You don’t put a rat in the rice container

One of the little things that my late father taught me is to honour obligations. In Confucian pratices, it is called “Xin 信”. It is difficult to translate to English, but the best term may be ” Trust”.

Under this concept, a person must honour his obligations, whether financial , social, family. For example, if you are married, you have to be trustworthy and faithful to your spouce.

If you borrow money, you must make sure to return it on or before the due date.

In the era of Spring and Autumn in Ancient China,  about 2000 over years ago, a nobleman Xu visited the king of a small kingdom. He brought along a very famous sword, and the king of the kingdom fell in love with the sword. XU, however, could not give the sword to this king since he had to  honour his earlier promise to bring the sword to another place to exhibit it to some of his friends. But secretly in his heart, he made a promise that he would give the king of this small kingdom this sword once he honoured his other obligations.

Some time passed, and Xu had honoured all his other obligations. He now wanted to honour his secret vow to give this sword to the king. However, he learned that the king of that small kingdom had passed away.

Not deterred, Xu made his way across CHina to the small kingdom. In ancient times, there was no jet plane nor cars, and the journey was mainly by horse drawn carriage and was very tough and took many months.

 He finally reached the small kingdom and went to the grave to pay his respect to the late king. He also hung the sword over the gravestone of the late king, and offered the sword to the late king , even though it was just a vow inside his heart.

This story illustrates the Confucian value of “xin” or trust.

I told this story because it was reported that our top leader  wanted to appoint one of his close aides to sit on the board of our National Oil company. This aide was a graduate from the top university  Oxford. You can read the news here. 

There is nothing wrong of course to appoint a brilliant young man, except for one point.

This aide may have graduated from Oxford, and may have the best brain of the country, but he had reportedly defaulted on his scholarship obligations some time back , and the scholarship was from none other than this Oil company.

I consider this default a flaw against the universal and confucian value of “xin” or “trust”. When someone has this basic flaw, it will not be advisable to appoint this someone to a position that influences decisions affecting millions of dollars.

You do not want to put a rat in the rice container, so to speak.

Even  TDM has written that while

“it was PM’s prerogative as Premier to appoint a man who failed to honour his obligation to Petronas when he was given a scholarship by it”.  He went to to say that : “Generally, I would say that it is not a good thing to appoint such a person,”

“A politician in Petronas may have other agenda which may or may not be in keeping with the national interest,” Dr Mahathir said in his comments to The Straits Times.

He added: “I think it is far better if no politician is allowed to interfere with commercial decisions which may not be good for the corporation.” (to quote malaysian insider).

On this count, I think  TDM is right. Casting aside his motives of saying these, I must say that he is very correct  and I for once agree with him that ‘it is not a good thing to appoint such a person”, bearing in mind that this Oil company belongs to all Malaysians.



30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gerakan Watcher
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 14:36:49

    There is another school of thought. As long as this person can deliver, what he does/did is of no concern as the end results the most important.

    This is the same view that KPI minister must be given time to perform. If he can perform well,
    and change the whole mindsets of all the ministries, and the government becomes a model for others, then let him try. Why not?

    This is the same as ‘Black and white cat as long as the cat catches rats’ theory of Deng.


  2. annoyed
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 15:07:11

    TDM should not be the Advisor of Petronas in the first place. He is a politician, is he?

    How about Advisor of MAS?

    At many instances, many people do not look themselves in the mirror, so to speak, before commenting on others.

    He is right for this instance, but, he forgot to look at himself at the same time.

    All appointments, be it Petronas, GLC, civil service, police, wherever, should be on merit ground.


  3. klm
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 15:38:28

    Dr. Hsu I fully agree with you. This Omar Mustapha Ong had demonstrated he lacked honour and trust. He was educated with public fund. He had to fulfill the trust placed on him by serving the people i.e. work to repay the trust. He chose to abscond.

    Being on the board of Petronas requires intregity and trust. How can this person be placed in this position. It is like putting the mouse in the rice warehouse.

    The nation cannot put any trust on Omar Mustapha Ong.


  4. klm
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 15:39:42

    monk. Merit is fine. But merit without integrity is dangerous.


  5. tanmankuan
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 16:06:26

    Dear Dr Hsu,

    I am sad to say this, but such appointments seems to be accepted culture of this country. Integrity seems to be the last consideration, loyalty to your benefactor is the top priority.


  6. klm
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 16:51:28

    Dr. Hsu.

    A side track.

    I dont know why, but recently I was attracted to read up on the sayings of confucius. And today, I was surprised to see you used his teaching to elaborate a point. I guess I can only appreciate wisdom when I got older.

    I have never liked Confucian teaching. I blamed it as something that made the Chinese weak. I guess I was confused by the wrapping of Confucianism rather than the wisdom it contained.



  7. annoyed
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 17:36:05

    On merit ground includes integrity, honesty, morality, blah, blah, blah…in short meritocracy lah.


  8. petestop
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 17:49:23

    KPI minister lost in election.

    The Rakyat, who are the shareholders of this nation, decided that he is not worthy to be re-elected.

    And still he gets reappointed via back-door, even trying to pry his own VP from senatorship in order to get back in.

    You say this is a person of integrity ?

    It smack of disrespecting the Rakyat’s decision, and we will ensure that he does’nt get re-elected again comes GE-13.


  9. Dr Hsu
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 18:56:51

    I was told that Petronas already has a very good cat, Hasan Merican, the president.

    I was told that he was very good and efficient, and that is one of the reasons that Petronas is a sucessful global company


  10. Dr Hsu
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 19:00:49

    Confucianism does not make chinese weak. It was those emperors and power brokers in the emperor’s courts that misintepreted confucianism to their own advantage.

    Take for example, loyalty to the leader. COnfucianism advocates loyalty but not blind loyalty, and at the end of the day, COnfucius always empahsized that the most important thing is the people, the collective welfare of the people..BUt over the years,, it became blind loyalty to leader…

    It is like present days politicians who like to hijack good ideology….eg a fair and equal society has been hijacked.

    ANother example is between husband and wife and father and son. Confucianism stresses respect of the spouse but that must be mutual. Between father and son, while the son has to be filial, the father has to be kind…

    The central theme of confucianism is just one word: “ren” 仁, which means compassion and kindness, and note that this word is make from the words ‘2 men”, which involves how relationship between 2 persons should be …Whether the 2 persons involved are king and subject, teacher and student, father and son, brother and brother, husband and wife, boss and worker, etc etc..


    Jun 23, 2009 @ 21:20:03

    I don’t care a damn who sit on that chair,unless you are a bumiputra company andhave the right connections or else you have NO chance at all to do any of their projects/business.
    Though in theory, it belongs to our beloved country but the profits are not passed back to the poor rakyat.


  12. anon
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 22:34:56

    electric car…wow!!!


  13. aca
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 23:34:56

    ya, trust in gerakan?

    afterall, the party is a party to the putsch in Perak.

    doc, for a man of your integrity, i just dont follow why you still want to stay in a party which is deviod of principles. still want to change them from within?


  14. Observant
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 01:17:06

    A rat in a rice container is not that alarming if that rat only consumes its daily needs but what is most alarming and threatening is, if that single rat starts a colony of rats who feed, pillage and soil all the grains in the container. The day will come where no rice will be left for the actual owner/s of the container or those plundering rats.

    Rats are rodents who pilfer to live and it is expected that they steal instinctly in order to survive but what is most unacceptable are humans who are entrusted to guard but loot instead as the Malay saying goes , “Pagar makan padi”.

    It is an heavy responsibility for those entrusted to guard the Nation’s coffer to do their job with zest, dedication and absolute honesty and not to betray the trust placed by the whole populace of this country. Be trustworthy and the earn the trust and not condemnations of your fellow countrymen.


  15. romerz
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 02:47:11

    Dr Hsu,

    How do I get through to all those who are in alliance with UMNO that as a nation, we are in a precarious situation?

    Do we need to lose a Malaysian Neda before change for the better can take place?

    Frankly speaking, my anger is not so much towards UMNO per se (they can’t help being what their racists minds tells them to do).

    My anger is at those who lend them legitimacy by being in alliance with them! They know what ails this country and what should be done but yet unwilling to do the needful and right thing for selfish reasons and for fear of redundancy!

    Doc, one loss of Neda is enough! Do we need a Malaysian Neda before we act?

    Until and unless UMNO/BN can put right the EC, we are going to have problems come the next GE. Whoever loses the GE is going to dispute and given the present perception of the EC, it could so easily transcend to what is going on in Iran today!

    I’m sorry to say that what KTK fears most, a political situation along racial lines will come true if he continues to think party politics first and the country’s needs second!

    I’ve been ‘gentle’ with him and PGRM when I write the posts in my blog. Tomorrow, I will break my silence and send him an SMS giving him fair warning that I will attack him if he continues to be such a ‘woman’!

    What a waste of being loyal to this pathetic excuse of a ‘man’ by being loyal to him for 21 out of the 22 years I’ve known him!

    I AM very very angry!!!!

    Neda Agha-Soltan.


  16. klm
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 09:47:21

    Confucius said:

    “The administration of government lies in getting proper men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler’s own character. That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence.”

    Sigh! how true.

    The selection of Omar Mustapha Ong reflects on the one who rule.

    The selection of KTK as backdoor minister reflects on the one who rule.


  17. klm
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 10:19:59

    romerz. I quote you”

    “What a waste of being loyal to this pathetic excuse of a ‘man’ by being loyal to him for 21 out of the 22 years I’ve known him!

    The issue is that you have blind loyalty. Like what Dr. Hsu explained. I wonder how many men are like you still in Gerakan.


  18. serendipity hopeful
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 10:32:59

    Sad to say ‘Gerakan Watcher’s’ attitude is typical of the Chinese. Most take it as a practical attitude but if a rat is placed inside the rice conatiner, it not only eats what is not given, it shits and urinates inside the container, that whatever is good and useable is also spoiled!

    To those who thinks that they have great brains like that of Deng,taht they think like him, let them be reminded they do not have the political skills nor the awesome power that Deng had. Once the rat is let loose in the container there is no way it can be checked. Not only will the rat dies in the end, the ‘great thinkers’ and all the innocent others will also die with it.


  19. Nick
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 10:37:45

    Borrowing something and promising to return and later not fulfilling your obligations is tentamount to a “crime” especially when it involves money$$$. I am sure this Petronas scholarship was in the 0.5 million bracket. In the private sector, we called this “cbt” or “criminal breach of trust”. If convicted in court, it attacts a mandatory 1 whip on the buttock. I am glad this revelation came out and now we know what type of oxford graduate this guy is, a potential “kuala dimensi type”.


  20. Kenny Gan
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 11:40:20

    There seem to be a deep disconnect in Gerakan between the grassroots, the middle ranking leaders and the top leadership.

    The grassroots feel that the top leadership is protecting their own interests rather than the party’s interests. The middle ranking leaders feel isolated from the top leadership. Relationship between the grassroots and the middle leaders is mixed at best with many grassroots feeling there is too much politicking among the middle leaders.

    These forces festering within Gerakan are not easily resolved short of a revolution within the party and a change in the leadership.

    Gerakan is a party in decline. It is dying before your eyes, Dr. Hsu.

    BTW, news is that the old goat Lim Keng Yaik was instrumental in the CWC’s harsh suspension of Huan with the intention to promote his son Si Pin. See what I mean?


  21. romerz
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 11:57:51


    Had not have.

    And I’m trying to make amends for it.


  22. Dr Hsu
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 12:15:41

    I would answer your comment with this article in Malaysianinsider
    “Gerakan’s season of discontent”.

    Shannon Teon has written a very good analysis, only flaw in the artiocle is that Huan is not the only leader not aligned to top leadership. In fact Huan was a leader aligned to KTK and was picked to stand as MP in BK i 2004 by KTK.

    Those who have followed my blog and those who have seen me talked to KTK will know that I am not aligned to him ( my blogger friend romerz has seen me arguing with him a few times) or anyone else. There should not be any factionalism inside any party or organisation. , I have argued with the top so many times, that now there is no more direct communication except in meetings.

    The party is drifting and as I have mentioned to all the top leaders in meetings, Gerakan is like the lifeboat on titanic, the decision is whether we should throw the life boat out to the sea before the Titanic hits the iceburg ( thereby still ahving a chance of survival), or we remain and sink down with the titanic.

    The top leader thinks that he can still steer Titanic away from the iceburg, by pushing for a change inside cabinet and by keeping all ministries on their toes by KPIs. I have mentioned many times that this is the old way which has proven to be ineffective.

    I have no blind loyalty except loyalty to the our cause of a fair and equal society..So far, my blog has been critical and vocal and representatives of may grassrooots feeling, but they have just chosen to ignore the sentiments and hoping that UMNO changes…and they hope that by clinging to a changed UMNO, , people will come back to support Gerakan because of the change in UMNO.This is the prevailing thoughts not only in Gerakan, I suspect, but in all component parties leadership ( not grassroots).

    They are willigly letting UMNO control the fate of the component parties..

    As for the comment by Kenny Gan about the ‘old goat’, pls refer to my stand on a press statement i wrote in April 2008, after the Lee Kah Choon incident. The link is

    Pls read section 15, 16 and 17 . After that press statements, he has apparently not uttered anythign openly about Gerakan.. which is good.


  23. disgusted
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 14:36:23

    Dr and Kim are correct.

    The evergreen philosophy and ethical values are compartible to divine laws.

    Not forgetting, every second we are “ruled” by the unwritten, unsantioned laws of cosmic laws, irrespective of religious beliefs, creed and color of the skin.


  24. Kenny Gan
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 16:22:44

    Believe me, the Huan affair is not going to settle easy. It will cause a festering turmoil in Gerakan.

    Huan will not join PKR or MCA. He will not appeal and has decided to regard his suspension as null and void in direct challenge to the CWC.

    With his grassroot support, Umno backing and patronage of the filthy rich Tiong, Huan is no lightweight.

    How will it end? It’s not going to ‘end’ in the proper sense of the word. Umno will probably mediate to lift Huan’s suspension but deep divisions will remain.

    This is what you get when you harshly chop off a popular leader to protect your own interest. PPP’s Kayveas is learning a bitter lesson.


  25. gerakan member
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 17:37:35

    can someone please tell me why do Gerakan need to tolerate people like Koh Tsu Koon and Lim Keng Yaik? that also includes the prince i.e. Lim Si Pin….


  26. klm
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 18:33:51

    gerakan member. That is easy. Gerakan Members voted for them. They deserve who they voted. Except, no one voted for Lim Kim Yaik as adviser.


  27. pohwatchdog
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 19:47:56

    Move on Gerakan. No one is indispensable. Integrity, disipline, trust and committed is the key word for all
    organisation. It doesn’t matter a oil company or a political party. We want our country to move in a dignity manner, just, transparency and accountable society.


  28. batu giant
    Jun 25, 2009 @ 01:43:59

    Lim SI Pin is there because we voted him there…he won the party youth election so he is there. SO is Huan. 3 years are too hash. there will be no benefit to have punishment like that. Huan is voted in as well. There fore KTK should respect Gerakan Members decisions. Huan did wrong by threaten to leave and what not, so just make sure he understand what he did wrong and that should be end of the story.


  29. klm
    Jun 25, 2009 @ 08:02:49

    Since no one voted for Lim Kim Yaik as adviser, maybe Gerakan Members should pass a resolution to ask him to pack his bag and leave.


  30. robertchai
    Jun 28, 2009 @ 20:55:09

    klm is very naive. klm seem to be anti gerakan.


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