We are now smoking 24/7

Like it or not, All of us in the Klang Valley are smokers now!

Most of us are afraid of inhaling smoke from cigarette smokers. But exposure to cigarette smoke is usually transient and lasts a couple of minutes mostly. In the case of people smoking next to us, we can quickly move away from the smokers to avoid further inhalation of smoke.

While Cigarette smokes come from burning of dried tobacco leaves, the present haze is actually smokes from burning of leaves (both wet and dry) and trees and organic materials of forests around us. The inhalation has been continuous and ongoing for more than 2 weeks.

Staying inside does not totally prevent a person from inhaling these particles, unless you either use an air cleaner with an air filter that can filter particles as small as PM2.5 or wear a N95 mask. This is because Indoor air is constantly at exchange with outdoor air and in the case of prolonged occurrence of haze ( like what we are facing now), outside PM2.5 and PM5 particles would have permeated indoor air after the initial hours.

So we are like smoking nonstop 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week these past 2 weeks. Imagine how much pollutants we have inhaled! 

We are totally helpless but we can petition our government to send strong protest to Indonesia. We can also make laws to penalize those Malaysian companies that are adopting slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia to clear lands there. 

The immediate side effects are our lungs , heart and immune system will be affected. Then there are skin and eye problems arising from the pollutants. The longer term side effects will be a rise in cancer cases, especially lung cancer.

The only  sensible things we can actually do now is to wear a N95 mask outdoor and use an air cleaner indoor. Avoid doing strenuous exercises which may increase sucking in more of these pollutants. 

Well, we can choose our friends, we can’t choose our neighbors. That’s our misfortune really!


Khat learning and the ‘option’

Both LGE and Teo Nie Ching have indicated that the teaching of khat in Std 4 next year is optional. 

The minister said it’s up to the teacher. So the option is not with the parents or the students. The  option is with the teacher and probably the headmaster, who are both civil servants and have to obey directives even when such directives may just be through a phone call. 

So is it still optional?

Please stop hookwinking the people.  



The issue is institutional reform

The issue is not whether Latheefa is good or not. The issue is not whether the prime minister has the prerogative to appoint.

The issue here is that PH and PM have promised institutional reform.

The most important institutional reform as I see it is to decentralize the power of the PM’s office so that power does not concentrate on one person and just one person alone. PM is just the First among equals, in the Westminster parliamentary system. It’s not presidential. Even in US presidential system, all important appointments may be made by the president, but they have to go through the vetting processes of Congress. So there is a check and balance in place.

If All powers are to be concentrated in just one person , in our case the Prime Minister, what happened during Najib’s watch will happen again. The pm will be so powerful that he can do anything to pilfer the national coffer, he can sack anyone anytime like in 2015. There will not be any checks and balances anymore

So to let one person and one person alone to make all the important appointments, without even going through the cabinet, is inviting trouble and going back to the old days where we have seen the failure of our institutions to exert a check and balance on the pilferage of 1mdb funds.

The priority is institutional reforms as promised in the manifesto in the last GE. There must be a change in law to allow all important appointments to go through parliamentary select committee. In the mean time, even when the new laws are not ready yet, the spirits of institutional reform must be adhered to, and pm must be seen to be pursuing a path of reform instead of going back to the old days.

The future of Malaysia to remain as a true democracy hinges on this.

Who wins in a trade war?


On the surface, in a trade war the importing country will have more to gain than the exporting country. So we may assume that US has more to gain than China since USA imports far more goods from China than the other way round.

So if USA were to impose 25% tariff on all Chinese imports , China cannot reciprocate on the same amount of goods that it imports from USA, simply because it imports far less than its exports to US.

But if you delve deeper, it’s not so simplistic .
Many of the USA imports from China are essential and intermediate goods for its own farms and industries. Car parts, electronic components etc are just some of the intermediate goods that USA imports. To keep manufacturing , US industries have no choice but to keep importing, despite the 25% tariff. The end results: consumers and industries in USA are paying for the tariff and that is leading to inflationary pressure on its economy.

It’s not so easy just to source from other countries like Vietnam or even japan or S Korea. Vietnam simply has not reached the technological level to produce goods as sophisticated as those from China. Japan n Korea are too expensive, even with the 25% tariff taken into consideration. It will take several years for Vietnam to be able to replace goods manufactured in China and by then, Trump would no longer be around.

So a full scale trade war hurts USA equally if not more even though China exports more than it imports from USA, at least in the short term of two to three years.

The danger in a trade war is that often it leads to military conflict. A war between China and USA will be catastrophic for the whole world.

shadow sparring?

In my opinion, in his haste to get back to Parliament, contradicting his earlier stand that he would take it easy while waiting for his turn, Anwar  has created certain uncertainties which can destabilize the new PH government. 

As a Parliamentarian, he will be in position to seek and form alliances with UMNO and east Malaysian politicians and introduce a vote of no confidence in Parliament  IF DrM does not see eye to eye with him for whatever reasons. Even though formation of this form of unholy alliance with UMNO and associated is remote, it will be hanging like a sword of Damocles over PH, thus destabilizing the new government. 

The new government needs support, given that many of the new ministers are very inexperienced and still need time to settle in. 

If he is sincere to see institutional reforms being carried out, he should not be in a hurry to get back to Parliament. He should keep to his earlier promise. The best support to the new government is to wait for his turn, play less politics and persuade Rafizi to drop the bid for deputy president of PKR.

While he is busy trying to get back to parliament, big names in UMNO are abandoning the big brother. Perhaps DrM’s associates think like yours truly, and thus trying to weaken UMNO  so that the sword of Damocles can be rendered useless. 

I see all these as shadow sparring of the two.

Say no to a divisive survey

politics has to be realistic especially in Malaysia’s setting

I am against participating in the online survey about UEC. I don’t know who started it but the survey is potentially divisive and not good at the moment.

For the record, I am all for the recognisation of UEC. I think Chinese independent schools provide an extra option for Malaysians and education should be about letting people choose the best option for the academic development of their children.

I think because PH won the election, the expectation is very high among the various groups that voted for them.

But politics has to be realistic especially in Malaysia’s setting.

just because one third of Malays voted for PH doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to change the core system of the country. Many of them voted because of gst and the rise in the cost of living, more than anything else. This is especially true for the urban Malays.

But even some urban Malays will feel threatened if the govt is perceived to concede to the wishes of the Chinese community in everything. ( note I use the word ‘perceived’which is not the same as the truth- but politics is about perception). Once the support of this group is gone, the Chinese will be back to square one or even worse. It will only encourage the teaming up of all Malay parties.

UEC is now recognized all over the world. Chinese independent schools graduates have more than enough opportunity to further their education or seek employment.

If UEC recognition comes at the expense of altering the nature of independent Chinese schools, then its best to leave things as it is. More importantly, use this issue to bargain for the setting up of more Chinese schools n independent Chinese schools.
The Chinese schools are bursting at the seams as it is.

Mindsets can only be changed gradually. To change mindsets, we should adopt blue ocean strategy. Get the govt to build more Chinese schools and Chinese independent schools. Encourage more non Chinese to study by waiving fees etc. Once this group becomes sizable , it would change the mindsets of the more conservative Malays.

Better late than never

Gerakan has finally made the decision to quit BN.

Since 2006, I have been advocating that the party move out of BN as I have foreseen any association with the racist and corrupt culture of UMNO will drag Gerakan down.

It’s good though a bit late for the party to quit BN now.

Politics should be about the welfare of the people and the country, not about individuals. The world would be a much better place if more politicians can subscribe to this principle.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit my press statement in 2011, when I decided to resign from the party:

Press Statement by Dr Hsu Dar Ren (08-03-2011)

It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my resignation from all my positions in Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, including that of Central Committee member, FT state liaison committee member, division chairman, branch chairman and ordinary membership.

Parti Gerakan is a party with good ideology to establish a fair and equitable society in Malaysia . It too has many conscientious members who subscribe to this ideology.

Unfortunately, within the framework of BN, where the hegemonic race politics of UMNO predominates, it is impossible for Gerakan to realize this ideal.

In fact, as a result of more than 5 decades of race based politics, the country has drifted so much apart that racial polarization has never been as bad as now . Despite the many decades of trying to work from within, Gerakan is now further and further away from realising its ideals.

Three years after the 308 General election, I sense that apart from rhetoric, there is little change in policies gearing towards uniting the people and providing a fairer and more equal footing for all. I feel that it is now futile for me to try to fight within the system anymore.

I have no intention of joining any other political parties, but I will continue to voice out through writing and blogging on the importance of building a fair and equitable society.

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