Wednesday, August 31, 2011


To all Malaysians near and far, I wish you SELAMAT MENYAMBUT HARI KEMERDEKAAN.

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Flag Malaysia

Monday, August 29, 2011

Selamat Hari Raya

To all my Muslim brothers and sisters, especially Malaysians, I wish each of you-


And to all Malaysians, happy holiday week.

I am at my happiest when all my loved ones are with me and, this stretch is at the apex of happiness because everyone is home right here with me. These are the best times of my life. I wish for all Malaysians to feel the same level of happiness as I am feeling during this time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

(Updated) DPM: Teaching of Maths, Science in BM and English still under study

As always, I get a stir of positive energy when I hear the probable possibility of a reasonable likelihood of an inclination towards a circumspect consideration of the maintenance of the use of the English language as a medium of instruction in the subjects of Science and Mathematics.

So desperate am I that I am prepared to sacrifice the teaching of the English language in English. I am prepared to concede that the subject of English language can be taught in a non-English language if the teaching of Mathematics and Science can be taught in the English language.

In a nutshell, I am encouraged by this reported statement in The Star.

And, while we're on this subject please visit the PAGE website. PAGE is the acronym for the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia.

PAGE is a group of concerned and responsible Malaysian parents who are trying to get the attention of the Government, Parliamentarians, other NGOs and, just about anyone who is prepared to listen, lend an ear, lend a hand or, lend anything - to support the basic proposition that parents and schools should be given a choice over whether the teaching of Science and Mathematics should be taught in the English language.

I just read this at the Malaysian Insider-

Page accuses Putrajaya of ‘buying time’, wants English-language option restored

The Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page) wants Putrajaya to restore ‘teaching science and maths in English’ option before it kicks off a new policy next year.
Its vice-chairman, Sulaiman Mahran, ticked off Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for saying the Education Ministry will study further the possibility of using two languages to teach the two subjects in national schools, as reported by state news agency Bernama yesterday.
“It’s only buying time until 2012 when the MBMMBI will be fully implemented,” Sulaiman said in a statement, referring to the “Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening Command of English” policy that is to take over the existing language policy for science and maths (PPSMI).
The English-language lobbyist pointed out that the long-term advantages of English had been identified during the Mahathir administration but that its implementation was miscarried during the Abdullah administration.
“Datuk Seri Najib’s administration should repair its implementation, not dismantle it,
“What should be studied deeper is MBMMBI, which is clearly defective because it reduces the students’ exposure to English by 50 per cent,” Sulaiman said.
Prior to the Sarawak polls on April 16, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had also announced he would consider using dual languages as the medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science in schools.
PPSMI was first introduced in 2003 but the Education Ministry decided last year to stop it by 2012 after consulting with teachers and parents around the country.
In the uproar that followed after PPSMI was abolished, Putrajaya introduced MBMMBI, which will see the teaching of Mathematics and Science revert to Bahasa Malaysia from 2012 while more contact hours for English would be offered in order to improve students’ skills in the language.
In May The Malaysian Insider reported that the Najib administration had not decided on switching back to English for Science and Mathematics (PPSMI) because several Cabinet ministers felt any change would be another embarrassing flip-flop.
The Education Ministry has also announced it would hire 10,000 teachers to teach English in local schools.
Najib has also got a promise from the United States to send Peace Corps volunteers to teach the language in the country.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Euro: The downside of common currency

I'm not sure if the architects of the Euro could have envisaged a widespread economic contagion that covers Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (hence the porcine acronym of PIIGS).

Were it not for the Euro, I would imagine that if any nation goes into economic turmoil for whatever reason, say, the bursting of asset bubbles, the national currency will depreciate because that nation's debt will invariably increase. The conventional response to economic crisis is the printing of money to finance fiscal deficit.

Where a common currency is in play, which is the case of the PIIGS, there are many more variables. 

One such variable is the obvious differences in the economic health of member countries sharing the common currency.

Unlike the PIIGS, leading member countries like Germany and France are in relatively robust economic health. They would cherish a stable currency at a reasonable value relative to other currencies so that their cross-border trades within and outside of the European Community are predictable. 

But, the dilemma of the economically robust member countries is that they are now reluctant participants to bail out (or, to be politically correct, support) the PIIGS.

The common currency has become the unintended tether that threatens to pull down the healthy economies as they bailout the ailing ones. The awful metaphor is that of the mountaineers who have to deal with fallen colleagues whose lives are, literally, hanging by a thread.

Without the Euro, the PIIGS would have taken a depreciation of their currencies. Such depreciation would have made their exports cheaper. It would have made their tourist attractions cheaper relative to other destinations. Thus the natural ebb and flow of economics would have taken place.

With the Euro, the dilemma of the PIIGS is that their exports remain at a higher value than otherwise. And, visitors would still find the price of hotels, restaurants and trinkets still relatively expensive.

This scenario validates the stubborn resistance of the United Kingdom and many of the Scandinavian countries that resisted the pressure to join the Euro. 

Perhaps it is time to consider the dismantling of the Euro.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

UK Riots: Crowdcrime

The spark may have been an unfortunate shooting incident involving the Police in Tottenham. But nothing, nothing can excuse the outbreak of lawlessness in London and other cities in England.

It's not about poverty or lack of opportunities. I just heard on the BBC that the first culprit that was brought before a Magistrate was a teaching assistant!

No, the outbreak is about the phenomenon of what I will term, "safety in numbers". Aided by modern mobile communications and social media, hundreds of energetic youth have been executing the criminal equivalent of "flash mobs", or rather, flashmobs gone awry - I call it "Crowdcrime".

There must have been a realisation in the wake of the initial Tottenham riot that where the number of participants exceeded, say, 50 to 100, the law enforcement adopts a playbook stance that plays right into the hands of the hooligans.

I was flabbergasted when I watched a BBC clip showing 3 pairs of policemen in riot gear (carrying "Captain America" type round shields instead of the head-to-toe height shields that the Malaysian FRU carry) approaching the hooligans tentatively. Needless to say, the hooligans won that round.

I am amazed that in the wake of the London bus bombing some 6 years ago, the law enforcement strategies in the UK is still so inept.

As a matter of interest, I recall a remark made by a Queen's Counsel with whom I was having a beer. The QC was in KL to deliver a paper at a symposium. He marvelled at how much effort us Malaysians put into these symposiums - with the banging of the gong - music - fanfare - I digress.

The QC was musing about how soft the UK Government was about many matters.

This round of random riots throughout the length and breadth of England is confirmation that, not just in the UK, but also places like Norway and throughout the West - a serious review of where Western notions of law enforcement and the rights of criminal suspects need to be made.

There is a need for law enforcement to ensure that we can have quiet enjoyment of our lives.

Anyone that crosses the line drawn by the Law must be brought to book.

In an exigent event such as a riot or acts of hooliganism, law enforcement officials must be allowed to inflict pain - in the form of tear gas, water cannons and, yes, even rubber bullets.

And, I should also suggest that the police use paint guns - oil-based or permanent dye not water-soluble -  to mark the culprits so that after the event, the police can conduct house-to-house searches. Or, conscientious parents and friends can report these "stigmatised" persons.

Worried about innocent bystanders being shot with paint? Don't be. I would not want to be present where a riot was happening. Would you? So, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time your instinct would have been to run or walk away. If you have stayed as a busybody and got shot with paint, then, you've got some explaining to do. That's all.

If anyone feels that this view is extreme, just ask that poor chap whose 100-year old furniture store in  Croydon was burnt to cinders.

The UK riots are not about any socio-economic or socio-political matters.

The UK riots are a terrible new phenomenon - Crowdcrime.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rating the U.S. and S&P

It is tempting to gloat. "Told ya!", our minds scream while we sip our caramelised teh tarik to wash down the roti canai at our favourite warung.

It is an ugly, awful spectacle that has unfolded in the U.S.

For those of us of a certain vintage, our minds may have wandered to the possible range of sarcastic remarks that our dear erstwhile leader, Dr M would have spewed at the frail, fratricide that is unfolding in the democratic political process that the U.S. has so earnestly and ideologically promoted over the past century.

Our minds would also have wandered back to the difficult, challenging insults and invective hurled against Malaysia in the despairing days of 1998.

Every orang utan has its day.

We have now witnessed a troubled giant continue an implosion that started in November 2008.

Flashback to 1998. They said that we, in Malaysia, were in denial.

Flash forward to 2008 and, again, to 2011. We see the U.S. printing money to support its government's pump-priming efforts since 2008. They don;t call it "pump-priming", of course. It's nebulously called "Quantitative Easing".

Mind you, I'm not gloating. I'm not gleeful.

These are troubling times.

The U.S. is finding that the pump-priming is not working at the level of Main Street. The pump-priming appears to have only favoured Wall Street and selected Fortune 500 corporations. The average U.S. worker is in economic danger. 

The U.S. Congress is practising partisanship politics in a leaking vessel. The U.S. President is floundering in a hamstrung attempt to lead on a populist line. They call it brinksmanship.

The unkindest blow came when Standard & Poor downrated the U.S. economy, ironically, because of the political chicanery that took the U.S. Government to the brink of bankruptcy (many say it is already bankrupt anyway...or, at least, technically insolvent).

This meandering post is meant to lead to one point. 

I am impressed with how quickly the U.S. eco-system rallies around a perceived threat. This time the threat comes from within. It comes from the S&P downrating.

The amount of criticism heaped at S&P from the U.S. politicians, media commentators and intelligentsia is quite breathtaking.

This leads me to the second point.

Who's the conductor in this cacophonic symphony?

Is it a grouping of vested interests who have designed the greatest economic coup imaginable?

Might the coup be the sovereign default on U.S. Treasury Bills to the extreme detriment of China? (Japan, South Korea and the others will be collateral damage)

This would be one way to re-boot the downward spiralling U.S. economy.

The other would be war.

Think about it.