Sunday, December 30, 2018

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

The Malaysian political narrative is so badly twisted that we will not see it changed for many decades to come. For the foreseeable future it will be about the Malay race and, Islam.

First of all, there are good reasons why religion and politics should never mix. If religion teaches us not to question anything that comes from the apex of the religion, then, how does one question any injustice or unfairness? How does one question irrationality? How does one question abuse of discretionary power? These were questions that lead to the Reformation in Europe several centuries ago. This was the horrid challenge of that Age that led to a healthy skepticism that required the separation of religion from politics. And, it did not happen overnight. It took many, many more centuries of separating the chaff of superstition and ignorance and indolence from the wheat that is Knowledge. 

This, is the singular challenge that will dog the Malaysian political narrative for a long, long time. And, with the meagre and paltry level of intellect in Malaysia's academic circles, the job of creating a new generation of academics that can rival the generation that came of age in the 1970s, especially in Universiti Malaya, is a tall one. But, we must keep trying and keep going.

Second, the ghosts of memories of Onn Jaafar and Tan Cheng Lock should always haunt Malaysians. In their infinite wisdom these gentlemen saw the necessity of political collaboration that transcends factionalism based on the colour of the skin. I am old enough to be allowed to fantasise and postulate a what-might-have-been scenario. 

Had the leadership of the Independence of Malaya Party and the Malayan Chinese Association been allowed to coalesce in 1951 it would have gone on to win the municipal elections and the nascent pre-Merdeka Legislative Assembly. How would the political narrative have evolved if Onn Jaafar, who courageously walked away from an adoring Malay base and the UMNO that he helped to form, had become the Chief Minister of the pre-Merdeka Malaya? This is a question that should haunt us.

But *sigh*, here we are.

Let's not kid ourselves la. Parti Pribumi wants to be the new UMNO.

Malaysians can only hope that we live in a land free from corruption.

But, for the foreseeable future, we will have a political narrative that is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945), we will always be confronted with this one Commandment (even after getting rid of the enemy)-


Saturday, December 29, 2018

How to avoid mollycoddling the free riders

The wise leader does not make a show of holiness or pass out grades for good performance. That would create a climate of success and failure.

Competition and jealousy follow.

Emphasizing material success is the same: those who have a lot become greedy, and those who have little become thieves.

When you reinforce appearances, people scramble to please. The wise leader pays respectful attention to all behaviour.

Thus the group becomes open to more and more possibilities of behaviour. People learn a great deal when they are open to everything and not just figuring out what pleases the teacher.

The leader shows that style is no substitute for substance, that knowing certain facts is not more powerful than simple wisdom, that creating an impression is not more potent than acting from one's center.

The students learn that effective action arises out of silence and a clear sense of being. In this they find a source of peace.

They discover that the person who is down-to-earth can do what needs doing more effectively than the person who is merely busy.

Chapter 3 Tao Te-ching; John Heider (1985)

Monday, December 17, 2018

An outlandish banking merger idea - a comment

Risen Jayaseelan's piece in The Star today raised my ire. Maybe it's because I haven't had breakfast yet. Maybe it's because I have been nursing an obstinate viral thing that seems to have inhabited my stomach for some days now. 

The piece is an attempt to float the idea of a super merger of the already large banks in Malaysia, principally Maybank, CIMB, RHB, Ambank and Affin Bank so that some superlative achievement is attained by a banking institution originating from Malaysia. It's like an infantile need to show strength.

If I, as a bank customer in Malaysia, have had a wonderful experience with banks in the past 2 decades, I would not have any opinion on Jayaseelan's super merger  proposition.

I really do wonder if the journalist has been living in a cloistered, cocooned, cloud cuckoo land in not having had any real and meaningful transactions with any of the banks in Malaysia over the past 2 decades.

Video may have killed the radio star in the 1980s. In Malaysia, rampant bank mergers induced by a very unwise central bank policy of favouring size over quality for purportedly competitive reasons, killed the friendly neighbourhood bank.

And in the new millenia, the dreaded techfin bullshit is killing the banking experience even further.

If you care to take a helicopter up above the arboreal tree line of the phallic thrusts of buildings housing the head offices of Malaysian banks you may acquire some perspective of what the true purpose of banking and finance should be.

And, what do I mean by the cryptic sentence?

Example 1 - if you walked into a housing developer's showroom and commit to buying a property you are ushered to meet with a conveniently placed bank officer who will immediately print out your EPF record and make an initial determination of your creditworthiness. The transactional experience leading to the obtaining of a bank loan to buy the property is an orgasmic joy of ease of use (except for the bit where you have to wait in a dank and claustrophobic signing room at the solicitor's office).

But, the Heavens help you if you subsequently stumble and need to consult the bank on any aspect of your loan. You bought a property in Bukit Raja Klang. You find that the branch that handles your loan is in the nether regions of Serdang. You call and call and get voice recordings instructing you to press different parts of your navel.

If you are slightly smarter, you send an email or, better still, live chat. And, presto, you get an intelligent officer who is utterly responsive. But, alas, being Malaysian and, Malaysian educated, your mouth moves better than your fingers and start to rue the days when your mind meandered away as the English and Bahasa Malaysia lessons were on. You find that your ability to articulate is not good. You find that you need to use key words that are not in your lexicon. You try, without being aware, using similes, synonyms, metaphors and even parables. 

Not a good experience.

Example 2 - You mind your own business as a good taxpaying, salaryman. You have put in your hard earned savings in the bank. You carefully watch out for good term deposit deals, watching out for the smallest 9-month FD offers. 3.3% per annum, 4.2% per annum. Happy days.

Then, out of the blue you receive a printed letter by post. The letter says that the bank will be closing your savings, current and FD accounts within the next 30 days. Please advice on where you want your money to be transferred.

You go to your bank branch and show them to letter to ask what the meaning and intent was to close all your accounts. The clerk shrugs her shoulder and passes you to the officer. The officer shrugs his shoulder and passes you to the branch manager. The branch manager shrugs her shoulders and tells you that it is a head office decision. You try contacting the head office but get the usual heave ho.

Then, you contact the central bank. You get instructed to email them. You email them and receive a prompt response that copies in the bank. You are elated. Hopeful. The bank responds via email saying they are not at liberty to disclose. You press them. They deflect. The central bank is copied in at all times. You appeal to the central bank. The central bank emails the bank. The bank responds via email saying they are not at liberty to disclose. You press them. They deflect. The central bank is copied in at all times. No, the repeat passages are not typos. They are a chronological and categorical log of what happened to someone close to me.

In the end, the customer trudges back to the local bank branch and asks for a cheque to close all accounts as requested by the bank. Takes the cheque and deposits it in another bank. Makes you pine for the days when your ancestors kept money under the mattress.

And, here is the postscript. A month later, a letter arrives from the local bank branch inviting you to deposit money under a wonderful 9-month FD scheme!

I could go on and on.

My message to the central bank, the Malaysian banks and journalists who support super bank mergers is to please have a new perspective and look at things from the standpoint of the average bank customer and, the average SME borrower.

It is terribly ironic to read all the inane and insincere comments about how the largest employers in Malaysia are SMEs and, the system must and, will do all it can to nurture SMEs. SMEs are the backbone of the Malaysian economy.... la di da.

Well, I live in the real world. I actually have SME clientele. I know their plight and frustrations. And, unlike super dicky techfin sandboxed Malaysian banks, I actually do find financing solutions for SMEs with a deeply personal service that is professional and proper; just like how I imagine the old neighbourhood bank branch manager used to be.

Actually, while we are at it I would like to say that the central bank should start giving out more licences to create smaller banks that cater to the real needs of the average Malaysian.

The Ghost of Mahathirism Past is Nigh

Okay, Mahathir is truly an old man. He is a sprightly 94 going 110. But, to fixate on his age would be a major mistake when trying to analyse his second tenure as Prime Minister of Malaysia. So, let us just put his age out there and just leave it as a statement of fact. Let us not even try to be witty and say that he is an old man in a hurry.

What causes disquiet is the earnestness in which his Parti Pribumi Bersatu is courting UMNO MPs. 

In this respect Dr M and his would-be successor, Anwar Ibrahim exhibits a  common vulpine desire to induce MPs from one party to betray their party and hop over. Let us leave Anwar Ibrahim aside for now and focus on Dr M.

Pribumi is an overtly race-based party. It is a party for Malays. It has a superficial marketing tag line that covers other indigenous Malaysians to justify the Pribumi label in its name.

The realpolitik of the Malaysian political landscape in the wake of GE14 is that the Malay voters are divided 40:30:30. 40% UMNO, 30% PAS and 30% Pakatan Harapan coalition.

But, pause for a moment here. Context is important. In the run up to the May 9 General Elections, UMNO was a powerful juggernaut that was using the full might of its resources to reach into the Malay heartland to create strong imagery about how UMNO was the Protector of the Malays. Billions of Ringgit were poured in every possible media and outreach channel to create that sentiment.

And, with all those efforts, UMNO could only reach a paltry 40% of the Malay voters.

As for PAS, its ability to garner 30% of the Malay votes is very highly skewed to the East Coast, particularly its traditional strongholds of Kelantan and Terengganu. No magic charisma there.

So, what is my point? 

My point is that just by working hard, learning on the job quickly and staying corrupt-free, it is very, very certain that Pakatan Harapan's Malay voter base of support can only increase. I dare say, by GE15, 55% to 60% of the Malay voter base will shift to Pakatan Harapan's component parties.

So, my question is, why is Dr M in such a hurry to induce UMNO MPs to jump ship and betray the Malay voters who supported UMNO in GE14?

Ever the crafty vulpine fellow that he is, Dr M has lamented that many structural reforms cannot take place without the Holy Grail of the 2/3 majority in the Malaysian Parliament.

My answer to the 2/3 majority argument is, I am sorry to say, BULLSHIT.

Even as we speak, live and breathe today, since May 9, reforms are taking place. Not very visible, not high drama, but real reforms. 

The reduction of corruption at all levels of government is already one form of reform. 

The opening of tenders, with some necessary weightage given to Bumiputra contractors, is reform.

The Pakatan Harapan government is not perfect. Of course, it isn't. But, it has its collective heart and intent of corruption-free and efficient governance in the correct place. The Malaysian voters and Malay voters are not stupid. They will see and feel the advantages of reform. 

So, why is Dr M trying to gather the souls of MPs of the dying UMNO?

That is something that we need to ponder over.

In the meantime, I will just say this; Mahathir and Pribumi's inducements for UMNO MPs to betray UMNO and the Malay voters who voted for UMNO is very, very bad for Malaysian democracy.

And, in the wee hours that I am blogging this, in a moment of insane nano second flickering flash of insight, I may have had a delusionary thought that maybe, just maybe, but, I cannot be sure, Mahathir is wielding his secret keris to subvert the multiracial Parti Keadilan's position of having 50 MPs and the Pakatan Harapan coalition's equation of elected MPs so that Pribumi will dominate as the new UMNO. Nakhoda lama jadi nakhoda kapal baru. Nadi lama tak ubah langsung. Inilah sandiwara yang paling tinggi tahapnya. 

What is that old saw about a leopard being unable to change its spots?

But, no, it cannot be true-la. Mahathir has experienced a second Lazarus Effect. He is a manusia bertaubat. Surely, the old Mahafiraun, authoritarian Mahathir is gone and, now we have a brand spanking new grandpatriarchal Mahathir. Didn't he shed tears in the video ad when hugging the 2 innocent children saying that Atuk needed to correct past mistakes?

Ya-la. I am delusionary aren't I?

As a postscript, here is a piece of JFK wisdom imparted during his Inaugural Address on the freezing morning of January 20, 1961-

... remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

ICERD Absurd

The words are plain and easy to understand. Article 1(1) of ICERD sets the tone and it is a general proposition. Read it-

1. In this Convention, the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. 

The general proposition in Article 1(1) of ICERD and the rest of the ICERD document is qualified by Article 1(4). Read it-

4. Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.

Anyone with a reasonable mind will see that ICERD's Article 1(4) accepts the existence of a provision such as Article 153 in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

But, where are the reasonable minds in Malaysia?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


A part of me has always been intrigued and in bewildered awe of the United Kingdom; England, in particular. How a small, nondescript island in the Northern reaches of the European continent could turn around years of pillage by the Vikings and dominance of the Romans and, then, transform into a feisty island of recalcitrants that embraced Protestantism in the wake of the much more powerful Catholics in Rome and Spain... it goes on and on because it is so well documented... the subsequent pushing of the frontiers of mathematics, astronomy, poetry, music and... the dominant dark side of Imperialism... all this history and all these achievements... leading to the moribund state of the sad display of how the political leaders of Britain has behaved in the past 2 years in the wake of the Brexit decision. I almost feel like I am a witness to how the Egyptians went from builders of the Sphinx and the pyramids to what exists today. Past glories don't count for anything when all the cards are on the table for the game that is on right now... this bit comes from a memory of a footnote in an undergraduate economics text written by Richard Lipsey.

So, here and now, we have a situation where the European Court of Justice comprising some 20-odd justices (how such a large number of legal personages can ever come to any decision is a high level art form) has ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke its original invocation of Article 50. 

In one swift move, the UK has a chance to press on a button to stop the countdown. After that the UK can go for a fresh referendum to vote again on whether to exit the European Union. Here's a chance. Right here.

But mired in the miasma of the quicksand of ego and misguided myopia, Theresa May and her lemmings in Cabinet and some in the Backbenches, have confined themselves to playing the role of Alec Guinness's character in The Bridge Over The River Kwai, where having built the wooden bridge that would be of strategic logistical importance to the Japanese Army and, at great cost to the lives and limbs of his fellow Prisoners of War, he blows the whistle to the Japanese when he discovers evidence of a plan to blow up the bridge. The moral here, if it is lost in my crazy words, is if Theresa May and her coterie believes that the amount of time they have invested in a multitude of scenarios for Brexit justifies their refusal to consider the revocation of the original Article 50 invocation, then, they are on the wrong side of history.

The reason why the older Britons voted in the majority for Brexit was due to the threat of open borders in the summer of 2016 when droves of illegals traipsed freely through Europe in the Northerly direction. 

But, equally compelling is that the majority of the younger Britons, though not enough of them went to vote, wanted to remain in Europe.

The UK can and, should, engage the EU on the silliness of the open border policy. It is a naive policy as everyone can see by now. That is something that can be placed on the agenda. But remaining in the EU is the economically sensible thing to do.

Mrs May has the chance to correct an egregious error of judgment by the British public. The mood of a buyers remorse is now very clear. In any scenario, the UK economy without Europe is destined to shrink. That is a horrid legacy that Theresa May can avoid, if she has a sufficient sense of history and context.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Carlos Ghosn

The news of the arrest of Carlos Ghosn by Japanese prosecutors for having allegedly understated his income between 2010 and some years after is a stark reminder that much as we speak of progress as Humankind with leaps and bounds of technology etc etc we actually haven't changed much from our basic nature as one of the species of animals that inhabit the Earth.

The old male lion in a pride that gets ousted by a challenger. The old male wolf in a pack that gets ousted by a challenger. The list goes on and on. The old rooster; the old gorilla...

It is in the nature of things that nothing is permanent.

Ghosn led a moribund Renault brand to incredible success. Then, he led the moribund Nissan brand to uproarious success.

Success breeds its own festering pool of nasty negativity and jealousy.

The wise leader keeps his ego in check so that he will know when to leave. 

If the leader forgets and lets his ego take over, challengers will plot and subvert the leader. 

David Attenborough should do a documentary that reminds us on how animalistic corporate behaviour is.

The Ghosn saga, where the flimsiest of prosecutorial charges that brings down an ageing, successful leader by cowardly hidden daggers, makes politicians look like honest dealers!

At least politicians are unable to deny that theirs is a dirty, cesspool where scumbags try to drown each other; a bizarre and twisted dishonest, unavoidable transparency.

The denial mindset of the corporate sector creates the pretense of bespoke suits, silk ties, luxury marques, shiny offices of steel and glass and ambitious industriousness tempered by good corporate governance. Behind the facade is the ugly truth of animal behaviour.

A backstabbing dagger is always wielded by a coward. 

And, one more thing; the Ghosn saga reminds us to never overstay our welcome.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Federal-State Relations in Malaysia post-GE14

The current Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, is clearly a centrist. In his previous 22 years as PM he had shown a clear preference for a very strong central government. 

What about his colleagues and new political allies?

The Pakatan Harapan coalition has had the recent 10 years of experience in Federal-State relations as the state government of Selangor and Penang. Will this experience temper their position when dealing with states now that PH is the central government?

Leaving aside the Semenanjung states for now, we turn our gaze to Sabah. The new Warisan Party and its new allies have formed the state government in Sabah. Warisan is an ally of the PH coalition. But, it is a Sabah-based party. That is a good thing because it provides a clear demarcation which works better in the fragile, fluid minds of politicians whose meandering dealings often resemble the Brownian movement of smoke particles.

The former Barisan Nasional coalitions member parties in Sarawak have wisely jettisoned their links with BN and UMNO in order to recoalesce as Gabungan Parti Sarawak. That is a good thing. 

Sarawak has the added complication, however, of a non-PH coalition state government with the strong presence of PKR and DAP in the Opposition benches of the Sarawak State Assembly.

To make things even more interesting, both PKR and DAP are part of Semenanjung-led political parties.

The real test of Federal-State relations will obviously be in the arena of the oil and gas sector where Sarawak has taken the lead in asserting its claim for a reversion of its rights of ownership over that natural resource.

Within the Sarawak State Assembly, will partisan party politics come into play or, will Federal-State loyalties come into play?

The Sarawak voters will be watching.

Who will champion Sarawak's state rights of ownership over oil and gas?

With Dr Mahathir as Prime Minister, the position of the new GPS coalition and, the position of the Sarawak members of PKR and DAP on this matter will be sorely tested for sure.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Separation of Powers

The first point Dr M made in his first official address to PMO departments this morning, was the need to keep the 3 branches of government separate and distinct so that they can each provide a check and balance against the other.

Thank goodness, sanity is returning to Malaysia. This is very good.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The New Opposition's key imperatives

UMNO, MCA and MIC needs to deconstruct and reconstruct. By his initial public pronouncements, Khairy Jamaludin seems to be one of the UMNO stalwarts who has a finger on the pulse of the changed Malaysian electorate. But, KJ's utterance that UMNO may need to consider transforming into a multiracial party may not be shared by other party members. It is likely that there will be significant numbers in UMNO who actually believe that it was all Najib's fault and, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Ketuanan Melayu and, the apa lagi Cina mahu narrative. The call by Ali Rustam for members not to contest the top positions is a reminder that the lessons of GE14 will take quite some time for UMNO to learn.

Meanwhile, MCA's leaders say that they will consider transforming into a multiracial party. The MIC appears to be licking its wounds without any significant pronouncements.

Before going further on this, let us be reminded that these Barisan Nasional component parties are very wealthy, with shareholdings in various corporations. And, these component parties have a very wide network of branches. With proper leadership and a new brand positioning they are more than capable of becoming a credible and formidable Opposition.

But, so far, there is no evidence of any transformation. These are early days.

If UMNO sticks with its Ketuanan Melayu and, the apa lagi Cina mahu narrative, UMNO will decline further. 

If the MCA quickly transforms into a multiracial party, it has a good chance to come back to life.

Generally, the BN component parties must go beyond nitpicking. They have to be mindful of the rich ironies of their public pronouncements since May 9, 2018. So far, all their statements have been cringeworthy.

For example, when you hear UMNO leaders speak about the need for the Rule of Law you cannot help cringeing and recalling the following-
  1. 3 members of the 1MDB investigative team of the MACC Chief (Abdul Kassim), Bank Negara Governor (Zeti) and, Attorney-General (Gani Patail) were "neutralised";
  2. Gani Patail, in particular, was summarily removed;
  3. The Public Affairs Committee of the Parliament's report on 1MDB was declared an Official Secret, not available to the public;
  4. Jamal and the Red Shirts could do things with impunity while the Yellow-shirted Bersih was yanked on a super-short leash;
  5. And, the list goes on and on and on.
A senior colleague of mine made the observation 2 years ago, about how amazing it was that, in the Malay community there was hardly any moral outrage at the goings on in UMNO and its government. Well, it took a combination of Mahathir, Anwar, Lim Kit Siang, Wan Azizah and their team to spark the moral outrage that straddled all Malaysian communities at all levels.

That said, we should also temper our thoughts with the acknowledgment that even if 60% of the voters went with Pakatan Harapan and PAS, 40% stayed with UMNO-BN. And, 30% of the Malay vote went to PAS.

Inasmuch as Pakatan Harapan is figuring out what went right, UMNO-BN needs to take a brutally honest post-mortem on what went wrong. I know everyone who is anyone has a long litany of categorical bile to list out to UMNO-BN on what went wrong for them. 

The problem is that within UMNO-BN there are still many, many who hold on to the belief that Ketuanan Melayu and, the apa lagi Cina mahu is still relevant.

MCA is attempting a new narrative. I don't see anything coherent yet. But it may come.

UMNO is the interesting one to watch. At the moment, it is highly doubtful that the current crop of UMNO leaders will abandon the Ketuanan Melayu and, the apa lagi Cina mahu narrative.

But, it's early days yet. And, let us remember that Malaysians now, well and truly, live in the era of Hope.

His Majesty's Loyal Opposition

Isn't it a strange expression? His Majesty's Loyal Opposition. It is a reminder of the constitutional system that Malaysia adopted seamlessly and, it would seem, obviously from the British Westminster parliamentary system. It was an exported version, of course. 

The original model in the UK is different from Malaysia's version in many ways. Most significant is that Malaysia has a written constitution and, the UK doesn't. In the UK, their Parliament is supreme. In Malaysia, the Federal Constitution is supreme. What this means is that in Malaysia, all decisions of the government and all laws enacted can, and must, be tested against the Federal Constitution. If the decisions and laws are found to be against any principle or provision of the Federal Constitution, the decision and law will be invalidated and struck down.

As with everything in Life, these structures operate properly only when all humans involved in the process share a common belief in the rules. If we get a leader who wants to transcend the rules and, has the power to flout the rules, then, the system has failed.

In the UK, none of the current players ever question the fundamental rules of their Parliamentary system. That is why their system works well.

Just to digress a little, in the United States of America today, we can see how fragile systems of laws can be. The US found themselves with a President who parachuted in as a rank outsider to their representative democratic processes. He isn't a career politician and legislator. He is a businessman.

To digress further, all businessmen have one core purpose in their business goal. It is to take full and maximum advantage of the system, be it legal or economic, to maximise profits. In our current era, a businessman is, at core, a profiteer. He or she will test the rules and boundaries of the laws of the land and push, and pull, cajole, compromise, lubricate and do whatever that needs to be done, to maximise profits. Equally important is to understand that within the organisation he created, a businessman is a dictator or, at the very least, a benevolent despot. Don't be fooled by the conventional wisdom of corporate and business literature when they extol ethics and social responsibility; that's just propanganda. Make no profit and incur losses, you fail and you're out. That is the Damoclean Sword that a businessman lives by. And, the US elected someone with that background and experience. The diplomatic phrase for such a person who now acts as the US President is that he is a transactional leader

So, in a Third World, polyglot and multi-racial community like Malaysia and, with an imported system of laws, people who are used to feudal values and imperial dictates still cannot understand what a Constitutional, Monarchical, Parliamentary system means. Many Malaysian of voting age still believe that voting is a superficial act. What is important to them is that there is a feudal lord who will provide them with beneficence in exchange for with they must offer their gratitude.

You can imagine how fertile that ground is for abuse of power, whatever the system of laws.

To lesser minds operating within Malaysia's constitutional system as politicians or political operatives, due to lack of credible opposition and, a bullying Juggernaut approach to democracy, these lesser minds chose to ignore the basis of the Federal Constitution. They chose to retain the old habits feudalism.

With such an attitude, any attempts to audit the decisions of government was portrayed as treasonous, seditious and, generally "unlawful". So, he who inhabits the position of power may not be opposed. Any opposition was an act of lawlessness.

Between 1981 and 2003, Dr M led UMNO and, by dint of habit, therefore, assumed the position of Prime Minister of Malaysia. During those 22 years, he behaved as an iconoclast. By his actions, he initiated a mindset within UMNO that laws could be bent and moulded to strengthen powers and reduce opposition. During those 22 years, the Executive branch of government grew manifold times. To be fair, in the modern age, the Executive branch of government has grown throughout the world in response to the increasing complexity of modern societies. But, in Malaysia, such Executive growth had ominous undertones.

Opposition political leaders and civil society leaders were incarcerated. This was the habit of the Malaysian government as it was in many Third World countries.

When he relinquished power in 2003, there was a brief spring under Abdullah Badawi. That spirit was initially retained by Najib. But, the atmosphere quickly descended into a defensive mindset.

That defensive mindset led to a quick stocktake of the powers vested in the Executive branch of government. Very quickly UMNO found a motherload of precedents and powers initiated during the Mahathir era.

3 major examples of Mahathir-era authoritarian behaviour comes to mind. Firstly, the double confrontation with the monarchy. Second, was the sacking of the head of the Judiciary and 5 senior judges. Third, was Operation Lallang that placed numerous Opposition political leaders and civil society leaders under preventive detention.

By this thread, the summary dismissal of Gani Patail as the Attorney-General of Malaysia points to a Mahathir-era Executive Juggernaut approach to dealing with recalcitrants.

This raises a question. Was Mahathir one of the lesser minds aluded to earlier in this blog entry? The answer would be in the affirmative. It was often said, that Dr M, being a non-lawyer (and, therefore, unlike his 3 predescessors, Tunku, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn) did not, or refused to, understand the principles of the Westminster system enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

The Banyan tree metaphor used to describe Lee Kuan Yew's leadership in Singapore could equally apply to Dr M. The point was that nothing grew under the large and dark shadow of a Banyan tree. In Malaysia, the consequence of 22 years of Mahathir led to a large and growing coterie of sycophants and even lesser minds who believed that their positions in government was a feudal right and privilege. It was an entitlement and, a brith right.

This mindset was supported by a voting population that could be moulded like putty. Invoke the Yellow Peril of the dastardly Chinaman who will rob you blind and fear was instilled.

We also cannot and, should not, ignore the fact that during the Najib era, it was Dr M who wrote the narrative of the Yellow Peril through the machinations of Perkasa. Even after Dr M fell out with Najib, the narrative of the Yellow Peril proved to be an effective weapon used by UMNO.

Is Dr M a different person today? I don't think so. I believe most Malaysians know this to be the case. But, horses for causes, Malaysians chose well. The motley crew created by the charisma of Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and Wan Azizah with the spirited support of many, many intelligent, dynamic and youthful leaders combined with Dr M and his strong credibility within the Malay community proved to be a tipping point to cause an incredible outcome; the destruction of the UMNO Juggernaut.

This is a long preamble and I haven't dealt with the original point, the possible routes to reconstruction of the component parties of Barisan Nasional. They, together with PAS, are now His Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Let's deal with it later. Now, Life beckons.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Time to restore Internet freedom in Malaysia

I presume this will be done in due course, but, a little more haste would be good. Let's restore Malaysia's internet access to where it was before Salleh Said Keruak screwed it up with this stupid image-

GST removal and the Malaysian economy

There has been a large amount of reportage by so-called analysts who have expressed concern over the Pakatan Harapan election promise to dismantle the Goods and Services Tax regime. To my mind this so-called concern is borne of laziness on the part of the analysts. Worse still, the so-called concern reflects a marked lack of understanding of Malaysia's National Budget in the recent 5 years.

Anyone with sufficient focus and industry would not have missed the ballooning Operating Expense portion of Malaysia's National Budget. With some effort, one can find enough items that can be pared down. I would hazard a guess that much of the National Budget was leaked due to corrupt practices.

Other parts of the National Budget involved massive (mis-)allocations to ministries and agencies for use in different types of disbursements and grants that lacked accountability.

Plug these items earnestly and the massive fiscal deficit spending will be pared down significantly. Malaysia may not see a budget surplus immediately. But, my hunch is that future fiscal deficits will be due to growth imperatives in sectors such as education, tourism and agriculture where targeted fiscal spending will boost knowledge, skills and relevant infrastructure that will multiply Malaysia's economic growth instead of useless monetary handouts that feed Malaysians for a short spell of weeks without any lasting benefits.

This is where I completely agree that the new economic team that is being put in place by the Pakatan Harapan federal government will not be so stupid as to dismantle the GST without a plan.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A new era starts for Malaysia

Malaysians are entering into a new era with the victiory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition. This is a good thing.

Congratulations to all of us, Malaysians, for wanting a common better future.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Humpty Dumpty on the false coverage of anti-fake news law

I'm not sure why, but I just cracked up when I read an article in FMT that reported on the minister responsible for communications and multimedia's denunciation of allegedly false coverage of the anti fake news law that is due to become a new law of the land in Malaysia. The circuity of the logic and word play is just too delicious to bear. The irony of the situation will surely be lost on the people concerned. 

Anyway, must we really legislate on everything?

Surely the originator of the expression "fake news", Donald Trump, has shown how easy it is to classify all inconvenient truths as fake news. The way Trump dealt with adverse news coverage is to repeat his assertion of fake news as many times as possible. 

Eventually the point is reached where the people who believe in him and support him finds reassurance that if their Dear Leader has angrily asserted that any particular news on any event or matter that is unfavourable or inconvenient to him was fake, then, it was indeed fake. It's as simple as that.

Trump has shown how effective that strategy is. No need for legislation. Just in his speech and his tweets, he has been able to deal with adverse news. No need for legislation. Just have a thick skin. Isn't a thick skin one of the main criteria for being a political leader?

It's all so silly, so much so that the Humpty Dumptys who want to legislate everything should really fall off the wall if only to get some good sense knocked into their heads.

pix sourced from here

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

- Lewis Carroll; Through the Looking Glass-

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kurang ajar - The loss of collective memory

The origin and purpose of ancient structures such as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Nazca Lines, Easter Island and so on is lost in time. We have no idea why the old human communities used so much resources and expended so much time to build these monuments. There has been a loss of collective memory.

Sometimes we get lucky. Someone presciently decided that etchings carved into stones might preserve the written thoughts and observations of the time. Thus, from the confluence of Tigris and Euphrates we learnt from the etchings on the stone tablets of Gilgamesh and his epic saga. 

What of humankind in the 21st century? Imagine a dystopian scenario where a plague took out most of humanity. The infrastructure is intact. But with no one left to maintain them, all machines and means of production will become useless and non-functioning.

How would humankind keep its collective memory and knowledge?

In such a scenario it is likely that the collective memory and knowledge will be mostly lost in two generations. The third generation will have very little memory and knowledge to acquire.

One generation averages between twenty to twenty-five years. 
Malaysians born today will be the third generation.

How much of the collective memory has been lost already?

I was in a business meeting a few days ago. One of my business partners who is in his mid-thirties expressed incredulity that Sabah and Sarawak would require work permits. "Aren't they part of Malaysia?", he asked. Bewildered.

In a non-derogatory context, one might say (or, think) in an avuncular tone, that after the first generation, Malaysians in the following generations are increasingly, kurang ajar.

There is much ignorance borne of indolent minds that has very little curiosity about anything except that which Facebook, Twitter and Instagram fobs into the smart device in hand.

And, it isn't just about the formation of Malaysia. It's about how our Founding Generation wanted to work together and live together in happy harmony; Asiatics who are independent from colonial rule.

How quickly we forget.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

You mustn't enthrone ignorance just because there is so much of it

Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires widespread intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. Education has spread, but intelligence is perpetually retarded by the fertility of the simple. A cynic remarked that, "you mustn't enthrone ignorance just because there is so much of it." However, ignorance is not long enthroned, for it lends itself to manipulation by forces that mold public opinion. It may be true, as Lincoln supposed, that "you can't fool all the people all the time," but you can fool enough of them to rule a country. 
- Will and Ariel Durant-
Lessons of History (1968)