Sunday, August 31, 2008

Project Malaysia

I had favourited the URL link to Project Malaysia for several weeks now. It was launched at midnight August 31. Here's what MCA 7 4 Justice had to say:
A site called was launched at midnight one hour ago.  One of the founders, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, tells me that this site will run for one year during which 12 core Malaysian themes will be explored through comprehensive no holds barred critical discourse in which all stakeholders have a chance to put measured views across.  The aim is to find solutions for a better nation and craft a blueprint for the future.

Although I have linked Project Malaysia in the blog, you can click the link here.


An online "think tank" for Malaysia and Malaysians. It will aim to effectively identify one theme or issue each month and elaborate on that with articles, commentary and discussion from various industry leaders/ scholars/ experts from that field.

Project Malaysia will be an independent project, highlighting views from all across the board. Malaysians who hold key positions in government or Opposition parties will be given equal opportunities to present their views to the public for dissemination and discourse. Essentially, every view, as long as effectively presented will be published and considered.

The key components of Project Malaysia is being neutral, and objective while looking at issues that are of importance and interest to ALL Malaysians. Besides that, Project Malaysia is about bringing awareness to Malaysians about key issues that affect them and their daily lives in preparation for the coming elections of 2012.


The results of the General Elections 2008 showed an increased awareness in Malaysians from all sections of society in their demands for a clean, accountable government.

Non-bread and butter issues - such as the state of the judiciary, corruption in civil service, the misuse of public funds, and so forth have become important to Malaysians from all walks of life. This has been largely due to more Internet penetration, and the rejection of politically skewed news in traditional media.

Articles on the Internet (from blogs and other socio-political websites) regarding many of these issues were printed out and highlighted to rural Malaysians prior to the elections by civil society groups and alternative political parties. This proves there is a need for information among Malaysians that goes past class or income group.

Malaysians are now actively seeking out information about their country. Project Malaysia will capitalise on this newfound need to access information for a large group of concerned citizens, both urban and otherwise. Project Malaysia could not be anymore relevant at this juncture due to the current state of affairs in Malaysia, and most importantly the change in the Malaysian mindset.


Project Malaysia will do its part in encouraging debate and discourse through a monthly online publication, concentrating on articles and commentary written by industry leaders that are relevant to that month's theme.

For example, if the theme is the Constitution, Constitutional Law scholars, as well as experts in the study of this topic can contribute articles to Project Malaysia. It can be divided into many aspects such as the issue of religious freedom, or the social contract in Malaysia, or even derivatives of this theme such as the affirmative action policies used in our nation. Otherwise, if the issue is big enough, they could become themes for another month as well.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Flying the Jalur Gemilang to September 16

Lest we forget, there are 2 key dates when it comes to flying Jalur Gemilang. One is August 31, when people of the 11 states in Semenanjung obtained Merdeka. The other is September 16, when Sabah and Sarawak joined the enlarged Malaysian federation.

I am told that Sarawak PKR Chief, Dominique Ng, has marked September 16, for several years now, by hoisting Jalur Gemilang at the Central Padang in Kuching. While some may see this gesture as being Quixotic, I, for one, do not.

In his recent column in Malaysiakini, Sim Kwang Yang wrote:

Sarawakians and Sabahans will grumble about the injustice of the Malay nationalist grand narrative to no end. Once again, they will remind the world about the historical fact that Malaysia came into being on 16 September 1963, and not 31 August 1957. But these are the marginal voices out there, on the other side of a vast expanse of sea water, seldom heard in Kuala Lumpur, and so hardly deserve serious attention. The official history book cannot be wrong, or at least that is what many Malaysians think.

This year though, the voices of discontent from the East may have to be taken seriously. Sabah MPs from the ruling coalition have been making rebellious noises in Parliament. Some are eloquent in ways only Sabahan and Sarawakian MPs are capable of.

What is the use of living in a big house, they asked, if you are denigrated to a small corner near the stinking toilet? Would it not be better if you move into the master bedroom in a smaller house? Needless to say, I share their sentiment entirely.

This is a valid view. But, beyond the historical truism about September 16, having a legitimate claim to being as significant, if not more, than August 31, there is in 2008 a potentially greater significance to the September 16 date. But this significant other will be something all Malaysians will have to wait to unfold.

For now, I wish to express the hope that ALL Malaysians will hoist and fly the Jalur Gemilang for the entire duration between August 31 and September 16.

Not just because Dominique Ng will have his traditional flag-raising in the Central Padang, Kuching; not just because Sim Kwang Yang has wistfully reminded us of its significance (which are quite sensible reasons, I grant you), but, for its significance in the birth of Malaysia (not Malaya).

But, if you want to add to the mix of rationale, some overt show of support for Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan Rakyat's political designs, then, so be it!

Hoisting the Jalur Gemilang

The flag of Malaysia, also known as the Jalur Gemilang ("Stripes of Glory"), comprises a field of 14 alternating red and white stripes along the fly and a blue canton bearing a crescent and a 14-point star known as the Bintang Persekutuan or Federal Star. The 14 stripes, of equal width, represent the equal status in the federation of the 13 member states and the federal government, while the 14 points of the star represent the unity between these entities. The crescent represents Islam, the country's official religion; the yellow of the star and crescent is the royal colour of the Malay rulers;The red of the stripes stands for the bloodshed to earn independence. The white stands for the people and economy of Malaysia.

In blazon, the Malaysian flag is described as: "A banner Gules, seven bars Argent; the canton Azure charged with decrescent and mulletof fourteen points Or." This means "a red flag with seven horizontal white stripes; the upper-left (hoist) quarter is blue with a yellow waning crescent (i.e. horns pointing to sinister) and a yellow 14-pointed star." The first flag of independent Malaya was based on the Stars and Stripes of the United States, combined with Islamic symbolism. It had 11 red and white stripes and a blue canton, like the US flag, with a gold crescent and an eleven-pointed star, traditionally associated with Islam. Both the number of stripes and points on the star denoted the 11 states of the Federation. In 1963 three new states- Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak- joined the Federation of Malaysia. To reflect this the flag was amended to 14 red and white stripes representing the 14 states. When Singapore seceded in 1965, the flag remained unaltered. The fourteenth stripe is now said to stand for the federal district of Kuala Lumpur. The blue canton represents the unity of the Malaysian people. The crescent is for Islam, the dominant religion. The 14 points of the star are for unity among the states of the country. Yellow is the traditional color of the rulers of the Malay states. Red and white are also traditional colors in Southeast Asia.
Source: Wikipedia
I've just hoisted Jalur Gemilang outside my home. It is fluttering proudly on this cloudy, muggy Saturday afternoon. This annual ritual always swells my chest with pride. It's an emotional thing.
Although some angry protesters at the abortive Bar Council forum a few Saturdays ago, demanded that people with my ethnicity deport ourselves to Hu Jintao's country and linked my ethnicity with porcine genes, I am shrugging it off. This land is my land, too. I don't have emotional ties with any other land.
Although I enjoy my pork, I also can't imagine life without nasi lemak, roti canai and beef rendang.
Some say that they won't fly the Jalur Gemilang this weekend. Some want to fly it upside down. But I don't accept such views.
I hoisted Jalur Gemilang right-side up because I have reason to rejoice that in the 51st year of Merdeka voices of differing views (not disorder) can be heard loud and clear. This is a space that was not fully available prior to 2003. And, with this space, the pivotal events of March 8, 2008 could take place.
Perhaps change, like Life, must be taken one day at a time as suggested by the invocation in the Sanskrit poem, Salutation to the Dawn:
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life,
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendour of beauty,
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!
Such is the salutation to the dawn.

Think tanks in UK

It appears that the UK is having some complaints about the absence of policy development also. Much of the following article's grievances have been expressed in this blog previously. But, I suppose it is interesting as it is instructive to learn about how other countries are dealing with their policy development and strategic thinking:

If proof were needed of the weakness of the UK Labour party, one would need to look no further than the financial muscle of the UK’s centre-right think-tanks, growing in expectation of a Tory government. More striking than comparisons of left and right, however, is how weak UK think-tanks are in comparison with their foreign counterparts, notably in the US. Think-tanks there are not the right model for the UK’s policy wonks to emulate, but they can do better.

UK politically active think-tanks tend to be staffed by 20-something aspirant MPs and run on shoestring budgets. But in the US, the top think-tanks are well-funded and well-staffed universities without students. There are good reasons for this. Significant staff turnover accompanies every change in US administration. Big think-tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, are filled with experienced policymakers between government jobs. US culture is also more conducive both to lobbying and to philanthropy than the UK. These factors mean it is unimaginable UK think-tanks would ever be able to match their Washington counterparts.

Lacking resources, the big UK think-tanks dedicate themselves to campaigning rather than to analysis. In this respect, they do well. Without them, there would be no one to gainsay politicians, the civil service and journalists. The Institute of Economic Affairs made a significant contribution to Thatcherism through its activism.

But this focus on campaigning means the policy support available to UK politicians from outside government is rather weak. Most UK think-tank research pieces are literature reviews. In many policy areas, the Institute for Fiscal Studies is the only independent body that routinely provides the analysis politicians need. Other UK think-tanks are either not capable of it or have no wish to get involved in the challenge of making broad political ideas into useful laws.

Read more here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Problem with "Business as Usual"

There is a strange calm in UMNO's top leadership in the aftermath of Permatang Pauh. Some call this downplaying. In contrast, fringe UMNO leaders like the redoubtable Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah are calling time out on this business as usual attitude. In fact, Ku Li is reported as having gone further to call upon BN component parties to stay the course with the fraying coalition.

Component parties like Gerakan continue to make tepid mutterances (My droll portmanteau word that combines mutter with utterance) about the need for BN to reform while Gerakan conducts internal reforms. For the life of me, I can never understand political parties that prefer closed door approaches to communal discourse and reform. Unless I am delusional, I was always under the impression that the nature of politics is communication. Politics is the art of communication, isn't it?

As for the MCA, the race for the presidency is heating up. Declared presidential aspirant Ong Tee Keat is in the unusual position of being the anointed one, having been purportedly endorsed by outgoing President Ong Ka Ting. This has placed erstwhile MCA vice president and, yet to be declared presidential aspirant, Dr Chua Soi Lek in the role of the party's conscience. Read his latest blog entry.

Talking Strategy

I think Ku Li's voice deserve to be heard. In the context of BN, Ku Li seems to be one of the few UMNO leaders who are seeing several moves ahead of the obvious one. Certainly the sharks are circling UMNO's apex leaders. Knives are being sharpened. But it takes true wisdom and genuine sincerity to rise above the fray and help UMNO chart its course for the next few decades.

To me Ku Li stands on a different plane from the rest of the current crop of UMNO leaders for his ability to size up the problem at hand with a big picture in mind, beyond the parochialism that characterises much of UMNO politics.

For UMNO, MCA and Gerakan, even MIC, there is a serious need for regeneration. All the talk of reform or change in UMNO becomes nullified in a no-contest directive. All the talk of reform in the MCA comes to naught if aspirants refuse to recognise the reasons for their rejection by the voters on March 8, 2008. Likewise with Gerakan and MIC. Maybe there are lessons in business on the dangers of idiosyncratic routines embedded from 51 years of dominance that are relevant to BN politicians.

Smart business leaders know one of their main jobs is to help their business, where appropriate, break out of routines. When people get into a routine, their brains often shift into neutral: They become less likely to spot changes in the environment and less likely to question what they are doing and how they are doing it. Embedded in routines are assumptions about the world and how it works, assumptions we often mistake for reality. And when the world changes faster than our assumptions about it, danger lies ahead.

One way to eliminate dangerous routines in a business is to start talking about strategy regularly, meaning more than just once a year. Good companies know how to tap key people at all levels to adapt strategy and to get together for a formal discussion of strategy at least once a quarter. It doesn't take more than a few hours in a well-designed process to root out routines that no longer make sense. It sometimes start by asking groups of key people the following questions:

In the past 90 days, what were our three most important strategic accomplishments? The group must always be pushed not to settle for answers like "we met our revenue budget." Instead, teach them that a strategic accomplishment is one which changes the field of play in a company's favor.

In the past 90 days, what were the three most important ways we fell short of our potential? This allows the company to tap into people's intuition about important things the company ought to be emphasizing, but isn't.

In the past 90 days, what are the three most important things we have learned about our strategy? This is the toughest one—asking people to learn and apply what they've learned to actually adapt the strategy and tactics of the company.

I believe there will be salutary effects if the BN politicians take on board this level of awareness and strategy as they continue to talk about reform. Don't forget though, you need to LISTEN.

Anwar as Opposition Leader

Malaysiakini reports here on Anwar's swearing-in as MP Permatang Pauh and Opposition Leader:

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim is today officially parliamentary opposition leader. The newly-elected Permatang Pauh MP was sworn in this morning at the Dewan Rakyat.

Anwar arrived at Parliament at 8.55am wearing a songkok and and dark blue baju Melayu, and took his oath at 10.05am immediately after prayer recitals at the House. Soon after, he took the seat reserved for the parliamentary opposition leader, vacated by his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, three weeks ago.

The opposition leader's seat is directly opposite the prime minister's seat in the 222-member Parliament. Anwar has been declared leader of the opposition a decade after he was sacked as deputy premier and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.

He came to Parliament together with Wan Azizah, who held his Permatang Pauh seat during his political exile, and his daughter Nurul Izzah, who is also parliamentarian for Lembah Pantai.

"I hope the member for Permatang Pauh will contribute to the proceedings of this House. I am satisfied he has been unanimously appointed leader of the opposition," said speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia.


Anwar's return to mainstream Malaysian politics has been interpreted as a major setback for the BN and, in particular, Abdullah Badawi's leadership. This view is being echoed by many UMNO leaders. You can read the analysis everywhere.

What I see is that Anwar's return to Parliament, this time as Opposition Leader, holds interesting possibilities. Leaving aside, for the moment, the possibility of betrayals within BN MP ranks that will clear a passage for Anwar to ascend to Prime Ministership, what does Anwar's presence in Parliament portend? This will unfold in the weeks to come.

Belling the cat

Dr Chua Soi Lek appears to have thrown the gauntlet at Ong Tee Keat. The kid gloves have come off. In his terse latest blog entry with a grammatically challenged title, Candidates should not only pretend to speak our for the community, he sounded exasperated with the mainstream media (MSM) (which, by the way, echoes what the rest of us knew for many decades).

The source of possible MCA presidential candidate, Dr Chua's ire was the statement made by Ong Tee Keat that the MCA may pull out of the BN over the ketuanan Melayu issue. This statement was reported only in Nanyang Siang Pau. All other MSM, be they vernacular or Bahasa Malaysia or English, appeared to have regarded the statement as not being newsworthy!

This led Dr Chua to infer that the statement was meant for Chinese-educated eyes only since no one, certainly not UMNO, appeared to be aware of such a strongly worded statement from Ong Tee Keat, who is a declared MCA presidential aspirant. The Sun reported on this issue today.

Some MCA history to be recalled
The issue framed by Dr Chua is interesting as it is long overdue. Most Malaysians, not just Chinese Malaysians, have regarded the MCA as an emasculated novice eunuch to UMNO's imperial throne. The emasculation is not recent. I give you 2 pivotal events long, long ago:

First, between 1951 and 1956, Tan Cheng Lock was torn between leading MCA into an alliance with UMNO or, ally itself with the Independence of Malaya Party led by Dato' Onn Jaafar. Many historical records show that Tan Cheng Lock was actually leaning towards the IMP. But this move was thwarted by the likes of TH Tan who, eventually exposed himself as the errand boy of the Tunku. If ever there was a Trojan horse in MCA, TH Tan may well fit the bill.

Second, by 1959 the restive MCA members led by Dr Lim Chong Eu mounted a successful challenge against Tan Cheng Lock. The plank that Dr Lim rode on was a more assertive MCA in relation to UMNO. The records show that Dr Lim was forced to resign as MCA President due to pressure asserted by UMNO.

I believe that it is also a sad testament to the lack of true democracy in the MCA that Dr Lim Chong Eu's portrait does not appear in MCA's pantheon of presidents in Wisma MCA. This attitude towards true history and, attempts to re-write history, is another tragic feature that typify Malaysian politics. (By the way, I stand corrected. Dr Lim's portrait was put up some years ago. A commentator was kind enough to point this out. Thanks)

Wasn't it George Santayana who said, "Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it"?

Belling the cat
I want to keep this entry short. Though Dr Chua's views may be coloured by his present political aspirations, we should not dismiss it. He has tried to frame the future direction of MCA in the context of MCA's relationship with UMNO.

But, in so doing, he must surely realise that to the rest of us who are neutral on MCA, he, like all leaders and followers in MCA (we might as well throw MIC and Gerakan into this milieu) is still conducting a discourse and debate within the context and parameters set and fixed by UMNO. How can genuine party reform take place in such a myopic setting?

And, so, I end by inviting you to read another one of Aesop's Fables entitled, Belling the cat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some thoughts on economic reform

In the wake of his resounding return to the Malaysian Parliament, Anwar Ibrahim has said that he wants to focus on the reform agenda. While the range of reforms that Anwar and his Pakatan colleagues intend to focus on covers the gamut of constitutional institutions, draconian laws and socio-political matters, the one aspect that is relevant to this blog is economic reform.

Economic reform need not be the monopoly (pardon the pun) of Pakatan alone. The BN federal government is entitled to or, obliged to, consider the reform issues earlier raised in this blog: An economic agenda to consider.


While my earlier blog referred to above advocates a radical removal of privatisation completely in favour of sovereign debt-raising, I am now offering a decaffeinated version. How about this? The privatisation of state assets for infrastructure development, such as the Corridor projects must be fully and properly valued. Under-valuation allows privateers to appeal for variations that may be open to abuse. Privatisation cannot handed to cronies and people with vested interests on preferential terms. 

But, public spending on infrastructure must be increased with much caution, especially under the present conditions of ballooning commodity prices. 

The government must exercise financial prudence because of the risk that cost-push inflation is likely to impact on and, increase the public debt or budget deficit at a time when the global economic outlook is bleak.

No more cheap labour

From the colonial era until today, Malaysia is still overly dependent on the low labour-cost sector. There must be a clear policy for new investments to be directed at higher value-added industries through appropriate incentives and disincentives. This policy shift must be earnest and, it must be put in place now.


I want to reiterate all the matters raised in my earlier blog entry as referenced above where I also dealt with the need for a public transportation revamp. Please read the earlier blog entry in light of the impending Budget 2008 although I doubt if economic policymakers ever read blogs like this.

Casino and NFO tax increases in Budget 2008

Malaysia's Budget 2008 is likely to impose a gaming tax hike. The Malaysian government needs to maintain the budget deficit at 2.3% of GDP. Malaysia's gaming industry comprising numbers forecast operators (NFO) that conduct online 4D and Lotto games will provide an additional source of financing to contain the budget deficit.

The recent imposition of windfall taxes on independent power producers (IPP) and oil palm plantation companies lend further credence to this view.

Tax risk on NFOs

The last revision for NFOs (from 7% to 8% of gross revenue) and casino (from 22%-25% to 25% flat of gross revenue) were 10 years ago. NFOs’ betting duty was standardised from 6%-12% to 6% of net revenue in 2003.

It is estimated that every 1% hike in gaming tax would add about RM100 million or 4% to the Malaysian government’s annual gaming-related revenues of RM2.6 billion which comprises less than 1% of the government’s total annual revenue.

Tax risk on casino operations

It is felt that casino operations are even more vulnerable to tax risk in Budget 2008 than NFOs due to its more significant revenue contribution. In 2007 government revenues from casino operations was RM1.4b. This constituted a whopping 55% of total gaming tax revenues. 

Casino operations are regarded as being relatively more resilient demand. The Malaysian casino's grind market - an industry term for retail-type gamblers, as opposed to high-rollers - constitute a significant 70% of Malaysian casino revenue.

Risk impact

The tax hike, if any, is unlikely to be substantial. Malaysian casino’s present gaming tax of 25% is already Asia’s second highest after Macau’s 39%. In contrast, Singapore is considering a 15% tax the for grind market and 5% for the high-roller segment.

A huge increase will erode Malaysian casino's competitiveness, especially in the thinner-margin high-roller segment, as it reduces flexibility in offering rebates and commission to boost casino patronage. Industry observers believe that there is a possibility of the Malaysian government introducing a two-tier gaming tax similar to Singapore's model.

Dr M: Malaysia lacks good decision-making

At the Futurist Forum in KL yesterday, Dr M made the observation that Malaysia is lacking in good decision-making because it fails to anticipate the problems of the future.

Coping with cost structures
He is quoted as saying that the world is going through price hikes in fuel, food, aluminium and steel and Malaysia now needs to be able to handle the high-cost situation.

"Our people are used to very low cost of living, services and food and they are not prepared to face a high cost of living. I think we need to learn from countries with a high cost of living -- how do they survive, how do they prosper and how to be competitive," Dr M said in his speech entitled "Mindset: A framework to anticipate the future".

Planning and implementation

He also said: "Malaysia is the most planned country in the world. But people do not follow the plans prepared for them. If people had followed the plans, we would have been a developed country by now."

He said every plan has to have an implementation strategy, without which the plan is useless.

Dr M said planning for people is much more difficult because people resent others telling them what to do or how to think.

"I have spent 22 years trying to change the mindset of the Malays, for example, and I must admit that I have failed in that, but people won't give any more time."

Education being politicised

Among other issues, Mahathir also said the education system had become very politicised. He said the people's mentality has not changed, they want different kinds of education system because they want to preserve their own languages, they want more emphasis in religious education and so on.

He said the people like to blame politicians but the politicians are complying with the people's wishes.

Sensitive issues hinder integration

Mahathir also said national integration is difficult to achieve because politicians are bringing out sensitive issues which create more division amongst the people. "People think for a multiracial country, we are doing rather well but even then we need to be extremely careful," he added.

Read the full report of The Sun here.


I am always rivetted when Dr M applies his mind to strategic issues affecting Malaysia. Our canny ex-PM is a different class of Malaysian leader. While many of Malaysians may not subscribe to his politics, we should always give some pause to think about what Dr M says when he shares his views on future Malaysian strategies.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unofficial: Anwar wins with BIGGER majority

Aug 26, 08 7:17am


8pm: Unofficial results: Anwar Ibrahim is the winner, obtaining a majority of 16,210 votes. He garnered 26,646 votes while Arif Shah Omar Shah got 10,436. Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, won the seat with a 13,400 majority in the March 8 general election.

On inflation and interest rates

Inflation hit 8.5% in July 2008. Oil prices have dropped in the early part of August to about USD118 per barrel. Since then, the government has reduced petrol prices from RM2.70 per litre to RM2.55 per litre.

Yesterday, Bank Negara decided not to increase the overnight policy rate (OPR) from its current rate of 3.5%.

As a result the Ringgit fell to a 9-month low against the USD.

The Bank Negara Governor is quoted as saying that the decision to maintain the OPR stems from Bank Negara's desire to avoid a fundamental downturn in economic activity.

Chicken vs egg scenario
In effect, Bank Negara is saying that it's either high interest rates with economic slowdown OR low interest rates with economic growth. Is that really how it works?

What about the depreciation of the Ringgit? This is caused by leaving the OPR at 3.5%. While cheap Ringgit valuations favour exporters, the exporters are only one aspect of the complex Malaysian economy. What about the goods and services that Malaysia has to import?

What about imported inflation?
Doesn't a cheaper Ringgit make imported goods and services more expensive? Isn't that imported inflation? Won't that have a dampening effect on economic growth?

Is the Bank Negara truly independent?
Judging by the defensiveness of the Governor in responding to questions about her resignation (she denied it) and Bank Negara's independence (she said she's worked with 4 Finance Ministers and none of them ever gave a directive on interest rates ... ever!) - one's curiosity is even more piqued by the answers and responses given.

To avoid being caught in the bark of words, we have to look at the action...or, inaction on raising the OPR.

While Malaysia has always prided itself with the Robert Frost verse, the road less travelled (which this blogger may have alerted some personages to in 1998), the reticence of Bank Negara on raising interest rates is questionable. Just take a look at the way in which Vietnam is unravelling. By the way, Vietnam started to unwind due largely to the catalytic effect of their failure to raise interest rates which, in turn, led to the devaluation of the Dong which, in turn triggered a prolonged round of inflation which, is now causing their economic miracle to sputter.

Winston Churchill's take on Permatang Pauh

To the voters of Permatang Pauh:

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
Winston Churchill -

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why BN fail to see when they're about to fail

As usual, I've modified the title to an interesting article in Forbes entitled, Why We Fail To See When We're About To Fail which describes a business phenomenon that psychologists may term as denial.

The analysis, I think, holds many parallels in the political sphere. It is particularly relevant to the current political market leader, BN and, more specifically, UMNO.

Let's get back to the business setting first. The article tells the story of the mobile phone manufacturers. It starts with U.S. giant, Motorola which was the outright market leader of the mobile phone market until 1993. It's phones used analogue technology. Motorola did not see beyond trying to improve on the analogue technology. It did not see any significance in digital technology.

Then came the Finnish company, Nokia which chose to use digital telephony. Think about it. In 1992 98% of Nokia's revenues came from forestry and manufacturing rubber boots!

By 1998, Nokia was the outright world leader in mobile phones. That was when the Korean white goods manufacturer, Samsung started getting into the market. It's unique feature was having a camera in the phone. Nokia didn't see what the big deal was with having a camera. The customers thought otherwise. By 2005, Nokia woke up to the Samsung threat.

Blinded by the Light
It is no brilliant statement to say that if you do not see the need to change, you will not change. Everyone knows this. But if everyone knows this, why do so many change initiatives fail to break through this first barrier? Stated simply, we fail at breaking through this first barrier of change not because we don't know it is there but because we underestimate its strength. We underestimate its strength because we fail to take the time or effort to understand fully its nature.

So why don't we see the truck racing toward us, or the treasure of gold beneath our feet? Why could Motorola not see the threat of Nokia? Why did Nokia miss the rise of Samsung? Were these just invisible events? Were they simply impossible for anyone to see?

These might seem like silly questions, but if a particular demand for change were invisible, then we could hardly blame ourselves or someone else for not seeing it. But in most cases, the need for change is visible--if only we would see it. Again, why do we fail to see the need for change? Fundamentally, we fail to see because we are blinded by the light of what we already see.

The denial syndrome
So why do we deny? When we see evidence that a strategy, structure, technology, or product was right in the past but now is wrong, why do we ignore and deny the evidence?

Remember, we fail to see the need for change because we are blinded by the light of what we already see. Virtually every major personal or company change rarely occurs in isolation but contains a context, a history. In virtually every case, individuals or companies were doing the right thing and doing it well before something in the environment changed.

Just as the previous right thing did not come from out of the blue, neither did our ability to do it well. Our ability to do the old right thing well developed over time. Likewise, the maps we used to guide our actions were developed and reinforced by success over time. With success, these mental maps came to guide our behaviors as concretely as physical maps guide the steps we take on a wilderness trek. Our mental maps tell us where to go and how to get there.

The context of UMNO and BN
So, here we are on the eve of the Battle of Permatang Pauh. This Battle comes in the wake of the tectonic shift in the Malaysian political landscape in the General Elections of March 8.

How did the overwhelming results of the 2004 General Elections, which gave such a historic endorsement of UMNO-BN lead to the debacle of the 2008 General Elections? What changed in the brief 4-year interregnum?

Suffice to say that like Motorola at one point in time and, Nokia at another point in time, UMNO-BN went into a comfort zone that many saw as the insolence of office (a phrase used in Hamlet). The keris-kissing episode is symbolic of that attitude. Another phenomenon was the constant lip-service about engendering institutional reforms that never took place. It was as if UMNO-BN expected the rakyat to suffer from amnesia, forgetting the promises made.

I, for one, implicitly subscribe to Lim Guan Eng and DAP's view that favours the evolution of a 2-coalition political system in Malaysia. Such a development will nudge Malaysia's democracy inexorably towards a systemic restoration of constitutional institutions that separate the powers of the Yang di Pertuan Agong, Conference of Rulers, Cabinet, Parliament, Judiciary and States into discrete sets that assert countervailing pressures upon each other. It is this tension, this natural check and balance and, audit process that is the surest guarantee for all Malaysians and our beloved Malaysia.

That is why UMNO-BN needs to seriously reform by constantly changing leaders instead of choosing "no-contest" approaches (this means you, UMNO and MIC!).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

DAP and Pakatan on a strong footing

Malaysiakini's Syed Jaymal Zahiid reported that DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has re-stated DAP's stand that the party would reject any proposal to turn Malaysia into a theocratic state, whether Islamic or Christian.

Any proposal to turn Malaysia into a theocratic state whether an Islamic or a Christian state is contrary to our vision of a civil society that is multi-cultural and multi-religious. Further, it violates the Federal Constitution that is based on civil laws (and not on religious ones),” Lim is reported to have said in his opening speech at the DAP 2008 congress.

The 4 Pakatan principles
“We must abide by the four principles that have been the basis of our unity in Pakatan Rakyat. If we do not understand this, Pakatan will collapse.”

DAP, PAS together with PKR form the Pakatan Rakyat, the country’s most successful opposition alliance so far. The Pakatan won 82 out of the 222 parliamentary seats in the March national polls. De facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has promised to reverse the majority, currently held by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, to his alliance’s favour and form a new government by Malaysia Day on Sept 16.

Lim said DAP was committed to the four principles that bind Pakatan, namely:
  • The endorsement of Anwar as the new prime minister should Pakatan succeed in taking power,
  • The establishment of a secular state,
  • Equality, and
  • A two-coalition political system.

Read Malaysiakini's full report here.


There is much speculation that DAP's no-theocratic state plank will place it at odds with PAS and, thus, fracture the nascent Pakatan coalition. Such a view fails to take into account the many commonalities that DAP and PAS have. Instead, such a view focuses on the few, albeit fundamental differences between them.

Straddling DAP and PAS is PKR. It is easy to highlight the differences and, to overlook the obvious success that the Pakatan coalition achieved in the March 8 General Elections. The truth of the matter, for the foreseeable future at least, is that all components of Pakatan will be mindful of the Aesop's Fable entitled, The Bundle of Sticks:

An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a bundle of sticks, and said to his eldest son:
"Break it."

The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful.
"Untie the bundle," said the father, "and each of you take a stick."
When they had done so, he called out to them:
"Now, break," and each stick was easily broken. "You see my meaning," said their father.

The moral: Union gives strength

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's the economy, stupid! - Part III

While Malaysians obssess over the travails of Anwar Ibrahim and the finer points of statutory declarations and unnatural sex acts, we fail to notice that Vietnam is the Asian economy most likely to crash in 2008.
With suddenness only Asia, as the world's fastest-growing region can deliver, Vietnam's economy has lurched off course. Vietnam's stock exchange has plunged 55 percent this year, inflation topped 25 percent in May, wage protests are erupting at scores of factories and the national budget is cracking under the weight of imported energy.
Morgan Stanley is reported to have warned of a possible "devaluation episode" centered on its embattled currency, the dong, cautioning that such a development "could trigger a contagion throughout the region" similar to the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis.

Economic policymakers around Asia, are now faced with their toughest economic challenge in a decade; surging inflation.
But most Asian governments, Malaysia's included, have yet to embrace the proven macroeconomic-policy response: aggressive monetary tightening.
Instead, most of them favor ad hoc administrative measures like price caps, based on the flawed logic that today's price surge is temporary, so overreacting to it could undermine economic growth that, in fact, is already weakening, thanks to declining consumption in the U.S. and Europe and deteriorating terms of trade.
Some economists argue that the problem is that inflationary momentum is stronger than it's been in nearly two decades in Asia, and likely to rise—not stabilize—well into 2009. They are exasperated that Asia's central bankers, including Malaysia's, are sitting on the fence when they should be reining in inflation.
We are reminded that failure to deal with inflationary pressure was the same fundamental mistake the U.S. made in the 1970s. That historic blunder added the terrifying word stagflation to the modern economic lexicon. It means slow growth coupled with persistent price rises. This phenomenon is already apparent in Malaysia.
Historically, policy flip-flops as inflationary spirals build has magnified the havoc they ultimately wreak. Unless addressed quickly, price hikes in commodities lead to demands for higher wages which push up the general price levels, particularly in fast-growing economies. This is cost-push inflation.
Like many Asian central banks, Bank Negara can head off such a spiral by moving early to tighten money supply through higher interest rates. But there is a sense that many Asian governments are interfering with rational monetary policy by insisting on lower interest rates that favours exporters.
This has adversely affected the value of many Asian currencies and resulted in countries like Malaysia paying more for imported commodities, thus fuelling the inflationary spiral.
This blog continues to maintain that regardless of whether it is BN or Pakatan that leads the federal government of Malaysia, the economic challenges remain the same. It will serve the leaders of either coalition-preferably both- if they take some serious quality time-out to listen to the real economists (not sycophantic economists) and weigh monetary policy options.

S'wak is Taib country, even if Anwar rises

Joe Fernandez has written a bleak realpolitik piece in Malaysiakini on the iron grip that Taib Mahmud has over Sarawak. He referred to the statement by Anwar Ibrahim that Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has overstayed his welcome. Read the full article in Malaysiakini here.
Fernandez wrote: The fact that this call didn’t come from people that matter in Sarawak is a big political mistake and Taib’s inner circle led by his predecessor and uncle Abdul Rahman, if not the man himself, must be laughing their heads off. However for how long is anybody’s guess. Rahman was once fond of privately telling opponents especially Malay and Dayak rebels, to deter and lure them into his clutches, that his family has enough wealth to last seven generations without working and would equal and exceed the Gandhi dynasty in India in their grip of Sarawakian politics.

Besides, the Taib family has any number of political lobbyists in Kuala Lumpur to not only 'keep an eye' on the federal government but 'keep them in check'. This is like the proverbial tail wagging the dog.Taib is not the only person to cling tightly to public office, but he shows crucial differences.He became chief minister in 1981 at about the same time as Mahathir became prime minister and had him “demoted” to the post of federal territory minister in the federal cabinet. Mahathir left after 22 years even if his detractors believed he would die in office. He continues to snipe at his successors.
Anwar ratcheted up the stakes by pledging that all government and government-initiated development projects in the state would be either reviewed, scrapped or audited once he wrests the reins of power in Putrajaya come Sept 16, Malaysia Day, no less a revolution of sorts in slow motion towards much needed reformation. This evolution in thinking does away with questions over the morality, or otherwise, of political defections across party and government lines.
Anwar is not after Taib’s head for no reason although there are suspicions that he wants to force the latter to ditch his traditional support prematurely for whoever is in Kuala Lumpur and make peace with him on reasonable terms. Taib is an eternal survivor in politics and can be expected to do this in his own time. The others around him are waiting dutifully like robots for a cue from him. He has all of them picking from his hand. If Taib tells them to go or follow him, they will.
The infamous Sarawak parochialism is also at work here as they juggle to “keep the devils in Kuala Lumpur “ at bay from their beloved state of reluctant participants in the federation. Never has a state been so completely insulated from the rest of the nation.
Meanwhile, this is like a chicken-and-egg situation. Does Anwar get Taib’s support first and then become prime minister or does he become prime minister first and then get Taib’s support? The latter course might be fraught with all sorts of uncertain risks for Taib especially as he faces state elections as early as next year.
The Iban
Fernandez added: To be sure there are serious issues in the Sarawak of the once feared and famous Dayak tribes, camouflaged by the close links between the powers-that-be and the mainstream media, the virtual absence of the alternative media and low literacy rates, especially among the legendary head-hunting Iban who form the biggest grouping in the state.
The Iban have this childlike notion planted in their heads that “the government is our father and mother who takes care of us” and voting for the opposition, an unthinkable idea, is like going against our father and mother. Although the Dayaks, the Iban included, form the majority community in the state, they remain at the bottom of the heap, reduced to being drawers of water and hewers of wood for others, lacking any direction as a community. Surely, these are the original “lost tribes” rooted in inertia.

Melanau duality
Fernandez wrote further: Ironically, all four chief ministers since independence on Aug 31 1963 have been Dayaks. Stephen Kalong Ningkan the first, was followed by Penghulu Tawi Sli, Abdul Rahman Yaakub and incumbent and nephew Taib. Both Rahman and Taib come from the small Melanau Dayak community in Mukah who number less a little over 100,000 i.e. Muslims, Christians and Pagans included.

The Melanau, especially the Muslims, are often accused of having a foot in both the Malay and Dayak communities in much the same way as the Indian Muslims.

The other Dayak communities are the Bidayuh in the Kuching and Serian Divisions and the Orang Ulu – Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit – followed by the Lun Bawang, Penan, Punan and Kedayan in the Miri and nearby Divisions.
Taib’s stranglehold on power is hardly the result of the voters backing him but more by default since the Opposition in the state has never been united and organized as they are elsewhere in Malaysia. In the absence of the alternative media, the Dayaks can even be persuaded by the powers-that-be to remain ever loyal against their own interests.
Will the political tsunami hit Sarawak?
Most observers point to the Dayak disarray as the key to Taib and BN's hold on power. The other is the innate reticence of Sarawakians toward any Semenanjung leadership. Whether Anwar and Pakatan can overcome these 2 major factors remains to be seen.

It's the economy, stupid! - Part II

Given the strength of the Pakatan campaign in Permatang Pauh, many Malaysians believe that Anwar Ibrahim's return to the Parliament is a forgone conclusion. This has intensified the expectations that Pakatan Rakyat's push to engineer the crossover of BN MPs may take place on or about September 16.
Anwar's presence in Parliament as Opposition Leader will certainly add tremendous pressure on the pensive BN leadership and its increasingly tenuous hold on federal power.
Many right-minded Malaysians are finding the intense politicking in Malaysia increasingly tiresome. This is especially so in light of the global economic convulsions and, the seeming inability of the BN federal government to manage the economic challenges in the form of high fuel prices and food prices. There is a pervading sense of economic gloom that is increasingly embedded in the minds of Malaysians.
There is also mounting frustration that the BN versus Pakatan power struggle is overshadowing the serious matter of economic governance. This blog had earlier shown exasperation in the entry entitled, It's the economy stupid!
As a follow-up, the recent op-ed piece by The Edge Financial Daily entitled, Move beyond the scandals is worth reading:

EVER since the shock results of the March 8 general election began sinking in, the newly formed Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition has been psyching itself to grab control of the federal government. The political uncertainty that has followed in its wake has unsettled the investment community as the business sector weighs the implications of a shifting political equation.

Now that its eloquent leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has launched his campaign to re-enter parliament, the moment of truth for both the opposition alliance and Barisan Nasional (BN) government is at hand.

The unfolding struggle between the two political alignments, however, is likely to drag on for a while. In the process, as is the wont of political parties, both sides will try to damage the other's credibility by unearthing scandals and embarking on smear campaigns.

In Penang, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has kept up a barrage of criticism against his predecessor's administration, alleging expensive mistakes that have cost the public coffers millions. Likewise, in Selangor, Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has revealed that the previous government had launched a host of risky joint-venture projects that left the state vulnerable to lose some 5,000 hectares of land.

BN leaders, on their part, have criticised the PR for populist measures such as the cancellation of hawkers' summonses in Penang, provision of free water in Selangor, and its promise to lower the petrol price if it takes over the federal government.

As the volatile campaign for the Permatang Pauh by-election runs its course, the diversionary tactics of the two camps can be expected to gain momentum. Allegations, statutory declarations, oaths, threats and whispered innuendoes are flying thick and furious. The dirty tricks department, apparently, is working overtime. As in war, truth is very likely the first casualty in this no-holds barred drama.

Through this all, the rest of the nation waits for a denouement. While it witnesses the catharsis of an establishment order, and the quavering birth of a reform movement, one thing is clear - there is no turning back from this tryst with history.

In this milieu, it is important that we focus our minds on facilitating the clean-up of key institutions of governance and enhance the accountability of public institutions. Where they have been damaged to their very core, we must courageously close the door on old injuries and begin afresh.

It is not going to be easy, but if we wish to transcend past mistakes, all must play a constructive role in defining the new dispensation. The political animals among us must avoid the tendency to descend into mud-raking, or the country's reputation will be hard to repair after the damage is done. This is a crucial test of character for the country's leaders, both the present and would-be ones. Can they live up to the challenge?
Click here for the URL link to report.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guan Eng the clear winner in debate with Koh

I missed the debate and I'll have to watch it on Youtube. But for now, I'm relying on The Malaysian Insider's report that Guan Eng was the winner of the debate.

Read the full report here.
Read also, the more vivid and detailed rundown on the dynamics and nuances in the debate as reported by Susan Loone here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Permatang Pauh to Sarawak?

Malaysiakini featured a report that Anwar Ibrahim, who has promised to take control of Parliament and form a new government by Sept 16, has called for change in Sarawak, saying the East Malaysian state has been dominated by one man - chief minister Taib Mahmud - for too long.

"There must be change, nobody should stay too long and control everything," he told Malaysiakini when met at the sidelines of his campaign for the Permatang Pauh by-election.

"You cannot afford to have a gap that is too wide between the rich and poor," he added.
The opposition holds only 9 seats in the Sarawak State Assembly, while BN has 62.

But according to Anwar, rumblings of discontent are growing louder and the time is now ripe to make headway there with his reformation agenda of bringing change to the existing political, judiciary and socio-economic systems.
Read the full Malaysiakini report here.
Anwar has clearly begun to look beyond Permatang Pauh towards a broader agenda that, he hopes, will tap into a rich seam of discontentment in Sarawak. Pakatan Rakyat is obviously hopeful that Sarawak will be able to contribute to the number of crossover MPs.
Whether Anwar can parlay the simmering discontent in Sarawak into a groundswell of crossovers is a matter that all Malaysians are watching with increasing excitement.
In Pakatan's endeavours to engineer the crossovers, they are assisted in no small measure by the seeming inability or outright refusal by the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional, to institute genuine reforms to make the police force more accountable; make the process of judicial appointments more transparent and meritocratic; and, manage the increasingly negative economic sentiments in Malaysia.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Subprime to pump-prime: Getting the basics right

The US subprime mortgage crisis that sent shockwaves across the world’s largest economy is now 1 year old. The reverberations from the crisis are only just beginning to be felt in Malaysia.

The subprime woes have seen its worst and the impact is now affecting the broader economy, which was initially confined to the US and European housing markets.

The Edge Financial Daily quotes local economists who observed that it has taken a year for thr subprime crisis to impact Malaysia. They say that gross domestic product growth (GDP) numbers in Malaysia as well as the region point to a slower growth.

We are facing a confluence of inflationary pressure, prolonged domestic uncertainties and slowing US and global economy.

Policies to deal with economic slowdown
The issue now is how to offset the expected slowdown in developed countries. The economists figure that government could probably boost the economy via pump-priming. This means that the upcoming Budget may entail higher government spending and providing incentives for consumer and business spending.

The subprime crisis has been an indirect catalyst for the woes in the Asian markets. Some Asian economies have been affected directly via their holdings of US mortgage-backed securities and others indirectly through changes in investment and consumption patterns.

But can the economy bounce back early next year? Economists are not taking a bet that the economy will recover anytime soon. A lot will depend on the government's fiscal policies.

Malaysia's GDP growth is expected to decelerate to 5.3% this year from 6.3% last year on rising inflationary pressures, political uncertainties and global economic slowdown.

Corridors of growth?

The numerous corridor development projects should, theoretically represent the pump-priming fiscal efforts of the government. From a quantitatve perspective there will be billions of Ringgit available for this pump-priming effort.

But, it has to be said that after 50 years of economic development, Malaysia's best efforts seem to be directed at being a venue provider where the government create designated geographic areas for development, build the infrastructure and invite foreign investors to set up shop.

Where's the strategic thinking?
Where is the strategy to help create Malaysian multinational companies that will enable Malaysia to project outwards competitively?

The basics of educating a talent pool
I believe this starts with good quality education to produce a pool of managerial and technical talent that has the correct skill sets for Malaysian companies to tap into. Malaysia's talent pool is increasingly thinner over the past few decades.

Helping local companies get out from under the tempurung
The other issue is that Malaysian companies lack the exposure to global developments. In countries like Singapore 2 to 3 decades ago, it was the government that undertook the task of studying international economic trends and brought the local enterprises into line with such trends. This ensured that local corporations developed symmetrically with international demand. This enabled Singapore to remain competitive.

There is much lip-service in Malaysia these days. Planners and policy-makers have become lazy, not wanting to bother with consulting with local corporations preferring instead to wait for inquiries to come in. I've always posed this question, How do you know what to ask if you can't even define the issue at hand?

The job of governments in developing countries such as Malaysia is to understand the international economic trends and get the local economy to adjust in line with those trends. That's what the taxpayers pay the government to do. Local companies just do not have the financial resources to employ economic planners and strategists.

The scene at the microeconomic level
Last year I employed a Bumiputra Bioscience local graduate to a clerical post in my professional services firm. When asked why she is opting for a menial clerical job instead of pursuing a bioscience job, she said she was not interested in bioscience! How does this happen?

Strategic vision and tactical moves
de Bono has explained that when we set a strategic goal (such as Vision 2020) we also need tactical decisions within the strategic framework.

Sadly, there is no evidence of such awareness on the part of the government in recent years.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Selangor MB: Go ahead, sue me

The Star Online reports that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has welcomed Universiti Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) decision to take legal action against him over his statement calling for 10% of the varsity’s intake be opened to non-bumiputras.

Khalid said he welcomed the suit announced by UiTM Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Abu Shah last Saturday as it would provide an opportunity for the truth behind the statement to be highlighted to the people.

I feel the Malays and Malaysians as a whole are more matured and they know that such efforts (to open the intake to the non-bumiputras) are needed as we head towards globalisation. The openness in education is necessary to raise the skills of each member of the workforce in Malaysia as a means to ensure the country can effectively compete with other nations,” he said.

Khalid had on Aug 9 asked for UiTM to open 10% of its intake to the other races to raise the level of integration, competitiveness and the quality of graduates.
Read the report here.
For the non-Bumiputras who have an urgent need for scholarships and higher education that is based on pure meritocracy and without any ethnic bias please visit the ASEAN Scholarship programme provided by the Government of Singapore here.
But be warned that Singapore and the rest of world will grab these brains when they graduate from the National University of Singapore (which is ranked in the Global Top 50 Universities) and pay them minimum 5 times the salary that Malaysia pays. Be further warned that they will also be offered permanent resident status and, even, citizenship. Also watch out that they may have to pay the price of becoming kiasu and kiasi.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anwar highlights reforms to fund managers

Pic from Susan Loone's blog

The Edge Financial Daily's Yong Min Wei reported on Anwar's meeting with fund managers in Kula Lumpur several days ago. This should be a significant reminder to all that Anwar and his Pakatan coalition are earnest contenders for control of the federal government. The investment and business community's concerns about political changes will be assuaged to a large extent by these briefings:

KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim met fund managers this week to highlight some of the reforms he would introduce should he become the prime minister.

At a meeting in a city hotel on Wednesday, the former deputy prime minister briefed major fund managers on the proposed plans that he and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition would implement should they take control of the federal government.

It is learnt that Anwar pointed out some of the failures in the implementation of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s policies and stressed that a PR-led government would be “very much different” from the current federal administration.

Anwar, the de facto leader of PR, assured the fund managers of the proper separation of powers in a PR-led government as fund managers were concerned about the current climate of governance in the country, including the independence of the judiciary, transparency and the central bank’s policies.

The fund managers are said to have questioned whether Anwar’s Sept 16 deadline to form a new government was realistic and whether the power balance would be politically stable. To this, Anwar answered that the deadline is on track and the new government would be strong.

The PKR leader hinted to the handful of fund managers who attended the luncheon that some 35 members of parliament (MPs) from the BN would defect before Sept 16, although the PR only needed 30 BN MPs to cross over to command a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

It is believed that Anwar told the fund managers that he and the individual MPs who were willing to defect had a personal commitment to form a new government. He stressed that he was not wooing any particular BN component parties to jump ship.

Anwar’s office confirmed that the meeting involved some of the largest asset management firms in the local market.

On July 1, Anwar acknowledged at a press conference that four BN MPs, including two from Umno, were supposed to cross over that day but deferred their plans when a former PKR volunteer, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, lodged a police report alleging that Anwar had sodomised him.

In late July, the PKR adviser held a similar briefing with some 30 diplomats, mainly from Western missions.

So far, no BN MPs have crossed over although the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), with two MPs in the House, had publicly announced that it would support a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Anwar has to defeat BN’s Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah in the Permatang Pauh by-election on Aug 26 in order to return to parliament.

For PR to celebrate Malaysia Day in its true sense come Sept 16, Anwar must announce the defection of some MPs during the by-election campaigning to show that he has support in the government’s ranks. Without this, the people may think that Anwar is playing mind games instead.