Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Look Muhyiddin, Who is Playing Too Much Politics?

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said excessive politicking gave an impression that Malaysia is too preoccupied with political bickering that more important things are being neglected.

Muhyiddin should walk his talk on curbing excessive politicking in his own backyard too. He should immediately put a stop to making a pass of the history subject a compulsory at the SPM level.

He should order a review of the history curriculum and contents to reflect a true and comprehensive account of the national history. Repeated calls for an immediate review were ignored by him and his ministry. The fact is the history subject aims to promote certain distorted views/facts about the making of this nation.

It is one of the worse abuses of Malaysia's diversity and national history by trying to corrupt the minds of young Malaysians.

On the same breath, he asked for Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim's resignation for failing to obtain 2/3 majority to pass the motion to amend the state constitution to empower the state top executive on appointment of top state civil servant.

This is another form of politicking. Muhyiddin has resorted to poor politicking as quick as he has asked for it to be curbed.

Although I am appalled by the Selangor Pakatan's government fiddling with feudalism, I support the amendment on the basis of power decentralisation. Malaysia is a federation of states. In the true spirit of the federal constitution, a state government should be allowed to appoint its own top civil servant.

Over the last few decades, the federal government has usurped almost the entire state autonomy. It was allowed to happen because the same ruling regime has been controlling both the federal and most of the state governments since independence.

For the sake this country, Muhyiddin should support the amendment and return the state power to the state executives. It is obvious that BN state representatives had been partisan in their rejection of the motion to return the power to appoint a top state civil servant back to the state.

Muhyiddin should walk his own talk. He should not over politicize his own ministry of education and look into the grouses on the recent controversial book 'Interlok'.

Political Hypocrisy

I met a Malaysian who has been living in Taipei for the past 20 plus years. He came back to Penang recently for a short visit.

In 2004, he was tempted back to Malaysia by the government's brain gain promises. He is an engineering consultant. His 3 years stay in Penang ended up with nothing. In 2006, he packed and left Penang for good.

He told me that Taiwan is set to become the next high growth state in the new decade. Taiwan's lacklustre past decade was due to its politics. A number of my Taiwanese friends lamented to the same fact that ex-premier Chen Sui Bian was more interested in playing up political rhetoric than mending the economy and find a new area of growth for the city state. Chen's tenure is now known as the lost decade.

Malaysia may end up with the same fate if politicians continue to play up unhealthy political rhetoric, stoking racial and religious sentiments and use the monarchy for their political mileage. Our politicians should respect the spirit of the federal constitution and not meddling with the monarchy and accuse one another with 'treason'.

Adding the monarchy element into the already messy political situation muddled by race and religion will turn our politics into a dangerous cocktail.

It is sad to note that Malaysia is slipping down a slop of regression. We are no longer a top destination for FDIs. I wonder how top brains can be attracted to come to Malaysia if politicians behave like feudal lords.

We continue to quarrel over Islamic state, history textbooks, a simple handshake of a Muslim woman, personalities etc.

Politicians in Malaysia are probably the biggest hypocrites. Imagine a leader who was caught in a private sex video questioning a married Muslim woman on her choice not to have any skin contact with other men. Imagine a former activist dumping his party and his principles to join another race based party just because he was unhappy with its leadership. Malaysian politics is too personality centric but lacked principle and sincerity.

I am afraid that our politics is going to fail us. Bad politics, poor public institutions, corruption, poor governance and policy direction are among the ingredients of a failed state.

Until and unless the voters can think straight and focus on quality of governance, this country may not turn its declining fortune around.

Sadly, more talents and frustrated people are going to leave the country before the Talent Corp can even start its full operations.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Economic Debate

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has challenged PM Najib Razak to a debate on the economy. Anwar had proposed a 100-day reform which includes giving additional RM500 to teachers, abolishing all tolls and others. He claimed that it will cost the country 'just' RM19 billion.

Najib said that the Pakatan proposal will turn Malaysia into the next Greece. However, he is set to spend RM67 billion on various ETP projects this year. Among the projects include the RM43 billion new LRT lines and a RM5 billion 100-storey buildings. Will Malaysia become make the Greece financial crisis look like a storm in a tea cup?

Of course a civilised, intellectual and constructive debate is always encouraged. Politicians need to learn how to debate effectively without needing to stroke racial or religious tensions. There are some serious economic issues in Malaysia which we hope the two leaders would not only focus on how much we need to spend or to build to develop the economy.

Anwar's proposal does not is not convincing enough. While Najib has criticized the move to give additional allowance to teachers, he had done the same for Felda settlers and others. Abolishing tolls is another no brainer strategy.

It is obvious that the Malaysian economy is no longer on the regional and global investors' radar. First, we are not part of a group of emerging economies which are touted to become hop spots of growth in the 21st century.

The Next Eleven (or N-11) are eleven countries—Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam—identified by Goldman Sachs investment bank as having a high potential of becoming the world's largest economies in the 21st century along with the BRICs. The bank chose these states, all with promising outlooks for investment and future growth, on December 12, 2005.

Goldman Sachs used macroeconomic stability, political maturity, openness of trade and investment policies, and the quality of education as criteria. The N-11 paper is a follow-up to the bank's 2003 paper on the four emerging "BRIC" economies, Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

BRICs economies has been growing rapidly since 2003 benefited from the attention and weight given by investment houses following the lead of Goldman Sachs.

Instead of wasting on rhetoric, both Pakatan and Barisan leaders should focus on issues such as:

1) Jobs creation - how to create more higher value and knowledge centric jobs
2) Income per capita - how to double Malaysia's income per capita of USD8,100 so that we do not have to double the population to achieve growth in aggregate demand?
3) Lack of skills & quality of education - how to enhance the skills of Malaysian labour through a quality education system. The ministry of education should stop the fixation with the history subject and politicizing the issue of citizenship.
4) Public institutions - how to enhance the transparency, effectiveness and productivity of a politically impartial public institutions and civil service?
5) Nationhood - how to achieve a real nationhood with a holistic and responsible social engineering agenda? If the Barisan government and the likes of Perkasa continue to brand all non-Malays as migrants after 53 years of independence then there is very little hope for Malaysia to be included in any category of emerging economies.

The debate should also focus on issues related to innovation, competitiveness and productivity.

Without a taking a serious look at the economic issues, the Malaysian economy will suffer the same malaise like our political system. Both Pakatan and Barisan should accept positive and constructive criticism that there many useless, irresponsible, manipulative and insincere politicians within their ranks who are apt at using religion and race to achieve their political ends. The recent manipulation of constitutional monarchy in their political contestation is going to hurl this country backward.

Both parties might as well bring back absolute monarchy, dump democracy and send Malaysia back to the feudal era.

We should take note that Malaysia is a small and not so significant country in the region. We should do our best to attract investment and talents to our country. There are many examples on how to do so. Just take a look at how Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland and other smaller countries are doing it.

They did it by putting a key focus on citizenship and value contribution of each individual and not colour of the skin or creed.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Chua Soi Lek & RCI on Teoh Beng Hock's Death: Whither MCA?

Initially, he praised the PM setting up a RCI to probe Teoh's case when the inquest yielded no closure claiming that the government is transparent and wants to hide nothing.

Dr Chua Soi Lek flip-flopped and dismissed calls for a royal commission to probe Teoh Beng Hock’s death, whose scope has been limited to anti-graft investigation methods.

Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the formation of a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to review the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation procedures but not to probe Teoh's mysterious death.

Is Chua so desperate and willing to do anything just to heap praises on the PM?

The most important thing which has to be resolved is a closure to Teoh's sudden and gruesome death. His family deserve to know why he never walked out alive after his session at the MACC. Ironically, is the government admitting the fault of the agency by setting up a RCI to investigate the investigation process of MACC?

By limiting the scope, for sure no one will ever be prosecuted. It is scary to imagine that some possible offenders may still be lurking within the agency.

MCA wants to court the Chinese youths to support the party. On what basis should they pledge their support for a party which is a misnomer of a party claiming to represent the community if it cannot even strive for a fair, just and democratic Malaysia?

I am a non-partisan voter. Can Chua tell me why should I support his party apart from claiming that MCA needs my support to help protect my interest, which is a misnomer?

Chua is too partisan for his own good. What is his response to a group of race lunatics in Perkasa who continue to hurl abuses at the Chinese Malaysians?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Consequences of Teoh Beng Hock's Case

How often does a Coroner's Court deliver an open verdict on an inquest? The answer is not very often. But this was what happened to the controversial Teoh Beng Hock's sudden death case.

Earlier there were attempts and allegations that Teoh had taken his life because he regretted turning over his boss, a Selangor Dap State Exco, on allegations of corruption. Teoh was even accused of being involved in a minor corruption case which involved a sum of no more than RM2,400.

Mysteriously, a note which was claimed to be a suicide note surfaced towards the end of the inquest after it was held in MACC's custody for several months.

I was asked by reporters a day on the possible reactions before the coroner delivered his verdict. I said it would be disastrous for MACC, the government and the court if Teoh's case was ruled as a suicide because of a lack of hard evidence.

Moreover, Teoh's fiancee was expecting his baby and he was supposed to get married the following week. Teoh was only a witness and not a suspect of an alleged corruption case. These facts cannot conclusively confirm that it was a suicide. Hence, ruling it a suicide would tarnish even more the already suspected reputable of the public institutions.

On the other hand, I said that it would be equally bad and damaging for the government if the coroner ruled it a murder or homicide. It is hard to take the politics out of Teoh's case. There were political elements and interests involved in the corruption reports which ended up in an investigation, interrogation and his untimely death.

If it was ruled as a murder or homicide, the implications are wide and deep. The police will have to investigate right up to the ones giving instruction to the MACC to haul up Teoh, the motive and the culprits. The MACC's investigation procedure would have to be reviewed once again and it is safe to assume that it will be become one of the most unpopular public institutions in the country.

The stake is high. If any MACC officers were eventually brought to justice, which public institution or officers would allow the collusion between ruling politicians and civil servants to continue without any protection against prosecution?

The claim that this government does not manipulate any public institution to its benefit and advantage is becoming quite lame and unconvincing. Imagine the use of police force to break up opposition political gatherings but keeping closed eyes on Barisan or pro-Barisan gatherings, questionable judicial verdict, controversial decision by Election Commission to ignore vote buying and others.

The continuation of the manipulation may give Barisan short-to-medium term advantage but it is also eroding its legitimacy to lead as a popularly elected government. It cannot continue hoping to win elections through constituency delineation, postal votes and sectarianism.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that a Royal Commission of Inquiry will be set up to investigate the Teoh Beng Hock case.

I agree with Perkasa on the need of a RCI but disagree on the reason. Perkasa said it would tantamount to disrespecting the courts and a waste of public funds. I question the effectiveness of the RCI if the government can choose to follow or not the recommendations of RCI.

It is unfortunate that RCIs have lost its relevance and reverence. We need a government which is serious about good governance, rule of law and democracy.

Malaysians must play a part in the case. They need to deliver the right and fair verdict on the quality of governance and the government in the next general election. This is the only way to help Malaysia.

I was also asked about the court's verdict raising ethnic tension in the country. I responded by saying that the death of Teoh Beng Hock was not driven by racial hatred or violence. His death was was a result of a failed democracy, irresponsible governance and an abuse of power.

Malaysians of all races are appalled by his death. I felt the same for Kugan, Aminulrasyid and others who were brutally killed.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Male Chauvinism & Gerakan's Tan Keng Liang

Gerakan Kedah Youth leader Tan Keng Liang has accused Pakatan of politicizing his tweet on Hannah's pregnancy. It was Tan who had tried to turn Hannah's pregnancy into a political issue in the first place. The Sun's R Nadeswaran is not a politician.

Tan has been one of the better Gerakan youth leaders but his stubborn denial and refusal to apologize for his improper male chauvinistic mannerism is going to dig a deeper political pit for him and his party.

Tan clarified that during a twitter conversation, he had asked a voter in the constituency if he would choose MCA Beliawanis treasurer Jessica Lai or incumbent Hannah Yeoh (right), who will be on maternity leave soon, for the post.

When Yeoh asked him what he meant by "maternity leave", Tan clarified that it merely meant that the former would not be able to provide services to her constituents during her leave, which she was entitled to.

Any fair minded Malaysian should be able to read that Tan's response and intention is inappropriate. I am sure any right minded Subang voters would understand and appreciate Hannah's need and right for maternity leave.

Like Tan, Hannah is one of the better young leaders in her party. She has a good service record in the constituency. She has sacrificed immensely, personal time (not a mere 8 to 5 commitment) and financially, to serve the people. She is now making a personal sacrifice for her family and husband by bearing a child for him.

To insinuate that she would not be able to serve her constituents during her leave and voters should choose a single and unmarried woman to represent them is an insult of the highest order.

Tan should just apologize and move on. It is politically not correct to be labelled as a male chauvinist.