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: 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

Career options

Career options

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
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.)

MyCen News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Unintended free publicity and collateral damage from GST

Grand Imperial Restaurant gets free publicity from this notice to their customers, as a result of it being shared all over the internet. But judging from comments in social network sites, most are unfavourable, most of them described it as arrogant and should be boycotted.

But we had been charged service tax at 10% for more than 30 years, despite it not sanctioned by law! Now, the public seems unwilling to pay such arbitrary service charge after it was highlighted as a result of GST, which is going to affect management and employees. The public would not know what happened to the service charges collected for all these years: ranging from some collecting under the name of employees but not distributing to them at all, to different sharing percentages between employer and employees under collective agreements.

The Malay Mail reported on it:

My comment in Facebook:

This notice appears to be from an arrogant management, but basically, it is just informing the public that they have a choice whether to patronise the place. Like other similar establishments, they had been charging ST at the same rate without problem for years. GST caused this service charge to be an issue with customers. Before this, we seemed oblivious and acceptable to this 10% service charge (not required by law like GST) imposed by expensive restaurants and fast food outlets, for over 30 years! With the public outcry, minister softened it by declaring it as optional (unless there are collective agreements between management and staff) which in turn created ugly scenes at restaurants. Now it is back to the drawing board to come out with something acceptable.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Better to have form over substance?

In our hurry to show the outside world of our progress and development, we seem to prefer forms over substance. Tallest twin towers (Petronas Twin Towers); brand new grandiose capital in Putrajaya; expansive (land area bigger than White House) as well as expensive (even renovation costs could have built a decent one) official residences for PM and DPM (which could put 10 Downing Street to shame); impressive university campuses (modelled after Harvard); and so on.

We tend to accept news in printed form as truth (we often hear of 'It was in the newspapers') while those in digital forms as lies (though justified by some blatant examples too).

With the implementation of GST, there are numerous complaints daily from registered businesses as well as the public affected by it. With hindsight, it would seem the ministry did not even compile a list comprehensive enough for practical use: to identify exempt, zero-rated or standard-rated items.

Many new accounting systems claiming to be GST compliant are being offered, some without proper designs nor adequate supporting services. Already, there are complaints about some not usable by some businesses, which is not surprising because some unique businesses require tailor-made software. Or, there are some opportunists who wrote simple programs to cheat the public because they are simply not prepared to follow-up on problems. To give some the benefit of the doubt, there will be genuine software providers who just could not cope with the rush of initial complaints at the same time.

If not mistaken, a minister mentioned that a GST bill should be printed and not hand-written. I know of the example being shared in the internet which shows a ridiculous bill with illegibly scribbled details. But I am more concerned about small businesses which cannot afford or simply do not need a computerised system. Their revenues might exceed the threshold Rm500,000 a year, but it could be just a few items with high values. All it needs to be GST compliant is to be able to show their record books and able to calculate from them, the net figure between input and output GST periodically, so that the correct amount can be remitted to or refunded from Customs. In the 70s, when UK already had VAT (similar to GST), many small businesses relied on manual books of accounts which were acceptable to HM Customs & Excise.

Because of our preoccupation with and preference for printed forms, we might not see the wood from the trees. There could be establishments with impressive looking bills having the required GST registration numbers and showing properly calculated GST amounts, but falsifying amounts remitted to Customs. While some small businesses might be forced to buy expensive GST-compliant software or cheap system but which requires additional recurring costs in its continual use.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Historian vs Historian: ex-student vs ex-Professor on the question of 'dinaung v dijajah'

'...I am writing to you simply as one historian to another, because you do have that power – to change your own mind and actions. I hope you might reconsider the testimony you gave, which may otherwise condemn an innocent (if impolite) man to jail, and our nation to the grievous abnegation of its truer histories.

As I'm of the opinion that Mat Sabu should apologise (for not being sopan santun in the public sphere, which sets a bad precedent) but should not be jailed. – April 15, 2015.'

Open letter to Khoo Kay Kim – Rachel Leow

Dear Professor Khoo,

You may not remember me and anyway, if you saw me today you probably wouldn't recognise me.
I was just a young student back then, thrilled to have run into you on a stairwell in Universiti Malaya. I told you I'd been planning to do a PhD in history. You listened indulgently to me stammering away, and at the end of it, gave me a copy of your book, Malay Society. On the title page, you wrote:

Dear Rachel,

I hope you too will come to accept that history is the mother of all disciplines.

Khoo Kay Kim, 1/4/07

It's now 2015. I did that PhD, and your book has accompanied me across three continents over the last eight years. I haven't seen you since, and I'm sure you have long put me out of your mind. But I have continued, from time to time, to be guided by your work and to find insight in it.

Last Sunday, I read news of your testimony at the trial of Mat Sabu (PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu). And I was filled with a kind of sadness and dread, reminded of how what we know as "history" lives at all times in the shadow of power.

On the question of dinaung v dijajah

You said that to call Malaya a colony is false, because we were “dinaung” and not “dijajah”, and we had nine sovereign monarchies which were never “colonised”i.

This is an astonishing conclusion. It's a game of semantics that completely rejects the careful study of systems of imperial and colonial rule which historians do, and which you know so well.

If Malaya wasn't “colonised”, then neither was India, with all its princely states, or any part of Africa that was governed through local leaders. Brokerage and ruling by proxy are key elements of what we understand as colonial empires.

Direct annexation is expensive: it's much better to work through pliable local leaders, like chieftains, nawabs, and yes, even sultans.

But how can I presume to teach you what you know so well? Let me quote your own book at you, the one you signed for me:

“…in general, the most sweeping change introduced by the British was the establishment of a more elaborate and highly centralised administrative machinery to replace the indigenous administrative system which was somewhat loosely structured. The British undermined the position of the orang besar, the most powerful group in the indigenous political system... The policy of ruling the Malays through their sultan proved highly successful on the whole.”[ii]

Rest of the open letter:

Dr Rachel Low is Lecturer at the Faculty of History, Cambridge University;
Professor Khoo Kay Kim is Professor Emeritus in the History Department, University of Malaya;
Chancellor of KDU University College  (Wikipedia)

Mat Sabu's case:

We seem to excel in public relations of the wrong kind

How a Malaysian Playboy Controlled the Most Powerful Naval Force on the Planet
by Matthew Gault

Fat Leonard’s hookers and cash seduced the U.S. Seventh Fleet … and soaked taxpayers for millions

'It was the middle of September 2013 and the U.S. Justice Department had laid a trap.

Its target was the Malaysian millionaire defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis. But no one called him by his real name. At six feet tall and more than 300 pounds, he earned the nickname “Fat Leonard.” His buddies in the Navy called him something else — the Tony Soprano of Singapore.

At the time, Leonard’s business — Glenn Defense Marine Asia — held contracts with the U.S. Navy worth more than $200 million. Anytime a ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet needed servicing, there was a good chance it stopped at a port serviced by GDMA.

When the ships docked in Fat Leonard’s ports, he squeezed every buck he could out of the Navy and the American taxpayer. Beginning in 2004, Fat Leonard overcharged for basic services — and federal investigators are still totaling up the amount he suckered out of the Navy.'


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Math question set for 14-year-olds in Singapore which most people cannot solve... despite explanation

The question:

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates.
May 15, May 16,  May 19
June 17, June 18
July 14, July 16
August 14, August 15, August 17
Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately the month and the day of her birthday respectively.
Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too.
Bernard: At first I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know now.
Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.
So when is Cheryl’s birthday?

Admittedly, it is a difficult question to sift out the better students. It was a test of their logical reasoning skill.

How the answer was deduced:

'The problem was posted on Facebook by ‘Hello Singapore’ television presenter Kenneth Kong, and went viral as people posted their various solutions to the problem.

It was set for 14-year-olds in the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiads (SASMO), which were held on April 8.

This year around 28,000 students from countries across the world including Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China and the UK took the test.

Henry Ong, executive director of SASMO, told 'Being Q24 out of 25 questions, this is a difficult question meant to sift out the better students. SASMO contests target the top 40% of the student population and the standards of most questions are just high enough to stretch the students.'

The maths problem set for Singapore teenagers that has left people across the world stumped

Read more: