Sunday, December 02, 2007

Race Riots Irony

Malaysia and Singapore has lived in irony since 1964. Why so? Because in that year, two race riots occurred in Singapore - one in July and a second in September. Singapore was then a part of Malaysia. While Malaysia's then DPM Tun Abdul Razak blamed Indonesia and the Communists for these disturbances, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew and some foreign observers blamed Malay supremacist, Syed Jaafar Albar and some elements of the ultra-nationalist faction of UMNO.

History followed up these disturbances with yet another riot, this time in Malaysia, on May 13, 1969. Historians have judged that these 1969 riots were connected to those of 1964, and the reasons for them were similar - conflict between the Chinese and Malay races. Malaysia has sought to solve these problems all these years by implementing its Bumiputra policy - the policy of affirmative action (i.e. positive discrimination) in favour of the majority Malay race. Everything seemed to have been settled, with relative peace for 40 years, until just a few weeks ago, following on demonstrations to protest corruption in government at the highest levels. This time, the minority Indians (mostly Tamils) took to the streets to vent their frustration at the Bumiputra policy which has prevented the race from moving on and up in the Malaysian economy. This is 1964 and 1969 all over again, except it is now an India-Malay conflict.

All of which goes to show that the Bumiputra policy has been an abject and total FAILURE. All these many years, the UMNO and the Malays have been pulling wool over their own eyes and assumed that their Bumiputra policy had been the magic bullet that has brought about peace and harmony. So proud are they of this policy that, 40 years after it was started, they still claim that it has not fulfilled its objectives. The Malays just want their privileges to continue on and on. But who are they kidding? The recent show of anger from its minority Indian race demonstrates that Malaysia is no nearer resolving the problems that first exploded in 1964. That all this while, the Malays and UMNO have just been sitting on a time bomb which they hoped has stopped timing. How wrong they were and how wrong they still are now.

Unless Malaysia addresses the discrimination that is the Bumiputra policy, Malaysia will not move a single steps towards long term peace and harmony. The volcano will erupt again.

Hindraf Rally Reports


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter of discontent

This year, the 58th UMNO General Assembly meeting was reportedly tame - in comparison to last year's, where the Malay delegates, led by Tun Hishammuddin, wielded the Kris with much bravado. Was this a sign of the times? Malaysia's economy reportedly grew by 6.1% so far this year. Though lower than Singapore's expected 7.9%, it is still an achievement.

Wither the discontent, which exploded into mass demonstrations against the government in the streets of KL? Government sanctioned mass media are not reporting fully on it, so new media has taken over. You want the news about this demonstration? Read online newspapers and blogs. You want to look at pictures or better still, videos? Look at Youtube with the word 'bersih'. Truly the government is losing its battle of the minds. Gagging the official media is no longer effective. Malaysia can't control new media, unless it shuts off access to the internet, as governments in China and Myanmar are fond of doing from time to time.

I am not a political scientist to offer a reasoned analysis on the situation in Malaysia today. But it is clear that the administration of Abdullah Badawi is facing myriad problems. The biggest of these is the still smoking gun of judicial bribery brought to prominence by Anwar Ibrahim. He must really really hate the judiciary because he must have felt it the height of injustice when he was sent to jail for the charge of sodomy (subsequently overturned) and bribery/corruption (which has prevented him so far from seeking a seat in Parliament). Now that the video tape he released about a senior lawyer bribing a top judge has been acknowledged to be genuine, the ball is on Badawi's administration to appoint a royal commission to look further into the allegations. Badawi, it appears, is still dragging his foot on this. What is he worried about, unless the allegations are true? Lawyers subsequently staged a demonstration about the video tape's implications of complicity and injustice at the very citadel of justice. Truly, Malaysia' judiciary is now in tatters. How the mighty have fallen.

The word 'elections' has been on the mouth of many Malaysians for some time now. The elections process has often been viewed as not that clean in Malaysia. Out of nowhere, the people marched in KL under the banner 'bersih' or 'clean' where they demanded for clean elections, which is expected sometime early next year, and clean systems of government. The government's response - water cannons and news blackout.

Meanwhile in the Hague, Malaysia's lawyers are trying their level best to lay claim to a piece of rock in the South China Sea, called Pedra Branca (or Pulau Batus Puteh as the Malaysians prefer to call it). The protogonists? None other than the red dot of a nation far larger in size to Pedra Branca, on its southern tip that Malaysia unceremoniously ejected from its territories 42 years ago - Singapore. From the evidence and arguments presented so far, it appears that Singapore has a stronger case.

This is truly the winter of discontent in Malaysia. Hopefully it does not signal the winter of Badawi's political career. Why do I hope so? Because he has been good to and for Sinagapore.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Karang Guni nation

I heard, don't know if it is true, that Russia is prepared to sell Malaysia the Soyuz spacecraft that its first angkasawan, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, made history in.

Now what would Malaysia do with such as spacecraft, I wonder?

It can't launch it into space itself as it does not have the know-how nor the infrastructure to do so itself.

It doesn't have a viable space industry that would benefit from the design technology of the space craft.

However, it can keep it in a space museum, I suppose. A space museum is not difficult nor too costly to set up. All proud Malaysians will make a bee-line for the exhibit in order to to inflate their chests once more. The Malaysia government can collect entrance fees to recoup the money it would have to pay for this piece of immobile technology (i.e. it will never fly again).

Well, I don't know if Russia is making this a gift, or if it is selling it at a discount for goodwill purposes or what. But it does seem to me that if Russia is willing to unload this spacecraft, they consider this spacecraft as having reached its useful lifespan.

In other words, its ready for the Karang Guni man to collect it. Will Malaysia want to be the Karang Guni nation?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Out of this world


Literally, as a Malaysian angkasawan, a Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, sometime model, flew aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and an American on board to the International Space Station on 10 Oct 2007.

The fare for this single return trip? A reportedly $24M (that's US$, I think). This was the deal that Malaysia made with Russia to take a space tourist, err...its first angkasawan, to outer space. His most significant space experiment to date is to fast (it is still Ramadan) and eat ethnic Malay food (sans Durians) on board a spacecraft. But of course he has more serious experiments to conduct during the 9 days he will be on board the ISS. Details of these experiments have yet to be reported.

Well, Malaysians should be proud of the occasion. Many nations would have wanted to join the outer space club. Malaysia has done it. But last heard, traveling into space is going to be a common thing. Already, the following five tourists have flown to and from the International Space Station on Soyuz spacecraft*:
  1. Dennis Tito (American): April 28 - May 6, 2001
  2. Mark Shuttleworth (South African / British): April 25 - May 5, 2002
  3. Gregory Olsen (American): October 1 - October 11, 2005
  4. Anousheh Ansari (Iranian / American): September 18 - September 29, 2006
  5. Charles Simonyi (Hungarian / American): April 7 - April 21, 2007[10]
Dr Muszaphar is but the 6th person that Russia's space program has benefited from. What can we expect of future developments in the space programme in Malaysia? Now I don't mean to be sceptical, but I would expect zero development without the help of the Russians. And why would the Russian's want to spend time developing Malaysia's space programme? Simple, either Russian Roubles or Malaysian Ringgit - millions of them.

That's almost like extorting money from the poor Malaysians for a brief moment in the Sun. It goes beyond asking whether it is worth it. It begs the question whether it is at all meaningful. It would be, if the space programme in Malaysia can develop on its own steam in the long run. But if the effort is like the bumiputra policy, which is entirely within the control of the government and has been around for over 30 years and is still not considered completed, then its space programme would not amount to much in any meaningful timeframe either. Another example is Malaysia's troubled national car project.

If this analysis is correct, then Malaysia's latest space adventure is a real waste of money, not just $24M of it. Saddled with Russian aircraft, it will have to pay Russia millions more to maintain them over the life of these aircraft - say 20 years? I wonder if Malaysia has stepped into space or into a black hole?

* Source: wikipaedia

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Changing places

I think there is something wrong with a witness protection programme when it involves defacing the witness. That was exactly what the Cabinet Minister Nazri Aziz said when he tried to draw the whistleblower of the now notorious video clip of a senior lawyer's smoking gun conversation with a senior judge out into the open. To me, it seems that the whole judiciary in Malaysia is all messed up. What kind of justice can you get nowadays in Malaysia? You'd better not get caught and charged in court. The best thing would be to buy off the cop with a couple of hundred ringgit. At least for Singaporens, that's an immediate 50+% discount.

But back to the issue of the whistleblower. The Minister's offer of defacement of the witness, err, sorry, that's plastic surgery to hide the identity of the witness, is preposterous. It is not obvious that one would want to change his/her face just so that the incompetent Malaysia police and judiciary can claim credit for solving a case. This a lifetime identity altering thing. I like the face I was born with. It resembles my father/mother/siblings. It is a family thing. You ask me to change it? For what? If the police cannot guarantee the effective protection of its citizens beyond plastic surgery and a change of identity, then why should anyone want to come forward. Is this not a tacit admission by the Minister of the incompetence of the police and the state's inability (or is it unwillingness in this case?) to protect those who step forward?

Whoever it is, I think the powers that be are out to hantam you. Be forewarned.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wool over your eyes

Datuk Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia's International Trade and Industry Minister, went down to Singapore the other day preaching the IDR to potential investors. Those gathered expressed a lot of concern about the crime situation in Johore, which had gone from bad to worse in the last few years. While acknowledging that it was a problem, she put the blame squarely on foreign workers. Now I am not sure if she has correctly diagnosed the problem, but it is certain that the Johore police are not doing enough. She promised to bring this up with the Johore police and state government.

This is a step in the right direction, but it would seem that more needs to be done. So far, the Malaysian government has touted the IDR as a sure thing. Even some of its official use this IDR plan to threaten and cajole the Singapore government. In the wake of the Port Klang Free Zone fiasco, which itself was launched with much fanfare, it is no longer certain that the IDR would amount to a roaring success. Probably the best thing about the IDR now is the concept scale model of the plan. Getting from concept and plan to reality and, hopefully, success, is a long long way.

Singapore may be seen as small fry when compared to the financial might of some middle-eastern countries that Malaysia is also wooing, but the lesson of Port Klang should not be forgotten.

See:

Govt bailout looms for Port Klang project
Malaysian government may help Port Klang with its debt problems
Port Klang Free Zone, a MYR4 billion white elephant ?
Lim Kit Siang on PKFZ

To get a more sympathetic slant on the saga, see

Govt throws lifeline to Port Klang Free Zone
Jafza pullout amicable

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sons of the soil

They say it never rains. It pours. Just as Malaysia is embroiled with its own citizens about its very core identity, one of its 'sons' puts up a video on Youtube criticizing Malaysia's discriminatory racial practices all these many years. Known as the New Economic Policy (NEP), it discriminates in favour of its sons of the soil (bumiputra) - the Malays - over against migrant races such as the Chinese and Indians in almost all areas of life - in education, in jobs, in owning and operating a company, in the civil service, and yes, in its religion.

Malaysia was founded as a secular state almost 50 years ago. 50 years is a long time, and I do not blame its PM, DPM and ex-PM's attempt at revising history. People have short memories, and history can be bent and twisted any which way to advance an agenda. Japan often attempts to do this. However, after 50 years, Malaysia's youth have grown up. Having lived under discrimination, many have left because of the discrimination. I know because I have friends who are brilliant academically and successful, career-wise, who are ex-Malaysians. Truly, Singapore's gain is Malaysia's lost.

Therefore, it is not surprising that a new Youtube video lampooning the Malaysian political, business, social and religious culture highlighting the discriminatory practices and its official religion, Islam, has appeared. It appears to have been created by one of its younger sons, one Mingzhi, belonging to the discriminated racial class. The song called "I love my country", is sung and dubbed mostly in Chinese and Malay with a splattering of Hokkien after the Malaysian National Anthem Negara Ku. It is a bold and stark critique of modern Malaysia, if a trifle disrespectful. But it appears to have come from the heart.

The Malaysian government, instead of spending time trying to nail sediton charges on this young man, should reflect, on its 50th year of independence, where it might have strayed from the straight and the narrow, to have aroused such negative feelings among its sons. This is Malaysia's open secret, and it appears that the cover has been blown off it.

Here is the video:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The leaders are confused


In recent weeks, we have had Malaysian leaders come out with a statement of what Malaysia is or is not - an Islamic state or a secular state, or not.

This issue was raised when its DPM, Najib Tun Razak, declared unilaterally that Malaysia is a de facto Islamic state right from the start (presumably this refers to when it gained independence as a nation from the British). Tun Dr Mahathir, speaking a few weeks later, agreed with Encik Najib but made the point that it benefits no one to press the point, as many had weighed in on the debate by then.

For example, Mr Bernard Dompok, a Government Minister in the Malaysian government has come out to say that Malaysia is not an Islamic state, but a secular one, as evidenced by the words of the Constitution. Mr Kirpal Singh, the activist lawyer, and Mr Lim Kit Siang, of the political opposition, agree. So do most, if not all, minority groups such as the Chinese, Indians, Christians, Hindus, and 'renegade' bloggers.

PM Abdullah Badawi muddied the waters by saying that Malaysia is neither an Islamic state nor a secular one. Instead, it is one that is governed by Parliamentary Democracy.

Now there is enough here for students of politics to turn over the matter till the cow comes home.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is now suffering from schizophrenia. Why not? When elected leaders of Malaysia, past and present, active and inactive, cannot decide on such a fundamental matter, you'd wonder who can?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Judge hammered in his Court


PM Abdullah Badawi is correct. There should not be any cover-up regarding the case of the unnatural death of Altantuya Shaariibuu. This case has been widely reported both in national and international press. The alleged murder took place last October (2006) and, after 7 months, the case is before the Malaysia Courts - but...

The prosecution revealed that he has just the day before been assigned the case and pleaded for a month to prepare afresh. Gosh, the Malaysia government legal department must be working in overdrive with so many cases that this reassignment was necessary? It is extremely odd (to say the least) for a government prosecutor to be appointed just the day before after 7 months have passed since the 'crime'. That or, as many are now whispering, there is more than meets the eye. Is something going on in the corridors of power such that the weight is now shifted against the prosecution from succeeding? The prosecution, by the way, is arguing that Encik Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda and his alleged accomplices kidnapped and killed the young AS. We are reminded that these accused have friends in high places in the Government. There is also allegations of a third party involved that is trying to pervert the course of justice, although this party has not been identified.

Surely the Malaysia government is not doing itself a favour and moreover putting itself up to ridicule by its own citizens and the international community just for the sake of the three accused men? Or it there something else going on higher up? Its looks like someone is desparately trying to tilt the scales of justice his way. Can the Malaysia Courts go along merrily with the government on this, so soon after its decision to take away basic civil liberties from its own citizens?


Image Source: http://images.stockxpert.com/

Saturday, May 26, 2007

IDR brewing


You must give credit to the Malaysians for their sheer scale, vision and ambition in coming up with the plans for the Iskandar Development Region. The area that IDR covers is bigger than the whole of Singapore! So if it took Singapore 40 years to arrive at where it is today, I wonder how many decades it will take for the IDR to be realised!

Already, some Malaysians are acting as if the IDR is already built. Well, it is - on paper that is. They are jealous that Singapore is described as a partner in the whole plan, part of a committee that will look into its development. They say, not without justification, that this is a Malaysia plan and vision and that Singapore is but an investor, just like any other country that shows interest in pumping their money into it. But such is the close yet suspicious relationship between the two nations that this has become inevitable.

Malaysians do not have to be too worried though. Remember Suzhou, China? Well, Singapore now has a minority stake in it although it took a lead in planning, developing and realizing the IP. After much public posturing and behind-the-scenes struggles (a word only too familiar with our communist friends), China has majority control over the IP today. If history were to repeat itself, Malaysia will have its IDR - nobody is going to take it away from them. But they must have greater self-confidence and not feel immediately threaten the moment a Singaporean shows up at their doorstep, never mind if no plans are offered. Its a Malaysian plan, OK? Yeah, and I don't think Singapore wants to take it away from them.

But given the sheer scale of the project, Malaysia really needs the right people with the track record to pull off the IDR. Otherwise, the IDR will likely end up as no more than a beautiful model that businessman marvelled at for a while and then moved on to something more practical.

Taking out your spoons before the broth is cooked and ready to eat seems to me to be premature.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

FAM U-Turn


Applause please...for PM Ahmad Abdullah Badawi for doing the right thing. This is Visit Malaysia Year and nobody should dictate to a sovereign nation and its people how, when or who they should invite to the country to celebrate Malaysia's 50th birthday. Certainly not the AFC President, Mr Mohamed bin Hammam, who is now threatening to sue FAM for reneging on its promise not to promote any competing event around the time of the Finals in AFC's Asia Cup event.

Yes, FAM did a u-turn there, but that's in the nature of soccer. Sometimes, some well executed u-turns on the soccer pitch can result in a spectacular goal. The only thing is, you'd want to make sure that goal is not your own, something the FAM almost did. But I must give credit to FAM for its guts in standing up to the imperial AFC, and more to the Malaysia PM for protecting the interests of the country and its own people. Yes, that's right, folks, Malaysia has only one PM, and he does not go by the name of Hammam.

Hammam and WSG, who had hoped to make tonnes of money from the event, will now see the money go to MUFC, because football-fans just acquired a distaste for the AFC and its brand of soccer.

Malaysia boleh!

Image source:http://images.stockxpert.com/

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Football

Mr Mohamed bin Hammam and the FAM are not getting my vote for being insensitive to the wants of football crazy Malaysians, and Singaporeans too. How could one person in the AFC unilaterally decide that thousands of football fans should watch the Asia Cup rather than Manchester United FC? Mr H accuses MU of being colonialist, but he is no better. In fact, except for his bald pate and dark complexion, he looks like Hitler and acts like Hitler too.

Sure, he wants to promote Asia soccer, but not at the expense of the people who enjoy good soccer? Isn't it ironic? He doesn't want MUFC to show up just to cart away tonnes of Asian money, but isn't the AFC after that same pot of gold? You think the AFC is money-blind and totally altruistic in promoting Asian soccer? They have done their sums and they know that whatever they could have pocketed would have to be shared with MUFC if they turned up around the same time. Look, the events aren't playing on the same day, so fans can catch both the AFC event and go crazy over Ronaldo and gang. But no, the AFC want ALL the cash to itself. That explains why Mr H was so un-diplomatic, even rude, with his language. The soccer fraternity, on a global scale, is still a small world. One day, AFC might have to look west for collaboration. Burning bridges such as what Mr H is doing is akin to suicide.

We fans weren't born yesterday. We may be soccer crazy, but we are not blind and stupid. Only, let us spend our hard-earned cash on what we want and not on what Mr H wants. We may decide not to spend any of it, since MUFC is not invited to the party.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Responsibility for free speech

I have never had any doubt that Malaysia has liberal free speech policies. What's the proof? Just look at the kind of crap that the Malaysia press is ready to carry about Mr Abdul Ghani Othman's accusation against Singapore for causing massive floods in Johor recently and you should be convinced of the veracity of this claim.

On the other hand, it says a lot for the Malaysia bar when they were willing to host a rebuttal by Singapore's Today newspaper on their very own website - a rebuttal against the claims of the Chief Minister of Johor, no less. Even its press - no less than Bernama and a newspaper in the East of Malaysia (Sabah) did the same. So from the Singapore perspective, part of the Malaysian press has been balanced and fair. We cannot realistically expect every and all newspapers to behave the same. In fact, Bernama and the Malaysia Bar are practicing the very principles that Singapore has espoused - which is for the press, whether local or foreign, to publish Singapore's own account of the issue.

But of course, Malaysians, and especially Malaysian bloggers will disagree. They hold that cyberspeech and cyberpublishing is immune from the laws of mere mortals which still print newspapers for a living. That is why the law suite by the New Straits Time Publishing (NSTP) against two bloggers, Jeff Ooi and Encik Ahirudin Attan has garnered so much opposition among Malaysian bloggers and news watchers. A fund has even been set up to pay for defence of these two gentlemen and there is much handwringing and drumbeating over the whole affair.

I will be the first to admit that I am not clear about the details of the suite. In fact, I cannot be bothered. So I am not going to venture any opinion on who is right and who is wrong. To many people, 'David' should always be 'right' because he is being bullied by 'Goliath'. But since when has this taken on the status of a virtual 'law'? What any fair minded person would suspect is that the truth lies somewhere in-between. It is good that Malaysia has decided to resort to its law courts to settle this dispute over against a lynching party, whatever form that might have taken.

If Malaysians, and in particular, Malaysia bloggers, do not believe in their system of justice and due process, then the country will really be in trouble.

Let he/she who has thrown the first word answer for what he/she has said.

I am a blogger, but I do not take myself too seriously when I am on and within the rarefied air of cyberspace. I land once in a while to feel the ground.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Water arising

Malaysian government Ministers can have very fantastic imagination, and sometimes, these imagining tries to be scientific too. Abdul Ghani Othman, the Johor Chief Minister is on record as saying that the floods in Johor in the last few months is caused by the reclamation works that Singapore had carried out on its Tekong Island. Because of the reclamation works, so the reasoning goes, the mouth of the Johor River was narrowed, which impeded the flow of water. This eventually led to the overflowing of that same river, flooding much of the State of Johor.

This is the most incredible piece of 'scientific' reasoning sh*t I have ever heard. I think the Johoreans should use its river for better purposes than as a football that it tries to wack into Singapore's goal. First, Malaysia is already going to restrict the amount of water it sells to Singapore, water that originates from the Johor River, once the current water agreements with Singapore expire. If what Encik Ghani says is true, then Johoreans should brace themselves for more floods in the future. I can imagine them blaming Singapore for not taking more water from the Johor River like it used to for so many years, when floods strike Johor again.

Now it is blaming Singapore for clogging up the mighty Johor River. Sometimes, I think Malaysians give Singapore too much credit than it deserves.