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.)

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.

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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