As a way forward, steps must be taken to encourage sustainable Malay entrepreneurship and to transform the Malay psyche. Political patronage practiced by UMNO is going to hurt the community in the long run. Malays are made to believe that they could depend on UMNO entirely to fulfill their socio-economic needs by lending their full support to the party. The results are dismay and disappointing. As claimed by UMNO, Malay share of equity is still far below the targeted 30 percent after nearly 37 years of affirmative action. Income per capita of the community is the lowest amongst the three biggest communities. Wealth disparity is the widest amongst the rich and poor Malays.

In business, apart from Malay trust organizations, government linked companies and several large corporations directly controlled by Malay businessmen the community’s participation in SMEs is negligible. Almost 99.2 percent of more than 600,000 registered businesses in Malaysia are SMEs. Hence, some Malay chambers of commerce have voiced their displeasure over the lack of participation of Malay businessmen in some of the busiest and most expensive business districts in Klang Valley . They claimed that the community was marginalized and pushed out of these districts due to expensive rentals and cost of doing business. They had expected the Malay businesses be given special rates and treatment in these privately run business districts.

While their claim of high rentals in these areas is legitimate, the main contributing factor to the inability of the Malay businessmen to sustain their businesses in these areas is the lack of business acumen. Most of these businesses have failed to nationalize their businesses to cater for all communities. Malay businessmen should be encouraged to set up joint ventures with businessmen from other communities in order to nationalize their businesses. Malay controlled companies which have nationalized their businesses have prospered and grown into successful and profitable regional corporations. Many of these companies stuck to a merit based employment system and have benefited immensely from a wider pool of talents.

Prime Minister Abdullah has promised to open up the government procurement process to genuine Malay-Sino joint ventures but this has remained a mere lip service. No announcement was made in his 2008 budget speech to encourage such joint ventures.

It is evident that a communal centric socio-economic policy will not allow the Malays to optimize their potential and capability. As part of the process to nationalize their businesses, they must be willing to look at other options and possibilities beyond the current NEP which has created distrust and dissent between the bumiputera and non-bumiputera communities. Real partnerships cannot be forged under such environment.

Hence, with the track record it is difficult to imagine how a political party can claim to have represented well the interests of the community.

Second, the government’s human resource policy appeared to be both problematic and directionless. As pointed out by Tan Siok Choo in her guest column in a local newspaper, the current HR policy is not sustainable and compatible with the government’s economic policy to create higher value added jobs at these corridors. There is no proper management of our HR needs to fill up positions created by the industries. This is due to our inability to create enough supply bases through the tertiary institutions, vocational training institutes and private colleges.

Majority of graduates from the public tertiary institutions did not have the required technical and communication skills to enter directly into the job market. To make employable, the Ministry of Human Resource had spent billions of ringgit over the last few years on retraining programmes. The lack of skilled human resource is one of the biggest deterrents to high technology companies to set up operations here.

Tan warned about our over dependence on low cost foreign workers which made up of almost 26 percent of the entire labour force. Economies which are late starters have shifted their focus from low cost to high skilled labour except for Malaysia . The number of companies we wanted to attract in the biotechnology and ICT sectors looked good on paper but without a ready pool of skilled workers they will find it difficult to relocate their R&D facilities to our country.

According to Rajah Rasiah, a lecturer at a local university, a ready pool of skilled workers is a prerequisite for R&D activities. Foreign companies do not have an incentive to help their host nation to build up proper R&D facilities if a backbone is not already available. Our small domestic market does not provide us with a leverage to negotiate with foreign investors to transfer critical technology components and knowledge to our locals. Our attempts in extracting technology from foreign partners through Unisem, Proton, Mimos and others have achieved very limited success.

Finally, what is the prime cause of these inept policies which are incompatible with what the government wanted to achieve via the planned regional economic corridors? One of the chief reasons is the political culture which does not encourage constructive criticism, meaningful participation in decision making, proper consultation with stakeholders and the adoption of a merit based system.

When politicians choose to dominate rather than to govern, there is no political will and incentive to strengthen democratic institutions such as the parliament, judiciary, police, media, public sector and local authorities to play an effective role in the system. These institutions must be empowered to ensure proper check-and-balance in the system.

On one hand, UMNO being the most dominant party in the ruling coalition did not display its willingness to transform the race-based coalition into a single multiracial party and wanted to play a perpetual role in championing the Malay dominance. On the other hand, other component parties are not willing to risk their position in UMNO’s good book to pursue the internal rumblings and dissatisfactions over the implementation of some policies especially the NEP.

Recently, a leader of a senior coalition member cajoled his community to render their full support to his party so that its leaders can have a better leverage in the coalition. It makes one wonder how a few additional seats can help his party if the big wins in the last three general elections did not seem to help his party to take a stronger stand against the continuation and abuses of the NEP, the Islamic state pronouncement and other equally important issues confronting the society.

Is there still a hope for Malaysia ? With the emergence of a multiracial civil society, there is yet a glimmer of hope but the light at the other end of the tunnel is dimming. We have to act fast.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Toll Hike

Just months ago, four toll roads in Klang Valley saw a hike between 25-60%. Announced in The Star, Malaysians can expect a 10% increase in toll rates, with eight concessionaires raising their charges from Jan 1 next year, said Works Minister S. Samy Vellu.

I guess it is time for the government to work out better public transport system for the public. At present, it is not possible to reach many areas within the city without a private car. Unless public transport system is improved, the people will have to bear addition burden from toll rates increase.

As of now, many are already burdened by the escalating cost of living. Salary increase remained low due to pressure from globalisation which kept wages low.

Skynet Representative Issued A Threat

From: "shirley" shirley@skynet.com.my
To: kpkhoo@yahoo.com
Subject: Customer complaint
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2007 18:23:26 +0800

Dear Mr. Khoo Kay Peng,

Please identify yourself as to in what capacity that you are involving in the publicity of this matter. This will help us to ascertain whether you are under any legal duty or protected by any defence of privilege.

Please note that the statements made by Jessy to Malay Mail are not factually correct and we reserve our right to pursue the matter legally in which event we will name you as the second defendent if you are not under any legal duty or privillege to involve the publicity of the matter.

Note:

I have asked her to go ahead with her legal threat and her company has a right to post their response on my blog. Justice must be served to the aggrieved.