The “Empire” strikes back?

In January this year, after Anwar was acquitted by the High Court, many were of the opinion that the next GE would be held very shortly, probably in March.

I held a different opinion, and when asked by Singapore ST’s reporter for my opinion, this was my reply, and I quote from STimes (click here):

But Mr Najib has also gained a reputation as a cautious operator, under pressure to return a two-thirds parliamentary majority to the BN.

As such, there may still be surprises in the coming months which may affect the timing of the election, noted former Gerakan leader and political observer Hsu Dar Ren.

A controversy over the alleged misuse of public funds for a cattle project, for instance, flared two months ago, and continues to threaten the position of Umno’s women’s wing chief Shahrizat Jalil.

Datuk Seri Shahrizat’s husband heads the cattle project.

“Najib will have to settle outstanding issues like this before he calls for an election,” said Dr Hsu.

It is now certain that GE will not be called in March.

The prevailing perception is that PM   is under pressure from various groups,  most notably the OLD HORSE , who still has  tremendous hold on The Big Brother. Not to mention the deputy who often says things that contradict the No.1 ‘s 1Malaysia concept.

But No. 1 is clearly trying to fight off the perception of a  yes man that he was  made up to be when  he ascended to the No. 1 position in 2009.

The recent appointment of Pemuda Head as head of a government-linked body, and the news that his father-in-law the former PM is to be retained as candidate is a clear case that NO. 1 is now playing the same game of the OLD Horse using  the same tactic that the Old Horse played  on No .1 previously, Divide and Rule. He is letting Mr Old Horse taste something that the latter has been giving people to taste.

Previously, because of the pressure fromOLD Horse, the Pemuda Head has not been appointed to any government position, in a move by the Old Horse  to weaken the young man’s power base to clear the way for his own your-know-who.

Now, this appointment of a government linked body is not as powerful as a position in the cabinet, but the very appointment itself is symbolic of the NO. 1 going his own way.  It is like saying that: look, I can go my own way and make things difficult for you-know-who, if too much obstacles are put in my way.. It is a signal of fighting back, but whether this would be enough for No 1 to survive is anybody’s guess.

With the power struggle within the Big Brother, No. 1 has a clear choice: call an election in End-of-May-early-June period so that he can put his own team up to undercut  the strength of his potential challengers.  The only thing against this move is perhaps that there are so much of outstanding issues at the moment –the cowgate, the RareEarthGate, threat of another Bersih walk etc– if these are not resolved, No 1 is not sure of a convincing victory in the next GE. That means he would be going the way of the Sleepy-Headed, even if Big Brother wins a simple majority.

Is this the beginning of his fightback to push through some of the more moderate policies to win back some middle ground? It is of course anybody’s guess, and as a political observer, I can only say that I wish him best of luck.


Sheer arrogance!

Today marks another milestone of the growth of the civil society in Malaysia.

More than 20,000 are expected to attended a anti-lynas gathering in Kuantan.

i have written a few post on lynas, and have urged the authority to stop granting a license to Lynas to operate a rare earth plant in Malaysia.

The most simple logic being that if the country of origin where Lynas is incorporated, Australia, refuses to grant a license for such a factory, why should we allow it to operate on our soils?

Any man made project will have certain inherent danger, no matter how elaborate the safety features can be. Mother nature has power beyond our imaginations, and the tsunami in Japan which resulted in the Fukushima debacle is just one`of the recent most that comes to our mind.

Granted the radioactive level may not be as high as those of a nuclear plant, but we can never overlook the inherent danger of some thing which may go wrong. Not only can Mother Nature plays havoc , human errors which would be an inherent part of any human operation can also result in risks that may not be able to be contained, like the Chernobyl and Three Miles incidents.

Germany has declared that it will do away with nuclear plants. If a country which is renowned for its technical and scientific ingenuity has taken such a step, we as a developing country and not as technically advanced should take another look carefully as to whether we need to have such monsters in our country.

If it is for monetary reasons, we can always be more diligent to source for other forms of foreign investments, rather than a type which is so controversial and which has such inherent risks attached.

It is also politically stupid to insist on giving a operating license to Lynas, when it is clear that most people in the streets have voiced unease and opposition against such a move. It reminds of the arrogance that was present before 308, and which has contributed to the swing of hearts in Peninsular Malaysia in the last General Election.

But apparently the power that be has not learned its lessons. Arrogance is still everywhere, from the  MRT alignment to NFC fiasco, from the formulation of 1Care to the  granting of temporary license to the Rare earth Plant, it is still a case of “Big Brother Knows Best”.

Where is the spirit of ” People First”?

I dread to consider what will happen if Bn wins another term, when they have a cushion period before facing the electorate again. During the 2 to 3 years of cushion period after the next GE and before the 14th GE, many of the dreadful things can and probably will happen. ICare, Lynas, GST, more NFC type of projects, etc etc etc.

So, readers, please look at the big picture and use your vote wisely!

Snarling Image

I did not want to comment on the so-called ‘Big debate” initially even though I did watch it over TV.   But after many friends have asked me for my opinion, I thought I would just write a short comment on the debate.

I thought there was really nothing to shout about. After watching both speakers speak, I have a feeling of attending 2 political ceramah at one shot.

Having said that, I thought it was still a good attempt by both to come together and talk civilly on their stand, although much of what was discussed was way off the topic.

The same , however cannot be said of the partisan crowd. I have all along mentioned that Malaysians are too partisan, and once you are being too partisan, you will be blinded by sheer loyalty and would support blindly whatever your side is doing, including something that may not be good.

Then there is someone whose partisanship has gone overboard. I refer to  a young woman snarling and screaming  ( to those who may not have seen what snarling is like, just go to watch the video or photos on the net, there are plenty on this) while asking questions from the floor.

If there is an image from that debate that would stick to my mind, it was that snarling look, the ultimate showcase of  blind partisanship; whatever other side does must be wrong, hence the emotional outburst.

Malaysians should not be too partisan.  Being nonpartisan is actually one of the most important requirements of a 2 party system. If one side is no good, kick it out. If after the other side come to power and also no good, we can kick it out again and give the mandate back to the first. If so doing, we will establish a culture of competitiveness among the 2 sides; and when there is competition, there will be improvement. That is the essence of a 2 party system.

The woman was harping on the law enforcement  ( the towing of illegally parked cars at night) at night in Penang. Her point being that at night there is less traffic and so illegal parking should be allowed.  But law is law, and to cultivate a culture of law-abiding citizens, there is really no other way but to enforce law in a fair manner, and law enforcement should have no time limit .  In overseas, many a time we can see someone who would not cross the road as long as the pedestrian light is red, even though there is no traffic on the road;  this is called law abiding, and it takes firm enforcement of law to cultivate this.

In putting across such ill-conceived logic, she has actually exposed a weak side of BN component parties– everything can be negotiated, even law-breaking acts. Small acts often lead to bigger things, and that is why there is this culture of “BN Boleh” .

I hope in future , members of both parties should refrain from showing their ugly side. It just does not endear them to those who are nonpartisan, those on the middle ground who constitute the majority whom their party leaders are trying to woe.

A snarling look  (courtesy of wikipedia)

Disturbing questions

The simple act of deporting someone transiting in Malaysia has posed many questions.

1. There is purportedly a court order stopping that particular person from being deported (source: theMalaysianinisder). If that is so , what needs to be determined would be :

2.  Was the court order obtained before the deportation or after the deportation? If it is obtained before the deportation, was there any delay in serving the court order on the authority to prevent such a deportation

3. If there was a delay in serving the court order, was it done on purpose or was it due to the common Malaysian attitude of ‘tidak apa”?

4. If there was no delay in serving the court order, and the court order was obtained before the deportation, then why was the deportation still carried out?

5. If there was the court order, why did the Home Minister deny initially that there was such an order?

6. Was he telling the truth? If he was, why wasn’t he informed of the court order?

7. If he was not informed, was there is a serious breakdown in the chain of command?

8.  If indeed there was a court order and it was obtained before the deportation and the deportation was still carried out, is there still rule of law in this country?

Fist of Fury!

Just a few weeks back, I met a foreigner friend of mine, who was once here in Malaysia   more than a  decade ago, and was recently re-posted back to Malaysia.

He was quite amazed by the development that has taken place, despite the level of perceived corruption.

He also complained of 2 things. One is the signage used on highways. He said that  most times when he follows the signage, he would end up doing a big big round before reaching his destinations. So nowadays, he has learned the hard way; he is now using a GPS to guide him.

Another thing he complained about was that the service levels in restaurants, especially fast food ones, are now much worse than before.

I concurred with him and cited certain chains which invariably would make mistakes when taking orders of 4 persons or more, either in the maincourse (sometimes the hotness levels of the maincourse) or in drinks.

I told him that the attitude of people running the fast food chains is no longer ” customers first”. A job is just a job and nothing else. Not like before, workers treasure their jobs, and they treat a job as part of their own responsibility.

The recent case of a fast food chain worker hitting a grouchy customer is a good example of how even a  worker, supposedly well trained to a level compatible with the international image of that chain, lost his cool and started hitting a customer.  This is a behaviour that is very unbecoming of a staff providing service to people, in the hospitality sector.

I don’t know what actually transpired at that time. According to the customer who was assaulted, he was angry and shouted after waiting about an hour and then was told that chicken has sold out.  He also denied any racial slurs being uttered.

If that was the case, customers , who have bought  vouchers on line and who have to queue for an hour and then told that all the waiting time was in vain, have a right to be angry; but of course that does not mean that they can utter derogatory remarks . They should also have the right to complain, and the act of taking down names and requesting to speak to manager should be viewed in this context.

If that was the case, then hitting customers who have reasons to be angry is hardly the right attitude.

Some of the faults may be with the assaulting worker; but management of that company has to bear responsibility too. There should have been more training on how to react under pressure, how to be pleasant despite having to work under a ‘pressure cooker’ situation.

The store manager was at fault too. If chicken stock is low, but there are still a lot of customers, why can’t he phone other outlets and get some stocks from them?  Why can’t he be more proactive instead of being passive? If there is no such contingency plans, then the management should bear some of the blame, too.

If the stock of chicken is low and is not available elsewhere, and there are still lots of customers, then the store manager should have foreseen a ‘sell-out situation’ much earlier, and place a notice to inform the customers even before the chicken has run out.  Time is precious, to wait for an hour and then told that all the waiting is in vain is really a waste of precious time. It should have been more customers friendly and more proactive.

I was glad that the customer who was assaulted has stressed that the whole episode  should not be interpreted in a racial manner. There is noting racial about this, since he has said that no racial slurs were made.

I hope that this incident should bring attention to those running service outletsand other hospitality services,  and have their staff better trained to deal with pressure situation, courtesy and good manner.

Malaysian standards have gone down on almost all fronts. Excellence has given way to mediocrity. It is really sad that this mediocrity has now even affected our service industriy.

Perhaps it is time for policy makers to reflect; why is there mediocrity in every field? Why has our reputation for hospitality given way to such nonsense? Do they have some share of the blame too?

Too many cooks!

I have been one of the first to voice out about the mushrooming of medical schools and the  production of too many doctors as early as a few years ago.  I have expressed my concern on the quality of new doctors as the sudden mushrooming of medical schools have resulted in an acute shortage of good medical teachers.

Now, even the ministry has acknowledged this fact and a moratorium is now in place to prevent granting of more license to set up more medical schools in the country.

ALready, our healthcare system is facing the problem of producing too many nurses.

Nurses are an important part of any hospital care. A good nursing standard is necessary to ensure that the hospital patients getting the care prescribed by the doctors, and very often the mental state of a patient is influenced by the manner in which nursing care is being dispensed to that particular patient, and that how that mental state ends up to be actually plays a crucial part in the recovery from an illness.

We are now producing more than 12000 nurses a year, and the requirement for new nurses is only about one to two thousand a year. There are now so many public and private colleges conducting nurses courses that i have lost tract, and nurses are being churned out like cars in an assembly line.

What has been noticed is that as a result of having  so many nursing colleges in a short time, nursing standard is on the decline since  the mushrooming of nursing colleges put strains on the availability of qualified teachers, as well as the practical aspects. Some of the nurses under training confessed that they sometimes have only one or 2 patients in the assigned hospital to practise their nursing skills, and this is grossly inadequate for them to perfect their nursing skills.

As a result, some of the nurses being produced are below par when compared to nurses produced in the 70s and 80s.

This is similar to the too many housemen problems that I have brought out in my serials on ‘a doctor too many I, II , III …..’

so i envisage that the good healthcare standard that was put in place by the British– I am against colonialism and am just uttering a fact  —  is now being slowly and surely been eroded, and that we are trying to replace quality with quantity.

The same thing is happening to the Medical lab technologists (those who conducts the blood tests in lab) as well as radiographers ( those helping the radiologists to take Xrays). There are simply too many of these, too!

I was told that even there are also too many pharmacists being produced. This will lead to competition and undercutting in future, and this will inevitably lead to some pharmacists, in order to survive,   placing their own profitability ahead of their professional ethics.

The whole healthcare manpower situation is a mess.

This is the direct results of the mushrooming of private colleges and universities, set up by those who care not so much about the needs of the nation, but more for the profit that they can reap by setting up such colleges(  Tuition fees are now many times higher than before).  These people are usually those who have political connections and they can easily get licenses to set up and operate such colleges.

You would expect a college to have at least a few buildings and a small campus. But no, some of these colleges are housed in just a 4 storey building.

More importantly, because of the competition among each other for teaching staff, some of the teachers barely meet the minimum requirements and lack experience . Because of competition for sourcing students, student entry standard is also being compromised.

Professional course such as medicine, nursing, pharmaceutical field requires hospital and patients to train as basically these are apprenticeship. BUt with so many colleges and schools, there is just not enough training positions to ensure that these people get the proper training which they need to become a competent professional.

This leads to the state of having too many graduates in these fields which have little practical experience.

In the end, we will end up like in the Philipines, where doctors are being retrained as nurses, but with our nurses being in surplus too, maybe some of the nurses need to be retrain to become hospitals Amah and attendants. Don’t be surprised that some of thes health personnel will end up selling nasi lemak ,  chicken rice or roti canai by the road side.

Malaysia boleh!

1Care or just “I don’t care”

Malaysian Healthcare system, despite some inadequacies, has been functioning well in comparison to countries of similar living standards. In fact, the facilities of some of our hospitals rival that of the advanced nations.

In certain aspects, our system is even better than many of the advanced nations. Malaysians can have immediate access to medical care and  treatment whenever they feel unwell, unlike in some of the developed countries, where it may take a few days or even weeks to seek an appointment to see a doctor.

Government healthcare cost has been on the rise. Part of this I blame it on piratetisation privatisation as well as leakages and wastage in funding hardware as well as softwares. Billions have been spent on building new hospitals and medical equipment as well as the software system for the operation of such hospitals. But as in other aspects of Malaysian life, leakages and wastage could have amounted to 20-30% of overall spending.

Because of the increasing cost of the healthcare system, government is considering instituting a Health financing system, formerly call the National Health Financing scheme ( i have written a paper on this topic in 2006 – search under the masthead of this blog or see the link at the end of this post). This has now been conveniently renamed 1Care.

Very little is known about this 1Care. As in the Malaysian tradition with regards to policy matters, there is hardly any (or shall we say absolutely no) consultation with the end-users ,  the Rakyat and the consumer groups. Although the ministry is said to be working with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), even doctors know very little about this scheme.

What little info that is available hints at a system that will drastically alter our lifestyle. Unlike now, we cannot  no longer choose our own doctors. Apparently under this 1Care system, each individual will be assigned to a doctor, presumably someone who is operating nearby. How this allocation will be done and what criteria will be used are unknown as yet.

Patients assigned to that particular doctor will have a limit as to how many times he or she can consult that particular doctor in a year. Those with chronic diseases like asthma, hypertension and diabetes will not be able to see their doctor  as often as now, compromising their health.

All doctors will have to be in this scheme, and would be allocated patients. Doctors are not allowed to dispense medicine. As a compensation, their consultation fee is set to go up , as high as RM60 per visit. This contrasts with the present system where for a fees of around RM30 – 40, you can consult a doctor and be treated with medications for common ailments.

So who is to fund for this incredible scheme? The end users of course since there is no such thing as a free lunch in this world. From what is known, everyone will have to be in this scheme, and each house hold is supposed to fork out 9 to 10% of their income to a National Health Financial Agency.

For those who are young, hale and hearty, they have to fork out the same amount, which will probably be deducted from their pay as in EPF scheme.  Like all other insurance scheme, this actually works on the  concept of the more healthy subsidising the less.

But for the less healthy, don’t be too happy yet. Apart from the limit on the number of times they can visit their assigned doctors,  they also have to spend extra time and transport cost to get their medical supply from a pharmacy after seeing their doctors.  There will also be certain diseases which will be excluded from this scheme, and out of pocket payments (OOP) will have to be made for these diseases.

Because the doctors are now being paid a higher consultation fees and because extra costs are incurred for medicines to be dispensed by pharmacy, the total healthcare costs will shoot up, as in the experience of many countries which have implemented health financing scheme.

The money eventually comes from the people. When the healthcare cost goes up, the NHFA is going to ask for more money and that will translate to more deduction from the rakyat.

What is ironical is that the present system is efficient and cost effective. Malaysians in fact spend much less on healthcare than their counter parts not only in developed countries but developing nations as well.

The above table ( charted by me using WHO statistics)  shows the percentage of Total Health expenditure of malaysia in 2002 and 2003 compared with many other countries.

Even countries with comparable GDPs in international dollars such as Mexica and Brazil spent much more on health care than Malaysia. Developing countries with lower GDPs such as China and India also spent higher proportion of their GDPs on the health of their citizens.

Malaysia government has a duty to take care of its citizens’  health care. As it is, it is spending much less than the WHO recommendation of 7% of GDP on health care. Our government spends around 6-7% of government  budget on health,  which is much less than our GDP.

The old saying that “do not try to fix anything that ain’t broken” is apt in this case.

I have written a paper on National Health financial scheme in 2006. In it I have extracted many statistics against implementation of such a scheme and posted them in table forms. This paper was also published  in FOMCA’s publication last year, after obtaining my consent via email. For those who want to know why I oppose such a scheme, and the rationale behind my opposition to such scheme, please read the paper “Malaysian Healthcare- a critical look at National Health Financial Scheme” in this blog: