Bring back the glory

My adrenalin surged yesterday after reading, first in Malaysiakini , then the news release by AP, about the speech given by the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah at the 14th Malaysian Law Conference. His speech was also reported in NST today . The learned Sultan, who was formerly a very well regarded Lord President, called for a judicial reform.   

  He said it was time for the judiciary to regain the public’s confidence and bring back the glorious years. For this, he added, mere cosmetic changes were not enough.                      
          
He said there was no reason why judges, with the security of tenure they enjoyed under the Constitution, could not discharge their duties impartially, confidently and competently.            

                                                                                                                             
“Nothing destroys more the confidence the general public, or the business community has in the judiciary than the belief that the judge was biased when he decided a case, or that the judge would not be independent where powerful individuals or corporations are the litigants before him,” he said.                    

Delayed judgments and backlog of cases are signs of incompetence in judiciary, he said.These are words of wisdom and coming from no less than a person who is a ruler and a former great judge.

As I see it, the problems in the judiciary is part of a loss of excellence in our society, which has first started in political arena, spread to civil service, police, education, sports and finally the courts.                     

Why is there such incompetence and loss of excellence?        

          
Loss of excellence, in fact, is what prompted me to write and write regularly. Please read one of my very first articles to Malaysiakini about a year back:  Excellence, have we lost the urge? To paraphrase a few lines from that article:

We have perhaps lost the urge to strive for excellence. In the 60s and 70s, Malaysia was not only strong in football, but also in hockey and badminton. We also excelled in our studies. Malaysian students who studied overseas regularly topped their classes in universities and colleges. Even our local universities such as MU and USM had very high academic standings in the world.

What has happened to us? We need to gain back the urge to do well, to strive for excellence in all our endeavors, not only in sports and in our studies, but also in our courts, our police force, our industries and our businesses.

Why is there such a culture of incompetence? Why has incompetence been so pervasive, from politics, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, police and almost all aspects of our lives now?          

I did a lot of soul searching on this. My conclusion: the politicians over the last 2-3 decades have to bear the main responsibilities on this.

The rot first started in our political culture. In the 60s, most politicians were clean and competent. Some of them might not have achieved very high academic standard, but they still performed well. There were also many leaders of high integrity. They did not use government funds for their private functions. Many travelled by trains and buses to attend meeting. Many of them, including UMNO delegates, squatted with their friends when they came down to attend party meetings. Some of the politicians sold their houses to fund their political activity for the betterment of community; and politics then were equated with self sacrifice to put nation and society’s interest first.                           

   
Alas! Slowly the fight for power and position  replaced the urge to fight for the interest of the nations. Power, as we all know, will corrupt a person. Because of this wish to fight their way up to be the top leaders, loyalty more than anything else matters when they promote people to positions under them.. Even crooked and corrupted individuals were used as long as they were aligned to the leaders and had absolute obedience.  

Very slowly, culture changed. When before, only the best and most competent got promoted, elected and appointed to certain positions, slowly a culture of patronage started to appear. Only those who were perceived to be loyal, and those who were perceived to be obedient were given positions and nominated to stand for elections.  Competency and integrity were never criteria for appointments.

Had there been a culture of meritocracy, this culture of patronage might not have taken roots. Unfortunately, after the watershed incident in May 1969, a policy, the NEP, which was meant to eradicate poverty irrespective of ethnic groups ,was hijacked and transformed into a policy of creating an unfair playing grounds.                  

        
To buy loyalty, the leaders need to play money politics and which means that they would resort to whatever means they can to get funds, even to the extent of abusing their positions and employing corrupt practices. In the name of restructuring of society, cronies were given contracts and projects in order to get funding for the political masters to fight their way up. From a culture pf patronage, it evolved to become a culture of cronyism and nepotism. Corruption also rears its ugly head. It does not matter when a supporter becomes corrupt as long as he continues to be loyal and continues to provide funding.                                                        
          
Nation’s interests were now secondary to personal interest.   

The politicians make use of this policy to masquerade their culture of favouritism, patronage, nepotism and cronyism. If you are not one of the group, no matter how good you are, you will be sidelined, and every obstacle placed in your path to prevent your ascendancy. This culture becomes pervasive and ultimately , it is not what you know but who you know that decides a person’s rise in the political ladder and structure.      

The civil service copied and followed the examples of their political masters. When promotion in the service is not based on meritocracy, incompetence  creeps in. When the whole structure is controlled by flock of the same feather, it becomes an entrenched culture and anyone wishing to change this culture would face a Herculean task.                   
  
With corruption and incompetence, cover-ups and a lack of transparency become a necessity. The corrupt and incompetent would promote people of the same feather , and the corrupt and incompetent would cover each other’s back so well that it becomes a case of ” You scratch my back, I scratch your back.”                    

If only civil servants and politicians are involved, there is still the legal revenue to right any wrong. It is for this reason that judiciary is often regarded as the most important of the three branches of government in a democracy.                       
  
So it would be in the interest of the political masters, even though it is not in the interest of the people and the nation, to introduce this culture of patronage to judiciary. Once promotion is based on who you know and not what you know, the rot starts. We all knew what happened.                         

We therefore need to heed the call by the Sultan of Perak to reform the judiciary . A truly independent judiciary will be able to bring back the glory and the confidence of the people as well as investors. It will also be the ultimate protector of freedom, equality, human universal rights as enshrined in the Constitution. It will also effectively check any abuse of power on the part of the executive.                                    

     
It is therefore in the interest of the nation to have a Royal Commission to review and reform the whole judiciary. We need to have a judiciary that is impartial, competence and occupied by people of high integrity…    

It is also in the interest of the country to fully practice a system of meritocracy, in politics, civil service, sports, judiciary, schools and universities.       
       
These will be the very first steps to counter the culture of rot that has reached an alarming state in the past few years.

Pls also read this post:

The spirit of ’57

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IPCMC will lessen risks of police being killed

The recent incident in which 2 policemen were killed and 2 others seriously injured, as reported in Malaysiakini , is a very serious matter and left many questions unanswered.

My condolences to the families of the dead policemen and it is indeed sad for them to have lost their loved ones in such a gruesome manner.

Many wish is also to see a speedy recovery of the 2 injured police still inICu of hospitals. They will certainly be able to shed more lights on this case and help to bring those heartless criminals to face justice.

This incident has glaringly  exposed that crime situation in the country  is gettin from bad to serious, from serious to very serious.

This blog has written many times about this issue and has also maintained that an efficient and professional force is one of the most important things in a democratic country.

I have also advocated that because of the dangers they face, police should be given a higher pay , and so far, I am glad that some adjustment have been made in July this year.

But to improve their efficiency and professionalism, there is no other way but a total overhaul of the whole force, which I am sure will come about if the proposed IPCMC can take off.

This IPCMC will , in the long run, bring back glory  to the police and will certainly improve the crime situation in the country. When the crime situation improves, the police will have lesser risks of being gunned down. This is  like a cycle. If one part of the cycle is improved, the other parts will benefit.

On the other hand, if the crime situation gets worse, it will encourage more people to resort to crime and more hard core criminals will be produced, and more risks the average police officer will face – another  vicious cycle .

SO I hope the government will immediately start implementing the IPCMC, and give us back the efficient and glorious force that we once have. Improve crime situation, and the police work will become safer and people will respect police more.

So, ironically,  the police must understand that IPCMC is actually not against them, but rather will help them to improve their efficiency, help to make their work easier, help to lock up more criminals, help to deter more people to resort to crime and make their work safer.  With better efficiency, then we the Rakyat can fight harder for them to raise their pay higher!

Only those who are not professional enough will be scared of the setting up of this Commission.

2 questions I wish to ask about this case,:

!.  Why is there an ambush party waiting for the police?  Who tipped them off?

2. WHy  the 4 of them went to the house without informing their superiors? Why aren’t procedures followed?

This reminds me of the show, Infernal Affairs, from Hong Kong. Those who have not seen the show, it is worth buying a DVD to see this show (actually a series of 3 movies.)

No other way but a Royal Commission

One of the more reformed minded politicians in UMNO, Zaid Ibrahim, was qouted by malaysiakini this morning as saying that a Royal commission should be set up to investigate the Lingam tapes.

I welcome his statement and hope that more BN politicians would come out to voice support for such as move. Earlier this month, Parti Gerakan has called for a Royal commission.

This shows that the call for a Royal commission transcends political divide ; it is for the greater good of the country that the people as well as  organisations such as the Bar Council are asking for a thorough investigation into this. In order to get to the bottom of this case, it is imperative that a Royal commission be set up.

this is the wish of the people, and as a government of the people, it is time that such a commission be set up. The 3 man panel. as predicited, could not proceed any further as it has very limited power.

Zaid was quoted to say:

“This goes to show that the panel is powerless to do anything. I don’t understand. Why didn’t they just form a royal commission of inquiry into the tape?” asked Zaid, adding that the government should have formed the commission if it was serious in a quick resolution to the matter.

“This is not just any allegation, it is a serious allegation. In the 90s, we had a scandal involving the then chief justice, and now we have this.”

“I was made to understand that the prime minister (Abdullah Ahmad Badawai) wanted a royal commission of inquiry set up to investigate the tape but some people in the government do not want the commission”.

 Zaid said that the government should not have given the same task to two different parties and he urged the government not to do something that is “neither here nor there”.

“If the government wanted a panel to investigate the matter, leave it to the panel alone. Or if it wanted an investigation by the ACA, it should have just leave it to the ACA,” said Zaid.

He also urged the ACA not to go after the messenger but to look into the message itself.

If PM wanted a royal commissiom, I wonder who these “some people ” are that do not want it. Who are these people that are so powerful? Perhaps Zaid should reveal to us.

It is time for PM to exert his authority. If he is in the right, he can expect the people to be behind him all the way. Seize this opportunity to review the whole judiciary and establish again the seperation of powers that is so basic in any democracy.

recommended readings:

Call for a thorough investigation

golden opportunity to right the wrong

Climb the mountain, light the candle

mouse of a different kind

Heart risk lessens with more exercise

Human beings are difficult to understand, that’s for sure!

He or she knows that smoking is bad and may cut life short, but still continues to puff away! One of the most difficult tasks of any doctors is to ask their patients to stop smoking. It is easier to move a small hill than to make sure a patient continuing a regime of no smoke no drink!.

He or she  may spend hours  watering plants, washing cars, grooming pets, and when it comes to his  own body, there is only one word to describe “neglect”.

All of us know that exercise is good for body, but how often do we go for exercise?

 Modern lifestyle is such that we seldom walk far; even when we go to the neighbourhood grocery, we make sure  our car is parked right in front of the store! We complain when we have to park a few shoplots away to get to our destination!

So, the result: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular disorders such as strokes, etc etc etc.

 exercise-cartoon.jpg(from Rotary Club Of NorthRaleigh)

The latest research about exercise has just been published in Circulation,and it involves a group of 27000 people, considered a fairly big research project. It has confirmed the benefits of exercise in reducing heart disease.

For those who love their pets , their cars, I have one advise: read the report below, and start exercising, because you owe it to yourself to love your own body. If you love your body, you should take good care of it, just like looking after your car.

Many of us will give NET as an excuse. By the way, NET means Not enough Time. That is just an excuse. We can always find time for walking; walking to your office,; walking to the markets; talking a stroll after lunch and dinner. The best form of exercise is walk and walk more. Park your car a few blocks away and walk! Take a stroll after dinner instead of parking in front of your TVs. Have a long walk in the park during weekend.

That will do wonders to your body and help your pocket ,too – you will be seeing less of my kind!

This report from UPI is as followed:

Heart risk lessens with more exercise

BOSTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) — In a study of more than 27,000 U.S. women, the risk of cardiovascular disease events decreased with higher levels of physical activity.

The women, part of the Women’s Health Study, ranged in age from 45 to 90 were assessed for a risk factors and different levels of exercise.

Lead author Dr. Samia Mora of the Harvard Medical School said there was a 40 percent reduction in heart attack and stroke between the highest and lowest exercise groups.

The study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found the risk of cardiovascular disease events decreased with higher levels of physical activity compared to the control group.

The long-term benefits of exercise start at a relatively low level — equivalent to about two hours of physical activity per week — but those who exercised the most — greater than five hours of moderately intense physical activity such as brisk walking per week — reduced their their heart risk the most .

Harder times ahead

Oil prices have gone up to almost US$90/= per barrel. Wheat price has gone up almost 80% .As with other times, fear of inflation has caused gold prices to shoot up too.

There is a very good write up In Malaysiakini  “Brace yourself”which forecasts that after March 2008, inflation will rear its ugly head in Malaysia.

I agree with the writer, MOAZ YUSUF AHMAD, that harder times is ahead.

As I see it, next year we will probably have an increase in pump petrol prices, and electricity rate will also go up; it is inevitable and we cannot expect the government will keep on subsidising for petrol. If petrol and electricity rate go up, everything in the market will go up! except maybe the wages in the urban areas. The increase in wheat prices will affect prices of noodles and bread, and you can expect hawkers to raise their prices, not to mention the coffee shop owners who will raise the price of every cup of coffee sold, at every opportunity they can get.

The rural areas will do relatively well because of the high palm oil prices. It is the city folks like you and me that will be hard hit.

The economy is not doing particularly well, apart from good prices for petroleum and palm oil. The GDP will probably grow about 5.6% this year. Next year, it will be around 5%-5.4%, slower because of the global conditions..

The official inflation rate is 2% at the moment, but this include a lot of basic foodstuff that is under price control and thus is not a good indicator for real inflation.

Most people will agree that real inflation is higher, probably around4%, which means that the money you put in bank is actually shrinking. And real growth after deducting inflation is a mere 1.6% this year.

For next year, real inflation will be much higher and if it touches 5% and above, real growth will be zero if our growth rate next year is around 5%. Real growth may even go into negative territory.

This means that while we are spending more on stuff, we cannot expect any increase in our disposable income, which would most probably be shrinking.

What this means in political terms is that BN will have to call an election before next March. It can even be as early as this year end. Or it can be after the Chinese New Year.

We need to conserve energy. Use alternative energy for generating electricity. Petroleum prices will only go up since it is a diminishing commodity. Any expectation that it will go down to the levels of the 80s is not realistic.

We need to improve public transport. What have we done to improve it? I don’t see much improvement, if any.

The government as well as the people must be more stringent in spending; there is a real need to cut down wastage and corruption, improve efficiency and productivity.

We need to have a better growth rate so that our income growth will be faster than the rise in inflation.  To do so we need to really buck up and adopt a more open economic policy, do away with restrictive policies like the NEP, and attract new investments , create more knowledge-based jobs which will provide higher wages.

Otherwise, we will have to brace ourselves for a harder time ahead!

Bull ‘s Eye

Bull’s eye. Right on target.

I refer to the article by Tunku Abdul Aziz in NSt on SUnday  titled “Shape up, scapegoats won’t do”.I think he is right on target in several things he referred to in his essay.

Tunku Abdul Aziz was a former president of Transparency International Malaysian chapter, and according to a Malaysiakini report, he was one of earliest heavy weights in the country to ask for a Royal Commission to investigate the Lingam gate. I have formerly written an article quoting him saying that “”Malaysia is no more Bumiputra than it is Chinese and Indian”.

This time , he said in his Sunday article:

WE are, as a nation, being let down on an almost daily basis by those entrusted to look after our security, safety and general well-being and to protect our country’s reputation because of serious dereliction of duty, bordering on the criminal.

Malaysia is blessed in that there is a law for every situation; you name it and we have it all.

Tragically, the mountains of statutes have done nothing more than to earn for us a reputation of being an over-regulated and an under-enforced country, with the usual, predictable consequences.

In short, we have already become a first-rate country run, generally speaking, by third-rate bureaucrats who make it impossible for Malaysia to be taken seriously.

Bravo! He is right on target.

Next he said, referring to the various tragedies that took place year in year out, that:

We have, at the same time, become a reactive, finger-pointing society whenever the inevitable happens. Both on a personal as well as institutional level we have developed our propensity for “blame thy neighbour” into a fine art form.

Isn’t he right again? When some mishap occurs, we are quick to find scapegoats and point fingers. But we do not practice a system of shared  responsibility. In the Mersing tragedy, the whole Transport Ministry should take responsibility as in the case of the bus tragedy not too long ago. This is a case where there is clearly a failure of leadership, a failure of ensuring a good system of monitoring , surveillance, accountability and good work ethics.

We cannot keep on practising knee jerk reaction whenever something happens. It is not unlike someone sleeping most of the time and only wakes up  when some disaster occurs.

When we make law, we must ensure that the law is enforced properly. Otherwise, it is going to be a farce. We need a good system of monitoring and surveillance, not just building or starting something, only to leave it to rot!

Tunku Abdul Aziz also asked the whole transport Ministry to undergo an overhaul:

The performance of the ministry to date all points to a failure of leadership at all levels.

I am prepared to put my reputation on the line and repeat that the systems in place within the ministry have become dysfunctional and need a thorough going-over, and the ministry a complete shake-up.

The quality of leadership must be improved through an ethics-centred selection process, quite apart from considering a person’s paper qualifications and experience.

In public service, which is so prone to abuse of power, there is really no substitute for high standards of personal ethical behaviour.

I am prepared to put my reputation on the line and repeat that the systems in place within the ministry have become dysfunctional and need a thorough going-over, and the ministry a complete shake-up.

The quality of leadership must be improved through an ethics-centred selection process, quite apart from considering a person’s paper qualifications and experience

 We do not really need to know how many ferries and express coaches are operating on our roads and on the seas without a licence and a certificate of fitness.

This is the sort of useless “information” diet that the long-suffering members of the public are fed on whenever there is a major tragedy.

What is relevant to us is why the ministry has allowed this totally unacceptable state of affairs to become its management centrepiece.

This failure of leadership reveals a deep malaise in our governing system, and the Tunku is right on target again when he said:

The implications of this public display of institutional paralysis and incompetence for the nation’s credibility are a great deal more serious than we can imagine, quite apart from the more immediate negative impact on the tourism-related earnings.

He ventured to give a reason for all these ills:

Dare we hope that operational weaknesses are addressed immediately before more lives are lost, and management structures, legal framework, rules and procedures are revamped in keeping with our aspirations to First World status?

While we are about it, do remember that corruption could well be behind many of our tragedies.

I have repeated written in this blog that corruption i the mother of all evils. It is unfortunate that corruption is perceived to be worse than before.

We need not only an IPCMC, but an ICAC (Independent Commission for Corrupt Practices) for not only all civil services but private sector as well.

If nothing is done, I am afraid we are going to descend from a nation of excellence to a nation of mediocrity.

Recommended readings:

Set up an Independent Commission against Corruption

Corruption – Is it Worse?

Do we have the will?

People ‘ s interest more important than seats !

Recently, Malaysiakini has highlighted the desperation of one minor component party in the ruling coalition asking for more seats in the next general election.

According to Malaysiakini reports, the president as well as some of his “kaki”s have been openly asking for the same number of seats that were won by this party when it was in Opposition many many years back. The latest was in the presence of the Prime Minister during a party convention.

In the reality of Malaysian politics, this seems to be a hopeless situation, but this party has continued its antics.   At one stage, it has even  threathened to pull out of the coalition and be independent again.

I read with amusement today’s report in Malaysiakini. Its president was quoted to say this:

the coalition should fulfill its obligation to  the 58-year-old party, which had switched from the opposition in 1972 on the condition it is allowed to contest in four parliamentary seats and eight state seats.

“The goal of any political party is to nominate and elect its candidates and be represented by the people.”

I have always thought that a political party’s position and goals should be based on the party’s ideology, which in turn should be based on the belief of its leaders and members, which in turn should be based on its perception on how best it can advance and protect the citizenry’s interest.

After May 13 1969, many of the political stalwarts in the opposition camp in the country believed that in the best of the nation’s interest, perhaps racial politics should be minimised.  The best way to do so, some of them proposed,  was to form a new coalition , which was later named Barisan National. One of those who mooted the idea was Dr Lim Chong Eu. This idea was also accepted by the remaining Seenivasagam brother , D.R. Seenivasagam**    S.P. Seenivasagam.

Thus a new front was formed and was named Barisan Nasional, the National Front and it consisted of the original three from Parti Alliance (the Sailing Boat), PArti Gerakan, PPP and parties from East Malaysia.

It was unfortunate that racial politics was not minimised and instead, the perception was that racial politics is even worse than before.

So to say that this particular party joined the coalition mainly because of seats arrangement  is to belittle the wits and foresight of its earlier leaders. They took the party into BN more for the interests of the people. It was unfortunate that after the demise of its great leader D. R. S., the party lost its appeal to the electorate (especially after it had crossed over to bn) and lost most of the seats allocated to it in subsequently General elections. So their demise is more due to lack of leadership and a rejection of voters in their traditional strongholds who disagreed with the change of the party’s stand in joining the ruling coalition.

So to ask openly back its seats is  not only naive but also gives a perception that all this party cares is seats. There are so many pressing problems facing the country and instead of airing these problems in the presence of the PM, it chose to ask for seats, which will only benefit a few selected leaders.

One of the central political views in Confucianism is that the ones who win heart of the people will rule the country. I would suggest the leaders of this party ponder carefully and ask themselves what they have done for the people, besides making up the numbers in political gatherings.

 If they have really fight for the people and work fo the people, their popularity alone would have forced the Coalition heads to consider giving them more seats automatically, without asking openly .

So, I would advise them to stop asking for seats. Instead, channel their energy to national issues, speak out on unfair policies, poor enforcement, corruption, abuse of power, education and economic issues.

I would quote John F Kennedy : Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for the country. That should be the motto and guiding principles for all politicians including this particular political party.

Otherwise, it would be futile for them to remain in BN or even join the opposition rank, because the people would never support a party which places more importance on seats than the people’s interests.

The only other way is to dissolve the party!

(**A footnote: The initial assertion that DR Seenivasagam agreed to join BN was wrong since D R died before the 1969 election. I have made an amendment by striking out D R’s name above. I have great respect for D R Seenivasagam, as he was one of the great leaders in the early history of our country. The mistake was pointed out to me by a reader David Chew (pls read the comments below) and I sincerely thank Chew for kindly pointed out the mistake to me.)

recommended readings:

This is how politics should be played

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