Sunday, September 1, 2019

Mahathir and the Temptation of Going Low

The TIME magazine definition of "Person of the Year" is someone or something that in the course of the preceding year has for better or for worse done the most to influence the events of the year.

Extending the definition, one may, with huge doses of cynicism say that Mahathir earned the moniker of Person of Malaysia's Past Half-Century. My count, for some reason starts from 1969.

Stripped of all the hagiography that cloaks him from time to time, Mahathir is basically no different from all wannabe leaders in history. Hitler was one such wannabe. Perhaps, he was even a mischling.

The psyche of such wannabes is the hankering, desperate desire for inclusion into a larger group that, for whatever reason, spurn and shun the wannabe. Perhaps, over-eagerness is a tiresome thing. 

It appears that the lowest and, most effective, tool of wannabe politicians is the Us versus Them rhethoric. 

What the likes of Trump is doing in the United States of America is no different from what Mahathir has done throughout his chequered career and, most certainly, the most effective of all exponents of this Us versus Them tool was Adolf Hitler. 

It is easy, visually and viscerally, for a Malay to see the Chinese and Indians as being Them. It is an easy, low hanging fruit to peddle to the Malays.

So, in the race to the bottom, Mahathir is getting Bersatu to revert to the narrative he created for UMNO.

Our only hope is that wiser and more vulpine heads within Pakatan Harapan will do the needful to arrest this slippery slope that Mahathir has set Bersatu on.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

It's the economy, stupid

As if you don't already know, most of the unhappiness index in Malaysia today is connected to the prices of consumer goods and services. 

Why are prices so sticky, as in why didn't the price of consumer goods and services adjust downwards after the change of government on May 9, 2018?

This is something that the Malaysian government has failed to explain to the Malaysian public.

The fact is that while political players come and go, the economic players pretty much remain unchanged. The consumption patterns remain unchanged. The supply chain remains unchanged.

So, what can new political masters do with the levers of power in government? Push the wrong button and shit may happen. So, what to do?

To avoid being blamed (though it's a little late in the day now because the shit has already hit the fan) the government needs to explain to the Malaysian public on why the price of so many consumer goods and services haven't fallen.

It's a sticky wicket.

This is a failure of communication by the new Malaysian government. 

It's been a year now. Time to get the act together. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wet dreams of Racist Majorities

First part of the wet dream is unquestioning, grovelly and servile obsequious obeisance by the minority-

The second part involves intense, attentive and focused pandering to all the worldly and wanton needs and fancies of the bigot without his having any need to ever ask-

These are the wet dreams of the bigot. Dream on...

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Insolence of Office

People in positions of public power and public trust must always remember to be patient and consult with stakeholders and affected communities.

Heed Hamlet's warning observation in Act 3; Scene 1 to avoid the insolence of office.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Malaysia's Schooling System

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it". That is the old saw that has been a vital piece of wisdom for engineers for a long time.

In the 1960s, the intention was to foster National Unity and National Integration through the co-option of the mission schools into the National School System. The medium of instruction was to be changed from English to Bahasa Malaysia. The Junior Cambridge and Senior Cambridge examination system would be localised into the LCE and MCE. Later it would morph into SRP and SPM.

What went wrong after that?

How did the quality of education go down?

How did religion become so dominant in the National School System?

We should all note the reality that the 1960s ethos and the second decade of the new millennium are completely different epochs. It should be quite clear that the state of Malaysia's schools system is in disarray.

National objectives have not been met. What was the intended outcome? What went wrong?

Malaysian families, as always, practical and effective, quickly found alternative ways to get their children schooled at a standard that allowed them to enter into the workforce with the necessary skill sets to earn a living. They resorted to the Chinese-medium schools.

Leave aside polemics and rhetoric. Cast aside racial arguments. Throw away prejudice and invective. Just measure the schooling system by looking at OUTCOMES. That is the sure and objective measure. 

The issue of Malaysian schooling systems is a large one with different aspects. All these create confusion and distractions.

My suggestion is that everyone starts with getting the National School System fixed. This, as I previously blogged, requires an open and inclusive consultative process. 

The shape of Malaysia's future is at stake here.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Malaysia's Gettysburg Address

As Ministers for media and communications go in Malaysia, there are 2 standouts. One is Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie who was a good friend of Tun Razak. The other is Tok Mat, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat.

The post is now held by Gobind Singh Deo.

What Malaysians need now more than anything else is a sense of good cheer.

And, what Malaysians need is a timely reminder of the tenets of the Rukunegara which shone a light and, gave a sense of direction to Malaysians in our hour of darkness.

In the euphoria of the change of federal government in May 9 last year, many assumed that the Malaysians who voted for BN to remain would swing to the new government. The jury is still out on this matter.

But, whoever is in charge of the federal government has a sacred duty to keep multiracial Malaysia intact.

Everyone loves to feel good. Malaysians have every reason to feel good. But in order to feel good we often need something to trigger the chemicals in our body that makes us feel good.

The current federal government should be reminded that it needs to invoke the Rukunegara that all Malaysians have embraced since 1970, without any question at all.

What the Minister for Communications and Multimedia needs to do is to get the talent within his Ministry and the talent that is out there in the Malaysian entertainment, media, advertising and communications sectors to get onto the bandwagon and create content that will remind Malaysians to feel good about each other.

Who can argue with the principles enshrined in the Rukunegara?

The Rukunegara is a work of genius. It is economical in language. It is categorical. It is enumerated. It is a national mantra. 

It is Malaysia's version of the Gettysburg Address.

I invite the Minister of Communications and Multimedia to use the Rukunegara to change Malaysian mindsets for the better.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Malu Troll in Malaysia Baru

It must be annoying and confusing for many to see people who are charged with serious breaches of public trust, corruption and assorted financial crimes walk freely among us. Worse still, these accused persons wear smug expressions and appear to carry on their daily lives with nary a worry in the world. Further unkind blows are received when we read about their capers in social media and the adoration they receive from certain sections of the Malaysian polity.

One may begin to wonder ... hmmmm ... do crimes really pay? Can one really get away with it? What gives? Is our system of laws really broken? Why haven't the accused persons been thrown in jail?

The due process of the law is, indeed, annoying. It comes across and being slow, lumbering, languid, emotionless, uncaring and, cold. One has to be stoic.

If nothing else, our criminal justice system requires the accuser to be patient. This is due to the basic principle adopted only in the recent two centuries that an accused person must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Annoying as it may be, this system is far, far better than the one used by Torquemada in the Spanish Inquisition and, the Star Chamber used in 17th Century England.

The long arm of the law will reach the guilty parties. By charging the accused persons, the noose is already around their necks. The noose may be loose now because the trials haven't started. It will start tightening around the necks of the accused once the trial gets under way. 

Malaysia Baru is a work in progress. Everyone needs to do their own small positive part. Have faith that change has started and, it is in progress.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


The current debate about the United Examination Certificate (UEC) that applies to private Malaysian schools where the medium of instruction is mostly in the Mandarin language is a red herring.

All Malaysian educationists of all stripes should be asked to stand down on the matter. 

It is not an urgent matter. It is an aspirational matter.

Instead, all Malaysian educationists should focus on why the mainstream schools have seriously underperformed over the past few decades.

What went wrong?

In approaching the matter, the government must be the convener and facilitator. Avoid polemics. Focus on syllabus, focus on teaching talent, focus on good morals and behaviour as befits a multi-racial Malaysia, focus on skills that will help to earn a livelihood.

The new government is already moving on this. But, this new government lacks patience. It wants to be seen to have gotten things done, which usually means small issues like shoe colour, while failing to communicate on the bigger issues such as the quality of education.

My suggestion is that this new government start various inclusive processes that involves active consultation with various community groups.

Those of us who studied in mainstream schools have found that since the mid-1980s, the quality of education has gone down. 

The funny thing is that the syllabus is still good. So, why the anomalous situation?

All 3 of my children went through Malaysian mainstream schools. There was tuition, of course. But, they have gone on to tertiary studies in foreign lands and earned high scores and graduated. 

So, if the syllabus looks to be okay, what else is wrong with the mainstream schools?

I will make this one observation.

As my youngest child reached the end of her Standard 6, the new Pengetua Sekolah decided to build a huge surau at the teacher's car park right in the front entrance to the school. The teachers were told to park in the school padang. The padang was at a lower level to the school building so the teachers had to climb a flight of steps to reach the school building. And, if it rained, the padang would become muddy.

So, the playing field became smaller. The grand entrance to the school was obstructed by the surau building. Teachers had to park far away and trudged to the school.

I was quite perturbed as to why the education system was unable to tell the Pengetua that his faith is his personal business and, plonking a building at the teacher's car park would affect the school's processes. The teachers were griping  about the situation but felt emasculated.

Let us leave aside the UEC for now. All educationists must be invited by the new government to contribute to the rebuilding of the mainstream education system.

And, just to put things in stark perspective, understand that whatever that is decided now will take at least a decade or, a generation, to reach fruition. That is how dire the situation is.