Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Malaysia's Economic Recovery: Not For the Faint Hearted

Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) executive director Dr Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem expected the Malaysian economy to face tougher and more challenging times following concerns that the United States may be heading for a double-dip recession.

He said all available evidence clearly showed that Malaysia was out of recession. The country would register positive growth in the fourth quarter of this year, and this would probably continue into 2010.

Dr Ariff warned of a possible double dip in the US economy first half of next year. Rightly pointed out, the global economy recovery especially in the US is fueled by fiscal stimulus packages and not real recovery in consumer demand and confidence. Unemployment rates are still high in US and Western Europe.

Closer to this region, the China economy is plagued with an asset bubble fear. This threat has been hovering over China's economy in the last few years, even before the full blown global economic crisis this March.

Malaysia's recovery is going to be a bit more tricky. Without accurate and updated economic data, we are not even sure of the real unemployment rates. Job creation remains slow and sluggish.

Consumer demand has not been that encouraging even during the recent festive seasons. They are going to continue to thread carefully next year. Family expenditure will remain prudent because parents may have to make provision for their unemployed children.

Unemployment for young graduates and school leavers may hover above 100,000 next year. Despite PM Najib's call to increase per capita income, the entry level salary and salary growth are expected to be sluggish and stagnant.

Malaysia's dilemma is deep and complex. Apart from the global economic crisis, we have to discover a new dynamism and inertia to move this economy forward.

Malaysia's structural change is not for the faint hearted. According to MIER, a mild economic recovery can be expected in the year 2012 but this recovery will be largely resource (commodities and oil & gas) driven.

We need to reinvigorate our manufacturing and services sectors. We need to do better to capitalize on our natural resources and strengths. The education system needs a major revamp.

Foremost, we need better calibre policy makers, administrators and managers. Curb corruption and wastage of useful limited resources.

The changes must start with mindset and cultural changes.

Hence, this journey is going to be a long and arduous one. Even a change of government will not erase these problems overnight. The direction of this country cannot be dictated by a mere 222 politicians. The future of this country lies in the hands of 28 million people.

Malaysians must be prepared to work hard for the next 20 years to get this country back on its feet again.

And, the journey must start from now.

Energizing Penang

R&B Prince Tank

An unusual energy is going to hit Penang tomorrow night at around 9pm. Guess what? Taiwanese megastars, Power Station & Tank, are arriving in Penang tomorrow to prepare for their exciting countdown concert @ Queensbay Mall.

Their concert is expected to start from 10.30pm and will last beyond 12am countdown. There will be an eight minutes firework display.

If you are in Penang and want some good 'Rocking' fun, join us at the Energizing 2010 countdown concert. Its FREE!

For more information, visit GlamBrands.

Monday, December 28, 2009

MACC Needs An Instruction from PI Bala?

This is probably one of the funniest pre-new year jokes I have ever heard. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) is seeking a formal request from private investigator P. Balasubramaniam to enable the graft busters to probe allegations he has made about the circumstances surrounding the death of Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Bala has made a series of sensational claims that Najib knew murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and his brother Nazim and a businessman linked to the prime minister’s wife made him retract a statutory declaration on the case.

Earlier, he had indicated his willingness to cooperate with the MACC and conveyed his intention via an email.

Bala's lawyer, Americk, is puzzled with the latest response from MACC;

"I am not sure whether we can consider the MACC's response as positive as all they have asked is for me to reiterate what I have stated earlier in a formal format.

"In this day and age I am not sure why the MACC consider an email not 'formal'."

MACC sounds like any other typical government agencies which lacked the initiative to perform their duty.

They should at least follow the proactiveness of the police. The police jumped into action when Penang CM and Dap Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng called Teoh Beng Hock's death a 'murder' instead of a 'homicide'.

The police did not have to wait for Lim to send them a request to probe him.

So, is MACC going to conduct a probe or not?

PM Najib, Nazim and Rosmah should lodge police reports against Bala's very damning allegations. How can this be frivolous?

Mkini: Shared dilemma for BN and Pakatan

This country is at a crossroads. This is a crossroads which we cannot afford to pause for too long to decide which path to take. In the recent weeks, we have seen both coalitions, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, making their political agenda public.

Both coalitions are determined to convince the people that they are a better choice to be entrusted with the power to rule and govern this country.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's administration has announced its Government Transformation Programme (GTP) which contains more than 7,000 nationwide activities, over 2,000 projects and 100 programmes.

GTP aims to address teething issues such as gaining access to quality and affordable education, crime prevention, reducing corruption, addressing poverty, upgrading infrastructure in the rural areas and improving public transportation.

These are long-standing issues which have a direct impact on the people's standard of living. His administration has asked to be given 12 months to deliver some significant results.

Najib's main concern is the cooperation of the civil service to help implement the vast ranging activities and programmes. Past programmes and plans had hit the brick wall due to a lack of enthusiasm from the civil servants and a poor coordination and management from the executives.

Not to be outdone, the newly minted Pakatan informal coalition has unveiled its common platform which defines the coalition's position on various areas e.g. education, economy, healthcare, women, labour, security, language, culture and others.

Most significantly, the Pakatan leadership has promised to implement the Equal Opportunity Act to address any potential victimisation and marginalisation. The coalition has vowed to move beyond the race affirmative policy.

Ketuanan Melayu vs Ketuanan Rakyat

The New Economy Policy which promotes selective treatment and special privileges based on race is a crucial and serious issue. This issue has not been properly addressed by both coalitions.

While BN has chosen to liberalise certain sectors which are not dominantly controlled by the Malays, it has steered clear of any suggestion to promote meritocracy in the country.

The coalition leader, Umno, believes that there is still some attraction in its propaganda as the anointed protector and defender of Malay supremacy.

The party has been using the federal resources to promote this agenda through the secretive and controversial Biro Tata Negara courses which are purportedly conducted to imbue nationalism and patriotism.

In actual fact, the courses were used as propaganda tool by the party to strengthen its position within the Malay-Bumiputera electorates which it sees as key to its electoral success.

The main problem with BN's approach is that real wealth is not distributed to the vast majority of needy ones. Instead, the NEP has been manipulated and abused to enrich a selected few and fuelled massive corruption within the system.

Pakatan has countered with its pledge to do away with the race affirmative policy and move towards a need based policy. It argues that this policy will eventually help those who really it.

Naturally, its 'ketuanan rakyat' (people supremacy) approach is popular with the minorities.

However, it stops short of explaining how it intends to help build the confidence of Malay community especially the civil servants, rural folks and small business community that they will not be overwhelmed by competition and market forces.

It is rather naïve for the Pakatan coalition to expect their 'ketuanan rakyat' or need-based policy to be successful without successfully addressing the inferiority and psyche barrier of the Malays to accept such drastic changes.

This mindset has been inculcated since the implementation of NEP in the early 70's. The Malay community was mentally prepared to accept, expect and demand for their special rights and social status.

However, this does not mean that members of the community do not want to break away from this shackle. A number of young Malay graduates have spoken out about the humiliation they faced from the society's perception that their community is lazy, weak and genetically inferior.

Addressing the Malay dilemma

The Malay dilemma is nothing cultural or genetics. What is truly needed is a comprehensive strategy to help integrate the community back into mainstream development and the real world.

What they need is real empowerment and not perpetual protection. The empowerment must be guided and administered properly so that the community does not feel humiliated or a need to defend their survival and integrity.

There is a need to build a strong confidence within the Malay psyche that they are as capable as other communities within and without the country to enhance their standard of living and to stamp a mark at the international level.

They must believe that knowledge acquisition, determination, hard work and creativity are what they need to succeed and not endless protection and handouts from the ruling regime.

The most crucial area which requires immediate attention is the education system. The state of national schools is a good indication of the problem which plagued the community. More than 90 percent of students attending the national schools are Malay.

The Chinese community avoided sending their children to national schools because of a low quality perception. With such a perception, are these schools doing any justice to the development, education and character building of the Malay students?

The focus of the BN government should not be mainly about the medium of instruction or gaining prominence for the Malay language and culture solely. Ironically, the government spends more than RM30 billion annually on education sector and yet its executives and officers are not able to ensure quality education at the national schools.

The improvement of national schools is crucial to help the Malay community to acquire the necessary skills, knowledge and self-confidence to compete with others. By putting the national education system in proper order, it will help to improve the enrolment from other communities.

Before the nationalisation of English medium schools in the mid 70's, they enjoyed more than 75 percent enrolment from the Chinese community. This is the best historical evidence which proved that parents put commercial value and good education above cultural consideration.

Crucial questions for both coalitions

A low participation of Malays in the private sector is a stumbling block to end this race affirmative action too. Less than 20 percent of Malay businessmen are participating in the small medium industries. Most of the bumiputera equity shares are being held by government agencies or special purpose bodies created to participate in the private sector or a handful of connected individuals.

This issue had created a raging debate about the real bumiputera equity ownership just before the 12th general election.

The debate has achieved very little to address the problem of gross income
and wealth inequality in the Malay community. Moreover, finger pointing, political interest and racially charged statements had worsened race relations in the country.

The main problem has yet to be adequately addressed by both coalitions. How to enhance, strengthen, promote and encourage Malay entrepreneurship in the country?

How many Malay owned businesses are producing products and offering services that could attract consumers from all walks of life? How many bumiputera companies can survive and prosper in the private sector without depending on any contracts and handouts from the government?

These are crucial questions that both BN and Pakatan will have to seriously ponder and help to answer. Both coalitions cannot survive having the NEP and race based affirmative policy perpetuated. Not in its current form which is riddled with self-interest and abuses.

However, without seriously addressing these serious shortcomings and inferiority complex of the Malay community it will be difficult to see how both BN and Pakatan can be successful in their attempt to convince the majority that we are ready to move forward as a nation and not a nation divided.

BN has to undo and repair the damage it has done to the community with its skewed and irresponsible implementation and abuse of the policy. Its opponent, Pakatan, has to convince the community that it can move forward without the imaginary clutches.

Both must help to connect the Malay community to mainstream development and the international community. Otherwise, the frameworks, proposals and programmes introduced by the two competing coalitions will meet a common destiny – failure.

The main dilemma for the rest of us is time is running out.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Another Spin on Local Election?

There is a thing very prominent about Wong Chin Huat - his consistency. Wong has been championing the return of a third vote to the people since pre-2008 general election.

I had attended several forums and workshops where the opposition leaders and Wong had seated side by side trying expound the virtues of local election.

What happened today? These leaders, after successfully captured 5 states (Perak was lost through an illegal coup), they could only promise us to "strengthen local government democracy". Whatever that means, no one has a clue. Perhaps this statement was meant to be vagued and fluid. It may mean something more than a local council election or nothing at all.

However, Wong has painted two possible scenarios on why Pakatan was not committal to hold a local council election. According to Wong;

There could be two answers. The first is that the PR has a problem with the outcome of democratic elections. Not unlike the BN, it wants to win as many seats as possible. It likes elections only when it can win them. Since local elections may lead to it losing some local council seats, or even the control of certain councils, the PR does not want local elections. In short, the PR is as authoritarian as the BN.

The second answer is that the PR has problems with the participants of democratic elections. In other words, the PR does not want local elections because in non-Malay-Malaysian-dominated urban centres, this would result in the political dominance of non-Malay Malaysians.

This is what is widely believed by the media and politicians to be the reason why local elections are excluded from the PR's CPF. The PR can therefore be seen as racist because it will not allow geographically concentrated minorities to dominate their own local governments. In other words, if Ipoh is 70% non-Malay Malaysian, what's wrong if the city council consisted of 70% or so non-Malay Malaysians?

Wong has a genuine reason to be concerned. A top Pakatan leader told me that he was committed to make some institutional and systemic change in his state government so that the change cannot be reversed even if Pakatan losses power in the next general election.

It was very noble. But he should walk his talk on the local council election. Pakatan leaders should test the constitutional and legal limit. Local councils are under the jurisdiction of state government.

Until this legal limit is tested, how can the Pakatan leaders be so sure that only the federal government can approve a local council election? It will be a political suicide for BN to deny the right to a third vote.

Is winning everything for Pakatan?

Merry Christmas

To all my friends, readers and relatives.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Meet the GlamAmbassadors!

If you are in Penang, make your way to the Queensbay Mall on Christmas Day (25th December) from 2pm to 6pm. Look out for pretty GlamAmbassadors wearing this t-shirt (picture) and approach them for a chat about the concert.

If they like you, there might be some special Christmas reward for you.

Other appearances:

26th December (8pm to 12pm): Upper Penang Road
27th December (3pm to 7pm) : Around Gurney Plaza & Gurney Drive

Talk to them...I am sure they would be glad to fill you in with some updates on the concert.

Visit GlamBrands for more information about the year end countdown concert @ Queensbay.

Going Bald

These five artistes from a local canto-rap group, ManHand, have gone bald! It does not affect their singing at all.
Visit the GlamBrands blog for more information about their live performance.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chain Up The Submarines

DAP’s Lim Kit Siang today called on the government to release a full report to the public on the missing Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) jet engines as it has seriously damaged the Najib administration’s government transformation programme (GTP).

The New Straits Times reported that the RMAF had in fact lost two F-5E engines from its Butterworth base between June and November 2007 and only realised it in May the following year.

A police report was only lodged three months later and it was reported that a brigadier-general and 40 personnel from the RMAF were sacked late last year over their alleged involvement.

This incident and a lack of action is not only damaging to the GTP but to the leadership of Najib. It was obvious that the theft happened during his tenure as the Defence Minister. Not only that a report was made so late, there was also a cover up of the theft.

Such action is going to create a lot of doubt about Najib's ability to govern transparently.

It is worrying to note that those who were allegedly involved has only been sacked. The was no court martial and no just punishment been meted out.

The best thing for the prime minister and ex-defence minister to do now is to stand accountable for the incident.

Maybe RPK should have stolen the submarines instead of insulting UMNO, Najib and Islam. It is more lucrative and safer dealing with the submarines.

What else can go missing in this country? Bung Mokhtar should take up extra security for his sultry new wife.

Malaysian Maverick & A Broken Legacy

DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang wants Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to set up a royal commission of inquiry to determine if his mentor Dr Mahathir Mohamad had 'burned' RM100 billion on grandiose projects and corruption during his 22-year reign.

The book penned by former Asian Wall Street Journal managing editor Barry Wain, entitled 'Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times' has pointed the finger at Dr M for the legacy of "wasting or burning up" RM100 billion in his long tenure.

I have not read the book but would welcome the government to lift the restriction for it to be sold in all book stores. It should be a good Christmas gift for a few good friends too.

The call for another royal commission of inquiry is laughable and still premature. It is natural for Lim wanting to score a few political points. But Dr M is already paying the price for his broken legacy.

The numerous royal commissions have been quite 'unroyal' and a waste of useful resources. The government, and not only Dr M, must respond to the allegations contained in Wain's book.

Then again, the best way to avoid more limelight is to stay mum in Malaysia. Malaysians are quite forgetful. Soon we will go back to the old way of kissing the dirty hands of these politicians.

The government PR guys, APCO, must be doing a good job. Yes, less or none (reply) is more (advantages).

The new year verdict is BN is not capable of a real reform. We are going to waste our money paying the salary of both KPI Ministers Koh Tsu Koon and Idris Jala. Bung Mokhtar is a smart ass. It is better to spend it on his mistress.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Misplaced Media Priority

Amazing, The Star newspaper published 6 articles on the marriage of actress Zizie Ezette and Kinabatangan Member of Parliament Bung Moktar Radin.

Zizie is Bung's second wife. Polygamy is an insult to many non-Muslim Malaysians. The newspaper should use its space to accommodate articles on Second Finance Minister Husni Hanadzlah's speech on the decline of Malaysian economic competitiveness or accommodate a debate between Pakatan and Barisan on the GST implementation.

Zizie and Bung's marriage is only fit for the group's new sensational website, The Daily Chilli.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zaid Ibrahim Should Look at The Implementation Roadmap Rather Than Putrajaya

“The rakyat are tired of racial politics, they are tired of being fooled..I assure you, after this, we will hold our next convention in Putrajaya.”

Zaid, the former de facto Umno Law Minister, said today’s convention was testament to PR’s will to put aside their almost irreconcilable differences to serve the voters by replacing what he called a corrupt BN government.

“We were told that we cannot stay together, the supreme leader of Umno, (former premier) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said if we are allowed to govern, everything will be destroyed.

“Of course everything will be destroyed, everything about Umno will be destroyed,” he said.

Well said, Zaid. However, instead of looking so far at Putrajaya he should focus on the implementation roadmap of Pakatan's common platform. There are many crucial tasks in hand.

Most of the Pakatan's pledges are not something which can be achieved now. The catch is if we want these pledges implemented, we must vote Pakatan to power at the federal level. Ironically, DAP which supported the local council election and vowed to convince PAS over its sectarian concern is now saying that only the federal government can approve the third vote.

Parties within the coalition still need to put their own house in order before they are deemed fit for power. Errant and irresponsible elected representatives and leaders among their ranks will have to be purged out. We must vote for quality representation and not for their low quality candidates.

Zaid should work on the cohesiveness between component parties. This is a work in progress. In the past, they had collaborated and called off their partnership because they cannot handle defeats. Electoral defeats will be the greatest test of its cohesiveness.

Will the blame game resurface if Pakatan did badly in the 13th general election? Will party leaders start throwing stones at their own glass house?

Big issues which were not addressed in the convention will not go away. Issues such as Malaysia's Islamic state status, Malay supremacy, race based affirmative action, power sharing formula and others will reemerge once the coalition wins federal power. These issues will have to be addressed sooner or later.

Despite Anwar's call for all component parties to break away from their racial shackle, the three parties are still working within their rigid race and religious framework. Anything about pork, beer, sexy dancers, religion or race will still work up some segments within these parties.

PKR is still a party of racial colonies. DAP is Chinese based and PAS is Malay based.

The question for Zaid to ponder is what can really be implemented now? What can PR can give us now bearing the fact that it controls 4 state governments?

Talk is cheap. Declarations are cheap. Voters have learned that pledges may change once power is entrusted to the party making them.

Instead of piecemeal opposition against some policies, why don't Pakatan leaders tell us how they intend to run the economy differently from the Barisan. We need urgent attention here. The Malaysian economy is a slack and a poor performer.

Share Your Food If You Have Too Much For Christmas

FOOD banks are increasingly in demand as a viable way of feeding the hungry. Even in affluent countries like Britain there are several food banks while the San Francisco Food Bank in the United States gives out 50,000 meals daily.

In Singapore, non-profit organisation Food From the Heart collects unsold bread from bakeries daily for distribution among the poor.

Operated by charitable organisation Grace Community Services (GCS), the Food Bank for the Poor in Malaysia covers Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, stretching as far south as Carey Island and parts of Seremban.

For more information, read here.

For further information, visit gracecommunityservices.my or contact the Food Bank for the Poor coordinator Eileen Sim at 03-3371 7378 or 012-263 6728 or info@gracecommunityservices.my.

Do not waste food!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Government Transformation Programme - Stop Being Bombastic!

GTP contains some 7,000 nationwide activities, over 2,000 projects and 100 programmes. More work, more money needed, same people, same mindset and culture.

That in essence is what makes up the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which the Najib administration has set for itself and made public recently.

Both KPI Ministers Koh Tsu Koon and Idris Jala have promised full commitment and results. Both heads must roll if the GTP spends more than it achieves.

The BN regime should just stop being so bombastic. It should just start with a few reforms e.g. end the long-standing and divisive bumiputera and non-bumiputera dichotomy, end the NEP and replace it with a post-NEP socio-economic policy which is need and merit centric, stop racialising the education system, implement the IPCMC and create a multiracial, all inclusive BN party.

MACC and the police should immediately launch a thorough investigation against several destructive allegations made against the Prime Minister, his family members and his close associates in a murder case. It is necessary to ensure that no unscrupulous party can easily tarnish the head of government.

No need for 7000 activities. Just a handful of reforms mentioned above will help to restore the public's confidence of BN.

Pakatan's Common Platform Looks Good But Pledges Are Just Talk For Now

Pakatan has been criticized for not making its governance model comprehensive and transparent. This has resulted in the newly minted coalition being called a 'fly-by-night' operation.

The coalition has responded quite positively to the criticism and has unveiled for the first time its stand on several important key areas at their maiden convention. However, some highly anticipated issues such as local council election, Freedom of Information Act, and the status of secular Malaysia are left undefined.

Some good policy announcements include the much needed decentralisation of economy planning and management at the state government level. This move will allow state governments more control over their own economy and investment planning and promotion. Malaysia's economic development is long hampered by inefficient and ineffective over centralisation at the federal government.

Economic Planning Unit and several ministries responsible for socio-economic development have done very little to push up the efficiency, vibrancy and productivity of our economic sectors. Over centralisation also breeds corruption. Overlap in decision making between ministries has resulted in unnecessary bureaucracy.

The move to decentralise the economy is a plus point for the Pakatan.

The coalition has promised to implement the Equal Opportunity Act and to provide help and assistance based on need not race. This is a good move and will help to retain capable people in the country. Affirmative action based on race is the sole main push factor for brain drain in the country.

Rightly, the coalition has decided to empower the parliament, which is still a rubber stamp of the ruling executives, by making GLCs and public institutions accountable to the august house. The outcome will be positive for all parliamentarians. If needed, they can form special committees to probe and enquire about certain policy decisions taken by these GLCs and institutions. The move will allow for better parliamentary transparency.

Parliamentarians will have to be more educated and informed on issues and policies Malaysia's main problem is unqualified and low value added people are being voted into parliament while the capable ones are staying away from politics.

It is comforting to know that the coalition has pledged to implement the IPCMC, Judicial Appointment Commission and help to address the overlap between civil and syariah law. The leaders must also pledge to stay away from interfering with the jurisdiction and work of these independent institutions in the future. The political nexus between political parties and these institutions must be severed permanently.

Other key areas:

Healthcare - Establishing a National Heath Commission to improve public healthcare.

Women - Ensuring 30 percent representation at the government's decision-making level.

Police - Establishing the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

Culture - Liberalising restriction on performances by artistes. (Personally, I am glad this is included in the policy statement. Currently, the whole permit application process is riddled with redtape and corruption)

Language - Promoting Bahasa Malaysia as the regional lingua franca but protecting mother tongue languages.

Labour - Minimum wage policy.

Social security - Establishing a National Retrenchment Fund.

Elections - Redelineation of electoral boundaries to fulfil concept of 'one person, one vote'.

Public transport - Study the possibility of buying back North-South Highway and renegotiating highway concessions to reduce toll prices.

Media - Amending the Printing Presses and Publishing Act to ensure media freedom.

This is a positive step forward for Pakatan. I hope more of us will keep a copy of their pledges and make sure that Pakatan leaders walk the talk.

Unfortunately, there is no indication of further democratisation through local council election. This is a grey area. Some had defended Pakatan's lack of action by claiming that this can only be implemented by the federal government.

This is not necessarily true. The state government should study the legal and constitutional provision for a local council election. Local councils are under the control of state government.

Hence, I support the call of both Haris Ibrahim and Wong Chin Huat for an immediate action to allow real democratisation to happen. Pakatan's pledges are just pledges. Most of these pledges cannot be implemented unless they win federal power. We know what to believe and take home from these pledges.

What's more important is still what the Pakatan led state governments can do within their own jurisdiction. It is time for them to push the envelope and to test the legal provision on local council election.

They can still be outperformed by Najib's administration. BN can make and implement these pledges immediately. At the end, voters will still support a coalition which can make things happen and enhance their living standards.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ingin Bersama? Watch Their Chemistry

We spoke to MyStarz LG winners, Nashrin & Wana, to find out what they have been doing since winning the competition this year.

Wana has released her debut album, Siapa?, in August this year. Nashrin is working on his which will be released in February next year.

Both of them spoke about their life changing experience after joining the popular reality TV singing competition sponsored by LG Electronic.

Find out more about their interview, visit GlamBrands.

MACC Trial: Back to Square One

The Court of Appeal ruled that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can interrogate witnesses beyond office hours.

The decision of the three-man Bench, comprising Justices Hasan Lah, Ahmad Maarop and Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad, was unanimous.

Once again, the High Court has been overruled by the Court of Appeal, in a case brought by the opposition against the establishment.

“There is nothing in the provision to say that ‘day to day’ is restricted to normal working hours,” he noted.

But the three-men bench failed to define what the term should mean, a point which lawyer Karpal Singh, acting for Tan, pounced on.

“The Court of Appeal did not say what ‘day to day’ means. We are still in doubt,” Karpal told reporters later.

“Are they saying it’s round the clock? If it’s round the clock, it will lead to serious complications,” he added, and pointed that the administration of justice will be compromised.

Yes, the verdict is weird, incomplete and inconclusive. The judges should have defined what 'day to day' should mean. Judges should also observe common sense in their judgement. This is the basis of natural justice.

Weird. Maybe we should use the money for BTN courses to conduct more training programmes for those holding important public offices to avoid more flip-flops.

Joker to Hero? Another 1Malaysia Miracle...

Yes, it is a miracle. Nazri Aziz has transformed from a 2009 Joker of the Year to an almost Hero for taking on both Dr M and Utusan Malaysia on racism.

Remarkable! This man was credited for his 'suicide' comment against Teoh Beng Hock and his criticism against the Bar Council's suit against the government for the detention of 5 lawyers who were on duty.

He condemns Utusan Malaysia for its “outdated” racist propaganda, saying the Umno-owned newspaper must accept that Malaysia is a multi-racial country

I fully support his criticism against the racist newspaper. I applaud his change of behaviour. We should give both PKR Anwar Ibrahim and Khalid Ibrahim the same benefit of doubt over their BTN expose.

I would like to urge Nazri to go a step further. Quit UMNO, a race based party, and join another multiracial party of his choice in BN.

He could urge Najib to open up UMNO to other races too.

Transfer Season in Malaysian Politics

Today, I was asked by a foreign reporter about several politicians changing camp (party). The new kid on the block, Parti Cinta Malaysia, has netted two new members.

An independent Sarawak assemblyman Gabriel Adit and ex-Gerakan veep Huan Cheng Guan have joined the newly formed party.

Coincidentally, Parti Cinta Malaysia was formed in Seberang Perai. Huan is a close aide of a controversial Sarawak politician who is said to be the main backer of PCM.

Huan said Gerakan has become irrelevant in Penang. He chided Koh Tsu Koon for failing to retain the Batu Kawan parliamentary seat. Huan lost the Bukit Tambun state seat quite badly too to a PKR unknown too. Another pot calling a kettle black?

Maybe, the "eat, drink and be merry" Huan is good for a peace loving party like PCM.

Malaysia has really gone way ahead in the transfer market for political parties. The democratically elected government in Perak was a victim of the transfer market.

Later, Selangor was hit with the same fever.

If you cannot become an international footballer, why not consider being a politician. Some transfers in Malaysia were reportedly worth millions.

The best thing about politicians is you can continue to play the game even after the age of 80 years old. Some veteran players above the age of 80 are still active, kicking and politicking.

Apart from the speculation part, I told the reporter that PCM is not even worth to discuss. Politically, it does not even have an agenda. My prediction is it will lean towards the BN or whichever winning coalition.

Malaysia Boleh!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Something 'ROCKED' Penang Last Weekend

Vinx, Katherine and Dave at the Station One Cafe, Komtar
The cheerful talented trio at the Queensbay Mall

Energizing 2010 countdown concert's warm up roadshow went to Penang and made two stops at the Queensbay Mall and Station One Cafe, Komtar.

The trio, Vinx, Katherine and Dave, played games and sang for their fans and shoppers. Want to know more about the concert or the roadshow? Visit GlamBrands.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

BTN Debate Can't Be Stopped

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak wants all quarters, including ministers not to prolong the polemics on the National Civics Bureau (BTN). He said he himself would evaluate BTN’s training modules and arrive at a decision on them later.

The prime minister should take note that it is not possible to stop the debate on BTN. What he should do is not to display the I-know-best attitude but to listen to all quarters. After all, the taxpayers are paying more than RM74 million annually to run these racist courses.

Najib should take cognisance that the dawn has set on race based politics. No race should lord over another. It is time for this country to embrace all its citizens and other talents too who want to be part of our initiative to make Malaysia a successful nation.

Any attempt to delay, prolong or defend the BTN will not be taken lightly by Malaysians who just want to throw racism out of the window.

We have had enough of the polemics of NEP, Bumiputera quota and other affirmative actions which did not really help the needy ones. These policies were used and are still being used to benefit the politically connected and the privileged.

Recent scandals such as the PKFZ, the Shah Alam hospital etc. are examples of the failure and abuse of race based policies.

The results - foreign and local investors started to shun investing in this country. Second Finance Minister Husni Hanadzlah had sounded the alarm bell in a speech recently.

UMNO, MCA and MIC collective political fortune and support can only be recovered through the ending of race based politics. This may sound far fetched but the 308 general election was taken the same way too.

Again, Najib's role is to listen and help to address the problem. He should not attempt to stop the debate. Public discourse is part of a healthy democracy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Siapa WANA?

Noriezuana Syed Shafudin or Wana, 23 was recently crowned the winner of MyStarz LG season 2. Prior to her victory, Wana had performed in six theatre productions, wedding parties and sang part time at a club.

She had tried out for the Akademi Fantasia season 6 too and made it to the Top 25.

With better performance experience, Wana has blossomed into a versatile singer with a big voice. She is a Warner Music artiste and has released her first album "Siapa?"

Hailed from Johor, this pretty singer is busy filming numerous TV3 programmes. GlamBrands will catch up with both Wana and Nashrin next week. Visit GlamBrands for more info on Wana and other artistes.

For more about the MyStarz LG season 2, read here.

Picture courtesy of Kosmo.

Khairy's Mission Impossible

Despite numerous calls from student bodies and the opposition urging the government to abolish the controversial and 'racist' Biro Tatanegara (BTN) programme, Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin said such a move was 'impossible'.

"I don't think it's possible (to abolish it) because it's a government agency whose job is to instill patriotism among the youth.

"But at the same time, every government agency including BTN should make an effort to update their modules to reflect the '1Malaysia' concept," he added.

Since when did we expect UMNO to bow to the wishes of those who wanted BTN to be scrapped? UMNO is a race based party. It is the party duty to promote its race based agenda. It is suppose to sound like other extreme organisations which had used the same method of promoting race supremacy. Remember the Nazi's Aryan race?

Shamelessly, Khairy should not speak and decide for all Malaysians if the BTN should go or not. Even if it is a government agency why can't it be dismantled? Even a government can be changed. This possibility looks like the only option if we want to enable wholesale change in Malaysia.

Next, the duty of a government is not to instill patriotism. Governments like North Korea, Cuba, China and other authoritarian African nations may do so but not a democratic government like Malaysia. This government should focus on governance and development.

Then again, what can we expect from Khairy's UMNO? What else can UMNO do? Just take a look at its bloggers, newspapers, TV stations, leaders and supporters. They have lost a sense of reason and fairness.

No wonder the economy is faltering, the education system is in a mess, the public institutions have lost their credibility, corruption scandals are aplenty and politicians are going berserk.

If we cannot get rid of BTN, can we get rid of a politician like Khairy? Mission impossible?

Pusing-Pusing? (Run Around) - Efficiency Out of The Window

Why is Malaysia not competitive? This is a basic question. But I am sure you may have different answers or reasons.

Recently, I tried to apply for a permit to organize a concert in Penang. If you think that you have had enough with the bureaucracy at the federal level, try come to Penang and you might be frustrated to death. Tourism promotion needs events to attract and entertain visitors.

However, the state bureaucracy starting from the local authority right up to the district office and the police will put any organizers through the grind.

An organizer has to submit 13 copies of application form. The organizer has to go to 6 departments to hand over the copies and get a stamp of approval from these departments from fire department, police, MPPP, district office, state office of ministry of information, communications and culture and then back to the MPPP licensing department again.

This is a mirror of what Malaysia is today. Often there are no rules, no procedures and no KPIs. Even an application is submitted 4 weeks before an event, it may still be too late.

Government officers should help to facilitate the people and not using the bureaucracy to frustrate them.

There should be a one-stop centre for events approval at both the state and federal levels. Unfortunately, the state and federal governments are too preoccupied with political competition that they neglect their duty to enhance the efficiency of their bureaucracy.

Wonder where our vibrancy has gone too? This is just a simple example.

Let me hear from you if you have a story to share.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Penang Sensation in Taiwan - 'PK King' Eric Lim

Eric Lin Jian Hui (林健辉) is a Malaysian singer (born August 11, 1982) who got his break at the Astro Talent Quest (Astro 新秀大赛) competition in 2001 when he came out in first place.

He subsequently represented Malaysia at the Asian level competition, held in China. He did well in that competition too.

After the competitions, he worked with Astro as a presenter, among other jobs. He subsequently went to Beijing and participated in the recording of several shows for WA-TV, an Astro venture in China.

In November 2007, Lin Jian Hui left for Taipei, Taiwan to participate as a PK contestant in the hit TV competition One Million Star (超级星光大道). The rest, they say, is history.

Eric has made a huge impact in Taiwan and is working on his first full album.

Listen to this singer with a golden voice at the year end countdown concert @ Queensbay.

For more, visit us at GlamBrands.

Bailing Out Japanese Companies?

Funds are drying out in the country. Many of our local companies are facing tremendous problem surviving in this economic downturn.

Yet, our brilliant deputy prime minister has suggested to Malaysian investors to purchase ailing Japanese companies, which have the technology that can be utilised by the country.

We have done the same thing in the past. Remember how Proton was created? Mitsubishi sold us an outdated technology. What about Lotus? Did the national car maker, Proton, benefit from the acquisition of Lotus?

Proton is still plague with a low quality perception problem. It is still not an innovative car maker which can compete with the world's best companies.

Justifying his call, Muhyiddin Yassin said this was because the Japanese economy was in dire straits due to various internal issues, such as difficulties in obtaining workers, increasing costs, the inability of banks to fund projects and problems faced by its government.

Aren't we facing the same problems? Why should Malaysian investors put their money into ailing Japanese companies? Do we have the right skills, management know-how and market connections to help turnaround these companies?

He added, “Some companies are almost bankrupt but have the potential to rise again. Now, Japan has opportunities and if we can afford it, we can purchase companies which have the technology that can be brought back to Malaysia so that it will be ours.”

If we can really afford it, the government should spend the money to reinvest in the local companies, improving our education system, enhancing our public infrastructure and renew the urban areas.

As though there are not enough disasters in the country, Muhyiddin is trying to create more overseas. Can any real economists speak up?

The Japanese host must have served the deputy prime minister the best sushi and Kobe beef.

The 'Foul Word' & a Dirty Dozen

Gerakan advisor Dr Lim Keng Yaik has called on all party members to speak out against Malay supremacy, even if it lands them in jail. If speaking out against race supremacy can land a person in jail, this country is not better than some of the most autocratic regime.

Dr Lim is an experienced politician. He is still the man behind the bamboo curtain of Parti Gerakan. He should know that shadow boxing is both tiring and useless. He should advice his party's leadership to send an official note to UMNO to ask the latter's stand on 'ketuanan Melayu'.

The chief of BTN and a bunch of UMNO top leaders do not see anything wrong in promoting the concept of 'ketuanan Melayu', worse using the taxpayers' money.

Dr Lim should walk his talk. He should ask his party to leave the coalition if UMNO cannot accept equality for all. The art of making some noise but condoning this 'foul word' and behaviour (NEP + racial discrimination) will not make his party look any better than the Dirty Dozen (other BN component parties) who are still being led by the nose by the almighty UMNO.

Describing it as a 'foul word' in politics, Lim said 'Ketuanan Melayu' or Malay supremacy should be resisted even if it is espoused by Umno.

Dare Gerakan resist Ahmad Ismail? Guess what? UMNO has reinstated him after serving less than a third of a 'bogus' suspension. He is unrepentant and unperturbed. He has called for Gerakan leaders blood. What can senior Lim or his junior do?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Something About Josephine Goh aka JoJo

Not many of her fans realised that JoJo, a Astro Beauty Pageant contestant, actually started her showbiz career as a pub singer.

Josephine Goh Lee Chen born 29 of March 1983. She was born in KL but brought up in Alor Star, Kedah. She started her early education in a Convent school but transferred to a Chinese primary and secondary school, Keat Hwa, to get closer to her Chinese roots.

From an English educated background, however, she managed to score distinctions in the chinese school and made Mandarin one of her strongest language. She won numerous writing and public speaking awards.

Later, she made another switch from the science stream to doing Mass Communication after much debate if it was a right decision for her. History is her best judge.

JoJo was the host of Astro Talent Quest and she is on her verge of releasing a new EP.

She will be performing live at the Energizing 2010 Countdown Concert @ Queensbay Mall.

Here is something cute and juicy about her.

For more about JoJo and the upcoming concert. Visit us at GlamBrands.

Bersih, Cekap, Amanah - Yet Another Rip Off

How much more can this country afford to sustain a leakage like this one? According to a Malaysiakini report, there is yet another rip off in Selangor.

From what is known of the RM500 million Shah Alam Hospital project, it is estimated that as much as RM100 million could have already gone to waste.Over the last few months, we have heard enough about the PKFZ financial fiasco. It runs into billions of ringgit. The mother of all scandals makes this one looked like 'masak-masak' or tiny.

However, imagine what RM100 million can do for poorly maintained schools, public amenities or providing low cost housing for the needy ones?

The Shah Alam hospital project was awarded to newcomer Sunshine Fleet Sdn Bhd. According to the news portal report,  Sunshine Fleet is owned by the Selangor sultan's sister, Tengku Putri Arafiah ibni Sultan Abd Aziz Shah (70%), her son Putera Azamuddin Shah bin Abdul Aziz (10%), and her uncle Tengku Abdul Samad Shah ibni Sultan Salahuddin Abd Aziz Shah (20%).

Funny, it appears that huge public contracts are mainly awarded to those who are already affluent or politically well-connected. Is this the real motive of NEP? What about poverty eradication?

This appears to be another "Ali Baba" transaction.

Sunshine Fleet awarded full construction of the hospital to sub-contractor Isyoda (M) Sdn Bhd, an ailing construction firm. Based on documents received by Malaysiakini, the sub-contract deal was for RM451 million, leaving Sunshine Fleet to pocket an immediate RM31 million.

On top of that, Isyoda was expected to pay a portion - as much as RM46 million - of the RM451 million to Sunshine Fleet as the work progressed, when payments were periodically issued by the Public Works Department (PWD).

How is the deal being financed? Right out form the public's pocket. Although initially announced as costing “about RM300 million”, the eventual contract has come to be worth a whopping RM482 million - a mark-up of RM182 million.

Isyoda got into a financial trouble and had to pull out from the project. In came another Ali Baba. In February this year, another sub-contractor GM Healthcare Sdn Bhd (GMH) took over the construction. Industry insiders said the construction firm came to Sunshine Fleet's rescue by helping to pay off Isyoda.

GMH is also beginning to suffer from the huge amounts of advances and expenses demanded by the turnkey contractor, Sunshine Fleet.

Sound familiar? This nightmare is repeating everywhere around the country. Imagine how many more abandoned public projects or those suffering from cost overrun are facing the same problem.

Who are the ones suffering from these unscrupulous and irresponsible companies? Malaysians. Taxpayers.

No wonder, this government is so busy building more corridors, more industrial parks and other things. More projects and privatisation initiatives mean more (public) money to be distributed to their cronies.

NEP, my foot! The next time Muhyiddin lectures us about patriotism and nationalism, tell him to teach those like Sunshine Fleet first. Loving this country means respecting its resources. But companies like Isyoda and GMH are not faultless too. Greed kills. Companies should go for 'clean' projects.

A Young Politician Urges His (Malay) Community to "Move(ing) Forward"

Late last week I received an invitation from Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi's publisher to attend his book launch. Nik send me another email enquiring if I can help to review his book. I told him that I would be delighted to do so. I guess his book is in the post now.

Anyway, I was at his book launch event today to witness a gallant and sincere effort by a young Malay Malaysian leader. Nik's message is simple; for the Malays to move forward and leave the clutches behind.

Nik wants his community to stand up, get tough and to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to face the challenges of globalisation. He wants them to be able to capitalize on the opportunities globalisation is offering.

Nik's book will be a valuable resource to the raging debate on brain drain and the need of a post-NEP strategy.

He was also instrumental in calling for the abolishment of BTN courses. His call has resulted in both Selangor and Penang banning the courses.

I have yet to read his book which is retailing at RM24.90 but I would encourage you to get a copy. Nik is donating part of his royalty to a charity organisation he helped to start.

Nik's sincere attempt to provide an ideological challenge against the prevailing race centric political system is good enough reason for us to help support his effort.

"Moving Forward" is also available in Malay (Mendepani Zaman).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Brain Drain Debate Rages On

The blame game continues: Penang CM Lim Guan Eng argued that the NEP has failed to address hardcore poverty. He said it only benefits a select group of people to the detriment of non-bumiputeras who then take their expertise elsewhere.

A potential emigrant Natasha Adnan said "“It is very depressing to be Malay now. Everything about the Malay identity is disappointing, because other races view us as helpless and incompetent... a sort of backlash from the NEP."

A migration agent Robert Chelliah sees as a slight but rising trend of young Malays migrating. “Young people today plan their lives wholesomely, and will move to places where they feel award them more life opportunities,” he said.

Indeed higher salary packages and job satisfaction are the reasons cited by Chelliah's younger clients, regardless of ethnicity. He said they tell him of a sense of “hopelessness and stagnation” and the existence of a “glass ceiling”.

What is obvious is this old Malaysia must transform into a new vibrant, colourless, democratic and just Malaysia which offers a better quality of life to all. Nations no longer compete against one another. The competition is between cities.

How are Malaysian cities faring? We have to admit that none of Malaysian cities are registered as among the Asian most vibrant. KL is in a mess. Second tier cities such as Georgetown, Ipoh and Johor Bahru are not comparable to even third tier cities in China, Japan, South Korea or Australia.

Apart from the declining manufacturing and services sectors, we have not grown any other new sector which can provide a wider spectrum of opportunities to our people.

Malaysia's dilemma is deep and serious. It takes two generations of good leadership to pull this country back on top.

The road to recovery is a steep one. The first question we should ask is if this nation can even stop the slide? Like what Robert said, most of skilled Malaysians migrated for better career and life opportunities. We must be able to offer Malaysians these opportunities back home if we want to talk about a serious brain gain initiative.

Stop just feeding us more slogans, brainless statements and arrogance.

However, it appears that none of our politicians can offer us any solution. Sadly, Malaysians continue to depend on them for everything.

Be more proactive. Talk to your neighbours, colleagues and relatives. Better still make some friends not from your own community and share with them your concern.

Be an agent of change!

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Racist versus A Hypocrite?

Nazri Aziz has called Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad a “bloody racist” for defending the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) courses, and reasserted the Cabinet’s earlier decision to overhaul the programme.

“You must be a Malaysian whether you’re a minister or not. You must walk your talk. Don’t just because when you were PM, you wanted everyone to support you, you’re Malaysian and the moment you’re no longer PM, that’s it, only talk about the Malays so I cannot accept his comment. When you read his blog it is bloody racist."

“I strongly feel the BTN courses must be in line with the 1 Malaysia slogan by the PM,” he said.

Interestingly, Nazri has served in the BN government for decades. He had served as a minister under the 'racist' Dr M administration. BTN courses were started during the Dr M era if I was not mistaken. Did Nazri do anything to stop or revamp these courses?
Dr M could sarcastically call Nazri a hypocrite if he wants to. It's a pot calling a kettle black?

A Talented Lass: MyStarz LG's Nashrin

Boyish Nashrin was born in Seberang Perai, Penang 20 years ago. He had joined the audition of MyStarzLG season 2 in Penang and was selected as one of the final 12 contestants.

This was his first experience joining a singing audition and yet he managed to make it to the finals. Nashrin came from a musically inclined family. His father was a singer in a band and had trained him to perform in front of “live” audiences since young. This has helped Nashrin to eliminate stage fright that freezes most of the contestants during the competition.

Nashrin had achieved a great success in his first singing attempt mainly because he was selected by a panel of professional jurors as the Best Performer for 3 consecutive weeks during the competition.

However, he was defeated by another songstress, Wana, based on sms voting from viewers nationwide.

Nashrin was featured in Wana’s debut album and he will be performing a duet with Wana for a song entitled “Ingin Bersama Kembali” at the year end countdown concert. The song was chosen as the background song for a TV3 program called “Singgah Sahur”.

Visit us at GlamBrands if you want to hear his silky voice.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mahathir Should Stop Messing Around With Malaysians

RM74 million a year of public money to fund a divisive, racist and politically motivated BTN programme?

Dr Mahathir said “No need to revamp...I think it is better to retain the modules.”

He was also of the opinion that the BTN curriculum had helped foster unity as the courses conducted by the agency were attended by Malaysians of all races.

What a warped logic! Just because the programme was attended by Malaysians of all races does not mean that it was not racist, divisive and polarising. Why? Malays and non-Malays did not go through the same curriculum.

I had a similar experience during the university orientation programme. Malays and non-Malays were separately briefed. Why? For a reason only understood by the university authority.

Dr M told the government not to mess with the BTN. I would like to tell Dr M not to mess with us, Malaysians.

Not with our taxpayers' money. Not our children. Not our next generation and definitely not with the future of this country.

MACC Makeover: Changing Our Perception?

Incoming Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Commissioner Abu Kassim Mohammed said:

“We believe we are (consistent) but there is a perception that we’re not. We feel that we’re fair but there’s the perception that we’re not. So, we have to accept such views."

The commission, he added, had to ensure that it was effective, consistent and fair. “We also need to be more transparent,” he added.

Abu Kassim said he needed the support from all sectors of the society, including non-governmental organisations, adding: “Without this, the MACC can’t excel.”

The first thing Abu Kassim should do is to stop believing that his agency is faultless, fair and consistent. There are many instances which pointed to a damning fact that MACC is bias and a self-serving tool of the administration.

What he should do is to accept these weaknesses and try his best to correct them. The people do not have a hidden agenda to victimize the MACC.

So, for a start we would like to know if investigations will be conducted on the VK Lingam scandal, Mohd Khir Toyo massive mansion, Muhyiddin's helicopter ride, PI Bala allegations against the PM and his family members, the PKFZ financial scandal, the Auditor General report and many more.

In the past, most of the cases involving top politicians from the ruling coalition are swept under the carpet. Investigations were announced and conducted but no further action was taken. No satisfactory feedback was ever given to the public.

This is not called transparency. I hope Abu Kassim does not blame it on our perception again.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Want to Win Some Concert VIP Entry Passes?

Dave Pei Jie,a winner of Digi Celebriteen contest, will be performing at the year end countdown concert. Want to know more about this talented young singer or listen to his single? Visit the Glambrands blog site to find out more information about him.

Some readers have won some tickets. Take a look at their links, here and here. It is so easy to win some free VIP passes.

How to win some Rockzone (VIP) passes to watch the year end countdown concert at Queensbay Mall? Check it out here. Do it now, we have a limited number of passes left.

Malaysiakini: Can BN Reform Itself?

Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah made a honest revelation although it was not something new.

Husni (below) said Malaysia's economy has been stagnating the past decade and is now trailing badly behind its neighbours. He is calling for "urgent" and wide-ranging reforms.

Unfortunately, the minister stopped short of telling us what sort of reforms the government is ready to undertake. This is not unusual too.

Since independence, the same ruling government has been governing this country like they know best.

Discussions are held behind closed doors, important reports such as the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy are made official secrets and people are constantly told to accept their fate without questioning the government.

As a result, we are facing stunted socio-economic development in Malaysia. Malaysia's best brains are still leaving the country. The figure (304,000) quoted by deputy foreign minister Kohilan Pillay is just the a tip of the iceberg.

We should not focus only on the number but the intellectual property, investment, skills and entrepreneurial spirit these Malaysians or ex-Malaysians took with them as well.

Their departure and the many more to follow will only make our reforms more difficult to implement.

Previous attempts to lure these Malaysians back had been unsuccessful. Yet the government is uttering the same mantra again. Prime Minister Najib Razak (right) has urged Malaysians to come back to serve the country.

The other prime ministers had said the same thing. Those who came back, left once again because the government was better at paying lip-service than really make it desirable for them to remain.

Until and unless, the government make all Malaysians feel equally respected, regarded and appreciated, the brain drain flow is going one way - out. Why is the government remaining unrepentantly racist and divisive?

Major problems with BTN courses

Recently, the National Civics Bureau (BTN by its Malay acronym) chief Ahmad Maslan (below) said the BTN courses are merely stating the facts. He said participants are taught about the Federal Constitution, the social contract, the position of the Malays in this country and 60 per cent of the population are the bumiputras.

He added that BTN had incorporated propaganda from the previous administrations too, such as Vision 2020 and Islam Hadhari, and now the 1Malaysia concept.

There are two major problems with the BTN courses and the chief. First, the courses are conducted without a sincere purpose to contribute to nation- building.

The emphasis on the social contract, the position of the Malays in this country and the bumiputeras population in this country has a clear connotation - to entrench the majority rule over the minorities.

Why don't the courses focus on how the different communities in the country could work together to make this country successful?

What about the responsibility of the majority to ensure that the rights and needs of the minorities are not being trampled upon, especially the indigenous people who are largely living in poverty and neglected by mass development?

Second, the chief and the BTN courses are clearly politically linked. The chief is a deputy minister and an Umno politician and the courses are mostly used to promote the administration's propaganda.

The effort to make it easier for foreigners with the desired skills to obtain a permanent resident status could easily be the most dramatic step taken by the government which had previously been quite xenophobic.

The implementation may still frustrate many foreigners who are not from the right race or religious denomination.

The verdict is clear. Malaysia needs these reforms and it needs to be defined and scoped out. The success of these reforms depends on the ruling government's sincerity and political will to end institutional racism in the country.

Most of these reforms need to be colour blind, focus on real needs and nurturing real qualities and values.

There is no other alternative. Half-hearted reforms mean we are wasting more time to empty talk. The point is those who are able, capable and resourceful can avoid the approaching glacier by migrating.

Those who are left behind are the ones who really need these reforms and have better access to opportunities and resources. But how are we going to provide for them if the capable ones are gone?

This government still insists on promoting and perpetuating 'Ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacy). We should ask our fellow Malay friends what is the point of feeling supreme if most of them are poor, neglected, uncompetitive, uneducated and unimpressive?

If such is the plight of the Malays despite the nation's most valuable resources firmly controlled by their own leaders, something must be wrong with the concept or the community itself.

The signs are telling. Husni added that Malaysia is trapped in a low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure.

A reliable check-and-balance needed

While Singapore and South Korea's nominal per capita GDP grew within the last three decades by nine and 12 times respectively, ours grew only by a factor of four.

The government has announced its intention to help double Malaysia's per capita income by year 2020. The question is how? Next, we should ask the government when it intends to implement a reliable check-and-balance system to ensure that leakages, wastage and corruption are kept at bay.

Like politics, the decision to invest depends on perception too. The government will have to demonstrate its resilience and will to tackle the biggest financial scandals in the history of the country; the PKFZ, the Sarawak state financial scandal, the Ipoh double-tracking project and many more which do not put the country in the good book of investors.

The federal and state governments, both Barisan and Pakatan, should vet and weed out troublesome personnel and warlords in their ministries, agencies and departments who are frustrating policy implementations and act according to their own whims and fancies.

By now the government should realise that its inability and unwillingness to change and to adapt to the new international economy environment is the single biggest contributing factor to the economic malaise.

In a withering assessment, Ahmad Husni said the services sector is underdeveloped, private investment is half the levels before the 1997 Asian crisis, and the manufacturing sector is suffering from lack of investment.

These are symptoms of a sick economy. Husni should conduct a study to find out why this country has squandered its lead in high technology manufacturing, plantation, services and others within a short period of two decades. Malaysia was once a top ranked FDI destination. Now, it is not even in the top 50 bracket.

Does the government have what it takes to implement these unidentified reforms? Can the ruling party even reform itself?

MACC Chief Ahmad Said Hamdan Resigns, Thank God!

Malaysia's corruption index had plummeted. MACC was embroiled in so many controversies including the custodial death of a political aide, Teoh Beng Hock.

It was reported that his 'spirit' is now 'haunting' Plaza Masalam. Guilty conscious or superstitious, who knows?

An interesting question points to the second autopsy results done on Teoh's body. A new report/finding will be submitted at the inquest when it resumes shortly. Could it be linked to Ahmad Said's early departure?

Could this be a pre-emptive move by the government? So many questions, so few answers...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bored of Politics? Here is Something For You

Ok, I promised to tell you how to win free rockzone tickets to a concert in Penang. Visit my new entertainment and marketing and events promotion blog to find out how.

Why Do Malaysians Migrate? Just Listen to This Deputy Minister

Deputy Foreign Minister Kohilan Pillay had told the parliament that 304,358 Malaysians were reported to have migrated from March 2008 to August 2009.

Kohilan clarified that the number of “Malaysians who migrated” consists of those who are working abroad and registered with the respective Malaysian embassies.

There was nevertheless a sharp rise in the number of Malaysians who registered themselves as having moved abroad with 210,000 of them doing so from January to August this year compared with 94,000 from March to December 2008.

He also said that between 45 to 55 per cent, or roughly half, of the Malaysians working abroad are professionals.

The most common reasons given for migration were better education, brighter career or business prospects and marriage.

Kohilan also pointed out that the government is taking some steps to attract talent to the country, including making it easier for foreigners with desired expertise to obtain permanent residence.

Kohilan, who is from Gerakan, also criticised the Penang state government currently under Pakatan Rakyat, saying that they should stop using the shortage of engineers an excuse for the recent loss of an RM10 billion electronic factory investment and should instead find ways to overcome it.

“Penang should not blame others if there is no investment,” Kohilan said. “What professionals would want to stay there if there is only push factors? There must also be pull factors. They must think wisely and make sure the state also has pull factors.”

Precisely, with a deputy minister like Kohilan we are doubting if the government is serious to reverse the brain drain.

Making it easier for foreigners with the right skills to obtain PR is no big deal. Ironically, many Indonesians with the "desired expertise" were given PR status many year ago. Why didn't Malaysia move up the economic value chain?

Kohilan has the knack to criticize the Penang state government for not being able to guarantee 1,000 electrical engineers but said nothing about the federal government's role in pushing away more than 300k highly skilled Malaysians with its racist policies, tolerance of corrupt practices, incompetency and inefficiency.

In turn, the Penang state government should blame the federal government and the previous BN state government for pushing away all its engineering and IT talents. Brain drain does not happen over night.

If Gerakan did not lose big in the 2008 general election, a politician such as Kohilan would not have being made a deputy minister and a senator. The party was reluctant to put an Indian candidate even in its presumably safest seats. This is what we called racism.

Malaysia must lose such mentality if it wants to keep more Malaysians from leaving.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Malaysia's Economic Stagnation, A Symptom of Its Politics

I would like to commend Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah for his frankness and courage to admit that all's not well with the Malaysian economy. It is a symptom of the local politics.

Politicians and policy makers have largely remained superficial, racist and prefer style over substance.

Despite a long list of slogans, BTN courses and official programmes, the nation is continuing its spiral decline. It does not take long for Malaysia to look behind its back and finds no one else. Recently, an analyst said he would not be surprised to find the country exporting maids in the next 20 years.

Husni said Malaysia's economy has been stagnating for the past decade and is now trailing badly behind its neighbours, calling for "urgent" and wide-ranging reforms.

He added that Malaysia is trapped in a low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure.

While Singapore and Korea's nominal per capita GDP grew within the last three decades by 9 and 12 times respectively, ours grew only by a factor of four.

In a withering assessment, Ahmad Husni said the services sector is underdeveloped, private investment is half the levels before the 1997-98 Asian crisis, and the manufacturing sector is suffering from lack of investment.

There are several worrying signs in the country:

1) Najib administration may have started the ball rolling on NEP liberalisation but his government does not seem to have a comprehensive and convincing post-NEP strategy to address the shortfalls of this policy.

2) Complacency, wastage and incompetency are still the main pillars of the civil sector. Companies, institutions, agencies and departments run by civil workers are not innovative, motivated or service oriented despite endless of courses, programmes and incentives given to them. Most of the government's policy flip-flops are caused by those officers who are not well-versed with public policy initiatives.

3) Low quality and poorly informed policy makers or politicians in the ruling government.

4) Over politicized education system. More students are scoring distinctions but less are capable of critical thinking. Worse, all the government sponsored students are required to attend the controversial BTN courses.

5) Most of us are living and acting like zombies! We do our job without a sense of pride and admiration of our own products and services. We need to put quality, excellence and creativity at the forefront, not just doing the job. Why some companies or government agencies are so unpopular? Its because their people JUST DON'T CARE. Do you?

6) Both corruption and racism must end if Malaysia wants to surge ahead of the rest. It is not easy. It will not be a stroll on the park. Alone, Husni is not enough to change the nation. We need to work together as a society who want to make Malaysia a more competitive economy.

I know Straight Talkers have a lot to complain but can we hear some suggestions from you? What can we do?

Find Out What Rocks Penang This Month End

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