Thursday, April 28, 2011

Does a Brain Dead Government Cares?

Reading THIS and THIS reports is like reading a death sentence on the nation's future. We are bleeding precious talents knowingly and no drastic efforts are made to stem their outflow. I remember when Tun Ahmad Badawi was prime minister not too longer ago he stressed the importance of human capital. This is what he said,

"To develop the human capital, we want our citizens to be fully equipped with knowledge, practice good moral values, have a broad mind, love the country and possess the physical and spiritual strength." Quote taken from HERE.

These are vague targets that are hard to quantify. Compare to what Premier Wen Jiabao of China said in THIS report during his visit to Malaysia today. Wouldn't it be nice if the words had come from our own prime minister's mouth instead? Highlights of his advice:

Be results orientated. Accomplish greatness rather than be obsessed with titles and power.
Leaders are servants. Serve the people well. It is their moral duty and they will be appreciated and remembered.
Always stay with the people and devote to developing the country.
Care for the happiness of the people.
Science and technology is the key to national development.

THIS is what I call building a great human capital! I wonder if he wasn't hinting to PM Najib how to run the country. We ought to adopt them if we want to retain our fleeing talents.

You just want to admire and love such a leader who speaks clearly and purposefully. No wonder those Chinese students studying here are endeared to him, calling him Grandpa Wen. Report HERE. Dare we call our PM Uncle Najib?

When you have leaders who are in touch with the pulse of the people and develop programmes that benefit the masses (not corporations and cronies), there is little reason why they would want to leave their homeland. The World Bank report is absolutely spot on when it nailed 'social injustice' as the root cause for the brain drain from this country. Ask those who leave, the common replies would be 'there is no future here for me and my family' and 'the government doesn't need or appreciate my contributions'. If the government isn't brain dead yet there is still hope of a reversal before situation become terminal. Let us not lose resourceful and intelligent young Malaysians in exchange for unskilled foreign workers.

Forget about power and position. Accomplish the urgent agenda of rebuilding our nation before it is run to the ground.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April, a Dreaded Month for Malaysian Taxpayers

Or June 30 for those Malaysians with a business income. With the April 30 deadline looming, taxpayers with employment income only need to fulfil their obligation of sending an angpow (red packet) to the inland revenue board of Malaysia to settle their outstanding taxes, failing which penalties will be imposed in default. Until about 2004 taxpayers have it easier. They just send their statements of income and claim documents to the local tax office and assessment officers will be assigned to calculate taxes owed to be paid in 30 days, and in some cases, allowable to spread out over several months. Normally the assessment forms or Borang J are sent out in July and we usually have till end of the year to settle our outstanding taxes. But all this have changed with the introduction of self assessment and assessment officers overnight became audit officers whose job changed to checking if taxpayers cheated on their returns. And since 2006 when the tax department went online to give taxpayers an option to submit their returns electronically many of us started to tidy up our tax records to ensure there are few complicating issues, such as undeclared past year income and underpaid taxes. It became strategically advantageous to get yourself off the radar screen of audit officers by cleaning up your tax files and pay your tax on time. Or else they will hunt your down and investigate your income trails for the past 6 years as allowed by law. Also whatever properties and other expensive assets you buy and oversea travels you made will be traced so be prepared with good explanations where these money came from.

The E-Filing system introduced in 2006 made tax submission easier and by comparison to the personal tax submission system of the United States I think ours is simpler that we don't need a tax accountant or agent to file on our behalf. The process auto-calculates your tax due but it is prudent to double check manually offline before you click 'Accept' and submit your return (although there is a due but slow process of claiming any overpayment or under-declaration of claim allowed). The process also allow you to pay online which saves a trip to the bank.

We are all poorer in May (or July) after we fulfilled our duty as taxpayers, so stock markets and even shopping malls should suffer from fewer trades and sluggish sales when we hibernate for awhile. However, knowing that this annual ritual will visit us unfailingly it prompts all taxpayers to exercise their brain cells to project their likely tax due and make provisions. The tax people are learning from credit companies, they are merciless in exacting late payment interest so don't give them a chance.

Technology in this sense work against us. It used to be we pay taxes some 6 months later when it becomes due. Now we have to pay within 30 days. What this means is we no longer enjoy a credit period but rather pay as we earn. Even the PCB or monthly tax instalment deduction will not fully settle your dues although it help lower the differential amount so that shock effect is lessened. The good thing out of this efficient tax 'extraction' process is that we now have to be planners and not leave things to the last moment. If we fear police for violating traffic laws, fear the tax officers more if you try to manipulate, omit or deceive your tax declarations. The audit officers are super efficient in tracking down tax evaders. I'm not sure if they get any incentives for convicting tax violators.

Don't be like many Malaysians who love to leave things to the last moment. The tax department servers have crashed before due to overwhelming number of logins as the deadline approaches. The unexpected can happen so don't let equipment failure be an excuse if you cannot file in time. They are unlikely to accept that nor give extensions like the police do in extending the deadlines for compound fines payment.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Free 1Malaysia Email Account

My first reaction was very much like those who asked, 'Is that necessary?' And my next question was 'Is this a loaded freebie?' Whet sets off widespread online protest was that the company tasked with rolling out this service on behalf of the government, Tricubes Berhad, declared that it will be spending RM50 million which many Malaysians thought can be put to better use. The government now admit that this is a joint government-private sector endeavor but we know better who eventually pays for the expertise if this project lifted off. Unless there is a hidden agenda there is absolutely no reason to re-invent the wheel, in this instance, to give away free emails when there already exist several global free email services, among them, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail which offer 5 or more gigabytes free storage with no strings attached. What else can Tricubes offer that can beat these 3 major service providers?

It is OK if the free email is given free to any Malaysian who care to register using his or her MyKad number but it should stop right there. Don't have the wild idea of forcing banks, EPF, IRB, SOCSO, telcos, utility companies, credit card issuers and insurance companies to compel their clients to carry out online transactions only via the 1Malaysia email account. This tantamount to blackmail and denial of our basic human rights of choice. Plus the worrying thought of having our confidential information hijacked and abused.

Personally I suggest the Barisan government stay focus with running the country efficiently and stop this crazy idea of spending money on a project that bears no beneficial returns. If they really want to be helpful, take up the suggestion by Penang Chief Minister. Provide free wifi service progressively throughout the country. Or abolish the RM50 credit card tax that makes no sense.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Can Anyone Help To Overcome This?

My grand daughter is suffering from severe eczema triggered by allergic reactions to food and other unspecified causes as shown in the recent pictures below of her lips and elbow. Visits to allergists have failed to produce a cure. She is 6 years old and going to school next year and she will be in less protected environment. In my readings I understand there is no cure for allergies but certainly there are methods to help minimize their symptoms. I believe that there are children who have become 'cured' or have their conditions ameliorated by proven changes in diet, lifestyle or introduction of new supplements or even medical treatments. I would be grateful if my readers who have personal experience or know of those with similar conditions who have found relief can share them with me. Please write me at my email in the Profile. Thank you.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Struggle Against Unrighteous Politics

The following came to my attention, supposedly from Ms Hannah Yeoh, a young but committed canvasser against what is wrong with the dirty political culture of our beloved country. If bright and talented Malaysians flee for safer and greener havens it is not for the lack of patriotism but the fear of becoming inundated by the evil culture that prevent the good from rising up to bless the society at large. But the like of Hannah Yeoh stayed to do battle to bring hope to the many babies born to become Malaysians of the future. Do we have the political will to fight the good fight and claim victory for our beloved nation? Change is never easy and trials tend to follow them. On this very day that Sarawak goes to the poll to elect their state government will they have the courage to fight the good fight?

So many people have been telling me just how frustrated they are with the current political situation in our country. Some have told me that they regretted voting for change because of the political instability now and would prefer returning to their old style of voting - vote for stability and forget about having a stronger opposition and greater check and balance. I shudder at the thought of this!

One needs to remember the reason why we are seeing such great resistance for change is simply because there is much to lose for those who have been in power for so long. For decades there has been so much abuse of power, unchecked misuse of public funds and plain dirty corruption. With a stronger opposition now, they stand to lose their illegal sources of income and some may even be charged and sent to prison if they are found guilty. With this in mind, they will fight at all costs to reclaim back power and to ensure they can continue to steal public funds from the people for their own enrichment. We are not just dealing with differences in politics; we are combating evil forces who will not rest till they secure back their powers and illegal sources of income.

Sometimes I feel equally frustrated and disillusioned about the political situation too. Sometimes I lie awake thinking of how to effect change in this land. Some days I cry while driving in between meetings thinking of what's left for the future generation in this land if we give up now. I have endured much verbal attack from political enemies, accusation after accusation of me not doing anything for my constituents and etc. No one truly understands the resistance we face daily in discharging our duties except for my fellow PR assemblymen. Robert Kennedy once said "Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator and change has its enemies."

Our enemies are resisting change but we must stand firm and continue to push for a competent, accountable and transparent government. At the end of each day, as I lay myself to sleep, I ask God for strength, wisdom and protection to face the next. I look forward to the end of the term when I can tell the people of Subang Jaya that I have remained clean and have not stolen any of the taxpayers' funds.

As reminded by Raja Petra in his blog "Please continue your struggle to make Malaysia a better place for our future generation. This country belongs to them and it is for them that we struggle."

All hope is not lost. Come the next election, vote out the corrupt once and for all. Hang in there supporters and friends, the best is yet to come!

Hannah Yeoh

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Sarawak State Elections

Tomorrow the 16th April will see one of the most nail biting state elections the Barisan government has encountered in its 53 years of absolute rule of Malaysia. To have both prime and deputy prime ministers, who are president and deputy president of UMNO respectively spending nearly an entire week in the state campaigning is unprecedented. It imply a real danger that Barisan may either lose its majority control or worst, the state itself to the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, though this is unlikely. But miracles still happen today. This is the season of Lent, the most important season in the Christian calendar, in which Christians mourn the death, and then celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent is a season of despair which culminated in the unexpected. Is this message going to be repeated this weekend?

There is enough evidence of massive briberies to crucify the Barisan government but of course, our police, Attorney-General and judiciary are quite adept in interpreting the laws anyway they see it. Call it incentives, rewards, development or what have you, giving out cash and contracts at this time reeks of corruption that even a school boy can tell you.

Two categories of voters are under threat of swing votes. The indigenous natives who still believe that only the Barisan government is competent to rule; and the Christian voters who may naively think that the Bible controversy has been irrevocably resolved by the personal promise given by Najib Razak and therefore safe to trust him again. A growing rank of disenchanted voters who are frustrated by the way Sarawak has been exploited, sidelined and taken for granted are pushing hard for reforms and appealing for this critical moment to show Barisan the door. Will the conservatives be bold enough to vote for change or will they remain addicted to election handouts and helplessly stay under the control of Barisan?

Development will come about even if there is a government change. Whoever is in charge of the nation is in charge of its treasury. What is important to bear in mind is how such developments are dished out. Penang under the rule of DAP, a component of Pakatan, sets a good example of how Sarawak will be run if it is delivered the votes. Sarawakians today have the opportunity to show Barisan that they have the power to lead the way to a new era of corporate governance we yearn to see and enjoy. Jom Ubah!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baby Typhoon Andrew

This is little Andrew. He is 14+ months old. He babbles his own language that we try to decipher. He walks about cockily like he is the boss of the house. He acts like a baby typhoon heading towards any object that suddenly interest him. Like the bathroom, or the kitchen, or my home office. And we would all jump and rush after him to make sure he does not hit the pail of water first, or the gas stove or pull down my laptop or telephone set from the desk.

He is drawn to the washbasin at the dining hall. He'd push a stool there or climb the chair if it is already there. Whatever interest him must be the water, or the toothbrush or toothpaste that belongs to his sister Grace. His favorite spot is the kitchen cabinet drawers. Inside he find spoons, ladles, sieves, tongs, egg beater, chopsticks, etc that he pulls out as if they are toys. Andrew is at such a vulnerable age. He doesn't know or understand danger that we need to be protective. Sometimes necessarily overly protective for his own good. The price of being slack can be a trip to the doctor which we don't want to imagine. We try to close all doors, store away fragile things, watch him like a hawk in case he is up to some mischief, or wander out of the house unnoticed or climb the stairs unsupervised.

Since we came back from Australia Andrew has become more assertive and demanding. We fear the day when he becomes more difficult than his sister. For now he is so adorable that we hate to reprimand him beyond a growl or a wave of of the index finger. He learns to respond to 'No thumb thumb' each time he starts sucking his thumb.

Running after a 14 month old is tiring. Even for his mid 30s parents what more the mid 60s grandparents. The kid has boundless energy and seems to bulldoze everywhere. He doesn't understand the meaning of rest or sitting still. The only time we adults can heave a sigh of relief and get some rest is when he drinks his milk or takes his nap. Or have his bath. Whoever that feeds or bath him excepted of course (default: po po)

But getting upset with Andrew doesn't cross our mind. He gives us that smirk and innocent smile that melt away any anger. I cannot imagine if I can contain my anger if he breaks my iPad or my brand new Galaxy Ace! I tried to be defensively cautious, like Andrew mother said of my late dad, her Ah Gung.

In another 3 months Andrew will be a different person and the cute baby behavior we see today would have disappeared forever. He would be able to speak more intelligibly, move about more confidently, handle things more ably, and better understand what are forbidden, what are allowed. For now we just enjoy Andrew for who he is and be his 'servants'.

Pssst. I am writing this post after Andrew has gone to bed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's the Cost?

We flew off March 30 night, stayed from March 31 until April 5, and flew off April 6 night to arrive Kuala Lumpur International Airport on April 7 morning. We spent 7 full days in Australia (3 in Melbourne and 4 in Sydney). Excluding international air fares (but including domestic flight from Melbourne to Sydney) we spent around AUD 5,000 for 4 adults, which average to about AUD 1,250 per person (or RM3,800). This cover accommodation, food, tours and souvenirs. If we add in international air fare and taxes of about RM2,800 per person, we spend individually RM6,600 for the entire holiday which is commendable compared to group tours.

Note: I intentionally left out the cost from the 2 children as they are negligible.

Off My iPad

I brought along my iPad during the walkabout at the Quay on our last day. It is a great companion to keep an accurate account of the events. Here is what I wrote.

It's 11am on April 6 and we are sitting at wharf 2 area in the arc cafe having our late breakfast of Turkish sandwiches and coffee. It is slightly drizzly. The silver gulls are all around waiting for food. Ling was trying to feed them crumbs. I am overlooking the Harbor Bridge and ferries. The CityRail is rumbling just behind me. We had arrived here by it from the George St Town Hall station. Lots of people were walking along the quay. To our right is the Opera House out of sight. But we will be walking there shortly. Had just called Julian and Mei.

The banners on the flagstaffs along the quay were fluttering gaily in the wind. 30 yards away sound of the aboriginal didgeridoo music filled the air. An aborigines was seated on the floor bare chested and selling boomerangs and other tribal trinkets.

Everywhere we go we observed mostly Asian and non-local waiters and waitresses, some are students on part time work. We also see many young families with babies on strollers. And young people in pairs or small groups. Did not see much of unhealthy cultures although there were 2 or 3 adult shops near Meriton.

1130 hrs we walked to SOH. The weather alternate dull to shiny but I was able to capture many memorable pics. Noon we decided not to go to the nearby botanic garden as weather looks unpredictable. We walked along the covered quay buildings to the bridge. It's windy but nice. Everybody appear cheerful. 1215 we walked pass arc cafe. The haunting didgeridoo music drifted in. Suddenly someone came towards me and greeted me! It is Raman! With his sister and brother in law and family. Raman looks great. We chatted for 15 minutes and took pictures and videoclips. Then we parted way and gave him a canister of fine grade pu er Chinese tea as meet again gift. The weather was so variable, changing every minute from sunny and warm to windy and chilly. We strolled towards the bridge and rested at the Rock. It is past 1pm. Ling was tired and slept in her buggy. Andrew was active again, walking about making friends with strangers.

1330 we walked back from the Rocks towards the museum of contemporary arts and rested with students and silver gulls for company before walking again to the cityrail to go back to town hall and walk to victoria galleria where we had simple sandwich, totilla tuna wrap and fried rice for lunch at 1415. Ling awoke in a bad mood but recovered. QVB and the Gallery has nothing much to offer being high end shopping mall do we walked out to the Pitts Street Mall and Westfield which are lots livelier. All the walking is very tiring although the weather is very good. We decided to walk back to the Liverpool St and stopped by Gloria Jean's Coffee (Australia's Starbuck) for drink and snack. It is 5.20pm.

Rested until 6.30 pm and then returned to Meriton to pick up our luggages and called a maxi taxi to drive us to the airport. Fare is AUD 60. Driver Leon, an Ukrainian who migrated here 18 years ago is a nice man with 3 grandkids. At the security we have to empty all the drinking water but they allow water in baby feeding bottles. We walked to gate 54 at 8.45pm to await our flight. Called Moonnie, Sean, FIL and Mei to make full use of the prepaid SIM here. Later we swap our Maxis SIM back into our handphones. Tomorrow I will begin checking for a replacement phone for myself.

At the departure lounge met an old friend from Seremban, William, who is flying back to attend a wedding dinner that we will be going as well. Small world.

Harbor Bridge Up Close

The sun began to shine as we walked towards the bridge, and Raman my old classmate gently tapped my shoulder. I was surprised that he found me out and later told me it was easy picking up a Chinese tourist family at the Quay where I had earlier told him where I'd be to meet him. Raman has turned light brown, must be the kind Aussie weather for the past 30 years (?). His daughter married just 2 days ago but he managed to find time to meet me. Lovely mate.

The best pictures of our holiday are probably snapped today and in particular during this walk to the bridge. I won't say more than what these pictures can express better. Enjoy, and if you like some for your wallpaper, be my guest.

Easy in the Quay

My son joked that this year I will celebrate my birthday in 2 places. Technically true. On April 6 we will still be in Australia but that night we will be flying out back to Malaysia. If I were to pick on preciseness we will still be over the continent of Australia at midnight of April 6 so my son is wrong. But he is technically right too if we consider the international flight MH140 at 40,000 feet above sea level a 'different' country.

We checked out of Meriton World Tower at 10.30am and left our luggages in their holding room while we made our way out for breakfast and sightseeing of the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks and Harbor Bridge, to generally feel the ambiance of leisure and carefree living, and of course the clean and cool atmosphere that is so un-tropic. Every holiday should have moments like this built into it and most tours have them. It is called free and easy time but most tourists misused them for last minute shopping rather than absorb in the sights and sounds on the last days. I appreciate the well thought out itinerary to leave our last day in Sydney and Australia to feel the mood of expansiveness of the grand harbor view and the pleasantness of watching silver gulls eyeing our sandwiches, gaiety around us and a sense of 'Well done, Sydney!' before we truly say goodbye tonight (April 6).

Ling will surely miss such moments when she gets home and start attending nursery again.

Last shots of Meriton before we gave up our keys.

We took the CityRail again into Circular Quay. It may seem to you that CQ is where Sydney throbs its hearbeats and I can confirm that if you go to Sydney and miss out this part of the city, you have not been to Sydney at all. Around 10am we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Arc Cafe. Ling was in her elements again. Throughout the holiday she has thoroughly enjoyed herself and was mischievous and playful.

We then strolled along the quay boulevard leading to the Opera House when I detoured from my family to snap as many pictures as I can of the lovely cove and iconic symbol of Sydney and Australia. What baffled me was the ever changing weather. One moment sunny and the next cloudy, breezy, drizzly and then sunny again. It is totally unlike Malaysia when the weather stays almost unchanged for hours, and when it does change, stays that way for at least another hour or more. Here are samples of the pictures I took in my walkabout at the Opera House area. Notice the cloud patterns and you'll see what I mean.

Although a leisurely day the amount of walking is no less than our day at the Zoo. After we're done at the Opera House (we did not attempt to enter nor go to the adjacent Royal Botanic Gardens) as there are steps to climb and the weather unpredictable. We thought safer to move towards the shops instead and head to the Rocks and Harbor Bridge.


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