A concerned Malaysian writes about current affairs in Malaysia. If you like this site, please tell your relatives and friends. WE have the POWER TO CHANGE MALAYSIA. If you want to read earlier posts, please remove the "2" from this URL

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Wish for Malaysians for 2007

I am writing this from my wife's flat in Singapore and Surprise Surprise the network speed is many times faster than that in JB.

Guess we must be linked to a slower part of the Internet?

Today is the last day of 2006 and as the year ends it is interesting to note the passing of 2 world leaders recently:

Former US President Gerald Ford is being honoured with a state funeral while ex-Iraqi President Sadam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity.

As Malaysians usher in 2007 amid the calamity of floods, let us all examine critically how to make Malaysia a better place for all its citizens regardless of race or religion.

The floods may be a grim reminder that perhaps natural disasters are going to be part of our routine with changing weather patterns and we should ensure that the authorities do their jobs with a higher competency level.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

TNB - Your Plan is Not Good Enough

Following the widespread floods in Johor it was reported that TNB will require months to restore power to affected areas.

This appears to be a very long recovery project as one would expect that repairing a damaged substation should not take longer than a week if the job is well coordinated and proper replacement parts are sourced speedily and not wait for the local manufacturer to schedule replacements in their own sweet time.

For a start the Customs could remove all duties for such electrical items provided they meet Malaysian standards.

I just heard on the radio that Taiwan engineers estimate that repairs to the Internet undersea network will take a few weeks.

Now if we compare the scope of works of repairing a cable that is miles under the sea and a TNB substation, it becomes quite apparent that TNB should be able to deliver a faster resolution to getting back the electricity to the tens of thousands of consumers.

Some people say the floods would not have occurred if local authorities had taken adequate steps to prevent illegal logging, river silting or clogged drainage but since the floods have become a reality, we need a more definitive response from TNB to restore supply.

Here is a weather report from 2004 and shows how easy it is for Johor to be hit by severe floods in future years. All we need is a wind shift and a low pressure area over Johor to create floods.

For the longer term TNB should consider siting the substation on a platform at least 3 meters above the general surroundings. The estimated cost for such an extra feature would be about RM40,000 per substation.

The lower portion of the building could be used to store rescue boats or other spares in watertight packing. It could be rented out to other government agencies.

Maybe in 2007 we could see the heavy rains visiting Malaysia again.

Photo: thanks to NST

Saving For a Rainy Day

They used to teach this proverb in school many years ago.

Today as we witness the prolonged wet weather that has disrupted tens of thousands of lives and damage that will run into millions of ringgit, that proverb is true for it explains the need to save for unknown mishaps and other bad things that happen to us in the course of our lives.

The authorities have promised aid but let us remember that the government coffers have recently been opened or should I say emptied to help thousands of Class F contractors who have been deprived of projects in the economic slowdown as major projects have been cut back.

Our economy has been kept artificially high in previous years with the so-called “pump priming” that unfortunately does not sustain growth if the projects are not viable but simply a wanton wastage of public funds.

It also creates a pool of hungry contractors who may get a plum job or two, upgrade their lifestyle and then find themselves in a quagmire of debt and subsequent bankruptcy. Just observe your neighbours who seem to have struck the 4-D lottery. They renovate their homes, buy an upscale car and seem to have a bonanza of wealth. Within a few years it may all be gone.

I support the authorities’ plan to cut the budget deficit as we cannot afford to be like the USA that has operated on deficit budgets for many years supported by inflows of foreign funds as the US dollar has been a sort of global reserve currency. That seems to be changing slowly as more countries adopt the Euro as an alternative.

For the ordinary man in the street, worrying about the US dollar means little if you are barely making ends meet but you need to have a savings plan for a rainy day as in the current flood situation many jobs will also be lost for a few months and some insurance policies do not cover floods that is deemed “an act of God”.

I suggest everyone should have a emergency savings plan based on some criteria like the following:

Monthly pay ........ Save per month
RM500 and below ........RM10
RM500 to RM1000 ........RM30
RM1000 to RM2000 ........RM50
Above RM2000 ........5%
Above RM3000 ........10%

The actual amount saved is not that critical but developing the habit of not spending all the money you earn in a month is vital if you are not going to end up the victim of loan sharks.

In the old days we used to have security guards who used to sleep on their stringed beds in the building usually a bank. Most of these were Indians who had families back in India and they lived rather frugally. I have heard stories that many of them retired and went home to large parcels of land they saved for. Of course some of them also operated as money lenders.

It is also good to teach your children the value of money as they will learn important lessons that will last a lifetime.

Photo: thanks to malaysiakini

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What Do You Think of the Authorities' Response to the Floods?

Lives have been lost and the damage could run into millions of ringgit.

It seems that the plans for the flood have been like Hurricane Katrina where the USA had used up too much monies on the war in Iraq. So what are the excuses we are being offered?

The latest MalaysiaWatch poll is to let the authorities know what you feel about the plans(?) that were implemented after the floods struck.

We need people who are accountable to the citizens in government and the civil service.
The poll colour is selected to reflect the murky flood waters.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Driving Safely Through Flood Waters

We have had people drowning days ago after trying to drive through flooded sections of roads in Johor and so please read this if you must drive through a flooded section.

The most important point to remember is if the water level is above your exhaust outlet for normal cars you will most likely flood the engine and stall. Then you could become a flood victim.

When you approach a flooded section observe the cars that have passed safely through. If the other car is smaller than your own car you will probably be able to get through.

Do not follow another car into the flood water for if it stalls you will have to slow down and stop - not a very good idea as you will then need to keep your revs up to prevent water being sucked into the exhaust.

Be patient and wait for the car ahead to clear the section before you start.
Keep an even speed and do not accelerate or drive too fast that it creates waves. Try not to be in the flooded section if a large vehicle like a lorry or bus is moving in the opposite direction as the waves may swamp your car.

Once you clear the flooded section, drive slowly for about one kilometer and use your brakes a few times to dry them out or you will not be able to stop when you need them.

Even if you are familiar with the route and a setion is flooded, do not attempt to cross unless you check the above items.

Once you have entered the section, reversing back is extremely difficult.
Be safe always and better late than never.

photo: thanks to http://www.mercy.org.my/images/kedah_flood_relief_2005_003website.jpg

Friday, December 22, 2006

Home for the Holidays

My two children are back from the UK while a third daughter will be having a white Christmas in Canada - she will be back in January.

My wife's clan will be gathering in Singapore and it is going to be a few days of eating and jawing. Catching up with relatives' stories and seeing how big the younger ones have grown.

There is a tinge of worry though as my second grand-daughter Zoe has been diagnosed with a hole in her tiny heart and I ask you for some prayers and good thoughts for her so she may have a successful operation when she is older.

As we celebrate Christmas the coming of Jesus to save mankind, let us also spare some thought on how mankind should also do more to mitigate flood problems with proper maintenance of drainage systems and curbing excessive development.

I may be away from blogging for a few days and I would like to wish all my readers "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! "

graphics:thanks to http://www.lonestar.simshost.com/images/vicky/XmasTree2.gif

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Major Flooding in Johor Baru

The rain has been falling for more than 24 hours and I expect Wednesday's papers to carry articles on major flooding in JB.

I have never experienced such prolonged drenching rain here since we moved from KL in 1987.

I live in the town area about 50m from the Tebrau Highway and that road has been jammed up to the Batu Bakar junction. It seems that there is a major area affected near the Pandan area. A squatter area that is quite low-lying near the Ponderosa Club area would also be flooded.

Every few minutes I can hear sirens of ambulances or other rescue vehicles. It is as if a major calamity has occurred.

A friend who lives in Taman Daya is worried about getting home from the town area as it seems even the Pasir Gudang Highway is flooded in places. Traffic in Permas Jaya is also reported to be trapped in areas.

Even now the rain is still pouring and I am not sure what the next hours will bring.
My house is located next to a drain reserve but so far the water level appears very safe as the house is located about 6 meters above the stream level and the capacity of the reserve is large and wide.

But the rain has been incessant and I am sure thousands of homes will be affected this flood season.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Malaysian Highway Robbery

Someone should do a study on the toll system in the Klang Valley for I suspect that the residents here must be undergoing great stress with the recent hike in tolls.

I am guessing that people here must be the most tolled residents in the world and this is the direct result of Machiavellian planning.

It all began with the quest to produce the made-in Malaysia car, the project that is now the subject of bail-out and foreign takeover. Never mind that the window motors barely last a few months or that this “baby” needs protection after more than 25 years of “weaning” via import duties on foreign cars.

Since we have the national car, we need to produce steel and that gave birth to Perwaja another project that sucked up billions of reserves and produced unsatisfactory results.

After Perwaja was approved we needed more electricity and that required loads of electricity generation. So Bakun was created even though the cost of transporting the energy would be prohibitive. Never mind that as some people got to clear thousands of hectares of virgin forest. What’s the big deal about a few animal and plant life becoming extinct? And we get to force the Orang Asli to embrace civilisation or they will forever thwart our efforts to attain developed nation status.

So far so good. Everyone starts to believe that the car is a basic necessity to enjoy the good life. Never mind if people start cramming six or eight persons into a Kancil and decide to buy a home away from the city. So travelling 10 or 20 km to one’s workplace became common practice.

With more cars on the roads it only becomes a matter of time before city roads are congested as no steps were taken to improve public transport until the late 90 with the KL mass transit systems.

Now if we look at the way the 3 operators were selected and the manner the 3 systems were implemented it would provide a good idea of how the EPU operates. First of all it is not a seamless system as you needed to buy separate tickets and proper interchanges were few and far between. You normally need to exit a station, walk perhaps 600m and then enter the station of the next system.

The stage is now set for the tolls all over for the Klang residents as they are a captive population.

I guess the usual toll operator promotes his deal to the authorities with the following modus operandi:

• There is no open tender for any project.

• Traffic studies are supplied by the government with guaranteed minimum figures or compensation.

• The contract to build operate and transfer is awarded.

This is the reason why Klang motorists now have to bear so much with so many tolls.

The first stage of “no open tender” creates the high cost upfront as some promoters are in it for quick money with little effort.

The second stage of government traffic projections can be abused via dubious means. The traffic can be uplifted so that future earnings are pegged at a higher level and the project costs can be elevated to get more loans. You figure out who are the likely beneficiaries.

Once the project is completed it is only a question of time before the project proves unviable but no sweat as the government is always ready to bail you out.

Time for another round to discuss your next project?

Graphics: thanks to http://www.melanierawn.com/books/images/Highwaymen.jpg

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tolls Tolls All the Way

I wrote the original sometime in the 80s when the Slim River toll had not been removed long past the due date.

Here is a newer version.
Sing to the tune of "Home on the Range"

1.Oh place not a toll
Wherever my wheels roam
Where the pot-holes and cave-ins are found
Where never is built on stabilised ground
And the jams will get you nowhere.

Tolls tolls all the way
All through the night and day
Why must we keep paying for the roads
They keep laying
With the taxes we pay all year

2.Oh give me a road
That’s been built for the load
With the taxes we pay all year
Where the road is so clear
Of traffic cops so dear
Be sure our future’s to be tolled

3.Where is Samy Vellu
With his statements so true
You must pay and pay some more
We must support their cronies
Give them all your monies
We know we can squeeze you dry

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mum's the Word for Government Toll Charges

We seem to be operating in some kind of Orwellian fantasy world when the government has to brief news editors on how to "soften" the bad news of imminent toll increases of between 10 to 50%.

Are the authorities hoping that the taxpayers are stupid and wil not realise that tolls have indeed gone up when they experience more money being sucked out from their wallets on a daily basis?

The authorities need to come clean and let the public know what is in those gilt-lined toll agreements that are top secret like the water supply agreement in Selangor that allowed the favoured company to increase rates by 15%.

It should start with the agreement for the North-South Highway as that is the mother of all crony contracts which is still a mill-stone round the neck of Malaysians and was the harbinger of all subsequent crony deals.

Maybe they will never allow such deals to be made public - not in a million years as long as the BN remains in power. They must all be forever clouded like the water supplied from the tap in Selangor.

Maybe there is some secret chemical in that drinking water that causes people to become delusional - some people can proclaim the state to have attained fully developed status and the population can accept that the present government can act in their best interest.

So bring on the toll increases. The way the public has been squeezed with price increases this year is a major reality check that all is NOT well with the economic management of the nation.

Photo: Murky dealings indeed!

Monday, December 11, 2006

“Damage Done to BN” Claim 39% of the Voters for MALAYSIAWATCH POLL 19

There were 123 voters for the poll and the results are shown below:

48 voters or 39% felt “The damage has been done. I will not support any BN party anymore”

47 voters or 38% chose “The extremist speakers should be charged in court”

17 voters or 14% chose “I will help the opposition party in my area”

Only 10 voters or 8% felt “I think the top leaders should have been more assertive to reprimand the extreme speakers”

Only 1 voter or 1% believed “I think the top leaders managed to calm things down”

Zero response for “The Assembly should not be telecast live”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We Need an Alternative BN Government to Rescue Malaysia

Our PM has lamented that race relations in Malaysia is somewhat “brittle” and “may break”.

That is hardly surprising when we have the annual rounds of race bashing talks in all the racist parties that make up the BN government. Sad to say these parties have been in power since Merdeka and these parties are UMNO, MCA and the MIC.

Every year without fail Malaysians are subject to varying degrees of aggressive posturing that seems to be getting worse especially with the display of a lethal weapon like the keris and calls to bathe in blood.

Of course some may argue that the keris is hardly a weapon of mass destruction and no one mentioned human blood so one speaker may have been referring to a probable outbreak of bird flu with tens of thousands of chickens having to be culled.

Yet there is much disquiet in the country when parties based on race try to score points with their more extreme members.

There will always be some racists in each group and the sad part is that these dangerous elements always hijack the good intentions of the saner more moderate people.

So what is this piece all about?
Given that the BN has basically ruled Malaysia since independence many voters are reluctant to overthrow them at the polls and yet it seems that the opposition is gaining strength based on many scandals that have still not been resolved.

The latest one seems to be the “top secret” agreement for water supply in Selangor. I just wonder how any government with an ounce of integrity can simply brush off requests from consumer bodies for details of the agreement that has now increased water bills by 15%.

So what is the solution?

I am suggesting to the political parties in the BN that they should consider contesting the next elections as perhaps 40% BN NP(new party) and 60% without change.

This way the more moderate politicians can opt to stand as a BN NP candidate and this will allow voters to decide if they want such a change in our political direction.

It is akin to the proposed merger of the plantation giants ala Synergy Merge and the reasons are even more compelling.

For one it will move us from the brink of self-destruction and chaos that the racist policies will ultimately bring.

Secondly it will allow a more moderate political entity to emerge from the main racist parties.

Thirdly it will allow Malaysia to develop with fairer policies free from racist bias.

Perhaps this is one agenda that the BN Youth may consider evaluating.
It will take perhaps 12 months for a detailed study of how the BN NP(new party) will position itself for elections.

Some people will claim that no way the BN will lose in any elections. I believe the Congress Party in India and the Kuomintang in Taiwan also felt that way until it happened.

This BN NP will also give all Malaysians to give a good feedback on how they feel about race based politics.

In the elections there can be the following scheme:

• BN NP contests 30% of seats

• Other BN components contest 40% of seats

• The balance of 30% will be contested by both BN NP and BN Components

Whoever wins in the last section will provide a good indication of how Malaysians want their politicians to progress.

For example if BN NP wins more than 65% of the seats also contested by other BN Components it will show that Malaysians really want non-racist politics.

With this scheme it will be possible for BN to retain power if all three sections obtain reasonable support from the electorate.

Having the BN NP will allow moderate politicians to make a stand for non-racist policies and remove the major obstacle to peace and harmony.

Maybe I should not be suggesting to the BN on how to get out of their self-inflicted predicament but as a concerned Malaysian who wants to see Malaysia become a more progressive nation, I hope this idea will be food for thought.

If we take this BN concept further, it may be possible to reduce all the horse trading that occurs in the succession of leader scenario.

We all know that not the best qualified persons are holding positions of succession and there is great rivalry within the individual components.

Instead of concentrating so much jealousies within component BN parties, it may be better to have the two major camps go their separate ways into two BN New Parties and these will then vie for control at the General Elections.

I am sure many Malaysians are waiting for a two or three party system in Malaysia.

For one thing it will surely reduce the time the PM and his entourage spends in the 20 odd BN parties’ assemblies.

What do you think of my proposals?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Let’s Not Mix Up IPCMC and Bar Elections Issues

These are two different kettles of fish and we should not try to confuse the issues.

The Royal Inquiry on the Police was set up by the government to find out what is wrong with the police after several serious incidents occurred and the Commission came up with the IPCMC that addressed various issues that would help the police to become a “world class” security organisation.

Sadly we have already had a change of the IGP and the IPCMC is now past its second birthday if it had been allowed to exist six months after the Report was tabled.

Now we have the problem of fake ballots in the Bar Council elections.
The Bar Council has been quite vocal recently on various human rights issues like the IPCMC and can be considered “a thorn” in the flesh of the authorities.

Now if you like conspiracy theories of which there are many surrounding the death of the Mongolian woman and highly trained police who get rid of evidence, it is not difficult to speculate that those fake ballots could have been planted by persons unknown to disrupt the Bar Council activities.

It seems the proper remedy would be for the Bar Council to get non-lawyers like an accounting firm to handle the ballots that are in dispute.

So far about 50 fake ballots have been found and the Bar Council should be given the authority to sort out this matter.

If fake ballots make up less than 20% of the total votes they should simply be recorded as such and the results should stand.

Can you imagine if this principle of fake ballots is applied to the general elections we will never be able to have election results accepted.

Let’s not mix up the two kettles of fish. One stinks more than the other.

Graphics: Thanks to http://www.mckinnonsc.vic.edu.au/la/it/ipmnotes/video/kettle-of-fish.jpg

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Changing Mindset is More Critical than Reinventing Policies

Sometimes we really get confusing messages from our top leaders.

Civil servants really should not be asked to reinvent policies but they can be required to suggest better ways to implement policies.

Policies should come from the top down unless our top leaders do not do any serious thinking anymore.

Can you just imagine the havoc if civil servants are allowed to keep reinventing policies at their own whim and fancy? Each month will have a different flavour similar to the one enacted by the Negri Sembilan Education Department that effectively created education apartheid in the school but fortunately saner minds prevailed at the Education Ministry.

Still on the education front there must have been a sea change in policies that has created the situation in Malaysia where thousands of new graduates cannot write even a simple paragraph in English.

We cannot blame civil servants for that but their political masters. Official letters from the government used to end with something like “Your obedient servant” but nowadays the tone is more like “Or else!”

Care to share your experience with our civil servants?

Photo: thanks to http://www.zftr.com/uploaded_images/Thinking%20monkey-771567.jpg

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another RM300,000 Down the Drain

So the authorities spent RM300k on a study to see how London could be used as a sports center for Malaysian athletes.

That seems to be a lot of bucks on an idea that most Malaysians find unreasonable and lacking proper justification. There was earlier talk that a multimillion ringgit sports complex was in the offing but the actual cost has not been confirmed following the public uproar.

The Minister for Sports should be asked to provide details of how this RM300,000 was incurred.

It would be interesting to get the following information:

Air-fares to London

Hotels in London

Entertainment claims

Sundry expenses

Consultancy hours

Is that a reasonable request for information?

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Easy Problem for the Education Ministry?

The government did a good thing by abolishing examination fees for this helps poorer Malaysians who may otherwise drop out of school earlier.

I remember during my school days my family had to apply for school fees exemption and that concession helped all my four brothers stay in school for as long as they wanted.

The problem of students wanting to take extra papers can be viewed from a few angles:

It seems that getting an A is too easy nowadays and maybe the standard should be raised so that not more than 10 to 15% of students achieve this result.

If seven subjects are the requirements for any exam, the students should be asked to pay exam fees for any extra paper as resources are needed to cater for these students. Perhaps RM25 per extra subject would be a reasonable amount.

The MOE can also designate ECAs as being more valuable for scholarships than the extra papers and if we tighten standards on granting “As” it should be possible to select outstanding pupils based on 5 subjects.

We should not encourage schools to cater for exotic subjects so that some mugger can score 15As and become a celebrity but we should encourage our students to spend more time in sports and other healthy activities so that inter-racial harmony can be enhanced.

Instead of having to build extra classrooms for the extra subjects the money would be better spent on renting sports fields and other games facilities. Those who want to take subjects not taught in schools will have to take private lessons.

I was thinking….maybe our Education Minister can make his point more succinctly at a meeting of education officials and parents by displaying that infamous symbol of his?