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Sakmongkol ak 47

Sunday 28 February 2010

UMNO and Noblesse Oblige

I was listening to remarks made by one exco pemuda questioning the seeming immunity of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Today I read that Puad Zarkashi, the guy who speaks with a lisp style asking UMNO to take action against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. I am not unduly worried. One is aspiring to become a wakil rayat. The other is a first term MP who was appointed as deputy minister. Both have not achieved any accomplishments of significance.
Both therefore don't understand the concept of noblesse oblige. Because both have not lived for any length of time sufficiently long or achieved a modest success of character, humility, or enterprise. That would prevent them from understanding the concept of noblesse oblige.
The term of French origins is defined as the inferred obligation of people of high rank or social position to behave nobly or kindly toward others.
This is the missing link in today's UMNO. While the concept itself likely conjures images of royalty or aristocratic obligations to help the poor during the knighted era, the idea is in fact ancient and stands as a pillar of civilization.
The UMNO leadership must think beyond parochial political interests. The power invested in the state and by extension in holders of power is limited. There is a higher power- that of accountability to God. Ok, if we don't want to involve God in earthly matters, consider then accountability to the greater good of society.
If we are conscious of the existence of accountability to a higher power or greater good, then we should be able to see that the role of government as a limited, and almost necessary, evil. Government functioned not to impose equalized outcomes, but to guarantee that man would have equal opportunity to develop without political obstruction. The people of Kelantan who are mostly Malays should be given equal opportunity to develop without political obstruction or sleight of hand.
What has happened to present day UMNO? The noblesse oblige of 1st generation leaders yielded to usurpation by leaders motivated by lesser ideals. The principle of limited government was encroached upon by 'pragmatic leadership' who pushed for the idea that the state will now assume the role of God. After Hussein Onn, the idea of noblesse oblige was inverted from then on to mean
Noblesse oblige: the inferred role of government and elites everywhere to compel others to behave nobly or kindly toward others.
This is the missing link in UMNO's struggles. The sense of noblesse oblige has yielded to a race to amass power and to use the power so attained to impose the government's will devoid of a sense of noblesse oblige. The direct beneficiaries of an inverted definition of noblesse oblige are now able to speak the way the EXCO Pemuda spoke and the deputy minister of Education did. "Do as I say and not as I do translate simply into do what we the holders of power tell you to do. After all we really do know what's best for the rest of you. It is no longer a higher cause that is nudging the heart toward a higher plane of concern based on love and empathy, but rather the state ramming its will down one's throat with a cold and heartless inefficiency.
UMNO and the government has the opportunity to show that they wish a return to the spirit of real and not inverted definition of noblesse oblige by doing the right thing to the people of Kelantan.


Saturday 27 February 2010

Cloak and Dagger, 3 Stooges in Washington

I can't move to another issue until I have written this. People are saying this is a circus. Some are saying we fucked up. Some are saying we sent 3 stooges. Some judged it to be failure in PR on the part of the government. If these are true, why should the seminar be a cause of worry as its failure would precipitate the downfall of the BN government? All those pro Anwar bloggers should be clapping their hands maybe hallelujah-ing or ululating.
Who is lying over this CSIS issue? Lim Kit Siang wasn't there physically. He relied on accounts. He relied on second hand information. In law that would be hearsay, no?
I have written how pro Anwar lobbyists were pressing to have the seminar canceled. That didn't materialize. They then flew one blogger who serves as RPK's eyes and ears. They wanted to turn the event into a mauling session. They planned to ask tough and grueling questions at Nazri.
Who wasn't at the seminar? Only the AG. Unfortunately he couldn't make it because he was meeting with the US undersecretary of Commerce and other officials at that time. The time allotted to him clashed with the time the AG was slotted to speak at the seminar.
Who were there?
The chief justice, Tun Hamid Mohamad who is head of the MACC advisory panel was there. The head of MACC, Dato Abu Kassim was there. Kassim spoke and answered a number of questions. The Chief Justice was also able to answer questions until time ran out. He stayed behind.
But of course the pro Anwar agitators did not stay the full course. Had they stayed behind, they would be able to ask Tun Hamid directly on his ruling on Anwar earlier. They could have asked questions that can be calculated to embarrass the Malaysian government. The chief justice was there but was not questioned.  The seminar ended earlier only in the sense of a time imagined by the pro Anwar agitators. Why didn't they stay the full course even beyond the time stipulated? Answer: they didn't want to listen to explanation other than using bits and pieces to reaffirm their prejudices.
Who is CSIS? Are they a group of lobbyists or in Malaysianspeake- brokers? The sponsor of the event, CSIS, is a highly-respected academic institution founded in 1962, which has grown to become one of the world's best known international policy institutions, with more than 220 full-time staff and a large network of affiliated scholars focused on defense and security, regional stability, and transnational challenges. CSIS conferences cover issues from energy and climate to global development and economic integration. CSIS has a program on Southeast Asia that includes a focus on Malaysia. 
CSIS doesn't lobby. Never has, never will. It regularly has contacts with the opposition, including Anwar, and with officials in the government of Malaysia. As it should. Which was one reason the head of the program, Ernest Bower, was so dismayed when he found that the opposition was trying to activate its expensive DC network to shut the event done, rather than allow anyone from the government to be heard at a Washington think-tank in an event open to the public.
Seminar Was Always Under Chatham House Rules.
What the hell is this?
Was it a "cloak and dagger" session? This claim is preposterous. The normal and accepted practice is that conferences are held under Chatham House rule. (Note: singularity of the term. Rule not rules). There is only one rule and that is:
The Chatham House Rule is a rule that governs the confidentiality of the source of information received at a meeting. Since its refinement in 2002, the rule states
When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. The rule originated in June, 1927, at what is now best known as Chatham House with the aim of guaranteeing anonymity to those speaking within its walls in order that better international relations could be achieved. It is now used throughout the world as an aid to free discussion.
Now hear this about the on and off the record. Meetings, or parts of meetings, may be held either "on the record" or "under the Chatham House Rule". In the latter case, the participants are understood to have agreed that it would be conducive to free discussion that they should be subject to the rule for the relevant part of the meeting. The Rule allows people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organizations, and therefore it encourages free discussion. Speakers are then free to voice their own opinions, without concern for their personal reputation or their official duties and affiliations.
So in the case of the seminar by CSIS in Washington, it was understood that attributions would not be made to individual participants, so that all participants could express their views freely, without having to worry about having their statements misquoted, distorted, or otherwise abused. This is a normal practice at CSIS, the Brookings Institute, and most other think tanks in Washington when the participants in a conference want to be unusually open and free.
Ask a Washington policy-maker how often he or she has attended conferences under Chatham House rules.  If they haven't, then they haven't been to many conferences.  Lim Kit Siang doesn't know this, or perhaps he just doesn't care about the truth. He wants to label it cloak and dagger. The truth is easy to obtain. A copy of the original invitation from February 19 remains online at CSIS website. It states clearly the conference is open to the public, but its statements not for quotation.
What did Nazri say? I never thought I will ever want to reproduce or comment on what Nazri say one day. He made 2 important points. The first was that having Anwar tried is not convenient or good for the government, and wasn't something anyone wanted, but happened because a young man came to the police alleging that he was sexually coerced by Anwar, and as a result a process was set into motion because the legal system must protect the accuser as well as the accused.  The second was that it is not proper for public officials to have any role in any criminal trial, whose outcome must be determined by an unbiased judge on the basis of the facts and the law.
What's clearly happening is that some people will do anything to try to get international pressure put on Malaysia to influence our country's judicial system from outside. No matter what the facts may be. It does make one wonder about what the facts will ultimately show in the ongoing trial.


The Goalposts keep shifting!

It's very exasperating to debate with pro Anwar bloggers. All this time I thought only Anwar keeps changing stories and instructions to his lawyers. There is a story going around that Suleiman Abdullah had to suffer receiving ever changing last minute instructions and storylines to follow. Even when en route to the court, Suleiman who rode in a car in front would still be receiving last minute new aspects to the story from Anwar who rode in another car behind.

The same affliction seems to affect pro Anwar bloggers. They keep shifting goalposts. It is impossible for a kaki bangku like I to score. You must have the skills of a Pele to score these kinds of goals.

Take the case of the CSIS seminar in Washington on the 24th of February recently. Ernest Bower may have written a less than flattering piece on the current politics in Malaysia. A person may hold such views as are supported by the facts and information then. He is likely to amend his position as new information and facts emerge. You can't be dogmatic when it comes to facts.

It would be undemocratic of him to deny an opportunity for Malaysian government to present its side of the story. So the decision by Ernest Bower to hold a seminar in which representatives of the Malaysian government can present its views, should not be seen as a yellow bellied about face. Rather it could just be a fair decision to allow the opposing side the floor. That is the rule in debates right?

To suggest something sinister must have happened to Bower is just an exercise in setting down your traps in murky waters- menangguk di air keroh. It's a booby trap.

Nazri Aziz was leading a team of parliamentarians to Washington. There were others in his entourage including the much despised Big Zahrin Hashim. Why and how he was there isn't material. If he can shed some light on Anwar and PKR that benefit UMNO and BN, he should be applied to that task. He isn't going to get a standing ovation from PR anyway.

I am among those many people who share our loathsome perceptions of Nazri. But that cannot be an excuse to disbelieve him when he said; it was a coincidence that Ghani Patail and Tun Hamid Mohamad were in Washington at the same time. We didn't know whether the names of the other speakers were included later or not. The original speakers were supposed to be Nazri as the main speaker, the commissioner of MACC and maybe others.

There must have been some communications between our ambassador and the organizers of the CSIS seminar. It is customary for organizers to ask the interested party to recommend other names as the party sees fit and appropriate to be on the panel of speakers. Ghani Patail as we are told was in South America and the ambassador must have felt it profitable to include him as speaker. If he were present, most likely he would be speaking off the cuff or would have played a greater role in the Q&A session. As for Nazri, his visit could have been planned well ahead and this explained why he had prepared a paper to speak. This paper was for the record.

The portion which was off the record was the portion in the question and answer session. They probably contained material which if placed on record may be prejudicial to Anwar Ibrahim. But if the Malaysiakini rep was present throughout, we can be sure that the off the record portion will be printed sooner or later. It is safe to assume he left the building together with the reps from Amnesty International. He was the one who passed material to RPK to publish in Malaysia Today allowing RPK to say he has ears all over the world. We can't stop him beating his chest there.

We have answered that part about this being a waste of public funds. The cynical remark about our ambassador's purchase of a Porsche was sinister. It was intended to insinuate that JJ bought the car using public money. It is possible that embassy cars are rented not bought. It is also possible that JJ could have bought the car using his own funds. Diplomats can buy their cars at a fraction of the cost we buy. Certainly JJ is not a man of straw like this blogger and many of you. We should dismiss that naughty remark.

When everything is in disarray, suddenly a seminar in Washington becomes at the end, an issue of justice. We have been playing for 90 minutes and suddenly the goal is shifted again.

Here is where I encounter a problem. Anwar Ibrahim deserves justice. That we don't dispute. But his accuser, the alleged victim also deserves justice. Why is justice to Anwar more important than justice to Saiful? We need to know whether this Saiful is a fool and a liar.

We must move away from attributing Anwar an ascribed status. Just because of who he is- he is The Anwar Ibrahim, among the most influential people in the world, - therefore by being who he is, justice to him overrides justice to other people.

Anwar Ibrahim is a mere mortal. He has power to do good as well and immense power to do evil. He has the capability and ability to do evil as well as good. This power is independent of who he is. Now Saiful, though an unknown Malaysian and a non entity is also capable of doing good and evil. He can achieve all this.

Both Anwar Ibrahim and Saiful must be given achieved status- that is, both are capable of doing good and evil. Both are capable of committing wrongs. Both must be given the same justice. What we have done is to ascribe Anwar a special position. That being who he is, he deserved justice more than anyone else. But the justice we insist is justice ala Mr. Henry Ford- we can have any color we desire as long as it's black.


Friday 26 February 2010

Malaysian Circus in DC-3

Let's not be hot headed over this issue.

Three people were supposed to be on the panel. The forum was organised by the Washington CSIS. The invitees were guests of CSIS. The Malaysian ambassador wasn't the one who determined who should or shouldn't come.

The AG was in South America and because he was somewhere close by, was invited to speak. But he failed to turn up because he was caught up in discussions with his counterparts at the US Justice Department. Tun Hamid Mohamad was also occupied with some other things and couldn't make it too.

Zahrain Hashim whom I don't have many good things to say of (refer to my article when he abandoned ship) was with a parliamentary delegation led by Dato Nazri Aziz. He has been described as a very strong ally of Anwar Ibrahim for the last 30 years. He would be useful to reveal something about Anwar Ibrahim and PKR. Wee Choo Keong was part of the team as were Tajudin Rahman the 6 million Dollar Man and Ronald Kiandee.

If this was a waste of public funds how do we judged all the other trips organised for Parliamentarians that included also opposition members from DAP, PAS and PKR? They must be by the definition given by Lim Kit Siang sheer waste of public funds.

The very first question posed to Nazri Aziz after he completed a presentation on Malaysia's anti corruption laws was on Anwar Ibrahim. The questioner stated not asked, that Malaysia is similar to Myanmar. The grounds of lumping Malaysia together with the junta regime of Myanmar? Because of the way we treat Anwar Ibrahim.

I think this AI official must take us Malaysians as stupid in insisting that the measure of whether Malaysia is democratic or not is to drop the charges on Anwar. The problem is: this charge isn't brought about by the Malaysian government. This charge is brought about by the pleadings of an alleged victim who will be subjected to a barrage of vicious questioning in the weeks to come. We haven't heard the questionings yet and Anwar Ibrahim's lawyers will have every opportunity to do so.

All this while, I thought over dramatization and bizarre embellishments are stuff of Tamil Movies. Now I know, people in Amnesty International have the same artistic creativity.  

Anwar Ibrahim isn't a measure of democracy. The more appropriate description should be Anwar is the measure of moral decadence and moral hypocrisy.

Anwar's case must be seen as it really is- a case involving private individuals. It is Anwar who politicizes the issue and links his case with alleged political prosecution. We can say everything nasty about Saiful, but please ask the questions in court. Why hasn't cross examination on him start? Instead we are treated to every round of red herrings and legal meanders to delay the case.

The whole of Malaysia is waiting for Anwar Ibrahim's lawyers to expose Saiful as a liar. In the witness stand, no one can protect him. Even lawyers who have been in the witness box have told me, they felt alone and most vulnerable in there. If Saiful is also a faggot, he will easily break down when Karpal Singh starts interrogating him.

The account given which Lim Kit Siang referred to as saying the crowd was probably 40 strong is easy to explain. After asking the needed to ask questions favourable to their interest and cause, those pro Anwar crowd dispersed leaving only those interested to know the real answers behind.

 The off the record portion of the interview was probably designated so, as they might be prejudicial to Anwar's getting a fair trial. Why didn't the Malaysiakini attendee state clearly what was the material said that was requested to be off the record?

Finally have we wondered why suddenly Australia picks up the cudgels left behind by America? America is eager to cultivate good relations with Malaysia and does Malaysia with America. The Obama administration isn't about to use the Anwar case which is being tried in open court as an excuse or leverage to push unfriendly agendas. Senator Kerry's remarks were neutral in which he expressed the hope that justice will prevail.

The emergence of Australia as the voice of conscience for Anwar can only suggest that in the USA, Anwar's case is being looked at as it truly is- a purely legal case involving private parties. The position thus shown by USA suggests that Anwar Ibrahim's influence over lobbyists in the US is waning. He hasn't got Al Gore this time around to lecture us on reformasi.

But he has people in Australia led by that Ghouse chap who is canvassing support from Australian MPs to put political pressures on Malaysia to drop the charges on Anwar.  


The Circus that got to America-2

We will fight on land, sea and air. The supporters of Anwar Ibrahim would have preferred us to just sit down by and watch whatever they say on foreign shores go unchallenged. We don't do that.

There are 1001 reasons why Wee Choo Keong (troublemaker) and Zahrain Hashim( side-indeterminate) are in USA attending the CSIS forum . Why should their presence be an issue? They have nothing to add to Anwar Ibrahim's case or throw any light on issues such as Allah controversy and so on. They were there as were Tajuddin, deputy speaker, Ronald Kiandee as part of the team of MPs on study trip. They have these frequently and such trips do also include opposition MPs.

Ghani Patail was on a trip to South America and stopped over in Washington to meet up with his counterparts. Officials from SPRM were also around to explain Malaysia's stand on corruption. They were not part of Nazri's entourage. Ghani Patail was caught up with his counterparts and couldn't make it to the CSIS forum. I am sure it was the courteous thing to explain the absence of the other speakers at the forum. But we didn't hear the report on this. A simple and innocent explanation that doesn't deserve deceiving spin.

If I were an adversary to Anwar Ibrahim, I don't find anything strange in bringing Zahrain Hashim. He has left the party and so PKR does not have any moral authority over him. He may be despicable on many fronts but if I can use him to discredit my political adversary, why not. Not commendable but useful. Anwar Ibrahim isn't someone who will want to dismiss such an opportunity. Zahrain may be able to expose the shenanigans inside PKR and on Anwar Ibrahim himself. Which sides people are on are not relevant factors to consider when Anwar Ibrahim was so sure 30 over MPs were going to cross over last year. So why should which side Zahrain is on, be bothersome to Anwar's supporters?

If our ambassador had not capitalized on Zahrain's presence in DC to shed light on who Anwar and PKR are, then I would question his political prowess.

Wee choo Keong? I can't offer any explanation why he was there other than being part of the entourage with Nazri.

There is only the other possible explanation. It seems that Anwar Ibrahim DOES NOT WANT Americans in Washington to hear the views of Malaysian officials about his case – including the Malaysian judge who ordered him released in 2004. Yes, that is the reason why Tun Hamid Mohamad goes to America.

Don't you see this as strange? Anwar Ibrahim who proselytizes on democracy doesn't want free speech taking place in democratic America? If the attendance to the CSIS was dismal, then Anwar has no grounds to be worried.

You can see the black hands of Anwar Ibrahim in this event. As soon as Washington think-tank CSIS announced it would host a February 24 forum, open to the public, on Malaysian legislative initiatives on governance and rule of law, Anwar and his team swung into action. How?

One of the earliest steps taken by Anwar's Trojan horses was to call up John Hamre, the head of CSIS, urging him to cancel the conference on the grounds that it would be improper to give "legitimacy" to what is, after all, the elected government of Malaysia, by allowing any of its officials to speak.  Hamre was told that no Malaysian officials should be permitted to speak unless and until Anwar's trial was shut-down through political pressure on the judiciary.

What Hamre did was to call the head of its Southeast Asian program, Ernest Bower, who had put the conference together. Ernest Bower answered that he has also done events with the opposition. It was his understanding that is part of CSIS's policy to encourage all voices to be heard. Hamre authorized full-speed ahead.

The next tactic of the Anwar team was to secure the services of friendly blog pieces ahead of the conference, attacking it before anyone had said a word, and calling it a circus. Sure enough opposition-favoured bloggers immediately complied with efficient pre-event hatchet jobs.  The reporter from Malaysiakini said he flew in from San Francisco. It is strange that his news and information were reproduced in Malaysia Today and not his employer's on line paper.

Will Anwar tell us, how much it costs to have this chap flown from San Francisco to DC?


On the Circus that got to America

There's more than meets the eye.

The recent visit of Nazri Aziz to Washington's CSIS was quickly condemned as a failure and waste of public funds. Lim Kit Siang quickly joined in the chorus to say the same. Malaysia Today carried stories by its writers that the event held by CSIS was such a non event, that our Ambassador to the US was bored. Several people carried embellished stories about how our ambassador JJ was seen doodling on his blackberry or reading papers.

Let's listen to a possible alternative story.

First, have anyone asked the question as to how reporters from Malaysia Today or Malaysiakini got into the seminar or briefing? Usually, such an event would be a by-invitation only event. So unless we are told that people from Malaysia Today or Malaysiakini were invited which they weren't, the only way they got into the forum/seminar was by way of gate crashing. That would immediately add a different flavor to the reporting emanating from there right? Any lawyer worth his salt would quickly assail the characters of people who gate crashed into somebody else's party. A slighted person can't possibly give a balanced reporting.

Not many people knew that Anwar Ibrahim's friends in the US tried to lobby Congress and campaigned to have the event by CSIS cancelled. In other words, they would only agree to a one way street explanation- that from Anwar's side. They wanted Americans to remain uninformed.

But we understand how Americans think too. While Americans can be very expressive and partisan in their support to a particular person and/or to a cause, they are also rational people. What Anwar Ibrahim and his US supporters are afraid of is the possibility that an explanation of Malaysia's position over many issues may damage a particular and biased cultivated perception of Malaysia. What if someone from Malaysia articulate enough and pugilistic enough were to explain Malaysia's position over several contentious issues can be successful in dismembering the hitherto false and partisan flavored image of Malaysia? That would certainly swayed America's perception of Malaysia right?

In particular, what if we can offer a reasonable rebuttal to the claim that Anwar Ibrahim's ongoing case isn't at all a political prosecution? We are not asking America to support us against Anwar Ibrahim. But what the government is doing is to provide a reasonable explanation of Malaysia's position and stand over these matters to a sufficient degree that seeks Americans to have an open mind. This is to accept that Anwar Ibrahim's trial isnt at all a political prosecution. It must be seen as its rightful status- it's a litigation involving private persons; Anwar Ibrahim and his accuser. The duty of any court for that matter is to hear both sides. What Anwar Ibrahim is doing right now, is to deny everyone and more so America, from hearing both sides.

Why is Anwar Ibrahim so afraid of our ability to tell our side of the story?


Wednesday 24 February 2010

Pahang UMNO Convention-2

In the previous article, I asked- what happened to UMNO politics that caused massive desertion of Malay voters?

It was arrogance mainly. It was an arrogance built on the overvalued belief that Malays depend exclusively on UMNO for their salvation. It caused the UMNO leadership to overestimate their worth and allowed UMNO leaders to speak spuriously, of a kind of perverted manifest destiny – i.e. divine right conferred upon themselves to rule on behalf of the rest of the Malays, with all the attendant abuses such as corruption, bad governance, social decadence, suppression etc, as necessary evils.

The position, in which the majority of Malays find themselves, is that of a people to be cared for by an elite ruling class. The emergence of an elitist leadership synchronized well with a people cultured in a generally submissive ideology. That kind of life's outlook would enable a class of Malay to speak of themselves as protector of Malays and the rest as their charges over which they are responsible for everything. It is this kind of misplaced submissiveness that tolerated the existence of an arrogant leadership which acquired and entrenched further, social values that are at once diametrically opposed to normal Malay values of cultured humility and down-to-earthiness.

This leadership by arrogance is openly displayed in daily lives-by the arrogant leaders who parade their ostensible wealth and decadence. In the most artificial and mundane of manners such as owning and driving in the most expensive cars around, in the adoption of social graces that alienate the majority of Malays.

The purveyors of this kind of leadership were evident in the Pahang UMNO convention recently. I saw one UMNO leader, driving his hummer which probably cost up to RM 1 million to the convention. Of course the hummer is built like an anti tank armored carrier. Either the owner of this car was thick skulled as the vehicle's protective steel plating or the symbolism of the car as something that protects its occupants from hypocrisy destroying peer judgment is well known to its occupants.

Thus you have on one side- a leadership, elitist in form and spirit conferring upon itself, the role of benevolent protector. On the other side, the majority Malays who are subjected to the daily grind of fatalism in that they exist to ask themselves what they can do for the leadership. In simple terms, give the leadership total obedience and submissiveness. In that sense, what the Malays find themselves early in their history is what Kennedy was able to say sometime in 1961:

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

The problem with this kind of social arrangement it runs directly opposite to the ideals of free society which Malays can legitimately desire. As Milton Friedman responded to that address:-

Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your 'country" implies the government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary.

It would be oversimplifying however; to attribute what went wrong with UMNO by just pointing to leadership by arrogance. We have to look deeper for the reasons.

Each generation is shaped by different motives and values. The motives and values that drove the first generation leaders and followers are different from the same that drive the current generation.

The Problem stated. The problem with UMNO is this. We have a leadership that is still stuck to the motives and values which were suitable for first generation leaders and followers but are discordant with the values and motives of present generation. It is this dichotomy that creates a deep divide between UMNO and the people. Failure to adjust to new values and motives will forever stunt UMNO.


Tuesday 23 February 2010

Selamat Cari Makan, Rais Yatim


The decision by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture to take out advertisements in various MSM papers was highly unprecedented. They of course exposed the balding stupidity of the minister who has a penchant for burning bridges and changing mode and at once give new meaning to the term sycophantic groveling.
I mean, it's a sad spectacle to see an out-of-age group person having to bend backwards and is always seeking to find ways in making the boss thinks he is relevant. Many many years ago, when he was a leading member of Parti Semangat 46 and was hanging by the financial coattails of Tengku Razaleigh, he went on TV to accuse Rahmah Othman a former minister, as having prostituted herself. Well today, the same description comes back to haunt not Rahmah Othman, but the minister himself. He doesn't know it yet, but he is being called Doctor Pimp.
This is precisely the behavior by UMNO leadership that causes it to be estranged further from the Malay base. It was the reason why in 2008, more Malays did not vote for UMNO candidates. The people are just fed up of leadership by arrogance that has permeated every sinew and bone of UMNO politics.
The advertisements carried out exposed more than what they intended- revealing that all this time, UMNO as leader of the government of the day, manages this country's assets and resources on the basis of political expediencies. It governs not on the basis of what is right, but on the plusses and minusses of political opportunism.
As a result, it places whole people at ransom and at the mercy of the government who continues ruling with the old school ideology, which holds that the future and welfare of a whole group of people depend on its benevolence. This is precisely the ideology that stunts the mental development of Malays rather than uplifts them.
People are just fed up with the self proclaimed manifest destiny of people like Rais Yatim who behaved as though Malaysians, Malays and non Malays alike; owe him and this government their living. Further in doing so, people are expected to tolerate and accommodate stupidities, bullying and so forth as necessary evils. He and his like minded friends are greatly mistaken.
They do to some extent but not without demanding this government or any government for that matter qualifies itself to have earned the approval of the people.
How so or on what terms? Rais Yatim and the relics in UMNO belonged to the group of leadership that fights on values that are no longer relevant today. These values include raw an unqualified Malay interests, of things couched in language more suitable to take on colonialism which is nonexistent today.
Today's values that motivate the people of Malaysia have everything to do with- doing what is right, with good governance, with stemming corruption and crushing inefficiencies and kicking out bully tactics of any government. A government failing to recognize new values and priorities demanded by people is going to lose relevance.
The contradictions unintentionally exposed by such old tech instruments of communications are amply written elsewhere. I shall not repeat them here. The advertisements display nothing but crude bully tactics that has become hallmarks of people like Rais Yatim.


Monday 22 February 2010

The Pahang UMNO Convention-1

Friday 19th of February, was the first day of the Pahang UMNO Convention. It was going to take place over 3 days in the UITM campus of Jengka, Pahang. The participants for this convention came from the 14 divisions in Pahang.
The idea of this convention is to get UMNO people into one premise and have them brainstorm. Give them space and time to put up arguments, hopes, demands, or just let off steam. At the end of the day, the leaders of the brainstorming teams will come up with resolutions which are eventually streamlined to serve as action plans.
Participants were grouped under workshops- 60 in total covering politics, economics, education, religion and new media. I shall write on these topics in due time. Our teams were called workshops. I like this term as it suggests a self-effacing term that eschews anything other than wanting to be practical and down to earth. No pain and work- no gain stuff.
Perhaps its the reflection of the unadorned and raw thinking of the Pahang UMNO chief- the spontaneous but well meaning MB. It sure beats the prestige sounding term of this lad or that lab. Participants are not placed under any other illusion that this convention is meant to come out with concrete action plans that commit dedication and skunk work. No karaoke sessions, no kebaya fashion shows, no dance shows. No merriment. Sorry Rosnah Sherlin.
The idea of this convention is very sound- let the grassroots leaders come out with resolutions which they co-author and ask them to live up to what they themselves have promised. That is after all, the idea of a resolution- that you resolved to carry out what you have promised and you are bound to see them succeed. Grass root leaders can't accuse the higher leadership of backtracking on their promises of delivering UMNO from decay. The tables are now turned against them. They come out with resolutions and work on them. If UMNO fails, it's because the grass root leaders fail.
So those ketua bahagians who thought of sending participants thinking this convention is just another business as usual gathering are sadly mistaken. We have enough people at the convention to see through this kind of shallow thinking. So if they had sent the tired old faces, thinking that these are capable of coming out with out-of-the box ideas, they are sadly mistaken. Or they have misread the idea behind this year's Pahang UMNO convention.
Two- participants must also realize that resolutions passed reflect their own ideas and interests. Accordingly, whether the organizers of this convention like it or not, the views expressed as resolutions invariably reflect the interests of the participants' profile. If the majority of the participants from UMNO Pekan for example were chosen on the basis of allegiance to certain warlords, the hidden hand behind the interests are not too difficult to identify.
It's unavoidable in the end to avoid seeing the consolidated resolutions being the expression of competing interests of the vocal minorities in the various workshops. I certainly hope, Pekan people especially those participating in the political workshop didn't put up a demand of insisting that a certain leader in Pekan division be the next MB.
Unfortunately these things happened. A keener analysis of the Convention can reveal hidden agendas. Everyone is naturally attracted to power. Hence the political workshops attracted the most number of participants 900 of them into 30 workshops. Madam Mao Tse Tung was certainly correct when she said, while sex is enthralling, its power that endures. The only thing Madam Mao wasn't aware of- she didn't know UMNO people are experts in this field. Sanusi Junid once differentiated the various values of matters of interest in UMNO politics. As expected, the Ringgit Note bearing the picture of our Parliament had the highest value. The Ringgit note with parliament on it had a RM1000 value I think.
The political question to ask and I hoped this was asked was how to prepare and qualify UMNO to regain the seats it lost and along with that, regain its lost credibility and eminence. What to do?
In my own workshop, I told my colleagues a sobering fact- that while UMNO is a Malay party, it can no longer claim a monopoly of representing the entire or even a majority of the Malay population in Malaysia. The facts are these. In the 2008 General Elections there were 5.7 million Malay voters. UMNO candidates who are Malays secured only 2.38 million votes which included non Malay votes. If we subtract some 380,000- voters as being non Malays, that would leave about 2 million Malay voters. Hence UMNO which has a membership of 3.5 million members managed only to get 2 million votes!
What did the figures show? That there are many things wrong about UMNO politics that caused some 1.5 million members of the party to reject Malay candidates. In total, more Malays did not vote for UMNO. 3.7 million of them.
In the next few articles we shall look at UMNO's struggle, empowering the grassroots and UMNO's future challenges. I shall discuss my own new media workshop later.


Friday 19 February 2010

Those halcyon days

One of the websites I am always keen to read up is Uppercaise's Malaysian Media Matters. I don't know his identity. He/she seems to be a very meticulous individual with impeccable English. I will use the gender he. I think he entered into one of my earlier articles disturbed by my carelessness in inserting commas or punctuation or something. The blogger reminds me of some very good English Language teachers I have had. He loves the language tremendously.
More recently, he has written a number of articles on the state of the New Straits Times. In particular, about what he perceived to be the declining standard of NST. The quality of language, the contents and of course readers' allegiance. I too, have wanted to write about my perceptions of NST.
One of the earliest and cheapest sources of learning the English language in the old days was the Straits Times and later the New Straits Times. If I remember correctly, the straits Times then cost 15 sen. Those guys at ST were probably not aware of ST being the English Language text book for poorer students in the East Coast. I would usually devour the editorials- because that's my principle source of good written English.
Those were the days my friend- when editorials were written by editors with excellent English and had depth in their analyses. Editors were courageous people, well read and were convincing in their arguments. They had belief in issues they picked up. Reporters did their jobs with professional accountability- meaning they exercised great care and took responsibility  over the integrity of their reports. Journalism was a calling.
Those editors whom I never knew or could remember during my younger days, I suspect were mainly Malaysian Indians. They have either passed on or retired since.
Maybe my faith in them was also strengthened because like readers of my age then, we were young and impressionable. If I were to read those backdated issues, I would perhaps assess them differently. In addition, the 'class above' assessment of the old school was also helped by the fact that flow of information direction then was one way- it wasn't interactive.
We had to accept what were written. They were conclusive and definitive. Letters to the editors were obviously filtered such that only those palatable ones were let through. There was no way of knowing the real substance of journalism luminaries then. Perhaps they were just myths.
Nowadays it's different.
One, perhaps there has been a real decline in the substance of the material at NST. Not nice to say, but maybe true.
Two, times are also different. We now have the internet and the growing relevance of the new media. Traditional journalism represented by the 4th estate is facing stiff and energetic competition. The overall effect of the new media is to expose not only the vulnerability of the 4th estate should it be dominated by paper tigers- but also mercilessly reveal the superficialities and hollowness of editors, run of the mill reporters and other sub standard material.
Suddenly the comforts of protection and exclusivity of the 4th estate are no longer there. The public have standard of comparisons. More importantly they have choices.
The most important effect of the new media in my opinion is the destruction of the monopoly by the media by 4th estaters. Anyone with a flair of writing, not even trained in journalistic skills and have something to say can now publish their thoughts in space.
We are equal netizens in cyber-democracy distinguishable and differentiated by the thinking we put across and our diligence in arguing and defending them. We are differentiated by our substance.
It's the quality of contents that have proven to be NST's Achilles heel. Its suffering a long draught made worse by the re-emergence of the journalistic undead. Those kicked out by previous regimes because they were in fact, mediocre are making comebacks.
I have long wanted to make comments on the NST in recent years. I have friends who were associated with NST and perhaps that was the main reason why I held back. I have not read NST for a long time- because I want to retrain myself from opening the Pandora's jar. But you can't turn your back on a Paper that has given you good memories.
If it were to be opened, I am afraid I will be disappointed because nothing of interest lies therein that could excite our imagination or challenge our intellect. The NST people will insist that there is hope in there. We the readers know, that for quite some time, when the jar is opened, only terrible things wreaked on our senses.
So I called a friend, a former journalist. Told him, I want to write something about NST- its state of retrogression. He of course was aghast. After all, it was his playground before and who am I, just a plebeian reader to take on the warriors of the 4th estate.
Well, I said, the immediate term that comes to my mind if I were to describe the present NST, it's a big waste land- much like the foreboding poems written by TS Eliot. The Paper stirs up gloom. It has no leadership. It is struggling to find an identity.
It's a wasteland; I said because that is where the undead journalists go to renew their miserable existence. Where else can any rejects, come back to have second leases of life? I thought these things happened only in politics. The NST wasteland makes the barren land of politics look fresh in comparison.
How would I describe the editorials nowadays? They are languid and turbid. The standard is like essays written by school children more concerned with scoring the right marks. They seem hesitant, unwilling to take positions, argue and defend issues. Editorials may not be right but they must exhibit commitment and loyalty to a cause.
As a not frequent reader of NST, I am also not unaware of the politics in NST. The state of NST now, is perhaps best summed up by the pointers given by uppercaise.
10 good things about an NST revamps

  1. It's a way to spend company money by rewarding friends in the marketing business with nice little contracts.
  2. It's a way to create a fake excitement in a bored newsroom, but mostly among ambitious executives.
  3. It's a way for corporate tigers to keep busy rushing around bossing everyone.
  4. It's a way for under-employed executives to suddenly turn "creative" with plenty of "new" ideas stolen from around the world
  5. It's a way to build or temporarily burnish an ailing reputation and find some short-term glory in "turning around an ailing newspaper".
  6. It's a way for corporate management to show the owners that Something Is Being Done.
  7. It's a way for Marketing to bully Editorial by blaming editorial shortcomings for loss of sales.
  8. It's a way for politico-mercenary executives to shift attention away from the real ills of the paper or company.
  9. It's a way to have fun and spend other people's money without actually having to do anything.
  10. It's a way to give graphic designers a chance to dust-off designs languishing in their drawers.
It might even con the buying public into taking a second look.


Thursday 18 February 2010

Questions for Pahang UMNO Convention participants.

Two questions for UMNO convention.
These two questions were asked earlier by a blogger friend- the intrepid Walla. This blogger is not Malay, who I suspect, in the current paranoia, will be asked to butt out. I am anxious for Walla.
You can't ask people to go away just like that, especially if he/she has something of substance to say. UMNO people can't go into the streets to protest what non UMNO people say especially if they say something that should interest UMNO. Furthermore, I am almost certain, UMNO people will try to out-UMNO each other to claim first rights to present a memo and first claim over bragging rights.
Because, he, like all of us UMNO members, has a legitimate stake in the future of this country. And since UMNO will feature prominently in any future Malaysia, his questions deserved hearing and response.
Those who are going to attend this weekend's Pahang UMNO convention please don't go with the intention of having a time of merriment- there will no karaoke sessions saudara saudara, no fiesta tarian Melayu or Puteri Kebaya fashion show. If I were to make a suggestion, the puteri head should be scalped in the next GE for imposing this kind of cultural aberration, upon us. Has Puteri UMNO degenerated into a conduit for budding dancers and fashionistas? Imagine this:-
Fiesta Tarian Melayu Kreatif dan Fesyen Kebaya Puteri Umno akan dijadikan acara tahunan, bermula tahun ini di peringkat negeri dan nasional, kata Ketua Puteri Umno Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.
But I hear you already protest against my verbal transgression- surely you insist, these are earth shattering events reflecting the great thinking to have come forth from the nubile minds of UMNO members, no? I bet you many of the participants will be a tad disappointed.
Apa lah lu orang APIA punya organisers! Apia was a famous moniker for freshies entering UM in the 70's.
Please ponder these questions.
I understand, the 3 headings which will be addressed by the political workshop are the history of UMNO, the future of UMNO and empowerment of UMNO grassroots.
And Walla's questions are:-

  1. The first question to honestly ask is: what is UMNO, now?

  2. Does UMNO's middle income trap come about because UMNO's middle name is denial?
The political workshop appears to be tailor-made for Walla's first question. Not Taylor Made the golf set ok. I know, many UMNO people are anxious to practice their golf at the nearby Maran golf field or somewhere. Golfers know where the holes are. UMNO golfers more than others.
Just to place the discussion in context, there was a comment in my recent article from this gentleman named Encik Idris. He asked;
You should know why UMNO is not attractive to the young, intelligent Muslim population.
Let me tell you why. I am one of them. My friends and I find UMNO corrupt, unfair, stupid and does not rule the country with the Rakyat's interest in mind.

For now, I am not going to answer the above questions. I shall allow readers to tell us their views. I will not censor any, provided the views are free from expletives. Feel free to demonstrate in cyberspace. But remember, no need to outgun each other since there will be NO awards over first bragging rights and claims of first rights to send memo.
With warmest regards
HE Sakmongkol Ak 47, Ambassador to state of Jengka.


Wednesday 17 February 2010

UMNO’s Middle Income Trap

UMNO's middle income trap.

Since Sunday, I have been writing issues relating to UMNO. These are in anticipation of the Pahang UMNO convention this weekend. My objective is to have as many UMNO people read and ponder the issues before they participate in the convention. Let's have a serious convention. The convention is not a jamboree where you get to sing scout songs.
Let's talk now of UMNO's middle income trap. As you know, a middle income trap occurs when a middle income country finds it cannot compete technologically with an advanced country nor can it compete in terms of low cost with a low income country.
UMNO finds itself in such a situation, albeit a political one. It can't compete with the technical superiority of its political adversaries while at the same time; it can't compete in winning adherents to its cause among the common folks. UMNO's currency is its people. The quality and productivity of its members. Its exports are its ideas, cause, vision articulated.
The quality and productivity of its members is suspect. Its losing ground competing to offer a coherent vision for the future, arrest the fears of the Malay heartland. It appears unable to secure the confidence of the younger and intelligent set. It cannot also compete to secure the allegiance of the poorer sections of the population who gravitate towards religious solutions and therefore to parties offering religious agenda.
When I was covering the Bukit Gantang by elections the last time, I took note of two things. The Pakatan Rakyat people, especially the PKR and DAP were tech savvy. They had notebooks around, computer gadgets and other machines of one type or another. They sent sms, e mails and what not, of which we UMNO people were not aware of. En route to a kampong, I saw Anwar Ibrahim on a screen speaking live from somewhere else but his image was projected there. A few kilometers away, some old men clad in sarongs were putting up banners and posters.
Were there lessons to be learnt? What does familiarity with the latest technology reflect? It reflects modernity, advancement and possibly rich. What do sarongs indicate? If I were to use Ungku Aziz's sarong index theory, they would indicate poverty, backwardness, less advancement.
Where does UMNO stand? It slowness and lethargy over embracing technology suggests that it hasn't arrived at a stage of modernity, advancement or rich. Only the top Bumiputeras are rich- the puteras more than the bumis. But more importantly to me, it exposes the vulnerability of UMNO in that important department- it is failing to attract higher quality people to its cause. Good and intelligent people are not coming your way to dedicate themselves to your cause. Instead they gravitate to the other side or chose to stay out.
So what happens in the end? You end up having a strong body, but weak head. You become a sports jock, good at physical and rough sports but lose out in the battle of the minds, in activities that demand the nimbleness of the mind.
The scarcity of its people clad in sarongs would suggest that it's not poor either. So, UMNO despite having 3.5 million members is neither a modern/advanced nor a poor and backward party either. It's neither here nor there.
So what happens in the end? You don't have strong legs to carry you over the distance. You lose out on stamina.
This is double jeopardy for UMNO. It has failed to address the issue of quality of people at the top, i.e. at leadership levels and it has also failed to address issues at the bottom.
UMNO is actually caught in its own middle income trap. Middle Income trap illustration: - blueprints flow from California to China, while manufacturing goods flow in the opposite direction, leaving middle-income countries in limbo: they are not technology-savvy enough to compete with rich countries and are not cheap enough to compete with China.
UMNO's middle income trap: UMNO is not technologically proficient enough to compete with the technological keenness and the zealotry of PR party workers and not poor and humble enough to attract the PAS type crowds. Usage of blogs, tweeter, facebooks is not extensive as we would like to think. UMNO couldn't hold their own trying to convince the PAS types- those wearing skullcaps and folksy clothes more interested to asking you to pray alongside them. UMNO people are either shy/scared to make walkabouts at Pasar Malams.
UMNO can't compete at the high end technology with its adversaries. Opposition parties are using the new media to the hilt. They aim at one particular group- the intelligentsia. It is sufficient for ideas to form within an enclave of inquisitorial and potent minds. Small groups serve as catalysts to spread ideas, thinking, mood and perception.
Look around you. Does UMNO have its equivalent answer to Malaysia Today? Does it have an answer to Malaysian Insider and other Online Media Communicators that appeal to the inquisitive and critical crowd? It thinks it can neutralize the small but powerful groups by trying to appeal to the raw senses of the people outside the reaches of the new media. The ordinary people who are more likely to respond to stories about perceived threats, about threats to their religion, special position and all that. Aiya- clever Malays are not going to fall for those same tricks.
But UMNO is also losing at the low end technology- ceramahs, public speaking, mass gatherings. Why do you think, that UMNO the Goliath of Malay politics is stopping that low to embrace Perkasa? It doesn't hide its shamelessness by cavorting with a group whose very ideas and reason for existing stand in stark contrast with the vision of PM Najib.
This is the clearest example of UMNO losing its plot on how to galvanize Malay adherence. You can't compete at the high end and you are also losing at the lower end. You can't yet become a high incomer but not poor enough to become a low incomer.
This is of course an oversimplification. It doesn't mean that UMNO being trapped as a middle incomer, isn't attractive to rich incomer or less incomer. As the political market becomes fluid, party workers from the technologically advanced party can migrate to the other side. We have seen that happening already- the low calibers from the technologically advanced party are crossing over to UMNO.
Will UMNO gain? Difficult to say because the recent migrants are low enders- 2 of the Perak migrants still have some charges hanging over their heads while the DAP deserter has her shortcomings. As for Zahrain, no one is impressed with some personal endorsements of his character. UMNO will lose because accepting these people augments the low quality talent pool that's already dominating UMNO. This will lead to dominance by type B politicians.
It's like some sort of political second-order general equilibrium effects. You do get some spillover effects from the fluidity of the market, but the impacts of the spillovers are not certain. Boon or bane?


Monday 15 February 2010

Type A and B politicians. Reminder to UMNO

Suppose, we increase the salaries of our ministers many fold. Ministers by 600k a year, so on and so forth. Will the salary structure attract talented people into becoming politicians and into public service? The idea is: high pay attracts better talent and reduces corruption. You know the drill: you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Let's analyze this proposition a bit farther.

We all know that Singapore ministers earn astronomical salaries. The idea to compensate political leaders with high salaries was thought out by Lee Kuan Yew. His intention was to attract the best talents into public service. The attrition rate from 1st generation leaders was high. Many fell by the way side, succumbing to baneful influences.

How do you attract the next generation of leaders? He was concerned that, if left alone, the best talents would opt for business careers other than public service. So he indexed the salaries of ministers and political leaders in public service to a certain number of the highest salary earners in Singapore.

But public service isn't an attractive place for talented people. Government can't pay gargantuan salaries. That's public money. They can only pay reasonably high salaries, competitive enough to sufficiently attract talented individuals. On top of that, the Singapore elder leaders have still got to talent scout. The anecdotes about senior leaders conducting several levels of interviews are well known.

In Malaysia party elders don't talent scout. They are interested in setting up a self perpetuating system of leadership, i.e. perpetuating THEIR leadership. This is directly opposite the creation of a self continuing system which means, the show goes on even without you. The 'without you' qualification is the scary part to politicians. So, typically, the leader sets up a system that perpetuates his rule. His subordinates are under achievers and mostly second raters. They won't rock the same boat they are in and certainly won't go against those to whom they are beholden.

On the other hand, that typical response and behavior reveals a lot about the type of politicians you are. Which type do you belong to?

Politicians are of 2 types, types A and B. Type A are career politicians. Type B are people who have political careers. Type B are the ones who make hay while the sun shines, make money out of their office. Type B are those who want to establish a self perpetuating system. Types A are those who enter politics to make a difference to improve things and enjoy having power because it gives then avenue for application.

The high salaries didn't answer one question though- why did the political leaders enter public service in the first place? Was the main reason, high salaries? A talented person can earn more in the private sector. Tony Tan was earning much more with OCBC. Richard Hu earned more with Shell Singapore than from government. Never met Tony Tan, but when I first joined OCBC in 1980, Tony Tan was heading OCBC group I think. He was a 1st class graduate in physics I think. When I was in Shell, Richard Hu had just left Shell Singapore. That's why I am using the examples of these people.

How do you entice talented people into public service? By talented I mean with formidable academic achievements, sterling service record and all that. Bright people, articulate, possessing of verve, presence of mind, cool and collected. Earning high salaries remove anxieties, insecurities, even out the risks and help retain the talents brought in.

But there is one lingering question. If high salaries were the only consideration, the PAP senior leaders wouldn't have to talent scout would they? Talents will invariably come into public service, because they are attracted to high salaries.

High salaries do not necessarily lead to quality politicians. They are powerful motivators but do not explain the continuing presence of quality leaders. They stay until they are voted out or retire. So there must be other things besides high salaries that can explain the presence of talented people in public service.

Singapore makes a big deal about this thing called character. A leader must have character and they go all out identifying the elements that make the character of a leader. How do you attract politicians of character then?

To get to the answers, we ask the perennial question, who wants to be a politician and why? How do monetary incentives affect the quality of politicians? A simple interpretation of what Singapore did would suggest that if society offers better financial rewards to politicians, it will attract the best talents.

This interpretation would be a tad naive, because it over simplifies the issue. Politicians then become like tomatoes or any other fruits that money can buy. We get better quality tomatoes, or a better car, if only one is prepared to pay more for them. But the market for politicians differs from the market for tomatoes.


The fact may be that there are 2 types of people in politics. (1) Those who are career politicians, call them group A and (2) those who have political careers, group B. Group A (career politicians) are people who "live for" politics: they really care for a cause and/or they enjoy power. These guys only leave politics when they are voted out.

Group B people "live off" politics: they are there for the money and they leave politics when voted out or when outside opportunities (in business, consultancy, etc) are better. They are not necessarily bad. They have different priorities.

But public offices prefer those who believe in a cause. Society too benefits having people who believe in a cause. How do you set up a system to ensure that more type A politicians come in?

What motivates each group to join politics? Group A people enter politics because of the non-monetary rewards of being in office; group B people enter politics in order to increase their monetary rewards (when and after they leave politics).

So, coming back to our opening lines; what happens if, say, the salary of politicians were to be increased many folds? For a start, there will be more 'flimsy' politicians. But, the increase in the number of wannabees will come mainly from group B (those who live "off" politics).

Ideally, in a situation of perfect information (i.e. voters can perfectly ascertain the quality of politicians), as the pool of candidates is now larger, the average quality of elected politicians is bound to increase.

The problem, of course, is information asymmetry: initially, the quality of a politician is not well-known to voters, only revealing itself over time, if at all. Suppose that there are initially 100 candidates from each group and only 100 in total are elected. Maybe this takes place; with uninformed voters choosing pretty much randomly, there would be, on average, 50 chosen from group A and 50 from group B.

Suppose now that the salaries double and, as a result, there are now 100 candidates from group A and 150 from group B. Uniformed voters, choosing blindly, will now elect 40 from group A and 60 from group B. Higher financial rewards have then altered the types of politicians. Whether the average quality of politicians has gone up or not depends on the quality of the new people emanating from group B.  Quality can go down if the salary increase leads to too many low-quality group B entrants.

As time goes by, talent gets partially revealed. The next time voters go to the polling booth, they have a better picture of the incumbents. Some group B people, who will have revealed their talent, will now be offered better outside options (in consultancy, etc) and do not ask for another mandate. There is therefore some adverse selection at play: only the worse of group B stays.

Group A people stay put, as they are career politicians. And new entrants arrive, only to confuse voters. What impact would the doubling of salaries now have on the new set of politicians chosen by voters? Once again, it depends. Two opposing forces are at play here. On one hand, the higher salary of politicians means that more candidates from group B will stay (lessening the adverse selection effect). This has a positive impact on the quality of politicians.

At this juncture, we don't judge our choice of type A or B politicians. We just want high quality politicians. But we have to in the end and so we move on to the next stage.

What do these tell you? That if you leave it purely to market forces, or allow the free flow of natural selection, the talent you actually want, i.e. those who believe in a cause, will be overwhelmed by group B politicians.

So what do you do? You intercede. You set up a system of identifying talented and suitable candidates. You set up a system that supports a self continuing politics. UMNO must talent scout and must set into play, a system that favours those who believe in its cause.


Reawakening UMNO.

Today I attended a meeting to finalize arrangements for a big UMNO do in Pahang. I have been asked to be a facilitator in the NEW MEDIA workshop.

Some people came up to me asking why I wasn't placed in the economics workshop. I have after all an advanced degree in economics. Doesn't necessarily make me a better economist but I am well placed to understand economic issues faster and better I think, than many of the UMNO windbags around.

I replied, would UMNO risk my asking awkward questions? I will pull no punches. They know how I feel about the Pahang GLCs. I have stated that some of them ought to be closed. I have asked for the removal of deadwoods.

They know how I feel about how the logging industry is managed. I have asked for a total ban on logging by private companies. All logs are to be cut down by approved contractors, and then brought to designated bonded areas to be sold off to all buyers. Break the monopoly is the way to go.

Go into the service industry- training, education, health care business. Go into pharmaceuticals.

They know how I feel about the supporting administrative structure of the state. Demand minimum entry requirements. Get people to learn English.

In any case, I am still free to talk about how others handle the economics workshops. Can't wait to expose their superficialities. I will certainly blog about them soon.

Anyway, I am pleased to be given a role to discuss the new media. I sincerely hope UMNO will look seriously into mastering the new media. It's losing ground there. Remember, the Kuala Terengganu by elections? It took a simple SMS message relayed to thousand of teachers to swing the votes to the opposition.

But isn't thought formation via the new media limited? Kampong people don't read the internet. UMNO people don't do blogging. Not many read blogs. True, but a sea change in opinion doesn't require the reading participation of many. It suffices to have a core group of vocal minority to articulate the issues and disseminate them to receptive audience. Powerful ideas that take root within above average intelligence will spread like wild fire. A prairie fire requires just a single spark.

The NEW MEDIA is indeed a powerful political tool. Obama supporters used it extensively to bring in the votes. Much damage was caused to BN during the 12th GE in 2008.

By NEW MEDIA , I understand it to mean the application of the internet as a medium of conveying thinking, ideas, information, misinformation, cyber wars, and all that. The purpose of which is to further the interests of the political party.

UMNO must muster the NEW MEDIA. It must do so with a sense of urgency. It must employ the new media to further its political objectives.

I have no problem in being partisan. But it must be done with honor. If UMNO does wrong things, we must highlight them. If they do the right things, we support them. If the leadership is weak, we tell them in their faces.

There is no other way and shortcuts. UMNO must be transparent in its deeds. It must own up. The big event by UMNO Pahang is precisely that- owning up that UMNO is facing problems and we are trying to take remedial measures.

This is the wonder of the new media. You break barriers with your thinking. The new media gives a new meaning to the expression democratization. It creates a new level playing field. What makes the internet potent is it breaks the monopoly over the shaping of people's mind hitherto monopolized by the old media (the 4th Estate- the Press). It empowers people.

So for UMNO to dismiss or not to take something that empowers people, it does that to its own peril.


Sunday 14 February 2010

Penang: Maulidur Rasul 2010


Ok, there was indeed a letter from Penang government. It stated this year's Maulidur Rasul procession is cancelled. In its place, the government will hold some other events- perhimpunan ummah events, majlis tazkirah, prayer sessions etc. 
I wasn't aware of the letter until just now. Because of that, someone said that I am an idiot ex adun. Ok, this idiot ex adun has this to say:-
So what's the big deal? UMNO shouldn't get worked up over this issue. In states controlled by BN, there were a number of years when no processions took place. In their place, events such as that announced by the Penang state government were carried out.
Muslim's devotion, love and affection to Prophet Mohammad were not lessened when we did not go on a march.
So if UMNO led governments cancel maulidur processions, can we call them anti Islam? I say, their inaction and inertia over the issue of kalimah Allah is more devastating than debating what LGE did or didn't do.
The institutions that support Islam, the practices that strengthen Islam, adopting religious values for social advancement, spiritual awakening are more important than debating whether this year we are going to march or not.
Tell you what; ask the UMNO ketua Bahagians to demonstrate their religious piety by conducting their own Maulidur Rasul Marches. If Lim Guan Eng bans them, then call him a dictator and Islamphobist.
Hello, the way to defeat Guan Eng is to show you can build a better mousetrap.


Maulidur Rasul Marches

I am not sure of the reasons about the hoo-has surrounding the 'decision NOT to have the maulidur rasul march' this year in Penang.
Maulidur rasul marches have one overriding aim in mind- that of publicly showing our love to the Prophet and showing to the world, that here in Malaysia, we are good Muslims. Good Muslims march in processions. They sing selawats loudly.
The essence of Muhammad and his message are often lost in  noisy marches.
Firstly, there wasn't any decision to ban at all. if Lim Guan Eng does that, it would be politically suicidal for him. As a non Muslim, he must have Muslim advisers. Go ask them what happened. Listening to the head of Jabatan Agama Islam Penang, he didn't indicate of any decisions not to hold events celebrating Prophet Muhammad. Indeed he was indicating looking at alternative forms/events on how to celebrate Prophet Muhammad meaningfully. If it's true that Penang is going to have a 3 day celebration of the Prophet by way of several programs, those events may turn out to be more meaningful.
The newspaper which made the reports didn't get the facts right and in the end, made the DPM look stupid. If Mohd Ali aka Cassius Clay were to be in Malaysia, he would be saying to DPM- you are stupid as you look. Tun Pak Lah? Well you know, maybe he was sleeping and people doubt whether he reads newspapers.
Second thing, about this maulidur rasul. It is insulting to Muslims to suggest that marching and sweating it out is the way to express our love to the prophet. Perhimpunan ummah, having special prayers, recounting the life of the prophet are better ways to celebrate our Prophets.
Some of the UMNO children don't know what to respond when hearing the name Muhammad SAW uttered. Some UMNO people and some remembers of the royalty I know, uttered the literal SAW( as in wood saw). So they will say, Muhammad S.A.W or saw instead of Sallalla hualai hiwasallam. Some even said Muhamad Subhanahu wataala. Yet these are the people who be pulling their hair and jump in showy tantrums, when maulidur rasul marches are not held.
It could be that holding maulidur rasul is essentially a political decision whether Islamic or secular. It could very also be a bidaah practice.
Many states under UMNO control don't hold maulidur rasul marches. They wisely decide that holding special prayers, reading of Yassin, holding out tazkirah, having majlis maulids are better. I would rather go to a ratib haddad session than to a maulidur rasul march. Or maybe I could suggest that marchers go visit the madrasah at taufiqiah al husainiah of Fuad al Rembawi. Those in Negeri Sembilan will achieve more listening  to ustaz Fuad than marching with MB Hassan.
After the march, what?Your Faith go up a few notches?


Saturday 13 February 2010

UMNO: How to compete

There's a simple test to see whether UMNO is stupid or not. If it takes in Zahrain who recently jumped ship from PKR, it is stupid.
It's already showing it's stupid by accepting the rejects from PR in Perak allowing BN to secure a majority in that state by forfeit. It didn't win through the ballot box but needed assist from the law. But, UMNO was able to capitalize only because of the low quality leadership the PR has in Perak.
There is a lesson here. Where is the low quality leadership located? The source of low quality didn't come from  leaders of the opposition. Nizar wasn't the one who wanted to abandon ship. The two DAP stalwarts n Perak, Ngar and Ngoh weren't the ones who wanted to turn coat. The source of bad news came from the middle level. They were the two guys who received sedekah in the form of amoy services and the DAP lady. They were mid level guys.
The lesson for UMNO is, it must pay attention to its mid level people. That is the source of good or bad leadership. The vital principle of 360 degree leadership is that 99% of leadership comes from the middle level.
So UMNO adds to its woes if it accepts bad apples from elsewhere at a time, when UMNO itself is currently busy re-engineering its own leadership quality. Zahrain can go jump from Penang Bridge for all we care. Just don't come into UMNO.
If UMNO accepts this joker in the PKR pack, that shows UMNO is willing to compromise its values. Yet it has declared to the world, that it wants to change so that it will remain relevant for many more years. If it accepts Zahrain, it only goes to show, its declaration about wanting to turn a new leaf is just hype.
What it must do right now from the beginning is to put back quality leadership. As we all know, 99% of the leadership comes from the middle level- the ketua cawangans, the ketua bahagians, the AJK Bahagian, across the party. You put back quality leadership by demanding that UMNO accepts quality. Zahrain is already a reject. If UMNO accepts him, it accepts rejects.
One of the things taught by Michael Porter is- we must demand high standards from our suppliers, from sellers and producers. We don't compromise on quality. That's how we compete. By offering top notch products. By demanding suppliers and producers supply us the best.
Our demand is expressed by the price we are willing to pay. We vote through our wallets. This explains why some products which are expensive continue to be sought after and their sales grow despite steep prices.
UMNO is useless in this respect. It doesn't demand the highest quality from its candidates and leaders. Hence, the ketua cawangans are dominated by riff raffs and ne'er do wells. Its top leadership is questionable. Its representatives are full with out of line characters.


Gong Xi Fa Cai

I wish all my Chinese readers, a happy and prosperous New Year. Gong Xi Fa Cai. Let us all work together for a better Malaysia.

See the lion dance and prance,
Dance and prance, dance and prance.
See the lion dance and prance
On Chinese New Year's Day.

Hear the firecrackers pop,
Pop,pop,pop; pop,pop,pop
Hear the firecrackers pop
On Chinese New Year's Day.

With warmest regards/ sakmongkol ak 47


Friday 12 February 2010

Fair dinkum, mate


It's Anwar's comeuppance. How come a person like Nik Aziz isn't plagued with an accusation of sodomy like Anwar? Nik Aziz is a bigger person than Anwar. It would be politically profitable to bump Nik Aiz with such an accusation.

No one would believe that right? So why should the government be stupid enough to choose an Issue that will be treated as ridiculous and so preposterous? It is the nature of the accusation that allows Anwar to speak of a bloody conspiracy. Unless you are convinced it's true, you are willing to take the risks.

So Anwar Supporters shouldn't flatter themselves saying Anwar is a threat to BN or UMNO.

The reason is, Anwar opens himself to that charge. He must have that tendency that makes him susceptible to such a charge. There must be something in Anwar that attracts such accusations.

Just like the first sodomy charge, why pick such difficult issue to get Anwar? You know his credentials- the Renaissance man, the one who incessantly talks of Islamic this and that, who seems to breath and live Islam all his life. To get on him on a charge that is so unIslamic given his credentials would be suicidal. The accuser will face not only local ridicule but also earn the ire of the whole world.

Unless of course, the charge was true. So bizarre and preposterous it could only be true. That the government is willing to go through all the difficulties, contempt and odium to nail Anwar, tells something of substance in the accusation. In the end he was lucky, on technicalities he got away. The courts were of the opinion that some homosexual activities did take place. Why should anyone be willing to pay such a high price unless the issue is true? That Anwar is really a bugger and a faggot.

Now a second sodomy charge- why go through the whole thing again unless it's true? Why should Malaysia risks international disapproval or as Michael Danby says, Malaysia's global esteem will go down. Sorry mate, this case simply will not go away just because 50 or so insufficiently informed Aussies didn't like what's happening to Anwar. Nobody says its plain sailing for the government prosecutors. Every contention will be disputed. The vehement disputes from the defence will have to come to terms with evidence and facts.

We are acting fair dinkum, mate. We are sorry it offends your sexual sensibilities.


How fare IJN?


Dear Friend,

I haven't written about IJN for some time. The MOF has quietly approved the management buyout of IJN by a group of doctors. The government is going to be suckered on this. Might as well say it outright at the outset.

This simply means a group of doctors, well heeled ones, ganged up together and proposes to the government, they want to take over and manage the hospital. Which means, its back to square one. Imagine that- when it was operated on something like a sendirian berhad or single business unit, the doctors made a lot of noise decrying that arrangement which basically allows a few people to dictate the running and operating of IJN as a business. They wanted a piece of the action. They didn't want to see only one person ( Yahya Awang) make a lot of money.

Envious of that arrangement, they kicked out that arrangement and put in place a management structure that would evolve IJN into something like Mayo Clinic and other well known hospitals. The doctors probably realized later, by structuring the hospital on business lines, that decision cut off a lot of profit which could go into their hands.

Hence they pestered the government to revert to the old style of a sendirian berhad. The doctors even enlisted the support of Tun Dr Mahathir to give credence to their idea.

How much did you buy IJN?

The rakyat wants to know at how much? The building and all the equipments therein were bought using government money. They even built a new wing for around RM 10 million. It has good will. It has become a brand. So we want to know for how much and the method of payment.

What's the latest news? You may remember, the doctors presented the PM a very sanitized and altruism impregnated proposal. They are looking out for the interest of the rakyat. We are doctors. We save lives. Money, not important. It's a calling.

So what's the first order of the day at its first board meeting? It was the approval of a salary increase for only 73 doctors ranging from 5% to 65%. That would cost the government what a few millions a year? Read this. This year's projected loss is RM 36 million. IJN making losses but salary of 73 doctors rise by RM 4 million a year?

That salary increase will obviously cut into the operating cost of the hospital. It's not related to productivity. Beds are empty and the number of doctors insufficient. There is a long waiting list. But the gang doesn't want to increase the number because they would mean having to share with more and ending up with less.

But what about the salary of those at the lower rung? The nurses, attendants, and other services? The 73 doctors simply put out their demand as a fait acompli- give us what we want, or we get out. Will MOF capitulate?

There go all those pretentious altruistic intentions of Hippocratic Oath taking individuals. You may well change them to hypocritical oath takers.

This is a government hospital. So if we throw out the management model that could turn IJN into a center of excellence, why not place it under MOH? Doctors at IJN earn astronomical salaries, those working at government hospitals earned paltry sums. If so, why not turn every government owned hospitals into something similar to what IJN is currently doing? That is, allow a group of doctors at each hospital to propose taking over and managing their respective hospitals as a single business unit. So that, at their first board meeting, they too can approve a handsome salary increase.

But beyond these tantrums and antics, what is actually happening at IJN? You are turning it into a single business unit susceptible to takeovers in the future. Or you are turning IJN into as single business unit that confers on the doctors planning such a business structure, an exit opportunity. Thus in future, if the gang of doctors find the running difficult, they can always cash out to a deep pocket corporate player. What's stopping Sime Darby for example; to offer the doctors at a later stage some very enticing offers? Because the doctors have already shown at its first board meeting, they want to earn more money.

Where do they learn this kind of tricks? Maybe they took to heart (no pun intended) the corporate exploits of one Tseu Fui Loong. Now who on earth is this bloke? Never heard of him?

Well he was the owner of Sabah Medical Center. One day, SMC built Hospital LIkas in Sabah. SMC built it on a design and build concept. After completion, SMC sold hospital Likas for RM 250 million or so to MOH. Why didn't MOH build a hospital itself?

The government bought it through MOH. Why MOH bought this hospital from SMC, we don't know. It doesn't know the business in Sabah. In order to keep it as a viable buy, SMC rented back from MOH 2 floors at Hospital Likas. That probably saved MOH's business venture. Remember, TFL ha already sold Likas to MOH at ¼ billion Ringgit. He then sells 51% share of SMC to Kumpulan Perubatan Johor( KPJ). He is in business of building and selling hospitals.

You see, the doctors at IJN are probably learning from TFL. He is their hero. Turn IJN into as a single business unit. Sell to a buyer later. Or sell to the government. Or maybe sell some portion to Sime Darby, some to MOH and some to KPJ. Each shareholder makes a lot of money and can even work as a salaried doctor under a new organization co owned by deep pocketed corporations and MOH.

What's the deal with IJN and SMC and TFL? That my friend is another story.


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