How should we judge a government?

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

"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

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience - Mark Twain

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

Career options

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

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?
Corruption is so prevalent it affects English language?

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
We need better tools... to cover up mega corruptions.

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.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Does Oppo sound like Apple to you?

Not sure if the originator of the Chinese brand Oppo had this in mind when he created this name. But Oppo seems serious into making smartphones, and its Oppo Finder is 12.5% slimmer than Apple's iPhone 5!

When Korean company Hyundai first started car manufacturing, it seemed like a joke. Now even the Japanese find them the most serious threat to their car markets. Similarly, when Samsung switched to electronics industries, nobody took them seriously. First to be affected by their smartphones was Finnish company, Nokia. Even Apple felt threatened and had to sue Samsung indiscriminately to make sure some stick.

As far as Malaysia is concerned, Oppo has no presence...yet. So anyone who wanted to be different runs the risk of having technical problems unsolved unless taken back to China. But when dealing in technological industries, no company can rest on its laurels.

"You may have not heard much about Oppo, Oppo is actually a China-based company who has been the champion of the affordable universal disc player. Recently, the company released an Android smartphone called the Oppo Finder, and the phone grabbed the title of the world’s thinnest smartphone, measuring in at 6.65 mm of thickness, and that is 12.5% thinner than Apple’s iPhone 5. We’ve showed you guys the unboxing and hands-on of the Finder, and we admit it’s one sleek looking phone. It’s available in white, and Oppo recently released ad posters to promote its white version of the Oppo Finder..."


Walking Tour of an OPPO store...

Test: what do you see?

If you see a side face, you are using your left brain to think, and you are good with logical thinking.

If you see a front face, you use your right brain, and you are good at artistic creations.

I personally feel if you look properly, the eye can only be that of someone looking directly. So does that make me more artistic?


The Rat Test... but rats are rats

It was a practical session in the psychology class. The professor showed a large cage with a male rat in it. The male rat was in the middle of the cage. Then the professor kept a piece of cake on the side, and kept a female rat on the other side.
The male rat went towards the cake and ate it. Then, the professor changed the cake and put some bread, The male rat ran towards the bread.
This experience went on with the professor changing the food every time. And, every time, the male rat ran towards the food item, and never towards the female rat.
Professor concluded: "This experiment shows that food is the greatest strength and attraction."
Then, one student from the back rows said: "Sir, why don't you change the female rat?  She may be his wife!"


Advice from a man who had been there, done that

Testimony of Dr. Richard Teo (died on 18th October 2012)

Below is the transcript of the talk of Dr. Richard Teo, who was a 40-year-old millionaire and cosmetic surgeon with a stage-4 lung cancer, sharing at a Dental Christian Fellowship Meeting. He would have liked to share this with you too.

Hi good morning to all of you. My voice is a bit hoarse from the chemotherapy, so please bear with me. I thought I'll just introduce myself. My name is Richard, I’m a friend of Danny’s, who invited me here.

I’d just begin to say that I’m a typical product of today’s society. Before this, I was talking about how the media influences us etc. So I’m a typical product of what the media portrays. From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy, is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.

Coming from a poor average family, back in those days, I was highly competitive, whether in sports, studies, leadership. I wanted it all. I’ve been there, done that. But at the end of the day, it’s still about money.

So in my recent last years, I was a trainee in ophthalmology, but I was getting impatient, cos I had friends of mine who were going out into private practise, making tonnes of money. And there I was, stuck in a traineeship. So I said, ‘Enough, it’s getting too long.’ At that time, there was a surge in protégés of aesthetic medicine. I’m sure you’re aware, aesthetic medicine had peaked over the last few years, and I saw good money in there. So much so that I said, ‘Forget about ophthalmology, I’m gonna do aesthetic medicine.’ So that’s what I did.

The truth is, nobody makes heroes out of the average GP in the neighbourhood. They don't. They make heroes out of rich celebrities, politicians, rich and famous people. So I wanted to be one of these. I dived straight into aesthetic medicine. People were not willing to pay when I was doing locum back in those days. Anything more than $30, they would complain that “Wah, this lo kun (doctor) jing qwee (very expensive)”. They made noise and they were not happy. But the same people were willing to pay $10 000 for a liposuction. So I said, ‘Well, let’s stop healing the sick, I’m gonna become a beautician; a medically-trained beautician.’

And that was what I did – liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgeries, you name it, we do it. It was very good money. My clinic, when we started off, waiting time was 1 week; 1 month; became 2 months; became 3 months. There was so much demand that people were literally queuing up to have aesthetic work done on them. Vain women – easy life!

So the clinic grew. I was so overwhelmed, from 1 doctor, I employed 2, then 3, then 4 doctors, and carried on. Nothing is ever enough. I wanted more and more and more. So much so that we set up shop in Indonesia to lure all the Indonesian tai tai’s. We set up shop, set up a team of people there, to get more Indonesian patients to come in.

So, things were doing well. I’m there, my time has arrived.
Around some time in February last year, I said, ‘OK, I have so much spare cash, it’s time to get my first Ferrari. So there I was, getting ready for the deposit. ‘OK! There comes my first Ferrari!’ I was looking for land, to share with some of my friends. I have a banker friend who makes $5 million a year. So I thought, ‘Come, let’s come together. Let’s buy some land and build our houses.’
I was at my prime, getting ready to enjoy. At the same time, my friend Danny had a revival. They were going back to church, some of my close friends. They told me, ‘Richard, come, join us, come back to church.’
I have been a Christian for 20 years; I was baptised 20 years ago, but it was because it was fashionable to be a Christian then. All my friends were becoming Christians then. It was fashionable! I wanted to be baptised, so that when I filled in a form, I could put there “Christian” – feels good. In truth, I had never had a bible; I don’t know what the bible is all about.

I went to church for a while, after some time, I got tired. I said it’s time to go to NUS, stop going to church. I had a lot more things to pursue in NUS – girls, studies, sports etc. After all, I had achieved all these things without God today, so who needs God? I myself can achieve anything I want.
 In my arrogance, I told them, “You know what? You go tell your pastor to change your sermon to 2pm. I will consider coming to church.” Such arrogance! And I said 1 statement in addition to that – till date, I don’t know I’ve regretted saying that – I told Danny and my friends, “If God really wanted me to come back to church, He will give me a sign.”. Lo and behold, 3 weeks later, I was back at church.


 In March 2011, out of the blue – I was still running around, ‘cause I’m a gym freak and I always go to the gym training, running, swimming 6 days a week. I had some backache, and that’s all I had, but it was persistent. And so I went for an MRI to exclude prolapsed disc. And the day before I had my scan, I was still in the gym, lifting heavy weights, doing my squats. And the next day, they found that half my spine had bone marrow replacement. I said, “Woah, sorry, what’s that?”
We had a PET scan the next day, and they diagnosed that I had terminal lung cancer, stage 4B. It had spread to the brain, half the spine, whole of my lungs were filled with tumour, liver, adrenals…
I said, “Can’t be, I was just at the gym last night, what’s going on?” I’m sure you know how it feels – though I’m not sure if you know how it feels. One moment I was there at the peak, the next day, this news came and I was totally devastated. My whole world just turned upside down.
 I couldn’t accept it. I have a hundred relatives on both sides, my mom and my dad. 100 of them. And not a single one has cancer. To me, in my mind, I have good genes, I’m not supposed to be having this! Some of my relatives are heavy chain smokers. Why am I having lung cancer? I was in denial.

So the next day, I was still in a state of denial, still unable to accept what was going on. There I was lying in an operating theatre in a hospital, for a needle biopsy (for histology). There I was, just completed the biopsy, and lying in the operating theatre. The nurses and doctors had left; told me I had to wait for 15 minutes to do a check X-ray to make sure there’s no pneumothorax (a complication).

And there I was, lying on the operating table, staring blankly at the ceiling in a cold, quiet operating theatre. Suddenly I just heard an inner voice; it was not like coming from outside. It was inside. This small inner voice that I had never felt before. And it said very specifically, it said, “This has to happen to you, at your prime, because it’s the only way you can understand.”

 I said, “Woah, why did that come from?” You know, when you speak to yourself, you’d say, “OK, what time should I leave this place? Where shall I have dinner after this?” You’d speak from a first person point of view. You don’t say, “Where should YOU go after this?” Whereas the voice that came spoke as a third party. It said, “This has to happen to YOU, at YOUR prime, because this is the only way YOU can understand.” At that time, my emotions just overflowed and I broke down and cried, alone there. And I knew then, subsequently, what it means to understand that why this is the only way.
 Because I had been so proud of myself, my whole life, I needed nobody else. I was gifted with things that I could do, why do I need anybody else? I was just so full of myself that there was no other way I could have turned back to God.

In fact, if I were diagnosed with stage 1 or 2, I would have been looking around busily for the best cardiothoracic surgeon, remove a section of the lobe (do a lobectomy), do preventive chemotherapy…The chances of it being cured is extremely high. Who needs God? But I had stage 4B. No man can help, only God can.

A series of events happened after that. I wasn’t sold after that, because of the inner voice, I became believing, prayers, all that. No I wasn’t. To me, it was just ‘maybe there was a voice; or maybe that was just me talking to myself.’ I didn’t buy the story.

What happened next was that I was being prepared for chemotherapy. I started off with a whole brain radiation therapy first; takes about 2 -3 weeks. In the meantime they prepared me for chemotherapy, supplements etc. One of the things they used for chemo was a thing called Zometa. Zometa - they use it to strengthen the bones; once the bone marrow (replacement) is cured of cancer cells, it becomes hollow, so we need Zometa to strengthen the bone to prevent compression fractures.
One of the side effects of Zometa is that it can cause osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw, and I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. Years ago, I had my upper wisdom teeth removed, cos it was giving me trouble. The lower ones didn’t give me trouble so I said, “Forget it, just leave it.” So of cause, Danny volunteered to remove it for me.

So there I was, lying there in a dental chair, asking myself, suffering all the side effects of radiotherapy, and now I have to go through wisdom tooth surgery. As if I’ve not had enough to suffer! So I asked Danny, “Eh, bro, is there any other way? Can I not go though this?” He said, “Yes, you can pray.”

I said, “What’s there to lose? Ok lah, pray lah!” And so we prayed. And we did an X-ray after that. Everything was all there, all the appliances and everything. And lo and behold, the Xray showed that there was no wisdom teeth in the lower jaw. I know most people have 4 wisdom teeth, maybe some have none, but to be missing one or 2, as I understand – I’m not too sure, as I understand – is not that common.

Still I was, “Nah, I don’t care about that.” To me, as long as I didn’t have to take out the tooth, I was happy. At that point, I still wasn’t sold on prayers. Maybe it was just a coincidence – for whatever it’s worth.

I continued meeting my oncologist, asking him, “How long do I have?” I asked him. He said, not more than 6 months. I said, “Even with chemotherapy?” About 3 – 4 months, he said.
I couldn’t grasp that. It was difficult to come to terms. And even as I went through radiotherapy, I was struggling everyday, especially when I wake up, hoping that it’s just a nightmare; when I wake up, it’s all over.

As I was struggling, day after day, I went into depression, which is the typical denial, depression blah blah blah that you go through. But for 1 reason, I don’t know why, there was this specific day that I was supposed to meet my oncologist. At about 2pm, I felt this sudden surge of peace, comfort, and in fact, a little happiness. It was just overflowing. For no rhyme or reason, it just came about 2pm, as I was getting ready, dressing up to meet my oncologist. So much so that I whats-apped all my friends that, “Bros, I just feel so good suddenly! I don’t know why, it just came!”

And it was only days, or was it weeks after, that Danny revealed to me that he had fasted for 2 days for me, and he was bargaining with God, and fasted for 2 dyas, and he ended his fast at that exact same point, about 2 pm thereabouts, that this surge of sensation came to me for no rhyme or reason. And I didn’t know that he was fasting for me. And when he ended the fast, I felt that sensation!

Whoa, things were getting a bit too coincidental. I was starting to buy a bit of the story, but still I wasn’t sold. As days passed by, I completed my radiotherapy, about 2 weeks plus. Getting ready for chemo, so they let me rest for a few days.

See, the mortality rate of lung cancer : Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate. If you add up breast, colorectal (colon) cancer, and prostate cancer (the top few cancers in Singapore for men and women), if you add up the mortality rate of these 3, it still doesn’t add up to lung cancer. Simply because, you understand, you can remove the prostate, the colon, the breast, but you cannot remove your lungs.

But there’s about 10% of lung cancer patients who do pretty well for some reasons, because they have this specific mutation; we call it the EGFR mutation. And it happens, only 90% of the time, in Asian ladies who never smoked in their lives. Me, first of all, I’m male. 2ndly, I’m a social smoker. I take one a day after dinner; weekends, when my friends offer me, I take it as well. I’m a light smoker, not a social smoker. But still, my oncologist was still not hopeful for me to have this mutation.
The chances of it happening for me was maybe 3-4% for me to get it. That’s why I was being primed to go for chemo. But through all the intense prayers, friends like Danny, people that I don’t even know, it turned out that, during my waiting for chemo, the results came back that I was EGFR positive. I was like, “Woah, good news!” Cos now I don’t have to undergo chemo at that time, because there’s this oral tablet that you can use to control this disease.

 Just to share with you some idea – this is a CT scan – thorax – of my lungs, before treatment.


Every single dot there is a tumour. You can see all the mets (metastasis) there. This is just one single plane. Literally I had it in both lungs, and I had literally tens of thousands of tumour. That’s why the oncologist told me, even with chemo, at most 3-4 months.

But because of this mutation, they have this oral medication. This is what happened after 2 months of treatment. As you can see over here; this is what God can do. And that’s why I’m still here having this opportunity to share with you. As you can see over here, the difference between before and after treatment.

At that point, I said, “Well, it’s to be expected, isn’t it? The medicine is good.” I’m still not buying the story. Well, the guys prayed for me and the tumour markers started to come down. 90% of the tumours were wiped out, and the tumour markers came down to more than 90% over the next few months.

But still, you know, once you have the clinical knowledge, you know the statistics. One year survival, two year survival; having all this knowledge is not a good thing. Cos you live with the knowledge that even with all this, the cancer cells are so unstable, they keep mutating. They will overcome and become resistant to the drugs, and eventually you’re gonna run out of medication.
So living with this knowledge is a huge mental struggle, a huge mental torture. Cancer is not just about a physical struggle, it’s a huge mental torture. How do you live with no hope? How do you live with not being able to plan for the next few years? The oncologist tells you to bear with it for the next 1 – 2 months. So it’s a lot of struggles as I went through: March, then April. April was my lowest point, in deep depression, struggling even as I was recovering.


And one of those days, I was there in bed, struggling in the afternoon, asking God, “Why? Why do I have to go through this suffering? Why do I have to endure this hardship, this struggle? Why me?”
As I fell asleep, in my dreamy state, a vision just came, that says Hebrews 12:7-8.
Now mind you, at this time, I had not read the bible. I have no clue what’s Hebrews, I don’t even know how many chapters there are. Totally clueless.

 But it says Hebrews 12:7-8, very specifically.

I didn’t think too much of it. I just continued sleeping. Then I woke up, and I said, “What’s there to lose? I’d just check it out lah!” Danny had bought me a bible; it’s still quite new. I said, “It’s ok, just try.” So I flipped to the Old Testament. Hebrews to me sounds like something ancient, so it should be in the Old Testament right? So I flipped through the Old Testament. No Hebrews there. I was so disappointed.

Then I said, “Maybe New Testament, let’s have a look!”. WOW – New Testament, there’s Hebrew’s!! It says Hebrews 12:7-8. It says, “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His children.”

I said, “WAH!! Where did that come from?” I was getting goose pimples all over my body. I said, “This can’t be, right?” I mean, what’s the chance of somebody, who has never read the bible, to have a vision of a chapter of a specific verse, that answers my question directly?

I think God called to me directly as I was there sleeping, struggling with it, asking God, “Why do I have to suffer? Why do I have to suffer this?” And God says “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His child.”

At this point, the chance of that happening is even lesser than my EGFR being positive. There’s just no way; there’s so many millions of thousands of verses in the bible, how can I just conjure up something like that?

 So at that point, I was sold I said, “YOU WIN! YOU WIN!!”

Ok , I was convinced. And so from that day onwards, I started believing in my God. And the last time I heard that inner voice was the end of April. And that inner voice, same thing, in the afternoon, as I was sleeping (this time I wasn’t struggling, just going to sleep). In a dreamy state I just heard Him say, “Help others in hardship.”

It was more like a command, rather than a statement. And that’s when I embarked on this journey, helping others in hardship. And I realised that hardship is not just about being poor. In fact, I think a lot of poor people are probably happier than a lot of us here. They are so easily contented with whatever they have, they’re probably pretty happy.

Hardship can happen to rich people; it can be physical hardship, mental hardship, social, etc. And also over the last few months, I started to understand what this true joy is about. In the past, I substituted true joy with the pursuing of wealth. I thought true joy is about pursuing wealth. Why? Cos let me put it to you this way, in my death bed, I found no joy whatsoever in whatever objects I had – my Ferrari, thinking of the land I was going to buy to build my bungalow etc, having a successful business.

It brought me ZERO comfort, ZERO joy, nothing at all. Do you think I can hold onto this piece of metal and it’s going to give true joy? Nah, it’s not going to happen.

True joy comes from interaction with other people. And at a lot of times, it is a short term pride, the past. When you pursue your wealth, Chinese New Year is the best time to do it. Drive my Ferrari, show off to my relatives, show off to my friends, do my rounds, and then you thought that was true joy? You really think that those guys who sold you your Ferrari, they share their joy with you? And your relatives, wow, they share this joy with you? In truth, what you have done is just to illicit envy, jealousy, and even hatred. They are not sharing the joy with you, and what I have is that short-term pride that wow, I have something you don’t have! And I thought that was joy!

So what we have is basically a short-term pride at the expense of somebody else. And that wasn’t true joy. And I found no joy at all on my deathbed, thinking of my Ferrari – to hold on to it, sayang it?!?
True joy I discovered comes from interaction. Over the last few months I was so down. Interaction with my loved ones, my friends, my brothers in Christ, my sisters in Christ, and only then was I able to be motivated, able to be uplifted. To share your sorrow, to share your happiness – that’s true joy.
And you know what makes you smile? True joy comes from helping others in hardship, and because I’ve gone through this, I know what hardship entails. In fact, there’re some cancer patients who tell me a lot of times, people come up to them and tell them, “Stay positive. Stay positive.” Yah, right. You come in my shoes and you try to stay positive! You don’t know what you’re talking about!
But I have the licence. So I’ve been going out to meet other fellow cancer patients, to share with them, encourage them. And I know, because I’ve been through it, and it’s easier for me to talk to them.

And most importantly, I think true joy comes from knowing God. Not knowing about God – I mean, you can read the bible and know about God – but knowing God personally; getting a relationship with God. I think that’s the most important. That’s what I’ve learnt.

So if I were to sum it up, I’d say that the earlier we sort out the priorities in our lives, the better it is. Don’t be like me – I had no other way. I had to learn it through the hard way. I had to come back to God to thank Him for this opportunity because I’ve had 3 major accidents in my past – car accidents. You know, these sports car accidents – I was always speeding , but somehow I always came out alive, even with the car almost being overturned. And I wouldn’t have had a chance. Who knows, I don’t know where else I’d be going to! Even though I was baptised it was just a show, but the fact that this has happened, it gave me a chance to come back to God.

 Few things I’d learnt though:
 1. Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart – this is so important.
 2. Is to love and serve others, not just ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy. I think it’s absolutely alright, cos God has blessed. So many people are blessed with good wealth, but the trouble is I think a lot of us can’t handle it. The more we have, the more we want. I’ve gone through it, the deeper the hole we dig, the more we get sucked into it, so much so that we worship wealth and lose focus. Instead of worshipping God, we worship wealth. It’s just a human instinct. It’s just so difficult to get out of it.
We are all professionals, and when we go into private practise, we start to build up our wealth – inevitably. So my thought are, when you start to build up wealth and when the opportunity comes, do remember that all these things don’t belong to us. We don’t really own it nor have rights to this wealth. It’s actually God’s gift to us. Remember that it’s more important to further His Kingdom rather than to further ourselves.

Anyway I think that I’ve gone through it, and I know that wealth without God is empty. It is more important that you fill up the wealth, as you build it up subsequently, as professionals and all, you need to fill it up with the wealth of God.

 I think that’s about it. It’s good to share. Thanks.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How race and religious divides crept in... officially

I found this in Patrick's Niamah blog. I was initially attracted by the place 'Sentul' (my alma mater was just across the road of the writer's La Salle). Long before Vision Schools were introduced, MBS Sentul had a Chinese school on the left and an Indian school on the right.

As I read the letter, I could relate to the writer's feelings because he is probably only a few years younger than me. Just like him, I had experienced or at least came across the start of racial discrimination in education, employment and promotion opportunities, business opportunities and so on.

Excerpt of the long letter:

"Form 2, La Salle Secondary School

I wake up one morning at home to read in the newspaper that I must achieve a certain minimum score in the Bahasa Melayu paper if I am to hope for a Grade 1 in the LCE. I immediately develop a mental block to learning that language, and in an ultimately self-defeating and warped exercise in resistance to the wider education system, I go on to pay the price in all subsequent exams."

Form 3, La Salle

Students are being registered to sit for the LCE in the school classrooms. One by one, each of us stands as the teacher in charge reads out our names and residential addresses, and asks us to confirm the details.

My turn comes up, and the Malay teacher reads out my full name (including my middle name and the name I have chosen for the Catholic sacrament of Confirmation): "William John Martin de Cruz," he reads out, pauses, and then adds for all to hear: "You don't want to add son of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, ah?"

"That night on TV, our group is named as a finalist. It is then announced that we have been disqualified - because if you begin as a trio, you must close as a trio. The women in my family cry, my brother and I are devastated, speechless.

Not long after, in the same talent quest, an all-Malay five-piece singing group enters the finals despite the fact that they have been reduced to four, and they go on to win.

1973/74, RTM headquarters, Angkasapuri

My brother and I are invited to perform at a Christmas TV special. We arrive at the briefing early one Saturday. As the performers and RTM backing band mingle, a clerk comes up to us and shows us a sheet of paper, with a list of words and phrases, typed out one after the other to make almost one-and-a-half pages.

It's a Christmas show, but according to that piece of paper (RTM policy on the run), any song we sing cannot have words such as Jesus, Mary, Joseph, God, saints, angels, Bethlehem, Alleluia, Christ, goes on, ad nauseam.

We nevertheless end up singing a Kris Kristofferson classic, ‘The Pilgrim (Chapter 33)’, which sounds religious but actually glorifies a legend among musicians who drinks, takes drugs and loves like the best and worst of them. We have thrown a stone at the fools on the hill, but a blindly ignorant RTM just doesn't get it..."


Update on Nov 1: A letter in Malaysiakini: Policies that contribute to the brain drain

This recent letter shows the effects being felt years later, of discrimination which started in the early 1970s. At the time, I noticed doors being closed, with advertisements in the papers openly stating 'Bumiputeras only' or 'Bumiputeras preferred', while those Non-Malays holding senior positions in government departments opted out to go into private sectors or went overseas because  their junior staff were earmarked for promotions as heads of department.

More recently, despite efforts by Talentcorp, returnees are unlikely to be welcomed in their places of work.

Monday, October 29, 2012

All that glitters is not gold...

Do you think the gold in Fort Knox has been looted and replaced with gold-painted tungsten?

According to a CNBC report:

The Germans are coming for their gold

"A German federal court has said that country’s central bank should conduct annual audits and physically inspect its gold reserves worldwide, including gold in the custody of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In addition to the FRBNY, Bundesbank gold is stored in London, Paris and Frankfurt..."

"For decades, the Bundesbank has relied on written confirmation of its gold holdings in London, Paris and New York. According to the report from the German audit court, the last time Bundesbank officials physically inspected the central banks gold holdings was, well, never..."

"Interestingly enough, the Bundesbank is apparently quite happy with taking the word of other central bankers about the existence, location and size of its gold reserves. It put out the word that it disagrees with the Audit Court, which only has advisory power and cannot force the Bundesbank to follow its recommendations, about the need for inspections. Nonetheless, the Bundesbank is actually going to follow the recommendation that it verify the gold stocks. It also has plans to ship some 150 tons of gold back to Germany for a more “thorough examination.”


iApology? Apple eats humble pie...

“At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

On Friday Apple CEO Tim Cook made the apology few expected. He admitted the company’s hugely controversial iOS6 Maps were not up to scratch. It was an honest admission few had expected. More surprising, however, was Cook’s decision to go a step further and suggest third party alternatives: “While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.” Yes, he included Google.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

You don't have to be an auditor to know this...

Front page headline in the New Straits Times: Need for tighter checks

Auditor-General urges review of procurement process...


"CIVIL servants can take advantage of a loophole in the government procurement process to bypass guidelines, if the internal checking mechanism fails, says Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang..."

"Explaining the procurement process, and how it can go wrong, Ambrin said when a government agency or department wanted to buy something, a local order (LO) had to be issued.
"Before the procurement officer issues an LO, he has to know if there is enough budget. If there isn't, he would be  irresponsible to buy things.
"If an LO is not issued, there will be no record of what is  bought."
 However, notwithstanding the lack of an LO, the purchase could still go through.
 Suppliers would like to see the LO, but in the instance where they don't, it could be because of collusion..."

"The purchase was beyond the Customs Department's budget and the Treasury had to step in to foot the bill in 2010, leading to a probe into the case.
The finance minister had reportedly directed the Customs Department on Dec 22, 2010, to lodge a report against the  officer.
But no action was taken then as the officer had given a 24-hour resignation notice on Feb 26, 2008.
A police report was lodged only prior to  the release of the Auditor-General's Report on May 24 this year..."

Rest of the article:

After 55 years of independence, we have yet to sort out our procurement process?

The above example was proof of weaknesses in internal control. Yet, the guilty officer could escape criminal charge after his 24-hour resignation notice! A police report was lodged more than 4 years later! Shouldn't his immediate superior and head of department be held responsible for this gross negligence?

Personally, if I were in such a position, I would be ashamed if I did not seek the best price for any purchase, let alone buying unnecessarily and beyond budget limit. If I were the officer in charge of approving the procurement, I would be ashamed to do so. This smack of collusion. In other words, there was not only lack of honour in service, but no shame in being corrupt. Sadly, for taxpayers, another corrupt case yet to find the persons responsible. 

Read The Sun's Nades's purported reply from Customs & Excise Department...
Sorry, the vacancy's filled

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Play on words can be so funny

Though it is obvious to those who listen to Beatles, I bet there are others who would not appreciate the above joke. Well, the original lyrics goes: 'Something in the way she moves, Attracts me like no other lover...'

Patrick Teoh pointed out the following in Facebook...

I'm sure foreign tourists would be wondering what the sign means. Well, 'koc' is being used to mean and pronounce as 'coach' in Bahasa Malaysia. The sign was meant to describe this particular 'coach is reserved for women only'. But to an English-speaking foreigner, they would pronounce it as 'cock' and when he looks further into BM to English translation, it becomes obscene, doesn't it?

Some BM spellings must have been really confusing to foreigners in Malaysia. At fuel service stations, 'Air' is actually 'water' in BM, and 'air' in English is shown as 'Angin' in BM! Elsewhere, 'cat' is actually 'paint' in BM, while the household pet 'cat' is known as 'kucing' in BM.

But Malaysians are also known to be disobedient. Besides, putting rubbish next to a sign forbidding it, the following is either open defiance or just being recalcitrant...

Rules are being bent to allow such trading so as to encourage entrepreneural initiative which otherwise seems lacking. Wouldn't it be better to take off the sign than to appear to condone illegal activity or practising favouritism?

'1 Candidate, 1 Seat'?

Surprisingly, BN has been practising this policy all along. Generally, I get the impression rookies were given state seat to contest to prove their popularity. Then, after 3 terms, he or she is given a chance to try out as parliamentary candidate. This seems logical progression: from track record shown at state level to federal level. Being the ruling coalition, some served as state exco members and later become Assistant or Deputy Minister and then Minister at federal level. But of course, there were exceptions to the unwritten rule or general policy.

What is surprising to this policy of limiting one seat to one person is not practised at the highest level! Now the PM is not only serving as Finance Minister, but also the Women's Affairs portfolio! The burgeoning PM's Department with several ministers within and a huge staff of about 50,000 made it a cabinet within a cabinet. The costs to maintain this vital department must be humongous.

Before GE12 in 2008, the opposition parties had been struggling against all odds. Besides the harassment by institutions controlled by the ruling coalition, opposition leaders faced problems of supporters who refused or avoided to show themselves. Some were willing to contribute money but not their names. Some would not sign any petition even though they were the complainants! All those who chose the opposition route in politics have to be hardened by all kinds of obstacles. But through it all, a few principled leaders shone and managed to catch the imagination of the people, which largely contributed to the unprecedented and unexpected success of capturing 5 states in 2008.

That the success was unexpected was shown by the bickering over Exco positions and even veteran MPs felt envious of some new state assemblymen holding state ministerial posts which came with extra privileges like official cars and drivers. We can imagine the situation to be magnified if they were to take over at federal level. This is only natural and there is no way to avoid it. At best, they can reduce the problem by first introducing '1 Candidate, 1 Seat' rule. Before election, selected candidates are given the chance to decide whether he or she prefers to stand for state or parliamentary seat. At this juncture it can be tricky. As far as the opposition coalition is concerned, they can never be sure of winning at federal level. So an MP may not end up as a minister but a state assemblyman in say Penang or Selangor is likely to be an Exco member.

DAP Chairman, Karpal Singh had singled out Lim Guan Eng as an exception to the '1 candidate, I seat' rule in DAP. This in itself shows the dilemma of the opposition leaders. Though it may appear to be favouritism, I think it should be seen in a different perspective. Opposition leaders have been through thick and thin, and some have shown their mettle under very difficult situations. In other words, they have proven their loyalty, integrity, determination and so on. Some are passionate about politics and are capable of handling more responsibilities while others are not so. Therefore, rules which seem fair may not be practical. So which is better? Taking LGE as an example, it would be difficult if he were to be CM of Penang as well as Federal Minister. Even if he can do it, the people might not be receptive to it. Before 2008, it was out of necessity that some popular leaders stood for state and parliamentary seats because of the lack of credible candidates. I wonder what is the position now. I am actually in favour of some outstanding leaders standing for both.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are political funds properly accounted for?

Political parties in Malaysia are registered with the Registrar of Societies who ensures they are run according to their own rules and regulations. Among other things, the members of each party shall elect the office-bearers according to the party constitution and each party's Receipts and Payments Account, Income and Expenditure Account and Balance Sheet are filed with the ROS yearly.

We know for sure, political parties need money to run their activities and political campaigns. They rely on donations from party members and supporters. On the ground, each branch is expected to organize fund-raising or charity dinners or other events. Each branch is expected to contribute to its state body as well as the national body. I would presume all big donations to the party are received at state or national level.

Political contributions or donations are deemed legal. Yet, the issue is not as simple as it seems.

In a recent controversial case, what we have witnessed so far is an admission by Federal Minister, Nazri that the Rm40 million alleged to be for CM of Sabah, was actually for Sabah Umno. He further added that political donations are legal, alluding to the fact that there were donations to federal opposition parties like PKR, PAS and DAP as well. But his explanation was far from satisfactory, especially when relevant incontrovertible evidence was revealed elsewhere which necessitated an official statement. Even a Sabah Umno state leader said he was unaware of such a donation! So we can presume this particular amount has never been shown in Umno's accounts thus far. 

There is no dispute about political contributions to political parties. But in Malaysia, the big difference seems to be overt contributions to the ruling BN coalition parties like Umno, MCA and MIC, but anonymous contributions to the opposition parties. The political reality is such that if you are a businessman, you worry over openly supporting the opposition for fear that your business licences and/or business deals with the government departments or GLCs might be affected.

It would be nice to have full disclosure of all forms of political contributions. But strangely, though we have been an independent nation for 55 years, this financial aspect of political support has been hazy and hardly transparent and accountable, at least not to the general public. The information is privy only to the leaders (and members?) of each party, unless a search is done at the ROS. But what we get there would be the minimum required for filing purposes.

As far as Umno is concerned, being the power ruling Malaysia since independence, it was able to make use of its position and power to have a symbiotic relationship with crony businessmen. It is a well known fact that the power to distribute valuable contracts will be rewarded in one way or other by those who benefited from them. The prominent Umno headquarters in strategic locations in every state are evidence of their power of choice and their ability to finance them. Umno, unlike the opposition parties, does not need financial assistance from its members and supporters. In fact, the members expect something for nothing.

It would be admirable for the opposition parties to take the lead on the aspect of transparency and accountability. But it is not without problems when some financial supporters wish to remain anonymous. Unless we make a start, we will never get anywhere. With accountability, it is more concerned with how the money collected has been spent. Again, in the case of opposition parties, their main source of funds for operating expenses is collections at dinners and other events. All these are known publicly, so their collections and disbursements should be accounted for. In fact, I would even suggest a standard format of keeping accounts at every branch and state levels throughout the country.

Perhaps, DAP should take the lead, especially to walk the talk with its CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) slogan.


When a chicken communicates with a duck

The following old joke could well be a debate between Khalid Ibrahim and Chua Tee Yong, in the sense that each listens to his own version. The Chinese call it 'kai toong ngap kong' or 'kong sum tap sei'.

About a century or two ago, the Pope decided that all the Chinese had to leave Italy. Naturally there was a big uproar from the Chinese community.

So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Chinese community. If the Chinese win, they could stay. If the Pope wins, the Chinese would leave.

The Chinese realized that they had no other choice. So they picked a middle-aged man named Ah Peh to represent them.

Ah Peh asked for one condition to be added to the debate. "To make it more interesting", he said, "Neither side would be allowed to talk".

The Pope agreed. The day of the great debate came. Ah Peh and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute.

Then the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.
Ah Peh looked back at him and raised one finger.
The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head.
Ah Peh pointed to the ground at where he sat.
The Pope pulled out a loaf and a glass of wine.
Ah Peh pull out an apple.

The Pope stood up and said: "I give up. This man is too good. The Chinese can stay."

An hour later, the cardinals were all around The Pope asking him what happened?. The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the holy trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions."

"Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us."
He responded by pointing to the ground and showing that God was also right here with us."

"I pulled out the wine and loaf to show that God absolves all sin. He showed me an apple to remind us of the original sin. He had an answer for everything.

What could I do?"

Meanwhile, the Chinese community had crowded around Ah Peh. "What happened?" they asked.

"Well," said Ah Peh, "First he indicated to me that all Chinese had 3 days to get out of here. I replied to him f*@k off and not one of us was leaving."

"Then he pointed that this whole city would be cleared of Chinese.

 I showed him that we are staying right here." "Yes, and then???" asked the crowd. "I don't know", said Ah Peh, "He took out his lunch, and I took out mine!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Let GE 13 be a Referendum for some major issues

The present term has only 6 months to go. Lately, we have been fed with propaganda by our BN controlled mainstream media as well as efforts by the opposition in their attempt to counter some of those outright lies and false allegations in the alternative media. Personally, it can be nauseous reading and watching the spin by BN, and I am sure those who helped the opposition to explain certain matters would have been tired of the same people harping on the same issues, sometimes with the same video footages, thus requiring the same explanations to counter them. Junior Chua's attempt at discrediting Talam settlement comes to mind.

Lately, even DPM Muhyiddin has taken a personal interest in the water issue in Selangor. It looks like a collision course likely to result in the courts. Before any further action by either side which might drag the matter into legal battles, why not let the people of Selangor decide at the elections? I am sure there are those like me who would wish to see a change at federal level to make known in no uncertain terms how the matter should be resolved.

There are other major issues which the public seem unhappy with the explanations given by the PM, DPM and other ministers like Nazri. Let them spin all they like. It is only a matter of months before we will know how the people feel about those unsatisfactory explanations which basically sweep everything under the carpet.


To be good, you have to remain good always

There were many examples of how respectable people fell from grace because of a single indiscretion. It does not matter how much good you have done in the past, just one mistake, and everybody will condemn you... again and again. The following Indian parable is a classic example of how we should continue to do good despite no appreciation from anyone... and don't even think of doing anything evil...

A woman baked chapatti (roti) for members of her family and an extra one for a hungry passerby. She kept the extra chapatti on the window sill, for whosoever would take it away.

Every day, a hunchback came and took away the chapatti. Instead of expressing gratitude, he muttered the following words as he went his way: "The evil you do remains with you: The good you do, comes back to you!"

This went on, day after day. Every day, the hunchback came, picked up the chapatti and uttered the words: "The evil you do, remains with you: The good you do, comes back to you!" The woman felt irritated. "Not a word of gratitude," she said to herself...

"Everyday this hunchback utters this jingle! What does he mean?" One day, exasperated, she decided to do away with him. "I shall get rid of this hunchback," she said. And what did she do? She added poison to the chapatti she prepared for him! As she was about to keep it on the window sill, her hands trembled. "What is this I am doing?" she said. Immediately, she threw the chapatti into the fire, prepared another one and kept it on the window sill. As usual, the hunchback came, picked up the chapatti and muttered the words: "The evil you do, remains with you: The good you do, comes back to you!" The hunchback proceeded on his way, blissfully unaware of the war raging in the mind of the woman.

Every day, as the woman placed the chapatti on the window sill, she offered a prayer for her son who had gone to a distant place to seek his fortune. For many months, she had no news of him.. She prayed for his safe return.

That evening, there was a knock on the door. As she opened it, she was surprised to find her son standing in the doorway. He had grown thin and lean. His garments were tattered and torn. He was hungry, starved and weak. As he saw his mother, he said, "Mom, it's a miracle I'm here.
While I was but a mile away, I was so famished that I collapsed. I would have died, but just then an old hunchback passed by. I begged of him for a morsel of food, and he was kind enough to give me a whole chapatti.
As he gave it to me, he said, "This is what I eat everyday: today, I shall give it to you, for your need is greater than mine!" “As the mother heard those words, her face turned pale.

 She leaned against the door for support. She remembered the poisoned chapatti that she had made that morning. Had she not burnt it in the fire, it would have been eaten by her own son, and he would have lost his life! It was then that she realized the significance of the words:

"The evil you do remains with you: The good you do, comes back to you!"


Monday, October 22, 2012

How to make pedestrians use stairs instead...

"Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better” is something we often hear or read in the Sunday papers. Few people actually follow that advice. Can we get more people to take the stairs over the escalator by making it fun to do?..."


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Celestial jokes

Nobody knows for sure what will happen to us when we pass on. What we believe will happen depends on our religion. What about atheists? Will a couple be together again after death?

I have heard about Chinese couples having different funeral arrangements for that eventuality. Some bought cemetery plots for two; some reserve an adjoining plot after a spouse died and was buried; some couples have different religions: eg. husband Christian, wife Buddhist; and so on. In some cases, a husband or wife may wish for cremation instead of burial, while the other half leaves the option open. There were cases of Taoists or Buddhists who became Christians shortly before death and had Christian funeral services.

Meanwhile ...

God decided to encourage people to have fewer children and introduced an award scheme… During the procedure at one point, he concentrated on learning about the situation in India:

He first met Jawaharlal Nehru in heaven, and asked him how many children he had during his time on earth. Nehru replied… only one!

Happy with the relatively good family planning adopted, God awarded Nehru with a Celestial Rolls Royce!

Indira Gandhi was next, and God asked the same question. She replied she had two children, and God thought, not too bad, so he gave her a BMW.

Dr. Radhakrishnan was next in line. God was not pleased to hear that he had six children, and gave him a Morris-8 as a kind of punishment…

Sometime later, the three (Nehru, Indira and Radhakrishnan) were going around in their new cars, saw Mahatma Gandhi on foot!!!

Wondering what went wrong; they asked him why God hadn't been merciful with him…

The Mahatma replied in disgust, "God did not even ask me!!! Some idiots had told him that I am the father of the whole Indian nation!"


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

A lady goes to her  priest one day and tells him, 'Father, I have a  problem. I have two female  parrots, But they only know to  say one thing'

'What do they say?'  the priest asked.

They say, 'Hi, we're  hookers! Do you want to have some fun?'

'That's obscene!' the  priest exclaimed, Then he thought for a  moment... 'You know,' he said, 'I may have a solution to your problem. I  have two male talking parrots, which I have taught to pray and read the  Bible...
Bring your two  parrots over to my house, and we'll put them in the cage with Francis and  Peter. My parrots can teach  your parrots to pray and worship, and your parrots are  sure to stop saying... That phrase... In no time.'

'Thank you,' the  woman responded, 'this may very well be the solution.'

The next day, she  brought her female parrots to the priest's house.... As he ushered her  in,  she saw that his two  male parrots  were inside their  cage holding rosary beads and praying. Impressed, She walked  over and placed her parrots in with them...

After a few minutes,  the female parrots cried out in unison: Hi, we're hookers! Do  you want to have some fun?'

There was stunned  silence...

The one male parrot  looked over at the other male parrot and said, 'Put the beads away,  Frank, our prayers  have been  answered!


Friday, October 19, 2012

A bit on Tanah Rata history

I have seen a plaque on the front wall of a post office in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, which commemorated its opening on June 25, 1956 by then Chief Minister of Pahang, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra. He was to become our first Prime Minister just over a year later!

It was before Malaya's independence on August 31, 1957, which explains why Tunku's position was described as Chief Minister instead of Menteri Besar. This bit on our local history was overshadowed by someone's bad news.

Today, while window shopping in Tanah Rata, we met our Dutch friend who related to us how her 11-year old daughter was diagnosed with POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). It took them a year before the doctors discovered her rare condition. The mother said earlier, she even doubted her complaints and dismissed them as her excuses for not wanting to attend school. Based on present medical knowledge, it is incurable and strict diet and medicine could only alleviate her symptoms.

I did a quick search and found the following in Wikipedia:

"Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS, also postural tachycardia syndrome) is a condition of dysautonomia,[1] to be more specific orthostatic intolerance, in which a change from the supine position to an upright position causes an abnormally large increase in heart rate, called tachycardia. Several studies show a decrease in cerebral blood flow with systolic and diastolic cerebral blood flow (CBF) velocity decreased 44% and 60%, respectively.[2] Patients with POTS have problems maintaining homeostasis when changing position, i.e. moving from one chair to another or reaching above their heads. Many patients also experience symptoms when stationary or even while lying down.
Symptoms present in various degrees of severity depending on the patient. POTS can be severely debilitating. Some patients are unable to attend school or work, and especially severe cases can completely incapacitate the patient."
Over the years, we watched Joy grew from baby to her present age. Now she is debilitated by this dreadful health problem. So sad. We hope her health will improve despite all the pessimistic prognosis.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Genneva Gold: Early bird catches the worm

or 'siapa cepat, dia dapat' in Malay.

For those who invested early and got out early, they would have gained according to what was claimed by the promoters. Like the Ponzi scam or pyramid scheme, investments of later investors were used to pay off early investors...

"Another burning question – if the company’s account and asset were seized and frozen since 2009, how can the directors and company allowed to operate until the latest raid early this month, more than 3-years later? Was Bank Negara sleeping on the job? Were there too many (greedy) hands in the cookie jar, hence the power struggle (or rather money struggle), considering the gigantic amount of money in the coffer (if there’s any left). Or was it purely SOP (standard operating procedure) by any ponzi scheme operator to call it the day by asking the authorities to raid the company itself so that they can stop paying investors, knowing very well nobody would go to jail?"

Read all about it in Finance Twitter:

A relevant cartoon on Ponzi Scheme...


AES: Another entrapment scheme?

The Automated Enforcement System (AES), since its initial installations at selected locations, has been severely criticised by the public, opposition leaders and even some BN leaders. The superior system as compared with earlier ones, is claimed to be foolproof in providing incontrovertible evidence to nail traffic offenders. The speed at which it is able to issue summons within 5 days is commendable since earlier complaints were about the long lapse in time since an alleged offence.

My personal experiences with the old system (if it can be called a system) at different times and locations had convinced me of its weaknesses. As a frequent traveller of the old trunk road and later North-South Expressway, especially between KL and Batu Gajah almost every weekend for 12 years (1982-1994), my record of being stopped by police for alleged offences was few and far between. Yet, there were mistakes by the police.

I was stopped just after the flyover over Jalan Ipoh-Jalan Kepong roundabout by some police for alleged speeding. Another time was along the trunk road after Gopeng where the speed limit was 90 km/h. Then, there was once along the quiet stretch (through a kampung) near Chenderiang and before Temoh, where the speed limit was at an impractical 60 km/h. In retrospect and with experience, I would not have entertained their offers of settlement since they had no evidence. All three were obvious roadblocks set up to make some extra money for themselves.

Once, while on my way, I was booked for overtaking a lorry at a double-lined road near Templers' Park. I argued with then OCPD ACP Murray over what if it was a slow steam-roller? He said the police was only enforcing traffic rules set by Highway Authority and he was kind enough to reduce it to Rm30. On another trip, I was stopped on the NSE near Gua Tempurung and was issued a summons for speeding near Tapah interchange (in other words, warnings by oncoming vehicles were too late). I was told I could appeal for a reduced fine. So on my way back to KL, with an appeal letter promising not to exceed speed limits, I went to see the traffic officers in Tapah police station. I was told that they cannot reduce by more than 50%, so the fine of Rm150 (based on the speed exceeding the limit) was reduced to Rm80. It was a year or two later that I received a summons for travelling at over 100 km/h along Jalan Duta, KL! Fortunately, I was sure my usual speed along that particular road never reached that speed, and on top of that, it was on National Day when I was likely to have been back in BG to be with my family. A police officer who helped me to check, confirmed that the registration number and even the make of car was wrong! It looked like a Volvo 240 instead of my old BMW 728i! Since then, I am convinced that the 'mistake' could be the work of an overzealous policeman who used details in their record to try their luck on some unfortunate vehicle owners.

Another instance was even more incredible. I was with a sister-in-law, taking my mother-in-law on a northbound trip from BG. After the tunnel (NSE), my SIL commented about my slow speed. I told her that I could not afford heavy fines and being the driver, I was responsible for my action. Despite that, when we were flagged down by police near Bukit Merah laketown, I was both apprehensive and annoyed at myself. I am sure most drivers would agree that we can never be perfectly sure that we had not exceeded the speed limits during a road trip. But I was determined to accept any summon and would ask for photo to prove it later. So my serious and unhappy expression was shown to the policeman who came near our car. Just before that, my lawyer SIL joked that we will take it all the way to Privy Council, an actual experience which she had dealt with before over a land matter. Somehow, we were let off! Till today, I cannot be sure whether it was because there was no basis in the first place or that he could tell from my serious expression that I was sure I didn't commit the offence!

Coming back to the AES. According to Chua Jui Meng,

"If the BN government’s intention to save the rakyat from fatal road crashes is sincere, then it should have the right infrastructure fully in place before enforcing the AES.

Australia has one of the lowest rates of road accidents in the world. Why is that? Because they use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and LED boards to warn motorists of speed trap cameras installed at dangerous road and highway stretches.

The Australian government’s intention is to help save lives by telling motorists to slow down at such “death stretches”, not collect hefty fines for revenue.

Compare that with the BN government. They implement the AES to catch and slap hefty fines on motorists! The BN’s intention is clearly not about saving lives but to collect hefty fines..."

Rest of his article...
AES: Money over safety

Personally, I wish AES at traffic light junctions would prevent motorcyclists who now have the habit of following rule of their own: ignore traffic lights and proceed when they think other vehicles have yet to make a move!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prudence is the key to good financial management

According to a leading lawyer, Tommy Thomas, in his letter to Malaysiakini:

"...The reason why contingent liabilities should, as a matter of prudence, be included is because it is in effect "a liability" which may sometime in the future be crystallised.

The largest component under "contingent liabilities" is apparently the guarantee, a long established and widely used financial instrument, which involves three parties; the lender, the borrower and the guarantor.

It arises because the lender is not sufficiently satisfied that the borrower has the financial means to repay his debt.

Accordingly, the lender insists that the borrower's debt be guaranteed by a third party, the guarantor, which then entitles the lender to have recourse against two separate persons (the borrower and the guarantor) in the event that the borrower defaults.

In such a tripartite relationship, the borrower and the guarantor assume legal liability at the time their respective contracts are signed. Thus, the guarantor faces an exposure..."

Rest of his article:

National budget must reflect guarantees by nation

News after publication of the Auditor General's Report ...
Govt-guaranteed debt breaks Rm100 billion mark

In my humble opinion:

Financial management, accounting and auditing used to be straightforward, and basically, what you see was what you get. Then a person or a company's net worth could easily be calculated with the addition of all assets minus all liabilities. Even then it depended on what was known, but what about those items which had not been revealed? A company's balance sheet might have off-balance sheet items which were undisclosed but which could have disastrous consequences. A lot depended on the integrity of the company's management and its external auditors.

Since then, financial statements of a large group of companies have become too complex to the laymen, and even older accountants have problems understanding them. But let's not fret over that and use simple examples to illustrate my point on the importance of financial prudence.

A person applying for a housing loan might be appraised according to his monthly income to ensure he is able to repay the loan over its tenure. If he has other commitments like HP loan repayments on his car and other major items, then his financial capability could be adversely affected and his prospective housing loan banker might reconsider his application based on such relevant information. His already stretched financial commitments could further be burdened if he had acted as guarantor for others' loans, if and when those borrowers failed to honour their commitments.

In the old days, banks' ability to pay their depositors was never questioned. The banks were required to deposit with Bank Negara, a minimum percentage known as Statutory Liquidity Ratio (now Statutory Reserve Requirement?) which could be used when there was a run on a particular bank. The central bank would guarantee all deposits with the banks under its control. (I believe the old SLR at 20% (when I first read it way back in 1969!) is now the SRR which is currently at 2%)

Recently, it was publicly announced that banks would guarantee any bank deposit up to Rm 60,000, which has since been increased to its present Rm250,000. To me, there is now uncertainty (unlike before) as to whether any commercial bank can pay back all deposits with them. The complexity of banking must have reached a stage where nobody knows exactly whether any bank could withstand a run on it.

There is also concern over Non-performing Loans (NPLs) within banks which are reported to have been sold to third parties, including foreign entities. Cases of housing loan borrowers who found to their shock, that their houses have been auctioned without their knowledge by third parties, showed the extent of the problem caused by this illegal selling of NPLs. Of course, the illegality of such transactions was made legal when sanctioned by a prior blanket approval by the Minister of Finance. But the wisdom of it in terms of financial prudence has yet to be tested.

The situation of NPLs can be serious because of its size. To put it simply, NPL of a lax bank can easily be more than its paid capital and reserves. Just imagine if most, if not all of it, is actually bad or non-recoverable! Doesn't that remind us of the toxic assets of American banks which caused the collapse of world's biggest names in banking?

When dealing with finance, prudence is the key to its sound management. Accountants are trained to follow this important principle. Stocks are valued at the lower of cost or recoverable value; debtors are stated, less any known or possible irrecoverable portion; incomes are recognized when legally proper to do so and expenses or commitments to spend properly provided for.

By extension, shouldn't this vital principle of prudence be applied to our country's financial management? There are currently some complaints about our national debt being too close to, if not already exceeding the approved ratio; some believe the national debt was intentionally understated, especially with the omission of contingent liabilities in the form of guarantees given by the government.

Update: As they say, a picture shows more than a thousand words, the following graphic (courtesy of Martin Jalleh and Malaysiakini) shows our unhealthy public financial situation:

Question: Are there any other hidden liabilities which we are unaware of?

The pensioners and other beneficiaries of BR1M and other handouts are happy, but they wonder where the money is coming from!


English taken literally...

And for those grammatically correct friends...

On his 78th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife. The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on a nearby reservation who was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction.

After being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the medicine man and wondered what he was in for.

The old man handed a potion to him, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned, "This is a powerful medicine. You take only a teaspoonful and then say '1-2-3.' " When you do, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life and you can perform as long as you want."

The man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked,
"How do I stop the medicine from working?"

"Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,'" he responded, "but when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon."

He was very eager to see if it worked so he went home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom.

When she came in, he took off his clothes and said, "1-2-3!"
Immediately, he was the manliest of men. His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes and then she asked "What was the 1-2-3 for?"

And that, boys and girls, is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition, because we could end up with a dangling participle.