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Sakmongkol ak 47

Thursday 30 April 2009

Sakmongkol answers Rocky Bru- Corrupting use of anonymity.

Corrupting use of anonymity

Friends have called me. They are saying- sakmongkol, habis lah you kali ni. Rocky Bru, the boss of bosses of Blogdom has joined in to hantam you. I wish I can say, I am shaking in my boots. He has come out with ground rules of blogging.

When I reached home, I look up my computer. I read Rocky Bru's take on my article concerning two bloggers which resulted in unintentional effects. Whether anyone believes its unintentional is not relevant to me. It's done and cannot be undone.

Well, my response is, I can accept this form of criticism which distinguishes itself from the many comments and even articles taking the form of childish tantrums which remind me of something that have passed through a cat's digestive system. Indeed some of the comments at the said Rocky article displayed these characteristics. Some stated what can you expect from a KJ supporter, supporter of perasuah etc etc.

One commentator who of course choose to remain anonymous, said he/she is sorry to have to take sakmongkol off his blog reading list. I must thank this person because after coming to my home and enjoying my hospitality, the person is being civil by announcing he/she wants to exit. So I say Godspeed.

Here is my way to answer what Rocky has said. It is done in my own style, in my poor English.

Media people flamboyantly professed levels of transparency. I say flamboyant, because many claim they have a higher commitment to transparency. 'Politicians' have none. They are not shy to boast about it sometime.

That claim however is not the exclusive province of media people as we shall see later. It is the same with causes. Some causes are purely hatched in the imagination of internet writers. The same causes hatched originally in the minds of writers are hyped over several times and eventually become elevated to the status of a greater cause. In our case, 'a national cause'. In the name of national cause for example, one Rashid Yusof loses a legitimate opportunity to 'cari makan' to feed his family.

The validity of the greater cause however is founded on references to 'sources within the establishment'. Hence we hear the oft repeated 'taichi' excuses of I stand by my source/s.

This is the tricky part. Now who judges the validity of these sources and even their authenticity? It's done by the very same writers (in the loosest of sense) who originated the cause in the first place. The writers themselves become victim of self hype.

Take the case for example of treating the halt of one Rashid Yusof as press secretary to the DPM. His halt to a legitimate expectation of a job is justified as being the result of fighting for a greater cause.

But, his legitimate expectation is never inferior to the equally legitimate expectation to 'cari makan' as the term is employed by those who arrogate to themselves the righteous role of defending 'a greater cause'. Tell me readers, how is it possible to destroy another person's legitimate expectation while hanging to our own claim, susah cari makan. Who judges our own periuk nasi is more important than another's?

But that is ok so it is argued because it is justifiable in the name of a greater cause. The whole thing is part of the process of being transparent and upfront.

Except, this self claim is most of the time founded on expediencies. The claim is enhanced and fortified by reliance upon one of the most un-transparent political weapons:  namely, disseminating to the public -- typically through sympathetic journalists/writers and even bloggers -- purely partisan assertions while hiding behind a journalistically baseless grant of anonymity.  Again and again, partisan assertions are hooked up to the claim of a greater cause

There are numerous manipulative and distorting effects from having cyber-writers make pronouncements while remaining anonymous. One of these and a most significant of reasons is that there is no accountability whatsoever when they make false or misleading statements. 

Today we have a perfect illustration of that lack of accountability. Anonymity is most used as a means of deception or using anonymity to reach an agenda couched in the now already tired phrase of 'a greater cause' or 'national interest'.

To be continued.


Wednesday 29 April 2009

Not the X-Factor

Before readers continue reading this article, I wish to say a few things about the last article I wrote. I stated cleanly that it was intended as a rib tickler. I don't mind being called names of this and that. But there was one particular blogger who irked me greatly who termed me a bingai. I don't mind being called a senduk but not bingai. Bingai as the blogger defines it is a derivative of bahlul. Now, bahlul where I come from is a genetically inherited mental trait. Being genetically determined, such mental state comes from our parents. You pick out issues with me, but to cast aspersions of my parents is another matter. I responded deservedly. I too have the liberty to call him out by whatever name which I think he deserves. I have also responded to his veiled threat of wanting to do what if he meets me or in his street language- nasib baik gua tak jumpa lu.... I have stated a long time ago, if you pick a fight with me, I get you in a cul-de-sac; I take out my knuckle dusters. Call me anything, but don't abuse my parents.

Now, the main story.

A few years ago, The Star newspaper was one of the most strident critics of Mahathirism. The term is used loosely to signify anything; policies and projects that were associated with Dr Mahathir. Whatever Mahathir did and accomplished were regarded as baneful for Malaysia.

Bold business decisions were taken as cronyism, vision 2020 regarded as wasteful personal dreams, development taken as ecological disaster, assertive foreign policies regarded as quarrelsome. Accordingly, to be associated with Mahathirism is an unforgivable sin.

I remember reading Star editors who were among the most virulent and contumelious of critics. Sometimes they were openly contemptuous. And not one Malay writer worth his salt defended Mahathir. Certainly not those who now jump and go berserk whenever disagreeable comments are made on Dr Mahathir or on the greenhorn Mukhriz Mahathir.

Every major newspaper editors and lesser writers acted in unison in condemning Dr Mahathir. After 2003 until the exit of Pak Lah, Mahathir was treated almost like a pariah.

Now The Star is singing a different tune. Its chief spokesperson, Jocelyn Tan is saying Dr Mahathir is the X factor in the government. Usually one treats an X factor as the determining factor that ensures success. Like many people, I am puzzled. How can a person who was treated for a number of years as an untouchable now becomes the X factor?

Sometimes people subscribed to the existence of an X factor when they do not know what the crucial element determining success is. That unexplainable factor is assigned an X. Adopting an X can also be a sign that you are clueless and lost. Hence the slain Black American leader, Malcolm X was said to have adopted the 'X' in his name because he was a lost child.

In many ways, the adoption of 'X' by J Tan a well known journalist at The Star seems to be a fitting description. She hacks her way clueless. J Tan is a chameleon herself. She blends according to her surroundings. She was singing praises for KJ then when Abdullah Badawi was in power. She obviously knows which side of her bread is buttered. She even knows who butters it. She has earned many nicknames. In 2007 when I wasn't even blogging yet, she earned the moniker of UMNO media mistress. I have even heard her being called a whore.

But she seems to have her admirers deep inside the PM's office. Why is that so? That would suggest one of two three things. First she is regarded as best in her field. Two, those press people in the PM's outfit suffer from inferiority complexes. Finally, she is admired simply because DS Rosmah has a special place for J.Tan.

And so, she becomes a most admired media notable by the PM's press people. The adulation even if false confers a sense of invincibility which at times can be used to demolish others. J Tan has demonstrated that power when she contributed to the successful halt to the progression of one ex journalist as Press Sec to the DPM.

The admiration which I find unreasonable is nonetheless understandable. If you have people within the PM's press setup who cant even respond with a decent answer to the accusations by RPK, the adulation and even respect accorded to someone regarded as the belle of Journalism, is understandable. Those guys were probably besotted with her or were practical enough not to offend the PM's wife's pet.

I have said and will say it again. Her prowess as a journalist is vastly exceeded by her close relationship with Datin Seri Rosmah. As a journalist she is a paper tiger, undeservedly venerated during an age, when the internet wasn't around. At that time, what a journalist says was almost a monologue and opinion shaper. When the internet age came, when people can talk back, the shallowness and flimsy premises on which opinions were formed are easily undone. With that, comes a sobering realization that journalists like J Tan for instance is just another conjurer with words. Mesmerising for a short time, but unreal.

If you keep changing positions, something is bound to give in. That something, without which a journalist worth his /her salt cannot survive, is credibility. You can only conclude as losing any semblance of credibility of someone who said A was a pariah at one time, now that we have a new master, A is a darling. As Karpal Singh once used to say- you can't be two extremes at any given time. If you are to change positions, you could have hedged your bets the last time by straddling the middle road.

That should be an apt description of J Tan's journalistic behaviour. Suddenly as J Tan says TDM is back in the loop. Dr Mahathir has always been in the loop whether one likes it or not. TDM is an institution unto himself. He says what he wants and provides reasons therein. One disputes him by building a better mousetrap and it is no skin of his nose, if people disagree with him.

Whether he PM approves or otherwise, Dr Mahathir will say what he thinks is right such as insisting that UMNO must battle in Penanti. Or that DS Najib's cabinet has unsavoury characters. Or saying that the foreign press is ganging up on the PM.

As J Tan admitted, TDM did not ever stop- but newspapers like Star and people like J Tan, made sure what he said did not make it into the mainstream media. It was the Fourth Estate after all who created its own Berlin Wall keeping away dissenting voices.

Now Dr Mahathir, once reviled and abused is regarded as the X factor, treated as a returned hero, one in a million and indeed rarer still. The once derided Mahathirim is now re-christened as Guided Democracy. The suffix Democracy is at least palatable.

Those days when Mahathirism held sway were actually, it is indirectly claimed, our temporary displaced glorious path. The message is unmistakably clear- that if DS Najib were to emulate the style of Dr Mahathir, that is acceptable. Actually it is not Mahathirism we are hankering after but renewed leadership which has been forfeited since 2003. This was what JT missed out.

But when we pressed for resurgent leadership during PakLah's years, JTan and the Star enjoined the other MSM media doing a Berlin Wall on valid criticisms on weak leadership. Indeed strong leadership exemplified for example by Mahathirism was fashionably denounced. Dr Mahathir himself was exiled into the media wilderness, forced to reach the masses through his own blog. The more than 18 million readership is now finally accepted as very credible.

What are the hallmarks of Mahathirism that may supply DS Najib, content to his leadership? They include like what the Blogger Bigdog listed as "policies like Look East, Vision 2020, privatisation and Malaysia Inc. It was about big ideas and projects, bold decision-making, and the public and private sectors working to achieve economic growth."

But wait- JTan is not unlike the proverbial Greek bearing gifts. The gifts being in the form of grudging acknowledgements and even acceptance of Mahathirism. Whether this changing position by JT is a product of enlightened awareness is debatable. Maybe, her changing position is dictated by reasons of self preservation and a need to reinforce her presence as unsolicited adviser to the PM's team.

She's sending the message that Najib will ensure that Mahathirim will not be entirely discarded. On what is the guarantee given? That guarantee says JTan is given because of the existence of certain dynamics between the two men. When I was reading the romanticizing of the bonds between DS Najib and Dr Mahathir, I asked myself, were the many heart warming behavior described artfully by J Tan, a product of J Tan's wet dreams? I am not going to reproduced it here. Readers can read it in her article.

What should interest us is the use of Dr Mahathir in her scheme of things. Just like what she was doing during the Abdullah and KJ years, she is now placing an insurance factor for Najib's success. Mahathirism will no longer to be mistreated, but it will not enjoy prominence still. It's put on reserve as the X factor that can be called up assist Najibism.

Hence even though she hacks her way clueless, J tan has finally got her own X factor. If during the Abdullah years, she saw it fit to reject wholly Mahathirism and even demonising Dr Mahathir, this time, just to reinforce awareness of who butters her bread, she quickly elevates what was totally discarded as the X factor.

I for one will not steal her thunder and won't be in the way to ensure the PM succeeds in leading Malaysia even if the path leading to it is created in such a seductive way as done by J Tan. After all she is the UMNO media mistress.


Tuesday 28 April 2009

Opening Up-The Economy.

One week ago the PM announced the liberalisation of 27 service sub sectors. One of the principal aims was to attract more foreign investments. FDI will enhance the contribution of the service sector to our GDP. The usual stock-in-trade arguments.

We have absolutely no quarrel with the intended aims. But don't make mountains out of molehills. DS Najib didn't mention anything about Malays being ready to compete. 

Others did. Especially those who I think did not study and analyse the service sub sectors listed. They have either not understood or have perused the list, but was thinking about political mileages. Hence, there were claims emblazoned here and there- Malays ARE ready for competition.

When I mentioned this issue in a previous article, some people went ballistic. I am repeating this again. If you don't believe me it ok, but let's have a sobering analysis. Then, rebut me on those points. Don't denigrate by saying I am bitter this and bitter that. If you don't understand what I write, go read comics. Gila Gila would be suitable.

The sub sectors being opened up have low Bumi participation in the first place. So saying whatever quota you want to have chucked out means nothing to the Bumis anyway.

When the PM announced the liberalisation of the sub sectors, he mentioned just that. These sub-sectors do not require satisfying the 30% Bumi equity requirement. He did not say the liberalisation meant Bumis are ready to compete.

For instance, look at the computer and related services. What is the Bumi participation there? The juicy potions there have been secured by the privileged few. You are familiar with the term I used before- Bumi-Putera. The putera bangsawans, putera UMNO, and the genetic elite are all in forefront grabbing what's good first. The real bumis- the soil toilers and tillers remain behind taking crumbs. Meanwhile, the rest of the field is being competed for by hardworking and brainy non Bumis.

I am telling you, in general what's opened up, and how big the gaping hole is, is of no consequence to the Malays. These are services that require higher level of brain content. By implication, since the players in the industry are mentally capable people, they should be able to compete with any one.

This must be the one which Mukhriz referred to as being ready for open competition. Brain quality is not race centric anyway. He must have spoken, when not engaging his brain. The mat salleh's brain can be as muddied as anyone else's brain.

Similarly look at health and social services, the welfare services, old folk's homes, day care centres. These are dominated by non Bumis anyway. Look at the ethnic breakdown at old folks homes- what is the percentage of old Bumis there?

Veterinary services. Let non Bumis take care of the pig farms. That will not burden government veterinary services which can then concentrate on cows and goats which are reared by Bumis. No big deal.

So before you go uncorking the wine bottles, your Dom Perignons, whisk out your expensive cohibas and coronas, waltz at the beat of sleep inducing songs, look at the service sub sectors which are being opened up.

The sectors opened up at sectors which have low Bumi content and participation in the first place. Do you see any Bumi operating 4 or 5 star hotels? Big tour operators? Who own the factories? So if these people want to have C carriers (transports to ferry their own products) why not? Bumis can still take up driving jobs. Those qualified as drivers, be drivers please. Don't expect to earn salary like a finance graduate. You have equality in opportunities to find jobs, but don't insist of getting equality in outcomes.

Those guys servicing the hajj pilgrimage services are Muslim firms naturally and they have the partners from the land of holy camel dung.

You don't see a Bumi operating a restaurant with the stature of Lafitte, do you? As one blogger ingeniously said, those are haram businesses anyway. Waa haraamun kalau makan sorang, wa halalun, kalau kongsi sama.

I say again, if the government wants to open up, pry open those economic zones dominated by the privileged few such as the construction industry. Let's see all the big guns compete with the overseas people. The insurance services, the banking services- yes break up the oligopolies. But wait, didn't Dr Mahathir lambast any attempts to open up the banking sectors fearing that the bigger banks in the world will gobble up the local players? Let's have more The Loaf clones- maybe we can buy cheaper pastries. Just love them croissants.

So before you start lambasting others and praise some people sky high, please study the list of sub-sectors below.

Computer and relater services

1. Consultancy services related to installation of computer hardware
2. Software implementation services – systems and software consulting services; systems analysis services; systems design services; programming services and systems maintenance services
3. Data processing services – input preparation servies; data processing and tabulation services; time sharing servies and other data processing services
4. Database services
5. Maintenance and repair services of computers
6. Other services – data preparation services; training services; data recovery services; and development of creative content

Health and social services

1. All veterinary services
2. Welfare services delivered through residential institutions to old person and the handicapped
3. Welfare services delivered through residential institutions to children
4. Child day-care services including day-care services for the handicapped
5. Vocational rehabilitation services for the handicapped

Tourism services
1. Theme park
2. Convention and exhibition centre
3. Travel agencies and tour operators services (for inbound travel only)
4. Hotel and restaurant services (for 4 and 5 star hotels only)
5. Food serving services (for 4 and 5 star hotels only)
6. Beverage serving services for consumption on the services (for 4 and 5 star hotels only)

Transport services
1. Class C freight transportation (Private carrier license – to transport own goods)

Sporting and other recreational services
1. Sporting services (promotion and organization services)

Business services
1. Regional distribution centre
2. International procurement centre
3. Technical testing and analysis services – composition and purity testing and analysis services, testing and analysis services of physical properties, testing and analysis services of integrated mechanical and electrical systems and technical inspection services
4. Management consulting services – general, financial (excluding business tax), marketing, human resources production and public relations services

Rental/Leasing services without operators
1. Rental/leasing services of ships that excludes cabotage and offshore trades
2. Rental of cargo vessels without crew (Bareboat Charter) for international shipping

Supporting and Auxiliary Transport Services
1. Maritime agency services
2. Vessel salvage and refloating services


Ayoyo- please lah- keep our dignity. Don't start shouting Bumis are ready to compete. And those ultra Malays- get a hold of yourselves, look carefully at the list above. Keep the krises in their sarongs.


Monday 27 April 2009

The DPM’s Pressman

If DPM TS Muhyiddin succumbs to pressures and decide not to appoint a person who he thinks can do the press sec job best for him, he will be called to accountability.

  1. He will be accused of being cattle-herded into making a decision that goes against his steely personality. Wasn't he the one who stepped-up the exit of Pak Lah so that PM Najib can take over? With that kind of forcefulness, it is most embarrassing for him to be easily spooked by the comments from a few bloggers and one journalist from a mainstream media.
  2. He will be accused of being a flip-flop. One day tweedle-dee; another day tweedle-dum. We know what a flip-flop ends as.

These bloggers and one particular journalist can hardly represent perhaps more than 100 sympathisers. It should not be a cause to worry for Muhyiddin if he goes ahead and appoint Rashid Yusof. Who is going to stop Muhyidin if he wants to appoint Rashid Yusof?

What can these people do? Can we picture J.Tan running to Perdana Putra and wailing with copious teardrops, she can't sleep at night thinking about the DPM appointing someone whom she thinks can destabilise PM? What is Rashid Yusof to her?

If the tears fall on the floor, they will stain the expensive marble expanse of the PM's official residence. If she chooses to cry on DS Rosmah's shoulders, the tears will soil the expensive and exquisite fabric that adorns the physique of the PM's wife.

The best thing the DPM can do is to dismiss this particular busybody's misgivings. By doing that, DPM will not have to dignify the annoying meddling opinions. Since when are the opinions of a disturbed reporter not related at all to UMNO more important than the need for the DPM to assert his decisive and forceful leadership?

Why should the decision to be taken by an UMNO minister be determined by people who have done nothing except sit before their computers punishing the keyboards? In the case of JT perhaps every depression of the key of the keyboard raises her to higher and higher orgasmic levels. Ask her to play out her voyeurism elsewhere. What DS Muhyiddin does behind closed doors in his office should be free from prying eyes of busybodies.

Otherwise, she knows all she has to do to spook UMNO ministers including the DPM and perhaps even the PM is just by manufacturing public opinion. To make matters absurd, that public opinion takes the form of sms texts sent all over the place but which do not have factual grounding at all among the rakyat. Muhyiddin must disprove that he is of weak constitution.

All the crafty Jezebel needs to do, is to lace the so called public opinion with conspiratorial overtones. She can then be certain the intended person or persons will be unnerved. After all, the DPM or PM are just insecure politicians mindful of 'public perceptions'.

DPM Muhyiddin has no choice but to go ahead with appointing Rashid as his press secretary. One Malaysia (satu Malaysia) knows about this. If he baulks, then he will be seen as another flip flop. This will be seen as a signal of Muhyiddin's indecisive nature.

Rashid Yusof has only served KJ for about one year. He has served Tun Daim Zainudin for almost a decade. Don't tell us, his one year's stint consulting and strategising for KJ obliterates the sterling job he did with Tun Daim? Logically his credentials should be coloured more by his tenure with Daim than with KJ. He does not carry the burden of the alleged original sins of the son (in law) you know.

By succumbing to this guilty by association trap; Muhyiddin is playing right into the unending game of political persecution. Is gratifying the agenda of private individuals more important than unifying UMNO? Muhyiddin will further the cause of divisiveness and internecine struggles if he melts down.


Sunday 26 April 2009

Open up and Compete. Ready or Not!

This piece is written at Delifrance, One Utama. Like all shopping malls, One Utama is a typical representation of the freest of markets. People come here with one thing on their minds- to buy quality goods at the cheapest of prices. How is that possible? The supermarkets buy from competitive players. Hence cheaper goods and services can come from opening up the market. When we buy cheaper, we save more. At the end of the day, we are better off.

I have heard these very often nowadays. Now that Dato Najib is the PM and he has a good team, the Malays are miraculously ready to compete in the open market. now people! remember, competition is good. We get quality goods at cheaper prices. 

In a strained effort to justify the statement that the PM has not copped out on Malay interests, some one said that opening up the sub sectors in the service industry is tolerable.

Why? Many of the sub sectors are not participated by Malay Muslims anyway. These are basically haram economic activities. Maybe that's true. But how is it possible these areas though haram have Malay/Muslim participants previously? Maybe it wasn't 30% but there must have been some Malay participation. Otherwise licenses and quota wouldn't be granted then. Presumably when there was some Malay participation, that particular economic activity was fifty-fifty. The term halaram quickly comes to mind.

Perhaps at that time, the Malays participating in those sub sectors were led by the principle: wa haraamun kalau makan sorang; wa halalun jika kongsi sama.

Suppose it was KJ who said that Malays are ready to compete rather than Mukhriz? Would people accept that? Most likely the answer is no. More probably his dyed in the wool enemies will say KJ is betraying Malay interests. He will be accused to do Singapore's bidding which by the way, is the favourite stomping and shopping ground of UMNOniks.

But then, the announcement by the PM was followed up by the parroting of Mukhriz. Since it is Mukhriz who said that, and Mukhriz is an honourable Roman er.. Malaysian and he is the deputy Minister for international trade, this statement is a biblical truth. Those who disagree are heretics.

In that case, let us open up some more sectors. If subsectors are openable, surely the sectors themselves, despite being besmirched by the haram label, are more openable to competition.

We are not short of cheerleaders. The MITI secgen has said, opening up the service industry will allow joint partnership with Bumi partners. It's called strategic alliance. We know it by its original name- Ali-Baba, Ali-Mat John etc.

The secgen also said, it will allow qualified Malays to earn better income. The secgen forgets to mention- would stepping up the ladder require proficiency in the English language?

I think, this is no cause for worry as the secgen has also said that, after talking to the bumi players, they said, they are ready.

There has been this economic justification to open up the economy that has been bandied about for a long time. The general thinking is that insistence of the bumi requirements has caused the economy to slow down. By exactly how many percentage points we don't know. That would imply participation by Malays in the economy has lowered our productivity and therefore earned us less income.

We will soon have occasion to prove this point. Suppose we open up the sub-service sectors and admit free participation. Inefficient Malays and free loaders are weeded out. After the exercise, we find that productivity has actually increased. What do we say then?

Will we say, aha, we told you so, insisting on Bumi quota was the blight upon our productivity. If we had not insisted on the application of the affirmative policy, we would have earned more.

I will have to reject such an explanation. The real truth is: More efficient players have displaced the inefficient and the free riders. These elements whether Malays or otherwise would hinder growth anyway. What it will prove is: that we can never compromise on the need for quality leadership be it in politics or in business. Efficient and productive bumiplayers could very well attain sterling results. Good talent is not ethnic centric. Mediocrity is always counter productive.

What will the opening up lead to? More efficient business? More foreign investments? Better quality services and goods? Cheaper services and goods? If opening us gives us access to all these things, there is all the more reason to throw away all protectionist policies. If, as many are now willing and ready to say, Malays are ready to do anything, then why not ask these people to support dismantling the NEP?

How can protectionist policies harm us? The proponents of special privileges will say that better quality and lower priced goods and services will harm the protected players lose their monopoly. For example, if Corning and other Japanese players are allowed into Malaysia to produce fibre optics and be allowed to supply to Telekoms, itu apa macam? Telecoms Malaysia can save a lot of money and reduces its dependence only on one protected supplier.

It seems that we have to take all these talk about opening up the market with a pinch of salt. You are opening up markets where participation by ordinary Bumiputeras is very low anyway. Therefore opening up will not adversely impact Bumi interests but will certainly harm the interests of other inefficient and costly businessmen.

But as soon as we insist the government open up businesses monopolised by the privileged few Bumiputeras, you can be sure there will be hue and cry. Because monopolies and protection have allowed the scions of the privileged few earn fat pay checks and earn gargantuan fees. Threaten these monopolies, we have an immediate war on our hands. Mukhriz will then become the spokesman for more protection and more privileges. Let's start by opening up the market for optical cables. Boleh?

We are ready to compete right? If we Malays at the lower end of the market are, surely you at the higher end are more ready.


Painted Jezebels in the Media

TS Muhyidin is the DPM. He wanted to appoint one Rashid Yusuf as his press secretary. Rashid Yusof has the required credentials. He is an ex journalist. Most of the press secretaries of ministers are made up of ex journalists.

Rashid has served the NST and Malay Mail. He has also been press secretary for a number of years to Tun Daim Zainudin. TDZ was our finance minister for many years when Dr Mahathir was our PM. TDZ was also a close confidante to Tun Dr Mahathir.

But Rashid served as media consultant to KJ. Khairy Jamaludin is the MP for Rembau. He is also the Ketua Pemuda UMNO. He won the post after beating Khir Toyo. Khir Toyo beat Mukhriz Mahathir. That portion in his professional career is an unforgivable sin.

Rashid, people insist, must clean himself according to Islamic rites. He must wash himself 7 times with mud water and 7 times with clean water. I have written, with pristine water, if possible from the lakes in Langkawi. Maybe even mandatorily transported by Mukhriz. Or maybe, as an added requirement, Dr Mahathir must immerse his feet into the water first.

The person most chagrined is Khir Toyo. He deserves to be so. But Mukhriz and his supporters were incensed at KJ more than KT. Whereas in terms of losers' hierarchy, Khir Toyo has a better locus standi to be upset with KJ.

Mukriz's supporters went on the war path. They declared war on those who were instrumental in making KJ victorious. That would include many. Since I have supported KJ, I too may be included. But I am a Muay Thai nakmuay. I also carry an AK47. I shall be all right.

By definition, it must also include those pemuda delegates who actually voted for KJ. Arrest them and put them under ISA. They are a security threat. They can be fifth columnists serving the interests of foreign powers. They are KJ's legacy.

Rashid Yusuf was one of the field commanders in KJ's army. He was perhaps the oldest in the army. He coordinated many activities doing his level best to ensure his general wins. That is incumbent upon every subordinate officer. He must discharge his duties to the best of his ability and capability. Otherwise he would disgrace the uniform he is in.

Rashid enjoys a reputation as a skilful field commander. He caught the attention of many. That included Muhyidin Yassin, the DPM. Indeed the DPM was impressed with Rashid long before Rashid became KJ's field commander. DPM was impressed with the work Rashid did for Tun Daim. He must have wished he had a speechwriter like Tun Daim had.

It was his personal choice to have appointed Rashid. But his choice was questioned and grilled. Appointing Rashid was not tenable because Rashid had caused tension among races. This claim was made by a well known journalist with a newspaper associated with the MCA.

I am giving this lady journalist the title painted jezebel of the media world. She would have none of Rashid.

So she SMSed the DPM. She told DPM of her reservations. She says Rashid is unprofessional. A professional, she says will not question what she wrote. A professional will not accuse the Star as purveyor of Chinese triumphalism. Hence the final say on who is a professional or is not one, depends on an accreditation by this painted jezebel. She has turned herself into a one person congressional hearing committee. Ministers, take note. Go through her to get approval before appointing anyone.

A few days ago, one blogger wrote about the obnoxious Zeinab Bedawi. She was the interviewer who grilled Rais Yatim in the popular show Hard Talk. The blogger commended Rais on his performance and referred Zeinab in the worst possible description. I do not share his complimentary enthusiasm on Rais, but am in full agreement of his description of Zeinab.

Well, we have our own obnoxious Zeinab Bedawi in our midst. One who confers upon herself the absolute license to disparage anyone who doesn't share her views. But as is common among those who regard themselves as mighty and beyond reproach, she forgets Rashid has supporters and sympathisers. And among them is Rashid's son. A 17 year old who posted a moving comment on my blog as follows:

Harisudin anak BABA. said...

I think I know him the best,
Well because I'm his only son.

I don't know much about politics.
But I know enough that he is being
honest with his job.
He fights only for the right thing cause.
He is in nobody side.
He has always been an honorable man.
He has many friends, they also respect him.

I feel sorry for DPM for being 
so easily influence by a heartless

To Jtan,
What have my beloved father done 
to you that you are
so recklessly attacking him.
How can you at sleep night I wonder.
Or maybe you don't sleep at night
and have nothing else to do at night, and to attack my father.
(I wonder if you have any children
or family at home?)
Is this how grown-up deal with their problem.
Yay, what an example to show
the youngs.

To BABA tersayang,
Don't worry Ba this will all past away.I and umi are praying for you everyday.

25 April 2009 17:54

Next: is Muhyidin Yassin a wimp really?


Saturday 25 April 2009

The Media Goodfellas and other Goombahs


The last I heard, the appointment of Rashid Yusof as DPM's secretary is off. I hope it is temporary. On hindsight maybe it was a mistake for DPM to call 2 persons at the same time to appoint his press secs. Two posts were in the offing- one at the ministry of education, the other at DPM's office. Rashid was offered the press sec at DPM's office. That post of course carried more prestige than the press sec at the ministry. Perhaps the other person who was offered the press sec at the ministry thought he/she was more qualified for press sec at DPM's office.

Maybe it was just professional jealousy and envy that started the character assassination of Rashid. If this is so, then the other person is a true blue in the most hallowed of UMNO traditions- that of working up your network of friends and myrmidons to assassinate the other candidate. Poor Rashid, he was caught of guard.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin- next time call your prospects one by one.

There was a comment in an earlier blog asking me who is Jocelyn Tan? Well my answer is: just another nondescript journalist who made her name when the age of the internet wasn't around yet. Those halcyon days when what you said couldn't be contested and where your listening audience cannot speak back. In this age when people can talk back, Miss J.Tan will just be another run off the mill overrated stringer.

My own assessment is: Miss Tan's prowess as a journalist is vastly exceeded by her close relationship with both the PM and PM's wife.

There is also another thing I heard. Was it part of a journalist's condescending repertoire to sms direct to a sitting MB and tell him off? My sources revealed that Miss Tan smsed Dato Zambry accusing him of being a master strategist for KJ. This is certainly conduct unbecoming of a big name journalist like Miss J.Tan, unless of course Miss Tan thinks she has protection by higher powers.

The prey here is Rashid Yusof. It is therefore disingenuous to drag in Dato Dr Zambri in the picture. Zambry may have been the one to recommend Rashid to Muhyiddin. But that action has more to do with the fact that Zambry knows Rashid for more than a decade. It was a gesture to a friend in the same spirit as when Dato Najib spoke to Dato Shafee Abdullah about one Razak Baginda.

I am no supporter of Muhyiddin but I will question the motives behind moves to prevent him from appointing anyone whom he thinks can do a job well for him. Just as we don't question who the PM wants to be in his team, we should accord the same latitude to the 'looking uninspiring' DPM.

To my friend A Voice and the friend I have yet to meet up, Bigdog, Rashid's 'crime' is being associated with the Darth Vader of Malaysian politics- KJ. I don't think this Rashid guy has placed them in any harm's way. There has been nothing, except Rashid was instrumental along with many nameless and faceless others, in making KJ victorious.

For a long time, the media world was opaque. The media practitioners lead a sheltered life, concealed from the prying eyes of the public. The politics in their world is proving to be as exciting as that in any political party. I am enjoying the role of watching the watchers.

Before I post this article there was a comment from an anon in the previous article. This person has the habit of calling supporters of KJ as full of shit. I have deleted the comment. Other than saying that I am full of shit for defending Rashid, where is your argument rebutting what I have said concerning Rashid?

None- which firmly and assuredly expose, that it is really you who are a buffoon. Why must it be, that anyone who defends another must, by definition be paid by the aggrieved party? Does my knowing Rashid disqualify me from defending him?

At the end of the day, Muhyidin is the one who makes the decision as to who he wants to hire. If Rashid's appointment is no longer tenable, hire no one. If I were Muhyidin, I will automatically disqualify the one who is pushing to get the job. The person may be the one who started the prairie fire. It's none other than the person Muhyidin called at the same time as Rashid. Indirectly it proves that this person is also not suitable for the pres sec job at the ministry level either. Imagine the perpetual tension and distrust this person creates.

Muhyidin has to ignore those nincompoops who are besieged with paranoia seeing conspiracies being hatched at every move and turn. He must decide who he thinks is best suited and capable for the job. If Rashid is, then the rest of the world be dammed.


In Defense of Rashid Yusof

There was this one particularly interesting comment. It was made by a person using the name of Fatimah Zuhri. We shall assume the person is a lady. It is not uncommon for bloggers to assume a female name. Famous English writers did the same during their careers.

The comment was as follows:-

Fatimah Zuhri said...


Forgot to add something to my earlier comment :

1. The 'hit' againts Muhkriz was unnecessary.

2. We need unity. A lot of people have accepted KJ as the KP UMNO although they do not like it.

3. There is no reason for us to continue fighting petty fights like this.

Cheers mate



24 April 2009 13:52


I will treat this comment as representative of one that seeks rapprochement. There is a genuine wish to end quarrels among us. I fully support it.  But I also believed it must also be a fair call. If we are asked to stop, the asking party must also do the same. It is fair and decent.

This means an end to recrimination and persecution of those who supported KJ. KJ is the ketua Pemuda. Whether one loves or hates this fact, one must live with it. Does the presence of KJ strike terror and fear among people in UMNO? Does it cause that to the extent that one is compelled to decimate all traces of KJ’s influence?

I find it bad sport for supporters of Mukhriz to continue venting out their frustrations to the fact that poor Mukhriz lost, onto KJ’s supporters. Like KJ, he too can be said not to be liked by many more people. That was why he lost in the Pemuda Race. This is simple logic despite everyone knowing that he too is not blameless when it comes to paying delegates. If KJ was alleged to carpet bomb, Mukhriz did a red tide on delegates. By red tide we mean, a gradual accumulation of algae (read fungus) that eventually discolour the water destroying marine life.


But it seems the animosity towards supporters of KJ is not over. It continues to be dished out to those associated with him. Such action gives a new meaning to the term guilty by association. The latest victim is the recently appointed press secretary to the DPM. His name is Encik RashidYusof.

Who is RashidYusof?

Encik Rashid Yusof is an ex journalist. He started with NST as a stringer in one of the northern states. He is a graduate in journalism from ITM. It is now UITM. He has also been a press secretary to Tun Daim Zainudin. TDZ is the closest confidante to Dr Mahathir. Encik Rashid thus has the distinction of being PS to TDZ who was arguably the alter ego of TDM.

But that part of his past is forgotten. It is association with the dreaded KJ that is bandied around as a security threat. Another blogger regards Rashid Yusuf as a Trojan horse sauntering for KJ. It seems KJ’s shadow looms extensively. Maybe it is an apparition that seems to spook everyone. 

Some people are gunning out for Rashid. If you work hard enough, you can surely  find people wiling enough to give  anecdotal testimonies that this bloke Rashid is not good. He is not professional. Isn’t there anyone else? We all know these are all remarks arising from envy and professional jealousies. Of course there are 1001 people, but the DPM has chosen Rashid. If irrational envy is the motivation, we could be asking the same about- isn’t there anyone else rather than the PS to the PM who cannot even respond with a decent answer to the accusation once made by the now elusive RPK? The fact is the PM trusted and finds him useful. That is more important than my personal estimation or others’ unsolicited feelings.

At one point, Rashid irked some people at The Star. He had the audacity to say the STAR is championing Chinese Triumphalism. The Joan of Arc at the Star, Jocelyn Tan spearheaded their attacks on Rashid calling him unprofessional and perhaps even a racist bugger. Someone revealed that Miss Tan has sent an SMS to the DPM questioning whether the appointment of Rashid was appropriate. When does J Tan arrogate upon herself the role of a one person congressional hearing committee, cross examining appointments made by top leadership of this country?

The facts are: the DPM likes and feels he can trust Rashid to do a good job. That’s more important than rumblings about RY being a Trojan horse, security threat (to who?) or unprofessional. It would be stupid of me on the other hand not to exploit the talents of someone who is credited in making KJ victorious. It would also be stupid of me to appoint a dumkoff!


Friday 24 April 2009

On Overspending and Self Deception.


Is the PM overspending his political ammunitions? His advisors must counsel him from moving too fast in too short a time. He does not need to be caught in Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening's:-

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The PM marches to the beat of his drums. He has so far shown himself as nimble footed. But he must also be surefooted. But if he announces too many before they are even digested, then he will have overspent the arsenals in his munitions store. If he doesn't pace himself, he won't last 20 years as PM.

Take the case of One Malaysia. No one has yet provided a coherent exposition of what the concept of One Malaysia is. The Information minister has done nothing except cajoling people to understand the concept. What is there to understand, if it has not been outlined in detail?

If it's everyone to his own one Malaysia, then we have 26 million versions of One Malaysia. Will this mean the supremacy of the rule of law and democracy? That will mean, no one is accorded any inbuilt privileges. Does it mean the supremacy of Malays over other races? What about the constitutionally guaranteed position of Malays and their interests? These contentious issues must be ironed out. Until it is spelt out clearly, the concept is unnerving to Malays.

Will it mean, under the concept of One Malaysia, the government is committed to equality of opportunities? Seems to me, we have been belabouring ourselves demanding equality in outcomes which to me, is inherently wrong. Will the government then take the bold step is stating explicitly that equality in opportunities does not mean equality in outcome? In other words, the outcome of one's efforts will now depend purely on merits and not on enforced legislation.

As it is, One Malaysia is like the Islam Hadhari concept. Everyone knows Islam as do everyone, Malaysia. But the Hadhari and One are nebulous concepts. The PM can't expect people to interpret liberally what he means unless his ideological putar-alams come out with a clear exposition of what it is. Otherwise the concept will be like Siberia; everyone knows where and what it is, but no one wants to go there.

He has just announced the scrapping off a 30% almost mandatory requirement of Bumiputera participation in certain sub sectors of the service industry. That industry is a big contributor to GDP and perhaps the most accessible to Bumiputeras. Now that is opened up, it means Bumiputeras have to compete with others.

Is relaxation of the rule a sign of things to come?

When he announced the dismantling of the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Cooperative Development, it was met with general disproval from Malays. It wasn't just a question of the abolition of a ministry, but one that is charged with assisting and developing Malay business community. The scrapping off was seen as de-emphasising of policies specifically aimed at the Malays and is seen as a step disowning Malay interests.

The boldest step yet is the liberalisation of the 30% rule in 27 services sub sectors. Investors do not require the mandatory 30% bumiputera participation anymore. MITI secretary general, Tan Sri Rahman Mamat, said the liberalisation was done in consultation with the players who expressed their readiness to compete in an open market.

Hurrah to that. Ok we will accept that. But just out curiosity who are the players? The big boys who made it good during the unfettered and jolly good days of NEP? Are they the putera bangsawans and UMNO puteras? Mukhriz is at MITI- his string of hotels will certainly benefit because he is ready to compete. He will enjoy a captive market.

The statement by the MITI Secgen must be scrutinised in more detail. While saying that the big boys are ready, he has also stated the liberalisation needed to be done because Malaysia has no choice. So which is it? Was the relaxation undertaken because the Bumiputera services industry players are ready or because MITI has no choice?

Was it a precondition to allow Malaysia in its trade negotiations such as the free trade agreements? That one of the loose ends the ministry needed to tie is this Bumiputera requirement. That if Malaysia does not liberalise, Malaysia cannot enjoy market access?

Eventually, the smaller bumiputera players will be reduced to peripheral participants in supplying the requirements of foreign firms based here. Yes, maybe they will supply trained masseuses, blind and not blind, maybe supply, as one sardonic commentator said- just nasi lemak to bigger industry players.

I hope we are not singing songs of praises forcing ourselves to accept the lie we are ready to compete in the services industry just because baby Mukhriz is there. That is the impression I get from reading some bloggers.


Thursday 23 April 2009

Bridge over Troubled Water

Many people see a storm brewing over the horizon. It involves the issue surrounding the construction of a bridge over to Singapore. During Dr Mahathir's time he supported the construction of a scenic bridge over to Singapore.

Some say this is another harebrained idea by Dr Mahathir. A contractor was selected and some works on the bridge were in fact already carried out. When Abdullah Badawi took over as PM, the bridge project was cancelled.

The government paid the contractor concerned for the 'some works' completed. Samy Vellu paid millions and he justified the amount. Was it RM150 million?

Almost everyone who was a cabinet member under Abdullah then supported the cancellation. Most of them were the very same fellows who supported the idea of building the bridge during Dr Mahathir's time.

If the bridge was agreed upon and then cancelled and if it is now revived, then this could only mean:-

  1. The idea of building the bridge has sound reasons.
  2. But because the idea is personality dependent, it becomes an on, off and on again game.

The fundamental issue is, does building the bridge make sense for Malaysia? This line of questioning suggests we are motivated by self interest first. We make no apologies of that. Every nation is guided by its own self interest first. Malaysia it seems, is not given that latitude. When it comes to Malaysia, its interests are conditional and contingent.

The economic sense of building a bridge if they are strong ones, override the need to fit in the good neighbourliness arguments put forth by several writers in the international media. Their arguments sound so artificial and are only resurrected when it involves other countries. Thus I find it erroneous and condescension-laden the arguments submitted by writers in Asia Sentinel and Telegraph of UK.

To these people, the idea of building the bridge is inherently bad simply because it is associated with Dr Mahathir. Their writings seem so farcical because they seem to be pushing for a blanket acceptance that what Dr Mahathir did during his 22 years premiership was a nightmarish episode in Malaysian history.

I also find it farcical the deafening silence by supporters of Dr Mahathir on the internet, when parallels were drawn between Mahathir and Mugabe, or with Noriega and other tin pot despots. But when I wrote something mildly critical of Dr Mahathir on specific aspects, they descend like vultures scavenging on carcasses. Hence the comments coming from them have the foul smell of rotting flesh. Hello boys, now is the time to support TDM.

That a bridge is actually needed seems to be sidelined now. When it was agreed, the decision must have been supported by extensive technical and feasibility studies. Since building such bridge is very unlike building a Lego model, the technical arguments FOR must have overwhelmed the arguments AGAINST. Hence, we must assume such a bridge is doable.

It is the second leg of the issue which is getting a bigger attention.

The bridge issue is touted by certain people as Najib's Mahathir dilemma. It is to choose whether to revive or banish the idea of building the bridge once and for all. The dilemma is to decide between rejecting calls to revive the bridge project and with it marking his own territory or accepting its revival and with it the stigma of buckling under Dr Mahathir. Najib has to decide who the boss is.

Dato Najib should be mindful of the arguments on both sides but should not be herded into making his decision if only to satisfy either sides of the divide. Which of these arguments make economic sense? Not because to reject the idea will be seen as being THE MAN or to accept as being Dr Mahathir's stooge. The idea of the bridge must be elevated beyond whether its Mahathir or not Mahathir's labels.

The real issue that must be answered is: is the second bridge needed? If it is, the issue of whether Najib is capitulating to Mahathir does not arise. If the construction of the bridge has its own intrinsic merits, the fact that it was mooted by Dr Mahathir should not be an excuse to reject the idea. To do so, would be to capitulate and surrender to those who harangued the former premier. Dr Mahathir is not the issue here.

Why should building the bridge be seen as buckling under Dr Mahathir's feet and that the only way to assert the PM's I-am-my own-person persona, he must reject the idea of building the bridge?

Does it make economic sense is a more important question. Will it confer strategic advantage? Will it confer competitive advantage?


Wednesday 22 April 2009

Waiting for Penanti

There are two things at the moment that are identified as things Mahathir. (1) The coming Penanti by-election. (2) The re-construction of the Bridge Idea. The people wait for Penanti. The choice of words in re-construction is deliberate, a reminder to some many years ago when the Pakistani philosopher Mohd. Iqbal wrote- The Reconstruction of Religious requires boldness in thinking and action, both needed by the PM.

Why are they identified with Mahathir? Penanti is because Dr Mahathir is insisting UMNO/BN must go battle it despite the odds. The Bridge idea has always been a mean bone of contention between Dr Mahathir and the previous administration of which most of the present cabinet members including the PM were part of. Abandoning the construction of the bridge was not only seen as rejection of his personal vision but was also seen as surrendering our sovereignty.

Our PM has acknowledged that he needs to factor in Tun Mahathir. The reasons are fairly obvious. Admitting this, is no sign of weakness nor does it signal a readiness to kowtow to Dr Mahathir. Dr Mahathir is a larger than life figure. He is to Malaysia what Lee Kuan Yew is to Singapore.

TDM remains a force to be reckoned with. For 22 years he has been the Malaysian PM and UMNO president. Malaysia is what she is today is because of Dr Mahathir's drive and passion. It would be difficult to find another Malaysian leader to come close to sizing up to Dr Mahathir. The only other Malaysian that comes close would be Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. And that is my personal view only.

Most of the present cabinet ministers and those outside the cabinet have deep respects for TDM. Some do so grudgingly and one particular person, with unashamed chicanery despite boasting that he has burnt his bridges. One day, he will come to his bridge too far. Many indeed owe Dr.Mahathir their political longevity in UMNO. That would include the present PM.

Dr Mahathir is the eminence grise or bête noir depending on how one looks at him and who looks at him. His detractors would welcome the opportunity to tear him apart while his supporters will want to tear his detractors apart.

Dr Mahathir's views on any matter regarding Malaysia are always viewed as relevant. Sometimes even if they are publicly rejected, privately, they are carefully considered. Very much so if the views are potentially damaging to office holders.

Amour Propre.

All of a sudden, the BN is cost conscious. The MSM papers were quickly on the bandwagon shouting here and there of the high costs of doing by elections. In the past, depression or otherwise, the BN was never mindful about costs. Hence when it is now lamenting the costs, people will take this stand as very shallow and hypocritical. BN has never been cost conscious and must never be if it's to maintain its amour propre. Self esteem cannot be equated in terms of costs. What is too costly for BN to refurbish its self esteem?

In my mind, if UMNO and BN refuses to go do battle at Penanti on account of costs (which are flimsy excuses) it will just reaffirm the deep-rooted culture of money politics in UMNO. Money politics has fully engulfed UMNO that now, even its top leadership calculates its fortunes in Dollars and Sen. UMNO has no more a sense of honour and self esteem.

Beyond this overriding need to maintain its self esteem at all costs, are some practical reasons why BN should go into battle at Penanti led by UMNO.

The PM and the entire cabal of BN leadership must never miss the fact that people like elections and by elections. The Malays especially like them. The act of putting the ballot paper in the ballot box represents a final statement of their existence as a worthy individual. It represents the last symbol of his self importance. Take that away, UMNO is taking the people's self esteem away.

Just a fanciful talk? Picture the scene of the elderly being handled by the young to walk to the voting centres, those making their way on wheel chairs and some even carried by others. They want to feel the ultimate assertion of their fundamental rights as a citizen.

If UMNO were to lose, let us lose with dignity and self esteem intact.


Tuesday 21 April 2009

NEEP- New Economic Empowerment Policy


I wandered around in Kuala Terengganu. I am very familiar with Kemaman, kuala kemaman,Kerteh, Paka and kemasek. In 1973 I hitchhiked from Kuantan to KT, it took me two days to reach KT. I had to spend a night in Kemaman. That should be an indication to the traffic flow to KT.

I made it a point to go the roads less travelled. That is why I like to drive in my trusty 4 wheel-drive. It has taken me to places in Terengganu and Kelantan. My maternal grandparents were from Kelantan and perhaps beyond Kelantan, from Patani. My paternal grandparents were from Terengganu. Both states therefore provide me with emotional fascination and perhaps subconscious longing to feel I belonged.

Quite apart from these emotional and roots- like excursions, I am trying to discover answers on how to jack up our economy. Why Terengganu and Kelantan? Terengganu is a perfect example on how to apply excess revenues while Kelantan serves as an example on how to optimise whatever money one has. Both states are predominantly Malay, so they can provide useful control-room test results which could be used as generalisations.

Each time I never ceased to be amazed by the energy, drive and vigour of the common people. Thus, if a state remains poor and backward, its condition cannot be explained away by the lack of trying by the common people. Perhaps like Ludwig von Mises said, the fault lies with the leadership elite.

Terengganu is a good example to draw lessons on how to apply money. Oil revenues in the form of wang ehsan are equivalent to Terengganu having continuous injection of cash. It can treat that part of the revenue as a given. It is supposed to receive RM1 billion a year. So far only RM5 billion has been paid. It was supposed to receive RM7 billion. The PM handed Mat Said a cheque of RM400 million during the KT by election. That means if RM7 billion is due, another RM1.6billion is still owing to Terengganu.

Terengganu then should become one of the richest states in the country. The task of lawmakers in the state is to how to apply the money so that it can further stimulate the economy.

The task is also to avoid the Arab disease (a contextual variation of the Dutch Disease) gorging themselves with giddy spending that do not add to the productive capacity of the state or enhance the capability of its citizens. The number of poor, illiterates and disenfranchised remain large in Arab countries.

For many years, we non Arab Muslims looked at Arab Muslims with incredulity as they continue with reckless spending. We were troubled to see Arab tycoons investing in American companies or investing in American banks which end up financing the powers that are destroying the Arab world. So much for the equally much touted Pan Islamism.

The original Dutch disease of course refers to a situation where a country upon getting a windfall in the form of discovery of natural resource such as oil, sees a decline in its manufacturing capabilities, increases in its exchange rate, its exports reduced and imports escalating.

For a brief moment, you can see the Terengganuans catching up with the Arab disease. The effects of frivolous and ostentatious spending are everywhere. Huge and beautiful mosques are built everywhere even in under populated villages. You have floating and crystal mosques. Are there that many faithfuls in Terengganu? Taking as example, it will be like building a state mosque in Kampung Ubai in Pekan where the population of cows, goats and water melons is bigger than humans. Do they have enough mosque goers to fill up the mosques?

It seems to me, it would have been better to distribute the outlay for building such mosques to the local population. That would certainly place cash in their hands- money to spend and do business. That would be an immediate way to stimulate demand.

The energy and drive of the common people are clearly evident. Kemaman used to be a sleepy hollow during the days when I was schooling in Kuantan. Kuala Kemaman was selected by Ungku Aziz to produce his seminal work of poverty. It is now a thriving town where trading and business are brisk. People do all sorts of work. They want application. Save for the very old and sickly and the drug addicts, people want to work. People want to do business. They want to earn a living. That should immediately discredit the accepted explanation that Malays just want a free ride. The free riders are the elite who hide behind the questionable Bumiputera policies. Once again, I say, it's the bumi who are left behind, while the puteras surge ahead.

Just as an aside, I have been asked about the personalised usage of the term Bumiputera. I first heard about this I think sometime in 1969 or 1970. It was used by a prominent local member of PSRM then during many of his speeches. It was the first time I heard- Bumi di belakang ketinggalan, putera bangsawan, putera UMNO sapu semua di hadapan.

Where has been the concrete application of its oil money? In KT you can of course see the ostentatious symbol such as monsoon cup facilities, a few good hotels; beautiful mosques have sprung like mushrooms even in small villages. You can gaze in awe at the crystal mosque and the floating mosques and whatever. Undoubtedly these facilities are enjoyed and used by people in Terengganu and from elsewhere.

But I have also wandered to the Other Terengganu. About 30 years ago, I read a book written by Michael Harrington- the Other America. It tells about the America that's left behind – the America that's full of poverty, squalor and pessimism.

The Other Terengganu has something akin to Harrington's Other America. It can also be a tale of squalor- many lived in squalor, beaten down houses. You can even see these houses weaved in between glossy buildings and facilities.

Perhaps now, we can look at concrete steps to get out from the unNEP policies to policies that actually empower the masses economically. They will be looking at a National Economic Policy that will not be sabotaged by the little and big Napoleons and the cawangan gauleiters. Give resources to those who actually operate the economy.


Sunday 19 April 2009

Economic empowerment and grassroots democracy.

Posted from Kuala Terengganu.

The germ of an idea to write this article comes from my initial reading of a book written by Ludwig von Mises. He was a leading exponent of the Austrian School of economics. He has had tremendous influence over economists who can generally be regarded as proponents of free market. The particular book I am referring to is titled Economic Freedom and Intervention. I find the ideas resonate well with the PM's declaration that the age of big government is over. I am hoping that declaration also signals the coming of an age of greater economic freedom and decreasing intervention.

Suppose the masses of people still lived in hovels. Let us further suppose in the many economic and social indicators, the masses of people are found wanting. The average per capita income is low; the share of the national income going to the majority of people is smaller than one that goes to the minority. We discover for example, that 20% of the population gets 60% of the national income while 80% must share the remaining 40%. This means on average, the income of the 80% is perhaps 1/8 of the income of the minority. We see levels of education; housing they lived in, access to facilities and access to means of producing wealth are limited.

How is it possible the 20% gets to own what they do, while the sea of masses, Chinese, Indians and most noticeably Malays have to eke out a living from the measly 40% of the nations income?

The next question we need to ask is who is to blame for this sad state of affairs? The almost universal response would be, is to blame the sea of masses. We can blame the inherent inferiority of the masses for their inability to overcome their inferiority. It is also almost universally accepted nowadays, that this inferiority that we speak about, is a product of the social system. Only a small portion of the inferiority is ascribable to natural inferiority.

As matters are, we then proceed to look at the structure of the social system. We quickly come to the conclusion that, the present state of affairs in which we find ourselves pitying, arose because of uneven distribution of power.

Now, when we speak of power we are of course referring to political/governmental power and economic power. It is the uneven distribution of these two types of powers which has created the sad state of affairs. The two powers are concentrated in the minority. The minority is known by many names, but thus far, in my articles, I know and speak of them as the elite.

So we come back again and again to the declaration by the PM that the age of government knows best is over. Like so many others, I want this to work. It is a revolutionary idea. It can lead to the redistribution  of  power from the minority to the people/majority.

But is also an idea fraught with dangers and many hurdles. The masses of people must 'qualify' themselves to achieve what has been declared. First they must not compromise on quality leadership. We need good leadership at all levels. Second, the level of consciousness through education, through socialised action must be achieved.

When the PM made that statement, that the age of an omniscient government is over, we must provide flesh to the skeleton of the idea. We must take it to mean, the divestiture of concentrated power must be made, from the minority to the majority.

The statement by the PM brings with it far reaching implications. Perhaps, the PM acknowledges the bigger portion of blame for the state of affairs rest with the elite/leadership.

The leadership has governmental power. The essential nature of political and government power is this. The government alone and with it those who hold the levers of power, have the coercive powers of the state. They alone have the instruments to oppress and pummel the people into submission. They have the powers to ram policies onto our social setting.

Take for example, the NEP and successive policies that follow it. The NEP is essentially a set of policies that seek out to correct economic imbalances through non-economic measures. They are in the form of legislative powers. They are substitute policies that seek to correct things which could not be achieved through purely market forces. Since they are also governmental powers, they bring with them, the essential nature of the powers. The essential nature is that they are coercive powers.

Perhaps, that is why Tun Razak when formulating the NEP imposed on it a finite timetable. He knew and understood the involuntariness and forceful nature of governmental power. Those who do not understand the nature of such power become intoxicated and addicted to power. They wish to prolong it because it confers a sense of superiority on them.

There is a more serious objection to the continuance of NEP that transcends racial settings. It is just an extension of potentially coercive purely governmental powers into the realm of economics. It is on this principle, we can object to the continuance of NEP.

Coming back to the PM's declaration about devolution of governmental powers, it makes sense only if it's spoken to free people. And by free I mean the economically independent people. The more advanced sections of our society, the economically stronger will find the declaration attractive. They are relatively freer than those who depend on the government for economic succour.

If it is spoken to Malays in general who look up to government for protection and help in a host of ways; it is useless unless they are economically empowered. Hence, the PM's wish to have the powers of big government reduced must be followed through by concrete actions. It has to begin with the economic empowerment of the majority Malays.



Saturday 18 April 2009

Nimble Chess Moves

There have been many uncomplimentary comments when I started to say good things about Dato Najib. I think they became more pronounced too when I started to become mildly critical of Dr Mahathir. The comments from foul-mouthed and carcass-smelling breathed bloggers (you know who you are) are hurtful yes, but are also easily forgettable. They would rather you remain stubborn and stupid even though facts change. I suspect many of them are people who have been accustomed of saying things without censor and suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar territory in a medium, where others can talk back.

I have been critical of Dato Najib in the past and have said nasty things of him. But hey, I have even gone one step further and told him about what I wrote to him in person. If something merits unflattering comments I am not going to shy away from doing that. But if some of his actions and policies are worth defending, then I will be willing to do it. I have criticised his leadership substance in the past but I will be stupid not to recognise that he, like anyone with intelligence can change for the better. I also recognise that when leadership is entrusted upon you, you can rise up to the occasion.

On the same note, I have been a staunch supporter of Tun Dr Mahathir and regard him as our best PM thus far. It would be foolish though to take my support as an absolute an unqualified carte blanche. I have stated my stand and this stand of mine does not require approval from those foul-mouthed bloggers and intellectual gnomes – which is that I honour TDM by debating his ideas on certain issues. Take for example, his comments on the cabinet and on the new leadership. If he has the right to comment, we will have to acknowledge that others can also comment on his comments. You would be prostituting yourself if you lie flat on your back and take everything without question.

Thus when Dato Najib does something right, he deserves compliments. Dato Najib is becoming more believable. I will say this- the more he disengages from TDM's mould, the better. He must chart his own course. He has served under 3 PM and has lived under the same roof with one. Now that he has become one himself, his achievement should equal the record claimed by the not bashful Rais Yatim in having served 5 PMs.

He has created a cabinet confounding many and leaving not a few dumbfounded. He has created a cabinet of 28 people. 40 were appointed as deputy ministers. It is a cabinet only marginally smaller that Pak Lah's cabinet. Hence, there were no major disruptions. A semblance of continuity is more important than playing to the gallery and yielding to calls to have a reduced cabinet.

Even the reasons for the inclusion of a few losers in Team Najib will be appreciated later. There were several who had lost in the last general elections. The list included the Koh Tsu Koon,Shahrizat Jalil, Awang Adek Husin. Losers in the recently concluded UMNO elections were also included. The inclusion of Mukhriz Mahathir has been hailed as a triumph of sorts.

One can only suspect, their losses are less important than their usefulness.

Correspondingly the exclusion presently of a few people from Team Najib will also be justified. The two notable absentees from Team Najib now are KJ and JJ. As I said earlier, I am sure the PM has something in store for the hardest working former minister-wasn't he the one who traverses the earth and space? Plus, he is the quintessential 'hands on' ex minister. As for KJ who knows what will unravel?

One can only suspect, their victories are less important than current political expediency.

It is also not a cabinet patterned after what Dr Mahathir wants. The inclusion of too many who are not exactly fans of TDM easily weakens such presumption. Dr Mahathir can rant and rave however much he wants. It is Najib's own team.

The inclusion of Mukhriz in the team cannot be used as proof that this is Mahajib's team. How much can Mukhriz achieve? Even he understands the concept of leadership hierarchy. He has a boss. His boss has a bigger boss. The ultimate boss is Najib Tun Razak. The boss is always right.

Today the PM has announced two very important actions which the government will take. First, the government will carry out a comprehensive review of the toll system in the country. The PM has conceded that exposure of the rakyat to triennial hike of toll rates is no longer tenable. Tolls are much disliked by the people. If the PM upholds his tenet of people first, he has to take steps that endear the government to the rakyat.

The PM has also announced his government's commitment to undertake a review of electricity tariffs. If TNB has excess capacity well above the critical reserve, why should it be forced to buy from IPPs? A review on the contracts between TNB and several IPPs may lead to reduction in tariff rates. They are burdensome on both the rakyat and anathema to a government geared for efficient performance and placing the people's interest first.

Both should be well received by the rakyat.

How do these make the PM becoming believable by each passing day? A conversation with Dato Najib a few days before he became the PM is worth recalling. He spoke of his reservations on certain projects undertaken by the government. Among those he mentioned were about highway tolls and IPP. He appeared to concede that these were costly mistakes. Most were made during Tun Mahathir's time.

I did not think much about that then because I thought he was speaking en passant. Moreover who would ever dare make a move against many of such projects initiated during the great TDM's time?

Coincidentally en passant is a move on the chess board, where a pawn is captured because it has been moved carelessly. Has Dato Najib begun to reveal that he is indeed a formidable chess player on the political board? By bracing himself to tackle issues made during TDM's tenure, he may prove himself to be not a spineless leader after all.


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