Monday, November 23, 2009

The Election Commision's Wearing the Emperor's New Clothes

There's a certain level of idiocy when one looks at something black and says it's white. Then there's an additional level of incredulity when one really expects everyone to swallow it whole. It brings to mind the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, except here, the emperor's not just strutting in the nude, he's trying to sell his fashion line as well.

First of all you have this Datuk Abdul Hasan Sarif, a Kedah assemblyman, who couldn't be bothered showing up for the state assembly. You're called an assemblyman - the job is to go to the assembly!

And then, on the grounds that it cost too much, the Election Commission tries, and fails, to not hold an election. You're called an election commission - the job is to commission elections!

Beyond the obvious contradictions, the real crime here is having a public institution like the Election Commission fight for a specific party, when the highest call of its duty is to be an impartial body. In a country with too many who are too jaded, or too willing to sit and back and watch, one won't hear a strong enough chorus for the resignation of the EC's clearly biased officials. Officials, who in a more robust society, in a more robust time, would be tarred and feathered by now.

Amidst all this though, some small reasons for hope. First, the high court judge who had the sense not only to rule without fear nor favour. Second, last year's elections, which showed that while some might not ride to the front lines, they don't exactly have as short memories as they used to.

In neighbouring Perak, the strategy seems to be to keep these memories refreshed. With the Election Commission's New Clothes coming after us, another reminder to keep our eyes truly open for those who would commit daylight robbery.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Late to Exhume Reputations of Local Pathologists

Respected pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, director-general of Thailand’s Ministry of Justices Central Institute of Forensic Science, provided medical confirmation to what seems to be in the arena of common sense to many Malaysians: that Teoh Beng Hock's death was most likely murder.

And all she had to work with were pictures reports of our local pathologists, which was enough to put a nail in the coffin of their professional reputations. The Star's report mentioned that "She added that there was a need to cut open the skin to check for internal bleeding to determine whether Teoh had been tortured. (Both the pathologists who had conducted the postmortem on Teoh had not done so.)"

The Malaysian Insider report included a further contradiction:

"She rejected the idea that the anus was penetrated by a bone fragment, which had been put forward by local pathologist, Dr Khairul Aznam Ibrahim from the Hospital Tengku Rahimah Ampuan in Klang. She reasoned that if that had happened, the force would have punctured the area opposite its entry and not as what was shown in the autopsy photos taken."

The two local pathologists - Dr Khairul and Dr Prashant Samberkar of the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre - failed likewise on the level of medicine and common sense. Medically by coming to conclusions without any reasonable basis and having an incomplete autopsy, and not having the common sense to know that it would be only a matter of time before a real expert would be well able to point out the inaccuracies.

With the possibility of a second post-mortem in the air, they may be in for a second round of shame. The credibility of these pathologists, who seemed too eager to take away any possibility of MACC responsibility, seemed to smell from the start. It seems that even now, their reputations will be far too late to exhume.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

From King-Makers to King-Takers: The Chaos Theory of the MCA

The Malaysian Insider was quick to call the situation in the MCA as being "chaos" while the MCA-owned Star was not surprisingly more cautious, calling the situation that of "uncertainty". One thing is certain though, that is that there is a strange thread of logic in any bit of chaos.

To see how this works we need to recap the election results. From the Star:

The resolutions

1) Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek That the members of the general assembly have no confidence in the leadership of Ong
ADOPT: 1155 REJECT: 1141 SPOILT: 8

2) That the presidential council’s decision on Aug 26 in accepting the recommendation of the disciplinary board and the subsequent decision of the central committee (if any) to expel or suspend Dr Chua is annulled
ADOPT: 1204 REJECT: 1095 SPOILT: 5

3) That Dr Chua be rightfully restored as MCA deputy president
ADOPT: 1110 REJECT: 1184 SPOILT: 10

In summing up the results, the Malaysian Insider said that:

"In the process, MCA’s delegates rejected the leadership of both Datuk Seri Ong and deputy president Chua Soi Lek.

With both the No. 1 and No. 2 men sidelined, the MCA will have no figure of authority in charge for the first time in its 60-year history, and the results pleased nobody."

Well, that's not entirely accurate - while it certainly is true that neither the Ong Tee Keat and Chua Soi Lek camps were given a victory, a particularly small number of central delegates who snubbed both had their way. And when other elections may have their king-makers, here we have instead king-takers.

Perhaps the EGM showed a kind of democracy that few other elections, whether in Malaysia or abroad have - the kind that not only allows people to support a candidate, but to vote against a candidate without having to support his opponent.

So how indeed do the numbers play out? It is hard to say for sure the voters' intentions, but here are two ways one can look at it.

1. Obviously each camp has its core supporters. Let's take Chua Soi Lek - with 1155 people voting against his nemesis, 1204 to annul the disciplinary action against him, and 1110 to reinstate him as deputy president.


  • there were 1110 delegates who voted for him on all counts - core supporters
  • 45 delegates who did not care to support him at all but did not think Ong Tee Keat acted well either
  • 94 delegates who thought the disciplinary action against him was too much but who did not support him as deputy president. Out of these, 49 candidates chided Ong Tee Keat for his overbearing actions, but didn't think it enough to kick him out.
2. On the other hand, Ong Tee Keat had 1141 supporting his continuation as president, 1095 supporting his actions against his deputy, and 1184 against his archrival.

  • 1095 delegates supported him fully, supporting him on all counts, including his actions against Chua Soi Lek
  • 46 continued to support his presidency, though they used the occasion to overturn the particular actions against his deputy
  • 89 delegates voted against Chua Soi Lek - but also did not support Ong Tee Keat.
So, we have between 45 to 89 delegates out of over two thousand whose double punch ruled the day... and who have proven why my lack of ability to make the numbers tally is a reminder that I would never have done well as an accountant.

At the end of the day, however, it is perhaps not these numbers but a variation of the old Malay adage that describes it best: gajah sama gajah berjuang, pelanduk tembak dari tengah-tengah.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lagu Kampung Buah Pala

Sung to the tune of "Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur".

Janganlah tamak Kampung Buah Pala
Cari masalah... don't push your luck lah.
Janganlah tamak Kampung Buah Pala
Ini bukan cara Satu Malaysia.

Sudah lama dah pergi ke ma-kah-mah
Hakim kata, pergi sajalalah
Anda cabar dengan guna tahi lembu
Apa ini? Cadangan Samy Vellu?

Janganlah tamak Kampung Buah Pala
Cari masalah... don't push your luck lah.
Saya tahu kau punya grouse
Tapi saya pun tak milik double storey house.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Cost of a Flighty Ong Tee Keat

The costs of four flights made by Ong Tee Keat could buy you - at the very least - twenty-one trips around the world.

In The Malaysian Insider's article entitled KDSB calls Tee Keat a 'freeloader' with their jets:

"Asked about the costs to make a trip on a private jet, Faizal replied that it was between RM10,500 to RM17,500 per hour, excluding landing charges and crew allowances.

He estimated that the total cost for the four trips made by Ong amounted to between RM105,000 and RM140,000.

He also confirmed that there were other politicians, including from MCA, who had used Wijaya Baru jets but stressed that Ong was the only one who had not paid."

A round-trip flight to the United States - halfway around the world, and back - costs less than RM4,000 if you know how to book your tickets. Even at the higher estimate of RM5K - and not taking into account frequent flyer miles - and the lowest estimate of Ong's flight costs, that's 21 times around the globe. If he can afford that out of his own pocket, I'd ask how he got that wealthy. If he's (literally) passing the buck, well, I'd ask if the definition of Transport Minister means that he costs the most to transport.

Readers of this blog may have noticed that I've been rather critical of Penang's new chief minister Lim Guan Eng in issues of Kampung Buah Pala and Lee Kuan Yew... nonetheless, one can't help but draw a particular comparison...

...when one remembers he flys commercial, economy-class.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Do You Know How to Squeeze a Little Buah Pala Juice?

Well, it does seem that some people know how to squeeze a watermelon out of a nutmeg.

Alright, let's get some misconceptions sorted out. These aren't exactly the hardcore poor we're talking about, no matter what their bullock-cart protests may imply. Anyone able to keep an official website isn't doing that badly, methinks.

And a quick look at their Facebook group has this as their description:

"The village is on the Penang Island and as a heritage village, it is almost 200 years old.

In mid-2008, George Town was awarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. But the irony is that developers Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd want to destroy Kampung Buah Pala, and rob the Island of its beautiful heritage and culture!"

A "heritage village"? What the heck? Did UNESCO come to tour Kampung Buah Pala? I can hear them going: we were just going to award Malacca, but when we saw Kampung Buah Pala we knew we had to add in Penang... the stunning architecture reminiscent of... um, well, the bullock! Oh yes, we like to award places which are really full of bull.

And did either the previous or current state governments list Kampung Buah Pala on the list of things tourists should visit? Are we taking sufficient steps by both the State Exco for Culture as well as Tourism Malaysia to make sure that everyone knows that a visit to Penang's cultural sites is never complete without a visit to Kampung Buah Pala? Hellllllllllo???

To imply that the developer wants to "rob the Island of its beautiful heritage and culture"... come on. It's a developer. Like all developers, it wants to make a profit, plain and simple.

Was there a land scam? Maybe yes, maybe no, and it's a valid question. But one which is by far unassociated to the fact these so-called victims never owned the land on which they resided, and should be grateful that they received free space for all the two hundred years they claim to have been there. As we near Merdeka Day, it is rather shameful that the ingenuity of Malaysians is showing how we turn a land scam into a bigger land scam.

The only squatters' rights, in this author's opinion, is the one you get when you go to the loo - two hundred years ago to today: a heritage squat, you might say.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Perfect Anti-ISA Protest Idea

Though it wasn't originally for that purpose, I can't think of a better way of organizing a protest... the anti-ISA people should keep it in mind. First of all, it's a little harder to arrest people as a group (Malaysia not having the freedom to congregate) if they're all 1) individually 2) doing nothing. Second, by the time the cops arrive, they've all blended into the public. All they need is a slogan, like "We stop so they will. ISA: it halts our way of life."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From Kuan Yew... to Kiasu

When the dust clears, one has to wonder, to whom indeed is Lee Kuan Yew the mentor of, like the wise old guru on the top of some sacred hill. In recent days, that hill is Penang Hill. The former Singaporean Prime Minister, on a lightning tour of Peninsula Malaysia, provides a negative comment on the development level of Penang, and all hell breaks loose.

As James Chin wrote, "His comments about crumbling infrastructure in Penang compared to Ipoh sparked off a war of words between DAP and Gerakan over who is responsible for Penang’s decay. Why do Malaysians take his words, in this case just a side remark, so seriously?"

Answering his own question, he continued, "I suspect the reason why Malaysians, especially the Chinese press, take his comments so seriously is in part based on historical sentiment, and another part based on Singapore’s economic performance."

The real question, in my opinion, is the rhetorical one: why do we need his approval? Mahathir may have been snide in calling him "The Little Emperor", but as least he was more supportive of his own country than the likes of the DAP and Gerakan, who seem like bickering children hungry for a smile from Grandfather Lee.

Food for thought is also if Penangites would really want to rub a magic lamp and have a Minister Genie transform the island into Singapore? The modern infrastructure will no doubt be useful, not to mention real social development with meritocracy at its core. But everything comes with opportunity cost and suddenly the focus will be your personal infrastructure when Penangites will have to work longer and harder to own their own houses. Houses, you say? Think again.

Essentially what people like our current and former chief ministers have done is paint a poor picture of Penang and its people as not having enough faith in, and pride in, the uniqueness of our state... warts and all.

Ultimately we're having a guest, not an auditor, and the proper response to Lee Kuan Yew is: sorry sir, in this country we learn that the first lesson of being a good guest is to not insult our hosts. And that, perhaps, sets us apart a little more than infrastructure ever will.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Courting Trouble Fast, by Appealing for Common Sense

When faced with criticisms both within and beyond, the Malaysian government has always been quick to respond that proof of democracy here is that we hold free elections. When someone from the United States once pointed out that by that yardstick even Hitler had elections, there was a great hue and cry that Malaysia's sovereignty was insulted when the Nazi dictator and this country were uttered "in the same breath".

Even by the government's shallow breadth of democracy, the state of Perak falls rather short, with calls for a new mandate falling on deaf ears. Even Mahathir has mentioned that elections would see BN losing - in essence admitting that while the courts may be in their corner, and perhaps even a legislative vote of no confidence with the aid of self-serving frogs, the confidence of the people of Perak is a different story entirely.

Zambry is of course trying to maximize the decision of the Appellate Court as much as he was trying to minimize (with record breaking judicial speeds from a stay to a hearing to a decision) the judgment of the High Court. Once again, however, he has fallen on his own sword, a victim of sad irony. First, there was his little statement comparing himself to Gandhi - while the Pakatan Rakyat face the police when they try a simple fast. There were the calls from BN leaders asking the PR people to respect and accept the new court decision - contrasted to the previous decision when Najib said he would "solve the problem."

And now, a very large foot in a very large mouth appears for Zambry - as the
Malaysian Insider reports:

"The people should not be fearful or apprehensive in bringing up problems related to illegal settlement and land to the state government, said Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir."

By risking mentioning the obvious, how about the illegal settlement OF the state government?

Or at least, in the next breath, an immoral one?

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Page Turns in Perak and Najib Tries to "Solve the Problem"

It really shouldn't be such a surprise that the system of justice in our country affirmed what the fair-minded already know to be true. But the concept of due process, of checks and balances has been so usurped, so tainted with scandal that many did not have the faith that there would be a fair day in court. The Malaysian Insider reported that even Nizar, who never gave up in the face of adversity, was stunned by the decision. So yes, this is a moment for celebration for the truly democratic. But in the much larger picture, it is a time for us to work towards a day when courting true justice is not a gamble, but a guarantee.

The Barisan's Options

It seems, however, that the Barisan Nasional is not ready to throw in the towel. It has two major options, and it is likely it will travel both paths simultaneously.

One is to challenge the High Court decision, and place a request to stay its execution pending appeal. The Barisan-linked mainstream media has been quick to place this right next to Nizar's victory, with UMNO-connected TV3 unbelievably making the headline news Najib's assertion that the BN has a solid case for appeal, instead of the actual court decision.

The other option comes back to the Perak monarchy, which in the absence of Sultan Azlan Shah away in the United States places Raja Nazrin, the Regent, in the limelight. Early Tuesday morning he will grant an audience to the rightful MB, and if he does not consent to a dissolution of the state assembly he could instead instruct a sitting of the assembly to table a vote of no-confidence against Nizar. On a legally technical level, Zambry would then be legitimized as the new MB.

The Pakatan's Options

The Pakatan Rakyat has several options in its favour as well. At this point, the royal household has a chance to regain some trust of the people, and more importantly restore rule of law in the state. Should the Regent chose to call for a sitting instead of a dissolution, the argument could be put forward that the sitting under the Tree of Democracy is now considered valid. This would also imply that the decision of the state assembly to dissolve was valid, and it is purely awaiting an already much-delayed execution.

Second, is that not only has Nizar defeated Zambry in a court of law - but Sivakumar is the rightful Speaker of the House, not Ganesan. Further, the decision also affirms the rasionale for suspending Zambry and his "Exco", since the judge declared the process of taking over the Perak government undemocratic. Without those barred from the assembly, the Barisan cannot claim a majority.

Even if the Barisan somehow claim a majority supporting a vote of no confidence, it is hard to imagine Zambry gaining the trust of the public after being essentially declared by the High Court as an illegitimate MB.

Quotes of the Day

Najib: “We will solve the problem.”

Ironically, the only way to "solve" the problem is to DISsolve the assembly.

A rather long, but worthwhile read by the young John Lee, including this comparitive account of history:

In the 17th century, England was ruled by King Charles I — a firm believer in the principle that might makes right, and that the executive reigns supreme. Parliament increasingly refused to go along with his oppressive taxes and repressive policies.

Infuriated, Charles led a band of armed men to Parliament to arrest his opponents, violently entering the House of Commons.

Finding that the MPs had fled, the King displaced Speaker William Lenthall from his chair, and demanded to know where they had gone.

Lenthall’s words, much like former Perak MB Nizar Jamaluddin’s “Patik mohon derhaka,” have gone down in history as a brave defence of the right of elected legislatures to deliberate in peace, without heed for the executive’s wishes: “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.”

But first prize goes to the Star Online, for - probably inadvertantly - letting a snide side remark getting posted on one of the sub-headings:

Somehow it brings to mind the ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."

That we do, indeed.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Perak Aftermath: In Some Circles They Would Call This Talking Out of Your...

...well, I'll leave that to your imagination. Let's just say Christina Aguilera would have an inkling.

If you thought that it was something to see the gall in trying to legitimize a BN-run Perak government, all you had to to was wait a day to hear the pathetic excuses for their actions.

The Malaysian Insider noted Zambry's comments:
Zambry agreed the police were not supposed to be in the chambers but added the BN-elected speaker Datuk R Ganesan had the power under the standing orders to call in the police.

“Ganesan had no choice but to ask the police to help control the dewan. Let the people decide on the actions of the Pakatan assemblymen today,” said Zambry.

Whoever works as Zambry's PR guy could best advise the purported Mentri Besar to leave out the words "let the people decide" out of his speeches. For that is exactly what he is preventing.

The next case of foot-in-mouth came from Hee Yit Foong, who said of her former DAP colleagues: "Hati mereka ada hantu." Never mind that every kid in every school who hears this will laugh their heads off. And add it to their toilet grafitti.

And then the PM decides to open up another can of worms in today's Malaysian Insider:

Speaking to reporters today, Najib, who is also Umno president, brushed aside PR claims that the takeover in Perak was unconstitutional.

He cited Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister, as an example of a politician who had changed parties.

Churchill you say? The words of Churchill himself are the best rebuttal of our Prime Minister:

"He is one of those orators of whom it was well said, 'Before they get up, they do not know what they are are going to say; when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying; and when they have sat down, they do not know what they have said.'" ~ Winston Churchill.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fashion Police

When it comes whatever extent of a democracy Malaysia has, one thing is certain - we like to keep things literal. When it came to throwing the book, Karpal Singh famously took it one step further in Parliament by throwing his shoe. When it came to branches of government, the legitimate Perak government took it one step further by turning to the Tree of Democracy. And now police have arrested Wong Chin Huat for sedition for suggesting that people wear black today in protest of the Barisan Nasional's hostile takeover of the Perak government - bringing a special new stench to the words "fashion police." Plus, the undemocratic nature of Barisan Nasional's "power-grab" is certified with the physical removal of Perak Speaker Sivakumar from his seat.

Photo sourced from Lim Kit Siang, showing the forced removal of Sivakumar

Ultimately, people will remember the words of people like Najib and Muhiyiddin falsely accusing the Pakatan Rakyat of forcing unnecessary by-elections (which in itself makes no sense), when in Perak these very politicians are doing their best to avoid what is a necessary state-wide election.

All this while Dr Mahathir maintains his classic independent streak (despite all the show of solidarity at the UMNO General Assembly) by commenting again on the validity of the removal of Perak Mentri Besar Nizar:

As far as I know, the federal constitution states very clearly that a monarch cannot remove a prime minister. He can refuse to appoint a prime minister, but once appointed you cannot remove him until there's a vote of no-confidence made against him. - Dr Mahathir, as reported by mysinchew
Once upon a time, Malaysia received a black eye in international standing when more literally Anwar Ibrahim received a black eye while in police custody, hit - while handcuffed - by none other than the top man in the police force. Today, the police have decided to give themselves a black eye, going against not the power of black shirts, but the strength of ideals and ideas of conscience, due process and the true quality of one's democracy.

Perhaps even more importantly, they have failed to protect the people of Perak - including their democratically elected Speaker - from those who would usurp their right to decide.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dollars and Sense

As the Malaysian expression goes: so clever. Najib has actually found a way to attack his opponents before the Penanti by-election is announced - by saying that by-elections cost money. As the Star reported Najib as saying:
"It is different if an elected representative dies but resignations are political decisions which can also be regarded as a political ploy," he said.
Now, if this had been in regards to the Permatang Pauh by-election I would see the logic in that. (Though Anwar could of course put forward the argument that he should have been eligible in March 2008 to begin with.) But that was months ago... and it would take a true dumbass to believe that Fairus or PKR is engineering a political ploy, for the whole issue is not doing the Pakatan Rakyat any favours.
Speaking at a press conference... he said the people resent by-elections that were held deliberately.
If the people truly do resent these by-elections, apparently they resent the Barisan Nasional even more, with the Bukit Selambau and Permatang Pauh by-elections showing a larger majority for the Pakatan Rakyat victory.

Also in the Star:
When asked if Mohammad Fairus had betrayed his constituents with his resignation, he said it was up to the people to judge was had transpired.

"The people are smart now and can make up their own minds," he added.
Well, the people of Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Permatang Pauh certainly made up their own minds. And smart they were.

If one would like to save up some money from by-elections, I suspect that those who were sprayed with water from the police could suggest ways to be more efficient with costs.

At the end of the day this smacks of a smokescreen, diverting our attention from what is truly important: that while by-elections may be costly in currency, the denial of people's right to choose in the cases of three Perak party-hoppers is far more costly to our democracy.

*April 19 update: ...or a smokescreen for not fielding a candidate towards certain defeat!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Malaysian's One Track Mind

The Malaysian Insider reported on new PM Najib's explanation of his "One Malaysia" concept.

And it seems that Samy Vellu's little tantrum on not getting his minister's post back has not gone unnoticed:

“The MIC should have been thankful to the government for freeing the 13 and not only focus on the two Hindraf members released.

“If we freed two Hindraf members, don’t forget there were 11 others. Don’t think about Hindraf alone,” he said.

Wait a second. The MIC should be thankful to the government? Isn't the MIC, as part of the Barisan Nasional, part of the government? So - in other words, the One Malaysia concept is about dividing the ruling coalition and telling which factions should be more greatful? Hmm...

Not surprisingly, between the lines, a One Malaysia promoted by these folks end up being Umno-centric:

He said under the One Malaysia concept, if it concerned poverty eradication, it should encompass all races irrespective of whether they were from urban or rural areas, estates, new villages or aboriginal settlements.

“It (One Malaysia) does not mean the policy to help the bumiputras is sidelined, in fact it will give implementation of the policy greater impetus so as to ensure that eligible bumiputras get their due consideration,” he said.

Further impetus - on a programme that takes out certain Malaysians and considers them as "special" compared to the rest. If that is Najib's concept of a One Malaysia, then it's clear which Ones he has in mind.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spin, spin, spin!

It was, to say the least, a tough spin. Bernama TV had guest panelists who were quick to say that the BN's defeat at the hands of Mohd. Nizar Jamaluddin was not reflective of the overall sentiment of Perak. They transfered their broadcast to Muhyiddin Yassin's press conference - right until the very moment a reporter asked if the BN loss was due to (now contested) Perak government takeover.

Extrapolating results apparently is not possible when the BN loses... but it's a different case when the BN wins. The New Straits Times website put the Batang Ai win by BN as showing that there was "no room for PKR" in Sarawak. If this were the case, wouldn't it just as easily show that the Perak win was a referendum on Najib's engineered Perak party-hopping coup?

Bernama TV even had a caller who voiced his opinion that the reason for the BN loss in Perak was not because the BN wasn't strong but the people didn't know how to "use their wisdom". And the favoured phrase seems to be that Nizar obtained "sympathy votes". Which, instead of indicating the sentiments of the people, is used to paint the voters as irrationally emotional. Somehow I doubt that will go down well the next time these same voters go back to the ballot box.

Let's recap the things the BN fellas - whether rightly or shadily - had running for them:
  • The elections were held on a day that conveniently avoided the UMNO elections - and provided a boost media-wise for the party event (not to mention the Hindraf ISA releases soon after)
  • The elections were held on the same day - helpful for the larger BN machinery
  • The PR people were slapped with a ban on discussing certain issues - including the Altantunya court case
  • Dr Mahathir's return to the fold and to the campaign trail
And that's not even taking into account the regular advantages of "instant noodle" development and media coverage. So far since the "political tsunami" one year ago (and many BN "post-mortem"s to boot) the score is PR:4 to BN:1.

At the end of all this, what is the BN response?

"Maybe the people are undecided, so we will have to work harder to convince them."
- newly minted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

This, immediately following the by-election results with a high voter turnout and leading majorities for both PR wins - showing exactly how confidently the people had decided.

Like I said, for the Barisan it was a tough spin. And even a harder sell.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Irony, Oh The Irony

Muhyiddin Yassin, the UMNO veep with his eyes on the deputy president's post, has apparently decided to show how good he'd be as a bulldog No. 2. In The Star today, his comments on the resignation of Penang Deputy CM Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin:

“The crisis shows a shaky government and proves they are incapable. They wanted to hide it at first, but now it has become a crisis,” he said.

I get a feeling that he thinks that Ali Rustam's ungraceful exit from the upcoming UMNO elections makes him seem like the cleaner candidate. But he is forgetting the larger picture that Ali Rustam is still in the same party, a party that decided to retain him as Chief Minister of Melacca - a position higher than that of Fairus.

To add to add, Ali has been found guilty of money politics, when at worst Fairus has been accused of being a poor performer. In the mangled words of media today, I believe readers wil agrees that I just "rubbished" Muhyiddin's assertions.

Irony works both ways though, as this article shows that the vandalism of the Democracy Plaque has turned in the Pakatan's favour.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Prosecution Asks Court to Shoot Legal Profession in the Foot

There's a disturbing trend for trying to lock up people who, in all respects, are doing their jobs.

First, there was the case of the Sin Chew reporter who published the racist remarks uttered by Ahmad Ismail. She ended up under the ISA, a move so politically disastrous that the Home Minister had to backtrack, saying that it was for her own protection. Ahmad Ismail on the other hand got a slap on the wrist, and was welcomed as a hero in his own UMNO branch, indicating the apparent UMNO philosophy that calling fellow citizens “penumpang” is really something you should just say a little quieter.

Now this with Karpal Singh, being charged under the Sedition Act for recommending a avenue of appeal is entirely legal. Here’s news to the powers-that-be: he’s a lawyer, and he was talking about the law. To top it off, he’s not talking about a technicality or a hypothetical case – he’s actually filed suits against royalty before. Not to mention that the law was actually put in place by UMNO’s former president, and signed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of the day.

Now the court has a rather distasteful matter in front of it. The prosecution, has already shot the legal profession in one foot, and is asking the court to finish the job of judicial suicide. They are being asked, in the home of the system of justice in our country designed to enforce the law of the land, to convict a person for speaking about what that law actually is all about.

If the Malaysian public can’t see the extent of idiocy in this act of lunacy, then the courts don’t have much left to shoot.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Homing in on the 'Even More' Unintelligent

In the article in today's Star, 'Teresa Kok files suit over detention under ISA', Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar is quoted as saying:

"I have faced many legal suits before. I will carry out my duty even more diligently despite the suit."
~ Syed Hamid Albar

Even more diligently? The way I see it, this has one of the following implications:

1. That before he was sued, he was well, somewhat less diligent.

2. Whenever the Home Minister faces a legal suit, it has the tendency to hinder his diligence.

3. If the suit was not filed, the Home Minister would carry out his duties less diligently.

In the meantime, Najib's wife, commenting on the DPM's soon-to-be promotion, is apparently hearing the voice of the Almighty:

"If God says it is his turn, it is his turn." ~
Rosmah Mansor

That, I must say, is a new one. After all in politics, it's more often "the Devil made me do it".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What’s In Your Handphone?

Here’s a radical thought: invest not in your government. In any government. Vote for the ones you think best serve the people, the ideals, the rights, the equality upon which democracy rests, all this to be sure. But place your real investments, your rallies, your vigils, your microscope on those institutions which are intended to keep your government in check.

Your courts.

Your media. Including the computer screen in front of you.

Your election commission.

Your police.

Your anti-corruption agency, in whatever name it brands itself tomorrow.

Governments will come and go, and some will be better than others, but these, these are the barometers of democracy. These are what define our democracy, and be it the truth that I believe it is, our report card isn’t too flashy.

The mainstream media brands the man who stands up to protect his wheelchair-bound father from street thugs akin to one convicted of road rage. The Election Commission places by-elections in a place particularly convenient for the Umno elections. The riot police charge peaceful demonstrations – including one in the middle of singing the national anthem.

And the anti-corruption agency? The Star reports on the chief commisioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission:

“Ahmad Said has been attacked in blogs and via e-mail over the issue of his son bringing child pornographic material into Australia. His son, a pilot, pleaded guilty and paid a fine for the offence.

Ahmad Said vehemently denied that it was child pornography. He said that the titles of the video clips found in his son’s laptop computer were misleading.

‘I can bet with you that it’s something that you will find on most men’s handphones,’ he said.”

Now it is true that his son’s actions need not reflect on the Ahmad Said as the chief commissioner. What it reflect is he as a father.

What does reflect badly on him as chief commissioner is that he supports his son pleading guilty to a crime that according to him is “misleading”. Mind me asking, since it is apparently not child pornography, what else it could be that one would risk one’s reputation pleading guilty to child pornography? Who are these ‘most men’ that Ahmad Said knows, and here’s the obvious: is he himself one of them?

Is it any wonder that there is public scepticism. To which he replies: “This is an issue of perception. We will prove our consistency by our actions.”

In the challenge of Ahmad Said: I’ll bet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Barbarians at the Gate

Umno Youth members block wheelchair-bound Member of Parliament Karpal Singh in the Parliament compound. Karpal's son as well as other MPs come to his defence, including Lim Lip Eng and Fong Po Kuan. The Star reported:

"Lim's tie and coat had been pulled by the men in full view of Parliament security.

During the commotion, Fong shouted: 'Where is security? Where is security?' and a reply was heard: 'We only jaga (look after) inside (Parliament), not outside.'"

Apparently, the partial Parliament security take good care to jaga who butters their bread, whether it be inside or out.

To roll back the political impact, an 8-man team headed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz will "take appropriate action against those responsible."

That really shouldn't be difficult: after all, the media have taken extensive photography and video of the barbarians... which then can easily be crossed-checked with the police. Unless there was an easier way to find out who they are. Oh wait, there is: Umno Youth records.

As easy as it may be to protect the integrity of Parliament from hooligans, what you wanna bet this gets swept under the carpet? I'll bet Ahmad Ismail is having a grand old laugh right now.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Holy cow! Selangor now?

After a coup in Perak, the Mentri Besar of Selangor has been investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for abuse of power in regards to the servicing of a car and the purchase of sacrificial goats.

The MACC states that it has evidence, and even before the Attorney-General decides whether to prosecute, it's makes the headlines. TV3 actually regarded as "news" a question to Tan Sri Khalid about whether he is now going to resign due to the allegations. And the poor fella hasn't even been charged with a crime.

The alleged cow-purchase was apparently around 10 thousand ringgit.

Let's put this into a little perspective. If Khalid is guilty of wrongly misusing power, well, he must be a real idiot not to really raid the kitty. Not to mention that he used it to buy things which are, by definition, sacrificed.

The last I recall, the Prime Minister's monthly entertainment allowance is around 15 thousand ringgit... a month. Never mind the allegations that bribes of up to 60 MILLION were offered to realize the Perak coup. Or the very the convenient donations to mosques during the Permatang Pauh election by our dear Deputy PM. Or the 15 million someone necessary, apparently, for the police to run the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Both of which, as if we needed reminding, the Barisan lost, nonetheless.

As someone mentioned to me, at best it isn't corruption. It's cowruption. In the Year of the Ox, it seems that we're headed for a lot more bull.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Grim Silver Lining to a Mess Called Perak

To paraphrase from Hamlet: there’s something rotten in the state of Perak.

The quote of the day comes from The Star:

“Just as Barisan Nasional had accepted the results of last year’s general election, Pakatan Rakyat must now accept a new government in Perak, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.”

The problem with that statement being that in last year’s general election the people of Perak booted out the Barisan Nasional. The same rakyat whom it seems the B.N. is wary of allowing back at the voting booths.

Despite the freakshow in Perak, in the larger picture there are cases when a resignation or crossing parties has a certain legitimacy. People tend to forget that national-level defections were the plan of Sept 18, 2008, or that former defacto law minister Zaid Ibrahim quit his post and began being an iconic face at Pakatan Rakyat events. Recent events don’t change the morality that one shouldn’t be suddenly investigated for corruption for no reason other than that of crossing over to another party.

That being said, doublecrossing within 10 days, makes you wonder how you could have left out of principle and then gone back without sacrificing those same principles. Unless principles weren’t the real motivation. Or whether it is pure coincidence the two assemblymen from PKR who resigned were the same two – and the only two – being charged with corruption. And as far as backstabbing is concerned, let’s remember that in support of them, MB Nizar publicly stated that one is innocent until proven guilty. That’s not even getting into the constitutionality of the Election Commision overriding the Speaker of the state legislature, or the question of if the Agong could decide against the advice of a Prime Minister in dissolving Parliament.

When such doubts linger, as well as allegations of attempted bribes of up to RM60 million for defections, and when the official count is 28 for Pakatan Rakyat and 28 for Barisan Nasional, how the Sultan of Perak could not allow his rakyat to provide a new mandate is more than a little surprising.

A friend of mine put it best when he noted that these defectors were the very ones whom the Sultan himself had insisted on a check of their loyalty to MB Nizar before nodding on the Pakatan Rakyat government.

The result of the turmoil is that the people, denied access to the voting booth, have taken to the streets and to prayer, with moment-to-moment updates being made by Anil Netto.

As with all storms, there are silver linings, though the ones from this debacle are grim in their own right. We have, for the first time, the legislative head of a state government challenging the constitutionality of a ruler’s decision. As the Malaysian Insider noted, this is the start of a much larger debate as to the role of Malaysian royalty and its relation to the democratic rights of the citizens. Most importantly however, the Pakatan Rakyat now know who in their ranks were real bozos – including the double-defecting Bota assemblyman whom they should not have taken in at the very start. The larger lesson – regardless of whether an anti-hopping law is created – is that no matter how good your party platform, you really cheat the people when those who bear your party standard, are really of no standard at all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Just the shortest thought: now that our dear Bota assemblyman has jumped ship once again, will he be charged twice with corruption?

While we're on that subject, finally Dr M says something of sense.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Of Defects and Defections

The Bota state assemblyman ditches Umno for PKR. And soon after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission announces that it'll investigate if there were elements of corruption in the defection.

I suppose in the end it comes down to public perception. There is a genuine beef (sorry, I'm still in a keong hei fatt choy mood) if corruption is the reason for a defection, and there is a real concern if a particular elected representative no longer represents the voters' choice.

It boils down to two things: first whether the voters voted for a party or a person. I would argue that voters should vote for the person, because, well, if they registered a donkey with a party emblem, would one vote for the donkey? Party affiliation is important and part of the identity of the candidate, but my first concern is, well, whether you can walk on two legs and not bray incessantly. If an assemblyman honestly feels he can serve his community better under a different party, then so be it really. If an assemblyman is given an post because his talents are better respected and put to use, then fine. If the post is purely as a bribe, well, then not-so-fine.

The second is whether you believe that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission acts fairly. Plain and simple. If you do, then in all interest of fairness, well they should investigate all allegations, and no one - not the Bota assemblyman, or for that matter, the Umno supreme council member who was arrested for money politics - is to be presumed guilty, or tainted with the hint of guilt, until the full legal process has its day.

According to The Star, the MACC's chief commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan said: "At the moment I can't say if any report has been made or not in Perak but if there are elements of corruption, we will investigate."

First of all, if there ARE elements of corruption, you should CHARGE the culprit. If there MIGHT be elements of corruption, you should INVESTIGATE.

Second is that I saw the original comments (in Malay) on the midnight news, and - here I could be mistaken - I heard the addition of: "maybe (there are elements of corruption)... we will see." Which, if I heard correctly, treads rather ambigiously over the line of the presumption of guilt.

In any civilized society it is important to have a system of accountability, of which a trusted and impartial anti-corruption organization is important. A battle of innuendo, of 'maybe he's corrupt now that he's defected'... how civilized that is, is a different matter entirely.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cue Foot in Mouth

And now a word from our Prime Minister:

"Abdullah also urged the people not to view the Government as being unfair to any community based on statements by individuals who were members of any Barisan Nasional component party." The Star, 17 January 2009.

Meaning, if we say something you like to hear, please vote for us. If we say something you don't like to hear, pretend you didn't hear it, and um, vote for us. A startlingly effective strategy proven by the results of the Kuala Terengganu by-election of course.

"He said views with extreme or racial undertones expressed did not represent the Government or party leaders."

Instead, showing the utter inability for the Government or party leaders to do anything about those who, to paraphrase a particularly colourful choice of words of Rafidah Aziz once upon a time, open their mouth and put a big foot in it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So Much For An Incoming PM of ALL the people

It almost went by unnoticed. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, soon to be the Prime Minister, commented on how some might not choose to join the boycott of American and Israeli products.

"Some of the American products are in the franchise system. Some of the franchises here are Malaysian companies and even bumiputera companies."

EVEN bumiputera companies. Which basically means that it's less of an issue if the people who were hurt in the boycott were our own ethnic Chinese, or Indians. An omnious preview of the person likely to take the helm.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Help Malaysia Save Face: Drink a Coke Today

It sounds like a bad joke.

"The Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association will spearhead the nationwide boycott of US-made products after Friday's prayers at the National Mosque.
Secretary-general Datuk Dr Maamor Osman said the products that were targeted included cola soft drinks, gourmet coffee and cosmetics."
The Star, Jan 8.

Inspired and amplified by Dr Mahathir, no less. Let's call it for what it is: to mix business with pleasure is none to smart. To mix business with politics is downright moronic.

First of all, it's Israel, not the Americans that these people have a beef with. And it's not as if we're boycotting products that actually come from the US government. It's not as if you see this rolling around the place:

Businesses should be politically neutral, or they will end up being judged politically as well. This shown by the effective boycott of nasi kandar shops earlier this year when people wearing their uniforms went on an unpopular - and it is rumoured, paid - protest against the new Penang government.

"The operators of Muslim restaurants would also stop selling cola drinks at their premises, he added."

Never mind that the places selling the other two targeted products - gourmet coffee and cosmetics - hire Malaysians to work there, not Americans. In the unlikely event that the boycott works, does Dr Maamor really think that these companies would continue to hire our citizens to work at a store that doesn't sell anything? In this global economic downturn, will Dr Maamor guarantee that anyone who loses a job because of this boycott will be given an equal replacement under the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association?

"Dr Maamor said Malaysians should support the boycott, which would show that consumer power was an effective weapon against the US states and its close ally Israel."

Things like this really get me in the mood for rethorical questions. The "US states"? What does that even mean? Does he think that Kentucky Fried Chicken - a certifiably halal place, by the way - is run by the Kentucky National Guard? Where does he think the chicken comes from? Tel Aviv?

And that phrase - "consumer power" - seems familiar. It was the same phrase that our Prime Minister used when confronted with a higher cost of living across the land after the global price of oil went down: that we the people should use our "consumer power" to force prices back down. The prices kept up by people like those Dr Maamor leads. If Malaysians could not even win against their own Malaysian bullies, why are we picking a fight with the biggest superpower in the world, which has nothing to do with you to begin with?

If Dr Maamor's doctorate was in any way related to business, I think the institution granting his degree should be questioned, in the same way that people say to errant drivers, "Where the heck did you learn how to drive?"

In the meantime, help Malaysia save face. Drink a Coke today.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tallying the Bets in Kuala Terengganu

Sometimes I think the real bet in any election is that of how gullible they think voters are. All the following are from just one day's reporting: The Star, Jan. 7.

"Najib said the Barisan's candidate was the best man for the job because he has already been guaranteed a deputy minister's post if he won."

First of all, a deputy minister is in charge of FEDERAL affairs, an MP is charge of LOCAL interests. One would think that the DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER would know this... or is he suggesting that one use his FEDERAL role to siphon money to ensure his LOCAL constituents don't ever vote him out of office?

The bet: people will vote someone in as an MP not knowing anything the role of an MP.

Then, note that Najib takes the reigns of the campaign:

"'I have already told the Barisan machinery to explain to the voters that if they vote for PAS, their representative will never become a deputy minister,' he said."

and yet:

"'This is not a referendum on me, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi or Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said,' (Najib) told a press conference after the close of nominations here yesterday."

not to mention:

"To (Najib), winning Kuala Terengganu is important to Umno 'to reclaim the party's dignity after losing Permatang Pauh', not to mention countering the drubbing it suffered in the 2008 general election." - Suhaini Aznam.

The bet: that readers have the attention span of a goldfish.

The biggest eye-opener, however is:

"He said the Barisan
would use a people-friendly approach, with 'Barisan Is People Friendly' as the campaign theme."

The best campaign slogans tend to be about goals, little reminders about how we're all united or we have to work towards a stronger economy or something of the sort. When you have something like "Barisan Is People Friendly", it's like, we've always been people friendly... it's just that the people haven't been reminded that we're people friendly.

The bet: the only reason why people don't realize we are people-friendly is that we didn't have a campaign slogan before. People love campaign slogans.

Sometimes when I read the papers, I don't read what other people think. I read about how stupid other people think I could possibly be, which makes me further convinced how stupid they really are to think I wouldn't notice. And that's why in many ways, politicians would do well to realize that the newspaper is truly a mirror.

But that's just my bet. And it hinges entirely on my fellow readers.