Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blog Research

"Is blogging an effective tool to democratize Malaysia?"

June Tan is a Masters student at the Centre for Public Policies in Universiti Malaya. As part of her Masters thesis, she is researching on the above issue.

She has set up a simple survey for bloggers as well as blog-readers to complete. I've completed it and it'll only take between 5 - 10 minutes of your time.

To find out more about her research, you can visit her research blog. There are some interesting blog culture analysis there, although they are based more on research in the United States. She intends to publish her findings and conclusions in public upon completion of her thesis. It certainly will be interesting to know how effective blogs will be, particularly for the next general elections ;)

Transformation of Malays

I wrote on "Education & the New Economic Policy" in my Education-in-Malaysia blog more than a year ago. That was before the New Economic Policy (NEP) became once again a political hot potato in the current year.

Given the recent brouhaha over the the equity achievement of the respective ethnic communities, I thought it is worthwhile to take a step back and relook at a quote, taken surprisingly from Tun Daim Zainuddin, our former finance minister and the architect of "Malaysia, Inc" when he spoke on "Issues facing the Malays".
The natural second phase to social and economic transformation of the Malays is only through education, not equity participation. You take care of education and they will have enough to participate in the capital market...

The NEP (New Economic Policy) has always concentrated on equity participation of the Malays. The poor Malay's route to success will not be through having shares in the KLSE (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, now Bursa Malaysia).

(But) it is through education. The obsession with equity figures have eclipsed the true success story of the NEP. The vast numbers of educated Malays produced since the 70s, they have contributed to the expanding middle class.
One may not particularly like Tun Daim for the cronyistic business empires he helped built in the 1980s and 1990s, but certainly, once cannot disagree with Tun Daim's opinion of the NEP above.

It is unfortunate that the governing UMNOputras are only interested in short-term financial gains and unsheathing the keris as can be observed from the recently concluded UMNO General Assembly.

Did anyone even catch anything significant raised on issues relating to the quality of education? Did we hear anybody lamenting on the poor placement of local universities in global rankings? And given the typical over-the-top nature of the delegates speeches, we could have at least heard someone ask "when is Malaysia going to produce the next Nobel laureate?"

No. No UMNOputra worth his membership card discusses issues of real importance at these assemblies. Nothing about corruption. Nothing about education. Not even much about the economy. It's all about quotas, blood, keris and yeah, running 'amok'.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ethnic Group Income Disparity Ratio

It has always been put forward that a "huge gap" in the income disparity ratio between ethnic groups is one of the key rationales for extending the New Economic Policy in favour of Bumiputeras. I've written on the fallacy of such a policy in its ability to assist poor Bumiputeras. However, I thought we should re-look again at the official statistics provided by the Government to determine if it provides the true picture.

In the 9th Malaysia Plan, it was put forward that "the income disparity ratio between Bumiputera and Chinese narrowed from 1:1.74 in 1999 to 1:1.64 in 2004, while the ratio between Bumiputera and Indians also reduced from 1:1.36 to 1:1.27."

Professor K S Jomo, in his paper written in September 2004, "The New Economic Policy (NEP) and Interethnic Relations in Malaysia" for United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), put forward that
...with the average Malay fertility rate about double the Chinese rate at the end of the 1980s, and with the Indian rate slightly higher than the Chinese, it is also quite possible that per capita Malay income levels will continue to remain low, and poverty correspondingly high, simply due to larger household sizes.
Well this basically means, hopefully in simpler terms, is that there are proportionately more young Malays than other ethnic groups who have yet to join the workforce. And because their numbers form part of the total population which brings down the average income level, they may have distorted the actual income disparity between the various ethnic groups.

In other words, since there are proportionately more non-income generating young Malays, it is likely that the average income level of bumiputeras is lowered more than it should be, relative to that of the other ethnic groups.

What I did next was a little number crunching based on population numbers extracted from the 7th, 8th and 9th Malaysia Plan. (Those interested in actual numbers, can email me).
  • Firstly, I assumed that all Malaysians under the age of 15 have not joined the workforce, and hence do not earn any income.

  • Secondly, I obtained the total income generated by the respective ethnic groups.

  • Thirdly, instead of dividing the income generated by bumiputeras by the total bumiputera population, I divided the income by the population less the those aged 15 and below. I apply the similar formula to the other ethnic groups.
As a result, by removing the population under the age of 15 in the calculation of per capita income of the various ethnic groups, the income disparity ratio between Bumiputeras with Chinese and Indians, is reduced significantly to 1.34 and 1.11 respectively. If we were to increase the age group which is removed from calculation to 20, the income disparity ratio will drop even further.

Click table to enlarge.

It is hence clear that while income disparity continues to exist even after adjusting the methodology for income disparity ratio calculations, the disparity between the ethnic groups is no longer glaring. Compare this to the other indicators such as urban-rural income disparity ratio which worsened from 1.81 in 1999 to 2.11 in 2004 as well as the consistently deteriorating intra-ethnic income disparity ratio (blogged here).

Hence the argument that the income disparity ratio between the various ethnic communities being substantially big and serious is no longer as relevant. And the income disparity ratio today is a far cry from the days of independence whereby it was 2.16 and 1.71 between the Bumiputeras with the Chinese and Indians respectively.

The crux of the NEP is hence misguided in its core focus on inter-ethnic income disparity, when the Government should instead be placing greater emphasis in halting the much more urgent and serious deterioration of rural-urban as well as intra-ethnic income disparity.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Tarzan, You Dumb

This probably can only happen in the jungles of Malaysia.

We elect a Minister who tells you that you are too dumb and have not attained the necessary "mental maturity" to watch live parliamentary debates.

As reported in Malaysiakini, "Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin has ruled out live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings, saying the public was not mature enough to accept MPs' behaviour and racially charged debate."

He refused opposition requests for the broadcasts on Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), saying "the decision was made in the interests of safeguarding harmony in the multi-racial country."

Surely the decision has nothing to do with the fact that the Barisan Nasional MPs' persistent habit of making sexist and insensitive remarks, the fact that they are often missing from parliamentary sessions, the fact that Ministers and Deputy Ministers are hardly present to answer questions and the fact that many often dozed off during debates. It also absolutely does not matter that the rakyat would like to see their elected MPs perform their duly elected legislative duties in Parliament.

No, it has absolutely nothing to do with the above. It's a simple case of Zainuddin Tarzan, you Dumb.

Open Tenders?

This is getting really difficult to swallow. In 2004, Pak Lah specifically promised that all government contracts will be competitively tendered. Pak Lah told Malaysian business leaders that Kuala Lumpur needed to make the contract awarding process “transparent, with open tendering the norm”. I believed. Or rather, I so really wanted to believe, that Malaysia was going to undergo a period of positive change.

Over the past 2 years alone, major and significant contracts have been awarded without competitive tendering.

And I feel like such a sucker today.

I'm a fan of the KL Low-Cost Carrier Termainal (LCCT). But did you know that the RM280 million contract to build the terminal was granted to a listed company without calling for competitive bids?

As part of the 9th Malaysia Plan, UMNO-linked UEM World was awarded the estimated RM2-3 billion second bridge in Penang. Again, it's going to be a direct negotiation between the Government and the company, and no price has been fixed yet.

More recently, the Ministry of Works announced an unexpected RM400 million new palace for the Yang Di-Pertuan Agung. And surprise, surprise, the contract has been awarded to a certain “Maya Maju”, with no known expertise and experience in large-scale constrcutions. According to research by Maverick SM, Maya Maju (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd is privately owned dormant RM5 million paid up company with no revenue and only 2 shareholders. On what merits were they awarded the contract?

And today, I read in the Star that a RM600 million contract has been awarded to Projek Lintasan Shah Alam Sdn Bhd (PLSA) to connect the Kesas Kota Kemuning Interchange with the Federal Highway. PLSA is 90% owned by Projek Lintasan Kota Holdings Sdn Bhd (Prolintas), the concessionaire for the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur elevated highway. Once again, no open competitive tender for the Highway project?

Again, no one knows the terms of the contract with the concessionaire? And again, in years to come, we'll face annual exorbitant increase in toll charges due to unfair contracts which the Government would claim they can't do much about. Otherwise, as per Datuk Seri Samy Vellu's out-of-tune over-played recording, “the Government could not afford to compensate the concessionaires”.

Nobody is quibbling with the fact that many of these projects are indeed necessary and potentially beneficial for the Rakyat. However, in the interest of an efficient and productive economy, in the interest of transparency and integrity, and in the interest of the tax-payers' hard-earned money, where are the competitive open tenders promised for Government projects?

Pak Lah's promise of open tenders for Government projects have become an Open Season for UMNO cronies, particular for the much touted 9th Malaysia Plan projects. To quote the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Sdr Lim Kit Siang, 'The Prime Minister promised to walk the talk. I only hear the talking, where's the walk?'

Rebuilding Kg Berembang

Photo Credit: Politikus

"Citizens sleep in tents; Ministers live in luxury".
For context, read "Marginalising the Poor"

Photo Credit: Politikus

Residents who had their homes destroyed takes shelter in tents with the Petronas Twin Towers, the symbol of Malaysia's developed status as the backdrop.

Monday, November 27, 2006

House Buying

You guys ever wondered how Malaysia's house-buying process is extremely unfavourable to the purchaser? Well, I attended an information sharing session with the volunteer team from House Buyers' Association, and ended up a little more knowledgeable ;).

Just for the purposes of comparison, when you do go out and buy your dream car, be it a Proton or a BMW, worth RM50,000 or RM500,000, what's the process like? Typically, you'll pay 5% to 10% downpayment and the balance once your car is ready for delivery in a week or two.

The question then is, why is it that we as house-buyers have to pay a 10% upfront, and subsequently continue making progressive payments over a period of two years or so, before finally gaining 'vacant possession'? Often, our banks would have disbursed some 90% of our housing loan facility for the purchase, before the house or apartment is even completed!

Given that a car and a house can cost the same, why is the purchase of the car so much more convenient compared to the purchase of a house for the buyers like you or me? What's worse, is that the house-buyers are actually significantly disadvantaged in the process.

Firstly and most obviously, house-buyers are actually financing the developers, hence saving the developers cost of funds, and ultimately increasing their profits.

Secondly, house-buyers have to foot the interest cost for the financing period before the house is actually handed over to the buyer. It's basically a case of paying interest for loans disbursed, without the corresponding returns.

And thirdly, possibly most critically, the house-buyers are sharing a substantial risk in the execution and viability of the project, when they have absolutely nothing to gain, and all to lose from doing so.

Let me elaborate. In the event of poor execution by the developers or poor project viability for any reason, the risk of the housing development should be bourne between the housing developer and their bank or financiers. For example, if the developer faced cashflow problems resulting in the delay to the project, or if the project failed to sell as many units as projected, it is a business risk taken by both the developer and the financing institutions.

However, in the current case today, in the event whereby the housing developer fails to complete the project due to cashflow, poor management or even fraud, the house purchaser actually bears the bulk of the risk, because you have secured financing from the banks by pledging your to-be-completed property.

That actually means that if the developer fails to complete the project for any reason, then not only do you have to continue to service the bank loan you have undertaken, but you will also not have "possession" of the yet-to-be-completed property.

That's because the developers would also have taken some form of financing from their banks to develop the property, and the land under development would also have been charged to their bank. Hence, if a developer fails to deliver or absconds from the project, the developers' bank will have the first say over "your" yet-to-be-completed property or land.

Hence, house-buyers who should not be in anyway involved with the risk of the property development venture, are hit by a double whammy. The logical question then is, is this a fair deal for the house-buyer? And it's a particularly pertinent question for some buyers of 58,000 homes in the country who have had their dream homes becoming abandoned monsters? This number doesn't even yet include commercial properties such as shop offices or service apartments which have been abandoned!

Thanks to the efforts of House Buyers Association (HBA), the Government has now agreed to implement a 10:90 system in parallel with the existing system for 2 years. This 10:90 system means a deposit of 10% shall be placed for the house upon the signing of the Sale & Purchase agreement, whilst the remaining 90% shall only be payable upon the completion and 'vacant possession' of the property. While the government agreed to incentives for housing developers to adopt the 10:90 system, the latter are still given a choice as to the system to be rolled out.

The problem however, is that prior to the rollout of the new system, certain regulations in the Ministry of Housing & Local Government and the Ministry of Land & Co-operative Development need to be amended. It has been some 6 months since the Government announced the 10:90 system, nothing has yet been done.

HBA is a voluntary, non-political, non-governmental, non-profit organisation manned by volunteers. Visit their website for more information, education and see the ways in which you can provide your support to lobby the government for a fair deal for house-buyers.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Khairy Rationalises

This year's UMNO General Assembly has raised a great deal of concern and controversy in ethnic relations in this country. Khairy Jamaluddin, my fellow alumnus and UMNO Youth Deputy Head, defends the "jingoistic chest thumping" ringing in the Putra World Trade Centre.

Firstly, he admits that the verbal assault made by UMNO delegates on the other communities in Malaysia did indeed hurt feelings and raise concerns about the future of race relations in Malaysia.
These issues, no doubt, channelled into a crescendo of powerful oratory, one or two of which crossed the boundaries of ethno-nationalism into jingoistic chest thumping. This has led to alarm bells of communal tension ringing, with many understandably concerned about the future of race relations in Malaysia.
He then defends the atmosphere and conduct of the General Assembly on 2 key reasons. Firstly, it is the very basis of the Barisan Nasional ethnically divided component parties to fight for the rights of its own community.
This is to be expected because the raison d’etre for individual communal parties like Umno, MCA and MIC is our "struggle" or perjuangan for our respective communities.
And secondly, he argued that this year's General Assembly is no more or no less racially and emotionally charged as previous years. And hence given that in the past, there wasn't such a furious reaction, why should there be one for the recently concluded Assembly?
When I checked with several other more experienced Umno figures if my impression that the debate this year was no more, no less emotionally charged than those in the past, they agreed based on historical perspectives that far outstretch mine...

Simply put, no matter how emotionally charged the assemblies have been in the past — whether Umno, MCA or MIC meetings — at the end of the day, the government that all the BN component parties represent has never abandoned the moderate centre in our political spectrum.
That's where Khairy's wrong on both counts.

Firstly, even if I were to agree with an ethnically divided approach to governing the country (which I don't), there's a fine but simple difference between protecting the interest of one's own community as opposed to threatening the other ethnic groups with keris and blood.

Secondly, the fact that the members of UMNO have been in the wrong year in year out without any untoward incidents to date is definitely not an excuse for the wrongs to be perpetuated indefinitely. In the past, "untoward incidents" may not have arisen purely because of limited and controlled access to the media. However, with a more educated community, better greater information access and even live telecasts via cable TV - should we wait patiently towards a national disaster?

To put it simply, just because I can evade detection beating red-lights on a daily basis is no justification for me to continue breaking the law.

Finally, Khairy attempted to exonerate all the wrongs of the assembly, by claiming the Prime Minister demonstrated leadership in the face of "a few days of charged rhetoric".
Leadership is when you let everything that needs to be said, out in the open, but have the credibility, moral authority and courage to bring everyone back to the centre, to smooth the frayed edges, to soothe raw nerves and to turn charged emotions into a positive energy with a purpose not just for Malays but for Malaysians.
Wrong. Leadership is when you demonstrate an even but firm hand on those who have crossed the line to ensure that such irresponsible acts are never repeated again. Leadership is when you demonstrate to the other communities that you not only say what you mean, but also mean what you say.

Given the nervousness of the other communities and even Malays themselves, the other Barisan Nasional component parties, are forced to go to the grassroots to explain on behalf of UMNO. Clearly, the Prime Minister has failed in his task "to smooth the frayed edges, to soothe raw nerves and to turn charged emotions into a positive energy."

Khairy has to rationalise better than that. And there's no better way to do that than to be rational himself.

A Real Catch?

"He is what one would call “a real catch” in the game of courtship."

When Ting (the missus) read what Joceline Tan of The Star wrote about her hubby of more than 10 years now, she went laughing her head off. She must know something that Joceline doesn't ;-p. And here I thought she would be flattered, and I could earn some additional brownie points. ;)

And The Star managed to dig up a really old photo, probably 3 pairs of spectacles ago when there was much less white highlights on the hair. :-)

Okay, so The Star wasn't talking so much about the typical boyfriend-girlfriend courtship, but on political courtship. The fact that the Democratic Action Party (DAP) is allegedly seeking to have me as part of their line up. Obviously, I wasn't the only party the DAP is apparently "courting" as per the article.
...over the last year, bloggers – especially those who are politically inclined – have also become a potential source of new talent or even general election candidates.

One of them, said DAP sources, is none other than Jeff Ooi, who is touted as “Malaysia’s most influential blogger” and whose “Screenshots” blog is now in its sixth year. The effervescent Ooi was one of the speakers at a DAP forum dissecting the three-year-old administration of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

But Ooi is not the only blogger being courted by DAP leaders... Pua, 34, whose blog carries intelligent opinions on education issues, is also on their radar screen. On top of that, he is an Oxford graduate and CEO of a public-listed company. He is what one would call “a real catch” in the game of courtship. And he is said to be willing and ready.

Ooi, who is actually a Gerakan member, seems neither as willing nor as ready. He insisted “it’s too premature at this point.”
Other young guns already working within the party includes Liew Chin-Tong, a political science Masters graduate from Australia National University and Anthony Loke Siew Fook, already a state assemblyman for Lobak, Negeri Sembilan.

Joceline has argued that DAP stands to be the main beneficiary from the undercurrents of discontent, particularly in urban constituencies. She cited the Sarawak state elections as an example of "what fresh, new faces could do for the party".
It was evident that given the right ground sentiments, voters were willing to give new blood a chance, and more so if they had respectable educational credentials. Two fresh-faced women lawyers won despite their inexperience.

There has been concern over the way the Government has handled social and political issues, and a great deal of dissatisfaction with cost-of-living issues. The racial rhetoric at the Umno general assembly has not helped. The DAP will be the main beneficiary of the discontent in urban constituencies, hence the effort to headhunt new talent.
As to the fact of whether I'm "willing and ready"? ;-)

Well, it's actually not such a simple question. Firstly and most importantly, I'm responsible for some 60 employees within the company. If I were to go, I have to make sure that their future are not jeopardised and that they will continue to enjoy the growth in their chosen careers.

Secondly, in our current heavily intertwined business and political environment, many clients may not take kindly to the possibility that I take an active political role, particularly if I'm on the wrong side of the fence.

Hence, until the above issues are resolved, there's no way I can take a political role in any capacity. But we'll see. We'll see. ;-p

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Do we have some economically clueless ministers and legislators running this country or what?

Malaysia Airline System (MAS), our national carrier which has degenerated close to being a bankrupt airlines over the past decade due to severe mismanagement and excessive inappropriate government interference is still in the midst of executing a business turnaround plan.

For the year 9-months ending 2005, MAS made astronomical losses of RM1.3 billion. The losses was more than the 3 prior consecutive years of profits added together from April '02 to March '05, amounting to RM1.12 billion. Prior to that MAS also made 2 consecutive years of losses amounting to RM1.25 billion.

For the current year, in the midst of its turnaround plan, MAS has accumalated losses of RM470,000 based on the first two quarters. The market is expecting continued lossess for the remainder of the year, despite obviously recovery from the excesses of the past.

Idris Jala, a high-flyer from Petronas, was given the thankless task of turning around the airlines within a 2-3 year period and he duly launched the Business Turnaround Plan in February this year. So far, he seems to be doing a fairly decent job, despite criticisms of certain policies such as the payouts for the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) launched.

However, over the past week, worrying trends seem to be emerging again. Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Barisan Nasional component parties were crying foul over some of the proposed fare increases in the domestic flights. Some, like Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin of Kinabatangan criticised insufficient flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. It's again headline news in the Star today, whereby Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the national carrier agreed to re-look certain sectors after a two-and-a-half hour meeting at his office here yesterday, in response to the criticisms.

What is our government trying to do? Is it adamant in screwing up our national airlines and offering more bail out schemes to save it each time? Our government appears to have forgotten that the market dynamics for airlines have changed drastically over the past decade or so, such that it is critical for the airlines to manage it's own price-volume strategies in order to cope with the competition (Air Asia) and the drastic increase in fuel costs.

Claims of insufficient flights to Kota Kinabalu by the MPs are absolute nonsense. In the past when MAS had a virtual monopoly of domestic flights, there were at most 5 to 6 flights a day between the cities each way. And a return flight would have set you back RM400 or so. Today, Air Asia alone offers 6 flights daily, in addition to 5 flights from MAS. As for poorer Malaysians, an Air Asia return ticket inclusive of surcharges costs as low as RM120! And it's no gimmick, I've secured the lowest fares umpteen times in travelling my favourite airline.

MAS, due to its nature as a premium airline, has to position and price itself as such relative to the competition. A direct attempt to compete on price with Air Asia will only result in tragedy. The bottomline is, there are more flights between the capital cities today than ever before, at prices which would have been unbelievable then. What's the complaint?

The Transport Minister's action will have two very serious repercussions. Firstly, it will result in derailing the critical implementation of the MAS turnaround plan. When that happens, the only outcome will be further bailouts by the Government with tax payers' funds.

Secondly, and possibly more critically, the Minister's actions will be bound to dampen investors', both local and foreign, interest with MAS and other Malaysian stocks. Government adhoc interference, especially due to irrational demands by legislators, will provide no predictability and confidence to investors in the Malaysian companies and markets.

Come on! Where are the economic brains in the Government?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Distorted Umno

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said the live telecast was viewed as inappropriate as it gave a distorted picture of the ruling Umno proceedings during its key general assembly. "It has given an inaccurate picture of the proceedings of the general assembly," Najib said. Therefore, no more live telecasts.

Datuk Seri Najib also conceded that some speeches during the just concluded assembly were extreme. "Sometimes inexperienced speakers tend to get carried away by the occasion and they play to the gallery."

Datuk Seri, inexperienced speakers, as far as I'm aware, will be more than happy to be able to string a couple of sentences together in front of hundreds of people and thousands of live television audience. Inexperienced speakers are certainly not those who are able to "play to the gallery".
  • Azimi 'blood of Malay warriors' Daim, UMNO Youth Exco,
  • Datuk Mohammad 'Amok' Rahmat, former Minister of Information,
  • Razak 'mengamok' Idris, Terengganu Information Youth Chief,
  • Hasnoor 'bathe in blood' Sidang Hussein of Melaka and
  • Hashim 'use the keris' Suboh, of Perlis
These speakers are certainly regulars at the UMNO general assembly, and by no means inexperienced! In fact, they are not only experienced at the assembly, they are elected by UMNO members to be taking part in the assembly. Hence they are representing UMNO members throughout the country.

Now if a live and direct telecast without censorship and editing of the assembly proceedings doesn't give the best and 'truest' picture of what UMNO grassroot leaders and by extension, UMNO itself, then what will?

Datuk Seri Najib said that the live proceedings gave a "distorted picture of the ruling UMNO", he is only being honest for its true, UMNO is indeed distorted!

(Tony now has a sinus headache distorting distorted discourse.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Deteriorating Income Disparity

Malaysia’s New Economic Policy (NEP) was first announced in 1970 as the principal policy response to the post-election race riots of May 1969. The NEP had two prongs, namely “poverty eradication regardless of race” and “restructuring society to eliminate the identification of race with economic function”. However, we all know that in essence and in reality, the NEP policies are pro-bumiputera, or more specifically, pro-Malay. Over time, the NEP became less about poverty eradication and more about “restructuring society”.

However, even in the context as a policy which aims to serve the interests of the Malays, has it achieved its objectives? The answer is obvious, and it is contained specifically in government documents.

No. The NEP, or its modern equivalent incarnates, the National Development Policy (NDP) or the National Vision Policy (NVP) have failed miserably in alleviating the plight of the middle-class and poor Malays.

For the past fifteen years since 1990, the income disparity between the rich and the poor has increased significantly and consistently over the years. The top 20% income earners in the country have increased their wealth distribution from 50.0% in 1990 to 50.5% in 1999 and 51.2% in 2004. On the other hand, the poorest 40% of the country, of which the Malays and other bumiputeras form a substantial majority, have seen their wealth distribution in the country decline at an accelerating pace from 14.5% in 1990 to 14.0% in 1999 to 13.5% in 2004.

The failure in the persistence of the NEP is obvious and clear for all to see. And the statistics is readily available in the Governments 8th and 9th Malaysia Plan. The perpetuation of NEP serves only in making the rich UMNOputras even richer, and the poor Malays, bumiputeras and other races poorer.

Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros' shennigans which aren't unique to Klang, the ruthless destruction of homes of the poor and the marginalised education system for the bumiputeras in Sabah serves as clear indications that the NEP has gotten it absolutely wrong for Malays and for Malaysia.

We need to promote a policy which is specifically targetted at the poor Malaysians, of whom the majority are Malays and bumiputeras such that they receive the necessary assistance from the government, society and community. We do not need a policy which serves only to protect the economic and political interest of the UMNOputra race.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Marginalising the Poor

UMNO talks about protecting the rights of their own community, their own race. It must be true. For they will do anything in their power to protect the interest of the UMNOputra race, at the expense of all other races, including Malays, Chinese, Indians and other bumiputeras.

The companies, Perspektif Massa Sdn Bhd and Cahaya Kelang Construction (CKC), subsidiary of Acmar International owned by a certain Tee Ah Lek and his family, with the complicity of the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MBAJ), the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and possibly the Selangor State Government, flattened some 20 or more homes of more than 50 people who have been living there for the past 30 years in Kampung Berembang, despite the fact that their alternative homes are only scheduled to be completed in 6 months time. Even their legal case which is pending hearing in Shah Alam High Court has been postponed to next year, giving the residents little or no recourse to the developers' unjust actions.

Thanks to Nathaniel, who writes brilliantly at, we know that the Selangor State Government, through its investment vehicle, Permodalan Negeri Selangor Berhad is intertwined extensively with a crony property-construction company, Acmar International. They have for that matter, set up a joint-venture company to develop various projects in Selangor, 7 of which is listed on the CKC website.

Interestingly enough, this semi-government joint-venture, PNSB-Acmar has failed to submit audited accounts since year 2000 when it lost RM16 million, a serious offence under the Companies' Act. In addition, Dato’ Abd. Samad bin Maharuddin @ Samat - former Special Officer to the Menteri Besar of Selangor, (persumably) his son Mr. Mohammad Khairul Dato’ Abd Samad and one Dato’ Mustapha Abd. Hamid, who was former Senior Assistant Director in the Prime Ministers Department, forms part of the board of directors at Acmar International.

The pictures, I'm certain tells a thousand words. More extensive and detailed reporting is available at

Nobody is questioning the fact that if the residents are indeed squatting illegally on state or private property, they should be required to move to new accomodations. However, given the fact that these residents have been staying on the site for the past 30 years without interruption and the fact that their alternative low-cost residence to be provided by the state government is not yet ready, surely the Selangor State Government could have done a whole lot more to protect the interest of the poor, in this case, poor bumiputeras.

As reported in Malaysiakini, as recently as November 2nd, "the villagers had met Selangor State Secretary Ramli Mahmud who said he would see if they can stay here until their homes are completed in April next year.”

Where are the UMNO Youth keris-waving protagonist who complained incessantly about protecting Malay rights and allegedly marginalised Malays in Penang under the Gerakan state government, when much worse is suffered by the poor Malays in UMNO-led self-declared "developed state" of Selangor? Just as 'squatters' were evicted from their homes to allow UMNOputra Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros to build his illegal palatial mansion, is this going to be the same fate for Kampung Berembang?

Or is this going to be another case whereby the Menteri Besar proclaims that "Selangor is special", so "semuanya OK"?

(Footnote: There has been an appeal for TENTS, food, clothing and basic supplies for the villagers who have had all their belongings destroyed in the demolition and are now left under the rain with no shelter. Those kind enough to contribute support in this difficult time can contact Encik Hamzah, who will be coordinating some of the aid, at 019 249 2065.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Food Poisioning

Not a fun two-days in Kota Kinabalu.

The family had an enjoyable day out on Friday visiting the Kinabalu Park and the Poring Hot Sprints. Only hitches in the day was sore bums and a nauseaus two-and-a-half hour winding return trip down hill. And the kid threw up from motion sickness. But that really isn't too bad. Being too tired to leave the hotel for dinner, we had a redeeming seafood buffet dinner at the hotel's Five Sails restaurant, which the missus and kid thoroughly enjoyed. ;)

On Saturday, we did the touristy thing and took a 4-hour return journey in the authentic steam-engine train from Tanjung Aru to Papar, complete with attendants dressed in colonial attire. The trip was marginally interesting, with stopovers at a small Chinese temple and the little township of Papar. One thing that you should note however, should you decide to attempt the train journey is to obtain the walk-in rate (RM240 for 2 adults), instead of booking in advance with the various tour agencies (RM195 or more per adult). You may run the risk of missing a seat though, as the train was fully occupied.

The later part of the evening was spent in visiting the markets at the waterfront. I must say that the market is a photographer's dream and you probably can spend a couple of hours in the crowded, colourful market shooting photos.

But that's when things sort of turned for the worse. Being street-food connosieurs that we are, we decided to postpone our original plan of having dinner at the fairly new Port View seafood restaurant, and instead, attempt the barbeque seafood stalls in the market, where you can probably eat all you want for RM50 for the entire family. One gigantic barbequed tiger prawn costs RM7, while the same live prawn cooked in a seafood restaurant will cost RM18-RM28.

I woke up at 3 am with severe tummy ache followed by multiple bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting. Wow, I've never ever had it so bad. The hotel's resident doctor visited by about 6am while I was shivering cold from head to toe. And the doctor left with a bill presumably more painful than the two injections I had.

Fantasies about receiving TLC from the missus soon evaporated when she too, succumbed to food poisoning. Sigh. Thankfully for the entire day yesterday, the kid was nice enough to spend most of her time playing on her own instead of being overly fussy, leaving the bed-stricken parents to sleep most of the day. What was disappointing was the fact that we missed the weekly Sunday morning market in Jalan Gaya, which I was so looking forward to.

Most of today was spent recuperating as both parents are devoid of energy to travel beyond the hotel grounds. We'd be back home this evening, and we'd be mightily pleased with the absence of any further misadventures for the rest of the trip.

We'll definitely be back to Kota Kinabalu again, despite having all three family members purging at one point or another. The little we have experienced definitely whetted the appetite for more. There's still plenty left to do out here. ;) In the meantime, it's back to regular blogging schedule. ;p

UMNO Hypocrisy

I wrote about double standards earlier, with one set of laws for UMNOputras while another for the man-on-the-street like you and me.

It was just a few weeks ago that the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said that the illegal palatial mansion Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros should not be torn down because he'll then have to do the same to 5,000(!) other illegal factories and buildings. The fact that the presence of 5,000 illegal factories doesn't reflect well on his admistration didn't matter, just as long as he doesn't have to tear down Datuk Zakara's palace.

The story is however different in Bukit Mertajam. Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) tried to demolish a Taoist temple a few days ago, apparently due to absence of approval. A 40-man enforcement team escorted by auxiliary policemen turned up at the Tou Mu Kung temple in Jalan Maju attempting to demolish the building using excavators.

At the same time, “the enforcement team prevented temple committee members from entering the building to remove statues of deities and other praying material” and proceeded to “tear down the temple’s front portion” despite appeals from various parties including Gerakan State Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman, and Berapit State Assemblyman Lau Chiek Tuan and Bukit Mertajam DAP Member of Parliament Chong Eng.

What's worse is apparently, there was a promise by MPSP president Datuk Mohd Aris Ariffin that the temple’s status would be discussed at the state executive council meeting next Wednesday. Clearly, what MPSP attempted to do was to ensure a fait accompli rendering the discussion irrelevant.

Temple demolitions appear to be the order of the day for UMNO dominated and appointed local councils, for whatever perceived agenda. There is clear and absolute disregard to the sensitivities of the minority communities. Even Barisan Nasional's key coalition partners such as Gerakan leaders are treated with such derisory contempt.

On the other hand, it is clear that similar transgressions by UMNOputras are treated preferentially. For them, the Menteri Besars themselves will provide the reasons and excuses for not tearing down the illegal structures. Even Senators will tell you that it's OK to break the law, just as long as you pay the fines.

The irony of Datuk Zakaria's case is that prior to the state alienating the 40,000 sq ft of land to him for a fraction of its market value, it was occupied by the poor Malay squatters, the very people UMNO seeks to protect. This is UMNO hypocrisy at its very best.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Senator: It's OK to Break Law

Yes, and everybody does it, so what's the big deal? That's exactly what Senator Tajul Urus Mohd Zain of Kedah implied when he defended his ayahanda the current scrouge and whipping boy of Selangor, Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros. Here's what he proudly declared during the UMNO General Assembly:

...Tajul Urus said the Selangor politician was merely doing the normal thing that everybody did — build any building first. If there’s a problem, just pay the fine.

So again, there you have it. A member of the Senate itself, a law-making and approving body for the laws of the country, telling you that it's ok for you to break the law, as long as you pay the fine for it later.

Go ahead, the laws of this country is just to enable the government to collect fines. Who cares about Visit Malaysia Year 2007, just litter all around town. If you get caught, just pay the fine. Who cares about the Malaysian rivers, just drain all your toxic waste into them. If you get caught, just pay the fine. Who cares about the safety of innocent lives, just speed along the highway (while drunk, if you like). If you get caught, just pay the fine. Everyone does it, so why not you?

And guess what? The members of this country's governing political party applauded his statement. Did the honourable leaders of this country reprimand Senator for his bringing the Parliament and the laws of this country to absolute disrepute? This unelected legislator deserves the strongest of reprimands by Pak Lah himself, and yet, we don't even hear a pin drop.

That's consensual leadership for you.

(Footnote: Ayahanda means "dearest father", but in Hokkien, it sounds rather rude ;-p)


In a week of UMNO stone age feudal warlords are "letting of steam", in the words of the Prime Minister, by threatening to run "amok" and "risk lives and bathe in blood", (and shrinking journalist's brains to the size of a pea), it is great to hear the voice of reason amongst young intelligent and educated Malays.

Wan Mohd Aimran is a final year physicist in Imperial College, London. I've not ever met or spoken to him, I've only read his blog. I certainly hope to meet him one of these days when he's back in Malaysia. But it is through his blog, that I find 'hope' for the country.

In his post with regards to the recent debate and controversy over the Never Ending Policy, he argued that the NEP "which has been reincarnated under different guises over the years - has been vulgarized, its original aims have long been betrayed. It is now nothing more than a facade, a pretense to generate wealth rather than to redistribute it."
The act of questioning the validity of the NEP has long been a taboo for both the Malays and non-Malays - the non-Malays risk being labeled as opponents or threats to the integrity of the Malay race while the Malays risk being branded as traitors to their own race for doing so.

In the view of the UMNO politicians, only they - the so-called UMNOputras - have the wisdom, skills and determination to tinker, oversee and make statements about the NEP; it is perceived to be purely their exclusive domain.
And these UMNOputras clearly do not have the interest of the country at heart:
It does not matter to them that the NEP which originally seeks to address the economic imbalance between the Malays and non-Malays and in the process becomes an instrument for national unity has now become one of the dangerous divisive factor among Malaysians each time it is discussed.

It does not matter to them that the NEP is seriously compromising the competitiveness of the country as a global economic player and threatening to reduce Malaysia's attractive to foreign investors in the long run - the damage of which is considered to be worthwhile in the name of protecting the integrity and status quo of the Malay race.

It does not matter to them that the long dependence of the Malays on the perks and quotas provided for by the NEP has left the Malays wanting for more, complacent and under-performing besides feeding their own bloated sense of supremacy, behaving like little sultans in their own private fiefdom.
But he also wants us to know that all is not lost, and that he probably isn't alone in his views among his peers.
...the more UMNO and the Government in general tries to push for and justify the continuation of the NEP - which has degenerated into something totally different and passed its expiry date - the more hypocritical they will look and the stronger the backlash they will get from the rakyat - both from the Malays and non-Malays.

When that fateful time comes, when the tipping point is reached, the fallacy of this whole thing will be revealed and hopefully then, a new chapter in our country's history will begin.
I hope strongly for the glorious day to come, I hope it's not wishful thinking and I hope that I will live to see the day it happens. ;)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lending A Helping Hand

I must say that the overwhelming amount of politically motivated racially-biased rhetoric being generated by the UMNO General Assembly has dulled my ability to make coherent responses myself. Hence I've decided not to dwell with the specifics of whatever the delagates raise. But there has been one point which I found "recurring" throughout, which was raised by many parties, whether radical or moderate.

I found it curious that in order to extend and entrench economic, social and political privileges to Malays, and more specifically to Malay politicians, the UMNO delegates will go to the far ends of the world to describe how weak in performance, poor in wealth and pitiful trailing the other communities and the rest of the world. It is almost as if without the Never Ending Policy, Malays will disappear from the face of the earth. And hence, according to Maulizan Bujang, Umno Johor delegate:
...the other races should understand and accept the Malay agenda with an open heart. Umno Johor believes that the Malays must be helped without the stipulation of an end to its (NEP) duration. It should also not be limited to just 30 percent but up to any amount.
Now, I'd put it very very simply. It is absolutely the last thing on my mind, and on the majority of the non-bumiputeras out there who are equally fair-minded, that the poor Malays should not receive extra assistance from the government and the community.

On the contrary, we want to specifically provide extra assistance and help to the poor Malays in the country, as well as the deserving poor of all other Malaysians. I'm personally more than happy to contribute from my personal finances based on whatever I can afford to meet that objective.

What we specifically object to, is to provide special privileges to the likes of Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros at my personal political, social and financial expense. Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros epitomises the typical UMNOputra who has the uncanny ability to somehow live way beyond his means. Why should Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros receive any favours from me, when he clearly already belongs to the wealthiest 1% in the country? Is there logic and justice in that?

We will lend more than a helping hand to poor Malays to ensure that they have a more than equal opportunity to prosper. But the Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros, and his brethen in UMNO, deserves no such hand.

Kota Kinabalu

I'm now here in Kota Kinabalu for the first time ever, together with the wife and kid for a short break. The return flight for the three of us cost all of RM299, courtesy of Air Asia. Imagine before this, the same trip would have cost us more than three times what we paid before Air Asia came into the picture. If not for the sharp increase in the price of fuel, the trip would have been even cheaper!

We checked into Magellan Sutera Harbour (yes, I know, it's not cheap) and to our consternation, for the price we are paying, it's definitely not worth the money. The looks, views and the general condition of the hotel is pretty good. However, the service response and other "little" things like malfunctioning door access cards (walking to and fro the room and the reception to get it fixed) and leaking taps dampens the experience somewhat.

The city's taxi service however, leaves much to be desired. A short 10 minutes trip from the hotel to Jalan Gaya costed RM10. Another short very short trip from Jalan Gaya to Wisma Sedco costed RM6. We paid the fares without complaining, knowing that it was still overpriced within an acceptable range. But the return trip from Ocean Restaurant, next to Wisma Sedco back to the hotel with a really short detour to 7-Eleven left us RM17 poorer!

Highlight of the day for me? Spent an hour or so in Borneo Books 2 in Wisma Merdeka, browsing through books on all aspects of Borneo, but ending up suckering myself into purchasing 2 "antique" hardcover books absolutely unrelated to Borneo. One was a 1948 4th reprint of the Oxford University Handbook (1932) and the other was a 1899 edition of Oxford University History of Magdalen College previously owned by a Leslie Ernest Sutton who was an Emeritus Fellow with the college. Yes, you can say that they burnt the pockets a little, but I was quite pleased with the little finds. ;) And I had a fruitful chat with the shop owner as well, Stephen Sutton (yes, Leslie's son) who ended up migrating and settling to this part of the world due to his academic interest in tropical plants and insects.

A colleague of mine said 5 days 4 nights was a little excessive for Kota Kinabalu, but having looked through all that we wanted to do this afternoon, there actually wasn't enough time. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that we can't "pack" the itinerary with a 2 year old. ;)

We obviously won't be hiking up Mount Kinabalu, not with the kid and my aging (and creaking) knees. But we'll be spending the day at the Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs for most of tomorrow. Should be fun! ;)

Malaysians First

It is heartening to note, during a week infested with politically motivated racial rhetoric during the UMNO General Assembly, that there are journalists who speaks up and looks forward to a better Malaysia. Jacqueline Ann Surin, an assistant news editor for The Sun, "believes that you cannot be neutral on a moving train". And she wrote today a simple personal piece on the fact that "We're Malaysians First".
My name is a constant cause for confusion, and nearly always for fellow Malaysians. It's not rare for me to be asked if I'm Thai, and when I proudly declare I'm Malaysian, I'm asked: "But, what are you?"

"I'm Malaysian" never seems to be enough to help people locate me within the Malaysian miliew. A colleague once demanded to know what my parents were. "Malaysians," I said. "Yes, but what are they?"
But that's the problem we face here in Malaysia, isn't it? It's its unfortunately perpetuated by our national leaders who govern along racial lines, and our civil service who mengikut perintah beyond the spirit of the letter.
From our identity cards to bank forms to the new racialised shoppoing lanes in Central Market, we are all conditioned to define ourselves and other Malaysians according to British's colonial formula.

These racial categorisations presuppose that we are either one or the other. It presupposes that race is a neat and natural iven, rather than historically constructed... Official attempts to box Malaysians into oversimplified and neat categories do not do justice to who we are, and what potential we have for identifying ourselves as Bangsa Malaysia first before anything else.

Ironically, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, in attempting to justify the Never Ending Policy, cited the need to "correct the 446 years Malays were oppressed under the rule of foreigners between 1511 and 1957 within a period of 20 to 30 years" when the very "divide and rule" formula started by the British is retained and even arguably strengthened to this very day. So engrained is this colonial mentality, the very mentality that UMNO and Barisan Nasional seek supposedly to "eradicate", that even senior leaders of the country like the Menteri Besar of Johor, Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, spews incredulous nonsense rejecting Bangsa Malaysia.

I solemnly and proudly declare that I'm Malaysian First, and I implore all like-minded progressive Malaysians, regardless of race and religion , to declare the very same, as Jacqueline has publicly done.

UMNO Can't Count

Ah... the Penang Malays marginalisation debate is back. Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin said a "clear message" was delivered to Penang Chief Minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon during the wing’s annual meet.
He was responding to the remarks made earlier by Umno Balik Pulau Youth chief Shahaedan Ayoob Hussein at the Umno Youth general assembly regarding the problems faced by the Malays in the Gerakan-controlled state.

"I am confident what Shahaedan said is important in showing Tsu Koon the plight of the Malays in Penang. The message is clear enough. If it is not clear, I don’t how it can be better delivered."
Not too long ago, he raised this same issue about alleged marginalisation of Malays in Penang to become a Penang Malays' hero. And the fault is with the non-Malay led Gerakan government. Hence the repeated calls for the Chief Ministership to be rotated. Let us look at the simple statistics.

Poverty incidence, according to the statistics provided by the 9th Malaysia Plan in Penang is only 0.3%. It is by far the lowest in the entire country!

Now, if Malays in Penang are marginalised, then Malays in UMNO ruled states are even more marginalised with poverty incidence 6.3% in Perlis, 7.0% in Kedah and 15.4% in Terengganu!

Worse, Sabah in which UMNO wrested the Chief Ministership position, initially via a Chief Ministership rotation policy has ironically the highest poverty incidence in the country at 23.0%! That's practically 76 times higher than in Penang. In fact, UMNO should offer Gerakan the Sabah chief ministership to teach them how to drastically reduce poverty incidence in the state!

The Government statistics doesn't lie, or so I'm told, hence UMNO must be not telling the truth. Why do they want to do that, besides just posterior talk? Well, I can only imagine that the UMNO state leaders in Penang cannot wait for the day they could strip the assets accumulated in the state for their own personal and crony interest.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Khairy's Posterior Speaks

You know what? I'll confess to the fact that when I first heard of a Khairy Jamaluddin and what he was "achieving" behind the scenes with Pak Lah, I was mightily impressed and was in awe of what he may be able to achieve for the country. He was intelligent, he speaks the reformist agenda and I believed that we had a young progressive leader with great potential in the making.

Oooh... you cannot imagine how my heart breaks each time he spews his racially-biased rhetoric, and manipulates statistics and half-truths for political mileage within UMNO. And he is doing that with increasing frequency. To think that I was naive enough to believe that Khairy had the interest of the nation at heart.

Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek have both confirmed that the NEP is a Never Ending Policy. Now, Khairy, the UMNO Youth Deputy Leader not only wants to have it extended indefinitely, but also to raise the targets for equity achievement by Bumiputeras to 70% from the current 30%! And this was supported by the UMNO Youth Leader and Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Is he mad? Or has he lost all abilities to interpret statistical tables?

Based on the 9th Malaysia Plan published tables, which itself is in dispute, as at 2004 based on par value:
  • Bumiputeras own 18.9%
  • Non-Bumiputeras own 40.6%
  • Nominee Companies own 8.0%
  • Foreigners own 32.5%
Hence, assuming that foreigners continue to be more welcomed as investors in the country, more so than the country's non-bumiputeras, by seeking a 70% ownership for bumiputeras, Khairy Jamaluddin is effectively asking for the non-bumiputera community to transfer ALL equity assets to to bumiputeras! The end result will be:
  • Bumiputeras own 70%
  • Non-Bumiputeras own 0%
  • Nominee Companies own 0%
  • Foreigners own 30%
I'd like to think that despite having transformed himself into a Malay ultra, the above isn't what he had intended. But his statement clearly demonstrates either his lack of ability in interpreting statistics, or worse, his mischievious and irresponsible attempt to manipulate half-truths to remake himself as a communal hero.

Either way, Khairy's posterior has spoken.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Never Ending Policy

Yes, it's official. The NEP is the acronym for the Never Ending Policy.

This has been confirmed separately via two speeches over the past two days. According to our Deputy Prime Minister, no time limit will be set to achieve the Malay Agenda to uplift the status of the race."

He argued that "it was impossible to correct the 446 years Malays were oppressed under the rule of foreigners between 1511 and 1957 within a period of 20 to 30 years... What we struggle for are our rights without denying the rights of others."

Separately, in Parliament, Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek, confirmed in a written reply to Lau Yeng Peng (BN-Puchong), said the affirmative action policies such as the NEP will not stop until several issues are addressed... "What is most important is to achieve national unity."

So, there we have it.
  1. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, the NEP will continue in perpetuity as long as it continues to fail to achieve its goals of raising the standards of bumiputeras.

  2. Because the NEP is designed in such a way to benefit only UMNOputras like Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros, the overall 'noble' objectives of the NEP will never be achieved, for the poor bumiputeras will only get poorer.

  3. And because the NEP is framed from a racial context whereby denying the rights of others is deemed "without denying the rights of others", national unity will consequently never be achieved. And hence the NEP gets institutionalised in the country.
The New Economic Policy becomes the Never Ending Policy which is a Never Ending Story, which if you remember the lyrics, might just provide an answer to the Never Ending Problem.
Reach the stars
And fly a fantasy (yeah)
Dream a dream
And what you see will be (yeah yeah yeah)
Rhymes that keep their secrets
Will unfold behind the clouds
And there upon the rainbow
Is the answer to a never ending story
You may track the complete twist and turns of the Never Ending Story here in Malaysiakini.

Note: I first heard of the term "Never Ending Policy" during Prof P Ramasamy's speech during the NEP forum which publicised the recent controversies over bumiputera equity ownership.

Rumour Has It...

An SMS rumour which spread like wildfire and risked a religious incident alleged that a number of Malays would be baptised at a church in Silibin and 600 Polyteknik Ungku Omar students had just embraced Christianity. It also alleged that the Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria had revealed this at the state mosque.

And the merry-go-round commenced. On the 7th November, the Prime Minister stated that those who spread malicious rumours through SMS and e-mails deserve harsh punishment.
The Prime Minister said such people deserved severe punishment because their acts could create anger and other kinds of reactions which could cause racial antagonism and tension in the country.
The Deputy Prime Minister commented on the same day that "stern action [will] be taken against the culprit who circulated a rumour via SMS..."
“Such SMSes are dangerous as they can cause a falling out between the races and create tension in the country,” he told a press conference.
"Ini perbuatan nakal," he added.

The next day, the Deputy Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum stated that the "Government may use ISA on those sending offensive SMS".
"We have to mete out punitive punishment on these culprits to deter others from repeating or disseminating such lies and rumours."
Then interestingly, on the 10th November, the Perak Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli Ghazali, "cleared" the state mufti's name by arguing that he wasn't involved. (You might be interested to know that this was the same mufti who claimed an outrageous number of Muslim apostates in the country, who claimed that Kongsi Raya or Deepa Raya celebrations were unIslamic and that Muslims who are not religious scholars have no authority to interpret the religion.
“I just want to emphasise that the mufti is not involved. The SMS merely mentioned his name and some quotes allegedly made by him,” he told reporters at a Hari Raya celebration in Beruas.
Ah, then 3 days later, it was published widely that the Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria blamed a woman in her 40s as the originator of a text message.

And apparently, all he did was to raise his concerns over the allegations with representatives of Muslim non-governmental organisations at the state mosque.
“What I revealed was meant to stay within the confines of the meeting. I did not know that those present would pass the word around. It was never my intention to create chaos. As the mufti, I have the responsibility to remind Muslims of the threats facing Islam today,” he said.
Of course, red-faced Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali, who had earlier defended his mufti revised his stance to say that "the objective of the meeting had been to control young people so that they would not go astray." (How you do that with "rumours and lies", I have no clue)
“But somebody picked up one of the examples given... The Mufti is not involved in the SMS but he might be the reason for the SMS being spread.”
Hence it's now clear. A concerned Muslim lady passed on certain information pertaining to the alleged incident to the state mufti. The state mufti, instead of verifying the facts of the matter with the relevant parties or authorities, chose to highlight the event to the masses within the confines of the mosque, including Muslim non-government organisations. And the parties who attended the meeting, being outraged and having taken the Mufti's authoritative words, galvanised to community to protest at the Church on the day of the event.

Who then, is the rumour monger here? I'd like to think that vicious rumours spread by word of mouth is equally sinful compared to rumours spread via SMS or emails.

Our national leaders have stated it, "ini perbuatan nakal". So who's the mischevious one here?

It was stated that parties who spread such rumours, and when it comes to vicious rumours, "intent" isn't an excuse, "deserves harsh punishment". Who will be punished in this case? Will there be "stern action"?

Will the ISA be used to mete "out punitive punishment on these culprits to deter others from repeating or disseminating such lies and rumours" now?

Will anyone even apologise to the members of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Silibin in Ipoh for causing unnecessary fear and duress?

Questions and more questions... rumour has it that...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mother & Kid Sketch

No, I didn't draw this one :)

But you can get one like it within 5 minutes for RM10. Just visit the "Van Gogh Workroom" self-operated mini-studio located in Hartamas Shopping Complex, opposite Starbucks entrance within the complex. You will get a choice of pencil, chalk, pen or charcoal sketch. This sketch was done probably about 10 weeks back. ;-)

Disclaimer: I don't own no shares in the Van Gogh Workroom! It's owned by a very nice Indian lady who gave the kid another free shot on a separate occasion. ;p


(For the English version of the key points raised during the Astro AEC Private Higher Education Roundtable, visit the blog post in Education in Malaysia ;-))

两个星期前,我被Astro亚洲娱乐太邀请去参加私立高等教育的讨论会。 其他被邀请的来宾包括了黄__发,思特亚国际学院大学及陈友信,英迪国际学院大学。我们所讨论的包括了:
  • 国内私立学院和大学是否最近有出现放慢的情况?
  • 大马私立学院和大学面对的最大问题或挑战是什么?
  • 本地私立学院及大学是否有努力吸引我国海外学者回国效劳?
  • 我国私立学院在吸引外国学生前来深造,主要对哪些国家以及哪方面的竞争?
  • 大马的私立学院有那些优势以及特色?同时, 应该如何吸引更多外国学生?
  • 在面对激烈竞争的情况下,国内的私立学院及大学,是否也会面对合拼整合的情况?








3+0 学位课程


我建议政府能实施的一些条例包括了需要每所发学位文凭的学院及学院大学必须公布每位课程教者的详细简历。私立学院也必须公布每年最低课程入学标准。而且政府也得控制私立学院的宣传方式。现在每所私立大学都认为自己是世界一流 , 是吗?私立学院也需要取消3+0学位课程。


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Confused Councillors

When we have a municipal council populated by patronaged-based political appointees, it's not surprising that we not only have corrupt, but also chauvanistic and confused councillors being appointed. Or that some of them are just downright empty vessels.

Apparently certain parties sitting monitoring the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera in the Penang City Hall was having a jolly good time watching thighs of women journalists instead of council proceedings.

They were caught, and if they were just punished or charged accordingly, everything would have been settled fair and square. But no, that's not how Malaysia's local councils work.

Responding to the accusations, Penang Municipal Council president Datuk Abu Bakar Hassan said that "if the dress was not sexy, the incident would not have happened."

Oooh... if that isn't one of the most chauvanistic public statements which deserves absolute condemnation, then I don't know what is! By the same warped logic -
  • If the dress was not sexy, there wouldn't have been any voyeurs, and

  • If you aren't so pretty, there wouldn't have been any rapists, and

  • If you haven't carried any handbags, there wouldn't have been any snatch thefts, and

  • If your wallet didn't contain valuables, then it wouldn't have been picked, and

  • If knifes are illegal, then you wouldn't have been stabbed, and

  • If there are no rubbish, then there wouldn't have been uncollected refuse, and

  • If there was no press, then there wouldn't have been any palatial mansions, and

  • If there were no council elections, then there wouldn't be any need for accountability, and

  • If there were council elections, then the mentally challenged can be voted out.
But in the meantime, the clowns rule the roost.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Making A Difference

Kian Ming wrote on Jeffrey Sachs being announced at the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair in Poverty Studies in our blog, Education in Malaysia.

Jeffrey Sachs, one of the most influential development economist in the world wrote "The End of Poverty".

Nik Nazmi highlighted the Jeffrey Sachs quoting Robert Kennedy at the end of his book. It's a great (and inspiring) quote, and it certainly deserves a mention here.
Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills - against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written a history of this generation…

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Yes, we certainly can make a difference.

Double Standards

Further to the earlier post on “The Untouchables” whereby UMNO members are granted immunity for acts of corruption from investigations by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), which has since been vaguely denied by Datuk Nazri Aziz, the de-facto Minister of Law, there are also ample evidence that UMNOputras are treated very differently from the typical men in the street.

One set of laws is used for legal transgressions by UMNOputras, while, another harsher set of laws are used for the lowly men and women like you and me. The following is highlighted by our community hero, R Nadeswaran, deputy editor at the Sun.

Unapologetic, thick-skinned and recalcitrant Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros, a Selangor state assemblyman was ordered to pay a compound fine of RM24,000 for building his palatial mansion without proper building development plans and approval. The Selangor Special Menteri Besar himself, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo insisted that it was the maximum penalty under the Road, Drainage and Building Act. Or rather, he didn't care to add, that it was the maximum that he can or will apply to a fellow UMNOputra.

Interestingly enough, earlier this year, five people were charged with carrying out illegal earthworks and development without approval from the local authority in Gombak. They were charged under the Town and Country Planning Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine of up to RM500,000 or tow years' jail, or both. And these lot were charged within a short period of three months from the dates in which they were alleged to have committed the offences, how efficient!

Hence, the UMNOputra in Klang gets away with a RM24,000 fine for carrying out earthworks a 40,000 sq ft piece of land to build his palatial mansion worth an estimated RM5-8 million, while other marginalised citizenry gets the proverbial whip.

Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo perpetually claimed that “his hands are tied”. Well, they probably are, for there is a set of unwritten rules and laws (or a lack of it) which applies to his fellow UMNOputras. For you and me? No such luck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Reinstate the Local Council Elections!

There's a big ceramah in Klang this evening, organised by the Democratic Action Party (DAP). Thanks to Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros for being the willing participant in demonstrating how patronage politics breeds corruption at all levels of government, to Sdr Teng Chang Kim for highlighting his misdeeds ever since February this year, and to the Sun newspaper bringing the issue to national prominence.

The details of the multi-lingual forum are as follows:

Ceramah: Hapuskan Rasuah! Pulihkan Pilihanraya Kerajaan Tempatan
Tarikh: 9 November 2006 (Khamis)
Masa: 7.30 p.m.
Tempat: Dewan Persatuan Hokkien Klang

  • Y.B. Lim Kit Siang (Ketua Pembangkang Parlimen)
  • Tuan Azmin Ali (Naib Presiden Keadilan)
  • Tuan Khairul Anuar (Naib Pengerusi Keadilan Selangor)
  • Tuan Lim Guan Eng (Setiausaha Agung DAP)
  • Y.B. Tan Kok Wei (Ahli Parlimen DAP bagi Cheras)
  • Y.B. Teresa Kok (Ahli Parlimen DAP bagi Seputeh)
  • Y.B. M. Kula Segaran (Ahli Parlimen DAP bagi Ipoh Barat)
  • Y.B. Teng Chang Khim (ADUN DAP bagi Sungai Pinang)
  • Y.B. Ng Suee Lim (ADUN DAP bagi Sekinchan)
  • A. Sivanesan (Ketua Biro Buruh Kebangsaan DAP)
Contact: Philip Tan 016-2058056, Peter Tan 012-3322999

Kemasukan Percuma! Sila hadir beramai-ramai!







联络:陈春水 016-2058056, 陈彼德 012-3322999


That's a lot of big hitters speaking. Too bad I can't be there this evening to watch the excitement ;).


Hey guys, thanks for coming and visiting despite this being a very new blog :) Your visiting just makes me want to blog more (and for the missus to get upset ;))

I'm overseas at the moment and will only be back in town on Saturday, so if posts are infrequent, do bear with me. ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I'm not sure whether I'm just reading the newspapers more frequently today, or whether I just remember stuff that are more recent, but I certainly see Omens of things just not going well for our country at the moment, for many many reasons.

The immediate shocker was of course, the gruesome murder of the Mongolian woman who came all the way to a country she isn't familiar with, to seek financial assistance from the father of her 16-month old child. We have heard the stories of such murders of passion before. But the hint of deliberateness, the complicity of the Malaysian police force and the brutal nature in which her body was disposed of certainly makes for bold interpretations by the superstitious.

But it doesn't take an event such as this to provide clear Omens on the fate of the country in the near future, and possibly the governing parties in the next general elections. Other signs are a little more obvious:
  • The bitter public and international political feud between the consensual Pak Lah and the venomous ex-premier, Dr Mahathir Mohammed

  • The disappointing conversion of Pak Lah's son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin from an intelligent and progressive reformer into a Malay ultra-nationalist, to the extent of inciting discord between the Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties.

  • The disclosure by various independent and credile studies the irrelevance of the government statistics which was used as a basis for propagating the New Economic Policy (NEP) in perpetuity.

  • Marginalisation of poor Malays and Malaysians through a system of entrench political patronage through the NEP as epitomised by an unrepentent, recalcitrant, and now infamous, Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros. Besides being a state assemblyman, he and his family sit on numerous statutory boards which made decisions representing clear conflicts on interest, abuse of power and privilege. He has acted with total disregard for the law in the process of enriching himself, despite being already many hundred folds richer than the man on the street.

  • The ignominious decline in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country by 14.3% from US$4.62 billion in 2004 to US$3.97 billion last year. For the first time since 1990, Indonesia managed overtook Malaysia in FDI by attracting US$5.26 billion last year. The nation often ridiculed by our politicians as a tiny red dot down south, attracted more than 5 times what was achieved by Malaysia at US$20 billion.

  • And of course, many many more...
Those familiar with Shakespeare's Tragedy of Julius Ceasar will remember sooth-sayer's warnings, the Augerers finding no heart in the beast and his wife Calpurnia waking up frightened due to a horrible nightmare as Omens of his impending assasination. Will Pak Lah and our leaders brush these omens off, dismissing them as hearsay, like Ceasar did to his own folly?

Or should we be like Cassius who refused to accept Caesar’s rising power and deemed a belief in fate to be nothing more than a form of passivity or cowardice, in his conversation with Brutus.
Men at sometime were masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings (I.ii.140–142)
There may be clear Omens for the country today, but clearly and truly, the fault is not in our stars.

Alternative Career?

So what do you think? Will I make the cut?

After my 'A' Levels, had I decided not to pursue a university education, a career in fine arts or graphic design would have been my most favoured option. Now, many many years later, with my hands glued to computer keyboards and barely able to hold a pen, I think this option is probably no longer applicable, should I of course, choose to retire from my current position. ;p

The above caricature was drawn way back in 1994, when I first started working in Kuala Lumpur. I was renting small apartment in Cheras then, and it was a daily trawl going home via Jalan Loke Yew from Menara Tun Razak, and I sort of watched with comic interest the traffic police performing their daily duties in hand signals.

I've always dreamt of having my own little art studio at the corner my own little bungalow where I get to spend my post-retirement drawing and painting... well, maybe after my 50s-lah :).