We reap what we sow!

The west has a saying that ‘we reap what we sow’. Although I am not a Christian, I believe that this is mentioned in the Holy Book too ( Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap ).

In the East, the Chinese has a saying that ” if we plant melon, we get melons; if we plant bean, we get beans”. The Indians believe in karma which is basically a law of cause and effect;  the same as we reap what we sow. Buddhists too believe in Karma; we are what we are today because of our past deeds.

The problems that we are facing in Malaysia can actually be attributed to our past deeds.

As the nation progresses,  we have built more and more  infrastructure. Some are even world class and very impressive.  But as a former  Prime Minister had once lamented:  we have first class infrastructure but third class maintenance. We literally let things rot.

We have also formulated more and more rules and laws as the society becomes more sophisticated. Which is theoretically good if these law s are actively enforced.

The problem with us is that just like we do not maintain properly what we have built,  we do not enforce laws and rules strictly and  uniformly. We often see double standard in enforcement. Sometimes there are just no enforcement and you know why.

This was not so just after Independence.

When I was a young boy, my father had a Austin A40 car which was of course the pride of the house as at that time, few people owned cars. He was very careful at traffic junctions. I remember he telling me that in any junction with “stop-look-go” sign, the car had to come to a complete stop behind the white line drawn on the road. If the car has not stopped completely, even if there was no traffic, a person would be liable to be fined. If the car stopped but oer the white line, the driver would be fined too.   He was once fined just for that when his car’s front wheels went over slightly the white line.

The law was so strictly enforced at that time that some of the weeping  children would stop crying immediately  when mothers telling them that police was coming if they didnt stop .

But things started to change and we became more and more lax in enforcement. I suspect this might even be correlated and proportional to the increasing trend of corrupt practices.  Some probably have to do with our ‘tidak-apa’ attitude.

We have strict immigration checkpoints at all international airports. We have strict immigration check point at the causeway and second link with Singapore.  Law abiding citizens or foreigners would have to wait patiently to cross these checkpoints. Contrast this to certain border areas like Sabah, or even Northern part of Peninsular, where the border is so porous that many illegals have taken advantage of these porous borders to come and go as they wish.  What is the points of having strict checking at some points and no checking  at others?

We have done nothing when someone clearly has violated the law when he threatened to burn the Bibles. We have been quick to pounce on those who have no connections when they uttered things which are much milder and   less provoking and inflammatory.  We have even arrested an innocent journalist under the previous ISA ‘ for her protection’.

We have seen people breaking traffic rules with no action taken. We have seen foreign workers setting up stores to do businesses when they have no right to do so.  We have so many illegals in the country that we encounter them everywhere we go.

We have people who are not qualified for citizenship but were given citizenship freely for political reasons. On the other hand, we have genuine cases of those who are born here and stay here all their lives but still have their citizenship application rejected every time  they apply.

Because of selective and lack of enforcement, corruption practices have become common and pervasive. We have lost excellence in every field.

The incident of Sabah would not have happened if we have strictly enforced immigration laws.

I hope the Sabah incident would serve as an eye opener and wakeup call for the power-that-be. Malaysia needs to have better enforcement of the hundreds of laws and rules that we have passed and implemented.

For Malaysia to achieve a First World Status, we need a complete overhaul of the system and the mindsets.

We need change, real change not cosmetic ones, to move forward!!

This article is also published in The Malaysian Insider here.

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Tutus, leotards and decency

In the west, one of the most cultured things to do , apart from going to a Philharmonic concert, is perhaps seeing a Ballet performance.

In the past , most Ballet performances staged at famous concert halls require certain dress code for those who wish to watch such performances. Nowadays, the dress code thing is not so strict anymore, but it is still common to see men suited up and women in their best dresses when attending the concerts.

Ballet Tutus are those dresses worn by ballet dancers. It is so crafted so as not to hinder the fluid  movements of the dancers, and at the same time, to make the dancers look elegant  and slim, while not exposing any indecency.

So to ban a ballet performance by a Ballet Troupe is something that baffles sane  minds. According to Malaysian Insider, a Singapore  ballet troupe has been denied a permit to perform here due to their indecent costumes.

What is happening?

Are we so obsessed that we see everything in a sexual manner? 

Are Tutus indecent? What about leotards for the gymnasts and swim suits for the swimmers?

If Tutus are considered indecent, then perhaps we should ban Sea Games, Asian Games or even commonwealth games from being held in our soils.

In the west and many countries in the East too, people walk around in shorts and short sleeve shirts without even anyone paying any extra attention to them. Leotards and tutus actually covered more skin than such attires, are we going to ban short sleeves or shorts for girls? What is in the heads and minds of those decision makers who  make such ban?

It is all the minds.

If a person is  are  too sexually orientated, everything in his eyes will become sexual.

It is not easy to become a ballet dancer. One of my relatives who was quite a  ballet dancer in her younger days (she was trained overseas ), and who has a master degree in ballet dances, actually told me the hardship she has to endured. The bruises on her toes, the pain that hours of standing on tip-toe do to her, the tears that she shed in all the years leading to her being a full fledge dancer. Now even though she is teaching ballet, she is no longer doing any more ballet dances.

I hope this decision to ban a ballet performance will be reviewed, and let Malaysians have a chance to watch a performance by dancers who have to put in years of hardship and training. Except those sexists who think ballet dancing is indecent.. 

Is this indecent?

(courtesy from viveballet.tumblr.com)

Senseless deaths

I feel extremely sorry for the families of the 4 youngsters that died in a car accident in Johore recently, when the MPV they were in crashed into a ravine.

I also feel extremely sorry for the 17 year old youngster who drove the car and who survived the accident. I do not blame him, seeing how much he regretted and the grief he has displayed. I am sorry for him because this youngster would have to bear the burden of regret for these deaths for the rest of his life.

Whether it was his fault or somebody else (it was reported that some car cut into his lane just before the accident), it is no longer important, but we Malaysians  should learn something from these senseless deaths.

These youngsters were all going to be the ‘brains ‘ of the nation, and the deaths are not a loss to their families, but the whole nation as well.

From these senseless deaths can we learn anything?

Firstly, does passing the driving test mean that a person is qualified to drive? It would seem so, since under the law, anyone with a driving license can drive. But with just a few driving lessons and most of the lessons done on urban or town roads, is it sufficient to equip us to drive on unfamiliar road conditions? Long distance driving is very different; so much more anticipation and so much more care are needed in long distance driving that a good town driver may not be a good distance drivier.

Secondly, those with kids who have passed driving tests will all know about our system. A youngster approaches a driving school, and the first thing the driving instructor asks is whether you want to “pao”. If you want to ‘pao’, you pay a certain sum, and you are guaranteed to pass, one way or another, especially on road driving.  Even if you are a very lousy driver, but as long as you “pao”, they will also”pao’ you, and you will be given the license to kill drive. we all know that this has something to do with corruption, and corrupt officials are actually helping to churn out thousands of killer drivers every year. So much for the ‘blood money’ on their hands.

So knowing how the system functions, I had purposedly gone on long distance trips after each of my kids passed driving exam, and asked my kid to drive me, and gave him/her as much tips on long distance driving as I could while sitting next to him/her.  Children may not like it, but i think it is the adults’ duty to make sure that they are really able to handle a car well before letting them drive alone unsupervised especially on long distance driving.

In this case, I dont know whether the driver has ‘pao’ or not. But knowing that he has just passed his driving test, and knowing how our system function, why was he allowed to handle a big car like a 7 seater MPV(or SUV)? Why was he allowed to go on long distance driving? And why was he allowed to fetch 6 persons in the car on a long distance trip? Cars with full loads are typically  more difficult to manoevre, and a big car like a MPV  would require more skill in manoevring around corners or braking.

The system has to take some responsilibilty for this sort of accidents. Practically everyone knows about the ‘pao’ buisness. Everyone knows that corruption is involved. I am sure even the kids of the leaders have gone through the ‘pao’ system too. So the question to ask is that why after so many years, noting was done to curb it. .

The same system has been allowed to produce drivers that are half past six, drivers that do not obey road signs or rules , drivers that drive up against traffic in one way street and so on. Why wasn’t  anything  done? Giving reminders and presents on balik kampong trips during festive seasons are just gimmicks for publicity; i do not think it has any effect on curbing accidents and dangerous driving.

It is proper instruction and strict testing conditions that will help to produce better drivers. It is education and guidance that will produce more tolerant individuals who would be more patient and better drivers. Why nothing was done?

If nothing is done to overhaul the system, I am afraid that this will not be the last time we  see and read about these unnecesssary deaths.

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.

Do not rob Peter to pay Paul!

I always have nostalgic feeling about the 5 year stay I have in KE Hall, College Road near the Singapore General Hospital. It was during my 5 years of undergraduate days there.

At that time, our ringgit was on par with the Sing dollar ( at one time, it was even stronger, making  things in Singapore much cheaper than home), and I normally would buy back fruits whenever going back to Penang whenever  i had a break. The place I frequented most in Singapore was the Chinatown area, a stone throw and 15 minutes walk from our hostel.

AT that time, there was a flea market there every night, and going there after dinner became part of the routine for many medical students staying at KE Hall and had become a form of relaxation after a hard day at the hospital ward. (There were students from other faculties too staying there, but the majority was still medical and dental students).

People’s Park was already up. But we normally would go to the flea market since things were cheap, crowds were more colourful and it was good for people’s watching too, not to mention some of the food that was cheap and good.

Chinatown, or Niu Cher Sui in Mandarin,  is still up, and has now been designated a heritage area. Even though much has changed and  the flea market has gone( there are still stores in certain areas, but no more those who traded from a floor mat), the buildings are still there and the facade has not changed much, with most buildings painted and looking much newer than before.

This is heritage and all over the world, people are now preserving heritage buildings, since it is not only for the architecture, but also for the history and the memory of the people who had built, laboured, stayed and traded there.

Heritage is about our past, an important part of any nation.

Thus, it is with a feeling of disgust that I read that our MRT Co is going to acquire part of KL Chinatown area to make way for underground tunneling. How the surface buildings will be affected by tunnelling I do not know, since I am not a geo engineer and have no expertise on this.

The question I have for the authority is just this: Isn’t our heritage more important than development?

Our present Masjid Jamed stretch is underground but it did not affect those shops that are on the surface along the masjid jamed, pasar seni stretch. Why can’t same thing be done to the Chinatown area, if the line cannot be re-routed or re-aligned.

Today, news had it that shops in Bukit Bintang area are also being acquired. How on Earth would the underground tunnel affect those shops, I do not know, and maybe someone out there can enlighten me.

If the Channel Tunnel between England and France can be below sea, and there is no need to acquire the English Channel seabed and empty the seawater above the tunnel prior to making the tunnel, why can’t we be doing the same thing?

If shops are acquired in BBintang area, and they are not even  affected by the tunneling, and those who acquire it use it for other development and make a pile, then it is not right since those owning the buildings would be forced to give up a gold mine in the name of building MRT.

It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul..

I hope the authority can view the whole acquiring exercise in a more preservative mode, and try to use more modern technology in building this. Already our MRT cost is not cheap ( read my post on this). We do not want to add our loss of heritage  to the financial cost of building it. There is simply no value that an be attached to heritage, since it is something priceless.

Another case of unpretentiousness

US Vice president Biden is in Beijing for an official visit.

Apart from meeting Top Chinese leaders, he has gone down to the ground by patronising a local restaurant for lunch with his new ambassador. . This is a famous shop for locals, but ordinary,  not something fanciful.

His menu:

Left: Five bowls of noodles with soybean paste;

Right: 10 steamed buns;

Smashed cucumber salad;

Mountain yam salad;

Potato threads with green pepper;

Coca-Cola

Total: 79 yuan (US$12.4)

Tip: 21 yuan

(fthe meal is for  5 persons)

I am not trying to glorify US  or any western leader. Their systems have many flaws too. But one thing i admire is that most of the leaders know that they owe their positions to the people, and hence they normally act in less pretentious ways than many of leaders of the developing nations .

In the past few posts , I have been trying to point out the differences of how our top leaders and senior civil servants behave in public when they move around. Or how they react  (instead of respond) when there are voices of dissent from the ground asking them to review certain policies. Our leaders have no qualms in showing their arrogance, lavishness or even ignorance in public.

Unlike those in the west,  even if they may be arrogant or pretentious  in their private lives, they rarely show that in public. Whether those public behaviour   is genuine or just showmanship, you have to give it to them that they understand the basic tenet of democracy: that the people are the bosses. And there are less hierarchical hurdles when an ordinary person deals with government bureaucracy.

Just compare with our headline news the last few days.

A general accused those who came forward to admit committing election frauds as disloyal to him. A election commission chief labelled the demand for electoral reforms as putting a gun to his head. A minister even displayed such arrogance as to ask  ‘who is Bersih” when the whole world has witnessed the Bersih rally being tear-gased and water-cannoned; when the whole KL town was shut down because of the police road block.

I have purposely mentioned the way the Ambassador of US to China travelled, as well as how Vice president Biden lunched, not by eating exotic dishes like sharkfins, abalones, birdnests and so on, but simple dishes that normal people like you and me would have consumed if we have the chance to visit Beijing.

Compared this to how our top leaders and their wives travel , stay and eat.

In US, all their leaders have to declare their income , down to the very cent. In Malaysia, leaders earning 30000 a month salary can afford a diamond ring worth tens of millions.

I think this has a lot to do with how we understand the true meaning of democracy, and how we view the positions that we have attained.

I rest my case here.

Servant of the people!

One of the hotest topic among the chinese netizens is about the new American Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, or Luo Jia Hui.

No, he is not the ambassador fromChina to US, but US ambassador to China.

Locke is a third generation Chinese American and he rose to become the governor of the State of Washington as well as the Secretary of Commerce in Obama’s cabinet.

What surprises the Chinese people is the unpretentious way he travelled with his family to China, as the top representative from a super-power to another super-power.

The photos shows how  Locke and his family travelled.

It is just like any middle class family coming back from a holiday. Nothing pretentious,  without the trappings of power.

Compare it to just any county official. A county official would have people carrying his bag, and people besides and behind him.

Locke and his family carried their own backpacks/bags. He understands the real meaning of democracy. He understands that he works for his government , which is elected by the people, and thus, he is a worker for his people, and he owes his positions to his people.

I think  the Chinese people  have a lot to learn from this.

Not to mention  our Malaysian politicians( and their wives)  and high officials..Perhaps they can take a page from Locke.

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