Bring in other Big Fish too!

A Tun was charged in court. This is the highest ranked person so far to be charged in the history of the country.  Although in law, a person is innocent until proven otherwise, i view this as a good start for bringing big fish to book.

Hope more prosecutions can be done, and more Big Fish can be brought to court, other than this fish head..  And for successful prosecution,  MACC must be given independent status with power to prosecute, something i have been harping since the beginning of this blog in 2006.

Under the law, all men are equal. All crimes must be punished.   All those public figures who have wealth and  assets  beyond their earnings  must be investigated and if no proper reasons can be given as to how they have amassed such wealth, investigate them thoroughly and charge them!

I was in the group that met the Top in  a dialogue . It was a  closed door meeting, and since the Top came late , only a few of us got the chance to speak, and those who spoke, spoke on some of the issues that I have highlighted in the article “tips of the iceburg’.  I was one of those who spoke and i think i was the most blunt and frank, as is my usual  style. We spoke on the need to be prudent in spendings, cut the wastages,   and the need to really tackle corruption, and that MACC was  perceived to be a tool of the government…  To his credit, the Top was taking note. I cannot reveal what exactly transpired   since it was a closed door meeting, and who spoke what.

The Top is facing resistance from right wingers, as divulged by one of the Penang leaders to a Chinese press after the dialogue.  He was quoted this in Nanyang 28/7/10 edition page A8, and this is  the translation of his news (for the sake of those who do not read Mandarin) : “Perdana Menteri terasa dalam mengerakkan ideal tadbir urus negara kerana menghadapi halangan daripada sayap kanan Melayu”. I resorted to quoting this news by this person  because none of us was  supposed to say anything about what the Top had said, but since this person  has already told  this  to the press,  quoting him was an indirect way of telling my readers  out there that the Top mentioned that he is facing great resistance in his trying to move his 1M concept, be fair to everyone (like in awarding scholarships to all 9A+ (regardless of skin colour) and government reform. Of course no one knows whether he says it from his heart, but his body language told me that he was quite sincere when he mentioned that.

I have also heard from other sources that his position within his party is not as strong as before because of the right wingers including the Old Horse and his outsourced organisation Perkasa..

The fear is if he cannot deliver, he would be pushed out and the Right winger’s Head would be the next Top.. A friend from Singapore expressed the same fear in Singapore of this happening to me too recently over tea.

As a small person and an ordinary folk, I think I have answered to my conscience in speaking without fear and favour  all this while, and I have even spoken  face to face with the very Top and bluntly too.

I have played my parts and have done my best as a small man in the street, and being an ordinary person , I will probably gradually fade away from all these. I have had enough. Being attacked by both sides is demoralising.  I was also glad that while waiting for the Top to arrive, the advisor (whom I have criticised very strongly in many National Meets) commended me as ” conscience of the party”, perhaps an  indirect recognition of my being very vocal  in meetings and being without fear or favour, bringing out things that i have written in this blog, and steppng on toes of top leaders and by doing so, many of these people  view me as  even more “opposition-minded’ than many opposition members.

It is one way to show that being a member of a political party does not mean that you have to sell your soul to them. On the other hand, you can be a thorn and keep on reminding them on ideology, and being a person with no ambition and a person who has done no wrongs and no leash around the neck for them to control, they cannot do anything to you. Even though my clinic was audited ( an euphemism for ‘raid’), nothing substantial could be used against me,  and if I am really pro-government, would I suffer such a fate?

Change can come from outside and change can come from applying pressure from within. All roads lead to Rome. Though Rome , in the Malaysian sense,  is still far far away, charging this TUN is the right first step.

I have always said that, even to my own members, that it would be good for the country for  the ruling party to lose once and change for the better and then come back cleaner and stronger, like he case in Taiwan.. I have not changed this view, but in the meantime, we still need change, no matter how subtle, for the people to live better. And you still need people to speak up either within the system or as a creditable third force, even though these people will be attacked by both sides, since to one side he is with the other, and to the other side, he is viewed as more opposition than opposition. That is the role no one cherishes; only those without ambition and without hoping to get anything except harrassment or even ISA can play, since only then, you can speak without fear or favour.

Charging this Tun is certainly a surprise to many, and i supposed many other Tan Sris and Datuks are now shivering, and did not know when the next big fish will be charged.

Power base

Teachers in certain categories are now allowed to be involved in politics.

In the early days of the country, teachers were one of the main groups involved in politics. that was why the portfolio of the Minister of Education was seen as something leading to the ultimate price for those ambitious ones.

Later on, when there were restrictions on the involvement of teachers, and when money politics comes into play, other ministers who can hand out lucrative contracts become very powerful too.

With the restriction being lifted, the MOE is once again very very powerful, and since the voting of the TOP leaders of the Big Brother is now no longer limited to just the few thousand delegates but to a much bigger base, teachers become important since they normally play very prominent roles in grassroots politics and they are also well respected in rural community.

With the restriction lifted, the MOE becomes  very powerful now, since teachers will probably form a big group of the enlarged voting base, and their influence goes beyond just their numbers and they will have a big say in influencing the big groups of people who are eligible to vote for the presidency of the Big Brother.

By so doing, the MOE, who is the no. 2 , is now petting more powerful.

The No 1 failure to win back Chinese votes is now being used by right wingers within the party to try to create resistance to his reforms and in a way he is now facing the same problem that his immediate predecessor is facing before — a threat to remove him if he gives out too much and still cannot win back the votes. The problem is that the right wingers, with the help of the outsourced Perkasa, is harping on racism to play a very dangerous game; a game that will cause polarisation of politics. The same right wingers are also in talk with some in the Islamic party..

What i have said in an article in my blog as well as Malaysiakini  in march is still valid . Maybe we should revisit the post here.

A newspaper cutting

This is a newspaper cutting from The Starits Times of Singapore. It is written by a Singapore Malay to The Old Horse.

It is self explanatory… To read, click on the image to enlarge it.

A tales of 2 countries

The following article from the Economist is posted as a comment by a reader and I thought it would be good to have it posted here. The story sounds familiar…Are we going that direction? Your guess is as good as mine:

From recent Economist magazine:

“FIFTY years ago Egypt looked oddly similar to another country. It had nearly the same population which was growing similarly fast, the same low income per person, the same proportion of relatively few city dwellers to lots of peasants working tiny plots, and similar life expectancy. ….. Both were run by quasi-dictators, complete with strict censorship and a pervasive secret police.”

“Egypt has made a lot of progress since then, particularly in recent years. But the other country, South Korea, has developed far faster. It has become a leading industrial power, a technological innovator and a vibrant democracy. Its people are now five times richer than Egypt’s (at purchasing-power parity against the dollar; at prevailing exchange rates the gap is far bigger), and on average live nearly ten years longer. The only measure on which South Korea lags behind is population growth. Whereas it had around 25m people in 1960 and now has double that number, Egypt’s population has nearly tripled.

“back in the 1960s Egypt’s ultimately wasteful experiments with nationalised industries and state planning were widely applauded. Plenty of Egyptians remain nostalgic for the years under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, when toilet paper and soap were scarce but the shiny new state-run factories providing jobs for life had not yet rusted and Egypt held its head high in regional affairs.”

“In South Korea the number of children born per woman was falling fast. Population growth was slowing, propelling the country into a happy phase known as the demographic transition, when the population pyramid begins to shrink at the base and widen in the middle, causing a bulge in the working-age population and a relative decline in the number of dependants.”

“South Korea and Egypt differ in another important respect. Fifty years ago, when South Korea’s adult literacy rate was already 71%, Egypt’s trailed at a dismal 25%. With 72% now, Egypt has only just passed South Korea’s level of 1960. That has had serious repercussions. According to a government-commissioned study, one reason why poverty has endured, despite Egypt’s rapid growth, is that too few people have the skills to exploit the opportunities available to them. Egyptian businessmen complain that a shortage of talented workers is one of the biggest obstacles to growth, second only to obstructive bureaucracy. Lawyers fume that it is not just too many laws and too few courts that tangle justice, but clueless judges and incompetent clerks.”

“It is not merely a question of literacy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Egypt’s high rate of traffic accidents, for instance, may be largely due to ignorance of basic rules. High fatality rates in hospitals reflect poor standards of training, accountability and hygiene. A 2008 study of public awareness of AIDS revealed that only 1.8% of women among the poorest fifth of Egyptians, and less than 16% among the richest, knew the basic facts of the disease. Men were better informed, but even so less than 30% of the wealthiest class were aware, for example, that someone might be HIV-positive yet look healthy.”

“A government survey this year found that, apart from school textbooks, 88% of Egyptian households read no books, and three-quarters of families do not read any newspapers or magazines either. Of those who do read, 79% concentrate on religious subjects. Perhaps more encouragingly, the study found that nearly three-quarters of youths aged 15-29 have used the internet, and almost half of them have read books on the web. But again, religious fare was the favourite subject, followed by sport, and only distantly by scientific subjects. Other surveys have found far lower levels of internet use.”

Egypt’s failure to educate its people is not due to lack of effort. The country’s first modern schools opened in the early 19th century, far earlier than in most of the region. Free public primary education was introduced in the 1940s, but not widely available until after the 1952 revolution. In the following quarter-century university enrolment increased by more than ten times. The number of primary schools doubled, the number of students quadrupled and public spending on education swelled from 3% to 4% of GDP, a respectable figure by world standards.

“Yet something went wrong. Before the revolution Egypt’s schools and universities were few but their standard was excellent. The push to boost numbers came at the cost of a drastic fall in quality. Instead of following tested Western models, school textbooks were rewritten to emphasise “nationalist values”, scientific formulas and lists of facts rather than critical thinking. By the 1980s class sizes in government schools averaged more than 60. With student numbers in several big state universities up to six-digit figures, hundreds, even thousands of students were packed into lecture halls. Some of the better staff emigrated to Gulf countries, where salaries were many times higher.”

Those left behind began to exploit an obvious market opportunity, offering private lessons on the side. This practice became so pervasive that by 2005 some 64% of urban students and 54% of rural ones resorted to private crammers in addition to regular schooling, according to Egypt’s Human Development Report. A 2002 World Bank study found that private tuition accounted for fully 1.6% of GDP, and other studies suggest it devours a whopping 20% of household spending in families with school-age children. A big reason why families are willing to spend so much is that the education system relies heavily on national exams, not only for rating students but also for placing them in the various faculties of the state universities that still account for 95% of college enrolment.

“Since the 1960s these have been ranked by prestige, with medicine and engineering accepting only the highest-scoring students. The humanities, including law and education, are left with the dross. In effect, this creates a tyranny of exams largely based on rote learning. It forces unhappy students into disciplines they would not have chosen for themselves and produces a chronic imbalance between the skills of graduates and the needs of the marketplace. Egypt has a surplus of would-be lawyers, slapdash engineers and scarcely numerate accountants but few trained librarians, architects or actuaries.”

UPSR and PMR

I have written last month on the need for standarised assessments      such as UPSR and PMR  in malaysia. the post was published in my column in Malaysian Insider a well as in this blog. Read here for those who miss it.

2 days ago I attended a round table talk by Sedar, which was attended by educationists  — notable professors from some of the universities, Ministry officials especially from exam board, representatives from teaching unions, retired heads of schools and teachers —  and many concerned public, including many who spoke as parents. The collective opinions of these people will be submitted in a memorandum to the Ministry.

Most spoke against abolishing the examinations, even though most are for revamping them.

I was given 2 minutes to say my piece. I quoted a personal experience.

When I was in Form 3, more than 4 decades ago, we had a good English teacher. This teacher had a private home tuition class. At that time tuition was a luxury that few could ill afford, and there was no tuition mentality among parents and students yet!

Many of us noticed that those who attended his tuition class had very good grades in the school English examinations marked by the same teacher. It could be that his tuition class was so good that even a bad student could become good. But to have this trend consistently and every year meant that there was something funny. In addition, some of those who got high marks by attending his tuition class did not have good command in English in daily lives.

In actual fact, there was this element of personal bias coming into play. The Teacher  was biased and might have subconsciously graded  those in his tuition class higher .

This personal experience, I told the gatherings, goes to illustrate one point. Personal bias will come into play in any form of assessment, be it for awarding scholarship, choosing school prefects, recruiting members into school teams, marking papers s in school examinations, and class evaluations.

We cannot escape this personal bias since we are all human, and we have certain emotions and attachments.

Our culture has not evolved to such a stage where professionalism has minimised personal bias, like in some of the countries such as Finland, and Sweden, where school based assessment is used for the first 12 years of education, and where population at large is homogenous, unlike the multiethnic and multireligiuos society existing in Malaysia.

With our diverse background, personal bias will certainly come into play in any form of school based assessment system.

We therefore need some form of standardisation of assessments of students in the form of unified national examinations like UPSR and PMR, in order to minimise personal bias, whether such bias  is ethnic-based, religious based, or just simply due to personal dislikes of certain aspects of a particular student.

By all means revamp the system; in fact the whole education system needs to be overhauled to produce thinking and innovative students. Get the educationists together, exclude the politicians and revamp the standardised assessment examinations and the whole syllabus. But

To abolish these examinations in haste will only  create more problems which will affect the future of our children as well as our nation.

A good philosophy – iphone 4’s salvation

I am very impressed by this video presentation of Steve Jobs for Apple Computers, trying to explain and salvage the antenna problems faced by the new iphone 4 users .

Whether it is a company or a government, it should have the attitude of this man and his company..Make the ‘users” (=people) happy..

I am going to post a few pictures taken from this video on his presentations.  The phrases inside the brackets below the pictures are mine,  for  government leaders  (or businessmen or anyone trying to promote a product ) to consider and ponder.

We are not perfect . ( Governments are not perfect)

We are not perfect . Phones aren’t perfect.  ( Governments are not perfect. Policies aren’t perfect)

We want to make all our users happy. ( We want to make all our citizens happy).

We love our users. We try very hard to surprise and delight them. (We love our citizens. We try very hard to surprise and delight them)

We love our users. Macs, ipods, iphones, ipads, Apple TV, App store…( We love our citizens. Independent MACC, fair judiciary, professional law enforcers, freedom for  press and TVs, job creating stores and factories…)

When we fall short, we try harder. ( When the government leaders fall short, we try harder)….

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Whether we try harder to correct our mistakes or just let it be differentiates  success from failure, excellence from mediocrity.

There is normally a great philosophy behind a great company. Similarly, there must be great philisophy behind a good government. I think it all boils down to whether it is “We love our users”, or ” We try to exploit our users”.  The days of the latters are long gone since people now are smarter and cannot be exploited anymore…

What is to be poor ?

2 days ago, I posted the ‘ Table of millionaires’.

Today I am going to post another table: the distribution of household income in Malaysia.

This is what is written in Wikipedia on malaysian poverty:

The official figure for urban poverty is given as 2%; critics have argued that this significantly underestimates urban poverty, as the poverty lineis set at RM500 per month for a family of four — a monthly income which has been argued as unrealistically low for a family of four to meet its needs

Our official figure is that only about 2 to 3% of population is below poverty line. But looking at the table above, 38% of household has household income below 2000.

Poverty depending on pre-defined ‘poverty line’  and income alone may not be reflective of real situation. This is because those living in cities experience higher standard of living ( a nicer way of saying more expensive living), and it also depends on the number of people in that household. A household earning 2,000 and has only 2 persons, living in a remote area may not be as poor as one with 8 members living in slums in the cities.

So what is actually “being poor’? I think a more appropriate definition is the inability of the household to cope with basic living expenses for the household– the inability to feed proper calorie-sufficient meals, provide basic  education and basic healthcare, with a simple roof on top of its  members.

If we take this as poverty, then the incidence of poverty is definitely higher than 3%. I suspect it will be more in the region of 30%…

To these poor households, it is really meaningless to talk about economic growth of 10%-11% because they just do not feel the effects, if any, of the so-called growth figures.

The challenge to any government is how to bring these households out from poverty  —  a more balanced socially based economic policy  and free  education  (our ‘free’ education has lots of hidden charges) may be the answers.

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