Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 (Amended) Passed

Today the above bill was passed by Barisan MPs only (all Opposition MPs walked out) in the face of protests by the Bar Council. Report HERE.

In hindsight we all will look back to today as one when we lost our freedom to gather publicly to display our disapproval to the various aspects of our livelihood. Yes, we can gather but conditionally and restrictively, and we will be at the mercy and mood of the police and Home Minister to make discretionary decisions. I doubt this is the end of the tale. Rather it is the start of another round of civil unrest when civil rights groups and concerned citizens brave the risks of arrests and physical harms to demonstrate to the government that it is unwise to mess with the rights to assemble publicly. The soft impact on the ordinary citizens is yet unknown but may quietly translate into electoral protests which the government has little control over. In all probability, before the new general election is to be held, BERSIH 3.0 may be activated. For sure this new law is ammunition for the Opposition to bring down the government. It was a grave mistake to rush through this bill when there is so much apprehension and resistance.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Tide Turns

I just wish to mark my blog that this weekend the political tide in Malaysia has turned in favor of Pakatan Rakyat to claim victory at the upcoming general election believed to be held early next year. Never has PR been so bold as to predict victory in a state it has not won before (Johor) and declaring Anwar Ibrahim as the 7th prime minister. With the Barisan government blundering over the usage of English in Maths and Science, and now agreeing to amend the Peaceful Assembly Bill heavily condemned and rejected by majority of Malaysians, it show its incompetence and lack of foresight in decision making. Worse of all it has shown its arrogance in promulgating policy changes without due consultations with concerned NGOs and later salvaging its pride by acceding to their demands. Personally I cannot trust such a government to take us through these difficult times. I predict that PR will be installed as the new government with a simple majority, taking most of the states with large urban populations and two or more majority malay states. The FELDA Global proposed listing next year may cost Barisan the state of Pahang or a simple victory in the state assembly as this goes against the wishes of the settlers. Perak will be regained if PR puts Nizar back as the chief minister. He was unceremoniously ousted in a power grab in 2009.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Class Reunion Trigger

It was just over a year ago (HERE) that our first class reunion was held and was attended by friends and their wives from near and far. The trigger from this first reunion created smaller group reunions such as those organized and occasioned by weddings. Yesterday I met up with seven classmates, one of them, David, for the very first time since we lost touch after 1967.

My ex-class monitor, Kao, took great pain in persuading many more to come. Three others could have come but for reasons best known to them declined. At 10am I was at Kao's house to chat with him and two other classmates, Meng Yew and Kheng Hoi came later. All too soon it was noon and they bundled into my car and off we drove to the Crocodile Farm Seafood Restaurant about 10 minutes away. It looked the same as it was the last time I was there, perhaps 12 years ago? I can't remember, but it was to entertain a customer, that I am sure. Upon arrival we took a quick picture outside and soon a Mercedes drove up and out popped a young man in jeans. From an earlier picture circulated with him in full suit with his family, David looked familiarly the same as the class picture in our 1965 school magazine called the Loyal Pioneer. His grim was still there and we greeted and hugged. David Ngu is a cheerful bloke and as promised he lugged 3 bottles of red wine selected from Cold Storage. Must be expensive we dare not ask. We joked that we have two cows here (no reference to the cow condos or the cattle feedlot scandal now brewing in the nation) as David's 'Ngu' sound like 'cow' in our native Foochow.

We gathered inside and as the first bottle was opened we chatted while munching roasted peanuts, nibbled fried baby cuttlefish and drinking the wine and chinese tea. We were like chatty wives, non-stop exchange of views and stories among the five of us. Over the next hour three more (Meng Song, Eddie Seow and Henry Lim) joined and over lunch and two hours later (we held up the waitresses until nearly 4pm) we gave each other our best and were reluctant to leave. David quietly settled the bill although we have decided to go Dutch while he provide the wine. I suppose he was overwhelmed by the nostalgia of this simple but meaningful reunion. We all had our rounds of chatting with another classmate, Naik Chu King, who was unable to come. Before we depart plans are already floated to meet during Chinese New Year 2012 or All Souls Day 2012 in Sitiawan. Those of us who can make it are invited.

It is unlikely for us to gather in large numbers such as in November last year, but to do so in 5s and 10s will be more meaningful and practical as we can share more personally. Here are some pictures of our meet.

Root Course of Public Disorder

Why would anyone waste efforts and time to criticize a government whether to the media or take his case to a physical audience such as street protests? Why would citizens travel across the nation to Occupy Wall Street in New York? Why would people risks limbs and lives to demonstrate in the capital squares of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and as well as Kuala Lumpur? Are people easily instigated, even paid to throw stones at riot squads? Why are today's generation as well as some from mine feel agitated and troubled enough to take a hardened stand against a government which has failed in its mandate to provide for a safe and progressive nation? The answer is centred on the line that there is growing disillusionment as well as perception that we have gone down the wrong road in nation building. Instead of growing we are retarding, instead of forwarding we are backpedaling, and watching the backslide is no longer a luxury we can afford because time is very much against us. Which is why the world over, when people feel a sense of dispair and hopelessness, the only choice left is to gather courage to bring the government down either though the poll or by demonstrations.

It is a shame that we don't belong to the category of favored nations where their citizens endorsed what their governments do as correct and continue to let them rule peacefully. For awhile now we are seeing spottings of street protests here which if continue would indicate changes have not happened or protesters are becoming restless. I believe while Malaysians can be emotional and disruptive, by and large, they are patient, easy going and accommodating. But when they fail to see improvements no one can be blamed should they choose to take their concerns up a notch, to the public domain, both physically and in cyber space.

These symptoms must be aggressively addressed, and done holistically. Somehow I see the government as reactive and act not so much as to restore public confidence in them but to curry for popular acceptance. The current Peaceful Assembly Bill being tabled is a grave mistake in frustrating those with legitimate concerns by denying them public avenue to draw attention. The bill seems to regulate public gatherings in an orderly manner in the ways the government and police decide. In short the bill is telling us how to function. We are living in a free country and for 54 years conditioned to the freedom of movement and expressions as provided for by the Constitutions. Therefore stifling the growing anger by passing a restrictive law doesn't make the issue or the problem disappear magically. Instead it can create a larger rumbling that become unmanageable. The government is reminded once again to engage those whom they don't like and don't agree instead of containing or ignoring them. Both actions can explode or implode.

Governments that have lost the confidence of the electorates are reasons for public disorders. It is wise for such governments to introspect to save themselves or find themselves in political wilderness.

Here is an extract from THIS blog I read.

I have never envisaged that one day I would see a more progressive Myanmar than my own country.

While we are debating the new freedom of Assembly Bill (which are full of restrictions of freedom), Myanmar has passed a law which is more progressive than us. That is from a regime which is touted as one of the most repressive states in the world.

If they are now still repressive, what makes us?

To hold a protest, the Myanmar authority needs to be informed ONLY 5 days in advance (Malaysia new bill: 30days). While in Malaysia, protests are not allowed in so many places that I just cannot recall the whole list,  in Myanmar  only 4 locations are not allowed for protests:  government buildings, schools, hospitals and embassies. Notice that they did not ban street protests, as that is perhaps one place where you do not need to spend a hefty sum to stage your protest.  Just compare yourself and make your own inference.

As I read the above an image appear to me. Myanmar is moving out of a tunnel of darkness while my own country that aspire to be developed in 2020 is heading into this tunnel. What is the government thinking?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Bad and Oppressive Law in the Making

I refer to the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 that was just tabled in Parliament for debate. The PAB is drafted to replace the recently repealed Police Act 1967. Its successor is expected to accommodate the open and liberal society that is becoming the norm in every civilized and developed nations. Even the middle eastern nations that faced recent public demonstrations over the dictatorial regimes and overthrew some of them is proof that public dissent against injustice, real or perceived, cannot be contained by law and force should they reach a momentum that reel into a test of might. Many a government have been defeated by sheer objection and overpowering of the people power. How on earth can this government dare come forth with the PAB which restrict and constrict the right and freedom to congregate is mind boggling and regressive. If we ever want to claim a developed status in 9 years or so, tabling the PAB is a ill-conceived attempt by the present government to gain public support. If passed unchanged the PAB will send the nation back to the days when our movements are policed, or rather the police decides who has privileged assemblies and who doesn't. The impact is on every citizen.

THIS is the view of a very well respected lawyer. Another constructive view from the Bar Council HERE. I think we should protest against such a bill before it gets past the 2nd reading unchanged.

Update: at 3pm on November 26 I read HERE that the government, under heavy pressure and threats of public demonstrations, agree to amend the Bill. This show the government did not draft the Bill carefully and shows its weakness in succumbing to public pressure. Now, what we await is what changes will be made and if they be again amended?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

After Lipton

Lipton died November 9. We are now looking for another dog to reign the compound. My preferred choice is a labrador retriever which is similar to the more popular golden retriever but with shorter coat and hence easier to care. The other reason is a lab has good temperament to kids and non aggressive although it can bark and frighten away strangers due to its appearance and size. My dilemma is whether I get a pup or a juvenile which has some basic training. Alternatively I may have to consider a mixed breed. The ultimate concern is whether the new pet can fit into our lives better than Lipton. I understand that a trained dog will produce great joy and although we've never been trainers perhaps this will be a good time to groom our new pet. It will be a spayed female, preferably cream colored with a positive outlook. I am not hurrying but as opportunities arise I think we will make our choice deliberately based on consensus.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Singapore Weekend

Last weekend my wife and I made a special trip to the island state to attend the wedding celebration of her good friend and colleague of 43 years from the days of nursing training. Both are now retired, and are actively looking up former classmates to meet up. So this trip was also a down memory lane trip since 4 friends eventually met up at the wedding table. Here it is:

This coming Thursday will be my turn to meet up with another 'lost' classmate of 46 years with a few other friends in Petaling Jaya. Just a Saturday ago we were back in Ipoh for my ex-classmate's daughter wedding and met up with some old friends again. So November appear to be a month of many reunion. Especially amazing is our meeting up with my cousin sister who came back from the States for a month's holiday to visit her mother, and located my number and called me. This cousin was my wife's good friend in 1968 as well as introducer of my wife to me. Upon hearing that their good colleague and friend's son will be marrying on November 19, she asked to be invited.

I was fortunate to book a budget hotel room on Beach Road just a 5 minutes walk from the wedding dinner venue. The hotel is also 30 minutes walk from the popular Marina Bay which we visited yesterday as well as to Singapore Flyer (we didn't fly, my wife is scared of heights) and later to Orchard Road which was swarmed with foreign maids on their weekend breaks. Even the Singaporeans felt overwhelmed in the shopping malls. Christmas mood is apparent from the many decorations set up. It was sunny and warm, perfect for photo-shoots but around 4pm tropical drizzle tried to dampen the carnival mood and failed. Here are a few pictures I snapped using my trusted nearly 7 year old Canon Powershot A620.

We took Air Asia flights and were appalled by the state of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal in Kuala Lumpur (which was a make shift terminal from a former air cargo warehouse) compared to Terminal 1 in Changi Airport where we disembarked and later board for our homeward flight last night. It was an embarrassment to me that Malaysia, home to Air Asia, could not provide a decent terminal for AA. Hopefully when the new budget terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport is ready end of 2012 we will be proud to use it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mrs Khoo You've Got A Lovely Daughter

At last Sunday's kindergarten graduation of our oldest grandchild I fell in love with a little pretty girl who will be some lucky boy's beloved some day, and he'd surely say this to her mother. Victoria is everybody's pride and when we arrived at her house at 2pm she was already dressed in her exquisite black and white graduation dress which she insisted over another that her mother chose. I guess she is really growing up with ability to discern a good design and pursue her choice with confidence. Being in a hurry we didn't buy her any gift but gave her monetary incentive instead which she accepted gratefully and passed over to her mother for safekeeping.

An hour later we made our way to the church auditorium where her graduation concert will be held. Hundreds of parents and grandparents like us were gathered at the foyer having our snacks and waiting for the doors to fling open at 4.30pm sharp. I was thinking we were queuing up for a blockbuster movie at a cineplex but it was something more exciting. Our little baby will get her special award and put up a performance that make the 7 of us - parents, grandparents and little brother - beaming with quiet joy and thanksgiving to God for a child who gave us strength and confidence to be great grandparents and parents.

Victoria excels in the arts, as displayed in her drawing talents and dance movements. But it is too early to say if she will not be a great doctor, lecturer, engineer, pharmacist, architect, musician or teacher. Only time will tell. The seeds of the love of learning and socializing has been sown and in the coming years we shall see Victoria develop her many skills and choose what she love for her career. And she will meet many people and exposed to many occasions of making hard decisions. Surely Victoria will not be alone for she has family and friends to guide and support her along the way.

When the new school term starts in January 2012 Victoria will be placed in a new school, under new teachers, meeting and making new friends, and learning new knowledge. She will need encouragement as she adapt to the significant changes, especially in the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction in most subjects. In a few days she will enjoy a 6 weeks holiday break where she gets to go for family outings. Victoria is a very fortunate girl indeed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Handling Negativity in Old Age

Over the wedding dinner last Saturday I asked the age old question, How can we be truly happy? As expected there was no absolute answer. We are all still searching, or perhaps some of us feel happiness is not a pre-requisite for achieving a 'good life' which again is a vague concept. What has negativity got to do with happiness? As I think about how I can be a truly happy person I ask how my own negativity is frustrating that goal. I would like to die happily.

Thinking of my past I realize there were many regrets, frustrations, failures, anger and unforgiveness. These emotions have crystalized, hardened and deformed my outlook on life at one point or another but thankfully I was able to look back and learn from the circumstances to stop my life from being permanently changed by my own negativity. It is not a fully won battle but being able to see the trees from the woods helps me stand aside and deal with the hurdles more optimistically and successfully. I have no formula but I believe that if we dwell in being critical of others as well as our shortcomings we deny ourselves the joy of being happy for the moment.

No one can make us happy, and we cannot make another person happy. At most we facilitate the process but we ourselves are not the reason for someone else's happiness. But if we speak kindly, act honorably and be of good assistance we encourage the recipients of our goodwill to be positive and hopefully be happier. Sadly many senior people fail to rise above their accumulated negative feelings and have allowed bitterness, anger and prejudice to rule their thoughts, speech and sometimes actions.

In old age our bodies and health often deteriorate faster than our minds and this add on to our frustrations as we find our independence and freedom more limited, and at times find ourselves less dignified should we pride ourselves in doing things all by ourselves. The refusal to accept the reality that we must depend on caregivers as we grow older compound our negative outlook towards our own future and often spill over to those who care and love us. I would accept the fact that we must surrender a part of our lives into the hands of professionals and family with cheerfulness and peace inside our hearts. Only by facing this truth can we face our final days with calm and peace.

Pain and sufferings often accompany our growing old. Difficult as it is to put on a cheerful outlook we must accept the fact that we will break down and such pains are there to temper us and grow us into spiritual maturity. No one desire pain but everybody needs to find their strength to overcome them with grace and not allow such handicaps bring down our spirit. To be a happy senior person the answer is within us, and involves killing our negative attitudes and build our arsenal of positive thoughts. It do well to remember that negative thoughts and attitudes are destructive and harm relationship. On the other hand learning to overcome them help us be more respected, wanted, loved and missed when it is time to go.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Unusual Weekend

The recent 48 hours my wife and I drove back to Sitiawan and Ipoh was spent on remembering a few events worth recording here.

Originally the weekend was solely to return for attending the November 12 wedding dinner of a very dear classmate whose daughter got married on November 5. We decided to take the opportunity to visit my aged mother and father-in-law. However, unexpected events forced me to make changes all well adapted to fit the time we have.

Firstly, my father-in-law fell on November 9 and cracked his upper right femur as well as fractured the socket to the hip which necessitated an operation under local anesthesia which he responded well in spite of his old age at 93. So the trip was changed from visitation to hospital care for my wife, a former nurse.

Secondly, my wife's long lost nursing school mate as well as my cousin, sprung us a surprise call the day before we travel and we fixed a meet up at my mother's house. It was a reunion after a period of 40 years and the ladies has tons to chat about over lunch courtesy of another lovely couple friend, another ex-schoolmate and his wife. We joked that it was a lunch for old people, 3 x 80-something and 5 x 60-something. As it drizzled outside our conversation kept us warm inside.

Thirdly the wedding dinner gave me and several of my former classmates another opportunity to socialize. It is a pity that not more can make it.

Finally, our eldest grand daughter 6 year old Victoria celebrates her graduation from kindergarten on November 13. Next year she will be going to primary school. It will be a transition that we all want NOT to miss. We therefore plan our return from Ipoh to Petaling Jaya to ensure we arrive in good time. Victoria was already in her resplendent graduation dress she chose herself, and later had mommy apply lipstick and kakak make up her hair. Grandparents from both side came for this special concert and ceremony. We stayed on for a celebration dinner with venue and menu specially chosen by Victoria.

The Habit of Giving Thanks

It used to be that I felt uncomfortable when eating in public places to pause before starting a meal to say a prayer of thanksgiving. This is what we have been taught to develop a sense of thankfulness for what we often take for granted. And I can say with deep conviction that this habit has been transforming. Far too often we take what we received as if it is our right or due because we've worked for them. True, our efforts produced rewards, some just, some unjust, but nonetheless outcomes that we assume are due entirely to our abilities and industry. Such an attitude can build in us a hidden prejudice against divine contribution and attribute everything to the self. But when events are less successful we blame the outcome on the gods that didn't care, or didn't listen to our pleas. I beg to differ.

I believe that giving thanks help us amend our humility towards what are beyond our control and give credit to the God we believe in who play significant roles in keeping us comforted and provided, often without our efforts and without our knowledge. If we acknowledge the divine involvement in our lives we shall begin to draw upon that spiritual breath to develop a healthy understanding that our bodily needs do come from the spiritual realm. Consider that we don't think along this line but simply to admit that many blessings, even if they come from our efforts, originated from our Creator who love us and want us to enjoy the fruits of the earth.

Giving thanks for the food has become habitual for my family and even the grand children are taught to 'say grace' at dinnertime when all the family members sit down to eat and share the day. Once in awhile I would ask our 4 year old Grace to say a simple prayer which she did rather shyly. Today her mother said she said a beautiful prayer unguided over the weekend. Her little brother Andrew not yet two enjoys holding hands to start the prayer. Of course both can be mischievous or disrupt the prayer I lead but it is the behavior that will be corrected as they grow older.

Giving thanks is not just centered on asking God to bless the food we are about to partake. It is also opportune for me as head of the family to round up the needs of family members, the church, the society, the nation as well as international issues, touching upon them briefly and raising them to God for His concerns. Such a prayer that include elements of intercession help the hearers understand that as we enjoy the food we also care for those who cannot and therefore develop a healthy heart of care for others. When we give thanks we begin to understand that we are very fortunate to have roof, clothing, family, protection, etc that we must not take for granted. So give thanks with a grateful heart. It is a good thing to do.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11.11.11, 11.11AM

A moment in time that shall never come again so I sat down and enter this post to remember how I spend my time. I've just had breakfast with my daughter and family, played with my grandchildren, now time off for myself to read my emails and online news, and now writing this post on my iPad and sitting on my massage chair. The teevee is playing a children program and the kids are playing themselves. The weather outside is cloudy and calm, it hasn't rained for the past 48 hours. At this very moment my father-in-law is being operated to repair a damaged hip socket he broke during an accident 2 days ago. I pray he will recover fast and resume his normal routine.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Lipton (1999 - 2011)

11.50am. Our mongrel Lipton was put to sleep today with a lethal dose of phenobarbitone to relieve her of further sufferings due to complications arising from liver infection. In fact, at that time she had defecated and unresponsive, nearing death. She dies instantly upon administration of the drug, a painless death. For the past few weeks she has not been eating well and developed a distended belly which my veterinarian described as ascites. Yesterday I comforted her and assured her that her sufferings will end soon.

Lipton arrived into my life in an unusual manner. On 12 November 1999 after lunch near my workplace my daughter spotted some stray pups and took sympathy to the 3 of them. They were probably just 2 or 3 weeks old and scavenging on leftovers from the food packs. Of the three pups we eventually kept two, the one we took I named Lipton as her hair was tea colored. I had misgivings adopting this stray of unknown origin as it began developing skin diseases. Its temperament was also unadorable and remained this way even as she reached adulthood. Lipton was unsociable and dislike being touched. She growl when I tried to groom her nails and snapped at me. I consider this very ungrateful since she was brought out from the dustbins into a proper home with space to run, fed daily and provided vet care. Yet we did not abandon her to her past life.

Twice we tried to bring in another dog to keep her company. The first, a young stray dog I took fancy to, she literally harassed him away. The second, a puppy, was bitten to death out of jealousy. Obviously Lipton doesn't believe in sharing the big compound she has gotten used to. As a result she spent all her life in self enforced isolation. She dislike being bathed and every bathing session was a test of will. Especially when she developed skin diseases I literally cornered her to force a bath on her!

Lipton may be a bitch but she has a male personality that scares visitors and strangers. Her redeeming quality is in that she almost never run out of the gate when it is opened, which saved us much inconvenience. Occasionally she'd kill a stray cat or squirrel or bird. But her appetite has always been ravenous and it is irritating to have her begging for food each time she sees us.

Over the past year we saw her aging as she crossed her 10th year. She was slower and also developed body odor which could be related to liver disease. However it was in the recent weeks that her health deteriorated suddenly. When our vet examined her we agreed that her condition is painfully irreversible and I can see it in her tear stained eyes. The decision to let her go carved a part of my life away. Lipton came to us to replace our pet Spitz named King who died on 5 April 1999 before we moved into our house in Rasah Kemayan 12 years ago. She holds the honor of being the first dog we cared here and although she wasn't the dog we hope for she nonetheless belong in the memories of all of us, including our older grandchildren who remember Lipton, feed her and patted her. And in her own ways, kept our house safe.

Lipton did not reach the 12th anniversary of her arrival into our lives. But no matter how imperfect she was her presence did made a difference to all of us. In memory of her passing here are some pictures of Lipton when she was much younger.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Phasing Out PPSMI Is Unwise

The Education Minister backed out from his hardened stand and relented, giving existing students their right to continue studying Mathematics and Science in English until they leave school. This, however, failed to address the core issue of providing the English option to children enrolling in schools for the first time and PAGE pledge to continue to pressure the government for this right to choose and I am in full support. Freedom to choose is a fundamental human right when such choice is pre-existing. Why is it removed? Certainly the lame excuse that PPSMI has failed after being applied for 9 years is unacceptable. You don't blame a good policy for its failure, if indeed it hasn't delivered the desired results. You blame on poor execution and lack of determination to make it work. On this I put the blame squarely on the flip flop manner the education ministry manage the future of our children.

My family are all English educated and with grandchildren starting to go to school from next year I insist they be given the right to decide which language stream to follow. Yes, yes, they have to pass Bahasa Malayia in school exams. That is not negotiable but aside from that coming from a very multiracial country like ours, rights to multilingual education must be offered. When there is demand, supplies will naturally come forth. Likewise when more parents want their children to study English or Mandarin (these are global languages) demand for such teachers will naturally lead to more graduates learning such languages as a career. In the short term the need to import teachers should be considered. But to abandon English is irresponsible although under the new MBMMBI policy the proposal to give greater emphasis to the study of English has been promised. Personally I disagree that learning a language as a subject will lead to its proficiency unless you study it for knowledge sake. To be proficient in a language one need to apply it in thinking, reading, speaking, debating and writing. To suggest that PPSMI will not let the students improve their command of English is wrong. The very fact that teachers and students interact in classes thinking, reading, explaining and replying in the study of Maths and Science in English provide excellent opportunity for a healthy growth in learning English simultaneously.

Yes, it is true that the Education Ministry be the ultimate authority to decide on the choice of medium of instruction for Maths and Science but wasn't that a done thing in 2003? Why the turnaround in 2009 soon after the current minister took over? Why disband a practice that have major impact on the lives of our children?

PPSMI must be continued as an option to give our children their career choice. The government cannot ransom its citizens against their wishes since it cannot guarantee their future.

Friday, November 04, 2011

PPSMI - A Growing Force

I joined the PPSMI support group on Facebook last night and just 24 hours later the number of supporters has grown from about 136,000 to 146,000, a sharp 73% increase. The momentum has gathered speed since the DPM rejected outright the demands by PAGE to maintain PPSMI as an option, belittling it as a small group, a very unwise and careless remark from a national leader who did not count on the growing power of social networking against the insensitive and rigid education minister. And the promoter of PPSMI, no less than the former PM, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has come into the fray asking the current PM, Najib Razak, to save the PPSMI. DPM cum education minister Muhyiddin countered that the PM has supported the termination of PPSMI. Dr. Mahathir suggested a referendum to decide once and for all if the majority view is to keep or disband with PPSMI.

The manner DPM Muhyiddin deals with the PPSMI issue reminds me of how PM Najib himself mishandled the Bersih 2.0 electoral reform protest on July 9. The coming days will decide who is in control of crucial national policies: the people or the government. Thus far the impression I get is when Dr. Mahathir steps into the ring anything goes. Especially when one tries to reverse his work.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

How Can This Be Possible?

Idris Jala says it again HERE. If we don't prepare and don't watch out we will slip into the red in 10 years, which ironically coincide with our planned vision to become a developed nation. Imagine if this happens, in 2020 instead of becoming developed, Malaysia becomes BANKRUPT instead.

Most of us see bankruptcy as distant as we see the impact of a 7 billion human population on us. Do you think that if the government runs the country to the ground it will not affect us citizens DIRECTLY? Of course it will.

Let's take a parallel scenario. A company is incorporated with an authorized and paid up capital of RM100 million. The money comes out of the shareholders pocket who trust on the board of directors and the management of the company to operate the business profitably and declare dividends to them in due course as just rewards from their investments.

Now the company cannot rely only on the shareholders equity to run a proper business. It needs loans for capital expenditures and working capital (operational expenditures) to cover the amount over and above the equity. Loans are costly as lenders issue them at risk of non-performance so charge high interests apart from holding a lien on the assets as well as demanding corporate and personal guarantees to secure repayments. To ensure loans are justified, the cost of loans must be more than offset by the profits the business can earn by using such loans. It is illegal to use loans for non-productive expenditures such as buying luxury cars for the top management or offsetting another non-performing loan. Hence loans are justified if:

1. It is used for capacity expansion that result in higher revenue and profits which more than offset the cost of the loans taken
2. It is used to tide over short term working capital overrun until profits narrow the deficit.

A good business should attempt to grow self-funded from its reserves and not raise additional capital either from taking excessive loans (over-gearing) or raising additional equity from the shareholders. But when a business runs out of cash it rely on the following options to stay afloat.

1. Raise additional loans by using other collateral or future goodwill
2. Raise additional capital from shareholders
3. Increase sales revenue by raising the price of good and services sold which reduce its competitiveness
4. Delaying or restructuring its debt settlement thus buying time hoping for better days and opportunities

A well run business have the following characteristics.

1. Steady and repeated profit performance year after year
2. Regular declaration of dividends
3. Retaining part of profits as reserve for both future expansion plans and for unplanned contingencies such as recession or currency depreciation
4. Business prudence in spending within its means and growing capacity gradually
5. Trustworthiness in the professionalism and expertise of its directors and management teams.
6. Respect and strong leadership within the industry it operates in.

Several of the above observations can be used in the administration of a nation. Unfortunately we have seen how badly managed Malaysia is judging from the serious mismanagement of the funds it receives from Petronas, Inland Revenue Board and other sources. Using the comparison of a company, it can be said that:

1. The government is not professional or dedicated to make the country financially strong. It has not developed a capable civil service to administer the nation well.
2. By having deficit budgets for the past few years it suggest that our reserves are depleting, or if increasing then our foreign debts increase as well to a point that we are unable to service our debt repayment and then risk being declared a bankrupt nation.
3. The government is not managing the financial leakages and abuse of authority that corruption is becoming rampant and little efforts are taken to arrest its malignant growth.
4. The citizens, equivalent to shareholders, are told lies that we are doing alright and that the government should be re-elected at every general election as 'it knows best' after running the nation for 54 years.
5. Cost remain high. Citizens still pay high taxes, receive no dividends (meaning lower taxes)
6. Inefficiency and propagation of a low productivity culture lead to a bloated and an under-performing workforce (civil service) which makes the nation generally expensive to live in and operate from.
7. Poor work culture that arises from internal bickering, gossiping, lying and cheating to get things done. The top management is either blissfully unaware or deliberately overlook this misdemeanor for fear of rocking the boat.
8. Indiscipline sets in and the corporate Malaysia seeks to be self serving rather than planning for national prosperity and that of its people (shareholders).

It is very possible that Idris Jala is right. He may sound like a prophet of doom, a sheep boy who cry wolf, or someone who raises the tsunami alarm. Will we listen and act to stop this plundering and rape of our national resources? I think if we take a simple example of how an opposition run state can turn around the deficit budget into a surplus after taking over for just 2 years then it is timely for the entire nation to be run by a new and more capable team. We certainly don't wish to hand over the country to our children in a state poorer than what we received from our forefathers.

In the corporate world, mismanagement will result in service termination and replacement by a more effective team. Do we have the courage to act through our ballots? Or wait for another 5 years to see if things will improve? Time is certainly not on our side.

How will bankruptcy affect us directly? Firstly our ringgit will be badly depreciated as it will have no international value or demand. The immediate impact is all foreign related expenses like import of consumable goods, machinery and services will be very expensive. Oversea travel will be very costly. Malaysian made goods may be cheaper but lower value ringgit means we will see a sudden increase in cost of food, goods and services which make production cost higher, not lower. Ironically we will be a high income society, but in ringgit that has lost its intrinsic value. Workforce will be demotivated to perform which reduces productivity. Stress arising from inability to cope with a debilitating economy will cause public protests, demonstrations and even destruction of public properties out of anger and frustrations. Crime rates will rise as some people take the easier route to solve their woes. Foreign workers may leave in droves as Malaysia become unattractive to work with a heavily depreciated ringgit, creating massive shortages in labor supplies, unskilled and skilled, which gravely affect our dependability in fulfilling our commitments to clients abroad, affecting our credibility and goodwill. Further brain drain may occur although less students can afford to study abroad due to higher exchange rates. Corruption will increase and the police will become very ineffective in dealing with rising crime, compromising security of the citizens. Negative developments as predicted above will lead to people taking over the control of the government and how it is to be run.

Reminds me of AGMs where the shareholders sack the entire board for incompetence and vote in a new board. See a likely scenario happening at national level?


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