Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Truth About Growing Old

I am 65 so I think I qualify sharing my thoughts on this. Add more or disagree in your comments. 

1. Old people are not necessary the wisest. They still make mistakes, they still learn. The big question is whether their ego is too big to make them humble to admit their imperfections.

2. Dying is inevitable. Growing old is the last leg towards that destination. There is no point resisting it or spending a fortune delaying it.

3. Aging is not pleasant. Seldom do people age without suffering. Pain and illnesses are constant companions. The bodies will shut down progressively including the brains. Learn to live a more limited lifestyle no matter what others may say. Don't fall or injure yourself. Healing is slower and more complicated. Your misfortune will be your family's misfortune and inconvenience.

4. Be yourself. Don't envy your peers who are better off or try to emulate them. Blame it on your forefathers for the bad DNA if you must but realize no one is born, or die, perfect.

5. Don't try to be a health freak and follow advices and tips from lifestyle and health magazines. They want to make your money. Understand your own limitations and stay safe. Don't feel guilty if you can't workout or walk if that is not your habit. We are all born different. Be content and happy for your present state of life. The best advice is still enjoy your old age for there is no other time.

6. The one constant throughout life is time. A minute at birth is the same as at death, only the value of it changes. In old age you become more aware of time because you are more free to think about it. Try to involve in work if you can, or immerse yourself in recreations to free yourself from thinking about the passage of time. You will not be a slave to wasted time and regret not fulfilling anything meaningful.

7. You will be frustrated, angry and difficult. Don't apologize. It has to do with internal frustration against what we want (from our brain) and what we can (from our body). It also has to do with the cumulative unresolved hurt and ill feelings that you are discharging because you feel it is your right to demand a closure, your way. But remember you are a piece in the family you belong to and as imperfect as each member is so are you. Seek peace and forgiveness. Don't grieve the living by the outpouring of your anger. Growing old and dying is like reading the final chapter of a novel. At the end you must close the book and put it away. Likewise your life must be similarly closed.

8. Friends always have your best interest when they encourage and advise you. Do what you like and don't be pressured. On the other hand be open to consider them. The past is not always the best and opportunities to discover more exist if you learn to let go of whatever that holds you back.

9. Old people often have regrets. This is normal and not to be ashamed. One of the regrets is not being able to live the perfect life or be the perfect companion or parent. Realize that regrets are like parasites that live on you and draw away your love of living. Also accept that nobody will blame you for being imperfect. All they want is to know that you have walked out of their lives making a difference. So be a positive changer.

10. Lastly, learn to be thankful. For whatever state we are in when we grow old and die, nothing changes. Wealth may in fact be a curse to those who cannot control it. Power may corrupt our life if we fail to understand it. Our minds are often influenced by envy for the worldly goods. In growing old and dying long for the heavenly goods instead. Accept the goodwill of your family and friends. Follow and don't resist. Just as you were helplessly and mercifully delivered into this world so accept that you will likewise be delivered into the next.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Can Street Protests Overthrow Malaysian Government ?

Over the past few years since 2007 there have been a number of public rallies held mainly within the Klang Valley protesting against the government over racial discrimination and demanding electoral reforms in anticipation of the upcoming general elections held by the Hindu Rights Action Force or HINDRAF and Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or BERSIH (meaning 'clean' in Malay). These protests and rallies were not met by friendly police forces but by riot squad armed with water canons and tear gas canisters to disperse the participants who had gathered for a peaceful demonstration of what they felt was unjust treatment and handling by the government. Upon harassment by the police forces the participants had to run for cover and eventually disperse incident free. Some minor injuries were bound to happen but by and large police brutality against unarmed and ordinary citizens become international news. Questions were asked if there is any need to over react to peaceful rallies? Aren't there better ways to deal with the issues or was the government arrogant towards dissenting views other than their own? In other words we are dealing with an intolerant regime that is self serving.

Rallies are a way to demonstrate to the authorities they have sizable public support to demand resolution to their grouses. They were not organized for any other motive such as overthrowing the government.

After the May 5 general election the government retained a fresh 5 years mandate but with reduced majority AND for the first time in history, loss of popular votes. The latter gave the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, the argument that they had won the election because of popular support. But the electoral system gave victory to the Barisan government which won more seats through gerrymandering the constituency boundaries in their favor. The PR went on a nationwide rally to drum up support that the Barisan government has no mandate to rule. In each of these rallies, dubbed the Blackout rallies, hundreds of thousands of supporters turned up to listen and cheer the speakers. Majority are younger Malaysians who demanded an account from the Barisan government accused of rigging the polling processes in cahoot with the Election Commission. The government took such rallies as instigation to create an uprising to overthrow it and began to take offensive actions to stop such rallies and arrest leaders for making seditious remarks.

On the side non governmental bodies interested in the democratic future of the country took their own agendas to the public. University activist Adam Adli called for public demonstration to bring down the government and was arrested under the Sedition Act. Two PR politicians have also been arrested. More arrests are expected. ABU (Anything But UMNO) founder Haris Ibrahim was arrested for a similar call to overthrow the government now and not wait till the next election in 2018. Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) founder Badrul Hisham Shaharin who is organizing a People's Gathering 505 on May 25 against the fraudulent election was also arrested but vow the rally will take place as planned. Since the election no less than 8 rallies have taken place which the government take as a concerted effort to discredit and shame its right to rule. Under its new Home minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the police have been instructed to haul up anti-BN leaders who broke the law.

The big question is are these rallies really fronts to overthrow the BN government ? If they are can they succeed with the security forces all behind the government ? Or is it just an excuse to nip the opposition before it becomes unmanageable ? Like Operation Lalang (meaning 'weed' in Malay) on October 27, 1987 by the police to prevent the occurrence of racial riots due to the provocation by the ruling government towards DAP (Democratic Action Party). The operation saw the arrest of 106 persons under the now defunct Internal Security Act and the revoking of the publishing licenses of four newspapers.

Situation now is very different from 1987. It is a people uprising for want of a better word. Throughout the world when a sizable population decide to confront the government no amount of force, pressure or threats is going to push back the wave. In many cases uprising have led to overthrow if not well managed. It is very unwise to take a confrontational stance against public reaction towards a standing government.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother in Nursing Home

I don't think this is a time for rejoicing, putting your own mom in a strange place although in the same town. And I don't think mother fight it because she realized under the circumstances it is the best way out although not her way. Truthfully, no one likes to go to a nursing home. Some think it is a place to go and die. Others think the children find it a convenient way to solve a touchy family problem. And there may be gossips or misunderstandings.

Mother is approaching 88. Until 2 years ago she could still move about the house. At this age I admire her resilience. Lots of people younger are suffering health problems that only she have now. Apart from immobility, or reduced mobility caused by osteoarthritis, she doesn't have heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease although she is starting to have dementia which is normal for her age. She used to ride her bicycle to church about 2 kilometers away until July 2008 when she injured herself falling from the bicycle one day.

Her right shoulder was injured and massaging failed to give relief. I hope that through self-will mother will be able to regain much of her mobility especially in getting up from bed. Mother moves around using her rattan chair rather than a zimmer frame. The chair follows her into the bathroom and back to the bed, as well as to the patio to sit on her reclining chair to enjoy the passing sights and have her meals.

The year 2008 was like an emotional roller coaster for mother. She realized she was very vulnerable at her age. She has begun to slow down. Earlier she had asked if I can move her bed from the room into the hall. That was around 2005 I think. Since then she never failed to credit me for understanding her growing physical disability as well as for fixing up extra hall lights for her. That's mother.

People gets fearful when they realized they cannot control their lives. My mother was in that mental state and began to look for dependence in others. Living around her are her niece and god daughter who both visit and cook for her. They also run errands and paid house bills, and withdraw cash for her to hold. Mother sees power in cash and until just last year insisted on holding cash to pay bills and caregiver salary, until she began to lose track and started misplacing the cash, then we firmly took back most of the cash but still leave some pocket money for her to hold.

As would all parents, mother wants to see her children as often as they can make time. 2008 was a satisfying year for her. All her children and spouses came home to celebrate her 83rd birthday.

This picture was taken on 14th July 2008. Mother was very happy today. I guess she wanted this to be forever. But noticed that she did not sit upright, a little swayed .. sign of osteoarthritis.

Mother was already considering either an Indonesian maid or local help. She realised she cannot take care of herself.

Mother found her own caregiver. Her terms are stringent. She must be an older person to be able to talk at her level, willing to live in, look after her and be her companion. After father died in 1998 mother had lived alone independently and now she felt less confident of her ability.

The first caregiver Heong bullied mother and wasn't a caring person. Mother got rid of her and found Leng who was a real angel. She sync well and didn't cheat on mother. But some 2 years ago she asked to stop because she couldn't walk properly. Mother and us sadly released her but we kept in touch. Her replacement Ing was the oldest at 80 but like Heong, a bully and a pilferer. Due to mother's greater need to be cared she tried but couldn't find a suitable replacement so she lowered her dignity and patiently bored with Ing. In the meantime we raised other options: live with one of us (no, she doesn't want to leave home), stay in a nursing home (unthinkable, it is a place to prepare to die) or stay together with our auntie (impractical for two disabled oldies to live together without help). We did consider employing a foreign maid but bad experience and reports of maids stealing and running away made us give up the idea as there is no able adult staying in with mother to supervise the maid.

The time Ing worked for mother was filled with loud voices and quarrels. Both were unreasonable and stubborn. But as a caregiver she should carry out her basic work agreed but mother often report she was missing. She even took over a room to stay and refused to accompany mother like Leng would do. Mother missed Leng a lot but couldn't find another like her although she sounded out her needs to her church.

In recent weeks mother began to suffer more pain in her lower back due to disc compression. Taking painkillers didn't provide relief. And she couldn't get off her bed to visit the bathroom. The caregiver excused herself this isn't her job. We accepted her reason in part because of her age but being a healthy and mobile person to refuse helping a helpless person, I see that as gross insensitivity. In mother's mind she had begun to consider sacking the lady.

Over the past weekend when we visited her we convinced her to start wearing adult diapers. Some treat this as an affront to privacy as well as admission to one's state of invalidness. Mother agreed to wear her diapers. After we left we learned the caregiver didn't lift a hand to help mother change. Instead she made mother walk to the bathroom herself. I guess mother decided to rid her there and then. The following day when my god sister brought up the subject of nursing home, mother readily agreed. Inside her heart I felt she died a little but didn't showed it. I guess she knew she may not come home to sleep in her own bed and even die on it. Unlike my dad who died in hospital I think we will assure mother that we will fulfill her desire to die at home when it is time.

Mother was admitted into the nursing home on May 22 afternoon. Feedbacks I got from my god sister, brother and the head nurse there were positive. Mother liked the place. She even said it was better than home. Knowing mother she will lie a little to keep her little secrets. But she had often said this to us. It's ok if you don't come back often to visit but please call back to chat. I think that is really nice of her. As soon as she is settled we will buy her a cell phone so we can stay in touch. And most certainly we will all see her on August 3 to celebrate her 88th birthday. It has been planned since the beginning of the year. We'll discharge mother from the nursing home and bring her back to live in her own house to assure her it will be there for her to stay whenever she wants.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Cabinet Unveiled

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak today unveiled a new, dynamic cabinet to drive through his ambitious economic and political transformation agenda.

The cabinet includes a mix of technocrats and civil society representatives, who bring valuable experience from outside government, as well as experienced ministers and younger faces. The cabinet also draws on Malaysia’s diverse ethnic communities.

For the first time there are no ministers from MCA and Gerakan, the two largest component parties after UMNO in Barisan Nasional, which have decided not to be represented due to the bashings their candidates received at the recently concluded general election. To fill the gap a Chinese from outside the Barisan coalition was appointed. For a nation with some 23% Chinese it should have 6-7 Chinese ministers in the 30 members cabinet by mutual agreement. Instead it now have just one with the MIC (representing the Indians, 7% population) taking two, UMNO (representing the 51% Malay population) 21 or 70% of the cabinet. The other 6 comes from East Malaysia which delivered better performance in the election.

Najib was forced to cut back on Chinese representation in his cabinet in part because of MCA/Gerakan decision but also to create a cabinet structured towards performance delivery at the election. Neither this method nor adopting the race-based formula will help the government achieve its agenda declared in its election manifesto unless the ministers are qualified and capable to lead their respective ministries and Najib himself is willing to treat every state equally. It is an unfortunate tendency to give lower allocations and priority to states run by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition. This is a vindictive move to 'punish' the state voters for preferring them and I find this immature.

A good cabinet should comprise capable leaders not selected because the prime minister like them but because they have a performance record. They need not be politicians but respected industry heads and even talented members from the opposition. Malaysia have a good pool of experts to help run a better government. It is good that a small number of non-politicians are brought into the cabinet to give their expert services but whether their advice are heard or not is left to be seen.

So is the new cabinet going to make a difference? Even with new blood the top key posts are still held by UMNO top leaders and they will decide if there is indeed going to be any political transformation as promised by Najib. It may just be another play of words. You can't change the spots of a leopard and I doubt UMNO will really try to reconcile with the views of PR and Malaysians who want better governance in government.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Angry Reactions

A week after the general election the country is worse off than before. No signs of closures and the opposition has organized and continue to organize more rallies to drive home the central message:

We don't accept the outcome of the election because popular votes prove the people prefer Pakatan Rakyat so why is Barisan Nasional forming the next government ?

The system of electoral delineation has intentionally given BN the advantage. Plus alleged frauds like phantom voting and dubious indelible ink Malaysians who want a just and fair election felt cheated. One reason why the people are less forgiving than before could be the worry the nation is going bankrupt. A minister has given the warning. The prime minister is dishing out contracts to cronies and cash to the poor from a debt ridden pool. Our foreign reserves and domestic savings cannot cover our debt payment and cost of financing the borrowings. To be compared to European failed nations like Greece is not unreasonable. The people are worried because for the first time in our history we may join other countries that has to beg for assistance. How the immediate future translate into domestic problems affecting the poor and middle class is anyone guess but the picture is not going to be rosy. Two years ago when someone speculated that one day our women may have to work as maids overseas it was laughed off as incredible. Today that possibility is getting more real if we don't reign in our irresponsible spending. Najib Razak is the most irresponsible as far as fiscal management of our resources is concerned. Under his 5 years term, no 4 years (2009-2013) he has made million sound so common. Now every project must be at least a billion or more. The citizens worry that if this continue for the next 5 years their savings in the Employees Provident Fund may be beyond reach if they are locked away in government bond papers. Others who save in deposits, bonds, properties and stocks may find their values plummeting should the ringgit depreciate significantly. In the meantime cost of living continue to spiral and crime and personal security become top concerns that the police are helpless to control.

There was an almost certainty that BN would be toppled democratically on May 5. When it didn't concerned citizens cried foul. Never before had Malaysian voters working and studying oversea find it crucial to fly home to vote. They just felt it would be national duty to save the nation. Imagine their anger and frustrations when BN just win so easily although with reduced majority and reduced support. The Election Commission refused to provide a level playing field for PR to contest fairly. So the hundreds of thousand of participants at the PR rallies are just signs of discontent. There are others who support from their homes and offices and in their social networks.

Prime minister Najib was a poor loser even though he won. By carelessly blaming the results on Chinese tsunami he wipe off his years of persuading the people that he genuinely wanted a 1Malaysia citizenry and culture. Two words revealed his hypocrisy and racists within his party and other pro-BN societies jumped on the bandwagon to preach racist and seditious messages that could have created a new May 13 if not for a more civilized generation and social networking that appealed for calm.

Seriously you cannot get everybody calmed when the feeling of injustice is overpowering. You must remember many concerned people sacrificed time, money and even their safety to fight for a more just society and then to see their efforts failed not for want of support but fear mongering, bully tactics and election frauds. You cannot stop them from venting their anger, like what one such activist Haris Ibrahim is planning to do, arouse an uprising now because 5 years is too long a wait.

Malaysians are peace loving. We detest violence. We are a civilized lot but when cornered many are forced to defend their values. If Najib is not going to work fast to reconcile the factions he may be like his dad, the second prime minister, who was involved and installed PM after the May 13, 1969 race riot.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Where is the Government ?

I was upset when I accidentally deleted my previous post entitled 'One Voice' in which I wrote on the massive rally held by Pakatan Rakyat at the Kelana Jaya Stadium on May 8 night at which an estimated 120,000 supporters showed up. The event created an impassable traffic jam at all roads and highway leading to the stadium. At that event the crowds inside and outside the stadium were truly of one voice demanding the return of justice to them because they believed the GE13 election was rigged in favor of the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.

Subsequent to this two other rallies had been held, at Ipoh and in Penang last night which recorded an even higher attendance of some 150,000 people. Figures may be exaggerated but pictures don't lie. Indeed the crowd sizes are frightening, much larger than at rock concerts, grand prix, football games or sporting events. BN must surely be worried. They had never and could not amass such a great response at short notices and without any enticement like cash or food. When you have such a negative reaction to the government there must be some truth to the allegations that some hanky panky had taken place on May 5 just a week ago. The prime minister had been given a nasty nickname Bapa (Father) Blackout in reference to the many blackouts at the tallying centers at which the BN candidates won under dubious circumstances and with narrow majorities.

It has been nearly a week now. The federal cabinet has not been named which is not surprising. Internal tussles among warring factions of the predominant party within BN, that is UMNO, has not been settled. PM Najib Razak has to appease them to ensure he gets re-elected as UMNO president this coming assembly at year end to assure his continuity as PM, failing which he will lose it to the new president. Losing the PMship expose Najib to grave danger. He has to deal with ongoing investigation of bribery in the Scorpene submarine purchases while he was the defense minister before he became PM in 2009. He also has to deal with the related crime involving the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya in Malaysia that he denied any involvement. It is a messy situation for him.

On top of the top post he also worry over the instability of his new government. With PR under the leadership of Anwar Ibrahim hot on his heel, driving the frenzies using public rallies to garner supports (there are plans to hold more rallies in other cities round the country) there are talks of UMNO lawmakers recently elected jumping ship to PR. In the similar vein, BN is also enticing PR lawmakers to jump over using, you guess it, cash rewards. They can't promise cabinet posts as there are not enough to go round. PR don't have that much cash so have to offer cabinet posts or other top civil servant posts to the renegades. Situation now is like an auction house. The highest bidder wins. Crazy but this is Malaysian politics in a shamble.

Within BN other troubles are occurring. Gerakan president has tendered his resignation for the failure of his part to deliver the federal seats contested. MCA president is being pressured to step down. He is resisting but accept his fate at the party's general assembly he will be calling soon. Both Gerakan and MCA are the largest coalition partners in BN after UMNO. Should their members call for their parties to leave BN it will spell the end of it. Currently the moods are not kind towards staying and while negotiations are taking place to appease those who plan to jump or leave, the government is technically still a caretaker government. This is very unhealthy and dangerous. It is like the pilot has set the aircraft on auto pilot and he is still not back inside the cockpit to fly the plane. The crew and passengers have reasons to be concerned.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fermenting Discontent

Regime change is always preceded by people uprising. Uprising is always preceded by discontentment. Discontentment is always the result of bad governance and corruption. Bad governance and corruption are usually the fruits of being in power for too long. The characteristics of an overstayed regime is arrogance, divisive rule, refusal to attend to basic human needs, stealth and misappropriation of public funds and denial of wrongdoings. And the worse situation is when such a regime hang on to power by abusing public trust and employing fraudulent means to ensure the oppositions are denied any chance of victory.

All over the world when people are forced to uprise against a government it started by creating a politically sensitive society. Contented citizens seldom bother how their government run the administration. Only when they sense trouble brewing will they get involved. A politically interested society is bad news for a government. It means they are being watched and assessed. It means the citizens have reasons not to fully trust their work. It means they want accountability and a strong check and balance political system.

All the above are portent signs that we are seeing. It doesn't require an Einstein or Plato to see the trend we are heading. So long as the regime turn a deaf ear, refuse to eat humble pie when suffering losses in an election, but continue to talk arrogantly and blame everyone else but themselves, such a regime no long fit the expectations of the tax paying citizens.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Darkness Reigns Over Malaysia

Photo credit:

The 13th General Election is over. Barisan Nasional won with a simple majority. As I blog this they chalked up 122 wins out of 222 seats, Pakatan Rakyat took 71 seats leaving another 29 seats to be declared in the next few hours. I shan't wait to see all the results. It is now 2.00am and I'm tired from tracking the results for the past 6 hours. What is my concern is that BN must not win more than 2/3 or 148 seats for that will give them the power to amend the federal constitutions which has been denied them since March 2008.

Together with thousands of people out there we are angry, dismayed and afraid by what happened today. We saw how the ruling government openly allowed foreigners to vote for them using fake identity cards. We saw how the indelible ink that was supposed to stay on our fingers wash away easily and we asked if those who voted last week, couldn't they have voted again today? We felt cheated when during the ballot counting process, when the government candidates were trailing behind their opponents, suddenly additional ballot boxes were brought in with voting slips that had been crossed in favor of the ruling government. This is criminal manipulation that must not go unanswered. And the government candidates would win by a narrow majority. We have election officials and police who are openly biased and suppostive of the government instead of being fair to all candidates. We have power supply suddenly turned off and when it came back new ballot boxes were mysteriously added for counting. We have polling agents belonging to the Opposition being treated unfairly. It was an unfair election rigged with fraudulence.

I am saddened that the hope of people wanting change was dashed by open cheating. The government was desperate to hold on to power for fear of losing their ill gotten gains or dark secrets revealed and brought out to court. Although the government have lost many ministers it nevertheless won the election. But it would lose the popular votes when all the votes are counted after tomorrow. It would also lose the notion of being a coalition of major races since those parties representing the Chinese and Indians were soundly defeated. Darkness has come to beautiful Malaysia. I am sorrowful and I am going into mourning for my country that has been hijacked.

As I ended this post the results are 128 for BN and 78 for PR with 16 more seats to be declared. BN has been denied the 2/3 majority which is a big relief. However what we expect now is nation building and healing. Will this happen before the next election in 2018?

Final Results: BN 133 (previously 140), PR 89 (previously 82)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

A Different Voting Experience

The last 2 weeks has been a feverish attempt to keep up with my Facebook news feeds on the GE13. Every other minute new stories would blink on my iPad screen, some are old links but many come from other sharers. I would comment or share what are useful and appropriate in this season of voting for a new government over the next 5 years. I admit I am pro-Opposition and most of my sharing and commentaries are politically biased. I won't apologize because I believe the government has failed in the last 5 years. Asking for a fresh mandate now especially with the Opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, making deep inroads into traditional BN fortresses is too little too late. Signs of a Malaysian Spring is in the air but not like the Arab Spring. It is an awakening of political awareness that the country belongs to its citizens who are now holding the government accountable. Change is urgent as we approach the precipice of financial bankruptcy under the present corrupt and spendthrift government. The urban and more developed states along the west coast of peninsula Malaysia are most likely to fall to PR, from north to the south, with the except of two or three states. There may be surprises in store from the eastern states and East Malaysia states. Consensus is either a narrow victory for either coalition or a comfortable victory for PR. I'd go with the latter and predict at least 12 seat majority win for PR in parliament and capturing no less than 6 states with a strong possibility of 8 states.

News of longer queues due to the use of indelible ink, marked ballot papers, and presence of foreign workers casting votes using fake identity cards for cash rewards have made voting this time an uneasy outing. I recall in 2008 my wife and I had a leisurely breakfast nearby the polling station before joining the queue to vote. Then we didn't have indelible ink (it was withdrawn at the last minute for unknown reasons) and certainly unaware of phantom voters being flown in by jet planes. This time voters are given a lesson on how to vote and what to look for and how to exercise their rights to ask for new ballot papers in the event they discover defects on them. Earlier this evening I'd packed 2 small bags containing our voting paper, an umbrella, a small bottle of drinking water, some tissue papers to wipe our stained finger, our cellphone and in my case a camera. We will sleep earlier tonight and wake up before 7am to be in the queue by 7.30am. We do believe that there will be long queues but so long as they consist of fellow citizens it is OK. However if we see foreigners in our midst we have been advised what to do to discourage them from interfering in our electoral process. Foreigners have no business in voting our lawmakers.

Goodnight Malaysia. I pray for good weather tomorrow and a peaceful voting process throughout the country. And if there is a change in government the incumbent will surrender the instrument peacefully to the incoming new government. May we see and feel a new Malaysia on Monday. Spring is here.

My First Ceramah of 13GE

Ceramah or public rally is the most popular and effective public interaction during election campaign in Malaysia. For this momentous election, the 13th since our independence in 1957, contestants have been speaking to their constituents and, if they are national figures, to the electorates all over the country, to push through their agenda and persuading support. Today is the final day of campaigning which must end by midnight. Election begins from 8.00am Sunday local time. Last night I attended my first and only ceramah in town to savor the ambience and mood of the event personally although I've watched many recorded on YouTube. But to be there in person can make all the difference to one's perception.

During dinner my son-in-law suggested attending the ceramah which will be held in the open car park of the central market. I agreed to go with my wife. We don't know if 5 years from now at the next general election we will be able so this may be our last chance. I'm glad we did. We managed to get a nice parking spot about 200 meters from the stage. We walked towards where the speaker's voice boomed from the loud speakers. Soon we entered the fringe of a crowd of listening ears. Standing among them for awhile I looked all around. Faces of folks in open shirts, shirts and slippers seriously followed the screen and the stage set on top the flatbed of a trailer lorry. I melted into the crowd being similarly dressed. Most listeners were standing but some sat on whatever surface they can find. The crowd was estimated at 15,000, small by the nightly responses to ceramahs by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat or People's Coalition. It was nonetheless huge because there was no superstar speaker that draw in huge crowds that can swell attendance to 30,000, 50,000, 70,000 or even 100,000. Unbelievable considering that what the government coalition attracted 10% or less those numbers, even with free food to entice the people to come. It is surely the sign of change, not curiosity. Ceramah attendance is an accurate barometer of the sentiment of the public to whom they will support in the election. Because PR have little campaign funds they rely on public donations to defray their running expenses. Amazingly at last night rally donors gave over RM50,000 towards the organizers. The amount speaks volume about the trust these donors have that PR will be the better and people centric government.

I took pictures on my ipad and posted them on my Facebook to share. I cheered with the crowd because I believe the PR is more trustworthy and deserving of a convincing win tomorrow. The last speaker sang a popular Cantonese song and those in the crowd know it sang along. It was like a carnival. Finally the ceramah ended with the singing of the Ubah theme song of DAP, one of the three component parties of PR, a stirring call to true Malaysians to make a difference this time, to care for the poor and marginalized, to restore our dignity and respect for ourselves and among the global community.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Countdown to a Blast Off

Four more days. Then history will be created. I can't wait for it to happen but yet I feel a little anxious of a tiny spark to mar the event. A little over 5 years ago I was at this similar situation but I wasn't as excited or angry as now. Five years is a long time. When I tried looking for a blog post I discovered I only started this blog in August 2008 and the 12th General Election had taken place 5 months before, to be exact on 8th March. So this blog is a few months short of its 5th anniversary. In that time Facebook and Twitter came on the scene to change the whole social networking landscape. While blogs are more open unless you keep them private, FB and Twitter are instantaneous and updates are pushed into your inboxes to read and respond to. Malaysian politics took advantage of these latest mobile communication tools and users began to desert hard media in preference to digital transmission. I am a late adopter but a beneficiary to the latest news I read online or forwarded by well intended friends.

I remember the last 2 elections well. In 2003 after Dr Mahathir stepped down as UMNO president Ahmad Badawi took over and became the 5th prime minister. At that election he promised reform and the people took his words literally and he scored a runaway victory. After being under Dr M dictatorship for 22 years many people look forward to a refreshing change of leadership. It unfortunately didn't happen. In 2003 I had voted for the government as I believed Badawi could restore what Mahathir took away, a nation of self respect. But Badawi was literally sleeping on the job. In 2008 we packed him away and took away the prized 2/3 majority in Parliament. This infuriated the UMNO leadership who forced Badawi into retirement. In the business world we call it sacking. Badawi was replaced by Najib Razak who was no better. In a few days history will repeat in UMNO. Whatever the outcome Najib is not expected to stay on as PM for long. Mahathir has already planned to put up his son Mukhriz to be a PM after the interim stand in PM, the current deputy PM Muhyiddin finishes a short tour of duty (if Mahathir plan works and he live long enough to execute it).

I remember 8 March 2008 as I stood in the queue to vote for my candidates. At that time the mood was already for change. It was palpating in the air. People voted in protest. The Pakatan Rakyat coalition was new and hasn't established itself as a possible alternative federal government. The incumbent representative we voted in in 2003 stood for re-election in the same constituency. But I could see he was worried over his chance of retaining victory. He had rode on the popularity of Badawi in 2003 to win. This time he was riding on the disappointment against Badawi to lose. And he did lose, to a young and fresh candidate. We had voted change on the premise that if you cannot fulfill the mandate you will have to go no matter how nice or how good a person you may be.

Five years on, now in 2013, we again face the same question. Is the government capable of meeting the aspirations of Malaysians to lift the nation out of the many troubles it face? Ask around and 9 out of 10 will thumb down the government for not only doing a bad job, but a terrible job. Camouflaging its poor performance by manipulating data and sweet talk and fanciful tag line that means nothing the growing dissent was being felt in public rallies held since 2010. Anger and abuses appear daily in online commentaries. Character assassination against UMNO leaders became a daily affair. There was no concrete solution to the questions raised. Najib is as sleepy as Badawi, and evasive. Some even find him insincere and manipulative. The rejection of Najib this year is likely to be more severe than the rejection of Badawi in 2008. UMNO failed to honor its promise to cleanse itself. On the contrary it had morphed into a worse organization to the extend that a movement called ABU or Anything But UMNO has caught the support and imagination of citizens far and wide.

Support for the opposition has grown tremendously over the past weeks since the election campaigns started. Public meetings organized by them received overwhelming attendance and thunderous applauses while those by the government received lukewarm support even when free food was thrown in.

The voting public has been warned of likely phantom voters and spoilt ballot papers caused by irregularities due to smudges from undried indelible ink or deliberately placed marks overlooked by unsuspecting voters. This time round voters are informed to vote early and vote smart. I vividly remember in 2008 while standing in the queue telling those beside me how good it feel to be able to decide the fate of the government. It is less of a punishment to vote them out but of the sad feeling of betrayal that they did not honor their words to retain our loyal support. For now it appear the opposition has offered a good deal too good to not vote for.

Standby for a blast off into a new orbit by a new crew.


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