Monday, April 27, 2009

Banking Liberalisation - Not A Shortcut to Economic Recovery

The recent move to liberalise the financial sector is quite interesting. According to a report, Malaysia today raised the cap on foreign equity for investment banks and insurers to 70 per cent but retained a 30 per cent limit for local commercial banks in a mixed bag of incentives to boost the financial services industry.

Prime Minister Najib Razak also announced that Bank Negara will issue two new licences for foreign-owned Islamic banks that must each be capitalised at US$1 billion or more, and foreign trade banks in 2009. Three new commercial banking licences will also be further offered in 2011.

The government has decided to allow banks and financial institutions to employ skilled foreign workers. This is a good move to expand the human resource pool. However, the government should focus on attracting skilled Malaysian financial specialists who are now working in important a few regional and global financial hubs.

However, this decision will not create an immediate influx of foreign talents to our shores. Before the financial can grow, Malaysia has to become an important regional financial hub first. The lack of liquidity in the local equity market will not help to attract many new deals. A number of IPOs will still head for the Singapore, London or Hong Kong equity markets.

The commercial banking sector had gone through a consolidation barely a couple of years ago aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. I am not too sure if the government's decision to allow for 3 more new licenses by 2011 is a smart move or not. Can the domestic market accommodate a few more commercial banks? Can these banks be viable?

I would like to urge the government to look beyond just mere equity liberalisation as a strategy to overhaul the economy. We need to focus on building quality companies, skilled and productive workforce and enhancing the effectiveness, transparency and independence of our democratic institutions.

We should also focus on mindset and work culture change. Malaysian public and private sectors must learn to take more risk. We need to shorten the time to new product and services delivery. Companies and public agencies should focus on better client relationship management and service delivery quality.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Catch These Fun Prisoners


MMail: NEXT month, look forward to loads of fun and laughter with the acclaimed Korean dance comedy, Break Out – Extreme Dance Comedy, in its debut performance here.

Organised by the Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) and sponsored by LG Electronics, the B-boy performance is set to have the audience in stitches with continuously evolving and changing dance routines with their six charity performances in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Break
Out tells the tale of five clumsy convicts who long to taste the freedom that lies beyond prison.

These five prisoners are inspired to plan a daring escape into the outside world when they receive a mysterious and sacred text.

The story is told in a form of a dance that adapts pre-existing dance moves and combines gymnastics, break dancing, yoga and martial arts moving to DJ music.

Break Out brings a new genre of entertainment with the B-Boy’s free dance moves that push the limits of the body’s movements.

Unlike other genres of dance, the moves are continuously changing and evolving allowing freedom of form that is refreshingly different.

The hip-hop culture and influence in B-boying is apparent in the catchy movements of the dances, fashion styles and music.

An instant box office hit in South Korea, this extreme dance comedy promises to entertain an audience of any age and culture.

Since its 2007 opening show in Korea, Break Out has performed to international audiences in London, New York, Mumbai, Shanghai, (Singapore), (Edinburgh) and Bangkok.

Net proceeds from the Charity Performances will be given to two charity organisations.
Proceeds from the Kuala Lumpur performances will be channelled to the LG Cleft Lip Project, a fund-raising project that is part of the consumer electronic giant’s corporate efforts to provide treatment and care for underprivileged patients who are affected by cleft lip and palate.

Meanwhile, proceeds from the Penang shows will be donated to D’Home Mental Health Association, a charitable organisation that provides support, guidance and education to family members and care-givers of the mentally ill.


UPDATES:

Those who are interested to experience how to organise a live theatre please contact me at kpkhoo@yahoo.com. There is an opportunity to meet up with the highly acclaimed Breakout Team. Lets contribute to performing arts in Malaysia.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Liberalisation of 27 Services Sub-Sectors - Hardly Anything Impressive

I was interviewed by Astro Awani yesterday on the government's decision to liberalise 27 sub-sectors in the services sector. These sub-sectors covered health and social services, tourism services, transport services, business services and computer and related services. For full details of the sub-sectors, visit here.

On the same panel were Pasir Mas MP Ibrahim Ali and Syed Akhbar Ali. Ibrahim was sceptical about the move claiming that previous equity requirement did not deter the flow of foreign investment into the country. He said the government/UMNO did not consult its members before announcing the move. He claimed that the Bumiputera companies cannot compete with foreign competitors in the sub-sectors.

Syed Ali was cautious and claimed that some of the sub-sectors are ready for opening up but not others. He identified 4-5 star hotels as ready to compete with other foreign entries.

I said that some of the initial reactions are too emotional and knee-jerk. Some of these sectors are already quite open even before the liberalisation. Take computer and related services as an example, this sub-sector is already quite liberalised since the implementation of MSC status. A number of local and foreign companies providing computer and related services are MSC status companies.

Health and social services liberalisation is quite limited and does not include wholesale liberalisation of all health related services including private hospitals. Here, again the Bumi interest is still intact and protected. Health services is a sensitive area. Many activists have spoken against the full privatisation of this sub-sector arguing that the access to an affordable and good medical care is a fundamental human right.

The liberalisation of tourism services does not appear to have positive impact on the local companies - mostly not 4 to 5 star rated. Most of the 4 to 5 star operators are controlled by big local and foreign conglomerates. Liberalisation of this sub-sector especially those F&B outlets with working capital lower than RM1 million is very crucial to ensure that we encourage more Malaysians to help promote local restaurants and franchises.

Moreover, the liberalisation of inbound travel is quite meaningless. Syed gave a weak argument that the liberalisation of this sector will open up the market to serious competition from outside e.g. Japan. In actual fact, foreign travel agencies have been working with our local partners for ages. We know our market better. Again, there is very little upside here since not many local travel agencies are focusing on inbound travel.

The liberalisation of transport sub-sector is similarly limited and narrow. Hence, the logistics sub-sector is still not opening up to the equity restriction.

On business services, this helps foreign investors more than our local companies. Originally, those foreign investors were given exemptions as regional distribution centres and international procurement centres by MIDA. Consulting business had opened up more than 5 years back as our compliant to the WTO requirements.

But predictably, politicians such as Ibrahim Ali is blaming the government for not protecting the socio-economic interest of the Malay community. I rebutted him by asking the community to focus on output and innovation instead of equity shareholding. If the community can create better output and be creative, it is not difficult for them to do better than now.

Ibrahim's analogy of the past 30 years is dated and unprogressive. It is time to look at improving the capacity of the Malay-Bumi community than to insist on quota and protection. Ibrahim said other countries are moving towards protectionism including the US. This is a false statement. Obama's administration has abandoned its "Buy American" products and services call fearing trade wars with China, Europe, Canada and South America.

Again, Najib has merely announced a liberation of the Bumi equity requirement without mentioning a coordinated liberalisation of government's procurement policy which favours Bumi companies. So, Ibrahim is clearly jumping the gun. Without the real liberalisation of the government's procurement policy there is little benefit to be gained for other non-Bumi local companies.

The devil is in the details. I hope more Malaysians can help to scrutinize any policy announcement more intimately.

Above are reasons of not being overly enthusiastic of the liberalisation announcement. I hope the PM's backroom boys do not commit the same mistake like Abdullah's. Give us real reforms and not sugar-coated rhetoric.

But as usual, a number of parties, analysts and stakeholders are trumpeting compliments of the PM's move.

Malaysians must really change our mindset. We need to be more sophisticated and demand the best from our policy makers. Do not just blame the politicians. We get what we deserved.

Like This Article? Contribute to Straight Talk's Legal Defence Fund. Info on the right side bar profile. Thanks!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wow, Look Who Are The Real Lords in Malaysia

The 17-year-old French Indonesian model Manohara Odelia Pinot and her Kelantanese royalty husband is having a rocky marriage. The royalty husband must have had a rocky relationship with his Indonesian mother-in-law too.

On the surface, it looks like any other troubled relationship. But here, the mother-in-law said she had been refused entry to Malaysia to see her daughter, who was crying and distraught when Manohara (right) last spoke to her Indonesian family by phone from Malaysia on March 21.

Another funny thing is that it takes the intervention of an Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia to find out how the daughter was coping.

Indonesia's ambassador to Malaysia, Da'i Bachtiar, said he had spoken to the royal household in Kelantan and received word that Manohara was fine.

But they refuse to allow her mother to visit and the Malaysian Foreign Ministry has not replied to further inquiries, he told AFP.

Now, the story gets more intriguing...

Apparently, the Malaysian Immigration Department has lifted its entry ban on Manohara's mother from entering the country.

The department's director Mahmood Adam told Malaysiakini today that the decision was made on Monday following an instruction from the Home Ministry.

I have several concerns which need to be addressed:

1) This appears to me like a domestic tiff. Why is the Malaysian Immigration Department involved? On what basis the mother-in-law was banned from entering Malaysia?

2) Who gave the instruction to the Malaysian Immigration Department to deny the entry of the Indonesian mother?

3) Is there an abuse of authority involved? Can a royal family instruct the immigration department to ban someone from entering the country?

I find this whole situation fishy and worrying. It sounds like we are a pseudo democracy. No wonder there is talk that someone's immigration record was deleted. It does not augur well for the country.

The Home Ministry must probe this matter. It is supposed to happen in a fourth world country, not a country aspires to become a first world nation.

MACC - Why the Silence?

First, it was Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim's cows and car story. The MACC chairman said his agency had received solid evidence to charge Khalid. What happened?

Now it is Fairus' turn. The story goes like this: Fairus had accompanied Ramasamy for the trip last June to attend an international conference organised by Club de Madrid - an international organisation for all ex-ministers of governments across the globe. Ramasamy had attended the international conference as part of a state official trip.

However, it is learnt that Fairus had told top leaders of PKR a slightly different story - that the money, which was deposited via a bank account, was a loan from the quarry operator. (I am not going to ask why he had taken a loan from the quarry operator. He could have used his credit card for such a small amount and noted the importance of not to obtain loan from a quarry operator who is being investigated for fraud)

Fairus has consistently claimed he was a victim of an internal political conspiracy hatched by jealous rivals within PKR. (This is the part we want confirmation from Anwar Ibrahim.)

“The clearance by MACC exposed all the lies spread by unscrupulous and irresponsible people. God almighty will punish these people one day,” said Fairus.

Penang MACC director Latifah Md Yatim did not answer calls made to her despite numerous attempts by Malaysiakini to reach her.

Again, the MACC is keeping mum on a very important issue. Many Malaysians like myself are getting very suspicious of the anti-corruption agency. If Fairus is cleared, why just inform him and not the public?

Second, why still no official charge on Khalid?

I would like to remind the MACC to pull up their socks. On the Selangor MB's case, the MACC still owe the public an explanation. Talking about integrity, MACC must eat, talk, sleep and dream integrity and transparency. It does not even smell like it.

Match Bumi Quota Liberalisation With Real Permanent Commitment

Yesterday, I applauded the PM's move to liberalise 27 sub-sectors in the services sector by lifting the requirement for 30% bumi equity. But it is too early for us to celebrate this move.

I would like to see the government commits itself to 3 important moves:

1) A memorandum should be submitted to all departments and agencies at the implementation level. It has been a long standing complaint that some agencies, regardless of the federal directive, have refused to change their requirement. This will end up frustrating most companies. The government should immediately establish a federal level one-stop centre at all states to ensure the smooth implementation of this liberalisation - serving enquiries, resolve confusion and accept complaints

2) Open up government procurement to all Malaysian listed/registered companies without favouring any particular type of companies. This must be done because of GLCs requirement to support only Bumi companies. Open tenders must be clearly and fairly implemented.

3) Government must support all local companies without using the liberalisation to channel aid, grants and financial support to only Bumi companies to help to compete with the rest.

It will be meaningless if the liberalisation is announced to the detriment of other local companies if more subtle discrimination is to be implemented.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Breakout Well Received in Broadway



Breakout, the extreme dance comedy from the creative team of the recent Off Broadway hit JUMP, had its New York premiere this fall. This first North American production of the high-energy dance spectacle plays the Union Square Theatre (100 East 17th Street) began performances at the Union Square Theater September 23rd, 2008. BWW TV checked in with the cast and crew as they continue to thrill New York audiences with the power of music and dance!

As dance shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Best Dance Crew" captivate television audiences, Break Out offers some of the world's most talented dancers performing jaw-dropping choreography in a live stage show that combines hip-hop, gymnastics, yoga, slapstick and more.

The mostly nonverbal dance comedy tells the tale of a night-in-the-life of a group of desperate prisoners whose nightmare existence changes beyond belief when an ancient and sacred text mysteriously drops into the prison. This mysterious arrival inspires the inmates to plan a daring escape into the outside world, where they are able to enjoy a brief, and hilarious, moment of freedom.

Featuring a cast of nuns, nurses and break-dancing villains in the craziest jail break of all time, Break Out is a fun-packed, madcap night out featuring top quality performers, including some of Korea's leading B-Boys from internationally winning crews such as Drifters Crew (Battle of the Year 2006 Finalists), Gamblers Crew (Battle of the Year 2005 Finalists) and Maximum Crew.

Created by Korea's renowned SevenSense Inc., Break Out premiered in Korea in April 2007 and played London's Peacock Theatre the same month. Since then, Break Out has played all over the world, including India, Malaysia, Bangkok, Laos and the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A sit-down production opened at the Break Out Theatre in Seoul, Korea in December 2007 where it continues to play to SRO crowds.The 10-person cast of Break Out includes Dae-Hyeok Lim, Won-Jun Song, Jong-Wook Jeong, Chul-Hee Han, Yong-Nam Song, Jae-Hong Park, Seong-June Park, Ji-Hee Jang,Jin-Hee Kim, Yoon-Hui Choi

Break Out is written and created by SevenSense Inc. and the creative team of JUMP and directed by Jun-Beom Juen. The design team for Break Out includes Se-Jin Han(visual arts design), Tae-Young Kim (set design), Yun-Young Koo (lighting design), Yo-Chan Kim (sound design), Hee-Ju Kim (costume design), Mi-Suk Kim (make-up design),Hee-Jung Lim (props design) and original music by Sang-Ku Kang and Wook-Hyun Lee.Break Out is suitable for all ages.

The show will play the following performance schedule in Wisma MCA: 23 May 2009, Saturday at 3:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m. and 24 May Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Breakout will travel to Penang to perform two shows on 27 & 28 May 2009 at 8.30pm.

Tickets (RM63 to RM93) are available to the public by visiting AXCESS outlets, buy online, or calling 03-77115000. Corporate Group sales (50 or more) can be arranged by contacting Korea Plaza at 03-21439000 (Ms Asthy Tan) to enjoy a special bulk discount. Net proceeds of the show will be donated to LG Cleft Lip Fund and D'Home Mental Home.

SevenSense Inc. is a professional performance production group that created the martial arts comedy JUMP. By "mixing it up" on stage, SevenSense Inc. is drawing a wide variety of international audiences and is a force in the globalization of Korean performances.

Tickets are selling fast! Do not miss this only premier opportunity in Malaysia.

Gov't Drops Bumi Quota for Services Sector

The government has removed the 30% bumiputra equity condition in 27 services sub-sectors, with immediate effect. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said that the Government would progressively undertake the liberalisation of other services sub-sectors on an ongoing basis.

Among the services sub-sectors immediately liberalised were health and social, tourism, business and computer related services.

This is a much anticipated move and should be lauded as a good first step forward to unfreeze the private sector from making meaningful investment in these areas.

I hope that the liberalisation is followed by a directive to all governmental departments, ministries and GLCs to support the liberalisation. All Malaysian listed companies should be allowed to do business with the government.

I would like to see similar move being made for the manufacturing and financial sectors. Next, the government should focus on helping Malaysians to improve their earning power. Malaysia should create more knowledge centric and higher value opportunities to attract knowledge workers to come back to serve the local economy. We must lose our dependence on cheap foreign labour.

By-Elections: Select Better Candidates,. Not Change the Law

Now, the defacto law minister, Nazri Aziz, is getting more ridiculous. Nazri, please do not get carried away. You missed the important point again. Let me put it to you in straight talk's term - by-elections are part of the democratic process.

There is already a provision which states that a seat vacated less than half the full-term of five years will have to be filled through a by-election. Penanti by-election has to be conducted. It has to go on regardless of what PM Najib or the EC deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar have said about the need to deter 'unnecessary' by-elections. I have just asked are Malaysians law abiding? Nazri should be the first to show that he is law abiding.

Dr Mahathir's son, Mukhriz, has asked for those who quit without a valid reason to be fined.

These politicians have obviously got carried away. How do you define 'unnecessary'? Similarly, how to decide if a reason is 'valid' or not? Is a committee going to be set up to decide on the validity of all by-elections? Who are going to be in the committee? Is the committee willing to accommodate both members from PR and BN?

My real problem with Penanti is accountability and transparency. Political parties should not be allowed to hide the real reason of any sudden resignation without making a proper disclosure to the public. Do not treat the voters as ignorant and naive. Politicians who claimed that the society is not ready for change should adopt and embrace change themselves OR risk being left out. We are moving ahead of you. Remember your own slogan, "People ARE the Bosses".

At the end of the day, it is still the right of the elected representative to remain or resign. There is already a punishment - being barred from contesting again for the next 5 years.

There are two implications to PR in Penanti. Remember, politics is about perception. Without coming clear and clean on the real reason, they are going to dig deep into their goodwill. PR state government should have learned the lesson of Gerakan. The party had been digging into its goodwill since 1990 and eventually lost power totally after the reservoir of goodwill dried up.

Second, the coalition needs to improve its candidate selection process and training programme for first-time elected members.

The parties need to SELECT the right candidates or be punished by the voters. NOT changing the law, BE accountable and responsible.

Judicial Independence and Professionalism

The words of ex-judge NH Chan are quite telling: Even the judges themselves find it hard to follow the rule of law. Chan added, "Anyway, why should a judge be afraid of criticism of his judgment if he has done nothing wrong and he is only doing his duty to administer justice according to law? Judges do not fear criticism, nor do they resent it."

Federal Constitution: Article 72. (1) The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court.

But the federal court judges recently ruled against the Perak Speaker on his right to dismiss or suspend the Perak Sultan and BN installed chief minister and his excos.

The federal court has a staunch supporter in the defacto minister of law and parliamentary affairs, Nazri Aziz (whom Dr M said was not fit to become a minister). For once, Dr M is spot on.

The Minister said that “the courts were the best place to seek interpretation of the Constitution”. Chan responded, "Now I ask the readers, do you, as a member of the general public, need a judge to interpret Article 72, Clause (1) above?" - NOPE. But Zambry and his supporters are in a dire need of such interpretation.

But when the judges were asked to apply Clause (1) of Article 72, as we have recently observed, they have blatantly refused to apply the constitutional provision as it stands. This is precisely the main problem.

Those of us who are facing legal suits of political in nature should be wary of the recent ruling. No wonder the legal firm who used to represent me had refused to wait till for the outcome of my case to collect their fee claiming that they had experienced 'strong' cases being ruled otherwise.

My question is "Is Malaysia a rule based society?". What is the value of the constitution and rule of law if the guardians of our democratic rights can easily manipulate and misinterpret these rights to serve their own interests?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You Are Wrong, Dr Syed Husin Ali

I hold Dr Syed Husin Ali in high regards. I had read some of his critically acclaimed publications. Syed Husin, if my memory does not fail me, had advocated a freedom of information for all citizens.

In the recent Fairus' saga, he has asked the chief minister of Penang to keep mum. He said, "Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng should stop discussing the matter of his former deputy in public as it would only benefit Pakatan Rakyat’s enemies."

Dr Syed Husin said de facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Lim had a chance to talk and he believed that all the confusion between the two had been solved.

I have some issues with the statement made by Syed Husin:

  1. He is sounding so much like the BN leaders he used to criticize. BN leaders were criticized for their backroom discussions on important public issues including the NEP, privatisation and all other sensitive public policies and issues. Dr Syed is speaking for his own party's interest. However, politics is about the people and their right to good and accountable governance. Without making a clear and open explanation to the public, it will not help PR's enemies to capitalize on this issue.
  2. The confusion is not limited to only Anwar and Lim Guan Eng. The people are confused and kept in the dark over the real reason of Fairus' resignation. Political parties must ensure that their candidates should be able and committed to serve a full term. If Fairus' reason to quit is to focus on his postgraduate studies, it confirms his irresponsibility. With talks and murmurs of his alleged involvement in the quarry case in Penang, the people deserved to know the truth. Public office is a position held in trust of the people. If any Tom, Dick and Harry can come and go as they please, the parliament and state assemblies will turn into a half-way house. What if more elected politicians start to quit for all sort of reasons? Lost interest, getting married, having babies etc.?
  3. Some analysts said, I was told, the by-election is necessary for PR to do some house cleaning. Goodness sake, this is the flimsiest excuse I have ever heard if it is true. Political parties doing house cleaning and we have to pay for their inability to choose better candidates, groom and train them even if they are not the brightest, or just want to reprimand bad apples. Why do the public have to pick up the tab for political parties? This sounds like the same situation in Pahang (RM63 million for breach of contract), Johor (abandoned crooked bridge project) and others.

Why can't the chief minister feel slighted and pissed off? Why wouldn't he? I am glad that Lim has voiced his dissatisfaction over this incident. The bottom line is you cannot just treat a deputy chief minister or an assemblyman position like a temp job in McDonald's. Maybe Fairus should have applied for a job in a fast food outlet while waiting to pursue his postgraduate programme.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Breakout & Be Surprised!


The tickets are selling fast! I managed to catch their unique performance at the HiJump theatre in Seoul last July. It was fun and funny. Breakout is a powerful non-verbal extreme dance comedy which had performed in Broadway, West End, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Shanghai Arts Theatre, Bangkok and others.

Breakout was a sellout in Singapore last February. It was jointly premiered by Mediacorp. Theatre lovers should not miss this unique opportunity.


KUALA LUMPUR: See five clumsy convicts dance their way out of prison in "Break Out Extreme Dance Comedy" next month.

The Korean show is organised by Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) and sponsored by LG Electronics (M) Sdn Bhd. The comedy act has already been shown in India, China, Thailand, Britain and the US.KTO managing director, Kim Kee Hun, said the tourism organisation was bringing in the show to celebrate the first year anniversary of Korea Sparkling, the Korea tourism brand.

"Korean culture is gaining great popularity throughout the world as a result of movies, dramas and music from Korea," said Kim.He said the extreme dance comedy featured "B-boy" dance -- a form of dance influenced by hip hop and break-dancing."The B-boy dance will have the audience in stitches," he said.

The audience can expect to see robotic dance moves, gymnastics, break-dance, yoga, and martial arts in this comedy about five convicts, who plan their escape after receiving a mysterious and sacred text.Malaysian dancers recently imitated the Korean dancers at a sneak preview of the show.

Six performances by the genuine Korean cast will be shown in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.There will be two shows each on May 23 and May 24 at Wisma MCA, Kuala Lumpur, at 3pm and 8.30pm on both dates.The comedy will also be shown at Dewan Sri Pinang in Penang on May 27 and May 28 at 8.30pm .

Ticket prices are RM63 and RM93, and proceeds from the shows will go to the "LG Cleft Lip Project" and the D'Home Mental Health Association charity organisations.

LG Electronics managing director and chief executive offer T. Y. Ko said the company was pleased to be the main sponsor of such a unique performance. "This is a way for people to enjoy themselves and at the same time, help the less fortunate as the proceeds of all performances will go to charity," he said.

For reservations, call the Axcess hotline at 03-7711 5000 or visit www.axcess.com.my.

Pahang MB Adnan Yaakob's Expensive Folly

Chief Ministers are paid handsomely. Adnan could easily pocket more than RM30k a month for his state position including perks and allowances. This is a public position. A person holding a chief minister position must be super efficient, clean and accountable to the public.

However, looking at responses on my posts which were critical of men in public office showed that some segments of Malaysians are treating these men very generously.

In the real world, the working world, a person earning RM800 or RM8000 is equally subjected to some form of performance measurement. It is granted that your boss may not be so lenient and generous if you have found to have slacked or underperformed.

Worse, if you had entered into some controversial contract to allow a company to capitalize on your company's asset. In the end, you changed your mind and did not honour the agreement. Although the agreement may not be commercially viable to your company but it is LEGALLY BINDING.

This is the case of Adnan Yaakob's expensive folly:

On Dec 9, 2002, the company filed a suit against the Pahang government and State Forestry director for a breach of agreement pertaining to the extraction of timber from a 4,000-hectare concession area in Mukim Bebar, Pekan, and won.

"On Sept 17 last year, the Pahang government was ordered to pay RM60 million to the company after it failed in its final effort at the Federal Court to obtain leave to appeal.With this, the Federal Court reaffirmed the original decision of the Kuantan High Court on May 25, 2007 that the Pahang government was to pay the company RM37,127,471.60 with eight percent interest per annum from Dec 31, 2000.

The logging company filed the mandamus application on Oct 15 last year, saying that it had demanded the judgment sum with interest through a solicitor's letter on Aug 27 last year and had furnished an endorsement letter under Section 33 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956 on April 7 the same year, but did not receive any payment."

Adnan Yaakob's salary, perks and allowances are paid by the public. If a man earning RM800 a month can be subjected to the most demanding probation period and performance measure, why should we be lenient and generous to a man earning RM30k a month???

The right thing for PM Najib to do is to suspend him from his job, call for an internal probe on this case, and get to the bottom of the matter. Why must the public pay RM63 million for an irresponsible decision and crap leadership?

Now, you know why I am tough on all chief ministers.

A Pot (Gerakan) Calling a Kettle (Penang CM) Black

Gerakan Youth State Chairman Oh Tong Keong said the Penang state government should stop dragging its feet and disclose the outcome of the probe in line with its competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) policy.

“It is baffling that the state government has yet to reveal the progress despite being furnished with evidence from PKR national executive committee member Amizudin Ahmat."

I am glad that Oh's party is in the mood to make disclosure. Good. Why don't Oh set a good example by getting his party's bosses to tell what exactly happened to the land scam allegations? There were evidences too.

Can Gerakan explain why 1000 acres of land in Batu Kawan were sold to a private developer at a very low price?

Can Gerakan explain why a yet to be approved project, the PGCC, was allowed to be launched with so much fanfare?

Can Gerakan explain why some risky hill development projects were approved in Tanjung Bungah and Batu Feringghi?

Can Gerakan explain why 3 of the 4 hotels in the heritage zone were approved without referring back to the heritage status guidelines?

Can Gerakan explain why Komtar, an administrative centre and office of the CM, was allowed to rot and deteriorate to its shameful shape today?

Can Gerakan explain why some local authorities were allowed to spend tax payers' money on wasteful projects? MPSP is now low of cash.

Yes, I agree that both Anwar and CM Lim should provide us with a good explanation on Fairus' resignation. I would like to urge Gerakan to take the lead by showing us that they can be more transparent than the DAP led government.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No to Politicized By-Election, But Snap Elections a Must in Perak

In the last few by-elections, the Election Commission just forked out less than RM3 million in expenses. However, the police had used more than RM31 million. This is really shocking and unacceptable. It is unacceptable because we have read of police unnecessary interference in the democratic process including the right and freedom to assemble and hold political rallies during the campaign period. The person(s) who authorised the expenses must be held accountable.

The fact that the police needed RM31 million or ten times more than what the EC needed to run the by-elections speaks volume of the authority mindset. Malaysian voters are not a wild and unruly lot unless provoked. The use of water canon, tear gas, dogs, helicopters etc are a waste of public fund. The attitude of the authorities must change if they want to keep down the cost of running a by-election. The next time the police thought of using the helicopter again they should really justify its uses. It is public money! Not BN's money.

I do agree that the Penanti by-election is waste of public fund is there was an underhand tactic to bring down Fairus. Hence, both the Chief Minister Lim and Anwar Ibrahim owe the public an explanation why Fairus was asked to quit. He was voted in by the people and held an important public office. The state government and his party are accountable and answerable to the people of Penang, including me.

Next, I hope the BN will not use the Penanti by-election and the waste of public fund as a reason to brush aside the need of quick and immediate snap elections in Perak to resolve the political and democratic quagmire there. The whole crisis is becoming too odd. Now, the federal court ruled that it has the jurisdiction to review the decision made by the legislative assembly. Ex-justice Chan said a decision that was made in blatant defiance of Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution which says, “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.

If we have to spend scarce resources on a good cause such as preserving our democratic rights then it has to be done e.g. the power grab and illegitimate government in Perak. It is clear and without a doubt that the BN installed Menteri Besar and state government would lose a state wide election if one is called. Simply, this was not the government elected by the people. Hence, to ensure our democracy works, it is important to go back to the people.

Finally, the Sultan of Perak has spoken. He said, "Rulers are above politics and as such they cannot participate in open debate to answer allegations hurled against them by political groups." However, when a ruler has made a political decision he owes it to the people to explain his decision if it appears to be inconsistent with the highest law of the land - federal constitution. This is a binding and legal duty of a constitutional monarch.

He cannot claim a right to remain silence by saying that his monarchy is above politics. It was his decision to appoint a non-popularly elected Menteri Besar and to legitimize a government which is dependent on three dubious characters. He cannot claim to be above politics if he had made such a controversial and undemocratic decision.

He added, "It should be stressed that the constitutional monarchy has three rights - the right to give views and counsel, the right to encourage and motivate, and the right to remind and reprimand." As citizens of this country, the people are privy to the same rights to question, probe, criticize and take legal action against anyone including the royalty for bastardizing the federal constitution. The royalty is part of the society and not above it.

Sultan Azlan Shah has a lot to prove for his other statement, he said the rulers were neither blind nor deaf or mute.

Prove it! Action speaks louder than words. He appears not to know, see or hear the reaction, response and reception of his people towards the BN installed government.

Give us back our democratic rights!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Forget About 1Malaysia, We Just Need to Stand Up Against Poor Governance

From Utusan Malaysia's hate-filled article on the rise of Malays to counter the demand of other races ('Bangkitlah Melayu') to other extreme political behaviour and actions, we have tolerated enough sickness in this society. Let me remind Utusan, certain UMNO politicians, PKR's Zulkifli Nordin and others to stop playing with racial and religious sentiments.

This is Malaysia, a multiracial and multicultural nation. This is my country and I will not tolerate any racists or their racist behaviour.

It is too convenient for the editors in Utusan to call for unity among the Malays to fight off the excessive demands of other races. Unity must have a purpose. This kind of unity will not uplift poor Malay kids from poverty. It will not put a Malay on the world's map of excellence.

I would support a call of unity to acquire the best knowledge and skills available in the world. I would support a call for the Malay community and other communities to show us their best ability to bring this beloved nation to higher level.

But to unite under a corrupt, racist, rude, arrogant and incompetent party of leadership is both stupid and suicidal. A smart person understands that his fortune is not dictated by another powerless second class citizen. But a corrupt government practicing cronyism and nepotism can rob him off his equal access to opportunities.

It is hilarious for us, Malaysians, to continue to believe in this shit at this modern age. This is the 21st century. If a powerful BN, hegemonized by UMNO, cannot bring equal opportunities to the Malays preferring to enrich a few and keep the rest poor and neglected, what can unity do for them? With its grip on almost all powerful institutions in this country, does UMNO need Malay unity to implement what it thinks is right for the community? Nonsense.

We too need to learn a hard lesson from the March 8 general election. Never trust any political power fully. Never leave them without a close supervision. Power corrupts. All politicians desire power but how many politicians can use the power entrusted by the people to rule this nation for common good?

For now onwards, lets stop those silly discussions about the meaning of 1Malaysia, Ketuanan Rakyat and other similar bullshit. We need to stop looking at these purposeless, meaningless and socialist slogans, patriotic songs and posters. Sloganism is the work of Mahathir's autocratic regime. Can you remember any slogan from Tunku's era?

Mahathir's "Bersih, Cekap, Amanah" turned out to be a total joke. During his era, we saw the worse corruption, burgeoning civil sector and corporate scandals. His vision of 'Bangsa Malaysia' did not get very far too. The meaning of the concept is still being debated. During his time, Malaysians had witnessed the worse of racial politics.

Abdullah's Islam Hadhari became Islam Hari-Hari. Unnecessary restrictions were imposed on Christian publications. The syariah law became the grey area of our judicial direction. His 'work with me, not for me' slogan was everything but work. He forgot to do the work to reform the country. So, please do not take these slogans too seriously.

I hate the talk that a new government cannot undo the mess done by the previous administration. Example, the hillside project in Penang. Read Anil Netto's blog if you want to know the danger pose by some of these hillside projects. Tell me, why can't the government stop these projects if they are endangering current residents and future residents? Let the developers sue the government. See how long these developers can last doing so.

Hence, if you are voted in to power because of your change agenda and promise. Just go ahead and do just that - CHANGE!

We do not need another crap slogan, 1Malaysia, we just need to stand up against poor governance, arrogant and racist politicians. Najib said the upcoming Penanti by-election is a waste of money. Yes, if it was a political assassination as claimed by Fairus. Najib should take his own advice too - stop wasting his money on a British PR consultant to come out with some blend, silly, meaningless and copycat slogan. Just deliver on his promises. Results speak louder than words.

More on Penang Deputy Chief Minister Replacement

My earlier post on this issue has elicited some expected comments and unexpected feedback from a source very close to the Penang state government.

Readers who are not happy with my suggestion that the chief minister should place a higher priority on the interest of Penang and not PKR's internal issues have asked why I did not blog about Malacca CM's Ali Rustam who was found guilty of money politics.

The fact is I did write about Ali Rustam but not many readers care to remember. I wrote:

"However, there is an inconsistency between the two cases. In the case of Ali Rustam, he was only disqualified to contest the deputy president position but get to keep his ministerial position. He was not even referred to the MACC. Both Ali and Azalina might have committed the same offence but the treatment was different. This is going to set the tongue wagging.

If UMNO is serious in weeding out corruption, it must be willing to act without fear or favour against all offenders.

Since Ali Rustam has been found guilty the right thing for the party to do is to ask him to step down as the Chief Minister of Malacca. Malaysians deserved good and clean leaders and not just UMNO members."

Evidently, I had asked Ali Rustam to quit or be removed. A critic said I was trying to look fair by criticizing the Penang state government but my comment was not fairly scripted. He said I have failed to understand the predicament of the chief minister. Granted, I do not understand the CM's political constraint. But like many other Penangites, how many of us do have an access to the CM's office or get to hear his thoughts?

Apparently, the critic said none of the two PKR assemblymen dared to accept the CM's appointment if it was made without the endorsement of Anwar Ibrahim. In sum, Anwar is the biggest stumbling block to the new appointment. I was told that any appointment made without the approval of Anwar will put a pressure on the relationship of both DAP and PKR.

I was told that Anwar would prefer to call for a fresh by-election and appoint a new person to become the next deputy chief minister if he wins the contest. Yes, Anwar wants another by-election.

The first thing the PKR supremo should consider is what the people of Penang wanted. We want a government which can act responsibly, swift and transparently. It is time for the government to focus on serious issues of governance, addressing economic crisis and implement necessary reforms in the state.

Granted, there are many systemic and cultural obstacles faced by the new government but the PR coalition won the election by promising change. Regardless of the obstacles, not all voters can stretch their patience waiting for the political knots to be untangled.

Now, I have a serious advice for Anwar Ibrahim. Stop getting big headed with the last two by-election victories. He should decide quickly who should be appointed to fill up the DCM position. This position is not a reward for his crony. It is a duty and a responsibility to be fulfilled. Just get on with the work.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Breakout Show



Breakout! It was explosive in New York, Edinburgh, London, Shanghai, Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore and now...Malaysia!

Six special performances of the best non-verbal extreme dance comedy performance in Korea.

Check out ticket details at AXCESS.

Net proceeds to be donated to local charities. Six lucky ticket buyers will win an LG 42" LCD TV.

Rais Yatim's Threat - Wrong CRM Approach

Minister of Information, Communications, Culture and Arts Rais Yatim said the ministry preferred to take follow-up efforts than legal action against those who have violated the laws.

He said they, however, have to act against the hardcore perpetrators.“Those who have broken the laws have to face legal action. If we do not act on them, it is the fault of the administration. But I stress that using legal action will be our last resort,’’ he said.

Sounds better than Syed Hamid. However, the government should work harder to adapt to the new mindset. Bloggers are not a special group of people. Most of them are wage-earners, law abiding citizens and citizens who used the internet channel to express their frustrations, grouses, views and opinions.

Most of them are probably unimportant enough to get a space on the mainstream media to express their views and opinions. This is the reason why they find the blogs most liberating.

Instead, the government should not fear feedback. It should not be afraid of criticism and negative feedback against its performance. A government needs to take cognisance of good client service. A good CRM model forbids an organisation to issue threat against its clients or potential clients.

Rais must ensure that his government follows the rule of law too. All of us are not above the law. This includes the UMNO leaders and members, politicians, police, royalty and judges.

Rais also called on the private broadcast media stations to be pro-active in helping to develop the society and country. He said some private television and radio stations had failed to adhere to laws that required them to play patriotic songs. I have a small advice to Rais. Playing patriotic songs to enhance unity and patriotism is so 60's and outdated. People who listen to rock music can also be patriotic.

Rais needs to change his own mindset to be able to understand and communicate with the new generation.

Penang Can Wait, PKR Internal Problem More Important

On monday, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng gave Anwar a 48 hours ultimatum to name a successfor for ex-DCM 1 Mohd Fairus.

He said, “Anwar asked to be given until today to make a decision but I decided to give him three more days."

Today, Lim has given Anwar another extension without mentioning a time frame when a replacement is likely to be named. He said, "The Penang Deputy Chief 1 position will remain vacant for now to give de factor Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim more time to resolve internal issues."

With only two candidates to choose from, I am surprised it has to take Anwar so much time to make a decision. They are state executive councillor Abdul Malik Abdul Kassim, who is also Batu Maung state assemblyman and Sungai Bakap state assemblyman Maktar Shapee.

There are three issues with his latest decision. First, Fairus was also the Entrepreneurial, Cooperative Development, Information and Community Relations Committee chairperson. If his replacement cannot be decided soonest, there is a need to delegate his duties to other exco members. The interest of the state should take a higher priority over the need of Anwar to solve PKR's internal problems.

Second, the position of a deputy chief minister 1 (a formal position in the state administration) should not be turned into a party nomination or position. As a chief minister, Lim should exercise his own prerogative to appoint a PKR member whom he thinks fit to replace Fairus. If the appointment is to serve PKR internal party's interest then his administration is no different compared to BN's.

PR has been critical of BN's latest cabinet line-up claiming that Najib has made too many compromises. This is a reality which appears to affect the PR too.

Third, the public has a right to know the outcome of PR's own investigation on the quarry issue. The state government should make the outcome of their own investigation open and transparent. There are a few questions which need to be answered:

Is Fairus guilty or not?

Is there a mechanism within the state government to deter any act of power abuse or corruption?

Should the state government or PR coalition defend a member/leader found guilty of corruption? If a person found guilty is given legal help and assistance, would it help to deter others from attempting the same offence? Is there a deterrence system within PR to ensure it does not repeat again in the future?

Whatever said about the BN, its political model and culture has inflicted and influenced almost every political party in the country. PR, a competitor, should strive to differentiate itself from the BN if it wants to compete successfully against it. Some of the things done by PR leaders are eerily familiar and similar.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mid-term Review for Both Coalitions

I will take the next few months to compile feedback and reports on the performance of the BN federal government and the PR's Penang state government which will be released by March 2010.

I hope to write a comprehensive report on their mid-term review. Us, the public, cannot rely on internal mechanism of these ruling coalitions to perform the check-and-balance duty. We need to hold these governments responsible for their election pledges.

So, if you have any feedback or input please do write to me directly.

Predictably, Muhyiddin Blames Others

UMNO Bukit Bendera advisor Ahmad Ismail did the same thing - blame the reporters. Now, DPM Muhyiddin is using the same tactic.

Muhyiddin hit out at the Chinese papers for twisting his words and putting him in a bad light among the Chinese community.He was responding to reports in the Chinese media that he had said the Chinese community was ‘ungrateful' despite being given much assistance by the government.

The Chinese press played up his quote in an interview in Mingguan Malaysia in which he had apparently said that the Chinese were being ungrateful to the BN government.Muhyiddin also said that MCA president Ong Tee Keat had found nothing wrong with his statement in Mingguan Malaysia.

He also denied saying the Chinese were ungrateful in the interview."No, no (I didn't say ungrateful). Did you read my Bahasa (Malaysia)? Even (deputy education minister) Wee Ka Siong knows bahasa. If both Ong and Wee do not feel offended, it does not mean that others in the community feel the same way.

"In bahasa, I said 'seolah-olah tak menghargai' (‘They seemed to be unappreciative').

Muhyiddin should not have singled out the Chinese Malaysian voters. The fact that he took a racial perspective in his statement is wrong. Calling the community 'unappreciative' or 'ungrateful' is wrong. There is little which separates the two terms.

Instead of blaming the Chinese newspapers, he should have apologized for his insensitive remark. This is a mark of a good and responsible leader. In this case, Muhyiddin should be the last person entrusted with the PM's 1Malaysia agenda.

Jail Breakers Spotted in Menara Hap Seng, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian Jail breakers in Action!

A B-Boy Strutting His Stuff

Mr Chin (Sales Director of LG), Mr Kim (MD, KTO) & Mr Ko (MD, LG)
Breakout! An extreme dance comedy from Korea will be coming to town (KL & Penang) this May 21st to 29th. The group of 17 dancers will perform at the Wisma MCA, KL from 23rd to 24th May and at the Dewan Sri Pinang, Penang from 27th to 28th May. Check out the Breakout preview on Youtube
Tickets are selling at RM63 & RM93. Net proceeds will be donated to D'Home (Mental Health Association) in Penang and LG Cleft Lips Foundation. These organisations are locally based.
In conjunction with the Breakout performance, the Sunway Pyramid Mall and Korea Tourism Organization will organise a B-Boy Dance Competition at the mall.
Semifinals are on 16th & 17th May. Finals will be held on 22nd May and fans of the highly rated B-Boy dance crew can catch the Breakout members live at the mall at 12 pm onwards.
Those who are interested to participate in the B-Boy competition (maximum 5 members per team) can call Mr Fellest Yan (Battleground season 1) at 012-8333755. Attractive cash prizes for winners.
Those who are interested to purchase the Breakout show tickets, please call the AXCESS Hotline: 03-7711 5000 or visit http://www.axcess.com.my/
For more information about the show, please visit http://www.breakout.co.kr/ or call Korea Plaza at 03-2072 2515. Six lucky ticket buyers will win a 42" LG LCD TV each.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Najib's Reform Plan: Expect Little if No Structural Change

I was in Astro Awani's studio last Saturday to discuss the reform promise of Najib's administration. Another guest was UM Professor Wan Nawawi. Both of us agreed that a mere personality change at the cabinet level is not sufficient to bring a positive effect to the administration. A change must be comprehensive and included those from top to bottom.

There is a need to address the work culture, administrative structure and performance measurement system within the bureaucracy. At the moment, the civil service is a big, clumsy and ineffective giant. The civil service must adopt a new service culture. Jobs in the sector cannot be used as a social welfare tool to provide employment for those who cannot find jobs elsewhere.

The current work culture must end. Those who are supporting policy implementation of the government should do their job to their best ability and utilize their best skills to optimize their performance. An important KPI can be implemented in all governmental departments to reward those who can bring in new ideas, new improvements and innovations to their job function.

The government must not be reluctant to hire and fire based on performance. In a number of countries, agencies' budget is determined by measurable KPIs. Salary of directors and top management is determined by the same set of KPIs. We can do the same.

Najib's administration should minimize rhetoric and inconsistency in its messages. His ministers have started to dispute the need to make the ministry's KPIs transparent and public. Khaled Nordin claimed that it is purely administrative and should not be made public. His ministers have forgotten Najib's reminder that the days of government knows best are over. Those holding public offices must be accountable to their real bosses - the PEOPLE!

Cabinet ministers must change their mindset. Muhyiddin's remarks in an interview with Utusan Malaysia on 12 April in which he said "the drop in Chinese support is like as if there is no appreciation towards what we (the BN) are doing" is both unwarranted and counter productive to the Najib's administration. Muhyiddin must wake up to the reality that it is no longer possible to buy electoral victories by using public funds. Voting has become a serious business in the country. We treasure our votes.

Muhyiddin should be reminded that the government role is to serve the people. BN should be grateful to the people and not the other way round. Muhyiddin's salary is paid by the people. When he takes a ride in his government's car, live in his huge DPM's official mansion and enjoy all the ministerial perks, he should be thankful that the people still entrusted BN with the federal government.

BN must change, not just talking about change. This change must be a permanent move away from vicious ethno-religious politics. The coalition is not able to change because it is caught in an air tight racial bubble. BN leaders can implement change themselves, which is less painful or being forced to change. The latter option will hurt more than they think.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wrong KPI for MIC

MIC and a few smaller component parties have got their KPI wrong. Samy Vellu believes that ministerial positions in the cabinet will help MIC to lure back Indian voters to the party. He is so damn wrong.

Let me put it crudely. Samy fights for himself, not the community. He was a senior minister for more than two decades before being defeated in the last general election. As one of the longest serving ministers, the Indian community's fortune did not appear to be on the rise. Apart from his very insignificant achievement - giving handouts to some schools and poor Indians - Samy had engineered some of the biggest corporate scandals for the party - Maika and AIMST.

Samy Vellu complained to his supporters that if Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon could be made a senator and minister, he should have been accorded the same privilege. It is embarrassing that the party still keeps someone like Samy. Luckily Najib understands that taking care of Samy is not akin to taking care of the community.

MIC should adopt a different set of KPIs to help the Indian community:

1) Reduce school dropouts;
2) Reduce crime rates committed by Indian youths;
3) Provide more opportunities to SMEs and entrepreneurs;
4) Increase the community's GDP share;
5) Create more professionals; and more

Interestingly Najib has asked Samy to pack up by the middle of 2009. This is not such a bad advice. But how can MIC stand on its feet if it takes Najib, the head of UMNO, to tell the party president to leave. MIC leaders and members should decide their own fate, not others.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ministry KPIs: Start With Accountability and Transparency

Today, I was asked by several journalists to comment on the implementation of ministry's KPIs. My initial reaction was it is not something new. It was implementation in different forms during both Mahathir and Abdullah administrations.

Mahathir introduced his concept of "Bersih, Cekap, Amanah" to drive the performance of civil service. The civil service performance indicator is even more important than ministries' KPIs. It was an established fact that a number of policies faced implementation setbacks. Hence, the right thing for Najib and Koh Tsu Koon to measure is the government's implementation mechanism.

Abdullah introduced KPIs for the GLCs. The KPIs were created by Ethos Consulting. Unfortunately, not many of us are familiar with the performance measurement because it was never made transparent and open.

Second, I am beginning to doubt Koh's ability to come out with a comprehensive, fair and competent KPIs for all the ministries. He was super efficient. In less than a day, he has spoken to six ministries and gave the rest 30 days to come out with their respective KPIs. To come out with the right set of KPIs, a minister must be fully briefed on the important processes, objectives and works of his/her ministries. The KPIs must not only be able to measure the right activities and processes but can also be used to enhance performance, correct weaknesses and eradicate mediocrity.

I hope Koh does not forget about his own KPIs. Who is going to measure the KPIs of the minister in charge of unity and performance?

Najib has made a tactical mistake. Although it is a notable action to measure the performance of his ministers, he should have appointed an independent committee to look into the efficiency and performance measurements of his administration which should include the civil sector.

Third, does the performance measurement includes all BN chief ministers too? We can no longer tolerate chief ministers who spend public fund on flimsy 'technical visits' to amusement parks, Disneyland and others. If Mohd Khir Toyo was so intelligent that he can understand how an amusement park can be developed and run by mere social visits, there is no need for KPIs. Just appoint him to become the PM.

Fourth, can Koh handle these ministers? His other portfolio - unity - runs contrary to his main portfolio on performance. How can he help to promote 'unity' if he has to step on many shoes to ensure an optimal performance from the ministers? It is clear that Koh's appointment was made hastily. His own sets of KPIs run contrary against each other. Maybe, it was his mentor, Lim Keng Yaik, who helped him get the job.

If Najib is serious about KPIs, he should start with both accountability and transparency. An accountable government should not be afraid of public scrutiny. The first thing he should do is to free up the press and allow access to both MSM and online media to all important public information. His policies and implementation process must be subjected to constant public scrutiny and test.

Afterall, Najib is the one who said that the 'government knows best' era is over. The media, NGOs, academicians, analysts and stakeholders should be allowed to discuss, debate and provide feedback freely on public policies. Hence, previous actions of protecting details of privatisation concessions e.g. tolls, IPPs and other mega projects using the secretive OSA must be stopped immediately. A credible and efficient government is a transparent government.

Najib should have realised that the performance bar is high and expectations are many. Not many organisations and individuals are as generous as Hindraf which has given Najib a 100 days truce. The reception he received at the two by-elections, Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang, has shown that he is not going to enjoy a honeymoon period.

Najid should really get serious with promises and stop his 'instant noodle' reform.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Talk to Koh Tsu Koon About Unity?

Lee & Koh during the last campaign (The Star)

Koh trying to appease Chia after he was not nominated for much anticipated state seat.

Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon has finally made it to the cabinet. His inclusion has been speculated for months. Leaders and members of Gerakan were actively involved in the lobbying, believing that a ministerial position for Koh will help the party to regain back power in Penang.

Koh has been appointed as a Minister in the PM's department looking after national unity. But who wants to talk to Koh about unity? Koh does not have an impressive track record on unity.

He was instrumental in creating disunity among his top leaders in Penang during the last general election. He was the main man who played the CM musical chair with Chia Kwang Chye, Teng Hock Nan, Teng Chang Yeow and Lee Kah Choon. This had created dissatisfaction and suspicion between the four leaders.

The outcome was catastrophic for the party. Lee joined the new state administration led by DAP. Chia and his brothers had remained on the sideline since his defeat at the party's state chairmanship contest by Teng. All of the four were defeated in the last general election. The defeats were not thought to be possible before the CM nomination ruckus.

Perhaps Koh should try his hand at uniting his party's leadership first before trying to do the same for the country. Koh is the only winner in the whole shameful period of Gerakan's campaign in Penang. He is now a cabinet minister.
What did Koh tell Sin Chew?
" Gerakan Acting President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said it is not currently under his consideration whether to accept offers to enter the Cabinet. He said he and other leaders of the party refused to accept any offer for the positions of Senator and minister for two reasons.
Koh said that even MIC President has mentioned it that it was indeed going through the back door if he accepted the offer as a Senator after being defeated in the general elections. Besides, the Opposition also said on the last day of the campaign period that: there is no need to vote for Koh Tsu Koon as he can be a minister through the Senator appointment.” If he becomes a minister by such a way, it would be contrary to the true meaning of the democratic elections.

“Besides, as the party was defeated this time, I'll focus on the revitalisation of the party and be a full-time acting president,” he said. (Has he revitalised Gerakan? If not the party needs a full time president)

He added that a Cabinet minister would have to be responsible for the ministry, the party and the constituency. One could not do carry out all duties simultaneously if he wants to do well." (This is Koh's own assessment of his performance - a prophecy)
UPDATES:
Support my legal defence fund against political bullies! SAY NO TO POLITICAL BULLIES!

Najib's New Team - Neither Mean nor Lean

New Cabinet line-up:

Prime Minister and Finance Minister 1 - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
Deputy PM and Education Minister - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

Finance Minister 2 - Ahmad Husni
Ministers in PM dept - Nazri, Nor Yaakob, Koh Tsu Koon and Jamil
Transport - Ong Tee Keat
Maximus Ongkili - Science and Technology
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi - Defence
Hishammuddin - Home
Shafie Apdal - Rural Development
Kong Cho Ha - Housing and Local Govt
Liow Tiong Lai - Health
Ng Yen Yen - Tourism
S. Subramaniam - Human Resource
Douglas Uggah - Natural Resources and Environment
Shahrizat - Women, Family and Community Development
Mustapa Mohamed - International Trade and Industry
Khaled Nordin - Higher Education
Rais Yatim - Information, Unity, Culture and Arts
Noh Omar - Agriculture
Shahziman Mansor - Works
Ismail Sabri - Domestic Trade
Ahmad Shabery Cheek - Sports
Anifah Aman - Foreign
Raja Nong Chik - Federal Territories

Najib has reduced the number of ministers to 28 from 31 ministers. It is important for the PM's PR team to take note. DO NOT OVERSELL. 80% of his cabinet members were old faces. Notably, he dropped Syed Hamid Albar, Azalina Othman and Muhd Taib. They are the most controversial ministers in the last administration.

My initial reaction to the cabinet line-up:
1) There is no WOW factor. It is a predictable team.
2) Like previous administrations, Najib has to give in to compromises with other component parties
3) The exclusion of Khairy and the inclusion of Mukhriz is the most controversial decision made by Najib. It will be difficult for Najib to justify that this decision is made on merit. His decision will be linked to a compromise with Mahathir. He intends to neutralise Mahathir's criticism of his administration if he choose to follow convention by appointing UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin into the cabinet. This decision will create unease amongst some UMNO youth members, Abdullah's faction and Khairy's faction.
4) The inclusion of Gerakan President Koh Tsu Koon as a minister in the PM's department taking charge of unity is interesting. By accepting the appointment, Koh has gone back on his words not to accept a senatorship and a ministerial position if he was defeated at the Batu Kawan parliamentary contest.

Wee Needs to Call a Spade a Spade

MCA Youth Chief Wee Ka Siong got his analysis right. He said national issues like Barisan Nasional’s takeover of the state government in Perak from Pakatan Rakyat contributed to the loss of most of the Chinese votes in the Bukit Selambau by-election. He said many Chinese voters sympathised with Pakatan on the Perak issue and thus supported PKR.

If BN's takeover of Perak is accepted and supported by Perakians, as claimed by BN appointed Menteri Besar Zambry, it would not have triggered the defeats of BN candidates in both by-elections.

Despite his analysis, Wee was not ready to call for the right remedy. Wee said the party needed to study the grievances of the Chinese in Bukit Selambau to be better prepared for the next general election. He should really stop beating around the bushes.

The most important remedy is to call for fresh snap elections in Perak.

MCA must be willing to grab the bull by its horn. The party's request for an additional Deputy Prime Minister position, if given by UMNO, will not automatically swing back Chinese voters to the party.

What makes MCA think that it deserves the Deputy Prime Minister position? The party should not be asking for more positions if it cannot play a part to influence national policies. The party has spoken against the ISA, the buy back of privatised highways from PLUS, the IPCMC, the revsion of NEP, the Chinese vernacular education etc.

What has the party achieved in speaking up on these issues? Not much to show.

MCA should not merely act like a loose cannon. Speaking up alone is not enough. It must start to act like a partner in the federal government. Otherwise, the party should just focus on its business investment.

UPDATES:

I would like to thank Mr SC Ong and Mr PC Cheong for their kind contribution to my legal fund.

SAY NO TO RACISM! SAY NO TO POLITICAL BULLIES!

Malaysians of all races must start to reclaim our nation from unscrupulous politicians who are playing a divisive political game to divide us using both race and religion for their own interest. UMNO has paid a heavy prive for trying to play up 3R - Race, Religion & Royalty.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Najib's 'Instant Noodle' Reform

On his first day as the prime minister, Najib announced the release of 13 ISA detainees. He had promised to comprehensively review the NEP. Two days before the polling date, he announced his 1Malaysia grand vision, like other premiers before him did.

Najib's PR team (an expensively assembled team comprises of editorial heads and ex-heads of various MSM) was desperate to turn around his image as an iron fisted autocrat. Unfortunately, like his predecessor Abdullah, Najib's initiative was neutralised by yet another poorly taken strategy to embrace Mahathir so quickly and warmly.

If Najib wanted to lose the 'autocratic image', the last thing he should do is to build an alliance with Mahathir so quickly. Mahathir's 22 years legacy had very little to do with the respect for democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of law and accountability. Mahathir treated Malaysians as gullible and naive.

Mahathir's achievements e.g. physical and industrial development were largely bought with Malaysia's hard earned oil money. What did Malaysia gain technically from the mega projects such as KLCC, Penang bridge, Proton, Bakun and many others? Have we mastered the technology to build our own cars which are competitive worldwide? Under his leadership, the quality of other soft areas e.g. education, public institutions and others has declined.

Najib has chosen the wrong pop star to align himself with. Mahathir may be treated like a pop star in UMNO but not among middle ground Malaysians.

There is every reason to believe that Najib may soon be following Abdullah's footsteps. His release of the 13 ISA detainees did not earn him any brownie point. It was done without a real sincerity to amend his government's mistake in detaining these suspects without a fair trial. Hindraf leaders who were released were subjected to various restrictions on their mobility and activity. Due to these restrictions, both Manoharan and Uthayakumar had rejected the offer.

Next, it is left to be seen what Najib intends to do with the draconian law. Is his government willing to compensate those who were detained without being charged in courts?

His reform agenda must also include these areas:

1) A comprehensive review of the education system. Parties blaming the vernacular schools as the main obstacle to national unity must be asked to check their facts. These schools should not become a punching bag to hide the excessive politicking amongst political parties, NGOs, individuals and stakeholders. He must deracialise, depoliticize and make education as an important socio-economic tool to help this country to develop. In short, improve the schools. Kick bigots out of the system. The idea mooted by Hishammudin to allow teachers to participate in active politics is bound to worsen politicking in the schools.

2) Repeal the ISA immediately. Modernise our criminal and security regulations and preventive measures. He must review the wide police power to detain a person without trial. Police duties and investigation work must be made consistent and compliant to international standards. Implement the full fledged IPCMC.

3) Repeal the NEP. This is the cause of public sector corruption. The government must review its involvement in the economy. It will be difficult to expect the private sector to lead growth if the government interferes directly in the process by setting quotas and ceilings.

Najib must avoid dishing out 'instant noodle' reform. One thing for sure, Abdullah's administration is not the lowest ebb of BN government yet. Things can still go worse than the last 5 years.

Can Najib still deliver? The journey to reform is not for the faint hearted.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fresh Elections in Perak Needed

PAS Nizar's victory in Bukit Gantang is the clearest signal to the BN to call for snap elections immediately to return the right to the people of Perak to choose their legitimate government.

The coup MUST end now. There are still recalcitrants among the UMNO state leadership. Perak Umno secretary Ramly Zahari insisted that the outcome of the polls did not justify the call for state elections. He said the non-Malays voted strongly for PAS because of the populist policies of the PR-led state government including awarding permanent land titles to new villagers.

Ramly does not speak for all Perakians. Leaders like will ensure the slide of an UMNO led government in the country.

There are several reasons for PR's bigger victory:
1) The choice of candidate. I had opined that Nizar was the best choice for PAS. Nizar's selection has turned this election into a referendum on Perak's power grab.
2) BN is not yet on the mend. Najib's premiership does not enjoy the immediate goodwill like Abdullah's
3) The harsh underhand tactics used by the BN government to grab power were not well received by the people
4) It was a referendum on Nizar's performance as the MB. He had served well. This track record has ensured his victory.
5) Non-UMNO component parties cannot rely on Najib alone to reverse their fortune. Their influence on the non-Malay communities is limited and weak.

The most significant implication of this victory is the desire of the people for REAL change. They have voted for a real and permanent change. This is something no spin doctors in Najib's administration can provide. Najib should sack all his spin doctors including a popular blogger. Get real reformists and anak Malaysia to do the work.

Bukit Gantang is the most significant of the 3 by-elections. It does not augur well for Najib.

More Jobs Lost

I was told by a contact working in Agilent Technologies that her company is planning to cut 2,700 jobs. Her whole department is affected.

US job data is equally gloomy. 2.7 million jobs have been lost since Jan 2009. I support the call by various bodies to start a retrenchment fund for Malaysians retrenched.

The government must act fact. How effective is the RM60 billion stimulus (for two years) in supporting employment?

Mkini: Will Makeover Work for Najib?

Will makeover work for Najib?
Khoo Kay Peng Apr 6, 09 3:24pm

comment I was one of those who received a private email from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. It was a cordial reminder to check on his blog, 1Malaysia.com.my. I was told Najib had assembled a team of public relations and media consultants to work on his leadership image several months ago. Several media big-wigs had lobbied hard to be part of his team.

Najib's succession of Abdullah was criticised by the opposition as inappropriate and unsuitable for Malaysia. He was blamed as the architect of the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak, for the ban of opposition party organs, and for the use of other iron-fisted tactics on his political opponents.His former colleague, ex-minister Zaid Ibrahim, had asked the King not to appoint Najib as the next premier. It was followed by a petition signed by 81 Pakatan MPs which was submitted to the palace with the same request.

The team of advisers hit the first home run for Najib. At his inaugural speech as premier, Najib made three very important decisions to soften his image and distance himself from talk that his leadership will mark the return of rule a la Dr Mahathir Mohamad.He said: "I would like to announce that the government has decided with immediate effect to remove the temporary ban on two news publications, release 13 detainees from ISA detention, and conduct a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act (ISA)."

Two of the five detained Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders were released, but there is now a reasonable doubt whether the now-banned movement can remain intact. The detention of Hindraf’s top echelon has allowed for factional leaders to emerge and they have vested interests, as seen in Bukit Selambau.Najib may want a comprehensive review of the ISA, but don’t expect the law to be repealed.

Three tasks ahead

Next, he would surely want to flex his ability to tackle the economy. He must address three most important aspects.

First, he needs to re-energise the private sector as the main engine of growth. Najib can be expected to tap into the readily available network of corporate alliances and family network to help him here. To rebuild confidence, he must take the bull by its horn and address the sensitive and highly controversial New Economic Policy (NEP). Again, don’t expect it to be abolished. He will offer more rhetoric than action. NEP is his party's lifeline. This is the only policy the party can use to beat its chest about protecting Malay economic interest and rights.

It is easier to tinker with the ISA than the NEP. Without using the ISA, Najib would still have access to a range of policy instruments, legal coercive power, public institutions and others to achieve his political ambition and objectives. NEP is sacrosanct to the Malay supremacy, a communal sacred cow.

Second, Najib has to address the growing operations cost and budget deficit. The public sector is a big white elephant. The larger it grows, the harder it will be to restructure the sector. Efficiency must increase a few notches to help support a modern government faced with numerous difficult and complex global challenges. The public sector must not continue to be used as a social welfare tool to help ease the unemployment problem. A government’s role is to provide a suitable environment to allow the optimisation of the private sector, not to frustrate it. The role of the government in the economy must be minimised and reduced.

Third, the new premier has promised a new deal for Malaysia. This must unleash new energy and initiative in the private sector. Private players must be convinced to invest in talents and technology. If not, Malaysia will continue to lag.In the next decade, we should expect a higher mobility of talented people.

As nations developed, the competition skills and talents will intensify. Without a right policy and leadership direction, highly skilled Malaysians will continue to move out to better markets.

Big mistake

Najib may have started on the right foot. Yet, do not expect him to be showered with the same instant goodwill as Abdullah received. Abdullah came in without much baggage as he was an outsider, not part of Mahathir's inner circle. He was expected to take a more moderate and humane governance and leadership approach.

Najib has already made a mistake by not addressing the issue of Alantuya Shaariibuu openly and transparently. His text messages to aide Abdul Razak Baginda were damaging to him, although these did not reveal involvement. He should have ordered a probe against his chief of security as well as Abdul Razak, his chief advisor, on possible abuse of authority. He did not and the allegations are sticking to him.

The opposition, especially Anwar Ibrahim, has not been able to produce evidence of any relationship between him and Altantuya.

Can Najib become an effective prime minister with this allegation hanging over his head? He can still perform above expectations if he can deliver all his promises. After all, he is a seasoned politician who should know that not performing is not an option, whatever the perception of him.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Yes, Ignore Him (Dr M)

I was asked by a few reporters for my reaction on the possible return of Dr Mahathir to the Najib administration. My initial reaction was why bother about Mahathir. If we choose to ignore him long enough, he will soon realise that his era is over.

Mahathir is a Machiavellian. A realist who hides a personal agenda in his every move. Mahathir will speak about unity, multiracialism and good governance when the message suits his agenda. On the same breath, this man can turn into a racist and a bigot.

At 84, he still harbour a hope to returning as an "an unofficial advisor to the government." Najib should know better. For Mahathir, there is no such thing as "unofficial". During the Abdullah administration, he had refused to allow his successor a free reign of the government. He had insisted on the continuation of several controversial projects, his choice of deputy premier and access to decision making process at the PM's department.

Before Najib took over, he had warned the new PM of the consequences of not obtaining his endorsement for his cabinet lineup, threatening to bring him down the same way he did to Abdullah.

It is ridiculous for UMNO and BN to treat this man as a political pop star. It will be difficult for Najib to sell his reform agenda to us if he appoints Mahathir as an advisor. Malaysians who loved democracy and despise racism do not want to have anything to do with Mahathir.

Najib is taking a ticking time bomb into his administration if he accepts Mahathir as his advisor. This bomb might blow on his face anytime and destroy his own legacy. He should really learn from Abdullah's lesson.

Mahathir's involvement is a solid reason for me to root for PR's victory in both Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Setback for BN in Bukit Selambau

Barring any serious mistake by PR, its candidate Manikumar is expected to register a slim victory in Bukit Selambau.

There are several reasons for my prediction:

1) The choice of Manikumar is a calculated move by Anwar to enhance his party's candidate selection process. Many, including some Hindraf factional leaders, have criticized his choice. But Manikumar's lack of political experience is actually a plus factor. Until now, his opponents have not being able to attack his personal credibility. Manikumar is both highly educated and successful in his career. On the other hand, BN's Ganeson is not a new comer. He is an old hand and too closely linked to his unpopular party leader, Samy Vellu. UMNO did not appear to go all out for MIC there.

2) PR is displaying better team work than BN. This is acknowledged even by Khairy Jamaluddin, the newly minted UMNO Youth chief. BN's desperation showed: MIC members who disrupted a PKR ceramah last night.

3) The past neglect of Bukit Selambau e.g. residents without electricity and clean water cannot be blamed on the young PR state government. Like Batang Ai, the BN will have to be fed a bitter lesson for ignoring regional development disparity by losing the by-elections. Hence, I would like to urge Malaysians in the two areas to send a clear message to the BN federal government for neglecting their basic socio-economic needs. Billions of ringgit spend on the corridor projects should have been used to close the development gap between rural-urban, east-west Malaysia, rich and poor provinces.

4) The mass defections from Kedah PPP to the opposition party is going to motivate PR and demoralised BN. Leading the defection was People's Progressive Party (PPP) vice-president V Nagarajan, along with 11 of the party's divisions in the state. The defections, which involved 62 branches in the state, meant that PPP lost almost its entire membership in Kedah. The defections will have at least 500 votes effect against BN.

UPDATES:

I am encouraged by the growing stream of contributors to my legal defence fund. I assure you that this gesture of support will spur me to speak up without fear or favour. Concerned friends, e.g. Keong Leh, who have called to enquire about my well-being. You are most appreciated!

I just received encouraging emails from Mr S. Ong and Mr Phang. Thanks for your contributions.

Amount collected: RM4310 (With Thanks!)

Amount needed: RM16k

SAY NO TO RACISM!

SAY NO TO POLITICAL BULLIES!

Jailbreakers in Malaysia!


Story of BREAK OUT (a.k.a. PICNIC)

Break Out!tells the tale of a night-in-the-life of a group of desperate prisoners, whose nightmare existence changes beyond belief when an ancient and sacred text mysteriously drops into the prison. This mysterious arrival inspires the inmates to plan a daring escape into the outside world, where they are able to enjoy a brief moment of freedom. Featuring a cast of nuns, nurses and break-dancing villains in the craziest jail break of all time,

Break Out! is a fun-packed, mad-cap night out featuring top quality performers including some of Korea's leading B-Boys from internationally winning crews including DRIFTERS crew (Battle of the Year 2006 finalists), GAMBLERS crew (Battle of the Year 2005 finalists) and MAXIMUM crew.

History of BREAK OUT

2007. 04 Previewed at Goyang Oullimnuri Byeolmorae Theatre(6th – 8th)

2007. 04 UK Previewed at Peacock Theatre (in London, 19th – 22nd)

2007. 05 Chungmu Art Hall Small Theatre Black (26th – 22nd of Jul.)

2007. 08 Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Assembly Hall, 2nd – 25th)

Box Office No.1/ Cavalcade Best Walking Group Winner

2007. 10 The Good Theatre (5th – 30th of Nov.)

2007. 11 Lao National Culture Hall (in Vientiane, 16th of Nov.)

2007. 12 Convocation Hall (in Mumbai, 26th of Dec.)

With the sponsorship and endorsement of the Korean Embassy, Korea Tourism Organization and LG Electronics, this superb non-verbal performance is brought to you by the GF World Solutions (GFW).

This performance is supported by the Penang state government, Malaysia Association of Hotels (Penang Chapter), Nikko Hotel, G Hotel and Sunway Pyramid Mall. Press partners include The Star, 8tv and OneFM.

Net proceeds from the shows will be donated to selected charities. Last year, the organizers donated RM72k, net proceeds from the Korean Goguryo Art Orchestra performance, to the Penang Down Syndrome Association .

For ticketing information, please visit the AXCESS website.