Monday, December 8, 2014

Voices of Reason

Here is a collective voice of reason from a distinguished group of Malaysians-

We, a group of concerned citizens of Malaysia, would like to express how disturbed and deeply dismayed we are over the continuing unresolved disputes on the position and application of Islamic laws in this country.
The ongoing debate over these matters displays a lack of clarity and understanding on the place of Islam within our constitutional democracy. Moreover, they reflect a serious breakdown of federal-state division of powers, both in the areas of civil and criminal jurisdictions.
We refer specifically to the current situation where religious bodies seem to be asserting authority beyond their jurisdiction; where issuance of various fatwa violate the Federal Constitution and breach the democratic and consultative process of shura; where the rise of supremacist NGOs accusing dissenting voices of being anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-Malay has made attempts at rational discussion and conflict resolution difficult; and more importantly, where the use of the Sedition Act hangs as a constant threat to silence anyone with a contrary opinion.
These developments undermine Malaysia’s commitment to democratic principles and rule of law, breed intolerance and bigotry, and have heightened anxieties over national peace and stability.
As moderate Muslims, we are particularly concerned with the statement issued by Minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, in response to the recent Court of Appeal judgment on the right of transgender to dress according to their identity.
He viewed the right of the transgender community and Sisters in Islam (SIS) to seek legal redress as a “new wave of assault on Islam” and as an attempt to lead Muslims astray from their faith, and put religious institutions on trial in a secular court.
Such an inflammatory statement from a federal minister (and not for the first time) sends a public message that the prime minister’s commitment to the path of moderation need not be taken seriously when a minister can persistently undermine it.
These issues of concern we raise are, of course, difficult matters to address given the extreme politicisation of race and religion in this country.
But we believe there is a real need for a consultative process that will bring together experts in various fields, including Islamic and constitutional laws, and those affected by the application of Islamic laws in adverse ways.
We also believe the prime minister is best placed with the resources and authority to lead this consultative process. It is urgent that all Malaysians are invested in finding solutions to these longstanding areas of conflict that have led to the deterioration of race relations, eroded citizens’ sense of safety and protection under the rule of law, and undermined stability.
There are many pressing issues affecting all of us that need the urgent leadership and vision of the prime minister, the support of his Cabinet and all moderate Malaysians.
They include:
i) A plural legal system that has led to many areas of conflict and overlap between civil and shariah laws.
In particular there is an urgent need to review the Shariah Criminal Offences (SCO) laws of Malaysia.
These laws which turn all manner of “sins” into crimes against the state have led to confusion and dispute in both substance and implementation. They are in conflict with Islamic legal principles and constitute a violation of fundamental liberties and state intrusion into the private lives of citizens.
In 1999, the Cabinet directed the Attorney-General's Chambers to review the SCO laws. But to this day, they continue to be enforced with more injustices perpetrated.
The public outrage, debates over issues of jurisdiction, judicial challenge, accusations of abuses committed, gender discrimination, and deaths and injuries caused in moral policing raids have eroded the credibility of the SCO laws, the law-making process, and public confidence that Islamic law could indeed bring about justice.
ii) The lack of public awareness, even among top political leaders, on the legal jurisdiction and substantive limits of the powers of the religious authorities and administration of Islamic laws in Malaysia.
The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law enacted, including Islamic laws, cannot violate the Constitution, in particular the provisions on fundamental liberties, federal-state division of powers and legislative procedures.
All acts, enactments and subsidiary legislations, including fatwa, are bound by constitutional limits and are open to judicial review.
iii) The need to ensure the right of citizens to debate the ways Islam is used as a source of public law and policy in this country. The Islamic laws of Malaysia are drafted by the executive arm of government and enacted in the legislative bodies by human beings.
Their source may be divine, but the enacted laws are not divine. They are human made and therefore fallible, open to debate and challenge to ensure that justice is upheld.
iv) The need to promote awareness of the rich diversity of interpretive texts and juristic opinions in the Islamic tradition. This includes conceptual legal tools that exist in the tradition that enable reform to take place and the principles of equality and justice to be upheld, in particular in response to the changing demands, role and status of women in the family and community.
v) The need for the prime minister to assert his personal leadership as well as appoint key leaders who will, in all fairness, champion open and coherent debate and discourse on the administration of Islamic laws in this country to ensure that justice is done.
We especially urge that the leadership sends a clear signal that rational and informed debate on Islamic laws in Malaysia and how they are codified and implemented are not regarded as an insult to Islam or to the religious authorities.
These issues may seem complex to many, but at the end of the day, it really boils down to this: as Muslims, we want Islamic law, even more than civil law, to meet the highest standards of justice precisely because it claims to reflect divine justice.
Therefore, those who act in the name of Islam through the administration of Islamic law must bear the responsibility of demonstrating that justice is done, and is seen to be done.
When Islam was revealed to our Prophet saw in 7th century Arabia, it was astoundingly revolutionary and progressive. Over the centuries, the religion has guided believers through harsh and challenging times. It is our fervent belief that for Islam to continue to be relevant and universal in our times, the understanding, codification and implementation of the teachings of our faith must continue to evolve.
Only with this, can justice, as enjoined by Allah, prevail. – December 8, 2014.
1. Tan Sri Datuk Abdul Rahim Haji Din, former secretary-general, Home Ministry
2. Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar, former secretary-general, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
3. Tan Sri Dr Aris Othman, former secretary-general, Ministry of Finance
4. Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, former director-general, Health Ministry
5. Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, former secretary-general, Ministry of Finance
6. Tan Sri Dr Mustaffa Babjee, former director-general, Veterinary Services
7. Tan Sri Nuraizah Abdul Hamid, former secretary-general, Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia
8. Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang, cardiothoracic surgeon and core founder, National Heart Institute
9. Datuk Seri Shaik Daud Md Ismail, former Court of Appeal judge
10. Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Deen, former ambassador
11. Datuk Anwar Fazal, former senior regional adviser, United Nations Development Programme
12. Datuk Dali Mahmud Hashim, former ambassador
13. Datuk Emam Mohd Haniff Mohd Hussein, former ambassador
14. Datuk Faridah Khalid, representative of Women’s Voice
15. Datuk Latifah Merican Cheong, former assistant governor, Bank Negara
16. Lt-Gen (Rtd) Datuk Maulob Maamin
17. Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, former ambassador
18. Datuk Ranita Hussein, former Suhakam commissioner
19. Datuk Redzuan Kushairi, former ambassador
20. Datuk Dr Sharom Ahmat, former deputy vice-chancellor, Universiti Sains Malaysia
21. Datuk Syed Arif Fadhillah, former ambassador
22. Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad, former director-general, Malaysian Timber Industry Board
23. Datuk Zainuddin Bahari, former deputy secretary-general, Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism
24. Datin Halimah Mohd Said, former lecturer, Universiti Malaya and president, Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE)
25. Hendon Mohamad, past president, Malaysian Bar
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/champion-open-debate-and-discourse-on-islamic-law-noor-farida-ariffin-and-2#sthash.8GFgCVrh.dpuf

Monday, October 13, 2014

Treat sedition suspects as guilty until proven innocent, Umno MP says

The Malay Mail Online reports as follows-

Individuals charged under the Sedition Act 1948 must be made to prove their own innocence, an Umno lawmaker said today when calling for the colonial-era law be made stricter. 

In making his suggestion to shift the burden of proof, Tanjong Karang MP Datuk Seri Noh Omar said the nation’s peace was of greater importance than an individual’s civil liberties and legal rights.
“The burden of proof should be on the person who’s charged,” Noh Omar said during the debate of Budget 2015 in Parliament here today.

I was planning to write that the report above, if accurate, really and seriously points to the dire need for legislators to be better schooled in the type of constitutional and legal framework that Malaysia has adopted.

Unfortunately, I have to negate that entire line of thought because online biodata shows that Noh Omar actually read law at Thames Valley University which is now known as the University of West London. He actually has a law degree, for goodness sake.

I'm now going to crawl into a cave to perform omphaloskepsis...

picture sourced here

Friday, October 10, 2014

A nugget

One of the great pleasures of reading is that ever so often you happen upon a well turned phrase, a piece of witticism or a curling remark that gives you a rush of delight. 

In this case it came about when I chanced upon a speech that the late great Malaysian jurist, Tun Mohamed Suffian had given in 1986 at the launch of a book, The Judgments of HRH Sultan Azlan Shah with Commentary

Here's Tun Suffian's passage that gave me so much delight. He was describing Sultan Azlan Shah's demeanour when he sat as a Judge on the Malaysian Bench-

"At work on the Bench he was a good and patient listener, seldom interrupted or asked questions and thereby gave the impression of agreeing to what was being said. It was a good way of curbing prolix counsel, for the experienced judge knows that with some counsel the more you try to steer them away from  tedious repetitions and irrelevancies the more persistent and garrulous they become; all the while you are thinking of the reserved judgments still to be pondered and written and the long list of trials and appeals to be disposed of. It was only after Raja Tun Azlan Shah had delivered judgment that counsel realised to his dismay that the Lord President's reticence meant he was only listening, but not necessarily agreeing."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Malaysian Education and Vernacular Schools - A Story of the Elephant and the Blind Men

As usual, the recent eruption of viewpoints on the matter of vernacular schools in Malaysia is being reduced to polemic. 

One group is calling for its abolition or something stupid along those lines.

The self-anointed defenders are calling for its absorption into mainstream education on the premise that it is the constant need for funding of vernacular schools, which are private, that keeps such schools at the margins of the Malaysian polity.

The problem with contemporary politics in Malaysia is the poor quality of thought and, the awful method of delivery of viewpoints that is devoid of persuasive articulation. Both sides of the divide for any issue are unable to frame the issues coherently.

My small contribution to the matter of vernacular schools is as follows and, my point is that we need to examine the reasons for the shift in enrollment of students by the non-Malays from mainstream public schools to private, vernacular schools.

Without the benefit of statistics (because I'm too lazy to look it up) I believe that up to the mid-1980s, enrollment in mainstream schools was still relatively high. 

What caused non-Malay parents to shift the preference from mainstream public schools to private, vernacular schools?

I believe it had something to do with the decline in quality and standards in the mainstream public schools and the increase in myopic thinking by headmasters since the early 1980s.

I am not a fan of vernacular schools. I strongly believe that mainstream public schools is the best choice. My children attend mainstream public schools.

But, while the quality of students in mainstream public schools in wealthier suburbs are high, I hesitate to give full credit to the schools. Most, if not all, parents send their children for private tuition.

What about students in poorer suburbs? What if their parents cannot afford private tuition fees? What happens to these students?

I very much believe that the key challenge is for the government to focus on increasing the quality and standards of education in mainstream public schools.

I am a proud product of the mainstream public school system that existed in the 1950s through to the early 1980s. I believe that most of the political leaders of today are equally proud products of the system.

Let us focus on what we can do to increase the quality and standards of the mainstream public schools.

If we continue to debate on the symptoms we will never get to the true cause.

source here.

Otherwise, our fate will be to be like the blind men in the story.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

And, we thought it was a good joke...

You know how we like to say about makan places with food and dishes that makes us want to go back to eat again and again and, we tell each other that the cook adds some addictive substance?

The joke turned out to be true here.

This Hotel Allegedly Blocked Your Wi-Fi Hotspot

I'm quite curious to know if this happens in Malaysia too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SPM Forecast Results - A clear case of over legislation


This is a clear case of over legislation. Let me be categorical about this-

Firstly, when a private college - emphasis on the word "PRIVATE" - chooses to rely on a student applicant's SPM forecast results that private college is taking a risk. It is, if you will, a BUSINESS RISK. It is a risk in the sense that if that student applicant's actual SPM results falls below the minimum requirements set by the private college the private college will have a vacant position.

It is a BUSINESS RISK in the sense that the number of places available with each intake is, theoretically, finite. So, if a student applicant proves to be below par and, therefore, needs to be ejected, there is a vacancy. Proportionate fees collected by the private college will need to be refunded causing a loss of revenue.

Secondly, when a student applies to a private college using the SPM forecast results, that student is also taking a FINANCIAL RISK and OPPORTUNITY RISK in the sense that if the actual SPM result falls below the private college's minimum entry requirements that student may NOT receive a full refund of the fees paid because time has elapsed and he or she has consumed the teaching services provided by the private college.

The opportunity risk comes in the form of having lost the time and opportunity to have done something else - like join Raleigh International to enrich the student's life through charitable and welfare work...for instance.

This type of transactional relationship is rooted in a private contract between the private college and the student applicant.

It is a free market exchange in the PRIVATE SECTOR that eases the burden on the PUBLIC SECTOR public universities.

All Malaysians understand the need fore private colleges to be licensed and regulated to ensure that there are no scam colleges and, that all academic curriculum offered is in line with Malaysian academic requirements.

But, in the matter of the MOE's notice to private colleges to disregard SPM forecast results the MOE has clearly over legislated.

It is very odd that to date, the MOE has not offered any reasons at all on the basis and intent behind the notice.

Will the Ministers (it is plural because there are apparently 2 Ministers in charge of the education portfolio) or any one of them step up to explain this odd decision on SPM forecast results?

Or, will they abdicate their responsibility and push forward a nameless official with an impassive expression who will drone inanities and irrelevancies on this matter in the vain hope that journalists and parents of students will just tear their hair out and just curl up and shrivel themselves to death - a death caused by exasperation with the Malaysian Ministry of Education which, in recent times, has started to resemble Monthy Python's Ministry of Silly Walks?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SPM Forecast Result - A worthless piece of paper?

The Ministry of Education is reported to have issued a notification to private institutions of higher education that SPM forecast results are no longer acceptable as admission requirements.

For decades the SPM forecast results has formed a first impression of sorts to enable private colleges to issue conditional offers to Malaysian students.

It is an efficient and effective introduction of an applicant student's academic standard to a private college.

Why is the MOE changing this tried and tested methodology?

I will leave the expletives aside for the moment.

MOE must explain this irrational, myopic, stupid and unnecessary action.

Has MOE got nothing better to do?

I seem to recall sufficient objective events that should be occupying MOE's full attention such as appalling PISA and TIMSS scores and...the matter of UPSR exam paper leaks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Selangor MB Matter : Constitutional Implications?

The Selangor Menteri Besar fiasco has quite rightly brought into stark relief, once again, constitutional processes that were often taken for granted by the citizenry and, politicians, if I may add.

Many constitutional scholars and observers have had to revisit the Perak MB episode. Others have dug deeper into episodes from the United Kingdom from where the Westminster constitutional model originated.

For some reason, no one has brought up the numerous little scrapes of the recent past where the menteris besar of various Malaysian states have had to endure testy relations with their respective state palaces. Names like Ghazali Jawi and Othman Saat probably rings no bells any longer with Malaysians of younger vintage.

Drilling down on past constitutional episodes

Back to Westminster history, no one has brought up the quite incredible episode of Queen Victoria's great sulk in 1839 when she quite clearly expressed her great discomfiture with having to deal with Sir Robert Peel who was a new leader of the Tories and had, at the time, gained ascendancy over the leader of the Whigs, Lord Melbourne who had so endeared himself to the young Queen.

The Queen had, in fact attempted to persuade the great Duke of Wellington, an ex-prime minister himself, to succeed Lord Melbourne as the new Prime Minister. The Duke had begged off due to his advanced years.

And, so, the constitutional impasse was resolved when Sir Robert Peel backed off in favour of Lord Melbourne who remained as Prime Minister.

It was only in 1841, when parliamentary elections proved beyond doubt that the Tories had won a clear victory was Queen Victoria persuaded to reluctantly accept Sir Robert Peel as Prime Minister.

The constitutional episode of 1839 gains added significance when one considers that the Westminster model was pretty much founded by Oliver Cromwell a few years after the defeat of King Charles II's forces in 1650, some 190 years before that.

Naturally, there are different interpretations the 1839 episode. That is why history is so interesting.

Stay with me....

You might already be rolling your eyeballs several times by now, wondering where all this is leading to.

Well, much has been said by constitutional scholars about constitutional conventions and practises and, how, HRH The Sultan of Selangor's unorthodox approach to the Selangor MB issue goes where no monarch has gone before.... (pardon the Star Trek reference).

With the greatest respect such a view is akin to the difference between how we mere mortals look at the growth of plant life in still life snapshots while Sir David Attenborough sees it with the stop motion camera technology that, when speeded up, gives us an idea of the dynamics of growth in plants.

Constitutional matters must, of necessity be seen from a historical perspective. And, the history of constitutional monarchy has shown many, many episodes where the palace and the parliamentary executive has had differences.

Some context

The key perspective is to note that ever so often, wisdom, civility and oodles of patience has resolved matters without tearing the flimsy fabric of constitutional monarchies.

As I have said in an earlier blog post, this Selangor MB fiasco started off as an internal party problem which, led to a dubious tactic of procuring the unnecessary resignation of an elected state assemblyman which, led to an unnecessary by election which, led to the election of a new state assemblyman which, led nowhere....

Instead, the sitting MB did not do the expected thing which was to accept his fate by tendering his resignation as required by constitutional convention.

To the voters of Selangor, nothing in this sorry episode has cast any redeeming light on any of the main players from Pakatan Rakyat. None of them have benefited from the ill conceived and ill considered plan to oust the sitting MB.

In this cacophonous sea of confusion HRH The Sultan of Selangor has had to carry out an unorthodox procedure to canvass for suitable MB candidates to succeed the outgoing chap.

The monarchical "constitutional initiative"

Now, why didn't HRH The Sultan just do the formal constitutional thing, which is to just sit back on His throne and let the politicians do their thing; and, by so doing satisfy the constitutional convention that scholars so crave?

If I may hazard a viewpoint; one key reason must have been that the loose alliance between PKR, DAP and PAS did not have a consensus on the ouster of Tan Sri Khalid as the MB. Nor did they have consensus on the choice of his successor.

Everyone can pull out their Casio calculators and produce any number of scenarios of how the Selangor State Assembly will vote on the choice of another MB. But there is one unavoidable fact. The loose alliance that is Pakatan Rakyat no longer had consensus on the matter of the MB.

From where I stand, HRH The Sultan has exercised a constitutional initiative that was unusual but, still within the provisions of the Selangor State Constitution to resolve the MB imbroglio.

This has led to the appointment of Azmin Ali who will be the 15th Menteri Besar of Selangor when he is sworn in on 23 September 2014.

How to prevent further monarchical "constitutional initiatives"

My humble suggestion to all political players is that to prevent HRH The Sultan or any other state monarchs from exercising this "constitutional initiative" in future, stop screwing around with your petty power plays and start instituting your own party culture and discipline so that all your elected representatives speak and act in unison.

PKR's peculiar and populist habit of taking in what I call "helicopter candidates" has created a "diva culture" that is not consonant with a successful political party. Such an ad hoc approach to electoral politics never translates well into administrative politics.

Unless such matters are addressed fully and squarely, my crystal ball tells me that we may witness further recurrences reminiscent of the disastrous and cacophonous Arab Council that Lawrence of Arabia tried to set up.

Praise for the dignity of the key players

With everything having been said and done, I must applaud first HRH The Sultan for having acted with wisdom. What He did to resolve the MB fiasco is almost like Alexander the Great drawing his sword to cut through the Gordian Knot.

Kudos also to the grace with which Wan Azizah has accepted the decision of HRH The Sultan. As everyone in Malaysia knows by now, in the dung heap that is PKR's internal politics, Wan Azizah is the radiant flower.

source here

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A dominant 50-years of humourless narrative for Malaysia

There was a time, as old timers like to remind us, when there was no need for political correctness. You could call your friends using mock tones with nicknames without worrying about inciting anger and being accused of being racist.

In many ways Dr M changed that banter with his humourless narrative. And, sadly, in the past 50 years it has been Dr M's narrative that has proven to be dominant and prevalent.

Here's a thought; Has Dr M robbed Malaysians of our sense of humour?

So, when the grand old man hurls remarks about Malays being lazy, he sets off the exact reaction he wanted. 

When he legitimised Perkasa with his patronage he set off a different set of reactions.

Dr M's genius is his constant ability to drive the narrative in Malaysia. 

So, are Malays lazy? That is the stupidest question one can ask.

Are Chinese hardworking? Another stupid question.

We've all seen lazy and stupid Chinese. We've seen incredibly hardworking Malays.

But to take Dr M's remarks at face value and, to react to it, we are allowing ourselves to conform to his narrative.

Should we conform to that narrative? Can we avoid that narrative and begin our own?

Now Dr M has begun a movement to destabilise the sitting Prime Minister. 

It as if Dr M is chasing another superlative. In his time as Prime Minister he had 4 Deputy Prime Ministers.

In his retirement he has seen off one Prime Minister and he appears to have set himself (or, has he?....mindgames, eh?) to see off another.

This is the greatness of Dr M. His shadow writs large in the Malaysian psyche. With a twitch of a hint of a sneering half smile and an elusive glint in his eye, the grand old man can have us go into a catatonic state. Lady Gaga can only hope to have that kind of charisma! All the twerking that Miley Cyrus can muster cannot even come close to the effect that Dr M has on Malaysians.

sourced here.

You may recall the opening scene of the movie Troy where, Brad Pitt as the mythical Achilles, having smote the giant of a man who challenged him stood before the enemy and cried, "Is there no one else?"

Here we have Dr M making his moves on the current Prime Minister. 

Will the sitting Prime Minister be deft enough to duck the coming blows and brickbats and survive this attempt to unseat him?


I, for one, as with all Malaysians, am sitting on my couch with a packet of kuaci watching events unfold with the type of awe-filled fear and anticipatory sensation I used to have when watching the black and white Pusaka Pontianak (1965), quavering like Aziz Sattar and fearing the worst for Ahmad Daud's character.

Dr M is, as the characters in Korean dramas like to say, "a scary person".
 sourced here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Selangor: The Sultan and the Constitution

The constitutional matters in Selangor surrounding the matter of the position of the Mentri Besar is, in the first instance, an unnecessary event that had arisen purely due to a factional matter within a political party.

Some of us may recall recent events in Westminster-style democracies where the sitting Prime Minister has had to tender his or her resignation due to  intra-party convulsions. The most famous recent example would be Margaret Thatcher's unfortunate resignation due to a party revolt. When the tide turned against her, Mrs Thatcher did the honourable thing. She sought an audience with the Queen and tendered her resignation as Prime Minister.

This was probably the scenario that was intended to be played out in Selangor. But, as with all things in this real world of ours, as opposed to the make believe world of scenario planners and, some say, strategists, the main players in this Selangor saga exhibited and unexpected sentience.

Sentience in third parties and among plebeians is a very annoying phenomenon for people in power. 

Sentience forces people in power to explain things that are better kept in their sick and twisted minds.

In the present matter, sentience as exhibited by the sitting Mentri Besar is proving to be a serious thorn on the side of his own party and, has spilled over to threaten the very fabric of the loose political pact that administers the State of Selangor.

To make matters worse for these people, the constitutional issues and procedures surrounding the position of the Mentri Besar is proving to be another unexpected major matter.
sourced from here.


It appears that His Royal Highness The Sultan of Selangor has also exhibited  constitutional sentience. 

HRH The Sultan has asked the three political parties to submit a list of possible successors to assume the role of the Mentri Besar.

The question that has arisen is whether it is constitutionally proper for HRH The Sultan to make that request.

As with all legal issues, there is no straightforward answer. This is something that people without formal legal training and, many with such training, fail to understand or, to accept.

In my considered opinion, HRH The Sultan is perfectly on point to make such request.

Firstly, the language of Section 53(2)(a) of the Constitution of the State of Selangor makes it plainly clear that in the matter of the appointment of the Mentri Besar, HRH The Sultan, "shall first appoint as Mentri Besar to preside over the State Executive Council, a member of the Legislature Assembly who in His judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Assembly".

The constitutional phrase, "in His judgment" is quite clearly a reference to a personal discretion to be exercised by HRH The Sultan. What this means, in effect, is that HRH The Sultan can use any constitutional and reasonable means to establish whether any single member of the State Assembly is likely to receive a majority support in the Assembly.

HRH The Sultan can wait for a vote of no confidence to be held in the State Assembly. Or, he can do what He is doing now, which is to canvass the views of each of the 3 political parties that had earlier coalesced. It's literally a straw poll, as the Americans call it. 

Is this procedure wrong? The Federal Court in the Perak Mentri Besar case has said this is a proper procedure that can operate in parallel with the traditional process of requiring a vote of no confidence. Many legal practitioners and constitutional scholars have clearly and publicly confirmed this to be a proper procedure.

Perhaps the apposite question is, why aren't the 3 political parties convening an emergency sitting of the State Assembly to initiate a no confidence motion?

Secondly, it is absurd for any person to make an issue of the role of HRH The Sultan in this fracas. HRH The Sultan is being required to play his constitutional role due to events created by the political parties.

HRH The Sultan was and, to my mind, is still acting in full dignity above the political fray in requiring names of 2 or more Mentri Besar candidates to be submitted by each of the political parties in the loose Selangor Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

So, I implore people to cease and desist for casting any unfair and inappropriate remarks against HRH The Sultan or the Monarchy. The State Monarch has acted with dignity and fully in accordance with proper constitutional process. 

It is proper that He does not descend into the cesspool of politics.

The political parties in this wrangle who are in the cesspool should conduct their mud wrestling at that level without attempting to throw any mud let alone pull HRH The Sultan into that dirty pit.

HAPPY MERDEKA DAY.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hoisting the flag

gif sourced from here.

Last week my teenage daughter asked me why I haven't hoisted the Jalur Gemilang in our house yet. In meek self-defence I said that I was meaning to. Besides, the key period is between 31st August and 16th September isn't it?

I took her prod in proper spirit.

I reflected that in the wake of the challenges that Malaysia has continued to face since the tragic events surrounding flights MH370 and MH17 it is the right thing to fly Jalur Gemilang earlier than scheduled.

Malaysia is my country and I am proud to be a born and bred Malaysian.

HIDUP MALAYSIA!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

DR M: HARMONI DAN KESAMARATAAN

Methinks the ever vulpine Dr M is being disingenuous in his latest post entitled, HARMONI DAN KESAMARATAAN. He has chosen to ignore the fact that the new slew of legislation that deals with national unity and harmony will ALWAYS be subject to the operation of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

More to the point, all legislation passed by all legislatures in Malaysia, be it at the federal or state level, must be subject to the operation of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

So, what, in the name of the Heavens, is Dr M talking about in his latest post? There is no threat to the current policy involving the NEP/DEB.

Each of the 3 pieces of legislation will be subjected to constitutional provisions such as Article 153 of the Federal Constitution

Why is Dr M choosing to cry wolf when all I see are sheep behaving in a bovine fashion?

As I said, "vulpine" and "disingenuous" and, if he was a younger man (which he isn't) I might have added the words, "naughty" and "mischievous" too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tough love for the Chinaman

It's hard to be a Malaysian citizen these days, even for someone who is as proudly Malaysian as I am.

Most days I just enjoy being Malaysian with all my Malaysian colleagues, Malaysian business partners and Malaysian friends.

It's really annoying when my ethnicity is constantly brought up with sneering negative connotations.

If it is not tak kenang budi levelled by one side, it is bodoh by the other side.

Malaysian politics and Malaysian politicians are so incompetent and inept.

Is this a form of tough love for the Malaysian who is of Chinese descent?

Do these people actually believe that by insults, scolding and sneering the Chinese Malaysians will experience an epiphanic fit and suddenly see the error of their ways?

Thank goodness real Malaysians are not that dumb.

Thank goodness real Malaysians are mostly happy with each other.

If only the politicians will start eating their own toxic shit and just die from it. Then, Malaysia will be a much better place again.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Countries that excel at problem-solving encourage critical thinking

This is an interesting piece from the Financial Times relating to education. It highlights the importance of having Critical Thinking approaches in the education syllabus. Note the levels achieved by Malaysia's Asian Tiger neighbours. 

This is a goal that Malaysian education needs to meet. The time is now.

Here is a snippet. The full article by Jeevan Vasagar can be found here.


Schools in Europe are frequently criticised by business leaders as “exam factories” that churn out students unable to cope with life beyond the classroom. But the lesson to be drawn from international comparison is that Europe’s schools are far better at teaching creative thought than this criticism implies.

Students from the main western European countries – England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium – all performed above the average, as did pupils from the Czech Republic and Estonia. In the rest of the rich world, the US, Canada and Australia also performed above average. But the laurels were taken by east Asian territories; Singapore and South Korea performed best, followed by Japan, and the Chinese regions of Macau and Hong Kong.

That result poses a challenge to schools in the west. Critics of east Asian education systems attribute their success at maths and science to rote learning.

But the OECD’s assessment suggests that schools in east Asia are developing thinking skills as well as providing a solid grounding in core subjects.

Across the world, the OECD study found a strong and positive correlation between performance in problem solving and performance in maths, reading and science.

In general, the high-performing students were also the ones best able to cope with unfamiliar situations.

But there were interesting exceptions to the rule. When Japanese students were compared with children in other countries of similar performance in maths, science and reading, the Japanese teenagers showed better problem-solving abilities.

This, the OECD suggested, might be explained by Japan’s focus on developing problem- solving skills through cross-curricular, student-led projects.

While there is agreement about the goal, there is a divide over how best to teach children the skill of critical thinking.

Daisy Christodoulou, an educationalist and the author of Seven Myths about Education, argues that such skills are domain specific – they cannot be transferred to an area where our knowledge is limited.

“Trying to teach abstract strategies that can apply across domains, there isn’t much evidence for that,” she says.

“The farther away from the original domain you are, the weaker the transfer is. In our lives this does ring true. We all know people who are good at thinking critically about a historical problem, and not very good at thinking critically about a mathematical problem.”

Read the full piece here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Personality versus structure and process

If there is anything that the study of History teaches us, it should be that all the great feats of heroes come to naught if there was no structure in place that institutes fairness. I deliberately use the words "fairness" in place of the more commonplace word, "justice". I have found that when one uses the word "justice" everyone has a different understanding of what constitutes justice, whereas, when the word "fairness" is used there is an broader consensus.

So, what is this post all about?

Inasmuch as engineers and architects design physical structures that makes it as comfortable and sensible as possible for users to benefit from the process of using such structures for the longest possible time, laws created and enacted by political leaders must also undergo similar tests of relevance and robust relevance.

If you trouble yourself to read history books or biographies of significant personalities, look out for aspects of what these past personages did in putting in place values, rules or processes and, then, look at whether those values, rules and processes are still in place today.

In the course of my history readings I have come across, time and again, great events involving great leaders of the day where a good outcome involves a leader having the foresight and humility to institutes structures and processes that have a foundation in fairness. These outcomes have longevity and continued relevance.

In contrast, scenarios involving leaders who had great self-belief in their own sense of fairness and the impatience with the plodding pace of instituting structures and processes have often led to short-term gains with the attendant long-term legacy of pain and discomfort as a consequence.

Not many Malaysians remember the late Professor Hugh Hickling. In the course of his long career he had many roles in the nascent Malayan and Malaysian nation. One of his roles was that of the Commissioner for Law Revision for Malaya in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In that role, Hickling drafted the Internal Security Act 1960 primarily as a statutory tool to combat the threat of Communism that had so badly affected peace in Malaya.

In later years, Hickling always sought to expiate his role in the creation of the Internal Security Act 1960 that so haunted many poilitically active Malaysians and, Hickling himself. I had the opportunity to hear him explain, by way of expiation, that in the course of drafting that piece of legislation Hickling had expressed to the late Tun Abdul Razak, who was Deputy Prime Minister at the time, his concerns about the width, length and breadth of powers given by the Internal Security Act 1960 to the Executive Branch of Government. 

According to Hickling, Tun Razak's reply was that he, Tun Razak, knew how to utilise those statutory powers and, he knew where to draw the line, that is to say, what types of actions would constitute an abuse of those sweeping powers.

Needless to say, Tun Razak knew what he was doing, being an intelligent and legally trained leader. Tun Razak's sense of fairness is well-documented. This leadership trait was proven beyond doubt in the way he handled the May 13, 1969 riots when, as the Director of the National Operations Council he had dictatorial powers. Tun Razak's uncommon common sense and sense of fairplay shone through when constitutional and parliamentary processes were quickly reinstituted by 1972. 

The Internal Security Act 1960 was clearly in good hands under Tun Razak. Whether such powers were abused by subsequent leaders is a matter for historians and academicians. Suffice to say here that the Internal Security Act 1960 was an example of questionable structures and processes that worked only if the correct personality was holding the reins of power. In the wrong hands, such a piece of sweeping legislation was very much open to abuse.  

From the standpoint of my basic proposition about the importance of structure and process over personality, the Internal Security Act 1960 is one of the chief culprits for having engendered a legislative drafting culture where statutory powers are almost always drafted together with language that forbids or prevents an audit or review of the exercise of such powers. This makes the personage of the Minister or Government Officer very crucial. A cavalier personality will wield such powers freely and arbitrarily. A personage with a sense of fairmindedness will exercise more restraint. Such a structure cannot be good. 

Since we are on the matter of structure and process which has taken a legal twist, I now steer it back to a neutral position by leaving you with a piece of engineering wisdom-

An electrical, a mechanical and a civil engineer all sat down one day to try and decide of which of their faculties god must be to design the human body.

The electrical engineer says god must be an electrical engineer, for you only have to look at the complex nervous system powered be electrical impulses.

The mechanical engineer was sure that god must be a mechanical engineer, for the advanced mechanical systems, the heart a pump, the veins pipes and the tendons and muscles an advanced pulley system.

Finally after hearing the civil engineers arguments, both the mechanical and electrical engineer both agreed that god must be a civil engineer, for who else would run a sewer system through a recreational area!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Why I hardly blog anymore

I actually find the title to this post a little narcissistic and, I thought to myself, why not push on anyway? Indeed, why, not?

Blogging brought me a release of sorts. Prior to blogging I maintained a series of journals for jotting down itinerant thoughts. Academic papers brought a depth of thinking and analysis of a straitjacket kind...there were rules of engagement in academic settings, you see.

Blogging, on the other hand, had no rules. It was a blank canvas. For younger blogging contemporaries taking to blogging must have been like a duck taking to water. It was almost intuitive and seamless.

For people of my vintage, with world views tempered by bitter experiences past and forged by fear, the decision to blog was a ponderous and difficult mental journey.

Did I have anything worthwhile to say? Do I use blogging as a form of catharthic release from any sense of responsibility without any regard for my words and utterances? It did seem, from a third party perspective of the stuff and nonsense that was being put out in cyberspace, that the gap between responsibility and thoughtful, contemplative writing and pure venomous drivel was, in fact, a huge chasm. There was no consistency of quality whatsoever.

I finally found my natural "voice". 

The blog posts that preceded this is, in many ways, the "voice" that I feel comfortable with.

Writing and thinking per se gives me much pleasure. The dopamine effect of putting together a properly expressed prose is addictive. 

That is why my choice of vocation involves words, thought and analyses. It is a great treat to be paid for doing what I enjoy. It is an even greater pleasure when the feedback from paying customers and clientele is that they profited from my words, thought and analyses.

There it is. By randomly jotting down my thoughts in this blog post I have answered to myself why I have been parsimonious in blog posts in recent years. 

As it turns out I have been busy writing and thinking and analysing other stuff...ones that people actually are requesting for me to do.

And, the pleasure is doubled if the wordcrafting is done while downing a good brew.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Galbraith

John Kenneth Galbraith was an economist, first and foremost. But, he had a fine way with words. His great prose was part of the reason that he so impressed both, John F. Kennedy and, equally importantly, Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy.

One of Galbraith's seminal books that I had the pleasure of reading was The Affluent Society (1958). In it he argued that the United States' wealth accumulation in the private sector was not commensurate with public spending that would benefit the wider public and citizenry. In a capitalistic milieu Galbraith was not quite a Socialist, but most certainly, a Keynesian economist with a social conscience.

Galbraith was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to India during the Kennedy Administration.


Among the famous phrases he coined was the phrase conventional wisdom, which he first used in The Affluent Society

And, in the context of what we witness today in Malaysia, where nation building appears to have taken a backseat to guileless and clueless leadership, we need to take some heed of a piece of wisdom offered by Galbraith, unconventional as it may be in the Malaysian political scene of today-

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My condolences to the family of Corporal Raja Aizam Raja Mohd

The thin blue line of the Polis Di Raja Malaysia just got thinner with the tragic incident in Taman Sentosa, Klang. Corporal Raja Aizam and Corporal Mohd Aidil Mustafa are part of the thin blue line that protects the Malaysian community from descending into crime and disorder.

PDRM has been receiving very vocal brickbats from many quarters for various reasons.

I, for one, will be the last Malaysian to throw any adverse statements on PDRM. In my lifetime, so far, as a taxpaying Malaysian citizen, I have had no real cause to have any negative views of the men in blue. 

Theirs is a tough and risky job. I am proud to count several police officers as friends. They have a good sense of humour when they are with friends. They can be brutal when carrying out their duties. This is the nature of their work.

As with all Malaysians, I am concerned about crime. Let us not forget that PDRM members themselves are concerned about crime.

We need to rally behind the PDRM to strengthen the thin blue line in 2 ways-

1. Tell anyone and everyone in power, every chance you get, in any way possible, through any media, that they need to devote more resources to PDRM and other law enforcement agencies. This will enable PDRM to step up the police work.

2. Be nice, courteous and give some words of encouragement to our men in blue every chance you get. They are human too. And, they are risking their lives to ensure that we can feel safe. They are not perfect. So, give them your support and cooperation.

I offer my sincere condolences to the family of Corporal Raja Aizam Raja Mohd, particularly his grieving widow, Lance Corporal Nor Hazwani Harun.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The English empire

This is a piece from the Economist that describes the continuing and inexorable influence of the English language as a lingua franca of commerce. 

Articles and news like these are instructive. Malaysian education policy makers must pay heed to the reality that we do not live in splendid isolation. There is a whole world of commerce and an entire globe teeming with activity.

The need for fluency in English is imperative. Malaysia has a natural advantage in this respect. It is an advantage that we are throwing away in the name of a misplaced nationalistic hubris.

The piece below is extracted from here.

A growing number of firms worldwide are adopting English as their official language.

YANG YUANQING, Lenovo’s boss, hardly spoke a word of English until he was about 40: he grew up in rural poverty and read engineering at university. But when Lenovo bought IBM’s personal-computer division in 2005 he decided to immerse himself in English: he moved his family to North Carolina, hired a language tutor and—the ultimate sacrifice—spent hours watching cable-TV news. This week he was in São Paulo, Brazil, for a board meeting and an earnings call: he conducted all his business in English except for a briefing for the Chinese press.
Lenovo is one of a growing number of multinationals from the non-Anglophone world that have made English their official language. The fashion began in places with small populations but global ambitions such as Singapore (which retained English as its lingua franca when it left the British empire in 1963), the Nordic countries and Switzerland. Goran Lindahl, a former boss of ABB, a Swiss-Swedish engineering giant, once described its official language as “poor English”. The practice spread to the big European countries: numerous German and French multinationals now use English in board meetings and official documents.
Audi may use a German phrase—Vorsprung durch Technik, or progress through engineering—in its advertisements, but it is impossible to progress through its management ranks without good English. When Christoph Franz became boss of Lufthansa in 2011 he made English its official language even though all but a handful of the airline’s 50 most senior managers were German.
The Académie française may be prickly about the advance of English. But there is no real alternative as a global business language. The most plausible contender, Mandarin Chinese, is one of the world’s most difficult to master, and least computer-friendly. It is not even universal in China: more than 400m people there do not speak it.
Corporate English is now invading more difficult territory, such as Japan. Rakuten, a cross between Amazon and eBay, and Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo fashion chain, were among the first to switch. Now they are being joined by old-economy companies such as Honda, a carmaker, and Bridgestone, a tyremaker. Chinese firms are proving harder to crack: they have a huge internal market and are struggling to recruit competent managers of any description, let alone English-speakers. But some are following Lenovo’s lead. Huawei has introduced English as a second language and encourages high-flyers to become fluent. Around 300m Chinese are taking English lessons.
There are some obvious reasons why multinational companies want a lingua franca. Adopting English makes it easier to recruit global stars (including board members), reach global markets, assemble global production teams and integrate foreign acquisitions. Such steps are especially important to companies in Japan, where the population is shrinking.
There are less obvious reasons too. Rakuten’s boss, Hiroshi Mikitani, argues that English promotes free thinking because it is free from the status distinctions which characterise Japanese and other Asian languages. Antonella Mei-Pochtler of the Boston Consulting Group notes that German firms get through their business much faster in English than in laborious German. English can provide a neutral language in a merger: when Germany’s Hoechst and France’s Rhône-Poulenc combined in 1999 to create Aventis, they decided it would be run in English, in part to avoid choosing between their respective languages.
Tsedal Neeley of Harvard Business School says that “Englishnisation”, a word she borrows from Mr Mikitani, can stir up a hornet’s nest of emotions. Slow learners lose their self-confidence, worry about their job security, clam up in meetings or join a guerrilla resistance that conspires in its native language. Cliques of the fluent and the non-fluent can develop. So can lawsuits: in 2004 workers at a French subsidiary of GE took it to court for requiring them to read internal documents in English; the firm received a hefty fine. In all, a policy designed to bring employees together can all too easily have the opposite effect.
Ms Neeley argues that companies must think carefully about implementing a policy that touches on so many emotions. Senior managers should explain to employees why switching to English is so important, provide them with classes and conversation groups, and offer them incentives to improve their fluency, such as foreign postings. Those who are already proficient in English should speak more slowly and refrain from dominating conversations. And managers must act as referees and enforcers, resolving conflicts and discouraging staff from reverting to their native tongues. Mr Mikitani, who was a fluent English speaker himself, at first told his employees to pay for their own lessons and gave them two years to become fluent, on pain of demotion or even dismissal. He later realised that he had been too harsh, and started providing lessons on company time.
Nuance and emotion, or waffle?
Intergovernmental bodies like the European Union, which employs a babbling army of translators costing $1.5 billion a year, are obliged to pretend that there is no predominant global tongue. But businesses worldwide are facing up to the reality that English is the language on which the sun never sets. Still, Englishnisation is not easy, even if handled well: the most proficient speakers can still struggle to express nuance and emotion in a foreign tongue. For this reason, native English speakers often assume that the spread of their language in global corporate life confers an automatic advantage on them. In fact it can easily encourage them to rest on their laurels. Too many of them (especially Englishmen, your columnist keeps being told) risk mistaking their fluency in meetings for actual accomplishments.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

1MDB to land power project?

One of the things that should not happen in any economy is a situation where a government-linked entity enters into the commercial sector to compete with private sector players. This has been happening way too often in this country.

So, I read this piece in the Business Times about 1MDB's foray into new power sector projects with very mixed feelings.

Mind you, I have absolutely no love for YTL Power. I am absolutely against any Independent Power Producer (IPP). The electricity power generation sector should have been kept with Tenaga Nasional Berhad as a successor company to Lembaga Letrik Negara (LLN) as a necessary statutory monopoly of a public good. The IPPs and the inherently lop-sided Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) hasn't done our country any obvious good. Instead, it has increased our cost of living.

So, my first complaint is that entities like 1MDB is crowding out the private sector.

My second complaint is that entities like YTL Power and its ilk of IPP players should not be allowed to remain in play.

Everything in the electrical power generation sector should be handed over to TNB. 

As a consumer, I have a healthy respect and appreciation of TNB. It is not a perfect service provider. But, then, which entity is ever perfect? 

That said, TNB is a damn sight far more preferable than 1MDB or YTL Power and its IPP ilk.

If you need a context to what I have written go here.