message from a gathering

Last Saturday, I took the 5.50pm Firefly flight to Penang for my Chung Ling High School Class of 69 40th reunion dinner. Yes, I am that old, and I finished my form 5 in 1969, the year of the May 13.. Why I said so is because when I told some of my members that I am going for a 40th reunion, none believes … They think I look younger than my age… I think they must be polite to say so…Anyway, age is only how you feel inside yourself, and if you are at ease inside your heart, and have not done anything against your conscience, you will feel young inside, no matter how is your external appearance.

I normally drive up to Penang, because if you are in Penang and you have no transport, it is very difficult to get around, as cabs are few and they do not use the meter.

This time, I took the Firefly as I have to rush for time, since I have a CC meeting in the afternoon..

I reached Penang at around 7pm, and reached Penang club where the reunion dinner was held at 8pm.

It was a nostalgic meeting and get together, seeing so many of my classmates and form mates.  For some of the classmates, it took me some time to remember their names; I hope it is  because for too long we have not seen each other, and not  because of my brain getting old and atrophic..:)

Invariably, we touched on the political situation in Penang as well as the whole country. Not a single one whom I have met has any nice things to say about BN, and most say that they will give PR another term come the next GE.

I believe BN has only itself to blame for this situation, and in Penang, everything  that the State Gerakan is trying to hit at DAP,the salvo, like boomerang,  invariably  hit back at them.

If they talked about LGE’s residence, the people would ask about Toyo’s and Zakaria’s ‘palaces’. If they talked about poor rubbish collection,people invariably asked about what happened before 308– the same rubbish problems have existed. Same with transportation and so on.

I think Penangites will give another chance for the opposition to rule because they think one term is too short a time..  And another point is most Penangites now want a 2 party system. That is the message I gathered from the gathering.

There is only one way to go for BN. A radical change to cut out all the cancers, and dump a corrupt and racial culture, improve efficiency, adopt meritocracy, be transparent and accountable. It is that simple, but what is lacking is the political will.

…………………………………

On Firefly, I was at first quite taken aback when I saw the ATR planes used by Firefly. Those of you who have followed the Air Crash Investigation series of National Geography channel must have seen the shows talking about the crashes of the ATR.

But Iwas pleasantly surprised that the ride was very smooth and the seat comfortable, and even for a sixfooter like me, I have no problem sitting comfortably for the short one hour flight.

The best thing was of course you can travel from Subang, a stone throw from where I stay in PJ, and save time and money going to KLIA….The journey going to klia will be longer than the flight.

Vexing delay for thousands seeking citizenship

This is from Malaysian Insider quoting the Straits Times of Singapore ( also available in The Korean Herald):

Vexing delay for thousands seeking citizenship

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Malek Ali recently lost two staff members of the radio station he runs for a reason he sees as unnecessary.

One was an Australian radio station engineer and the other was the man’s Malaysian wife. The couple returned to Australia after the husband could not renew his work permit.

“These are good people. He was among the best in his field,” Malek said. “He and his wife are now contributing to the Australian economy.”

That was a stark contrast to his own experience — in Singapore.

In 2000, he became a permanent resident there, while working for the Singapore operations of a Malaysian company. Six months later, he was asked if he wanted to apply for citizenship.

He did not. He came back to start the BFM radio station, but without his family. He felt it was better for them to continue living across the Causeway. He commutes every weekend to Singapore.

Malek’s stories tell a succinct tale of the double whammy Malaysia is facing in the global grab for talent. Its citizens are being wooed by other countries, while its labyrinthine process of applying for permanent residence or even work permits drives away those who might want to stay.

This is not a new story. But it came to the forefront last week when complaints poured out on Internet forums after the Home Ministry held a high-profile exercise to award citizenships to 92 people.

The 92 were among the 33,000 “stateless” persons in the country. Most of them were born in Malaysia, but did not have legal papers as their births were never registered or the papers lost.

Among them was Leong Chwee Chun, 64. She had waited 36 years after her papers were lost during the Japanese Occupation.

But many of the best-qualified of these “stateless” residents have not stayed. Some left long ago, frustrated with inconclusive outcomes of their applications.

Plain-speaking Gerakan politician Dr Hsu Dar Ren tells of a former classmate who did not have citizenship, even though he was born in pre-independence Malaya, because his mother did not apply for it then.

The classmate was consistently top in his class and was later offered a scholarship to study in Singapore, where he became a citizen after graduating as an engineer. No one could blame him.

“The brain drain is really one of the biggest problems in Malaysia today, and this sort of thing does not help,” said Dr Hsu.

The citizenship ceremony was held with pomp last week to showcase the Home Ministry’s pledge to clear the backlog of applications by the year end. It has already processed 70 per cent of the 32,927 outstanding applications for citizenship, 16,812 for permanent residency and 93,360 cases of late registration of births.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein did not say how many of the applications were successful.

Malaysia’s difficulty in retaining talent has become more acute as the government tries to lift the economy up and out of the low-cost, low-wages model. It needs to replace brawn with brains.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had asked the government’s Economic Council for a new economic model to emphasise innovation and creativity.

But as Malaysians like Malek have noted, this requires being more efficient about keeping talent. The Malaysian process is opaque and convoluted and the delays are legendary.

Many have complained that they are kept in the dark about the criteria — unlike countries such as Australia, which uses a clear points system.

There is widespread belief that much hinges on what Dr Hsu describes as “a numbers game”. In a country where race is linked to power, the racial balance is always part of the consideration.

It may not be an official policy, but there are scores of stories that hint of unspoken racial considerations.

But as it has been pointed out, even if they number in the thousands, new immigrants will hardly change Malaysia’s demography.

“The demographic trend clearly shows that the major ethnic group is going to form a bigger and bigger proportion of the total population as time goes on,” said Dr Hsu.

The pledge to clear the huge backlog — which is part of the Home Ministry’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — is welcomed, but it will not go very far as long as the process itself is not reformed.

Management-style KPIs may focus on statistics, but not necessarily the right decisions.

“They can easily say ‘no’ to everyone and meet the KPI,” said Malek. “But we haven’t done what is needed — provide a clear policy, transparency and speed.” — The Straits Times

 

 

Please read my article on this issue:  A most frustrating hassle.

Winning the penny and losing the pound

From a few reliable sources, the UMNO  candidate for the coming by election in NS will most likely to be the former MB, who was once suspended from the party because of money politics.

While the chances of winning for UMNO is greatly enhanced by this person, since the area is his base and stronghold, the selection of this person as a candidate will have great repercussions.

After 308, BN parties have been talking about changes. But fOr most of the component parties other than UMNO, they cannot change much within the confines of BN politics, since in the reality of Malaysian power politics, UMNo holds sway of the direction and determines major policies that the government  implemements. What can smaller parties like MCA, Gerakan , PPP etc do to change the perception of the people towards the coaltion? Nothing major except by voicing out more often  within the Barisan, and small cosmetics changes like strengthening bureaus and be more vocal in public.

Apart from these minor cosmetic changes, the fate of all the component parties is in the hand of UMNo, and if UMNo fails to convince the people that it is truly reforming, the fate of all other component parties is sealed…

UMNO of course knows about this and its top leaders are trying very hard to introduce reform. So far, certain changes have been slowly introduced, like  in the concept of KRAs and KPIs, and the promise of tackling corruption and bad governance. 

 While there are promises and professed intentions of tackling corruptions ,  people are still waiting to see any concrete evidence of whether the government is sincere in dealing with this rogue problem which has so often been the cause of the falls of empires and dynasties in the past.  The ruling coalition must be committed and show that it has the resolve to walk the talk.

Even though  the ACA has given way to MACC with more bits and power, the perception has remained negative. In fact, ask the people living in Klang Vallye, and most of them will say that they do not believe that corruption level will come down.

What is needed for BN in general and UMNO in particular is to make radical changes and show the people that it is 100percent committed to push through these changes.

One of the most pressing things to do is to select people with good standing, with no baggage and seen to be clean and conscientious to be their leaders and candidates.

What better chance to prove than in the selection of candidates for the various by elections ? In the present situation where the credibility of the various component parties is so low, the first and foremost consideration for any selection of candidates should be that the person must be very clean and with untainted background.  In by elections, where the winning or losing of the seats does not affect the balance of power, winnability of the seat should be secondary.

In the last by election in Penang, Permatang Pasir, a person with a certain baggage was chosen, and people all over West malaysia could not believe that the coalition is serious to want to change for the better. What else to explain how a person who has a baggage was chosen; except for people to come to the conclusion that lessons of 308 have not been fully understood and learned.

So with the coming by election, winnability should again be secondary. What is of primary importance is to project a determination to change for the better, and what better chance than to show to the whole country that a powerful warload with a past will be sidelined and a clean candidate be chosen, a person with an impeccable past and is sincere in serving the rakyat with conscience and hard work. Do not tell me that there are no such candidate around. If it is so, then the whole coalition is doomed..

Veteran leaders liek Dr Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh have come out to warn UMNO not to choose someone with a tainted past. I think this message should be heeded, not only in this by election but in all undertakings of all component parties, be it UMNO, MCA , Gerakan, PPP or others including the opposition parties.

To win a seat but to continue losing the credibility war, it would be like winning a penny but losing the pound.

This  is very clearcut to the rakyat  watching from the side, but unfortunantely, those walking the corridors of power often seem so adept in shooting not the enemy but ownself in the foot, that time and again, obviously wrong decisions are made.

 

Mother earth will have the last laugh

harbour bridge(pic from msnbc)

This is not Malaysia. Although it is as hazy as our haze, this haze is more orange in colour,  not smoky like ours. It is dust, from top soil.

This is the Harbour Bridge of Sydney, yesterday. The whole city was enshrouded in a dust storm whcih created havoc in the city.

The cause is the severe drought in the interior of Australia. Yes, it is due to climate change again.

For those of us looking from a far, this may be a spectacular sight, but for those who are in the midst of the dust storm, it is no joke. they are literally choked with earth… I really pity those with asthma and sensitive airways. It is like suddenly you are being slowly ‘strangled’.

Whether this is due to global warming is debatable. Envirnmental changes are often subtle, but once changed, it is difficult to reverse, if not impossible.

I like to tell the stroy of the frog in a pot being heated over fire. I have written a couple of times on this. Maybe I will just qoute myself from an earlier post:

If you put a frog into a very hot, near boiling water, it will jump out immediately. It may get some scald injuries, but it will still survive and live on.

However, if you put a frog into a pot of cold water, and very very slowly heat up the pot, the frog will not jump up. It will instead swim comfortably in the water, enjoying the increasing warm water, not realising that the end is near. When it realises that the water is getting too hot, it cannot jump out anymore because half of it was already cooked. Ultimately, of course, the frog dies, not knowing why it has to be so in an environment which was so comfortable initially.

In many instances, we human are like the frog in the pot.

In global warmings, we do not care until the pot (in this case, a globe) we live in gets too hot. It will be too late when we realise the danger, but by then, it will be too late.

Many of us do not care much about preserving environment. I heard a story about a factory which has officially a mechainsm in place for dealing with the waste from the factory, but only 10% of the waste goes through the mechanism, the rest of the waste goes through an underground tunnel which leads to a river nearby.

 This was told to me by a businessman. The official waste treatment is just for show when the DOE officers come calling. Most time, the wastes are disposed off through the cheapest means, via the underground tunnel to the river nearby.

Any wonder why our rivers are so polluted? Our beaches so polluted?. In the  haste to make money, some businesses have forgotten about not to abuse the environment. For short term gain, it is putting the whole humanity at risk.

Ultimately, what goes round comes around, the mother earth will have the last laugh on us.

mt killimanjaroAfrica’s tallest mountain, Mt Killimanjaro has lost 82% of its ice cover over the last 80 years.

For those concerned about environemnt, pls also read this article I wrote in Jan 2007: An entire island has disppeared.

Hitting the face to make it look more prosperous

My late father was from China. In that part of China that he came from (Jiangsu province), there is a saying ” da zhong nian bi chong pang zhi’. Dont worry if you cannot pronounce that sentence because it simply means that “hitting the face to make it puffy so that the face appears fatter”.

In the old days in that part of world, to be fat means  a person was prosperous whereas  to be thin means that a person was struggling with his life and hardly had enough to eat. So some thin people tried to don many layers of clothes to appear fatter but how to make the face look fatter? Well, some of them resorted to hitting the face to make it appeared swollen and thereby fatter and more ?prosperous.  Whether this was really practised , I have no way of verifying this. 

 Of course we know now that the fatness of a person has nothing to do with whether he is rich or poor. It has more to do with genes as well as eating habits and activity level..

To understand the gist of the meaning of this saying, it is best to use real life examples. One of the best examples may be this:   to spend hundereds of millions to buy a seat in a space craft of another country in order to send one of its citizens to space, just so because it can boast  that it has  a cosmonaut in the country which has no space program , not even an aeronautical program, is like a poor person  trying to masquerade as a successful prosperous person. When you have not reached that level, but spend precious maney to pretend that you have attained that level, it is like a thin man hitting the face to make it look fatter.

I hope now you have a better understanding of what this saying means.

There are many other examples. Recently, the announcement of spending 1 billion to finance a F1 team to compete in the F1 circuit , when there are still so many people living below poverty lines and many household without basic amenities such as water and electricity, is akin to a poor person trying to look successful.

To have  a F1 team would definitely make the nation  more famous. No doubt about it. So can spending a fraction of the money to promote the country overseas with well made advertisement films. 

 The contention here is therefore not whether spending a billion would make the country more famous., but rather whether this  justifies the huge initial cost of haivng a F1 team, not to mention the maintenance which would not be cheap. Is this the right way of managing our finances ? Are we rich enough to support this sports? What about those hard core poor that are  still aplenty?

 Tell this to the hard core poor when each day is a struggle to keep themselves alive. Tell this to the odd job worker who does not know when and where  the next meal will come from. Tell this to the parents of those  students who could not pursue their education simply because they have no money. Tell this to those people who have no pipe water but have to cart water from kilometers away. Tell this to those who have to use kerosene lamps at night to light up their houses.

One of my commentators, klm, think that there is an agenda behind this move. This is what he commented:

The F1 program is another political move to create the feel good atmosphere.

What the BN govt is doing is akin to what the Roman emperors were doing in staging spectacles like Gladiators fight in the Coliseum. These expensive spectacles were staged so that the emperors could gain favour and support from the Romans. It was like feeding them opium to numb their feelings. It was creating a feel good atmosphere to divert miseries from the Romans mind.

Maybe he is right. In that case, it would be worrying, because Roman Empire disintegrated after having this sort of sports..

BUt whatever the reasons behind the setting up of this team, this is a clear case of hitting the face to make it look more prosperous.

Knowing our leaders’ mentality, this will not be the last case either.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

This blog wishes all Malaysians of the Muslim faith

                     “Selamat hari raya aidilfitri”

……………………………………………………………………………….

For those going back hometown, please drive carefully.

For those who remain in Kuala Lumpur, please enjoy the jam free traffic these few days..

🙂

A most frustrating hassle

Yesterday, 92 ‘lucky’ people became Malaysian citizens, many of them after a wait of many years. Many of these are more Malaysians than some Malaysians, but because of red tapes and other undisclosed reasons, their applications were either put on hold, or rejected time and again.

I remember when I was studying in high school, one of my classmates was a stateless person despite being born in Malaysia before the Independence, simply because his father had died early and his mother did not apply for citizenship during the period preceding and immediately after Merdeka. When he was in his teens, it was too late already and both he and his mother were given only red ICs.

He was one of the very top students of our school, and was given an Asean Scholarship by the Singapore Government to study engineering in University of Singapore and later went overseas and obtained his PhD.

I still remember while all of us who went to Singapore had Malaysian Passports, he had only a Certificate of Identity to cross the immigration. But he was accepted in Singapore nonetheless, and became a Singaporean citizen upon his graduation as an engineer.

The last time I met him a decade ago, he was already a full professor in Singapore, and was well known in his field.

There are many such stories. These are many talents lost because of our bureaucracy. There are many spouses who are foreigners but married to Malaysians who studied overseas and came back to Malaysia to face a  life long  hassle of applying for Malaysian citizenship.  Many had impeccable qualifications, but cannot get a job here because of their non Malaysian status.

 Imagine their frustration of seeing millions of foreign workers coming into the country and easily getting work permits, and many Indonesian easily getting citizenship while they, with top qualifications which would be an asset to any country, lingering around our immigration department year in and year out to extend their stay. 

 I hope this process of approving citizenship for this group of more-Malaysian-than-Malaysian people would be continued in the next couple of months.  But deep down in my heart, I can’t help but worry that this may be just a one off public relation excercise , which our government is so fond of and is so good at displaying. I will be glad to be proved wrong.

Imagine what these group could have contributed to our economy, our education system and our society? No, we rather allow people with poor education to get work permits and work at Wan-tan-Mee or fried-kway-teow stalls while their Malaysian hawker bosses are shaking legs at home and laughing to the banks.

There is a perception , which may or may not be true,  that one of the hindrances of giving citizenship to these people is the number game with regards to racial composition of the country. But these people, although in the  thousands, would hardly alter the race composition of the country, especially when demographic trend clearly shows that the major ethnic group is going to form a bigger and bigger proportion of the total population as time goes on.

Many of the Malaysians with foreign spouses who cannot get citizenship are so frustrated with the system that they chose to emigrate overseas. These are the cream of society and much sought after for their skills and abilities overseas. Their emigration is a loss to Malaysia and a gain to the country where they emigrate to.

Well, at least there is a good start now that  92 people were  given citizenship. Although this is like a drop in the ocean,  at least there is now hope that the government would ease its red tape and speed up the process of giving citizenship to this group of deserving Malaysians.

Otherwise, it would be a big farce that while we are ostensibly trying to attract foreign talents to our country, we are neglecting a ready group of equally talented would-be Malaysians who can contribute to the country at a fraction of the cost.

 

 

 This post is alos published in Malaysianinsider .

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