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.)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Irish logic?

An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits at the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn.  When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.

The bartender approaches and tells him, "You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it, and it would taste better if you bought one at a time." The Irishman replies: "Well, you see, I have two brothers.  One is in America, the other is in Australia, and I'm in Dublin.  When we all left home, we promised that we'd drink this way to remember the days we drank together.  So I drink one for each me brothers and one for me self."

The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there. The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way: He orders three pints and drinks them in turn. One day, he comes in and orders two pints.  All the other regulars take notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss."

The Irishman looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns and he laughs.  "Oh, no, everybody's just fine," he explains, "It's just that me wife had us join that Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking.  But it hasn't affected me brothers though."


Friday, December 25, 2015

Recent seminars on labour and social protection in ASEAN

Tripartite Seminar for Enhancing Social Protection in an Economically Integrated ASEAN
25-27 November, 2015 Jakarta, Indonesia


3rd ASEAN Course on Economic Integration & Labour Migration
7 - 11 December, 2015 Bali, Indonesia

ASEAN Economic Integration and Labour Migration: challenges and opportunities

With that, Cheng has officially left the building.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Can we still rely on USA to protect us in the region?

I refer to the current show of force by USA in the South China Sea:

US bombers' flyover 'serious military provocation', says China

The long drawn spat among China, Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia over Spratly Islands has again drawn the attention of Big Brother, the United States of America.

China has taken the initiative of reclaiming land, resulting in a man-made island large enough to act as a naval and air base to protect what many believed to be its future oil and other explorations around it.

This had triggered alarm again among those countries laying overlapping claims over The Spratlys. As expected, US has to show its support against China's overtly unfair actions by a show of force in sending its navy to the region.

History has shown how US was incapable of fighting a long drawn war, far away from its shores. It was costly in terms of money and lives. Most US citizens would not support their country in fighting some countries' wars and losing their own lives in the process. US President is democratically elected, and they can only serve a maximum of two terms.

How can a President promise anything if he could not be in office soon after? This is the situation with the current President, Barack Obama, who will be ending his second term soon. A serving President has to account for his decisions, what more, where those involved heavy expenditure over a long period and would cost citizens' lives.

Compare and contrast this with an enemy like China, where its President has autocratic power over major decisions which in effect, means decisiveness, something so vital in any war.

Financially, it is more ironic, or even ludicrous, when China is now the biggest creditor of USA. Just imagine, your enemy financing you in developing or buying military hardware to fight with you! Without firing a single shot, China can easily withdraw its credit to US and probably cause its financial system to collapse.

My simplistic and naive suggestion in Facebook:

Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam appear to have overlapping claims over Spratly Islands for years without resolving the issue. Now that China is claiming them, what can those countries do? Depend on US? US cannot sustain a long drawn war far away from its shores. China seems to have in place a 'permanent' warship with the newly reclaimed land. Why not let China be Big Brother instead of US, if it can promise not to have further territorial ambitions and can even offer economic aid to those countries willing to accept the conditions? This will avoid unnecessary war and bloodshed.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday market economics

As a frequent visitor to the Jalan Horley Sunday market in Ipoh, I got to know a trader for many years. He started to pack his things even though it was just elevenish. It was still crowded as usual, but most people are not buying. His explanation was simple:

Government has collected over Rm30 billions in GST. Just imagine the loss in purchasing power of the people. My mind added to that the illegal charging without accounting to the government, as well as the opportunistic profiteering and unavoidable general increases in prices which could easily amount to double the official tax collected, then we know why the public has to cut back on spending... simply because they can buy less with the same incomes!

They have to be selective in spending, and antiques and collectibles can wait. He said he is glad he let go of his usual helper, otherwise, what he earns for the half day goes to his wages with nothing for himself.

In 1999, when he lost his job as a salesman, he found to his surprise, that his takings was as much as Rm2000 a day at the People's Park then! For 4 Sundays in a month, he could easily make a few thousands in profits that he told himself he is not going back to working for others. His previous job paid a basic salary of Rm500 and he had to meet his target of Rm120,000 a month to earn a total of Rm1,600.

'But now, bad times are here. Before, you wouldn't see me wrapping my stuff at the end of the trading day. Everything was cleared. Those were the good old days.' he lamented.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A bit on transport and its charges

More than 40 years ago, I was tasked to ferry 4 outstation girls (my fellow classmates) on my way, from Jalan Pekeliling flats to Cheras and back. I did not charge them and on my birthdays, I received some gifts from them instead.

Then for 12 years, I had to travel almost every weekend, between KL and Batu Gajah. Occasionally, I was asked to deliver some stuff for relatives or friends. Just imagine, had I been business-minded, I could have used those trips to do some business, like taking people and charging them fares or buying and selling stuff from either destination. But not being in such business, how could I charge relatives or friends? For more than 3 years, I used an RX7 just to enjoy the driving while making the trips, so taking in passengers was out of the question. Besides, despite its official 1.3 litre equivalent, the rotary engine was a real gas guzzler - even on highway best I could get was 18 miles to a gallon of petrol!

A former classmate, who is having a Bas Sekolah business in PJ, boasted to me that he is earning more than an engineer. Using an Urvan with 17-passenger capacity, and running the morning and afternoon sessions, he can earn over Rm10,000 a month by charging each student Rm300. He can add to his income by taking some to tuition centres. But I reminded him of his heavy responsibilities and he replied, 'Yah, I cannot be sick!' I think the bright side to his business is that if the 34 students are attending the same school, then it makes his job so much easier. But to think of the traffic jams which might upset his routines must be discouraging to anyone thinking of having such a business.
According to a retired teacher, some of his ex-students arrived school at 5.00 am, simply because they were the first batch of their school bus driver's 2 or 3 trips in the morning!

About the heavy responsibilities, I am reminded of how a father refused to provide capital for his son to start a Bas Sekolah service. Known for his '3-minute hot' nature in any new venture, the old man just could not bear to let the possibility of students being stranded happen... even before the start of the venture!

Yesterday morning we happened to patronise a coffee stall in Pusing market and the operator provides taxi service under licence. So the topic invariably touched on taxi charges. A friend commented that his recent trip from KL Sentral to Putra Heights costed him Rm68 plus Rm3 toll charges (the latter seems unfair). His earlier experience was Rm30 from Paradigm Mall to Putra Heights. He said he was pleasantly surprised when he was charged Rm16 from Sunway to Paradigm Mall, which I pointed out that both places were on the same side of LDP. Another friend said his son and family was taken for a ride upon arrival at KLIA, when he was charged Rm300 from KLIA to Taman Desa! That was almost what it costs from KLIA to Batu Gajah.

Where available, it is definitely cheaper to take the train. At the moment, I will not consider taking a bus from Ipoh to KL, especially with the Amanjaya Bus Terminal, which seems to serve vested interests instead of passengers' convenience. Similarly, in KL, it seems all northbound buses have to use the state of the art bus terminal at Tasik Selatan instead of the convenient Jalan Duta stadium. Either location means more trouble than its worth. Taxifare from Ipoh to Amanjaya costs at least Rm20! I suppose I need to double that from Batu Gajah. I dread to think what it would cost from Tasik Selatan to anywhere convenient in KL.

Antares complained in Facebook, about the change in routes by KTM as well as the increase in fares. Relatively, despite fare increase, train is still cheap. But what a time to add on to the burden of ordinary folks...

'Two days ago KTM rerouted its Rawang-Seremban Commuter line so that it now links Rawang with Klang. To continue to Seremban (or Midvalley) from KL Sentral you now have to change platforms & hop on the Batu Caves-Seremban line. This means that if you intend to get off at Midvalley from Rawang you now have to change trains & platforms at KL Sentral & wait an additional 15-20 minutes just to go an extra stop. On the return journey, it takes an additional 15-20 minutes because of this senseless re-routing exercise. Not only that... KTM abruptly raised its fares last month, so that an adult return ticket from KKB to KL Sentral that used to cost RM11.20 now costs RM17.60. It appears that KTM is imitating all the serious mistakes the Najib regime is making in its desperation to shore up its finances, in the aftermath of massive financial mismanagement & outright thievery. Looks like 2016 is going to be an extremely tough year for those who depend on the commuter service or who commute daily on the highways. I'm so glad I don't have to experience this stupidity on a daily basis.'

Anyway, the taxi driver related to us how he managed to get away from trouble with JPJ. Once, he was caught taking passengers from KLIA, after dropping off one from his hometown. Though he was quick to tell the passenger to say they are related, the officers were one step ahead. Driver and passenger were separately interrogated. His ruse failed when he could not even name the passenger nor his home address! But being experienced he was well prepared with documents and newspaper cuttings showing the market fire and police report with his name, and that he was badly affected by loss of income which drove him to pick passengers illegally. He was referred from one senior officer to another who finally pointed a finger at him and warned, 'Saya tak mahu nampak muka awak sekali lagi di sini.' He said he risked a fine of Rm300 or even confiscation of the vehicle. Since then, it seems the rules are relaxed.

Commercial vehicle drivers have to face possibility of being stopped by police or JPJ on a daily basis. It is an open secret that it is an easy means of extra income for the enforcement officers. Some pay tontos to tip them of any roadblock. A tow truck operator is known to be good at names-dropping, with a list of senior police officers' telephone numbers. He actually knew them through towing service. Most times, the officer would give him the benefit of the doubt instead of having to talk to any of them. Tricks of the trade in a 'cat and mouse' situation.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Missing the elephant in the room and 3 Jumbo jets in KLIA

Malaysians seem to be arguing over petty matters yet missing the elephant in the room.

If we park our cars in KLIA, we need to pay charges per day which if accumulated over a few years can be more than the worth of the car. At Rm46 per day, parking for a year would incur Rm16,790 in charges. So we can imagine how much a plane's parking charges would be like. An old plane would not be airworthy and would cost a bomb to make it so. Very likely, the sale proceeds will not be able to cover the accumulated parking charges. Perhaps, it could be turned into a restaurant or something.

CNN: Don't you hate it when you forget where you left your Boeing 747-200F?

Someone abandoned not one, not two, but three of the massive cargo jets at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Malaysia.

Airport officials, eager to clear the massive clutter, took out ads in Malaysia's The Star and Sin Chew Daily newspapers asking for the owner to please come get their planes.

"If you fail to collect the aircraft within 14 days of the date of this notice, we reserve the right to sell or otherwise dispose of the aircraft," the ad states.

The notice includes photos of the orphaned jets -- two white and one "off-white" 747-200Fs.

It adds that cash raised in the sale of the 747-200Fs would be used to pay off expenses and debts.

Malaysia Airports general manager Zainol Mohd Isa told CNN the aircraft have been parked at KLIA for more than a year, having been abandoned at different times.

It's not clear who now bears responsibility for the aircraft and any related charges.

"They've yet to pay the parking fee -- where do we send the bill?" Isa said.

Storage space not a problem

Several aviation databases list the Boeings -- identified by their call signs TF-ARN, TF-ARH, TF-ARM -- as belonging to leasing firm Air Atlanta Icelandic, but that company says it sold them in 2008.

Since then, the aircraft appear to have changed hands several times.

Malaysia Airports says it's entitled to sell the Boeings under the country's civil aviation regulations if no owner comes forward.

"The giving of such notice by way of advertisement is a common and reasonable step in the process of debt recovery especially in cases where the company concerned has ceased operations and is a foreign entity whereby exhaustive steps undertaken to find a contact person have not been successful," Malaysia Airports said in a statement.

"This step is also a common process undertaken by airport operators all over the world when faced with such a situation."


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

National Security Council : 8 members but power in one

The bill is nothing more than an attempt by the prime minister to usurp more power and centralise that power in himself, says Hakam.

'Aliran is shocked that the government of the day has suddenly tabled and passed the National Security Council Bill 2015 in Parliament.

The haste with which this unclear bill was passed, without prior consultation with civil society and even parliamentarians, shows a total lack of respect for our constitutional democracy and due process.

At the heart of the bill is the concentration of power in an unaccountable council, headed by the prime minister as chairman, and comprising those who had been appointed by him and reporting directly to him i.e. the deputy prime minister as deputy chairman, the minister of defence, the minister of home affairs, the minister of communications and multimedia, the chief secretary to the government, the chief of defence forces and the inspector-general of police.

Disturbingly, the notion of national security and the scope of authority are not defined and therefore are open to abuse by the NSC.

For instance, the bill allows the NSC to declare any area, e.g. Jelutong, where Aliran is located, a security area for a variety of grounds which may have little do with genuine national security concerns. Once declared a security area, the security forces deployed “may without warrant arrest any person found committing, alleged to have committed or reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under any written laws in the security area”.

All constitutional guarantees and fundamental rights can be ignored or suspended within that area. This is completely unconstitutional and amounts to a declaration of emergency in a specific area. Worse, the NSC may dispense with inquests in respect of members of the security forces and persons killed within the security area as a result of operations in the security area.

In effect, the prime minister, as chair of the NSC, may exercise authoritarian emergency powers without the need for a proclamation of emergency under Article 150 of the Constitution. This effectively appropriates the powers of the Yang diPertuan Agong, again amounting to a violation of our Constitution.'


Monday, December 07, 2015

Keeping up with Joneses on Facebook and feeling unfulfilled?

From The Sun: Is the green-eyed monster behind your Facebook post?

'FACEBOOK posts could mean more than just wanting to upload a few holiday snaps, with a recent study by the University of British Columbia, Canada, finding that envy is the key motivator behind many Facebook updates, which isn't a good thing for users' mental well-being.

To find out more about the possible negative effects of Facebook use, researchers surveyed 1,193 Facebook users at a German university.

The students responded to a series of questions about their use of the social network, and reported the feelings that they experienced while using it. The team then cross-referenced the students' Facebook habits with their reported feelings, finding that Facebook led users to feel unfulfilled by their own lives when compared to those of others.

The team concluded that such feelings of unfulfillment, jealousy and self-importance are among the main motivators behind many posts on the site, as users attempt to portray their best selves.

"Social media participation has been linked to depression, anxiety and narcissistic behaviour, but the reasons haven't been well-explained," said Izak Benbasat, one of the authors on the study.

"We found envy to be the missing link."

The team also found that travel photos are one of the strongest factors behind Facebook induced envy, with people posting their most perfect holiday photos in an attempt to portray a more perfect, if unrealistic, life.

The reason for this however was not to induce jealousy in others, but rather a desire to compete with friends and maintain appearances.'

Rest of article:

Each of us has one or more special interests in life which we like to share with our friends or even the public. Some like to share their travel experiences and maybe 'show off' their pictures taken in foreign exotic locations, the rarer the pics, the more 'oneupmanship'.

One recent conversation between two old friends (one spends almost 3 months, every summer in UK who does not even carry a mobile phone, while the other visited UK as tourist but has his smart phone with many pics taken):

'Have you been to this place (Stonehenge) and this (changing of the guards outside Buckingham Palace)' asked the tourist. 'No' replied the summer vacationer who has a daughter and her British family in UK. 'What lah, you visited UK every year and yet not been to these famous places?' I kept quiet, because even though I lived in UK for  8 years, I have not been to Stonehenge, and I don't know what is the big deal. This is basically the difference between someone who lived in a country and a tourist. The former will take for granted the many tourist sites while the latter will make sure more of those places are visited and pictures of himself or herself are taken. Even before the advent of digital cameras, I have known of tourists taking over a thousand pictures on each tour and had them developed and placed in albums. I can still remember someone who had just been to Japan and declared, 'I have been and seen the whole of Japan!' That is the impression of a typical tourist on organized tour and had to squeeze in the maximum number of sites within a limited number of days.

Then there are those who have the habit of taking pictures of every meal they have, most times without a note or explanation. Their friends are likely to 'Like' everything they posted and I used to wonder if that was also a habit. But I really appreciate those who show such pictures with the intention of sharing info on a restaurant or coffee shop which they had really enjoyed a meal there, with descriptions of the location, opening hours and even telephone numbers.

But despite that, I just had the disappointment of having travelled an extra 50 km yet could not locate Kedai Makanan Basikal Stopover in Kuala Kubu Bharu, operated by David Chin, founder of Dave's Deli and Dave's Bistro and Bar. A few times, on our way back from PJ, usually on a Monday, we thought of visiting this restaurant, but being new, it is open only on Sunday and just included Saturday.

Yesterday (Sunday), I had just sent off my wife to KLIA, and I decided to check out the place. It so happened Patrick Teoh (a strong supporter of the shop) had just invited me to Like it. Beeming with overconfidence (having travelled the old trunk road almost every week for 12 years before), I did not note down the address nor telephone number and thought KKB is what Cantonese would say, 'One eye sees all'. First mistake was not taking the exit to Batang Kali (the others like Lembah Beringin do not suggest connection to the old trunk road), which can lead to KKB. From exit at Tanjong Malim, I needed to 'backtrack' south for some 15-20 km to reach KKB. I actually crisscrossed the town a few times but could not find the shop. Just not my day, I guess. I even drove along the road leading to Fraser's Hill but knew it was wrong because one of the tips given was that if travelling by train, can get a taxi for Rm6 from KKB station.

Btw, the shop FB page has replied to my problem:

'Oh dear.. We are actually quite prominently located in one of the 2 main roads in the town centre just a few doors away from the famous KKB Kaya puff bakery ( Teng Wun)
We're so sorry you're not able to visit us.
Hope to see u soon . Our address:
19, Jalan Dato Muda Jaafar'


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Steven Sim Chee Keong's open letter to opposition supporters: Has Pakatan failed?

This is what MP for Bukit Mertajam posted in Facebook:

My dear friends,

Forget which Pakatan for now. But let’s talk about the opposition and our coalition for all it's worth.

I always say that I see the world in many shades - and really that makes me unsuited for politics. It is much easier to present a monochrome world, an either-or proposition, a yes-or-no question. Simply because these are... simpler.

So when I look at social media today, many people are whacking Pakatan for failing, I feel that there are more shades to the situation than the ones presented.

But I am very well aware that many of those who criticise Pakatan are really our supporters who really want to see us successful. They are not Umno cybertroopers, nor are they stupid nor uninformed. No, they are people who had in their own ways contributed so much throughout the last eight years since 2008 to make regime change a reality.

(Of course in the midst of genuine cries of disappointment, there are noises of the opportunists who, like the classic ‘batu api’, stood by the side prodding us to go on fighting and fanning the fire even more.)

Hence, this article is not an attack on such views that Pakatan has failed, but rather an apology. I don’t mean saying sorry, although I may as well include that, but I mean a defence. I want to appeal to our supporters, to consider for a moment the shades of Pakatan’s failures:

When we say Pakatan has failed, let us ask, in which area?

Did we fail to capture the government even after two attempts in 2008 and 2013?

Yes, we have failed.

But with your support, Pakatan not only denied the regime its two-thirds majority, we have won four, not three, not two... I lost count... states in Malaysia, for the first time in our post-Merdeka political history. Pakatan’s popular votes increased; in fact we won 52 percent of the votes in 2013 and could have been in government, if not for the gerrymandering and other electoral tactics.

You have managed to put more Members of Parliament of calibre in the House who continually engage in quality debates and discussions, whether inside or outside Parliament. And in the state assemblies, too.

Because of the better, bigger and stronger opposition, the government is now more effectively checked than ever. We have tabled alternative budgets and policy proposals, some of which have been adopted by the government.

On the other hand, government policy and spending are scrutinised, even if we cannot change a thing, at least many more issues are surfacing - along with proposed solutions from the opposition. Ultimately, the government has indeed been pressured to correct some of its wrongs.

Did we really fail in this sense?

Did we fail to deliver good governance in Penang and Selangor?

I think the results are there for everyone to judge. Take Penang for example, basically because I am from Penang. Twenty-odd years ago, we were called Darul Sampah by someone no less than former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself. The city centre was in ruins, no one was going into the city, Komtar lost its shine, the beaches were dirty, no one was going to the beach.

Today everything has changed. Heck, we are top 10 on many a "must-see, must-go, must-eat" billboard charts around the world. The latest being No 4 on Lonely Planet’s "Top Ten Cities for Travel".

Through good governance, we managed to maintain a surplus budget, generate growth, jobs and prosperity. We are able to create a more equitable society through various welfare programmes, through gender equality policy, through state education programmes - some of these were eventually duplicated at the federal level and in other states.

Our improved Gini coefficient, 12 percent between 2009 and 2012, is the proof. Even our public toilets literally smell better - and no this is not propaganda, the state embarked on a "Penang Clean Toilet Campaign" in 2012.

All these, one must remember, come from running a state government which has less access to resources than Universiti Sains Malaysia, sometimes running on a budget as much as three times smaller than the varsity!

Where else but in Penang you get a smart app that enables you to complain, inquire, report, interact, criticise and whack the local councils 24/7? Yes, do it with your phone on your bed in your pyjamas. And they usually respond within 24 hours! Don't take my word for it, go check it out yourself here.
In Penang, only in Penang, the people get to vote on how their money should be spent! Our gender responsive and participatory budgeting (GRPB) project has been implemented since 2011 with pilot programmes in two social housing schemes, one on each side of the straits.

In my own constituency Bukit Mertajam, we have since July this year embarked on a project where 30,000 Machang Bubok voters will get to vote on how they want their state constituency fund to be used next year.

Yes, we can do much much more, but have we failed so far?

Did we fail to maintain unity in the coalition?

This is tricky.

Yes we are in disarray. That’s a fact. DAP and PAS, once so much in love when Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat was still alive, are now irrevocably split. Even those who remained in the coalition do not seem to be united.

But let’s take out my kaleidoscope at this point.

First, is maintaining unity equal to success? Let us recall that some of our fiercest objections against Gerakan, MCA or MIC were because they chose to stay on with a corrupted and racist Umno. Yes, Barisan Nasional had a united front, but at what cost?

Secondly, the break-up of Pakatan Rakyat was precisely because some of us strongly held on to our promise to you earlier - to have a more democratic, more liberal, more inclusive, more just, more efficient political alternative to Umno.

That means, when one of our partners wanted to go back to a more extreme form of politics, we have to say no, and when that cannot be accepted, we have to part ways. All this due to our commitment to our first promise.

Is that failure? It is messy, I know, but is it a failure?

You see, when Pakatan Rakyat disintegrated, Pakatan Harapan quickly appeared. Why? Because those who wanted a Pakatan are more determined than ever to make it work. And there are more and more of us, those who want to make it work. We have learnt our lessons from the days of the Barisan Sosialis, Gagasan Rakyat, and Barisan Alternatif.

I have warned earlier that this will be apologetic.

No superhero

I do not want to prove you wrong. Please continue to criticise and chastise us and keep us on the path - I have written a whole (small) book on why the people should keep an eye on politics and should not let politicians have a field day running the show by themselves.

But I want to invite you to look beyond the noise. I need to tell you when you are looking the wrong way, just as I expect you to when I am looking the wrong way. Despite all the gloomy news of failures and rumours of impending Armageddon for the opposition, we have done a lot - you and I.

You and I know from the start that this is not going to be easy. And this is where it gets really rough. Are we going to throw in the towel just yet?

I am just like you. I joined politics with zero background in politics in 2007. Do you remember 2007? Everything we have today seemed impossible then. Not a bloody chance! But we refused to believe in impossibility. We refused to believe in the cynics. “Why are you wasting your time to go to Bersih! It’s so dangerous and what can you guys achieve?” That still reverberates in the back of my mind from the first Bersih rally in 2007.

And boy, the excitement of my Indian colleagues, the engineers in the factory where I worked at back then, when they plotted together to attend Hindraf that year. They came back with proud faces and prouder spirit - we did it!

My dear friend,

The problems are there. A lot of problems, in fact; I know. I have to face them every single day. I once told a disappointed activist who supports Pakatan that I cannot afford to be pessimistic. Or else how can I even live a day staring straight into the sun when some of us are already complaining about the heat?

No, don’t get me wrong, I am no superhero - I just want to finish what I have started, what we have started together. And even at this maddening point, I am convinced that we can do it because we have done so much already!

And because love battles
not just in its own burning fields
but also in the mouths of men and women
I will finish this fight by taking the trail
from those would come between my chest and your fragrance
to plant their confused plants.

They will say about me,
nothing worse...
than what I have told you myself - Pablo Neruda

-- Steven Sim, MP for Bukit Mertajam


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Non-Sarawakians protesting the loudest against Adenan’s English policy

'Since Sarawak chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem was reported on Nov 18 as saying that the state will adopt English as an official language alongside Bahasa Malaysia, there has been plenty of interesting reactions.

But it is difficult to find anyone putting together a coherent, sensible and logical argument against the idea and its stated purpose. In turn it makes you wonder what the real problem with the move is.
Let’s look at the underlying logic driving the decision. According to Adenan, the policy aims to improve English proficiency among civil servants while promoting the same among students and graduates, citing examples that highlight the deteriorating command of English among younger Malaysians today.'

- See more at:

Not sure about others, but I am tired of the usual resistance from some quarters whenever official use is being encouraged. Let it be, but let others have the freedom to choose to learn English. Don't complain or blame others when they have the opportunities to go places because their qualifications are more marketable in MNCs locally or acceptable overseas. Umno leaders have made a mess of this for the past 58 years and they have the power to continue to do so. 'Kipidap'!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

On Penang Umno's motion to postpone land reclamation

'The present Penang state government has undergone the bitter and painful experience of paying RM 14.7 million(still unrecovered) for the Tang Hak Ju land scandal incurred by BN and another RM20 million to Boustead Holdings Bhd for reducing the height of their hotel in George Town to 5 storeys from the 12 storeys approved by BN.

Even though BN had approved 3,241 acres of land reclamation, only 744 acres had been reclaimed. Postponing the remainder, especially the Tanjung Pinang land reclamation project by E&O Bhd, could have entailed compensation costs of up to RM1 billion. This may bankrupt the state.
In moving the motion against land reclamation, UMNO ADUN Muhammad Farid Saad did not apologise for being a part of the BN government before 2008, that approved 3,241 acres of land reclamation as compared to 60 acres by the present Pakatan Harapan(PH) state government. Neither did he offer full indemnity from the Federal government to pay back-to-back to the state government for making compensation payments for any cancellation of land reclamation projects by BN. What I find surprising is that some NGO activists, chose to support Farid’s motion and ignore the huge 3,241 acres of land reclamation approved by BN or the possible compensation payouts and lack of indemnity from the federal government.'


Can't help noticing the similarity of this with the usual BN's 'win-win' lop-sided contracts, at the expense of the people. To undo would cost the people lots of money.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Google Maps offline navigation finally available in Malaysia

Google is offering offline navigation for the Google Maps app on Android devices.

'With this feature, users can expect an improved navigation experience using the Maps app especially in areas where connectivity is bad, or when you want to save those precious few bytes of your quota.'

'Downloaded maps are stored on your device, so remember to free up some space before you decide to give this feature a spin. As an estimate, the amount of space required to download the greater area of Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur is about 300 MB, whereas if you want offline navigation for Peninsular Malaysia, you will need to free up at least 1.5 GB of space.'


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.


Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Debate on 1MDB: Tony Pua vs Arul Kanda

First, let's look at their resumes:

Tony Pua, according to Wikipedia:

Tony Pua Kiam Wee (Chinese: 潘俭伟; born 1 August 1972) is a Malaysian politician, currently the Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara. Pua was the former Malaysian CEO of Cyber Village Sdn Bhd, a SESDAQ (SGX secondary board)-listed company. In early 2007, he disposed of all his interests in the company and tendered his resignation to join the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Pua graduated from Keble College, Oxford with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics under a scholarship from the MTC Foundation in 1994. Prior to that, he received Asean and Shaw Foundation scholarships to pursue his O- and A-Levels in Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College, across the border.

In the 2008 general election, Pua won the Parliamentary constituency of Petaling Jaya Utara on a DAP ticket. He ran against the incumbent, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry for Women, Family & Community Affairs, and Deputy Chief of the Malaysian Chinese Association women's wing.[2] In 2009, Pua was appointed the DAP member of the Pakatan Rakyat committee on the Ministry of Higher Education, roughly equivalent to the shadow ministry in other countries.

Pua worked for Andersen Consulting (now renamed Accenture) as a consultant after he graduated from Oxford. Two years later, in March 1997, he started Cyber Village when demand for e-business consultancy grew.

In August 2001, Cyber Village became the first Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)-status company to list on the Singapore Dealing and Automated Quotation System (Sesdaq). Its public offer of 400,000 shares drew an over-subscription of approximately 2.7 times.[5] In January 2009, Cyber Village had successfully undergone a management buyout under the Koyo Group.[6]

Arul Kanda, according to Lim Sian See, a well known anti-opposition blogger, quoted Bloomberg:

'Mr. Arul Kanda is a senior management leader and investment banker, with extensive experience in structured finance, corporate finance, and restructuring across multiple markets including London, the Middle East, and Malaysia.

Previously, he served as an Executive Vice-President and Head of Investment Banking at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank P.J.S.C. Mr. Kandasamy had joined the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank in July 2008.

Prior to this, he worked in several leadership positions at Barclays Capital and Credit Agricole. Mr. Kandasamy was the Director of Investment Banking and Financing Solutions at Barclays Capital plc.
He served as the Head of Islamic Financing Solutions at Barclays Capital, Dubai from September 2006 to July 2008. Mr. Kandasamy was the Head of Islamic Banking, London at CALYON from July 2005 to August 2006. He had earlier served as the Director of Capital Markets, Bahrain at the CALYON from June 2004 to June 2005.

Mr. Kandasamy was an Associate Director of Securitization, London at the CALYON from July 2003 to May 2004. He also served as a Securitization Analyst, London at the CALYON from January 2002 to June 2003. Mr. Kandasamy served as a Director of Global Investment House K.P.S.C. until June 04, 2015.

He served as a Non-Independent Non-Executive Director of RHB Investment Bank Berhad from July 2009 to May 10, 2011.

Mr. Kandasamy served as a Non-Independent Non-Executive Director of RHB Capital Berhad from July 20, 2009 to May 10, 2011. He served as a Director of RHB Islamic Bank Berhad.

Mr. Kandasamy served as a Non-Independent Non-Executive Director of RHB Bank Berhad since July 20, 2009.

He was raised in Machang Kelantan and attended the Maktab Tentera Diraja (RMC) Sungai Besi at the age of 13 and left after Form Five to further his studies in London.

Arul Kanda was known to be a top debater representing RMC, winning the Guinness Stout Effort Award for his achievements in an English Speaking competition in Melbourne, Australia.

He is a UK-qualified Barrister. Mr. Kandasamy received an LLM with distinction in Corporate and Commercial Law from University College London in 2000.

He also earned an LLB degree from the The London School of Economics and Political Science in 1998.

Mr. Arul Kanda Kandasamy has been the President and Group Executive Director at 1Malaysia Development Berhad since January 2015.'

Tony Pua is a member of Parliamentary Accounts Committee and he alone has been most vocal on 1MDB.

Depending on who you are or which side of the politcal divide you are on, it is either good or bad, that much information on 1MDB comes from Sarawak Report which got its information from Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo, an ex-staff of PetroSaudi.

While the opposition is keen on exposing illegal transactions, possibly corruption involving our Malaysian Prime Minister cum Finance Minister, it has been turned round into a witch hunt to find people who leaked official secret documents, forbidden under the Official Secrets Act. Those involved in trying to secure stolen data from PetroSaudi are being accused of attempting to bring down the present BN government under Najib Tun Razak.

To the public, what is most important is whether those claims of dubious transactions and huge borrowings guaranteed by our government are true and that we require satisfactory explanations.
In my opinion, so long as the information on wrongdoings are true, it should not matter where it comes from. But the government, instead of being transparent about the transactions, are actually trying very hard to prevent exposure, and in fact, going after those whistleblowers and their connections. For too long, we have been sheltered from the truth by the misuse of OSA which discourages whistleblowers who are likely to get into trouble  instead of those alleged to be corrupted.

The highly publicised statements against each other, by Tony and Arul, have now become so personal that they are challenging each other to a televised debate, but Arul set a condition that Tony must first resign from PAC, because he thinks it will be a conflict of interest if he remains as a member.
Having followed the 1MDB saga since the initial expose, can we be blamed for not believing public statements by our PM and his ministers? The company changed auditors twice over 5 years, and every year, its annual reports were delayed. If everything were above board, was there any reason for the undue delays and changes of auditors which would normally raise alarm bells?

Arul could well be an excellent debater, but this proposed debate or talk show is not the normal type of debate where one side proposes the motion, while the other side opposes. Specific skills in debating, like rebuttals can win or lose a debate. This is likely to be a Question and Answer session, with Tony asking the questions while Arul answers. The public are looking for facts and truth. If telecast live, there is no escaping public attention to any slip of the tongue, intended surprise questions, telltale signs in body language when a person is not telling the truth, and so on.

It is going to very interesting to watch, unlike the scripted one which appeared on television earlier. Expect the tv ratings to soar.

Looking back at how the debate was suggested: when Tony Pua challenged Arul, and then Arul accepted with the condition that he first resign from PAC, there is a real danger that during this unconditional debate, Tony might slip and then be accused of using materials from PAC investigation to date, and then used the breach as an excuse to drop him from PAC.

While there is no doubt the debate will enlighten the public on certain aspects of the matter, it cannot be expected to be the solution to stop further investigations into 1MDB. What is needed, after all that had happened to thwart the unravelling of the truth, are conclusive evidence to support reports by reliable auditors or investigators who should personally be held liable for any inaccuracies or fraudulent reporting.


Monday, November 02, 2015

TED Talk: Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems

Excerpt from its transcript:

Now, as I was coming of age, something else happened. As if one big story wasn't enough, I was told another one. This one was just as grand. It also claims that all human societies develop in a linear progression towards a singular end. This one went as follows: All societies, regardless of culture, be it Christian, Muslim, Confucian, must progress from traditional societies in which groups are the basic units to modern societies in which atomized individuals are the sovereign units, and all these individuals are, by definition, rational, and they all want one thing: the vote. Because they are all rational, once given the vote, they produce good government and live happily ever after. Paradise on Earth, again. Sooner or later, electoral democracy will be the only political system for all countries and all peoples, with a free market to make them all rich. But before we get there, we're engaged in a struggle between good and evil. (Laughter) The good belongs to those who are democracies and are charged with a mission of spreading it around the globe, sometimes by force, against the evil of those who do not hold elections.
This story also became a bestseller. According to Freedom House, the number of democracies went from 45 in 1970 to 115 in 2010. In the last 20 years, Western elites tirelessly trotted around the globe selling this prospectus: Multiple parties fight for political power and everyone voting on them is the only path to salvation to the long-suffering developing world. Those who buy the prospectus are destined for success. Those who do not are doomed to fail. But this time, the Chinese didn't buy it.
The rest is history. In just 30 years, China went from one of the poorest agricultural countries in the world to its second-largest economy. Six hundred fifty million people were lifted out of poverty. Eighty percent of the entire world's poverty alleviation during that period happened in China. In other words, all the new and old democracies put together amounted to a mere fraction of what a single, one-party state did without voting.
See, I grew up on this stuff: food stamps. Meat was rationed to a few hundred grams per person per month at one point. Needless to say, I ate all my grandmother's portions.
So I asked myself, what's wrong with this picture? Here I am in my hometown, my business growing leaps and bounds. Entrepreneurs are starting companies every day. Middle class is expanding in speed and scale unprecedented in human history. Yet, according to the grand story, none of this should be happening. So I went and did the only thing I could. I studied it. Yes, China is a one-party state run by the Chinese Communist Party, the Party, and they don't hold elections. Three assumptions are made by the dominant political theories of our time. Such a system is operationally rigid, politically closed, and morally illegitimate. Well, the assumptions are wrong. The opposites are true. Adaptability, meritocracy, and legitimacy are the three defining characteristics of China's one-party system.
Now, most political scientists will tell us that a one-party system is inherently incapable of self-correction. It won't last long because it cannot adapt. Now here are the facts. In 64 years of running the largest country in the world, the range of the Party's policies has been wider than any other country in recent memory, from radical land collectivization to the Great Leap Forward, then privatization of farmland, then the Cultural Revolution, then Deng Xiaoping's market reform, then successor Jiang Zemin took the giant political step of opening up Party membership to private businesspeople, something unimaginable during Mao's rule.
So the Party self-corrects in rather dramatic fashions. Institutionally, new rules get enacted to correct previous dysfunctions. For example, term limits. Political leaders used to retain their positions for life, and they used that to accumulate power and perpetuate their rules. Mao was the father of modern China, yet his prolonged rule led to disastrous mistakes. So the Party instituted term limits with mandatory retirement age of 68 to 70.
One thing we often hear is, "Political reforms have lagged far behind economic reforms," and "China is in dire need of political reform." But this claim is a rhetorical trap hidden behind a political bias. See, some have decided a priori what kinds of changes they want to see, and only such changes can be called political reform. The truth is, political reforms have never stopped. Compared with 30 years ago, 20 years, even 10 years ago, every aspect of Chinese society, how the country is governed, from the most local level to the highest center, are unrecognizable today. Now such changes are simply not possible without political reforms of the most fundamental kind. Now I would venture to suggest the Party is the world's leading expert in political reform.
The second assumption is that in a one-party state, power gets concentrated in the hands of the few, and bad governance and corruption follow. Indeed, corruption is a big problem, but let's first look at the larger context. Now, this may be counterintuitive to you. The Party happens to be one of the most meritocratic political institutions in the world today. China's highest ruling body, the Politburo, has 25 members. In the most recent one, only five of them came from a background of privilege, so-called princelings. The other 20, including the president and the premier, came from entirely ordinary backgrounds. In the larger central committee of 300 or more, the percentage of those who were born into power and wealth was even smaller. The vast majority of senior Chinese leaders worked and competed their way to the top. Compare that with the ruling elites in both developed and developing countries, I think you'll find the Party being near the top in upward mobility.
Now, Westerners always assume that multi-party election with universal suffrage is the only source of political legitimacy.
I was asked once, "The Party wasn't voted in by election. Where is the source of legitimacy?"
I said, "How about competency?"
In contrast, most electoral democracies around the world are suffering from dismal performance. I don't need to elaborate for this audience how dysfunctional it is, from Washington to European capitals. With a few exceptions, the vast number of developing countries that have adopted electoral regimes are still suffering from poverty and civil strife. Governments get elected, and then they fall below 50 percent approval in a few months and stay there and get worse until the next election. Democracy is becoming a perpetual cycle of elect and regret. At this rate, I'm afraid it is democracy, not China's one-party system, that is in danger of losing legitimacy.
EXL: You know, Frank Fukuyama, the political scientist, called the Chinese system "responsive authoritarianism." It's not exactly right, but I think it comes close. So I know the largest public opinion survey company in China, okay? Do you know who their biggest client is? The Chinese government. Not just from the central government, the city government, the provincial government, to the most local neighborhood districts. They conduct surveys all the time. Are you happy with the garbage collection? Are you happy with the general direction of the country? So there is, in China, there is a different kind of mechanism to be responsive to the demands and the thinking of the people. My point is, I think we should get unstuck from the thinking that there's only one political system -- election, election, election -- that could make it responsive. I'm not sure, actually, elections produce responsive government anymore in the world.

Rest of the transcript:

Bacon-eaters, don't worry too much

From the Daily Mail:

'To use the scientific term… it’s cobblers! If you’re consuming enough bacon to make it as dangerous as tobacco, then cancer is the least of your worries,' says MICHAEL HANLON

'So what are the real statistics? I will hand over now to the marvellous slayer of dodgy health scares, Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the University of Cambridge and perhaps the world's greatest expert on risk. 

Here is his response in full to the WHO announcement: 'There may be good evidence for there being an increased risk, but the magnitude needs to be put into perspective. 

'In the normal run of things, around six in every 100 people would be expected to get bowel cancer in their lifetime. 

'If all these 100 people ate a three-rasher - around 50g - bacon sandwich every single day of their lives, then according to this report we would expect that 18% more would get bowel cancer – which is a rise from 6 cases to 7 cases. 

'So that's one extra case of bowel cancer in all those 100 lifetime bacon-eaters.' 

Doesn't sound so scary now, does it? Cigarettes, on the other hand, give a whole FIFTH of their smokers lung cancer (and kill many of the rest via heart disease, emphysema and so on). 

Put simply, bacon may be 'dangerous', but it is more than a whole order of magnitude less so than tobacco. 

Look at those figures again. The measurable cancer increase happens when you eat a modest-sounding extra 2oz of processed meat a day. But that is actually quite a lot - a hell of a lot. 

I love bacon, but I do not eat a pound of the stuff a week, 52 weeks a year, year-in, year out. In fact, to raise the health risk to something approaching that of tobacco, I would have to consume so much bacon (about a pig's worth every fortnight) that bowel cancer would be the least of my worries


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch (Asia Division): Creating a Culture of Fear

The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia

Highlights of the Report:

'They are creating a culture of fear. If you engage in any talk of public interest, the police may come to your house, you may be arrested, taken to the police station, remanded. Even members of Parliament are treated that way.
—Yap Swee Seng, former executive director of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Kuala Lumpur, April 14, 2015'

'Freedom of expression and assembly in Malaysia are currently under attack, aided by the existence of broad and vaguely worded laws that the government can wield to arrest, investigate, and imprison its critics. The recent increase in use of laws that criminalize peaceful expression is a step backward for a country that had seemed to be making progress on the protection of rights. This report examines how the Malaysian government is using and abusing such laws, and the ways in which the laws themselves fall short of international standards.'

'As long-time activist Hishamuddin Rais told Human Rights Watch:

When the ISA was abolished, there was a sense of freedom. I thought Malaysia was going in the right direction. When Najib promised to abolish the Sedition Act, I thought: “We have arrived. We are on the right path.”

That optimism has now evaporated. Faced with declining popularity and rising public discontent on a range of issues, the prime minister has responded by cracking down on critics and supporting new laws, such as the 2015 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), that replicate many of the flaws in the laws that were repealed. In November 2014, Najib reneged on his promise to repeal the Sedition Act and announced that the law would instead "be strengthened and made more effective," with "a special clause to protect the sanctity of Islam, while other religions also cannot be insulted." In April 2015, the government pushed through amendments providing for harsher penalties and further restrictions on speech, particularly on social media.'

Overly Restrictive Laws as a Tool for Repression

Since the end of colonial rule in 1957, Malaysia has been ruled by coalitions dominated by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). The current coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) (National Front), has ruled since 1974. Throughout its more than 40 years in power, BN has used a wide range of overly broad and vaguely worded laws to harass and silence critics and political opponents. Some of these laws have been in place since Malaysia gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957, while many others have been more recently adopted or amended.

(Summary of some issues touched on):
Targeting the Political Opposition
Targeting Civil Society
Targeting the Media
Targeting Social Media Users
Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly
Abusive Police Tactics and Selective Prosecution

'Key Recommendations

Malaysia is an active member of the United Nations and, in October 2014, was reelected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council after a 15 year hiatus. The country has also served three terms on the UN Human Rights Council and has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, the official website of the Malaysian attorney-general states that Malaysia, “by virtue of being a member [of the UN], has subscribed to the philosophy, concepts and norms provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sets out the minimum and common standard of human rights for all peoples and all nations.”[1]

The current repression of critical speech makes a mockery of those affirmations. If Malaysia wants to be taken seriously as a rights-respecting member of the United Nations, it must bring its laws and policies into line with international norms and standards, including by implementing the following recommendations: ...'


This report was researched and written between March 2014 and October 2015. It is based primarily on in-depth analysis of Malaysian laws used to restrict freedom of expression and assembly and on the interviews described below. It also draws on court judgments and news reports concerning criminal proceedings in relevant cases, and public statements by the government.

Human Rights Watch went to Kuala Lumpur in August 2014 and April 2015, where we interviewed 38 lawyers, opposition politicians, journalists, activists, members of civil society organizations, and academics, some of them multiple times. Further in-person interviews were conducted in London. Telephone interviews and email correspondences continued until the time of publication. Interviews were conducted in English; no incentives were offered or provided to interviewees.

On August 10, 2015, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to four members of the Malaysian government requesting their input. The letter, a copy of which is contained in Appendix 1, was sent by fax, email, and registered mail to Minister for Home Affairs Zahid Hamidi, Attorney General Haji Mohamed Apandi bin Haji Ali, Inspector General of Police Khalid bin Abu Bakar, and Chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Dr. Halim Shafie. Unfortunately, none of those contacted responded.

The report is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all laws that criminalize free speech in Malaysia, but discusses the laws that have proven to be most prone to misuse and abuse.'

Rest of the detailed report:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thomas Fann: The days after the vote of no-confidence

'Even the most optimistic political observers would admit that to oust Najib via the no-confidence vote or the rejection of the Budget is a long shot. But it must surely be worth a shot, if for nothing else, it is the right thing to do. An attempt to reject Najib would also register for posterity in the Parliament’s record those who, by their support for Najib, are complicit in the ruination of Malaysia.

For a vote of no-confidence to succeed, there has to be a simple majority of those present. Assuming that all Members of Parliament were present, that would mean having 112 votes out of the total of 222 seats. The Opposition, including PAS, has only 88 MPs; that means 24 are needed from the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional to crossover for the vote. Another configuration would be for 47 BN MPs to abstain or absent themselves during the vote or a combination of crossing over and absenteeism.'

- See more at:

It is already wishful to expect a successful no-confidence vote against Najib, to expect institutional reforms as well? Let's hope more people will agree and accept the fact that reforms are necessary for us to progress in a democracy.

BN MPs should be reminded how they vote this time is of paramount importance to the well being of the country. This will be reflected in the next general election.

Monday, October 26, 2015

How people are coping with rising prices

Food and drinks sellers are known to have increased their prices and/or reduced their food portions or diluted or substituted ingredients in their drinks.

I noticed satay sellers have excluded onions, while 'ketupat' is now replaced with 'nasi impit' in plastic bag. Soon the art of making 'ketupat' will be lost. The portion sizes can easily be adjusted down instead of increase in prices, to please customers. Roti canai is already downsized together with increases in price over the years.

In relation to the above picture in Facebook, I put myself in the position of someone who did not have one for some years: 'Roti satu! Wah, so small one ah? Lagi satu roti!'

Recently, there were reports of dubious meats used to pass off as mutton in some mamak shops. This is serious because cheaper beef or buffalo meat is against some religious beliefs like Hinduism and Buddhism.

A health-conscious retired teacher said it is better to have 'teh-C' instead of 'teh' which is already sweetened because it is made with sweetened condensed 'milk'. I corrected her that the so-called 'milk' is actually creamer: sweetened condensed creamer and evaporated creamer instead of the usual milk. Besides being difficult to find, actual milk products are more expensive than those made from palm oil. So how can we expect the coffee shops to use milk like before? It is funny how 'C' was derived: evaporated milk used to be supplied by Carnation! Now it is difficult to find real evaporated milk from Carnation. You are more likely to find them from Ideal or Marigold brands.

The consumers, on the other hand, are resorting to substitution too. Not that they are following Najib's past advice on 'change your lifestyle', but out of necessity. Imagine an average salaried employee trying to budget his or her daily expenses.

Top on the list is likely to be cutting down on eating in restaurants and stick to economy rice in coffee shops. To economise further, expensive items will have to be substituted with cheaper ones. Some households decide to cook at home instead of eating out. Besides, drinks, they can save on petrol and parking too. Even petrol has to be downgraded from Ron97 to Ron95! Instead of driving the kids to school or tuition centres, I have seen the kids cycling instead!

While the ordinary public suffer, some politicians are still living it up, instead of changing their lifestyles as examples to the people. When GST was about to be introduced, over-simplistic examples were used to show minimum impact on prices of goods and services. But now, almost everything, including some medication and insurance, are added on with GST. It has a compounding effect on inflation.

Once, I managed to calculate one hour parking charges at KLIA2 using Touch n Go (unlike at the toll booths, you cannot see your balances before or after parking): Parking Rm4.00 + 40 sen (10% surcharge for using TnG) + .03 sen GST! Many people complained why TnG charges 10% extra for users at the airports, discouraging instead of encouraging them. If not for the difficulty in finding the machine after locating the car, I would not have used TnG at KLIA2.

A friend who is having a company secretarial practice said she decided not to provide accounting services relating to GST, simply because she would rather have peace of mind by just focusing on her core business. It seems some of her fellow practitioners (and most accounting firms) who did, actually lost some clients because they just could not cope with the problems arising from the introduction of GST. Staff had to work long hours and spending time with clients, sorting out GST-related problems. This caused them to neglect their core business work. Some employees left after that. She said it is so difficult getting the right staff and it can be a real problem losing her experienced ones. She would rather not risk it.

As I have mentioned before, a small business would need to incur at least Rm10,000 extra in overheads per year, because of the GST software and follow-up services provided. So to whom does he pass on the extra costs?


P.Ramakrishnan: Mr Speaker, Sir: You are primarily responsible for Kit Siang’s suspension!

Excerpt from his article in Aliran:

'The Speaker, Pandikar Amin Mulia, stated that the MPs, not the Speaker, made the decision to suspend Getang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang from the Dewan Rakyat. His claim is not entirely true. He is trying to extricate himself and convey the impression that he was blameless in this episode. But he had a hand in this unjust suspension.'

'Mr Speaker, Sir, you said, “Please tell Gelang Patah, the next time he comes, he must apologise unconditionally and retract his remarks as he had said that I abused my powers as Speaker. This is an insult of the first degree. If he refuses, a motion will be tabled and he will be suspended if the House passes it.”

Evidence shows that you initiated this suspension, Mr Speaker Sir. It was your insistence that resulted in Kit Siang’s suspension. You wanted a motion to be tabled if there was no apology. And so a motion was tabled to suspend Kit Siang.'

'According to Kit Siang, “What I said when I sought clarification from the MP for Sepang, Mohamed Hanipa bin Maidin, who was speaking on the debate on the appointment of the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee was whether he agreed that the Speaker has no powers under the Standing Orders to stop the Public Accounts Committee, in the absence of a PAC Chairman, from continuing with its 1MDB investigations and which was therefore an abuse of power.”

Mr Speaker Sir, had you accepted Kit Siang’s explanation in good faith as to what he meant by his remarks, the matter would have ended there and then. But no, you wanted that apology that you demanded irrespective of Kit Siang’s clarification, and it seems that you had achieved your declared intention to suspend him.'

'If Kit Siang had been referred to the Rights and Privileges Committee under Section 80(A) of the Standing Orders, Malaysians would have accepted the outcome because Kit Siang would have been given a chance to defend himself. As it were, he was convicted without the benefit of defence which was totally unfair to him.'