Thursday, April 30, 2009

Services Sector Liberalisation - All Hype?

I've said my piece with regards to the "much welcomed" services sector ownership liberalisation announcement by the new Prime Minister last week. There was always the question of whether the announcement made, meant more in form, than in substance.

Well, within just a week, the new seemingly influential (lots of statements recently) Deputy Minister for International Trade and Industry (MITI), Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir has official confirmed that it's all just hot air, no more, no less. In a report by The Edge Financial Daily today, Mukhriz not only stated his intent to "defend and promote" the New Economic Policy, he said that the recent "liberalisation" measures announced by Najib was a move to "synchronise what was already happening in the service industry".
Before the prime minister announced the liberalisation of the service industry, meetings were held with bumiputera NGOs and trade organisations to ensure that they were ready to open up the markets...

From the feed back obtained, we realised that the markets
were already open. Only the policies at that time were not synchronised yet." (emphasis mine)
So it was all pretty much a public relations sham. These sectors were in reality already unimpeded by ownership restriction constraints. Hence what Najib announced will have very very little real impact on the industry, if any at all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Auction APs!

We fully supports the call by the new Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry (MITI), Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir to abolish the current policy of dishing out approved permits (AP) to certain connected parties for the purposes of importing foreign cars.

Based on earlier numbers which were disclosed in 2006 after the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad attacked Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz on her role in favouring retired MITI civil servants, 33,218 APs (or 50.1% of total of 66,277 APs) in 2004 and 28,283 APs (or 41% of total of 68,330 APs) in 2005 were awarded to the trio of the late Tan Sri Nasimuddin SM Amin, Datuk Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim and Datuk Mohd Haniff Abdul Aziz. In 2005, some 80% of the APs went to 20% of the companies, many of which were inter-related.

The award of these “free” APs to these individuals and their companies gave them the opportunity to amass RM1.8 billion within two years. It raises the obvious question as to how such discretionary issuance of APs will help achieve its objective of “creating a class of bumiputra entrepreneurs or uplifting the economic position of the bumiputras” as quoted in a reply to me based on a parliamentary question I raised last year.

Hence, we support the call by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Car Dealers and Credit Companies Association to open up the AP scheme for public auction to everyone, with possibly 30% restricted for Bumiputra participation.

The DAP has been calling for the current AP scheme to be abolished since it first reared its ugly head and in our proposed national budget for 2008 presented in 2007, we have called for an open auction of the APs which could raise up to RM1.5 billion annually for the treasury based on an estimated 50,000 APs issued at a conservative market value of RM30,000 each. These funds could be channelled towards public causes such as overhauling our miserable public transportation system and facilities which our new Prime Minister witnessed for the very first time yesterday.

The availability of funds are of even greater importance to the government given the necessity to expand public expenditure in light of the global economic crisis, which is hampered by the sheer lack of funds due to the shrinking petroleum-related revenues.

I'd like to reiterate our call to support the above reforms, and will certainly take a common stand with Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir on this issue in the interest of openness, competition and transparency.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hishammuddin Must Settle "Allah" Controversy

The Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia won the right to challenge the government’s ban on the right to use the word “Allah” to mean "God" outside of Islam when the High Court granted leave to the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, as the publisher of Catholic newspaper The Herald, in his application for a judicial review yesterday.

We fully supports the appropriate use of the term “Allah” outside of Islam by other religions, and the right of the Church to contest the ban by the Ministry of Home Affairs of its use in the courts.

However, we find the entire process of the Church having to go to Courts to seek a declaration for its rights to use the term “Allah”, a term which it has been using since before independence, an unnecessary and farcical process.

As highlighted incessantly over the past 3 years or more, this term has been used by religions other than Islam all over the world for decades, if not centuries. The term “Allah” has been used in Indonesia and the Middle East by Christians without prosecution or controversy, despite both being overwhelmingly Muslim-majority regions. For the Sikhs, the term “Allah” is used in their holy book since the founding of its faith. It has been proven beyond doubt that it is not a term specifically monopolised only by Muslims.

Hence the use of the term “Allah” by Christians and Sikhs are not meant in anyway to confuse Muslims nor are Muslims so easily confused by a term which has been widely used for centuries.

The DAP supports Islam as the religion of the Federation, as prescribed in the Federal Constitution and do not view the use of “Allah” by the other religions is in any way contrary to the above position. Even PAS spiritual advisor, Nik Aziz has openly declared that “Allah” is allowed for non-Muslims.

Therefore we would like to call upon the new Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein under the new administration led by Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to drop the Ministry's objections to the use of the term “Allah” in Christian and Sikh publications with immediate effect, especially when these publications are only specifically circulated to their respective members.

The Minister should adopt the mantra of the new Prime Minister, “One Malaysia: People First, Performance Now” to avoid further delays in the process, unnecessarily dragging the matter through the courts while creating tensions within the religious community. By immeidately rescinding all decrees banning the use of “Allah” and the use of the national language in non-Muslim religious newsletters, he will be taking a major step towards fostering greater goodwill among all communities to achieve the ultimate goal of “One Malaysia”.

(Note: Former BN leader, Tan Sri Leo Moggie has also come out with a statement to support the Church's cause. Thanks Elaine for the prompt.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kelana Jaya LRT Extension Proposal

This is a response I received from transport activist, Moaz Ahmad with regards to the blog post I wrote on the Kelana Jaya football field development. He has made several constructive suggestions with regards to the LRT services which I will bring up in the next parliamentary sitting.

Hi Tony

I wanted to post some comments regarding your posting on the Kelana Jaya football field development. I also agree that the site should be maintained as is, without the development planned. It is interesting to note that the site of the FAS field is not very far away from the RapidKL LRT line, as you can see from the photo below.

Existing track between Kelana Jaya to Lembah Subang (service station)

I believe that it would be beneficial if the PJ Councillors and ADUN and MPs collectively called for RapidKL to extend the LRT line to the Lembah Subang Depot and convert the existing tracks to revenue (passenger carrying) service.

A well-designed station could service Kelana Jaya and Lembah Subang and Ara Damansara, which would improve the quality of life in these areas. It would also increase the value of land and properties in the area - meaning that the council could collect higher charges from developers who want to build near an LRT station. It would also help the MBPJ concentrate development in the areas around the LRT stations - Transit Planning Zones or TPZ to borrow a planning term.

Aside from the immediate area there is also the benefit of future extensions and better public transport service. Lembah Subang is next to the NKVE, giving an opportunity for a fast bus connection to Shah Alam or KL or Subang Jaya. It is also just off Subang Airport road - giving the opportunity for a connection to the Subang Airport. There is also a possibility that the LRT can be extended to the Shah Alam Stadium area, which would be a great site for an intermodal transit terminal (Bus, KTM, LRT).

The cost of constructing the station at Lembah Subang would be very low - the LRT guideway is already in place and there are already platforms with roof structures as well.

Proposed link between Sg Buloh KTM station and the proposed Kota Damansara station
(Which by the way, based on replies from the transport Ministry is at least 5-10 years away)

The same consideration should be given to an extension of the proposed Kota Damansara - Cheras line to the KTM station at Sg. Buloh. Having this extension would allow a better interchange between the new line and the KTM service - giving passengers more choices to help them get into KL or out of KL. Sg. Buloh is also a site for a proposed intermodal transit facility, bringing together the KTM, express buses, and now the MRT.

I and the members of TRANSIT would be happy to give you some information regarding the benefits of an extension of the LRT to Lembah Subang and the extension of the proposed Kota Damansara - Cheras line to Sg. Buloh.

Kind Regards

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Election Commission - A Stooge?

I wrote on the Election Commission helmed by the new Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof here and here earlier, questioning its credibility over its dubious decisions.

Sdr Lim Kit Siang earlier today lambasted the Election Commission as a "mouthpiece and appendage of the Barisan Nasional government" and asked for an explanation to be given to us, in a meeting was held later in the afternoon, which I had attended.

(By the way, 10 MPs from Pakatan Rakyat turned up for the meeting including 6 from DAP. PAS Elections Director, Mustafa Ali was also present. On the other hand, in the same briefing/meeting with the Barisan Nasional component parties in the morning, only 4 junior officials turned up. It certainly reflects how much they take the Elections Commission for granted.)

Of interest was the rationale behind the delay in the announcement of the Penanti state seat election status. For the first time in the history of Malaysia, the Election Commission failed to make an announcement on the vacated seat after its meeting. Instead, the EC promised only an announcement next Monday, 5 days after its meeting.

I raised the question on why something so odd is happening and it's giving the impression that the EC has to wait for a decision from UMNO Supreme Council meeting to be held this Friday in none other than Permatang Pauh itself, before it can make any formal announcements!

The EC chairman responded that he's totally unaware of any such Supreme Council meeting, or when it's being held.

He further provided the reason that the delay was due to the fact the schools and venues for nomination and results announcement have yet been finalised as these schools have not yet given formal "consent". Hence, the EC has to wait til Monday before being able to announcement dates and venue of the by-elections. This is of course the first time in its 43 years of history that the EC has been unable to secure confirmation of venue for its by-elections during their meeting! (Says a lot about Najib's "performance now" mantra). That is of course, if you chose to believe his excuse.

But he did assure us that the by-elections is definitely "on". However, when pressed, he refused to make the announcement that it is "on" first, followed by its details on Monday. This was despite our advise to the EC that by at least announcing the confirmation of by-elections, it'll help remove to some degree, the negative perception of the EC as an appendage of UMNO.

So there you have it. Make your own informed opinions. ;-)

Services Sector Liberalisation - An Improvement?

We would like to welcome the new Prime Minister's announcement on the selective liberalisation of 27 sub-services sector in Computer & Related, Health & Social, Tourism, Transport, Sport & Recreational and Business Services.

It is a commendable baby step forward to demonstrate Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's commitment to unwind some of the suffocating policies and regulations imposed and expanded under the pretext of the New Economic Policy (NEP). These policies have certainly resulted in a slower pace of foreign and local investment growth compared to our regional peers since the 1980s as they reduced the attractiveness of Malaysia as an investment destination.

However, we would like to emphasize the fact that this is only a baby step forward and will achieve little impact if they are not followed by further concrete actions.
  1. Firstly, the list comprises only of very selected sub-service sectors, even those selected such as “Beverage Serving Services” comes with conditions such as “for services provided in 4 and 5 star hotels” only. They also cover the Computer & Related services industry (6 sub-services sector) where many of the multinationals have already circumvented equity conditions by acquiring the Multimedia Super Corridor status.

    There are hundreds of sub-service sectors classified and we certainly look forward to further liberalisation of ownership constraints, especially those imposed on Malaysians themselves.

  2. Secondly, will the liberalisation of ownership mean that these companies will be exempted from bumiputera equity requirements imposed by Bursa Malaysia as a condition for listing on the local stock exchange? By liberalising ownership but not their ability to raise funds locally will only serve as a handicap for these companies.

    Furthermore, the liberalisation of bumiputera ownership conditions on the local stock exchange will certainly go a long way towards reviving our financial services sector from its current doldrums, making ourselves relevant in the region again.

  3. Thirdly and more importantly, the above “liberalisation” only deals with the ownership or supply aspect of the relevant sectors. It does not however deal with the more critical demand aspect of the industry which are still very protected directly and indirectly.

    Government agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs) are severely constrained by the Finance Ministry guidelines on procurement. They are only allowed to procure goods and services from companies which are registered with and possess approved classifications from the Finance Ministry based on strictly bumiputera ownership controls.

    In GLCs such as the banking sectors, there is even the written and unwritten rule that legal firms engaged by these banks must have at least 50% bumiputera partnership, despite the professional nature of such services. Hence the so called liberalisation of legal services to foreign firms in the Islamic banking industry will not make major headways to the sector.

    These persisting barriers to entry will continue to discourage investments in these sectors. Why would these investors consider setting up operations when they have no opportunity to offer the services to the Government and the GLCs, which combined, is the single largest consumer of services in Malaysia.
Hence, the liberalisation of supply-side constraints without the corresponding reforms on the demand-side is akin to clapping with a single hand. We look forward to the Prime Minister announcing further measures in the shortest possible time to ensure substantial success of the above liberalisation exercise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Question of Competence

Can you believe it? According to a Star report today, the Terengganu Menteri Besar:
  1. Appointed "an ambulance driver as a director of a Terengganu Government-linked company"

  2. Appointed two former primary school teachers as directors in a subsidiary company and state-owned hospital in Kuantan, Pahang.
And I'm sure there are plenty more of such appointments where they come from. Reasons? According to the Terengganu State Assembly Backbenchers Club Chairman
He (Ahmad) is attempting to Kijalnise (referring to Mentri Besar’s Kijal constituency) the state administration by roping in his supporters and appointing them to helm executive positions in state-owned agencies regardless of whether they are qualified or not.
In other words, just plain cronyism at its ugliest.

Even in Selangor, when our former Menteri Besar, Mohd Khir Toyo when on luxury junkets to Disneyland which cost a state-owned agency RM1.7 million(!) on the pretext of a "study trip" - it could only be done because such cronies were appointed to these companies. You might remember that the Finance Manager for Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) which funded the excursion was the Puteri UMNO Selangor Chief, Nora Azmin Radzuan.

No, we do not want to appoint the managers and directors of our state government agencies based on cronyism, and we must avoid it at all cost. If not, at some point of time, our Pakatan Rakyat governments will just become a useless mirror image of the Barisan Nasional counterparts.

Despite a whole lot of complaints and pressures from certain parties to appoint party-based political leaders to key positions within the state government agencies and corporations, I'm happy to note that the Penang state government has resisted all such pressures from within and without.

The so-called high profile appointments made to date over at InvestPenang (IP), Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and Penang Global Tourism Sdn Bhd (PGT) has been based purely on competence and the candidates' professional credentials. None of the appointees were even DAP members, much less DAP leaders. In fact, Datuk Lee Kah Choon was at the point of appointment still a member of Gerakan! This only serves to prove that the Penang state government values competence more than anything else, even political affiliation.

Race isn't even an issue as Pn Wan Zailena bt Mohd Noordin, a human resource specialist was appointed as the General Manager of IP last year while a creative industry vetaran Mr Ong Thiam Hiong is appointed to be the General Manager of PGT. Most recently, Mr Julian Candiah who has held top management positions in some of the global investment banks was appointed to be the Deputy General Manager 1 of PDC.

We want our agencies to be managed using global best practices, and we can only do so by employing the best for the job (or at the very least, the best we can get for what we can afford to pay). And the Penang state government should certainly remain steadfast in its policies even if it creates resentment among some leaders within Pakatan Rakyat who may be more interested in dishing out political patronage.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kelana Jaya Football Field Development

Before - Kelana Jaya FAS field, as it stands today

Most Petaling Jaya residents will know of the football fields at Kelana Jaya SS7 which used to belong to the Football Association of Selangor. This field has actually been converted into commercial land since 2003, and the developer is planning to execute its development plans.

After? What it may look like in the future
(The condominiums in the background are existing, as per "Before")

Included in the plans are 20 units of 6½ storey shoplots, 72 units of 4½ storey shoplots, and most critically in a subsequent phase, two 15 to 28 storey office blocks with 8 levels of podium.

In December last year, the residents in the vicinity held a peaceful protest over the proposed development which is located in an area where the level of traffic congestion is already intolerable. Even the traffic consultants employed by the developer classified a few roads there with a "F" status.

For this project, the MBPJ has taken pains to ensure that all parties are heard before the development plans are approved (or rejected). Despite initial notification hiccups which were later properly rectified, a public objection period was provided and the council held its first public hearing on the issue on the last Monday, 13th April.

I had during the hearing asked the traffic consultant to take into account not only the impact of the initial proposed development of the low-rise shop lots on the traffic in the area, but also of the subsequent proposed high-rise projects. The assumption of an annual 1.5% increase in organic traffic volume may also not have taken into consideration the other on-going development projects in the vicinity, including "The Paradigm" next door, and various high-density projects in Ara Damansara (across the tunnel).

While the local government is still finding its feet in doing things differently from the previous administration, I'm very happy that public hearings on development projects and issues have become the norm in the proceedings of the MBPJ. Unlike many of the "hand-me-down" projects which I have to look into today, which were clearly not approved with any public consultation at all, residents get their voices heard today, instead of after the project nears completion.

I hope this new, more transparent and accountable processes will become institutionalised in the mindset and administration of MBPJ which can only bring about more sustainable and balanced development in the city we so love. And hopefully with this process, developers will now realise that they will not get their way by "gau tim" the MBPJ officers and councillors, but they will have to listen to the valid and reasonable grouses of the PJ residents.

Hopefully as part of this process, it'll encourage better development strategies (e.g., not cramming the tallest possible building into the small piece of land) but instead creating open parks and spaces, adding value such as ensuring provision of public transport facilities and seeding a better community eco-system within the development area. There are really not many pieces of open land left for development in central PJ, but hopefully with whatever that's left, they can help unwind many of the development hazards of the past.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Will Najib's KPIs Work?

I was quoted in the following The Sun article published yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s call for ministries to implement comprehensive key performance indicators (KPIs) should include a requirement to use proper standards and benchmarks, said PJ Utara DAP MP and economist Tony Pua.

“Typically, KPIs are used in corporate organisations. They are not just measures of performance, they also assess the consequences of performing above expectations,
meeting expectations or a complete failure to meet expectations. Without a set of clear-cut assessment guidelines, it is going to fail,” he said.

Pua said he was “not confident” that the government could follow through with the consequences when ministries failed to meet the required standards.

“I doubt the government can pull it off because it does not seem to have the necessary political will to carry out some of the required consequences of under-performance. Do you think it can remove somebody without having to consider
the political consequences?”

“[The Ministries] Setting their own criteria for KPI assessment guidelines is another problem. KPIs should be set by civil societies or the public because if the Home Ministry were to judge its performance based on the ISA detainees held as a KPI, they could go out and do it (arrest people). It needs to be done by the end recipients. I cannot see it without public participation,” Pua said.

He criticised the criteria set as vague and not covering the qualitative performance of ministries.

“They are vague and possibly intentionally so. You can set KPIs for all ministries and ministers, but you have to deal with the qualitative aspects. “For example, you can set a KPI for the Education Ministry based on how many new schools were built or how many teachers were hired. But it does not cover the quality of education delivered,” Pua said, calling for results from KPIs to be made public.

“If you are going to have a KPI, why should you be ashamed of your performance. Is this the change that the PM talks about? Are they going to be accountable to the public at all? Is this the right period for ‘People First, Performance Now’?”

He said the DAP would monitor the measures implemented by each ministry.

Deloitte Malaysia’s human capital services group director Andrew Lee said KPIs, which have been used by the private sector for decades, were “report cards” to track, measure and report progress.

“For KPIs to be effective, firstly, there is a need to define the objectives. KPIs would then measure the fulfi lment of the objectives. Secondly, indicators that measure the fulfilment of the objectives need to be developed,” he said.

“There are seven tests used to check any KPI. If any test fails, the KPI should be rejected immediately. Any KPI should be measurable, controllable, simple, actionable, integrated and credible. Finally, it should be linked back to the objectives,” Lee said, also pointing out several ways in which a KPI can fail.

“Implementation can fail when too few or too many KPIs are defined. Not everything is important to measure. A KPI can fail one of the seven tests, or it isn’t measurable as data is not available. The culture of the organisation must also be considered. Are the staff ready for KPIs? It takes a high degree of discipline and staff don’t like to be tracked all the time."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Bangkitlah Melayu"

Utusan Malaysia, owned by UMNO, is at it again. Today, the above was the big screaming headline.
Bangkitlah Melayu

KUALA LUMPUR 14 April – Orang Melayu perlu bangkit dan bersatu dalam berhadapan dengan tuntutan kaum lain yang kini dilihat semakin keterlaluan.

Mereka juga perlu sedar dan insaf dengan situasi politik semasa yang menyaksikan pelbagai tuntutan hingga boleh menjejaskan kekuatan politik orang Melayu.

Sehubungan itu, orang Melayu diminta tidak tunduk kepada tuntutan keterlaluan tersebut sebalik bangkit bersatu bagi mempertahankan hak dan kepentingan mereka.
Nik Nazmi, ADUN for Seri Setia had the following to say on the above in his Facebook update - "Utusan minta Melayu bangkit bersatu hadapi kaum lain. Saya minta Utusan henti perbodohkan Melayu agar kita dapat bersaing dengan kaum lain."

Will Utusan get a show cause letter for inciting racial sentiments? One Malaysia my foot!

Where Is ICT Today?

ZDNet published an article with regards to the emphasis given to Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) in the current and previous administration. I was quoted in the article. In summary, it said that...
Newly-minted Prime Minister Najib Razak has delivered an embarrassing snub to the country's ICT association Pikom, after he not only ignored its call for a single ministry, but also transferred jurisdiction for the local communications sector to a low-profile ministry.
The following was the questions asked to me via email, and my full response.
  1. How would you characterize the impact of previous PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the ICT sector?

    In all truthfulness, the ICT sector over the past 5 years have been on a free-gear mode, essentially drifting along anywhere the current was taking it. There was absolutely no direction, no emphasis, little incentives or funding which have been allocated to the sector, unlike during the latter part of Tun Dr Mahathir's administration. Hence, the actual impact of PM Abdullah is really the relegation of the sector which was meant to be at the forefront of Malaysia's drive towards a knowledge economy, to one which was neglected and regarded as irrelevant.

  2. Some say his impact was neglible, disappointing, would that be an reasonable assessment?

    As above, absolutely.

  3. Given the immense contribution of the ICT sector to the economy, do you think it has been treated as a “stepchild” compared t other sectors such as construction, power and agriculture?

    During Pak Lah's reign, the focus shifted pretty much towards attempts at modernising the agrarian economy, particularly in the small-holdings agricultural sector, the cottage industry as well as the village homestay tourism business. This emphasis can be clearly seen in practically every budget speech Pak Lah has given. In fact, ICT was not the only sector which was neglected, even a major mainstay of the country's economy, the manufacturing sector was neglected to the extent that the industry make-up remained pretty much in the low-value added industries which relied on cheap foreign labour, instead of the more capital, technology and innovation intensive industries.

  4. Are you hopeful that Najib will bring about major policy changes that will boost the ICT sector, especially during the current downturn?

    We have yet to see any indication that Najib will be more generous towards the ICT sector although we hope he will be. Even in the last RM60 billion so-called stimulus budget announcement, there was no allocation or announcement of initiatives towards supporting and promoting the local ICT sector.

  5. Specifically, what policy changes should Najib make to boost the ICT sector?

    ICT is a sector which is necessarily driven by innovation and competition. Without competition, the industry loses its cutting edge and its ability to match the cross-boundary and globalised nature of the business.

    Hence, specifically for the ICT sector, there should be liberalisation of competition, particularly for the government sector which has to date, despite the MSC initiatives, been restricted to contractors approved by the Ministry of Finance. There should be funds to encourage qualified software service providers to explore overseas markets. There should be also be open competition in the telecommunications sector which should not be characterised by the direct award of a 12 billion ringgit Hi-Speed Broadband project to Telekom Malaysia.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ong Tee Keat Gratefully Plays Dumb?

In a swift response to being dragged into the hole dug by fellow Barisan Nasional colleague, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has the following to say on his blog:
If we truly uphold the spirit of democracy, we should respect differing views, even if we cannot concur with . The Deputy Prime Minister can voice his views on the results of the Bukit Gantang by-election, and so can I.

I see nothing wrong for him to express his observations and views. Nonetheless, I insist that the fund allocations pledged or disbursed to the people during campaigning should be viewed as the Government's obligation to taxpayers. The issue of gratefulness does not arise at all. This was clearly stated by me when I publicly made my comments on the issue.

What a disappointing cop-out after a "brave" statement issued by a party youth leader just earlier in the day. Nobody questions the concept of "respecting differing views" but does it mean that if UMNO comes out with a racist statement, we should not openly condemn the statement? Does it mean that when UMNO asks for a "bloodbath", we should just timidly say "we agree to disagree"? Where's the "Courage to Change"? Or the "Creating New Values" as prominently highlighted on Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat's blog?

And worse, the MCA President has yet to answer clearly Muhyiddin's statement saying "MCA president Ong Tee Keat had found nothing wrong with [Muhyiddin's "ungrateful"] statement"! So is Muhyiddin talking crap? Or does Ong Tee Keat actually concur with Muhyiddin on the Chinese being "ungrateful", or more politely, "unappreciative"?

It appears as if the new DPM has dug a hole not only for himself, but also for his BN subordinate, and the MCA President is now willingly taking the jump!

"Ungrateful" Muhyiddin Squirms

un⋅grate⋅ful   [uhn-greyt-fuhl]

unappreciative; not displaying gratitude; not giving due return or recompense for benefits conferred: ungrateful heirs.
So soon after taking over as the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin found himself squirming to get out of a hole he dug for himself and lashing out at everybody and anybody for "twisting" his words.

On Sunday, in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia (the weekend edition of the notorious Utusan Malaysia), he was quoted as follows when asked about the minority votes in Bukit Gantang.
Q: Tetapi bukankah setiap kali pilihan raya kecil, permintaan kaum bukan Melayu dipenuhi, malah di Bukit Gantang walaupun peruntukan RM1juta diberikan tetapi kaum Cina tidak juga menyokong BN?


Ini yang mungkin menyebabkan sukar BN mendapat sokongan walaupun kita fikir bila mereka hendak sekolah Cina dibantu, kita bantu, sepatutnya mereka membalas budi. Pada waktu itu, kita pun tidak berharap sokongan kaum Cina akan meningkat 40 peratus dan sebagainya cuma kita berharap ada peningkatan sedikit tetapi apa yang berlaku ia mencatatkan penurunan, macam tidak ada penghargaan terhadap apa yang kita lakukan.

He was figuratively whacked by all parties for in essence calling the Chinese "ungrateful". Sdr Lim Kit Siang wasted no time berating Muhyiddin for insulting the community.
It is most shocking that 52 years after national independence, the Number Two in the federal government of a multi-racial nation could come out with such retrogressive and most unacceptable views about Malaysian democracy and nation building.
Even the normally compliant MCA and Gerakan are forced to issue fairly "harsh" statements against the new deputy prime minister, albeit not by the top bosses themselves.

Now, in a sudden turn of event, Tan Sri Muhyiddin now places the blame all on the Chinese media for "twisting" his words and asked the reporters to "go back to school"!
The deputy prime minister denied he had used the word “ungrateful” to describe the community in the wake of the ruling party’s defeat in the Bukit Gantang by-election in an interview published on Sunday in Mingguan Malaysia.

“If they don’t know Malay, we can send them to school,” said Muhyiddin, who is also the new education minister.

“What I actually said was that the community looked as if it didn’t appreciate Barisan Nasional despite its best efforts during the by-election.”
Let's not speculate and lets look at the fact of the matter. As per the Mingguan Malaysia report, Muhyiddin said "...bila mereka hendak sekolah Cina dibantu, kita bantu, sepatutnya mereka membalas budi."

Then look again at the definition of "ungrateful" above - "unappreciative; not displaying gratitude; not giving due return or recompense for benefits conferred". It's uncannily exactly as stated by Muhyiddin! So I don't see how the Chinese media "twisted" the words of the new DPM!!

As far as I'm concerned, it's Muhyiddin who needs to be send back to school or at least his new Ministry of Education should welcome him with a English dictionary as a present.

(Interestingly, as reported in Malaysiakini, Muhyiddin claims that Ong Tee Keat "had found nothing wrong with his statement in Mingguan Malaysia." So, what says MCA President?)

Are We Out of the Bear Market Yet?

That of course, is the multi-million question. But the following chart email to me, and sourced from The Chart Store certainly looks interesting ;-)

My only public view on this? Think market recovery 1, 2 or 3 years down the road.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hannah Yeoh - I'm So Proud!

I pondered over the above title, versus a more generic title about "Change & Conflict", and I settled for the above.

Now and then I'll click over to my fellow elected representative, Hannah Yeoh of Subang Jaya's blog to "check on her" (heh!) and see what's happening over there.

Somehow I missed this post she made earlier on "The Best is Yet to Come" and was pointed to it via email.  (Yes it's written nearly 2 months ago, but it is nevertheless still very relevant, and I should share it with those who hasn't read it.)
So many people have been telling me just how frustrated they are with the current political situation in our country. Some have told me that they regretted voting for change because of the political instability now and would prefer returning to their old style of voting - vote for stability and forget about having a stronger opposition and greater check and balance. I shudder at the thought of this! One needs to remember the reason why we are seeing such great resistance for change is simply because there is much to lose for those who have been in power for so long. For decades there have been so much abuses of power, unchecked misuse of public funds and plain dirty corruption. With a stronger opposition now, they stand to lose their illegal sources of income and some may even be charged and sent to prison if they are found guilty. With this in mind, they will fight at all costs to reclaim back power and to ensure they can continue to steal public funds from the people for their own enrichment. We are not just dealing with differences in politics; we are combating evil forces who will not rest till they secure back their powers and illegal sources of income.

Sometimes I feel equally frustrated and disillusioned about the political situation too. Sometimes I lay awake thinking of how to effect change in this land. Some days I cry while driving in between meetings thinking of what's left for the future generation in this land if we give up now. I have endured much verbal attack from political enemies, accusation after accusation of me not doing anything for my constituents and etc. No one truly understands the resistance we face daily in discharging our duties except for my fellow PR assemblymen. Robert Kennedy once said ‘Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator and change has its enemies.’ Our enemies are resisting change but we must stand firm and continue to push for a competent, accountable and transparent government. At the end of each day, as I lay myself to sleep, I ask God for strength, wisdom and protection to face the next. I look forward to the end of the term when I can tell the people of Subang Jaya that I have remained clean and have not stolen any of the taxpayers' funds. As reminded by Raja Petra in his blog "Please continue your struggle to make Malaysia a better place for our future generation. This country belongs to them and it is for them that we struggle." All hope is not lost. Come the next election, vote out the corrupt once and for all. Hang in there supporters and friends, the best is yet to come!
I'm just brimming with pride (for God knows whatever reasons) after reading it and know for a fact that Malaysia has much better days ahead ;-)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Najib's "New" Cabinet

Have you seen it? Is it really new? Well, here's my initial comment quoted in The Malaysian Insider:
DAP's national publicity secretary Tony Pua was more scathing in his assessment. "It's still the same old horses and same ministries. If you want to bring in political rejects, it makes the cabinet a bit of an artefact. After all the hype, it is a little disappointing," the Petaling Jaya Utara MP said.
The back door entry via the Dewan Negara is usually reserved for professionals with specific expertise, who are not your typical politicians (or who did not contest in the elections) to be appointed into the Cabinet to strengthen certain areas of weaknesses. But when you have some half-dozen Ministers who were rejected in elections, then certainly, it makes a mockery of the democratic process. Is the Barisan Nasional leadership cupboard so bare that they have to bring back to life the vanquished?

Is this a demonstration of PM Najib's "People First, Performance Now"?

What was probably most disappointing was the fact that the expectations of a "new-style" cabinet was so high, that Malaysians were all expecting a much leaner cabinet comprising of not more than 25 Ministers. But lo-and-behold, it's 28, and it's still backed up by 40 Deputy Ministers, making the entire frontbench even larger than Pak Lah's 67 members!

And as for the newly elected UMNO Youth Chief, I cannot but feel a little bit for him, after being contemptuously left out of the cabinet list. It cannot be described as anything else but a tight slap on the face when his deputy got included, and worse, his political rival who came in last during the Youth elections found a place in the Cabinet. Hey, even the MCA Youth Chief, Wee Ka Siong had his name listed as a deputy minister and Khairy just isn't good enough?

The new Prime Minister should learn that if he has nothing to deliver, please do not set up expectations sky high. This is the second time he has done so, the first with the "RM60 billion" stimulus package which is really only RM10 billion.

It does appear that the "change" that has been promised will certainly be hard to come by.

All I Have To Do Is Dream..

This remembering of nostalgic songs from the past is making me feel old...

But I can't help but be reminded of them with the rather hilarious antics of MCA over the past few days.

On the 5th April, two days before the tri-elections, MCA had the "audacity" via a junior little-known leader, deputy secretary-general, Datuk Loke Yuen Yow to call the new Prime Minister to create a 2nd Deputy Prime Minister position, and of course, proposed his party boss, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat for the post.

This move was expectedly ridiculed by their UMNO masters, led by newly elected vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
Umno vice-president Hishamuddin Hussien poured cold water on the idea, according to Berita Harian yesterday. "I have never heard their (MCA) leaders raising this in cabinet, BN management meetings or BN supreme council meetings," said Hishamuddin, who is also education minister.

Similarly, ousted Umno supreme council member Rais Yatim said Najib has better things to do than to entertain MCA's suggestion. "A second deputy prime minister post does not exist in the Federal Constitution. What is more important is to help win the by-elections," said Rais, who is also foreign minister.
I'm sure the retort would have been more scathing if not for the fact that there were the elections going-on. 

But what's most ironic must be the fact that within 2 days, MCA had to call for an emergency presidential council meeting to beg the Prime Minister to retain its current 4 ministers and 6 deputy ministership within the new proposed cabinet, which is now expected to be trimmed to 3 ministers and 4 deputies!

Talk about taking a tentative, calculated step forward only to be hit 3 steps back! It's really a case of All MCA Has to do is Dreeeaaamme.....
I need you so that I could die
I love you so and that is why
Whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream
Dream, dream, dream, dream
Dream, dream
Whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream
 Here's looking "forward" to Najib's new cabinet to be announced in a few hours time. Lets repeat the chorus now... ;-) Dream, dream, dream...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Shout, Shout, Shout It Aloud...

The by-election results call for the dissolution of the Perak State Assembly, signifies the continuing irrelevance of race-based politics and demonstrates the lack of confidence in our newly installed Prime Minister.

The most decisive and convincing manner by which Pakatan Rakyat have won the two by-elections in Peninsula Malaysia, particularly in Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat where the majority increased by nearly 100%, demonstrates without a doubt the aspirations of Malaysians. Together with the overwhelming results from Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu in the past few months, the people have sent the following very loud messages to the Barisan Nasional government.
  1. The results are a clear endorsements of the Pakatan Rakyat 10 month-old Perak government for its multi-racial and multi-cultural policies benefiting the rakyat from all segments of the community. 

    The Kuala Sepetang polling district where the Chinese community comprises 97% of the 2,311 electorate voted 84.3% for a PAS candidate. This is an earth-shaking result demonstrating that barriers to racial and communal politics are being torn down and are being replaced by the politics of good and quality governance. 

    This is an indisputably historic result of enormous significance on the continued relevance of Barisan Nasional race-based “model” of governance.

  2. The sizeable increase in victory margin for the Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin clearly sends the message to our newly installed Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak that the people wants the Perak State Assembly to be dissolved for fresh elections. The Prime Minister had on 6th March said that he wanted to “build a democracy responsive to the people’s needs” when he was commenting on the roles of the “new and old media”. 

    It is therefore high time, as a new Prime Minister, to do the right thing for democracy in Malaysia by ensuring that the people of Perak gets a Government theythemselves elect via the dissolution of the current state assembly.

  3. Finally, despite the tremendous odds – the feel good factor from a newly installed Prime Minister, a “successfully” concluded UMNO General Assembly, the 'pop star' presence of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, allocations amounting to millions to Chinese and Tamil schools which would not have resulted if not for the by-elections and the sudden release of some Hindraf ISA detainees, Malaysians in the Peninsula have voted for Pakatan Rakyat, a year-old coalition, which can only represent a dismal lack of confidence in our 6th and new prime minister. 
Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has his work cut out for him and it is quite clear that Malaysians will not give him a 100-day honeymoon period to perform. He must hence immediately institute firm and resolute measures to eradicate corruption, overhaul archaic and repressive laws and dismantle discriminatory policy tools antithetical to his “One Malaysia” agenda.

"OneMalaysia" vs "Ketuanan Melayu"

Will the new Prime Minister and UMNO reject “Ketuanan Melayu”, and adopt “One Malaysia”?

I'd like to congratulate Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's ascension as Malaysia's 6th Prime Minister, but welcome his call for a “One Malaysia” with more than a little dose of scepticism.

Even in the 1990s, under Datuk Seri Najib's mentor, Tun Dr Mahathir's regime, the concept of “Bangsa Malaysia” was mooted with much fanfare but it became purely an empty, meaningless slogan which ultimately met its demise at the hands of UMNO itself whose leaders ridiculed the concept.

Hence it is impossible not for ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life to look at the new clarion call for “One Malaysia” with any optimism or confidence. What makes the matter worse is that the new Prime Minister's call for a “One Malaysia” comes at the point when UMNO itself continues to assert its demands of political and government top leadership, government-link companies top management as well as public universities top academic positions be granted on the basis of race and party affiliation.

UMNO's persistent and virulent calls for and ideology of “Ketuanan Melayu” is completely antithetical to Datuk Seri Najib's call for “One Malaysia”, unless of course, he meant “One Malaysia” where all other races become unquestioning, whole-hearted followers of the supreme race.

DAP's principles of Malaysian First places one's citizenship above that of one's race, religion, creed or even political affiliation. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has also mooted the concept of a New Economic Agenda (NEA) where Malaysian's policies will be based on needs, and not based on race. More importantly, despite being charged by UMNO's Malay nationalist as a traitor to the race, Datuk Seri Anwar took his programme and sold the concept of “ketuanan Rakyat” and NEA to all Malay villages across the country. It is through his sincere efforts of bringing about change and the consistency with DAP's Malaysian First that we now sit in the same Pakatan Rakyat platform to bring about a real change for Malaysia.

Therefore, for our new Prime Minister to have any credibility at all in his call for a “One Malaysia”, we want to see him convince his own party and go to all Malaysians in villages and cities to explain his concept of “One Malaysia” as well as the rejection of “Ketuanan Melayu”. Otherwise, it'll just be another beautiful slogan, created under Barisan Nasional's concept of divide and rule where “One Malaysia” will be preached to placate the minority races, while “Ketuanan Melayu” is sold to the Malays.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hee Hee Hee!

Hee Yit Foong & Co happily joining Najib's Perak celebration party in Feb '09
(Picture courtesy of The Star)

Have you read reports of Hee Yit Foong's press conference today?

Here's a short excerpt from The Star:
Asked why she did not join another Pakatan party but chose to side with Barisan, she said she did not want to cause a split among the Pakatan partners. “But I would like to stress that I did not leave to join another party,” she added.
Faint! Or this:
"I have never been in contact with Barisan people," she said, adding that she left DAP due to internal problems and because her grouses were being ignored by the party leadership.
Umm... didn't she appear with Datuk Seri Najib himself!? Or how about this:
To a question, she said she chose to be an independent friendly to Barisan because she wanted to ensure she would get allocations to develop her constituency.
Or this in the Malaysiakini report:
Hee said she decided to meet the media today as journalists have been pressing her to explain her actions. "It has nothing to do with the by-elections,” she stressed, referring to Tuesday’s vote in Bukit Gantang in Perak, Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak)."
Really don't know whether to laugh or to cry...

Balik Kampong Mengundi II

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Balik Kampong Mengundi

The above advertisement which is being placed in all major Chinese newspapers headlines "Nizar Lost" and call upon all outstation voters not to let it happen. Go back hometown on Tuesday, 7 Apr and vote for your candidate of choice. Vote for democracy and ketuanan rakyat!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

MCA: Yes, Please Buy PLUS!

It took a while for the official statement to come out since the highway contracts were declassified in January, but MCA has finally issued an one with regards to the Party supporting the "buy-back" programme for PLUS. See the reports in The Sun and Malaysiakini.

The gist of the proposal is roughly similar to the one presented by DAP's Ops Restore, which was also highlighted in Parliament by Sdr Lim Kit Siang. The Finance Ministry has already responded verbally as well as in writing that the proposal is being evaluated.

The key difference between the DAP and MCA proposal is the treatment of the highways after the buy-back by the Government. We have proposed that it be owned as a Government entity, while MCA has proposed a "socially responsible commercial entity" which continues to give some returns to the Government and EPF. We proposed that the outstanding loans be repaid in full over 6 years, while MCA's proposal will repay these loans at a slower pace over 13 years.

While I find the concept of a "socially responsible" commercial entity at best a difficult concept to make practical, at worst an oxymoron, MCA' proposal is nevertheless much better than the current situation we have based on the existing contract. Hence if their proposal is accepted and tabled in parliament or in public by the Barisan Nasional Government, we will give our full support to the exercise.

Of interesting note though, I find it curious that the examples and figures cited were a little too eerily similar to ours...

MCA said that
...the toll rate is currently set at 14.96 sen per km and by 2038, the toll rate is expected to double to 29.16 sen per km. As such, a trip from KL to Penang costing RM86 one-way would cost RM168 by 2038.
In our published statement earlier, we said that
...a return KL-Penang journey will remain at RM86.60 today instead of RM115.30 in 2015 and RM168.80 by 2030.
And yes, they got the figures wrong. It's RM168.80 by 2030 not 2038. In 2038, the toll rate for a return trip to Penang will be RM247 (!).

Also, MCA suggested
Assuming a share price of RM3.50 to RM4 per share is offered for the acquisition of the remaining shares, the total acquisition price would be between RM4.55 billion and RM5.2 billion.
Wah, based on the current price of less than RM3.00, that's a huge premium offered, between 20% to 38%! Under normal circumstances, a 15% premium will more than suffice.

But as I mentioned earlier, we shouldn't be picky. DAP will fully support MCA's buy-back proposal in principle and we'll even go to the extent of doing a joint committee with them, should it make it more likely for the buy-back to happen.

The UMNO Low-Down

If defending the constitution constitutes "derhaka", UMNO who forcibly changed the constitution, taking powers away from Raja-raja Melayu is...?

Kasi buang Mahathir dan seluruh kabinet pada masa tu dari Malaysia?

Air Untuk Rakyat

For all those interested in all the on-going issues with regards to the Water Industry Restructuring Exercise in Selangor, please feel free to visit:, set up by the state government.

It contains official statements by the State Government, plus various statements by the members of the Water Review Panel, including myself.

The latest update is the Menteri Besar's statement that we are prepared to go to the courts, should Syabas be allowed to increase its tariffs next month.

It is also a response to the Minister's statement yesterday, as reported in Berita Harian that "kenaikan [tarif] sudah dipersetujui Ketua Audit Negara dan termaktub dalam perjanjian. Mahu atau tidak, Kerajaan Selangor perlu mematuhinya."