Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Recently I have been driving a loved one who has a 2-month stint in one of the government departments in Putrajaya.

I approached the task of driving back and forth from Putrajaya with pleasure. Firstly, from the point of view of landscaping and vegetation, Putrajaya is maturing quite nicely. There is less and less of the annoying palms and more and more leafy trees. This is transforming Putrajaya into a pleasant garden city.

In the evening segment of the driving I will go earlier and hang out at the Dataran Putrajaya. As the sun sets the square teems with families and vendors of toys. Kites are flying. It is an unexpected sight for me. When Putrajaya was in its infancy the square was a dead desert. Now it is a wonderful gathering place for families. It has found a purpose. It's a wonderful sight to see children, parents, cyclists, kite-flyers, visitors and vendors all mesh together just taking in the great agora that Dataran Putrajaya offers...all of this with the Prime Minister's Office building looming over the square in an benign, avuncular ambience.

After doing the pickup, we were driving along Persiaran Perdana or Putrajaya Boulevard when I spied a huge bazaar behind the young trees along the boulevard. It was the Pasarina or the Pasar Malam Putrajaya that has been up over the past week. I just had to pull up when I saw the banner for my favourite drink, Coconut Shake. Add to the great drink were all the great pasar malam food. It was an amazing sight to have a pasar malam right at the boulevard within all the government and ministry buildings. Amazing! Nice.

I know some may feel uncomfortable that a pasar malam, a typical Malaysian setting, sprouts up right at the seat of power. It is an interesting contrast. A kampung feel right in the heart of the Putrajaya. I loved it. I thought it reflected Malaysia being very comfortable with itself.

My wish for Malaysia is for Malaysians to just be comfortable with each other. Politics and politicians have their work and their attention-seeking tendencies. 

In many ways, politicians are a side-show of circus freaks. I don't need to name the clowns. I'm sure we each have our favourites.

The true Malaysia is out in the real world...it does not live in cyberspace which hate words and twisted tales inhabit. The real Malaysia is a place where Malaysians smile in greeting and express gratitude freely. That is the world that I have been inhabiting these past months. 

The true Malaysia is a happy place spoiled from time to time by stupid political leaders from both sides of the aisle.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reviving the UMNO-MCA spirit

I'm not ignoring the fact and existence of BN as a large coalition of political parties. But, whatever one may say, we cannot ignore that the original duumvirate was UMNO and MCA.

Recall my blog post some time ago here about the personal friendship between Ong Yoke Lin of Kuala Lumpur MCA Branch (later Tun Omar Ong Yoke Lin, past Speaker of Dewan Negara and founder of the air-conditioning company, OYL Industries Bhd) and Datuk Yahaya bin Abdul Razak of Kuala Lumpur UMNO Branch that had led to the idea for an UMNO-MCA alliance to contest the Kuala Lumpur Municipal elections in 1952.

Times may have changed. Players may be different.

What remains immutable is the fact that in the current ethos UMNO and MCA, being the underpinning foundation of BN needs to dig deeper to somehow reach into the original 1952 spirit and pull it to the present.

In 1952, UMNO was, in fact, weaker than the MCA. It's hard to imagine isn't it? The giant at the time was the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP).

The MCA President of the time, Tun Sir Tan Cheng Lock was a personal friend of Dato' Onn Jaafar of the IMP.

Yet, Ong Yoke Lin and Yahya bin Abdul Razak did the scoundrel thing and, in their infinite wisdom, created the seeds of the alliance between UMNO and MCA that has lasted all this while.

I know many within the UMNO ranks of today are foaming at the mouth in a rabid desire to do what comes naturally...kill all the Chinese in one form or another. We all know that kind of thinking is unhelpful.

At the street level, UMNO people are sensible. It's only when they don their superhero UMNO cape that the id comes to the fore.

Right now, UMNO must surely realise that the MCA's travails are not merely internal.

The MCA is struggling largely because of the perception has changed.

The voters know that the UMNO-MCA relationship has not been the same since 1952. It worsened after 1969. It has become worse with the passage of years. The broader BN coalition has not helped.

So here's the rub.

Can UMNO go it alone? Will it always remain one step ahead of PAS and PKR?

Can UMNO forever make DAP the bogeyman for the Malays?

If one were to take the long view, through the prism of a telescope that starts from 1952, it may be easier to get a contextual understanding of the symbiosis between UMNO and the MCA.

Leaving aside historical nostalgia, UMNO lending the MCA some "face" makes future sense.

As with all things that require retail support, not only should UMNO and the MCA re-engage each mother more meaningfully...they must be SEEN to re-engage as near-equals.

Without this framework of understanding and common purpose no amount of "transformation" of the MCA will gain traction.

The ball is very much in UMNO's court in this respect.

UMNO must not ignore the fact that the PKR-PAS-DAP pact is reaching an apogee of sorts. The drag is setting in. Are you going to take advantage of it?

Friday, December 20, 2013

MCA: The Perils of Inheritance

It is interesting to observe some of the MCA's members and leaders uttering reminders about the moribund situation that the MCA has found itself in since 2008.

My surmise is that these utterances will fall on the deaf ears of the next crop of leaders. They are cut from the same cloth as their immediate predecessors.

This is the dilemma of wealthy families.

It is the dilemma of rich countries. Recall the saga of the tiny, formerly phosphate-rich island nation of Nauru.

This is the same dilemma for successful political parties who have parlayed their popularity and power into acquiring wealth for the political party (and, sometimes, for themselves).

A person who inherits something does not need all the traits and characteristics that defined the predecessors and formed the basis of the earlier success.

Often, the beneficiary forgets what it took for the predecessors to achieve the early success. 

Beneficiaries who inherit have a different challenge from the pioneers. It is a challenge of whether to imbibe and embrace the goal, the drive, the vim, vigour and ambition of the predecessors. It all sounds tiresome does it not?

And, so, mediocrity will set in. Industriousness, inventiveness, innovation and sheer desperation is replaced by apathy, narcissism and a basic desire to just eat the fruits and, not tend to the plants and trees from which the fruits were borne.

This is the MCA of today; wealthy beyond Croesus; as unimaginative as a blinkered horse. 

There is no sense of urgency about the impending political irrelevance and death of the political party in future General Elections.

You reap what you sow. If you demand excessive obedience you get sycophants. If you punish out-of-box thinking you get indolence.

From where the rest of us stand, any contest for MCA leadership is perceived to be no different from a shareholder proxy fight to determine who will get to manage the several billion Ringgit worth of Huaren Holdings assets. 

It is a sad inference that the political ideals and goals that got the MCA involved in the formation of Malaya and Malaysia died some time ago. Time of death...unknown.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Emotional branding, xenophobic tactics and indolence in politics

For people who read widely and voraciously on financial and economic matters there is often, but not always, a degree of realisation and awareness that politics and governance do matter very much when we look at the economic health and direction of the country.

The connection between politics and the economy of the country is in the form of revenues collected by the government in the form of income tax, sales tax, duties, excises, assessment and quit rent. The citizens and residents pay to finance the machinery of government.

The expectation of the citizens and residents is that the government will provide protection, public order and look into ways and means to maintain the welfare of its citizens and residents.

This is the simplified view of things.

When we add realpolitik and all the political skills of obfuscation and skullduggery into the mix the citizens (here, we leave out the residents because they have no voting power) sometimes get confused.

The confusion comes when the citizens cannot decide how they should think.

Should a citizen think as a member of the country and society as a whole?

Should he or she think for just the immediate family?

Should the citizen think as a follower of his or her own religion?

Should the citizen think in terms of his or her own race?

There are so many possible scenarios depending on each citizen.

But, of all the different political skills of obfuscation and skullduggery, the greatest evil, in my opinion is where a political group emphasises and screams to differentiate citizens based on race.

Xenophobia is driven by base emotions. It is powered irrational fear; "You are different, therefore, you are to be feared."

This allows a political group to win arguments and support without any effort in thought, articulation or research. 

Just whip up a mob and the tsunami of fear turns into rabid violence - job done.

With this tactic (I will not dignify this approach by calling it a strategy), the political group gets away with financial abuse, embezzlement, incompetence and all sorts of abuse of power.

James Bryce wrote about the indolence of citizens. Nobody wants to think. It hurts the head.

Nobody wants to study hard. It hurts the head.

In any case, the system adjusts the academic scores so that as many students as possible gets a pass and, even distinctions.

The only problem with this tactic is that the fools among the citizens who support this political group will get nothing meaningful, be it financial benefit or intellectual skill.

It is George Orwell's porcine metaphor and allegory run riot. And, if you have a sense of humour, you will realise that even the preceding sentence may not go down well with citizens who profess certain religious leanings...that is if they even read this blog and, ....if they even understand the language that this is written in, and...if they get the nuance.