Friday, October 30, 2009

Divine Intervention or Pure Luck?


Over last weekend I tried to repair the windscreen jet spray of my Camry and ended up damaging the noozle. I resigned myself to pay for a new unit and thought my regular mechanic will be able to do a good job but his workshop is rather far away. After breakfast this morning, which happens to be near to the tyre shop that also provide auto service and repairs which I am currently using I thought it do no harm to have the proprietor David take a look at the noozle and if necessary order a replacement. Turns out this decision saved me much inconvenience and time. As David was walking away from my car he found the rear tyre flat! What a place to be in. As my wife and I and our grand daughter waited in the customer lounge, David repaired the noozle and fixed the flat tyre in 15 minutes. Total cost: RM5.

If I had decided to take my breakfast at one of my regular joints which are far from the tyre shop I would not have decided to check the spray noozle which means I would be driving to town on errand on a flat tyre. The cost in this scenario may include a damaged tyre, or calling for breakdown service. Added to these will be wasted time, even cancellation of my errands and pacifying my unhappy and bored grand daughter.

As I reflect on the above incident I can't help but thank God for His 'persuasion' to go to this particular restaurant which was never in our rotation list. And I never thought of seeking David's help except that I was within 50 yards from his shop. I believe what took place this morning was entirely God's way of taking care of me and I thank Him. Not luck, not coincidence, just God doing what he loves.

Revised NAP and the Auto Spares Dealers


After breakfast in a restaurant this morning I popped next door to chat with a former colleague whose husband started an auto spares business more than 15 years ago. She looked tired and complained of too much work to handle. Business size is not large enough to automate inventory control and engage extra staff so she has to do most of the checking, issuing and invoicing herself. Perhaps the latest development on the National Automative Policy or NAP announced 2 days earlier have made her worry about her business future. With two young sons to upkeep life is not going to be easy when you have to reinvent your business to stay competitive.

The auto spares business deals with accessories and consumables to the automobile industry which have suffered in tandem with the global recession over a year ago. It not only have to deal with high holding costs but also obsolescence of certain spares as vehicle models change at a faster pace. Add to them new businesses are being set up to compete in a narrow market. The fear factor is diminishing demand for older spares as vehicle owners afford newer models and change cars more frequently. Another factor is that more and more of the auto dealers are becoming one-stop service centres which not only service but also sell parts and consumables. This has encroached into the auto spares dealers territory.

The revised NAP has also made auto spare suppliers (from manufacturers to dealers) concerned about their relevancy in the coming decade. Some key changes affecting auto spares business announced were:

1. No more used car imports from 2015 and no more used auto parts and components from 2011.

2. Old vehicles will be scrapped but no details announced, but expected to be 20 years or older since the policy now requires vehicles older than 15 years to undergo mandatory road-worthiness inspection annually. My Camry registered in 1999 will come under this category from 2014.

I said to my ex-colleague to think out of the box to change business direction. She sighed and remarked if thinking is all that is needed then it will be wonderful but how to translate it into a viable and profitable business to feed the family and keep the employees secured and paid? Plus the cost of changing business and high learning curve discourage any change for the moment.

The dilemma facing the auto spares dealers is but a peep into the larger problem faced by all businesses that has sat comfortably without a thought to how changes around them will soon affect their livelihood. In any business the owner must be constantly on his feet and think ahead of the competition to survive. I hope that my ex-colleague's business will thrive through innovation and determination to fight the odds.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kids Will Be Kids


3 pupils drowned when a suspension bridge collapsed and fell into the fast flowing river below. See details HERE and HERE. The tragedy occurred because the group of pupils crossing the bridge behaved like kids do, jumping on the suspension bridge. If I were a kid I'd jumped too. It would be fun and exciting. A few years back when I happened to be on a suspension bridge while on holiday in Vancouver, Canada, I walked cautiously because I was an adult and know the danger of rocking it. But the kids on this bridge over Sungei Kampar didn't. Didn't the supervising teachers warn them? Did the bridge builder not consider such likelihood since the bridge links the nearby primary school to the camp across the river? Were there no warning notices posted on both ends of the bridge? How about maximum load? Was the bridge held with strong anchors to the grounds? The bridge appear flimsy in picture. Anyway 3 lives had been taken and whether there is negligence is yet to be determined but the police will investigate and hopefully culprits identified and actions taken.

What worries me is that the bridge was built for free costing RM10,000. Does being free means corners were cut and safety compromised? Perhaps it was not built with proper design.

Too many questions and when answers are forthcoming will they help prevent similar accidents in future? Parents need to warn their children against dangerous behaviour especially away from homes in unfamiliar and unsupervised situations. After spending years caring and educating them, it pains any family to lose a child this way. No wonder one of the victim's father fainted out of distress.

Being overly careful is not a sign of fussiness. It is better to be safe than sorry and that I'm sure the 3 grieving families and the teachers charged with supervising the group of pupils on this tragic outing now realise too late.

Photo credit: news.asiaone.com and thesundaily.com

Don't Fix What Ain't Broke


A great example of leaving a great face great instead of trying to make it better as reported HERE. But if you want to lose weight then fixing it may be the right thing to do. Be happy with what you have and think carefully before you decide to improve it. I have made a few such mistakes before but not to my face. Reducing my weight and girth with exercises and low carb and fat diet may need fixing and I don't think much can go wrong there!

MCA Undone


In my recent post I doubted the MCA peace plan will work as it was hastily and surreptitiously hammered out between Ong Tee Keat and Dr Chua Soi Lek with the involvement of the prime minister. Now it seems infighting is again breaking out in the party with Liow Tiong Lai coming into the open to lead the charge against the president, no holds barred. As reported HERE, Liow is involving the central committee to push Ong to declare what conditions were agreed upon between him and Dr Chua. Seems he feels he is being sidestepped and he wants the CC to help him regain his powerbase. Up till October 10's EGM, Liow had appeared neutral and passive. In less than 3 weeks his demeanour and tone had begun to show his true character. Perhaps he had been used by a hidden hand or he himself is the 3rd force. If his influence over the CC is greater than that of either Ong or Dr Chua, he may cause more division that unity. The coming days will determine if the undoing of MCA will split the party irreversibly, or will a fresh attempt be made by a new group to demand new election which seems the only way out of the impasse of the leadership crisis.

The longer this rift stays unhealed, the greater the risk that MCA will become irrelevant. I like the acronym of Museum of Contemporary Art. Maybe MCA is heading to becoming a museum soon!

Don't Politicise Second Autopsy


In the interest of justice the application by the family of the late Teoh Beng Hock to have his body exhumed and a second autopsy conducted by the renowned Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan who had earlier observed that Teoh's death was 80% probably due to being pushed out of the window of a tall building instead of a suicide should be allowed without any political interference. It is therefore disheartening to hear that the coroner must consent to this application and if the attorney general supports it then the chance of approval is much higher. Today SinChew reports HERE that the home minister concurred with the view that a second autopsy must be carried out. Not that I am not pleased that he agrees with the popular view but what if other ministers start giving their opinions, be they personal or official, about the second autopsy? What if the prime minister himself lend his thoughts? And disagrees? Will the coroner be swayed by these opinions into making his decision?

Malaysian politics are often discolored by personal views that get mixed up to confuse the issues at hand. In the case of the present inquest, the right to have a second autopsy should not be questioned or denied. After all, so many witnesses have given their accounts and nothing concrete have come out of the inquest which seemed to have stalled. From afar it appear that the inquest proceedings are like beating around the bush instead of focussing on HOW Beng Hock died and WHO were responsible. Dr Pornthip have expertly opined that he was probably MURDERED and this new autopsy will serve to prove her earlier findings or otherwise. If confirmed and accepted by the coroner, it is up to the police to take the inquiry further to identify the culprits. I believe all Malaysians want to know how this inquest will end and what happens next. Not that we want to punish MACC but that truth must be revealed and proper penalty be metted out.

Teoh's death arose out of a political investigation into his boss's usage of funds allocated to his constituency. This is as much political association as it can get. Beyond it, his death must be investigated as a crime from the premise of who did it and how it happened. Dr Pornthip had called the death a murder. The Malaysian pathologists did not convince the inquest that it was suicide. Like a debate, whichever side that gives the best answer wins. Thus far Dr Pornthip had impressed us with her justifications which are most convincing. She does not mince words, nor hesitate. She seemed to know exactly the cause from what she saw. We now look forward to this second autopsy and her expert conclusions which should bring the inquest to a speedy end.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Repackaged for a Reward!

This is a terrible joke or is this lady serious? She is suggesting HERE that single mothers should be married off to men as second (even third or fourth) wives who will then qualify for awards (what she did not mention but supposedly monetary, or even a title if the men marry more than one single mothers if he has not fully used up his 'quota' of 4 wives). This will help reduce the population of single mothers in her state.

I am quite sure the women rights organizations will cry foul very soon for denigrating women to become commodities. I am sure single mothers are quite capable of looking after themselves, and their children, without being disgraced into becoming wives without love or sex slaves. Perhaps they should feel grateful that some kind men are willing to bear the burden of their upkeep in return for whatever favors they ask. For a start, single mothers who look young, beautiful, even sexy, and have one child (too many too troublesome) and maybe well educated and well presented and even with careers will have a head start. I think they should insist on the highest bidders to get the best deals for them. That is if they believe that it is alright to sell their bodies for their upkeep. Having suffered the pain of a divorce or loss of a husband I think it is immoral to even subject the single mothers to this kind of suggestion.

What are some Malaysian politicians thinking of? Worse the politician is a lady!

The NavBar Speaks Malay!


Since I change my office PC to a new one that runs on Vista I found to my dismay that each time I log into my blog the navbar (the blue top bar on the screen) will not carry English the language of my choice. Instead it will carry the Malay language. I suppose this is because Blogger detects from my computer's IP address that I am from Malaysia and Malay is its official language.

Google is being presumptuous that I will be using Malay as my default language eventhough I enabled my cookies. Each time I change the language to English and saves the setting, the next time I relaunch my blog, navbar speaks Malay again! How irritating. Fortunately I understand it so it is no big deal but is irritating nonetheless.

The Perak Example


More than 8 months after the ignominious grabbing of the state government of Perak by Barisan Nasional without a vote of no confidence on the Pakatan Rakyat held government in a properly held state assembly, Perak hogs the limelight again at today's assembly in which both the BN and PR camps held their respective meetings in the assembly hall in the presence of each other. You can read the events as they unfurled HERE.

While you may find this to be amusing or even childish, one thing stands out clearly, and that is the unity of the 3 component parties within the Perak PR coalition while in the states of Selangor, Kelantan and Sarawak there has been many damaging reports on the fracturing of PR. (Kelantan - PAS is divided with some leaders keen to form a unity government with BN; Sarawak - Keadilan is facing dissatisfaction over the choice of its new state leader; Selangor - PAS leader Dr Hasan Ali unilaterally demanded banning of sale of liquor in convenience store).

As if oblivious to these developments, Perak's PR stayed true and united to its goal of reclaiming its right to govern Perak by holding regular assembly meetings as required by the state laws. If the Perak example can be emulated nationwide, PR will be a fearsome opponent to BN. As of now there are too many petty squabbles and selfishness among the rank and files to stay united, gain public confidence and prepare for the next general election.

The Perak model must set the mood and direction of PR, otherwise voters will just get tired and lose respect and confidence and treat PR as just passing air as well as a coalition without substance and perseverance. If the March 8, 2008 and the February 4, 2009 momentum is not sustained by staying cohesive and speaking with one voice, BN may just get to reclaim a larger majority at the next election that can be called anytime when the situation suits them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Benchmark our Competitiveness


We often hear the phrase that our ringgit is worthless when we travel to advanced countries in Europe, United States and Australia where their currencies are 3 to 5 times that of ours, that everything there are expensive. We also hear the same phrase used in reverse when we spend our ringgits in Indonesia, China or Thailand where our currency is 'bigger'. Such comparison is quite meaningless save for the fact that we think we spend more when we convert to the advanced countries rates and less when we visit the lesser developed countries that ours. Psychologically we tend to feel 'inferior' or 'small' and 'superior' or 'bigger' respectively. Perhaps travelers prefer Asean holidays which are generally cheaper for the same reason.

I just came off reading from THIS blog that discusses the real cost of consumption of and production using the Big Mac concept. Looking at each in isolation will not give a true comparison of the cost of living in the respective country or city. Sometime we say that the simplest way to look at cost is ignore the conversion rate but treat the currency as universal. Example: In Denmark, a Big Mac cost USD5.07 while in Malaysia it is about RM6. So we can generally conclude that Big Mac is more expensive in Malaysia than in Denmark. This argument do not take into consideration the average income level of each country. It assumes the Danes and the Malaysians earn about the same and have similar standard of living which is not true of course.

The second consideration of how fast it takes to earn enough to pay for a Big Mac in each country may point to how productive our workers are besides showing how competitive our cost of labour is. Taking longer to earn for a Big Mac is actually good for a producer and exporter country. It means it is cheaper to produce a Big Mac there too. However the cost of Big Mac in any country is dependent on the cost of the ingredients and cost of labour. If most of the ingredients are locally sourced I expect the Big Mac to be cheaper and more affordable. But the cost of franchise may make it too expensive to an average wage earner.

My general observation is that Malaysians are not able to earn enough to have a comfortable life anywhere but in the cheaper neighboring countries. To migrate to Singapore, Australia or Canada which are all high cost countries, migrants must be financially well off. It makes Malaysia home to mainly poorer Malaysians who have limited choices of how they spend their future.

Competitiveness is a 2 edge sword. If we want to be competitive we must be able to produce goods and services cheaper than our rivals, this means we 'take longer to earn for our Big Mac'. It also means we are most like not able to afford a Big Mac since it will be expensive. It also means we will find it too expensive to have a Europe Holiday. But when we can enjoy these luxuries we begin to lose our edge as we edge towards becoming a developed nation. Which way do we really want to go?

Tidying Cards Overspill


Over the years, banks had been aggressively promoting their credit cards with special features and incentives to attract new clients. Some banks have tied up with shopping malls, petroleum companies and airlines to offer attractive rebates when cardholders use such cards to make purchases from these merchants. These cards are given away free or with some minimal condition such as making a certain number of transactions in a year to keep the cards active.

As a result of the promotions many cards were issued to clients who actually have no need to hold that many cards. I have 2 cards and I have been approached umpteen times at shopping malls to subscribe to new cards, even platimum cards, with free gifts even. It is easy to be tempted to give in. After all, if one does not wish to use the cards anymore one just cancel them lah! That was what I did when I succumbed once to a promotion and it took me several months to cancel it. But how many people are disciplined enough to cancel unused cards? Some just let them lapsed until they start getting their annual statements that a fee is to be paid, and then they start panicking. Worst, some cardholders go on a spending spree and worry later how to pay the debts.

The recent card service tax is like a wake up call to tidy up your unused or infrequently used cards. I believe that if you spend RM1000 monthly on credit purchases, one or two cards are more than enough, instead of charging RM50 here, RM200 there and RM100 on another card. More efforts are needed to manage monthly repayments so it make sense to consolidate card purchases under just one or two accounts. The decision to levy this service tax will hopefully force cardholders who own inactive cards to start cancelling them before the year end or else the government will start charging the fee from January.

It is heartening to know that banks have come up with a constructive solution to help pay for the tax, but only for those holders who have an active credit history. As reported HERE, a few banks are already mulling over this as a way to retain customer loyalty. I believe as a few banks start this movement others will follow suit, otherwise there will be a fresh wave of card cancellation from those who want to take advantage of this incentive that will cost the banks over RM500 million a year according to one analyst. Considering that the financial industry is making several billions in profits, this expense is bearable as part of keeping your customer base intact. Overall I hope to see a more disciplined personal credit usage management as well as a more structured and responsible approach by banks not to pinch clients from each other using underhand methods. Instead they should start educating cardholder on responsible card usage.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Intentional Leakage


When the diaper of my grand daughter leaks, she complains and it gets changed immediately. But when there is real leakages of overspending, false claims, bloated tenders and excessive subcontracting in government contracts and the scandal is uncovered and reported year after year by the auditor-general to the Parliament, no serious actions were taken by the government to plug the leaks. And the leaks did not go anywhere but into pockets of those on the take, with consent of the various government agencies and department heads who obviously are not forgotten. It is an intentional leak, reported for the sake of compliance, not neccesarily to be resolved.

Today theStar paper reported that the government can lose RM28 billions a year or more due to overpayment. Just a simple arithmetics to show how grave the problem is. And ask yourself if this anger is a misplaced one.

Our population is about 27 million. So the annual leakage through overpayment (approved obviously through non-internal audit) come to about RM1000 per year per citizen. That should be equivalent to about the annual tax an average taxpayer pays, or the 13th month bonus an average civil service clerk gets. So if the government efficiently plugs this leak, as they should be doing since we elect them into office to do a job, all of us will get this bonus, or more if we discount the non-working and the children. Then we have more than enough to pay the credit card service tax (see a previous post) and not complain that the amount is big. We can be generous because the government is efficient. Obviously we cannot be generous because the government condones the leakages for reasons they know best, some of which we even believe to be criminal in nature.

To do nothing about this problem suggest that the government is closing their eyes. Oh, Malaysia is rich enough to let the leak happen, but just wait till we find the oil reserves no longer flow and our cost of doing business become non-competitive, then it may be just too late to plug the leaks as the problem would have leaked into the very core of how we think that it is our right to take a bribe, a commission or demand a bonus without due performance.

Like the little boy who saved a town by plugging the leak in a dyke, we expect moral actions from the government to immediately plug this leak. Otherwise, the 'town' of Malaysia may be flooded beyond rescue.

Seniors Woes


Over the weekend I was in Petaling Jaya with my wife. One of our missions was to shop for new clothings for ourselves for the new year. As this is still in the sales promotion period we went to Mid Valley Megamall. My wife was having trouble finding blouses that fit both her physique as well as her age. I find that 95% of the clothings for men were targetted to the younger generation. As I browsed the racks for tee shirts with pockets all I find were polo tee shirts. I don't like polos since I am used to keeping my wallet on my shirt pocket and not in my trousers. Am I missing something or was I in the wrong department, wrong section, wrong mall? Or were the stores oblivious that there is this huge market of seniors whose wearing preferences are different from those of the young? Earlier this year when I was looking for pants I find it extremely hard to find those with straight cuts that fit my style. Soon I ended up with the semi carets (or something that sounds like it) style that flares a little on the side to make me appear a little baggy. When I look at myself in the mirror I felt like laughing. It was obviously not me in there! Over time I guess I accepted the look that I must appear baggy to be in this generation so now I wear semi carets.

(For the difficulty of not finding what I want I tend to buy extra shirts and pants when I do find those I like and open and wear them gradually. After all senior people clothings are most likely not going out of fashion that easily. And chances are we don't really care, speaking for myself).

I am hoping that some clothing suppliers realise that there is a big market they can tap into, like the big people market. They know how to tap into the maternity market, the kids wear market, the teenage market but how about the senior market? If they realise that we do have cash (and cards) to pay then I think they will really open their eyes and have R&D and special designers to create clothings for people like me and my wife. If not then we may have to have all our clothings measured and made by tailors. Like how I had my clothings made 50 years ago before the days of shopping malls? Sigh!

P/S
The same grouse goes for hairdressers who insensitively cut our hairs flat and short and without taste and care. Shoes, hmmm, I have less problems there. Food, maybe restaurants should think hard on providing senior friendly menus with appropriate consideration for low salt, sugar, oil and other additives.

A word on behalf of the seniors: We may be old but we are not done, yet. Think of us as a real economic force.

It's the Principle Not the Amount


The prime minister was obviously annoyed that taxpayers were unhappy that he has proposed an annual service tax of RM50 per principal card and RM25 per supplementary card from next year in his recent budget presentation to the Parliament. In the report HERE he said we should not complain but consider the other benefits taxpayer receive under his proposals which include raising the personal tax relief from RM8000 to RM9000 which benefits every taxpayer. He seems to suggest that the RM50 ringgit is pittance compared to the savings from the RM1000 x 10-15% average tax saved, but it is not. Also you must not extend a relief and then take some back by way of a new tax. You must justify why you are doing it. Malaysians are thinking people and can accept a good reasoning. To write off a complain as trivial is not looking at the true picture and understanding of what we are thinking.

The usage of credit card for payments has become a lifestyle that carrying cash is just for sundry purchases where cards are not accepted. More and more card issuers are waiving charging annual fees and some even issue free-for-life cards without conditions, or minimal conditions. The whole idea is to get the population depend more on cards as the default method of settling payments and bills. We are approaching the West in the way we flash our cards as casually as we flash our cash, which is an unsafe thing to do nowadays. It is no longer a sign of wealth that you pull out a card to pay for RM30 purchases because cards no longer symbolize status anymore.

Why the government now decides to collect the service tax is puzzling. What sort of service does the government provides to the cardholders? If the reason is to curtail reckless spending then the solution lies elsewhere. Collecting service tax hurts the responsible and the irresponsible. Some consumers have just one or two cards while others boast of have five or even ten. Many of these extra cards had been offered free by card issuers to entice them to switch over since every transaction means commission earning to them. And since every card promises a certain credit limit it is a temptation to over spend. The government should target such overspenders by limiting the number of free cards they can hold, either one or two max. Secondly, the government must impose a condition to the issuers that only applicants with monthly earnings above a certain amount qualify for cards, and even this must be qualified to be net after payment of any loans so that cardholders do not abuse the facilities and land themselves in debts that cannot settle.

I want the government to apply the principle of collecting card service tax to only regulate controlled spending and not every card holder. And on this matter, supplementary cards should be excluded from any tax since they are tagged to the principal card holder as a convenience since they share the same credit limit.

Installation of Tuanku Muhriz


Like the arrival of a meteor that comes once in, say, a 1000 years, the installation of a new Yam Tuan of the state of Negeri Sembilan is unique in a sense that the last installation happened 40 years ago to the late Tuanku Jaafar who passed away last year and is now succeeded by the current Yam Tuan who is his nephew. Tuanku Jaafar was the brother of Tuanku Munawir, the father of Tuanku Muhriz. 40 years ago I was studying in the Universiti Malaya and was not aware that today I would be a resident in the state of N. Sembilan for the past 21 years although I was born in Perak.

You can read of the installation HERE and HERE. In celebration of this historical event today has been declared a state public holiday. I am happy to blog this momentous event and wish Tuanku peace, joy, prosperity, longevity and good health in all the years of his reign and may the subjects of Negeri Sembilan be beneficiaries of his wisdom and welfare.

Note: Not in the family picture above is Tuanku and Tuanku Aishah Rohani's second son, Tunku Zain Al-Abidin, who is a special person whom they and his brothers love dearly.

More of Tuanku's background and interest HERE.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Misplaced Anger


How often when we get angry we kicked a stool or throw the alarm clock or smash a book? We think that since we are just channeling our angry energy at innate objects that can be replaced it is not as damaging as turning violent at another human being that can lead to dire and regrettable consequences. Like when you cannot get someone to cooperate to your expectation you decide to use threats that ended in tragedy.

Anger is not a bad emotion if properly channeled at the right targets that offend us. Sometimes it is best to let the bad feeling dissipate rather than allow it to cause damages. A lot of Malaysians are angry at the present government for ignoring the calls to stem rising corruption and security threats. Maybe it is not that the government is not doing anything but is not doing fast enough or giving periodic updates on the progress. After all when we demand for rectification of problems we expect results since we elect the government of the day and expect some fulfilment of their promises to deliver services and performance. Najib's catchy slogan of 'People First, Performance Now' strikes the cord of what the citizen expects of his government and will hold him accountable. The setting up of a special ministry to manage the Key Performance Indices and National Key Performance Areas is timely to measure how the targets are being met. What is required now is let the citizens know the targets for each area, the timeframe to achieve the goals set and publicize the progress every 6 monthly. This has never been done before in any Malaysian government and to fulfil this management practice will put the Najib's government ahead of even the developed nations. It will assure the citizens that the government is transparent and committed to its 1Malaysian concept which was mooted just 6 months ago.

Should we still be angry at the present government? Yes and No.

Yes we should for failing to nab culprits expeditiously of crimes they committed and put them behind bars or even to death. It will sound a serious warning to would-be offenders and help quickly restore public confidence.

Yes we should for subverting justice in the name of political expediency. It is quite well known that the government will not persecute one of its own kind, especially the powerful and well connected ones, but sidetrack any criminal and civil investigations using delay and distraction techniques. The high profile investigation into the Port Klang Free Zone corruption scandal, the recently closed file on the VK Lingam interference of judiciary appointments using abetment and monetary rewards, and the ongoing Teoh Beng Hock inquest that seems to drag beyond a reasonable period all suggest intentions to frustrate the public and let these cases fade naturally into oblivion as we tend to resign to the conclusion that there is nothing we can do except wait for the next general election to 'show' the government who is really the boss. In the meantime the government is dishing out goodies and show it is professionally managing the issues and hope that the people will forget their sins and restore their faith in them. We should be smart to separate deceptive methods from real attempts at reform.

No we should realise that we have wilfully allowed the political culture to become ingrained and is therefore as culpable and guilty for their style of governing the country that is not in keeping with the time and the global competitiveness. Therefore if we must be angry we must be angry at ourselves too and decide to be more politically aware and involved in how our representatives are discharging their duties, not only in solving our problems but more importantly in the larger context of not allowing our constitutions become usurped by a group of narrow minded people out to destabilise the harmony of the various races. Our stigma as a racially polarized nation is more often than not played up by some bigotted politicians whose seditious remarks went by unpunished. This is uncoming of the police for not prosecuting fairly.

We must know when to be angry at who or what. I read a letter today that a Malaysian junked his identity card into a river upon getting his green card from the US immigration authorities. If this is true he has gotten angry at the wrong party. He had been foolish to compromise his legal status just because he was angry at the way the present government ran the country and allow racial polarisation and religious extremism to propagate. It would seems that he hated his status as a Malaysian because he does want to be associated with the current government. But he forgot that his citizenship is his right while the government can be deposed if they are no longer relevant.

Recently at a casual meeting with some politically savvy people a question was asked: Do we have a future in Malaysia? The answer given by the main contributor who seemed to know a lot of what took place politically in the government for the past 30 years was a emphatic Yes, that the new generation Malaysians will not allow the apparent disharmony and anxieties we now face destroy the beautiful land of our. For the sake of our children who lives here I pray that his optimism is correct and prophetic.

The next time we get angry at our government, remember that we are responsible for not checking them but let them morph into their present state. Do not run away but stay to change the political landscape as we have the right to displace those we find unsuitable to rule over us. Take care of our nation's resources, they should not be targets of your misplaced anger. Be the best you can be and help Malaysia reach its developed status as envisioned in Wawasan 2020 (Read HERE). If you travel widely overseas you will agree that Malaysia appears 'unliveable' only when you are angry, but thinking objectively, it is really a place far better than even the developed worlds out there.

Klinik 1Malaysia?

I hope I did not hear wrong over the radio as I drove home yesterday evening. The finance minister, in presenting his maiden budget for 2010, has proposed setting under the health ministry, klinik 1Malaysia in selected towns. These clinics will open from 10am-10pm and will operate from shops. If I am a general practitioner in these selected towns I think I will shudder as I am likely to lose my patients to these new government clinics that will charge nominal fees for consultation, drugs and tests. Even specialists may feel the pinch too. As a citizen I welcome such establishments as people first and people friendly. It will be well received and help the minister reinforce his 1Malaysia policy. Like I've blogged before, Malaysia's healthcare is among the best in the world and this will keep it higher up.

I wonder what will be Pakatan Rakyat's response to this?

Hisham on Dangerous Ground

As I read THIS Malaysiakini report which stated that the Registrar of Societies has thrown the appeal by the former deputy president of the MCA, Dr Chua Soi Lek for reinstatement to his former post following the EGM's resolution to restore his membership (but another resolution rejected his reinstatement as the deputy president) back to the party, I am amused how quickly the Home Minister has offered to receive an appeal from Dr Chua under the ministerial prerogative that can override the ROS decision. The minister is handing a pre-approved card to Dr Chua implicitly by welcoming him to appeal. This is a dangerous step as well as an abuse of power because it stinks of power politics. Is Hisham playing ball with Dr Chua that if he restores his deputy presidency, overuling the EGM's verdict, Dr Chua owe big time to him and/or UMNO? If he does I believe MCA can challenge his authority in court for subverting the rule of law of MCA's constitutions.

From my limited understanding of the Societies Act 1966, the constitution of any society is supreme as it has been vetted and approved by the ROS. As long as the AGM and EGM are held in accordance to the constitutions the ROS cannot intervene, unless the decision falls into grey areas not addressed by the constitutions. Likewise it is no business of the minister to muscle his way into changing the decision of the EGM. If he can, then no resolution of any society is safe since the minister can use his power and influence to change the course of the society. That power is tantamount to abuse of power and authority and cannot be accepted.

The delegates to the MCA EGM has by a simple majority rejected the reinstatement of Dr Chua as deputy president and I believe it does not require a 2/3 majority for the resolution to be carried. Therefore Dr Chua was no longer the DP as of the EGM on October 10, 2009. It is proper for the ROS to revert the matter back to the MCA as it is internal squabble and the minister has no business to poke his finger into the matter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Budget 2010 'Live' Speech





This is the first time I went online to listen to the prime minister's (also finance minister's) budget speech at THIS site. Expectedly I am disappointed by the poor bandwidth as I could not log in for some time and when I did manage to get a line the video would break off every few seconds. The multimedia ministry really need to buck up to improve the broadband delivery to the public. So far there are too many complaints that TM (the sole provider of fixed line telephony) is not living up to its promise. As I blog this nothing exciting has come out of the PM's speech that would excite the viewers and taxpayers. There was talk that personal and corporate taxes may be reduced but they may not be given. Let's wait and see.

Updated:
As reported HERE, the finance minister has proposed the highest tax rate be capped to 26%, down from 27% a year ago. On top of this the personal tax relief will also be raised from RM8,000 to RM9,000 in line with rising cost of living. Insurance and EPF relief is to be increased from RM6,000 to RM7,000. These means a reduction of RM2,000 that is non-taxable, which if applied at the highest tax rate of 26% will save the taxpayer RM520 in tax.

The lower personal tax rate will benefit the high income taxpayers but the RM9,000 personal relief cut across the board and help raise the bar of the qualifying minimum income towards taxation.

There is no proposal to change the corporate tax rate of 25% flat.

Private broadband users will enjoy for 3 years (2010-2012) an annual relief of up to RM500. Although not much it help spur more people to subscribe to broadband service be it fixed line or wireless.

Credit cards users will be taxed RM50 per principal card and RM25 per supplementary card from 2010. I doubt it will curb card holdings or spending but will add some income to the government.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feel Good Solution


The MCA peace plan 'brokered' by none other than the prime minister himself is nothing more than an order from the top to patch up whatever the cost and pretend the discords never exist. Like obedient kids the leaders posed for a handshaking session. Dr Chua Soi Lek complained that he and the others had no choice but hold hands (looking closely the hands are but touching each other instead of a solid handshake). Frankly this feel good solution will further delay the healing process of the party which will not help the government coalition at all.

What sort of compromises are hammered out and will the supporters accept them? More importantly, will the Chinese community see this 'solution' as a long term answer to the political representation of the Chinese race in the country? What really need to be done is initiate a process of identifying all the crucial elements of differences between the various factions and come to an internal agreement. A respected Chinese leader must take the lead and a reconciliation team comprising representatives from the factions set up to begin the process of restoring party unity. Interference by outsiders to accelerate the unification of the party just to get the BN ready for the election is nothing more than a quickie answer to a deep seated problem that started even during Dr Ling Liong Sik's time.

What MCA now need to strengthen itself is a long term solution and not a quick fit to make them look good and feel good. In the picture above (courtesy Malaysiakini) no one except Ong Tee Keat was smiling. Perhaps he is seen as the 'winner' of this ordered solution. Let's see when the glue gets undone.

Justice for Teoh Beng Hock


THIS report is self explanatory and is what most concerned Malaysians wish had come about at the start of the inquest. If the dead can talk I believe Beng Hock would be pleased with this development to uncover what took place that caused his death in July this year.

Why does it take a foreign forensic pathologist to observe that Beng Hock is most likely strangled until he passed out and that his death was made to appear like a suicide? Weren't our local pathologists given the same evidence and body to examine not able to arrive at the same conclusion? Was there attempts to steer the inquest away from the real truth? Dr Porntip Rojanasunan did not have the benefits of body examination but only photographs and secondary evidence to arrive at her expert conclusion, that suicide is only 20% likely. This has put our pathologists to shame. This has certainly also put the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in a spot as they have relied on government appointed experts until this flamboyant Thai pathologist was asked to give her opinions at the inquest. Dr Porntip was appointed by the Selangor state government which is run by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat but she declared clearly that she was only involved to give her expert opinion on the subject and not to expose the authorities to ridicule.

It does not make sense for the coroner to refuse another autopsy if Beng Hock's parents and wife agree to the exhumation. If the coroner refuses the second autopsy it will only lend suspicion to the entire inquest since it will be seen to be denying the truth from being unveiled. Dr Porntip has qualified that even for a body that is decayed after in the grave for almost 4 months, there will still be proper evidence available for her to come to the right conclusion, that is if she is not in the meantime threatened to change her professional verdict of the case. Since she had survived scorn and threats in her own country it is likely that she will remain firm in her conviction that she is responsible to tell only the truth, nothing but the truth. But images of Altantuya keep cropping up to put uncertainty to the just closure of this investigation.

Dr Porntip aside I believe that the general public perception of the TBH death concurs with her views. The theory going round is TBH's death was unplanned and accidental and the suicide angle was used to protect the errant MACC officer(s) who caused his death. If there is real justice for Beng Hock and his family, efforts must be made by both the police and the MACC itself to identify these officer(s) and charge them for manslaughter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Citizenship - Gift or Right?


Reading this REPORT made me want to respond to how the home minister argued a very narrow context of citizenship. To a person who is born in this country, citizenship is a right instead of a gift, otherwise it can be unilaterally taken away from him. There are laws to protect a citizen from unjustifed persecution. However citizenship right can be removed if the person commits treason against the country (not the government as there is a distinction between the two). The freedictionary.com defines citizen as one who 'by place of birth, nationality of one or both parents, or by going through the naturalization process has sworn loyalty to a nation.' The qualification to a responsible citizenship is loyalty to nation, not necessarily the government.

As much as a citizen can claim to exercise his rights they are not absolute and his conducts are subject to the rule of laws of his country. This is a very contentious issue as a person may protest against the injustice of the government which action he do not see to be disloyal or unpatriotic to the country, but which the government consider to be detrimental to the security and well-being of the nation and locks him up without trial. The call for a proper charge to be framed against him instead of denying him the right to be tried in open court is getting louder and louder.

When citizenship right is accorded to a foreigner who meets the condition of admission it cannot be called a gift since a gift is given freely and voluntarily as well as without conditions*. Not so with Malaysian citizenships which are precious that many Malaysian passports are stolen from travelers overseas.

A person who is naturalised and accorded citizenship would have met strict conditions before the government agrees to grant him the privilege of citizenship. However, in his tenure as a new citizen he is subject to obeying the laws of his newly adopted country as well as contributing his expertise and knowledge to make the nation a better place.

Citizenship is a social contract between a person and the government that administers the country. Both owe to the other the responsibility to uphold each other. I wonder if the Malaysian government or its officers in the foreign offices ever think objectively if they treat their own citizens abroad with dignity and respect much as the government wants her citizens to behave responsibly at home and abroad.

* it is a gift in the cases of immigrants from neighboring countries who were freely given such status, especially in the state of Sabah where the number of citizens there has been disportionately distorted by legalization of such immigrants in the 1990s for political reasons.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who can save MCA? | My Sinchew

MCA is in crisis and like Titanic on the verge of breaking apart unless something constructive takes place within the next few days. A power broker must make his appearance to make peace and restore order. He must be a very senior and respected Chinese politician and community leader with neutral stand in this in-fighting to lend his wisdom and counsel to all the central committee members which include the president, deputy and the vice presidents.

Whether the solution is an internal appointment of a new president to replace Ong Tee Keat or a fresh election to select a new team is left to the wisdom of this person. It is true what the deputy PM, Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin said HERE, that the PM will not interfere unless asked to. Ong Tee Keat need to realize that the objection to him staying on as president is mounting daily. He has to speak out his intention to assuage the growing discontent. I believe if he plans to step down speedily so that a new president can be elected the current wave of frustration will die down. Continuing silence from him will do more harm than good as well as locking the aspirants to the seat of power in a nastier confrontation with each other.

Who can save MCA? | My Sinchew

Graphics for My Posts


So that my posts are not boring I have to include suitable graphics, which I google. Except for some images most do not belong to me which I find it hard to seek permission so I posted a general acknowledgement to their owners for the right to use. So far none has written to me claiming ownership or objecting to their usage.
Finding topics to blog is tough without inspiration but finding suitable images to accompany these posts is even harder. I must admit not all images I selected from those I googled are good enough to tell the story with the text. To start off I have to use keywords in my image search. The right image may not appear in the first 5 pages searched but in the 20th. Sometimes I have to choose slightly unrelated keywords to get what I find a good company to my post. If I get lazy or rush for time the image I use may not be the best available.
I do have time to search for an image for this post but I am at a loss what should I google? There is no subject matter so I found this picture randomly to draw your interest to read on. I hope you like it.

While We Sleep


As I laid awake early this morning I thought of the millions of people around the world who, while we sleep, keeps the world humming. It was 4am and my newspaper deliveryman would be up and out collecting the various editions of daily news for delivery 2 hours later. I thought of the pump attendants who man the gas stations for the occasional vehicles that drive through to top up their tanks. I thought of the medical and emergency personnel in hospitals who took care of the sick and accident cases, saving lives. And I thought of the truck drivers on long haul trips and how their services contribute significantly to the life of our economy. I similarly thought of the disk jockeys and announcers in the many radio and television stations that keep listeners and viewers informed and entertained. As well as thousands of factory workers on night shifts producing goods for consumption and export and road repairmen, waste collectors, airport employees, hotel staff, cab drivers, etc.

Do you feel better that you are working regular daylight hours? Or perhaps if you see the benefits of working while others sleep you may even enjoy your work better. My wife was a retired nurse who spent much of her career working in shifts which include the 9pm - 7am roster. Whenever she does I would have the bed entirely to myself! A nurse friend of hers actually requested to be put on permanent night shift because she can run errands when she goes home. So there are advantages of working at night which include generally less stress, lighter traffic, and in some cases, additional allowances and more rest days.

I admire night workers for their ability to adapt to changing sleep cycle as well as sleeping shorter hours in the day. My body will protest if I work shifts and I can even be grouchy when I am sleep deprived. However night workers miss out family and social lives. Some happily want to work night while others are forced to rotate shifts. Productivity in night shifts is sometimes poorer due to laxed supervision.

The next time you prepare to earn your nightly rest remember those who are preparing to keep the world alive as you sleep.

Wrong Lane


I got the inspiration to write on this as I queued up in a lane that was supposedly faster when I exited from the highway returning home from office yesterday. The 'faster' lane was for drivers with preloaded cash cards called TouchnGo cards and occasional cash ticket holders. The 'slower' lane was for heavy vehicles and cash only drivers, but it also had a second booth that opens at selected hours to clear traffic during the peak hours in the evenings. Typically the 'slower' lane would be slower but yesterday it was faster because the second booth was opened ahead of schedule. When I was caught making a wrong choice I would get a little irritated at myself for being a poor judge of lane picking but would eventually settle to wait enviously while drivers in the other lane get cleared faster than me. I thought of the minutes I wasted because of the wrong choice, yet I also remember the time I made the right choice of being in the faster lane(s) so it averages out. This puts me in the right perspective that in life you cannot be winning all the time.

The wrong lane mentality happens in other situations in life. One example is the checkout lanes. Most of us can attest to this experience of being in a slow lane because of problem with payment by the customer ahead of us, or there is a problem with the pricing of the goods checked out and the cashier had to recheck. Another example is when you queued at the ticket lines to buy cinema tickets for a show and you watched helplessly at the other lanes clearing faster than yours for reasons you don't know.

We get into the wrong lane situation in even major decisions of life, like picking a wrong course of study, taking a wrong flight that required additional connections, even choosing a wrong life partner! But every wrong lane decision leads up to a different scenario for us to deal with and they may not necessarily be bad. In fact being delayed may be good after all upon closer reflection.

We tend to get upset when we lose time due to the wrong lane situation. However saving time may not mean you've made the right choice. We sometimes read of how a person miraculously survive avoiding an airline crash because he was delayed in getting to the airport.

Whenever we are caught in a wrong lane anywhere I think we ought to ease off and enjoy the music coming off our car radio. Or observe our surroundings, even make a new friend. Sometimes, being in the wrong or slow lane may just turn out to be right, depending on how you perceive it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Merdeka or Malaysia Day?


I greet prime minister Najib's announcement yesterday that Malaysia Day (September 16) will be declared a public holiday from next year as a popularity ploy to garner more votes for his administration. It is not that I disagree since one more public holiday is always better. Even former prime minister Tun Mahathir reacted with cynicism that holiday is more important than work, but added that he is on a long holiday (where I too am heading soon I hope).

Seriously we have to ask if the government is keeping 2 days to celebrate the founding of our nation or do away with one. I think nobody will want to sacrifice one for the other, but it make no sense to celebrate the old when the new has come. Merdeka reminds us of our independence from the British. It is like leaving home to set up our own family. But Malaysia Day is like having children of our own. We should be discarding the mindset of independence but forge ahead with building a strong family. Malaysia Day must be celebrated with vigor and energy since we successfully brought in 2 powerful and resource rich states of Sabah and Sarawak. Imagine if we are just a peninsular Malaysia the tourism ministry will have so much less reasons to promote Malaysia!

I don't mind not celebrating August 31. Independence is just a moment of glory. The real test of nationhood is building people and resources. And bringing in Sabah and Sarawak 46 years ago should have led us enhance the cultural and racial relationship between the peninsular and east Malaysia which did not happen much. Now that Najib had set the pace let us hope that it is not just passing air to please the rakyat without substantial programmes to integrate our sister states across the seas.

(Photo credit: the Nutgraph)

Celebrating Weddings


My time of receiving wedding red packets is long over now that all my children are married. However, many of my friends and church members are just beginning to marry their daughters or sons and inevitably we are in their invitation lists. So far this year I have had 6 invitations and each one 'cost' me between RM150-200 which is a reasonable sum to more than cover the cost of the dinners we attend. I always believe to never give less than the cost of the food we consume. Depending on the dinner venue the cost will vary. Chinese restaurants will be 'cheaper' than hotels which provide a total package which is more expensive.

Yesterday I received 2 more invitations. 3 more are on the way for wedding dinners in December and January as the hosts have 'served notice'. One require traveling outstation and another night driving that I am poor at due to my astigmatism problem. Fortunately a friend is able to give us a lift for the night dinner so we can attend.

Every time I attend a wedding I reflect the times I was involved in helping my daughters organize theirs. They seemed so long ago ... and I was glad that the events were well planned and attended. I don't know when the next wedding celebration in the family will take place, that involve my grandchildren. I dare not think that far if I will be there to enjoy the moment. For the moment it is good to be in the company of our friends, relatives and colleagues who celebrate such occasions.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Putting Your Problems in Perspective

This is the topic of the sermon preached by my pastor this morning which I thought is universal and not just for Christians to consider. Problems get in the way of our plans and we deal with them differently. Most of the time we blame circumstances or others for our woes except ourselves. But sometimes problems do not discriminate, they just come and befall those in their path, like a tsunami or earthquake. Can we say that those we died or suffered deserve the tragedies? Certainly not! When problems comes we have our own ways of dealing with them, and most of the time we apply human solutions and do not believe in the divine cure.

The book of Job in the Bible is a classic that even non-Christians ought to read. Job was a very successful and powerful man who found his wealth and family destroyed literally overnight. Worst, even as he was left standing on his own, alone to face the total wipe-out of whatever he has, he found himself afflicted with a skin disease from head to toe. I believe there is nothing more tragic than this and most would just wish to die as well. Job did not but proceeded, as a typical human reaction, to question why this has to happened to him. Why? Why? Why?

As a religious man, he wanted answers from God. He wanted to know what sins he committed to deserve the punishments. God responded simply by not dealing with Job's problems but pointing to His own power and majesty which left Job speechless. Job did not get answers to why he suffered. Instead he was given a lesson in humility that whatever he suffered he must not equate his problems to God's awesome power or hold God accountable to his sufferings.

In a nutshell then, we must remember that problems will always be with us. We do not hold others responsible for them but accept that as they happen we find ways to face them or overcome them. You cannot wish the problems away but you can rise above them and find ways to master them. If we are religious we find divine comfort and strength to ride out the problems.

May I suggest 4 steps in problems solving.

1. Think rationally and do not react out of anger, frustration, grief, etc. It is true that time heals.
2. Ask if you have the resource to get out of the problems, if not seek help. Most problems are not terminal.
3. Be in control. Many people are overwhelmed by problems when they need to know that problems are temporary setbacks and most of them can be resolved in time.
4. Pray and understand the spiritual dimension of your sufferings which may be to help you grow and take better control of your life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Value in Old Stuff

Yesterday I gave away several appliances I no longer needed. Some had been with me for nearly 40 years and has sentimental values to me. But they are cluttering up my house and have become obsolete. After letting this remain for many years I decided that I should let go of this attachment to my past and junk them. For the record, the items I refer to are my Sony amplifier and tuner, speakers and VCR, my Akai speakers and cassette deck. Most of them are useable or require some minor repairs but I no longer find them useful to me.

My original plan is give them away to those who come to collect recyclable items. Yesterday my plumber who did the repairs for me is also a person who love audiovisual equipment so I thought if I should offer them to him first. I felt great that he responded very enthusiastically and came in the late afternoon to collect them. I decided to give them away for free. If he can find good use for them I will be happy for him.

The appliances I gave away has no antique value but in the hands of the right person they can certainly be resurrected to usefulness again. I hipe my plumber will enjoy them as I did for many years before.

Friends

Once I was asked how many friends I have. To be honest I don't have many and it may seem embarassing to declare this. It is not that I am not sociable. In the right crowd I can be quite a party person, otherwise I tend to keep to myself.

I consider friends a very special group of people in my life, people who I can choose and keep. Perhaps the reason I don't have many is an indication of my privacy level as well as I consider friendship much more than people you socialise and share thoughts and views cordially. We know that true friends will tell the truth to your face and will never betray you but stand by you in good and bad times. Because I have not been tested and there are too few 'friends' to be tested for their allegiance, I cannot say for sure who my real friends are and who are not.

I decided to blog this topic because Ong Tee Keat said this,“What makes my heart ache or painful, is how easy friendship is destroyed by political self-interest.” This is after the central committee met following the EGM 1 on 10th October.

I wonder if he trust political allies as real friends? I thought he ought to be wiser to know that political allies are in for profits and when their stakes are jeopardised it is expected for them to preserve their turf rather than declare allegiance to the boss. I don't believe friendship exist in politics. Two good friends can join politics but when it comes to push and shoves, they can even become enemies!

In business too there cannot be real friends. It is always wise to keep an eye on your partners. Temptations can easily destroy the fine relationship of trust between two people. This can even exist in a marriage which is supposed to be the closest friendship there can ever be.

Ong Tee Keat is alone now. His best friend is his principle and philosophy, neither of which can give him any vote. But a man with principle is hard to come by nowadays. It is better to keep your principle and lose those who claimed to be your friends than keep them and compromise your belief.

Many people have started losing faith in Tee Keat. Some said he went back on his words to resign should he lose by a thin majority and therefore is not honorable. I think we need to separate the man from the issue which is whether stepping down is helpful to the party. If Tee Keat stays solely to stabilise the party and step down I consider his plan honorable, and he will go down history as a man of his words. But if he uses the EGM 2 to consolidate his power and ignore the call to step down, then I will change my perception of his principle.

The test is whether he decides as if he owns the party or for the wellbeing of it. There will be different opinions of what constitute wellbeing or how to contribute to it but my yardsticks are these.

1. A good leader celebrate or weep for the organisation he is given the privilege to lead, and he must lead selflessly to the best of his ability. He is there as a steward.

2. A good leader builds around him a focus team to fulfil the vision of his dream for the organisation. The team owes their allegiance and full support to him. They trust in his judgement and decision.

3. A good leader will not consciously build power for himself to prosper nor for his people. It is very difficult to avoid this in politics but I believe it is doable, it is a matter of principle and determination to be true to one's belief.

4. A good leader will volunteer to go when he sense his service is no longer appreciated or wanted. In all his service he will not regret failing the organisation or its members if what he did was to prosper them instead.

5. And a good leader must never be blemished by character flaws or criminal records and must declare himself and disqualify himself from holding such high post. He may only assume it if he is asked to lead the organisation.

I expect Tee Keat to use the EGM 2 to decide on a new leadership team acceptable to the delegates. If he believes in his principle he should go when they again vote against his style of leadership.

Some people said you are your best friend. It sound like a joke but it is really true.

Deepavali Celebration


Today is Deepavali, the Hindu religious celebration of victory of good over evil. We are visiting our brother-in-law as we have done in so many years before. Like in most Malaysian new year celebration (Deepavali is not the Hindu new year but is the biggest celebration so many think it is their new year) we celebrate by coming together with a makan (food) and drink and yak yak (talking) with those we know and those we don't. Sometimes we get a little high, when we overconsume beer and brandy, we can end up revealing a little too much of ourselves or speak a little too unkindly of our fellow Malaysians.

This year's Deepavali is a little bit special. Why? The government has 'rewarded' the Hindus with an extra school holiday coming Monday. Maybe it was to give them an incentive to support the government or to show that they care (after so many years of uncare which led to the Hindraf movement last year that led to many arrest and incarceration in the Kamunting jail under ISA). Another reason is the rise of a new Indian political party Makkal Sakti to 'challenge' the de facto Indian party, the MIC or Malaysian Indian Congress, that is seeing some decline and unpopularity.

All religions profess good over evil but some of their believers hijacked them for their selfish agendas and promote hatred and vengeance, giving religion a bad name. But if all believers truly live by what their religions teach there will not have been religious discords worldwide and mankind will be living in greater harmony than it is now. The deepavali celebration is really the desire of all of us that one day, good will eventually triumph over the forces of evil that seems to be on the winning edge.

To all Hindus reading this blog, I wish you a very happy Deepavali. To others may it be also in our hearts to be kind and good to one another and allow the light of goodness, joy and peace to shine forth in our lives.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Are Kids Attending School Too Early?

I think so. Back when I was pre-school there were no kindergarten, play schools or nurseries. I went to school when I was seven. In the years while I grew up I passed time playing in the vicinity of my home with neighbors. We never had any pressures of studies until we actually went to school and even then only during the exam years. I should say that my childhood years were pretty fun, no big expectations to excel in studies, music, games, arts or sports. I did well academically and today I am an above average person.

I guess it must be the competition and the arrival of special schools for children that taught curriculums to teach them develop faster and smarter. Parents are naturally curious and keen to provide opportunities for their children to do better and faster than their friend's. And now we have formulated milk that claims to develop the mental prowness of children with all sorts of additives that make them super intelligent. Which parent is not interested in products that help put their children on more competitive grounds? That is why children are going to schools earlier and earlier. In some places as earlier as 2 years kids are placed in play schools that teach basic reading, counting and singing apart from social skills. By the time they reach school going age it is not surprising some of them are already bored of schools! Recently a post in Facebook I read complained of a 4 year old kid moaning why school is so long! Is sending kids to school early a bad and unhealthy trend? Apparent THIS REPORT thinks so.

In UK children go to formal school at five, that is 2 years earlier than when I was a kid. Now they are proposing to start at six instead. I agree but I must stress that children must enjoy their childhood thoroughly, not forced to learn stuffs they will be taught when they enter school. But I am as guilty as any parent (or grandparent) in wanting the kids to learn something while at home. Learning is how to pass time apart from bringing the kids to the park or playground.

My second grand-daughter Ling is already having a mini library of education books and toys. Daily she get taught new words and she also watches kid's TV and Video CDs. She gets bombarded with new experience almost every day that she is growing up faster than kids who have less access to these resources. But is all these going to be helpful to her or will they make her less keen to study when she goes to school? As caregivers I think we ought not to apply too much pressure or overfeed her with too much information but rather allow her to learn at her pace. Children have just a few years to enjoy the freedom of not doing anything so we must not rob them of the privilege and joy that we had when we were at their age. It is not fair.

But seeing other kids gaining grounds ... it is hard to resist not pushing your own kid a little harder.

Leave it to the Pro

I pride myself as a DIY person and have a set of tools to help me fix up minor repairs at home. Recently a tap in my bathroom was dripping quite badly even though it was screwed tight. It disturbed our sleep that we had to place the shower head in a pail to collect the leaking water. Yesterday I decided to tackle this 'minor' job with an adjustable spanner. My mistake was I applied too much strength on the joint and it B-R-O-K-E. Sheepishly I called my plumber who came this morning to fix the problem. And he did it professionally and quickly too. All I lost was a service fee to him.

I try to be a jack of all trade but really ended up master of none. I realy wonder if being a specialist better than a generalist? Perhaps I need to be a realist to know the limit of my expertise to know when to call in a pro. Sometimes circumstances may just trick you to DIY so be prepare for a minor accident.

Tonight my wife and I will surely sleep better without the annoying drip-drip-dripping sound.

Why All The In-Fighting?

I am glad that Ong Tee Keat did not succumb to the pressure for him to step down after the no-confidence vote last Saturday. It was correct for him to demand a fresh EGM for the members of the party to decide the leaders they want. This put paid the in-fighting among some of the vice-presidents as well as former vice presidents to become the next president.

Today's daily bible verse read:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.James 4:1-3 (NIV)

The Bible is familiar with the subject of human greed and the verse above provides counsel and guidance to those who are power-crazy. The first counsel is to seek God. Whether the challenger is a Christian or otherwise, he must know that it is impossible for him to be conferred the position he desires unless God allows him. The second counsel is to examine one's motive. God will test the heart of the person if his motive is clean and honorable. If among those who seeks this top position are some with the right motive and he asks it from God I believe God will hear his prayer. But if the ungodly gets elected using unscrupulous means his tenure will not be smooth nor will God bless his leadership as well as the people he leads.

The MCA power struggle is shameful and childish for a party that is 60 years old. Instead of seeking ways to consolidate and refocus on the larger cause of the party some of the leaders are more interested in fighting for the top post. Thankfully Tee Keat refuses to let this happen. Instead he is giving the power back to the members to decide if they want a fresh election. It will be interesting to see how the EGM resolutions are framed. It is my hope that the outcome of the AGM/EGM next month will restore respect, unity and sanity to the MCA.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is Malaysian Politics Scripted?

I have the nagging feeling that someone or a production team is puppeting the way the various political events are being scripted out for public consumption. Just recently 3 events took place one after another: Najib declared open the new Indian political party, Makkal Sakti Party, then it was MCA's EGM that saw Ong Tee Keat and Chua Soi Lek routed, and the day after it was the Bagan Pinang state by-election that saw Mohd Isa Samad resurrecting his political life. And now it is the UMNO general assembly. None of them overlapped. Just weeks earlier full attention was focussed on the Pakatan state government of Selangor and the silly cowhead incident (what is happening to those charged for illegal assembly and displaying the cowhead? were they conveniently forgotten again?) and banning the sales of liquor in convenience stores that got the residents worked up. Earlier we had the Perak illegal takeover (which is still simmering with occasional news to remind us that the matter is still outstanding) and the Anwar sodomy case II that is still pending. Of course we still have the Teoh Beng Hock death inquest and the Port Klang Free Zone corruption investigation ongoing to keep us 'entertained'.

I think we are all so addicted to the regular shams of cheap and amateurish Malaysian politics that we find life just so boring if a day go by without reports of a scandal or injustice. I became politically awakened after March 8, 2008 general election and in the 19 months thereafter I admit that when things cooled down somewhat I have no mood to log into the various online news media to read political news. I think many of us need the fix of watching the excitement of politics as it it is a football game. We have become so used to these developments that we get worried if everything become smooth sailing.

This is so Malaysia that I think we are finding our brand of politics interesting and unique. So after the UMNO meeting is over and the MCA crisis resolved who will take the stage to amuse and entertain us next? Maybe UMNO will re-attempt the Selangor takeover since they are on the upswing now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vultures and Opportunists

When vultures appear it is a sign of impending death. When hyenas ganged up against a lone foe chances of victory is very much enhanced. In this world there are human vultures and opportunists always standing by to profit from the fall of an unfortunate leader. Obviously such vultures and opportunists will not be interested if not for the power, status and monetary opportunities vested in such a leadership position. I doubt any of them are interested in serving if not for the fringe benefits.

The fallout of a political leader recently has seen some of his former colleagues suddenly reappearing on the scene to 'offer' their services, as well as those in the wings jostling to get 'promoted'. I wonder if they really think they can be the solution or is their motive out of greed?

Where are the 'doctors' and 'rescuers' to save the one from impending death before the vultures and opportunists swoop down for the kill? Or are they being overwhelmed by the stronger forces that want to see the fallen leader removed for good?

As much as following the constitution is the correct approach to take I think going for a referendum to the members of the party is a better way to resolve the impasse. When in doubt it is always wise to go back to the members who has the final authority. However, vultures and opportunists are an impatient lot and hope for a quick decision.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Too Many Cooks

Opinions abound as to how the MCA crisis is to be resolved ahead of the central committee meeting on Oct 15. Cool heads and a good perspective should prevail. In times like this it is always good to step out and look at the entire issue objectively. It applies to every emotive situation.

1. The delegates were obviously divided as to the leadership, with roughly half wanting Ong Tee Keat (left in picture) and Chua Soi Lek out. Personally I don't consider the EGM decision decisive enough to believe that it is the will of the party and the Chinese community at large who are not consulted although public opinion polls suggested majority wanted Ong to stay. The constitution should prevail and the current leadership must stand firm against the odds and allow contrasting views dissipate and perform what they were voted into.

2. Resolutions 1 and 3 are telling (see my earlier post), both wanted the 2 incumbents out. However resolution 1 did not give a strong enough voice (two third at least according to the constitution requirement) to boot out Ong. Technically he can stay on (as what many of his supporters and non-government groups appealed) but he have to fight a stronger and open wave of resistance led no doubt by his nemesis Chua who has already called for Ong to resign. Resolution 3 is clearcut although with a narrow majority as well.

Already several options are suggested on how to heal the MCA crisis, each having its own merit and demerit. Let's examine the key ones:

1. The president resign and fresh elections called to replace him and a new deputy president elected. This is the obvious route but will surely drag up much ill-feelings and further in-party fighting splitting the party further. I think this is ill-timed and no one wish to take over a badly divided party out of focus of its mission of representing Chinese political interest in the country. If ever any fresh election is to be called it should be done at least a year later to allow emotions to simmer down and clear headed thinking prevail. A new president will not necessarily bring the party back together since there will always be differing views on how a leader is performing. Delegates must be objective and realistic on their expectations and mission of the party.

2. Ong Tee Keat stays put and carry out his work to his best and supported by his team. There will be distractors of course, even interference from the other Barisan component leadership. The prime minister jumped the gun by suggesting the outcome of the EGM be complied. But the outcome is inconclusive. Since this is an internal quarrel within MCA it must be resolved with wisdom and patience. Chinese culture very much trust on these values to heal any differences so I honestly don't see over-reacting with a new election now will lead to any solution better than what MCA has now. Ong does not have a scandal himself to disqualify himself from furthering his leadership. Furthermore he has to bring the Port Klang Free Zone corruption scandal to a closure before he can consider stepping down. This is the role that many Malaysians expect of him to fulfil. In the meantime a successor must be groomed acceptable to the majority of the delegates so that the transition will be smooth.

As I wrote earlier, the decision to bring down Ong is not that he is not working but he cannot get along with some delegates. If politicians must always be people pleasers then we are in for a rough ride. Politicians must be visionary and executors of the will of the voters and not gain popular support to stay in power. I believe Ong belong to this category which did not go down well with a larger number of delegates. MCA delegates must re-examine their priorities and decide in the larger interest of the party and Chinese community rather than be self-serving.

I hope that the central committee meeting as well as Ong will come to a wise decision this Thursday and that situation will return to normalcy soon for the good of the nation.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What is 1Malaysia?

Many Malaysians asked this question to the prime minister, especially lawmakers from the opposition. We want to know what is in his tagline that he chose for his administration since taking office 6 months ago in April. The PM chose the following phrase 'People First, Performance Now' to tell us how he wants his 1Malaysia concept to become a reality. So far there has been no official clarification or explanation what this 1Malaysia idea is all about although any average schoolboy know superficially that it means what it said, One Malaysia. But how is it translated into real implementation? Or is it just a nice slogan to make Najib look good and magnanimous? Time will tell but there are too many brickbats because many people do not trust Najib who never tried to clear his alleged involvement with the Mongolian murder. Perhaps Najib is truly sincere in delivering his 1Malaysia promise but he need to do more than using his blog and website to paint a glorious image of his government. He need to demonstrate sincerity and genuineness in dealing with real life problems faced by the average Malaysian across the board and neutralise the work of religious and racist fanatics both within and outside his government to bring calm, peace and security to the nation. In other word, we want to see RESULTS of his sloganeering. There must be some reporting of how he is performing after 6 months.

Najib promised his 1Malaysia will be people-centric when he promise it to be People First. I take it to means that he will look into the needs and complaints of ALL Malaysians, whatever their political or religious inclinations. We need ways to measure if his administration is really performing in this area, or is it just plain talk. Judging from the way his government deals with the opposition held states it is still too far to see this concept a reality. Basically Najib need to see all Malaysians in the context that they may share different views and come from different backgrounds but they are CITIZENS and deserve equal treatment and respect. This the Barisan government is still a long way to score valuable points.

Najib further promises his administration to be performers, and has designed Key Performance Indices to measure the performance of his ministers. He even have TWO Ministers looking after this new portfolio. I wonder if he has one to measure himself and the 1Malaysia dream of his.

In the meantime we await an answer of what he really means by 1Malaysia. Ideally, I take it to mean a Malaysia that is truly one in identity, one in opportunity, one in justice and fairness, and one in working for a common future. I dare not use this tagline because it is unachievable, too unrealistic and over-promising. Perhaps Najib should have jumped on the Wawasan 2020 bandwagon tabled by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1991 and bring it to reality in 11 years time. Or maybe he has no confidence that Wawasan will be achieved by that year.

The 9 challenges that Tun threw at us were:

Challenge 1: Establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia (Malaysian Race).

Challenge 2: Creating a psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society.

Challenge 3: Fostering and developing a mature democratic society.

Challenge 4: Establishing a fully moral and ethical society.

Challenge 5: Establishing a matured liberal and tolerant society.

Challenge 6: Establishing a scientific and progressive society.

Challenge 7: Establishing a fully caring society.

Challenge 8: Ensuring an economically just society, in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation.

Challenge 9: Establishing a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

They already contain the elements of 1Malaysia so it look like Najib is re-inventing the wheel. It is far better for the government to re-assess where we stand in this movement towards a developed nation status and strive to achieve it. In the process we may just discover we are on the road to his 1Malaysia.

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