Thursday, May 31, 2007

Political process remains to correct the religious mess

The verdict is out, and both sides can argue till the cows jump over the moon. The last remaining chance to fix this mess once and for all is the political process, as what Leonard Teoh, the lawyer who was holding a watching brief for the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS), has remarked. All legal avenues have been exhausted. The 2-to-1 judgement is far from resolving any of the mess created so far from Dr Mahathir's amendment of Article 121. In fact, it has served to further divide and ruin the social fabric of this country. As what PAS women's wing leader Dr Siti Maria Mahmud observed: "The damage is done. Ultimately, I don't think there was a victory for either side."

Since the mess was created by the executive in cahoots with a Parliament which was almost emptied of most opposition members (they were mostly incarcerated under the ISA that time...1987-1989), it is only right that the executive must have the political will to fix it lest it becomes the main reason for the eventual breakdown of Malaysian society as we know it.

In an attempt to cover one hole with the amendment to Article 121, the executive led by Dr Mahathir then has inevitably dug an even bigger hole. For all their cries about having no intention for it to create such mess (and I am inclined to believe they are here on why I think so), the unintended consequnces are now clear for all to see. If the judiciary cannot be trusted upon now (bearing in mind this mess is a recent phenomenon, where the bench itself is observed by Zainur Zakaria to be currently divided along religious lines) to resolve the mess, it is imperative for the executive and Parliament to resolve what has become essentially a political matter once and for all. The continual damaging game between Umno and PAS to out-Islamize each other is one of the major reasons why a seemingly legal issue with no ambiguity when the Article was first amended has become a political one. And only a political process would have a chance of putting a stop to it.

What can you as a concerned citizen do about this unfortunate event? The least you could do now is to exercise your right to vote. Your choice in the ballot box in the coming General Election (very near) will determine if the executive will be kicked behind their back to sit up and repair the mess, or they will remain in their super huge majority comfort zone, and let the rot permeates throughout our society. Support NGOs and civil movement societies which will lobby the politicians on your behalf. As Lina is Catholic, perhaps it's worthwhile to get the Vatican to take an active interest in her dilemma as well. The Vatican has taken an active role in other similar cases in other countries before. Do one more fight before we all give up. That is all I can say for now.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Welcome to the Islamic Federation of Malaysia!

It is complete. With the Federal Court decision on Lina Joy's case this morning, the subversion of the Constitution of Malaysia by the judiciary with the blessing of the executive is now complete. Even though it is not explicitly spelt out, the Syariah is now supreme over the Constitution of this land. The country has walked through 50 years of journey to arrive at a destination totally unintended and unexpected by our founding fathers. We really have much to think about the future of this country, especially how it will affect our decision on our families. Personally, it is getting increasingly difficult for me to be optimistic, and today may just bury whatever optimism left in me. Attempt to convince me otherwise.

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When you can't argue with facts, appeal to the emotion

That seems to be the modus operandi of Umno as well as the Malay papers that are controlled by them. After the son-in-law turned down the chance to wallop Tony in public tonight (do you really think he will turn up suddenly tonight??), Utusan Malaysia goes to town on Sunday to wallop Tony and the DAP with exactly that - appealing to the emotions of the readers by claiming the race is under seige, they're being humiliated, and it's time for them to rise up and unite. How exactly these calls have relevance to the issue at hand is really mind boggling. The only reason why they have turned to such rhetorics is nothing but pure political attack, bringing up a host of unrelated and irrelevant topics (which are not even accurate most of the time). The constant harping on the inability of Malay graduates to find work in the private sector will come to naught if they refuse to see the actual reasons behind it.

Instead of blaming the apparent discrimination practised by the private sector, why not ask if it's because of the lack of proficiency of English among the graduates, the way they perform in the interviews, and overall results of their examinations? The use of "Mandarin speaking required" as evidence is just lame. Pick up an NST or The Star Jobs pullout and count for yourself how many ads actually do specify that as a requirement. Besides, what is there to stop anyone who is non-Chinese from being able to converse fluently in Mandarin? How about those "banana" Chinese who knows nuts about Mandarin or any other Chinese dialects? Would they scream discrimination as well? Going further, what about those job ads which specify "Bumiputeras preferred", or explicitly stating "Bumiputeras only"? All this tit-for-tat talk on race is just an exercise in futility as it will just divert us from the actual problem, let alone providing any solutions.

At the end of the day, if really want to achieve a developed country status with first world mentality, at least do away with the baseless rhetorics and irrelevant emotives. Claiming that his job is to destroy the opposition, but chickened out from a challenge to a civil debate is pure 3rd world and low class. Maybe his idea of "destroy" is to send in his Putera Rempit Umno stormtroopers (even that is not original as Umno Youth has been known to do that a couple of times already). But this controversy is also a baptism of fire of sorts for Tony who, in the short few months since he jumped into the game full time, is beginning to rise in visibility and reputation. Perhaps a note of thanks from him rather than an unwarranted apology is more appropriate for KJ.

Note: There will be a forum tonight, Wed 30 May 8pm at the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, on the topic of "Civil Service Excellence: Quality vs Quantity". Do attend if you could. Details below:

Topic: Civil Service Excellence: Quality vs Quantity
Venue: KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
Date: 30 May 2007 (Wednesday)
Time: 8.00 pm

Confirmed speakers:
Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim
Nurul Izzah Anwar
Lim Guan Eng
Lim Kit Siang

There may be two more speakers: a rep from MTUC and a respected academician.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dying to Leave

I was watching TV on Friday evening when the documentary programme "Witness" was showing on Al Jazeera English. I didn't manage to catch the beginning of the show but managed to catch the remaining 20 minutes (it was a 30 mins program). The title of "Dying to Leave" was, in my opinion, very appropriate to the topic being discussed - human smuggling, usually across borders.

I cannot remember names, but the program did manage to convey in 30 mins the size of the problem, the reasons behind it, as well as real life examples. It is mind boggling when you consider that the estimated size of the business of smuggling humans is around USD30bil annually! Estimates of the "fee" for a person to be smuggled ranges from USD40k (China to Canada or the US) to USD500 (Zimbabwe to South Africa).

The main reason why people go to great lengths to risk their lives making such a journey is usually desperation. Desperate because they are unable to put food on the table, or desperate because of war and fighting in their homeland. In some cases it's about making an "investment". The invited speaker was giving an example of how in Pakistan a family would sell off everything, or take on debt, to raise the USD20K required to smuggle a son to the UK. Very likely this son would be able to find a job and send money back to his parents, enabling them to repay the debt within 2 years and thereafter receiving the money as earnings. To most Pakistani families this will be a much better return on the USD20k compared to whatever investmens there are currently in Pakistan. A similar situation is seen among Chinese entering the US illegally. Many a times they're driven not so much by desperation as by the illusion that money is easier to find in the US than in their villages or towns.

However, by far the norm among most of such "irregular" migrants would be to seek refuge from war and violence, and sheer economic desperation. One such person interviewed is an Iraqi Kurd who was aboard the ill-fated ship which sank off the coast of Australia drowning some 150 people, many of whom were children. Even though he survived, he lost his wife and his daughter. He thought he would be able to at least have a peaceful life with his family by running away from his war torn country, but it turned out to be a tragedy instead. The painful reality of having to live facing the consequences of his decision, only in this case a decision driven by desperation.

A lady originally from Lithuania recounted how she couldn't afford to buy wood to heat her apartment, causing her son to suffer with bronchitis. Following the advice of her cousin, she decided to be smuggled into Greece. Little did she know that she and the rest of her fellow travellers would be sold like cattles to the local underground, and be forced into the flesh trade. Beatings will occur when they try to refuse. She is now a worker in a retirement home.

Perhaps the most painful experience is the one where parents actually pay smugglers to take their child, some as young as 6 years old, to be smuggled to friends or relatives abroad in the hope of a better future for their child. Imagine the anguish of such parents where there is a chance they would never see their child again, or they might never know what has happened to that boy or girl if they didn't reach their destination. I guess desperation drives people to do the unimaginable, which most of us would never understand, nor do we wish to experience.

Despite numerous concerns regarding the impact of immigrants in most countries, including ours, the truth is that we have an economic need for them. Migrant labour is required for most of the jobs which the country's own labour force shuns. These jobs are usually associated with being dirty, dangerous, and very poorly paid. As an example, the hard job of picking tomatoes in the US is mainly taken up by irregular migrants from Central America. The pay is pittance considering how hard the job is. In fact, the pay has not changed much since almost 20 years ago, meaning the real wage has actually dropped some 60%. Driven by consumer needs to have cheap tomatoes, migrant labourers will be around for a long time to come, and exploitation will continue to happen.

In many ways, the problem of human smuggling is a consequence of globalization, consumer demands for better products at a lower price, as well as extreme poverty caused by failure of governments and wars. It will remain a big problem unless each of the main causes are resolved. The fact now is that countries cannot stop such irregular immigration, and in most cases they actually need them for labour purposes. It is best therefore that countries learn to deal with it instead of trying to stop it at all costs. Not only is there an economic sense to it, but it is also about having basic decency to treat our fellow humans in a more civil and dignified manner. After all, nobody choose to be born into a desperate situation.

Our country, in a way, is also a country of immigrants. We really should deal with the issue of irregular immigrants in a much better manner considering how they have been instrumental in contributing to the growth of this nation, particularly in the construction industry. Raiding hostels, villages and jungles and throwing them into detention camps is not only treating them with contempt, but to disrupt their input into our economic activities as well as wasting taxpayers's money without solving any problems. Not to mention the countless allegations of abuse of powers and human rights violations while conducting such raids, especially by RELA (check out this interview with the RELA chief). Having a more open attitude towards migrant labour, and streamlined process to regularize them as legal workers would be more economically beneficial. It is better for the government and legal agents to earn fees from processing permits for immigrants than to allow smugglers to profit from the movement of people. After all, I don't foresee Malaysians accepting the tens of thousands of menial jobs any time soon. And I don't think our country will be able to function as it is now without people filling these jobs.

(I just realized that Raja Petra Kamarudin had just now just posted an article about migrant labour in Malaysia, with a different take altogether - a cash cow for some Minister.)

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Monday, May 28, 2007

No debate - KJ

However, in an immediate response, Khairy said that he would not entertain Pua's challenge to a debate, adding that it was an attempt by the Opposition to divert the subject to something else.

Source: The Star
Looks like I have to find something else to do on the evening of May 30th. No debate as I've speculated earlier, as well as no attempt to even reply to Tony's rebuttal. For Tony's full press statement, click here.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

A million death is a statistic, one death is a tragedy

From the interview with Richard Stearns, President of World Vision (sourced from Guy Kawasaki's blog...he did the interview himself, I believe)

Question: What’s the biggest obstacle to get rich people to care about poor people?
Answer: The obstacle is that poverty is often not personal. If your next-door neighbor’s child was dying and you could save her for $100, you wouldn’t think twice. But a child 10,000 miles away whom you have never met, that’s just different.About 29,000 kids die every day of preventable causes–29,000! These kids have names and faces, hopes and dreams. Their parents love them as much as we love our kids. We’ve got to make poverty personal. Stalin once said: “A million deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy.” We must try to see the face of the one child.
That in a nutshell describes why World Vision has been successful at fund raising - the notion of child sponsorship where people are allowed to see the face of that one child. I found this interview in Ronnie Liu's blog.

I have to admit that before I have my own child I've never really understood the pain a parent has to endure when his or her own child suffers. Now that I understand, as most of us who are parents do, perhaps it's time we also do what little we can to alleviate the suffering endured by children of unfortunate parents.

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Tony answers KJ with a challenge

If you think you want to see WWE Smackdown kinda challenge, you'll be disappointed. Tony in a press conference today has asked KJ to a debate instead, with the earliest date of next Wednesday 8pm at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Of course, considering how important KJ is with his busy schedule, they are willing to let Khairy choose the time and place. Instead of fudging the issue with race and semantic, Tony has proposed the debate to focus on 3 key issues:

1. How to prevent our education system from churning out graduates who are unable to gain employment despite the large number of advertised vacancies in the market.

2. How to improve our civil service delivery system to substantially increase the satisfaction of the people and the successful completion of government projects.

3. How to streamline a bloated civil service, disproportionate to the size of the Malaysian population to reduce tremendous economic burden of the government.

After all, the gist of the supposedly offensive press statement is about the efficiency and size of the civil service. Click here for Malaysiakini's coverage on Tony's press conference.

He has also uploaded a post in his blog on the latest development in this issue. Considernig how KJ has pulled out of a public debate before with PKR's Adlan Benan Omar and PAS's Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad, I am doubtful if this debate will ever materialise. Perhaps the time when we see these two cross swords will be in that august house, provided the leak doesn't flood out the hall.

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More publicity for Tony in Utusan Malaysia

Umno Youth has decided to give Tony further political publicity by demanding Tony and the DAP to retract their recent press statement on the pay rise of the civil service. Yesterday in Utusan Malaysia the secretary of Umno Youth Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahalan brought up a host of almost unrelated issues in an attempt to turn up the heat on KJ's fellow alumnus Tony. Take a look at the following statements (in Bahasa Malaysia):

Setiausahanya, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahalan menegaskan permasalahan graduan Melayu ialah apabila syarikat-syarikat swasta terutamanya milik bukan Melayu tidak memberi peluang sama rata kepada graduan tersebut.

Menurutnya, syarikat-syarikat berkenaan meletakkan banyak syarat yang tersurat dan tersirat sehingga menyukarkan graduan Melayu mendapatkan pekerjaan.

‘‘Saya mencabar Pua untuk memberi statistik berapa orang pekerja Melayu yang diambil oleh syarikat swasta bukan Melayu dan sama ada halangan seperti keperluan mengetahui bahasa Mandarin dan suasana bekerja yang tidak kondusif sengaja diadakan atau tidak,’’ katanya dalam satu kenyataan di sini hari ini.
This tit-for-tat argument is getting a bit stale. Two wrongs doesn't make a right. Besides, private companies are all about profits and performance. If a candidate fits the bill, there is no reason why he or she will be rejected due to the colour of his or her skin. I have yet to see evidence of alleged widespread discrimination against staff of a particular race in the private sector, particularly in MNCs. This compares to the numerous written complaints and reasoning why so many have chosen to leave their positions in the government sector, especially in institutions of higher learning and the hospitals. Moreover, in bringing up this stale argument, Abdul Rahman just serves to bolster the perception that indeed the government service is mainly about providing employment to Malay Malaysians because apparently they are unable to find employment in the private sector due to widespread discrimination.

In the same article, Exco member Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah says:
Katanya, memang perangai pemimpin DAP sentiasa mahu menimbulkan isu yang memperlihatkan seolah-olah tindakan dan dasar kerajaan semuanya tidak betul.

Namun, beliau berkata, kenyataan Pua itu jelas memperlihatkan pendirian DAP yang cuba menidakkan sumbangan besar kakitangan kerajaan dalam pembangunan negara sehingga diiktiraf antara yang terbaik oleh masyarakat antarabangsa.
On the contrary, Tony's press statement is overall supportive of the civil service pay rise. In fact, the DAP has been calling for the pay of the police force to be increased since 2000. I personally am supportive of the pay rise. The issue being raised is not whether the civil service needs a pay rise, but about the massive size which naturally begets the questions on productivity and efficiency. This is all the more so when seen in the light of one of the original objectives of privatization of keeping the civil service size at around 500,000, and the intended transformation in the way the civil service operates and deliver services through the 7 flagship applications identified as enablers of the E-Government vision. Surely the government do realize the need for a leaner and more efficient civil service because this has been one of the many goals of their own policies. This problem of increasing civil service size has to be taken seriously as it indicates implementation problems with the policies, not to mention increasing government expenditure unnecessarily.

The last statement made by Datuk Shamsul takes the cake:
‘‘Sebenarnya DAP semakin goyah dengan langkah kerajaan memberikan kenaikan gaji kepada kakitangan baru-baru ini dan mereka melihat langkah tersebut mengurangkan sokongan rakyat kepada mereka,’’ katanya.
Seems like he is admitting that the pay rise does have a link to the intention of the government to increase support among the civil servants. This when his big boss Pak Lah has flatly denied that there was ever a link. Perhaps Umno Youth needs to be more careful when issuing statements in the heat of the moment, especially so when they bring into question the accuracy of statements made by their very own party president.

Anyway, Tony and DAP is having a press conference today at 10.30am to clear the air over the matter. Check out his blog for a full statement once it's uploaded.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

KJ turns his gun towards Tony

Not that Tony who is his good buddy and a new shareholder in ECM Libra Avenue. He is pointing his gun towrds his fellow alumnus Tony Pua over his press statement regarding the civil service pay rise. This is what The Star reported:

Umno Youth wants DAP and its economic adviser Tony Pua to apologise to Malaysians for his remarks that the civil service has been “a dumping ground for the politically sensitive constituency of unemployed Malay graduates.”

Its deputy Khairy Jamaluddin said Pua’s comments, implying that civil servants were the employees of last choice and unable to seek gainful employment elsewhere, were totally unacceptable and without basis.
Ironically, that supposedly offensive statement was supported by Najib's call to the Public Services Department last year to speed up the recruitment of graduates in order to overcome the problem of unemployed graduates which, in Najib's own words, a big bulk of them are bumiputeras. You can read more about that here.

This latest sandiwara is nothing more than the usual political posturing, with a dash of "protecting the race" thrown into the mix. Never mind the fact that Tony's press statement was positive and constructive overall. That is how the political game is played. But it does signal one thing though, that Tony's profile as a "somebody" in national politics is gaining ground. He may yet have to thank KJ for the extra limelight, though he just said he has no intention of apologizing! ;-)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pay rise, but trim civil service as well

Tony has released a press statement regarding the civil service pay rise. In a nutshell, the pay rise is welcomed considering the meagre below-subsistence salaries of the lowest ranking civil servants. The maximum 35% increase is for staff at this level. However, the matter of concern is the current huge size of the civil service.

Courtesy of Malaysiakini
If you look at the table above, in the span of 10 years from 1990 to 2000, the civil service grew 15.6%. But in the 6 years from 2000 to 2006, we're already seeing a hefty 23.5% increase in headcount. In this age of information technology and calls for higher productivity, it makes us wonder how the civil service is so different from the rest that they continue to buck the trend. I remember not too long ago when the government announced the e-government initiative containing 7 flagship applications, one of the unstated objectives due to the sensitivity of the matter is the eventual trimming in size of the civil service. This was on the basis that the e-government initiative was to transform the way the civil service provide services and ways of operation. 10 years down the road, we're neither near to the original e-government vision nor are we getting a leaner, more efficient and productive civil service. In fact, the civil service is growing at a faster rate and questions have been raised about their overall efficiency.

With an additional expenditure of RM8.0bil a year due to the raise, perhaps it's time for the government to seriously look into managing the civil service size as well as how it could be made leaner and more efficient. If it keeps growing at the current rate without the corresponding increase in productivity, that additional expenditure is set to increase, with no beneficial returns. A leaner more productive civil service will allow for the same expenditure to be used to provide a much better remuneration package for doctors, teachers and academics. Such money spent will be well worth it if it means retaining our overworked-underpaid medical doctors, attracting better quality teachers, and providing more incentive for the best minds to contribute to the public universities. At least the beneficial returns would be more obvious by paying these particular groups better rather than paying more just for the same albeit much bloated civil service.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Expose irresponsible profiteers!

From The Star today:

Ministry to name and shame traders who raise prices

PUTRAJAYA: Unscrupulous traders who increase prices of goods must be exposed so that people stop patronising their shops.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said consumers have to be smart and help bring to book such traders.

He also ordered the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to crack down on traders taking advantage of the salary increase in the public sector.

“Reports of unnecessary price increases have already started.

“Expose these irresponsible profiteers so that others will not do business with them,” he said.
It's another case of cakap tak serupa bikin. When the government increases prices of essential goods, signs lopsided concession agreements with guaranteed rate increases, and gives contracts to vendors and contractors with high overpriced prices, all this threat against the small traders and distributors smack of hypocrisy. After all, the increase in cost of living can be attributed directly or indirectly to the government's action. At the end of the day, whatever increase in pay the civil servants are getting will be negated by ever increasing prices of goods, including essential day-to-day goods. Already, some are speculating that the pay rise will not translate to much of a sweetener. With the inevitable increase in prices due to increase in costs, especially logistical costs, the lower to middle income group will still feel stretched. And all those threats of taking action against "irresponsible profiteers" will only make people become more cynical of the government's actions and pronouncements.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Pay rise for civil servants

Updated! Latest from The Star:

Govt servants get big raise

PUTRAJAYA: Government servants will get a pay raise of between 7.5% and 35%, effective 1 July, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced Monday.

The cost of living allowance will also be increased by 100%, he said.

Members of the police and the armed forces will receive 20% over and above the announced increase in pay.
Looks like it's close to the 10%-40% request made by CUEPACS. With the recent price increase in flour and the upcoming increase of toll rates for PLUS and ELITE, the raise would hopefully go to some extent in alleviating the pain, if it doesn't get negated completely. But why do I have the nagging feeling that my kopi ais kurang manis is going to see a price hike soon?

Update: Malaysiakini in its article on the same subject mentioned Pak Lah as saying there are 4 factors for giving the pay raise:

1. strong GDP growth over the past 5 years averaging around 5.6% per year
2. the need to attract and retain qualified and motivated personnel
3. increase cost of living due to higher oil prices
4. better state of finance for the government

I am not too sure about the the 2nd factor, especially if the government has intention to attract talents regardless of race, because there are various other factors such as glass ceilings. Even with the raise, the still low civil pay would not really stop the continual brain drain of academics and medical doctors from public universities and hospitals. A different remuneration scheme has to be drawn up for these two sets of professionals due to their very different nature compared to the rest of the civil service. In fact, I believe school teachers deserve to have a different scheme as well if we are serious about improving the pathetic state of our education.

Regardless, there would be no stopping people from speculating that this is the clearest signal to date from the government that the elections is near. Coupled with the statement from 2nd Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Yakcop some weeks back regarding how Budget 2008 would be focused on the wage earners and lower income group (considering the pressure most families in the cities are facing from ever increasing prices of essential goods for the last year or so), I have no doubt that elections fever will strike Malaysia very soon.

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Anwar answers Khairy on Shaha Riza

From The Star today:

Umno Youth wants Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to respond to reports that he had a hand in getting a highly paid job for Shaha Riza, the girlfriend of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, outside the organisation.

Anwar, who is the chairman of the Foundation for the Future, is alleged to have written a letter to Robin Cleveland, Wolfowitz’s counsellor at the World Bank, requesting for Riza to be transferred to the foundation.
This following NST's similar claim earlier in their article titled "The Wolfowitz connection: Anwar Ibrahim's hand in Shaha Riza's transfer". For those who have been following the Wolfowitz controversy, the former World Bank president was found by the World Bank panel to have violated the bank's rules in granting his girlfriend Shaha Riza a pay rise. He resigned over the issue, not before creating a bitter row in defending his actions as above board. And just when we thought we would not hear of this any more, Anwar's name somehow was dragged into it, thus extending in Malaysia what would have been a closed case.

It turns out that the pay rise that Shaha Riza obtained was also in conjunction of her transfer to the Foundation for the Future in which Anwar is chairman. Anwar was stated in the NST article as having written a letter to Robin Cleveland, Wolfowitz's counsellor, asking for her transfer from the State Department to the foundation. Anwar's close association with Wolfowitz has always been a talking point in Malaysian conversations about politics. Very likely the attempt to link Anwar to Wolfowitz's fall from grace in the World Bank is but one of the many attempts to paint him in as bad a light as possible, never mind the fact that the ruling party has time and again claimed he is no longer a factor in Malaysian politics, and he is nothing but a spent force not worthy of media space. But the manner in which he is attacked and his ceramahs being disrupted or blocked consistently makes a mockery of those claims. Khairy's demand that Anwar explain his role in the controversy is the latest in a string of such examples.

It could very well turned out to be nothing but blowing hot air. Anwar has come out with a refutation, to the effect that Shaha Riza was assigned by the World Bank to the foundation before he was even made chairman (2005). The letter was written because the executive committee of the foundation decided in 2006 to regularize her appointment as to avoid conflict of interest due to the fact that all the while she was appointed through the US State Department. By regularizing her appointment she would be assigned directly from the World Bank instead. Of course, this doesn't mean her pay rise engineered by Wolfowitz due to this re-appointment is above board. In fact, her pay rise started in 2005 itself when she was in the State Department while still on the World Bank's payroll. The request from the foundation in 2006 to have her assigned directly from the World Bank does not seem to be inappropriate, nor could I see how it could be linked to her allegedly inappropriate pay rise which happened earlier.

To read more on Anwar's statement regarding the attempt to link him to Wolfowitz's fall, check out this article by Malaysiakini. In it he also deals with Umno Youth's demand that he explain himself for helming a foundation funded by the United States. I'm not too sure what exactly is the problem with that, unless they're trying to bolster their claims that Anwar is a paid CIA stooge. That is, if they could decide once and for all what to tar him as.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Another form of vote buying

I am talking about the version done by Japan where they managed to convince Laos into joining the International Whaling Commission. For those who are not aware, Laos is a land-locked country, stuck between Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Cambodia, with no access to the sea at all. There is really not many good reasons for them to join a body which is closely and intimately linked to the seas. But what caught the eye is that Laos made the decision after its prime minister met with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese PM. Shortly after the meeting a USD1mil development aid for Laos was announced. The timing of the two seemingly unrelated event cannot be coincidental, especially when Japan has used similar "development aids" for the small Pacific island nations to influence these IWC members to support Japan's cause. That cause is to push for commercial whaling to resume.

Already Japan is slowly winning, having gotten a 1 vote advantage last year in a vote to declare the whaling moratorium not necessary anymore. One more additional vote from a willing country desperate for any form of development aid would only serve Japan's interest further, all in the name of protecting their culture of eating whale meat, as well as the dubious excuse of killing hundreds of whales for the purpose of scientific research. For the sake of the whales, I hope Japan will never get enough votes to push for an outright resumption of commercial whaling. But when you consider there are so many countries around who would not balk at getting development aid from Japan, I think it's another case of human interests above all.

Courtesy of Al Jazeera English

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Two Monkeys apologizing - Take 4!

Breaking news from Malaysiakini!

Barisan Nasional backbenchers Mohd Said Yusof and Bung Mokthar Radin today apologised over their sexist remarks made in the Parliament last week.

The apology came about after a 45-minute meeting with the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil this morning.
The two monkeys finally apologized, but only half heartedly. They apologize to all Malaysian women, if they "were offended". They did not issue a personal apology to MP Fong Po Kuan at whom they first directed their now classic remark. As if Fong is not a woman, and she was not offended. They even have an excuse for using such words:
However they defended their words used in the Dewan as necessary to defend the government during debates.
So defending the government using uncouth and sexist remark is more effective than using facts and figures?

What else, you say? None! As expected, the two will be let off, as "they have suffered enough criticisms from everyone in the past week". The problem is, the two monkeys were aloof, defensive, and showed no regret throughout the whole fiasco, even retracting their apologies when they decide to first meet with Shahrizat. Now for political expediency, they finally provided an apology ala Lee Kuan Yew's style, and have gotten away with barely a slap on their fingers. Another classic BN wayang is over, with such a predictable ending!

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Business is bad, just get money from government!

What a place to do business this land of ours! If you are unprofitable and decides to close down, you get compensation up to RM300,000. What's more, such compensation are footed by taxpayers! Check this AFP news:

17/05: Proton wants to pay off dealers

(AP) -- Malaysia's ailing national carmaker Proton has asked the government for more money to pay off unprofitable dealers who have agreed to close shop, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Proton intends to double the "relief assistance" for dealers that chose to close down and asked the government for an extra 16 million ringgit, the New Straits Times said quoting unidentified sources.

The company will now pay 300,000 ringgit after many of the dealers said the earlier offer of 150,000 ringgit wasn't enough, the Times said.

(for full article, click here)
This asking unprofitable dealers to close shop to reduce the number of Proton dealers is akin to a VSS - voluntary separation scheme. But usually the compensation in such a scheme for the staff (in this case the dealer) comes from the coffer of the company. However, in Proton's case, they're actually asking money from the government (i.e. taxpayers' money!) to provide "relief" to the unprofitable dealers.

I can understand if Proton wants to downsize its dealer network to consolidate and have a better focus on improving the fewer dealers. But if they claim the dealers which they want to close are already unprofitable, why would they not be allowed to die a natural death? Instead, what is propping them up all this while, enabling to decide to close only upon getting "relief" compensation? What was the arrangement between Proton and these dealers when they come aboard? Was there some kind of dealership termination clauses which provide compensation? Is a similar approach being taken by the other car distributors with respect to its dealers?

Readers who have information on this perhaps could enlighten us more.

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SMS Scams Explained

Jeff Ooi is running a series of posts explaining the SMS scam which Malaysian celco customers are facing currently. One of the most damaging effect is that of customers being charged unsolicited SMS from content providers (a few ringgit each) which they have never subscribed to. I am a victim as well, and even though Maxis have said it will waive the item from my bill, it has not been done (more than a month already). In a forum I visit regularly, I found out I wasn't the only one. So, do check your bills (sorry if you are prepaid user...only Digi seems to provide itemised billing for prepaid accounts)!

The MCMC seems to know about this and is trying to put a stop to it. Let's just hope that for the sake of celco consumers, political interference will not happen that will jeopardize MCMC's regulatory powers with regards to this issue.

Read more!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Husam fears PAS will lose Kelantan

“We’re finished, nobody can survive... Nobody can...”

This is what Husam Musa, currently PAS vice president, claimed in his interview with Malaysiakini. Reasons? The same concerns that have been brought up by PKR recently - electoral irregularities, malpractice, as well as the increasingly biased Election Commission. One might say these allegations are nothing new, but Husam thinks otherwise. He actually says electoral irregularities were not evident until the 2004 general election. And that is the year when the BN has won an unprecedented 92% of the seats in Parliament after a torrid election in 1999. These are his words:

“This did not happen during (ex-premier Dr) Mahathir’s (Mohamad) time. No matter how bad it was under Mahathir, this trend only started in the 2004 general election,” said the state exco member.
To read more, click here.

Anyway, Husam is one of the more enlightened and dynamic young leaders in PAS currently. His worries might be an exaggeration, but seeing how poor the sentiment is currently on the ground, and with expectations that a snap general election will be called before the end of this year, one cannot discount his observations. Remember that Dr M himself is a victim - for RM200 a head his division whom he has led for years could sell their votes. What more in an election where voters most likely would not have any sentiments for the candidates running in their area. And do remember to check your voter registration status regularly at I personally know of two persons whose names have mysteriously been removed from the latest gazetted roll, even though they have voted in 2004. Postal ballots and phantom voters are not the only tricks the EC do. If you have been "erased", the only way is to re-register yourself.

Only by a miracle, or through thorough dissemination of information, would the majority of Malaysian voters be expected to vote using their head. If the swing is huge enough, I am optimistic the BN will not be so foolish as to commit outright electoral fraud which will only bring international and local condemnations upon their head. As rotten as they are, I don't think they are that foolish to consider massive rigging.

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Two Monkeys apologizing - Take 3!

Just as I've expected, the comedy involving the two monkeys of Parliament is not over yet! Today's The Star says they did apologize, but they called them up again and retracted the apology! Reason? Because they want to meet with Shahrizat first and then decide. I wonder what Shahrizat will do...give them each a spank on their arse? I really doubt so. More likely it would again be a case of "We discuss sensitive issues behind closed door in the BN spirit, and we accept the explanation. Therefore this matter should now be put to rest."

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Suggested BN's new logo

Something light hearted. Someone sent me this picture suggesting that BN should adopt it.

(Sorry if the creator of the above sees this as I didn't give any acknowledgement to him/her. My apologies as I do not know who the creator is)

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On bloggers' "neutrality"

I am the first to admit that there is no way a person who has an interest in something in any sphere in life can be wholly, truly neutral. I will be the first to raise up my hand and admit that I have a natural inclination to be more biased towards certain car manufacturers when asked why I choose to drive what I drive. The same goes for my political leaning. I am not ashamed of standing where I am in the realm of socio-politics. I even put details of my party membership in my profile. And that would have given heads up to readers of my blog on what to expect. This blog is one way for me to articulate my thoughts and opinion, and it affords me freedom of speech (so to speak) to tell people who are bothered to listen to what I think.

But that is the whole point. Freedom of speech is NOT about being neutral. It is about allowing people to say their piece no matter on which side they're standing. It will be naivete if someone would think that to have freedom of speech, everything spoken must be neutral. That has never been, and will never be. When applied to the print media, it's the same thing. I don't mind The Star or the NST of being extremely pro-BN. I don't mind Utusan Malaysia slanting their news to paint an erroneous picture of the Chinaman. But what I DO mind is the prevention of the other side of the story, or the other views to be equally heard by Malaysians. Yes, I know Malaysiakini is seen as pro-Opposition, but so what? If you don't like them then don't read their news. But at least allow others who want to read more about the other side of the political fence to read what they want. Nobody is naive enough to think that the press in the US or UK is neutral. They are never neutral. But, the crucial thing is that they are allowed to be biased towards any side they wish. Of course, if one claims from the outset that they're "neutral", then the most they could do is to accomodate space for views and opinions from both sides of any issue. Even in such cases, there is no guarantee that the body giving such space will be able to be truly neutral in their own analysis of the issue, unless you expect then to be just "reporters" and not have any analysis whatsoever. Let the readers judge, so to speak.

Which brings me to the current fuss about the recent meeting between the pro-tem committee of All-Bloggers with Anwar Ibrahim at his office. The committee, including Rocky, has stated that it was Anwar who invited them to a meet, perhaps for the reason of just wanting to embrace the blogosphere further, or perhaps he just have his personal agenda, whatever that may be. But reading through various comments in various blogs, I sense that some people are very uncomfortable with the meeting, to the point of even questioning the integrity and credibility of the very real people in the pro-tem committee. How else could one explain away the need to insinuate that it was the committee who wanted to meet Anwar despite being denied by Rocky and others involved? It so happened that the first politician which the supposedly apolitical All-Bloggers group is someone seen as the enemy of the current administration, and is a character controversial enough for people to hate him no matter what he does and say, and people are ringing the alarm bells all over questioning the "hidden" agenda of the pro-tem committee and the group. The thing is, would the reaction be different if the committee had met with Dr M instead? Would they sound the alarm bells as vigourously as they are doing now? Dr M after all is also an enemy in the eyes of the current administration. What if it was Pak Lah or Zam which they've met? Would they create alarm bells insinuating that All-Bloggers is now trying to pander to the government which intent on persecuting bloggers? These unwarranted and irrational reactions are even more inexplicable in the light of revelation by the pro-tem committee that they are planning to meet more politicans from both side of the fence. It's a classic case of "you cannot please everyone".

I am in full support of the effort by the pro-tem committee of All-Bloggers to meet politicians from both side of the fence. Heck, I don't mind if they want to meet whoever they want to meet, as long as they explain the rationale for it and why they see the bloke they wanna meet as someone worth meeting. I am not going to question their reasoning in a manner which brings their character and reputation to question. I am not going to tell them they cannot meet this person or that person, just because I have a personal dislike or suspicion of that fella. If we distrust these people who have volunteered their own time and putting their names at stake in an undertaking currently seen as "against national interest", then by all means go form your own little club and do whatever you see fit, and meet whomever you think it's more worthwhile spending your time with. And if you think your little club will not face such issues from members, then you do not understand the dynamics of human interaction. At the end of the day, each one of us have our own little interest and agenda, and no way 100% of the time will our interests be aligned with interests of the club/group/organization we are in. Unless of course, your little club has only one member, and that is yourself.

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Two Monkeys apologizing - Take 2!

There is more than meets the eye in the continuing farce involving the two monkeys of Parliament. After The Star initiallly mentioned that the two monkeys apologized to MP Fong Po Kuan and all Malaysian women, later in the day (16 May) they totally edited their original newsitem to remove all reference to an apology to MP Fong. The updated newsitem now contains only quotes that show the two monkeys are apologizing only to Malaysian women. But when contacted by Malaysiakini and Sin Chew, both MPs denied making any apology at all! More on this in Uncle Kit's blog in which he said:

There is still a lot of confusion as to what exactly Mohd Said and Bung Mokhtar have been forced to do and say in conjunction with the Cabinet meeting today, but one thing is clear, there is totally no compunction, contrition or repentance by both of them about their male-chauvinist spree in Parliament last week, which was why they had been defending their actions to the hilt the past one week!

(for full post, click here)
The wayang is not going to end soon. The political heat is on BN from all quarters (mainly the non-Malay media), and if the BN women leaders such as Sharizat and Ng Yen Yen do not finally act like what they're doing now, I guess they understand the repercussion. After all, somebody lost an election not too long ago by insinuating women are inferior to men because they have to squat or seat when urinating. Talk about monkeying around!

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Polaroid photos for MyKad application?!?

Check this out in Uncle Kit's blog:

If this wasn’t bad enough, when I met my parents at Christmastime, I told them what happened to me, and they said they had recently made their new MyKads too. They then told me that they had to pay RM10 for three photos each. “What….” I said, “it’s now all digital, what photos?” So my father went over and pulled out six polaroid photos from the drawer. “IC photos lah,” my dad said “they took these and scanned it in.” This was the most ridiculous story I had ever heard

(for full post, click here)
A Malaysian (hometown Kuantan) working in Singapore is relating to Uncle Kit his misadventure with a very suspicious National Registration office in Kuantan as well as some observation of his on the system being used to record and process our MyKad details. Perhaps that is one of the modus operandi to enable phantom voters to vote on behalf of the actual voter, without the actual voter knowing, of course. And what a fine example of rent-seeking as well when MyKad applicants are duped into taking Polaroid photos when it is totally unnecessary. Pay for something which doesn't exist, or for crap service, that sounds very familiar to Malaysians every day, isn't it?

Read more!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Two Monkeys apologizing?

Updated! This is new. Got this from The Star online:

Source: The Star

But the funny thing is that The Star today (16 May) also has an article that says the Jasin MP even denied ever making the uncouth "leaking" remark:

Datuk Mohd Said Yusof, one of the two Barisan Nasional MPs, who uttered sexist remarks against women in Parliament, refused to say if he would apologise or not.

The Jasin MP even denied making such statements saying that the media had blown it out of proportion.

(for full article, click here)

Now, which are we to believe? Two articles by the same newspaper on the same day, contradicting each other. Unless the two monkeys did finally bow to pressure and apologized just minutes ago.

Update (16 May, 5.30pm): Some updates from Malaysiakini on this matter. Apparently the two monkeys didn't apologize at all! Well, at least the one-eye-closed MP from Jasin, that is. The other monkey didn't bother to answer the phone. Refer to the following remark made by the Jasin MP when asked by Malaysiakini:

However when malaysiakini contacted Mohd Said for comment, he denied making any apology.

"Why should I apologise? This was a matter raised during debate in Parliament. This is usual," he said.

Source: Malaysiakini
Now did someone in The Star in his haste to spin stories make a big boo-boo? I checked The Star online again at 5.20pm, and the article has been updated:

Nevertheless, Shahrizat confirmed that she will meet with the two monkeys after saying the matter has been discussed in today's Cabinet meeting. Let's see what she will do, or not do, to the two monkeys.

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Fast Forward 15 May 2007

I wasn't planning to watch this RTM2 talkshow last night, but somehow while switching aimlessly through the channels, Bunn Nagara of The Star was speaking and I decided to while my time away watching it. The other speaker last night was Pak Non of The Sun. Bernama's Azman Ujang joined in through the telephone. Overall, I find the speakers present their views on the impact and influence of blogs/bloggers vis-a-vis the mainstream media quite well.

Bunn seems to imply that bloggers more often than not tend to have their facts wrong (not deliberately) because they do not have the support of others like in a press organization to verify what they've collected. I agree with him to a certain extent, but not when the usual blogger is one who aggregates information from various knwon sources, including mainstream media, and presents an analysis or opinion based on that collection. Unless the known sources have their facts wrong, blaming the blogger for the wrong facts is just looking for a convenient scapegoat. Anyway, you could read a report of the show in Jeff Ooi's blog.

What is perplexing though is that Ahirudin Attan of Rocky's Bru is supposed to be one of the speakers in the talk show. However, he was supposedly informed that it was postponed, but turned out the show went ahead without him. Having him there would have made the show much better as he as an ex-journalist and a current active blogger would have been able to present views from the other side, so to speak. Perhaps pressure from the top has canned his presence?

Anyway, at the close of the talk show, 59% of viewers were of the opinion that the press here is not free enough. The government really have to think about freeing up the mainstream media to allow them to regain credibility rather than engaging in a futile attempt to vilify bloggers.

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Get Dr Kua's May 13 book FAST!

Updated! As expected, the Internal Security Ministry has started to seize the book on sale, barely 2 days after the official launch! According to Malaysiakini, they seized some 10 copies from the Mid Valley MPH bookstore.

According to the publishers of ‘May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969', a team of ministry officers visited the MPH bookstore this afternoon.

The officers advised the popular bookstore not to sell the book as it may be banned.

According to a letter issued by the ministry officers to the bookstore, the books were confiscated from the shelves for suspicion of being an “undesirable publication” based on Section 7 of the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984.

(for full article, click here)
Do get your copy as soon as possible. You can get a copy from SUARAM, or from other places as mentioned by Elizabeth Wong in her blog. Click here to read more on the seizure which apparently is done in the most amateurish manner, and with no proper identification and documentation. Perhaps they are just impersonating ministry officials, and wanted 10 of the book for FREE. Liz is saying they now owe SUARAM RM200. For the record as well, the book has not been officially banned. But my gut feel says it will come sooner or later. Already BN senators are screaming for blood.

Update: Check out Khalid Jaafar's blog post on his attendance during the book launch. The most interesting thing is that he mentioned that a former SB Chief, Tan Sri Yuen Lek Lai, was there and he stated that even the SB then didn't know the causes for the incident. He was also defending the police force at that time as doing their job as best they could in an impartial manner. He couldn't say the same for the armed forces. This line is consistent with the observation in Dr Ooi's book on Tun Dr Ismail where the police were credited with being able to bring things under control in an impartial manner, whereas the armed forces on the other hand were reported to have had a hand in even shooting randomly into Chinese owned shophouses. It wasn't until when the Sarawak Rangers who were mainly Ibans were deployed that the biased behaviour of the armed forces were put to an end.

Courtesy of Khalid Jaafar
Another interesting point Khalid mentioned as well is that Tan Sri Yuen is supposedly writing a book on the May 13 incident as well. Let's hope that he could finish it and see it published. Additional information will always help to increase our understanding of the unfortunate incident.

Meanwhile, Said Zahari, who was the ex-editor-in-chief of Utusan Melayu and an ex-ISA detainee in Singapore, called on Malaysians to read Dr Kua's book with an open mind and positive attitude, stating that it's an historical reality and we should not be afraid to face up to it. Read more about it in Malaysiakini.

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Switch on the headlights, damnit!

I always have a very low opinion on the competence of Malaysian drivers in general. They never seem to use their rear view and side mirrors. They are incapable of using the turn signals to indicate which way they want to turn (and that without checking if there are vehicles behind or at their side). They fail to judge the main traffic speed when merging, most of the time driving at too slow a speed AND shooting right out to the fastest lane, regardless if there is a truck barrelling down that lane. They LOVE to hog the fast lane, driving at a leisurely pace, never mind the fact that the entire road ahead is as clear as the desert and there is a long row of cars piling up behind them. They are also incapable of understanding the basic rule of "keep left when not overtaking". I can go on and on, but this morning in atrocious weather condition, another boo-boo that Malaysian drivers love to do is...THEY DON'T SWITCH ON THE HEADLIGHTS!

The heavy drizzle this morning combined with the total overcast sky and misty condition causes extremely poor visibility on the road. Yet only about half of the vehicles see it fit to switch on their headlights. Yes, you could argue that it's still bright enough to see the road. But that is not the point. The point is, you can barely see the vehicle in front or at your back in such atrocious conditions, and to be INVISIBLE is to court trouble! The main reason why you should switch on the headlights (the main beam, not that useless parking light) is to INCREASE YOUR VISIBILITY! If people cannot see you, how safe do you think you are on the road?? With fine mist being sprayed all over your vehicle from the car in front, tell me how far it can go before you can't see jack shit? The answer is barely 50 meters!

So, for your own sake, for the sake of ALL other vehicles on the freaking turn on the headlights, and that is the main beam, not the useless parking lights. Those driving continental cars should turn on their rear fog light as well. The whole point is not because you have superman eyes that can see through such atrocious road and weather condition, but so that lesser mortals like Malaysian drivers can bloody see you!!!

Read more!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

BN Women MPs finally surfaced...

...after some 5-6 days and start saying "nice" things in the press that they too are disgusted with the two monkeys of parliament (Jasin and Kinabatangan) who when unable to string together words worthy of the Parliament, they showed to the world their uncouthness by insisting women leaks every month, thus there shouldn't be an issue with Parliament leaking everywhere from the ceiling.

Courtesty of Mob's Crib
But the sad truth is, where were all these "disgusted" women BN MPs when MP Fong attempted to refer the two monkeys to the Parliament committee of privileges for disciplinary action? Lim Kit Siang even observed that one BN woman MP who was present actually slithered out when the motion was she so disgusted that she have to go puke, or is she so spineless to support a fellow woman regardless of political persuasion? Only after much disgust and outrage among women in Malaysia do these BN women MPs begin to sit up and take notice that they have to play to the PR gallery as well. Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat apparently is "hurt" enough that she wants to discuss this in the Cabinet meeting, and is demanding action to be taken.

But the truth of the matter is this is not the first time. Look at the following table provided by Malaysiakini and you will get what I mean.

Source: Malaysiakini
With all the talk about creating a first world mentality, the PM has seen it fit to remain in his "elegant silence" over these two monkeys. DPM Najib even has the cheek to say that it was all made in jest. I wonder what he will think if the same monkeys would say to his wife "tiap-tiap bulan bocor tak apa, akan berhenti tak lama" (meaning "don't worry about monthly leaks, it will stop soon").

Anyway, there will be a forum this Thursday 17 May at 7.30pm to discuss more about this issue of uncouth BN MPs acting like monkeys and apes in the Parliament, urinating all over the female MPs. More details check out Tony Pua's blog.
“Respect Women's Dignity, Towards A 1st World Parliament!”

Date: 17 May 2007 (Thursday)
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: YMCA Hall, Kuala Lumpur.
No.95, Jalan Padang Belia, Off Jalan Tun Sambanthan, 50470 Kuala Lumpur
(Opposite of the KL SENTRAL Station)

The panel of distinguished speakers include:

1. Ambiga Sreenevasan - Bar Council President
2. Maria Chin Bte Abdullah - Executive Director of Women Development Collective (WDC)
3. Zainah Anwar - Executive Director of Sisters in Islam
4. Azmin Ali – Vice-President of Parti KeADILan Rakyat
5. Lim Guan Eng - Secretary-General of DAP
6. YB Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader
7. YB Teresa Kok Suh Sim - MP for Seputeh
8. YB Fong Po Kuan - MP for Batu Gajah

Read more!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dr Syed Husin Ali's take on May 13

Dr Syed Husin Ali, former UM sociologist and anthropologist, and currently deputy president of PKR, was one of the speakers during launch of Dr Kua's new book on May 13, 1969. It is interesting to note of his disagreement with Dr Kua's conclusion that the riot was a staged coup d'etat by Umno elites, but rather the unfortunate event was taken advantage to stage one.

“There was certainly a stroke or blow against Tunku which ultimately resulted in his removal from power. It was successful, but certainly not a sudden move.”

“To me it appeared that what Razak (former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak) and others did was to take advantage of the ethnic violence which took place, in order to carry out the coup against Tunku, whom they were already dissatisfied with, anyhow.”

“But I have little doubt that the people who precipitated the ethnic violence were Umno leaders who felt threatened they would lose power. But they could get mass Malay support because they managed to spin that if they lose power, it would mean that the Malays as a whole would lose power,” said the former president of Party Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia.

(source: Malaysiakini)
Just goes to show how writing history is at most times such a difficult exercise as different perspectives and interpretation can be made, usually even over the same facts and figures. Having read Dr Ooi's biography of Tun Dr Ismail recently, it does give me the impression that the riot wasn't really planned by the Umno highest level leaders. Calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate this watershed incident in the history of our nation could potentially close this chapter once and for all in a satisfactory manner, but as what Rustam A Sani observed in his blog, if the terms of reference of the Commission is not defined carefully, the end result could be nothing more than just opening up old racist wounds and having no means to move forward, or worse, speed up our reverse.

Read more!

Monkeying around with words

From The Star:

Mohd Said and his colleague Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin have come under fire for saying in the Dewan Rakyat that Fong also “leaked every month.”

“Who says that it means the menstruation cycle? Bocor can be translated into different things.

“Besides the leaks in the Parliament building, it can also mean to urinate.

“Apologise to Fong Poh Kuan? What is there to apologise for? I did not mean to offend her or other women,” he said when contacted by the daily on Saturday.

(for full article, click here)
As if monkeying around in Parliament is not enough, now they're monkeying around with the meaning of their words as well. But then you can't really blame these monkeys when their leader attempts to do a language gymnastic and taichi to change a "cancellation" to a "postponement".

Read more!

I had to postpone it!

This is the excuse our lame PM has to come up with when it's increasingly clear that the annual Christian-Muslim dialogue which is supposed to be held here on May 7-11 was cancelled at the 11th hour because the somebody (or some group) in the government felt it is not opportune to hold it this year.

And to further insult the intelligence of Malaysians, he goes on to claim that he merely asked for the seminar to be delayed so that he could attend because, in his own words:

"I have an important role to play in that conference so I don't want it to be held while I am not around," he added.
What that important role is he did not say, and I do not want to speculate. But to think that the government knew about this seminar since last year, and have given it tacit approval to be held here, it is inexplicable that the PM schedule wouldn't have included this. Even if he has some more "important" things to attend to, does it warrant cancelling the entire thing, or "postpone" it in his own words, and causing multitude of wasted funds and time for the organizers and attendees? Anyway, the organizers are looking to other countries to hold the seminar now. So much for Islam Hadhari.

Perhaps it just goes to show the true colour of this man, and his sense of priorities. After all, this is the man who showed up for only a few hours when Johor was facing its worst flood in decades, and decided opening a Nasi Kandar restaurant in Perth is more important. Incidentally, since the PM is supposed to be superstitious, I hope the closure, or bungkus, of that said Nasi Kandar restaurant would speed up the exit of this increasingly inept and idiotic man. If the US has their Dubya, Malaysians have our own Bodohwi.

Read more!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Picture tells a thousand words

Look at this picture and guess where it is:

Source: Malaysiakini
If I am guessing correctly, this is at the photo exhibition commemorating Malaysia's 50 years of nationhood at the Petronas Art Gallery. And I am guessing based on what I gleaned from this Malaysiakini report.

To think that Anwar is officially a pariah in the eyes of the BN government which treats Petronas as its kitty litter, I am surprised that an old picture of him being greeted and cheered by a big crowd is allowed to grace the wall of the exhibition, and in a Petronas' owned gallery as well!

Anyway, Anwar says his piece about the last minute cancellation of an international Muslim-Christian dialogue, The Building Bridges conference, which is chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. The conference was supposed to be held here in KL from May 7-11. It was held elsewhere annually since six years ago. I quote:
“Is this what is projected of the so-called moderate Muslim; no understanding and respect for dialogues or dissenting views even, then here it is a great tragedy for Malaysians. We stand to lose more than the organisers,” he said.

(for full article, click here)
Dr M has an answer for the seeming increasing religious intolerance in this nation, and I quote him from the 3rd part of his interview with Malaysiakini:
Go back to the teachings of Islam. These things become a problem because of interpretations. Go back and find out what is it that Islam wants you to do in such cases. Go back to the Quran. It’s there.
When asked further on the various cases that happened recently, this is what he offered:
Do you agree with what the religious authorities did? That R Subashini should be separated from her children?

Is that what the Quran suggests? I don’t think so.

You don’t think so?

I don’t think so. The problem is that it is difficult for non-Muslims to even talk or question this. We are living in such a climate of fear, that it’s not easy to be up front in this debate...
Since the Pak Lah administration claims there's more openness and transparency now, it's time for him to walk the talk and show us the result. What we're seeing now is increasing intimidation and repression of the religious rights of Malaysians.

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Tiap-tiap bulan bocor is OK

Reported in The Star:

The general consensus among MPs was that it was all right to say “women leak every month.”

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said Fong should have taken the matter in her stride.

“It is normal to play with words,” he said, adding that it would be wrong if the statement had been made with malicious intent.

(Source: The Star)
This after the fact that the speaker of the house Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib took an unprecedented four and half hours to make a decision on an emergency motion filed by MP Fong Po Kuan. The decision? To reject it based on technicalities:
"It happened yesterday afternoon but the motion was only raised this morning. So I have to reject the motion," he said, to cheers from some BN MPs.

(Source: The Sun)
To add salt to injury, the BN MPs were laughing and cheering as well, revelling in the fact that two of their kind have made such uncouth, distasteful, idiotic and sexist remark in Parliament of all places.

Malaysians love this kind of uncouth MPs very much. How else can one explain why these Monkeys of Parliament still get voted in every round? These are UMNO Cemerlang, Gemilang, Temberang for you!

Read more!

May 13 based on declassified documents

Dr Kua Kia Soong, currently principal of New Era College in Kajang and former MP of PJ, is going to launch his new book this Sunday which presents a view of the causes of the racial riot which started on May 13, 1969.

Source: Malaysiakini
Based on declassified documents from the Public Records Office in London (imagine if our documents would be declassified similarly!), Dr Kua hopes to debunk two common "myths" surrounding the unfortunate event, and I quote:
“One is racial riot will occur when the Malays are not happy, that’s why you need the New Economic Policy, affirmative action policy et cetera, otherwise the Malays will be unhappy and there will be riot.

“This is the first myth we should dismantle as documents showed some people were involved in making it (the May 13) happened with the connivance of the police and army,” he stressed.

The second myth, Kua said, is academicians and pluralist theorists who uphold the views that riots and conflicts will occur naturally in multi-racial country.

“I am questioning this. The role of the state is very important at a particular historical conjuncture. Malays, Chinese and Indians don’t suddenly decide to fight in conflict, it doesn’t happen like that,” he said.

(for full article, click here)
There have been plenty of theories on what exactly happened on that fateful day, and what are the causes behind them. The official version is that it was started by the opposition (nothing new, same excuses are used by the government today for almost anything that happened in this country). The other more interesting version is that it was a manufactured incident to facilitate a coup d'etat against the Tunku. This version I first read about in the late MGG Pillai's writings. Dr Kua believes this version is the more accurate one, and he attempts to show it in his book using the declassified documents from intelligence services, diplomat circles, correspondents, etc.

38 years on and we are still nowhere near coming to a satisfying conclusion on the why, what, and who of the incident. I personally think it is important for Malaysians to really get a clear picture of it due to the fact that our current socio-political system and environment is a product of decisions post that day. That was the day when true inter-communal decision making ala the Tunku's way died, and the current Umno hegemonic way of decision making with the other BN component parties playing a subservient role was born. Even more important for us all is to rid ourselves of the ghost of that unfortunate incident, and not to be threatened over and over again by a corrupt BN government. When we know exactly what happened on May 13, no longer would we need to fear BN's constant reminder of it, which is purely for their own selfish interest and nothing more. Let's hope this book will not be banned, as what has happened recently to a
book about the Kampung Medan clashes.

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RM22million to inspect Putrajaya for 6 months

This is how taxpayers' money is being used. After wasting tons of money (taxpayers' and Petronas') building magnificient offices all around the new township of Putrajaya, now we need to spend another RM22mil for 6 months just to inspect the level of decay and rot which have already crept into the town. Read more about it from The Sun:

That's the time and cost of checking all Putrajaya buildings

Giam Say Khoon
The Sun
10 May 2007

Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu today advised the cabinet to commission an inspection of all Putrajaya buildings, a job that will take about six months and cost RM22 million.

He submitted a preliminary report to the cabinet today on buildings with defects, two of which were highlighted by the press recently and irked the prime minister who had been championing a maintenance culture.

Samy Vellu told reporters after a post-cabinet meeting that the cost was high as "many engineers will be appointed to have a detailed inspection".

(for full article, click here)
We Malaysians are really forgiving and forgetful. Otherwise, what could explain the fact we could continue to be taken for a ride (and a bloody expensive one) by this inept BN government?

Cemerlang, Gemilang, Temberang!

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Bar Council says Ambank is not clean

I commended Ambank in my earlier post when they released a statement saying they do not practise racial discrimination when working with legal firms. Apparently the Bar Council thinks otherwise. From The Star today, it says that Ambank has absolute right and discretion to not work with a legal firm if it doesn't have a bumiputera. More on this in Malaysiakini as well. You could argue that it's a private company and it could whatever it wants. But discrimination by race is clearly in violation of the Constitution, never mind the fact that the biggest violator is the government. And in using such a line, please also remember not to complain about the alleged practice of Malaysian or foreign owned companies refusing to hire or promote bumiputeras. Perhaps it's time for consumers to exercise their rights and stop dealing with such companies. It's time to put a stop to such racism, a clear shame for a nation 50 years in the making.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Haris' excellent piece on the special position of Malays

An excellent piece of writing by Haris Ibrahim, the co-defence lawyer for Jeff Ooi and civil movement leader, on the provision of special position of Malays in our Constitution. I quote an excerpt:

...look forward to a time not too remote when it will become possible to eliminate Communalism as a force in the political and economic life of the country
Reading it reminds me of Tun Dr Ismail's reminder to the Malays at that time that the clause is nothing but a handicap (to borrow from golf) for the Malays (at that time disadvantaged vis-a-vis the minorities), to provide better opportunities for them to catch up, and not to be treated as a permanent "privilege" or "right" (nowhere in the Constitution would you see such words). He even ventured to predict that when more Malays are educated, they will decide for themselves the need to remove this handicap which he considered an insult to the abilities of the Malays.

Perhaps our fellow Malay countrymen really have to think hard and long again on this, and whether they really do understand the social contract which is the Constitution as how our founding fathers understand it. It's already 50 years since Merdeka. It's time for all of us to see through the lies which are being perpetrated by Umno to extend such "tongkats", for no other reasons but to further entrench their personal interests to the detriment of all Malaysians. It's only then will the shouts of Merdeka every year be truly reflective of the shouts on that day Aug 31st, 1957.

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...tiap-tiap bulan pun bocor juga

Translated as "leaks every month as well."

This is what 2 BN MPs said in Parliament yesterday, and reported in 3 different newspapers (Utusan Malaysia, Sin Chew, China Press). In what context you may ask? Cilipadi MP Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah) was bringing up issue of ceiling leaks in the Parliament media center (more construction and renovation problems!) in one of the debates. And in the din MP Mohd Said and MP Bung Mokhtar Radin made the remarks.

Courtesy of Mob's Crib
For those of you who remain clueless, the distasteful and sexist remarks are alluding to the fact that women menstruates every month, and thus they, particularly MP Fong, shouldn't complain about the leaking ceilings. Read more of this in Uncle Kit's blog.

These are BN MPs for you. Are you still taking seriously Pak Lah's exhortation for us to have First World mentality when he can't even ensure we have First World BN MPs? Aren't we thinking too highly of ourselves as well when Malaysians can continue voting in such low class, vulgar MPs?

Undilah Barisan Nasional! Cemerlang, Gemilang, Temberang indeed!

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Dr M on NEP and ministers

This is the 2nd part of the Malaysiakini interview with Dr M. Interesting excerpts are:

Do you think we should continue the NEP as is? Or revamp it? Or slowly and gradually phase it out?

I think we should restudy it because there are certain weaknesses that have to be corrected. There are still certain areas where you have to preserve this affirmative action and certain areas where we should discard (it). If you start selling APs, take away the APs. Why are you giving away APs, and not protecting bumiputeras who are very prone to selling off their land?
Are you disappointed by the fact that the people you have appointed in cabinet have betrayed you and are now not supporting you?

Well, of course, I have to be disappointed. When I stepped down, I thought I was going to have a good time being at social meetings with these people. Maybe they might even ask me my opinion. But the moment I stepped down, I was cut off dead. They don’t see me at all. From the first day, I was shocked. I thought these were my friends. We were together for 20 years. Why am I cut off like that?
The last question reveals a sense of Dr M's bitterness. But what he is experiencing is nothing new. Anwar, his DPM which he dumped unceremoniously faced pretty much the same thing, and in most cases got it even worse.

Anyway, do read the interview. As usual, Dr M has answers (some will call it excuses) for every question thrown at him. I cannot recall a time when more critical and direct questions were asked of him. And the fact that such questions and his answers are bared for all to see. For me it further entrenches my view of Dr M - a person who seemingly have no self-doubt at all, and does not see himself as capable of making mistakes (except for the part of evaluating characters). In a way, he is a victim of his own success and strong convictions, to the point that whoever has a different view point or ways of doing things will never be acceptable to him. Maybe this simple explanation is the basis of all this spat between him and Pak Lah, and all the conspiracy theories are just tales weaved to make it seem more interesting and entertaining.

Note: Do subscribe to Malaysiakini for only RM150 a year. It is worth every penny, and your subscription is a contribution towards a more open Malaysian society, one which respects legitimate dissenting voices.

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Najib ticks off Maybank

Updated! The current hottest news in town is that of Maybank having a ruling recently (the other bank which has a similar thing is Ambank) that they will only deal with law firms which have at least 3 partners, of which 1 of them must be a bumiputera with a minimum of 50% stake. In a nutshell, they will only deal with bumi-owned law firms. After plenty of criticism from various parties from both sides of the political fence, Najib dropped in with this statement:

"There should not be any hard and fast rules but there should be efforts to help both," Najib was quoted as saying by the state Bernama news agency from the United States, where he is visiting.

"The government's policy is that we want to encourage GLCs to give work to both bumiputera and non-bumiputera (companies)," he added.

"It is unfortunate that sometimes people interpret it in their own way."

(source: Malaysiakini)
In the end, looks like that is enough to force Maybank into revising the policy which is nothing but apartheid.

Though Najib's reprimand (apparently it was made after a the Cabinet discussed the matter in their Wednesday meeting) is timely, I couldn't help but thinking that perhaps the BN government realize that they just can't live with more of such "racial" controversies, especially those which seem to be publicised the most in media read mostly by Chinese. Not when in the aftermath of Ijok it was clear the Chinese are sending the BN a signal of discontent. Nevermind the fact that on the other hand, recent religious controversies involving Indians don't seem to get similar attention by the Cabinet. Perhaps they know they have got the Indian votes in their bag whatever happens. In any case, the MCA fellas can claim a sort of victory in this case since they were given all the space in The Star, never mind the fact that they are one to two days behind the Bar Council, DAP, and Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The other interesting thing about this is that the other bank which practise this policy seems to be out of the line of fire. One could argue that the other bank is purely private, so they could in theory do anything they saw fit. But clearly such apartheid corporate policies must be against the Constitution which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. Also in the interest of fairness, why should Maybank be the only one forced to give up such discriminatory policies just because they're government linked?

On top of that, this is not something new. GLCs have been known to be "selective" when it comes to vendors or suppliers they work with. Whether the policies are on the basis of with all things equal bumi companies will be given preference, or outright rejection of working with non-bumi companies, I don't know. But I have heard countless of times that in the case of Petronas, if you're not a bumi owned company, you could forget about doing business with them.

Perhaps Najib's reminder that there should not be any fast and hard rules, and people should not interpret government policies their own way should apply equally to the civil service, and various branches of the government. If the government themselves are deaf to such advice and practice discrimination openly, one could hardly expect the others to be more enlightened and practise otherwise.

Update: I just read in Malaysiakini that Ambank has issued a statement that it does not practise racial quotas in selecting legal firms. This is commendable, and should serve as a lesson to all corporations thinking of emulating discriminatory practices. I quote:
Another private bank embroiled in the controversy, Ambank Bhd, said in a separate statement that it does not practice racial quotas as a requisite for engaging legal firms. “The group does appoint legal firms that do not have bumiputera partners. This policy has been in place for more than two decades,” it added.

(source: Malaysiakini)

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

More body snatching in Malaysia!

Wow! Barely has the dust settled over the sad, tragic, and totally unnecessary splitting of a family built over 21 years, we have yet again two more cases of body snatching. One case involved a woman who converted and got an ex-parte (what's new?) order from the Negeri Sembilan Syariah court to snatch 2 very young kids from the husband (apparently they didn't manage to do that in two separate occasions). The other case is where 7 JAIS (that's the Islamic Dept of Selangor) blokes crashed into a house and forcibly abduct the wife from the husband on the grounds that she is in fact a muslim. 7 blokes abducting a helpless "righteous" the act!

Not only are they snatching bodies, they're covering them up as well! You have to understand that Malaysian men will run amok with lust when they see bare bellies being gyrated about. Once that happen, even women covered from head to toe will not be spared. That will be the end of Malaysian civilization!

But then Malaysians are generally too blind and too busy making hay while the sun shines (for how long it's anyone's guess) to care about the creeping religious tyranny that is staring right at us. You really don't need PAS to bring about its supposed islamic state. Umno is doing it pretty well as it is now, thank you.

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Dr M openly supporting Najib as PM

In the first of three parts in an interview with Malaysiakini, Dr M again reiterated that Najib is a better choice as PM, though he was considered a bit too young. For the entire interview, click here. Again, he reiterated his belief that Pak Lah should only stay for one term as PM and then he should pass the baton to Najib.

However, what makes it interesting this time is that he seem to qualify his support for Najib. Take a look at this excerpt:

Do you still think that Najib is the better candidate? Or have you changed your mind on that?

I think if Najib is not so afraid of losing his position if he displeases the prime minister, he would make a good prime minister.

At the moment, he is being attacked from all sides.

Everybody now is trying to secure his own position.
Dr M seem to be hinting at Najib that he better buck up if he wants to still get his support. Elsewhere in the interview Dr M seems to hint at disappointment with Najib's seeming ability to only kowtow unreservedly to Pak Lah, and worse have not met him since his appointment as DPM.

If you've been following the incredible articles in Malaysia Today, Dr M is supposedly already having second thoughts about the suitability of Najib as PM. Not so much due to his abilities (or lack of it), but rather because he's disappointed that he seems spineless. At almost every turn Najib would not fail to heap multitudes of praise upon his boss, and has been defending almost unreservedly when attacked by Dr M. You could argue that Najib is just trying to be smart and stay quiet to secure his chances of becoming PM, but perhaps seeing how Pak Lah was behaving similar as Dr M's deputy and how he eventually turned out, Dr M could be worried that history would repeat itself.

It could also due to the fact that the various allegations of kickbacks and commissions for the defence contracts being linked to Najib is contributing to Dr M having second thoughts as well. In the interview he talked about how a minister should not dedicate himself to make money for himself or his family (alluding to the various allegations of how Pak Lah's family seem to be profiting handsomely from his administration), and when asked if he meant that for Najib as well, he answered in the affirmative.

Anyway, I am no expert in reading too much into these political wayang, intriguing it may be. But I personally do not think Najib is going be a better PM. The rumours I hear about how his wife controls him makes him no different to Pak Lah's supposed control by his children and son-in-law. It would only be replacing a kettle with a pot, both charred black. Considering as well Najib's track record in various ministries, I really cannot remember any particularly good (don't talk about outstanding) decisions or policies he have made. So when Dr M said that he observes his ministers and know who can do what, I am not too convinced. After all, he himself have admitted countless of times (I heard it personally from his mouth in a talk I attended last year) that he is really lousy in picking good personalities. What makes him think that his evaluation of Najib thus far would buck the trend?

Having say that, I really can't think of anyone else in umno who is still considered to be within the power circle who could credibly hold the PM position. The closest I can think of is Ku Li and perhaps Shahrir Samad. But both are considered to be outside the traditional power seats to have any chance.

Remains to be seen how the wayang will be played out. If you are a regular reader of Malaysia Today, perhaps as hinted all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place by end of this year, and we would know what will happen to our country.

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