Malaysia's chameleon

Jul 30th 2009
From The Economist print edition

The rise, fall and rise of Anwar Ibrahim, South-East Asia’s most extraordinary politician

One evening in mid-July Anwar Ibrahim was deep in the rubber-tapping state of Kelantan in northern Malaysia, urging a crowd of rural folk to vote for a devout fishmonger. The candidate was from the conservative Islamic Party (PAS). A tiny by-election for the state assembly PAS already dominates is ordinarily small beer (or would be, if PAS allowed such a beverage, which it does not). But Mr Anwar needs PAS. For the paradox is that without the Islamists, the alliance he leads of Malay modernisers, Indians and secular Chinese has little chance of driving the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) from power. The coalition that UMNO dominates has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957. Mr Anwar longs for UMNO’s destruction. The feeling is mutual.

That morning, Mr Anwar had been in Perth where he had met Australia’s foreign minister. What had he been doing with Stephen Smith? “Plotting,” replies Mr Anwar, with a conspiratorial wink. Mr Anwar spends a lot of time abroad with national and religious leaders whose names he drops slightly too easily into an engaging conversational style. He moves like quicksilver from one intriguing subject to the next, but you get the uncanny sense that he is speaking to what interests you.

Mr Anwar thinks he will soon need international support. Two days after stumping in Kelantan, pre-trial hearings began in a case in which Mr Anwar stands accused of sodomising a political aide “against the order of nature”. Mr Anwar vigorously denies the charges. He says he is the victim of a political stitch-up. International outrage might help him. Much is fishy about the case. Photographs of the former aide who brought the accusations show him with UMNO members, including people close to the current prime minister, Najib Razak. The charge has been changed from sexual assault to “consensual sex”, yet his accuser has not been charged. (All homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.)

Mr Anwar has been here before. In 1998 he was charged with corruption and homosexual acts. In custody, he was beaten up by the chief of police. He spent six years in jail, mostly in solitary confinement, until his conviction was overturned. Upon release, his political career seemed over.

It is easy to forget now but for many years Mr Anwar led a charmed life. He made his name as an Islamist student leader in the 1970s and was even jailed under the draconian Internal Security Act. Then he shocked his former colleagues by joining UMNO, where his rise was spectacular. By 1993 he was deputy prime minister and heir to Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s long-serving leader. Malaysia seemed about to fall into his lap. “Ah,” says Mr Anwar, “the good old days.”

But during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, Mr Anwar moved too soon against his mentor, who after 16 years in power was not ready to bow out. Mr Anwar railed against the UMNO cronyism from which he had benefited. Livid, Dr Mahathir threw him out of the cabinet and launched Mr Anwar’s persecution. Mr Anwar’s reformasi movement sputtered out with his jailing.

Yet the hopes which that movement represented surged again after the general election of March 2008, and especially after August 2008 when Mr Anwar won a seat in Penang. In the election the ruling coalition lost its precious two-thirds majority which gave it power to change the constitution. It has since lost five out of six by-elections to Mr Anwar’s forces, which also control four of 13 states. In getting out its message, the opposition has been helped by an explosion of internet opinion that has undermined the influence of the UMNO-controlled mainstream media.

UMNO’s back is against the wall. Even its own officials admit to its arrogance, with corruption bound into the fabric of its power. The New Economic Policy (NEP, introduced in 1971) instituted racial preferences for majority Malays, when ethnic Chinese and Indians owned much of business. But instead of helping the poor, the NEP has enriched rent-seekers around the ruling party, while dragging down economic growth. Resentment has spread from Chinese and Indians to poor or pious Malays.

This has made possible Mr Anwar’s strange alliance. In calling for the end to the NEP, he says poor Chinese and Indians need help as much as Malays—but because there are more poor Malays than other races, they will still get the lion’s share of government help. It is a possible way out from the baneful influence of race on Malaysian politics. But the real strength of this alliance is that Mr Anwar’s charisma and political nous holds it together. Alas, that it is potential weakness, too.
Trials and tribulations

The challenges for Mr Anwar and his alliance will now multiply. For a start, Mr Najib, prime minister since April, has said the NEP must adapt, stealing some of his opponent’s thunder.

Then there is the time-consuming trial. Mr Anwar says he will win whatever the verdict. If he is acquitted, the government which brought the case will be discredited. If found guilty, tens of thousands of supporters will take to the streets. Mr Anwar hints tantalisingly at new information in a murder case that has gripped the country partly because of its links to Mr Najib. This, he suggests, gives him ammunition to fight back.

Intriguing, but it is unlikely to be enough. If Mr Anwar does go to jail, the alliance may not survive the loss of its leader. If he calls out his supporters—for something of the martyr lurks in him—he may be blamed for the ensuing chaos. And if he appeals to international opinion, his local supporters may question that.

This points to a trap waiting to catch the silver-tongued Mr Anwar, who deftly tells different audiences—religious or secular—what they like to hear. The same blogosphere that helped his meteoric rise may one day pay more attention to his chameleon qualities. Malaysians would then come to ask more closely: who and what exactly does Anwar stand for?

Pelabuhan Kelang

Sometimes it's quite tough to find the balance between fast news updates and reasonable editing work.

Random musing and talking cock about Teoh Beng Hock

A lot has been written about Teoh Beng Hock. I shall not dwell about what has already been written and I will not also blog about the choice words I uttered over the past few days.

Instead, I want to calm down as some "prominent" person has advised the public to do so and try to appraise an administration and its entities funded by tax monies derived from our shrinking purchasing power.

In times of crises, we would expect our civil service and public trust holders to react intelligently, effectively and swiftly for the good of the public. so that they can retain or increase supporters from voters and tax payers.

How did our police do?

Jangan cetus ketegangan – KPN

SEPANG 21 Julai – Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Musa Hassan mengingatkan mana-mana pihak supaya tidak mencetuskan ketegangan dengan memutarbelitkan fakta kes Teoh Beng Hock, 30, yang ditemui mati di Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, Khamis lalu.

Tegas beliau, pihak polis perlu diberi peluang menyelesaikan siasatan kes yang kini siap 60 peratus.

‘‘Kita sedang jalankan siasatan, tetapi kalau cuba putar belitkan fakta oleh kerana nak ganggu tanpa siasatan muktamad, kita akan ambil tindakan sepatutnya.

‘‘Kita nak tahu bagaimana kes itu terjadi, kita kena tengok cara macam mana, adakah dia terjun sendiri atau ada kaitan dengan orang lain. Saya ikut akta yang kita siasat dan selepas itu kita akan buat cadangan kepada Peguam Negara,’’ katanya.

The top policeman is more concerned about warning people “creating tension” (please tell me whether it is normal or not to have "tension" whenever there is a death, especially such a gruesome and tragic one) and the first possibility that he singled out was Teoh Beng Hock, a soon to wed father-to-be with many friends and loved ones, would take his own life on the eve of you all know what.

I want a tax refund. Colombo is much superior.

How did the government mouth piece do?

Race card played over Teoh’s death shows Umno’s desperation
By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Umno is not above playing the racial card when it comes to getting what it wants. Take the case of Teoh Beng Hock and the article written by New Straits Times Group managing editor Zainul Ariffin in the Berita Harian.

Zainul likened the criticism levelled at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as an attempt by certain quarters to weaken a Malay institution. It's no mystery or secret who these "certain quarters" he was referring to are and the question many opposition leaders and the public have been asking is this: since when did the MACC become a Malay institution

Berita Harian is widely read in Malaysia and plays a pivotal part in shaping public opinion of its readers. If a managing director of a national daily, no less, thinks MACC stands for Malay Anti Corruption Commission, he better has head examined. And I mean the one due north, not south (soft).

And the proud and passionate linguists should decide whether the professional concerned is doing the language a service or disservice.

By the way, going with the fler's argument, consistent with the practices of Malay institutions like Mara, UiTM etc that caters for Malay needs, if MACC is a Malay institution, then it should only be investigating Malays, right?

I hope to appeal for a discount if MACC is indeed for Malays only. I always believe a man can become better if he is self reliant and independent in fending for his own livelihood.

If the editor hails from some local schools, I hate to foot the bill for the education system that produces professional writers of such standard as well as readers who accept without the ability to evaluate the rights and wrongs of whatever that was written.

p.s. Note to Pakatan Rakyat. You are doing the right thing by pointing out that this is not a race issue. However, you are preaching to the converted. The crappy stuff published is meant for the voter banks with access only to controlled MSMs. You chaps are doing well in the existing markets but please mind the part about penetrating into new markets.

How did our leader do?

ARKIB : 24/07/2009

Fungsi Suruhanjaya Diraja tidak akan diperluaskan

24/07/2009 5:19pm

BANGI 24 Julai - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak berkata, fungsi Suruhanjaya Diraja bagi menyiasat punca kematian Setiausaha Politik kepada seorang Exco Selangor, Teoh Beng Hock tidak akan diperluaskan.

Perdana Menteri berkata, Suruhanjaya itu akan kekal seperti yang telah beliau umumkan kerana ia selaras dengan peruntukan undang-undang manakala punca kematian Beng Hock akan diketahui menerusi inkues khas.

Consistent with previous rulings like limiting the total numbers of papers our kids can sit for SPM, the BN administration has a tendency to place barriers for Malaysians to exercise their grey matter.

By the way, if we can have 3 in 1 coffee and tea, why the need to have a royal commission and an inquest? Also, why are there restriction imposed that which would curtail the avenue of seeking the right answers to the right questions?

Isn’t that a waste of money? It is better to have a single royal commission of inquiry as a “one stop center” to find out the cause of death and identify areas for improvement in MACC procedures, with a jolly by product of identifying the culprit.

1 is cheaper than 2. Not very prudent in managing our tax money and I rather pay for something else, like contributing to a charity.

By the way, someone miss out big time a chance to come out smelling like roses.


IF A DNA test proves that the late Teoh Beng Hock is the father of Soh Cher Wei’s child, he should be named the father in the birth certificate, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abd Aziz.

We all know about respecting the dead and not to talk cock about tragic events. This person whom I paid for to look after chairs and tables manage to come up with such a fantastic idea of overcoming existing JPN red tape.

Nazri also pointed out an existing weakness of the birth certificate procedures. We NEVER have a blood test to ensure the nipper is really ours. Hell, I wasn't tested, were you? If Nazri's idea been adopted from day 1, then Michael Jacko would not have such a enduring song to sing “Billie Jean, not my lover, ….and the champs not my son…”

Bravo minister, lets back date your great idea. Let’s test your kids first. It might be a box of chocolate. We never know until we open it up……

#Atuk Nasi, not my lover, he's juz a blur, sayin' that I jumpin' one...but the my son.#

For once, there comes a great idea from a BN minister. Maybe we should all chip in and have Nazri’s children to be tested to ensure they are really his….

A note on the Selangor State Government

Politics and state management is a learning process. Many people have not done it before. If one fails now, it doesn't mean one will fail in future. PR has a lot to learn still. Temptation lurks in every corner. And often, it is difficult to distinguish what are facts and what is perception.

I applaud every commenter who has and who will place their thoughts here, and elsewhere, on this subject matter, because 'good' comments or 'bad' comments, it shows everyone is in an engaged state.

You must remember, we power this country and not the other way around. Many of us here did decide, in 2008, whom was to run Selangor. We decided on accountability and transparency in good faith, but sometimes things do not run as expected.

But it's ok. Even if the scenario doesn't look good now; this is check and balance in action, something we all sought for when we went to the ballot box in 2008. Check and balance doesn't mean looking good all the time, unlike how we are groomed to think otherwise for the last 50 years. When things are wrong we need to fix it and not sweep it under the carpet.

Even if PR doesn't look good now so what. Check and balance is our code as rakyat and we live by it.

Cops probe report against Exco member with "underworld connections"

Maria J.Dass
The Sun

SHAH ALAM (July 16, 2009) : Police have begun investigations into reports against a Selangor executive council (exco) member following allegations that his office was being used as a base by underworld figures to conduct their activities.

Wangsa Maju PKR parliamentarian Wee Choo Keong, who made the allegations in a July 11 blog posting, was today questioned for two-and-a-half-hours by officers from the D7 (Anti-vice and gaming division) of the Selangor Police Contigent headquarters here.

Emerging from the building he told reporters that he was interviewed by two officers who recorded his statement and collected all documents relating to his allegations against the executive councillor.

At a press conference later Selangor CPO Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said investigations were being conducted under Section 233 of the Multimedia Act.

"The Commercial Crimes Department and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) have been tasked to work on this case," he said.

Asked why Wee was questioned by D7 officers, he said the Section 233 of the Multimedia Act allows the police to initiate investigations which are now being conducted by the CID and Commercial Crimes Investigations Department, but the case will be reclassified if the need arises.

"We will be calling more witnesses," said Abdul Khalid.

Wee told reporters that he had named the exco involved when he gave his statement to the police.

"I have given them all the relevant documents," he said but would not confirm if these included picture and videos.

"It is best you ask the police about this," Wee said, while declining to reveal the identity of the exco.

He said he had given a few names of informants and complainants to the police and they may be called in soon to provide more leads into the case.

Wee said he had been "advised" by friends not to play with fire (by raising the allegations against a fellow Pakatan Rakyat politician) but said these were risks that politicians had to take.

Asked about DAP's Selangor exco for local authorities and research and development Ronnie Liu’s challenge to him to ‘be a man’ and name the person concerned, Wee said: "Don’t push me too hard, I am a man that’s why I’m here speaking to the police."

"Why is he worried? I never named him and the other eight excos have not said anything either," he added.

Meanwhile, Liu at a press conference earlier said that he was ready face any interrogation from the police and the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) pertaining to the allegations.

"What do I have to be afraid of, I am ready if they come, I have not done anything wrong so what do I have to be afraid of?" he told reporters.

He said he had yet to be contacted by the police or MACC officers on the matter.

"I have not taken any commissions, and all the expenditure of my allocations are stated in my blog-," Liu said.

"I am very transparent," he added.

It's shaken, not stirred

Is there a difference between a martini being shaken or stirred? Well, according to James Bond, there is; and here's the answer according to the Wiki:

Scientists, specifically biochemists, and martini connoisseurs have investigated the difference between a martini shaken and a martini stirred. According to a study at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in Canada to determine if the preparation of a martini has an influence on their antioxidant capacity, the shaken gin martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin martini which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide. The study was done at the time because moderate consumption of alcohol appears to reduce the risk of cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, none of which afflict the fictional James Bond.

Andrew Lycett, an Ian Fleming biographer, believed that Fleming liked his martinis shaken, not stirred because Fleming thought that stirring a drink diminished its flavor.

Lycett also noted that Fleming preferred gin and vermouth for his martini. It has also been said that Fleming was a fan of martinis shaken by Hans Schröder, a German bartender.
Some connoisseurs believe that shaking gin is a faux pas, supposedly because the shaking "bruises" the gin (a term referring to a slight bitter taste that can allegedly occur when gin is shaken). Others contend that Bond was only shaking because of the vodka it contained.

Prior to the 1960s, vodka was, for the most part, refined from potatoes (usually cheaper brands). This element made the vodka oily. To disperse the oil, Bond ordered his martinis shaken; thus, in the same scene where he orders the martini, he tells the barman about how vodka made from grain rather than potatoes makes his drink even better. This does not explain why Bond in the films still preferred his drink to be shaken rather than stirred, because beginning mostly in the 1960s vodka refined from po
tatoes was virtually replaced by vodka refined by grains such as corn and wheat or by other ingredients such as grapes and soybeans. Other reasons for shaking tend to include making the drink colder or as Bond called it, ice-cold.

Shaking allows the drink to couple with the ice longer thus making it far colder than if it were to be stirred. Shaking is also said to dissolve the vermouth better making it less oily tasting

Now there you have it, the reason James wants it shaken and not stirred. You know, back in March 2008 at Wangsa Maju, at a thanksgiving dinner organized by Wangsa Maju MP Wee Choo Keong, guest Gombak MP Azmin Ali almost said the same thing in the context of the Ian Fleming phrase. That night the rain poured, fizzling out the satay flames, as the swelling crowd pulled in under the tents. It was then Azmin said in his speech to the captivated crowd that the newly elected PR MPs would 'mengegar' (shake) the Parliament rather than just stir it.

Fast forward to July 2009, the Selangor Government is now being shaken by the same guys. Between compatriot political camps it may be, but I wouldn't call it shit stirring in this case, because it appears that the shit is shaken not stirred. Yes, I must admit that the general PR supportors are shocked with the amount of dirty linen being laundered in the open; both BN and anti-BN think that the PR won't last long with the amount of bickering that's out in the open.

But I think it's ok. Issues being thrashed in the open keep things in check and in full view of the public eye. I think it is a healthy way of doing things. Some say scandalous political matters should be settled behind closed doors- however, don't you think there are pros and also cons to this. Over the years, too many matters have been settled behind closed doors. Those doors were so air-tight shut that we wished there was more transparency to it. The toll deals, the MAS buy-over, the Scomi scandal, the Lingam judicial case and the list goes on. The Constitution has been amended over 600 times, the word 'Allah' has been patented by the Government, the keris raised many times and the NEP is still around.

We were all betrayed by the people who purported to represent us. Would I subscribe to their manner of doing things which is sweeping the dust within closed doors? I won't. If there's something wrong, let's have it out because I want to hear about it.

Anwar's stand of the use of English

Anwar's stand on policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in the Press surprised me a bit.

I took the liberty of going into You Tube to check recorded speeches of Anwar, past and present, on matters related to Bahasa Melayu and English and found a couple of videos which could be of interest to the public.

Well Anwar stands for the Bahasa Melayu as prime language that's for sure. But it's been spinned out of proportion by The Star headlines. The headline above gives the impression that Anwar is outrightly against the use of English. However in that particluar interview, Anwar gave a more elaborative and balanced explanation of what he meant. Check out the below video and see what I mean.

Hooray! Najib's people friendly actions and we are saved!

Sunday July 12, 2009
Najib marks 100 days with people-friendly measures

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak marked his 100th day as Prime Minister by announcing 11 people-friendly measures – including a toll discount for frequent users and a new trust fund – to address some longstanding public grievances.

So what goodies are we suppose to be deliriously happy about?

> a 20% toll discount for frequent users who pay toll 80 times a month or more via the Smart Tag or Touch ’n Go, effective Sept 1;

Peanuts are better than nothing. You have to spend RM2,500 a month on toll then you get RM500, enough to pay for your kancil installment. Under the lopsided toll agreement, YAB, does the people, er…government has to compensate the toll companies if the discounts resulting in profits less than the guaranteed amount?

What about the KL-Seremban Toll? In early 1980's the toll rate was about RM1.20 if I remember correctly and now it is a whopping RM7.20? What kind of a business model you call that?

Why the 80 times, reward for frequent users no doubt but what about those who are crammed into LRT and buses? The majority of the poor with motorcycles, bicycles or on their own feet who would cut down traveling and avoid toll roads would not get anything out of it. Would this toll reduce significantly the cost of transport of all goods and services?

> some 44,000 low-cost houses under the Program Perumahan Rakyat in the Federal Territory offered for sale to existing tenants;

At the same time, many residents in Air Panas setinggan area are dispatched to Kerinchi PPR despite belief that there are empty units in Air Panas. Considering theirs schools, jobs and General Hospital are in the vicinity; their appeals to be relocated back to Air Panas are flatly rejected.

> a 50% discount on licences for petty traders in the Federal Territory;

Ask how easy is it to get a trade licence nowadays. I have came across an old man asking for a business licence from DBKL so that he could trade as a mobile hawker and he was instead asked to apply for 8 fixed location license so that he could carry out his business plans

> setting up a new trust fund, Amanah Saham 1Malaysia, with a maximum size of 10 billion units. Those above 18 are eligible to invest. Under the Amanah Saham Wawasan scheme, 10,000 poverty-stricken urban households under the E-Kasih list would receive 10,000 units per household by 2010.

One wonders how the trust funds are being managed. The share market does seem to be propped up pretty well lately, isn’t it? Still stuck in the rent seeking, share holding mode instead of human capital development and capacity building. Back to the give the man a fish rather than teaching and enabling he to fish. Meanwhile, would the 10,000 unit for 10,000 families means the other subscribers are paying for the 100,000,000 units? Did I not paid taxes already so that Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM) can assist the poor?


Presently, under the JKM assistance programme, disable people (OKUs) can either get RM300 a month if they are capable of working whereas if they are unable to work, then the entitlement is RM180. When was the last time you observe a JKM task force coming out and proactively seeking out people who are in need but ignorant?

When you go into a government office, do you feel that you will get prompt, efficient, sensible, fair and reassuring services? Do you get multi-cultural and linguist capability that can emphasize and understand our diversified society better? I am not speaking for the smarter and younger generations but those elders who have contributed a life time to this country and it is a challenge for them to express themselves in languages they seldom use.

Malaysia is in such a rut that if a YAB pick up any trash or rubbish and do a little bit of work on it, he or she will come out smelling like roses. We have set a very low standard to better.

While I give him credit for trying, and also acknowledge that this initiative is as a result of competition and pressure from Pakatan Rakyat, I am a bit disappointed as the basic livelihood issues of the common Ali, Chong and Muthu in the street are not addressed such as rising cost of living, satisfactory performance level of civil servants, crime and opportunity to make a living without being shackled by excessive bureaucracy and exercise of discretion.

There is also no addressing of the human capital issues. If the brainiest Malaysians can be groomed, retained and enticed back in Malaysia, and given ample reward and adequate support in their work so that they can contribute to the better function of this country be it in the commercial and industry sector, civil service (especially education and healthcare) as well as NGO scenes.

The glaring thing missing is a revamp of the workings of the national piggy bank, Petronas. Still shrouded in mystery. There is no serious consideration how to use Petronas as a tool to assist Malaysians in times of economic hardship. No serious address on corruption as well because once you get rid of this scourge, the cost of business and living will be reduced and I am sure we will all taste, feel , enjoy and relish a new way of living.

Tall asking? No. Developed countries have these things in place a long time ago and it is time the country wakes up from Badawi's slumber.

The blog that Najib reads

This is one of the most vain, disgraceful and worst blog-whoring piece I have ever written; hang my head in absolute shame! I hope my mother don't read this!

I think I have stumbled upon a blog that our dear bold, innovative and hard working Prime Minister reads and pick ideas from.

See the similarities?

PM said:

Najib: Acceptance, not mere tolerance, vital
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 09:36

"The concept, based on three thrusts, starts with the question of acceptance or mutual respect we should have for one another. All this while, we have been saying we tolerate each other but to me, tolerance is the minimum and not whole-heartedly accepted."

Najib said acceptance was a balanced concept for the country's society. "If we plural and diversified can accept this as a reality, we will see diversity and the different races as an asset, not liability."

Humble me wrote:

Saturday, March 14, 2009
I am all for positive racism

One of the best phases I have heard while working in multi-national corporations is “Diversification and Inclusion”. People from different countries, religious background, sexual orientation, and cultural upbringing are not to be discriminated on these basis. Mutual respect and acceptance is the call of the day. I would add that for our society, inter-racial “tolerance” is a bit on the negative side. I prefer the words “accommodation” and “acceptance”. We should celebrate the diversity and richness of our culture. Malaysia can attract English and Chinese speaking investors and tourists, or Middle East investors with citizens who can interact better with them.

PM said:

Published: Tuesday June 30, 2009 MYT 11:34:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 30, 2009 MYT 4:22:25 PM
PM announces slew of liberalisation measures (Update 2)

8. But let me assure you, that making this transition to a high income economy for the future of our country has become my key priority. My government’s policies and priorities will be driven by this overall objective. The concept of 1Malaysia that I have propagated is meant to get all Malaysians to work as one team in order to achieve one goal and that is towards a developed nation by 2020. I have set in motion, efforts to formulate a new economic model, which will be base on innovation, creativity and high value, to lift us into the ranks of a high income nation within the decade. Our new economic model is intended to shift our reliance from a manufacturing base dependent on semi skilled and low cost labour to one that hinges on a high technology and modern services sector dependent upon skilled and highly paid architecture and intensifying competitive pressures arising from dramatic changes in the global economy.

Humble me wrote:

Monday, March 9, 2009
Livelihood of yours and mind (2): earning capacity and distribution of income in Malaysia
By Lee Wee Tak at 3:33 PM

We need to create jobs that people are willing to pay top dollars for. We need to attract, facilitate and encourage businesses that generate high revenue and profits. We need to have sufficient qualified and talented people regardless of race, religion, sex and cultural background to fill post or if not, allow foreign talents to come in and provide learning opportunities to locals.

Malaysia is still heavily leaned towards labour intensive manufacturing activities. Not only this command a lower share of the value added within the supply chain, we ended up propping up the disposable income of households in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and God knows where else! Mahathir’s attempt to create our own Silicon Valley has given us a misguided housing development project instead.

Changi Airports are filled with Caucasians, Japanese, Koreans and who have you that looked like high- powered business executives. In KLIA, we have high numbers of Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, Burmese and who have you lining up patiently to be herbed to plantation, construction sites, factories or secondary forests.

Yeah, sure, great men think alike and lightening do strike twice! I rest my case.

Can anyone advise me whether I should charge a fee? :-)

Maids made in Malaysia

Both Indonesia and Malaysia will emerge as losers from this maid deal. It is not a win-loose situation nor a win-win situation but a loose-loose situation in the long run. This overblown maid-abuse issue has shown Indonesia the fast-track to bang Malaysia for the buck. We are really getting banged, being poorly represented by Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam who continuously fail to leverage up with Indonesia's Manpower and Trans-migration Minister Erman Suparno in the series of negotiations taking place at the present moment. Both ministers are doing a bad job- one banging, banging and banging; the other receiving to the pulp, both not thinking right. Dr Subra, are you sore already.

1) The results of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) survey on Malaysians willing to pay RM700 monthly salary for a maid- which part of the population did the MTUC survey which represented the Malaysian people? RM700 is 155% of the current monthly salary of an average maid from Indonesia. To the reader I would like to pose a question- if you are a salaried worker and if your boss increases your salary by 50% today would his expectations on your work performance increase too? What is Subra trying to say here.

2) Mr. Erman Suparno mentions that “Being trained or untrained is irrelevant. The question is what are the qualifications required by employers for a domestic servant?"
Of course training matters la. Training is essential in every job ladey.
Being trained is the utmost qualification a domestic maid could have (whoops, the word 'servant' is kinda degrading) and nothing else. It does matter when coming to doing the job right and some training ensures that accidents do not happen. Even in factories employers prevent industrial accidents by repetitive safety training, so what about our homes. You wouldn't want cooking gas explosions nor hot-water scalded babies do you.

3)Eh, we are talking about minimum maid wages, but what about minimum productivity and efficiency levels? If expectations do not match up, coupled with higher wages, will this frustrate potential employers even more and lead to increased maid abuse cases?

Minimum wages, weekly off-day and covering maids under the Employment Act 1955 alone are not effective ways to prevent maid-abuse. Both parties Malaysia and Indonesia have come up with everything but the right answers. I do not have answers to all employer-maid issues but I can attest that minimum wages will not work for both employee and employee in the long run because of the nature of the current environment. I feel that many of the issues relate back to work quality. To improve performance standards, an effective method is to implement an appraisal system for maids, and the appraisal goes along with them as they get employed in Malaysia. No minimum wages please, but a standardised increase in wages according to appraisal results. These appraisal results should be signed off annually by the maid, the employer, the agency and the embassy. Maids with good ratings and good standing get more money. Free market economy. Also, this system provides potential employers a choice of hire between experience or new maids. Since maids are being considered under the EA1955, we can do it corporate style right.

As for insurance coverage, one day off per week and the rest of the luxuries I think I'm ok with it. I'm also ok with local holiday trips for that extra motivation and some R&R. Just do the job right.

Pemuda UMNO melarang aktiviti pendaftaran pengundi, perbalahan tercetus

Terjemahan Laporan Sin Chew Jit Poh 4 Julai 2009

Pendaftaran pengundi cetuskan perbalahan
3 orang cendera termasuk dua orang ADUN

Laporan di akhbar Sin Chew Jit Poh yang berkenaan

Ulasan foto

1. Pihak yang dipercayai daripada Pemuda UMNO ingin merampas meja dan mencetuskan perbalahan. Seorang pemuda berbaju hitam memukul meja dengan baton pengawal (nota penterjemah: mengapa polis tidak tangkap budak yang berbaju hitam ini? Mungkin terdapat berbezaan antara undang-undang di Perak dan Melaka)

2. Seorang pemuda diheret dan dipukul (rujukan lakaran garis merah) namun nasib baik seorang polis (berbaju jingga) sempat memberhentikan pengacau daripada terus membelasahnya.

Melaka 2 Julai: DAP Melaka menjalankan kerja pendaftaran di pasar malam dan ini menyebabkan rasa tidak puas hati di kalangan Pemuda UMNO sehingga mengakibatkan kekacauan dan perbalahan. Seorang pemerhati pun kena serang beramai-ramai dan dua orang ADUN DAP pula mengalami cedera ringan.

Perkara ini berlaku kira-kira pada pukul 8:45pm di Pasar Malam Melaka Baru. Ketika itu DAP sedang mengadakan aktiviti mendaftarkan pengundi dan Pemuda UMNO anggap ini sebagai mempolitikkan pasar malam dan membuat bantahan.

Salah seorang Ketua Pemuda UMNO yang hadir di situ adalah Naib Ketua Bukit Kadi Encik Mohd Jalani (ejaan mungkin tidak tepat kerana diterjemah daripada perkataan Cina) yang memarahkan pemimpin-peminpin DAP dan PAS di situ dan mengeluarkan kata akhir bahawa mereka mesti nyah daripada kawasan tersebut dalam masa lima minit, jika tidak beliau akan menyuruh pekerja majlis perbandaran merampas meja kerusi itu.

Namun demikian, sebelum genapnya 5 minit, Jalani dan rakan-rakannya pun bertindak, ahli-ahli DAP dan PAS pun segera menahan meja dan kerusi cuba elakkan dirampas. Kelihatan seorang pemuda memecahkan meja dengan kayu baton pengawal dan 4 atau 5 pemuda lagi bingkas mengheret dan memukul seorang lelaki yang sedang memerhatikan berlakunya kekacauan ini.

Dimaklumkan bahawa lelaki ini pun mengalami cedera ringan.

Ketika itu, ADUN Air Keroh Khoo Poay Tiong mengalami kecederaan di dua belah lutut semasa kerusinya ditolak manakala ADUN Kesidang Goh Liang San mengalami kecederaan otot tangan kiri apabila cuba “melindungi” mejanya.

Nasib baik terdapat polis dalam pakaian biasa di situ yang sempat memberhentikan tercetusnya perbalahan yang lebih parah dan mereka membawa seorang pemuda untuk siasatan lanjut.

Setelah berhentinya perbalahan, ahli-ahli DAP dan Pas pun beredar dari situ pada pukul 9:10 malam dan pergi ke balai polis untuk membuat laporan lanjut.

Laporan mengenai peristiwa yang sama in Oriental Daily: Gambar menunjukkan lutut ADUN Ayer Keroh yang tercalar

Nota penterjemah

1. Dakwaan Ketua Pemuda bahawa pendaftaran ini akan mempolitikan pasar malam; mungkin benar tetapi ini juga suatu perkhidmatan ADUN kepada orang ramai mengenali hak asasi mereka dan ini bukanlah perkara yang buruk. Bahkan SPR pun mengadakan tempat mendaftar pengundi di merata-rata tempat. MCA pun mengadakan aktiviti ini di Kondominium Platinum Hill, Taman Melati sebelum March 2008. Adakah SPR dan MCA telah mempolitikan pejabat pos, pasaraya, kondominium dan sebagainya?

2. Encik Mohd Jalani telah mengatakan bahawa beliau akan menyuruh pekerja Majlis Perbandaran merampas kerusi dan meja. Adakah beliau mempunyai jawatan dan kuasa yang berkenaan? Jika ya, saya mengkagumi betapa cepatnya pegawainya boleh sampai dan bertindak dalam masa 5 minit. Mungkinkah adanya bayaran Overtime yang lumayan? Cuba bandingkanlah dengan betapa cepatnya DBKL dan lain-lain Majlis Perbandaran lain bertindak dalam menyelenggarakan kawasan sekitar.

3. Saya berterima kasih kepada pihak PDRM yang sempat mencegah perkara ini menjadi lebuh parah. Syabas!

4. Dalam waktu DAP Kedah keluar daripada Kerajaan Negeri Kedah dan sindiran bertubi-tubi daripada pihak BN serta pada waktu UMNO ingin menjalin hubungan erat dengan PAS, maka pihak-pihak yang kononnya mewakili UMNO telah mencaci dan menyerang orang-orang PAS yang berdiri bersama orang-orang DAP.

5. Perbuatan menyerang ADUN boleh diibaratkan menyerang dan tidak menghormati pilihan rakyat di kawasan DUN tersebut. Maka saya terpaksa memilih ungkapan daripada RTM, “Ini Budaya Siapa"?

The myth behind the 30% thingy

Reading it the first time,

I applauded the bold move by Najib on the economic reforms. Of course the most telling change is that the 30% bumiputra quota requirement for companies seeking to list on the Bursa Malaysia has been done away

However, I wonder what you make of this.

".....All Malaysian companies seeking listing would have to offer 50% of their public offering to bumiputra investors, which would work out to 12.5% of the total stake;...."

To me it means the promoters only (i.e. the entrepreneurs seeking to list the companies; usually they develop the business to a size sufficient to qualify for listing) are able to reap the benefits of deregulation. Typical of BN policies as it benefits the privileged minority.

However, for the non-bumi man, woman and tengah-tengah in the street, their chances of succeeding in IPO application is immediate cut down by 50% “officially” as compared to previously, no such limiting of their “official” chances because before this, public offering is public offering.

The 12.5% quoted above assumes the IPO company is offering 25% for public floatation. If, however, the company decide to offer either 40%, 50% or 70% for public, then the bumi quota will be 20%, 25% or 35% respectively.

Hello! There goes the apparent favourable development in terms of “more equal opportunities for non-bumi"; something Najib is working hard on to re-gain non-bumi support.

Since we have a 50% to be set aside from public offering for bumis only, it is more appropriate, and grammatically correct to split the term “public spread” into “bumi public spread” and “non-bumi public” spread. Najib’s concept of 1 Malaysia illustrated.

"....Saying that the emphasis now was on participation instead of equity, Najib also announced the setting up of Ekutinas (Ekuiti Nasional Bhd), a private equity fund to make strategic investments for bumiputras, especially in companies with high-growth potential...."

Why not a fund for the poor and under privileged instead? Anyway, that is another angle.....

I prefer the approach to groom bumis and also non-bumis into having the right attitude to work, education, financial management and competitiveness. Turn Malaysians into efficient, effective, productive and thinking workers as well as powerfully consumers that make businessmen smile.

Throwing an enormous amount of tax payers’ money into “private” equity fund is falling back on the old model of shareholding and rent seeking mentality. Also, does “private” mean “private club concealed from public viewing and accountability"? If the records of BN administration’s investment vehicles are to go by, we can expect huge losses, unaccountable transactions and evaporation of funds.

I rather put the fund into SMI loans, education and training facilities so that bumis and non-bumis alike can have access to training, financial support and opportunity to compete in an open economy. If Najib wants to open up competition by letting Johnny Foreigners to come in, then equip all Malaysians with the skill, backing and support, please.

Look at Singapore, the flow of foreign equities, manpower, brainpower and business are fluid and dynamic but are Malaysians equipped with the right mentality, work ethnic and awareness to deal with this after decades of competition and information restrive environment?

Oh, by the way, where are the defenders of ethnic rights from Pewaris, UiTM etc as this ground shaking announcement is made? Compared to opening up UiTM for 10% non-bumi seats, isn’t this more significant? Their silence reinforce my impression that they are consistent not in their purported ideas, belief and principles but rather in their support for a particular side of the political divide.

See Liow ('Already Dead'- Hokkien)

When my flight from Jakarta touched down KLIA at 10.45pm last night, I noticed the H1N1 screening counters (right before the Immigration checkpoint) had closed shop. Passengers just walked right into the country without thermal screening. If someone in that flight was carrying the H1N1, we would have had it (I'm crossing my fingers for the 7-day watch-period to be over without an incident for myself). Referring to the highlighted Bernama report above, I think the Health Minister doesn't know what's actually happening on the ground (Woi, don't la call upon the PDRM and Immigration to help watch out for the potential H1N1 infected; the PDRM has their fare share of issues such as illegal airport taxi touts to take care of, potential drug smugglers to watch out for etc. The Immigration on the other hand has their own stuff to care of).

Anyway, on the other flights which I have been through at the KLIA these bunch of guys behind the thermal cameras really look bored and sleepy each time I pass them. I wonder if they really concentrate on the thermal screens or just looking at the lenglui passengers? Are there checks to ensure officers deployed to the entry and exit points do their jobs effectively. For a virus which has the potential to develop into something fatal, such slack controls adopted at our entry and exit points is definitely not it.

Below: H1N1 advisory cards handed out at the KLIA upon arrival of passengers.
Yup, this is flu control.

H1N1 and the Tourism Minister

Whatever one calls it- 'balanced' reporting or 'played down' reporting simply means suppresed news. This is bad news indeed, with Malaysia's H1N1 count increasing and the fact that it takes 5 days for the Press to report the local transmission in Wangsa Maju, the Tourism Minister is calling out for less news on H1N1.

Insight on tourism statistics
Malaysia's tourism relies heavily on inbound tourists; about 22 million ( year 2008) of them per year arriving with about 50% tourists consistently arriving from Singapore and the other 50% from other parts of the world.

This Press report on Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen dated June 29 refers. Although she worries about the huge tourist drop from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and so on, the tourist count from these countries form a small percentage of Malaysia's total tourist arrivals only. Additionally, tourists from this part of the world do not contribute significantly to tourism revenue ie these groups do not spend much because of the average short stay of 3 nights. Also, they tapau (takeaway) a lot from the nearest convenience store- hence not contributing much to food & beverage revenue of the hotels they stay in.

Another factor is that these tour groups come in droves as opposed to single or couple travelers, causing hotel rooms being sold cheaply by the bulk to tour agencies. Rooms rates on the contrary, are usually sold higher to single or non-group travelers compared to transient groups. Lower room rates, lower revenue. Even though the decrease in tourists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan is significant, the impact on tourism revenue will be not be as significant.

Temporary solution for the tourism and hotel industry
Instead of using the fall in tourist arrivals from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as a reason to suppress stories on H1N1, why not do the following to help out the hoteliers and the tourism industry:

1)Get TNB to offer a temporary discount of say 50% off for 6 months, or waive that 'maximum' tariff rate on peak periods for hoteliers. Power cost is a major hotel killer cost- at least 50% of running costs of a hotel is electricity cost. Besides, Tenaga's maximum demand peak charge is an unfair monopolistic charge.

2)Create a better tourism yield- let's forget about the tourists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan for a moment and shift our attention to geographical segments which contribute to higher tourism revenue. These market segments contribute a bigger thrust in tourism revenue because of the higher spending power of the people in these countries. Also these tourists tend to have longer average room nights compared to the China, Hong Kong and Taiwan tourists. The continents I am talking about are Europe, the Middle East (Middle East season is starting soon) and Russia (Russian peak season starts from December and ends somewhere in January). Get the higher spending tourists in right now. Get MAS to increase long-haul flights from those countries to our island resorts. Our island resorts need these flights in.
Why island resorts? Resorts have higher room rates, higher food and beverage prices plus a longer stay factor. All these are factors which contribute to higher tourism revenue.

3)Improve the service standards of the tourism industry. Service still sucks even in some 5-star hotels. The Tourism Ministry's hotel rating system puts too much emphasis on hotel hardware and too little on hotel service. For example, what's the point of having a nice swimming pool when hotel staff can't even serve your breakfast right? 5-star hotels must not only look good but serve good. The combination of great hardware and great service is a pulling factor for returning visitors. That's why international chains like InterContinental and Starwood invest millions in systems to continuously improve their service standards.
Yen Yen, it is time to revamp the hotel-rating system because Malaysia has one of the lowest (worst) hotel rates in the world.

4)Why is it that the greenish murkier waters off the beach of Phi Phi Island (Thailand) attract more tourists that the clear you-can-see-your-legs waters at Pulau Singa Besar (Langkawi). I'm baffled. What's happening to the A&P (advertising and promotions) of our country? I thought the budget's quite big for this?

Below: Screenshot fom MAS's online booking webpage- no direct flights from Heathrow UK to Langkawi.

I have said enough points. The next time someone tells you that it is ok to suppress info on infectious diseases because it impacts the country's tourist industry, please think again.