September 2010 Archives

We should let racists speak. THAT is freedom, after all

Maybe it's just me, but being a politically aware Malaysian nowadays is a very confusing place to be.

We have a Government that seems uncertain on its stand against racism: officially, the PM condemns it, but when leaders with racist leanings speak, the PM won't confront them. Instead, he sends his attack dog to do the barking for him. Is that enough? No, it isn't.

We have an Opposition that wants us to embrace the ideals of freedom of expression and liberty. Those exact words appear in their Common Policy Framework (CPF), but it seems this only applies when what you say agrees with them and not when it doesn't. Case in point, PKR Youth's call for police action against the PERKASA anti-Namewee demonstration a few nights ago.

"The police should have arrested them immediately. Even for the Teoh Beng Hock vigils, the police simply arrested sympathizers who weren't do anything rowdy. They just grouped together to light candles in his memory but they still got rounded up and roughed up. Why did the police not give the same treatment to the Perkasa group? Their behavior was violent, they incited fear and should be detained under the Sedition Act," PKR Youth leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin told Malaysia Chronicle.

The logic being, since the police "roughed up" the Teoh Beng Hock demonstrators, they should give the same treatment to the anti-Namewee demonstrators; don't use the Sedition Act on us, but use it on them. The faulty logic is simply mind-boggling -- if anything, the PKR response should be to applaud the police for showing restraint, and making a point for them to do the same the next time a demonstration organized by the Opposition is called. That would be the reasonable, rational and positive position to take.

Burning the Namewee image: what if Namewee was Malay?

Namewee is in the news again. At the launching of his album last night, PERKASA led a demonstration to protest against this young artist and the message in his songs.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 -- About 50 people, including members of Perkasa, turned up at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Jalan Maharajalela here tonight to stage a protest against controversial rapper Wee Meng Chee or better known as Namewee.  

The group was seen carrying Perkasa banners and Namewee's pictures that were later set on fire, while some hurled abuse at the rapper who was launching an album in the hall.

I truly wonder if any of the mob have listened to all of Namewee's songs before passing judgement. Listening just to "Nah", and deciding that Namewee is a seditious Chinese rapper singing against Malay rights is like listening to the lines, "So that one impure blood, Quenches our lands!" from the French national anthem and deciding that the French are bloodthirsty revolutionists. You have to see the full picture, understand the context, read into Namewee's public declarations and explanations. Of course, this takes an open mind, and i do have to wonder how many such minds existed in the mob last night.

Debating the matter with friends, it came to me to ask a simple question: what if Namewee was Malay? Would the reaction against him by the Malays be so strong? Is he being demonised because he is Chinese speaking about a Malay, albeit rudely, in his video? 

A flaw in debates

During my days as a debater, one common tactic i used in the first half of my career was what i call the "lack of an alternative solution". Most debates revolve around one team proposing a solution to a problem and the other team saying that the solution doesn't work. So as a member of the proposing team, i always tried my best to put a burden on the opposing team to come up with an alternative solution if they felt so strongly against mine.

I'm embarrassed to say that this tactic won me quite a few debates.

This is what i did -- if Solution A doesn't work, therefore Solution B must exist. Since you don't agree with Solution A, you must tell me what Solution B is. 

Just in like real life, debates have the "Government" team and the "Opposition" team. The job of the Government team is to propose Solution A, and convince the judge and audience that it works, despite all the shortcomings the Opposition team will point out. The job of the Opposition is not to be the Government; if Solution A is wrong, then it still remains the job of the Government to come up with Solution B.

By arguing that the Opposition should propose an alternative, it already means i concede the point that Solution A might not work. And once i do that, then it effectively means i've lost the debate.

The job of the Government is the proposal of solutions, is the courage to admit they're wrong when they're wrong, and to think up of different solutions once old solutions have failed. While there is no harm in the Opposition proposing their own solutions (this is a credit to them), it is not their burden to carry. Did you notice i've stopped talking about debates?

Rude people are not necessarily racist

It's almost become a buzzword in the social circles of the critically minded -- racism this, racism that. Racism is bad, PERKASA is racism, Tun Mahathir is racist, UMNO is racist, DAP is racist, BTN deputy director is racist, Johor school principal is racist. 

Even amongst the best of us, i think we're teetering very close to what i'd call the "racist trap". Take a step back, please.

Racism, by definition, is to believe that one race is either (a) superior than others or (b) inferior than others. Through genetic disposition alone, a race is considered good or bad. Such beliefs will likely lead you to making predisposed judgements about someone based on their race; if you're an employer, it will make you less likely to hire someone whom you feel is "inferior" due to his race. If you're a teacher, it will make you less likely to objectively evaluate a student belonging to that "inferior" race. These are clear examples of racism, and should be condemned by every rational thinking mind.

However, there is a fine line between being racist and acting on your beliefs and just being rude. Rude people are not necessarily racist and, interestingly, racist people are not necessarily rude. 

So when a BTN deputy director shoots his mouth off and talks about "si mata sepets" (those slit eyes, referring to chinese) or "si botols" (those drunkards, referring to Indians), was he just being rude, or was he being racist? (he later goes on to claim that it's the right of Malays to rule -- that bit is clearly racist)

A similar discussion is going on in the United States over derogatory terms to describe black Americans, latino Americans and asian Americans. 

The use of the word "nigger" is a highly contentious issue in American society. Its roots come from the word "negro", and was used by slave owners and, later, segregationists. Today, it is highly taboo for a white man to use the word "nigger" to describe or insult a black man. Yet, it also has become widely used within the black community in a diversity of ways, both endeering and insulting.

If a white man on the streets refers to black to walks by as a "nigger", you can expect a negative reaction. If a black man calls his black friend a "nigger", it can be meant as a term of endearment. Similarly, a white man may call his black friend "nigger", and it will not create any animosity between them.

Words can have many meanings to many people. Some will find nigger to be rude. Some may take great offence and believe that the speaker of that word is racist. Some will just brush it off and think nothing of it. The same thing can be said of our own versions, "si mata sepet" and "si botol".

Racism can be expressed in words, and it often is. When you tell people that you a portion of a nation's wealth must be reserved for a particular race, at the detriment of another, equally deserving citizen, that's clearly a racist policy. If you tried really hard, you could probably say the same thing in an extremely polite manner, but it'd still be a racist policy.

If that's true, then the flipside must be true too -- words containing racial connotations, while sounding rude, may not necessarily hold racist meanings. I think the burden of proof on racism needs to be a little bit higher -- words behind actions makes a racist. Words behinds words is name calling; we've learned how to deal with that since our days in the local playground. If you're going to call someone a racist, you better be sure you can make it stick -- otherwise, you're just pandering to the gallery and no better than him.

How do you vote your conscience?

I've heard these comments before: if every politician and political party is bad in Malaysia, who do i vote for? The outlook seems bleak, the pessimism very real. Consider the following:

Your constituency is being contested by BN and PR via their component parties, UMNO and PAS. You want to vote for PR, but you feel very strongly against the PAS agenda of the Islamic state (brought up again by PAS Youth this week). Do you vote for the the PAS rep because you want your vote to count for PR?

Your constituency has been poorly managed by BN; drains are always clogged, road maintenance is poor, traffic congestion is a problem left unsolved. However, you believe strongly in the BN agenda, and you want them to continue ruling the nation. Do you vote for the incumbent?

You're a racist bigot, and you feel that Malays must always control Malaysia, economically and politically. However, you're also against corruption, and you feel that the size of the pie would be a lot larger (for Malays, especially) if we weeded out corruption from government and big business. The UMNO candidate is also a member of PERKASA so you feel that he will represent your need for Malay rule, however the PR candidate is from DAP, and promises to clean up corruption should PR come to power.

For some people, its not going to be an easy decision come GE13.

Do you vote for your ideals, do you vote for the man (or woman), do you vote for the party and ignore who the candidate is? Different people will approach this question differently. The one thing that i urge everyone to remember is that good people will be good people, regardless of their political party. Conversely, bad people will be bad, regardless of their party, even regardless of their faith. It's a lot harder to tell the difference when it comes to the value of the respective parties.

The problem with BN is that they have been in power for a long time. A lot of good things have happened in this time, but also a lot of bad. Once you've accumulated a large history of bad, it offers a large and inviting target for political attack and social criticism. The claim that, "BN has been here since Independence and the country is still not where it should be" is a valid one.

The problem with PR is that sometimes we just don't know who we're voting for. Are we voting for the calm collectiveness of DAP, or the Islamic brand of politics in PAS, or the "reformasi" of PKR? They just seem so out of synch of each other with wildly different ideologies, histories and approaches. Say what you will about BN, but this is certainly not a problem that they have. A vote for any candidate from any BN component party is as good as a vote for BN. The same can't be said about a vote for either DAP, PAS or PKR -- are we really voting for PR?

The only advice i can give is for each of us to vote our conscience. Instead of getting bogged down by who is what and why is where, we should throw aside our political affiliations for a second and place our vote in what we feel will be best for the nation. Certainly, our definitions of that term will vary, but no one can blame you for getting it wrong if its done honestly. Perhaps then, there will be something to look forward to.

Democracy is not an "I Win" button

Second round of the French presidential electi...

Image via Wikipedia

I've been giving it more and more thought, and the more i think about it, the more i'm convinced that a democratic process will not always arrive at a decision that's best for the society. The only consolation is a lesson from history: while democracy doesn't always give us the government we need, it gives us the government we deserve. Mistakes can and do happen, and democracy gives us the chance to make corrections every couple of years or so.

If for nothing else, that's the only and best reason why democracy is the only means of government that we should ever consider.

Can we credit the master for the dog?

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I've been very critical of PM Najib these past months for his non-committal approach towards racism in general and racists organizations such as PERKASA in particular. Perhaps he wants to have his cake and eat it too -- keep PERKASA at arm's reach, speak about having "zero tolerance" towards racism, but at the same time claim that Ibrahim Ali's vitriolic is "not that extreme". Sometimes, i wonder what planet does PM Najib come from to see how irreconcilable both positions are.

However, Nazri Aziz, a Minister in the PM's department, has been taking PERKASA on with all guns blazing. Almost like a hero from those war movies, charging the enemy guns with fire from his nostrils, grenades in both hands. It's almost epic.

"I want Ibrahim Ali to reveal whatever secrets he may have against me. In fact, I dare him to. He better start revealing [these] soon, because I will continue to attack Perkasa and I will continue to fight him," Nazri told The Malaysian Insider.

Nazri is PM Najib's attack dog? Surely, he can't be doing any of this on his own accord, not as a minister in the PM's own department. Surely, without Najib's overt consent, Nazri wouldn't be so bold. Therefore, the opposite must be true: Najib wants Nazri to bark, and do it loudly.

Can we credit the master for the actions of the dog? (i mean this symbolically, of course; no offence intended). 

Just as we blame the master when his pet makes a mistake, the opposite must be true as well. So, yes, Najib is doing something about PERKASA. Perhaps not enough, but the gesture is well received.

What they say about glass houses...

You know the saying, about glass houses and throwing stones.

UMNO does it everyday. So does MIC and MCA. And, just in case you doubted it, so does PR. The most poignant case in point is PKR and their current struggle with internal party elections.

Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam, who is contesting the vice-presidency, said the division's 5,000 members were angry with the election committee as they felt the polls were not free, fair and transparent.

PR spends a lot of time, especially when elections come knocking, to bring the mickey on the Election Commission of Malaysia (SPR). Allegations of phantom votes going unpunished, illegal voter registration and intimidation, voter bribery, and gerrymandering -- the SPR takes a shotgun-full of pellets whichever way it turns.

Then when their own elections come about, PKR's own electoral house is in shambles. All credit to them for embarking in such a noble journey; they are walking the talk of transparency and accountability. But the execution has been poor, and, based on reports, the culture of democracy and fairplay is missing from their ranks as well. Quite frankly, it's downright embarrassing. 

It's a damning verdict of the Malaysian people, rather than just on the miscalculations of the PKR. BN members, PKR members, even the man on the street like me -- regardless of your political affiliation, we're infected by the common vices of greed, power-hunger, and avarice. For the future of our country, this bodes ill. If those are our motivations, then is it any surprise that racism and religious extremism becomes the vehicles from which we express ourselves and our like? Just like a boy who blames his friend for his misdeeds, we need to find a scapegoat to park our blame.

Perhaps my earlier analysis was wrong. I said that racism is a disease. Perhaps racism is just another symptom, a tangible marker for greed and gluttony.

When Hudud is just a law. Malaysia needs ANCAM.

And laws do not a just country make. People make a just country.

Similarly, guns don't kill people. People kill people. That's the point that RPK was making in his latest article. There is hardly a word there which i disagree with. Excellent read.

You mean to say that every single PAS leader and member is above corruption? Come on! Some PAS people are also corrupt. As what Ibrahim Ali said: the only difference between PAS and Umno is that the PAS people utter 'Bismillah' before they take a bribe whilst Umno people do not.

The only way PR will eradicate corruption when the time comes for them to rule the nation will be to ensure that proper mechanisms to fight corruption are in place. It really doesn't take much; all it'll take is a strong, empowered anti-corruption agency.

Where the MACC is just another tool to get rid of "inconvenient obstacles" (chasing corrupt flag purchases in Selangor is a priority, apparently), the new anti-corruption agency needs to be a new breed of animal altogether. Let's call it ANCAM.

The Anti-Corruption Commission & Agency of Malaysia (ANCAM). It will not only be headed by a person who is approved by the Parliament, but the contract must be renewed every 3 years for a maximum term of 9 years. ANCAM will have its own Charter; a key principle of its Charter will be its ability to prosecute suspects. It will have its own lawyers, and will not depend on the approval or the pool of lawyers in the Attorney General's office. 

Lastly, ANCAM will be the model of transparency. It will publish, annually, its accounts, which includes all the personal accounts of its senior personnel and their family members. To compensate for this necessary intrusion of privacy, ANCAM senior officers will be well compensated, on par with what cabinet ministers receive. It will also publish, annually, its prosecution records for cases successfully and unsuccessfully pursued. This will let the people know who, what, where and why cases were pursued over the year. Transparency will protect the integrity of the organization, and also keep it free of accusations of bias or ill-treatment. 

If PR is right, then the country needs an organization like ANCAM patrolling the halls of government and big business. If indeed, all this nation needs is a cleaner society to allow for all the other things to fall into place, then there isn't any other option.

While i've always believed that this analysis of the country's problems is overly simplistic, i won't argue that this would certainly be a hell of good place to start.

Vote selling?! Selling my vote for a cause

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Vote buying is illegal. But vote selling is not!

AMPANG, Sept 24 -- In an unprecedented act of desperation, house buyers of Hulu Kelang's stalled Ukay Bistari project are guaranteeing 4,000 votes to any coalition which can resolve their situation before the next general election.

In political theory, this is called, "single issue voters". This means that voters, regardless of all the other issues that matter, are only concerned with one. Whomever is able to deliver on that issue, will receive their vote.

4,000 voters -- you can bet this group is made up of a diverse demographic slice. There will be Muslims, non-Muslims, Malays, Indians, Chinese, rich, no-so-rich, well-read, illiterate, old, young, men, women. Corruption, cronyism, judicial reform, BM vs English, the economy, ETP, NEM, NEP, racial politics -- all don't mean anything to them; nothing else matters except their homes. 

It's a strange quirk of democracy, but its valid and, like it or not, sometimes unavoidable.

While i don't have the research numbers to back it up, i would not be surprised to discover that racially-biased policies in Malaysia are also a single-issue vote. People who are happy to be part of the majority Malay group, to enjoy all the benefits that entails, may not feel that other issues such are worth disrupting the gravy train they're on. I would also not be surprised to find a healthy chunk of non-Malays belonging to this group too; those that have in some way made themselves comfortable under the umbrella of the NEP. 

A single-issue voter can be a politician's worst nightmare. It can be especially tough on the challengers because its generally true that the incumbent has greater resources available to satisfy their needs. 

There is nothing to fear from democracy

Tun Dr Mahathir is in the news again today. He's put out a warning that if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power, the Malays will lose their special position and privileges.

He also implied that a Chinese or an Indian could become prime minister if PR took federal power because there was no constitutional restriction on race for the position.

You know what? I have no qualms with a Chinese, Indian, Muslim or non-Muslim leader for the country, assuming that he or she comes to power via a democratic process. And i'm a Malay.

In fact, the person that becomes PM might even be someone i dislike personally for whatever reason i choose. For example, i'm not a real fan of Anwar Ibrahim, though i respect the cause and struggle he is fighting for. While i may have no problems voting for a politician representing his party, i don't see him as an ideal choice for the leadership of the country. Maybe i don't feel comfortable with the allegations of his sexual orientation. Maybe i don't feel comfortable with his hide-and-seek approach to his own party's direct leadership elections. Whatever, the reasons are my own and none of anyone else's business.

Any yet, if he were to become our next Prime Minister, i would be ok with that. Because that's what the people want (or at least that's what the majority of the house of representatives, our Parliament, want). That's exactly how democracy works. You end up with the leader that the electorate prefers, not necessarily the leader you prefer.

The sword cuts the other way too, i'm afraid. While i agree with Nurul Izzah that Dr Mahathir's brand of fear tactics belong to a bygone age, there are millions of people in this country that do not. The Volume of Interactions has its own resident troll named Pak Yeh; you can bet there are many more of those where he comes from.

While we may not like it, there is sometimes very little we can do to change the mindset of those who feel strongly in their views. The situation becomes worse if they make up the majority and you, the minority. Just as you have a right to yours, they have a right to theirs. If they choose to protect their rice bowl, and they feel that having a Malay Muslim leader from UMNO will adequately represent their rights, then that's democracy too. If it happens that there are more of them than there are of you, democracy states that they will hold power.

That's why i'm not surprised that many politicians choose to ride the race wagon. Its a straightforward meal ticket to the electorate box. There are some Malays who want their pie; they will give their vote to whomever promises the biggest slice. So do you, if you think about it.

Punctuated equilibrium in social theory

Punctuated equilibrium is a scientific term. Basically, it proposes that change does not happen gradually. In nature, when change happens, it happens quickly, suddenly, and is very, very drastic.

That's why then the dinosaurs disappeared, they vanished virtually overnight. That's why we're still looking for man's Missing Link -- perhaps there isn't one. One day we were more like apes, the next day, we were modern homo sapiens.

Evolution is a series of sudden twists and turns, it argues rather than a gradual slope.

Similarly, in social theory, punctuated equilibrium means that changes to how a society operates occur very suddenly and often to great effect. 

The birth of Islam. The French Revolution. The Japanese at the end of World War 2. Social evolution is a series of spikes in the graph of overall human development.

The argument associated to this phenomena is that the only type of change that matter is the type of change described by punctuated equilibrium -- "punctuated" (sharp, sudden) change to bring "equilibrium" (balance, re-direction) to society. By definition, this is the type of change that doesn't happen every day, and should be seen as great opportunities to move forward when they do eventually happen.

Taken into the local context, the last time Malaysia enjoyed a "PE" (punctuated equilibrium) moment is arguably the period leading up to and resulting in our independence from the British in 1957. As history recalls, it happened quite suddenly, and even somewhat unexpectedly considering the fact that the British still had an interest in ensuring the Cold War against communism was won on our shores.

The legacy of independence is something we've felt for the last 50-odd years. A strong coalition government, built on the backs of reformist leaders have held power since, and have been able to ensure a continuity of power through a combination of factors. 

The people of Malaysia have long memories; only 2 generations have passed since independence. Not long enough for the residue of gratefulness to fade from the psyche. People still speak about the great sacrifices UMNO, MCA and MIC made in the early years, and how its their efforts that us led to our freedom -- that's a powerful message to build on considering that many of the voters of today were alive when all of this happened.

The nastier moves of the Mahathir period still sting in more recent history. The muzzling of the judiciary in 1988, the systematic suppression of free expression, not just in the press but also in the common citizen. The corruption, nepotism and poor policy decisions. The years and years of wastage and leakage in the mega-projects and white elephants. The fact that Islam Hadhari has come and gone, and 1Malaysia is here and struggling -- these are just continuations of more of the same of what Malaysia has had for the last 2 and a half generations.

Commonwealth Games 2010 -- omg!

When Malaysia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1998, it was a resounding success. Queen Elizabeth II, who closed the games, commented that the games was the best of the 20th Century. Quite a wonderful testimony to the effort of the thousands of Malaysians who made it the grand spectacle that it was.

Compare what we did against the abysmal state of the Games' preparation to be held in Delhi, India next month. Plagued by problems, it promises to be a disaster. Already top athletes like Ian Stannard and Ben Swift are withdrawing themselves from participating, citing security and health concerns.

They say the symbol of a society's civilization are their toilets. Let's look at the state of the toilets in the sporting village, where the participants are to be housed:

If this evidence is anything to go by, India isn't a very civilized place to be in right now.

The first rule about lying

I've told my share of lies in my life. I think we all have. As an person who has experience lying, i've found that the best lies are the ones that:

  1. cannot be validated either way
  2. can be validated, but not without great effort
  3. comprised of 85% truth, 15% untruth

If you can't tell a lie that doesn't fit into one of these three categories, then it's better not to lie at all; the risk of being found out is just too high.

Those that insist on lying despite failing the quality test above, will normally fall into either of the two following categories:

  1. desperation -- lying is the last resort
  2. foolish -- does not know that the lie is, in fact, a lie

I wonder which category does Zaid Ibrahim fall into when he says that PR politicians lack political maturity in Parliament?

Maybe he was referring to some, and not all. PR is just another political party; there will be bad apples amongst the good. If that's the case, then the manner in which he carpet bombed the whole party is a bit of an overkill. 

It was so easy for him to found out, and found out he was when Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud and Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming offered very reasonable and believable responses.

"I am surprised at his statement which is untrue. On many bills and especially with regard to family law, we always discuss and get briefings from specialist NGOs, who go through with us so that the rights of all stakeholders are considered and taken care of. Then only, we can decide whether to support or not," Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud told Malaysia Chronicle. 

The message he is presenting is correct, but i think he needs to give his peers a bit more credit than that. In any case, if this was a truly mature political environment, Zaid Ibrahim would apologize for his error. Let's see if he does.

What if PR won the next General Election? Part 1

A new official logo for Pakatan Rakyat

Image via Wikipedia

This is the first of a 3-part series. It's pure fiction, and completely fabricated. Characters are fictitious and nothing to do with persons of the same or similar name either alive or dead.

September 24, 2011 (PUTRAJAYA) -- Yesterday, Malaysians decided to call time on an era of "old politics" to usher in a dawn of "new government". After several recounts due to close calls in several key constituencies, the final score for the Dewan Rakyat was 129 Pakatan Rakyat, 81 Barisan Nasional, 2 SPP, 10 Independents. The overall ratio of the votes tally nationwide was 52% PR, 48% BN. For the first time since our national independence, Malaysia had a new government.

It was a stunning victory, made sweeter by the fact that everyone, including independent observers, had written-off Pakatan Rakyat's chances in the weeks running up to the elections.

Tottenham players taking penalties blindfolded for charity

Haven't laughed so hard in ages. Fun and games aside, this is a great thing the Tottenham players did -- taking penalties with blindfolds on in order to raise awareness for the 2012 Paralympics.

Good show, guys.

In response to Pak Yeh

I have always wondered what it would be like to debate someone who feels strongly for the status quo with regards to the distribution of wealth and opportunity in this country. I'm thankful that a reader of this blog, Pak Yeh, has presented me with this chance:

My dear brother.
If you use only the Madina Charter as your argument without refering to the other verses of the uran,tjen you make the mistake of wrong tafsir.
Lord Reid was the person who recommended Article help Malays better than their 7% equity of the bussiness monopoly by British and Chines bussinessman.
It was totally an economic redistribution of wealth. It had nothing to do wuth race.
It is like charity for the poor Malays.
It really piss me off whrn people misunderstand the real good intentions of Lord Reid in drafting the Article 153.
And it really piis me off when Malays misunderstabd the issue by saying it is racist law.
It is a political and economic law ,my dear brother.
Dont be a pengkhianat, and deny Malays their economic rights.

How little i've changed

You remember a man you met on the border to a foreign land
A man who loved you, who asked for your hand
That man is still here, more or less the same
Older, wiser but still short of fame
How little i've changed
In all the ways that don't matter
How little i've changed
In all the ways that do.

Inspired by the Present, saying hello to the Past.

The ETP Keynote Address

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, grab it here. By and large, the presentation is easy to understand, even for the layman. Don't feel overwhelmed by the numbers and concepts. 

It makes some bold statements, commitments and promises. Exactly the sort of things i think the average Malaysian has been screaming to hear. 

I'm happy that its all out in the open. It seems that there is a real commitment for engagement.

More than 500
lab members across
210 companies,
13 NGOs &
32 Government agencies
participated full time
for 8 weeks

131 Entry Point Projects (EPPs) spread across the whole nation, handled by the private sector, public listed companies that have to be transparent in their processes. If the people do not trust the Government to be fair in the distribution of projects, hand the job over to the private sector that must be transparent to their shareholders. Let the private sector do what they do best: make money, and keep Big Brother as far away from it all as possible. 

Right now, it's all talk. Let's see how well the ball rolls when the real work begins.

Bang, she's right

Nurul Izzah's brand of intelligent criticism strikes again

She's proven more than a match for the rhetorics of a racist.

She's proving to be a good match against the combined smarts of PEMANDU's economic gurus

Is there anything this woman can't do? Whomever her advisors are, they're doing a great job.

Makes me wonder if PEMANDU engaged people like her when it was figuring out the ETP. Some of her questions are really basic markers of economic policy management. PPP, % of GDP spending, growth rates, etc. 

Its a really long read, but her summation, thankfully, makes it easy for the common person to understand:

The Political Reformation Plan or 'Political Contract' would include repealing all anti-democratic laws, respecting separation of powers, reforming national elections and restoring local government elections, returning the judiciary's and other state institution's independence, fighting corruption, ensuring a free media and by abiding to the true meaning of our constitution, then and only then, will the economic transformation plan become a resounding success for a better Malaysia.

This is a prevailing PR position: resolve the "political contract" and the socio-economic ones will follow naturally. In practice, it's probably going to be a little bit more complicated than that, but that's as good a place to start as any.

Cynicism is the bogeyman of progress

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Perhaps one day, i'll write a book about positive thinking. It's in my nature to grab everyone by the scuff of their collars and proclaim the importance of the Glass Half Full (TM) approach to life.

So when i see the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) i can't help but think about the good it'll do for our nation. The focus on the private sector as the force behind the ETP, for once the Government taking a back seat. The billions of dollars that the ETP will flush into the country's economy. The millions of jobs this will create. How the ETP will integrate with the NEM, fusing spirits of transparency and meritocracy, as we forge the steel that will carry the nation to 2020 and the mecca of developed nation status. 

It's a beautiful dream, and just like any dream, probably just a little too ambitious. There are systemic problems with the country, our education system being just one of the critical pillars with a heck of a lot of cracks in it. Unless we find a way to fix those problems in the next 10 years, i'm afraid that all we're doing now is building a house of cards that will come crashing down at the first sign of weakness, at the first gust of wind.

A country needs to be built with sterner stuff.

Having said that, i remain optimistic, as i think should we all. Zeffri Yusof, in his regular column, called for a coming together of the nation's elements in support of the ETP.

To Pakatan Rakyat (PR), now would be the time to demonstrate genuine intent. Instead of riling against everything perceived to be of BN-origin, step up to the plate and take the high road. Quit being naysayers and be at the forefront of ETP constructive public feedback, or run the risk of the private sector not taking you seriously as contenders. Newsflash: Even if PR wins the next general election, does it make any sense to dismantle what Pemandu has done?

Zeffri is like me. An optimist. And i think he identified, correctly, the bogeyman of progress: cynicism. 

In response to Safely

One of the best things i've found about having a blog is that it gives me an opportunity to intellectually engage with like-minded people. I am vested in each engagement, and i think i learn a lot from them.

Safely, had this to say about my piece on education in Malaysia:

UMNO/BN don't have the political will to do right those things. So the best thing is to kick them out. I am beginning to suspect that you are a blogger funded by them. Your aim is to pain t a picture of helplessness for UMNO/BN and its not their fault for the current state of affairs in Malaysia

Namewee -- I am who i am

You don't always need to understand the words to "feel" the emotion of a song. If the song is good enough, that's all you need. But if you really need to know what he's saying, go on to his blog. He lays it out in 3 different languages.

Maafkan impuls aku, aku akan hidup dengan baik-baik
Please forgive me for being impulsive, I will be fine
(percayalah, aku tetap aku)
Believe me I am still who I am
我�怕暴雨狂風 將我淹沒
Aku tak takut hujan lebat membanjiri ku
I'm not afraid the obstacles cos it will not drown me
Aku tetap akan berusaha
I will keep moving forward
就算旅途�癲頗 我�能回頭
Wakaupun jalan ini agak sukar tapi aku tak akan putus asa
Even if it is a journey of no return I will not give up
(percayalah, aku tetap aku)
Believe me I am still who I am

Rock on, man. Rock on.

Thanks, Sia for the link.


Sometimes, the best things in life are made of butter and cream.

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of Britain

I'm still trying to figure out why Nick Clegg would write personally to RPK and give him this. I'm sure the man is well connected, but what interest does the DPM of Britain have with our most famous son? Curious times, indeed.

In any case, Nick Clegg's speech in parliament. Let's not forget he is a politician, and like all politicians will spend at least a 1/3 of their time blowing hot air up his own ass. Politicians are like balloons, they need to be constantly filled to fly.

But there is one thing i think our current batch of leaders should emulate, and that's what i call, "the showcase". This is an example of what i mean:

Just think what we've done already.  We've ended the injustice of the richest paying less tax on investments than the poorest do on their wages. We've guaranteed older people a decent increase in their pension. In November, we will publish a Freedom Bill to roll back a generation of illiberal and intrusive legislation. By Christmas, Identity Card laws will be consigned to the history books. From New Year's Day, the banks will pay a new levy that will help fill the black hole they helped create. On 1 April, 900,000 low earners will stop paying income tax altogether. In May, the people of Britain will get to choose their own voting system. And this time next year, there will be a pupil premium so the children who need the most help, get the most help.

In the most humble manner possible, tell the audience what you've done for them lately. You want to make them feel good that they voted for you, and that you're their leader. 

Recent public speeches from Najib all the way down the line, even among the members of the opposition, have been so negative and defensive. It almost makes them seem afraid, it certainly makes them seem more concerned about what other people think about them, rather than pushing for results they can proudly call their own.

Perhaps its not the Asian way. Or perhaps they is just too little good to talk about.

Zaid Ibrahim on the offensive

First he takes a shotgun to PKR and blows significant chunks out of it. While i found that it validated some of my earlier thoughts about the party, i also thought its strange that someone would basically be poking holes in his own canoe. It doesn't really compute. 

"I am still reasonably confident that I will win. If, of course, there is a fair counting and fair process, then I am sure I will win," he said.

If that isn't a poke in the eye, then nothing is. 

There are only two possibilities:

  • He is lying. He knows he is going to lose in a fair election and wants to damage the credibility of the party from within as much as he can before he gets the boot.
  • He is telling the truth. He knows things that only a senior insider of the party will know. By stating the truth, he puts pressure on the election commission to give him a fair election. If he wins, he will then emerge the hero to reform the party. If he loses, he can claim foul.

Either way, PKR loses.

That's dastardly, and wickedly smart. I'm beginning to like this guy for the exact opposite reasons why i like Nurul Izzah. Seems like a contradiction, but i assure you its not. He's just so Mahathir-ian.

Malaysia's recipe for disaster

This has got to be the most sombre and depressing article i've read in many moons. Why? Because its true. All of it.

Fast forward to the present and it would be very hard for any graduate to follow my act without substantial help from their parents. No, I wasn't from the privileged class and I didn't get a leg-up from my parents, save for the education they gave me. Present day graduates start their working life at RM1800 to RM2000 a month, not a lot of difference from 25 years ago but prices of everything have tripled and quadrupled. A hawker meal now cost RM5 (drinks extra), prices of cars and houses have grossly outpaced income and there are new expenses like toll, hand phones, Astro and internet. Our ringgit has depreciated against foreign currencies making consumer goods and overseas travel more expensive. To put it simply, real income has declined.

If its this bad for us of this generation now, imagine how bad it'll be for the next. Unless we do something about it.

Blaming this on BN's corruption is convenient (while arguably also being true). I'm not yet convinced, as some others are, that simply voting in an alternative Government in GE13 will make that much of a difference. Of course, i'm ready to be proven wrong on that point, but my gut tells me that there is something systemically wrong with Malaysia for us to have gone down this path. Something that can't be voted away; a devil in different clothes is still the devil.

Could it be policy errors, has Malaysia focused on the wrong things over the years? The reason why Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea has taken such awesome strides in the last 2 decades could be a result of their economic policies -- they focused on financial services (Singapore) and high-technology industrialization (Taiwan and South Korea). While we were stuck with crops and agriculture and tin. We did well when the world needed those things in abundance (circa 1960s-70s-early 80s), but when the rest of the world moved on, did we follow?

Are we making the same mistakes now with our reliance on oil and gas to fuel (pun intended) our economy? I don't know how much longer that source of income will last, but it can't be forever, probably not even through my lifetime. What do we do when that runs out too?

Have our forays into high-tech like the MSC or high-industrialization like the automobile industry been in vain? In principle, probably not. After all, it worked elsewhere, why wouldn't it work in Malaysia? Good ideas are good ideas but its also true that no good idea survives when starved of a solid supporting framework. And, to me, that's what we've missed the boat on.

How good is our human capital? The first thing a manager is taught is that your people are your company's life. You are only as good as your worst employee. The same must be true of a country. We are only as good as our worst citizen. Sadly, they've been just too many of those.

It's not their fault, not entirely anyways. This is where government comes in, the investment in the human capital of a nation is probably the highest priority of any developing nation, and that's been our greatest failure. Singapore did it. Taiwan, Korea, and even China today is doing it. 

Development of human capital means education. It means taking the roots of the country, our children, and giving them mental fortitude and strength to carry the nation on their shoulders. We didn't do any of this. The school system, fragmented by the need to have national schools, non-national schools, chinese schools, madrasahs (islamic schools), and everything in between is a mess of epic proportions. By trying to cater to everyone, we end up helping no one. 

The syllabus is poor (you can't expect ill-qualified teachers to teach something beyond their own capacity to understand), the curriculum subject to political whims (English should have been made the language of at least half the subjects in schools) and the bar constantly being shifted in order to ensure a good Ministry of Education report card (doesn't it concern anyone that straight "A" SPM students can hardly speak English, fail their university Matriculation and do poorly at international-standard exams such as GCE?). 

Teoh Beng Hock's "suicide note"

Wow. Just wow. It's been a while since i've been blown away by a single piece of news, but the contents of the Teoh Beng Hock alleged suicide note must take the cake.

Ou Yang, They have taken my computer without making copies of the documents. The target is all the while you. Sorry. Pretending to know but actually not knowing and consequently you have been dragged in. I said "mendapat lulusan YB" (getting YB's permission), they insisted on typing "mengikut arahan YB" (following YB's instructions). I can't help you. Apology. Sorry. I am very tired. Goodbye.

Here is another translation, done by a member of the blogging community. You'll notice some very interesting, subtle, but perhaps very relevant differences.

Ean Yong,

They took away all the computers without our making a copy of the files. They keep pointing finger at you.

Sorry, [writing struck out]

Pretending to understand, but still dragged you into the trouble.

I said "mendapat lulusan YB", they insisted to type 'mengikut arahan YB'

I failed to help you, my apologies

Sorry, I am very tired, see you later.

There are several critical points that need to be pointed out.

If this note is authentic, then it's very arguable that Teoh Beng Hock committed suicide. However, it's obvious that he was under duress by his interrogators who were telling him what to do against his will. A person under duress can lose his will to live; it's not inconceivable either that he also lost his perspective and rationality. This may explain why he killed himself even though he seemed to have everything to live for e.g. a wedding to attend, a baby to be born.

Where does that leave the MACC? I'm no lawyer, but if it's proven that Teoh Beng Hock was under duress caused by the interrogators that led to his death, that sounds like criminally negligent (gross) manslaughter at best, or felony murder at worst. 

Criminally negligent manslaughter occurs where there is an omission to act when there is a duty to do so, or a failure to perform a duty owed, which leads to a death. The existence of the duty is essential because the law does not impose criminal liability for a failure to act unless a specific duty is owed to the victim. It is most common in the case of professionals who are grossly negligent in the course of their employment. An example is where a doctor fails to notice a patient's oxygen supply has disconnected and the patient dies (R v Adomako).

The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder in two ways. First, when an offender kills accidentally or without specific intent to kill in the course of an applicable felony, what might have been manslaughter is escalated to murder. Second, it makes any participant in such a felony criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony.

Teoh Beng Hock died as a result of physical and/or mental duress (torture), that's a felony. His death, though, "accidental", occurred while the felony was being committed.

The note, if authentic, answers quite a number of questions about what happened that night. It goes to the state of mind of Teoh Beng Hock, it sheds some light on the events he had to endure, it tells us what the MACC wanted, how they operate.

If it isn't already obvious, the MACC is a disgrace, heads must roll for this disaster. Teoh Beng Hock wouldn't have written it, made the accusations he did, then kill himself, if it wasn't true. 

Edit: The last line of the note, translated as "see you later" rather than "goodbye" could indicate that the note is not in fact a suicide note, but a simple letter venting his frustrations. It's in the nuances of the language perhaps. 

In English, the equivalent would be translating a phrase like "so long" -- it doesn't exactly mean goodbye, but it can be meant to mean a form of permanency i.e. i won't see you again. 

Nuances of language is difficult to translate sometimes, and everything needs to be put into context.

I'm not an expert, but this sounds like a suicide note. I can't see a purpose of writing it otherwise, not just for its contents, but also on the scrap of paper, scrawled handwriting, rather than a proper letter. It looks desperate, it sounds apologetic, two key factors (i think) that would be present in a suicide note. 

Edit 2: Interesting analysis by Airkosong to support the claim that the note is NOT a suicide note. A very good read.

Edit 3: The thought just came to me. Whether or not this not is a suicide note, MACC is damned. If it is a suicide note, than some form of criminal death charges can be brought on them, as i noted above. If it isn't a suicide note, then the note points to how the MACC uses methods of duress in their interrogation methods; even attempting to change or perjure a statement. 

The search for the truth is a long and windy road. The note is just a sign-post, it seems. There is much more to this tale.

Najib's Flip Flop

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Yesterday, Lim Kit Siang called PM Najib out for being a "flip flop":

Najib's attempt to distance or disentangle Umno from Perkasa did not last more than a week from the announcement of the Umno Secretary-General that Perkasa was eroding non-Malay support for Barisan Nasional to Najib's Malaysia Day message expressing sadness at the rise of extremism in his 18 months as Prime Minister.

There are only two possible conclusions we can make from what our PM is doing: either he is a fool who can't decide which side of the racist fence he sits on, or he is an extremely intelligent and calculating man.

Let's give him the benefit of doubt, because if he is the former, then there is really nothing more than can be said in his defense -- you don't get angry at fools, you just get rid of them at the next available opportunity.

No, let's consider the latter. PM Najib is a lot smarter than we think. If that's true, then there is a method to this madness, and perhaps, even if we don't agree with him, we will have to respect his courage and intelligence for taking such a position.

For such a man, someone who has calculated and considered all the angles and still says the things he says, perhaps the truth is that a majority of Malays agree with him, agree with the ultra-Malay drivel we see every day from the likes of Ibrahim Ali and Co. 

Perhaps the majority of the electorate are racist, and if the majority are the Malays, why not pander to their desires? Give them what they want, and they will give us want we want: their vote. It is a democracy after all.

Perhaps the protests and voices of commentators on this blog and others are, in fact, the minority. Perhaps even a tiny minority. Sure, the people all around us agree that racism is bad, but do you, me and all our friends make up a significant voting block? How about the rural Malays, the farmer, the rubber tapper, the factory worker, the man who sees his life and compares it against that of his rich Indian neighbour and gets angry. How many of those exist out there in the electorate wild?

PERKASA claims to have 300,000 members. That's a large block of votes. How about the 1.2 million civil servants, many of whom got their jobs (and are keeping it) because of the "special position" promised to Bumiputeras in Federal service? Wouldn't they vote to keep the status quo, to protect their rice bowl? 

It just makes you wonder. I've met PM Najib before in person, and he doesn't strike me as an uneducated man. He seems quite bright; if genetics has anything to do with anything, his DNA stock comes from very good roots.

Perhaps he is doing what he is doing for his political survival. He has counted all the beans (twice) and they fall firmly into one tray, the racist one.

God help us all. 

Article 153 -- is it un-Islamic?

Malaysia's official religion, according to Article 3 of its Constitution, is Islam. That doesn't make Malaysia a Muslim nation; there is a fine line between a theological state and a secular one. We've yet to make that cross over.

Having said this, it came to mind whether there are any articles in our beloved Constitution that are un-Islamic, in particular Article 153.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special provision of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences.

When you think about a Muslim Government in current times, you have to compare it against the Muslim Government of the Prophet Muhammad's time, namely his administration of Muslims and non-Muslims while he was alive.

Muslims are told to take the Prophet as an example (his sunnah); while the Holy Quran often speaks in parables, the actions of the Prophet are how Muslims for all time should interpret as manifestations of what the Holy Quran prescribes in practice. For example, the Holy Quran mentions that Muslims must pray, but it doesn't teach us how to pray. The Prophet's daily prayers are the sample of how these prayers should be performed. 

What about the Prophet's political sunnah?

The basis i'm dealing from is the social contract the Prophet signed and ratified with the people of Medina called, the "Medinah Charter". Some say that the Charter is one of the first of its kind, the first ever written state constitution. 

The document itself, signed in 622, is an excellent socio-political compromise. The Prophet Muhammad had to get away from the religious persecution of Mecca, and the people of Medina, due to conflict between the native communities of Khazraj and Aws, needed a peace-maker. It was a match literally made in heaven -- the Prophet brought Islam and peace to the Khazraj and Aws by being the one person both sides could trust, and the Prophet was provided a base from which Islam could grow and flourish in the region.

There are key articles in the Charter that can be, taken into context, contradictory to the Constitution of Malaysia, particularly Article 153 which promises a "special position" to the indigenous Malays (Bumiputeras).

Therefore, the thesis is: Malaysia is a Muslim nation. However, its constitution is not in accordance to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Does that make the Malaysian constitution (parts of it) un-Islamic?

Zaid Ibrahim agrees with my assessment of PR

Coming from the proverbial horse's mouth. Zaid Ibrahim talks about the cohesiveness (the lack of) in PR's policies, in their ability to be a true alternative political power, in the details of their proposals and common framework.

I want the same questions answered too, and have asked for them consistently since PR's Day 1

"It is one thing to blame BN, Umno or Najib for their mismanagement... but then you too have to come up with something, tell the people that this is what PR wants to do and why it is the better way," he said.

He complained that this was the kind of leadership that PKR currently lacked.

"And as the leader of the opposition, PKR needs to take the lead in this. We need to move forward and mobilise our partners in PR to draft out these common policies.

Its good that a leader from within PR is observant enough to ask the "real" questions that matter to the educated and mature members of the Malaysian electorate. Let's see him get some answers.

How to commit the perfect murder

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The murder of Datuk Sosilawati and her colleagues was gruesome. As bad as the Altantuya case, certainly. They were beaten up, killed, then burned to ash. Just goes to show how greed is a great motivator. 

But it made me curious what it takes for a human being to capable to commit murder, especially something as evil as this one. I was looking for psychological reasons.

Instead i found something else, just as interesting: a cache of websites explaining in detail how to commit the perfect murder.

A perfect murder is only possible if you can beat modern forensic science, which is really difficult to defeat these days considering that you are going against technology. This simply implies that a crime must be done scientifically in order to defeat a scientific investigation. Here are some factors to consider on how to commit a perfect murder.

Modern forensic science means that murder today is a competition between the murderer and the forensic experts. So it goes to reason that forensic science needs evidence to work with, the less evidence you leave behind (including the body of the victim and the murder weapon), the better your chances of getting away. The Sosilawati murderers were on the right track, in that regard.

The perfect murder weapon? That would be poison, according to the BBC.

And what is the perfect murder weapon? Probably Agatha Christie's favourite - poison. It leaves no marks on the body, and the victim may not even realise what has happened until it's too late. But there still might not be a perfect murder. The world's most notorious poisoner - Harold Shipman - was eventually caught.

The BBC was so generous in their offering, they even made a documentary describing how it would be done, from the choice of the murder weapon right down to how to dispose the body.

Further googling found the perfect poison: polonium-210. Slow-acting, and virtually untraceable. By the time the victim was dead, the killer would be long gone and hidden by an impossible trail.

How to get away with murder? According to the Daily Telegraph, the most important keys to getting away is to keep it simple and be able to keep it secret.

"If I had an unpleasant husband with healthy life insurance, on Christmas Day I would take him to Beachy Head. There's nothing quite like a bracing walk on the chalky cliffs of the Sussex Downs to clear the cobwebs at Christmas." In Who's Who P. D. James lists "walking by the sea" as her favourite recreation. "We'd walk and we'd talk and we'd gaze out to sea, and I would make sure that no one was looking, no one at all, and then, quite suddenly, I'd push him over the edge."

A lesson the Sosilawati murderers might have done well to heed, perhaps.

Murder is a nasty, nasty business. But it is possible to get away with it. That makes the task of the police force all that more harder. The fact they were able to catch Sosilawati's alleged murderers at all, and so quickly, is a great credit to them, no matter what the detractors say.

Texts from Last Night

This is a hilarious website.

People send it their texts (sms), and it get's displayed here. 

Some outrageously funny texts ensue.

i got kicked out of Barns and Nobles cuz i put all the bibles in the fiction section

i went to disney world today with my friends, met snow white, then saw her later at a bar. she is naked next to me in her bed, passwed out. when you wish upon a star...

I remember going home with 2 girls. Woke up with 4.

im stripping for him via video chat, but the sound is turned off cause his students are taking a test

wtf he couldnt undo my bra, i asked him if it was his first time and he said "with a girl? yeah"

Can't stop laughing. Thanks to Inayah for the link.

Why doesn't Najib just speak plainly?

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Filled with double entendre and innuendos, PM Najib's blog posting, "Our Fight Against Extremism", says what i think it's saying without saying anything at all. Why, why, why?! It's very frustrating to see our leader take half a step forward, but is unwilling to pull his other leg onwards to follow. 

While we have achieved so much, it troubles me to see a rise in issues rooted in extremism in the nation. This is not limited to racism. Extremists are groups or inpiduals who subscribe to radical views and actions against others. They treat anyone who is different as an enemy and engineer fear in people who don't conform to their thoughts or ideologies and, in some cases in people who simply look different. Hence, extremism here applies to a gamut of factors, including racism, arts, culture, way of life, and more. The late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said, "What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents."

Who is he referring to? Why not peak plainly? Why not mention names? We all know who you're referring to (or at least we hope you are). It won't hurt you to make a stand, to show some courage and to stand up to the bigots rather than just standing up to bigotry.

Do you see the difference, sir?

Don't be afraid. The people will stand with you, and respect you even more, if you open up your mind to us. Let us know what you're really thinking, instead of just alluding to it. I can understand the need to be cautious sometimes, but, this is not one of those times.

Mahathir's Finest Hour - September 1998

Signature of Mahathir Mohamad.

Image via Wikipedia

Linked this in a previous posting, but i think it's significant enough to stand on its own in the Volume of Interactions. An account "from the ground" by Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, about Tun Dr Mahathir's handling of the 1997-98 financial crisis. 

It is often assumed that the system of exchange control (including fixed exchange rate) that we implemented on September 1, 1998 saved the country. The measures of September 1, 1998 were undoubtedly a necessary condition, but it was not a sufficient condition to overcome the crisis. Malaysia was saved, not by exchange control measures per se, but by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Dr M saved the nation. Perhaps the only truism of his 22 years as Prime Minister of Malaysia.

I'm not his greatest fan, but let's give credit where credit is due.

Tun Dr M is many things, but he isn't Lee Kuan Yew

And we should be thankful for that, at least.

History is history, and the accounting of history between two figures from the collective history of Malaysia and Singapore is a matter of conjecture and winners.

"Winners" write history, you see. 

While it may be argued that the proof is in the pudding, Singapore is a developed first world nation, while Malaysia is still struggling to break free of its third world shackles, may make the casual observer tend to believe that Singapore got it right, while Malaysia didn't. By extension, Lee Kuan Yew got it right, and Tun Dr Mahathir, in control of Malaysia for several critical decades post-independence, got it wrong.

I've never bought that argument. Singapore has done well for itself is a result of factors completely independent from Malaysia's performance in the last 50 years. The fact that Singapore and Malaysia have taken different trajectories in our path of development is not necessarily an indictment of the leadership or our socio-cultural values. Take a nation of hardly 5 million people, and another nation that is quickly approaching 30 million -- the ideologies and approaches required to govern each would be, over the years, radically different.

I'm not apologizing for the rule of Tun Dr M, he got many things wrong, including the belief that a creation of a super-class of Malays will lead the rest of the race forward. But he also got many things right, including his handling of the 1997 financial crisis that could have shattered the nation. Remember how the world pilloried him then for radical moves such as pegging the ringgit and rejecting IMF assistance? Today, we have him to thank for; Malaysia could have very well disintegrated into a mess that we see Indonesia only just recovering from today.

Tun Mahathir Mohamad

Image by azim_ns via Flickr

But what we can do, in the debate between Tun Dr Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew, is to see what would have happened if Lee Kuan Yew was our PM. Take his policies, the policies he put into effect in Singapore and transplant them into Malaysia. What would we have then?

Malaysia would certainly be a very different place. Different good? Or different bad? It depends on your point of view. Let's agree on one thing: Lee Kuan Yew was a racist malevolent dictator. That's how he led his nation -- by suppressing opposition to PAP, and dissent against the Government, by promoting the ethnic Chinese population, disguised in the spirit of "meritocracy". Don't take my word for it, see what a Singaporean Malay Chinese has to say.

This is a big lie. A really blatant lie that is so obvious, but hardly anyone dares to talk about it. While Old Man pokes fun at Malaysia being a racist nation, because of its bumi policy, Singapore has its own racist policies favouring the Chinese over the other races. The racist policies include the racially divisive CDAC, Mendaki, Sinda funds, the SAP in schools, the race quota in HDB, just to name a few. Below are some articles about racism in Singapore, which I wrote earlier.

If Lee Kuan Yew had done that in Malaysia, at a time when the races really did stand on unequal footings, you would have a situation today where the majority Malays would own hardly a fraction of the country. If you take a country down that road, you know where it'll eventually lead: see Indonesia in 1997.

It's somewhat entertaining to see the two old adversaries cross swords again. Lee Kuan Yew accusing Malaysia (and Mahathir) of this and that, Tun Dr Mahathir responding with his brand of venom. It's been a great duel, over the years. But it really is time for both to stand away from the spotlight. Malaysia, and even Singapore, are two very different places today. The dynamics of the society have also changed, with a quantum leap in our political enlightenment in recent years, fueled by technologies such as the Internet and a critical mass of education. 

The true winner between them will be the one who first admits their nation is different from the one they ruled.

Nazri launches a broadside against Utusan Malaysia


Image via Wikipedia

It's about time someone said something. Utusan Malaysia has been running amok with its support for the ultra Malays, and i've been wondering what their beef was. 

But having said that, isn't what Utusan is doing a perfect example of what the Fourth Estate should be doing? We scream for more media freedom everyday, for more editorial expression and for a press that prints its mind, rather than what its told. 

We don't have to agree with what the press prints, but that's where we have the power to vote with our wallets and choose another paper to spend our RM1.50 on instead.

What Utusan is doing is no different from what newspapers in more developed societies do. The Washington Post is almost painfully apologetic for the Republicans. Just like the New York Times will spread its legs any time a Democratic presidents wants it too. Similarly, the Daily Telegraph in the UK is sinfully Conservative. These are independent newspapers who, through the use of their free opinions, choose to support whomever they wish. 

The fact that Utusan is virtually UMNO owned, but still decides to bite the hand that feeds it is, in this context, applaudable!

Perhaps the best $3 million Australia will spend this year

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

Image via Wikipedia

Oprah Winfrey is famous for giving away a ton of goodies on her shows. Free iPads, US$10,000 cheques, even cars. These gifts don't happen every show, but on the rare occasions it does, you can bet it generates a ton of press. She is a real dame, a class act, and a master of hype.

In her latest show, she's really outdone herself with free trips for each of her 300 live audience members to Australia. 8 days, 7 nights, including 2 shows that will be filmed there, one of which showcasing the pride of Australia, the Sydney Opera House.

The bill? A$3 million. Paid for by the Australian taxpayer. This is what Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, had to say:

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said the federal and state New South Wales governments would spend more than A$3 million helping to bring "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to Australia as a way to boost tourism.

He said it was money well spent as it would put Australia in the spotlight with the popular TV show watched by 40 million Americans and screened in 145 countries.

"Oprah is a household name and her star power has the potential to lift Australia's profile as a premier tourist destination," Ferguson said in a statement yesterday.

John Brown, the outgoing tourism minister added:

Former federal tourism minister John Brown asked the media not to be "cynical about the cost" at a time when the number of Australian leaving for overseas holidays outstrips the number of tourists coming to Australia for vacations.

For that type of money, it's a deal of the decade. The visibility her show, in its final season, will offer to Australia is set to be immense; more than 100 million people watch her show religiously. 

The deal was brokered by the Australian tourism ministry, and it really shows some out-of-the-box thinking. I wonder how much the Malaysian tourism ministry spends on its overseas promo campaigns each year? And did any of our campaigns land us the front page of Reuters, BBC, and get us a viewership of more than 100 million people worldwide.

The day President Bush got "inspected"

Just a little bit of fun on an otherwise dreary day -- it proves that politicians often do the darnest things! (by accident)

The Final Word on the "Ground Zero Mosque"

Michael Moore speaking at the Traverse City fi...

Image via Wikipedia

Unless something drastic happens, i won't be writing about the Park51 mosque again. As far as i'm concerned, the whole drama was man-made (media-whipped) and fueled by fear-mongering fascists. As it is, one opportunistic nut has already taken advantage of the situation the mosque created, talking about it any more will just create more opportunities for more nuts.

This article, by Michael Moore, award winning filmmaker and author, is the Final Word on the issue.

I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.

I want it built on Ground Zero.

Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.

Thanks Sani, for sharing this.

In the local context, this paragraph attracted my attention.

7. During an economic depression or a time of war, fascists are extremely skilled at whipping up fear and hate and getting the working class to blame "the other" for their troubles. Lincoln's enemies told poor Southern whites that he was "a Catholic." FDR's opponents said he was Jewish and called him "Jewsevelt." One in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and 41% of Republicans don't believe he was born here.

I'll bet a brass farthing against a silver dollar that's EXACTLY what is happening in Malaysia.

BN are a bunch of fascists? Yes they are, according to Michael Moore.

Voting the Devil you know

We're winning! 1

Image by KeADILan Campaign Subang 2008 via Flickr

The 13th Malaysian General Election is anywhere between 6-18 months away, depending on who you talk to. Personally, i don't think it'll be so soon. Najib still needs time to sell his 1Malaysia vision, and time to line up all his ducks. The uncertainty surrounding the electorate in Sarawak and Sabah will need to be resolved first too.

So, consider the following as a pre-pre-game match review. Obviously, so many things can and probably will change in the months to come. 

Will the 13th GE see another GE2008? Further erosion of BN support among the electorate? Or outright loss of government? Or perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way, and PR will get smashed, lose a few of the states in won in 2008.

Flag of Barisan Nasional.

Image via Wikipedia

What does BN need to do to win?

1. It needs to clarify its position on racial and religious politics. As it stands right now, BN can't seem to get its act together, and is playing a schizophrenic game of "are we (racist) or aren't we". The PM says that PERKASA "isn't too extreme", then, in the next breath declaring "zero tolerance" for racism. The Sec-Gen of UMNO disowning Ibrahim Ali, but not barring his own right hand man from taking on the position as PERKASA Youth chief. There are just too many inconsistencies, and the people are wondering whether BN is trying to have it's cake and eat it too.

The Good, the Expected and the Bad

Interesting value for money

Image by James Cridland via Flickr

I was just talking about this the other day with a friend. Look around you and consider any service provider, and there are three levels of performance: good, expected, and bad. When the service provided meets expectations, then their performance is "expected". If its beyond "expected", then it's good, and conversely if its below "expected", it's "bad". 

How do we define good, expected and bad? I made the point that if we get what we pay for, then that's "expected". If you feel that you've received greater value for money, or feel that you've been given more than you thought your money can buy, then it's good. If the reverse happens, then it's bad. 

As far as customer satisfaction is concerned, when a company performs at "expected", you hear very little about them. No one really talks about TNB or Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor, simply because there is nothing to say. They give you electricity and water, you pay them, the end. But when either does something either "good" or "bad" that's when we talk about them -- when SYABAS pulls the rabbit of the hat and fixes our water problems on the eve of Hari Raya, that's "good", thus we talk about them.

There is a caveat. The bad thing about "bad" is that when it happens, the customer tends to remember it a lot more clearly then when something is "good". I'm not sure why this is so -- perhaps its because bad news is good news and good news is just boring. 

In the local context, setup a website that talks about how wonderful MAS has been over the years, and how it's service ranks as one of the finest in the world, and you'll probably get very little interest.

Setup a website that talks about all the sins associated to MAS -- the plundering of its coffers by Tajuddin Ramli on behalf of UMNO, the corruption of the sale of its catering services, the near-death (bankruptcy) experience it went through in 2008 -- well, then you've got a real hot potato that everyone wants to know about.

Human beings are just like that. 

Eid Mubarak

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Wishing everyone a Selamat Hari Raya Eidilfitri. May the blessings of Allah be upon you.

The VoI will resume regular service on Monday.

A shadow government is the way to go

Tony Pua and Co. got roasted last night by the crowd on the issue of PR's lack of a shadow cabinet

"Wouldn't it show Pakatan Rakyat was more serious if it can come to a consensus on who would be ministers?" a young man asked at a public forum here last night that was meant to discuss what it means to be Malaysian.

When PR came together in 2008 after a wonderful showing during the General Elections, this was one of the first things that i called for -- the formation of a shadow government. Not only would it give PR the chance to create positions directly responsible to track what the BN Cabinet was doing, it would also give the people a chance to see what PR would do if they had a chance to rule in BN's place. 

The principle is very easy -- criticising the ruling Cabinet is not a difficult job. Anyone with a brain and a half can do it; God knows they get themselves into enough messes to provide a target rich environment. Throwing stones is very easy, especially if your objective is to break a glass house. But try building the glass house (and keeping it safe from stones thrown at you!) -- that's a skill in itself. My challenge to PR in 2008 was to prove to us that they were not only stone throwers, but also house builders. I've got a feeling that's the same sentiment the crowd had last night, the same question Tony Pua tried to fudge around for an answer.

The reason he gave?

"As to whether we pinpoint a person to be pointman for finance, for trade... I'm not sure if that really matters. A lot of people feel it is important but I don't feel so," said Pua, who is also Petaling Jaya Utara MP.

The Oxford-educated first-term legislator's brush-off appeared to rub some members of the audience the wrong way.

Another young man, who identified himself as Andrew Pang, fairly bristled at Pua's statement that PR assigned specific portfolios to focus on because it lacked the resources to scrutinise each and every ministerial section.

I'm really liking this girl

Of course, i'm talking about Nurul Izzah Anwar, the right honorable Member of Parliament, representing the Lembah Pantai constituency.

She's courageous. Offering to take on PERKASA strong man, Ibrahim Ali, head on is akin to standing in front of a raging bull in full charge. It's something that even the strong in this country, people who you'd expect to stand up to him, can't seem to bring themselves to do.

She's smart. Her dismantling of the ultra Malay argument in just a few thousand words is no small feat and beyond the ability of any average politician. 

She's savvy. The interview she conducted today with was reasonably well done. She knows there is a lot of heat between Azmi and Zaid as they lock horns for the deputy presidency of PKR, and she did a good job in throwing a good dash of cold water on it all to cool things down. The video interview is a good watch, i recommend it.

But, she does show some naivete. Her challenge on Najib for a debate? Come on. That trick worked well with Ibrahim Ali and made him look like a fool. But to try it on someone as composed as Najib? Nah. I'm not buying it. It makes her look silly thinking that he would even give the challenge a second hearing, and rightly so he shouldn't. If the PM gave in to the demands of a debate by every other MP, he wouldn't be spending much time running the country. Najib can't be seen to set a precedent now; Nurul knows he'll ignore her and she asks anyways? Just a bit too much grandstanding there.

I'm reminded of that scene in Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Arab swings his sword around impressively in front of Indiana Jones. Barely stifling a yawn, Indy pulls out his pistol and shoots him from 20 feet away. In this case, the Arab is Nurul and, unsightly as it may seem, Najib is Indiana Jones. Not yet, young padawan, not yet.

All in all, its been a good couple of weeks for her. I'd give her a B-. As she matures, chances are her pedigree will shine through even more.

The Gini co-efficient is only half the story for Malaysia

Quite a bit has been said about how poorly Malaysia performs on the Gini co-efficient scale -- coined by Corrado Gini, its a measure of statistical dispersal. In the case of how its seen recent use, its an indication of the disparity between the haves and the have-nots in any given society. A value of 0.0 means that the country has hit an egalitarian paradise: there is a perfect distribution of wealth were the poor are poor but still control their rightful share of the economic pie and the rich are rich and control their proportionate pie. A value of 1.0 means that ALL the wealth in the society is owned by a single person. 

Apparently, Malaysia scores "poorly" in that regard, with a 0.46. Developed countries named as scoring "well" on the charts are like Italy and Japan with scores of 0.27 and 0.24 respectively. Most developing nations generally have scores around the 0.45 mark. 

Taking Malaysia's score, members of the Opposition such as Tony Pua and Nurul Izzah, have used it to argue that Malaysia is in a bad state; policies such as the NEP have hurt the country more than it has helped

While what they say has a lot of truth, it's really only half the story as far as the Gini coefficient is concerned and how it maps the state and mindset of a society. Let's clear that up right away.

A high score in the Gini coefficient charts is not necessarily a bad thing. Countries like Hong Kong have a score of 0.50, even the United States, as a bastion of equality and freedom, is clocking in at a score of 0.40, not very far away from our mark.

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, wealth distribution disparity does not have to be a bad thing. However, there is a caveat -- the opportunity for wealth creation needs to exist. A large gap in the income divide of the rich and poor is acceptable as long as the poor have a means to become rich (and vice versa).

Ibrahim Ali - intellectually bankrupt

During my debate days, one of the first ethics of debating that the trainers drummed into me was to always be polite towards your opponents. Sarcasm and satire are alright, but personal attacks and namecalling are not. The moment you launch ad hominem attacks is the moment you lose the intellectual high ground. Usually, once you lose that, the debate is over and you might as well resign.

So when Ibrahim Ali gets started calling Khairy "stupid", "crazy", "feeble-minded" and a "confused child", its a true and obvious sign of his intellectual bankruptcy. 

The outspoken Pasir Mas MP's latest attack was in response to Khairy's statement during a recent interview with an online news portal that Perkasa was one of the reasons behind Barisan Nasional's (BN) dwindling support from the people.

"This is the talk of a stupid, brainless person. He is talking like a crazy person. Perkasa was only formed after the 12th general election."

Unable to meet his opponents on a higher intellectual ground, he thrashes around, hoping that people will listen. Only the people that share his mentality will agree with him, and it's a sorry sight of the state of our education system that 50,000 Malaysians are actually members of PERKASA. The first defence any nation has against racial bigotry and extremism is its education system -- children are taught to recognize it and despise it. But not in Malaysia, sadly. Even Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor's right hand man, Nordin Hassan, is a member and its youth chief, no less

Seems like such a contradiction and conflict of interest to allow your deputy to associate himself with PERKASA, and at the same time, publicly condemn Ibrahim Ali. One can only wonder what Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan is thinking. 

This is not to say that there are no arguments PERKASA could use to play its role as a watchdog for Malay rights. There are many legitimate causes that PERKASA can fight for, and in many cases, even win. Helping the poor Malays gain access to education and socio-economic position, for example. Just because Malaysia has affirmative action policies for the Malays doesn't mean that all Malays have equal or even rightful access to it. Think of Michael Chong and all the good things he has done to protect and uphold the rights of the Chinese. PERKASA could have done the same.

Its a shame that Ibrahim Ali has missed the opportunity to do something good here. He is obviously passionate about his cause, but his presentation is crude and blunt. That approach will always have limited success, and will always fail when put up against the refined touches of an intelligent opponent such as Khairy Jamaluddin or Nurul Izzah (who recently challenged him to a debate; he rudely declined).

Or, at least, that's what i hope. 

Not bad, a world class response?

When the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plan shut down in the early hours of Tuesday morning, i'll bet hundreds of thousands of people (myself included) were wondering if we had to endure a Hari Raya without water. 

PETALING JAYA: Over a million people were hit by a water supply disruption in several districts in the Klang Valley and in Putrajaya.

The unscheduled cut happened after the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant had to be closed due to high levels of ammonia in the water drawn from Sungai Kembong. The source of the contamination was traced to a "failed" retention wall at a sanitary landfill.

The plant was reopened at 4pm yesterday after the ammonia content dropped to a safe level.

But within 14 hours of the shutdown, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd had things up and running again. In addition to that, they had the tankers out making the rounds, distributing water to areas which may still have a problem (it'll probably take a few days to get the water pressure up again for everyone). 

A major crisis during a major festive season, identified, worked on and rectified in 14 hours? That's pretty damn good. No idea whether it's world class or not, but, i can tell you that it really feels like it.

Julia Gillard, PM of Australia - what it means to Malaysia

Australia have their first elected female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

But the win didn't come easy. At the end of the August 21st elections, the Parliament was hung with neither the conservatives or Labour having sufficient seats to form the Government.

It all came down to 3 independent MPs who would eventually become the Kingmakers, and today, they made their decision.

Its an interesting case study, and i can't help but draw comparisons with us here in Malaysia. Elections will probably be late next year or in the first half of 2012. The Opposition has gathered a lot of steam since 2008 with the people, especially the burgeoning middle class and below-40 years old electorate. With a sufficiently strong voter turnout from these two groups, its not beyond the realm of comprehension to see the Opposition making even greater gains in Parliament compared to their showing in GE2008.

What if it came down to a hung Parliament? I wonder if we have the fortitude to hold things together for more than 2 weeks the way the Australians have. In a country deeply divided by religious, cultural and racial chasms, the people are openly suspicious of each other and will be expected to vote the political party that most closely resembles their identity, rather than the party that most closely meets the needs of the nation.

With everything finely balanced, neither BN or PR having a mandate, who will be the Kingmakers? Will PAS be tempted to breakaway from PR in return for significant concessions by BN? Will the MIC, disgruntled by the way they've been treated, leave BN in return for a bigger slice of the pie? Will money politics come into play, and several independent MPs turning into millionaires overnight for their support?

And while all of this is happening, what will happen to the people on the ground? Will the racism and religious supremism, fueled by the passions for control of the country, take over cool heads and lead us down the path to violence? Perhaps, BN faced with imminent defeat will stoke those fires as high as they can, in the hope that with riots and violence on the streets, it can convince the King to suspend the Government, declare a state of emergency and buy time for BN to "sort things out" -- another massive Ops Lalang?

I could go on and on with the speculation. That's what happens when you leave the imagination to its own flights of fancy. 

While rational minds prevail today, take this opportunity to study Australia. Their system of Government closely resembles ours and their society shares many of the same problems that plagues ours, though perhaps at a lesser degree. While it's yet to be seen how Gillard will be able to govern effectively without a firm mandate from the people, Australia was able to overcome the hung parliament without tearing itself apart. Malaysia, very soon, may need to face the same.

This is the sort of thing that inflames Muslims

A church in Florida is planning, to mark September 11, to burn the Holy Quran. The US Government can't do anything to stop the church and its organizer, Terry Jones. He is conducting the burning on church property, and the Quran, while holy for Muslims, doesn't constitute a flag

The reaction has been hot and swift from Muslims all over

The crowd in downtown Kabul reached nearly 500 today, with Afghan protesters chanting "Long live Islam " and "Long live the Quran," and burning an effigy of Terry Jones, senior pastor from the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida who is planning the event.

This is the stuff that really stings, and will, if nothing else, lead to constant friction between the Muslim world and the United States. The same Constitution that protects the rights of Muslims to build a church on Ground Zero will also protect the Terry Jones and their Muslim-hating expressions.

What can you do but pray for tolerance and a calm heart. 

Owning a home is a privilege we have a right to

Property prices are going crazy in Malaysia, and in particular, the Klang Valley. With average urban household incomes hovering in the RM50-60k per annum range, the average house in KL costs RM700k. That's just ridiculous. While it's everyone's dream to own a home, i think the market has made it impossible to do so.

A typical unit at Ameera is on the market for RM750,000. Given a 90 per cent margin of financing (MOF) over a 20 year tenure, the monthly loan repayment for a unit there works out to be about RM4,855.

Conventional wisdom tells you that you should spend no more than 1/3 of your salary to pay for your home mortgage. Any more, and you begin to run into serious problems, including an inability to put aside enough savings. If you have to pay nearly RM5k monthly, that means you need to make RM15k a month, as a family. How many families do? How many jobs even offer that much? The average salary for an experienced employee in KL is... RM5k per month? How much does a fresh graduate make? RM2k?

To hit that RM15k a month household income, perhaps we should encourage more men to take several wives, preferably those who make good salaries!

Expect to see a lot of 30-somethings, married or single doesn't matter, to still be living with their parents because they can't afford to move out. It's just sad, but real.

Owning a home is probably the single most important asset you can have. Your home is your base, your landmark, the rock upon which you build your life and your family. Going through life without one, is terribly frustrating.

To illustrate his frustration, the DJ quoted prices at the Menara Duta complex in the Segambut area which he says has gone from RM250,000 for a renovated unit at the end of last year to RM330,000 now for a standard unit -- a jump of 32 per cent in less than a year.

"It's unaffordable," he said of current property prices.

Account manager Christopher Chew, 31, has also been hunting for a property in the past six months but has still not been able to find a suitable home to fit his RM300,000 budget.

Among developments he has looked at is the Cova Suites, a condominium development in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Kota Damansara where a 1,300 sq ft unit is typically going for about RM450,000.

What can the Government do to help? The Government has done a lot to ensure the availability of low-cost housing, perhaps it's now time for them to look into the needs of the middle class (whom also happen to make up a huge chunk of the electorate). 

The recent idea of setting a cap of 80% mortgage loan will stop the speculators perhaps, and, in the long run, decrease the size of the property bubble, but it will chop the legs off the average Joe who will simple not be able to find the 20% cash to make the purchase. 

Singapore has found an interesting compromise that i urge everyone to consider: cap the 70% mortgage loan for people buying their second home, but for those looking to buy their first home, keep it at 90%, or even increase it to 95%. Australia has an interesting model where home-owners are encouraged to buy home through a system of rebates (only if its the first home). 

In order to keep check against Ali Baba purchases, a national database of homeowners needs to be setup (similar to the national database of loan facilities Bank Negara keeps on everyone of us). Keep track of who is buying what, flag any unusual purchases, and ensure that the right people are entitled to the right tiered rates. Also make it so that 1st Home Purchases cannot be immediately sold for at least 5 years, to deter buy-and-sell tactics to make a quick buck. 

No average house is worth RM700k, not on the salary quantum most middle income Malaysians find themselves. The developers are riding the bubble, and at times, fueling it. The rich are getting richer, the middle class still can't afford their homes (but are too middle income to qualify for low-cost housing!). Adam Smith's Invisible Hand notwithstanding, the Government can't allow this to continue. 

Why is Lim Guan Eng baying for blood?

This is getting old. A member of the Opposition, Lim Guan Eng, has been persistently dogging the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yahsin for severe punishment on Johor school principal Siti Inshah Mansor for allegedly uttering racial slurs. 

"The Education Ministry's latest circular to warn school principals and teachers against making racist remarks is irrelevant as it fails to address the real problems. Blaming the principals and teachers is merely an act of finding a scapegoat," said Lim in a statement today.

"Umno leaders should refrain from racist politics before pointing fingers to others. The buck should stop at Tan Sri Muhyiddin. If Muhyiddin continues to tolerate racist behaviour among Umno leaders and members, it is not surprising that it has infected the civil service, including school principals and teachers. Stern actions must be taken to resolve this problem, said Lim.

What type of "stern action" is Mr Lim calling for? Demotion? Sacking? Loss of privileges? Public caning perhaps? Fine? Jail time? How much blood needs to be spilled before Mr Lim gets his pound of flesh? "Stern action" about the alleged racist statement made by Siti Inshah in particular, or "stern action" against racism in the education system in general? Both, perhaps? Too many questions, Mr Lim.

By being unclear in his calls for "stern action", Mr Lim can have his cake and eat it too. When action (whatever it is) comes down, he can say that action has finally been taken because of pressure from the Opposition. If the "action" is not sufficiently "stern", then he can say that the Government is being "soft" on racism. This puts a lot of pressure on the Government to take really strong action, then that leaves them open to attack by the Malay ultras from within and without. It's a smart trick politicians play and, right now, Muhyiddin is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. That's all well and good, but where does that really leave us with the problem of racism in our schools?

Let's not forget that there has been no confirmation of guilt yet in the case of Siti Inshah; presumably she is innocent till proven guilty. Internal Education Ministry investigations are still ongoing (though a case can be made that they've taken far too long already). Even if she is guilty, there needs to be restraint in the action taken against her -- racism is a really bad thing, but in the bigger picture of Really Bad Things, its still not that bad. Let the punishment fit the crime, Cicero said. I agree.

Mr Lim hit the nail of the head here, when he said:

Muhyiddin should stop playing politics and seriously think of the impact on our multiracial country. Racism is beyond party politics; it is a cancer that can destroy all of us, regardless of one's creed, colour and class," said Lim.

Racism is a cancer. Those infected by it are sick. We're human beings -- you don't put down a human being for being sick. You rehabilitate her, you make her better; in the case of racism in the education system, a lot more work needs to be done. By doing so, you not only improve her life, but you tend to vaccinate others against it as well. Flogging Siti Inshah for her alleged "crime" will not cure her of her illness, it'll just make her sorry for being sick.

Mr Lim, it is you who should stop playing politics. Pay attention to your own words. Be constructive as the Opposition, not destructive.

An Open Letter to President Hu Jintao

I was reading RPK's latest article today. Some pretty serious allegations there (what's new), and completely unsubstantiated (that's not new either). But entertaining to read nonetheless, and certainly something to keep the ears open for should future needs arise. Who knows, it might actually be true.

Besides the article, i found one of the comments particularly humorous. The sense of satire is alive and well in the Malaysian mind, despite what's happening to Hassan Skodeng.

Dear President Hu Jintao, 

This is a humble message from an ordinary Malaysian who work hard to feed his family and to provide a decent education to his children. 

As you know, Malaysia is one of the wealthiest country in Asia with vast natural resources. In other words, our country is rich. But than, we are now being govern by a tyrant and oppressive leaders that have been looting the peoples' money and the nations' wealth. Corruption is so rampant that it has been a business culture. 

This country claims to be a Muslim country. According to the Quraan, which is the noble book for the Muslims, thieves should have their hands chopped off for causing untold misery and losses to the victim. But this Muslim country I am residing now do not practice such law. Nevertheless, I envy the law of your country in which thieves, looters and corrupt persons should be shot at the back of their heads and the families must pay the cost of the bullets. Despite China not being a Muslim country, your law protects the poor and the downtrodden. Over here, most of our leaders are Muslims, they bow to their God 5 times a day, but than, they are not afraid of the God's wrath for plundering the peoples' money. Oh! how I wish we have such laws like the one you have in your country. 

Mr. President, 

Today we came to know that for some projects awarded to a company from you country, that company from your country should pay RM500 million (sorry I do not know how many Yuan?) to the various parties in Malaysia which includes our numero UNO. This upfront money is "bribe" money. In Bahasa Malaysia we call it "rasuah", in Chinese ?? or ?? If this is true, we the people of Malaysia plead that your court will punish the thieves even if he is a Malaysian and regardless of whatever his position he holds in this country. Please do sympathize with us, the ordinary folks in Malaysia who are struggling to make ends meet and to put food on the table for our families only to find we are being looted left, right and center by those people running this country! 

And lastly Mr. President... we the people of Malaysia, will be more than happy to pay for the price of the bullets! 

Thank you Mr President... may your country prosper and may you have a long life!

Najib has his blinders on

Sometimes people say things that are just so irritating, things that make you want to pick them up by the collar and shake them silly. It's terribly frustrating.

PM Najib entered, unwisely i must add, into the Teo Nie Ching debate, saying that what she did violated the National Fatwa Council's instructions about non-Muslims in mosques (this injunction is highly debatable). He said she was inappropriately dressed (Najib should really speak to his wife about this first), and she gave a tazkirah (speech) to the Muslims there (she was invited by the mosque's exco to speak about Selangor's education plan).

Why did Najib feel the need to comment at all? An even if he did feel the urge to suddenly say something, his timing is terrible. The issue is dead and buried, Nie Ching has apologized, MAIS has given its warnings against future occurrences. The nation has moved on. Is it a case of Johnny Come Lately?

It's like the whole world has passed our revered PM by, and now he is trying to catch up. Perhaps he didn't notice. Perhaps he had his blinders on.

Teaching teachers about racism

The Ministry of Education released a statement recently directed to teachers and school administrators to be careful about making racist remarks.

In the circular dated Aug 26, ministry director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said he viewed seriously the allegations against a small group of people for making racist remarks in school.

"They are insensitive to the Government's efforts to make schools the place to cultivate the 1Malaysia spirit," he said.

"If investigations show that principals or teaching staff are guilty of racism, the ministry will take serious action against them."

Better late than never, i'd say. Too late to stop the silly trainwreck of recent weeks, but probably good enough to ensure that future occurrences are much reduced. If there is one thing i like about Government servants, it's that they are highly predictable, and very lemming-like in their behaviour. If you tell them to jump, they'll jump. If you tell them to shut up, they'll shut up. 

The thing that concerns me is that while we can control their behaviour, i wonder how much control to we have over their thoughts and hearts. Racism, as i mentioned earlier, is an ideological social disease. Just like any disease, doctors can suppress the symptoms and often completely miss the root cause.

Greater efforts need to be taken to ensure that racism stays out of our schools. Circulars and memos are simply not enough. Consider what was done in the US, perhaps we could do the same:

During the 2004-05 school year, site- and district-level administrators and the Board of Trustees went through the PEG's foundational two-day Beyond Diversity training. Beyond Diversity provides participants with agreements and conditions for having courageous conversations about race.

[...during the training...] Many teachers have expressed feelings of guilt and anger. Some teachers felt like they were being accused of being racist. Requiring teachers to select focal students based on race, language acquisition and academic status was questioned. Teachers wondered if focusing on a few students was fair to other students in the class.

Addressing personal and institutional racism in schools is the challenge of the 21st century. Many educators are now calling the achievement gap the civil rights issue of today. Progress will be made only if educators are committed to continuing the conversation that focuses on race and student achievement.

Addressing personal and institutional racism will not be without conflict, as described by Frederick Douglass: "Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle."

Racism is not something that can be swept under the carpet with the hope that it will go away. You can't beat an ideological social disease by ignoring it. You need to confront it head on, you need to talk about it openly, you need to ensure that whatever deep-seated ill-feelings in the hearts of our teachers are flushed out into the open and debated. 

Teachers are human beings too, they have feelings, thoughts, beliefs, likes, dislikes, loves and hates. But unlike other humans, they are directly responsible for the growth and development of our future. It makes perfect sense to invest positively in their role to eliminate racism from our children. 

(Podcast) Episode 1, 2010


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Full transcript included.

Wielding the ban-hammer

It's getting really frustrating, even for me. I'm the sort of guy that tries to see the best intentions in everyone, the silver lining in every cloud. When Tun M went ballistic with his "meritocracy is racist" blurb, i took his side. When Israel killed those 9 Turks aboard the peace flotilla, i considered theirs an act of self-defence. 

Yeah, i do my best to understand motives and intentions before making a judgement.

But i have very little good to say about how the Government is wielding the Ban-hammer lately. I really can't think of a believable excuse to give them.

  • Hassan Skodeng is facing jail time for satire. God, if comedy is a sin, then my drama must be an outrageous sin. The whole charge is so ridiculous, i would scream my head off in hilarious laughter if it wasn't deadly serious.
  • Namewee is scared, the threat of punishment is very real for him. All because of something innocuous he put up on YouTube? You hear more racially charged statements during UMNO Youth gatherings.
  • Let's not forget that RPK will probably not be allowed back into the country as long as BN rules.
  • The Government making all sorts of grumbling noises about "sensitive" content on the Web. What does "sensitive" even mean? Some people are "sensitive" to just about everything. If we were to pander to the lowest common denominator, everyone should just shut up -- it would be a world where no one could say anything in fear of "hurting someone's feelings". 

The online world, one that was promised freedom from interference and censorship by the MSC Bill of Guarantees, Article 7, is under severe attack.

No doubt, they won't be able to get us all. The Web is just too wide, and there are just too many voices on it to silence everyone. But they don't have to. They only need to silence our champions, and put the fear of retributive wrath in the rest of us. Once all the strong have fallen, there will be very few remaining to pick up the banner. If Hassan Skodeng is silenced, how many other writers do we have who can weave truths into satirical sarcasm?

The Ban-hammer is a mighty weapon. Will digital ink prove mightier still? I honestly don't know.

Am i racist?

Time for some self-reflection.

The Volume of Interactions have written a lot about race relations in Malaysia lately, and most of it hasn't been pretty. 

In each of those postings, i've made a race distinction between the races, the me vs them, the Malays, Indians, Chinese and infamous "lain-lain". Before someone claims me racist, its best for me to check myself first -- am i racist?

I think i have a sense of identity and pride; i know what i am and i'm proud to be what i am. While i perhaps should be saying, "I want all Malaysians to be better", i can't help but whisper in my heart of hearts that, "I want all Malays to be better too." In fact, it wouldn't be half bad if Malays were the best at everything that they do.

Perhaps my only redeeming grace, if i have one, is that i wish the same for everyone else. The fact that i recognize the existence of a divide, a chasm of "us" and "everyone else" takes the gloss off that wish. I am ashamed.

However, its a paradigm of the nation. I wouldn't say its a paradigm of Malaysia alone, but one of an increasingly globalized world. The Chinese of China are divided into the prosperous Shanghainese and pathetically poor West Chinese Muslims. The USA, a bastion of equality and freedom, is still, up to this very day, divided racially, the blacks, the white, the latinos and chinkies. The UK is a immigratory mess, racial tensions are not uncommon. Australia, like the UK, do their best to suppress the reality of racism, but it boils over every so often. 

There is no escape from the identity of race. We are all terribly, sometimes painfully aware of it. The best among us try their best, and often succeed, in being colour-blind; they know that this world is a colourful place, and often they identify with their own. But they don't allow that reality to affect their decisions and temper their judgements of fairness. 

The worst of us, give in to the differences, claim supremacy over them, and ignore the intrinsic good of human beings regardless of race, colour or creed.

I'm not racist. 

Three words perhaps we all should speak aloud. It's not a proclamation of innocence. It's an admission of existence, and a reminder of our identity.

The Amazing Race Asia S4 - Nur Islam and Hilda!!!

One of my favourite all time shows is back, The Amazing Race Asia now in its 4th season. Not only is it back, but it brings with it a little surprise for me personally: two friends from university will be running it as husband and wife!

Take a bow, Nur Islam and Hilda!

Let me share with you a few things that the AXN preview of this team doesn't tell us.

  • Ivan Evetovics' Muslim name is Nur Islam, or "Nuri" to his friends
  • He was a top university debater during his years in IIUM, highly competitive, supremely intelligent, and ranked highly as one of Asia's best speakers.
  • When he gets excited, he stutters like a mad man. Will we see the famous "Nuri Stutter" on the show? Let's hope so, its hillarious!
  • Nur Islam sported a really cool beard in university... its gone now, sadly.
  • When i first got to know him, he was overweight and pudgy. He looked more like a Hungarian sausage then the buff six-pack machine you see today. When he made the transition to being a macho man, we started giving him a new nickname, "Maximus". That and also because he would break into spontaneous quotes from Gladiator (the movie) all the time. And i mean, all the time. It was ridiculous.
Nuri went from this...

maximus.jpg this. Wowzers!

  • Nur Islam and Hilda were married young, after a whirlwind romance in her home state of Sarawak. Something to do with him being a missionary, visiting Malaysia and falling for a local. :P
  • They used to bring their baby to debate training, incredibly adorable baby daughter (they have son now too i think).
  • While she's nearly a foot shorter than him, Hilda dominates her husband. DOMINATOR! He is putty in her hands, "Yes, dear, No, dear" sort of way.
  • They were known as the hippest married couple on campus, coming to class in gypsy baggy shirts and pants. 

What do i expect to see of them on the show? 

I think they'll run an intelligent race. They're both very fit, excellent martial artists, so the physical challenges won't trouble them. Nur Islam can be ruthless so he'll probably be the one who decides to U-Turn everyone and play a "dirty" race; Hilda will be the nice one and make friends with everyone. Food challenges may freak Nuri out a bit... he has trouble with exotic or unusual food. 

Will they win? 

They're my friends, i hope they do!

Good luck, Nur Islam and Hilda. May you survive many episodes, and provide me endless laughter and entertainment.

Would we tolerate the same?

Say a Muslim man worked in the gambling den of Genting.

What would other Muslims say? Better yet, what should other Muslims say.

You know what?

Banning is a Muslim response?

A thought came to me when i was reading this article about a Muslim cleric's fatwa banning Facebook. Apparently, Facebook leads to social ills. Too much free sex and fitna. We can't have that now can we?

I'm not sure how it works with other religions, so i won't comment.

But for Islam, it seems that the standard response to something (usually something "new") that our learned Muslim clerics disagree with is to ban it, usually under the provisions of "enjoining the good and forbidding evil" or hisbah

Could that be linked somehow to our obsession in Malaysia of banning this and that?

We don't like racism, let's ban it.
We don't like xxx political party, let's ban it.
We don't like xxx person, let's ban him (throw him into detention without trial).
We don't like xxx newspaper, let's ban it (or not renew its license).
We don't like anyone talking about Article 153, let's ban discussion (easy solution right?).

Ban this, ban that. Seems like a terribly lazy way of building a nation.

Back to point. Islam bans stuff to protect its followers from bad things. Malaysian Government bans stuff to protect its citizens from bad things. Malaysian Government is predominantly a Muslim government (majority of the civil service and elected leaders are Muslims?). Therefore, since Muslims are taught that banning stuff is a good way to deal with undesirable elements, Malaysian policies follow suit.

I'm just speculating, of course. A wild stretch of the imagination perhaps. But, maybe, just enough of a fetch to make you go "Hhhhmmm..."

The Namewee Video - What Khairy says


This is a racist video? Not even close. Watch it. This is what Khairy had to say on the matter:

"We have tolerated a lot of things but when the insult is too blatant, the time has come for those who did so to be taken a stern action," he told reporters after visiting Kota Baharu Umno Youth chief Rosmadi Ismail here Tuesday night.

"The Malays are not being overly sensitive. We have in fact tolerated a lot of things," he said.

Really? Khairy, your definition of racism seems to be quite selective. When your ex-boss said this, did you agree with him? You were sitting just a few feet away. Maybe you even helped him write the speech. Let me refresh your memory:

EDIT: Khairy Jamaluddin blogs about Namewee on Will read it and respond shortly.

EDIT2: After reading KJ's blog, the part of Namewee's video that he has a problem with deals with Namewee's assertion that Malaysia is rich because of the Chinese. 

In the 'song', which begins with him colourfully expressing his disdain for racists, Namewee exposes himself as the racist when he says "You tak baca? Siapa buat Malaysia kaya?", the implication being that the Chinese are the reason for Malaysia's prosperity and as such Malays like Siti Inshah have no business asking the Chinese to 'return' to China.

First of all, i would suggest that KJ and anyone else who finds this offensive, read up on a particularly seminal piece of work called "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith. Perhaps as an Oxford graduate, KJ has heard of this.

In it, Adam Smith defines the wealth of a nation as "the annual produce of the land and the labour of the society". In popular terms, wealth thus defined refers to how much of something of value that is owned -- and the accumulation of this value, aggregated across the people of a country, determines it wealth or its "kekayaan". 

Its arguable, of course, who controls the wealth of Malaysia. While everyone contributed to the creation of wealth and/or relative prosperity of the nation, the question we need to ask is who owns a majority of it. The fact that Malay ultras such as PERKASA, and even UMNO Youth, have argued that the 30% equity quota needs to be retained in the hands of Malays begs the argument that if the Malays need help to "own" their own country, then the wealth of the nation is not necessarily controlled by them. 

So while, as a Malay, its stinging to hear that "You tak baca? Siapa buat Malaysia kaya?", i'm realistic enough to realize that if left to the devices of the Malays alone, the nation could very well be a much poorer place. Of course, that's speculatory, but reverse engineer the results of what we see in today's economy and its hard to see how the Malays, perhaps due to our own cultural values, would be able to compensate for the effort of the other races. As it is, we can't even compete with them on a pure merit basis (or at least this is what my Malay leaders are telling me).

Secondly, unlike KJ and the other sensitive Malays out there, why take offence (if offence was meant) when you can draw motivation from it all. So what, a Chinese rapper makes fun of me and my Malay brothers and sisters? I'll show you what we can really do! The suggestion that the Malays were carried to prosperity on the backs of the Chinese should not offend me -- it should give me pause to realize that if i haven't done enough, perhaps i need to try harder.

That's the real message our Malay leaders should be spreading -- appeal to our sense of shame, stoke our pride, push us to be better citizens, more productive citizens, save more of our money rather than spend it on lavish Hari Raya gatherings, generate wealth through real investments and not fall prey to silly get-rich-quick schemes. 

And, while we're at it, grow a thicker skin. 

Lastly, most importantly, and let this be an eye-opener to those who haven't considered it before -- racism is an ideology. Its bad, nasty and unwanted. But if history has thought us anything, fighting ideologies with threats of "punishment" or physical distress such as imprisonment or fines, is just counter-productive and ineffective.

Khairy Jamaluddin is a senior Malay leader. When such a person calls for the punishment of a Chinese boy on the grounds of racism, how do you think the Chinese are going to think (especially among them who share or are at least sympathetic to Namewee's views)? By fighting an ideology with fire, you're just stoking the flames ever higher. You're validating their claims that the Malays are indeed racist, do indeed have thin skins. 

The battle of ideologies was never won through the persecution of its bishops. Nelson Mandela and Robben Island. Gandhi in 1922. The Prophet Muhammad. You don't put down an idea through the use of heavy handed tactics. You do it through the fostering of a competitive idea.

If i was in KJ's shoes this is what i'd do.

I'd invite Namewee to engage in a dialogue with me. In private, if being in public is too much. I'd let the people know that i wanted to meet him, but i won't tell them exactly we talked about. During this meeting, sans lawyers or any fear mongers (he can bring his friends with him if he wants), i'll talk to him to understand where he's coming from. Why did he say the things he did. Does he understand that what he did could inflame the sentiments of the people? If he is as much as a patriot as he says he is, what does he think we should do to fight racism. 

Take their bishop and turn him to your side, if possible. If not, then engage him in dialogue and, though disagreeing with him, respect his right to opinion. 

If nothing else, this gesture will show the nation that a modern, moderate Malay leader isn't like all the rest -- not the ultras like PERKASA, not even the knee-jerk Malay on the street. 

Muslims screwing boys - again?

This news report caught my attention. Not because i'm interested in homosexual pedophilia, but because its just downright disgusting.

For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means "boy player." The men like to boast about it.

Islamic law also forbids homosexuality. But the pedophiles explain that away. It's not homosexuality, they aver, because they aren't in love with their boys.

Again, i struggle with myself. These are Muslims just like me, but its obvious that our understanding of the religion is remarkably different. Their version of Islam allows, perhaps even encourages (according to them) this behaviour, mine doesn't.

During Friday prayers, the imam asks us to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world where Muslims are having a tough time. He often cites Afghanistan as being one of those places. Can i insert a disclaimer in my prayers? I pray for all Afghans except the ones who rape little boys.


More reading on the bacha baz phenomenon here:

Muslims killing Jews - again

It saddens me that Islam will be remembered for the violence its believers do in its name, than for the good and peaceful message it actually tries to bring to humanity. Can you blame the non-Muslims for thinking that way when its leaders say things like:

About 3,000 people joined a rally in Gaza to celebrate the attack. Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida was among them and told The Associated Press: "The Qassam Brigades announces its full responsibility for the heroic operation in Hebron."

One of the women killed was pregnant. 3,000 people came out to cheer for the murder of a pregnant woman. Islam is a violent religion, that's what the court of public opinion will say.

No doubt, the "infidels" have murdered and killed many Muslims too. Wikileaks is full of reports where innocent civilians in Afghanistan have been blown up by accident, "collateral damage". The difference is that they don't come out and proudly cheer the fact. In fact, they own up to the errors, and do their best to minimize it.

It's frustrating for me, and perhaps for other peace-loving Muslims. I have a hard time reconciling the actions of my "brothers", and i struggle to believe that we even belong to the same faith. No faith of mine will cheer for the killing of civilians.

Obama vs Najib: A speech of two leaders

I'm reading the full text of Obama's speech ending US combat operations in Iraq. Its a well written speech, one of inclusiveness, touching on the emotions of the American people. I'm not an American, nor do i even like many of America's foreign policy decisions, but the speech touched me. It told me a story, it gave me reasons, and i recognized it started a process of closure that is important for the history of the US.

I'm comparing the speech to Najib's speech delivered on the eve of our national day celebrations. There are several key differences.

Najib's speech provides very few soundbites -- while some may scoff at their value, i think they can't be underestimated in their role to ensure the message sticks in the minds of the listener. Compare this to what Obama gave us:

"Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq's future is not."
"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page."
"And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes -a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world, but also the limitless possibility of our time."

Najib's speech didn't connect with the man-on-the-ground. A good speech does this by using "real" examples, such as when Obama told us the story of the final combat brigade driving out of Iraq. The imagery of the cowboy riding victoriously into the sunset is incredibly strong.

Two weeks ago, America's final combat brigade in Iraq -the Army's Fourth Stryker Brigade -journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into Kuwait in the early morning hours. Over seven years before, American troops and coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time no shots were fired. It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way home.

Najib's speech, while alluding to a lot of "bird's eye changes" doesn't make any specific promises. When a leader speaks to his people, he needs to take the opportunity to tell them what, how and when he is doing things that matter to the country. This is the closest he came to it:

6.    Justeru, cabaran sebenar kita hari ini adalah untuk mentransformasikan Malaysia supaya menjadi sebuah negara maju berpendapatan tinggi menjelang tahun 2020. Ke arah itu, kita telah pun  memasakkan asas-asas yang kukuh dalam bentuk pelan transformasi kerajaan atau GTP  dan pelan  transformasi ekonomi yakni ETP sebagai pelan hala tuju yang jelas ke arah  matlamat  mulia tersebut.

Compare that to the bulk of Obama's speech outlining in quite a bit of detail how the US is withdrawing from Iraq, and how the US will support Iraq in the future. 

Lastly, perhaps i'm being judgemental, but the delivery of Najib's speech was awful. It was too obvious that he was reading a teleprompter (of course, Obama does too), intonation was dull and uninspired, and he had this droopy sleepy look on his face the whole time. Maybe i'm wrong, but you're my Prime Minister, the first amongst us -- where was the passion, the commanding presence, the charisma? Could it be that i'm setting the bar too high? Obama is an amazing speaker, able to inspire a response from a corpse. Would it be much to hope for our PM to have a stronger personality?

Perhaps the purposes of the speeches were very different. Obama's needed to be convincing and at the same time respectful to the lives already lost in Iraq -- its a painful part of American history the last 7 years, and thus requiring very careful words and verbal positioning.

Najib's was a "feel good" speech meant to remind and unite the nation on the eve of her 53rd anniversary celebrations. No need to get into specifics, no need to burden the listeners with heavy thoughts. However, i do feel that it was an opportunity lost. Perhaps now more than ever, Najib needs the country united and strong. Addressing the nation, its a chance to speak to everyone, to remind them of where they came from, how far we've traveled, and the exact direction of our future. At the very least, the use of verbal imagery should have been stronger.

There aren't many occasions when the PM will address the nation directly. While i can't say the speech was disappointing, i must say i was hoping for more. 

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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