Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Case for a Third Force

I understand the concern of a three corner fight which might dilute the chance of Pakatan in the next general election.

However, the possibility of establishing a third force is not to side with the other two forces (BN or Pakatan). We are not contesting in the next general election, not yet. But we must not discount this option in the future if the politicians continue to ignore us for pure power crave and self gratification.

When politicians from both sides collide, do they stop to listen to the people? Did BN listen to the people or are they still taking the 'we-know-best' attitude?

Did Pakatan listen to the people and embark on the reforms we wanted or the newly minted coalition is too focused on its ambition to capture Putrajaya and forget those who stood by the roadside watching, supporting and cheering their stride towards national power?

This third force role and responsibility is to ensure that the politicians and policy makers listen to us, the stakeholders. This country cannot be allowed to go on the way it is being run now.

We need to change. We cannot allow politicians to dictate all terms. Politicians cannot be fully entrusted to implement change or reform because any political power left on its own will not proactively surrender its power and influence through people centred reform.

Reforms in other societies were successful because of individuals who sacrificed their own freedom to mobilize the people through their messages and sacrifice e.g. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and others.

Not any political party. Political party fights to retain and capture power and not to hand it to the people to decide and chart their own future.

As a way forward, we need to push the regime to implement a structure and all necessary processes to limit power and to ensure there is a proper check-and-balance mechanism. Only with the existence of a proper structure that we can stop power abuse and political arrogance.

It is unacceptable for any citizens or minority communities to suffer social abuse, negligence and economic deprivation in their own country. Alas, this is exactly what happened in Malaysia e.g. the Penans, Ibans, Kadazans, Orang Asli, the poor and powerless of all races.

These abuses must stop now if we do not want this country to go down the drain.

It is still not too late. Please sign up to join a Third Force for National Reform Facebook. We should unite to ensure that our voices are LOUD enough to be heard by the feuding politicians.

Idris Jala & His English Language Fallacy

KPI Minister & Pemandu CEO Idris Jala has dismissed the need for proficiency in the English language to achieve the Vision 2020 goal of becoming a high-income nation.

"You can be a high income economy with the national language,” said Idris at the CEO Forum organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

He cited examples like Korea and Japan that became high-income nations without mastering the English language. “We need to remember that Korea became a high-income nation without using English. Japan went without that too,” he added.

As a KPI supremo in the Najib administration, it is a shame and a sham for Idris not to understand the underlying KPIs which had helped both South Korea and Japan to become industrial superpowers in the region.

Language is merely a medium. What both the Japanese and Korean governments did right was to promote meritocracy, innovation and knowledge acquisition as something very crucial and critical to their national pride. It was not a question about language.

However, both Korean and Japanese industrialists and scientists received their headstart from their unique relationship with the USA. Early industrialisation in Japan was assisted and sponsored by the Americans and the Korean war.

What the Japanese learnt from the Americans were put into great use through their unique initiative and ability to conduct 'reverse engineering' to improvise what the technology they had accumulated.

Early manufactures from Japan were knock-offs and did not meet any international standards. But they were adamant to continue improving and had put quality assurance and technical reliability as the most important KPIs.

Korean companies accepted their weaknesses and did a major turnaround in the late 90's to put technology advancement, product quality and creative design as their next competitive advantage. Today, some of their companies such as Samsung, LG, Kia and Hyundai are ranked among the global corporate giants.

It is a fact the two communities benefited from early knowledge acquisition from the English speaking knowledge communities in USA and Europe. In fact, the need to acquire English proficiency has become an important ingredient of success in these societies and other emerging societies in Asia including Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Thailand and others.

As a KPI Minister, it is pertinent for Idris to acknowledge the limited knowledge acquisition available in the Malay language. Intellectuals who had acquired knowledge in some of the best universities overseas should be encouraged to share their thoughts, knowledge and views in Malay. There are easily hundreds of thousands of books on various fields available in South Korea and Japan. These including translated books from the original English writers.

What about Malaysia?

Earlier, I had warned analysts not be too eager to praise Idris for some of his statements. He had merely succeeded in making some statements. It is time to judge him on his ability to turn his ETP into a success. Unfortunately, not many investors are taking his ambitious plan seriously.

A THIRD FORCE - An Enquiry

Of late, the political scene has become dirtier and messy. It is undeniable that we need to usher in a new era of responsible and accountable politics and leadership. But post 2008, we have seen a greater use and manipulation of race and religion by politicians and political parties to advance their interest.

Elected representatives have shown their true colour too. A host of them had betrayed the trust and mandate of the people by deserting their political platform. Their action had caused a collapsed of a democratically elected government and made elected representatives as pawns which can be bought over at the right price. This had worsened corruption and democratic reform in the country.

At the same time, Malaysians are left to wrest with a host of critical socio-economic issues and challenges. World economy is expected to go through a tough recovery although a light at the end of the tunnel is not yet visible.

The federal government has announced a host of initiatives but two ingredients were missing from these plans - Confidence & Trust. Without confidence, there is very little hope that the plans will be successful. Local investors and brains will not invest their money and skills in the country.

The government can announce grand numbers and ambitious plans but these plans will turn cynical if it is obvious that there is no capacity and mechanism to implement them.

We need a Third Force and we need to build a new platform to convey our voices and concerns to the political parties. We need to push the political parties to put better people in the next general election. We need them to focus on issues and challenges faced by all instead of certain sectarian interests and senseless politicking or power struggle.

We need a Third Force to discuss:

1) Workforce empowerment and skills enhancement
2) Education system overhaul
3) Democratisation and respect for constitutional rights
4) Rule of law and restoring the credibility of public institutions
5) End of racism and sectarian politics
6) Fight corruption and end abuse of public resources
7) National competitive revival and others

I would like to hear your thoughts on the emergence of a third force and greater civil society's participation in the public discourse. Remember, we choose the government we deserve. It is time for the stakeholders/voters to be more involved.

With the current irresponsible governance and manipulation of public office, it is possible that they may not be a future for the country in the next 3-5 years. The rot must stop now!

Let me hear your views and let us explore what can be done.

Save Malaysia from the politicians, especially the unscrupulous ones.

People like Ibrahim Ali, Ahmad Ismail, Hamim Husain should fear us and not the other way round.

Ismail Omar is Turning Himself into Another Musa Hassan

Newly minted IGP Ismail Omar is quickly making himself useful to th establishment. His officers have hauled up Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua for questioning. He was being investigated under the Sedition Act for suggesting that the bumiputra discount for luxury residential property be abolished.

Pua said the investigating officer also used an Utusan Malaysia report, published on July 27 under the heading Cadangan Ahli Parlimen PJ Utara kepada kerajaan Selangor - Mansuh diskaun bumiputera, as reference in investigation.

It is believed that the police will be calling up Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim too on the same matter.

This is precisely why the Home Ministry only promotes an officer nearing retirement to helm the top position. It is definitely easier to control and manage a top police officer who depends on an employment contract than one who does not depend on the government for a contract renewal. Ismail is quick enough to understand where he stands.

Soon after succeeding Musa, he announced a three-point pledge. First point was working within the scope of authority provided for the force under the law. The second was on the services provided to the public and the third was on maintaining law and order.

I would like to add a fourth and a fifth. Fourth, the police force should respect the constitutional rights of all individuals. To do so, they should be well versed with the federal constitution. Hence, it is a mandatory for all police officers including Ismail to undergo a course in the federal constitution. Perhaps, the MyConstitution team can provide free lessons to the police officers nationwide.

If the police officers are well enlightened and professional, they should have not wasted their valuable time on Tony and Khalid. It is a fact that there is no specific mention on 'Ketuanan Melayu' or Malay supremacy in the constitution. There is no provision on the property purchase discount for Bumiputera buyers in the constitution. In fact, the terms 'Bumiputera' and 'social contract' are political creatures created by unscrupulous racist politicians.

Finally, the police should avoid being dragged into the political contestation between the two coalitions. The generosity of the police towards organisations such as Umno and Perkasa cannot help but prompted a lot of observers to link them with the establishment. We need a thinking police force and not one which is only interested to protect the interest of the IGP.

The last thing that PDRM want is for the people to make a connection of them with the dreaded Kempeitai during the Japanese occupation.

The Kempeitai were the Japanese military police who took over the control of the local police. They were responsible to seek out subversive elements, making use of informers, spies and generally keeping their ears and eyes wide open for anti-Japanese activities such as listening to the BBC or assisting communist guerrillas.

PDRM should work for the people and not any political parties.

Why waste time on Tony and Khalid and destroy the institution's credibility at the same time?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BTN Hamim Husain is a Bigger Sinner Than Anwar Ibrahim

DPM Muhyiddin should take note; BTN's Hamim Husain is a bigger sinner than Anwar Ibrahim. If Anwar had told lies to tarnish the image of BN government in Malaysia, it is the duty of BN to respond to his allegations. After all, this is politics. Muhyiddin knows the game better than anyone of us.

BTN deputy director Hamim Husain had done worse. He had insulted more than 35% of population in Malaysia. He had referred to the Chinese and Indian community as “Si Mata Sepet” and “Si Botol” respectively when asking Puteri Umno members to approach the non-Malays for votes.

"The ‘si mata sepet’ that has never gone to a mosque or surau only has one vote. The ‘si botol’ that only knows how to go up to Batu Caves up and down only has one vote,” Hamim told the closed-door gathering.

The BTN, a state agency charged with running courses on patriotism for civil servants and undergraduates, came under fire last year for promoting racism.

The fact that Hamim's salary and his agency expenses are paid by taxpayers' money (which included a large number of Chinese and Indian Malaysians), he should be immediately sacked and his agency's role and function thoroughly reviewed.

Probably, PM Najib may be tempted to use the same excuse as Muhyiddin that his PM department does not have any jurisdiction over the super scale Hamim. He cannot be sacked as a permanent staff of the BN government.

Hamim is a product of racist politics and irresponsible hate mongers within the administration. Offenders such as Hamim must be given the harshest punishment and sacked from their positions in the administration and civil service if PM Najib is serious about his 1Malaysia vision.

Tun Hanif was spot on to identify racism with the structure of the civil service.

Something must be done before it is too late for PM Najib to save his ship.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life-long Employment? Are You Serious Mr Deputy Prime Minister?

Cabinet ministers cannot sack or suspend any civil servant who are categorised as “permanent Government officers.”

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he has not seen any record of a minister taking such actions against these officers, who are under the jurisdiction of the Public Services Department.

"There is no law in the administrative regulations and in the Con­stitution providing for ministers to sack or suspend any permanent civil servant,” he said, adding that this in­­cludes the deputy prime minister.

This is probably one of the most disturbing statements which came from the administration. I have a few questions for the DPM. First, who is the PSD answerable to? What is the role of the administration if it does not have any direct control over the ministry and PSD? What is the role of the Education Ministry if it does not have any jurisdiction over the conduct of teachers and administrative staff?

Muhyiddin statement may derail any hope of reforming the civil service which is long seen as ineffective, cumbersome, flabby and bureaucratic. What is the hope of making the ETP, NEM and a host of other plans a success if the civil service is not performing up to the desired level?

Worse, the DPM is suggesting that public institutions such as the police are acting without any instruction or supervision. Did the police act alone to detain a cartoonist or peaceful ISA demonstrators?

It is dangerous to suggest that there is no provision or administrative regulations to suspend or sack errant civil servants.

Friday, September 24, 2010

ETP: Growth Without Reform?

KPI Minister & Pemandu CEO Idris Jala has made some very bold announcements on the Economic Transformation Plan:
  • 191 projects
  • RM1.4 trillion
  • 3.3 million jobs (high paid)
  • 6% growth
  • Investment contributors: 60% (private sector), 32% (GLCs), 8% (government)
  • USD17k income per capita by 2020

These announcements are made on the back of the current scenario:

  • Continuation of affirmative action under NEM and ETP. The government has been largely ambiguous about policy reforms including the NEP. PM Najib has emphasized on the need for a fairer and more inclusive socio-economic policy but gave almost no details on what he meant;
  • A lack of confidence in the administration and public institutions, flip-flops in policy making, bureaucracy and bureaucratic issues, institutional and systemic transparency and accountability and others;
  • Education system suffering from a lack of substance and quality. Parents are racing to their children overseas. A recent survey suggested that 7 out of 10 undergraduates prefer to work in host countries than to come home;
  • 80% of workforce received SPM qualification or lower. The government said more than 3 million high paying jobs would be created from the ETP projects. At the moment, it is difficult for companies to even recruit 1,000 trained engineers. Who are going to fill the vacancies if there is no education reform? How much is the government allocating to improve teaching quality and curriculum contents?;
  • How can these infrastructure projects e.g. KL MRT, express rail system, oil refinery hub etc. help to generate more jobs for the locals? ETP did not mention anything about the much needed urban renewal and rural revitalisation. State governments under Pakatan especially Penang and Selangor (two of the biggest economies in Malaysia) were not included and consulted in the planning process. Since the FTZs, Penang needs new economic model and to identify new growth opportunities. The economic transformation of Penang will benefit the rest of states in the northern region;
  • The federal government has not made no significant effort or improvement to reform some of the most critical institutions in the country e.g. judiciary, police, immigration, anti-corruption agency, media and GLCs. There is a need to strengthen the democratic process and an emphasis on a true separation of power. The federal government must be committed to the process and must be self-guided to implement a real check-and-balance system in their governance;

Whilst the government has announced some impressive and big figures in the ETP, the broader question which should be asked if the programme can be successfully executed without any real reform?

Idris Jala said the sheer volume of the report shows that the government is serious about the programme. What is the use of a voluminous report if nothing significant can be achieved out of it. Idris should place his priority/emphasis on a living report and not a 'thick' report. Idris should prove to us that he is able to achieve a baby step in socio-economic reform before asking us to keep faith.

For example, even an affirmative policy needs meritocracy. Meritocracy is not an anti-thesis to aid or assistance but a commitment to quality, performance and capability. As a KPI minister, he must tackle the implementation process of NEP which are breeding abuses and wastage. He must not hide behind the ETP smoke screen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Perkasa is a Parasite Which Rides on UMNO's Back

Kudos to Nazri Aziz, Khairy Jamaluddin and other Umno leaders who are against the idea of working with Perkasa. Unfortunately, some hardliners in Umno are still stubborn in defending the racist movement, believing that an unholy liaison with Perkasa could win them more Malay voters.

However, it is a fact that Perkasa needs Umno more than the other way round. These hardliners may have misread the ground. Can Perkasa really win more Malay votes for Umno? There are several fallacies surrounding this belief;

  1. More than 60% of Perkasa membership are Umno members which means that the movement has not been able to attract the Malay community especially the fence sitters in a big way. Most of the urban Malays would find an association with Perkasa as regressive and racist;
  2. Perkasa needs an organisation like Umno to play its role as a Devil's advocate. Without the support and a tacit association with Umno, it is not possible for Perkasa to play its role effectively. Perkasa needs Umno to be afraid of its 'influence'. It is unlikely that the right wing organisation can get its way with both Pas and PKR. But the presence and association with Perkasa poisons Umno's role and leadership in BN. Perkasa needs an organisation to threaten and Umno fits the bill.
  3. Umno leader and Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said right-wing group Perkasa was merely championing the people's rights as spelt out in the constitution.
    "In my view, Perkasa is not being provocative or encouraging people to hate each other unlike the outlawed Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf)." As an education deputy minister, Puad should be send back to school to learn the constitution and history of Malaya. Many groups are doing a far better job than Perkasa in championing the people's rights as enshrined in the constitution. These organisations have been pushing for the recognition of indigenous people in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia to be accepted and respected for their Bumiputera rights. Umno is only focusing on the Malays albeit not all Malays - only those who are well-connected or aligned to the party. Perkasa is doing a bad job even in standing up for the rights of common Malays.
  4. However, hardliners in the party and chiefly Dr Mahathir needed a platform. Perkasa allows them the platform to continue to holding Umno at ransom. Take this platform away, these hardliners can no longer practice their brand of politics - very little ideas but a lot of chest beating.
  5. Even the Perkasa founder, Ibrahim Ali, is an opportunist. Seeing an erosion of support for BN/Umno, he was motivated to create Perkasa to renew his waning political fortune. Unfortunately, Perkasa was created using the wrong formula. It sounded like Umno post-2004 - arrogant, hostile and brash. Perkasa cannot become mainstream but merely serving fringe interest of hardcore ring-wing within Umno, Pas and PKR. Neither is Ibrahim daring enough to register his movement as a political party and participate in the next general election. It will expose the level of support for his organisation. I expect most of its candidates to lose their deposit. Perkasa is only creating a smokescreen to hide its real strength and support base.

Why would Perkasa threaten Umno if it can stand on its own feet? PM Najib should not flip-flop on his decision to alienate Perkasa. If he cannot be decisive about this tiny threat and issue, can his leadership be counted on to make a stand on larger issue such as race relations and the NEP?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

13th General Election: It's BN to Lose

It is unfortunate that PM Najib is still fiddling with his NEM. He wants to do something good for the nation but is too afraid of doing so. Making the right change means having to take on the conservative forces in the country.

His reluctance to take on these forces to ensure a smooth implementation of his plan and vision is going to ensure the failure of NEM and other similar policies. By giving enough space to these forces to build up resistance to his plan and vision will hardened their opposition and weakened his own political will to do the right thing.

By giving in to a group such as Perkasa is going to win BN/Umno a lot of support. The competition for Malay support has reached its saturation point. BN will at most enjoy 55% to 65% the community's support.

Another point which the PM has failed to notice is the growing political awareness of the community. Talk about defending Malay rights and supremacy is not as easy to sell as previously. Despite the talk, UMNO has not been able to answer why the community has remained backward and why the policy only enriched a selected few - mostly sons, daughters and relatives of politicians and leaders in the party/coalition. Sarawak's Taib family is a classic example.

His wishy-washy policy direction or a lack of it has courted many critics:

On NEM, Pakatan de-facto chief Anwar said, "As along as the government does not develop a system of governance that is just, corruption-free and instills confidence, the country will continue to lose the attention of foreign investors."

NEM is only a tip of the iceberg. The administration has failed to address many issues concerning the nation's education system, declining competitiveness, net outflow of investment, lack of new economic attraction, and others.

The world economic crisis is far from over. But we have not heard or read any policy response or initiative from the government. NEP, GTP and others are mere political responses to the ongoing contestation between Pakatan and BN.

Hence, this is why I said that the 13th general election is for BN to lose.

While Pakatan leaders have been critical of BN or Najib's lack of direction and political will to make the necessary changes, what have Pakatan achieved?

What can the newly minted coalition offer to counter Najib's NEM or GTP?

Pakatan cannot continue to count on BN or UMNO's weaknesses to chalk up electoral victories. It is time for the newly minted coalition to face its own raison d'etre.

It has no lack of weaknesses and issues within its own ranks. If its elected representatives can be tempted to defect by some monetary reward then it means there is a corrupt tendency within the coalition (an elected representative in Perak brought down the government because of a Toyota Camry).

The issue over its choice of candidates has yet to be addressed. Hence, it is pertinent for the coalition to listen to the suggestion of M Kulasegaran on limiting a candidate to seat and work on selecting better candidates.

It is a fact that Pakatan has yet to show us any significant policy alternatives and how it intends to govern differently from BN. How can the coalition reverse the economic malaise of the country?

Does the coalition have a new strategy to attract investors and brains to return to the country?

It has promised more autonomy in Sabah and Sarawak but it is enough to return Sabah and Sarawak to their desired glory? Giving autonomy to the wrong hands without correcting the systemic imbalances between East and West Malaysia is not going to change the fortune of peoples of Sabah and Sarawak.

I agree with Anwar that there is a need to mend the over centralisation of power in the federal government but it is not an easy creature to handle.

Dap has criticized the government on the over size public service which has grown to over 1.2 million employees. How can Pakatan resize or streamline the civil service? They are a powerful electoral block too.

PKR's internal politics and party elections are giving us another hint about the party. Parties in Pakatan should also address their own political culture if they want us to trust their governance.

At the moment, there is not much which separates the two coalitions apart from BN keep scoring their own goals and Pakatan trying to say the right things.

Both coalitions must walk their talk.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

M. Kulasegaran: Review "Two Seats for One Candidate" Call

Perak Dap Deputy Chairman M. Kulasegaran is correct to call for a review on a candidate contesting in two seats. In the past, the party was forced to do so due to a lack of credible and capable candidates.

Moreover, when the opposition was on a losing streak not many people are willing to offer themselves as candidates. As a result, we saw a high number of Dap leaders contesting in both parliamentary and state assembly seats.

A number of its top leaders did not only win both their seats but some were given extra responsibility to lead state governments which were captured by the coalition of Dap, PKR and Pas.

It means that most of them are loaded with heavy responsibilities and duties to govern and also to attend parliamentary meetings.

I have spoken to a Dap top leader before and told him to consider contesting just a seat in the next general election. It is simply not possible to focus on two or three portfolios in this era where everything changes at light speed. Policy makers need to keep up with changing trends and must be able to respond quickly to these challenges.

However, it is unfortunate that a number of leaders see competing in both seats as a critical political positioning for their own career.

I remembered asking Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu why he gave up being both a Chief Minister and parliamentarian after 1974. He told me that he could not cope with the responsibility to govern Penang and attend parliamentary sessions at the same time. Since he had promised to bring a new dawn to Penang voters, he had to give up contesting in both seats to focus his attention solely on Penang.

Tun Dr Lim went further to relinquish his party presidency too to focus on his top job.

Politicians must not give the voters a raw deal. They must work within their capacity. It is obvious that politicians from both sides of fence are barely focusing on quality policy debate and governance. How many of them do read up on parliamentary bills or papers before participating in a debate?

How many of our parliamentarians are serious about the issues and challenges facing the nation? How many of them are concerned that Malaysia is no longer attracting foreign investors like before?

How many are capable of participating in a positive and constructive debate on how to reshape and reenergize the economy?

Many of them are only good at playing up racial and religious sentiments for a cheap shot at popularity.

Some observers were right to say that the Malaysian mentality has remained the same despite the better physical development we had achieved.

It is time for politicians to show that they are knowledgeable and capable of address multifarious issues and challenges faced by the nation.

In the next general election, the Dap should not have any reason not to be able to field a quality candidate per seat especially in Penang. We deserve full time parliamentarians and state assemblymen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Khir Toyo's Weird Take on Exclusivism

Talking about extremism, PM Najib does not have to look very far.

According to Umno leader Khir Toyo the need to defend Islam and Malay interests was apparent even now with Pakatan leaders seemingly emboldened to push the limits, like DAP-Serdang parliamentarian Teo Nie Ching who caught flak for entering a surau in her constituency.

"It is wrong (even if BN did it). Wrong is wrong. Don't be surprised if one day non-Muslims will give sermons. It could happen," he said.

Ironically, he does not feel anything wrong when entering Hindu and Buddhist temples. Khir Toyo is not only politicizing the issue of non-Muslim elected representatives entering mosques or Islamic places of worship to fulfil their community service obligation but he is also trying to create an unorthodox exclusivity for the Islamic religion.

It is an act of stupidity trying to suggest that non-Muslims will give sermons in mosques in the future. This is a common sense which only Khir Toyo failed to recognise and understand. Any non-Muslim who would dare to try what Khir Toyo suggested is probably a nut case.

The fact that most non-Muslims dress conservatively when attending any Islamic functions or any events which are held in holy places reflects their respect for the religion. Apart from not wearing a scarf, did Teo wear a revealing dress into the surau?

Malaysiakini: You mentioned that BN Selangor's strategy is to go to the ground and engage the rakyat. Can you share how?

Mohamad Khir Toyo: Visit schools and meet with committee members of places of worship. I go to all of them, (Buddhist and Hindu) temples, and this is replicated elsewhere (by BN assemblypersons). If we do this, I believe that we can regain the support of the Chinese.

If Khir insists that Teo and other non-Muslims should not enter a surau or mosque, why did he enter places of worship of other religions? A number of ulamas had spoken up against the banning of non-Muslims from surau if the intention is genuine and good.

Not for Khir, he was at the Hindu and Buddhist temples not to pray for world peace but to fish for votes and support for his political party. This is less than sincere and genuine.

With a politician like Khir Toyo, who needs Perkasa?

Yes PM, Say No to Racism!

Prime Minister Najib Razak has assured everyone that the Government will continue to protect the people from destructive acts of racism and extremism.

He was sad that despite living in an independent multi-cultural nation for over 50 years, there were still those who could not tolerate, much less accept, the benefits of our society.

While these groups were often small in number, Najib said their presence was amplified through their extreme sentiments and acts.

Straight Talk applauds the PM's call to reject racism and extremism.

I believe that the fight against racism does not belong to any particular group or individual. Anyone can participate in the fight against racism, racial politics and extremism if they believe in the creation of a truly multiracial and democratic Malaysian society.

I would like to urge the PM to maintain the same stand even against his own party's mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, and all individuals and organisations linked to his party and coalition. There cannot be any exception or he will be seen as someone who does not walk his talk.

As a PM, his leadership of the administration is expected to keep our multiracial society peaceful and harmonious. In the longer run, he should restructure his race-based party into a truly Malaysian party which is non-racial. He should emphasize the respect and acceptance of equality in all citizenships. There should be no Bumi and non-Bumi dichotomy especially to those who are born and bred in Malaysia.

I still hope he will demonstrate enough political will to ensure that his 1Malaysia vision can be fully implemented.

He should reconsider his statement that the race affirmative action would be continued in the NEM. NEP is no longer a viable policy. It had lapsed in 1990. Instead, the government should focus on need-based policy to help all underprivileged regardless of race or creed. Those who are capable of competing and help themselves should not need the special privileges. It is a fact that the government has limited resources. NEP was grossly manipulated and was conveniently used as an instrument for corruption and cronyism.

This is not a new clarion. Any smart government should understand the need to be more inclusive in governance and policy implementation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

6% Economic Growth: Fact or Fantasy?

PM Najib announced the country is poised to grow by at least six per cent this year fuelled mainly by domestic demand. An immediate reaction from some segments of the public and people on the street is that they do not feel the growth.

The government should not merely focus on growth numbers which can be quite misleading and not reflective of the situation on the street.

There are several economic reform and development issues which have not seen much progress lately:

1) The focus of current political debate on economic policy especially the NEM and NEP has taken a very narrow path of destructive racial rhetoric. The government should not allow such an important discourse to take such a course. The government should find out what is wrong with the NEP. Admittedly, a number of leaders had acknowledged the weaknesses of NEP. In response, the PM even came out with a new policy direction, the NEM. PM Najib should focus on correcting the policy weaknesses and work to enhance public confidence on his NEM which was half announced.

2) It is quite obvious that the local economy has been overly dependent on resource based industries. Apart from the resource based industries e.g. oil & gas, palm oil and rubber, the manufacturing, services and tourism industries are lacklustre. Malaysia's regional economic corridors are not attracting investors. These corridors are just another real estate projects without the support of any economic cluster. This is another reason why the government should not focus merely on growth figures.

3) Apart from a lack of economic success story, local and foreign investors are spooked by the high profile failures of public projects such as the PKFZ, Bakun Dam, Cyberjaya and a host of other projects. The government must not take these failures lightly. Najib administration must address these problems and introduce a comprehensive structure to ensure that public funds are not wasted on useless and wasteful projects. Limited resources should be used to bring vibrancy back to the Malaysian economy.

4) The government is still on its denial mode regarding the quality of local education. Malaysian universities performed very poorly on global education ratings. It is granted that these ratings may not represent the quality of education in the country but they provide a good yard stick to measure the progress of our universities. Without a total review of the eduction system, there is very little sustainable economic reform can be achieved. Malaysia's hope to move up the economic value chain to become a knowledge economy will remain a grand vision or a pipe dream.

5) The government spoke about enhancing income per capita from USD6k to USD15k by 2015. Doubling the per capita income will truly help local industries through enhanced consumption power. This is a bold commitment but we are interested to know how the government is going to achieve this milestone. Without an integrated policy coordination and implementation, it is hard to see how the government can move the economy away from its low cost/ low salary orientation.

It is obvious that the government has taken the wrong priorities. It has wasted too much energy and resources on negative and destructive issues such as the Namewee video, race supremacy, political contestation with Pakatan, religious rows, internet censorship and others.

We need both the PM and the BN government to stay focus on the socio-economic challenges and issues. Words, slogans and more slogans will not get us anywhere.

Desperate Perkasa? UMNO Distances From Ibrahim Ali

A slew of UMNO leaders are trying to distance their party from the extreme right-winged group Perkasa. They agreed that supporting Perkasa views could prove detrimental to BN and UMNO. Ironically, more than 80 percent of Perkasa members come from the party.

It's most famous member, Dr Mahathir, is the patron the group led by one of the most promiscuous politicians in Malaysia, Ibrahim Ali. Despite the call to stand up against Perkasa, it is undoubtedly possible for UMNO to give a strict order for its members to disassociate themselves from the group.

A number of Pakatan leaders are demanding UMNO to explain their relationship with Perkasa. Without a firmer action against its members supporting the group, the statements made by UMNO leaders against Perkasa would be seen as a 'wayang kulit' or an act to repair the damages and grouses against the party.

Perkasa’s secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali warned political parties today, that they risk electoral defeat if they attempt to alienate the Malay rights group.

Syed Hassan expectedly derided Umno’s move to distance itself from Perkasa. He pointed out that ties between Perkasa and Umno never existed.

Without a doubt, Syed Hassan's threat comes from the group desperation for attention. The broader question should be asked if Perkasa can survive without the support and patronage of UMNO leaders and members?

The leadership of PAS and PKR had consistently spoken up against Perkasa. On the flip side, PM Najib had spoken at the group's event and ex-PM Dr M is the patron of the group. A number of UMNO leaders had defended the group's stand on race and religion. The only consistent opposition came from UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin.

Without a firmer and clean cut from Perkasa, UMNO and BN will not be able to recover its non-Malay support base. Political parties in BN should take this opportunity to push the coalition towards non-racism and greater democratisation. It does not help if parties such as MCA is still insisting that racial politics is here to stay for a long haul.

It's president Chua Soi Lek had misread the changing mindset of the Chinese electorates. They will no longer cast a vote for a MCA candidate hoping that the party will counter balance UMNO in BN. This is a thing of the past.

Malaysian Chinese voters are voting for a new dawn: a fairer, equitable and non-racial Malaysia.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Musa Hassan on Interference of Police Work: Too Late, Too Little

Musa Hassan has regarded the Home Ministry to be "interfering" with police work. His outburst may not be well received by his critics. It is seen as a desperate attempt to clear his tarnished record as the Inspector-General of Police.

In his rare outburst at his final Press conference on Monday, he had named the home ministry as one of the "third parties" causing excessive interference in the police force.

"All kinds of people interfere. People from the ministry itself, outsiders and people with vested interests who want to do things that are not right," he was reported to have said.

Ironically, he has advised his men not to become 'yes men' and yet this is exactly how he was perceived during his tenure as the chief of police. Musa's thumb print can be found in almost all political disputes between BN and Pakatan.

Remember the fiasco in the Perak state assembly? Remember the arrests made against peaceful protesters? Remember how Musa was so eager and determined to defend and protect his political masters?

Why should Musa be surprised about these interference? Why would the Home Minister appoints a near retiring police officer to the top post each time?

The whole idea is to put the chief of police under their thumb. This is a classic case of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine". Musa got his contract despite being over his retirement age and the government got a chief of police who is willing to get his men to do the dirty job.

It is crap for Musa to suggest that he was not aware of instructions given to his men. If this is true, he should have used the stick if his men had acted without his instruction. Did he do anything? No.

Musa is desperate to repair his image by pointing his finger at the Home Ministry. Predictably, he only voiced out his frustration and unhappiness after his contract was not renewed. If he gets another two years, Musa would have been more than happy to play along.

Too bad, Musa's allegations do not help to convince us that he was a chief cop in distress. He was a willing party to whatever abuses and poor decisions made by the police force.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Behind the Scene: "Battle of the Wall"

HK Veteran Actor Lau Ka Fai
China's Young Actor Qiao Ren Liang

Graffiti Battle Scene

B-boys battle scene

Malaysian comedian/actor Alvin Wong warming up the audience

A few more days left before we wrap up shooting in Penang and production will continue in Beijing for some remaining scenes.

Movie making is a hard labour but I hope more Malaysians can help to support the local entertainment and film making industry. A number of our actors and actresses barely make enough to survive.

A lack of support has rendered many contemplating to give up what they enjoy best - acting.

I hope the government will do the right thing to support this industry and help more young entertainers and actors to survive and thrive in the country.

A lot of problems can only be solved through dedication and strong political will, not just empty talk and incessant politicking over trivial issues such as race and religion.