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mood) if corruption is the reason for a defection, and there is a real concern if a particular elected representative no longer represents the voters' choice.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.