Friday, May 30, 2008

Saga barrier comes down!

Cabinet orders Cheras barriers removed ! Now that's good news indeed:

Finally some good news for the residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras (BMC) - the federal government has ordered that a toll-free access road in their neighbourhood should not be barricaded.

BMC Open Road Committee chairperson Tan Boon Hwa said that he was informed of this by Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat this afternoon.

Tan said that Ong called him up after the weekly cabinet meeting to inform him of the cabinet decision taken today.

But I wonder - is it always up to the Cabinet to call the shots? Are all the pillars of government reduced to one all-powerful Executive?

On the other hand I applaud the commitment of BMC residents who stood against Grand Saga. It goes to show that when we keep on pushing, something is bound to give...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A saga of greed

I’m sorry.

I simply find the whole Grand Saga business way, way disgusting. Maybe I don’t have all the facts, and just maybe I have my bias made up.

Perhaps a case may be made against residents who took the law into their own hands. But clearly some over-reaction and completely inappropriate actions by the concessionaire for the Cheras-Kajang highway toll must assume part of the blame.

Who’s right, and who’s wrong? Is it enough to wave a court order in the face of angry residents?

This to my mind is what happens when the federal government colludes with Big Business - and I don’t even want to speculate over the whiff of cronyism and all that is normally associated with our highway deals.

In the first place, a ‘concession’ is no gravy train ticket. It is not a singular right to unfettered greed and undiminished returns.

A company supposedly appointed to fix roads and maintain them is primarily tasked with doing good for the community and taxpayers. The cardinal rule of such a contract surely must be to put national interest first.

Of course it is hoped that in the main, it’s a win-win situation, so putting national interest ahead of one’s own pockets will not necessarily mean putting the company in the red. If they are not able to 'make a profit' perhaps such a company should get out of the business, not bend the rules, twist arms, bash heads, or erect barricades, to get the numbers they want.

Right now, the equation is in favour of Big Business.

Yet it is as clear as day that residents have been deliberately inconvenienced, completely ignored, and their plight as road-users and taxpayers disregarded.

So there’s a court order? It does not grant any party the moral high ground to do as they want at the expense of ordinary folks – for whom any concession holders are to benefit anyway. These are the very people who subscribe to the maxim that government is for the people.

Residents allegedly beaten up by uniformed policemen and FRUs? Now thugs have entered the frey resulting in brutal and bloody scuffles. Grand Saga executive director Zainal Abidin Ali said they’re not involved, and they don’t know who these ‘thugs’ are. Right. Some altruistic heavies who just happened to be doing Grand Saga a friendly favour.

Who’s Zainal Abidin? He’s the former Dang Wangi police chief.

What’s the police doing about all this? At the moment, not much that we know about.

Go on. That’s a fine way to woo back voters. It appears the recent lessons of GE12 haven't sunk in.

If governments only look out for the interest of businesses and their appointees, they do not deserve to be in power. When the government chooses to turn the other way and not look into the legitimate plight of common taxpayers, it is no surprise that these ordinary 'powerless' folks too will turn away and look somewhere else.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What next?

We are living in interesting times, aren't we? So what's next for Malaysia?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The 'Iron Law' of NS

It was what DPM Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in the aftermath of another NS death. 18-year-old NS trainee Too Hui Min became the 16th youth to die during training and strident calls were once again made for NS to be reviewed and stopped. Nope. The government is adamant it will not shelf NS:

"We cannot scrap the programme just like that as many parties are involved," Najib said after launching the National Youth Day and Week at Felda Sebertak.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

John Gatto, that staunch advocate of alternative education once wrote in his book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, that institutional schooling is inherently destructive to children. But here’s what else he said:

"In one of the great ironies of human affairs, the massive rethinking the schools require would cost so much less than we are spending now that powerful interests cannot afford to let it happen. You must understand that first and foremost the business I am in is a jobs project and an agency for letting contracts. We cannot afford to save money by reducing the scope of our operation or by diversifying the product we offer, even to help children grow up right. That is the iron law of institutional schooling – it is a business, subject neither to normal accounting procedures nor to the rational scalpel of competition."

It appears to me that powerful interests are indeed at work not so much to advance the wellbeing of our children but to line their own pockets or serve some hidden agenda. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that MORE lives have been lost in four years of NS than in all our army training camps put together during the same period of time.

NS, like most institutions that prescribe compulsory training and schooling, is one big gravy train in business for letting contracts. Hasn’t DPM Najib just confirmed what we always knew to be true?


Who Are They? by Goh Keat Peng at Micah Mandate

National Service Call to Parents by Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin at The People's Parliament

Monday, May 12, 2008

The black art of censorship

It’s a bit hard for me to appreciate the need for these ridiculous displays of censorship in our magazines. These examples are from TIME and The Economist.

I’ve seen cleavages, hemlines, religious icons, Islamic verses, paintings, sculptures, nudes, etc, blacked out, but cigarettes? I mean, does this even serve any useful purpose? Can anyone help me understand this? Please?

It does give new meaning to the term ‘pen-pushers.’ I salute these poor unnamed individuals whose artful penmanship shield me from depravity at the risk of their very own souls. It’s gainful employment I’m sure, but I wonder what these brave souls tell their family and friends when they’re asked about their day job.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The politics of ketuanan

Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said it did not mean Malays were the masters and non-Malays slaves.

"Let's not politicise this until it reaches the level of a new polemic," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby in response to remarks by Transport Minister and MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Tee Keat that the term gave the perception that Malays were masters and non-Malays slaves.

"No need to become sensitive when Malay supremacy is mentioned," said Ahmad Shabery, who is also the MP for Kemaman. [Malaysian Insider]

You know, the spin about ‘politicising’ ketuanan melayu is putting me in a tizzy.

Isn’t racial discrimination (positive or otherwise) a political construct? Isn’t this a political issue pure and simple? If non-malays are ‘sensitive’ surely we aren’t the only ones? After all, isn’t this why some quarters are fussing about the loss of political power, damning others who question malay rights?

It smacks of the ‘separate but equal’ laws challenged by US civil rights movement back in the 50s and 60s.

If indeed it is merely false perception, then politicians should do the right thing - prove their convictions by not engaging in semantic spins, but by eliminating this outdated expression from national discourse.

And why shouldn’t non-malay Malaysians feel concerned when our national ideology justifies and defends the perpetuation of repackaged apartheid? I am an Anak Bangsa Malaysia. Why am I not allowed to feel secure in this land of my birth, my place threatened, my allegiance questioned, when all I ask for is affirmation? Is the threat of imprisonment and being charged under the Sedition Act supposed to allay my fears, assure me my rights, and make me grateful I am a citizen of Malaysia?

In this day and age, is there moral justification for the supremacy of a particular people on the basis of colour and creed? How do you explain this disconcerting siege mentality that is so prevalent among a majority people? When will Malaysians be allowed to be Malaysians?

Oh yes – the word ‘polemic.’ Now there’s another overused expression favoured by politicians. Like that other worn-out cliché, 'it does not arise.' It's all, erm, polemic to me.

More: Check out John Lee's Malay and Non-Malay Rights Don't Exist

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Iron Man blasts off!

I enjoyed Iron Man. I know it’s not saying much since I grew up on DC and Marvel and one does not generally grow out of comics and super heroes. Shellhead (that’s Iron Man to the uninitiated) looks cool. What a blast. So what if it’s formulaic? An irresponsible playboy finds redemption, gives up philandering, turns against the military-industrial complex that made his fortunes, suits up in an out-of-this-world body armour, and becomes a superhero. A serious dose of tech-tonic for geeks and fans.

And did I mention that it also features the granddaddy of punk anthems, Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies (Go here for music and lyrics)? It’s, erm, to say the least, an inspired and ironic choice.

Iron Man. Batman. Spider Man. X-Men. Superman. Larger than life superheroics on cinema screens are fueled in part by a cynical world in search of justice and moral impetus. It’s an interesting paradox: where moral clarity is pooh-poohed in the real world in favour of relativism or indifference, audience cheer when cardboard villains get whupped because they so want the good guys to win. At least on screen, there’s no analysis-paralysis. Good guys do what good guys do: they believe there’s a line between good and bad, that it’s possible to tell one from the other, and they’re willing to risk everything to put things right.

And how about this take on the superhero mythos: It acknowledges the powerlessness of ordinary folks to stand up to evil, and instead affirms that brute force wielded by a benevolent Hero is ultimately humanity’s salvation. Hmm.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

"It does not arise"

Ever heard the phrase, "It does not arise" ?

It struck me after the BALKIS controversy broke.

So was the dissolution of the organisation in order, and did BALKIS have any authority to close its accounts? The wife of former Selangor menteri besar, Datin Seri Zahrah Kechik said the dissolution took place on March 11 - 2 days before Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim was sworn-in as Menteri Besar on March 13.

"It means, I was the president at the time and had not relinquished the president's post. Therefore, the question of me not having to power to chair the general meeting called for the purpose Balkis' dissolution does not arise," she said.

“Does not arise.” It’s a phrase so used and abused that every time it arises, my temperature rises.

“Does not arise.”

I mean, why do these people insist on saying an issue (or a question) “does not arise” when it obviously and most certainly has? Wasn’t this why a statement or response became necessary?

Another example:

On whether the Government would enforce some control on the blogging community, newly-minted Information Minister Shabery Cheek said it would not do so. “The question of controlling bloggers does not arise.”

Here it is again:

When queried if amends to former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and two other judges sacked in the 1988 judicial crisis included an apology, PM Abdullah said: “I do not see why we should apologise. It does not arise.

Aarrghh! Here we go again:

On Tian Chua’s mischievous photo of DPM Najib and Altantuya last year ,Tengku Sarifuddin denied the DPM had ever met Altantuya and that the DPM was not involved in any way: “As such, the issue over the picture does not arise,” Tengku Sarifuddin told Bernama.


When talking about BN MPs in Sabah and Sarawak crossing over to Pakatan, Anwar Ibrahim said: “The question of buying people does not arise. It is not our tradition,” he said, adding that if the issue of buying the MPs were to arise, he would call off the discussions.

And aaaaaaaaarrrghhhh more:

Malaysian Bar Council President Ambiga Sreenevasan said on consultation with the Bar regarding judicial appointments: "The question of being beholden to any appointing authority, whether under the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission or the present system, does not arise as judges know that they discharge their responsibilities impartially, independent of who the appointing authority is..”


Following the hue and cry over police permits for the Black 14 gathering: “Dr Syed Husin added that the issue of a permit for the gathering did not arise as the party's had discussed the matter with the Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief a few days before it was held."

Aarrghh!!!! Enough already!!

The Employees Provident Fund's (EPF) acquisition of RHB Bank last year is not a bailout, says Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop. “The question of bailout does not arise. It is purely a commercial transaction," he told Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang.