Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More Sex Please We're Malaysian.

THE 2005 Durex Global Sex survey on 5,409 people, aged between 16 and 55, revealed that Malaysians have sex on average, 83 times a year, followed by Singapore (73 times) and Japan (45 times). It also revealed that Malaysians are 'adventurous' when it comes to where they have sex.

Fifteen per cent enjoy lovemaking in the office, 12 per cent in parks, 10 per cent do it on the beach and in front of a camera, eight per cent do it at parties, seven per cent in clubs, six per cent at school and in the garden and another four per cent do it in alleyways, two per cent on planes, while another three per cent have sex on public transport vehicles!

Just a few questions to clear a couple of doubts and some observations.
1) Does this survey confine itself to Malaysian citizens or are the horny Banglas, Nepalis and Indons among others also included?

2) A simple calculation from the above comes to a total of 67%. Does it mean that only 33% do it at home?

3) I wonder of the 15% who 'enjoy lovemaking' in the office how many indulge in these amorous activities in government offices. Perhaps that could explain the frequent tea-breaks public servants seem so fond of!

4) Why did they restrict the survey to under 55 years? You'll be surprised at the virility of some of the warga mas.

5) Does anyone have a clue how one can do it in an alleyway?

6) In the plane, I've seen in blue films in my university days, but usually that's between the pilot and some sweet thing. (Perhaps that's why pilots work in a 'cockpit').

7) In front of the camera, OK. Probably within the confines of home or something resembling a home. Not a photo studio I'm sure.

8) Garden? Looks like there's more to green thumbs and fingers I guess.

9) Public transport vehicles. Like what? Buses, taxis, LRT? Hmmm.

10) Now this is dicey. 6% in schools. Teacher and teacher, pupil and teacher or pupil and pupil? Whatever combination it does not speak well for security in schools or the effectiveness of Moral and Religious Studies.

**** At the end of it, all I can say is 'to each his own'. Don't get caught. Ciao.

Public Service Message - Dangerous Internet Virus On The Prowl

I received this message by E-mail today and am passing it on in case it turns out to be true. I can't vouch for its accuracy but it is from a normally reliable source.

****Be alert during the next few days.
Don't open any message with an attached file called "Invitation", regardless of who sent it. It's a virus that opens an Olympic Torch that "burns" the whole harddisk of your computer. This virus will come from someone who has your e-mail address; that's why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts.
It's better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus. DON'T open it and shut down your computer immediately .. This is the worst virus announced by CNN; it's been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. The virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there's no repair yet for this particular virus.
It simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disk, where vital information is kept.
Also:- Emails with pictures of Osama Bin-Laden hanged are being sent and the moment you open these emails your computer will crash and you will not be able to fix it! This e-mail is being distributed through countries around the globe, but mainly in the US and Israel. Don't be
inconsiderate; send this warning to whomever you know. If you get an email along the lines of "Osama Bin Laden Captured" or"Osama Hanged" don't open the attachment.

**** So there you have it people you have been warned. Please exercise caution OK?

Come On Ministry of Health, Heal Thyself First.

65-year-old V.A. Samy arrived at a government polyclinic in Puchong at 8.30am to seek medication for a cough and sore throat. Three hours later, he was still waiting to see a doctor.
The long wait is not unusual. And, the small waiting hall has an air-conditioner that did not work and ventilation is poor because the doors are kept closed all the time.

Puchong MP Lau Yeng Peng isn't amused by the treatment at the clinic. He said the problem was not a lack of efficiency, but due to manpower shortage. “The clinic receives over 300 patients in a day,'' he said. They seek treatment for common ailments and pregnancies,'' he added. "But, there are only five medical officers, nine nurses and three medical assistants to tend to the patients' needs.'' Should a staff falls sick or goes on leave, Lau said, there was no replacement.

“With the closure of the hospital at the former Kinrara Army Camp, the number of patients at the Puchong clinic had doubled,'' he said. "And, with the rapid development taking place in Puchong, the population, too, has grown,'' said Lau whose office has been inundated with calls from angry residents who are fed up of putting up with the long wait at the clinic. (The Star).

So the Health Ministry once again talks the talk but as always doesn't walk the walk. Recently the Minister Dr. Chua Soi Lek was strutting around as proud as a peacock regarding the new baby of the ministry - The Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, a legal device to poke their collective noses in the private health sector.

Among the laudable aims of the Act is that
-Private hospitals cannot turn away patients who require emergency treatment even if they cannot afford a deposit.
- All deaths must be reported to the director-general.
- Policy statements on billing procedures prior to treatment, consent and medical reports must be drawn up to ensure safety and quality.
A novel feature of the Act is that private healthcare facilities are required to make social contributions. The Health Minister will decide on the type and quantum.

All this is very nice and presents the 'caring' face of the ministry to the public. However monitoring the ever expanding private health sector is easier said than done and requires a lot of expert manpower from the ministry. As it is they cannot provide fully in government facilities like the Puchong government polyclinic above. This same sad story is probably repeated many times over in the rural areas especially. But these chaps in the Health Ministry are itching to cari pasal with the private hospital boys. Get your own house in order before snooping on your neighbour looking for any skeletons in his cupboard.

I'm not in anyway holding a torch for the private hospitals. Far from it. There have been times when my family or friends have been admitted at these private setups and a distinct feeling of being ripped off has been there on seeing the bills. But it is our choice. If we don't want to seek treatment at government hospitals for whatever reasons we have the right. By imposing conditions, the private hospital managements simply are going to pass on all their additional expenses incurred on us.

One question I would like to ask is, if a patient in an 'emergency' bypasses a government hospital to travel an extra few kilometers to a private facility and then claims he is too poor to pay or offer a deposit, who is to blame if he is not given treatment there? Will the 'patient' be charged for any offence? Improve the existing facilities in government hospitals first, for under your new Act you are opening the floodgates to spurious claims of poverty and circumstances by a population accustomed to grabbing anything they can get for free.

PS. If you have not read my earlier post on the propensity of our public to get their hands on anything that is free, please click here. Are We A Nation Of Freeloaders?

A Wishy-Washy Prime Minister.

The Attorney-General (AG) has been asked to take into account the views of various sides relating to the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"It is not easy to think of the best mechanism. On one side is the report of the (Royal) Commission (to enhance the operation and management of the police) which recommended the IPCMC (while) the police have made other proposals and the public also has proposals.

"The important thing is for the AG to adopt an approach which, when implemented, must bring good to the police and satisfy the wishes of the people," he told reporters. (Bernama)

On paper a very statesman-like stance to adopt. Alas, this is nothing more than a public admission of the distinct absence of that very crucial anatomical part of the political being - a backbone. His statement is a really pathetic attempt to camouflage his own indecisiveness. What else can you say when on the very last day of the expiry of the Royal Commission's deadline, instead of taking a brave decision, in fact the only decision, of implementing it's recommendations he takes the coward's way out? Playing for time and passing the buck to the Attorney General is not what we expect from the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Now I can understand why the euphoria he generated after his election has rapidly dissipated and many are actually yearning for the Mahathir days again. Despite his intolerance, Dr. M was a firm leader who would have put the police in their place - in fact the cops would not have even dared to put that nonsense on their website if he were in power. For that the police should be grateful to our PM. At least he won't emasculate them and make an example of their bosses.

The tragedy of it all is that this was a great opportunity for the PM to dispel any doubts the people may have harboured about his true intentions, but he blew it big time. Now it will be doubly difficult for him to gain the public trust. How can you really believe and rely on a man who is so wishy-washy?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Minister Zainuddin, Move With The Times Please.

Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said Tuesday the Malaysian media was developing well but added that he was unhappy with newspapers that changed their identity just to become popular. He said the media development in the country was progressing well in many ways, with newspapers moving from broadsheet to tabloid in the effort to be better and carrying more quality articles. "But what I am not happy with is the tendency to be a popular paper. This worries me. Some change to become popular, losing their identity along the way. When you lose your identity, you lose your loyal readers. That is what I see ... this is my worry." (Bernama)

**** If any media person were to tell me that he or she is not interested in popularity but wanted the newspaper to be informative and educational, I'll probably tell that person to take a hike. Popularity is very, very important. If you don't have readers in the first place who are you going to educate? If newspapers and magazines have changed their external appearance to reflect the changing tastes of their readers then it makes business sense. If the contents and the style in which it is presented has also changed it shows that the media people are in 'synch' with their readers. They know what is required of them and they deliver. This is what happens the world over where the old inevitably has to give way to the new.

To say that by being 'popular' you lose your identity and therefore as a result you lose your loyal readers is not necessarily true. For an aging paper which refuses to see the writing on the wall and stubbornly hangs on to old practices, the 'loyal' readers must have either died, gone senile or shifted their loyalties to a more practical and interesting source. To not change is to lose your relevance, prestige and authority.

The Minister must belong to the old school where perhaps change is abhorred and discouraged. Do you know that many people are afraid of change even after being shown proof that it is for the better? Call it stubbornness, inflexibility or plain stupidity, but there are those who will not change.

The Minister also said local media practitioners should not be easily influenced by foreign opinions which had a different set of values. This, in my opinion is nothing but oft-repeated disinformation or at least misinformation that makes little sense. There is no 'value' or 'values' that we in Malaysia or 'Easterners' have patented that somehow separates us from 'them'. It is merely a finger-pointing device created to explain away any difficult or uncomfortable questions that may come the way of die-hard opponents of change and modernization for the better.

You have to move with the times Minister or the tides of change may sweep you and all those who subscribe to your view and deposit you in a metaphorical island where nothing changes while the rest of the world advances ever onward.

Well Done MCA President.

The MCA presidency has been limited to three terms because a leader should be able to implement everything he has planned within that time, according to party president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.

“I will relinquish my post in 2012 even if I enjoy strong support. This is because I believe if one cannot fulfill one’s plans in a limited time one will still not be able to do it even if given him more time,” he said.

He said this would also go towards creating a healthy political environment in the party.

“This is why I limited the term of MPs, ministers and state executive councillors from the MCA. I have even limited the president's term, and I myself will be affected,” he added. (The Star)

**** Now that's music to my ears. At last a leader who has given himself a time frame within which to realize his plans and then to gracefully relinquish power to a new man or woman. A rare breed indeed in these days of overstaying your welcome. I remember a university mate who had this sticker on his dorm door - 'Visitors make us happy. Some by coming and some by leaving.' It's very applicable to political office as well. Those not desperate or greedy will exit on time and as if on cue. That is the hallmark of a truly great politician and leader - the impeccable timing.

We must remember that Datuk Seri Ong is only 49 years old (he'll turn fifty in November), practically 'teenage' in political years. He will be 56 when he retires if he keeps to his word. Just like a civil servant. What do those late sixties and early seventies gentlemen clinging on to power have to say about Ong's good example? Nothing, if you ask me. Better pretend that they haven't heard it and hope not many others have read or been told about it. "Pesky Ong Ka Ting, setting such a bad example. Hope the MCA idiots kick him out before 2012," they'd probably say in private.

Well I hope he stays and stays long, until 2012 and then set the tone for a more realistic time limit for senior politicians. A word of caution though. The MCA like all other political entities has its cabals and Machiavellian characters. Let us hope they allow him to stay long enough to set a good example.

Sorry Ma'am You're Dead!

Woman shocked to learn of her death. That was the headline in The Star today. Read on. A 42-year-old woman had the shock of her life when informed by the Perlis Registration Department that she has been recorded as dead.

Hasnah Hashim, 42, of Tambun Tulang, Perlis, learned about her “death” on Dec 19, 1999, just two weeks ago when she went to the department to resolve other matters.
The former head of the Tambun Tulang Wanita Umno branch was also told that she had been “buried” in Gopeng, Perak, the following day.

Hasnah said today that she had never lived in Gopeng or at any other place in Perak.
Officers at the department will rectify the mistake immediately.
Hasnah, a mother of two who works at a government department in Perlis, said her name had also been dropped from the electoral rolls and that she was unable to vote in the 2004 general election.

**** Keep in mind that this poor lady is a government servant and a former head of a Wanita UMNO branch! So is it any surprise that it also happens to us, mere mortals? You must have heard of serious mistakes being made regarding gender, religion and misspelt names, as well as minor irritants such as wrong addresses. A hefty bearded Sikh gentleman classified as a Buddhist female or a Mecca returned Hajjah seeing Hindu male written on her IC would probably be so shocked that it might even precipitate a heart attack. Yet we keep on hearing of such instances of sheer carelessness. There must be definitely something very wrong going on in these offices to come up with so many such mistakes. It's as if someone was doing it on purpose either as a sick joke or with malicious intent. I hope I'm wrong, for we don't need this kind of problem added on to our already ever-increasing list of grouses.

Having said this, I must mention here that in one of my earlier posts I had noted that my personal experiences with the Registration Department have been pleasant ones and despite the occasional hiccups I hope that not too many people are officially declared dead before their time in this mortal world is finally up.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Oh No! Not Another Tariff Hike?

Yup. It's started people. Another round of hikes. This time it is precious water we're talking about. Unlike the 'direct' bang that we got for electricity, this time it is insidious, slowly and stealthily spreading like a disease.

The Perak Mentri Besar just announced without fanfare (naturally) that the Perak Water Board (PWB) will raise its water tariff by 15 per cent on July 1 but 36 per cent of consumers in the state will not be affected. He said the exempted consumers were those who used less than 20 cubic metres of water per month. He said the increase in water rate was in line with the hike in electricity tariff and water rate in other states as well as to prepare for the corporatisation of PWB in two or three years.

What does the MB mean 'in line with the hike in electricity tariff'? I thought the government assured us that they won't let anyone take advantage of the electricity hike! Or does that only apply to the price of roti canai? This is a clear-cut case of rank opportunism and the Federal Government should disallow it. And the MB adds that this is in preparation of corporatisation of PWB in 2-3 years. Great, the first step in that preparation is to raise the tariff two to three years ahead of time.

Now read this. The MB also said that the hike would increase PWB's revenue by about RM20 million a year. Last year, the board earned RM210 million. How much must these guys make before they stop milking us dry? Do you think that it is going to stop with Perak? No way. The other states are going to be watching very carefully and if Perak gets an easy passage without any complaints or protests then the greedy MBs andCMs are going to join in the chorus for water hikes all for the 'future' of the Rakyat. With the extra cash they will probably build a few more roundabouts in unnecessary places and decorate them with artificial trees imported from China at inflated prices. (OK I'm being cynical' sorry.)

This first announcement of the water tariff hike must somehow be stopped in its tracks if we all are not to be burdened further later. Any ideas how?

The Obdurate Old Thief.

Seventy-year-old Guat Guan Chua has been in trouble with the law since he was 22. He has had 20 convictions between 1958 and 2002 and has made his appearance at various courts in Singapore, Kedah, Perak, Johor, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and Klang. His convictions were for theft, burglary, possession of stolen property and breach of a restricted residents order. Today, he earned his 21st conviction at the Shah Alam magistrate’s court. This time it was for stealing an anklet from a one-year-old girl last March.(NST)

Your 21st huh? No congratulations for you Mr. Guat. Usually 21st refers to a birthday when you receive the symbolic key of 'freedom'. But alas, you're 21st was a conviction, and what little freedom you had in between stints in prison at government expense has been again temporarily taken away. In a way you should consider yourself lucky. These days even young chaps going to prison either end up dead or land in hospital beaten to pulp. That you have survived the prison system for so long is indeed an achievement in itself.

Don't you think it is high time you called it a day? After all you've been there and back and done everything - theft, burglary, possession of stolen property and even a breach of a restricted residents order. This time you've stooped, literally, to steal from a one-year-old child. You're getting on in years sir. The papers described you as frail and that you had to lean forward and cup your right hand to your ear, merely to listen to the charge. Your legs aren't as strong as before to make that quick getaway and prison inmates don't have respect anymore for age or seniority in the trade.

Even the young magistrate who first sentenced you in the good old 1950s must have retired years ago or gone to his maker, but you stubbornly soldier on for the wrong reasons. There must come a time no matter how late in life when there should be a serious stocktaking and reappraisal of our actions. For you Mr. Guat that time is now, when you'll be in prison for the next eight months. Think about it carefully. It's never too late to change; even an unrepentant thief like you can make a difference to your life at the fag end of it. As they say, 'the choice is yours'.

**** While there are not many people as stubborn or 'determined' as Guat Guan Chua to remain a thief we must first try to understand if we can, what motivates him to steal even now. Could it be necessity, habit or just a desire to get back to prison, his second home? Any opinions or educated guesses?


Yesterday's misadventure by the police when it 'belasah-ed' unarmed and peaceful Malaysians should be considered as a turning point in our relationship with the 'guardians' of the law(!).

All this while it has been the government that has been in control of them. It is time that we took the initiative and put them firmly where they belong - in their barracks and stations taking their orders from their legitimate bosses i.e. the public. That can only be realized if the Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission(IPCMC) proposal of the Royal Police Commission is implemented quickly. The government has been dragging it's feet for too long and yesterday's incident has sort of placed it in a tight spot. The cops have done the government's dirty job of crushing the demonstration and are now in a way beholden to them; you scratch my back, I scratch yours, savvy?

A cursory look at the police website tells all - IPCMC : WHY WE DON’T NEED IT, screams one headline. And the cops have actually given reasons, ten to be exact, in not very 'accurate' English but the message is clear; No way Jose. Forget it. IPCMC is for the birds. Go stuff it.

The Sepuluh 'Dalils':
1)Lost of powers by politicians (sic). The cops are soooo worried that their beloved political masters may inadvertently hand over power to the Commissioners who might actually do something. I've yet to hear of politicians unknowingly hand over anything let alone power!

2)Police Force Commission or IPCMC? A choice. The police argument is, 'It is untenable that an organ created by an Act of parliament usurping the function if(sic) a body which is a creature of the Constitution. There will be complication as well since the IPCMC has no power to hire but endowed with right to fire. Unconstitutional'. (So give them the power to hire as well!)

3)No clear, urgent and pressing need. So there you have it; the cops see no urgency at all! 'Hey we're having a good time mate, so just leave us alone will you'?

4)Against the Federal Constitution. Certain provisions of the Bill may offend Article 4 and 7, may breach Article 8, 135, 140 and 145 (3) of the Federal Constitution, they say. (If you guys had followed the constitution in the first place you won't be in this mess!).

5)Against the Rule of Law. (Look who's talking!)

6)Breach of Natural Justice. (Tell that to the demonstrators you brutalized yesterday.)

7)Discriminatory : Equality under the law and equal protection before the law. (I'm getting a little confused here. Are they talking about us or them?)

8) Ouster Clause : A Denial of Justice. (Ha Ha! This gets funnier by the minute.)

9)The environment is not right yet. ( Yup! the environment, timing, planetary positions etc. are all not right. Should be AOK by tahun 3030.)

10)Compromising Command of IGP. (To me this is the only one that makes sense. Fair enough. The IGP is and should be numero uno. However he still has to take his orders from a 'non-policeman', right?)

Conclusion: It is imperative that in a true and vibrant democracy the police force should be subservient to civilian authority. Let there be no compromise on that. Allowing the cops to either flex their muscles vis a vis the government, indulge in politicking or show signs of active insubordination is the beginning of the breakdown of political control over an essentially
civilian regulated security apparatus. Any political reluctance now and the effects will be felt for decades.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

One Man's News Is Another Man's Ignorance.

The time is 7.50pm in Malaysia. The news around the nation is about the police crackdown on a peaceful public demonstration in KL. That's what I thought when I went through several internet sites such as Harakah, Malaysiakini as well as the blogs.

But surprise, surprise the mainstream online papers including the Malaysian mother of all information, BERNAMA is absolutely quiet on the whole incident. It never took place mate!, seems to be their opinion.

Bernama's headline news at this time:
-- Death Toll In Yogyakarta Quake Reaches 4,000
-- MRCS, Mercy Malaysia Appeal For Donations For Indonesian Quake
-- NNN Fast Gaining Acceptance, Says Bernama
-- Malaysia Ready To Help Indonesian Quake Victims
-- It's Confirmed - Palanivel Takes On Subra For MIC No. 2 Post

**** And the list goes on and on and on, BUT no mention of any DEMO!!

Check out the NST: NEWS UPDATES (time now is 8.04pm)

Enforcement efforts drive illegal compact disc operators out of business - May 28, 7pm
Critical allowance for teachers serving in remote areas under review - May 28, 5:22pm
Tax refund within a month under E-filing system - May 28, 5:12pm

Why you not surprised aaah? No news about the police action here too!!

But hey there's always the Star right? The gutsy MCA paper. Sure they'll have something what?

From executive to street peddler
DPM’s wife rejects ‘misyar’ marriage
All our students in Yogyakarta safe
Samy: I gave Subra kiss of life
They thought it was another tsunami
Bollywood causes snarl
Cashing in on the direct sales boom
No fangs out, just wide smiles and lots of warmth
For 30 hours, the young and the old fast for a good cause
Make Felda handicraft fit for Harrods, urges Najib

Ooops! Wrong again. No change of news since morning. All on leave perhaps?

Welcome to the land of the blind where NO news is good news!

Sieg Heil, Mein Fuhrer! Nazism Malaysian Style?

It was meant to be a peaceful demonstration of the people's unhappiness with the recent fuel hike. Alas, it turned out to be a ruthless display of police brutality. What happened this morning in front of the KLCC was a public confession of the private intention of the government not to tolerate any form of dissent no matter how justified. Looks like the intolerance of the Mahathir era is very much alive and kicking. Not having learnt their lessons on the rights of citizens in a true democracy, the government is foolhardily galloping on like half-blind cowboys on a lynching spree.

A total of 17 demonstrators including 2 women were arrested. Ketua Pemuda PAS, Salahuddin Ayub, Ronnie Liu (DAP) and Badrul Hisham Shahrin (KeADILan) were among them. PAS Deputy President , Ustaz Nasharudin Mat Isa; Vice President, Haji Mohamad Sabu; Treasurer, PAS Pusat, Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli; AJK PAS Pusat, Haji Mahfuz Omar and Ustaz Idris Ahmad were surrounded by the FRU and escorted out, reported Harakah.

Apparently about 300 to 2000 people (depending on who quoted the figures) gathered from around 9.30am to protest the fuel as well as electricity tariff hike. Soon FRU trucks rolled in menacingly like you would have seen in old western films on Soviet brutality. After the usual perfunctory warnings our bullies in blue moved in with water cannons and all. According to Malaysiakini the demonstrators were repeatedly kicked and the police dispersal resulted in at least one person being hospitalized due to head injuries.

Now who do you think decided to end the demo in this fashion? The government or the police? My guess is the kerajaan, but I could be wrong. Apparently the police seem to have started thinking for themselves as of late, and the government writ doesn't run too strongly in their areas; and we were all this while under the impression that they were unthinking morons who blindly took orders from the government!

For all you know it could be good old Radzi, the Minister of Internal Security trying to make amends after the 'Lelaki Komunis Terakhir' ban fiasco. You know, sort of get back into the good books of Pak Lah and the other UMNO big boys rather than be dubbed as 'Lelaki Censor Terakhir'.

The possibilities are endless. But what is crystal clear is that the government has decided to play hardball. The only recourse left is therefore what little protection and relief the courts can give us until at least the next general elections. Then we can show them what 'fast bowling' is. Until then the Malaysian Reich rules on.

Old While Gold Must Still Yield To The New.

If you're wondering in what context the title is meant, it's nothing new. Just the same old story of political succession and reluctance to yield power. While this may be a universal phenomenon, given man's inherent greed and instinct to amass and gather,(a hangover from our primitive days), I'm looking at it from a strictly Malaysian perspective.

The Barisan Nasional is a classic example of permanent job security. Of course *conditions apply. Just make sure that you clinch the presidency of a component party, hold on to it stubbornly and you'll be minister or chief minister in perpetuation until God or fate has had enough.

Anything new will be attractive and work well. As time passes and strength begins to wane, so does the sheen and the efficiency of the now old. Politicians are no exception to this rule, but along the way they have learnt to turn that logic on its head and some still remain unrivalled leaders. The expiry date has long passed but they don't seem to care. Even the best and most expensive medicines are discarded after expiration for fear of not only loss of its efficacy but that it may actually do more harm. Alas, there are no pharmacists in our Cabinet to enlighten them.

A current example of this 'overstaying' culture is the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud aka Pehin Taib. (Detractors call him a 'pehin' in the a***). The present thinking is that the opposition got nine seats in the recent state elections because of his unpopularity due to his reluctance to hand over to a new man. However, true to form, the powers that be have not learnt from this and the same old faces resembling the same old state cabinet has been formed much to the chagrin of the general public.

The same thing happened in Terengganu a few years ago when the much 'over-expired' Mentri Besar Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Ahmad could not or did not want to see the writing on the wall, went ahead and stood, only to be swept away by popular revulsion - '25 years is more than enough' they probably thought.

At the federal level there are a couple of very powerful dinosaurs, jealously guarding their turf lest some young or not so young turk makes a bid. To shore up their raison d'etre for still persisting in their positions of power they have in place several hundred cronies, who as if on cue will howl out like professionally trained dogs the virtues of their master and I'm sure are later adequately rewarded. ("good puppy, good boy, here's a biscuit, a contract, a briefcase filled with legal tender" imagination tends to run wild at times!). Every time the issue of retirement is broached the veteran leaders will say 'I won't stay a minute more than is necessary' or 'the people want me to stay and finish my uncompleted struggle'! To them words like - succession, renewal and dispensable are vulgar profanities not to be mentioned in their presence; not good apparently for hypertensives and heart patients.

If the setback in Sarawak is not to be repeated in future elections there and elsewhere, then slowly ease out the old and usher in the new. If the old still persist in clinging on to power then perhaps the PM should pull out some old ACA and police files marked NFA (no further action) and see what transpires!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Agony No Parent Should Endure.

When 14-year-old Hazrill Reemey Eng, breathed his last after being struck by lightning while seeking shelter at a park in USJ16, Subang Jaya, during a downpour on Thursday he set into motion a series of emotional shock waves that devastated his family, causing grief and anguish to his friends and schoolmates and sadness to his fellow citizens.

I felt for the parents when I first read about the unfortunate, tragic accident. It is a terrible event that most of us can connect to. Children are not supposed to die that young. He had a whole lifetime ahead of him but fate had different ideas and snatched him away to be united with the Lord.

Hazrill is the eldest of four siblings. He has a brother, Mohd Daniel Aniq, 12, and two sisters, Nur Diana, nine, and two-year-old Nelly Adlina. Said his father, Mohd Hushaini Eng, "he was my first child. He was not only my son. For 14 years he was like a friend and now he’s gone." I felt like crying when I read that. I've got only one child, a daughter nearly six months old and I know how precious she is to my wife and I. Here they've raised their firstborn for 14 years, only to see his lifeless body, ravaged by lightning.

Hazrill died on his mother's birthday, a day that will never again be celebrated by her or her family; it will be an annual day of mourning, stocktaking and resolving to put the past behind and soldier on for the sake of their other children.

No parent should be subjected to the agony of this kind of loss. I remember when the son of Carlos Menem, the former President of Argentina, died in a helicopter crash in 1995. A South American leader in his eulogy said that it is sad enough for a son to grieve his father's bereavement but never should any father be subjected to the mental torture of witnessing his son's funeral. That line somehow struck a chord and I've often thought about it and have for the first time shared it with others.

I pray along with other Malaysians that Hazrill's family members have the courage to endure this great sorrow and may The Merciful God bless his soul.

National Service Runaways.

This is your final warning. Show up or face action. - Yet another friendly reminder from The National Service Training Programme Council. For those who failed to turn up for National Service (NS) training from 2004 and last year a third and final chance before action is taken against them.

According to a press report a total of 11,874 did not show up and notices have been sent to their registered addresses since May 4. Their names will also be printed in newspapers on Tuesday. A council statement said they would be given until July 17 to turn up. Ho hum (yaaawn) so what's new? None of the kids and most of the parents are really not bothered with such empty threats. Ever since the council attempted to set an example and one poor fellow was charged, things haven't worked out the way the authorities had hoped. The one who was caught for being AWOL happened to be a real poor, poor guy who had to work merely to survive and the government came out of that one looking heartless. After that they beat a hasty retreat and have now surfaced more determined to get these shirkers.

The objectives of the National Service Programme are laudable:
- Develop a young generation who are patriotic and with love for their country.
- Enhance unity among the multi-racial communities in the country.
- Instill a spirit of caring and volunteerism among society.
- Produce an active, intelligent and confident generation.
- Develop positive characteristics among the younger generation through good values.

However the programme has its problems and its detractors. After the 2004 pilot batch completed their National Service, the youth wing of the MCA, on behalf of themselves and 8 other Chinese-based youth organizations, issued a memorandum to the National Service Training Council calling for more non-Malay trainers. They also criticised the lack of counsellors, imbalanced diet for the participants, poor communications among the various secretariats and no code of conduct for camp commandants or directors, trainers, facilitators and supervisors. Despite this somewhat diplomatic language it is clear that there is a problem with bullying by Malay NCOs and Officers, a lack of cultural sensitivity by the organizers, and a reluctance to provide a proper diet for the mainly Buddhist Chinese Malaysians and Hindu Indian Malaysians.
In 2005, concerns were raised in Parliament that youth were being taught to use firearms, namely M-16 rifles, in National Service. The Deputy Prime Minister, stated that this was merely a pilot project. However, a DAP Member of Parliament claimed that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Unity and National Service had not been informed of the project.

Since 2005 the sessions are being exclusively held in camps, since all of the universities involved suffered losses due to trainee vandalism. After the lessons learnt in 2004, security is now tightened. Stricter rules are also being enforced. The canvas tents of 2004 have now been replaced with brick walled barracks.(Wikipedia)

Conclusion: All in all it is a very good programme that parents should accept and actively encourage their children to participate. Anything is better than the present segregated lives we lead in the country and still have the temerity to call ourselves Malaysians when we are overseas. Shame on us!

Sixteen And Stupid.

What's happening to our kids? You can ask that again! Did you read the Malay Mail? 'Young and Restless' was the headline. 'Young and Stupid' would have been more appropriate. Two cases of teenage idiocy were described.

In the first case a 16 year old girl borrowed her friend's Proton Iswara but instead of going to school, she decided to play truant with her two girlfriends. It ended disastrously when she wrecked the car and the front gate of a double-storey house belonging to an ex-teacher in Jalan SS18/4 yesterday. She hit a tree stump before slamming into the wall. Apparently the driver's parents refused to come to settle the problem. One of the crazy driver's friends said that the parents were furious when told of what had happened. They did not want to come over even when the police called them! (How do you like that for good parental example and responsibility?).

In the second case another 16 year old girl, this time with uncontrolled raging hormones was caught by her mom with nice reddish(?) love bites on her neck. (Actually I really wonder how many zillions successfully hide those hickeys from their families.) Mom confronts daughter in front of a 16 year old boy's parents, enquiring not very discreetly about the young man's voracious appetite and propensity to nibble now and then; girl breaks down in the ISA style interrogation and our amorous young buck is out on a limb. Twice they've had sex which frankly must have come as a real shock to the parents on both sides.

A police report was made and the police picked up the boyfriend early yesterday morning at his home and sent to the University Malaya Medical Centre to have DNA samples taken.The boy was released on the same day after police recorded his statement. Initial investigations revealed that both were studying at the same school and had known each other for eight months. The girl lives with her divorcee mother.

I don't know about you but at sixteen a young guy like the chap in this case shouldn't be staring at a stint in a government facility. For those of you reading this who are 25 years or older, do you remember how you were at sixteen? Smug, confident, thought you knew everything and parents knew zilch. However in retrospect we were all somewhat naive and maybe even a little 'stupid' then. We never thought of consequences, after all the old folks were there to bail us out in case of trouble. We would have been in the same mess if the opportunities had been there. Haven't we ALL experienced the effects of raging hormones and 'feelings' we couldn't quite understand? Masturbation was a heaven-sent release then. So let us not demand that he pay for his mistake. The same we would have made if, I repeat, we had had the opportunity.

As for the young female 'Shoemucker', playing truant is one thing but borrowing a friend's car and then ramming it at high speed into a poor old lady's house is another. I wonder how many laws she broke in the process. The fact that her parents didn't bother to come to her aid shows that she is probably a repeat offender and possibly a recalcitrant one at that. These are juvenile delinquents who would benefit from a stay at a correctional facility for young girls.

In conclusion a 16-year-old will be a 16-year-old until kingdom come and it is upto parents to guide them through this difficult and often perilous phase of their lives. Don't you agree?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Malaysian 'Hugh Hefner' On The Run!

When I read the headline I couldn't help smiling to myself - Ministry Seeking Publisher Of Playboy Magazine-M'sian Version! This is what I call a real entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurship is defined as the practice of starting new organizations, particularly new businesses generally in response to identified opportunities. Guess where our wannabee tycoon decided to market his wares? Kelantan! Malaysia's very own 'holy' state - Serambi Makkah ( Veranda of Mecca) as it is often called along with Aceh; and it was being openly sold. I can imagine the 'starved' citizens falling over each other to get a copy.

You have this smart guy who obviously has done his homework, realized that the Kelantanese unlike the more urbane KLite is probably a better target for his 'version' of Playboy, bravely went ahead and marketed it apparently drawing good business. To make it look genuine he even used a false publishing permit.

Yesterday, the Internal Security Ministry Publications and Al-Quran Control Division discovered that the Playboy magazine was sold in Tanah Merah, Kelantan. In case some randy Kelantanese mistook it for the real McCoy his magazine had the headline "Tak Bogel Tapi Lucah" (Not Nude But Erotic). Talk about honest pirates! It was sold at RM2.80 a copy and believed to have been in circulation since early this month. He obviously knows about market forces and has priced himself slam bang into contention. That he got away without detection for more than 3 weeks is surprising. Either the more holy of the Tanah Merah residents were totally oblivious to this intruder or more plausibly no one was talking. 'Read and forget' they must have thought.

The Internal Security Ministry is naturally cheesed off with this development and the PAS government while not saying anything must be secretly blaming UMNO for somehow having a hand in this. Deputy Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said action will be taken under the Printing Presses and Publications Act against the printer and publisher for distributing the magazine without permit from the ministry. He said the ministry was monitoring the situation and had seized copies of the magazine which has used a false publishing permit. The traders also do not know the publisher of the magazine. They said somebody came with supply of the magazine and they bought them! Hey, even if I were a trader I'd say the same thing - 'Tak tahu Bang!'

Well whatever happens to our latter-day Hugh Hefner we must admire him for his guts and business acumen in peddling the ubiquitous Playboy, his version, in a place where perhaps even angels fear to tread. For those of you who don't know who Hugh Hefner(!) is see HERE

'Pee For Fee' - A Convent's Brain Wave.

Aah, the price one has to pay for brilliance and innovation! Someone had a flash of insight, a stroke of genius, and the cronies and hangers-on shouted ' wonderful idea! you amaze us Puan!'. And so was born the 'pee for fee' scheme.

The Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Infant Jesus Convent, Johor Baru, the alma mater of many accomplished women, has started this scheme, strictly imposing it on poor primary school kids! How thoughtless and unkind. Two silly reasons (at least in my book) have been given for this mercantile venture by the authorities:-

1) The convent is believed to have introduced the fee to recover some of the RM60,000 spent by the Parent-Teacher Association on the project to 'upgrade' the toilets. This is akin to collecting toll. I wonder if Datuk Seri Samy Vellu is the patron of their PTA!(Sorry, unnecessary remark). Apparently the charge is 10 sen entry fee for the third visit on any particular day. While some kids probably won't have to visit more than once or twice it is patently unfair to demand entry fees especially from those at an age where full bladder-control has not been optimized. Some irate parents said that this had led to children suffering a full bladder until they reached home. A few even had to stop at petrol stations after school to let their children answer the call of nature.

2) According to the NST report, it was also intended to prevent students from hanging around in the toilets during lessons. According to a teacher, the upgraded toilets were extremely popular among pupils because of the huge mirrors hanging in the place. "The students love it so much that many are excusing themselves from classes to go to the toilet. This is disrupting lessons." "We introduced the 10 sen fee to stop them from wasting time in the toilets," said another teacher who declined to be named.

Now the question arises why in the first place such a vast amount of money was spent in constructing '5-star' toilets. If the huge mirrors were so popular they must really be attractive and more in place at a hotel than in a primary school toilet. Or did someone make a little 'side-money' in the tender and contract phase of the construction?

To say that the fee was imposed to prevent pupils from frequenting the loo and wasting time there is unacceptable. The simplest solution would be for the teachers to take turns to monitor the pupils' visits and then focus on the culprits. Instead the school used that as an excuse to charge entry fees to recoup their expenses.

Convents were and I hope still are the cradles of an excellent, well-rounded, comprehensive and enlightened education and through their portals have walked some of the finest women of this country. They were at one time exclusive institutions which catered for the best. Egalitarian policies have changed the 'complexion' of these hallowed places of learning, and that's good; however the good practices of the past should be maintained and not toyed with by lesser mortals who are in positions of authority now.

****(Update - 27/5/06) In the NST today - The pay-to-pee system at a primary school here has been abandoned following protests from some parents. The headmistress of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Infant Jesus Convent, Azizah Ahamad Tan said the school would come up with other means to stop pupils from loitering during school hours. "We regret that the 10-sen levy imposed on pupils wishing to use the toilet on more than two occasions during lesson time, has drawn protests from some parents. "We, however, wish to point out that the move was solely to prevent pupils from loitering at the toilet and not to collect money to cover the cost of its construction."(NST)

**** All's Well That Ends Well - William Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Senators Club - Nothing Better To Do?

What do Senators do? That is the first question that occurred to me when I read a report on how upset a couple of them were, all because of a beer advertisement!

The headline says it all - Kelab Senator kecewa. NST siar iklan bir sebelah gambar PM dan hari ulangtahun UMNO. Doubly distressing to the Senators was the fact that the ad appeared on two occasions, 27th April and 12th May 2006! As a result of this great act of disloyalty they said that the 'Kelab Senator amat kecewa kerana merasa NST langsung tidak sensitif dan pedulikan apa yang diperjuangkan oleh UMNO'. Its Chairman Senator Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin said that while he understood that NST has to earn revenue through advertisements 'tetapi wajarkah itu caranya'.

After creating a non-issue the good Senator then goes on to link it to the pride of the Malay race while emotionally referring to UMNO's struggle. Read on - Sewaktu kita meningkatkan semangat bangsa Melayu raikan ulangtahun ke 60 agenda datuk nenek moyang kita lahirkan wadah perjuangan bangsa...disebelah ada iklan bir mengambarkan seolah-olah di Malaysia ni pejuangan yang dibawa oleh UMNO tak langsung diambilkira..itu yang kita persoalkan. (I'm beginning to like this guy. He doesn't make any sense but he sure knows how to tug at the heartstrings).

Not to be outdone by his Pengerusi, the Setiausaha kelab, Senator Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee 'dengan wajah yang marah berkata beliau secara peribadi menuntut NST memohon maaf secara terbuka kepada Perdana Menteri dan UMNO'. Woh! This is one angry man and in that anger he even internationalizes and Islamizes the non-issue! Read on - Ini bukan secara kebetulan, ini menghina pemimpin (Perdana Menteri), pemimpin OIC (Pertubuhan Negara-negara Islam) ..pemimpin sebuah negara islam...patutkah diletak iklan seperti ini! Then he delivers his parting shot - Beliau menegaskan demi untuk kebaikan iklan bir tidak harus dibenarkan disiarkan dalam akhbar.

So the two wise men have spoken. I have a couple of questions though. The NST article is on merely a piece of newsprint paper. If the same page on which the PM's picture or that of UMNO is trampled by a pedestrian will he or she have to apologize? If that very paper is used to wrap meat, halal or non-halal, will the person wrapping it need to say sorry? As ridiculous as that sounds this is exactly what these two Senators are trying to achieve in an indirect manner. Don't elevate the office or person of the PM and the symbol of UMNO to 'sacred' levels, that merely having a beer ad on the next page is tantamount to sacrilege. It is not, and the NST definitely meant no offence to him, to UMNO, to the OIC or to Islam. This is all in your overactive imagination. Don't you all have better things to do than unnecessarily rile up the public?

While on the subject, who are Senators? Briefly they are members of the upper house of Parliament or Dewan Negara who have made valuable contribution to society and have been either appointed by His Majesty the King or indirectly elected by the state assemblies. Some of them are made Senators as a 'backdoor' entry into the Cabinet while others are 'rewarded' for services 'rendered' to the party and nation. Another group it is said are those put to 'pasture' or retired from active office or as the English so eloquently put it, 'kicked upstairs'.

What do Senators do? Apart from rubber-stamping Acts passed by the lower house or Dewan Rakyat I really don't know. But I do know for sure that making a nuisance of themselves by raising non-issues isn't one of their duties.

The Uncivil Service.

I think the Prime Minister has just about had it with the horror stories coming out of government offices. In a report from Bernama headlined 'PM Slams Departments For Not Discharging Duties', he has taken to task government departments guilty of dereliction of duty, saying it is this sort of attitude that makes the public angry with the government. Quite true Prime Minister, quite true.

"Government departments should respond fast to complaints and check any irregularities" he told a news conference in Tokyo. After fifty years of independence(well almost), our civil servants have to be reminded of their basic duty as if they are kindergarten kids who have to be constantly told 'do this' or 'don't do that'. It is not that they are ignorant; they know every clause, dot and dash of their duties. It simply boils down to sheer laziness and unwillingness to take on extra work - a permanent 'work to rule' mentality.

What prompted the outburst from the PM? Apparently a private television station (must be TV3 lah, they are good for this sort of exposing government blunders) reported that the Department of Environment (DOE) had not taken action against a company which flouted environmental regulations for almost a decade! On top of that, the DOE acted only after a Malay newspaper highlighted the matter. Utusan Malaysia reported last week that 16 companies dumped aluminium wastes at several areas in Selangor. One of the companies had been operating illegally for the last 10 years producing silver ingots at Janggut River, Kuala Selangor and disposing of aluminium wastes illegally.

The proverbial kuching was now out of the bag and what do public servants do when they are caught in sticky situations? They either pass the blame to a low-level official, pass the buck to the politician or come out with the finest lies masquerading as a clarification. Saying that Selangor DOE investigated public complaints and news reports, its director Che Aminah Ibrahim (there goes her datukship!) said her department was not slow in taking action since complaints about the company were only received recently. It is a modern-day miracle that only happens in government departments - blatant violations of the law could have been going on for ages but only when the kuching comes out of the gunny sack does the hitherto 'ignorant' officials 'suddenly' come across information and 'swift' action is taken. Oh puhweeze give me a break!

The PM is not buying her story either. "It is shirking its duty. How come they don't know what has been going on for 10 years and only now are taking action? It is the same with abandoned projects, wanting to repair only after many years. This is what makes people angry with the government," he said. Way to go Prime Minister.

Without doubt now that he has spoken things will move and we can expect some criminals, for that's what they are, to be charged in court soon. But there are literally hundreds of other government departments and offices doing nothing about a variety of offences being committed daily because either they are on the take from the violators or they could not be bothered. We simply cannot expect the PM to look into each and everyone of these.

For starters punish the head of department; that should send a shiver or two over some corrupted or inefficient spine. Have a section manned by dedicated and efficient officers (if you can find them) to monitor the news reports on TV, the newspapers (especially the 'letters to the editor' section) and the internet and investigate the thousands of complaints therein about the mismanagement and corruption in government departments and perhaps a couple of years down the road we can have a civil service we can be proud of. Until then they will always be to the public - the uncivil service.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Malaysians Hit For Six - TNB Smiles.

Unfortunately it's not cricket! It's our wallets and bank balances which have been hit, real hard when Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik announced that electricity tariff for Peninsular Malaysia would be increased by an average of 12 percent effective June 1, 2006. That sir is a lot of money. "After great deliberation, the Cabinet at its meeting this morning decided to allow Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to increase its tariff". Thank you very much minister for the Cabinet's concern; that you all actually deliberated' greatly' over the hike is a sign of a compassionate government. Unfortunately at the end of your deep discussion you came down on the side of the power brokers i.e. Tenaga and the IPPs. You have burnt a hole the size of a cricket ball, no, for you high-class people golf ball, in our pockets.

The increase, the first since the last review was made in 1997, was decided after a careful consideration of the impact of TNB's proposal for a new tariff structure on the majority of Malaysians, you said. How did you arrive at the quantum minister? And what makes you so sure that you know what the 'impact' is on us? You and the rest of the Cabinet. Do you realize that we are struggling as it is with the awful fuel hike, and just as we are trying to come to terms with that, you hit us hard on a different front? It hurts minister, believe me it really does.

You also said that in approving the proposal, the Government had considered rising costs and the need for TNB to reinvest in supply equipment in the light of increasing demand and Malaysia's changing social environment. If only you had considered the 'changing social environment' first, and seen how it has changed from middling to down in the dumps perhaps you might have deliberated more. You're so worried about 'rising costs' for TNB, but what about our expenses which have skyrocketed? Doesn't that matter at all? How am I going to make ends meet? The same question millions of Malaysians will be asking. Do you have an answer for that minister? Perhaps ex gratia payments monthly to offset the hike in tariff? Not practical is it? The Treasury can't afford it. But somehow we the citizens have to afford it, right? If TNB has to reinvest in supply equipment then it should utilize it's profits not siphon off the public's savings.

I agree with you when you say that it would encourage consumers to use energy more efficiently by being less wasteful. We are also to blame for unnecessary wastage and of course there are thieves among us who actually 'steal' electricity. However I beg to differ on your opinion that the new tariff structure is reasonable and that the Government would not tolerate profiteering and sudden and unrealistic increases in prices of goods and services. The government has previously done precious little on that score and there has been legal opinion before, that you cannot enforce what you claim. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Your final statement at the press conference was, "therefore, the tariff increase should have minimal impact on prices of consumer goods." We'll see minister, we'll see. Going by current trends you should be in your portfolio for a long time. If prices go up to painful levels be prepared for another press conference and the heat that will produce will not be Tenaga's doing.

Matrade Building - Monument To Greed And Corruption.

Doesn't it piss you off? Reading about the way these crooks have gotten away scot free with our money in the Matrade building controversy? Every now and then we are told of this company or that concern, due to its incompetence, has gone bust or disappeared leaving behind unpaid bills for taxpayers to settle; and settle we have been doing. In the billions. All in the name of helping the bumis to make it in the business world. Pray tell me how this kind of hanky panky helps anybody?

In the case of this building it all started when the contract was given to Perangsang International Sdn Bhd (PISB) a subsidiary company of Kumpulan Hartanah Selangor Bhd (KHSB), an investment company of the Selangor government. (I don't know if it is just me, but I get really suspicious whenever 'Selangor government' is mentioned - along the way somehow I've mentally linked them to corruption and other unsavoury things. Don' ask me why, maybe its got something to do with Toyo's face!). According to the NST: 'The project was nine years late and more than RM100 million over budget, making it a symbol of poor bumiputera construction skills, government inefficiency and possibly even corruption. The final bill for the 24-storey tower was RM287 million. The original estimate had been RM167 million.' That dear readers is RM120 million above the original estimate. If we had given this to some Chinaman he would have completed it on time, within the budget and still made millions in profit! Vive le difference!

Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said, "the ministry will get the opinion of the Attorney-General. Although the company no longer exists, we will go to the court and take action against the directors. They cannot just run away and not take responsibility." Oh yes, sure.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz expressed regret that her ministry had to bear heavy losses as a result of the delay. Matrade, apart from having to rent elsewhere, also lost out in terms of opportunity cost. Total rental earnings forgone from the building's exhibition space was an estimated RM120mil, the equivalent of building another 24-storey building, she added. As a client, Rafidah said, she was disappointed and wanted the Works Ministry to not only take action against the former PISB directors but also look into the probability of any irregularities during the tender process. (The Star)

Good point Kak Fidah - any irregularities during the tender process? When the government gives out contracts to not the best or the deserving but on the basis of connection and birthright, that itself is the biggest irregularity that even she is guilty of. Come on!! First the government institutionalizes favoritism, backs that by legislation, crows about it at every party meeting and then when things go terribly wrong, voila! pull out the irregularity card. You can't have it both ways kak, not you or anyone in government.

However what we the people want is apart from knowing 'how the contract was awarded, who certified its earlier poor workmanship, who should be blamed and who should get the final bill for the cost overruns'(NST), is an assurance from the government that this sort of financial atrocity does not recur in the name of empowering or enabling the bumis. Most bumis are probably appalled by the whole affair.

Epilogue: A year or two will pass, the Matrade building, that symbol of 'all that is wrong with our policies' will still be there looking at you and perhaps over you at some other monument to greed and corruption growing over the horizon and even then I'm sure this same mantra of dismay, shock and consternation will be spouted. When will we ever learn?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thank You Information Ministry - You're Doing Enough Damage Already.

I nearly did a double take when I first read the report; the Information Ministry has been asked to monitor and coordinate all the government and private television stations in Malaysia! The ministry in its almost 50 years existence has pretty much made a miserable botch of a lot of things and it does not have to add to its checkered history.

And who made this brilliant suggestion? It was at the hallowed hall of the Dewan Negara and the gentleman in question is Senator Tajul Urus Mat Zain, whoever he is. Supporting this recommendation was the Ketua Wanita Negeri Terengganu and Pengerusi Biro Pembangunan Sosial, Senator Hajah Wan Ramlah Bt. Ahmad. This lady is so concerned about the impact and effect of private television stations that she feels that there should be monitoring of programmes which are scary and contained elements of love and are seditious!(What is seditious, the love stories or the scary ones?).

The Deputy Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was more circumspect and said "if the task is given to the Information Ministry, God willing, there will be more jobs for us and we will perform it the best we can," adding that the ministry could only monitor programmes broadcast by Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM). He did not deny that there were programmes which contained elements as mentioned by Wan Ramlah but said it did not necessarily mean that they contained negative elements which were bad for viewers. "In certain circumstances, they can be a lesson for viewers," he added.

What's with these Senators? Have they grown too old or have their thinking been on hold for the past few decades? That there are people holding such responsible positions still trying to muzzle and hoodwink( meaning 'to blindfold') the people is disappointing. I feel angry when I listen to such poppycock. They have no right or business to decide what I can or cannot see. As it is our private stations are paragons of virtue and seriously practice self-censorship lest some crazy minister demands the withdrawal of their permits. What do these people really want us to see on TV the whole day? Eh Senator Wan Ramlah? Reruns of Wanita Hari Ini, Jom Masak or Raihan unplugged?

Why do you think that RTM stations are unpopular? Simple. It's controlled by politicians and bureaucrats to whom 'creativity' is a bad word. Anything new is looked upon with suspicion by jaded minds; if they can't understand it then it must be either unsuitable, anti-national or both. Should others have the gumption to telecast that which they cannot comprehend then censor, ban, shoot it down, kill it. Only then can they sleep peacefully at night knowing that they have made a valuable contribution towards the 'moral upliftment' of our wayward citizens.

No responsible parents will want their children to watch filth on TV and most if not all will take precautions to see that their kids are monitored. We in Malaysia are fortunate that our programmes are relatively 'clean' albeit boring. The little we get in way of 'good' western programmes are also 'sanitized' beforehand. However there is this big bad place called the internet where anything and everything can be obtained with a few clicks of the right keys. This is what should worry the moral brigade badge-wearing grandpas and grandmas in the Senate and not the poor, much maligned private TV stations.

Local Authorities - Unaccountable, Unelected, Unwanted.

I was just going through a report in the papers - 'Bankrupt Datuk loses his post as MPPP councillor'. This gentleman is an UMNO branch chairman. I wonder what qualifications he has or had to be made a councillor in the first place. The only one I can think of is his political connections, the same one that probably got him the datukship as well.

It is ironic that in a country which claims to be democratic, there are these islands of despotic rule known as local authorities. These are akin to fiefdoms of yore where one dominant person or group exercises control. They do not depend on, care for the opinion of and are not accountable to the people they serve. If by a miracle, local authorities did not exist any longer, no one would be more happy and ecstatic than the Malaysian public; for such is the irrelevance of and the dislike for these mini-dictatorships.

Who appoints these councillors and from out of which part of the woodwork do they come from? Local authorities for all intents and purposes are appointed by the respective state governments. These are not actually appointments in the original sense of the word but rewards. For what? Probably for 'work' done elsewhere - hatchet jobs, carrying the boss' briefcase among other things, 'help' rendered during last elections etc. etc. Basically these are inconsequential persons who have no qualifications for a job that does not require qualifications! Most of the Malay councillors are either lower-rung UMNO leaders or front men for the higher placed ones. The same applies for the non-Malays too.

In the name of the state government it is the Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers who ultimately decide who is in or out of these local authorities. However they will never take the credit for that directly; makes it easier to retreat and blame or punish someone else if the council goofs up.These MBs and CMs are very much in the know of what transpires in these councils but will feign total ignorance when caught with their pants down.There is a lot of money to be made in local authorities and where there is money there will be corruption.

Read what the Auditor-General has to say on this: Financial malpractice are rife at local authority level where small-scale contracts are given out directly to contractors without any tendering process by the local councils, Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang revealed, Monday. Based on the department's study, he said the most common abuse was in the landscaping projects "whereby the same landscape projects have been done over and over again, while in other places none at all." Another area opened to abuse has been contracts to collect garbage, he said at the two-day national workshop on "Preventing Corruption in Public Procurement: Capacity Building and Networking for Civil Society and Local Government."

For political reasons the Federal government is reluctant to have directly elected local councils - they are so worried that the DAP may take control of a few and show the nation how effective local councils can be. Apart from this and rewarding some low-grade party underlings there is no other logical reason for this antipathy towards direct elections. And who suffers? We, the average Joe on the streets of our townships. As far as the government is concerned they all echo those famous words of the Selangor Mentri Besar who after viewing the rape of a green area in his state said - "Semuanya OK!!"

Monday, May 22, 2006

This Simply Doesn't Compute Minister.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad is at it again. What's with him and the film 'The Last Communist'? According to the latest news from The Sun the minister said that the UMNO Supreme Council meeting in June will decide the fate of 'Lelaki Komunis Terakhir'. The reason (and now it gets weird) is because it affects UMNO more!

Great. Now anything that affects UMNO more can be brought home from Federal offices and stored there till the Supreme Council meets, for decisions that will then be implemented by public servants. If any pesky civil servant has other ideas the minister concerned will then exercise the powers vested in him to get his way while the poor Officer would probably be asked to go for a kursus to brush up on the Perintah Am.

After receiving a lot of flak over the ban, Radzi probably regretted why he went ahead and banned the cursed movie. To add insult to injury (to him, not the film) Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim gave a diplomatic thumbs up for the beleaguered documentary.

Lets read what Rais said as reported by Bernama: The banned musical documentary "The Last Communist" is not offensive, said Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. "The plot isn't controversial and there's nothing that could be deemed as offensive from the cultural viewpoint," he said. The facts portrayed in the documentary could be read in the book about former Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng sold in book stores, he told reporters after joining Members of Parliament to watch the film at the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Sunday. "When I went in, I was prepared to be outraged. But, hard as I tried, I could not find anything to be outraged about because it does not glorify the Communist Party or Chin Peng, and does not even promote communism. "It just used the Chin Peng connection to make a documentary about life in the country and a little bit about life at the border. Some scenes such as the charcoal factory (in Taiping), petai boys (in Bidor) are an eye opener for many and highly educational," he said.

PAS secretary-general Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar tightened the screws when he said it was a simple film portraying the life of a group of Malaysians in the 1940s and 1950s. "It does not even tell a full story on the communist insurgency in the country nor is it a propaganda film," he said, adding that it would not leave a negative impact on the audience.

So it was now out in the open - Radzi had boo-booed big time and in his haste to ban, didn't bother about the consequences. Aah if you invoke patriotism and the 'K' word (komunis) no one will question. Alas minister you were wrong and you have your cabinet colleague and a senior PAS leader publicly contradicting your raison d'etre for the ban. The next move? Either eat humble pie or do what politicians usually do - pass the buck. Thus this strange move to let the UMNO Supreme Council decide when it has no business to do so.

A lesson must be learnt not only by Radzi but by other politicians holding high office; don't take decisions that will benefit you politically in the short term especially if that decision is bereft of simple logic. Now is the age of accountability and you Sir shall reap what you sow. Finally minister I strongly urge you to see the film in its entirety, who knows you may even like it!

Will PAS Ever Learn?

The Prime Minister, probably saddened after the less than impressive win in the Sarawak state elections got a fillip yesterday from PAS. When things were not exactly going his way with the success of the DAP at the polls he must have worried about the impact on PAS too. Well don't worry Sir, PAS has just done you a favour; A friend in need is a friend indeed! Please read the following report by Bernama to understand the drift of this post.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Sunday shot down plans by the Kelantan government to issue its own currency using the gold dinar and silver dirham. Abdullah, who is attending the World Economic Forum on West Asia here, said state governments were not allowed to issue their own currency. Kelantan State Public Administration, Economic Planning, Finance and Community Development Committee chairman Datuk Husam Musa said Sunday that the Kelantan government would use the gold dinar and silver dirham as currency in three months and even planned to pay state public servants in the currency. The dinar and dirham currency would first be implemented in the state's Islamic system of pawnbroking, Ar-Rahnu, Husam told reporters after opening a seminar on financial economy and Islamic banking in Kota Baharu.-- BERNAMA

What can I say? Just when you think that they have really seen the political light and turned the corner, bang!, straight into a brickwall they go. Only in last night's post I had mentioned that PAS had learnt from it's mistakes and was raring to go. In which direction I only know now! They have taken twists and turns to a new level giving stiff competition even to fast-paced spy thrillers. This decision by PAS presupposes that the Malays are so naive that an unworkable, impractical and unnecessary gimmick like this is going to gain them some ground vis a vis Barisan. It may convince it's hardcore fans that an Islamic Republic is nigh at the 'corridor to Mecca' but otherwise this proposal is destined to go the way of the Dodo.

This is what happens when political parties use religion to gain power. PAS is a political party let there be no doubts on that score and everything it does is calculated to have a political benefit. It has the same type of infighting, political intrigue and skullduggery as any non-religious ones. The difference is that these 'pious' entities have perforce to come up with some outrageous proposal or another to keep it's equally 'pious' members in good humour, such as the present 'Dirham drama'.

When will PAS learn that such tactics are not only a waste of time but it also puts off rational, right thinking Muslims and non-Muslims? At the rate they keep changing direction and speed I doubt if they can be trusted to keep to their promises in whatever future manifestos they produce come election time. With Barisan making mistake after mistake lately and looking increasingly jaded this would be an opportune time for PAS to have taken advantage; but 'foot in mouth disease' seems to be a recurring ailment with PAS.

Pak Lah of course knows all this, and will rest easy for some time until a crisis or two crops up and PAS hopefully will come forward with another brilliant idea. He can always count on them when the chips are down. With an enemy like PAS who needs political friends anymore?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sarawak Elections - Lessons For The BN.

So the Sarawak elections have come and gone. Everyone I know seems to be quite pleased that the opposition and an independent have taken the shine out of the Barisan victory. Sibu and Kuching have given food for thought for the Barisan.

What does the result tell us? Basically that there are many unhappy Chinese who have decided to do something about it. Are the Chinese in KL or Kuching any different? Not really. If this can happen there you can bet your last ringgit that the same will occur in the Peninsula if elections were to take place now; for such is the discontent among the people nowadays. The Barisan is getting too big for it's boots seems to be the consensus and there is some truth to that. After the landslide victory in the last general elections Barisan leaders have been acting as if they have a mandate for life, having so quickly forgotten that just a few years earlier their future wasn't so rosy after the PAS resurgence. The Islamic party got a bloody nose in the last general elections precisely for the same reasons that the BN lost some seats in Sarawak - taking your voters for granted. PAS is not hibernating but having licked their wounds and learnt valuable lessons on inter-ethnic relations, is alive and kicking and raring to go. If Barisan tries to go the PAS way in dealing with the Chinese in particular and the non-Malays in general then they might as well cast their lot with PAS and see what transpires.

There have been many issues over the past year where the BN has come out looking bad. These have been discussed in this blog and at other places. Somehow it feels that the country is going on autopilot with no one to shoulder any responsibility or blame. Corruption is perceived to have had a resurgence and no one seems to get caught with their fingers in the pie any more. The Article 11 fiasco has also frightened the non-Muslims and they now question the government's sincerity on this and a host of other problems that they face. The gall of the government in announcing an impending hike in electricity tariff rates during the run up to the Sarawak state elections gives the impression that they could not be bothered what the people think, and that my dear BN leaders is a big mistake. No one is indispensable - better learn that now than find out after you've lost office.

The gloss of the Abdullah administration has faded fast and the fault lies entirely with the government. On several tendentious issues the government has seemed to come down on the side of the Muslims and this has caused a lot of unease. While Pak Lah's personal honesty and integrity is beyond reproach many worry about the coterie surrounding him and are anxious about the influence they have on him. It gives the impression that the PM has lost his bearings and has to be guided by others whose intentions are questionable. That is not good news for Pak Lah. The handling or rather the mishandling of the wayward Member of Parliament has further disappointed the public as has the perception that the Taib government is corrupted and has plundered the state.

The most important thing for the government to do now would be to accept that things have not being moving as planned and assure the people that the lessons of the Sarawak state elections have been learnt and an overhaul of the entire leadership machinery is in the offing. Then proceed to actually take a few confidence building measures like bringing a couple of known crooks to book, initiating a meaningful interfaith dialogue and easing out Taib from the Chief Minister's post. Now that would send out a strong signal that KL is listening.

Datuk Seri Samy Vellu - Time To Leave?

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, undisputed overlord of the Indian community for the better part of three decades is an example of the survival of the fittest. His supporters wax eloquent on his contributions to the Indians in particular and the nation in general. Or is it the other way round? That depends on your assessment of the pugnacious veteran.

I don't know Samy Vellu except for what I read in the papers every time an issue on the toll rates comes up or if some highway or bridge is damaged. I do know that he has the best attendance record in Parliament and is probably the best informed minister when it comes to clarifications about his ministry and anything that comes under his purview. In that, no one can take credit away from him as an efficient, conscientious and dedicated Cabinet Officer.

Like other Malaysians I have read that he brooks no interference in his work, does not tolerate dissent or any hint of a challenge to his unquestioned position as numero uno and has instilled discipline in a previously 'cowboy' party. I also know that he has by sheer courage and determination molded the hitherto weak organization into a strong, efficient and respected partner in the BN coalition.

No matter how good, efficient or benevolent a leader is, there comes a time when he has to gracefully retire from the scene. This however is the exception rather than the rule everywhere. Even good leaders are either unceremoniously shown the door or are dragged out kicking and screaming - unfortunate really, just because one doesn't know when to call it a day.

Like many others I too have always taken a tidak apa attitude when it comes to the goings on in the MIC; not my problem-lah. However on reading the papers today and the plea by it's Deputy President, Datuk Subramaniam, I feel that I should write and have my say on this. Over the past few days there has been news about Samy Vellu having accused Dr. Mahahtir of promising a lot to, but having done nothing for the Indians. Subsequently he denied having uttered any such words and later accused Subramaniam (Subra) of orchestrating the whole thing. Then he upped the ante by saying that he has had it with Subra's ways, the latter was trying to undermine him and that the MIC should choose between one of them, implying 'throw out Subra'. Yesterday Subra appealed to Samy Vellu to leave him alone and that he prefers to put his future on the line in upcoming polls leaving it to the delegates to decide whether he remains as deputy and he is not contesting the president's post.

For any right thinking person viewing this scene from the outside it looks like plain bullying. Subra is first sidelined in the party, isolated actually, deprived from standing in the last general elections under the MIC quota and now it looks like Samy Vellu wants to totally incapacitate him politically before the party elections which is round the corner. A recent SMS poll found that Subra would win hands down if he was challenged by Samy Vellu's handpicked man in the contest for the deputy president's post. This must have given the old survivor the jitters and has probably prompted him to react in the only way politicians of his ilk know - 'cut the ground from under his feet' and he'll plunge into oblivion.

People generally have a very short memory and it is human nature to forget all the good that one has done, and remember only the unpopular and the distasteful, and that won't change any time soon. So there is no use referring to all the progress made or the benefits obtained by the Indians as a justification to remain in power indefinitely. The popular opinion now is that all politicians from the Mahathir era still around in Pak Lah's cabinet should go and go soon. There is nothing more the 'overstayers' can do for the public good. Better to leave gracefully now, than as mentioned earlier, to be dragged out kicking and screaming. Remember, in dictatorships overstayers are routinely executed.

As for Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, take your mentor Dr. Mahathir as an example of perfect timing. He knew the exact moment to leave and his place in history is assured. It would be a pity if you drag your feet now. Perhaps the time for you to leave has arrived and better now than when the members echo a British politician who said " In God's name, go!"

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stupidity And Greed Power Tenaga's Tariff Hike Demand.

Sorry, not only greed, inefficiency too - and for good measure, atrocious planning.

With the 30 sen fuel hike still having a devastating impact on the average Mat Public, the news lately of increase in the price of sugar reduced our morale a little further. As if that wasn't enough, higher interest rates which affect housing and car loan payments were announced. Now comes the biggest shocker of them all - the impending increase in electricity tariffs.

Over the past few decades we as a people have been lulled into a false sense of security and a perception of invulnerability. Bad things happened only to other people in distant countries but not to us, as if safety and unending supply were our birthright; the government's bounty in providing for the lives of it's citizens taken for granted to last eternally.

Then came the tsunami to shake us out of our reverie. The hitherto unheard word became a part of our vocabulary, little realizing that more were about to be added. And added they were in quick succession. It feels different, nay lousy, to be on the receiving end doesn't it? We are slowly reconciling ourselves to the fuel hike; firstly there is nothing we can do about it and secondly there is a worldwide fuel crisis. Did you know that during the good old Mahathir years some economists had actually condemned fuel subsidies as an irresponsible practice? That's rich isn't it? People are unburdened due to subsidies and these economists say that's irresponsible! I wonder how many of those smart alecks are cursing now.

As for sugar price hikes I suppose some things are inevitable. Apparently world sugar prices are trading near 25-year highs and the government is having a difficult time preventing local sugar producers and wholesalers from raising prices. Keep in mind that sugar is a controlled item where the government fixes the price and this has not risen for at least the past 4 or 5 years. So even this we can grudgingly accept as one of those things that just happen.

However I for one cannot understand the rationale in Tenaga Nasional's demand/request/plea for an increase in tariff. Why? Justify to the people why you want an increase. Don't hide behind the government's skirt and beg them while coyly hiding from the people that keep you in business. I did a bit of reading on the subject in my free time which is precious little (the free time, I mean) and I simply can't find any reasonable grounds for an increase. None that will convince you and me to part with our hard-earned money to these people.

Somewhere along the way some idiot or idiots got Tenaga bound by agreements to purchase RM4 billion in electricity supply annually from independent power producers (IPPs). What this means is that our friend(?) Tenaga is stuck with a lot and I mean a lot of power oversupply. They have to pay the IPPs whether they like it or not. Rm 4 billion annually! Man that's a lot of moolah. As if this is not enough our said 'friend' has got itself entangled with another 2 more IPPs with almost similar brainless agreements which come into effect over the next few months and years. So prepare to be shafted once more later.

Tenaga has a monopoly for power supply in the peninsula and even if Bozo the clown runs it they will still make a handsome profit and they do - millions and millions in legal tender. For the second quarter of its financial year they made a whopping RM399.5 million in net profit! So why does the government treat them like kindergarten children who need to be looked after carefully? Dr. Lim Keng Yaik is not saying anything. As for Tenaga- 'silence is golden' seems to be the theme for the day everyday.

Now I've been wondering. Who are the lucky people who own these IPPs? Are they so smart to have suckered Tenaga into these bad deals? Or some really big fish, you know, whale-size is behind this and while we guys get the short end of the stick, he, she or they are raking it in big time.

There are of course many other problems that will surface along with this tariff hike, chiefly the 'knock-on' effect where everything goes up except our salaries. The impact it will have on the industrial sector will be felt slowly and painfully by us over the years until 'spoilt child' Tenaga wails for another hike.

Finally in future why not let the the big bosses of any company like Tenaga engage the public in a debate and convince us why rates should be increased. Let not the minister keep us on tenterhooks and be the bringer of bad news.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Malaysia - A Schizophrenic Nation?

Sometimes I wonder if we are a country with symptoms of Schizophrenia, which according to the dictionary is any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances.

After the Article 11 incident I've been going through the different newspapers, commentaries and blogs on the mob attack on the Forum at Penang. From what I have read and the little I can deduce from it, I must say that I worry for the mental health of our beloved Malaysia. Just view the bolded words above and correlate to the actions and reactions in the Article 11 fiasco and the opinions and justifications for the mob frenzy. I don't know about you, call me paranoid (another symptom!) if you like but I can see all those words in the faces and language of my fellow citizens. And that's frightening.

The world of the schizophrenic is a mystery to me. What makes them tick? What external stimulus do they react to? What does it mean to 'feel deluded'? What are persons with illogical patterns of thinking capable of doing? How does emotional, behavioral or intellectual disturbances manifest? More importantly can the actions of the anti-IFC mob be attributed to some or all of the above characteristics?..... Is there a psychiatrist in the house? One who has the 'guts' (important word these days) to call a lunatic a lunatic even if it isn't politically correct.

Reading the more 'active' blogs where there are ongoing verbal fisticuffs regarding the forum incident, what is very stark and apparent is the total dichotomy of views on the subject. No give and take, just blow after blow from the word 'go'. The divisions are as clear as in a boxing match - "in the white trunks we have.... and in the green corner from....".There was even a comparison of the reaction to the movie The Da Vinci Code in the west and extrapolating that to the reaction of 'others' on 'other' controversies in the recent past.

In certain newspapers and blogs Minister Nazri has been praised for his forthright comments on the action of the mob. In others he has been condemned and savaged. On one side the forum attack has been severely criticized with commentator after commentator calling it an assault on the constitution itself. On the other, the group has been acclaimed as 'demiheroes' fighting for the rights of the faithful about to have those rights deprived.

Is this country suffering from a double personality, where both halves think that the other is wrong? Is there no middle ground? We are we and they are they and 'ne'er the twain shall meet'? I think it's crazy, (perhaps a wrong choice of words!) and something must be done to rectify this situation or at least get both sides to consider the other person's view. We cannot remain frozen in time and see the rest of the world zipping past us. This is the 21st century for God's sake!

To recap, we have reviewed the symptoms of a mental illness called schizophrenia and tried to reconcile the criteria describing the condition with the anguish and agony wracking the nation. However being the laymen that we are, we were unable to come to any decision on that matter and have decided to leave it to the experts. Having said that, there is nothing to stop us from making some sort of provisional diagnosis. If you do have one please let us know at the comments section.

As for me, I shall leave you with a definition of 'national schizophrenia' - a situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities.
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