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.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I think the CM of Penang should let the authenticity of Penang street hawkers' foods take its natural course

I wish to refer to Chief Minister of Penang's letter to Malaysiakini: Feedback sought on foreign hawker cooks ban


'Penang aspires to have our own unique and special identity. We do not want to be a carbon copy of Seoul, Hong Kong or Singapore.'
'Penang can stand out and be different. Our principal key asset that makes Penang different and attractive is our street food, rated by many as the best in the world. My conversation with the Hong Kong tourism industry reaffirmed the important role played by street food or hawker fare as the essential ingredient that defines Penang and is our top draw for tourists.
Penang’s famous street food not only separates the flavor of Penang from other tourist destinations but also infuses life and spirit into our cultural diversity and multi-ethnic heritage. For this reason, we must retain the quality and the unique flavor of Penang food cooked by locals.'
'To protect, preserve and promote our top attraction of hawker food, the Penang state government is inviting public feedback on whether banning foreigners from cooking at hawker stalls can ensure that our favourite hawker food remains the same and retains the unique penang flavour.
This proposed prohibition only applies to foreigners and not Malaysians and only to hawker stalls and not restaurants. Such proposed prohibition is also consistent with the legal rule that hawker stall licences can only be given to Malaysian citizens and not foreigners.
The proposed prohibition does not apply to those foreign workers who help in serving customers or washing up. It seeks only to bar foreigners from cooking at local hawker stalls.'
' initiative to prevent our unique Penang flavours from “mutating” to a foreign taste if foreign workers are allowed to cook at hawker stalls.'


From what I have observed, many of our government's initiatives failed or did not match up to expectations, because government leaders or officials do not know how the businesses will be affected by their policies, especially where there was no provision for feedback from those affected as well as the public.

Even small businesses have their own problems which are best solved by the operators themselves. Government policies set rules and those affected are left to their own devices, especially when dealing with their daily problems.

How many of our traditional hawkers could say honestly that they wish to have their own children take over their businesses?

Many of them wish that their children could do well in their studies so that they do not have to follow in their footsteps and take over their family trades. Many wish their children could be university graduates or possess professional qualifications so that they could improve on their current unenviable social status.

But of course, there are exceptionally successful hawker businesses which earnings could put even professionals to shame. They become successful through trial and error in the choice of location, menu and favourable response from their customers.

It is only recently that we have come across university graduates and professionals trying their hands at hawker businesses, but usually with an upgrade in interior decoration and tasteful ambience which inevitably comes with higher prices. Some may succeed while others may fail, the latter mainly because the local customers are unprepared to pay higher prices for the same types of food.

When we look at the reviews by journalists, food connoisseurs or food bloggers,  there is one or more places well known for certain foods. It is common to list the 10 best places for a certain food, like Hokien Mee, for example. The list is expected to vary from reviewer to reviewer and subject to change as a result of change in preparation due to various reasons (retired or given up because of difficulty in getting helpers or even to look after grandchildren!); different reviewers chose different places and list them according to their tastes (which is subjective in itself); and so on.

Just imagine how fluid the businesses are in even without any interference from the government.

Imagine the government banned foreign cooks in hawker stalls.

Why is there a dependency on foreign workers in recent years? Without getting involved in other business sectors, I can imagine foreign workers are used because of various reasons: lack of family members to help out because of children's further studies or wife having to look after grandchildren, and so on. The hawker himself could be less efficient because of age and he has to delegate most of the menial tasks to his foreign workers.

In the case of Hokien mee, the most important factor which affects its taste seems to be the soup, followed by the ingredients. As long as the original hawker maintains his well accepted recipe, it does not matter who does the preparation. So what is the big deal about whether a Penangite should be doing everything up to the serving of the dish?

The proof is in the eating and I don't think the customers bother, as long as it is good, whether it was prepared and served by authentic Penang lang. Are we concerned about having conversation between hawker and customer? During busy hours, there is no time for chit chat between them, and as to foreigners, they can't tell the difference anyway.

In my humble opinion, when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going. Every hawker and his dish will have its loyal customers who think he is the best; every reviewer will have his or her  'Ten best list'; and the competition is a continual process involving hawkers, customers and reviewers. Why must we have rules which need to be properly enforced (to justify the rules) and which can only make things more difficult for the hawkers? They have to start early in their preparation and to get the jobs done, any help from just about anybody is welcome. Why complicate it by insisting that the food be seen to be prepared only by Penangite?


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