Revisiting “That time of the year again”

A reader asked me to pen something on the Auditor General’s report.

I was reluctant to write this year, not because I thought there is any improvement in wastage and leakage, but rather what was revealed was nothing new anymore.

Year in and Year out, I have written on the abuses revealed, and yet the same thing happens again and again.

I think it would suffice just to paraphrase one of my old article written in October 2009. Just change the ministries and the items procured, and you have my view:  ( the abuse is so widespread that different papers are publishing different abnormalities in procurements of different things.. Perhaps readers can help filling in the ministries and items)

   That time of the year again 

(2009)

It is that time of the year again.

No, I am not referring to the ‘durian’ season, nor to the festivities like Deepavali, Hari Raya or Mid Autumn Festival.

I am referring to the time when lay men like you and me feel angry and frustrated towards certain ‘wrongs”, but are powerless to do anything.

Every year, since time immemorial, it has evoked the same feeling; but every year, we just sigh , comment with our ‘coffee kakis’ in ‘Kopitiams’ and shake our heads . People like me with a computer will probably write something to let off steam; the more important people, like those elected YBs from the other side of the divide, will probably pose some embarrassing questions in the Dewan.

The end results will be the same; life carries on and nothing changes. We will all forget about and talk on other issues until the time of the year is here again.

I refer to the week in the year when the Annual Auditor General’s report is released.

Many years back, the AG reports revealed that – those in the 20s and 30s might not remember- certain items of cutlery were bought for millions of ringgit, the purchasing power of which will be equivalent to the cost of a small new Honda jet now( I googled and found that Honda jets cost US$3.65 millions each a year ago ).

Well, not to be outdone, we have officers in different departments competing with each other to get listed in the AG report every year, as if it is a honour list not to be outdone by others.

This year the honour must go to a college in Balik Pulau Penang, which bought 2 laptops for RM $42,320 per piece, according to the Star online here. I do not know what advanced features this lap top has, but I only know that for that amount of money, I can buy more than a dozens of the computer which I am using now to write this.

Then again, if they bought a 19 inch monitor for Rm8,500 per unit, what do you expect? I can buy one for about a thousand ringgit. Not to mention the 450 units of computer CADs which cost RM3.45 million, an amount an average Malaysian can never hope to earn in a lifetime.

What can we all do? I will write and let off steam and this is now fast becoming a ritual at this time of the year. Many of my friends who do not like to write will probably go to Kopitiams again, commenting on these purchases, sighing and cursing, and soon forgetting about the whole thing again.

Do not blame these officers for buying above market prices. When they see the leaders paying tens of millions of commission to middle men in procurements, it is only human to follow suit.

When the top beams are crooked, the lower beams cannot be straight.

Some recent thoughts

Firstly,  A very Happy deepavali to all followers of Hindu faith.

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I will also use this opportunity to pen some of my thoughts the last few days:

I thought it was good for the government to allow the Himpun gathering.

But having done so, the government should not practise double standard, and in future it must be prepared to allow peaceful demonstration to take place.

It can be in a stadium. It can even be in a designated street or park where police can keep an eyes on such rallies.

I thought it was also good that so few people attended that rally. It goes to show that most Malaysians, irrespective of their faith, are tolerant, peace-loving, and do not believe that there is a serious activtiy for any religion to try to convert followers of other religions.

I hope Malaysians should keep up this love for peace.

This also shows that Malaysian society has matured so much. If it was in the 70s, or 80s, any news of such gatherings would see half the town resort to panic buying and stocking up foods and drinks. On that day, life went on as usual, crowds (bigger than Himpun) were everywhere in malls and jams were as bad as any other Saturday.

Malaysians no longer  live in the shadow of May 13. That tragedy  has often been used by certain BN politicians to warn certain ethnic groups  to vote BN. But the Bersih walk has shattered that myth, and the way  most people reacted to this Himpun gathering again shows that Malaysians cannot be easily swayed with such method of fishing for votes.

Malaysians are now much better educated, and most of us can think for ourselves.

Are we still human?

Just heard that the 2 year old infant in Foshan has passed away.

What has humanity become?I can’t help but shed a tear for this innocent kid, who died as a result of people becoming so cold-blooded and behaving more like animals than human.

For those who have not heard about this case, this is about a 2 year old girl who while toddling across a street in Foshan in Guangdong, was run over by a Van.

Video footage shows that after the front wheel ran over the girl, the van slowed but then didnot stop  and the rear wheel too ran over the injured girl. The van then sped away, leaving the half dead toddler in the middle of the street.

After this, there were 18 passers-by, but none of them bothered to stop to save the child.

Finally, an old lady, who is a trash collector, came to the aid of this girl and when the girl was admitted, her condition was already very critical.

When media succeeded in  tracing  the van driver, he mentioned that he did not know that he had hit a girl –( sleeping driving?)

Most of the 18 passersby too pleaded innocence , saying that they did not notice the incident nor the injured girl lying in the middle of the street. ( having cataracts? or are them demented?)

Worse, the old lady who came to the rescue was criticised by some of the people that she came to aid the girl because she wanted publicity.

If one or two walked away, I would understand, since in the law of average, there will bound to be some who would do not do things that a normal person would do. What a normal person would do would be that he or she would try to help the little girl, provide some first aids if possible, and call for an ambulance or inform the police.

But 18 persons in a stretch? Only one in 19 responded. This really reflects the type of attitude in the community.

I remember not too long ago, I saw somewhere in the net a story about a dog which stayed by the side of another dying dog, howling sadly and refusing to leave. . If animals can have such sympathy for their own kind, why can’t these people calling themselves human exhibit some of the human traits? Is it not a human trait to help others in need, especially someone who is injured?

Confucius would certainly turn in his grave, if he knows about this. So would Mao and Deng.

I wonder if the same accident happens in Malaysia, would we respond differently? I  think that we Malaysians are much more helpful and I have often seen in Pudu how people would help an accident victim to clinics and hospitals.

I hope the toddler’s  soul will rest in peace!

Penang leads again!

The attacks on LGE’s son was indeed ‘gutter” politics. This is indeed like the proverbial ‘hitting below the belts”.

The headmaster of the school involved has come out to deny the whole incident, and I think the person who had fabricated all these must at least come out to apologise. He or she must realise that to apologise takes more courage than just attacking people without any foundations.

I have always been against these sort of gutter politics. I have condemned the DVD incident involving CSL. I had also condemned the incident involved Eli Wong.

Politics need not be dirty. In fact, any hitting below the belt would have counter effects. I am sure LGE will get lots of sympathy support now, even from the fence sitters.

What anti-Lim people should do is to list and argue on his policies. SO far, it has been seen to be setting a good example to other staes, going by the Economist article not too long ago. Even Tun Tan SIew Sin’s daughter has openly praised LGE’s policies in a radio interview some time back. She mentioned that even though LKS and Tun Tan had often been at logger head with each other, she must pay credit when credit is due, and she mentioned that the open tender thing is a example of some of  LGE’s good policies.

Today, another international medium, Bloomberg, has come out to highlight Lim’s success.

You can view the article here:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-19/malaysia-losses-from-racial-law-exposed-by-foreigners-in-penang.html

I have said many times that the best way for a political party to canvass for votes would be to show its track record. The best thing for PR to show is to govern the stated under them well, and then let people decide. Likewise, BN should do the same. Showcase the achievements and let people decide. That should be the way for a 2 party system.

If all sides can be civil, I do not see why politicians need to resort to dirty gutter tricks. That is not the civilised way. People are not stupid, and they can think for themselves, so much so that dirty tricks tend to hit back at those who resorted to them.

Establishing a system!

China celebrated 100 years of liberation from dynastic rule this month , on the 10th of October.

100 years ago, on the tenth of October, The Qing Dynasty was overthrown. Tongmenhui, a anti-Qing anti-dynastic organisation with Dr. Sun Yat Sun at the helms, organised a number of uprising prior to the double ten date; and a number of allied organisations also  organised uprising on their own. Unfortunately, all failed.

In 1911, a few months before the actual successful uprising in WuChang, Tongmenhui organised an uprising in Guangzhou, under the leadership of Huang Xin, a man I regarded with the same respect as Dr Sun. Unfortunately, that uprising failed and 72 martyrs were killed ( actually more than 100 were killed). They were buried in Huang Hua Kang. (“I had the fortune to read one of the letters written by one of the martyr , Lin Jue Min, to his wife just prior to his last journey to take part in the uprising, and I was moved to tears. That was in my high school days.)

Many uprising failed, but it really rocked Qing government and awakened the people of CHina to be their own boss, to helm their own destiny. Many people in CHina then joined Tongmenhui as secret members, and these included many in the Qing army , many officials and students.

Following the failure of GuangZHou uprising, another uprising which was actually not planned by Tongmenhui, but rather by the new army personnel based in Wuchang, became successful, and they took over the city of Wuchang. The uprising was a catalyst for many other similar ones which occurred all over China, and the revolutionaries joined forces together. Dr Sun, who at that time was in US, came back to CHina, and was sworn in as the Provisional President of the Republic of CHina.

At that time, Qing still had  a relatively strong army, BeiYang Army under Yuan Shi Kai, compared to the armies of the revolutionaries.

Yuan could have beaten the revolutionaries in Hankou, but after capturing Hanyang , he stopped.

Negotiation took place and Yuan hinted through intermediaries that he could force the QIng Emperor to abdicate, but he would only do so, if he was made the president

Dr Sun, a selfless person by all counts, did not hesitate, and he offered to resign to anyone who could force the Qing to abdicate , so as to avoid a full-scale civil war.

Comrades within Tongmenhui were all against him relinquishing his presidency to someone who was as cunning and as untrustworthy as Yuan.

But Dr Sun famously said that in order for democracy to flower in China, to take roots in CHina, they needed to establish a system first, and it was not important who should be the president.

In his view, as long as the dynastic rule could be ended, and a civilian could be made president and head of the country, ,then even by giving the post to Yuan, it would be the first step of a journey of no return. Once that happened , he believed that the people of China would never want to go back to dynasty rule again. Since half of china was still under Qing, he would not mind to let Yuan be president, as long as the dynasty rule can be ended and a new precedence be set.

Once the system is established, even if Yuan decided to be Emperor again, it would be impossible for that to happen. True enough, Yuan did try to declare himself as emperor later on, but as soon as he announced it, people from all over China expressed opposition and provinces after provinces declared autonomy . Yuan had to abandon his emperor dream, but in the end, he died a unhappy death, when war was threatened against him.

That was the importance of setting precedence and showing people that even someone without the mandate of heaven or not the son of heaven can be head of a country.

History is for us to learn. The lesson here is that for the people here to be the real Boss, we must establish a system where there are 2 more or less equal choices. When one side is no good, we kick that side out through exercising our votes, and invite the other side in. When the other side is no good, we kick them out and re-invite the previous side to come back. Once a side is in opposition, they would have undergone self improvement and self cleansing, and emerge a better and trimmer party.

That is the way to establish a culture of accountability, transparency and clean government. If one side is corrupt when in power, they can be sure that they would be voted out. By competing each others for people’s support, a government would become cleaner, more accountable and transparent.

Like what Dr Sun has said, in order to do that, to have a system of 2 parties vying for our support, we must establish the system first, and there must be a precedence of another side coming to power.  Dr Sun knew Yuan was a devil, but he relinquish his post to Yuan, in order to establish a precedent , and set the path for a system to take root. It was about letting a concept be shown to be achievable- the concept  of a nondynastic rule, after more than 2000 years of feudalism.

Similarly, to want to have a 2 party system in Malaysia  is not about supporting BN or PR; it is about the future of Malaysia. It is not about Anwar or Najib; it is about our own children. It is about a future where our children can really be their own Boss.

To do that, we must have a 2 party system, and let the power that be know that people no longer need to be GRATEful to the leaders, since the leaders are elected representatives of the people to manage the affairs of the country FOR THE PEOPLE..

A lesson in safety!

Immediately after the Japanese tsunami and the Fukushima incident , I wrote about the need to review our planned rare earth plant in Pahang. This was what i wrote then:

While the whole world is now worried about the safety of nuclear plants, after an explosion in one and a possible meltdown in 2 other, I thought it would be wise for anyone, even those eager to see a nuclear plant in Malaysia, to think twice. Or at least wait till further development to see whether the Japanese can contain the nuclear problemsand how serious this would turn out to be before commenting.

 But our minister in charge of our planned nuclear plant has immediately announced that Malaysia would continue with our planned project, without even wanting to wait out further development in Japan. I thought this is really unfair to the people of Malaysia. Not only that, this is also politically unwise to announced this when the whole world is worried about possible nuclear fallouts. I thought a more sensible approach would be to suspend and review any nuclear project that is being planned. We should also take another look at the planned rare earth factory in Pahang.. No planning by man is foolproof. Mother nature has shown it clearly in this case. A country as advanced as Japan is facing potential nucelar meltdown, and we really do not know how bad is the situation, or whether the government there is really transparent in its disclosure..

Many months have passed, and the rare earth project is still being carried out.

Some may say that there is minimal risk to radiation exposure. Some may argue that we may get more radiation travelling in a plane.

Which this may be true, the truth is there is no such thing as a minimal level of safety where radiation is concerned. Prolonged exposure of even low dose radiation is known to cause health problems, radiation risk being cumulative. So if it is avoidable, why should we subject ourselves to a risk, however minimal it may be? It is the same case of many hospitals switching from CATs Scan to MRI( even though in certain instances, a CT scan may have a slight edge  and vice versa) , why risk the radiation when there is a nonradioactive alternative? I personally do not send my patients for Xrays unless it is really  clinically indicated, unless the benefits of obtaining information outweighs the radiation risk, even though the radiation from a chest x ray may be  less than that of air-travel.

I have later  written another article on Lynas  and this is part of the excerpt:

The simple question is : if there is no risk at all to set up a rare earth company, why didn’t the company set this up in Western Australia, near to its source of extraction? It would have saved  millions in shipping cost.

The fact that it has not obtained approval by the authority to set up such a plant in Western Australia ( which has a vast area of unpopulated land),  and it has to set up a plant thousands of miles away from its source of extraction speaks plenty for itself.

If Western Australian authority is concerned about radiation risk, why shouldn’t we be too?

If the safety features of the plant cannot ensure the issuing of a license to operate in Australia, why are we giving a license? Is our standard of safety lower than that of Australia? Are we so hard up on foreign investment that we are willing to risk the health of our people? Isn’t that contrary to the slogan “People first”?

Is the life of a Malaysian less precious than that of a resident of a developed nation?

Germany, which is a country in the forefront of scientific research,  has become the first country to announced that it will slowly wean itself of nuclear plants. Many countries are reevaluating their energy needs and reviewing nuclear options.

It would be prudent for our country to cancel the project or at the very least , shelf it.

Malaysia has already had a bad experience previously in the Bukit Merah Asian rare earth plant.  A US$100 million clean up project has been instituted there, after complaints of birth defects and many cases of leukemia in a community which has not seen any leukaemia cases before.  We should put ourselves in the shoes of those parents who children have contracted leukaemia; how do we feel? Do we want the same thing to happen to our fellow countrymen living near Lynas?

It should be a case of  “once bitten twice shy”, but we are still insisting on something that may bite us another time;  why should we be so careless?

When Chernobyl was built, residents around it were assured that it was safe.  When I was doing my master, we did a very comprehensive study on Chernobyl, because it was a classic case of ‘things-do-not-always-turn-out-to-be-as-planned”.

Similarly, when Fukushima plant was built, people was told that it was very safe. But they did not factor Mother nature into their equation of safety, and  like the proverb ”Man proposes, God disposes’, what was safe turned out to be not safe at all.

In Chernobyl, it was attributed to human error. In Fukushima, it was an act of God.

I have previously mentioned that we cannot be sure that in a Malaysian plant, we would not have any human error.

As a person who has a master degree in occupational medicine, health and safety ( in fact, my master’s dissertation which obtained a distinction  was used as teaching materials for other masters students ), I can say for sure that there will definitely be human error  no matter how careful a person can be. Human nature is such that we are influenced by emotions, illnesses, boredom and our attitude, and any of these factors can cause accident. A moment’s inattention or absent-mindedness often result in accidents in work places, not matter how stringent is the procedures for safety.

In fact, the cardinal rule in occupational safety ( and safety in general) is to remove the hazard whenever it is possible. Only when removal of hazard is not possible, then  we would think of instituting safety measures and work procedure to minimise the risks of that particular  hazard.

Let me give you all a lesson on safety.

Just to use  a very simple example to illustrate this cardinal rule in safety: if there is a protrusion on the floor of a corridor, which may cause tripping whenever people walk along that corridor, it is best (in safety measures) to remove the protrusion.. Only when the protrusion cannot be removed, a safety specialist would think of other ways like erecting a warning sign to warn about the hazard (in this case, the hazard is the protrusion), to make the protrusion more prominent by painting it differently or undertake remodelling work to make the protrusion into a gradual rise and gradual fall.  But apart from removing the hazard, the other measures are not foolproof. People may still trip even when there is a sign, or even if the protrusion is made into s slope.. The only sure way of safety is to remove the hazard.

In the case of Lynas, the hazard is the rare earth, so the safest way is to remove the rare earth; it follows that we should not allow rare earth to be imported and processed.

This is not a political issue; rather an issue of safety which has social implications. If we are a responsible government, we should really pay attention to the concerns and fears of the people staying around the area; those  are real.

So i hope sane minds will prevail, and there is really  no hurry  to set up the plant; Malaysia does not need this type of Foreign investments which are potentially harmful.

Read also these:

Is the life of a Malaysian less precious?

2 fumbling acts

Hooliganism

Choosing among the ‘devils’

Both Bn and PR have given their  ‘political’ budgets, so how are we going to choose?

As a voter, we should not be partisan but rather we should look at a number of things before we cast our support to one side.

If both sides give deficit budget, then we must look at other areas , like how much leakages are to be tightened and how much of the borrowing to fund the deficits would go to individuals pockets through such leakage.

If there is no 308, and there is no risk of losing the next election, like in the past few decades prior to 308, would there be reforms and handout budget such as these 2 prepared by the 2 sides?

Had BN retained their 2/3, would ISA be repealed? I was once inside Gerakan and was near to the corridor of power , and had even met PM and voiced out directly to him. An example: i had been pushing very hard for ISA abolition. What I got is the promise that certain clauses would be reviewed, and that was quite some time ago.

It is only when BN is now facing the prospect of losing, and PM’s own position is not firm in the BigBrother, that reforms are being carried out, as a last resort to consolidate his position.

It is just like without the Arab spring, there would be no reforms as those promised by some of the Arab countries now..

History has shown us again and again that The powers-that-be are forced to concede to popular demand ONLY when there is a risk of losing power. Histoy has also shown us the trend of dominant government bending to people’s wishes, ONLY when there is a risk of losing power.

So do we still want a dominant government , or is it better to have a government that is more responsive to the rakyat’s wishes? would a dominant government or a 2 party system listen tot he ground more?

These are thoughts that should be considered..

What is the central ill of the present government? the culture of corruption and mindset of greed.. It is a culture of ‘what you can do for me and not what I can do for you”..

Will the alternative be any better? we wont know until we try.. We may get the same thing, we may get even worse, but then if we choose the alternative, we would have establish a 2 party system, and break the myth of invincibility and dominance of a old system..

What happens if the alternative is as corrupt? We throw them out after another round.. It is the only way for the Big Brother to cleanse himself.. Even many UMNo moderates have voiced that it would not be a bad thing for big brother to lose one term.. Then perhaps, the corruption and the race based biase , which is actually used to perpetuate BigBrother’s hold onto power and thus money supply for its warlords, would be slowly done away, so will structural distortion in our economy. Similarly, many veteran MCA and Gerakan members, some of them my personal friends and i can tell you that they really love the parties (it is almost everything to them after spending their whole lives inside the parties), believe that it would in fact be good for BN to lose one term and for MCA and Gerakan to really be reformed and rebuilt by casting out the greedy and ‘cari-makan’ ones ( these greedy ones would be the first to leave if BN loses power).. It is like when you love your children so much, and you know that they would be better to experience a fall (figuratively speaking), you won’t mind letting them fall once in awhile; it is ironic but actually true that if you love a person so much, it may be good for that person to go through certain trial and tribulations of life, instead of giving him silver spoon  in the mouth and golden platter his whole life.

Unless there is drastic reform from the present government to do away with the corrupt practises, and everything being equal, I would not mind trying the other side for once.. Just to set the precedence and consolidate the 2 party system so that the voters got to be the Boss.

So everything being more or less equal, the side that would promise to cut leakage and wastage and used the saving for the rakyat would get my support. Not that I love them more , but rather it is the choice of choosing a POTENTIALLY (It may or may not happen) more prudent devil over the old corrupt devils that we know..

Unless of course the Old corrupt devil can really prove to me that it is really serious to cleanse itself of the wasteful and corrupt mindsets, and undergo drastic surgery to rid the greed culture and biased system ( it would be a monumental task, no doubt)…I will then be more than happy to cast my vote  to the old devil..

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