Thursday, February 28, 2008

Battle of Rookies in Jelutong

The Jelutong parliamentary seat was last held by Datuk Lee Kah Choon, who is contesting the state seat of Machang Bubuk in this election. He won the seat by more than 7500 majority in the last election.

Taking over his seat is Dr Thor Teong Gee, a medical doctor and a Gerakan youth member. Dr Thor is contesting in the election for the first time.

His opponent is none other than a popular blogger turned politician, Jeff Ooi. Jeff is an IT consultant and a writer. He just published his first book titled "i-Witness".

This is a seat to watch in Penang. Considered Gerakan's two pillars of strength in the last two elections, we are witnessing a keen contest from the two candidates. Both are very good candidates and voters will be having a hard time choosing.

Click here to view Dr Thor Teong Gee's short interview.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Battle For Tanjung: A Young Knight versus A Seasoned Warrior

In the 1986, 1990 and 1995 elections, Tanjung was an exciting hot seat. In 1986, DAP supremo defeated the incumbent Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is trying to make a return to parliament in this election, by a huge margin.

Since then, the DAP onslaught had been code named Tanjung 1 (1986), Tanjung 2 (1990) and Tanjung 3 (1995). In the 1999 general election, the seat was taken over by Chow Kon Yeow and he retained it for another term in 2004.

Chow is defending the seat this year against another first timer, Khaw Veon Sze of Gerakan-BN. This is an interesting seat to watch because previous attempts by lawyers to unseat DAP incumbents were unsuccessful. Khaw is a practicing lawyer and head of the publicity bureau for Gerakan Penang.

Click here to watch a short interview with Khaw Veon Sze.

Campaign Trail: Komtar Good, Komtar Best...

When we arrived at the DAP headquaters in Georgetown at about 8pm, the crowd starts to swell to nearly 500 people. A number of speakers spoke before the stars of the night, Chow Kon Yeow (Tanjung) and DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng (Bagan).

A first timer, Ng Wei Aik, who is contesting for the Komtar state seat is facing a three-term veteran Dato' Lim Gim Soon (MCA-BN). Lim's slogan is "Komtar Good, Komtar Best". What is more certain is the voters will choose whom they think is the best man to represent them.

Click here for the video. I was able to catch up with Ng Wei Aik for a short interview.

Campaign Trail: Brotherhood or Nepotism?

This morning I spend sometime at the operation centre of Tanjung Bungah/Bukit Bendera. Contesting the state assembly and parliament seats are the respected Chia brothers, Dato' Seri Chia Kwang Chye and Chia Loong Thye.

Dato' Seri Chia, the older of the two, is the more prominent politician of the two and also the Secretary General of Gerakan. Younger Chia who is a senior lawyer and the legal bureau chief of party in Penang is contesting for the first time.

Already, the opposition candidates have called the brotherhood liaison as nepotism. Such liaison is common in Malaysian politics. Both brothers, known for their cool demeanour. are taking it in stride and are campaigning hard.

Outside their operation centre hungs a huge banner showing both brothers waving at onlookers. Loong Thye waves goodbye to me as he rushes off to another meet the people session. I am a voter of Tanjung Bungah and Bukit Bendera.

Click here to watch a short message from Chia Loong Thye.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Election 2008: When every vote counts, politicians cast a wide Net


Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said some 11 million Malaysians were Internet users and information-technology-savvy.

He said the majority were urban-based graduates and professionals aged between 21 and 40, who were well-informed about current issues and collectively constituted a vital vote bank for the Barisan Nasional and opposition.

"On the Internet, information can be immediately disseminated to a large group of people. Unlike traditional print media which is static, the Net is a dynamic tool."

Khoo said the Net could be effectively used to court fence-sitters.

The politicians already on the bandwagon wax eloquent about it.

The Battle For Bukit Bendera Begins

On the nomination day, I was there early at 8.45am. At the nomination centre I met Chia Kwang Chye's brother, Chia Loong Thye, who is contesting the state seat of Tanjung Bungah. It was a seat held by the outgoing chief minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

I tried to coax Loong Thye to go on camera for a short interview on his chances but he refused to do so. He is probably camera shy for a first timer.

Dr Teng Hock Nan arrived 10 minutes later in a 'dacing' (BN logo) patterned shirt. He greeted his supporters and moment later Chia Kwang Chye walked in. He was immediately greeted by supporters. The four Gerakan candidates and a MCA candidate were hoisted up a pick up truck to address their supporters.

All five of them shouted "Gimme 5", an election rally coined since 2004 as a battle cry for BN. In 2004, voters responded by voting in all 5 candidates into parliament and state assembly. However, rumours are circulating that both Chia and Dr Teng's relationship is tensed since the former exit from the CMship race. Of course, Dr Teng denied their rift in The Star yesterday.

However, it was obvious that the spirit is a bit somber even though a CM designate, Dr Teng Hock Nan, is contesting the Pulau Tikus state assembly seat. With 13 more days to go, I am sure the trail will be on fire.

Last night I went to a political rally organised by PKR. The atmosphere was electrifying when both Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim arrived. The Bukit Bendera battle promises a lot of excitement.

Click here to watch the video.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Political Analysis and Commentary

From the nomination day this Sunday, I will be stationed in Penang and will be traveling to neighbouring Perak to feel the ground, talk to candidates and report on the situation. My comments and analyses will appear on this blog, other websites and through several radio stations.

Please visit this blog for more updates.

The Impact of Internet in the 12th General Election - The Edge Daily

Political analyst and blogger Khoo Kay Peng agrees that the Internet will play a crucial role in the coming elections. It is a dynamic tool for forwarding news, he said.

“One thing you can find in the Internet is grassroots activism. People who read become part of the activism movement. There are groups in Facebook to support various causes. This was not seen in 2004. In a span of four years, the Internet has gotten into the political process,” he said.

According to Khoo, if political parties can harness the Internet well, they should not complain about lack of access to the traditional media, which are facing stern competition from the online media. “The Internet has perhaps made the playing field more level,” he added.

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Penang CMship and Line-Up: The Wait is Over

Gerakan Acting President has announced his line-up at 2pm today. The wait is finally over. Two of the three contenders for the CMship are contesting for state seats namely, Lee Kah Choon (Machang Bubuk) and Dr Teng Hock Nan ( Pulau Tikus).

The list looks like a compromised one, hoping to bring together different factions, by incorporating candidates alligned to several veteran leaders not nominated to stand in this GE. There is a new brotherhood partnership of Chia Loong Thye and Chia Kwang Chye. Both are named to contest a state and parliament seat respectively.

Looks like this is the year of Rat. It shall be a tussle between "Keep Reinventing" and "Just Change It". Meanwhile, Penangites are expected to make their choice.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fong Poh Kuan: A Role Model of Many Youths


Fong is making a comeback. Good for her and fellow Malaysian women.

Who is going to make sure this joker behaves in parliament?

When I first met Fong Poh Kuan in the parliament, she gave me an impression of an agressive, brash and energetic young woman who is stamping her mark on our national leadership landscape.

She is a rough diamond. I thought she would have been more effective in the parliament is she is a little less brash and reactionary. However, I am most impressed by the sheer display of confidence and courage to speak up on many issues concerning women and the displaced. She took on the MCA Secretary-General Ong Ka Chuan in the last general election and won decisively. Kah Chuan, as known to many as a seasoned politician, is no easy meat.

However, the manner in which lead to her pulling out of the 12th general election is most unfortunate and a loss to all Malaysian women. As an analyst and an activist, I support women's participation in politics and policy making.

Although I may not be qualified to advice her on her decision, which we will have to eventually respect her wishes, I would like to urge her to look at the larger picture. This is a non-partisan call for her to reconsider her decision because many young Malaysians will be deprived off a good role model if she chooses to end her political career prematurely.

Her voice is needed in the parliament, if she wins, to provide a check-and-balance on male chauvinist MPs e.g. Bocor MPs and to bring issues concerning women and minorities to the forefront. She is well qualified to do all these.

She must look beyond Nga Kor Ming (DAP Socialist Youth Chief) and Ngeh Koo Ham (Perak DAP Chief). Two individuals should not lead her to make this negative decision. I personally do not view Nga as highly as Fong.

In the end, if Fong wants to see changes she must lead the struggle herself and not making calls from the sideline. Malaysia needs you.

My views in The Edge Daily on Political Renewal

My comment on the renewal process in political parties to REJUVENATE their respective line-up:

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said the opposition has more new and young candidates in this election as both PKR’s adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and DAP’s secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had gone around to strengthen the parties.

“The Opposition list in 2004 was not impressive in terms of qualification and political awareness but this time around they have put up better candidates,” he said.

According to Khoo, many opposition candidates such as DAP’s Lau Weng San and Liew Chin Tong had been recruited a few years earlier and had worked for the party which gave them the understanding of the political environment.

“Political parties know that to remain attractive, they need to attract voters with a fresh line-up.
“If the parties were not able to do that then it will be seen as using the old formula. That would not catch the imagination of voters,” said Khoo, adding that young candidates would attract voters.

“The nation needs more energy and dynamism to move forward. Fatigued faces will have to go and some are making way already,” he said.

Khoo, who is part of Gerakan’s think tank SEDAR, said politicians around the world are getting younger. The age of leadership in China is getting younger unlike in the past.

“The US presidential race is energetic and dynamic. Barack Obama has captured the imagination of Americans. They see him as a candidate who happens to be black and not a black candidate.

“They see him as representing the hope of America. This trend would catch on with Malaysian voters as well,” said Khoo.

He said change would not take effect immediately with these young MPs but there would be cultural shift.

“When a young politician who is well educated goes into Parliament, you will see a better Parliament.

“You would find them looking more towards issues concerning the country such as globalisation instead of focusing on trivial and insensitive issues.

“Many of them would have the qualification to debate on issues,” said Khoo. He added that these young turks would eventually take up leadership positions in their respective parties and then there would be change in political will.

He is also not too concerned about young politicians who play to the gallery. “It means they have no substance. Politicians who play to the gallery will not be able stand in urban mixed seats.
“They can only stand in seats with one clear major community. Malaysian voters are maturing and can see through that,” he added.

Both BN and the opposition have conceded that this election would be its toughest yet. It remains to be seen if these young turks would be able to capture the imagination of the people and bring about positive changes to the country.

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Interview with AFP was Misquoted

Updated: Dr Lim Teck Ghee flagged me on this article which quoted me for having said:

Khoo Kay Peng from the think-tank Sedar Institute tips the opposition to win just 5-10 new seats, with the government losing the support of the ethnic minorities but retaining Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population.

He said there is a risk the outcome would emphasise the ethnic divide in Malaysia, which is desperate to avoid a repeat of past bloody racial conflict. (This part was added by the writer who is a Mat Salleh lady). I have since written to AFP on this.

My statement to them on AFP website:

I wish to flash your attention to an article which carried my interview with your correspondent in Malaysia.

She quoted my as saying:

Khoo Kay Peng from the think-tank Sedar Institute tips the opposition to win just 5-10 new seats, with the government losing the support of the ethnic minorities but retaining Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population.

He said there is a risk the outcome would emphasise the ethnic divide in Malaysia, (which is desperate to avoid a repeat of past bloody racial conflict) - this part was added by the writer and not part of my conversation with her.

"The election results could project a very polarised Malaysia because the non-Malay communities are dissatisfied. Some of them will vote against the government and that swing will be interpreted as anti-Malay sentiment towards a Malay-led government," he said.

Please print a correction on your part.

AFP replies:

Dear Sarah,

Some readers reacted by accusing of playing up the May 13 issue and fanning a possibility of racial riots should BN loses its 2/3 majority. Although, the election may lead to a perceived polarisation I do not personally a repeat of full scale racial clash is possible.

Kay Peng

Sarah STEWART wrote:

Dear Mr Khoo

I’m sorry to hear you have an issue with the story.
What exactly is the element you’re referring to – is it the bit you have in brackets?
That part, separated from your comment by a comma, is merely background information on Malaysia . I would think that this is something entirely undisputed, and that everyone would agree the country is trying to avoid racial conflict. Your comment before and after was much more interesting.

Could you be so kind as to clarify what the problem is? Thanks a lot


"The election results could project a very polarised Malaysia because the non-Malay communities are dissatisfied. Some of them will vote against the government and that swing will be interpreted as anti-Malay sentiment towards a Malay-led government," he said.

I maintain that unless we put a stop to racial politics, the outcome of the election will be a polarised one. My post on 2008 = 1986? explains a number of reasons why I think this election can be a polarised one.

Although sentiments in the cities are quite bad for the ruling coalition, majority of Malays in these areas are not registered voters. The outcome of the election will give us a perception that Chinese and Indian Malaysians are not happy with a Malay-led government which practiced dicriminative policy against them.

However you felt about my other comments, it is a reality that a huge number of Malays believe that UMNO protects their rights. Their dependency on UMNO is high. This is a success of UMNO's racial politics.

Hence, I do not think there will be a major swing of Malay votes against UMNO-led BN in the coming elections. In a way, it will be seen as a polarised election.

May 13th is outdated. I shared this with a journalist, Sharon, from The Edge Daily who interviewed me on Saturday. Malaysians do not buy that is still possible for the same racial conflict to happen without invoking greater disaster on the entire country. We are living in an interconnected world.

The Mat Salleh journalist from AFP will not get another interview with me. That is for sure.

Qualities of Penang CM

Chief Minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon's successor must be proficient in Mandarin, English, and Malay as well as have good ties with the local business community. Penang Chinese Town Hall (PCTH) chairman Lim Gait Tong said PCTH had informed Dr Koh that his successor must have such qualities.

Language proficiency is important but it is also important to look at other intrinsic qualities of the next CM. I would like to add that the next CM must be able to carry the election clarion of the BN to "Reinvent Penang". Reinventing Penang is a dynamic term. Reinvention requires new ideas, new inspirations and a bundle of creative energy.
Reinvention comes must come from something fresh or fresher than what the past administration had offered. Reinvention cannot come from a tired leader suffering from physical and emotional fatique.

The new CM must demonstrate ability to implement proposals and ideas contained in the last 3 Penang strategic plans. His ability to implement these proposals will ensure that Penang will be able to accelerate ahead of its competitors and catch up with the region's leading economies.

The new CM should represent all Malaysians and not appeared to be acceptable only to a particular community. He must not only be multilingual but most importantly he must speak the language of Malaysians which is about harmony, mutual respect, unity and understanding.

He must also be IT savvy and able to connect himself with the IT generation who are below 35 years old. Malaysia has a young society. The ability to harness the strengths and talents of our young people will ensure Penang's ability to replenish and enhance its skilled human resources. The generation gap must essentially not be too huge.

A wrong choice will not only affect the morale of the people. Granted the representatives from more than 500 active Chinese associations have spoken on their choice. The BN leadership will now have to listen to more than 2 million Penangites consisting of various communities.

This is Malaysia! We want a Malaysian CM and not a Chinese CM, an Indian CM or a Malay CM.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2008 = 1986?

The heat of the upcoming general elections is going upscale. From Penang to Klang Valley, people are enthusiastically talking about the wind of change. An online researcher called me up today and mentioned a possibility that this election, to a certain extend, contains similar sentiments like the one in 1986.

Two things are similar: first, there are some negative sentiments against the ruling coalition especially on the lack of direction on economy and a possible slowdown. In 1986, the economy was suffering from recession due to a global downturn. Currently, the economy should be flourishing but yet we are registering a mediocre growth rate of 5-6 percent. High oil and commodity prices should have spurred the domestic economy ahead but we are not witnessing such dynamism.

Since post-1997, Malaysia's attractiveness as an investment destination has taken a beating. Both Thailand and Singapore - lately Vietnam and Indonesia - have registered better FDI numbers compared to Malaysia, with Singapore leading by a mile. Even on a tumultous year of 2007, Thailand's FDI of USD10 billion was USD400 million more than a politically stable Malaysia.

Surely political stability alone cannot be the sole carrot in attracting FDI. However, this government continues to harp on political stability as a key competitive strategy. It is evident that Malaysia's reluctance to reform its socio-economic policy has been keeping away yawning foreign investors. Now, with so many better destinations to pick and more governments willing to do anything to please foreign investors, Malaysia cannot act like an attractive 18 year old virgin.

Abdullah Badawi's decision to bring back the New Economic Policy and sprinkled it with so much communal fervour that it won him some Malay Bumiputera supporters but alienated the others. So much negative sentiments generated against the much abused policy should at least merit a review from his administration. But he decided to revive and incorporate the policy in the 9th Malaysia Plan, which is unprecedented. Dr Mahathir Mohammad should have understood better what a potent political tool the NEP is and yet he had been very careful not to racialise the five-year socio-economic blueprint by keeping race and religion out of it.

Observers are beginning to doubt Abdullah's corridor projects. The speed of his announcements hardly generated any excitement within the domestic market. Foreign investors are not rushing into the country in a big way as they did when China opens up or Vietnam liberalises. Cynics opined that these announcements are politically motivated and will die an early death just like the election fever once it is over. But it may be a price too expensive to pay for a leader who is willing to pay anything to secure another decisive term at the office.

What is obvious is there is no positive policy reform embarked by the current administration during its first term. Most of its reforms initiatives did not go beyond the rhetoric stage. Institutional reforms promised continues to be lukewarm. Coupled with controversies besetting the judiciary, some government leaders and police force, Malaysia is facing a credibility crisis. A number of foreign chief executives, diplomats and local intellectuals I have spoken to have voiced their concern about a perceived national decline.

While negative sentiment about the economy is quite similar like in 1986, the difference this time is it is seen as a Malaysian sentiment rather than a Chinese community sentiment. Most of urbanites are faced with tremendous inflationary pressure and a weakening domestic service, retail and manufacturing sectors.

It is the right time for the government to let the people know they intend to address these issues and work out a concrete plan to enhance the skills of our workforce and at the same time trim bureaucracy. NEP, based on a rigid communal affirmative action, is no longer suitable for current time. The government must focus its attention and resources to help the bottom 40 percent of the society to climb up the social ladder through real empowerment and not handouts.

According to Nor Mohammad Yacob, the Second Finance Minister, the government spends RM81 billion a year on subsidies. The whole subsidy structure needs to be reviewed to ensure that we put our money where the mouth is. The country can no longer afford to live like a richman kid.

Next, like the 1986 general elections, Malaysians appeared to be quite polarised in their voting trends. There are several reasons to explain this dilemma. First, there are more Chinese Malaysians living in cities than rural areas. Awareness is higher in cities where access to information is greater. Inflationary pressure and other economic issues are felt worse in cities than rural areas. Hence, it is natural for urbanites to be more vocal, demanding and aware of their rights to good government and governance.

Secondly, due to a mediocre local economy, most Malaysians are beginning to feel the fatique of having to subsidize the education and health systems. Vernacular schools, which gained popularity since early 90's due to perceived Islamisation and Malaynisation in national schools, are either overcrowded or in dipilated condition due to lack of financial support from the government. This issue coupled with lack of economic and job opportunities and rising cost of living have contributed to a sense of marginalisation amongst some minorities in the country.

On the other hand and alarmingly, the pro-Bumiputera policy did not appear to benefit all Bumiputeras and Malays either. Worse, to cover their abuses and ineptness, some politicians are pointing fingers at others for being the cause of their failure to help the Bumiputeras who are really in need of assistance.

Hence, like 1986, majority of some communities will register their displeasure by voting for the opposition and meanwhile their gesture will be interpreted by the majority as a challenge to their supremacism - naively or intentionally.

In sum, the conditions are there for a repeat of the 1986 general elections. If the scenario repeats itself, Malaysians will need another two decades to undo the negative impact. Our nation building effort will have to go back to the drawing board again. This is how fragile our national identity is.

This election has two important objectives. First, it will be a test of our socio-political maturity. We have decided to live together as one nation since 1957 and we must reaffirm this choice by not voting based on skin colour but to choose whoever more suitable and qualified to represent our needs and interests.

Finally, this election will allow Malaysians to decide if they wanted to join the legion of successful developed nations or allow the country to descend into a perpetual decline. If good people continue to stay away from politics, it is inevitable that we will be lead by lesser men and women.

The fate of this nation rests on the hands of all Malaysians. Instead of deciding with your feet, perhaps you might want to let your vote do the talking this time. True Malaysians do not flee when are faced with testing challenges. We must reclaim our rights and our rightful choice to be known as simply Malaysian or Bangsa Malaysia.

Khoo Kay Peng

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chill 'n' Chat with Jeff Ooi

Last week, Jeff Ooi was gracious enough to accept my invitation to be on my internet talk show, Chill 'n' Chat. I have discovered another 'hidden' talent of Jeff - food ambassador.

At the end of our food review, I chatted with Jeff on his decision to join opposition politics. He said he wanted to make a difference and I asked him why seven years late and at the other end of the political divide. He was a Gerakan member since 2000 until his resignation on July 31st 2007.

Click here to find out Jeff's thoughts on Dr Mahathir, Abdullah Badawi and allegations that he has lost his credibility as a blogger by joining a political party. Find out what else he will do at a political ceramah (talk).
Next week, Chill 'n' Chat will travel to Penang to talk to a prominent Gerakan politician who will respond to some of Jeff's views on the party.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stock Market and Monkeys

Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them.

The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each h and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 ! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. "Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each."

The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

Then they never saw the man nor his assistant, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

BN's Easy Solution Through the Hard Way

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government can easily solve problems of the multiracial populace of the country as the BN is a party for all races, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told Bernama.

He said the government governing the nation was a multiracial coalition government that constantly worked to maintain racial harmony, peace, prosperity and safety of the people."The BN government functions on the basis of consultation and consensus. This is a multiracial, united and collaborative coalition government," he said.

PM Abdullah, since last week, has dished out many big 'ang pows' (red packets) to the Chinese and Indian communities. Through the Ministry of Education, a special allocation of RM4 million was allocated to several schools around Penang, predominantly around Bukit Gelugor area.

I was told that MCA President Ong Ka Ting had promised PM to do "whatever he can" to help deliver the parliamentary seat for BN. The seat was contested and won by Dap's Karpal Singh in 2004 beating a former Gerakan leader, Lim Boo Chang, who contested the seat as a MCA candidate. Karpal won by a mere 1300 odd votes.

However, since an unfortunate road accident which affected the mobility of the fiesty Dap leader, calls have been heard around Penang and even amongst Dap members for him to make way for his party Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng to contest the seat. According to some sources, it make sense for Lim to contest a safer parliamentary seat on the island where his party will be contesting major bulk of state seats. To Lim, Dap's performance at the state level will be a better gauge of his party's comeback in Penang.

In Perak, the PM presented offer letters for a 15-year land lease to 211 farmers from Kampung Baru Coldstream in place of the yearly renewal of land lease under the temporary occupation licence (TOL).They are among 931 Chinese farmers who were planting vegetables and fruits illegally on government land or under TOL in six areas in Perak.

Abdullah said the agriculture sector would continue to receive incentives and support from the government as it was a crucial sector producing food items for the people," he said.

His move is most welcomed especially now farmers have a clearer mind to tilt their agricultural land and increase their yield.

My question is why must the government waited so long to act on these needs? In my earlier post, I have argued that the allocation given to Chinese vernacular schools was not adequate (a mere 3% of the total education budget). Almost 95 percent of Chinese students aged between 7-12 are attending Chinese vernacular schools around the country. Many of these schools are overly populated with student population of more than 5,000.

On the business front, the government procurement process is still not accessible to others, not even Sabah Bumiputera, Sarawak Bumiputera, Indian Muslim Bumiputera and others. An IT manager shared with me her story of using a Malay Bumiputera company to supply IT equipments to a renowned public university in Penang.

She was told by the university's officer to fax in a copy of the company's certificate to validate that her company is a Malay Bumiputera company. The officer told her, "Kami tak nak syarikat Bumiputera Sabah, Bumiputera Mamak, hanya Bumiputera Melayu. Kamu Cina kah?" She replied, "Saya bekerja disini, Puan".

Until and unless, this systematic and institutionalised racism is reversed the PM cannot claim that the BN government understood the aspirations of the various races.

Malaysians of all races must find their rightful place under the sun of Malaysia. Selective policies which favour a certain community will ensure the country's brain drain. At the end of the day, the overall decline of the country will be felt by all communities.

Is PM Abdullah ready to do what Indonesia did in 2004 by amending the constitution to recognise all who were born in Malaysia after 1957 as citizens of equal rights?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year 2008

Wishing all readers a Happy Chinese New Year and a happy holiday! May all your wishes come true.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Kay Peng and Family.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Chill 'n' Chat with Gavin Khoo

This week I was at Malacca to chat with YB Wong Nai Chee, MP for Kota Melaka. He invited us to a sumptuous lunch at the Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant at Jonker Street.

Wong is a Central Committee member of MCA and at 39 years old, he is one of the youngest MPs in Malaysia.

Wong is married with 4 kids and is seen as a politician who is outspoken and progressive. He is also approachable and friendly. We met at the Cafe Latte talk organised by The Star.

Check out here to find out if Wong was a supporter of DAP before he joined MCA and his most embarassing moment.

Next week, on Chill 'n' Chat, I am having a famous blogger and a new kid on the opposition block on my programme. Stay tuned!

Malaysiakini Election Debate

The Umno factor in Penang politics
Yeow Boon Kiat Feb 5, 08 12:46pm

Umno is to be blamed for the present downturn in economy in Penang, charged DAP’s national E-campaign director and popular blogger Jeff Ooi.He added that Umno’s hands were seen in many of the policy initiatives that have to come from the federal level to the state.

Ooi said that although the Penang state government led by Gerakan may have many economic plans to implement, but the foreign direct investment (FDI) flowing into the state was still being filtered by the powerful Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Office."Umno has not been very supportive of the Gerakan in terms of allowing more value-added and state of the art companies to come to Penang," he charged during a roundtable discussion organised by Malaysiakini last week.

The discussion, first in a series called Agendakini to be broadcast by, saw the participation of Ooi, Gerakan’s member of Parliament for Jelutong Lee Kah Choon and independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng to discuss on the general election.

The discussion was moderated by Malaysiakini’s CEO Premesh Chandran. Elaborating further, Ooi cited several warning signs to show that Penang was being sidelined.He added that the ongoing Visit Malaysia 2007 was not benefiting the state in terms of tourist arrival. He also said that Penang's industry export in 2007 were down by nine percent compared to 2006.

In his final analysis, Ooi, who is expected to contest in Penang’s Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat against Gerakan strongman Chia Kwang Chye, said that if the state wanted to maintain its status as the most progressive state in the country, it was imperative for Umno’s political dominance in the state to be reduced.

Pushing the multiracialism agenda

In response, Lee, who is the parliamentary secretary of the health ministry, rejected claims that Umno’s interference was being detrimental to the state government."We have to work together to implement what have been planned by the federal government. If Penang flourishes, we will be creating jobs for all Malaysians, especially for people from surrounding states,” he added.

Admitting that Penang was a hot state in the coming election, Lee said that he was aware of the possibility of Gerakan being squeezed in between Umno and the opposition to win the popularity vote.He also admitted that there was a possibility of Gerakan losing its chief ministership in the state if they manage to win lesser seats. However, he was not worried about that.“I am personally not worried about losing the chief-ministership.

The most important thing is to push the multiracialism agenda,” he said.He however said that he was worried on the issues of polarisation in Penang.“We will be doing a disservice to multiracialism in Penang if, say, Umno controls 13 to 15 seats, and many non-Malay constituencies fall into the opposition’s hand, then it will be a more serious polarisation,” he added.

But he predicted that the opposition was not going to make much inroad into Umno strongholds. He said that it was important for the voters to retain the BN in the state so that the component parties could collaborate again to work out what has been planned and implemented by the federal government for the sake of development in Penang. “If you have a ruling party that is not same as the federal side to rule the state, it will have a lot of bickering,” he stressed.

Opposition’s mistakes

Meanwhile, Khoo blamed the government policies, and not Umno’s intervention, for the plight of Penang’s economy."The government should really encourage the growth and development of the domestic sector. Stop all the wastage and put the money into real development,” he said.

“The total budget has gone up by 177 percent and operating expenses have increased 218 percent. If we see Malaysia as a company by any account, it’s not sustainable, that’s why we must have better policies intervened,” he added.

Commenting on the chances of the opposition in Penang, Khoo said that the opposition has been very ‘issue-centric’. “They always say that things are wrong, but they never specifically tell the voters how things could be better, and this is why they are not going to win even though people are not happy with BN,” he analysed.

He added that the opposition should work beyond race and religion and focus on democratisation of Malaysia. “Malaysia should think hard on its race-based politics because I don’t think it is sustainable in the future,” he added.

To wrap up the discussion, all three speakers were given a chance to address the voters directly.

To this, Lee called for the continued support for the BN while Ooi urged voters to make a change given that they have tasted the ‘devil’ of Umno dominance. Khoo on the other hand wanted the voters not to cast their ballot based on skin colour.

The importance of Penang

Penang is the only state in Malaysia under the BN rule which is not governed by Umno. It has been led by Gerakan since 1969. Political analysts are saying that the dissatisfaction with the BN would see non-Malay voters swinging to the opposition in the coming polls.The fear for Gerakan is that while Umno may be able to retain its Malay-based constituencies, Gerakan and MCA may suffer losses, leading the way for Umno to take over the state government.

In 2006, Umno started playing up the issue of Malay marginalisation in the state and had called for the rotating chief minister system to be implemented to reflect a better balance of power in Penang.

Opposition parties DAP and PKR are waiting in the sidelines, eager to capitalise on any fallout as a result on BN squabbling. DAP, in particular, feels that it could swing the power in the state to the opposition this time around. There are 13 parliament and 40 state seats in Penang. BN controls eight parliament seats (Umno 4, Gerakan 3 and MCA 1) while DAP has four seats and PKR one in Permatang Pauh.

As for the all important state seats, Umno has 14 seats, Gerakan (13), MCA (9), MIC (2), PAS (1) and DAP (1).

Watch the 24 mins video here.