Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pakatan Needs to Change its Stripes Too

I read with a yawn that Pakatan Rakyat will hold a public rally this evening in Petaling Jaya to show that the loose coalition formed after the last general election remains intact.

Senior party leaders including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang will address the rally which organisers are hoping will draw about 100,000 people.

It is best for the coalition to realize quickly that soon they will have to deliver on governance too. Apart from the constant political bashing of BN, it is important for the coalition to deliver on its promises.

Where is the shadow cabinet promised by Anwar? Apart from some veteran parliamentarians who have been consistently doing a good job, a number of PR members of parliament are persona non grata. Some have even consistently showed their defiant and extreme views on religious and race issues.

The recent public spat over the national unity government issue is a good indication of the coalition's political divergence. If the coalition cannot even agree on its platform of governance and on what kind of changes expected by the people, its political agenda will become a hard sell.

Moving forward, the coalition needs to minimize on the distortions and noises. It should prove its prowess in policy making, governance and management. There is still a lack of general direction in some of the PR run states.

Hence, apart from the political bashing ceramahs it would do us good if the leaders can focus on national policies and governance too.

We are already seeking foreign help to promote our tourism, to review our education policy etc. What next? Should we get foreigners help to run the country next?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Muhyiddin, Learn Thou Shalt Not

Muhyiddin Yassin said: "Umno will fight to the last drop of blood to protect Malay rights, the status of the Malay Rulers, Bahasa Melayu and Islam as these matters are enshrined in the Constitution."

He said they would also fight to defend the rights of other races to ensure no one community would be oppressed.

He said the election also showed that the Malays had stopped supporting Umno, the Chinese were not supporting the MCA and Gerakan and the Indians were not supporting MIC and PPP.

He said the old unity and power-sharing concept that had brought development, growth, peace and stability in the country was now taken for granted.

Amazing, if only Muhyiddin study his own statement he should be able to find out why voters deserted the BN coalition.

First, his party and himself still cannot get over with race based politics. No one is threatening the Malays in the country. Globalisation is the main threat.

Second, the party continues to put other races at the bottom. The promise not to oppress the non-Malays is the biggest joke from a joker like our deputy prime minister. We are Malaysians and we are your bosses. As a Malaysian, I will vote against any UMNO candidate.

Finally, it is precisely the old political model that we have rejected. With leaders like Muhyiddin, no wonder this country at where it is now. No wonder BN and other non-UMNO parties will continue to face defeats in the elections.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P Michael Jackson

Michael was so magical. He was in Kuala Lumpur to perform two shows at the Stadium Merdeka in 1996.

As a uni student, I was one of several thousands people lining up outside the Concorde Hotel trying to buy the cheapest ticket to watch his concert. The line was easily 1km long. Reality struck when it came to our turn that all tickets, cheap or expensive, had been snapped up.

Those who managed to watch Michael in action when he was still at his peak were indeed lucky ones.

He was the one and only King of Pop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

China - Development & Ethics

John Lee's article on China has outlined some critical issues facing its rapid economic development. Lee pointed out that while some cities in China have seen some of the most amazing and modern infrastructures being built, the country is facing higher absolute poverty and illiteracy.

China's 'hukou' (permit) system has denied a large number of migrants proper medical and educational access in the big cities. This system was criticized in the past for causing lesser mobility of skilled workers to places/provinces where their skills were needed.

However, this is a dilemma and a limitation the central government had noted albeit with little action. China's huge population of 1.3 billion people and the growing congestion of these cities means that the control will have to be put in place to avoid overcrowding.

China's capitalist development may have created a larger middle class (400 million) but the intensification of material chase has reared an ugly culture of poor and unethical services. Malaysian tourists who had visited the middle kingdom would have encountered 'blood sucking' tour guides and salespersons who were looking to profit from them by overpricing their products and services.

From pearls, silk to tea, many who bought the products found out that they could be purchased cheaper outside of these nice looking shops, factories and retail outlets which were specifically built to cater for us, gullible tourists.

In China, it is obvious that development has outpaced its people's readiness to adapt and survive. That is why, according to Lee, the absolute poverty and illiteracy rates have increased in the cities.

Young Chinese graduates have found it increasing more difficult to find a decent job. China's development must not be merely physically centric. Unless the government works on correcting some of these social flaws and improve professionalism in the service quality of its corporations, its hope to emulate New York, London and some other great cities in the world will become a futile effort.

Here, our government can take a leaf from this lesson. Physical development alone is meaningless. Abdullah Badawi, the ex-premier who had quickly faded away from the public, was not entirely wrong when he said that the government must focus on building software and not merely hardware.

It is time for the current administration to ditch its slogans and get on with some serious work before the oil reserve runs out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BN Should Practice Listening Skill - Use of English To Teach Maths and Science

A BN minister of education, Muhyiddin Yassin, has finally admitted that the teaching of maths and science in English the last six years has not improved the performance of students in those subjects.

It is ridiculous that the administration needed six years, a lost generation, millions of ringgit spent and unreported frustration of both students and teachers to finally realize that this policy has gained too little to justify the trouble and investment.

Muhyiddin promised a review and some changes which will be announced soon. I hope that the review was comprehensively conducted and a solution can be provided to address the slide. This nation cannot wait for another six years to find out that this solution is yet another failure and a let down.

The use of English to teach maths and science subjects was a legacy of a dictator which had refused to listen to any good feedback about the shortcomings of his proposal. Years ago, I had a chance to speak to a senior cabinet member of his administration. Admitted his displeasure for the policy, he warned that this policy can only be reversed when the dictator is no longer around.
This speaks volume of the wisdom behind the use of English to teach maths and science. What is the policy trying to achieve - improvement in the proficiency of English or the mastery of maths and science?

At present, it is obvious that the policy has failed to achieve either.

In my last post, I had mentioned about the Malaysian dilemma - inability of policy makers to think beyond the surface of a concept and are too egoistic to admit their lack of knowledge. This is the biggest threat to our country.

For the nation's sake, please stop toying around with the future of our children. Leave it (the education policy) to the real experts - I hope KPI Minister Koh is whispering this advice into the ear of his boss.

KPIs for the KPI Minister

De facto KPI Minister Koh Tsu Koon said, "Ministers are expected to achieve their key performance indicators (KPIs) for their ministries in less than two years."

He added, "All ministers have already submitted their preliminary KPIs. All ministers except for a few who were away on official duties, had attended two six-hour workshops chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak."

Koh expected to get some results from some of the ministries soon. My initial reaction is this is an impressive excercise.

However, we should set our own KPI targets for Koh. The first thing he should do is to make these KPIs public and transparent. These KPIs are useless if they are only limited to the access of Koh, BN bigwigs, Khazanah officers and the ministers.

Koh said, "At this stage, he said, nobody would be punished for failing to meet the KPIs."

We would like to know how long does it take for a punishment to be meted out - suspension or replacement of inept ministers? It surely cannot go on forever. Is Koh given the power to review and propose action against non-performers?

He said the national KPIs, which the Prime Minister would focus on, would be made public within the next few months.

He should ensure that the KPIs for ministries will be made public too. The government needs to be accountable to the people. We should not rely on just the experts and specialists (hired by the government) to tell us whether the services provided are below par or not.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Explain Malay Unity

Mukhriz Mahathir: "The objective of the 1Malaysia concept mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not achievable if there is no unity among the Malays."

Like other UMNO ministers, the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister is equally attracted to the idea of Malay unity as the mother of all solutions to our woes and weaknesses. Interestingly, this idea of Malay unity was mooted and enthusiastically supported by a party in distress.

The UMNO-led BN coalition has seen its multiracial support dwindled to a historical low level. The massive lost of support and five consecutive defeats in by-elections would have jolted any political party to reconsider and revamp its political rhetoric and platform.

For UMNO to continue harping on Malay unity has surprised many observers, including myself. The electoral impact of such unity call is almost similar to PAS' Islamic state ambition. It will drive away many non-Malay supporters. The outcome would be an untenable BN.

The next surprising moment is the reactions from BN component parties. MCA's Chua Soi Lek has given contradictory opinions on this issue. He supported a unity talk between PAS and UMNO but insisted that this should not be done to marginalize the non-Malays. Chua, despite his experience and seniority, has failed to learn the lesson of Malaysian politics.

Can Chua assure us that the unity talk will not lead to a more race-centric and myopic government?

His president's reaction is even more confusing. Ong has repeatedly asked the DAP to draw its line with PAS but did not react comprehensively to the idea of Malay unity talk. He even proposed that MCA could similarly hold talks with other opposition parties, including the DAP. The latter has rejected the idea of a Chinese unity talk - which is a right thing to do.

SUPP has rejected this proposal. Even the Pakatan leaders were divided over the issue and the majority of them saw the proposal as a threat to the nascent coalition.

However, we must not be too quick to demonize the idea of Malay unity talk. If the notion of Malay unity can be carefully expanded and clearly defined, it should be able to persuade and catalyst a meaningful discourse on the future direction of Malay community.

Clearly, there are many issues and questions which are faced by the community. One major question is the continuation of the NEP which has clearly not benefited a large segment of the community. So far, the Najib administration has not been able to provide a decisive answer to the continuation of this policy. Instead, he has chosen to liberalize some 27 sub-sectors in the services industry which did not create much impact on the Malaysian economy.

A Malay unity cannot avoid discussing the socio-economic impact, weaknesses and challenges faced by the community. Can NEP continue to protect the interest of the community? Is NEP a good remedy to make the Malays more competitive in the global arena?

It is evident that both UMNO and PAS leaders were short of alternative proposals. The political ding-dong between those who supported and against the continuation of the policy did not result in a more refined solution.

The next question the community should ask is if the two parties are fit to lead the community into the 21st century?

The insistence to continue with the aging and outdated policy is a good example of how incapable these political parties are in leading the Malays into the era of globalisation.

The Malays cannot forever depend on a protectionist policy to safeguard their socio-economic interest. The worse thing which had happened is the policy does not even play this basic function anymore. Distribution of wealth and opportunities hinges more on know-who than need-based.

A well defined Malay unity talk should be able to tease out a comprehensive discourse on the future of the Malays. They should start to ask themselves if their political representatives are qualified and sincere enough to continue looking after their interest?

Next, any society hoping to thrive and survive in the current capitalist system should fear stagnation. Being stagnated means you will be left behind by other emerging societies. A Malay unity talk should also address the issue of stagnation and regression in a number of areas.

While the Malay participation in the civil sector is profound and meaningful, has it done them well?

Should the community continue to strive on numbers and quotas or on real skills and knowledge? Are the Malay youths more progressive and innovative compared to their parents' generation?

If the Malay unity talk is set on the need to conduct an introspection of the Malay psyche and needs, then the talk should be encouraged to proceed. Mukhriz is only half right. If the majority race in the country can courageously face their weaknesses and flaws and seek to strengthen their capabilities, it will contribute positively to the nation.

If the outcome of unity talk is to project numerical political prowess to score some psychological advantage over other minorities, then it will be a disastrous event for the nation.

The Malay community should also look at the current education system, judiciary system, economic system and others to ensure that they are benefiting from the nation's developmental agenda.

So far, the calls for both UMNO and PAS to pursue the unity talk have failed to convince us that the agenda of this talk is well defined and its outcome will result in a stronger, more resilient and competitive Malay community.

This is a Malaysian dilemma. Our politicians and policy makers are unable to think beyond the surface of a concept.

Eventually, the Malays and all other Malaysians must seek to answer this question: Where to, Malaysia?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Utter Waste of Police Resource

The 100,000 strong police force is complaining of a lack of manpower and resources to help contain and curb crime.

A number of foreign tourists and locals had fallen prey to snatch thieves and robbers. Many of them had suffered permanent physical and psychological trauma.

Yet, this is how our police is using its limited resources - disrupting a political dinner hosted by a legitimate party and a member of parliament. Reported on Charles Santiago's blog, the police has deployed 7 FRU trucks and 2 water cannons to prevent Klang folks from attending his dinner.

IGP Musa Hassan has proven yet again that he is a stooge to a certain political party. This action is an utter waste of police resource. He should have instructed his policemen to keep our streets safe.

Since his term is ending this September, we should send a strong message to the administration that a new leadership is needed to helm to the police force. We need a leadership which can put public safety back on top of its agenda. Not acting as errand boys and stooges to politicians.

Unity Talk - A Diversion

It cannot be denied that the PAS-UMNO unity talk has created a clever diversion from other more serious socio-political and economic issues faced by the ruling regime. A number of people have sounded a cautious pessimism of such talk and its benefit to the nation.

If the talk were to lead to a new political entity between PAS-UMNO, the outcome will change the face of Malaysian politics causing the deepest racial division since independence. Unlike the 1973 alliance between Alliance and other major opposition parties including PAS, this unity talk is far more specific focusing merely on Malay unity rather than national unity.

Several political parties from both coalitions have responded to the idea. MCA said it is prepared to talk to any parties including its arch rival DAP. Meanwhile, the top leadership of DAP has blasted the unity talk proposal and demanded an explanation from PAS president Hadi Awang.

With many serious issues still looming e.g. PKFZ fiasco, rising crime rates, money politics, custodial deaths, failing economy, NEP, ISA, religious disputes over the use of 'Allah', Perak constitutional fiasco, VK Lingam saga and others, this unity talk is seen as a good opportunity by UMNO to divert the political attention away from these issues.

However, some politicians are underestimating the maturity of Malaysians and specifically the Malays. The small talks with some Malays had indicated their deeper worries about corruption, poor governance, economic slowdown and others.

Malaysians are generally more practical than some politicians in UMNO or PAS. We know that the unity talk will not be able to help resolve these fiasco and issues.

What these political parties should do is to initiate talks on how to help improve the current situation. It is a fact that Malaysia is fast going down a spiral downfall if nothing positive is done to stop the fall.

The Price for Freedom and Equality

Back from a trip abroad. I left on the day the Iranian people went to the poll to select a new president. The outcome of the election is now clear. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner in an election which was widely criticized as rigged and unfair.

Since the election results was announced, the Iranian capital of Tehran was caught in an endless street protests and demonstrations. Thousands of Iranians around the world have joined their countrymen by taking part in protests in their host cities.

A few weeks ago, I had written about my conversations with young Iranians during my fellowship visits in the US and Europe. They had sounded very irritated and unhappy with the regime's conservative governance. They took their freedom underground.

These Iranian youths are not any different from the rest of us. They are seeking for their rights to live as human beings who are given equal access to opportunities and freedom to pursue their dreams.

At the conferences, most the Iranians went rushing out to grab whatever they can get from the shops - clothes, cosmetics and others - claiming that these products were expensive in Tehran. Deprivation and a thirst for freedom to live life on their own terms had spurred demonstrations and protests against the election of hardliner Ahmadinejad.

Iranian women are demanding to be allowed to vote for a new leader. A request which would have been seen as unconstitutional if not granted in any democratic countries.

The protest is not about Mir Hossein Mousavi alone. Mousavi had merely given Iranians a platform to demand for a greater access to their rights and freedom.

The Iranian election fallout should be taken as a good lesson for PAS which had demanded for a ban against the Sisters-in-Islam. The earlier the Islamic party is able to ditch its male chauvinism, the better it is for the party's future and hope to promote its party universal Islamic values.

The party's inconsistency - discrimination against women and its subtle racial agenda - is not consistent with the vision the leadership was trying very hard to promote - PAS For All.

I appeal for solidarity with the Iranian youths. Many of them have taken to the streets of Tehran unarmed and have taken part in protests which were meant to be peaceful. However, these peaceful protests were met with deadly and violent reactions from the government militia. Official death toll stood at 19 but citizen journalists had reported many more unreported deaths including women and young people.

Government's brutality and the use of excessive force against its people must be severely objected and condemned.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Straight Talk Taking A Break

Straight Talk is taking a short break from 13th to 19th June. I will be on the road and regular posting may not be possible.

While on the road, I hope to look for new ideas to promote performing arts in Malaysia.

Sultan of Perak & Non-Racism

"The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, said any move which questions the interests of the Malays and Bumiputeras in terms of scholarships and places of study not only violates the fundamental provisions in the federal and state constitutions but also questions the sovereignty of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers.

He said Clause 2 of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution provided the King with specific powers to safeguard the interests of the Malays as well as the Bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak in terms of scholarships and places of study."

The monarch represents an important institution in the country. Hence, his statement above is not going to help us to look beyond the question of race when addressing the issue of educational opportunity in the country.

Is it racist when a non-Malay student demands his right to a place in a local university or to be given a scholarship if he/she did exceptionally well in a public exam? Isn't it problematic if a remarkable student was not offered a course of choice in a local university or being denied a scholarship to pursue higher education but an opportunity was given to a less remarkable one?

Over the years, the issue of university placement and scholarship has continued to harm and frustrate many parents and students. Many good students had to look for study grants overseas which had resulted in a massive brain drain for the country.

It does not have to be a zero sum game. Giving more places of study and scholarships to more non-Malay Malaysians does not have to come at the expense of the Malays. Any government would have been proud to provide opportunities to its people especially youths to acquire the highest level of education possible so that they can return to contribute to the country's development.

It is no longer an issue about the Malay rights or supremacism. It is about retaining the best brains in the country. Most knowledge based economies are no longer merely competing for FDI but FHCI (Foreign Human Capital Investment).

Hence, the Sultan of Perak should have asked the government to try to accommodate as many bright Malaysian students as possible, regardless of race or creed, by offering them places in the local universities or giving them scholarships to study abroad.

He should have encouraged the government to correct the flaws in the scholarship and university admission processes so that the issue of deprivation and unfairness can be solved once and for all.

Instead, his warning to the complainants not to question these rights (access to scholarships and places of study) because their action is akin to challenging his sovereignty and authority is most unfortunate and unproductive.

A constitutional monarch is supposed to be a symbol of unity and sovereignty of all Malaysians, not just the Malays or Bumiputeras.

His statement will leave a deep impact on the society's direction and nation building. On race relations, this country has a long bumpy road ahead to travel.

PKFZ Fiasco & Being Accountable

Since 2003 to 2007, the Auditor General had repeated warned the Port Klang Authority that it may find it difficult to meet the financial commitments on PKFZ. I am wondering why the board of PKA did not sit down to review the financial position and viability of the project.

As reported in its website, the project development cost had ballooned from RM0.87 billion in 2001 to nearly RM2.43 billion by 2008. The development cost variation of nearly 180 percent was remarkably too high to slip away from the detection of the board of PKA. Surprisingly, most of PKA board members did not come forward to explain how this oversight was possible.

I was told that nearly 15 contracts worth billions were signed by the PKFZ general manager even when it was obvious that the authority was facing a difficulty to meet all its financial obligations. As a result, the ex-ministers of transport (Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Choy) had between them endorsed and signed four letters of support to allow the authority to raise corporate bonds.

Another procedural problem had surfaced regarding the validity of these letters. It was obvious that the ministers cannot issue any letter of guarantee on the behalf of the Malaysian government. The only ministry allowed to issue a letter of guarantee was the ministry of finance after procuring an approval from the cabinet.

A remedy for the project must seek to address this procedural flaw to ensure that a strong check-and-balance mechanism is in place to prevent any such flaw from happening again. Members of the administration must be held accountable to the promise of protecting public's interest.

Interesting, by claiming that this project was a national interest, the cabinet approved a soft loan worth RM4.3 billion (at 4% interest) to the PKA to fund the project. It appears that the authority may have some difficulty making the interest payment worth RM2.51 billion by 2036. On top of this, the authority needs to pay the contractor, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, a total interest of RM1.45 billion by 2017.

Even with the most aggressive projection, the company's cash flow may not be enough to keep this project afloat and viable. The company still need to factor in the maintenance cost which is easily 10% of the total development cost annually.

Another mind boggling inconsistency was its land acquisition cost. It was stated by the cabinet decision that this project was a national interest. The land was purchased by PKA at price of RM1,088 million (that is RM25 psf including Infrastructure Works with land fully reclaimed) instead of through compulsory acquisition which would have cost RM442 million (that is RM10.16 psf for land partly reclaimed and no infrastructure works).

The cabinet made the decision based on the recommendation of Selangor State Government that compulsory acquisition was not possible because PKFZ is not a public interest project; and the Land had been issued with development order in 1995.

This inconsistency was glaring when the cabinet later contradicted itself by offering a soft loan of RM4.3 billion to the company and claimed that it was a national interest. A probe must be done and someone must be made accountable for the irresponsible recommendation.

What's next? The probe must identify all parties and individuals involved in the project. People who were involved in making unscrupulous decisions or acted beyond their official boundaries must be taken to task and reprimanded. Like Minister Ong Tee Keat had promised us, the investigation will not leave any stone unturned.

It was announced yesterday that the government has established three committees to deal with the scandal-plagued Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), including one headed by the country head of global anti-graft body Transparency International (TI).

Datuk Paul Low, president of TI Malaysia, will head an ad-hoc committee of corporate governance which will look into ensuring that weak practices of the past are not repeated.

Ong also announced that a special task force of legal, accounting and project development experts has been appointed to provide Port Klang Authority (PKA) with recommendations on how to recoup some of the RM7.5 billion already sunk into the industrial zone. Heading this team is Vinayak Pradhan, from prominent law firm Skrine, who is a former commissioner with the United Nations Compensation Commission and member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and assisted by two directors of PwC.

A third team, called the executive committee, will take charge of PKFZ’s business development.
It is to be co-chaired by PKA chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng and Tan Sri James Alfred, a PKFZ director who is also chairman of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers.

Ong has given the committees and special task force a period of two months to come out with an action plan.

Ong must remember that ultimately the responsibility of fixing this gigantic scandal falls on his shoulder. He must deliver the following:
  • Identify the main problems, causes and culprits which had contributed to the financial fiasco of PKFZ and find ways to recover all ill gotten monies
  • Identify all procedural flaws and propose a check-and-balance mechanism which can be replicated for all public projects involving public money
  • Stop the financial bleed, work on the viability of the project or restructure/reorganise/reinvent the project to ensure it is a viable project which can support the development of Port Klang in the next 50 years
  • Review the financial projection to ensure that the project displays all hidden costs
  • Review all contracts to ensure that there is no one-sided contract signed by the company on behalf of PKA
  • Identify the right people through a merit based system to run and revive the project. Stop all political appointees and replace all board members who did not contribute to the running of the company
  • Stop any draw down for the project until it is clear that the fund is going into something purposeful and all legal reviews have been conducted

The tasks above are not exhaustive. A fiasco this size may have more things up its sleeve which are hidden to us.

The public should support Ong to do his best. He should be noted that the outcome of the investigation may possibly implicate a number of people from his party but he must ensure there is no cover up and action must taken against those who are found guilty.

Imagine, more than 5 ministers in the Gordon Brown cabinet had resigned due to some expense claims controversy. The size of PKFZ financial fiasco would have brought down the Labour Party.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Black = Death? Bad Luck?

All 1Black Malaysia supporters did were to wear black and drink a cup of kopi-o. Suddenly, the colour black is now associated with death and 'bad luck'.

A spokeswoman of Old Town Cafe said it was unfair of protesters to use the chain’s outlets for the protest. “We have loyal patrons who are unhappy with so many people suddenly appearing all wearing black, which we associate with death. This is very bad for business.

Hilarious! Hundreds of people came to her outlets to enjoy a cup of coffee and she said it was bad for business. My good friend, Chin Huat, can bring thousands of his supporters to my shop soon, 1Black Cafe. It sounds like a tempting investment. I will even roll over a black carpet to welcome them.

Pro-democracy NGOs yesterday announced they would repeat the protest tomorrow — at seven Old Town outlets in the capital and Penang. The protesters, who announced the location of the protests via the social networking website Facebook, urged the coffee company not to close the outlets.

“We are only drinking coffee and paying for it,” one protest leader said. “They make money, we get our message across.”

Man, I can't help but thinking that the coordinators of the meetings are colluding with the Old Town outlets to bring them extra revenue.

This time, police will be waiting for them. “We are monitoring the targeted outlets and if necessary will arrest any person wearing black as they approach the outlets,” a police spokesman said.

A joker will always remain a joker. Since when is wearing the colour black an offence?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Malaysian Political Language Needs To Change

The language which dominates the Malaysian political discourse needs to undergo a serious change. Like the old drama reruns on RTM, the discourse keeps going back and forth between religion and race. This type of discourse is a big turnoff especially when the whole world, including Malaysia, is facing a far more serious threat than the PAS-UMNO unity talk or the demanding non-Malays - the economy.

Low class politicians such as Ibrahim Ali have continued to stir up racial sentiments among the Malays by trying to play up their insecurity. It is interesting that he was allowed to get away with his view without being taken to task. In his worldview, the Malay community needs to be protected against other races so that their political and economic rights will not be diminished.

The main threat to the Malays is not the other races but their own complacency and insecurity. Leaders of the community, such as Ibrahim, should try to answer why there were Malays who had survived the fiercest competition outside of Malaysia and many of them had thrived.

The most important thing these leaders should do is to inspire and encourage young Malays to face off any global challenges and become world beaters. There is nothing that cannot be achieved if there is a will and a persistent heart. A lazy and demotivated Chinese boy is definitely no better than a hardworking and persistent Malay boy.

The point is it is not about race. It will do Malaysia good if our political language can be reviewed and reconstructed to promote a less divided and less racialised nation. What the government should do is to quickly recognize and promote the talents of the its people, especially the youths.

Recently, I had organised a B-boy (Breakout) extreme dance comedy theatre. In conjunction with the event, we had organised a B-boy Dance Competition at the Sunway Pyramid mall. I was taken aback by the amount of talents we had discovered in the competition. Malaysian youths can dance!

This discovery is only a tip of the iceberg. I am sure there are many more talented youths around who are awaiting the right platform to showcase their skills and ability. Why aren't they be given that platform?

Politicians and political parties continue to disappoint when comes to connecting with the youths. Their political language simply does not resonate with the youths. Unsurprisingly, the Malaysian youths are keeping their distance away from political parties and politicians.

Malaysia is facing a serious gap between the political leaders and its young society. Hence, politicians think that politics is all about politicking. As a result, the people became mere spectators and were given very limited access to the feedback and governance processes. Politicians continue do what they think is good for the society.

The politician-know-best attitude is the root cause of many scandals and issues in the country. This arrogance is evident. Most of the ruling politicians do not feel accountable to the people to do a good job and to stay out of controversy.

Power breeds arrogance. People, I have said this again and again. It is up to us to tell the politicians that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Monday, June 08, 2009

PAS Needs to Balance Its Ambition With Political Reality

For whatever reason, it is better for PAS leaders to keep their feet on the ground. The party's political resurgence at the 2008 general election was not achieved solely through its own steam.

Precisely, it won by not taking the driver's seat. The party had rightly decided to focus on its Malay heartland. As a result, it was rewarded with leadership of two additional states - Perak and Kedah. This is a formula the party should stick with.

The party's ambition to promote its Islamic governance as the backbone of federal government has been quite consistent. In the recent general assembly, the leadership had offered a similar role to the PR coalition if it wins power in the 13th general election.

There is nothing wrong in the party's ambition if both the coalition and the multiracial society can accept PAS' leadership. However, sadly, the party did very little to explain how it can provide a leadership to this racially and religiously diverse nation if segments of the party continue to speak out harshly against its competitors e.g. Sisters-in-Islam.

According to Awang Hadi, Islam does not teach Muslims to shun others although they may have opposing views with the Islamic party. This statement must be consistently applied to all parties, political or otherwise.

Second, the party leadership had maintained its support for free and open economy. It would have been useful if the party had made this stand clearer. What is tolerable within its own definition of 'free and open'? In the past, its youth movement had protested against various concerts e.g. Rihanna, Pussycat Dolls and others which were seen as harmless and purely entertainment by Malaysian youths.

Would it be able to tolerate establishments such as the Berjaya Sports Toto & 4D, the Genting Highlands Casino and others?

PAS' intention to become a national party and to secure the national leadership cannot be simply measured by the mere 20 to 30 thousand non-Muslim supporters in its supporters' club. Its readiness has to be measured by its political ideology, mindset and stand on various issues and topics which may not be consistent with Islam.

A PAS which has been exposed to the possibility of winning federal power may want to sound as populist as it can be to fulfill its ambition but the bubble can be pricked by its own inconsistency and impatience.

PAS wants its Islamic values to be accepted by non-Muslims as universal values which are fair, just and equitable. The party can still strive to achieve this noble objective even without first capturing the federal government. If achievable, it will give both PAS and Islam a good name.

Again, the party needs to show some consistency here. Its party president wants to discuss the possibility of a unity government with UMNO. Apart from fulfilling the party's ambition to share national power, those who had voted for the PR coalition and PAS cannot find an acceptable reason for the party to pursue this unity talk.

Has UMNO changed? Has UMNO put all the vices e.g. money politics, power abuse etc. behind it? Has UMNO become less racist and more accommodative? Can this unity talk help to make the government less authoritarian by abolishing all draconian laws?

It is up to Hadi to convince his own members and Malaysian voters of his plan to pursue the unity talk.

I was asked by journalists if PAS can win national power by alienating the PR. I responded by saying that it would be impossible for any party which is race or religious based to win national power on its own.

Without the BN, it is nearly impossible for UMNO to become so dominant as it is now. It is given that UMNO or PAS cannot govern by itself without the support of multiracial Malaysians regardless of how insignificant some communities are in numbers. The support of minorities in the first-past-the-post electoral system is very important if voters of major communities are split.

PAS resurgence is a work in progress. It is best for the party to conduct some serious soul searching before taking a shot at national power. Beneath the beard and turban, can its political ideology, mindset and stand capture the imagination of globalizing Malaysia? Can the party appeal to the middle ground?

It is best for the party to keep check of its own ambition. The lure of power is very strong. The temptation had destroyed many parties and coalition. PAS should learn from its 1999 victory and 2004 setback.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Post-Colonial Utusan Malaysia

I can understand why Malaysiakini.com highlighted the previous article from Utusan Malaysia which had incited racial hatred. Understandably, the DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang had slammed the editor of Utusan Malaysia, Awang Selamat.

Why get upset over articles written by Awang? It is so obvious that this newspaper and the people who are behind its publication are outdated, utterly divisive and irrelevant.

Its recent article on Mingguan Malaysia said:

Yang menyatakan "orang Melayu menerusi UMNO bermurah hati menerima bukan Melayu sebagai warganegara" adalah Tan Siew Sin sendiri. Sebagai balasan kemurahan hati orang Melayu, kata beliau, MCA dan MIC (yang menaungi kaum Cina dan India ketika itu) bersetuju meneruskan dasar memelihara dan menghormati kedudukan istimewa orang Melayu.

This is a serious allegation. Only yesterday, MCA's Lee Wei Kiat had challenged Anwar and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng to declare their stand clearly, and to explain to voters the stand taken by PAS Youth on the NEP and 30% Bumi quota.

Perhaps Lee should make his party's stand clear on the allegation by Utusan Malaysia that MCA had agreed to pursue and support the Malay supremacy policy which is the bulwark of NEP.

The problem for MCA is the position of PR on the NEP is clear. Lee needs to refer to the PR's New Malaysian Agenda.

Until and unless MCA can bury the ghost of NEP themselves, it will be hard for Lee to use the same affirmative policy to slam the opposition.

Is Lee willing to issue a stern denial and warning against Awang Selamat for his unscrupulous article?

For the rest of Malaysians, just ignore Utusan Malaysia. Remember, by buying the paper and paying a damn for people like Awang we are giving them enough resources to do what they do best - racial flaming.


I would like to thank readers who continue to support the Straight Talk fund. It helps to convince me that you are with me on this fight. Defamation suits are often used by the rich or those with unlimited access to legal resource to silence freedom of speech. Likewise, do NOT support these individuals and organisations they belonged to and to deny them of the resources they can use to silence us. Thank you!

I Thought the Police Had a Sense of Humour...

Brickfields OCPD's 1, 2, 3...tangkap! Or the 64 people who were told to turn in Ipoh only to be told that their bail was not going to be extended. Or sending a group of 40 police officers to detain 16 candle light and peaceful demonstrators. Or storming into the Perak state assembly to drag out the state assembly speaker....hilarious!

The police did sound humorous to me. Until this episode....Now I am not too sure... another authority has beaten it to the prize.

FROM KUALA LUMPUR On 2nd June 2009, the Publications & Quranic Texts Division of the Home Ministry raided my T-shirt stall in Central Market for the 3rd time and seized 83 shirts they claim are "obscene and contain Communist elements". You can see the images they confiscated by following this link...

That the Ministry is clamping down on items they allege glorify (Chinese) Communism at the very moment our beloved leader is grinning for photocalls with the flatcaps in Beijing is flash-bulb irony so blinding it requires uncommon talent to miss it. The Ministry, of course, missed it by a mile.

Not many people know this but lightweight, low level officers of the Publications & Quranic Texts Division are entrusted with absolute power to make on-the-spot judgments about what is obscene, subversive, subliminally seditious, distasteful, inartistic, drug drenched, Communist, radical, Swedish. Er, ok, maybe not Swedish, but apart from that they can pass instant judgment on just about everything else under the sun. Worse, having judged, they are empowered to confiscate anything that offends their fragile sensibilities. They can say your cupboard is a badly disguised coffin, your toothbrush is a sex aid or that your plastic KL Tower statuette so thoughtfully bought for you by Aunt Mimi is plainly a male sexual organ. Having so proclaimed, they have the unchallengeable right to then cart everything away. In a blink of an eye one is judged, juried and executed by the same single entity. Issues of abuse of power loom large. You only have to click on the link above to realise that the Ministry tends towards irrational excitability in their interpretations, betraying the goververnment's impatience with the mildest satire and discomfort with the freedom of expression that is our guaranteed constitutional right.

What this means in practice is that the Ministry has a bunch of people running around seizing things under the flimsiest pretext. They took half my stock - 3 times - but they could just as easily have taken all. If you run a business selling things, they have an unquestionable right in law to do so and there is not much you can do about it. When a government deliberately denies a citizen his fundamental right to make a living, it had better have weighty, considered reasons for doing so. Here, we allow low level staffers to snatch away our rice bowls on a whim, without warning. Accountability, reason and judiciousness be damned.

By logical progression, since the images are now presumably "illegal", are we to see enforcement squads jumping out from behind lampposts to rip T shirts bearing similar images off the backs of recalcitrant wearers? Will we have T shirt evaluators sitting alongside the H1N1 scanners at airports and entry points around the country? Will tourists be warned to leave their Viagra at home?

You may think that the images have no artistic of comedic merit. You may think them stupid and juvenile. But to say that they glorify Communism, are obscene and illegal, is really stretching it. And, surely, confiscation on those grounds is wholly unwarranted. Are we, as Malaysians, so sanguine that we accept the government has a right to intrude in such a way into our lives, compromise our professional integrity and devastate our businesses on nothing more than one person's inadequate understanding of the word "obscene"??

You can call me on: +6016 6752498

You can read Malay Mail's article about the raid here...

You can read the Malay Mail's editorial about the issue here..

You can read the Star's article about the raid here...

Patrick Saw

Saturday, June 06, 2009

On the PKFZ Fiasco, Give Ong Some Breathing Space

The Sun wrote:

"It would be wrong not to recognise and congratulate Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat for his steadfastness in wanting to keep to his promise that he is all for transparency.

Ong, wrongly, has been the subject of scorn poured by certain quarters without understanding nor accepting the fact that he merely inherited the problem from his predecessors. On assuming the hot seat, he had been consistent in wanting the cold truth to be told to the public sans the frills and legal jargon.

Having said that, Ong is now left with the task of compelling the board of the Port Klang Authority to bring to book the wrongdoers and to recover public money which has ended in the pockets of wrong people."

I have resisted the temptation to blog on the PKFZ until all details were clearly reported and accounted in the latest PwC audit report. The PKFZ scandal is a huge one which requires a full attention from the government.

Since billions of public money is involved the government is accountable to ensure that the project does not continue to bleed money. We need a serious act of accountability and transparency to address the shortcomings of the project.

However, the continuous political bantering and finger pointing is not going to bring us anywhere. It looks quite obvious that not many politicians would like to trade places with Ong. Ong accepted the portfolio fully aware of the challenge awaiting him at the ministry and had delivered his first promise to engage an independent body to investigate the scandal.

Since the report is out, both Ong and PKA do not have a choice but to launch a full and thorough investigation on all wrong doings to ensure that wrongdoers are brought to justice and to recover any ill gotten monies taken from the public.

Next, the government and Ong would have to use all the expertise they can get to evaluate the viability of the PKFZ as an international industrial park. They need to quickly find a niche for PKFZ because building an industrial park alone will not be enough to attract foreign investment into the area.

The PKFZ needs a solid and innovative strategy to restore and revive the project. As a layman, it appears to me that the ready built factories and plants are too small to accommodate international players. They may be more suitable for SMEs or R&D facilities.

As a step forward, the ministry should organise a full briefing session on the PKFZ. I am sure many of us are curious about the project. The public deserved to know if the project is still viable and it will not end up as the biggest white elephant in the country.

Murugiah the Loser

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Senator T. Murugiah is the loser in the recent PPP spat between him and the party president M. Kayveas. Supporters of Murugiah had conducted an emergency meeting to 'elect' him as the new president of PPP in an attempt to dump Kayveas.

Murugiah was desperately trying to lobby for support from several UMNO leaders including PM Najib Razak. However, all these attempts were futile. On Thursday, the Registrar of Societies declared Kayveas the lawful president, adding that the party could proceed with its 56th annual general meeting.

Now, according to Kayveas the party is turning its back permanently on Murugiah. Since the winner is obvious, Murugiah who will soon lose his deputy minister position may find himself in reeling in political isolation.

There is a lesson to take away from this spat. Never fight an incumbent force if one is not sure of being able to deliver the ultimate blow. It was clear that UMNO top leaders wanted to stay away from being involved in another political quagmire. From their perspective, Murugiah is less troublesome compared to Kayveas.

By alienating Kayveas, the coalition may potentially face a rebellion and a fight back from his faction in PPP. It was a fact that Kayveas was fully in charge of PPP.

It will be interesting to watch how Murugiah intends to fight back to salvage his political career.

Sign of Irrelevance

Gerakan's Teng Hock Nan said the Parti Keadilan's Rakyat's boycott of the swearing-in of the new Seberang Prai Municipal Council president indicates problems in the state Pakatan Rakyat. He said it was a sign of conflict within the loose coalition of parties that constitute the state government.

He wants the conflict to be resolved quickly. A good advice he should use it for himself.

What about Penang Gerakan's internal conflict? The last I heard both Huan Cheng Guan, a vice president and himself were at loggerheads over the appointment of coordinators in Seberang Prai. Huan had threatened to leave the party bringing with him thousands of members (hopefully real members).

State Gerakan secretary Ong Thean Lye said DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) were on opposite sides of the fence on Mokhtar's appointment."PKR wants to put its own man in charge of MPSP while the DAP thinks that giving the post to PKR will strengthen the latter's influence in Seberang Prai."

It will be more helpful for Ong to tell us something we don't already know. If DAP is keen to contain PKR, why would the state government appoints two civil servants to helm the local authorities? Logically, the DAP would have recommended their own members.

Both Teng and Ong were too quick to pounce on a moving target. Their reaction will only help to strengthen the perception of some Penang Gerakan members that the leadership is lost and irrelevant.

Teng should make way for a younger set of leaders if he can no longer command a new approach for the party.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

PKR Turning Into Another Multiracial UMNO?

I have had many run-ins with the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng. We have had a fair share of disagreements. But on many socio-political issues in this country, we are on the same page.

This is one thing that I must stand on the side of Chief Minister Lim. On June 2, the Penang state government had appointed the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) acting president, Tan Cheng Chui, as president of the MPPP. Tan is a career civil servant.

I was told that the chief minister wanted to depoliticize the local councils by appointing civil servants who have the experience and expertise to helm the councils. Tan's appointment is supposed to usher in a new era of better local council services to taxpayers like myself.

Similarly, the state government has appointed a civil servant to helm the trouble riddled MPSP. This move was not well received by PKR's MPSP councillors. Majority of PKR's Seberang Perai (MPSP) councillors today boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of their new president Mokthar Mohd Jait.

The boycott was called in protest of the appointment of a civil servant to head MPSP. The councillors claimed that it was agreed previously that a politician would be put at the helm as and until local elections are introduced.

Meanwhile, PKR whip Johari Kassim accused Lim of ignoring PKR and acting as if "he was running a DAP, and not a Pakatan coalition, state government."He said Lim should have consulted Pakatan partners before deciding on who shall be appointed for the president's post.

"After all, Pakatan's collective stand was to appoint politicians as council presidents," he said, referring to the state Pakatan council’s decision made early this year.

The negative reaction of PKR councillors to the appointment of a civil servant to helm the local council is a huge disappointment for me.

Who is Johari if not for the support of the Penang voters? It is not for both PKR or DAP to decide who among them should head the councils. Ultimately, these positions are not spoils which should be shared like what the characters did in "Ali Baba & the 40 thieves" movie.

The local councils should be helmed by the most suitable and qualified persons who can act without fear or favour of any politicians. Previously, these councils compromised too much with the politicians and ended up foregoing their most important responsibility to serve the people.

Politicians should not get too greedy over power and position. First, prove that you can serve us well.

It is unbelievable that these PKR leaders, including its state leader Zahrain Hashim, can accept Gerakan Huan Cheng Guan to the party and are willing to offer him a top position but not a civil servant who had proven his worth by doing a good job at the local council to head the council.

If my memory does not fail me, Huan was very critical of Anwar Ibrahim during the last general election and the Permatang Pauh by-election.

Is it PKR 'mudah lupa' or Anwar 'mudah lupa'?

The ruling PR coalition is answerable to the people of Penang on whom they have decided to appoint to helm the councils. Not PKR whip Johari or Anwar. Not even Zahrain if he still want to keep his MP seat in the next general election.

Yes, we also need to know if the promised local government elections would be forthcoming.

Asia 21 Forum in JW Marriott - On Race and Education

I attended the Asia 21 forum at the JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur last night. The topic of discussion was ‘New America, One Malaysia - Young Leaders and The Global Agenda for Change'.

The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin brought up about an issue she wanted change in Malaysia - the race identification tick box on official and private forms.

She argued that if we consider ourselves as 1Malaysia there is no need for race identification. It is simply enough to note that we are Malaysians. I am with Jacqueline on this issue.

Later, Malaysiakini CEO Pramesh Chandra threw down a gauntlet for UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin by asking him to become an agent of change for his party and the nation. Khairy gamely accepted the challenge.

Turning back to respond to the issue about race tick box brought up by Jacqueline, Khairy said that while he was rejoicing as a Malaysian that the society has grown more mature politically change is still not easy to implement.

He said that if Malaysians wanted to do away with the racial profiling, are they willing to let go of their vernacular schools. He said that other races should accept a single school system and using a common national language.

I am not as optimistic as Prem on Khairy's ability to catalyst change if he cannot understand why parents send their children to vernacular schools. They did so not because they rejected the national language but the fact that national schools have turned overtly religious and racial.

Another participant offered a valid point. Teachers in national schools were required to attend countless number of 'kursus' or courses conducted by the Education Ministry. As a result, the process of learning was disrupted when classes were cancelled or replaced.

For Khairy to inspire change in the UMNO led government, he should first understand and accept the need to improve the national schools. Before the nationalisation of English medium schools in 1970's, more than 75% of non-Malay parents sent their children to these schools and not to the vernacular Chinese or Tamil schools.

Why can't the national schools today emulate the same kind of success and popularity enjoyed by the English medium schools?

The key is not to ask these parents to let go of their choice to send their children to vernacular schools without first fixing the national schools.

Khairy should speak to his minister of education to put education quality and learning above all other priorities when addressing education reform in the country.

Finally, to do away with racial profiling and to keep the vernacular schools are two different things. Khairy-the-politician was acting very mischievously and discreetly to support the call of 1Sekolah proponents to abolish of all vernacular Chinese and Tamil schools. We need a Khairy-the-Malaysian to walk his talk on change.

We can do away with the racial profiling now and it will bring more goodwill and benefit to the BN government.

But can we seriously help to improve social cohesion by closing down all vernacular schools now before offering parents a new, better and reliable alternative - the national schools?

I have said this thousand times before that I support a single school system but this system must be focused on providing a quality education, facilitating learning and allowing students to discover and grow their talent.

Before striving to put its house in order, Khairy's suggestion to close down the vernacular schools as a condition to eradicate racial profiling is as ridiculous and defeatist as his party's corny slogans on unity but is still holding on tightly to its racial ideology and 'ketuanan Melayu'.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Where to Malaysia? So Many Questions, So Few Answers...

The roof of a spanking new stadium in Trengganu came off. It was built at a cost of RM270 million. A spanking new industrial park is hardly 15% percent filled up and it has already incurred more than RM7 billion.

More failures, more wastage, more controversies, more mediocrity...

What about the ding dong judgements made by the judiciary? Or the MACC which announced that it had obtained solid 'cow' and 'Lexus' evidence to nail a menteri besar? Or the police which went on a detention spree and decided not to charge any of those detained?

Yes, comical...but beneath the comedy lies a huge opportunity cost for the country. The fact is time is running out for a country which is still fidgeting with its flaws and weaknesses.

The approach used is also wrong. Whenever there is a crisis, the main approach used is to cover up, play 'taichi' and divert the fault to others (MIC's Vel Paari did this very well to defend his record in Maika), use threat of defamation suits or simply deny, deny, deny...

Guess how the South Koreans got back up on their feet after the 1997 financial crisis? What is Obama's approach to rescue several sloppy US corporate giants? What spurred China's emergence from a sick man of Asia to become an industrial giant?

It has to start with an acceptance of our weakness. Then, we should stay focus on finding a long-term and sustainable solution to overcome the weakness.

With the economy contracting more than expected (-6.2%), what is the government doing positively to turnaround the economy? What are the key action steps to ensure that the local industrial sectors are shaping up better to compete in the global economy once the dust settles? What are we planning to do to upgrade the skills of our workforce since we realised that going low cost and low skilled is not going to be a right way forward?

How to inspire innovation and creativity among our youths?

Some many questions, so few answers.

It is time we wake up!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Leave the Old Malaysia Behind Us

From Chin Peng to Utusan's recent editorial attack on non-Malays, we have to acknowledge a reality in Malaysia - some segments of the society are still caught in a time warp. Many societies and countries that were more divided than ours had moved on and left their division behind.

South Africa had ended 'apartheid' and implemented a much needed national healing for their racially divided society. The Berlin wall had crumbled. Communism in its purest form had ended and the world's biggest communist country, China, is anything but practicing hardcore communism. It had embraced capitalism since two decades ago.

More than three decades ago, there was no free access to China. Today, Prime Minister Najib's visit to China is played up by our local media as an important foreign affair move by the government to bolster relationship with the East Asian giant.

It is a fact that the world has changed and is still changing almost daily. Hence, it is a huge disappointment to note that our political rhetoric still remain the same. Recalcitrant politicians and editors are still calling non-Malay Malaysians, especially Chinese Malaysians, 'pendatang' or migrants.

Malaysians, born and bred in this country, are still being told to feel grateful for their citizenship. A political party is still boasting about its post-colonial credentials.

A bunch of ignorant bloggers are still putting the blame on Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools for causing disunity in the country. The emergence of both China and India as important regional geopolitical and economic powers has made the learning of both languages a smart decision.

Interestingly, they blamed these vernacular schools for creating generations of non-Malays who are not able to communicate in perfect Bahasa Melayu. To be frank, how many Malays speak perfect Bahasa Baku (formal Malay)?

I was at the Midvalley GSC cinema and a counter sales person who attended to me, Alif, actually spoke to me in Mandarin. This is a new Malaysia where multiracial Malaysians no longer seek a purist position for their race or language. For Alif to speak to me in Mandarin was a plus point for him. I am sure he will do well for being multilingual, a skill which should be applauded and not frown upon.

Hence, my fear for a part of Malaysia which is not able to move forward to embrace a new world. That is why we are still living and compromising with an outdated political system which is race centric. We are still putting up with a post colonial mindset which is unable to accept that citizenship with equality is a birth right of all Malaysians.

We are still tolerating a concept which believes that listening to patriotic songs, corny slogans and speaking the same language is a key to unity.

If this is the case, we are worse than the socialists. We are no different from the North Koreans whose government has been beaming and transmitting patriotic songs, slogans and messages to its people almost daily. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to visit the border which separated a free and liberal South Korea from the socialist North Korea. The contrast was evident. It was easy to decide which society lives a better life.

Malaysia, this is a serious matter. Only you, your family and friends can decide which kind of Malaysia you wanted. This country is at a crossroads. Its future direction is dependent on the kind of Malaysia we wanted this country to take. It is not for UMNO, Utusan Melayu, 1Sekolah proponents and other parochial groups to decide.

These voices are the minority unless we help to magnify them through our support, endorsement and votes.

It is time we leave the old, haggard and divisive Malaysia behind. Only you can make this happen.

Monday, June 01, 2009

UMNO - Last Man Standing?

Signs are clear that BN is slowing breaking apart. Most of the key component parties in the coalition are facing internal crisis. The crisis was a pent up frustration generated from the last general election in 2008.

The new MCA leadership under the much respected Ong Tee Keat has to carry the party's past baggage which has developed into some ugly controversies for himself. The PKFZ scandal is a make or break for Ong. He should be applauded for supporting a release of the PwC audit report which has implicated several BN politicians and exposed gross mismanagement of the free zone.

However, the public will judge him based on the actions that will soon be taken against the perpetrators. Based on several high profile exposes in the past, the public is growing sceptical of the government's ability and willingness to haul up those whose were implicated in the scandals - V.K Lingam, Kugan, IPCMC et cetera.

Ong has urged the government to take a stern action against those who were allegedly involved in the PKFZ fiasco which may cost the public more than RM12 billion over the next 30 years. However, Ong should be reminded that he is part of the government too and a number of personalities named in the report were leaders of his party.

MCA crisis is deeper than merely the PKFZ scandal. Until now, the new leadership has yet to inspire a turnaround for the party. The Bukit Gantang by-election was a good indication for MCA on the level of Chinese community support it is currently enjoying. Anything below 50 percent should be taken as a crisis for the party. In that by-election, BN only managed less than 20 percent of Chinese votes.

MCA is also facing an image crisis. It is seen as a conservative, haggard and 'old' party. The party's rebranding exercise was disrupted by the continuous spat between Ong and his deputy Chua Soi Lek. Ong's frustration was shown in his responses to the press which had painted him as an arrogant, blunt and 'cocky' leader. A number of leaders I have spoken to opined that MCA did not do enough in BN to push for a permanent change in the coalition. A number of them are also growing tired of the spat.

Ong's task in the next year is crucial. He has to find a way to carefully manage the PKFZ scandal. This scandal will test his skills as a minister and a senior executive in the cabinet. He would need to inspire his party members and leaders to rally around him for the transformation of the party. To do so, the leader must not be caught in his own leadership trap and he should be made aware of attempts to keep him isolated from the grassroots and voters.

Ong needs to change his leadership image. He needs to make a connection to the younger generation. Failing to do so may cost his party more seats in the next general election. At present, it is simply not cool to become a MCA member. Previously, Ong had proposed a new multiracial political model which can be adopted by his party. Unfortunately, like many of his personal agenda this was equally disrupted and distracted by the crises he has to deal with now.

MIC is suffering from the years of strong leadership under its current president Samy Vellu. After losing his Sungai Siput stronghold, Samy should have done the right thing to make way for a new generation of leaders. However, the feisty leader had decided to stay on for an additional term which his party can ill afford. Samy's rebranding exercise is more hot air than results. He had wanted to recruit thousands of new members but with competition getting keener from new emerging Indian-based parties and Hindraf, it is difficult to see how MIC can attract more (quality) members if everything else remains the same.

Over the last months, the MIC had tried to capitalize on the campaign to seek the release of Hindraf 5. Ironically, it was Samy who had tried to link the leaders to a terrorist group, LTTE. The release of all Hindraf leaders and their reluctance to join hands with him had disappointed Samy. He criticized Uthayakumar and a few key Hindraf leaders soon after their release. MIC is now back to its hollow politics. It needs to find the next struggle which could inspire young Indians to join the party. It is suffering from the same old age effect faced by MCA.

Gerakan's fate was sealed when its key leaders quit or distance themselves from the party. Koh Tsu Koon is suffering from the same sense of denial like Samy Vellu when he accepted a position in the cabinet and to head the Penang BN. It is unlikely that Koh is capable of winning any parliamentary seat in the state. His 18 years leadership came to a cruel end when his party was completely rejected by voters in the last general election. Until today, Koh had yet to admit full responsibility for Gerakan weak and egoistic campaign in Penang.

Penang Gerakan is heading for a split when two factions (headed by Teng Hock Nan and Huan Cheng Guan) are at loggerheads over the appointment of coordinators for the party's 13 state constituencies and 4 parliamentary seats. Both leaders are not expected to make an impact in the next general election despite who is tasked to helm the state leadership. Both of them were defeated in their stronghold. Huan had directly attack the leadership for not making way for younger set of leaders. His criticism was directed at both Teng and Koh. Penang MCA made a similar objection when Koh was appointed the BN state chief.

UMNO appears to be the last man standing in the coalition. However, the party has traditionally known to be factional and controlled by regional warlords. UMNO's insistence of using all available state coercive power to pounce on its political opponents may prove to be its biggest downfall in the Peninsula.

Can Najib's 1Malaysia inspire his party, coalition and most importantly Malaysians?

Guest Blogger - Koon Yew Yin

We urge the Perak Sultan to dissolve the assembly
By Koon Yew Yin
23rd May 09

Malaysian Courts: Going Super Fast

Allow me to share a quote of wisdom : 'Though the wheels of justice grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all'.
I have read that there was a case of medical negligence, and involving the death of a lawyer, which took 23 years to reach our Court of Appeal. Yet these slow grinding wheels seem to have become supercharged for the benefit of Zambry Abd Kadir.

When the High Court on May 11 recognised Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin as the rightful Menteri Besar of Perak, the Court of Appeal lost no time in granting Zambry a stay of execution on the High Court decision. It did so within a few hours, in fact.

Malaysian courts are now creating a record with their supersonic speed in disposing cases. Yesterday (Friday, May 22), the appellate court overturned the High Court judgment favouring Nizar, and instead ruled that Zambry is the legitimate Menteri Besar.
Justices Md Raus Sharif, Zainun Ali and Ahmad Maarop made a unanimous decision in favour of Zambry, prompting Nizar's lead counsel Sulaiman Abdullah to comment that Malaysia has extraordinary judges who can pass extraordinary judgment.

Beyond the Political Checkmate

Obviously we will never see the end of Perak's battles in the courts. No sooner the court decides on one case, another legal suit pops up. Justice NH Chan has already written several articles on the Perak constitutional crisis. He had earlier boldly pointed out five errant judges; perhaps he will soon finger three plus one more.

In the meantime and on another front, Speaker V. Sivakumar has just filed a suit against R. Ganesan who took over his chair – literally – albeit with a little help from his 'friends' (the security men from outside the dewan) during the state assembly sitting in Ipoh on May 7.
So what we have is the curious cases of Menteri Besar One vs Menteri Besar Two, and Speaker One vs Speaker Two fighting it out in the courts with numerous suits and counter suits.

I wrote ‘Checkmate Barisan Nasional in Perak’ on March 21 premised on the term ‘checkmate’ in chess when an opponent has no further move to protect his king. There seems to be no viable state government now in Perak with both the BN and Pakatan Rakyat continuously checking each other's move.

I had then suggested that a quick return to the ballot box was the only morally and legally defensible option, and also the way out of this political quagmire. But Perak has remained stuck in an impasse precisely because the vote has not been returned to the rakyat.

It is expected that if Ganesan is pronounced rightful Speaker by the court, he would be calling an emergency session to oust Nizar and counting on the three defectors to deliver Barisan Nasional its majority. Is it fair for the overwhelmingly Umno-dominated coalition to govern the state by depending solely on its so-called three 'independents friendly to BN', especially when two of those assemblymen are under investigation for corruption?

On May 8, I wrote another article ‘Treason of the Malaysian hawks’ – the phrase 'treason of the hawks' borrowed from American policy analyst Fred Ikle – and which I found useful in that 'treason' bears some equivalence to the Malay term 'derhaka’.

It is treasonous if the opposing halves, by fighting too much and too long, eventually bring about untold damage to the state. In my second article on the Perak deadlock, I again urged that only the ballot box can determine the people's choice and who it is that possesses the people's trust to rule Perak.

The Sultan, the Raja Muda and Past Words of Wisdom

As a Perakian, I am very disturbed and saddened by the current uncertainty in my beloved but politically volatile state. These protracted legal tussles are undermining the rule of law and might I add, the monarchy too. It is particularly disheartening to observe the rule of law eroded in a state governed by no less than a former Lord President of the Supreme Court, the eminent Sultan Azlan Shah.

Like all Malaysians, during the past two years prior to the elections, I was very impressed by the inspiring speeches given by the Perak monarch and his son, crown prince Raja Nazrin Shah.
In his address at the 14th Malaysian Law Conference in October 2007, his Royal Highness said,
“All countries, including those that are totalitarian regimes, have courts. But as I observed previously, 'The [mere] existence of courts and judges in every ordered society proves nothing; it is their quality, their independence, and their powers that matter'.”

Sultan Azlan had also noted that “In matters concerning the judiciary, it is the public perception of the judiciary that ultimately matters. A judiciary loses its value and service to the community if there is no public confidence in its decision-making”.

The Raja Muda who holds a doctorate in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University ranks no lesser in degree of wisdom to the exalted father. It is a measure of the man – to be filling the shoes of such a giant in law – that Raja Nazrin's advice is equally learned.

In his keynote address in conjunction with National Integrity Day last year, Raja Nazrin said, “Generally, the Rulers act based on the advice by government leaders elected by the people. Nevertheless, the Rulers cannot accede to acts which do not symbolise justice or sanction moves which do not mirror truth.

“The Rulers’ views, observation and counsel in the administrative affairs of the country touching on the question of integrity which encompasses justice, law, judiciary, misappropriation, power abuse, corruption and wealth distribution, are with the desire to strengthening the Government so that it is stable and receives people’s trust.”

Raja Nazrin has spoken many times on the importance of upholding the Federal Constitution in keeping the nation united and cohesive. He once quoted the words of renowned jurist Baroness Helena Kennedy, a QC: “The rule of law is one of the tools we use in our stumbling progress towards civilising the human condition: a structure of law, with proper methods and independent judges, before whom even a government must be answerable”.

Only last year at the 17th Tun Ismail Ovation, Raja Nazrin drew much admiration when he told the audience, “Walking the talk is therefore more than just a nice maxim. It is integral to what good leadership is about and what being a leader means.”

As a loyal subject of Perak state , I and my fellow Perakians have been blessed with the sterling leadership shown by our royal house. Last month during the Perak awards ceremony in conjunction with his birthday celebration, Sultan Azlan reinforced our long-held conviction when he said, “The rulers have a far wider responsibility in ensuring that the spirit of the Constitution, the philosophy behind the written law, and the interest of the country and the people are safeguarded at all times.”

Raja Nazrin Shah on the same occasion said he would make all efforts to ensure the institution of royalty, which was core to the system of governance and nationhood in the country, continues to be protected.

Perak Royalty’s Duty

To safeguard the interest of the country and the institution of royalty, the voice and will of the rakyat must be respected. It has to be called on to be heard - in one way or another - because though the wheels of justice grind slowly, they grind exactingly. To the letter of the law a government must be answerable, and the one standing above politics must be accountable. In my humble opinion, Perak will regain its shine and the people's trust when the Sultan accedes to the dissolution of the state assembly. Once again, we urge Sultan Azlan Shah to dissolve the state assembly.

Mr Koon Yew Yin is a 76 years old retired Chatered Civil Engineer who lives in Perak.