How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

Why we should be against censorship in a court of law: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

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I suggest government... because nobody has ever been caught.

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
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If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True colours of our MPs shown

The current Budget Bill is no ordinary Bill awaiting passage through Parliament. With the uncertainty of a motion of no confidence against PM Najib being accepted by the Speaker, voting against the Budget is another way to show no confidence in him. Though the odds are against the opposition, they have to go through this process to assess and test the MPs' true leanings at a crucial time. The results are as expected, nothing earth-shattering as to create a power vacuum.

Najib can afford to smile and be smug, knowing full well the power of Cash is King. Except a few disgruntled ones, all the BN MPs toed the line, knowing full well which side of their bread is buttered on.

Summary of the votes on the second reading of the Budget Bill: Ayes: 128 vs Nays: 74

The 128 comprises 127 from BN (including immediate past DPM, Pagoh (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) and long time past Finance Minister, Gua Musang (Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah), plus one from so-called Independent, Bandar Tun Razak (Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, ex- MB of Selangor). This leaves 6 (according to the original GE13 results) or 7 BN MPs (according to some reports) yet to be accounted for, for now. Umno Vice President, MP for Semporna (Shafie Apdal) and former MIC President, MP for Cameron Highlands (G Palanivel) were notable absentees.

The 74 comprises the following from the opposition:

ALL 30 voted against

ALL 6 voted against

35 - voted against
1 - Kepong (Dr Tan Seng Giaw) absent
1 - Gelang Patah (Lim Kit Siang) suspended

3 - voted against
4 - absent
7 - abstained

The 3 PAS MPs who voted against the Budget Bill:.
Pokok Sena (Haji Mahfuz bin Omar),
Pasir Puteh (Datuk Dr. Nik Mazian Nik Mohamad), and
Kubang Kerian (Ahmad Baihaqi Atiqullah).

The 4 PAS MPs who were absent:
PAS President, Marang (Hadi Awang),
Dungun (Wan Hassan),
Kuala Nerus (Khairuddin Attakiri), and
Rantau Panjang (Siti Zailah).

The 7 PAS MPs who abstained:
Kota Bharu (Takiyuddin Hassan),
Pasir Mas (Nik Abduh),
Temerloh (Nasrudin Tantawi),
Bukit Gantang (Idris Ahmad),
Pengkalan Chepa  (Izani Husin),
Bachok (Ahmad Marzuki), and
Hulu Langat (Che Rosli).


Monday, November 16, 2015

Marina Mahathir's voice of reason in Facebook: What can I say?

'I am enraged! I am enraged that once again the blood of innocents has been spilled by a few crazy people. I am livid that those same crazy people claim to be Muslims when what they have done is against all that the Quran says Muslims should do. I am incensed that once again all the peace-loving Muslims in the world are made to feel responsible for what these crazies did, to have to put up with the thinly-veiled racism known as Islamophobia even from those who claim to support human rights and equality. I am fed-up with having to put up with the increased suspicion everywhere we go that my brethren are security risks, even though we are as vulnerable to danger as anyone. I am just sick that some Muslims can justify this bloodlust by claiming that this is what God wants. I am also sick of those who think this is a good reason not to accept refugees, as if refugees did this. I am tired of right wingers of all stripes who perpetuate ignorance and prejudice for their own narrow ends. I am getting impatient for genuine and sincere peacemakers and bridge builders to step up, those who are not beholden to any paymaster.

Until each and every one of us starts to believe that human rights is universal, that each and all of us are equal to one another regardless of what gender we are, what race we are, what class or creed we are, what country we live in, what we do or do not believe in, what we do or do not do, there is no hope for peace.

I am feeling sick to my stomach. Please spare me any smugness or sanctimony. I am not interested.'

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Doctors with a poor grasp of English

I think sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Many years ago, in the 60s, we had faith in our local GP or any doctor in a hospital. We took their advice and prescriptions without any doubt about their qualifications or experience. I can still remember being told by our local GP that I was anaemic and given iron tablets, without any blood test, certainly not those comprehensive ones which we have today.

With the internet, everybody seems to know more than their doctors, or at least they appear to be so when they question them on specific opinions given. With more information on treatments available as well as news about doctors' mistakes in diagnosis or treatment, when in doubt many people seek second opinion. The mistakes, in terms of percentage of total treatment could be miniscule, but blown out of proportions because doctors generally are held in such high regard that they are assumed to be infallible.

But doctors are only human. They can be affected by personal problems too. Their knowledge depends on which university they graduated from, their practical experience exposed to in real life situations, as well as their continuing professional education. The standard of medical expertise is far from standard, because the standard of universities vary from low to very high. It also depends on the professors and medical equipment available at the time of study or training, and this depends on when a doctor graduated from the university. Then we have to consider the personal attributes of the doctor, whether he has the aptitude as well as passion to be one, instead of having pleased his or her parents in taking a medical course. In Chinese, doctors' wish to heal people is compared with that of parents in wishing for the well being of their child.

In the USA, doctors had been sued large sums in damages and compensation for their mistakes. This has led to some doctors refusing to attend to emergency cases in public. They refuse to identify themselves in order to avoid problems later. Some doctors even studied law to better prepare themselves in such eventualities!

We are used to doctors' illegible prescriptions. Now we have to contend with some who have poor grasp of English, which does not inspire confidence in their medical knowledge. Add to that, the possibility of miscommunication and meanings lost in translation, it can be risky when seeking medical treatment. By the way, for many years, I thought 'hati' means 'heart' in Malay, when in fact, means 'liver'. Just imagine a Chinese with 'sum thoong' told the doctor, 'hati saya sakit'.

Medical treatment is not equal, with majority queuing at government hospitals while those who can afford get specialists of their choice at private medical centres.

Let's just assume the importance of English in medical knowledge because most western medicine are written in English text, and this has been reinforced by the increasing use and reliance on information technology. Doctors who ignore English medical information will miss out on most of the recent advancement in treatment and discoveries. I must qualify this by stating that there are excellent medical research and reports in other languages like Chinese, Russian, Japanese and so on. But to our Malaysian medical graduates, they are not likely to be well versed in those languages, unless trained in those countries. China or Taiwan trained Malaysian doctors are likely to be better than say Russia or Japan trained if based on proficiency in language because those Malaysians are likely to have had Chinese education locally. In India, English is the medium of instruction. Doctors practising in Malaysia are professionally qualified within the country as well as from different countries, accredited by our Malaysian Medical Association. MMA decides who can practise medicine in Malaysia.

Our choice of medical treatment is basically between government and private, the former being cheapest but known for longer queues, while the latter can be had quicker if one is prepared to pay for it. There is also the option available for overseas treatment which is for those who can really afford it. For some, the unexpected astronomical costs could have made them bankrupt. This reminds me of a joke, 'The bad news is chemo can kill you before cancer does. The good news is the medical bills can kill you before chemo.'

There is a common complaint that if you are covered by medical insurance, the medical centres often charge double that of those without. One reason could be because insurance companies insist on at least a night's stay before an insured can claim from them. One specialist jokingly told a patient who asked, that he should think of it as being charged half the normal fee because he is paying as a private person instead of an insurance company!

Most times, our decision is also based on recommendation from relatives or friends who have had the experience of the treatments of various ailments in different hospitals. Well known specialists qualified from well known universities abroad are likely to be top on the list of choice, depending on affordability. Even those graduated from lesser universities but with extensive experience and exposure are well sought after.

In other words, medical treatments are not equal. It depends on affordability, qualification and experience of the doctor or specialist, medical equipment in the hospital, quality of supporting medical staff, and so on.

From stories heard from those who have relatives or friends who had underwent treatments in various hospitals, the success of treatment could be due to chance! The right diagnosis with the right treatment could ensure fast recovery. Mistakes leading to deaths had happened before, due to one or combination of different factors. Without proper examination and knowledge of the background of patient's medical history, wrong medication could lead to serious and even fatal consequences. Mistakes could happen simply due to carelessness or even lack of knowledge in treating a specific ailment. Some general practitioners are unwilling to admit their own limitations and only refer their patients to specialists until too late.

Just imagine, without the problem of lack of proficiency in English, medical treatment is already a minefield out there. Now, we can expect the additional problems relating to communication, as well as the lack of medical knowledge because some who did not deserve to qualify, probably did so. I think it is sound advice to seek a second opinion if there is any doubt about the first.


Friday, November 06, 2015

1MDB: The truth and lies, never the twain shall meet

We hear of proposals and counter proposals for talk shows or so-called debates relating to 1MDB.

So far, we had Arul's explanations to Umno and MCA, as well as a televised interview. But all these were acceptable because they conformed with his requirement or condition, which was his explanations to pliant audience or according to script.

Then came the challenge from Tony to Arul for a debate. Arul accepted with the condition that Tony first resigns from PAC, and after much criticisms, followed by his unconditional acceptance. But to everybody's surprise, Parliament Speaker threw a tantrum that he would resign if the debate were to be held. Tony was unwilling to risk his position in PAC merely for a debate with Arul. As a compromise, Rafizi is to replace Tony, hopefully acceptable to Arul. Meanwhile, critics from both sides of the political divide accused the candidates as cowards for not accepting the challenge for one reason or other. Even Shabery Cheek feigned ignorance of the Speaker's order, asked why Tony had been replaced with Rafizi, as if he just woke up and missed the Speaker's tantrum.

But as it turned out, the new PAC Chairman announced that Tony cannot make any statement relating to 1MDB, even if outside Parliament. Some people joked that he cannot even dream about 1MDB now.

What the opposition leaders like Tony Pua and Rafizi want are truthful answers to their well crafted questions to elicit the truth from Arul. As we all know by now, much efforts had been taken to prevent revelation of the truth. So how can Arul be subjected, like a sitting duck, to answer questions which are likely to implicate his boss? It is so obviously unacceptable to Arul, and it is not going to be a debate at all, more like an inquiry.

Without documentary proof, whatever answers given during a televised show, if not satisfactory to Tony or Rafizi, will remain as doubtful, until investigations are completed by competent authorities and their reports are published.

I see no point in any future talk show or so-called debate because the public will be disappointed. After all the trouble, which included obvious misuse of power, the public will never get to the truth of the matter.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Debate on 1MDB is off!

One thing which seems certain and constant in present day Malaysia is 'uncertainty'. Don't take any press statement or report for sure the first time it appeared. There will be statements later of changes by the same person or by others, relating to the matter.

Last Sunday Star had its cover page showing pictures of Tony Pua and Arul in a face-off, with the headline screaming, 'The stage is set'. I had my doubts when I read that, and sure enough, news in the internet shows Parliament Speaker objecting vehemently to the proposed debate, and even threatening to resign as Speaker if the debate were to be held. Anyone reading it would have thought that Pandikar is personally involved in 1MDB.

To understand why the sudden strong reactions to the proposed debate, especially the threaten-to-resign tantrum thrown by Parliament Speaker, please read Tony Pua's 10 questions which he gave advance notice to enable Arul to be prepared:

'While we wait for the much anticipated face-off, I would like to offer Arul Kanda the heads up, so that he can prepare the necessary answers whether during replies or debate speech.  This way, Arul cannot feign ignorance or pretend that the documents were unavailable with him to provide the necessary answers.  Therefore, let me disclose here the 10 questions which I will ask during the “live discussion, or talk show, or debate”:

1. Why did Bank Negara withdraw its approval for 1MDB to transfer more than US$1.8 billion overseas?  Was it because most of the funds were transferred to an account which is unrelated to the 1MDB joint venture project with Petrosaudi International Limited as revealed in the leaked Board meeting minutes which Arul Kanda has acknowledged to be true?  How much was transferred to this unrelated account? Did this unrelated account belong to Good Star Limited and who owns or controls Good Star Limited?
2. Is it true that 1MDB had invested the initial US$1 billion cash to acquire 40% of 1MDB-Petrosaudi while Petrosaudi only need to invest its rights to certain oil reserves in the Caspian Sea and in Argentina for its 60% stake?  In addition, were the rights to the Caspian Sea oil reserves terminated by Petrosaudi within 2 months after the signing of the joint venture agreement, which meant that Petrosaudi secured their 60% stake without investing anything significant?
3. Is it true that 1MDB had proceeded to sign the joint venture agreement with Petrosaudi in a rush, without securing the necessary Board of Directors approval at that point of time as revealed in the same Board minutes?
4. 1MDB Financial Statements dated 31 March 2013 and 2014 stated that US$1.4 billion was held as a deposit by International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC) as a condition for IPIC to guarantee 1MDB’s US$3.5 billion bond issue.  However, the IPIC Financial Statements dated December 2013 and 2014 audited by Ernst & Young did not disclose any such condition for the provision of the guarantee.  The balance sheet of IPIC also did not reflect any such refundable deposit received or held.  Why hasn’t 1MDB sought IPIC to clarify where the money has gone?
 5. Did 1MDB pay US$993 million from the US$1.22 billion it partially redeemed from the Cayman Islands investment fund AND another US$975 million borrowed from Deutsche Bank led consortium to terminate options 1MDB granted to Aabar Investments as part of another condition by IPIC to guarantee 1MDB’s US$3.5 billion bond issue?  What exactly is the total sum paid and payable to Aabar or IPIC?  Why is it that IPIC disclosed in its December 2014 Financial Statements that 1MDB still owes IPIC a sum of US$481 million for the said termination?
In addition, if the US$993 million from the US$1.22 billion redeemed from Cayman Islands was not paid to Aabar or IPIC, where did the money go?
6. It has been disclosed in 1MDB’s financial statements, parliamentary replies and media releases that 1MDB Global Investment Limited borrowed US$3 billion in March 2013 for the purposes in investing in a 50:50 joint venture with Aabar Investments Limited where the joint venture will invest in the development of Tun Razak Exchange.  The question is, how come more than US$1.5 billion of the borrowings have been utilised for purposes other than specified as disclosed in the March 2014 Audited Accounts, particularly since the joint venture has yet to be activated to date?
7. Arul Kanda had earlier informed Malaysians and 1MDB Directors, according to the above leaked minutes, that the balance of the Cayman Islands investment amounting to US$1.108 billion was fully redeemed and was held in cash in BSI Bank Singapore.  However, the 1MDB President has since admitted that the redeemed amount was not cash but they were “fund units” worth US$940 million.  Why are these “fund units” which were redeemed from the Cayman Island fund still in the form of “fund units” and not in cash or, raw assets like property and shares?  If they were in “fund units”, doesn’t it mean that the Caymans fund was never redeemed in the first place?
8. Arul Kanda announced the “debt for asset-swap” deal with IPIC where the latter assumes some RM16 billion of 1MDB’s debts in exchange for 1MDB’s assets. IPIC has already advanced more than US$1 billion in the deal.  Where is 1MDB going to produce these RM16 billion worth of assets to transfer to IPIC by 30 June 2016?
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has also indemnified IPIC in the “debt of asset-swap” arrangement.  Does it mean that if 1MDB fails to produce the necessary RM16 billion worth of assets by 30 June 2016, the MoF would have to compensate IPIC accordingly?
9. Arul had declared that the disposal of its subsidiary, Edra Energy will allow it to remove RM16-RM18 billion of 1MDB’s debt.  However, the total debts associated to 1MDB’s energy arm amounts to approximately RM36 billion, comprising of US$3.5 billion of bonds, RM5.7 billion of direct loans and more than RM8 billion of inherited loans.  Hence reducing up to RM18 billion of debt via the disposal of Edra Energy will still leave 1MDB with more that RM18 billion of outstanding debt associated with its energy acquisitions.  Therefore how will the sale of Edra solve 1MDB’s cash flow problem since there’ll be no assets left to pay the balance of the RM18 billion debt?
10. Did the Federal Government issue a “letter of support” in May 2015 to Bank EXIM to borrow US$150 million (RM600 million) where the funds was utilised by 1MDB to pay for its land acquisition from Tadmax Resources Bhd for approximately RM300 million?  If so, what was the balance of the proceeds from the borrowing used for?'

Arul will be like a sitting duck if he were to answer those questions. The truthful answers (if revealed) will incriminate PM cum FM and this must be avoided at all costs. To follow Tony Pua's format, it will not be a normal debate, more like a Congressional Inquiry in the USA. In fact, PAC's inquiry should be televised instead. But to our government, transparency is like poison to their own survival.