Saturday, January 30, 2010

What Zulkifli Noordin Should Fear?

Zulkifli's recent statement on Christians having 'ulterior motive' for using 'Allah' in Malay language bibles and publications reflects a lack of common sense and shallow reasoning. This is an illness which has inflicted many Malaysian politicians. No wonder cartoonist Zunar was able to collect so many good jokes in his recent book, 1Funny Malaysia.

The problem for the rest of us is these politicians think that they know best.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, PKR parliamentarian Zulkifli Noordin claims that he has proof that Christians have an ulterior motive behind their insistence on using the term Allah. He accused Christians of fanning the flames of religious discord with regards to this issue.

Quoting a verse from the Quran, he said: "The Jews and the Christians will never be with us (on the same path as Muslims)."

"Why should they insist on using the word 'Allah'? There must be something wrong," he told Malaysiakini.

Yes, something is very wrong if Zulkifli continues to put a blanket blame all Jews and Christians in the world. Zulkifli's bigotry has blinded him from the obvious.

He should be more afraid of Islamic deviationist teachings and terrorists using Islam to promote their bloody and violent 'jihad' which has killed and continue to kill thousands of innocent Muslim, Jew and Christian.

Is Zulkifli hinting that most Muslims in the country are less enlightened than he is and are easily 'converted' by the use of 'Allah' by Christians? Christianity is not just limited to a terminology or a name.

Another problem is PKR's credibility is disappearing with every silly and bigotry statement made by Zulkifli.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can Malaysia Achieve 8% Growth?

Can Malaysia register a robust 8% growth in the next decade to achieve the status of a fully developed nation?

In the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) Roadmap released here today, it said there were challenges for Malaysian economy to grow by eight per cent per year until 2020 as the growth has slowed after the Asian economic crisis in 1997.

Malaysia’s growth rate has almost halved since the crisis, down from an average of about nine per cent per annum in 1991-1997 to an average of 5.5 per cent per annum in 2000-2008.

The compound annual growth rate of foreign direct investment into Malaysia from 2000 to 2007 was only one per cent, compared to 30 per cent for India, 12 per cent for Vietnam and 10 per cent for China.

The lower annual growth rate of FDI points to a number of factors; chiefly, a failure of the government to reduce its red-tape and enhance its efficiency and a lack of focus and positive results from its strategic plans.

Immediately after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the government was aware of the inherent economic bottlenecks and growing competitiveness from emerging regional economies. The past administrations had merely responded with more slogans and nothing concrete.

In the last few years of Dr Mahathir administration, he had tried to introduce several reforms such as the use of English to teach Maths and Science in an attempt to broaden the use of English in Malaysia. Ironically, it was his regime's own language policy which had destroyed a good English education foundation inherited from the Bristish.

Mahathir had tried, with limited success, to enhance the efficiency of the civil service his efficiency programmes e.g. 'Bersih, Cekap & Amanah' etc.

His successor, Abdullah Badawi, vowed to work on enhancing the nation's soft skills or software but lost his focus almost immediately after his memorable speech at an Oxbridge dinner. For most of his term, Abdullah had wasted more time trying to promote and market his Islamic credentials, Islam Hadhari, without much success.

Najib is now trying to fix the obvious, a mediocre economy, lacklustre FDI growth, middle income trap and a deteriorating fiscal position.

He has introduced his own version of Government Transformation Programme (GTP). Like previous programmes announced by his predecessors, Najib's grand reform plan is going to face the same barriers; a lethargic civil service, a lack of capable implementers and a challenge to change the culture and work ethnics of public servants in the country.

Worse, the civil service has been grossly politicized by the government. Public institutions have lost the remaining shred of their credibility in the last 20 months over a number of issues and their involvement in political contestation between Barisan and Pakatan.

Does the government have enough political will to push the reform plan through the civil service? Or does it fear a lost of support from the more than 1.5 million strong civil servants?

According to the Roadmap, there was also an urgent need for the government to reduce spending as the country was in a fiscally-challenging position. It said Malaysia’s ability to finance improvements in its performance was limited, given that the country’s fiscal position has been worsening since 1997.

“We face a dilemma. There is an urgent need to reduce spending and yet deliver big economic and social outcomes fast.

Predictably, with the number of corrupt cases sprouting out from everywhere there are many more 'older cases' which were not disclosed or buried. Experts had put a lost of more than USD 200 billion to corruption in the last decade.

Ironically, Dr Mahathir had questioned the whereabouts of RM250 billion gained from oil and gas revenue in the last 6 years.

Without accountability, change in the political culture, positive reform to the education system, a strong political will to curb corruption and an emphasis on quality and innovation, it will be difficult for Malaysia to hope growing at 8% annually.

Simply, where is the growth going to come from?

What else is attractive in Malaysia?

For a start, there is a lack of goodwill factors in the country. The international news we had created for ourselves in the last 12 months were mainly disastrous and these negative coverage e.g. Allah squabble, power grab in Perak, PKFZ scandal, Kartika's case, Teoh Beng Hock death and others would not contribute positively to our international image and attractiveness as a FDI destination.

Can Najib deliver?

To achieve an average annual growth of 8%, political parties need to put their crave for power as secondary and work together to pull this country out from its decline. The road to Putrajaya must not be the only path.

For now, it is The Road to Recovery.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Danger Looming in Pakatan Penang

There is always a danger sitting too comfortably on a two-third majority. Wise leaders would have immediately taken it as a sign of high expectations and not high popularity.

Any leadership comes with a huge responsibility, and its reward too for a job well done at the end of term. However, the Pakatan Penang state government in Penang has started to show signs of burn-out and lack of ideas.

It is important for the state government to conduct its own performance audit ahead of the mid-term review of its governance in Penang. The state government should take a close serious look at these areas:

1) Socio-economic development: The Next Step

Pakatan rule is hitting the middle mark soon but we have yet to see a comprehensive strategic plan for Penang's socio-economic development. The state government had established a few committees and appointed a group of advisers but these committees/individuals have yet to achieve anything substantial. Two key areas have been earmarked as engines of growth for Penang, hightech R&D and tourism, but little is known how these areas can be further developed.

There is a limit to trade and tourism visits and participation in various overseas expos. Tourists and investors are attracted to what really the state has to offer. Where is the state heritage tourism development plan? What is the role and purpose of having two tourism offices in the state; e.g. Penang Global Tourism Sdn. Bhd. and State Tourism Exco which have created more confusion and grey areas than synergy?

Recently, the Penang CM Lim Guan Eng has earmarked another science park on the island, claiming that the present one at Seberang Perai is nothing but 'a jungle'. Is it wise to concentrate all developments on the island?

Based on critical mass and land cost, Seberang Perai offers better value for money to investors. The state government needs to catalyst the building of amenities, infrastructure and residential townships to support the industrialisation of Seberang Perai. Not neglecting it.

The newly proposed convention centre is yet another poorly thought out plan by the state government. A Pakatan assemblyman told me that there was no consultation with the assemblymen and relevant parties to gather input on the convention centre. I was told that it is a short term measure since there is already a convention centre being built at The Light, an IJM project. Perhaps to add on to the short list of achievement by the present state government. There are many more low hanging fruits e.g. cleanliness, public transport, public amenities, tourism infrastructure etc.

Blogger Anil Netto has alerted us to a Penang Island draft Local Plan, which was prepared by a consultant in KL, is now being revised by the state government to put in higher density in certain areas, in the name of providing a bigger catchment area for public transport corridors.

Higher density in certain areas in Penang, especially on the island, is a already a problem for the state. I am looking forward to read the full report. You should too.

2) Election promises

Prior to the 2008 general election, the Pakatan coalition (more of an electoral pact then), had made several promises to the voters. In the heat of its campaign, the individual parties had pledged to help reverse and correct some of Barisan excesses. In come the Kampung Buah Pala, heritage zone development and hillside construction fiascoes. The present state government found itself helpless to help address these issues.

The promise of holding local council elections may not see the light anytime soon too.

3) Plants over public space

Recently, the state secretariat has decided to fence up the compound of Dewan Sri Pinang. State Exco Chow Kon Yeow clarified that the fence in front of Dewan Sri Pinang was necessary to protect trees and flowers planted within the compound.

Funny, why plant trees and flowers and then separate them from public access? Parks in foreign countries are open to public access and recreation. The point is the state government is still holding a conservative perception of Penangites. We should be ashamed of ourselves for being treated as possible vandalists by the state government. How can we progress as a civil society with this kind of perception?

In this case, why plant the trees and flowers if the state government fears that they might be vandalised or stolen? Public space should be given priority over plants and flowers.

4) Political stability

A lack of consultation or a growing discontent of the present leadership style is going to cause trouble brewing and invite the vultures to Penang soon. Instead of hoping for positive changes and a breath of fresh air after the tumultuous period of Barisan rule and the mediocrity of Koh Tsu Koon's stewardship, we are going into troubled spell again.

A top PKR leader is strongly rumoured to soon leave the party and become a Barisan Nasional-friendly independent parliamentarian.

The PKR MP from Penang is said to have already secured assurances from a few other Pakatan Rakyat parliamentarians to follow suit. It's learnt that he is actively wooing another two or three Pakatan parliamentarians.

I can figure out the identity of this MP. It is time for this man to return to where he came from. Leopard does not change its spots that easily.

Our politics is going to go back to a square one. Partly due to lack of calibre and partly due to the arrogance and temptation of power and fame.

It is not that hard to wonder why skilled and highly qualified Malaysians are leaving for greener pastures. As a saving grace, we should try to persuade them to enter politics instead and help liberate us from the half-bakes currently running the country.

Mobs At Work in Malaysia

Pig heads were reported found at two separate mosques near here this morning and comes just days after about a dozen fire-bombing attacks and acts of vandalism were perpetrated on Churches and a Sikh temple in the wake of the “Allah” controversy.

Mosque officials found what appeared to be two wild boar heads wrapped in plastic bags and surrounded with Ringgit notes around 5.30 am this morning.

The two mosques targeted were the Masjid Jumhuriyah in Taman Dato Harun and the Al- Imam Tirmizi mosque at Taman Sri Sentosa.

Attacks on the places of worship were conducted by extremists and not followers of the two faiths, Islam or Christian. Followers of the two Abrahamic religions should understand that they pray to the same God. Both religions preach peace and harmony, not bigotry and hatred.

To these extremists, a minority in our society, they should not expect to derive any gains from their despicable actions. Malaysians are growing in maturity and are able to identify the real motive behind these attacks.

We should stand up against these extremists. Reject them if they are found in political parties, put them behind bars if they are mobs and remember to appreciate our intertwined destiny as a multiracial nation.

Many nations craved for our diversity which could be tapped to turn into a social and cultural vibrancy.

Alas, we have neglected our gift and wasted too much time on some petty things and sectarian squabbles.

Perhaps, it is time to really kick out racism.

The root cause of these problems we are facing is racism.


Will Zulkifli Nordin be Punished?

Anwar Ibrahim said they central leadership council was ‘convinced” Zulkifli’s actions were wrong and pointed out that the party allowed for different opinions and had channels for those opinions to be expressed.

He stopped short of saying Zulkifli Nordin had outright disobeyed the party and left it up to the discipline board to decide the latter’s future.

“We do not want to pre-empt before the disciplinary board meets,” he said.

PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution, however, did not discount the possibility that Zulkifli may be stripped of his party membership.

The central leadership was convinced Zulkifli was wrong but needed 1 month to decide what to do with him.

This is precisely the problem with Anwar, indecisive. We remembered how he wasted so much time touring around the world giving lectures but spent very little time to strengthen and reorganize his party and help forge a new formal coalition between the 3 'accidental' partners.

Now, he needed a month to decide what to do with Zulkifli, a repeat offender. I do not have a problem with an opinionated Zulkifli but not a racist or a religious zealot Zulkifli.

Is Anwar hoping for short-termed memory Malaysians to forget about what Zulkifli had said or done after a month? Is it a cooling off period for an eventual pardoning of Zulkifli until he strikes again with yet another rattling statement or action?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Perkasa Still Living in the Stone Age?

Malay nationalist group Perkasa has said it is not afraid to play the race card in order to rally support for its causes.

Its leader Ibrahim Ali, at a ceramah organised by Umno here last night, said that since Election 2008 the country has seen the rise of arrogant non-Malay leaders who no longer respect Malays as the dominant race in the country.

Perkasa began as a one-man group after Election 2008 but is now rapidly shaping up as a national pressure group for Umno, representing those seeking to defend the constitutional position of the Malays and the “social contract”.

Many of those joining Perkasa are Umno members who feel that the party has strayed from its original ideals of striving for and maintaining Malay dominance in the country.

Reading the statement above makes us wonder if there are still any good and high calibre Malaysians left for both PKR and PAS to put as election candidates? Pakatan does not need more enemies with friends like Zulkifli Nordin and Ibrahim Ali.

Ibrahim claims to fight to defend the integrity and supremacy of the Malay community. Funny, is he striving to defend those corrupted and irresponsible Malay leaders with the same enthusiasm?

Malaysians should work together to condemn all corrupt and power crazy politicians regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. Not just defending those based on colour of skin and not integrity.

People like Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Nordin do not have a sense of logic and reasonableness. They will defend their race blindly without trying to see the obvious, that all humans are created the same and equal in the eyes of God.

Throw these leaders out of parliament and end their political career in the next general election by voting them out if we want to put out the occasional racial bush fire.

The fact is the Malay community is not as weak, gullible or dumb as Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli thought. They do not need the rabid protection of both Ibrahim and Zulkifli.

Most Malays understand that no one race can claim dominance in the knowledge era where sharing and learning from one another is the basis for progress and success.

Only the nut cases will join Perkasa and believe in one man egomaniac romance with supreme race. If Ibrahim is Allah fearing, he should know that only He is supreme and not mere human beings.

Malaysians should ignore this nut case and focus on working together to make this nation a better place to live in. Yes, both PAS and PKR should do something about their own thorn in the flesh if they want to remain political consistent and believable.

I wonder why RTM is still giving airtime to this felon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Malaysians Wrong to Abandon Country, Barisan Wrong to Betray the People

Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah criticised Malaysians who have emigrated, saying it was “wrong” and insinuating that they were betraying the sacrifices of their forefathers.

“You and me, our children, we build our lives here and we have our homes here. This is our homeland. I get very sad when I hear we have people migrating to foreign shores. To me, this is wrong.

“Our forefathers have come here, many years ago, bearing much hardship and deprivation. Why did they endure this? Because they believed that their future generations will reap the fruits of having to live on this blessed land.”

Yes, this was the case until the only ruling regime of this country, Barisan Nasional, insisted to perpetuate its brand of race-based, divisive and irresponsible politics which helped to drive away more than a million Malaysians in a short span of five decades.

More than 60 percent of these skilled Malaysians were driven away by how this country has been managed by the ruling regime. It is safe to assume that more were driven away by the push factor (e.g. racist policies, corruption, mediocre leadership, lack of equal access to economic and education opportunities and bad policies) than a pull factor.

Why should Barisan continue to embrace the old? The coalition has squandered many opportunities to strengthen its partnership and its political influence. Political parties in the coalition could easily abandon race based politics and form a common political party, using the existing Barisan platform.

We would have thought that years of socialisation amongst political parties in the coalition would have made it easier for them to transition to a common multiracial platform. Alas, the answer is no. Race based political parties continue to exist to serve the interest of a few who wanted to become race heroes or to manipulate race for political ascension.

Husni should try to find some political wisdom from his own statement and disappointment. I had met him a few times when he was just a backbencher and held a favourable impression of his humble personality and reasonableness.

If the Barisan regime can govern fairly, transparently and respect our democratic credentials and spirit, many more Malaysians would rather work and live at home. Malaysia is still home to these overseas wanderers.

When I went abroad for my postgraduate studies, the feeling of loneliness and craving for home (Malaysia) was unbearable and sharp. The same feeling is probably shared by many Malaysians abroad.

Husni should remember that one hand cannot clap. In every action, there is an equal reaction. It should start from the ruling regime, Barisan Nasional.

Barisan is wrong to neglect the people. Is it wrong to continue perpetuating its race based politics, neglecting the education system, stunting real economic growth by condoning political corruption, abusing political power, practising divisive and bad policies, promoting ethno-nationalism and communitarian politics and ignoring the need to strengthen democracy.

If the current situation persists, why would non-partisan, helpless and common but highly educated and skillful Malaysians stay?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Malaysians Must Rally Together to Stop Senseless Attacks on Places of Worship

Two surau in Muar came under arson attack early yesterday morning, with one sustaining serious damage.

The attacks on places of worship must stop. We must be more vigilant not to allow extreme elements in the country to take advantage of the current row to undermine our multiracial peace and harmony.

This is not the time for any senseless and irresponsible reactions or responses. Repeated hostility is going to hurt the image of our society.

I hope we could play an important role to explain and help calm the people around us not to react unnecessarily, not to blanket blame any religious community and not to victimize the innocents.

Malaysia is at a crossroads. At the juncture, we need to work together to end all forms of racism, hostility and uncivilised actions.

We must not fail to help make this country a better place to live in.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Dr M's Absurdity

Years of living under Dr Mahathir's absurdity had created all sorts of ridiculous slogans, unrealistic grand visions, skewed social agenda and biased race supremacy.

Mahathir had tried to build a modern Malaysia based on petroleum dollar, race affirmative action, communitarian politics and authoritarian leadership. The outcome is obvious; Malaysia is a laggard.

Brains and funds have continued to flow out of the country. The current uproar on the use of 'Allah' by Christian bibles and publications is a prime example of the country's priority.

Race tensions remain high and extreme race organisations such as Perkasa and many others continue to jump on any opportunity to create a ruckus and to pressure the government to keep the wedge between Malay Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera wider.

Malaysia is not only losing its attractiveness as a FDI destination, losing its brains but also its prestige and allure as a successful and progressive multiracial nation. Partially, this is a result of a nascent and under developed civil society or a silent and non-responsive Middle Malaysia.

Yet Malaysia's losses, brains and funds, are treated casually by the present government whose policy direction and political model were largely moulded from the Mahathir era.

Mahathir's rule had the most significant impact on the attitude, mentality and approach of current Barisan/UMNO leadership and its followers.

It seems the grand old man of politics has created yet another absurdity by claiming that the 9/11 attacks in the United States, that killed nearly 3,000, was staged as an excuse to “mount attacks on the Muslim world”, saying killing as an excuse for war is not new to the US.

“In September 2001, the World Trade Centre was attacked allegedly by terrorists. I am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,” said Dr Mahathir.

By equating the movie Avatar to the staging of 911 terrorist attacks on US has finally confirmed that Dr M's opinions are best left to keep him company in his old age than for mass consumption.

If Dr M has the evidence, he should have not have taken almost a decade to announce the conspiracy. As an ex-PM and a UMNO strongman, his latest allegations may create yet another round of illogical and unrealistic reactions from the community which may turn to sour the relationship between US-Malaysia.

We have had enough bad news with the use of 'Allah' row and do not need another controversy from Dr M.

In his twilight years, Dr M should focus on how to address the souring race and religious relations in the country. He should have advocated for a truly united, fair and just Malaysia.

Foremost, he should have taken more cognisance of his own legacy and try to salvage whatever positive contributions left so that the society can remember him more favourably.

Battle for Middle Malaysia

Malaysia Insider asks, "Is “Middle Malaysia” a new breed of voters who want more accountability from the government? Or is it merely political sloganeering?"

The focus on Middle Malaysia is crucial and apt for all political parties. But recent development suggests that Middle Malaysia is going to remain elusive to most political parties.

Middle Malaysia is not just a new breed of voters who seek for more accountability but practical voters who wanted their needs fulfilled and rights respected. How many political parties and politicians are sensitive to these needs and rights?

Irrelevant projects are still being undertaken, rights are still being trampled, and politicians are still acting like they know best.

For the new year, I had wished for those who were consumed by the arrogance of power and fame to be enlightened. How many times you have heard certain politicians became arrogant, unapproachable and unfriendly after being elected to power?

Politicians must remember that they need the support of Middle Malaysia to turn the game around and register an electoral advantage over their opponents. Those who occupied Middle Malaysia are rightly going to support good governance, responsible leadership, humility, good humanistic values and principles and moderation.

1Malaysia or Middle Malaysia, these slogans will remain mere slogans if politicians do not understand how to use the mandate entrusted to them to help serve and contribute positively to the society.

For now, Middle Malaysia is reek with confusion and despair over a lack of progress from both political divide.

To win over the Middle Malaysia, there are a few key success factors:

1) Politicians need to remain humble, accessible and open to criticism and suggestions.

2) Politics should be conducted positively to help democracy to flourish and nation to prosper.

3) Political parties must end race and all sectarian based politics.

4) Politicians should focus on serving the nation and society.

5) Politics can be ideas centric and policies should be adjusted and reviewed to benefit the nation.

6) Politicians must focus on addressing multifarious issues faced by the nation and not waste time on divisive and immature politicking.

Any more to add to the list?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes Nazri, It is Too Late for Barisan

“It’s too late. I’ve mentioned it many times,” the minister in charge of law and parliamentary affairs Nazri Aziz said when asked his opinion on a dialogue to resolve dilemma.

“It was the failure of the rundingan that resulted in the matter being brought to court,” he pointed out.

“It’s not the fault of the government. Let it be known that it was Tan Sri Pakiam, not the government, who brought the matter to court,” Nazri stressed.

The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Reverend Murphy Pakiam representing the Roman Catholic Church had taken the federal government to court after the home minister banned the church newspaper from publishing the word “Allah” three years ago.

Nazri has to be corrected on the failure of dialogue to resolve the issue. Barisan government has never been supportive of any interfaith dialogue. Previous dialogues were met with hostile disruptions and protests.

It is doubtful if an out of court solution can be held fairly taking into consideration the historical use of 'Allah' by other Abrahamic faiths which predated Islam.

UMNO's intention to ban the use of 'Allah' is to seek exclusivity for Islam which was never demanded by the religion. The justification used to impose the ban has directly belittled the intelligence and wisdom of Muslims in the country. Moreover, it has created a negative and skewed reputation and perception of Islam in Malaysia.

The government should stay out of religion. This is the most viable option for Barisan Nasional.

Nazri said it is too late for a dialogue. Yes, it is too late now not only for a dialogue but for a reversal of Barisan's political fortune.

Through this sad episode, it is no longer possible for Barisan to claim that it represents all races in the country. Component parties in the coalition might as well ship out or close shop.

Previously, several leaders of Barisan component parties shared with me their frustrations with UMNO and their desire to seek the emergence of a truly multiracial political platform. These leaders should walk their talk. There is no reason to continue tagging on the apron of UMNO since the party has decided to walk its own communal path - rightly or wrongly.

Otherwise, leaders such as Koh Tsu Koon, Ong Tee Keat, Palanivel and others will go down in history for leading their respective party into an irreversible decline. I met a young and bright Pakatan assemblyman recently and totally agree with his observation that multiracial politics is the future. The future is now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Putrajaya Directive on the Use of 'Allah' & Political Desperation

Christians in the two Malaysian Borneo states can continue to use the term 'Allah' for God in Malay print as they have done for the last 300 years.

The federal government however still sees no reason why Christians in Peninsular Malaysia should use the term 'Allah' for God even in Malay print, and East Malaysians resident in the Peninsula have to respect the prohibition.

The new directive on the use of 'Allah' is both silly and outrageous. Can this directive be implemented? This directive has created more confusion than trying to solve the current impasse.

What term should the East Malaysians traveling to West Malaysia use in their prayers?

This directive is just a political decision to mitigate Barisan's damaged integrity in both Sabah and Sarawak, which were seen as it political fixed deposits.

“Christians in Sabah and Sarawak need not worry over this issue because it is a common tradition there. I have been to an Iban church service and I heard 'Allah' used there,” Nazri said. Here, Nazri has shown his biggest hypocrisy. Why didn't he tell the government so at the very start of the ban?

Asked why the need for two sets of rules on the usage of the word, he stressed that this is not a unique practice as Malaysia also has two sets of laws on other matters, citing the syariah court and the civil court as examples.

Nazri's attempt to equate the two set of directives on the use of 'Allah' to the syariah and civil courts is another example of his lack of knowledge about the rule of law. Under the constitution, the civil court is the supreme court and not syariah court. How can this be an apple to apple comparison?

Is Nazri even fit to speak on behalf of the government on this issue?

Brain Drain & National Priority

Rightly, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has urged DPM Muhyiddin Yassin to address the problem of the country’s brain drain at an early stage, citing the high number of top scholars being enticed to go across the Causeway — as exemplified by the case of a Malaysian being Singapore’s top O-Level student this year.

Brain drain has been a major problem and obstacle for the country to achieve its Vision 2020. Official record indicated that more than 300k Malaysians had migrated or applied for migration visa in the last 18 months.

Singapore has been a beneficiary of Malaysia's brain drain for the last 4 decades. In fact, its foreign talents unit has placed Malaysians as the most desirable economic migrants to the city state.

Today, Malaysians can be found occupying the most senior positions in Singapore.

Malaysia's inability to attract FDI is not tied to its incentives. EPU, MIDA and other government agencies (most recently Nusajaya) are offering competitive incentives to foreign investors. Why are they not investing in the country but preferred other destinations such as Vietnam, China, Indonesia and others?

Malaysia's inability to retain brains is one of the major causes. Our policy direction has been both misguided and outdated. Instead of focusing on skills development, brains retention and knowledge enhancement, we are focusing on attracting low-cost and low value-added industries.

When is the current administration under PM Najib going to announce a new education policy focusing on quality curriculum and knowledge enhancement? When can the debate on education grow beyond race and cultural protection?

Any attempt to reverse our declining attractiveness is going to be a long haul effort. Does the government have a political will to do so or is it going to continue to focus on earning cheap brownie points by politicizing race and religion?

'Allah' Squabble & Tarnished International Image

Banning the use of 'Allah' and the arson attacks against churches have inflicted considerable damage on the image of Malay Muslims internationally. Around the world, the community is seen as conservative Muslims.

It is so unfortunate for the Malay community to shoulder such negative perception due to the irresponsible and selfish actions of a few extremists.

Malaysia's image as a moderate and progressive Muslim majority nation is equally tarnished. The attacks on churches are acts of cowardice and malice.

Those who initiated and participated in these attacks are the real 'kafirs' and non-believers.

It is time for Muslim Malaysians to stand up for their faith and religion. They must stand up to condemn these perpetrators and insist on the separation of politics and religion. Selfish political interest has robbed the religion of its sanctity and good reputation.

The government is still dragging its feet to find a win-win solution to address this sensitive conflict. PM Najib's vision of 1Malaysia has everything to lose if he does not show more political will to help calm all parties and find a viable solution.

I support the call to establish a national consultative council on religious harmony is the best way to resolve the current “Allah” row. It is time for the Barisan government to show more sincerity.

They should drop their appeal against the court's decision to allow the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims and help settle the dispute through a dialogue.

Malaysians must stand together on this issue or suffer unprecedented ramifications from it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

'Allah', Malay Supremacy & Islam Misunderstood

The protest against a controversial ruling allowing Catholic weekly Herald to use “Allah” in its national language section reflects an inferiority complex of the Malay Muslim community in Malaysia. However, the community is not to be blamed.

There is a need to look deeper into the protest to find out why some Malay Muslims, including educated urban professionals, are reacting antagonistically against the sharing of the use of ‘Allah’ with those of the Christian Catholic faith.

Ironically, the Malay language had borrowed the word ‘Allah’ from the Arabic language. It is used by Arabic speakers of the Abrahamic faiths, including Christians, as a reference to God. There were historical claims that the Christian community in East Malaysia had used the reference long before the formation of Malaysia.

Although local publication of Malay language bibles were not encouraged in the country and most were taken in from Indonesia, there was never such a big reaction against the use of ‘Allah’ until recently when the government refused to renew the publishing permit of a Catholic newsletter.

Instead of joining the blame game, it is pertinent for us to seek to understand what triggered the protest. The prime reason is the decades of intertwining between religion, race and politics.
The arson attacks on churches and a few demonstrations around the country reflected an eerie similarity to other political protests and demonstrations warning against questioning the Malay supremacy. Here, the protesters have warned against challenging their religious supremacy and exclusivity.

Is there a zero sum game in the use of ‘Allah’ between Muslims and Christians?

Why are Muslim Arabs able to accept and share the use of ‘Allah’ with those of other Abrahamic faiths but not some Muslim Malaysians?

The main cause which has triggered the protest is the race affirmative policy practised by the current government. It is unfortunate that the Malay supremacy concept propagated and implemented by the ruling regime is also trying to make Islam and the use of ‘Allah’ an exclusive domain.

For the protesters, Islam is synonymous to Malay supremacy. It has to be exclusive and above the rest. This perception is both misguided and un-Islamic. Islam is universal and inclusive. It is compassionate and not hostile.

The current political culture practiced by the ruling regime has proven many times to be both divisive and regressive. Malaysia’s nation building under the Barisan government is just mere rhetoric and a lip service. Consequently, it is so easy to trigger an emotional and hostile reaction to something so basic and menial.

Another prime reason for the protest is the inferiority complex of some Muslim Malays. The lack of confidence in their own Islamic faith is reflected in the argument that the use of ‘Allah’ by Christians in East Malaysia may generate confusion amongst Muslims and spark unnecessary apostasy.

Muslims who are well-versed in their Islamic faith can distinguish between a bible and a Quran. They are wise enough to differentiate and respect the use of ‘Allah’ by followers of other Abrahamic faiths. It is equally baffling to suggest that the use of ‘Allah’ may encourage apostasy or weaken their Islamic faith.

Christians and Muslims in this country should have rejoiced for calling God by the same name. Both religions accept the concept of an all encompassing God.

It is obvious that a court ruling on the ban of the use of ‘Allah’ in Malay language Christian publications will not appease everybody. This problem can only be resolved using a socio-political method.

Hence, the right remedy to address this issue in the long term is to end racial politics. It is unfortunate that a serious national debate on how to end racial politics has failed to materialize even after experiencing some negative repercussions of it.

Malaysians must come together to end this ethno-religious political hegemony and work on a more inclusive and civilised politics. Until and unless, we can improve interethnic and interreligious understanding in the country Malaysia may suffer serious and irreversible destruction to its social fabric and its international standing as a successful multiracial and harmonious nation.

Politically, the hapless Barisan coalition should take a proactive step to disband all race-based parties and form a common political platform which truly represents all Malaysians. There is no reason to hold on to its current post-colonial race-based political model which is outdated and outmoded except to satisfy self gratification of some leaders who wanted to become race champions.

The proponents of race supremacy are the most misguided and unproductive lot in the country. In the knowledge world, those who want to use hereditary as a differentiation advantage can only be regarded as parasites in their society.

Hence, it is time to call an end to the politically constructed social contract which has created brick walls between communities in the country. The reminder to non-bumiputras to be grateful for being granted citizenship and a right to live in this country is an insult to nation building. Such a post-colonial thinking must not be allowed to dictate our interethnic relations and nation building agenda. The only way to end this archaic and destructive socio-political model is to reject racial politics.

It is timely to establish an interreligious dialogue to help promote mutual understanding amongst different faiths. A small misunderstanding such as the use of ‘Allah’ can be discussed and resolved through a dialogue.

Previous attempts to hold such gatherings had faced hostile reactions and protests from the same culprits who protested against the court decision to reverse the ban on the use of ‘Allah’ by Christians.

Similarly, they had wanted to promote Islamic supremacy over other religions. This is not only detrimental to religious harmony in the country but also to the reputation and sanctity of Islam.
Malaysians must stand up against these protesters. It is only when the silent majority speak up or we will not be able to protect our rights from a small band of aggressive self-centric protesters.

We cannot depend on the current regime to defend our constitutional rights or multiracial harmony. Malaysians regardless of faiths must stand up to demand this country being run the way it should be – a harmonious, just and prosperous multiracial country.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Church Attacks Are Disgraceful!

Three churches are believed to have been attacked in the last 24 hours in the Klang Valley - the three-storey Metro Tabernacle church in Desa Melawati, the Assumption Church in Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya and the Life Chapel in Section 17, Petaling Jaya.

Those who committed the arson are non-believers but misguided religious fanatics or simply troublemakers. Their despicable action should be severely criticised by all Malaysians regardless of faith.

Similarly, I hope that the Christians would not retaliate to these attacks by force. Let God do the punishment.

It is a shame that the Prime Minister had said that the government cannot stop people from protesting. He said this at a time when this multiracial and multireligious nation is depending on his leadership to help mitigate the issue. He acts like a weak and helpless PM.

Malaysia is yet making news globally for the wrong reason.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Council of Elders and a Broken Promise?

Why promise something that cannot be delivered? Politicians and political parties are good at doing precisely that - making empty promises.

Before the last general election, both PKR and DAP had campaigned very enthusiastically for the return of a third vote or local council election to the people.

Why didn't the parties inform us that a third vote cannot be implemented unless there is a change of federal government and a constitutional amendment (which requires 2/3 support of lower house to amend the Local Government Act) must be done before a local council election can be reinstated?

The effect of making an empty promise is going to erode people's confidence of the newly minted coalition. A great number of people are already taking its recently announced Common Platform at a pinch of salt.

The Penang state government announced it will initiate efforts to set up the "Council of Elders" this year in line with its aim to fulfill its election manifesto of implementing local government elections.

The newly proposed council is be made up of five to nine citizens of good reputation, to be responsible for selecting councillors by holding informal elections to keep the flames of local democracy alive in Penang.

I have several issues with the recent announcement:

1) How can Pakatan claim to have fulfilled its election manifesto when what we got is not a local council election by a small committee made up of 5-9 privileged people to decide the entire line-up of the local councillors?

2) What yardstick will used to measure the reputation of these selected 5-9 council members? Who select these council members?

3) What is the definition of good reputation? Who decided what is good reputation?

4) Local council election is a good way to democratize the governance process at the local authority level. How can a Council of Elders fulfill this role? At least a councillor's performance can be monitored by the people through a local council election. Can the council of elders ensure that non-performing councillors will not be retained or be removed from their position?

The state government should just keep the current system of political appointment if it cannot fulfill its pledge to bring back a real local council election. At least it will be viewed as being more sincere rather than attempting something so archaic and hardly democratic.

It should not try to make a mockery of its own election manifesto by claiming that it has fulfilled its pledge through the council of elders.

Democracy should not be determined by a few selected people. Democracy is about the people.

In Support of Tengku Razaleigh, End Race-based Parties

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah lashed out at Umno today over its strident position on the “Allah” controversy, pointing out that the party was bent on fanning communal sentiment and digging itself into an intolerant hardline position with no parallel in the Muslim world.

He also suggested that racially-based parties should no longer be allowed to contest elections in multiracial Malaysia.

Tengku Razaleigh or more popularly known as 'Kuli' should walk his talk by walking out of UMNO, a racially based party.

By doing do, it will catalyst a new movement calling for an end of racially based parties in the country.

A nation at a crossroads like Malaysia needs wise, decisive and bold leaders such Kuli to help this chart its course.

Will Kuli walk his talk? Or just like previously, still maintaining his loyalty to a party digging itself into an intolerant hard-line position that has no parallel in the Muslim world?

'Allah' Protest Will Test the Faith of Protesters

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said that the government cannot stop people from gathering at mosques tomorrow to protest against a court decision which had allowed the Christian publication Herald to use to term "Allah".

His ministers, Hishammuddin Hussein and Muhyiddin Yassin, have lend their indirect support and endorsement to the protesters.

The protest is being orchestrated by several Muslim NGOs in retaliation against the High Court's ruling on Dec 31 allowing the Catholic Church to use the word "Allah" in its weekly publication the Herald.

The stand taken by Najib, Hishammuddin and Muhyiddin shows that UMNO leadership is incapable of managing and governing a multiracial and multireligious society. They should have helped to mitigate any unwarranted emotional reactions and mediate between followers of the two faiths to find a solution.

How can the three leaders ensure that the protest does not become too heated and emotional? The cow head incident in Selangor should have been taken as a good reference point before the Home Minister allows the protest to be held.

UMNO leaders should have played a more proactive role to ease the tension and growing animosity between followers of the two faiths. Religious harmony is key to our success as a multiracial society.

The protest which will be held at the Kampung Baru mosque has more political significance than religious. It is a symbolic Malay political power base.

Najib must be held accountable for two things; firstly, his consistency on future peaceful and democratic protests and second, the peaceful nature of the Kampung Baru protest.

With these politicians not wanting to change their stripes, we may really need to help usher in a true people centric and democratic third (political) force - a truly People's Power.

Najib's ability to implement his 1Malaysia pledges is being seriously tested. This is the second challenge to his grand vision after the blown up of the jet engines theft scandal under his watch as the defence minister.

Protesters at the Kampung Baru mosque will face a true challenge of their faith in Islam. God is all loving and non-violence. Peace loving and God fearing Malaysians should wait to hear their statements.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Promote Performing Arts, Support Local Artistes Now!

Malaysian singer song-writer Penny Tai 戴佩妮 will be back to her home country, Malaysia, this January. Despite being active in the industry for almost a decade, no one would have thought the petite Penny to be 31 years of age.

With 7 studio albums already, Penny started song-writing at the age of 17 and pens each and every single song in her albums herself. She will be performing her concert at Arena of Stars Genting Highlands,16th of January 2010.

This is her maiden personal concert in Malaysia. Support our local artistes and performing arts scene. She is one of my favourite artistes. See you there!

Visit GlamBrands for more information.

Does Penang Need a New Convention Centre?

Artist impression of the PICC

While I was busy with an event, there was a debate about the viability and suitability of building a new convention centre in Penang. A number of activists have voiced out their opposition to the project.

The proposed convention centre is supposed to be constructed right next to the Pisa. Funding for the project is expected to be borne by the MPPP. It is expected to register a deficit of RM40 million in 2010 on the back of revenue of RM230 million (two thirds of which is raised from assessments/taxes).

The Council has allocated RM30 million for the convention centre in 2010 and a further RM20 million is expected to be incurred in 2011. Moreover, maintenance cost is expected to raise the budget by another 10 percent.

It is without a doubt that Penang can benefit from a world class convention centre. Head of a foreign tourism board shared with me how good convention centres have helped to attract world class events to some provinces in his country.

However, the opposition from these activists and Penangites is not without a basis. We need to consider the right timing, other priorities, suitability of location, action plan, management know-how and others before deciding to push ahead with the project.

There are several considerations:

1) Choice of location: Not suitable

Building another convention centre next to Pisa may not be such a good idea. Take for example if there are two simultaneous events at both Pisa and PICC (Penang International Convention Centre), the area might be choked with traffic. Availability of enough parking lots may also be another nightmare for event participants.

It is important for the state government to source for other more appropriate locations such as Batu Kawan or Balik Pulau which it has bigger land reserves. Moreover, a new convention centre might help to catalyst hospitality and infrastructure development in the area.

2) Priority: Low

PICC is still a good project if it can be undertaken and managed professionally. However, the project should not be initiated and managed by the state government or MPPP. The current government, MPPP and its vital departments are running on a skeletal and lean management structure.

Previous projects initiated and managed by the state government are now in dilated condition e.g. Pisa, Komtar and others. What has happened to the Dome in Komtar? It is now not utilized at all and left to rot. Pisa is under utilized. How many world class events or concerts have been held in the facility?

I agree with the suggestion to first utilize, upgrade, refurbish and rebrand these facilities. Attracting quality events is not only about having good facility but also good management and promotional support.

The state government should first make its plan to promote MICE tourism clear. Its Visit Penang 2010-2012 can use some meat and content for its promotional activities.

Hence, the local council should focus on improving local amenities, public services, cleanliness, public transport system and other support services. Improvement in these areas are essential to make Penang a leading MICE hub.

As an event organiser, it is not economically feasible and viable to hold an international event or concert in the state at the moment. Some of us still brought good events to Penang out of our affection for the state. Most of these events face difficulty in attracting the right crowd, sponsorship or paid audience. Local authority red-tape to apply for event permit is horrendous and frustrating. These areas need improvement too.

It is wiser for the state government to focus on its heritage conservation effort and capitalize on George Town's world heritage status. George Town needs serious upgrade and attention. The city centre is prone to flash flood. Its streets and drains are filled up with rubbish and pot holes. However, it has a unique charm to attract foreign and local visitors.

Put the money where the mouth is.

3) Strategy and Action Plan: None

It is inevitable for us to ask for an action plan from the state government. The new government tenure is fast approaching its first mid-term but there is no clear policy direction or strategy on economic development. It appears to me that the state government is merely adopting the same old development model and claims that it can do better than the predecessor.

Hence, it is legitimate for the people to voice out their reservation about the new convention project. We do not want yet another monument and white elephant. It is time to revive Komtar and enhance Pisa. The state government needs to improve its planning, implementation and evaluation capabilities.

If Penang is far from being world-class, how can we attract world-class events?

Moreover, some state agencies and departments are still not sure about their role and responsibility. Some departments have turned into event organisers themselves instead of playing a role to facilitate, catalyst and promote MICE and tourism. Decent resources should be allocated to newly established organisations tasked with promoting tourism and protecting heritage and environment in the state. Here is where some of the RM50 million can help.

I support a call to reconsider the project. Public have been given until 8 January 2010 (expires tomorrow) to submit their opinions and views to the state government. Use this chance to register your views and opinions.

You can submit your views to the Penang Municipal Council or you can email your views to before the deadline expires.

Nazri's Selective Judgement

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz has come out in defence of the Home Ministry’s move in appealing to the Court of Appeal over the controversial “Allah” issue.

He said that High Court judge Lau Lee Lan, who made the ruling that Catholics could use the word “Allah” in their weekly publication Herald, was wrong.

Nazri asserted that the judicial review was supposed to be on whether the Home Minister had the power to impose the ban, not on whether non-Muslims should be allowed to use the word “Allah”.

If non-Muslims are allowed to use the word 'Allah', what is the right of the Home Minister to impose a ban on the word? A ministerial directive must respect the constitutional rights of the people. Only an UMNO government would insist on a non-contestable ministerial decision.

No thanks to Dr M, the absolute ministerial power should be curtailed and made more accountable and responsible.

Nevertheless, Nazri's selective judgement is worrying. If Justice Lau was wrong in this case, what about the Perak power grab? Were the judges wrong too?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Case of Stolen Jet Engines Points To Incompetency

Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail shed little light on the progress of investigations into the loss of two RMAF F5-E jet engines, when he only revealed that no senior air force officers were involved in the theft from a military airbase in Sungai Besi in 2007.

"The investigation papers show there are no senior military officers involved. Only what we can call rank and file personnel are involved. No officers."

"We shall take action against the suspects in the very near future. You can mark my words. However, investigations are still ongoing," said Abdul Gani.

Abdul Gani appears to have contradicted himself in the statement. If the investigations are still ongoing, why is he jumping the gun by confirming the involvement of only rank and file personnel?

I am interested to find out how rank and file personnel are able to establish networking and business dealing with an international syndicate? There must be very smart people amongst the rank and file in the airforce.

It is remarkable to note that the heist of RM100 million involves only rank and file personnel. Moreover, these personnel were able to persuade several custom officers to help in their crime. If the fact is established, it will become a truly Guinness World Record attempt.

In a society which emphasizes so much on position and power, a small number of rank and file personnel were able to pull through a stunning heist is an eye opener. Who needs a 'high ranking position/title' to help the door anymore?

The fact that no one has been arrested or prosecuted so far speaks volume of our police, MACC and AG's competency.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Quarrel Over God?

The Home Ministry has filed a notice of its appeal at the Court of Appeal against a High Court ruling that allowed the Catholic paper Herald to use the word “Allah” to describe the Christian God in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.

It will also file an appeal to stay the execution of the Dec 31 court decision that has angered many Muslim Malaysians who feel it can confuse them and affect their faith.

Only God knows how these Muslim Malaysians can be confused by the use of "Allah" by others to describe Him.

How can a person's faith be so easily affected? Only God knows...

Calling God by any name means love, inclusiveness, forgiveness and divine.

It is a shame that we quarrel over how we should call Him. Is this a sign of growing conservatism in Malaysia? UMNO has protested against the court's decision to reverse the ban. UMNO, UMNO and UMNO again...Why must this party be associated with all the bad news?

Malaysians should focus on corruption, rising crime, abuse of power, arrogance of power and fame, racism and the environment instead.

Did You Come to Queensbay's Countdown Concert?

Did you miss the concert at Queensbay Mall? I hope not. We had great fun! Hope to see you in my next event.

Visit GlamBrands for more news on concerts, events and promotions.

Pictures courtesy of Queensbay Mall.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year 2010

Happy new year to all my friends and readers!

I am taking a short break after a tiring month preparing for the countdown concert @ Queensbay Mall.

I am glad to see many of you there. I would like to apologize to a gentleman who came to see me for two VIP tickets but managed to give him only one. I came back looking for him but I was told that he was given another ticket by someone.

Thanks again for reading my blog.

Lets make this year much better than the last one.