Saturday, May 30, 2009

Breakout in Penang

Jinny & Me - saying goodbye~

A group picture at one of the trendiest hotels in Penang, G Hotel

Thank you, Penang audience. We would like to thank you for a warm reception and a positive feedback. The team would like to thank all sponsors in Penang including the Penang State Government, the Chief Minister, G Hotel and other supporting organisations for making this theatre a success. We hope you have enjoyed the theatre performance.
Hope to see you again with another spectacular show. I will keep you posted on this blog.
B-Boy Rocks!

Breakout Was Hot!!!

Photo taking session with adoring B-Boys and B-Girls outside the MCA hall

A splendid start at MCA hall. We celebrated back stage!

A few weeks before the event we were worried about the response. But the Klang Valley folks did not let us down. We had fun in KL and would like to thank the audience who came to our sell-out shows in Kuala Lumpur.
Net proceeds of the KL performances will be donated to the LG Cleft Lip Project. This project aims to bring back a smile on the face of cleft lip patients in Malaysia.
The team was so touched with the warm reception they received here and they would like to come back to Malaysia again if possible.
Thank you, Kuala Lumpur.

Breakout In Malaysia - The Journey

Stage set-up in progress at Wisma MCA

Set-up team putting up the "magical book"

Malaysian & Korean B-Boys at the Nikko Hotel

It was an exciting event. When I was asked to manage and organize six performances for the Breakout Extreme Dance Comedy theatre in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, I knew it was going to be an energetic, dynamic and yet challenging journey.

We started planning for the theatre at the end of February. Honestly, the timeline was quite tight for the team. For publicity and promotional purposes, we approached The Star, 8tv and OneFM to become our media partners. We were grateful that they were quite supportive of the theatre.

Together with Korea Tourism Organization and LG Electronics, we decided to organize a B-Boy Dance Competition at the Sunway Pyramid Mall. I would like to thank Ms Phang for her team's hardwork and commitment to help us make the competition a success. A total of 22 teams participated in the early rounds. Fellest Yan, a dancer and my able partner, was the coordinator of the competition. We hope this competition can be held annually and the winners will get a chance to compete in the R16 B-Boy Competition in Seoul.

On 20th May, the Breakout team arrived at the KLIA. Their arrival was full of drama. They were expected to arrive at the hotel at around 8.30pm but did not turn up until 11.30pm. First, their flight from Seoul was delayed by more than an hour.

Next, Tricky misplaced his passport and could not get through the immigration check point. Gosh, we had to make several calls to the Korean Embassy and airport immigration. Luckily, MAS workers did a sweep check inside the plane and found his passport. He was asked to buy everyone beer!

Finally, they got to sit down to eat their dinner at the Nikko's Chinese Restaurant. The team would like to thank the Nikko Hotel management for being such an excellent host. Their support and assistance to team was superb and warm.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Breakout's Roaring Success

It was a blast today and a roaring success. Read here for some reviews in:

K-Popped by Liz, Orchid & Rooster, and here (by the way I was the lame MC).

To those who still want to catch the show, please come to Wisma MCA before 2pm tomorrow. Some tickets are still available.

Penang folks should grab the chance to watch this highly entertaining theatre.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It Stinks Somewhere in Putrajaya

After the Perak verdict, it just stinks! Clearly, it has created more doubt than certainty. Now, the judges cannot even agree on the interpretation of the constitutional language. This judgement is set to put the federal constitution on a serious trial.

It was ruled that the Sultan (monarch) has the authority to hire and fire a chief minister. But Malaysia is a constitutional democracy. A chief minister should only be answerable to the state assembly. His leadership should be decided by elected members of the legislation. Even if the law does not specify a method on how a chief minister can be removed, it does not mean that the best possible method is through the arbitrary decision of a monarch.

I think we are done trying to explain and argue about our constitutional rights. The only option left is to reclaim our democratic rights. If a regime entrusted with the power to rule for five years cannot deliver this responsibility fairly, it is up to us to stand up for our democracy and our rights.

I agree with Dr Mahathir that we should not go back to the feudal way. We should put the right people at the right places. People whom we expected to help defend and protect our constitutional rights cannot be allowed to abuse this responsibility to pervert the law the way they feel fit.

Each and every institution must have a check-and-balance system to ensure that there is no abuse of authority or power.

In this case, our institutions and government have failed us. The only option left is to exercise our rights at the ballot boxes.

It is a shame to know that while most countries are moving forward, we are doing exactly the opposite and still hoping to become a developed nation by 2020.

We must stand up to fight till the end. Our collective will will prevail if we can work as a nation to reject the old Malaysia and replace it with one which promises us a better future.

Act now! I want to hear from you what we can do together.

Friday, May 22, 2009

1Sekolah Proponents Should Try Harder

I would like to thank those who had responded with to my last post on 1Sekolah. I agree that we should not approach the subject on education through racial or partisan lenses. It amazes me to find out that some of the respondents actually thought that my problem with the 1Sekolah movement was due to my support of the vernacular schools.

Some of these readers simply refused to read my post in total when I said that a truly integrated school system minus the politics, race and religion is a good foundation for national unity. I attended a national primary school. I did very well for both the Bahasa Melayu and Malay literature subjects at the STPM level.

I must admit that I am not that proficient in Mandarin. I tried learning the language like any other 'lao wai' (foreigners) would do to acquire some basic communication skill and to convey some simple messages in Chinese. Over the years, my communication ability in Chinese putonghua had improved gradually. Probably many more Malays, Indians, whites and others who were educated in Chinese speak and write better Chinese than I can.

Does my background make me less Chinese and more Malaysian? The answer is no. I still get racist statements and comments posted on this blog targeting me personally.

I am fluent in the Malay language but does that help to draw me closer socially to other Malays? The answer is again a big NO. The fact is we are still drawn by other social, cultural and religious factors when choosing our friends.

A language is just a tool to help us communicate and understand each other. It is not a social glue which helps to bind us together. Examples are aplenty of societies speaking the same language but still trying to kill each other in battles and conflicts.

I have a problem with the language and blame game employed by the proponents of 1Sekolah to promote their agenda. We are free to promote a good education system for our children but there is no need to call someone cancerous or to blame a lack of choice (for a better system) due to our government's inability to find a solution to improve, repair and restore our fractious education system which did not help to strengthen unity.

Even if UMNO wants to close down the vernacular schools would its partners, MIC and MCA, agree to the move? Is UMNO willing to do the same to the MARAs and UiTMs? It is a fact that political parties who hold the rein of power are reluctant to change. Racially based political parties find vernacular schools (Chinese, Tamil, Malay & Islamic) as a fertile ground to promote their racial agenda.

If this is such a simple logic to understand, why can't the proponents of 1Sekolah accept the reality that they should not bark at the wrong tree? If parents were given a choice to enrol their children in good national schools which promised the delivery of a quality education why would they not send their children to these schools?

Remember, most non-Malay parents send their children overseas to pursue higher education (if they can afford it) not to China or India but mostly to English speaking countries. Some students who did go to China or India did so to pursue a quality education at the Beijing University or a top Indian medical college. They did not do so for ethno-cultural reasons.

The most simple thing for these lazy proponents of 1Sekolah to do is to think of ways to improve the quality of the national school system and not resorting to blame game, racial rhetoric or hate language. It will not get them anywhere and it did not.

A selfish or (ignorant) respondent actually thought that the continuation of vernacular schools gave her Sekolah Kebangsaan going children a headstart in the job market. She claimed her children have better command of both English and Malay compared to other vernacular schoolers. She is definitely one ignorant parent.

I was envious of my friends who were educated in vernacular primary schools. Almost 98 percent of these students continue their education in national secondary schools. Most of the vernacular schools provide an opportunity for students to learn three languages at least. Some of my friends, very successful ones, are conversant in more than two languages including their own mother tongue which gave them a headstart in the huge Chinese speaking markets.

She (the parent) gave an example of hawkers not being able to string a proper sentence of BM. On which part of the earth is she living in? She should try to approach any Chinese hawkers and speak to them in BM. Hawkers are the most resilient economic survivors. If illegal Chinese DVD sellers in Barcelona can master conversational Spanish in 6 months, what is BM to them?

It is important for the proponents of 1Sekolah to do their homework before making absurd and illogical comments and suggestions to support their vision. A vision without real sincerity is a waste of time.

In the end, Malaysians are not stupid. Most of them can see through the decoy used, 1Sekolah. The real issue is how to eradicate and control critical bloggers. For their info, not all bloggers had attended vernacular primary schools. I did not.

It's the Police, Stupid!

What can I say about the police? Ignorant? Stubborn? Doing their job? Stupid? Or introspectively wise and smart? What is their real motive to continue arresting a number of people wearing all black and holding lighted candles?

I am leaving it to Straight Talk readers to reflect on yet another arrest made by the police. Sixteen people, including Teratai state assemblyperson Jenice Lee, were arrested by the police just outside her service centre at about 8.45pm last night for allegedly holding an illegal assembly.

The arrest sounded like a mock exercise organised by the police. Sixteen people were detained by about 40 police personnel, along with members from the light strike force unit. Where is the de facto KPI minister Koh Tsu Koon? 40 police officers needed to detain sixteen harmless people is totally unproductive. Koh needs to investigate this blatant wastage of productive resource.

Most of the detainees were DAP workers and members. A member was 72 years old.

Is the police stupid or what? It was obvious that these DAP members led by their young elected representatives needed the police to complete their political drama. They had courted detention and harsh action by the police and got what they wanted. The police officers who had nothing better to do were only too happy to fulfill their demand.

It is best for the police to spend their valuable time (and paid by the public too) to combat crime.

I would like to thank readers of this blog for their continuous support and financial contributions.

"Breaking" at Sunway Pyramid this Sunday, 24th May

In conjunction with the Breakout Extreme Dance Comedy premier in Malaysia, both the Korea Tourism Organization and LG Electronics are organising a Malaysian B-Boy Dance Competition at the Sunway Pyramid.

The preliminary rounds last week on 17th May saw 22 teams competing to fill the top 8 places in the finals.

The finals are going to be held this Sunday, 24th May at 1pm at the same venue. Breakout performers and its dance director Mr Jeon will be making an appearance at the finals. Jeon will join two other judges on the panel. Come join Markus (Battleground judge), Fellest Yan and other top local B-Boys at the competition.

Breakout management company, Seven Sense Inc., is also here to talent scout for Malaysian top B-Boys to join their open run theatre in Seoul.

I hope to see you there. Have you got your tickets to the Breakout premier? Do it quick because tickets are selling fast.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Malaysia Boleh? Can 1Malaysia Teach Malaysians to Compete?

This is classic Malaysia. Once upon a time we started to produce our own local car with the help of Japanese second grade technology. When the car was not able to compete with other better foreign imports, we had to introduce an import control through the issuance of Approved Permits so that Malaysians did not have a choice but to buy the 'cheaper' local cars.

Ironically, some Ali Babas who were privileged enough to be given a bundle of free APs started to get entrepreneurial and used these APs to import other foreign make and try to localize them. Soon, the local car maker's existence and market share was threatened by these 'localized' foreign imports.

Once upon a time, we started to produce our own mobile phones and the manufacturer had wanted the government to impose a similar import restriction against foreign competitors. It was proposed that APs should be required to import foreign made mobile phones. Luckily, the proposal did not get very far.

The 1sekolah proponents are adopting the same mentality. In order to promote the national schools, they have called for the abolishment of the more popular Tamil and Chinese vernacular primary schools. They have accused these schools as a cause and cancer to the society's social harmony.

When the main stream media was troubled by the flourishing alternative media players, the same kind of modus operandi was applied. Close them down, take action against bloggers and the use of other harsh treatments.

When politicians have lost their mandate to rule, they too resort to the same old tested formula of trying to eliminate their opponents through the same means - use force and access to coercive legal instruments to achieve their end goal.

Yes, we rather destroy and point our fingers blaming others than trying to learn how to compete with our competitors.

Why can't our local car makers learn how to become world's beaters if Korean car makers which had faced serious negative quality perception can overcome all odds to occupy two out of ten spots as the biggest car producers in the world?

Why can't our mobile phone maker make a similar technological leap and become a successful regional player when phone companies in China can achieve record breaking results in less than 5 years? Do we realise that a number of Motorola patents and new models were created by Malaysian engineers based in Penang?

It was a fact that the enrolment of English medium schools outstripped both the Tamil and Chinese vernacular schools before these schools were nationalized in 1971? Up till today, most non-Malay parents still prefer to send their children to English speaking nations to pursue their tertiary education.

Hence, what was the main reason most non-Malay parents found the national schools as undesirable? They were not confident that these schools were able to meet the learning aspiration of their children. Simple. Nothing racial.

Similarly, why can't the main stream media learn how to compete with the alternative media which are not as well funded? If the nexus between political parties and the main stream media can be severed, there should not be a problem for it to compete for readership by producing fair and accurate reporting.

Why can't politicians compete for support through their ability to govern fairly, transparently and professionally? Why can't politicians respect the rule of law and the rule of a true democracy where people's mandate hold supreme?

Malaysians need to change our mindset and learn how to compete and compete fairly. I have given some examples here but I am sure you can find out more examples to identify the kind of mindset I was trying to point out.

Can 1Malaysia change this mindset?

Explain 1Malaysia

How many people are willing to give Prime Minister Najib Razak the benefit of doubt? Probably, many Malaysians are still hoping for him to do well. The success of his administration is very important for the country facing multifarious global challenges.

However, I am not sure if the prime minister is aware that he needs to keep his ship on a tighter control. As the prime minister, he will have to shoulder the responsibility for the infamous actions and outbursts of his subordinates.

His predecessor, Abdulllah Badawi, had suffered from similar repercussions when his subordinates made several costly decisions or took wrong actions which were unpopular to the people. Abdullah's popularity took a nose dive since his debut victory at the 2004 general election. He was ousted by UMNO after an unprecedented electoral losses suffered by the BN coalition in the 2008 general election.

Najib must learn quickly to stop the erosion of public support for his administration. It is important for him to stop the spiral decline before it consumes his premiership.

One way to do so is to make sure that he get better people to assist him to run the country. Not a bunch of comedians, racists or arrogant and irrational people. He must ensure that there is no more arbitrary interference by the police in the political process.

There must not be any more arbitrary and unconstitutional arrests. At present, the police are still detaining peaceful demonstrators. A healthy democracy should respect the freedom of expression and assembly. That is why Najib must explain his 1Malaysia motive. Can 1Malaysia help to improve the respect for democratic rights in the country?

What is Najib's stand on racial equality and racism in the country? Is his 1Malaysia committed to transform the social and political landscape in the country? The coalition and party he heads are racially centric organisations. Can 1Malaysia be achieved if Malaysia continues to be besieged by racial politics? Rhetoric is saying one thing but doing something else. Is Najib ready to create history by ending BN racial politics?

If Najib is serious about national unity, then he should discourage a movement such as the '1Sekolah Untuk Semua' which is a hollow concept aimed at flaming the Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools. Blaming primary school students for causing disunity is both silly and irresponsible.

If he is serious to end racial blame game, he must carefully select the right people to helm the state-owned media organisations and those controlled indirectly by his party. If he put those who believe in the trampling of democracy, the promotion of race supremacy and the use of hurtful and seditious language then his vision is as good as blind. Are there not other Malaysians who can run these media organisations better? Must his administration use recycled personalities?

Similarly, we would like the prime minister to state his stand on the NEP, a true economic liberalisation to strengthen industrial development, the ISA, the current education policy, a better deal for workers, a fairer treatment of indigenous people and those who are marginalised, racism and others.

It is time to get serious about change. Mouthing change alone will not stop BN continuous slide into oblivion. As a proponent of a two-party system, I would like to see the two coalitions compete in a healthy manner.

Hence, Straight Talk would like to remind him that his time and that of his coalition is fast running out.

Get the right people. Do not fear your own shadow. Do the things right so that your actions will not come back to haunt you.

Mr Prime Minister, you really ought to pull up your socks!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quiet Penanti? Come Have Fun at Sri Pinang Hall

Many of you who are looking forward to a busy weekend of political campaign at Penanti will surely be disappointed with the news that BN is not contesting there.

Anyway, get your Breakout tickets now and do your bit for a charity organisation, D'Home Mental Association, in Penang. Tickets can be obtained at Tower Records and Switch (Apple) outlets in Gurney Plaza, Switch outlets in Queensbay Mall and Sunway City, New Bob Realty and me!

The show is hot in KL! It will surely blow you away.

Can Penangites give this theatre the same warm welcome? Don't let us down in our effort to promote Penang as a performing arts hub in Malaysia.

See you at the Breakout Extreme Dance Comedy show on 27th & 28th May at 8.30pm. Hope to see Penang bloggers too.

Monday, May 18, 2009

1 Sekolah Untuk Semua: Another Racial Bigot

I feel compelled to respond to an initiative by a group of 'pro-unity' bloggers to campaign for a common education system for all. The proponents are a group of Malay bloggers. I am not sure if they are really 'pro-unity' as claimed by Rocky Bru. We will talk about this in a while.

It is a good proposal to integrate our school systems. A common education system is a foundation of national unity if students of various ethnicity would be allowed to learn the language of their choice.

Education system in US, Belgium, France and other developed countries provide an opportunity for high school and undergraduates to pursue exchange programmes with various institutions from other countries. This is what globalisation of education is about.

Back to this Najib flavoured, 1Sekolah initiative, I have a creepy feeling reading the tagline of this campaign: Satu Sekolah untuk Satu Bahasa, Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara.

I have question for the proponents of this initiative, which bahasa (language)? These language purists are not consistent with their stand. In the age of globalisation, it is suicidal and stupid to suggest that Malaysian children should only be taught the mastery of a language.

Rockybru is trying to link this initiative to the Singaporean model. I don't have a problem with the Singaporean model which is merit-based and learning focused. If we can take out both politics and religion from the schools, a good integrated education system focusing on knowledge and skills acquisition would be proper for our country.

But Rockybru is definitely pushing his luck trying to equate 1Sekolah to the Singaporean system.

This campaign has started on the wrong footing: Blaming disunity on vernacular schools.

"Sekolah Vernakular (SJKC dan SJKT) adalah punca utama ketidakserasian dan ketegangan kaum di negara kita tercinta."

The proponents of 1Sekolah cannot even be truthful about the main problem of disunity and racial disharmony. Why blame the Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools when it was obvious that some UMNO politicians had started the racial blame game? Did you hear any students or teachers from the vernacular schools doing the same? Why is Rockybru keeping his golden silence when a vernacular newspaper, Utusan Melayu, from his media group is keeping up with the tradition of racial flaming?

It is disappointing to see a group of 'pro-unity' bloggers parotting the same rhetoric to cause even more disunity.

Calling the vernacular schools as a cancer and a cause of our society's destruction is both shameful and dishonest. These schools had produced some of the finest leaders for the country. Many of MIC, MCA and UMNO leaders came from vernacular schools.

Yes, the definition of vernacular schools should include both Malay and religious schools too. I wonder why these 'pro-unity' bloggers had limited the term 'vernacular' to only both Chinese and Tamil schools. How can unity be achieved through this kind of stereotyping?

This campaign is politically driven and filled with inflamatory statements:

"Pengkajian semula sistem pelajaran negara ini haruslah dilakukan memandangkan fenomena perpecahan kaum yang semakin meruncing di masa kini. Gejala ini amatlah jelas sekali di alam siber dimana segelintir masyarakat kini mempamirkan sikap anti-negara yang semakin ketara dan berleluasa.

Jelas sekali, anasir-anasir ini tidak menghormati asas dan prinsip perlembagaan negara Malaysia, tiada rasa cinta kepada tanah air dan juga menonjolkan penulisan hasutan yang mencetuskan sentimen perkauman yang begitu ketara sekali. Secara lantangnya, puak ini mempertikaikan segala unsur yang melambangkan kedaulatan dan intipati negara kita tercinta. Kami menyeru agar gejala Sekolah Vernakular ini di hapuskan secara total."

Bloggers who are part of BUM 2009 should take note of their pro-tem president's endorsement of this type of campaign. The 1Sekolah proponents should just make their intention clear and stop using a scapegoat to drive through their threat and intention.

It is the bloggers who are critical of the UMNO leadership that you wanted to take on. Not the ignorant and naive primary school students who are still learning their ABC in the Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools.

If it is the bloggers that you wanted to take on, we have a message for you too: Just Bring It On!

For goodness sake, stop flaming the Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools. These schools are funded and kept running mostly with public's money and support.

I have a message for the blogging community. Lets start our own movement: a truly non-racial movement.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lawsuits for Dummies - Nazri's Logic

Starting from this weekend, Straight Talk will compile headlines and news reports which are outrageous and irrational. Some politicians and public personalities can make the most 'outrageous' statements.

This week, we start with a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. On the Bar Council's decision to sue the government over the detention of five lawyers at the Brickfields police station for discharging their duty, Nazri said:

"The decision by the Bar Council to sue the government over the May 7 detention of five legal aid lawyers is an attempt to intimidate the enforcement authorities from discharging their duties."

Hello...Nazri, wake up! If the police have kept to the rule of law when discharging their duties they would not have detained these lawyers who were there to play their role. Who were detained in a cramped detention cell? Not the police. So, who is intimidating who? Duh!

He said it also showed that the legal practitioners themselves wanted to undermine the country’s legal system.

Suing the government means undermining the country's legal system? Detaining lawyers who were discharging their duties is really undermining the rule of law and the legal system. Nazri, wake up! for the second time. Are you sure this guy was trained as a legal officer?

“The Bar Council is supposed to be a role model. If police enforce the law and among those caught are their (Bar Council) members, they have to accept it. We have the judiciary. Let the court decides whether the five lawyers are guilty or not."

Nazri, this what the Bar Council is doing - be a role model and play their role as guardians of the federal constitution and the rule of law. The police did not enforce the law, they screwed up the law. Which world-class police force would do the same like our PDRM e.g. detaining lawyers who demanded to see their clients or dragging a legislative speaker out of his own chamber? Timbuktu? Zimbabwe? Myanmar?.

Nazri reminded the council that there is the judiciary and they should let the court to decide if the lawyers are guilty or not. What do the think the Bar Council is doing by taking the government to court? At least the president of Bar Council did not send his hired security guards to knock some senses into Hishamuddin's head. Yes, let the court decide if the police did the right thing in detaining the lawyers.

Nazri is famous for his outrageous statements. Folks! The court (PM's Department) jester is back! And he did not disappoint.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fancy Foot Work

From Seto Kit Yan of The Star: Click here for the full story.

Since Break Out is now in the midst of its open run, the company holds auditions as and when it requires additional members.

Before its charity performances here next week, the Break Out cast will judge the semi-finals for the Korea Sparkling b-boy competition at Sunway Pyramid this weekend.

To add to the b-boy fever, a surprise is in store for these competing Malaysian b-boys. Jeon revealed: "We’ll be selecting two dancers from that contest to participate in Break Out! The characters have yet to be decided on, as we have to observe their personalities before we assign the roles."
He added: “We hope in future to audition foreign dancers from different countries and have them join us in South Korea while we train for more overseas performances.”
The Break Out schedule includes six shows in Malaysia: four in Kuala Lumpur at Wisma MCA on May 23 and May 24 (at 3pm and 8:30pm) and two in Penang at Dewan Sri Penang on May 27 and May 28 (at 8:30pm). Get tickets from all AXCESS counter or visit

Ball is in BN's Court

It is utterly irresponsible for PM Najib to drop the responsibility on the Perak Sultan's lap. Logically and legally, what choice does the Sultan have if both coalitions agreed to give the mandate back to the people to choose the next government?

If the Sultan of Perak claims that his palace is above politics, there should be no reason for him to hold back on giving his consent for dissolution. By law, the monarch cannot refuse a request by a legitimate chief minister to call for a dissolution of the assembly and to force snap elections. This is an option often used by governments around the world.

Hence, the ball is not in the palace's court as claimed by PM Najib. He has this to say when only a day ago he had promised to become the people's leader:

Najib pointed out that the BN did not seize power in Perak because the change in government was made according to regulations and the law, which, if accepted by everyone, would clearly show that the present BN government could administer Perak as it had received a sufficient majority.

“Don’t forget that on Sept 16 last year, who had wanted to steal 21 of our members of parliament. But when he failed, and we succeeded in Perak, we were then said to be undemocratic. We have been accused of seizing power.

“It was the opposition who first tried to seize power but without success... we (the BN) did not start it,” Najib stressed.

The prime minister does not appear to fully understand what does it take to become a truly people's leader. If PR had failed in its bid to steal power through defections, it does not mean that it is acceptable to the voters for BN to engineer the same. I had said that Anwar's PR was to be blamed for his intention to grab power through defections.

Najib should understand that a truly people's leader/government should listen to the people. Not all angry voters are naturally PR supporters. Many of them are fence sitters who occupy the middle ground. This middle ground is what BN needed to stay in power and to restore its political influence.

By continuing to justify the power grab and to use the public institutions to help it to do so, BN is slowly but surely losing its support amongst Malaysians. The next time, it is only possible for the BN to hold on to power by using repressive force.

It is penny wise but pound foolish for Najib to continue governing Perak without first securing the people's mandate. The decision is going to cost his party, his leadership and the coalition a great deal of lost goodwill.

He should form a high level committee to audit the impact and implication of the power grab. Some of the actions taken to quash dissidents and critics are costly. The Bar Council has taken a vote to sue the government, the home ministry and the police. The judiciary has been compromised, putting a quick end to Abdullah's initiated reform. The police is worse tainted in the whole episode. The IGP is speaking like a politician or the chief bodyguard of the BN than a police chief.

BN should have realised that its opposition is formidable because it is facing the people, not just the PR coalition or Anwar Ibrahim. PR is put together by the people as a platform to voice out their grouses democratically that there must be a change of governance style in the country.

The directive to order Uthayakumar back to Kamunting is a bad one. It came after MIC had openly try to court, albeit unsuccessfully, the Hindraf chief leader to back the party. Samy was critical of the leader when it was clear that the movement would not want to have anything to do with MIC.

The decision to reverse the decision to release Uthayakumar will not be taken lightly by the people especially his supporters. It is clearly a political decision. The government is spooked that an uncooperative Uthayakumar can wield a strong force against the ruling regime. It is too late and too risky for the BN to detain him under ISA again. But, on what ground?

Najib's administration is slowly showing its nerve and insecurity. This is a dangerous attitude and this attitude may generate more errors which may eventually break the coalition. How much longer can the other parties tolerate their own destruction?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breakout Starting on 23rd May!

I would like to thank those who have promised to support the charity performance at the MBPJ hall last night.

Let's do our part for the two welfare organisations: LG Cleft Lip Fund and D'Home Mental Association.

Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng is supporting the show and will be at the Penang premier on 27th May at 8.30pm.

See you at both Wisma MCA and Dewan Sri Pinang.

Get your tickets at any AXCESS outlets or call me at 012-325 5965.

Najib: Decision on the polls is up to the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah

Pakatan wanted a dissolution of the state assembly and fresh polls be called. The civil society is encouraging it. UMNO's coalition partners are calling for the same. The people are desperate to end the current political crisis and get on with life.

Now, Najib said Barisan Nasional does not fear fresh elections in Perak and will face the people when the time comes but any decision on whether to hold the polls is up to the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah.

So what is the honourable Sultan waiting for?
All parties are willing and ready. Just do it!

UMNO's Fetish With Power

Prime Minister Najib Razak has thrown the responsibility of illegal power grab in Perak down the alley of Zambry. Najib told the press that the next course of action is up to Zambry. The illegal Perak MB has successfully filed for a stay of the court's order which declared his opponent, Nizar, as the rightful MB.

Thus far, UMNO's decision to push the envelope and the people's thinning patience with the power grab cannot be supported by any rational analysis. The only reason is UMNO's arrogance and desperation for power which has clouded the party's rational thinking.

As the crisis is prolonged, it is crystal clear that UMNO is slowly being deserted by the people and even by its own coalition partners. MCA deputy president Chua Soi Lek had voiced out his personal preference for a fresh poll in Perak. Gerakan leaders such as Teng Hock Nan, Hsu Dar Ren and several others too wanted the mandate be returned to the people to decide their own government. Growing voices of opposition are heard from inside and outside UMNO, NGOs, the Bar Council, Suhakam and most importantly the people.

Last night, Perak's neighbours, Selangor folks, have gathered to voice their disgust and disappointment of UMNO insistence to use the public institutions, the police and other coercive means to lock out the legal government from the silver state.

UMNO's desperation and arrogance is no doubt a by-product of the Mahathir era. The veteran ex-iron fisted leader said Pakatan Rakyat would win a snap state election in Perak and thus he is against it being held to resolve the political impasse. This man will use democracy to champion for his own cause and then chuck it to the drain when he sees it fit. To the worshippers of Mahathir, this man cannot be trusted. Like the current batch of leaders in UMNO, the most important thing in his mind is victory, even if it means sacrificing the people's rights.

Zambry's fascination with impersonating the menteri besar is going to cost him a great deal of personal and political damage. He was seen as a possible serious contender for the post of menteri besar and to lead BN into the next general election. He has smeared his own brand name. By equating his struggle to that of Mandela and Gandhi, most intellectuals have confirmed Zambry's lack of brain cells and rationality. Remember Hitler? He had claimed the same moral high ground to create an Aryan race of pure Germans to cover up his real motive of being a world conqueror and a thirsty colonialist.

MIC inconsistency is hilarious but predictable. R.Ganesan's justification of his appointment as the state speaker is almost as idiotic as his gang leader's. How can MIC breath the same spirit into the Hindraf's struggle if the party does not even know what a real democracy means?

Both MCA and Gerakan should walk the talk of their call for fresh elections in Perak. With MCA Dr Mah and Gerakan Chang Ko Youn still sitting pretty as a state exco and a special advisor to the illegal MB, how can the people seriously trust their words? Both Gerakan and MCA should pull out from the current illegal administration and inform UMNO that they will only participate in the administration if BN wins the next elections.

The Perak power grab is a poison to all component parties in BN. Other parties are carrying the moral and perception baggage of UMNO. After last night's rally at the Dewan MBPJ, I can anticipate the kind of reception BN is going to get at the next general election if Najib, Mahathir and Zambry are still as stubborn as the next oldest rural donkey.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Royal Shame?

Veteran UMNO leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said the Perak sultan and the monarchy have been “embarrassed” by the political imbroglio following BN’s grab of the state government three months ago. He said that the royalty had been hurt by the systematic attempts by some within Umno to inflame the Perak impasse into one of “race and treason”.

Unfortunately, UMNO is not the only political party which tries to manipulate the royalty to serve their own interest. The palaces were fed with a high dose of self-ego and adulation by parties and groups who think that the monarchy can be entrusted to help promote better governance and a healthier democracy.

Not many Malaysians are aware that the monarchy system of exclusivity and special privileges and the democratic system which promotes equality for all are not complementary. The monarchy has always been playing a part in the power equation in this country. They were the previous masters replaced by a system which distributes power of self-determination to the people through an electoral process supported by a democratic system of governance. In between, there is no need to repeat the whole colonial history to describe how the monarchy had pawned their power for protection over petty battles and riches.

The power and influence of a constitutional monarchy is limited by the federal constitution. We were taught in our school that the monarchy's role in government is purely symbolic and ceremonial. However, we shall accord the highest respect and regard to the institution of monarchy as a symbol of our sovereignty and independence. The real power to decide, formulate and implement policies and laws lies in the hands of democratically elected politicians.

Since the Trengganu and Perlis incidents, where both sultans refused to accept a head of state appointed by the federal UMNO leadership and got their preference installed, there is a sense of renewed optimism and ambition of the palace to extend and expand the role and de facto influence of the monarchy to regain their original status.

In 1988, the UMNO's president and prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad dealt the loyalty with yet another humiliating blow by stripping them off their legal immunity. Since then, the monarchy and their families have been searching for a good opportunity to reassert their rights and privileges.

During the Perak power grab crisis and with the backing of UMNO, the Kedah royalty association had started the call to reinstate their immunity. It was greeted by an unusual silence by all UMNO leaders. The respond should have put any doubt to rest that the politicians will only be seen as eager supporters of the monarchy if they can stand to benefit from the support. The decision by the Perak sultan to sack Nizar and replace him with a BN leader was a no brainer situation to sway UMNO's support for the royalty.

This support will be eagerly repeated by the PR if the sultan had ruled otherwise and allowed a dissolution of the state assembly. Either way, both sides were going to shout "Daulat Tuanku!", depending on how the decision will work to their advantage or disadvantage.

Whatever said, I have a hunch that the Perak sultan had made a calculated move to decide on the dismissal of Nizar by himself and was hoping to test the judiciary's appetite over his decision. If the high court judge had ruled in favour of Zambry, the decision would have a binding effect on future interferences by the royalty on the hiring and firing of democratically elected heads of state. This would have allowed them to become the new kingmakers in the country.

UMNO's myopic political vision is proven in the power grab in Perak. UMNO should have learned from the incidents in Perlis and Trengganu to allow the royalty to try to make a 'political' comeback by testing the wisdom and independence of the judges.

It is impossible that Sultan Azlan Shah was not aware of a similar precedent in the 1966 Stephen Kalong Ningkan's judgement. He was a lord president. Hence, what made a person so highly trained in the constitutional law to choose not to abide by the ruling? It was obvious that Sultan Azlan Shah was hoping to use his decision to reassert the influence of the palace in Malaysian politics.

The other possible explanation is a lot simpler and direct. It is common for the royalty to take the side of whoever in power. The royalty needs the favour of the ruling regime to ensure that their interests and status are protected. It is a case of "I scratch your back and you scratch mine".

Whatever the reason is, Malaysians are travelling on a dangerous path. The political drama was acted by all parties except for the most important actors, the people. Democracy is Malaysia is not a democracy we learned from the modern textbooks. In our democracy, the people/voters are not important and are treated as ignorant fools.

That is why we get a ridiculous assemblywoman who claims to have a right to decide which party should govern Perak when it is obvious that she might not get more than 20% of total votes if she stands for a reelection in her own constituency. Worse, two other assemblymen who are standing trial for corruption are claiming the same right. The three claimed that their action is consistent with democracy. This is an idiotic claim.

Razaleigh has a wise advice for those involved. Razaleigh ticked off Umno leaders for their political manoeuvres which have brought odium to both the monarchy and country.

“Our ideals are cheated when the monarchy we claim to protect is brought down to the level of desperate political manoeuvres that discredit us at home and abroad. We have no future as a party if we are seen as being against the people rather than for them."

“Those unable to rise above narrow party interests to understand what happens to a country when a government loses respect for the law might still like to consider this: it is better for BN to risk state elections that we may lose rather than to lose the entire country by being seen to be opposed to decency, the rule of law, and the will of the people.”

Lawyers Are Sharks?

Art Harun:

This Friday (four days time), at 3 o’clock, the Bar’s EGM to denounce the action of the police in arresting young lawyers who were just doing their job will take place at Dewan Sivik, PJ. I wonder how many lawyers will turn out. 500? 600? Pathetic if that is going to be the case.

Five of our brothers and sisters were arrested and 600 turn out. Almost comical. It almost lends credence to the people’s perception that lawyers are sharks who would only act for money.

Well, I suppose, we deserve that perception. Although I would like to be proven wrong. —

I can fully understand Art Harun's sentiment. My ex-defence lawyer told me he would have charged me RM60k if my case is not of public interest. He billed me five figures for a court appearance to overturn the injunction on my book launch.

Another lawyer threatened to discharge herself from my case if she is not paid RM10k retainer immediately. Maybe, I should try to get to know more selfless lawyers like Art Harun and Malik Imtiaz.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sultan of Perak Must Get It Right - Allow Fresh Elections

Despite the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision today to recognise Nizar Jamaluddin as the rightful menteri besar, the shameful event of illegal power grab is far from over. From the Prime Minister Najib Razak’s initial reaction, the BN is like to challenge the decision, wisely or otherwise. The coalition might even call for an emergency sitting to cast a vote of no confidence against the menteri besar.

However, the decision will now put the legality of 7 May state assembly sitting under a microscope. It is possible that the appointment of MIC R. Ganesan as the new speaker is also not legal. Without being a legitimate menteri besar, can Zambry force through a vote of no confidence against the speaker and replace him with one of his own people? Is DAP Sivakumar still the rightful speaker?

Next, is Zambry’s government illegal too? Can Zambry be charged under the Criminal Procedure Code for impersonating the menteri besar, occupying his office and enjoying his perks and power?

This court ruling has a vast implication on BN. I have shared this view with a few friends that BN is likely going to face both moral and psychological deficit if it chooses to push ahead with the power grab. Morally, it is very difficult for the coalition to justify accepting the support of three tainted ‘independent’ assemblymen as the bulwark of its government. The legs supporting this new administration are too shaky and unreliable.

It will also be morally wrong to continue insisting that the coalition has a majority to rule if it is obvious that the power grab was not acceptable to the voters. A better decision would be to cut losses and return the right to choose a government back to the people.

Continuous power jostling is going to hurt the BN’s chances in the next general election. With its access to resources at the federal level, the BN can similarly establish a shadow state administration to serve the people.

Najib has repeated his pledge to listen to the people. The voice of dissatisfaction and disapproval of the BN’s power grab is loud and clear. This is the voice Najib cannot pretend to miss and yet preach about change and being a good listener. It is disappointing to note that both MCA and MIC, instead of being agents of change, were actively participating in the power grab.

It is almost impossible for Zambry to continue acting out his role as a menteri besar after the high court ruled in favour of his opponent, Nizar Jamaluddin. He will not enjoy the respect and acceptance of the people until he returns the mandate to choose a new government to the voters. They are the ones who will ultimately decide the fate of both Zambry and Nizar.

BN’s reluctance of going back to get a fresh mandate does not augur well for the once mighty coalition. What does it has to lose if the Perak BN is so confident that they are supported by the majority? Why must they be afraid of the minority voices?

It is time to prove whose will is greater, the people or the politicians.

The ball is now in the palace’s court. The monarchy must not fail the people again. They must demonstrate that the monarchy is truly above politics by respecting the court’s decision and to allow Nizar to dissolve the state assembly and pave way for fresh elections in the state. By refusing to do so, the continuing of power jostling in the state assembly will only make the political quagmire worse.

Someone must own up to the mistake. We hope some sense will prevail at the palace tomorrow.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oh NO! Another Race-Based Party...

Soon upon his release, P. Uthayakumar, the Hindraf founder, told The Malaysian Insider that he is considering establishing a new political party.

Q: What are your political plans? Would you join PKR or DAP?

A: (Laughs uproariously…) Out of the question. I am not happy with the two parties and what they have done for the Indian community. They did not do enough in the critical areas that really matter.

Q: What are the critical areas?

A: One is land… land for Tamil schools, temples, squatters and crematoriums… they did not do much. The Pakatan ruled five states and they were masters over land but they did not do much. In Penang there are only 28 Tamil schools but nothing has been done… even with an Indian as deputy chief minister. They could have done, but have not in over one year in power. If they solved the land matter they could have solved 70 per cent of the problems of the Indian community. How can I join their political parties?

When asked if his struggle for the oppressed would include other races. Uthaya replied "Only Indians, for now."

Uthaya should take a leaf from the fate of MIC, a smallish race-based party representing the Indian community. Uthaya may have inspired the community to stand up against being oppressed and marginalised but a political party which depends on the Indian community alone is hardly going to make a big impact in any electoral competition.

Indian voters represent at most 30 percent of total voters in a constituency. It is highly unlikely that Uthaya's party is going to make any headway if it intends to become a third political force in the country without seeking the alliance of either PR or BN.

Going to the BN to form an alliance is highly unlikely. The way Hindraf leaders were detained and released at the whim and fancy of the BN government is irresponsible and high handed. Now, the 5 leaders have an option to sue the government for a just compensation.

Moreover, if the Najib administration is seriously seeking to redeem itself an action must be taken against Syed Hamid Albar for his part in approving the detention. Any minister cannot hide behind an executive order which cannot be challenged in the courts. This is the first legislation which must be deleted if any administration is keen to promote democracy and accountability.

Uthaya's Indian only party will have to seek an alliance with the PR. Hindraf was effective as a movement but the same cannot be said when this movement restructures to become a political party. As a political party, it needs the support of multiracial voters. Continuing its struggle purely from a race-based perspective is going to put off a number of potential supporters.

Its seat options may also be quite limited due to a low proportion of Indian voters in all constituencies.

A new Indian-based party in PR may create unnecessary frictions with both DAP and PKR, both with quite a high number of Indian voters and elected representatives.

What Uthaya needs to do is to seriously consider all available options and choose the best one which can help to end racial politics in the country and not trying to deepen it. Racial politics which appeared to favour one race against the rest is the main cause of marginalisation faced by the Indian community.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Reaching Out to Cleft Lip Patients

CHINESE pop diva Faye Wong is planning to make a comeback after spending half her retirement fund on her second daughter’s operation for a cleft lip in the United States. Cleft lip operation is an expensive medical treatment.

Hence, together with the Korea Tourism Orgnization and LG Electronics (Malaysia), the Breakout Extreme Dance Comedy show in Kuala Lumpur will be used to set up a fund for cleft lip patients in the country.

Another charity home, D'Home Mental Association, will also benefit from the net proceeds on the show in Penang.

A company selling mainly Apple and Mac products, Switch, is adopting this campaign. Buyers of any Mac products will be entitled to purchase a RM63 ticket for only RM10. Switch is donating RM50 to the fund with every purchase.

We hope more Malaysians can step forward to give other Malaysians a chance.

*Switch outlets are located at Queensbay Mall, Sunway City & Gurney Plaza New Wing

1Black Malaysia at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Wong Chin Huat told the audience at a forum organised by the youth section of Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall that a police had told him that he was a nobody when they were asked to detain him. The officer said he was neither a political leader nor a member of parliament.

This is precisely why I have said the Najib administration and the Home Affairs Ministry run by his cousin, Hishammudin, have made a tactical blunder to detain Wong under the Sedition Act. All Wong did was to ask the public, especially Perakians, to wear black as a sign of protest against the controversial power grab Perak.

His minuscule and poorly attended press conference was held to launch "1Black Malaysia: Democracy First. Elections Now" two days before the March 7 state assembly sitting. Some of the PR leaders who appeared at the conference were not top leaders who had supported the mammoth Bersih demonstration just before the March 8 election last year. The new slogan was meant to be a parody of Najib's new slogan of '1Malaysia: People First. Performance Now'.

Thanks to a tactical blunder by the new administration, it was a campaigner's dream to be featured on almost all prime news and mass media. Wong has hit the jackpot again after his similar action in the past, Suqiu, had won widespread public outcry when the UMNO Youth had responded violently to the 'demands' made by the Chinese movement.

The arrests of almost 100 activists and politicians in the last 3 days throughout the country is set to create a wider wedge between the BN government and the civil society. Among those arrested were five lawyers seeking access to their clients. The Bar Council had responded with a spontaneous show of disgust at the High Court the following day.

At the forum last night, some of those detained shared their first time experience of detention. Pictures of them donning the infamous 'Guantanamo' like orange prison outfit were shown to the public. These youths made detention sound so exciting.

Fancy spending a night at a police detention centre? Sign up to participate in the next demonstration. But those who were detained at the Bricksfield police station have an advice to those who are keen - avoid Bricksfield, try the Pantai police station instead for 5-star detention.

At the end of the forum, the audience and several PR elected representatives joined Wong at the candle lighting ceremony to celebrate democracy in Malaysia. Wong is already working on another campaign, 1Better Malaysia.

I could not help but to agree with Wong that we need to come together and strive for a better Malaysia.

Straigh Talk would like to thank Mr Chiu for his generous contribution to ST fund.

8tv - Tune in & Win Breakout Tickets

Friday, May 08, 2009

Democracy According to BN, Hee and a CEO

Perak Speaker Sivakumar was forcibly dragged out by the police and staff of the recalcitrant state assembly secretary. The state secretary Abdul Rahman Hasim had instructed the sergeant-at-arms and the assembly secretary to ignore his (Sivakumar's) directives in the assembly yesterday.

This is democracy according to BN.

The BN government obtains its majority from 2 assemblymen and former exco members who are being charged for corruption. The third assemblyman is the assembly deputy speaker who walked out of her party claiming ill treatment. Yet, this former clerk was made a deputy speaker by her party when there are many more qualified candidates compared to her.

Yesterday, she usurped the power of the Perak Speaker and was caught threatening another assemblyman with a pepper spray.

This is democracy according to Hee Yit Foong.

Can the police continue to provide protection to the BN government to control the house for the next 4 years? Yes, why not. The police protects the ruling elites vice versa. This is why the IPCMC is only a grand dream. It will remain a dream for a long time until there is a regime change.

This is democracy according to the police.

It is obvious that the way forward for Perak is to return the right to choose back to the people. The three assemblymen who helped to prop up the BN government would probably lose their seats if elections are held. The Sultan of Perak was instrumental in the removal of a democratically elected chief minister. The monarchy decision has created a constitutional crisis in Malaysia. Now he claims that he is above politics. Morally or legally, there is little to argue if his decision is correct or otherwise. It is obvious that the state assembly cannot function without a fair and just solution to the impasse.

But this is democracy according to Rocky Bru, the newly appointed CEO of the Malay Mail (he is the 'walk with me' partner of a famous blogger turned politician. Both were sued by ex-NST executives).

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Black Malaysia

In Ipoh this morning, the BN has pulled out the last stop to complete the power grab in Perak. Many of us surely can't help but feeling confused about the rule of law and separation of power in this country.

In this incident, it appears that a state assembly speaker is not that commanding after all. Perak Speaker Sivakumar was even booted out of his own assembly. A vote was hastily taken to appoint a BN representative to helm the seat.

It appears both the police and the state secretariat officers are colluding with the politicians to complete the power grab in the state. Again the people of Perak are the biggest losers. The political battle to control the state assembly is done without much consideration of the people's interest.

The Perak democratic crisis has shown that it is a failed state. A caring and responsible coalition would have anticipated that a rule without the majority support of the people cannot be carried out smoothly.

It is a distaste to know that parties and stakeholders claiming the higher moral ground are oblivious to what has happened in the state and have ignored the repercussion, negative impact and psychological scarce faced by the people in Perak.

Whatever publicity or rebranding initiative done by the PM's team of experts will not be able to erase this negative impact of the power grab. The power grab, a very hasty decision as Mahathir put it, will come back to haunt the BN coalition in the next general election.

No wonder, many expired politicians are eating back their words by accepting important positions in the government. Perhaps knowing that their career will not last beyond the 13th general election.

It is the middle ground, a growing community of fair minded, critical and moderate Malaysians that political parties need to court to stay in power. BN does not seem to be interested in securing the middle ground.

Too bad, but I am sure many of us are now seriously considering participating directly in the political process.

It is important for the new coalition, PR, to guarantee the people that they will not go the similar way in the future. Anwar's Sept 16 ambition for a change in government through defections had damaged slightly the reputation of his coalition. Unfortunately, this and the Bota assemblyman's flip-flop were used by the BN to justify this power grab.

What a shame!

Black Day for Democracy

The latest person who is urging the powers-that-be to go back to the people is the Dewan Negara president Dr Abdul Hamid Pawanteh.

Dr Abdul Hamid, who has been observing the development in Perak with concern, said ad hoc actions on the part of individuals and political parties in Perak had not solved the impasse.

“Rightly or wrongly, the series of ad hoc actions have only made things more complex and convoluted. The best thing is for the powers-that-be to decide on the best course of action under the circumstances,” he said.

He said that in a democracy, when the arithmetic shows that one has the majority, then the problem is solved.

“In this case, the arithmetic is right but the problem is still there. Either you go on like this till the next general election or you go back to the people,” he added.
I support the good sense of the senate president. This is a day we speak as Malaysians and not as members of any political party.

The arrogance of BN and the desperation of Zambry to hold on to power is going to hurt the coalition more in the future. In a democracy, support must be earned and not forced.

Zambry has already committed silly mistake by exposing his ego in the auction of 13 new Camrys. Zambry's utmost responsibility as an elected state assemblyman is to help bring normalcy back to the state government and ensure that the democratic process is protected at all costs.

This is the not his option. He has decided to pull in the support of the police to erect barricades around the state assembly building when a sitting resumes tomorrow. This is an act of perversion. What is democracy if the people of Perak cannot gain access into the state assembly hall to meet up with their representatives or to follow the meeting?

Straight Talk is wearing a black ribbon today.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gerakan Missed a Chance to Redeem Itself in Penang

A piece of land was leased to a quarry operator by the state government in 2001 and it was later found out that it was a private land.

Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy disclosed a letter dated July 1, 2004 from applicant Tang Hak Ju to the previous state government in which he was seeking a settlement over the land issue. The letter was received and stamped by former state Local Government Committee chairman Dr Teng Hock Nan.

“It contained an offer to settle the issue amicably with a compensation fee of RM1.85mil along with a replacement site in Juru. However, the state decided not to take up the deal and instead went court over the matter," said Ramasamy.

The Penang Government has sent letters to former Chief Minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon and former state Local Government Committee chairman Dr Teng Hock Nan to seek their assistance in probes into alleged land scams.

Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said a letter was also sent to former Deputy Chief Minister Abdul Rashid Abdullah as the alleged scams occurred during Barisan Nasional’s tenure.

So far, the BN leaders have refused to assist the state government or to accept responsibility for the case. In the state assembly, Dr Hilmi Yahaya (BN – Teluk Bahang), who was state Land Committee chairman at that time, said there was no necessity for him to issue an apology.

“What I had merely said before is that it happened during my tenure as state Land Committee chairman. The mistake was committed by an officer, not me.”

Yes, blame the officer. Heck, what is the meaning of holding a leadership position if it does not come with taking responsibility when something goes wrong?

This is a unique Malaysian management culture. When something goes wrong, blame it on the officers or managers. Can we expect Dr Hilmi to put a stamp on every application for a land lease himself?

But who authorized it? Can an officer authorize the lease without the final approval of his boss?

Both Dr Koh and Dr Teng have refused to extend an assistance to the state government too, claiming that the issue has been politicized. Funny, who are these people if not politicians?

Shouting "politicking" may be the best way for both Koh and Teng to avoid being held accountable but this does not work for common Penangites like myself.

It is an irony that Koh is now talking accountability and performance since embracing KPIs as his new religion. However, he should not merely focus on the ritual part of it and does not fully appreciate the real virtue of being accountable and professional.

Koh and Teng must remember that it is not Lim Guan Eng they are being held accountable to but the people of Penang whom they had once served and Gerakan is still hoping to win back their support to govern the state.

How can we, the voters, trust a bunch of politicians who are not willing to be accountable for their mistake.

It is unfortunate that Gerakan has missed the opportunity to redeem itself in Penang. This episode has shown that its leaders are not the kind of people we can trust to lead us.

The Penang Government will deposit RM14.7mil with the High Court in relation to legal proceedings over a 2001 alleged land scam to avoid contempt of court. The full legal cost may well be over RM40 million. Who is paying for this mistake? Not Hilmi, not Koh or Teng but the people of Penang.

Penang needs the money badly to promote its tourism sector. I must admit that I am less than impressed with what has (not) been done right now but the RM40 million would have come in handy for the state to improve basic amenities and cleanliness in the state.

So, please stop the bullshit about performance measurement, KPIs, 1Malaysia. It is time for all politicians to be accountable for their actions.

Practical Portuguese

Etic - a multimedia, music and movie making institute

Mixing digital music

At Etic, its coordinator Peter (the last picture and in grey t-shirt) told us that students are taught to use the tools they know to create results. The emphasis is on end results and not the number of IT tools or musical instruments that they can master.He told us how he lost a bet to a student who claimed that he was able to create music using Microsoft Excel.
Mind boggling but this is Portuguese practicality. Focus on creativity and not just technology. A good advice. But make no mistake. This institute is equipped with high-tech studios catering to the uses of students. Most of the desktops are high-end Apple machines. Peter jokes that Apple is their religion.
This institute is also going big into charity. Students are encouraged to help out non-profit organisations to design their website, campaigns and others.
This is an important observation. Many colleges, institutes of higher learning and organisations invest a lot of money to acquire the most advanced and expensive equipments and machines but lacked the know-how to optimally use them. Does this sound familiar to you? Our newly minted film village funded by FINAS and the Ministry of Information is probably the most high-tech and sophisticated facility in the country. But how many good films have we created?
Meanwhile, Etic claims to provide courses for students from 8 to 80 years old. From the outside, it looks like a garage or a warehouse. However, it is not wise to judge a book by its cover. One of its students won the highly acclaimed Academy award for lighting for the animated movie, Corpse Bride. A few of them have created their own motion pictures and digital music.
Some of the students I met are already getting ready to take the entertainment industry by storm.

Wong Chin Huat's Arrest - A National Shame

Wong Chin Huat was my ex-university course mate in UM. I have known him for more than 15 years. Wong is a respected lecturer, socio-political activist, writer and a member of the civil society.
He has written extensively on the electoral process, democracy, race relations and others. His detention under the controversial Sedition Act is a national shame.
In Lisbon, I have just spoken to some Iranian young activists about life and personal freedom in Tehran. They told me that Iranian youths are beginning to talk back and question the mullahs. However, the regime is able to maintain a tight control and instill fear in the society by taking sudden and awe actions against critics e.g. detention without trial.
Wong's arrest reminds us of a chilling similarity with what our friends in Iran are facing. In the true spirit of 1Malaysia, the government should drop all charges against Wong for exercising his democratic rights. Malaysians are smart enough to decide if they are going to follow Wong's suggestion or not to wear a black armband, t-shirt etc. on 7 May 2009.
What is wrong with black? Is it becoming a forbidden word or colour too?

Cultural Lisbon - A Breezy & Inspiring City

Splendid Lisbon presents a fascinating old and new architecture

Escola De Danca Conservatorio Nacional (the premier dance school in Lisbon)

Ballerinas at work

Portugal is one of Europe's oldest nation-states. Its capital, Lisbon, is situated at the mouth of the river Targus. Its proximity to the river made Portugal a strong marine power during its colonial era. Its colonial empire covered parts of both Asia and Africa.

As a result, Lisbon's society today is a manifestation of its colonial past. A number of Portuguese are descendants from the colonies. Multicultural and multiracial Portugal offers us a glimpse of its cultural diversity and vibrancy when we were invited to visit several music and dance institutes.

I was at the premier dance academy run by its president Mr Pedro Carneiro. Pedro told me that his students have taken part in some of the most prestigious dance competitions in Europe and US. A few of them have won awards and recognitions last year at the competitions.

With its newly attained recognition, there is a surge of foreign students to the academy. I was lucky to have met and spoken to some students from Australia and Japan.

Students of the contemporary dance class were quite diligent and serious during their lesson. Many of them will surely find their way into some of the most prestigious dance teams in Monte Carlo, Tokyo, Zurich, London, Paris and all over the world.

The Lisbon experience is very humbling and an eye opener. Several reports may have put the Portuguese as the glummest people in Europe. According to a Eurobarometer poll (see The Economist, 2nd May 09), 92% see the economy as bad, 95% are depressed about their job prospects and more than half are not happy with their life.

But from my experience, Portuguese youths remained very optimistic about their future, at least those I have met at the dance academy. Many of them are optimistic of turning professional dancers. This does not sound impossible at all after looking at these students sweating tears and blood to perfect their moves and techniques. I assure you that their commitment will inspire you.
For now, many of them have found the streets of Lisbon as their stage. Street performances are a normal daily event at Baixa Chaido, a lively downtown of Lisbon. At a restaurant, Chapita, young Portuguese dancers were preparing very hard for their nightly performance at the cultural restaurant.
While snapping some pictures of them going through their routine, we were told to stop because the students felt distracted. Again, it is all about commitment, focus and professionalism regardless of how simple or small their stage may be.

Lisbon is the soul of Portugal. It is a city that grows on you. I can only hope that I will be able to bring home with me the hope, dynamism and spirit of the Portuguese youths.

See you at the Breakout extreme dance comedy on 23rd - 24th May at Wisma MCA and 27th - 28th May at Dewan Sri Pinang.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

1Malaysia the 'Malaysia Boleh' Way

This latest news is truly hilarious and a cause for concern. Ex-premier Abdullah Badawi has been appointed the advisor to Malaysia Airlines by the Najib administration. His mentor Dr Mahathir Mohamad has remained as the Petronas advisor.

Goodness sake, this should not be the way we continue to reward retired leaders and ex-ministers. They are already given quite a generous pension.

Advisory positions in the GLCs should be reserved for those who can really add value to these companies. GLCs are companies managed in trust for the people. They are public institutions capitalised by public funds.

These companies do not belong to the current prime minister. They are not UMNO owned companies too.

1Malaysia should not be mere sloganism. I am going to tell you later why I doubt it can ever be achieved if the political culture and structure remained the same.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Replace ISA with a New Terrorism Act - AYE!

MCA Wanita chief Chew Mei Fun suggested the ISA be renamed the Anti-Terrorism Act so there was no room for abuse.

Saying the public welcomed the review by the Home Ministry and the Law Reform Committee, she added that such an act should only be geared towards fighting terrorism.

This should not be seen as a “re-branding exercise” but as a move to make the law more precise, she said.

Chew has made a very important stand on this issue. The next step for her to do it is take this up at her party's central committee meeting and get this position endorsed by her party. It will be a useless 're-branding exercise' too if Chew's statement is limited to her own personal view.

As a senior partner in the coalition, the party has a responsibility to ensure that its involvement in the ruling regime is consistent with the rule of law and the spirit of democracy. The party has a representative who holds an important portfolio of deputy minister of home affairs.

Is MCA willing to stick out its political principle to ensure that the draconian legislation is not used on civilians especially reporters, bloggers, government critics and political opponents?

The review of ISA is only a first step in the right direction. The executive should not be allowed to use coercive legal forces such as the police to interfere in the political process. The involvement of the police in Perak fiasco is not going to help change the reality of arbitrary arrests and detentions in the country, with or without the ISA.

Perakians who are dissatisfied with the power grab should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully outside the state assembly without fearing a threat to their safety and freedom. It is a perversion of democracy if the police becomes the main threat to their safety and freedom.

Police action must be responsible and independent. The role of police is to maintain peace and harmony and not to interfere with the democratic process e.g. determining what can or cannot be said or done during election campaigns.

MCA should take a leap of faith to put the replacement of the ISA as its top political agenda.

Check Out Studio V!

A local newspaper, The Star, has been organising very useful programmes at their newly created Studio V to help retrenched workers to get back on track. Apart from organising talks and forums on career development and interview tips, there are also recruiters.

A total of 200 vacancies – including for bartenders, waiters, telemarketers, and line cooks – are being offered mainly by companies in the food & beverage, fast food, hospitality and entertainment industries.

Visit or email: for details.

I hope its management can consider extending these programmes to other states hit by severe retrenchment too. This is a good example of proactive participation to help alleviate the country's current economic woes.

NGOs and the state governments can do their bit for the workers who lost their jobs and those who are joining the job market this year.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Countdown to Breakout!

Media Headlines Are Heading Nowhere?

Media is an important third estate in a country. We expect the media to facilitate and take the lead to initiate constructive discussions and debate on important issues faced by the society.

Journalism is supposed to provide us with a factual, balanced and well-informed reporting. Unfortunately, some journalists have decided to work against their journalism ethics. Opinion pieces are generated without any proper research and supportive information.

Hence, readers are often mislead by these personal views. Readers expect to obtain fair, well researched and independent news and reporting from newspapers. Many of them are going to be disappointed if we take a look at newspapers headlines in the country.

In the midst of a global economic crisis, there is hardly any stimulating and fruitful discussion on the economy, economic model, public policies and other related issues. There are only government's announcements on the economy.

Now, we are back to the old ways again. What we read in the newspapers are assurances that Malaysia is still doing well and we are going to be able to ride through the economic storm. Is this true? Is this the true reflection of the economy?

Most editors and editorials have trumpeted the government's decision to liberalize 27 sub-sectors in the services sector. They opined that this decision will generate inflow of investment into the country. How true is this euphoria? Did they look critically at the sub-sectors before writing the op-ed?

Our headlines need to change or the mainstream media will continue to lose its readership. Malaysians are no longer living under a coconut shell.

On the same breath, alternative and online media should strive to improve their editorial and news content. It is good to be critical but it is more important to be constructively critical.

I hope to see a change in our news headlines. Maybe I am hoping for too much.