Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006!

As we approach the final minutes of 2006, I thought I'd just put down here on (virtual) paper 3 of the most momentous personal events which occurred for me this year. On the whole, 2006 has not been a bad year at all. In fact, looking back 30 years from today, 2006 might be one of the most pivotal years in my humble life. :)
Pak Lah announced his mid-term reshuffle of the Cabinet.

As highlighted in my speech on "How to set Pak Lah free?" in an earlier October forum, I never gave up hope on Pak Lah even after more than 3 years into his administration. I saw some positive elements, and I had hoped pretty much that Pak Lah was serious biding his time before showing his cards to both his detractors, as well as the non-performing cabinet members.

I could accept a largely unchanged jumbo cabinet after his election victory on the basis that he wanted to give the existing cabinet members a chance. But I could not accept that irresponsible, incompetent and possibly even corrupt members were retained in their portfolios after more than 2 years "chance".

It was a reshuffle which I had hyped myself up so much on expecting many positive things, after giving Pak Lah the benefit of the doubt for many years. But it was a belated "reshuffle" that wasn't, and my hopes and faith in Pak Lah died with it.

I do not believe that Pak Lah is corrupt or immoral. I do however, believe that he is not a leader of man, and not a competent man in administration. I believe that we need more effective, intelligent and equally ethical leaders to take the country forward, in place of the current poorly performing leadership.

I founded my company in the early parts of 1997 just 3 months before the Thai baht crashed triggering the Asian financial crisis. That was also a fair few years before the dotcom boom where money from venture capitalists were aplenty. By August 2001, we managed to get the company listed on the Singapore Exchange. It wasn't a big company, but it's listed nevertheless. ;)

But the up and down swings continued with many factors coming into play - weak economic environment, the Asian SARS crisis, a large payment default from a Berjaya Group subsidiary (>RM2m!) and even being hit by a fraudulent contract. The last 2-3 years were particularly difficult recovering from some of the above crises.

This year however, after an extended delay and plenty of preserverance, the company is finally back on stable footing financially as well as a return to being back in the black for 2006. It is a huge relief, and credit must be given to the company's employees for playing such a key role in the process.

As stated on the panel on the right, my ambition was really not to become a multi-multi-millionaire like top entrepreneur, Tony Fernandes, but to be actively involved in the socio-political scene in Malaysia. The question has always been timing, as well as "how much money is enough?"

Thanks to a personal and external confluence of factors, a critical decision has been made in October and I hope I will be able to live my personal dreams not too long into the near future. Due to the sensitivity of being a CEO of a public listed company, I can't reveal too much here, not yet anyway, but you can be assured that when the time comes, readers here will definitely be amongst the first to know.

There has been major events in each of the past couple of years. But I dare say that this year, and what will come next year, will certainly be a momentous period for me, and possibly for my family.

Happy New Year! ;)

"Special Position of the Malays"

If anyone is interested in some of the less publicised insights to how Malaya's independence was achieved and the relationship between our founding fathers and political parties, read the New Straits Times excerpt on the story of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, a Malaysian giant whose role stretched from the struggle for Independence right through to the aftermath of May 13, has been largely unknown.

More interestingly however, was Tun Dr Ismail's personal views on the "Special Position of the Malays" when drafting the constitution.
...the leaders of the Alliance realised the practical necessity of giving the Malays a handicap if they were to compete on equal terms with the other races. The only point of controversy was the duration of the ‘special position’ — should there be a time limit or should it be permanent?

I made a suggestion which was accepted, that the question be left to the Malays themselves because I felt that as more and more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this ‘special position’.

In itself, this ‘special position’ is a slur on the ability of the Malays and only to be tolerated because it is necessary as a temporary measure to ensure their survival in the modern competitive world: a world to which only those in the urban areas had been exposed.

This analysis provides insight into how Dr Ismail perceived the Malayan situation. What is striking is Dr Ismail’s belief that the Malays would do the right thing in the long run, as well as his faith in the Alliance as a model of government capable of meeting these challenges taken as a whole.
Hence, should Tun Dr Ismail's account of ideas behind the manner in which the constitution was drafted is accurate, it would not be wrong to say that the "special position" of the Malays was never meant to be permanent.

Unfortunately, the interpretation of the handicap or 'special position' granted to the Malays as "a slur on the ability of the Malays" is no longer the views of the UMNO leaders in power today. The 'special position' is now defended by UMNOputras as a 'right' instead of the original spirit of the constitution which was a 'privilege'.

Tun Dr Ismail was obviously wrong to have believed that "more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this 'special position'". Despite many educated UMNOputra multi-millionaires, these very same beneficiaries of the 'special position' seeks only to entrench the privilege and further enlarge its function in Malaysia's economy and society.

Will we see the day when an UMNO leader espousing the views of Tun Dr Ismail and spark a return to the spirit of our Merdeka Constitution?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Government Does Not Listen

It wasn't too long ago during the Terence Gomez - Universiti Malaya saga when Pak Lah famously asked the rakyat to continue to "speak up and tell [him] the truth".

Well, did you read the year-end bumper issue of The Edge on "how to make Malaysia more competitive"?

The people who have spoken on this issue are no simple Tom, Dick or Harrys. These are the countries industry leaders, and highly respected professionals. Are you listening, Pak Lah?

Datuk Nazir Razak, CEO of the CIMB financial services group and unlike his elder brother, deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, himself called for the review of the New Economic Policy as well as the judicial process.
"... I also believe that a thorough review of the NEP and its implementation has become critical. In our little corner, in the capital markets, for instance, if we have moved to free pricing for IPOs, how dangerous is it that we insist that bumiputeras have preferential allocation? Potential issuers today are being courted by exchanges throughout the world; in its present form, the NEP discourages companies from listing on Bursa Malaysia; how helpful is that to the country or indeed to the bumiputera community?"
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, UMNO MP for Kota Bahru as well as Chairman of Malaysia's largest legal practice, Zaid Ibrahim & Co asked the Government to "abandon failed political ideas".
"Disaster struck when the medium of instruction changed. Quality of education deteriorated. The government had to spend hundred of millions retraining unemployable graduates... Sixty thousand graduates are now unemployable because they are qualified in areas not in demand in the job market (other than the civil service)...

"Our judicial system was castrated; Parliament was filled with law endorsers rather than law-makers and press freedom was severely curtailed. Corruption is still rampant and little is being done about it. We aspire to be a progressive civilised nation but are not willing to have a corrupt-free environment, greater accountability and good political governance."

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, the President of Transparency International Malaysia, asked the Government to "phase in competition, meritocracy".
"The basic premise should be - be fair to all Malaysians, especially to the poor of all races and religions. The New Economic Policy has indeed reduced poverty remarkably, but we still have millions who are not able to make ends meet and to live a life of dignity and freedom from want and even basic needs.

The NEP has enriched, maybe 1,000 families, and often enough through some abuses of the system. This tendency cannot be tolerated any longer."
The problem is, Pak Lah, the rakyat are speaking to you, but are you listening? And if you are indeed listening, you are probably the only one doing so for the rest of your Cabinet, government and Barisan Nasional component party leaders obviously have little or no interest in the rakyat or the country at heart.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's Your Fault!

Who gets the blame when the Government is unable to provide the rakyat with an living and working environment in which we are safe from both violent and petty crime?

Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said snatch thefts usually occurred when the victims were careless with their property. Apparently, “such an attitude gives snatch thieves the opportunity to strike.”

It's always the rakyat's fault isn't it. When asked if the Parliamentary sessions could be telecast live, the Minister of Information said that the rakyat is too immature for such debates. Now, when snatch thefts have become serious concerns of the rakyat, it's once again the rakyat's fault for being careless!

Of course, it's really the rakyat's fault that there are preying criminals lurking on every other street corner. It's the rakyat's fault for the ease in which the criminals could get away with their crimes. And of course, it's the rakyat's fault for not being able to live in an environment in which they could enjoy higher standards of living, even if they could afford to do so.

These are indeed the Ministers the rakyat has generously elected.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Highway Robbery

Work the maths yourself.

The construction cost for the for the 5 highways of which the toll rates are being revised in January 2007, is estimated at RM4.13 billion.

According to our Minister of Works, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, the government has already paid RM2.275 billion in compensation for 'suppressing' the toll rates to date.

In addition, despite the hefty toll hikes expected in January which has been announced, the honourable Minister has also, out of compassion for the rakyat, agreed to fork out an additional RM2.589 billion in compensation to the concessionaires over the next 3 to 5 years.

So, how much is the promised compensation in total? A whopping RM4.86 billion! That's RM734 million or almost 18% more than the actual cost of constructing the highway! And this does not take into consideration, further generous compensations which will be paid to the toll operators when the next toll rate review is due in a mere couple of years.

Yet, everyday, tens of thousands of vehicles are still paying hundreds of millions annually at toll booths for using roads which the Government has more than paid for. And our Government has the audacity to claim that the hefty increase in toll rates by as much as 60% is absolutely necessary, and has been kept to a very minimum.

I have no problems forking out cash for toll in a fair deal. However, when our very own Government commits highway robbery at the expense of the rakyat, it's just plain abhorrent.

Here are some upcoming activities in relation to expressing our unhappiness over the proposed toll hikes:
  1. Sign the online petition against the unfair toll hikes.

  2. Join the Dec 31 protest at the Grand Saga toll plaza along the Cheras highway. The protest is jointly organised by the Bandar Mahkota Cheras Open Access Road Action Committee (BMC-OARAC) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP)

  3. Or for those who prefer to remain more aligned to pro-establishment parties, MCA Puchong also will be organising a protest against the toll hike at 10am this Friday, Dec 29, at the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP).

  4. Attend a forum tomorrow (Wednesday 8pm, Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall) organised by the Anti-Toll Hike Coalition comprising of political parties and non-government organisations. The talk will feature prominent speakers including PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud and human rights group Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng.

  5. Join another toll protest at the LDP on January 7th organised by the Coalition.
Go on and do our part as responsible citizens of Malaysia. Every little bit counts.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Much Ado About Turkeys

Christmas ends in a couple of minutes time. But I thought it's still worth squeezing in this quick post on Malaysia and turkeys, which epitomised how much the country has moved away from Islam as the official religion, and inching closer to Malaysia as an Islamic state. The New Straits Times reported on the ban on imported turkeys two days ago, an issue which has persisted for months prior to Christmas.

Here's Uncle Yap's thoughts on the matter and why he weeps for Malaysia. Uncle Yap by the way, runs the BeritaMalaysia mailing list on YahooGroups, and he's also an angel investor way back in 1999 in my humble company. ;)

"The way some non-Muslims like Uncle Yap sees the issue is not so much about choice of food but the thin end of the oppressive wedge that intrudes into the freedom and choice of non-Muslims.

There was a time when we, Malays and non-Malays, used to eat together at the same table and we would tell our Malay friends which dish had haram material. Our Malay friends would eat and partake of everything except the proscribed dishes.

Today, I no longer invite any of my many Malay friends to my house for meals. At my annual Chap Goh Meh open house, I used to have Malay friends tucking in with gusto everything (supplied by a halal caterer) except for the "siew chee" (roast pig) that I have at a corner (with its own styrofoam plates and disposable chopsticks)

But seeing the kind of ultra-religious movement going on in the country and not wishing to impose difficult choices on my Malay friends, I no longer invite them to my house for my CGM party. So much for muhibbah and inter-racial relationship.

The current move by the civil service started some weeks ago when we started hearing complaints from food importers that some civil servants are starting their own agenda of not permitting the entry into the country of non-halal meat and true enough, when Christmas beckoned, the supplier of my Christian friend's annual turkey could not promise my friend his annual bird, which, to him, is an important ingredient of his annual celebration linked to a religious event.

I alerted a few influential people like Blogger Jeff Ooi and Dato Wong Chun Wai, a top honcho in the MCA-controlled paper, The Star. Dato Wong was chosen because he is a staunch Christian who would understand the significance of the roast turkey to the Christians and whom I figured has the ears of the top echelon of decision-makers and would, in the normal course of things, warn his political masters that "something is rotten in the state of ....." (with apologies to Shakespeare)

Alas, the Malay civil servants had their way, unchecked and almost unnoticed. When pressed by harbour-masters with problems of ships lying expensively in port with unloaded consignment of frozen turkey, they took the initiative and labelled the meat "non-halal" ( a grey area between halal and haram) and now their fellow civil servants at Jakim has got into the act, warning all and sundry the perils of serving "non-halal" (read as HARAM) meat at their establishments. (and they have plenty of back-ups by way of health inspections by MoH officials, licensing checks by the local authorities, etc etc). No hotels would dare incur the wrath of the Malay Civil Servant.

The religion-orientated agenda of the Malay civil servants and their obsequious (and I think, maybe blind and deaf like the three monkeys "hear no evil, see no evil") political 'masters' mean a slow but steady erosion of the rights and privileges of others who are not Muslims. Today, I cannot have a "bacon and egg English breakfast" at Shangri-la or the Concorde; tomorrow, I fear I cannot order a beer at these places (not that I can easily afford drinks at such outrageous prices in these establishments).

This country belongs to all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Why, why, why must I (and millions like me) conform to all the religious requirements of the Muslims in more and more aspects of my life??? and I don't even believe that there is a God because my concept of a God is an omnipotent and omni-benevolent Being that would not support, condone nor nurture the oppression of others in the name of God.

When are we, ordinary Malaysian citizens, going to start getting worried that our society is getting more and more oppressive.

Malaysia, I weep for thee."

Thank you, Uncle Yap, for expressing the thoughts and concerns of many Malaysians like me.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Xin Ying's Two! (Part II)

To those who can't get enough of my little girl like me, here's another set of more recent photos. (For Part I, click here.) They show that despite hitting the age of the 'terrible two', there's enough of pluck and sweetness in Xin Ying to keep her hapless parents twirling contently around her fingers.

The guidebook which the parents swear by, Baby 411 (highly recommended!), says that being "cute and adorable" is a baby's natural defence mechanism to ensure that they obtain the necessary care and attention to grow up before turning into raucous teenagers. ;)

Oh, and by the way, if there are advertising or product executives reading this out there, the mum is desperate to have the kid audition for TV ads. ;)

Nov '06: "Yes, I'm a happy little girl."
@Kota Kinabalu National Park

Nov '06: Little Angel having her precious nap on the return journey from Papar to
Kota Kinabalu aboard the North Borneo Railway authentic steam driven "choo-choo trains".

Dec '06: The makings of a Ray Charles protege.
Souvenir shop
@Damnoen Saduak floating market, Bangkok

Dec '06: "I WANT!" @ The Davis, Bangkok

Dec '06: Pretty little thing @ Siam Paragon, Bangkok

Dec '06: Yup, that's me. Just 3 days short of my 2-year old birthday.
@Royal Bangkok Sports Club

Well, that's the 15 photos selected from literally hundreds which have been taken with a Nikon Coolpix 5100 digital camera over the past year. Thanks for viewing and indulging a parent's little obsession ;).

Xin Ying's Two! (Part I)

That's Cameron Highlands, Jan 2006 not long after Xin Ying turned 1

Well, Xin Ying was exactly 2, a few days ago. ;)

So, let this parent, suffering from a major bout of proud-father's syndrome indulge himself with some of the little one's pictures taken over the past year over this post and the next. ;)

Jan '06: Like fish to water... well, maybe not quite,
but she certainly gets real 'high' in the pool

Feb 06: "Hey you!" Xin Ying in Saints FC get up ;)

May 06: If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands...

May 06: I think, therefore I am...

Jun 06: Ah... no baby or toddler escapes the birthday suit photo ;)

Oct 06: "Now, how do I look with Mummy's glasses?"
Wat Arun @ Bangkok

Nov '06: Yes, I get my own swimsuit too.
Hot Springs @ Kota Kinabalu National Park

Can't get enough of her? (I certainly can't!) More pics in the next post! ;)

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Failure of Governance

When we witnessed the fury of the Katrina hurricane ripped across the American south, many would have whispered a quiet prayer that such disasters are not seen in Malaysia. The damage caused by Katrina's wrath was multiplied by the failure of governance in President George W Bush's administration whose co-ordination of aid and rescue activities was hampered by federal and state bureaucratic inertia.

Are we seeing the same happening today in Malaysia? An unusual amount of rain for the past week has resulted in many of our southern states - Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan to suffer severe flood. While the cause of the flood is clearly an "act of God", did a failure of governance and a weak delivery system result in greater hardship and suffering for the rakyat?

Is it true that stranded residents in some of the worst hit areas of Segamat are being refused rescue boats without first having to foot RM150?

Is it true that discrimination is rampant in the disbursement of flood aid to the victims?

Is it true that hapless rescue staff could only watch helplessly as stranded victim Teo Sook Ching, 61 passed away because of ineffectual leadership?

Or what is worse, did our state governments make unbelievably irresponsible and incompetent decisions to release excess water from upstream rivers without warning and planning for downstream flooding and evacuation?

Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam has admitted that water was released from the Gadek water treatment plant and the Durian Tunggal pumphouse to "save" Gadek. The impact was the flooding of Taman Malim, Krubong, Taman Merdeka Jaya, Taman Thamby Chik Karim and Melaka city itself, without the downstream residents being warned and standby relief services readied in advance.

It appears that the same occured in Johor, resulting in hundreds of millions of losses and lost economic opportunities. More than 80,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and the number is expected to rise.

More importantly, where is the national leadership in the midst of a national crisis? Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib made a call only yesterday for department stores to "provide government agencies and departments involved in flood relief with food and other necessities such as mats and blankets."

Yesterday, all the Cabinet could do was to announce more funds approved to assist flood victims (which really can't be more obvious) and that the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil "had been instructed to go to Johor to monitor the situation and ensure that aid could be channelled to victims immediately."

Is that all our Government leaders are capable of? We can only live in hope that the disaster will not worsen and more lives will not be lost through improved weather conditions, for it's even harder to count on the rudderless Barisan Nasional administration.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Vietnamese Bride

This has to be the funniest story of the day!

The Sun has today reported that "an insurance company staff who married a Vietnamese women in haste has found much cause for regret although they tied the knot a mere four months ago."

Apparently the 28 year old bride has, since their marriage piled on the misery on poor Mr Yip, 51, from extortion, assault to even threats of emasculation!

The funniest bit has to be this:
Abuse at the hands of his militant wife, whom he learnt was trained by the Vietnamese army, has filled Yip with so much terror that he ran away and dare not return to his Puchong home to even ask for an end to the marriage.
Well, so much for the stereotype of demure, attentive, submissive and compliant and sweet young things from Vietnam, the Land of the Hidden Charm. ;)

Our MPs, Our Problem-Solvers?

I read this rather witty post from our young Member of Parliament (MP) of Batu Gajah, Sdri Fong Po Kuan this morning and I thought I had to quote it here. ;) She was writing on how she, on being elected, has become the do-all, end-all problem-solver for all. ;)
Give her the matter and let see if your cousin, Fong Po Kuan can solve it or not? This is not the first time I am being “challenged.” There were some who would use a softer tone and said, ” I voted for you, please help solve it.” Another common statement is, “I have waited so long, how long do I still have to wait?” . There was once, a lady said, “why you still not here to collect the rubbish? I complained to you already!”
She rightly noted at the end of her post that she isn't "in power", she "can only apply pressure." Sometimes she will be successful, sometimes otherwise. "To change the policies, it is in your hands."

But don't you think it is strange and silly that our MPs have to deal with all these tasks? Isn't it a clear demonstration of the failure of our local governments and other government departments? Instead of spending productive time dealing with urgent national and policy concerns, MPs are instead bogged down with the nitty gritty issues arising from the failure of our delivery system.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Khairy Threatens

When all attempts to persuade via flawed reason and logic fails to convince the rakyat, issued threats.

In a prominent story published in The Star, it was reported that UMNO Youth Deputy Chief and the Prime Minister's son-in-law have warned even Barisan Nasional members "not to take for granted the open attitude of the present leadership in allowing the airing of views."
Barisan deputy Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said some quarters had been testing the limits of the open political environment made available under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Khairy said that as a young democracy, sensitivity was high among the various races and religious groups and, therefore, limits on the type of issues that could be raised needed to be respected.
What was really funny was that he argued that Umno Youth, too, "had been strict with those who crossed the line and had asked the Government to take action against them."

If only I had the chance to ask if the Government has indeed taken action against him for inciting racial sentiments for making inflammatory remarks. In August this year, Khairy himself has argued in front of his UMNO faithful that the “internal split within Umno will weaken the party’s position and this will pave way for the Chinese Malaysians to make various demands to benefit their community.”

Later that month, Khairy also accused fellow Barisan Nasional component party, Gerakan of marginalising Penang Malays, when in fact it does a much better job at alleviating poverty than all other UMNO-led states.

Was any action taken against the UMNO Youth deputy chief for inciting racial distrust based on misleading statements? None whatsoever.

It is most hilarious when Khairy "stressed on the need for leaders to build on their credibility so that the public would choose to believe them instead of wild allegations and claims posted on the Internet."


Race-Based Recruitment

Ah... the Chinese are not all to blame after all. It is common place for the ultra-Malays to argue that Chinese companies are not offering "equal opportunities" to Malay professionals. Finally, our former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Musa Hitam stood up to argue the case that our Malaysian Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) are in a large part, to blame according to an interview published with Sin Chew Jit Poh yesterday.
The present problem, he said, is that GLCs do nothire Chinese but have the habit of headhunting Malay professionals engaged by Chinese companies, and when Chinese companies lose them, certain people would start accusing Chinese companies of "not hiring Malays" or being "anti-Malay".

"In fact, it is not that Chinese companies do not want to hire Malays but there are not that many qualified Malays and they are being pinched by GLCs. Because there are too few Malay professionals and GLCs hire only Malays, Chinese companies looking for professionals could only go for the Chinese."
There you have it. Will Tun Musa Hitam say the same in the Malay vernacular dailies though?

I remember in early 2004 before the current managing director Dato Azman Mokhtar was appointed, foreign analysts openly asked the Khazanah Nasional Berhad during a briefing - non-Malays makes up some 40% of Malaysia's population and the Chinese are known to be some of the most financially astute, why was it that there are no non-Malays in the investment board of Khazanah Nasional?

Today, non-Malays form some 35% of Khazanah's management team of 17, while the board remains dominated entirely by Malays. The ratios are even much worse in GLCs such as Telekom Malaysia and Tenaga Nasional.

We will certainly look forward to the days whereby the GLCs recruit and promote extensively without discrimination based on race, as is perceived today.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Greener Pastures

Are you leaving the country yet for greener pastures?

This is certainly not a new issue. I was reminded today on a letter from a talented but "very frightened Malaysian" written some 20 months or so ago, who was not sure whether he wanted to return to motherland. I blogged about it here in "Education in Malaysia", and it is the 5th most popular post on the blog, attracting more than 5,300 pageviews to date.

Well, according to a New Straits Times report, an exodus of Malaysians is on the cards.
"On an average, we used to receive between 15 and 20 enquiries (on migration) a day," said Desmond, a migration agent in Kuala Lumpur. "However, over the last two weeks, our phones have been ringing non-stop."

This "ringing non-stop" translates into about 6,500 enquiries for migration to Australia between Nov 14 and Nov 19.
According to Desmond, the callers were multi-racial. These people are also lining up to sell their houses.
Checks with real estate agents also revealed an increasing number of people wanting to sell their houses. "The reason given by most of them is that they are migrating and needed to dispose of their houses," said Chan, a real estate agent from Kuala Lumpur.
So, why the sudden rush? Now, is there a correlation with a "distorted UMNO" during their recent General Assembly? Or a little to do with UMNO Hypocrisy? Or for that matter, the proverbial NEP or Never Ending Policy? Or how UMNO and the Prime Minister's infamous son-in-law can't count?

I didn't think much of it then, when Sdr Lim Kit Siang raised 3 weeks back the concern of a new exodus of professionals of all races from Malaysia. But it looks like the veteran Parliamentary Opposition Leader is clearly astute with his perceptions.

For those who are leaving the country for good, I wish you well. But for those who are staying for one reason or another, we should band together to build a better future for our children and theirs.

Me? I'll certainly be sticking around.

Hike! Hike! Hike!

We have heard it more than once too often. Whenever it is time for the highway toll rates to be reviewed, we have the Minister of Works, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu blaming the rakyat for the hikes.

“If someone wants some facilities, then he has to pay for it."

Yes, indeed, the rakyat would like to enjoy the highway facilities. Datuk Seri Samy Vellu is absolutely right there. However, the rakyat would also like to make transparent, negotiate and renegotiate the highway concession contracts since Datuk Seri Samy Vellu is doing such a shitty job in that process.

Malaysia must have one of the most democratically elected incompetent Minister of Works who can negotiate such biased and one-sided contracts which benefits only the toll concessionaires and disadvantages the rakyat.

As it is, based on existing toll rates, all the "affected" highway concessionaires in the rate review are already very profitable. However, not only are rates raised by as much as 60%, the Government has to further top up almost RM2.6 billion to the concessionaires!

And yet the Government has the audacity to "spin" the "subsidy" paid as helping ease the plight of the rakyat! Have we grown so stupid from our education system such that we are expected to be eternally grateful to the Minister of Works and the Government for their sacrifice?

In the early years of our Prime Minister's administration, we have been led to believe that the unfair toll concession contracts signed during the previous administration are being reviewed to ensure a fairer deal for the rakyat. Nothing has changed and we are hearing none of that now.

Today, even the new highway contracts continue to be awarded based on direct negotiations with contracts and terms signed under a shroud of secrecy despite early promises of open and competitive tenders. It's just a case of deja vu over and over again.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Recalcitrant Zakaria

This is the type of Yang Berhormats belonging to the ruling UMNO-led coalition government. As R Nadeswaran of the Sun put it succintly yesterday:
First, his wife got the land from the state government for a song. Then he built a mansion without getting the necessary approvals. If the statute books had been thrown at him, he would have faced two years in jail.

But he was treated with velvet gloves - a compound fine of just RM21,000 - ten times the planning fee. That was in October. Call it an act of defiance if you may - but after two months, Port Klang assemblyman and former councillor, Datuk Zakaria Mat Deros has yet to settle the compound fine.
I've written earlier on the double standards in the application of our country's laws to UMNOputras. But for an "democratically" elected state assemblyman of this country to arrogantly ignore the even the slap-on-the-wrist meted out with "velvet gloves" by the authorities is just unbelievable.

Although this man "resigned" from the Klang Municipal Council position (which wasn't his yet in the first place), he remains an untouchable, as a state assemblyman in Selangor, yes, special Selangor. In other "developed" countries, elected representatives caught for such scandals would have resigned in disgrace. In Malaysia, they are celebrated.

Pak Lah, is this the type of elected representatives who you promised the country when you received record majorities in the last elections? What happened to your policies on Integrity or the implementation of Key Performance Indicators for your party leaders? Can you see that the Rakyat is disillusioned?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Press Freedom

Our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, told the world on CNN News just 2 months ago that the Malaysian press is free, but they practice responsible self-censorship.

Well, if a meeting called by the Deputy Prime Minister himself, together with Minister of Works, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Effendi Norwawi and Minister of Information, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin with the editors of all Malaysian newspapers to "discuss" the upcoming "toll-hike" issue isn't press censorship, what is?
The editors of all newspapers and television stations have been told not to play up the impending increase in toll hike on five highways, at a hush-hush briefing... [the Ministers] met with the editors at Parliament house at 3.45pm to discuss the increase in charges.

“They are afraid the issue would create another round of public fury,” a source told Malaysiakini after the 90-minute meeting, of which even reporters covering Parliament were not aware.
This, if I'm not wrong, is the sixth time the editors of the local newspapers have been called in for briefings by the cabinet in 2006, specifically pertaining to the reporting of certain sensitive issues such as crime, the New Economic Policy and controversial politics.

And the count doesn't yet include the times which official letters have been sent to specific newspapers on some of their high-profile reports. Even the case of corruptions in the renovation works in Chinese vernacular schools is not spared of interference from the Internal Security Minister, also helmed by our Prime Minister, as blogged here in "Education in Malaysia".

Indeed, we have press freedom in Malaysia, but we also have Government-directed media self-censorship. Go figure.

Khairy's Broken Rice Bowl

"The old man smashed Khairy's pot of rice..."

There you have it. Pak Lah has finally said it. He is very sad that his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin lost his source of income due to political pressure applied by the former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohammed. He is very sad that Khairy lost money from his share dealings in the stock market, leaving him in debt.

Now, why Pak Lah, as the leader of this country got so publicly upset with losses incurred voluntarily by his son-in-law is something else altogether.

Unlike many who opposed Khairy, I didn't see much wrong with his purchase the stock of ECM Libra Avenue and venture into the corporate world. It's a politically naive move which opened himself (and his father-in-law) to various accusations, justified or otherwise. However, just as much as he purchased his shares on his own free will, nobody could have forced him to sell his shares in ECM Libra Avenue, if he did not want to sell it.

Many of us would have experienced sob stories in the stock market. We could have made losses from many reasons, including bad judgement of the stock, poor timing, listening to bad advice from brokers or under financial pressure to dispose of the shares. However, when we decide to invest or punt in the stock market, we choose to do it with our eyes wide open, aware of all the risk - political and financial - which we all face in dabbling with the stock market.

It should be no different for Khairy. I emphathise with his stock market losses, for I have lost significant amounts of money before as well. But there should be no sympathy for such losses as a man of Khairy's intelligence must have taken into consideration the risk of his investments before partaking in them. The fact that he is now in debt is irrelevant, for nobody could have influenced him to gear himself excessively in the first place.

It is hence very sad, to see Pak Lah make specific statements sympathising with his son-in-law's "plight" and placed the blame squarely on "the old man". It raises the question or at least seeds the doubt on whether Pak Lah actually has the moral authority to lead the nation.

The old man could not have broken Khairy's rice bowl, if the bowl isn't broken in the first place.


Will be travelling with the family til Sunday. So posts may be a little scarce in between depending on availability of internet access. ;)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Marginalised Sarawak

On Nov 13, the eve of the Umno general assembly, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that an additional RM600 million has been approved to spearhead development in the rural areas. The funds was to top up the RM1.5 billion disbursed for rural development, which he claimed had already ran dry.

Within the same day, Jabatan Kerja Raya (JKR) announced a ‘Guidelines for Implementation Programme of Rural Projects 2006 Concept Paper’. The Paper stated that JKR "has been tasked with ensuring the implementation of the programme which must be undertaken and completed in 2006."
According to the document, it was estimated that RM3 million would be distributed to each parliamentary constituency except for those in Sarawak. This means that 191 constituencies will benefit from the year-end 'bonus'.
Besides the obvious correlation between the constituencies and the number of UMNO divisions throughout Malaysia, as well as the highly questionable speed at which the projects are to be awarded, completed and funds disbursed (all within 6 weeks!), it appears that the UMNO-led government is living up to its New Economic Policy promise of handouts to UMNOputras and UMNOputras only.

Sarawak has the 4th highest incidence of poverty in Malaysia after Sabah, Kelantan and Terengganu. Of its 2.4 million population, approximately 50% are non-Malay bumiputeras. A large majority of the non-Malay bumiputeras live in rural and substantially underdeveloped villages.

And just because UMNO doesn't have a single branch or division in Sarawak, Sarawak gets absolutely nothing, zilch, from the RM600 million "rural development" allocation. Its almost as if Sarawak doesn't belong to Malaysia proper. It's no wonder Peninsula Malaysians require an international passport to enter Sarawak!

The Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Finance may deny knowledge of "the money being disbursed to Umno divisional leaders," but the question remains as to why Sarawak has been marginalised in its rural development allocations. Surely, Sarawak deserves the funds more so than constituencies in say, Kuala Lumpur or Georgetown?

It is obvious that Malaysia's New Economic Policy is not for Malaysians, or Malays or other bumiputeras. The NEP's incarnation today is designed specifically to enrich UMNOputras.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Wives, Win Awards!

In a bit to outdo the obsession of the PAS-led Kota Baru municipal council with women, the UMNO-led Terengganu now offers awards to married men 'sacrifices' themselves to marry single mothers.

Terengganu State Exco for Women and Community Development chairman Wan Mohd Wan Hassan announced on Thursday that "men who chose to take single mothers as second or third wives would receive a special award from the state government".

Terengganu State Exco members, as far as I'm concerned, haven't got their heads screwed on properly. If the state is sincere in its intention to help these single mothers, for goodness sake, donate cash, buy them proper housing, provide employment, provide free childcare or for that matter, provide match-making services with single, gainfully employed men!

Marrying the single mothers to existing married men isn't in any way a logical solution! More likely than not, you'd end up with broken homes, poorer incomes and an unhappy family.

Argh.. how can such an insensitive, male-chauvinist idiot like Wan Mohd Wan Hassan be given a portfolio like "Women and Community Develpment". A perfect example of a bungling UMNO government.

Thankfully, the federal minister of Women and Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, had a little more sense (probably because she's a woman) has requested for the bill to be withdrawn. And it had better be!

Friday, December 08, 2006

US$100 Million Leakage?

In 2002, the Government of Malaysia committed to a RM4.1 billion (US$1.1billion) contract with Armaris, a joint-venture between French and Spanish warship builders, DCN International and Thales.

The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) published in August 15, 2002, in an expose which traced the makings of the submarine deal. The expose alleged that a certain company, Perimekar, “will receive, over the next six years, 8% of the total contract value: about 288 million ringgit, and possibly more, as the euro, on which the contract is based, has appreciated 13% against the ringgit since the signing”.

It was also reported that Perimekar was 100% owned by Ombak Laut, “a private company owned by associates of Abdul Razak. Ombak then sold 40% to LTAT and a sister company.”

As many of you would have known by now, this is the same Abdul Razak Baginda, of the Mongolian murder scandal infamy, who is also a senior advisor and confidant to our Deputy Prime Minister as well as the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Deputy Defence Minister, Zainal Abidin Zin told the Parliament yesterday that no commission was paid to any Malaysian company for the deal. However, he conceded that “the government admits it has signed a contract with the company worth Euro 114 million (about RM490 million) for coordination and support services.”

In addition, it is not denied that there was a possibility that commissions may have been paid, not by the Malaysian Government, but by Armaris to Perimekar, for the arrangement of the mega defence contract.

Should the Anti-Corruption Agency be opening a file on this case to discover who exactly owns Perimekar and Ombak Laut, and whether a serious conflict of interest or criminal breach of trust has arisen over the deal?

Or will the multi-million ringgit leakage submerge undetected along with the two yet-to-be-delivered Scorpene SSK-class submarines?

For more news on the issue, check out Malaysiakini and Sdr Lim Kit Siang's blog.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

Sigh, the Kota Baru Municipal Council had warned that both Muslim and non-Muslim women working in retail outlets and restaurants in Kelantan to dress decently or be fined up to RM500. The offending clothes would I assume, include tight fitting blouses, jeans, shorts and mini-skirts.

Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat has defended the policy, saying it will help protect their virtue. He argued that a “woman who wears an indecent outfit does not respect herself, so how can she expect men to respect her?”

He even ironically compared a woman's virtue to money, that they are both "precious" and hence needed to be kept under wraps. Taking the analogy further, the Menteri Besar might as well issue a ruling to lock up all the women in the state, just as you would deposit your cash under lock and key in a bank, to "protect" them! (Oh, they are thinking about it already?)

The Kelantan PAS government just refuses to accept the reality that the protection of the fairer sex has little to do with the way they dress. The incidence of rape and incest is little different between say, liberal Penang, and the modest and conservative state of Kelantan, despite obvious vast differences in dressing. There were 71 and 90 reported cases of rape in 2005, despite having similar population of 1.47 and 1.4 million respectively. In addition, there was 4 and 10 reported cases of incest, in Penang and Kelantan respectively in 2005.

For the Kelantan PAS government, it has never been about restraining men from their thirst for lust (for this was "human nature", according to the Menteri Besar). It is always about women and how they dress, for as they say, the Devil wears Prada.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Men are creatures of emotions, and when it comes to issues of faith, men are at their most emotional and sensitive. It is difficult to discuss rationally with regards to matters of faith, particularly in the public space. The only times when I've discussed religion extensively, was as part of my Philosophy course as well as with friends of various faith who were open to sharing differing views and opinions.

Hence, I'm writing with a little trepidation on the issue which I'm about to discuss and highlight.

Rayappan Anthony (71) died of diabetes complications recently. On his Identity Card issued by the National Registration Department (NRD) in 2000, his religion is stated as "Christianity". Together with his wife, M. Lourdes Mary, they were Roman Catholics and had six children from his Christian marriage.

On the surface, things appear pretty straightforward and his family should have the right to claim the body of Rayappan Anthony and perform the necessary Catholic burial rites.

Unfortunately for the family, Rayappan converted to Islam back in 1990 when he married a Muslim woman and changed his name to Muhamad Rayappan bin Abdullah. However, in 1999 he returned to his first family and reconverted to Christianity. He confirmed his profession of his Christian faith by way of a statutory declaration in front of a Commissioner for Oaths, submitted a deed poll to the NRD to change his Muslim name back to his original one and it was approved.

However, despite Rayappan's return to Christianity, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) is laying claim to the body for Rayappan to be buried in accordance to Islamic rites.

Clearly, Rayappan's right to profess and practise his religion, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, has not been duly respected by the state religious authorities.

But without even taking the Constitution, with its overlapping complications, into the picture, the paramount consideration has to be given to the family who are already grieving from Rayappan's death and there is absolutely no necessity to compound their bereavement by taking his body away from them.

As far as I'm aware, all religions emphasizes the need for moral compassion, justice and consideration. There is no compassion, no justice and no consideration in MAIS' attempt to deny Rayappan's mourning family from saying their last goodbyes, in their own personal ways to him.

Let's hope that the case which is now being resolved in the Courts will be resolved in a manner in which justice, compassion and consideration prevails.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Here's a little poem I adapted from Chinese poet, Jun Er, from her poem entitled "Demolition".

And for those who don't read Chinese, here's a simple translation of the poem.


Everywhere, Demolishing old houses
Penang, Sabah, Pahang, Perak, Selangor
Everywhere, mad Stampede for rapid Development
Constant battling
The Economy, like an Ocean
Nobody escapes Calamity
The Economy, Unsentimental
The Economy, Unidealistic, Unhistorical
Attap Houses
Ancient Temples
Ampang's little Windows, wooden Doors
Tents, Old Streets on the banks of the Gombak River
Everywhere, Demolition
Everywhere, Reinforced Concrete
Competing in Height
Competing in Opulence
Competing in Uniformity
To be more Cool
Monsoon winds sweep fallen Leaves
No Turning Back
View the meticulously collected and arranged set of photo essays on the plight of the Kg Berembang folks by Malayiakini and Nathaniel Tan here and here.

Read also the latest reports here and here on Malaysiakini, as well as an eye-witness account by Nathaniel here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sex, Lies & Blogs

June Tan is conducting a survey on the impact of blogs in the democratisation process in Malaysia.

Well, the way I look at it, blogs certainly is having a significant impact in the policies and politics in this country. And I certainly see it's impact and effectiveness increasing over time.

Why, you might ask?

Well, this year alone, there have probably been at least half-a-dozen times whereby our Internet-challenged cabinet ministers and deputy ministers have made veiled and direct threats on blogs and blog contents. I certainly remember the "watch what you say" type comments made by our Minister of Energy, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik, our Minister of Information, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin and even our Prime Minister, Pak Lah himself.

Yesterday, we have two deputy ministers concurrently issuing veiled threats or warnings against blogs. Hence, surely,judging by the reaction of the worried Government ministers, blogs are making a serious enough impact.

Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi said that "we do not want the public to be deceived by inaccurate information including those that are slanderous."
He said in the era of information and communication technology (ICT), it was impossible to curb the bloggers or to stop them from spreading lies through the internet. He added that the public were still gullible and could be easily influenced by the inaccurate information they obtained from the internet.

Ahmad Zahid also advised bloggers to be ethnical and responsible in their writings. "They should have ethics ... everyone have ethics and self-respect. We hope the bloggers will also have ethics and self respect," he said.
Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha on the other hand contemplates the official registration of bloggers, as a "'stricter' way to stop cyberspace writers from spreading disharmony and lies."
Kong said: “We need to have stricter cyber laws to prevent these bloggers from disseminating disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies. We are talking about creating cyber laws to control those who misuse the Internet."

“We want our bloggers to be responsible, to keep within the rules and not put up seditious articles that can create disharmony and chaos,” he said.
I completely agree that bloggers must have ethics and self-respect. I've put my name down on the blog. I've made plenty of criticisms (and occasional supports) for government policies in my many posts, but every single one of them are supported by strong arguments, rationales and evidence. That's ethics and self-respect, which is much more than many in the mainstream media and even the Barisan Nasional (BN) elected representatives themselves.

Deputy Minister Kong made reference to the recent case whereby Sdr Teng Chang Kim, state assemblyman for Sungai Pinang, Selangor exposed an alleged illicit affair between two BN representatives in Parliament via his blog.

If a blogger has committed a real crime, such as defamation through the spread of lies, take him to court and prove the case. If the blogger has committed no such crime when exposing unpleasant truths with regards to government or BN officials, Deputy Minister Kong should instead "be responsible", "have ethics and self-respect" by not insinuating serious allegations and spreading lies with regards to the integrity of the relevant blogger.

We certainly "do not want the public to be deceived by inaccurate information including those that are slanderous."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Larry Gan

It's been an extremely busy week blogging, both here and at my other blog. So I thought I'd take it easy today. ;)

Here's something else I've dug up from 12 years ago. This chap, yes, the guy with the guitar, hippie outfit and long tresses, Larry Gan was my big boss during my days at Andersen Consulting. He was definitely my "corporate idol", in terms of what I wanted to achieve in my personal and corporate career.

Larry Gan became the Country Managing Partner of Andersen Consulting, then split from Arthur Andersen, at the age of 29 back in the early 1980s. Besides being a corporate bigwig, he was a national fencing champion and represented the country for the sport. Later, he is also an accomplished single handicap golfer who won the Malaysian Amatuer Golf Open. Within Andersen Consulting, which later was renamed Accenture, he rose to become the Managing Partner for Asia before recently retiring a multi-multi-millionaire with a fat golden handshake.

Larry was certainly a person who gave me the confidence when I was just a fresh graduate at 22, albeit indirectly, that one can achieve a great deal before the age of 30 and retire comfortably (if desired) well before the age of 40. While I am no where near to having achieved his wealth or matched his achievements, I'm grateful for I've managed to list my very own Malaysian company in the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to become the youngest CEO/Founder on SGX at the age of 29 back in 2001.

The cariacature on top was drawn when I got my hands on a photo of him (inset) while he was still a student. That was when he was reputed to be a popular crooner and a masterful rock guitarist, during the days of the flower-power hippies. I thought the contrast was so stunning, that I did another (below) of what he became many years later, naming the little piece, "the Miracle of Age". ;)

Heh, heh, he wasn't too pleased with the latter hair-style when another partner of the firm showed him the cariacatures. Obviously a high-risk career-threatening move being a rookie analyst back then, and getting caught with the sketch! ;)

There's an official Accenture Alumni evening today, so will be meeting plenty of old friends and ex-colleagues to reminiscene about the "good old days". Or was it the "stressful old days". ;)