Friday, May 30, 2008

The Star: Keep up reform pace

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been faced with a barrage of criticism of late. But he can turn things around to his advantage if he makes the right move.

WHEN things are not going right, humans have a tendency to find fault.From our lacklustre economy, eroding social well-being to the pathetic state of our politics, some are almost convinced that they have found the root cause – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Hence, the arguments focused on why, when and how he should step aside. To his many critics, Abdullah is a failure. He has let the country down.

This is a damning accusation of a man who is helming the most important and powerful position in the country.However, due to the fact that Abdullah is the most powerful and influential man, he has the rare opportunity to prove them wrong. How can Abdullah make his reformist dream come true?

Pundits agree that Abdullah started on the right step but soon made many missteps. His vision of focusing on soft developments e.g.mindset change, public sector prudence, GLC reforms, enhancing human capital and improving inter-ethnic relations, was farsighted and reasonable. However, before even turning this vision into reality, Abdullah had developed “double, and even, triple-vision” .

Some of these visions even contradicted one another.For example, Abdullah introduced his unique concept of Islam Hadhari (Civilisational Islam) and incorporated this into the 9th Malaysia Plan, a socio-economic blueprint which previously was untainted byreligious influence.

In Malaysia, we have a long-standing problem, that is, inconsistent policy implementation. As a result, Abdullah’s sincere interpretation of the Islam Hadhari concept not only aroused the wild imagination of his Muslim officers but was also misinterpreted by non-Muslims as an agenda to further Islamise Malaysia.

Coupled with teething inter-religious problems such as apostasy,inheritance matters regarding converts, on the use of the term “Allah”by non-Muslims and others, Abdullah was seen as a hardliner instead of a reformist.

By the second half of his tenure, Abdullah had completely gone against his original vision. Pressured by his chief critic, Tun Dr MahathirMohamad, Abdullah launched a series of initiatives – each bolder andbigger – in an attempt to stamp his legacy.

Initially, the premier announced the end of mega projects but in his first term launched five regional economic corridors costing a total of RM1.1tril over the next 18 years. Politically, he allowed for racist and opportunist elements in his party to run wild. Afraid of being further alienated and worried over losing power, he even defended and sang their tune on numerous incidents. This is where he must accept blame.

Immediate steps must be taken if Abdullah does not want to go down the slippery road of being branded a failure and a non-starter.Known throughout his political career for being a moderate and a consensus builder, Abdullah must now realign his vision and leadership direction.

He cannot afford to contradict himself and allow others to dictate policies on his behalf. He must quickly recognise that by being more liberal, accommodative, open-minded and fair he will win support from middle-path and multiracial Malaysians. This group of Malaysians deserted his coalition in the last general election and the revival of Barisan Nasional hinges on their support. Umno is weak when Barisan is weak.

His chief critic understood this possibility and will try to lure Abdullah to take the extreme path of Malay supremacy and senseless ethno-nationalism.This chief critic says the government is weak because it listened to the demands of non-Malays (who are also Malaysians), terming them as extremist voices.

Taking this path will deem Abdullah a failure, which is what his chief critic and other like-minded people would like him to be. Hence, apart from being able to identify the right people to assist him realise his reform agenda, Abdullah needs to listen to his own voice and conscience.

He must “walk his talk” that he is the Prime Minister for all. Indulging in sectarian interest will make him no different than his predecessor.

Post-election, his administration has started initiatives on a number of good reforms. Parliamentary proceedings are now broadcast live, MPs, regardless of political affiliation, are given constituency development allocation, the Internal Security Act is being reviewed, judges sacked have been paid gratuity, etc.

Abdullah needs to maintain this momentum. He should strive to do more especially when the country is obviously still suffering from the strain and migraine of the last authoritative administration.

If Abdullah can muster enough political will to free the media, fix and empower the judiciary, clean up and re-energise the police force, strengthen independent institutions such as the ACA, Election Commission, Special Complaints Commission, turn around GLCs, drop racist policies and ensure the public sector is competent and apolitical, he can still carve a special mention in the history of Malaysia’s nation-building as the foremost reformist prime minister.

These feats are achievable and Abdullah must believe in his ownability to make them happen.

Malaysians, I am sure, will not let him walk alone if he truly demonstrates that he will walk his reformist talk.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

“Zero Deaths” in NS Camps

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, the patron of the NS programme, has promised "zero deaths" in NS camps.

What is his remedy?

He said “If there are sick trainees, they (camp commandants) must take action immediately and send them to the nearest hospital. Even if it’s found to be just a normal fever, it doesn’t matter. It’s better for them to do that than to have something regrettable happen later.”

This is a completely different tune compared to the insensitive and uncaring remark made by the Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai who suggested that it might be too 'expensive' to send trainees for full medical check-up.

Najib said that camp commandants “have to be more proactive and hands-on”.

His promise is welcoming to parents. However, is Najib willing to be held responsible if there is another unfortunate acccident took place? Is he willing to propose the scrapping of this compulsory programme?

I hope both Najib and Lee Lam Thye will not continue to pass on the buck because it has to stop somewhere.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cat and Mouse Game

Toll concessionaire Grand Saga has rebuild a concrete barricade to block a toll-free access road to the Cheras-Kajang Highway in Bandar Mahkota Cheras (BMC).The task of building the five-foot high wall across the double-lane accessroad started at about 1am and was completed by 3.30pm today.

Grand Saga executive director Zainal Abidin Ali had issued a statement at 5pm yesterday, vowing to rebuild the barriers within a week. The company claimed that the high court had ruled against an injunction to stop the building of barriers.

This move shows that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim's effort to get all parties to resolve the long-standing problem within seven days has failed.

I happened to use the junction last weekend, on my way to Bandar Tun Hussien Onn. It was evident to me that the whole incident was not properly managed. Cars were making a beeline at the traffic light at the junction of BMC and BTHO.

After the barriers were removed, the road was not properly tarred and cars were trying to come out from the old trunk roads as well, ended up spilling over to the main road.

This continuing saga is a national shame for us. It is unfathomable why the most developed state in the country, Selangor, is still facing such an issue. At some point, I am sure the authority and stakeholders are able to sit down to find an amicable solution.

Taking action into our own hand is not going to benefit anyone, not the toll concessionaire, road users and the government. Scuffles between the two sides are bound to hurt someone someday. Allegations at the concessionaire using hired thugs to keep away residents from breaking the barricade must be seriously investigated by the police.

Malaysia is not a lawless country as portrayed. It is time to put a stop to this 'cat and mouse' game between Grand Saga and the residents.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Overriding Policy on Public Transport


Since becoming a minister, Ong Tee Keat is surely taking his job seriously. Recently, he appointed his MCA colleague Lee Hwa Beng to take charge of the controversial Port Klang Free Zone. Now the Minister of Transport is taking the public transport problem by its horn.

He was aware of the traffic woes plaguing the Klang Valley and other parts of the country, Ong said effective and efficient public transport as a whole needed the concerted efforts of all agencies involved.

He said this when it was pointed out by reporters that there is a need for one overriding public policy on public transport because the Government was seen to be encouraging the purchase of cars with cheap petrol while there was no clear focus on improving public transport.

Ong said he was also well aware of the fragmented jurisdiction surrounding land transport which made it all the more challenging to ensure an effective and efficient public transport that would not be hindered by traffic or road conditions.

"The issuance of bus and taxi permits belongs to one ministry, RapidKL belongs to the Finance Ministry, the enforcement agencies are under the Transport Ministry while road maintenance is under the local councils or the Works Ministry."

When asked by a journalist from Straits Times Singapore on the oil subsidy cut, I said its pertinent for the government to look seriously at the provision of an efficient public transport system as an alternative mode of transportation if the subsidy is to be scrapped. So far, the government has committed to maintain the current subsidy until December.

If oil price stays at the same level, USD 135 per barrel, until end of the year. The government will have to fork out additional RM2k per citizen on subsidy. Half of the RM54 billion subsidy will eventually go to private cars.

The subsidy is flawed primarily because it is used to subsidy the rich more than the poor. Higher capacity cars which gush more petrol are often more expensive. Second, the high subsidy cost is unproductive and unrealistic. Industries benefiting on lower oil and gas price are not competing on real cost structure. Hence, it will become a major productivity and cost issue when the subsidy is dismantled.

I suggested that the government look into industrial productivity as well. The subsidy cannot be defended forever at the expense of much needed development.

Hence, I laud the call by Ong Tee Keat to come out with an overriding policy on public transport. Now, show us the deliverable and results.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pressure on PM Abdullah to Step Down: Can We Take Them Seriously?

It is too simplistic and vicious to suggest that PM Abdullah Badawi is the sole contributor to all our woes. But Dr Mahathir, his son Mukhriz, some UMNO stalwarts and a few Pakatan Rakyat leaders seemed to think so. They argue, regardless how unconvincingly, by getting Abdullah to step down this nation will be on its way up again. Our concern is which way up?

Let’s look at some of their arguments. Dr Mahathir claims that Abdullah is the main cause of the dismal electoral performance of BN component parties including UMNO. Abdullah is also blamed for weakening UMNO.

On the outset, his argument looks legitimate because Abdullah had allowed his youth leaders to wave the Malay dagger (‘keris’) at their general assembly. He did nothing to stop racial outbursts and accusations within his party. Moreover, Abdullah’s promises of reforms came to a nought. Malaysians were desperate and wanted changes fast. Abdullah did not have the ability or political courage to give them what they wanted.

Abdullah did not fear the people. Can’t be if he had allowed his boys to threaten the non-Malays as they wished. But Abdullah feared one man, Dr Mahathir. It was his fear of this man which paralysed his ability to implement his reform agenda. Dr Mahathir when appointed Abdullah as his successor had wanted a compliant and obedient Prime Minister so that he can continue to influence the government from behind the scene. Yet, advisers to Abdullah had advised him to become his own man. They would have advised him against becoming a transitional PM, a private deal which was later revealed by Dr Mahathir.

Chiefly, Dr Mahathir is angry with him not because Abdullah has turned into a Prophet of Doom for UMNO and Malaysia but Abdullah has continued to defy him – from the crooked bridge, Proton, MAS, UMNO line-up, and his other many legacies.

Recently, the secret tape of VK Lingam was exposed and the government did not have any choice but to set up a Royal Commission of Judiciary to look into the allegations. Again, Dr Mahathir’s weakness is exposed. It is not a secret that Mahathir had trampled on the judiciary since the 1988 sacking of Salleh Abbas. When named as a key witness, Mahathir reacted strongly by saying that it was a blackmail to shut him up.

Comparatively, Abdullah should be credited for giving much more liberal space for others to speak up. Imagine during Mahathir time, would it be possible for an UMNO member of parliament to call for him to step down without being immediately reprimanded. Would it be possible for a MCA president to speak out on apostasy, social and religious freedom et cetera?

What Abdullah did wrong was to allow others to rule and lead in his place. He is no PM material and he did not have a choice either when chosen by Mahathir to succeed him. It is too simplistic and vicious for Mahathir to pressure a democratically elected president of UMNO and the Prime Minister of Malaysia to step down just because the top man did not want to take instructions from him.

Malaysia’s socio-economic problems and issues cannot be contributed and attributed to a man barely had 4 years leading the country. Our eroding economic and human resource competitiveness is a result of decades of political abuse and poor execution. During Mahathir’s time, he had substituted soft development e.g. critical thinking, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship with populist mega projects and crony capitalism. These skills and values can only thrive and blossom in a true democracy, not an autocracy.

How can we take Mahathir seriously when he recently suggested that Malays have lost their rights and dominance to non-Malays and the latter can now demand whatever they wanted?

How can a racist and domineering UMNO become relevant, as suggested by Mahathir, in the context of a power-sharing and multiracial BN? Apart from demanding that Abdullah steps down, Mahathir did not provide any other concrete solution to solve our socio-economic woes – most of them are side-effects from Mahathir’s era.

A Pakatan Rakyat leader suggested that the current political crisis besieging UMNO and the federal government can only be resolved when Abdullah Badawi announced a time frame to step down gracefully. He said that current standoff between Mahathir and Abdullah is putting off foreign investors. As a remedy, he asked Prime Minister Abdullah to announce his transition plan.

Coming from an investment coordinator and a former IT business consultant, it is interesting to note that Abdullah’s resignation, to him, is far more important than correcting our macroeconomic policies e.g. subsidy structure, productivity level, human capital enhancement, prohibitive equity quotas and regulations et cetera. By asking Abdullah, a sitting PM and a democratically elected leader, to step down and not for Mahathir to shut up makes his call very suspicious and shallow. Is he saying that Mahathir, a retired PM and a non-UMNO member, has a right to interfere in the operations of the present government and UMNO?

Whether or not Abdullah wants to step down as UMNO President, it is for him to decide at least until his party’s election in December. As a prime minister who has just won a decisive mandate, he should be given a free hand to govern until the next general election when the voters will again decide his fate.

It is not for Mahathir or anyone to force a change in our democratic process using the most vicious and undemocratic way.

Oil Price Hit USD 135 Triggering Inflation

Oil price has risen to a record high of USD 135 per barrel despite having enough supply in the market. Earlier, OPEC members have refused to raise output giving a signal to the world that supply may have reached its peak.

The escalating oil price has a profound impact on Malaysia. We are an oil exporter but selling forward means making only USD75-81 per barrel. Yet, 2nd Finance Minister Nor Mohamed hinted that we may become a net importer by 2014 if current pattern of consumption is maintained.

Rising oil price means growing inflation. A number of housewives complained recently that they have to contend with less for the same amount of money. They are on the pulse of real inflation.

What can we do?

1) Oil subsidy must eventually be dismantled but the government must come out with a solid plan and strategy for both the industries and people to cope with the real situation. For decades, they were living in an artificial and subsidy supported environment. The government is toying with a new subsidy structure and we hope a concise plan is also in the process.

2) Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat should work with various government ministries, agencies and state governments to come out with a comprehensive national public transport blueprint. We need more people to go on public transport. Burning half of the RM45 bil oil subsidy in private cars is no longer feasible nor smart. It will be better for the government to look at the possibility to regulate private car ownership now since Proton is no longer protected.

3) Ministry of Energy, Water and Telecommunication should explore ways to reduce our dependence on oil and gas as a source of energy. We also need to optimize our usage to avoid wastages and energy losses through leakages.

4) Changing mindset. It is becoming clear that a lot of things in the country cannot be reformed and improved if mindset of our people does not change in tandem. It is timely Malaysians look at our own consumption habits and do not take the present subsidy for granted.

A country facing an oil crisis which may trigger serious inflation should take a serious look at our own ability to face these challenges.

The recent decision made by the government to stop petrol kioks, between the radius of 50km from both Thailand and Singapore, selling petrol and diesel to foreign cars will hurt the tourism industry regardless of the contrary claims made by several ministers.

This is move will not stop smuggling activities if enforcement is not stepped up at the borders. The government must be more vigilant in combating corruption and mediocrity.

I hope the government will put more serious thoughts into this move.

NST: MCA Tough Talk Gets Weak Response

By Eileen Ng 2008/05/23

SINCE the March 8 general election, MCA has reinvented itself by taking a forceful position through a series of moves seen as populist.

In a departure from past practice, the party is openly championing issues it previously said were best discussed behind closed doors. Its president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting is speaking out on touchy and taboo subjects, such as religious conversions among Chinese Muslims and the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

The party also convinced the Education Ministry to reopen the old SJK (C) Damansara premises by allowing Chinese schools with poor enrolment to be relocated there. MCA did all these to win back support from the Chinese community after the party's poor electoral performance. This new tough line is seen as being crucial to the party's relevance as it has been perceived over the years to be weak and "kowtowing" to Umno, a taunt chorused by political rival DAP.

But is this a case of too little too late? Or is it better late than never? MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn denied that this was a knee-jerk reaction."It's not a question of too late, but something that ought to be resolved as Malaysians feel strongly about it. There is no political motive on our part.

"Obviously, people want MCA to be more vocal and we are responding to their demands. "We are resolving issues both ways, within the four walls (of the cabinet) and outside." He added that this was necessary since the people did not know that the party had in the past discussed the issues in the Cabinet.

However, the consensus on the ground among Chinese community leaders and party members suggests MCA needs to walk the talk, rather than pay lip service.

Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall chief operating officer Tang Ah Chai said the measures taken by MCA were a bit late."MCA is trying to win back the Chinese by saying the right things but the response is lukewarm. So far, it's all talk and no action."

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng does not think MCA's latest moves will win back the support of the people."Being vocal doesn't change anything. They think it will serve a political purpose and is the answer (to the current political scenario).

"It does not reflect a sincere move on the party if they are making noises but, at the end of the day, the fundamentals have not changed." Khoo said MCA should renegotiate with Umno on subjects that are dear to the people's hearts, like the New Economic Policy and fight against corruption.

"If not, they should get out of BN. That will definitely gain the confidence of the people."

Cheras MCA division deputy chief Lee Boon Kok said the party was saying the right things, but whatever needed to be done had yet to be seen. He said while MCA had expressed its willingness to champion issues cutting across racial lines, clear party policies on this were lacking.

"Take, for example, the call to establish the police commission. What if BN does not agree to it? What is MCA going to do? Are they willing to give an ultimatum to BN?

"By spelling out their policies clearly, the party will be stronger and no longer remain vague in its stand like before."

My observation:

Like other component parties in BN badly mauled in the last general election, MCA is totally lost. While some leaders have blamed President Ong Ka Ting for its dismay performance, they have not nailed the real reasons behind its poor performance. Ong is being criticized for his poor foresight in choosing the right candidates, replacing some old guards and practicing nepotism.

Even if Ong had done all things right - placed the right candidates, retained old guards and sidelined Ka Chuan - the party would have still performed badly in the last GE.

Since 1959, the party has yet to understand why it was not able to win back major support from the Chinese community. Firstly, self-centered interests amongst party leaders have perpetually divided its leadership.

In March 1958, Dr Lim Chong Eu was elected the president and prior to the 1959 GE, Chong Eu had requested from Tunku that MCA be allocated a third of seats in parliament. His rationale was to ensure that MCA was consulted in constitutional amendments. His request was denied by Tunku and some leaders within MCA even rallied around the PM and went against Chong Eu.

Disappointed by the lack of support from his own party, Chong Eu left MCA in 1959 and returned to active politics in 1962. Only this time he was in the opposition through the United Democratic Party. Eventually, Chong Eu's Parti Gerakan defeated MCA and wrested power in Penang. Ironically, Chong Eu was first offered the CMship by MCA but decided to give way to Wong Pow Nee.

Another leader who dared to defy UMNO was Dr Lee San Choon. His upbeat mood right after the historical electoral victory over DAP strongman Dr Chen Man Hin in Seremban in the 1982 GE was brought down to earth by his inability to get the government to approve permits for lion dance performances during Chinese New Year. Instead, a delegation from the Chinese guilds and associations had to seek a meeting with Dr Mahathir to 'plead' for his leniency. Dr Lee, embarrassed by this event, eventually stood down from his party leadership.

Subsequent leaders were happy enough to endorse whatever Dr M decided and UMNO's dominance. MCA inability to play its role as UMNO's senior partner in BN eventually led to its political impotency. It was seen as a willing accomplice of UMNO for being part of the government which implemented prohibitive and suppressive policies in the country e.g. FIC, NEP, Islamisation, education system, etc.

Almost into the 100 days since the last GE, the party is running in circles. From snoop squad to speaking out, the MCA has demonstrated no real strategy to move forward. Only Ong Tee Keat appeared to understand the magnitude of MCA's dilemma and called for the party to go multiracial. However, he stopped short at telling us how the party intends to review its position in BN, especially if UMNO refused to change its way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Accelerating Penang - Step 1: Cleanliness


For those of you who have participated in my post on Penang, I would like to thank you for your suggestions.

Obviously, we cannot just talk but some form of action is needed if we want to send a clear signal to the politicians not to mess with us. Penang does not have to be dependent on the federal forever. If we persist, decentralisation is inevitable.

I agree that we need to focus on immediate areas of improvement. Here I would like to pick on 'Cleanliness'.

Cleanliness not only affects us but also businesses, visitors and tourists. Many of the East Asian tourists have avoided Penang because we have lost our sparkle and our civility. Not only that Penang is dirty, we act dirty too. Litters can be found everywhere.

I agree that the new government has a lot to do and we cannot expect miracle then again who said we have to depend on the state government solely. This is precisely what I asked us to do, stand up, act on it and be counted.

We need to do something on cleanliness:

1) Talk to the local assemblyman of your area - ask him to help organise a gotong royong. This is a good way to start.

2) In Korea, I was surprised to see that rubbish bins are not provided freely but yet the streets are clean. Koreans have improved their civic-conscious after the 1997 financial crisis. I was there in 1998 and went there again recently. In 10 years, Seoul is a clean and livable city. Why can't we do the same? Many of us are highly educated but have cultivated a bad habit of keeping our own house clean only.
Why don't we mobilise and start a "Keep Penang Clean and Sparkle" campaign. Do not print out papers and start to pollute the state. Do it via e-campaign - USE YOUR BLOG. Send out emails, smses, calls etc. to remind our friends, relatives and colleagues to adopt a clean culture. Do not litter, use our own shopping bag and to conserve.

3) In November, I have approached the state to organise an International Arts Conservation Festival in Penang. You can do the same...organise among yourselves. Veon Tze got it right. Regardless of the political affiliation, we need to stand together as Penangites. This is the time we stick together or we fall. The world's economy is slowing down, competition is getting keener and businesses are foot loose. What do we do? Like the Koreans during the post-97 crisis, they rallied together and sprang back with a vengeance. They did it. Look at Korean companies, culture, movies, entertainment, tourism etc.

4) Let me know how we can organise ourselves and do something together. Penang to lead, we must be different, better and more passionate than others.

Can we do it?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Penang's Bottlenecks


A number of NGPs (non-governmental persons) have spoken up against the need of big infrastructure developments in Penang. Earmarked in the 9th Malaysia Plan are huge and expensive infrastructure projects such as the Penang second bridge, monorail and others. These projects will be funded by the federal government and this is where the problem starts.

When murmurs came out from some federal BN ministers that some of the federal funded projects in Penang may be postponed, the state government was furious. It criticized the BN government for not respecting the verdict of the people who are taxpayers too. The reaction was repeated when crucial funding for the state tourism promotion board was retracted.

The state's reactions gave many Penangites the impression that Penang cannot survive and thrive without these funding and mega projects. Over the last 40 years, the state government has gone overly dependent on federal support.

Malaysia's highly centralised government does not help the situation. State governments, under the BN rule, are only playing administrative roles and mostly providing support for federal government's implementations. Until the last general election, the Penang state government is being led by the federal. Hence, its dependence on federal help and financial assistance.

What Penang really need is not just mega infrastructure projects but process improvements and mindset change. For a long time, Penangites have cultivated a lacklustre attitude which tolerated uncleanliness, inefficiency, chaos and mediocrity.

We complained so much yet we allow our streets, beaches and back alleys turning into rubbish bins. Like other rent seekers, we amplified our subsidy mentality by depending on the government to do everything for us.

For the government to change, the people must first change their mindset and initiate change themselves. Only when the society sets a high standards for the rest to follow that the government will move in tandem with our demands and needs.

Economically, we have been far too dependent on FDIs and multinationals to the extend that we freak out when news broke out that some of them are moving their business abroad. These corporations do not have a sense of duty to the state only their stakeholders. These organisations will move to where they can get the best deals.

When jobs moved away, instead of learning to fend for ourselves we got into blame game. This is not the time to do so. Until and unless we are ready to take the lead, we will continue to wallow in self-pity and believe that only big federal projects can save the economy.

I would like to hear views from Penangites and Malaysians who cared for the state. I reckon that we need these gigantic steps to move forward:

1) Improve cleanliness through good maintenance, education, enforcement and responsible citizenry
2) Improve our processes e.g. manufacturing, training, tourism support activities, hospitality, retail, F&B and street economic activities - we need to be cleaner, better, more professional and accountable and customer friendly
3) Improve public transport system - think beyond just monorail and more highways. What about public buses and others? Lowering private car ownership?
4) Improve local environment - clean-up after yourself, improve public safety through joint effort between government-people-police, make our neighbourhood friendly and welcoming
5) Think entrepreneur...create, innovate and be better than foreign products and services

These are some initial steps to start moving towards the right direction. Let me know what you think...

Mukhriz Taking a Hedge

Yesterday, Dr Mahathir announced his resignation from UMNO and urged others who loved the party to do the same. Today, his son and Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir said he is not resigning from Umno, but reiterated his call for Abdullah Badawi to step down as prime minister and party president.

Instead, he is expected to contest the UMNO Youth Chief position when it becomes available after Hishamuddin announced he is moving up.

From his announcement, it is clear that the children are hedging their bet against Dr M's decision to quite the party. Mukhriz's decision will ensure that he stays within a striking distance for leadership in UMNO Youth if Dr M's call for Abdullah to step down suddenly gains momentum. At the moment, a few veterans and some 300 members have announced their resignation. The number is not significant.

From my analysis, I do not expect a mass exodus ( I told the Today newspaper the same in an interview yesterday) and Mukhriz's decision has confirmed my observation.

The decision taken by Dr M is personal. It is clear that his action was not directed at making UMNO more liberal and stronger but to push Abdullah out of his cosy seat at the top. The fact that the latter is able to sit comfortably at the top is also of Mahathir's own doing. He helped to build the power base of the country around the PM office, making a person holding the PM position all powerful and omnipresent.

If Dr Mahathir is serious about his current move then why aren't his family members following him out?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Blot on Dr Mahathir's Legacy

When pressured for being called as a witness in the VK Lingam case, Dr Mahathir reacted in the most unstateman's manner - playing with racial card. This is the Dr Mahathir who had introduced the Vision 2020, pledging to create a truly Bangsa Malaysia which equitable, fair and just by year 2020.

Dr Mahathir had said that Malays had become too comfortable with being the "tuan" (master) and were inclined to look for shortcuts, to their detriment.

"The Malays have loosened their grip on political power to the point where non-Malays no longer respect them and their institutions, " he had said, adding that everything deemed as Malay privileges had been questioned and challenged by non-Malays. He had also said the Malays were doing nothing to counter the situation and strengthen their positions.

Mahathir's statement is eerie and suspicious. Earlier, the ex-premier claimed that UMNO is ailing and it can only be saved if Abdullah steps down. Until now, his call for Abdullah to step down did not create a huge tsunami which threatens to sweep the PM aside. Mahathir also interpreted the Royal Comission of Judiciary's decision to name him as a key witness as a blackmail.

Hence, as a last ace on his deck Dr M has announced his resignation from UMNO as an attempt to muster enough support and defiance within UMNO to unseat Abdullah. Yesterday, Najib has sounded like a potential saviour for both Dr M and the other 5 witnesses. He said that the AG's investigation may not result in prosecution against the witnesses and asked the public not to speculate on the case.

Najib's assurance and Dr M's action are too coincidental for us not to draw a conclusion that perhaps the two had patched up and the latter had succeeded in persuading Najib to go for the top post.

Whatever, the outcome of his resignation UMNO members must remain calm and not to allow for emotion to override their conscience. Dr M must be made accountable to what he had done to the judiciary. Moreover, he claimed to know a lot more which justified the commissioners' recommendation that he be investigated.

This is a testing time for democracy in Malaysia and democracy must prevail over personalities.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Retract the Report

I do not see any substance or justification in the government's recent move to lodge police report against several newspapers for publishing the Royal Commission of Inquiry report on the V.K. Lingam video clip before it was made public.

Hence, I echo the calls from several prominent individuals and parliamentarians for the government to retract the report which does not serve any purpose at all. If any, it will only put the BN government in a worse light for trying to muzzle the press in their attempt to become a more accountable fourth estate.

Bar Council Human Rights Committee chairman Edmund Bon said the police report was a blatant act of intimidation because the commission’s report did not fall under the category of “automatically classified secret” documents – unlike reports on Cabinet/state government deliberations or military intelligence.

“The Commission’s report comes under the Commissions of Enquiry Act, which is silent on whether it is subject to the Official Secrets Act (OSA) or not.”

That is a legal viewpoint for you. But politically, the government owes its responsibility to the people to make the report public since the Royal Commission had proposed that its findings be made open and transparent.

Now that the report has been made available albeit sold at a ridiculously expensive price, what is point of blaming the press? The pressmen are merely doing the part.

Get real, get sober and retract the police report.

Its okay if the government wants to be a laughing stock but serve us, Malaysians, some mercy!

PM Abdullah and EC Blame Game

In a respond to The Star, Abdullah said "The Cabinet had merely suggested to the Election Commission (EC) to not use the indelible ink for the general election. It was not a directive". He added, “We had received information that some quarters had bought the ink although they had no authority to do so and we were suspicious that it could be used to cause confusion and complications during the voting process”.

Earlier, EC chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the Cabinet decided not to approve the proposal to use indelible ink “on the day of Parliament dissolution, on Feb 13”.

“They did not approve because of two very strong reasons, and I agreed with them over those reasons. One was security and the other was law, relating to Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, which states that it is the fundamental right of a person to vote”.

Abdullah should understand that when his Cabinet suggests, coupled with the executive's paramount influence, it will be read as a directive, which was what the EC Chairman did. On the other hand, Abdul Rashid was definitely grateful of the Cabinet decision to extend his service by another year and moved a constitutional amendment in parliament to do so.

Now, it is hilarious and insincere for PM Abdullah to suggest that it was just a suggestion and not a directive. What is Abdul Rashid had decided to go ahead with the indelible ink and yet BN suffered a crushing defeat in five key states? Would Abdullah still sing the same tune?

Hence, BN component parties should not blame the EC for their 'suggestion' or action.

However, since the reveal from both EC and Abdullah, I would like to point the government to two key questions:

1) Why did the Cabinet act on mere rumour? Why didn't the government directed investigation on the allegation that some unauthorised parties have bought the ink?

2) Now, it is clear that the Cabinet was given a wrong and inaccurate information will the government take action against the rumour monger?

Abdullah must answer these questions if he wants to regain his credibility.

Asians' Agony, Yet Politics Gets In The Way

Both Burma and South Western China were devastated by natural disaster. Both countries have forged close ties but differed in the manner they handled humanitarian work to help their citizens.

Chinese government has mobilised more than 120,000 soldiers into the epic centre and many of them are carrying out cleaning and rescue work round the clock. However, more than 28,000 people perished. Both President Wen Jiabao and Premier Hu Jintao have visited the areas and pledged help for the victims.

I have visited Chengdu back in 2005. It is a beautiful city and rated as one of the most livable in China. It is hard to see the destructions suffered by the province on TV. I can only hope for the best.

In Burma, the cyclone was even more destructive. Closer to the banks of the Irrawaddy river, long providing a source of water and protein to Burmese, more than 78,000 people have perished. International observers have put the figure even higher, 128,000. More than 2 million people are now exposed to a variety of diseases.

Yet, the junta government has refused visas for scores of rescue workers. As I write, ships laden with critical supplies are waiting off the coast of Burma hoping to reach the worst hit areas. Why?

The junta government is afraid of outside interference of its politics. This is a recalcitrant government, long defied the norms of Asean regionalisation. It is hoped that Asean must interfere to pressure the junta government to speed up rescue work. Quite obvious the junta government is not able to muster the scale of help and relief work like the Chinese. Hence, most of the victims would have their death warrants signed by the neglect of their own government.

We must be more vocal.

Please help out these two areas as much as you could.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sabah Fever

In the recent weeks, Sabahan politicians are hogging the limelight. News and rumours of their defections are slowly becoming more clear and loud. Politicians such as Yong Teck Lee, Ghapur Salleh, Shafie Apdal, and lately Pairin Kitingan have joined the chorus of Sabah being neglected.

Yong has issued an ultimatum to the BN leadership in Peninsula, ignore Sabah's demands at your own peril.

I flew into Kota Kinabalu today and will speak at a corporate event on post-election Malaysia. It has one of the most beautiful beachlines of all states in Malaysia. Sabah is a geographical beauty, a unique land where one can enjoy its outstanding and jaw dropping landscape.

However, as our plane descended upon the Kota Kinabalu airport, my eyes were fixed on row of squatter houses built along a stream. The sight bellies Sabah's socio-economic reality. It is a poor state with rich resources.

Why so?

It is the effect of decades of neglect by Federal government. It is time for the Abdullah administration to decentralise power and allocate more resources to the states to manage their own economy more effectively.

Regional disparity is too obvious and I am not surprised if the chorus becomes a real discontent and rebellion in Sabah.

It is time for Malaysia to move beyond its own parochialism and outdated political model.

"Ignorant Lim?", Teng None the Better

Dr Teng Hock Nan, a former state exco and VP of Gerakan, has branded Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng an ignorant and naive person and accused him of playing politics on the proposed Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project issue.

His main rebuttals:

  • He added that there was no need for Lim to make queries about the project in public when he could easily obtain the answers from his officers and other sources.
  • To Lim's assertion that the former state government should apologise to the prime minister for misleading him and inviting him to the launch when the project had not even been approved, Dr Teng said the invitation was from the developer Equine Capital Bhd and not the then state government.He stressed that even state government officials were at the launch as invited guests and played no part in organising the event.
  • He said the prime minister himself requested, during the launch, that the state government facilitate and assist in the approval of the project
  • To another question as to why the state government allowed the developer to sell and promote the project despite the fact that no approval had been given, Dr Teng said: "If the developer wants to do a conceptual launch or promote the project, we cannot stop them. Also, we were not aware what the developer was promoting."
  • On the move to rezone the Turf Club land from recreational/open space to new development in the state structural plan, Dr Teng said it was done so that the land could be developed in the future."As far as I am concerned, any development can take place on the land and it is not confined to the PGCC project."
  • "You must understand that this is a private land which belongs to a private club and since there was an application to develop it, we figured that it was best to include it into the structural plan."
Teng's answers smacked of insincerity and ignorance.

1) When the new administration took office, most of the documents were either removed or destroyed. Isn't the responsibility of the previous government to be accountable for its actions? If Dr Koh wants to be known as a gentleman politician, surely some honest reply will not hurt but may instead put Gerakan in a good light.

2) On the invitation, granted the PM was not being misled. He was very much part of the project anyway. But why didn't Teng, Dr Koh and several BN councillors stayed away from the launch knowing that it was a controversial project yet to receive approvals? Dr Koh did make a statement that he hoped PGCC will be similar like KLCC so he could enjoy his coffee and at the same time admiring the environment. By attending the launch, the state government is very much part of the event.

3) I remembered talking to some Gerakan leaders about the project and requested them to scale it down. They remarked its difficult for Tsu Koon to defy the PM since the latter had instructed him to expedite the approvals. Only when the issue became a big political risk for BN, Tsu Koon announced that approvals will be considered only after the GE.

4) It is the ignorance of Teng to claim that the state cannot do anything if developers wanted to promote a yet to be approved project. It showed how the last administration was totally out of touch with governance in Penang. Projects yet to be approved cannot be promoted and marketed to the public. It is silly to suggest that its okay for developers to sell projects which are not in existence!

5) By approving the conversion of the land status without determining what would be build on the land is reckless and irresponsible. It is inaccurate for Teng to say that any form of development can take place on the piece of land. There are local council requirements which must be met e.g. green area provision, no of floors allowed, allocation for low cost housing, public amenities ,traffic congestion etc. If what Teng suggested was what happened in the past, then his administration was hopeless and probably responsible for spate of badly developed projects in Penang e.g. Bukit Bendera/Air Putih condos...etc.

Teng should be more responsible in making a statement.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 13th - Ten More Minutes

Its 11.50pm on 13th May 2008. An ugly incident, racial riots, took place today 39 years ago. A number of politicians from Pakatan Rakyat have called for a royal commission to get to the bottom of the incident.

This may not be the best way to move forward. Families who had lost their loved ones during that ugly episode may find their old wound opening up again.

For Malaysia to move forward, it is best we end racial politics and all its misgivings and abuses. From now onwards, people of all races should be known simply as Malaysians.

Replace the NEP...which is a socio-economic reengineering tool taking its roots from the incident. We can care for all races who are poor without the NEP. Just make resources and assistance available for all needy Malaysians.

Politicians are the biggest stumbling block not the people. It is time for us to reconcile our differences.

Goodbye May 13th!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Social Contract and Malay Supremacism

Reported in Malaysiakini.com, "There is no such thing as social contract," said Ungku Aziz, a panelist in the 25th Anniversary Look East Policy Forum.

Ungku Aziz said the social contract should rightly be called an "economic contract" to justify affirmative action in areas of education and health for groups that needed it the most.

Dr Mahathir however disagreed with Ungku Aziz and stressed that a social contract exists albeit not in written form. Mahathir explained that the social contract was an "understanding among founders of the alliance (government)" by Tunku Abdul Rahman. During the era of Mahathir's rule, social contract became a sacred term. It was untouchable and political suicidal for anyone dared to question it.

During the Gerakan's Anak Malaysia Convention in 2005, then Gerakan President Dr Lim Keng Yaik spoke about a need to review the social contract by considering and incorporating the contributions of all races in nation building. He was immediately attacked by several Umno leaders including Shahidan Kassim, Muhammad Rustam and Umno Youth leaders who demanded for the resignation Dr Lim.

Today's forum on Malay Supremacism in Channel 9 with Azmi Sharom and Malek Munip was particularly interesting. Azmi argued that NEP and Malay supremacism must be toned down and a new policy focusing on needs regardless of race must be ushered in if the government wants to improve national unity.

Malek disagreed. He said that Malay supremacism is about dominance and hegemony but the marginalisation of Malays during colonial period. Parroting Najib, he said Malays were dominated for more than 500 years and this debt is impossible to be paid back in 30 years, hinting that NEP must continue.

This is precisely the main problem in the Malay mindset. It is obvious that other communities did not marginalise the Malays but NEP did. Through the NEP, politicians were able to consolidate their power and position by shifting resources to their key supporters. As a result, like Azmi pointed out the income gap amongst rich and poor Malays is huge.

One can understand the feeling of being marginalised by the colonial powers. However, other Malaysians should be made to pay for the debt accrued by these powers. Malay leaders must be willing to move forward and motivate this country to focus on its future and not merely its past.

It is too late to talk about colonial debt if the society is in doldrums.

Mahathir may be right about the social contract. It was an intra-coalition agreement made between leaders of MCA, MIC and Umno. This coalition was expanded in 1974 to incorporate more communal based parties.

What Mahathir appears to have hinted is a new coalition government does not necessary have to implement the contract since it was a purely Alliance/BN agreement.

United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) has ticked off Umno for harping on the 'Ketuanan Melayu' issue. Party vice-president Dr Marcus Mojigoh warned that this could lead to the downfall of the Barisan government.

Marcus is right. Many Malaysians are fed-up with the inability of politicians to move in tandem with the society. In most issues, politicians claimed that the society is not ready to handle open discussion. After the 12th General Election, clearly politicians are the ones left behind.

Buck UP! The real supremacism is brain power and not skin deep.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Medical Check Up for NS Trainees Unlikely Soon

The proposed full body check-up for National Service (NS) trainees, beginning next intake, may be a better and reliable option but is unlikely to be implemented soon.

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said this was because the move would incur a huge cost and involve a more complicated structure of who should bear it.

“The question is, who is going to bear the cost? The parents? They will make a lot of noise if the cost is passed to them. We need to study it”.

My advice to Liow is go to ahead with the full body check-up for all trainees. Parents would have spent more than hundreds of thousands ringgit to bring up their children by the time they reached 18 years old.

If the government wants to enlist them on a compulsory programme, regardless how silly and meaningless it is, it must be willing to fork out RM400-500 per trainee to ensure necessary precautions are taken before submitting the trainee to streneuous training. The money comes from tax payers anyway so what is the fuss about who bear the cost?

Previously, I had found Liow's stand against Wee Meng Chee's parody distasteful, the minister has repeated the same silly, distasteful and uncaring statement again.

If the government finds the full body check-up expensive, don't the people/tax payers find the RM500 million expenses a year on NS programme expensive too?

Silly!

Friday, May 09, 2008

NS = "Naik Syurga?" (Go to Heaven)


National service (NS) trainee Too Hui Min (pic) had complained of constipation for three days before she died and her family wants to know why camp officials did not take her to the hospital earlier. Does this sound familiar to you?

In the past, parents and youths were so eager to participate in the NS programme. Today, many parents are willing to face the long arm of law to protect their children from being called for duty. Probably, the Malaysian NS has the highest casualties among non-combat programmes worldwide.

Why? Poor facilities, poor physical conditions in camps, lack of medical support, insensitive trainers and many more. I am wondering why must the people be made to pay RM500 million to support this programme and got nothing back from it?

Worse, I am feeling guilty now because my tax money helped to fund a programme which brought heartache and grief to dozens of parents who lost their children to this programme.

Does this programme help our inter-ethnic relations? Not before, not now and probably won't in the future if politicians themselves cannot change their own racist way and end racist politics in Malaysia.

Why must these children sacrifice their time, energy, sweat, tears, blood and life so that politicians can brag that they have contributed significantly to national unity. Unity my FOOT!
What is the use of this flimsy clarion of national unity if politicians like Ahmad Shabery Cheek was trying to racialise pig farming and justify the use of "ketuanan Melayu"?
What is the use of this expensive and killer programme if some ultras are still shouting racist slogans and beating their chest claiming to be race champions?

STOP THIS STUPID NS! Do not be a killer! Look at the face of this innocent victim. She lost her life so that fools like us can continue to support this idiotic social reengineering programme when the ruling coalition is made of mostly bloody racist parties.
My condolences to the Toos.

Ong Tee Keat: Drop the "Ketuanan"

My friend and MCA Vice President Ong Tee Keat has said it loud and clear. "Drop the ketuanan". When asked about possible backlash against his statement, Ong responded "What backlash? I’m speaking the truth.”

Ong said the phrase "Ketuanan Melayu" had nothing to do with the Federal Constitution and was not something that needed to be said any more considering the special position the Malays already have.

“For other races, ketuanan (superiority) implies the word kehambaan (slavery). The root word of ketuanan is tuan (master), and that does not give it a good meaning.

“In Malaysia, we have lived together for so long and the relationship is not the same as between a master and a slave,” added Ong.

Nevertheless, UMNO leaders including Abdullah Badawi have tried to play with this rhetoric to prolong the use of the phrase. The PM justified its use by saying that the Malays need something to rally them for betterment.

In today's world, superiority refers to knowledge and power. A knowledgeable society is a superior society. If the Malays want to be more superior, they should be encouraged to acquire the right knowledge to enhance their socio-economic position in the country. Power, of course, is a realist terminology. A developed society with access to both knowledge and resources is a powerful society e.g. Japan, US, Germany etc.

If the phrase "ketuanan" is used in a feudalistic context where superiority is given through birth then the community is surely being misled to believe in such nonsense as superiority through social status or legislation.

I applaud Tee Keat for his frankness and his courage to speak out the truth. I urge MCA members to support him as their next President because he is definitely more forward thinking than any others.

Penang Global City Centre Controversy


So far, Dr Koh Tsu Koon has remained mum over the controversy surrounding the PGCC project. While the ex-chief minister is going around the country trying to impress upon Gerakan members that he is such a gentleman for the smooth transition of power to DAP, Koh has remained silence over more serious issues concerning the state. One of such issues is the PGCC.

Until now, the Acting President of Gerakan has failed to answer critics why he helped to launch a project without any necessary approval given to it. In a Malaysiakini.com report, members of the Penang Turf Club have lodged a report on alleging that the Penang state government lost an estimated RM200 million in revenue when it took upon itself to re-zone the turf club land to ‘mixed development’ for the PGCC project.

Koh has a duty to come out clean on this allegation and the previous ones on the project. According to Tan Kok Ping, a member of the turf club, in so doing, then chief minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon had helped PGCC developer Abad Naluri Sdn Bhd in not having to pay the hefty premium fee for the land conversion.

This is a serious allegation which taints Dr Koh's service record as the state 3rd CM. If he is a responsible leader/politician as self-proclaimed, he should come out to clear his name. Koh's involvement in this issue becomes a key consideration if he is still fit to continue leading the party.

PGCC was a huge election issue used against Gerakan/BN candidates with great success. Hence, he must answer these key questions:

1) Why did he help to launch a project which has yet to receive any approval from the authority?

2) Why didn't his administration charge the conversion fee of RM200 million to Abad Naluri Sdn Bhd?

3) Was he pressured to speedtrack the project by anyone above the hierarchy? If yes, what was the personal interest involved?

Without a proper accountability, there is absolutely no chance for both Koh and Gerakan to make a comeback in Penang.
Picture courtesy of Malaysiakini.com

First Step: Improve Cleanliness

I have just moved back to a familiar neighbourhood in Petaling Jaya from my former rented place in Puchong. However, the same sight and smell greeted me when I went to the Section 17 wet market for my lunch last week.

Like usual, the place, after the wet market operating hours, was littered with rubbish, chicken feathers, rotten fish heads and other smelly garbage. This does not look like one of the most affluent and educated parts of Selangor that we know. It looks pretty much like a third world wet market.

Worse, the Petaling Jaya Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian service centre is just right opposite the market. Perhaps both Hee and Edward Lee, the assemblyman of Bukit Gasing can help to do something about the place. It is time we educate the store operators and buyers about cleanliness. This is something many of us, voters, had hoped to change in the last general election.

Back in Penang, the situation hasn't change as well. Around Georgetown is still dirty and worn out. Rightly, we need to give the new government some time to correct the past neglect. Perhaps it is timely for politicians to stop the ruckus and rhetoric in both the state assemblies and parliament and focus on doing their job.

We should start by improving CLEANLINESS!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

No to Local Election

In a Malaysiakini report, Minister of Housing and Local Government Ong Ka Chuan said NO to local election.

‘No' to local government election

Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Chuan has said the government has no intention to re-introduce the local government elections.

He said this in a written reply to Liew Chin Tong (DAP-Bukit Bendera).

Since taking over from his brother, Ka Ting, as a cabinet minister, Ka Chuan can only move backward. Earlier I blogged on Ka Chuan's response to Tee Keat on MCA going multiracial. He said NO as well.

What else can Ka Chuan contribute to national politics if he had shot down two very good proposals? Any of these proposals would have been monumental for Malaysian politics.

Ka Chuan should realise that putting the local councils to vote will make them more accountable to serve the people. His brother encountered many problems previously with these councils - mostly controlled by political warlords e.g. the late Zakaria Mat Deros - and yet his ministry is powerless against these councils. Just take a look at MPSP in Penang. It spent mostly on stupid buildings instead of upgrading public amenities. As a result, it is almost bankrupt. It does not involve Ka Chuan's money but those tax payers in Seberang Perai will have to put up with such unscrupulous management.

By saying NO to local elections, Ka Chuan did not provide any alternative to his decision. I am not too sure now if he is even fit to become a minister yet alone a Secretary General of his party which is making an outlandish claim of representing my rights as a Chinese Malaysian. I do not need a leader such as Ka Chuan to represent me or my family.

Such a leader is a stumbling block to democratization and political reform. MCA members should just ditch him in the next party election.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NST: Opinion

OPINION: All in a lather over the Kah Choon switch
By SHANNON TEOH
2008/05/07

Pakatan Rakyat has ruled for almost two months in three states with significant Chinese populations. SHANNON TEOH ponders if Datuk Lee Kah Choon’s exit from Gerakan could be the first of many among the predominantly Chinese parties

"I DON'T see what the big hoo-ha is all about," says Fui K. Soong, chief executive officer of the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research, MCA's think-tank. She feels Datuk Lee Kah Choon should just be left to work on his new jobs.

She's probably right that the former Gerakan deputy secretary-general should be allowed to choose between his professional aspirations and his political affiliations.

"Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye jumped from DAP to 'pro-establishment' for the same reason, because he wanted to serve," Fui notes.

But the "hoo-ha" is there because the move has sparked many other debates, chief among them the question of crossovers.

Prior to Lee's appointments, Barisan Nasional (BN) deputy chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak had dismissed claims of MPs crossing over. He has since decided that "we have to deal with it with urgency".

"We cannot dismiss it as pure fabrication."

Across the fence, Lim Guan Eng's election strategist Liew Chin Tong claims that the chief minister's offer to Lee to helm Penang Development Corporation and investPenang was a move to foster bipartisan co-operation -- no invitation has ever been made to Lee to join the party.

Liew, now MP for Bukit Bendera, infers from the election results that many BN members in Penang must have voted for DAP candidates.

"We recognise the support from BN members and this encourages us to be inclusive. "We complained about BN excluding us from everything, so now we are encouraging co-operation."

While BN leaders disagree and worry about "mutiny", some grassroots members have spoken in support of Lee."We object to the use of the word 'crossover'," says Cheras division chief Dr Hsu Dar Ren."He wanted to still be a Gerakan member. We see it as a civil service post for the betterment of the people."

Dr Hsu is in a group of Kuala Lumpur-based leaders, led by KL-Federal Territory chief Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong, who blame party adviser Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik for the loss of Lee, widely regarded as a leader of integrity and ability.

While many observers may not see Lee's move as a defection, there is no doubt that this has led to thoughts about crossovers, especially among disillusioned members of BN's predominantly Chinese parties, Gerakan and MCA.

In Penang, Perak and Selangor, states with a large proportion of Chinese, the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) governments have been rolling out reformist policies; issuing land titles to villagers and modernising pig farming. Fui notes that the election saw volunteerism swinging in DAP's favour, with people queuing up to be polling agents.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, formerly with Gerakan's Sedar think-tank, feels it is legitimate to cross over as there is no point to being part of a winning team if you can't play a role." Even if they feel they can be more vocal now in BN, can they be as vocal as Pakatan Rakyat? In BN, you will be reprimanded for being too outspoken."

Ong Kian Ming, now reading for a doctorate in political science at Duke University in the US, claims that higher up the chain, politicians will look to protect their interests."They can still leverage appointments such as directors of public-listed companies," he says, citing the instance of Datuk Chor Chee Heung after he was dropped as a deputy minister in 2004.

Khoo notes, however, that PR now has many positions in state government agencies to fill."They are plugging gaps. In any industry, if you're new, what you do is hire experienced people from your competitors because it will benefit you and hurt the competition."

Fui observes: "It's the same as what Parti Bersatu Sabah did in 1986 and Gerakan in 1969. In DAP's case, it is hiring people out of BN to plug the gaps."But would such a policy cause strife in DAP?

Party chairman Karpal Singh has expressed a personal view that Lim should not have offered such a position to a BN member. Perhaps he was aware that DAP members might not have been happy with being overlooked.But

Khoo thinks Karpal should rest easy, as there are more positions than can be filled internally: "The reality now is that if you don't promote your good people, they can and will leave because so many positions are available. It's career enhancement."

Liew sees the party as masterful at acquisitions. The recent crop of MPs such as Tony Pua and Charles Santiago have emulated the likes of vice-chairman and three-time Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw, who joined DAP in the late 1970s.

Reformers in both Gerakan and the MCA want the BN structure re-examined due to the perceived dominance of Umno. Some Gerakan members also call for a return to a multiracial platform. On the other hand, some MCA members want the party to be seen to do more to champion the interests of the Chinese.

However, while leadership change is not inconceivable, these reformers look set to be disappointed.Much of the focus will be on the perceived failings of top leadership in the March 8 aftermath. It is only among a few grassroots leaders such as Dr Hsu and perhaps some veterans of the heady days of 1969 in Gerakan that there is a rethinking of ideology.

These figures have even mooted the idea of leaving the race-based politics of BN to pursue their multiethnic ideology. Says Dr Hsu: "It's almost impossible to realise our ideology in BN. There has been a suggestion that we form a third bloc that supports good policies from either coalition."
Khoo, however, thinks there is insufficient sentiment to turn the ship around. "Those seeking reform want to trigger more divisions and branches to speak out. But it has not happened."

The endgame is uncertain. The more idealistic Gerakan members also happen to be the more loyal and are likely to follow the example of Dr Hsu, who insists he would rather duke it out in the party than leave.

Khoo says it is hard to predict any crossovers, as it would depend on whether PR would have a role for them. But he is certain many would quit if they see no change.

Perhaps Fui's attitude is the most pragmatic, given the circumstances."It's a good opportunity to clean up the system. Then you will know that those who are left behind are the ones genuinely with the party."

p/s: NST got my picture wrong. The picture displayed is that of Prof Khoo Kay Khim.

Help Burma!

Like many other Buddhist majority countries, Burmese people are polite, cultured and dignified despite their poverty. Now the country is devastated by a fierce cyclone. The only little relief we can afford should be given to them especially those victims who are now homeless or suffered the death of loved ones.

Please donate generously to The Star's organised Myanmar Relief Fund.

Cheques must be made payable to Mercy Malaysia. Write Myanmar Relief Fund on the back of the cheques as well as your name and address so that receipts can be issued.

Because of the urgency of the matter, our collection will only be for two weeks.

Cheques can be sent to:

Myanmar Relief Fund Star Publications (M) Bhd Menara Star 15, Jalan 16/11 Petaling Jaya 46350 Selangor.

Readers can also drop off their cheques at our collection box at the above address.

For inquiries, call: 03-79671388 ext 1121.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Immortalizing Raja Petra Kamaruddin?

Raja Petra or fondly known as RPK to many is the web administrator of a popular website Malaysia Today. He looks younger than his 58 years of age. In the last general election, I remembered, RPK was a hit. His presence in Penang was eagerly awaited by voters. Somehow, he was not allowed to speak on the Penang Island.

I first met RPK in a number of bloggers' forums and events. Later we met up for breakfast in Bangsar with his pretty wife and a few mutual friends to talk about politics - what else?

RPK brought along his book on the "Khairy Cronicles" and all of us bought a copy from him, partly to contribute to his good effort. I did not finish the book, maybe due to my distaste of politicians abusing their power and position. Partly also my time should not be wasted on the alleged accesses of Khairy.

But my breakfast meeting with RPK was an exciting one. He told us stories about being 'abducted' by police when he was taken into custody under the draconian ISA. His many other equally interesting stories during the height of reformasi.

This episode, his bold article on Altantuya, is a showcase of RPK. He was and is still an anti-establishment activist - a fact he admitted to us. He will continue to fight a good fight. That is why his criticism of Dr Mahathir has turned into an alliance to take the fight to BN and Abdullah administration. He fought Dr M administration, then Abdullah's and rest assured he will do the same to Anwar's if he is made the next PM.

This is RPK. He sees himself as the champion of underdogs. But one cannot be a perpetual champion of underdogs.

Today, RPK got what he wanted. He is an interesting friend but a formidable opponent.

Tee Keat: Go Multiracial!

Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat has always been a pragmatic and forward looking leader in MCA. Previously, we have exchanged many views on politics, economy and other social issues.

Before the recent general election, Tee Keat shared with me his concern about voters alienating BN and that the coalition and his party may have lost touch with the grassroots. As a result, he had started a programme in his constituency called "Borak-borak Bersama Wakil Rakyat" to go down at least once a week to meet up with his voters. I am sure the programme is still ongoing.

MCA's communal representation was severely tested and rendered irrelevant in the last GE. Another prominent Malaysian thinker shared with me the same observation. He said the party will go into oblivion if it does not change its direction and widen its scope. I fully agreed and I have personally encourage Tee Keat to take helm to lead his party's transformation and change.

MCA, like other non-Malay component parties, must not lose the chance to force change within BN by instituting internal reinvention themselves. Going back to the same old mould and same old BN formula is no longer viable for MCA and the rest.

Hence, I applaud Tee Keat's call for MCA to be more multiracial in outlook. Although being Chinese educated, Tee Keat sets an example of a truly Malaysian leader who speaks fluent English and Malay.

Most importantly, Tee Keat has a supporter - his old nemesis in UMNO Youth - in Hishammudin Hussein who looks ready to adopt his grandfather vision of non-communalism.

But his idea was shot down by his own MCA colleague, Ong Ka Chuan. Secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan said it was not on the party's agenda at the moment. "When the Chinese decided to become citizens, they formed MCA to look after the Chinese. Suddenly, you say they should become multiracial. It is possible, but not something that you can do overnight. It is not easy to open your door and let other races come in and I don't think it can be achieved in a short while."

Ong is still living in his own delusion. He should count how many Chinese majority seats won by the MCA - NONE! Chinese Malaysians have moved on and majority of them have thrown their support for non-sectarian parties. Half of the parliament seats won by MCA are in Johor.

Meanwhile, another party VP Fong Chan Onn admitted that MCA is a distant second to UMNO in BN. He should share his view with Ong and explain to the latter why most Chinese Malaysians abandoned the party.

MCA members who love their party and are committed citizens of Malaysia must support Tee Keat's quest in making MCA a truly Malaysian Citizens' Association.

Protection for Children and Women

Last Saturday night, I received a distress call from a parent whose son was sexually molested by a man in a public toilet. I received the call and sms at 9pm and immediately asked if my presence was required. She told me that the process of making a police report should not take too long.

However, she bumped around from one police station to another. I am surprised after the announcement made by IGP Musa last year that victims can make police report at any police station, some are still not equipped to look into serious crime such as child and woman sexual abuse cases. This is a serious matter.

Our politicians sitting in Parliament now must take up this issue. I post the victim's mother email to me and her suggestions:

SUGGESTION TO THE KETUA POLICE (IGP)

I was at the Bahagian Siasatan Jenayah Seksual & Penderaan Kanak-kanak last night because of a molest case happened to my relative at public toilet of Queen Park, Taman Maluri.

We lodged a police report at Taman Maluri Police Station at about 9pm accordingly. After an hr, the official referred us to the respective department in Ibu Pejabat Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Hang Tuah. Frankly speaking, I have no idea what is going to happen there, until then the escort police (who was helpful) led us to Bahagian Siasation Jenayah Seksual & Penderaan Kanak-kanak. There we have to lodge a new statement with the Inspector there. The Inspector was Insp Jaythis.

Upon our arrival, there were no other victim or suspect, however, the Inspector was handling other cases through phones. She also scolded and laughed at the suspect that went with us.

After waited about 40 minutes, the Inspector called my relative, who was the victim to start taking statement, but because he is only 11+ years old kid, he can’t speak fluent BM and English, the kid was not able to tell the all story in order in the first 15 minutes. Because this, The Inspector has scolded him loudly and complained to her colleague that it was a waste of time to take the statement from him........ after about 10 minutes, she cooled herself down and was more patience with the kid. And the kid was also able to tell the story slowly. The whole process took about 1 hour, and in between there were many cases interrupted the process. After that, she took the statement from a witness which went smoothly but also took approximately 1 hours.

The whole process took approximately 3 and half hours.

However, during this 3 and half hours, I have notice problem with the system as follows

1. I got to know from the notice board of the department and found that, there were only 4 official are working in a day to handle the sexual abuse cases in Kuala Lumpur, 1 officer, 1 asst. officer, 1 escort and 1 driver. The 2 escorts and driver were in and out all the time to reprimand suspects and send them to respective branches for charge. I did not see the officer. There was only 1 policeman working.

We read of rape and molest cases in the news and newspaper everyday, and those were cases reported, however, what about those cases that were not reported to the public? I understand from one of the officers that there were more then 10 cases handled in the day itself already, and the Inspector who took the statement was yet to have her dinner and drink since afternoon!! From there, I understand why she lost her temper….

2. Secondly, there is no air-condition on and no fan available after 6pm!!!! My 2 children fell on sleep at the sofa in the office and they got sweaty, what about the officers working the whole night in there…..no drink…no food…..no fresh air…..now I understand why she lost her temper…and restless……… some more, 1 person to handle more then 10 cases…….

Therefore, Dear Ketua Police Kuala Lumpur,

I sincerely suggest that if possible, please arrange to have Chinese & Tamil translators standby all the time to ease the inspector’s work.

Secondly, please increase manpower instead of 4 persons,especially during weekends, I strongly believe that, if more officers are available to handle 10 cases in a day, this will definitely increase the efficiency and effectiveness of work. AND, the inspector will be more patience.

Last but not least, a comfortable working station is also important to us, especially to those who always work under stress and pressure. Everyone of us know that, POLICE is the security of our home. They have the most stress and pressure to handle their works. If they don't even have a comfortable place to work the whole day, I believe, no one can perform their job with full commitment and energy. SO, I sincerely, hope each and everyone police are enable to work in an AIR-CONDITIONED office not only during day time, but also night time.

HOPEFULLY ALL OF THEM WILL PROTECT OUR PEOPLE WITH FULL COMMITMENT.

Thank you.

I have edited this email for clarity and cover the identity of the person. Any parliamentarian or police officer is free to contact me for more information. This is a serious matter as many sexual abuse cases went unreported in the media.

We want our family members to walk on safe streets. Public safety is an area all policy makers must focus their commitment.