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

Friday, June 29, 2007

Something for the Income Tax Department to Ponder.

Here is a challenge for LHDN to take on.

They have invested billions of ringgit on IT and nowadays only promise "quick" refunds to those who submit returns online.

What about those files that are many years old? Some of them have not been refunded.
Perhaps they should learn from their Singapore friends how to process refunds within 30 days or pay interest.

That is only fair as the LHDN is quick to impose a 10% penalty if you do not pay up on time.

The following schedule would be fair:

Refund within 30 days - after which the bank lending rate applies for 2 months
After the third month, the 10% rule applies but this time the LHDN pays.

Maybe the post of LHDN chief should be open to all so that the person accepting the post will know what is the requirement for refunds.

What Do You Think of our PM's Overseas Travels?

Lim Kit Siang's blog has a current entry about our PM's frequent forays overseas.
So the latest MALAYSIAWATCH POLL is to provide feed-back on what do readers think of this activity.

Please give your feedback asp. Thanks.

Poisoning our School Children.....

This seems to be a common occurrence these days with contaminated food in canteens and the milk project that appears to be unsolvable with the small operators who appear ignorant of basic food hygiene.

Having worked with a Nestle factory for a few years, I would imagine that the efforts to produce small quantities of milk in isolated areas is really not viable as it costs a fair bit to ensure good hygiene and workers need to be properly trained and motivated. If we add in the costs of regular health screenings I think most small operators will close shop.

My children studied in Singapore and the system there is a little different. Teachers and pupils share the same food and the only concession for teachers get is a separate seating area and they can jump queue though my son says a few teachers will also queue.

After 41 years (4 children's experience) we did not experience any food poisoning case in my family.

I suggest the following will see a dramatic improvement in food hygiene:

1.Have only one canteen operator to supply both pupils and teachers

2.Teachers should also be provided a proper space in the canteen as their presence will instil good behaviour and improve rapport with pupils

3.Canteen operators will ensure a cleaner space.

4.PTAs should have a Canteen committee to do regular but surprise inspections.

As for the milk scheme, I suggest that small operators be encouraged to pool resources like form a coop to operate from more modern facilities so that overheads can be reduced. If an operator cannot meet certain standards, the supply should be replaced with UHT milk that can keep for weeks without refrigeration.

It is good that bad canteen operators have been fired but more should be done to reduce the many cases of food poisoning.

Photo: Thanks to http://www.syntheticsociety.com/blog/mobile_images/unnamed-image-2-795494.jpg

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Perils of Journalistic Licence

All writers practise some form of journalistic licence in the selection of words or phrases that will interest the reader.

However I found this article a little misleading.

The headline read
"Landmark washed away in a breeze"

The first impression was that a strong gale force wind had destroyed something but the choice of words is a contradiction as a breeze does not wash anything.

But if one reads the article,it is revealed that the company is a major detergent manufacturer and that is how the word " washed" had to be included so the sub-editor can claim to be creative.

I wonder what the teacher who is probably weak in English is going to make of this artice. Don't be surprised if your primary school child writes an essay with this nonsensical phrase.

Newspapers in Education? Be warned!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

57% Think that the Government is Having an Incestuous Relationship....

Maybe one could blame recent sex scandals of Malaysia but here are the findings of MALAYSIAWATCH POLL 26 that posed the question:

"What Do You Think of the Number of Malaysian Civil Servants that is More Than Double That of Other Countries in Terms of Population Ratio?"

Thanks to the 108 readers who gave their views on the subject.

57% or 62 readers chose "It looks as if the Government is having an Incestuous Relationship with the Civil Service with the principle of “Keep Us in Power and We Will Take Care of You.”"

13% or 14 chose "Having More Civil Servants Does Not Mean the Service is More Efficient"

11% or 12 chose "The Country’s Resources Will Be Heavily Burdened in the Future"

8% or 9 chose "It is Good That the Government Gives Jobs to Graduates who will Otherwise Be Unemployed"

6% or 7 chose "The Government Has Lost All its Credibility to Rule when it Cannot Control the Numbers in the Civil Service"

4% or 4 chose "Having Spent Billions of Ringgit in IT I Expected the Numbers to Decrease and Not Increase"

It seems the majority 63% of the voters think rather poorly of the government's control over the civil servants.

Nice Gesture but it Shows how NEP has Failed....

It is better late than never.

But it also shows how the NEP programs to eradicate poverty have failed the tens of thousands of Malaysians who are really struggling to eke out an existence.

It seems that the rich get richer with NEP but the poor remain marginalised unless someone bothers to take up the case.

SYABAS to the state assemblymanwho took the trouble to get them the funds.

So many benefits have been hijacked under the guise of the NEP over the past 35 years that I figure every family in similar circumstances could have received such a basic amenity like a RM20,000 low-cost house that it does not make for news anymore.

After all, 100,000 such homes will only need RM2,000,000,000 and that would have been spent over 35 years and changed the lives of 100,000 families.

Such a project should have been approved under the Welfare Department as poverty affects people of other religions too.

Photo: Thanks to http://www.pknp.gov.my/eAgency/webpknp/corporate_g8.JPG

Driving the SMART tunnel

If you need to drive through the SMART tunnel please do the following as it may help to save your life and those of your passengers.

1. Try to follow the speed of the traffic flow. If everyone is driving at 70kpm you should follow that speed as that means you reduce the number of cars overtaking you.

2. Keep a safe distance from the car in front. I suggest a minimum of 30 meters. In case of emergency and you need to stop, try to stop at least 10 meters from the car in front.

3. In case of accident and the road ahead is totally blocked, lock your vehicle at the side of the road and move quickly towards the escape points. Wait until the passage is cleared before getting back to your vehicle.

Since only cars are allowed inside the tunnel,any accident has the risk of the cars catching fire and if you stop too close to the vehicle in front the fire will spread to your own car in the enclosed space.

If a fire occurs, the most likely cause of death will be from toxic fumes as most cars have a lot of plastic materials.

A Major Security Breach

Crime is rampant nowadays in the major cities of Malaysia with the deployment of more cops in Johor Bahru as the crime rate has deterred many Singaporeans from their usual trips and weekend jaunts.

Business in the city has been hurt badly and despite the dislike of Singaporeans especially from those who live in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru needs those millions of ringgit the visitors spend each year to bring prosperity to JB.

Even if some of the state leaders do not like the situation, their very existence depends on the taxes collected on quit rent, assessment and licence fees from the business owners who provide goods and services to those visitors.

Another type of crime that is not so dramatic as robberies and snatch theft is committed in secret and often goes unnoticed.
The Altantuuya murder case has many interesting aspects and others have written with more details. But I would just like to highlight one detail that points to a major security breach.

In today’s paper, it is reported that the arrival and departure records of a Mongolian witness had been erased from the Immigration database.

Is it really that simple for anyone to erase such records? If so I suggest such a situation points to a few possible scenarios that spell a major security problem:

1. Criminals can enter and exit Malaysia without a trace after the crimes.

2. Unwanted visitors can be killed and their bodies disposed without a trace.

3. Intending illegals can enter Malaysia on a social pass and then disappear until they obtain fake or stolen Mykads.

Based on the story, there should be an public inquiry on how those entry records were deleted and why.

Photo: Thanks to http://www.pivotnetworks.com/hacker.jpg

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Warnings for the SMART Tunnel?

This story shows how a minor accident can cause massive jams and should put the SMART tunnel operator on alert that a tunnel accident (only a question of time, really) can cause similar delays but with a higher danger to motorists.After all construction defects have already been accepted with the usual "that's normal here" comments by the authorities.

Tunnel disasters have already occurred in other countries where fires caused by accidents can overcome escaping motorists with noxious fumes before they reach the escape exits.

Perhaps the toll operator can inform the public of the equipment available at both ends of the tunnel so that the public will be assured that help is available within say 10 minutes of any accident. Or the government can impose such safety requirements or are we to follow the routine that nothing is planned until some people die?

Under such operating guidelines, the tunnel will be shut down if any of the signalling or ventilating systems fail.

Finally disabled drivers should not be allowed to use the SMART tunnel unless it has been designed that they will be able to escape without assistance.

Graphics: Thanks to http://www.smarttunnel.com.my/images/project/smart/pic_crosssection.jpg

Monday, June 25, 2007

JB - Update on Causeway Progress

A view of the massive development. The petrol station is located about 500 meters from the Checkpoint for buses.
The blocks of flats are the Bukit Cagar old flats that would probably be demolished. An ideal site for luxury condominiums?
A disfigured JB Railway Station without its clock. The station is on the right side of the curved structure in the top photo and just beside the checkpoint where bus passengers alight to get processed by immigration.
You can see part of the earthworks behind the railway station.

This is the view of the section where the cars leave JB. The new overhead bypass beams have been installed after a long period of slow activity.
That car in the foreground is close to the immigration booth.
In the distance is City Square, the nicest shopping centre closet to the Checkpoint.
If you want to catch a bus you have to walk to the bus stop on the left side of City Square across the road. Obviously the transport planner has never travelled by bus? Almost a kilometer walk.

Maybe the answer to the puzzle of that faraway bus stop is here. Just as one exits the underpass after clearing Customs, just next to the JB main police station, there are many taxis waiting.
You can see the cars queueing up to clear immigration at the Checkpoint to exit Malaysia.

Photos: Taken today on my return from Singapore.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cops Get Cracking in JB

I've just returned from the Post Office and the police have deployed a man in the vicinity.

To keep himself busy the cop was helping customers find places to park their vehicles and he was doing a good job connecting with all those who visited the post office.

Having a policeman in uniform in the vicinity creates a better sense of security among the public.It would also be good for some of these officers to be in normal clothes as I am sure there are still many crooks on the prowl.

Obviously the crooks will not attack anyone if they spot a uniform nearby.Having more plainclothes cops will be a more positive step to catching more robbers and snatch thieves.

Take Care of Your Own Responsibilities First....

Looking after public works projects must be quite a satisfying or rewarding duty.

Just examine all the add on rectification jobs that have been necessary lately:

The RM200m for the crooked bridge in JB to change into new access roads.
The RM20m just to inspect the buildings in Putrajaya.
Unknown costs to take care of pipes "bocor" and ceilings that drop on your head.
The extra retention ponds and pumps to alleviate the flood problems in KL.

One would have imagined that the Works Ministry would have tried to tried to avoid more tasks but it appears this department is a glutton for punishment.

The ministry wants to provide our fellow Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak the same real life experiences that peninsula Malaysians have experienced.

Perhaps it will create a better sense of national unity when ALL Malaysians can share the same tragedies. Maybe RTM or TV3 wants to start a new reality TV program called ,"The Next Building Failure". Only buildings constructed in the last 5 years will qualify.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Not So Easy to Restore Public Confidence....

It is good that the Cabinet has decided the crime situation is serious enough to take urgent action.

However the recent gathering at the MB's residence in JB shows that the population is getting tired of the authorities' promises that things will improve, especially with the recent salary hikes that have allocated more to the police.

The reluctance of the government to introduce reforms via the IPCMC that was its own commission also undermines the confidence of the public in the police. It is now two years and still no indication as to when the AG will complete the task. I would think if manpower is in short supply, the task could have been outsourced for preliminary drafting based on specific guidelines and then let the AG do the final draft.

Simply dumping more resources like men and cars into Johor will not produce more results if no action is taken against those in the police stations who refused to take the reports. For example if the first person to whom the crime was reported caused the unnecessary delay that resulted in the rape of the victim, that person should be charged with criminal neglect.

The victim should also sue the government for dereliction of duty. I am not a lawyer so I don't know what to sue for. But I think if a government servant neglects to perform an official duty, the government can be held liable.

The other aspect of the Cabinet decision that bothers me is that such an action should have been made by the relevant ministry or even the IGP. This allocation of resources should have been an operational decision by the experts.
Once public confidence is shaken, it will take a long time and visible results before that confidence can be restored. Setting up the IPCMC becomes more urgent now and that will lead to a quantum leap in public trust and cooperation.

Photo: Thanks to http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/Protest_01.jpg. People asking for a police base instead of a food court near their homes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Some Companies are Fairer to Minority Shareholders

It is the season of taking public listed companies private for whatever reasons and minority shareholders usually get a raw deal.

Even large groups like PNB can treat smaller shareholders with little sentiment like the recent moves to merge all the plantation companies via a third party exercise as if that somehow reduces their moral obligations or sense of fair play.

An even worse privatisation move is to take Island & Peninsula Bhd private with a miserable RM2.35 offer even though the asset backing is around RM2.80 per share.

No doubt the independent advisor will make the blase comment to the effect that "the offer is 15% more than the last traded price for the past 6 months". I suppose advisors will be willing to write anything that covers their reputation.

Of course we should not make more rules to prevent the delisting of companies but isn't a fairer treatment of minority shareholders possible?

It would be a good practice if the independent advisors take the stand that the offer price is reasonable based on the following criteria:

The offer price will be the higher of:
1.At least 10% more than the highest traded price of the last 3 months
2.At least 15% more than the net asset value of the share based on valuations done within the last 2 years.

The latest company to take the private road is AIGB but at least they are offering 2.2times the asset value. I don't think many minority shareholders will argue with the offer.

Graphics: Thanks to http://www.civilwarliterature.com/ListOfIllustrations/122464p0829(2)w775.jpg

Good Method to Detect "Kereta Potong" but.....

The move to link PUSPAKOM and the JPJ databases so that ownership transfers can be done online is a step in the right direction to eliminate the problem of "kereta potong" that is a serious problem as such vehicles are not roadworthy and will break up easily in accidents.

However by making it compulsory for ALL vehicle owners to get PUSPAKOM approval before any transfer appears to be rather drastic as some vehicles have never been involved in any serious accidents and now will have to incur extra costs.

I suggest that another party be linked to the JPJ database and that will be the insurance companies. Insurance companies should be asked to submit the chassis numbers of all vehicles that have been written off in accidents to the JPJ so that these vehicles cannot be licensed again.

If this is done properly and controlled, the market for "kereta potong" will vanish overnight.

I think there is a case for periodic inspection of ALL vehicles on some basis like:
1.Once in two years for all cars above 5 years old perhaps costing say RM80
2.annually for all vehicles above 10 years old costing RM120

The inspection can be done by PUSPAKOM approved motor garages and others like the AAM.

There is No Compulsion in Travel

It is good for the Deputy Tourism Minister to highlight the risks of overseas travel and the high expenses incurred when one's travel plans are affected for various reasons.

However I feel that the authorities should not take the drastic measure of making Malaysians buy travel insurance. Are not travel agencies protected from folding up under the MATTA umbrella?

If so, consumers should be educated to only purchase tours from proper agencies. For travel insurance, the authorities should liaise with travel companies to advise people on the benefits of adequate travel insurance.

Let us treat Malaysians as adults who can decide what travel insurance package to buy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Are You Worried about Your Family's Safety?

How many people do you know are victims of crime like knife attacks, robbery or even rape?

I am sure some of you could even have suffered as a result of such incidents. The government appears tohave fallen asleep over the IPCMC and we should do more to wake them up to improve security in the nation.

You can do this by signing the online petition here that calls on the police to be more effective.

More effective law enforcement will help reduce the number of victims and who knows? One of those saved could well be you or your loved ones. Please sign the petition NOW.

KL Flooding - Wrong about 30% Obstruction!

I hope you are not getting bored to tears with my ongoing tilt about the primary cause of flooding in the heart of KL.
Readers will know that I have been going on about the Masjid Jamek LRT station being a major problem as it was built inside the river profile.

I don't know where this station is but there is an excellent blog entry fromKenny Ng's blog and I hope he does not mind me posting the photos here.

I mentioned that about 30% of the river flow would be obstructed but if you study the photos carefully, let us make the following assumptions:

1.the depth of the water flowing is as large as the width of the narow section
2.the reserve(no water) width is twice as wide as the flowing channel.
3.the height of the wider section to the flood level is two-thirds the width.

So let's say the width and depth of the normal flow channel is 3a times 3a
the spare capacity is then 9a times 2a giving a total of 9a2 plus 18a2 or a total of 27a2.

With the construction of the station inside the river, at least 50% of the reserve has been removed and the river capacity becomes 9a2 plus 9a2 or 18a2 that is a 35% capacity reduction.
If you look at the centre below the station you can make out a column built right in the centre of the span and that alone will be a major collecting point for all the rubbish in the river. Is this an example of world class infrastructure? It would qualify in the GBOR as a case of supreme studity!

I wonder how many stations have been built inside the rivers like the photo shown. I estimate perhaps up to six and probably connected with only one of the three systems as usually some bright spark will always try and cut costs. The DID should know but they are keeping very quiet.

The second composite photo shows a series of columns built along the reserve of the river. These are not as serious as the station in the river but will also reduce the water flow as rubbish will build up around the columns.

I suggest the authorities come up with a better plan to reduce the flooding rather than build more retention ponds and pumping stations as pumps in Malaysia have that habit of not working when you need them most.

Any LRT station as shown should be demolished and replaced so that the base is clear of the river profile and NO columns allowed in the river.
A rubbish removal system to be installed north of the series of columns in the river so that rubbish does not build up.

This will be my last entry on LRT stations inside rivers!

Monday, June 18, 2007

KL Floods - No More Disasters with SMART?

I wonder why the DID is now claiming that the SMART project may not prevent all future floods in KL. Is it a case of doubtful planning?

According to this undated government report, there is comprehensive flood planning in KL to take care of both structural and non-structural aspects.

The SMART project features prominently in the report.
You can also read the project details from the consultants here. You need Adobe Reader to read details.

It is interesting to note this passage in the government report:

"3.1 Permanent Flood Control Commission

Realising the need for a long-term water resources development strategy and master plan, the Government has carried out a National Water Resources Study (1982) to develop a comprehensive and coordinated water resources development programme for the country. The study has formulated a long-term plan for flood mitigation works in various flood-prone areas of the country. This includes improvement of 850 km of river channels, construction of 12 multi-purpose dams, 82 km of flood bypass, 12 ring bunds around urban centres, and resettlement of about 10,000 people in flood-prone areas. The whole plan was estimated to cost RM2.55 billion (1982 estimate) over a period of 20 years and will provide protection to some 1.8 million people. (However the cost for future flood mitigation works is now estimated to be in the region of RM17 billion for the next 15 years and the estimated number of people affected by flooding has now risen to 4.817 million.)"

"3.11 Integrated River Basin Management ( IRBM )

Under the concept of Integrated River Basin Management, the whole river basin is planned in an integrated manner and all factors are taken into consideration when a certain development plan is proposed. Factors like zoning for river corridors, riparian areas, natural flood plain, conservation of wetlands, storage ponds etc will be taken into consideration when preparing flood management plans. The concept of IRBM has been incorporated into and will be implemented starting in the 8th Malaysia Plan."

and the conclusion:

"4. Conclusion

Based on the experience accumulated over the years in implementing flood mitigation works, DID is today more conscious of the need to carry out such projects on a river basin basis rather than on a piecemeal approach. This kind of approach will involve a shift from the traditional thinking in terms of controlling flooding through expensive engineering structures to the more comprehensive approach of viewing the solution in terms of managing flooding by incorporating structural as well as non-structural measures."

It's quite a comprehensive report taking into account so many important factors. I guess they were too ashamed to own up that they made a major boo-boo by approving the construction of that LRT station at Masjid Jamek to encroach 3 meters inside the river channel height.

Photo: Near Merdeka Square. Perhaps next Merdeka parade could feature navy boats!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Changing the PM's Speech

This is part of the PM's speech taken from Lim Kit Siang's blog:

“A hundred years of Merdeka would see this society, this nation achieve the unimaginable. We will have Nobel laureates, truly global corporations, respected and market-leading brands, internationally acclaimed poets and artists, among the largest number of scientific patents in the world and even the best football team in Asia.

“Our students and professors will dominate Ivy League universities and our own universities will be citadels of excellence for international scholars.

“We will be pioneers in alternative energy, drawing on our strength in biofuels. Our cities will be the most liveable on the globe, blending cosmopolitan facilities that are rooted in a tolerant and just societal ethos.
“This is the Malaysia in my dreams for 2057. One hundred years of independence, one hundred years of advancement.”

Since I think that speech is poor and incredulous, I have prepared a more appropriate speech.

"In the year 2057, Malaysia will celebrate 100 years of freedom. Though many will be sceptical, I am convinced that if we reform the government and implement fair and just policies, every Malaysian will have a rightful place in our nation.

Other countries with fewer resources have achieved great progress and so Malaysia should be prepared to learn from others. If we develop and retain all our human capital with opportunities for personal growth, Malaysia too will produce high achievers in all professions and even sports.

Already many Malaysians are well-known overseas in various professions and I believe we have the talents that can be developed for our nation’s progress. It is imperative that we retain their services for Malaysia.

In order to develop our human capital we need universities of excellence and so we will embark on the long task of upgrading the universities so that we will attract top notch professors and quality students.

We are improving the environment in our cities and making Kuala Lumpur flood free and squatter free is a top priority that will be achieved by 2020.

As a leading producer of palm oil, Malaysia has the potential to become a leader in bio-fuel technology and that will be our focus in alternative energy.

Malaysia can achieve much more by 2057. The task is great and the responsibility is ours. Let us work together and help Malaysia advance further for the next 50 years."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

KL Floods - This is How to Spend the RM100m Budget

It is good that the Cabinet has allocated an extra RM100million for the prevention of floods in KL.

However I feel that the money should have been allocated to the most important cause of the flooding right in the centre of town. Pardon me while I rant and rave at the idiocy and stupidity of all the reasons being given but the flooding in KL can be directly attributed to the construction of the LRT Station right inside the river reserve space so that the Klang River cannot flow at its original capacity.

I believe the capacity has been reduced by at least 30% as the LRT station is at least 3 meters below the top of the bund. Now this is the at the widest part(at the top)and hence the flow restriction could be larger than 30%.

Building retention ponds and installing more pump houses can help somewhat but it means we are installing more equipment that requires regular maintenance(now that is a taboo phrase for most Malaysian authorities)

So how should the money be spent?
That offending LRT station has to be raised to clear the river bund and the estimated cost for this is RM20million (one time cost, excluding any land cost).
I would not install any more pumps or build retention ponds unless these are already ponding areas.
These areas will be gazetted as drainage reserves for at least 50 years and no one allowed to build here including squatters. The areas will be well maintained and allowed to be used as public recreation areas but with no permanent structures except for toilets. Perhaps RM5m will be used for these minor projects.

Perhaps another RM1m will be used to provide free shuttle service to connect commuters affected during the one-month closure of the LRT Station at Masjid Jamek pending the reconstruction.

The balance of the RM100m ie RM74m will be used to reallocate squatters along the river banks and creating a 50meter clear zone on both banks of the river so that dumping activities can be closely monitored.

Malaysians are sometimes too gentle and unassertive. In most countries those traders affected by the overflow at Masjid Jamek would have marched to DBKL and demanded the demolition of that LRT Station.

I estimate the station can be completed within 3 months. Modular design in one complete section or two halves. Only rails have to be properly aligned.
Actual site disruption perhaps two weeks based on working 24 hours.

Photo: Thanks to http://www.lowermerion.org/planning/osp/ospimages/indiancreek.jpg We really need more spaces like this in KL.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

KL Floods - Nice Photo but Wrong Background

We all like new toys and some toys can be quite cheap.
This RM2billion baby is the latest toy to reduce the flood problems of KL.

As stated in this article, poor planning can be the cause of flooding in the city and this can be attributed to:

1.Illegal logging and clearing of large land areas
2.Improper disposal of wastes
3.Poor maintenance of existing facilities like drainage, water gates and pumps
4.No desilting of major rivers for many years
5.Large property development without adequate retention ponds

In the old days, I believe the provision for flood and drainage factors were better taken care of. You can still see this in the older sections of Petaling Jaya with lower housing density, adequate trees and grass verges and even the large lake along the Federal Highway. Nowadays that lake would have been filled and even more houses built there.

The article mentioned "water in 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools dumped into the middle of the city."
In my earlier articles I have mentioned that the river overflows at the Masjid Jamek site because the LRT station was constructed across the entire width of the river thereby reducing the flow capacity by at least 30%.

I wonder how much water would have been dumped in KL if this major obstruction had been removed.
So I say this picture would have been more appropriate if the person had posed with the background of that LRT station showing how it disrupted the river flow. The picture should be composed with his outstretched arms to show the width of the river.
I am sure that would have explained to the KL residents more clearly how the floods were caused.

Photo: Thanks to the New Straits Times

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

KL Flooding. You Can't Stop Telling Lies.....

Once you tell one lie it is very difficult to stop telling more lies to cover the first lie.

Mistakes are similar in that fashion. If you make a basic mistake and do not correct that error but try to cover it up with other activities, more often than not the cost of correcting the basic mistake is very complex and can cost a hundred times more.

The frequent flooding in KL in recent years, especially near the town center has been caused by the construction of the LRT Station near the Masjid Jamek mosque. The station takes up at least 3 meters of space inside the river and across the entire width; thereby causing an artificial barrier that reduces the flow capacity by at least 30%.

This error is known to the authorities but instead of changing the design of the station so that the full river capacity is restored, they embarked on that SMART Tunnel project so that 95% of the river can be diverted in the future.

If you look at the KL map(click for a clearer view), the LRT station is built just north of Jalan Tun Perak. I expect the Sungei Klang will overflow at the station obstruction and since the surrounding area is low-lying, the spillover is going to quickly reach Merdeka Square and upstream of that river.

The RM6billion budget to build numerous ponds and deepening of river and installing more pumping stations may alleviate the floods but I feel they should spend the money to redo that LRT station that is the basic cause of the floods.

Once the station is clear of the river, I estimate the flooding frequency in KL will be reduced to perhaps once every 10 years. Other flood alleviation measures like desilting would not cost billions but a few million each year.

If you are a KL resident, you could capture the flood happenings at the Masjid Jamek station the next time it rains heavily and post to YouTube.

Map: Thanks to http://www.leeds.ac.uk/international/images/KL_Office_Map.jpg

Monday, June 11, 2007

Class Action Suit Against DBKL?

All it takes is a few hours of rain in the Klang Valley and we create damage worth millions to property, vehicles and also engangering the health of thousands who are stressed out by the frequent flooding.

The RM1.8billion SMART tunnel was touted to be the "Final Solution" to KL's flooding but now it seems that many of the retention ponds have not been completed.

The mind boggles at what our planners and executives are doing. I would have thought retention ponds are much easier to contruct than that showpiece tunnel project - maybe very little glamour?

I lived in KL from 1967 to 1988 and during those years I can recall that flooding near Masjid Jamek occurred perhaps two or three times and the disruption lasted perhaps one or two hours.

I suspect the main reason for the frequent flooding near this section of the river is that DBKL allowed the LRT station to be constructed inside the reserve of the river itself.

I am sure any primary student will be able to explain to the authorities that such a mistake will only cause the river to overflow at this point where the entire depth of the river has been reduced by about 3 meters. Compared to the original flow capacity of the river, I guess the capacity has been reduced by at least 30%.

I recommend KL readers to take a photo of the LRT station and the river and send to the newspapers or to my blog so that we can highlight this basic problem.

I estimate it will cost less than RM15million to raise the level of the station and return the river to its original capacity. There will be some travel disruption but the whole station can be built with a modular design so that final assembly time can be minimised. If tracks have to be raised, a shuttle bus service can operate between the nearest stations. The total time of disruption should be limited to 2 weeks working on a 24-hour basis. Obviously this will not be a crony project.

If I can think of a conspiracy theory, it appears that the SMART tunnel gained fast approval after this problem was "created."

Photo: Thanks to the Star

Saturday, June 09, 2007

For Want of a Tie Justice was Denied?

Is this going to be the new dress code for lawyers appearing before this lady magistrate?

No red tie
White shirt
Black pants
No boxer shorts

Sounds absurd? Well this story relates how the lawyer was not allowed to be present in court if he refused to comply with her order.

You can shake your head and wonder what is going on with our judges and this is incident may make it to the David Frost show on how ludicrous some people are.

Being a magistrate requires a person to act with dignity and decorum and not behave like a tin pot dictator.

Remember that old verse that went

"For want of a nail, a shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost
For want of a horse, a battle was lost
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost."

Kudos to the lawyer for taking the right action and we hope proper action is taken against the magistrate.
This incident is no small matter and shows we must appoint the right people for such important posts or justice will be hindered.

Anyone here seen that lawyer's red tie? Maybe it was a really bright red and with flashing disco lights?
That's still no excuse as she could have told him to disconnect the battery.

Photo: Thanks to http://www.elpachuco.com/jpgs/ties/red_sm.jpg

Finally the Government Does Something about Escalating Costs.

The recent salary increase given to all civil servants including pensioners will require an additional RM8billion every year to the costs of administration of Malaysia.

Comparison with other countries shows that our civil servants to population ratio is high compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and even with the vast amounts spent on IT systems, the trend is towards an increase rather than a decrease of civil servants.

According to the article below, the cost of pensions alone has increased from RM2billion 15 years ago to the expected RM6billion estimated for 2008.

At the rate of increase, the bill could reach RM20billion by 2020.
The government has sensibly adopted a new pension scheme whereby new civil servants have to contribute to the fund and CUEPACS is not too happy.

Of course CUEPACS is not responsible for paying pensions in the future and they have to appear busy promoting their members’ benefits.

The government has to look after the welfare of all Malaysians and simply cannot carry such a heavy pension burden.

The government should also study why the costs of pensions have escalated way beyond all sustainability and such research could cover the following:

1.Study the number of pensioners who take second wives that are much younger thereby lengthening the period to pay derivative pensions to a younger widow with young children.

2.Give the civil servant the choice of converting the pension benefits into a lump sum payment. This can be calculated at any stage of the career after say 10 years service. For example the lump sum can be half the last drawn salary X years of service and this will allow some people to leave to set up a business.

3.Determine posts that have become redundant and to redeploy surplus staff to other areas.

4.Provide skills training to those who want to leave for the private sector and also counselling to those who have been terminated.

We should support the Government’s move to reduce the pension costs in the longer term. As for CUEPACS it would be good if they can give the public some valuable insights into how it can really work towards improving the delivery system of the government.

If you have not taken the poll to express your view on our civil servant numbers please read up the Green column on this website and take the poll today.

Graph: Just to illustrate how costs increase with time on a non-linear basis

Friday, June 08, 2007

Writing's on the Wall for Proton?

It is a national shame that Proton with more then 20 years auto manufacturing experience did not do more to compete in the international market.

Perhaps the government's policy of protection against car imports created the situation whereby all those sub-contractors of parts did not really have to do much to profit immensely from the guaranteed business.

Of course when the furore started over the massive APs allocation to a few individuals, many people cried "Foul play! " especially those who were not AP recipients.

While the justification for awarding so many APs to so few still has not been given, in a way it is good that Malaysians can now purchase imported cars at more realistic prices though we still have a long way to go to remove artificial taxes like the AP.

This article is very interesting as it shows how innovative product development and aggressive marketing coupled with stringent quality standards can equate to success in the highly competitive automative market.

Just 2 details from the article:

The owner of the company works 75 hours a week and he estimates to set up a parts factory in China with 20 workers would cost US$4m and the labour costs for those 20 workers would be US$40,000 pa or the equivalent of one US unionised worker.

It sure begs questions as to why and how Proton invested millions in the doomed MV Augusta in Europe that really was a high cost centre.

The most prudent thing for the stakeholders in Proton to do is to have a paradigm shift in thinking we can still support the protected car policy and let any foreign car maker buy the controlling stake. The national car project died when the APs took over. It is now time to bury it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Pursuit of Justice Gets Curiouser and Curiouser.....

The system of justice in Malaysia has been under a dark cloud ever since the wholesale sacking of senior judges some years ago.

There were also rumours of a judge and lawyer connection on holiday overseas but nothing substantial came out of that.

Now we hear that a badminton game is the cause of the DPP being withdrawn just 24 hours before the Altantuya murder trial starts resulting in a 2-week delay as requested by the newly appointed lead prosecutor.

But the story above also mentions the appointment of two other senior DPPs during the past 2 weeks and only the lead was replaced.

I read somewhere else that the new lead prosecutor is normally in charge of civil cases but surely the case of a murder does not fall within that category?

If the other 2 senior DPPs had prepared adequately prior to the trial, wouldn't any one of them been able to take the lead? There would have been no need to cause a 2-week delay.

The other delay that has caused damage to the AG's office is that the reason given seems to be "Too little, too late".

I don't know what is the actual code of conduct for lawyers and judges. But it takes at least 2 persons to play the game of badminton and if the code had been breached, what action is being taken for the two players?

Photo: Taken near Perth, 2005

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Justice Not Only Blind but also Lame and Brainless in Malaysia

There is a saying that "Justice in Blind" to mean that the judge administers justice without fear or favour so that everyone gets a fair trial.

However in Malaysia we appear to be stretching things too far when the prosecution team for a prominent case is switched on the day before the trial starts on the feeble excuse that it was to ensure "a fair trial".

I'm no legal eagle but that phrase kind of causes alarm bells to start ringing. Does that mean the previous team could not ensure a vigorous exercise in the pursuit of justice?

Now the trial has to be postponed for another two weeks and the court schedules have to be redrawn.

To divert attention from the feverish atmosphere in KL, now another case has to be postponed - this time in Butterworth when the accused were not produced in court as someone forgot to check where they were being held.

It would be quite hilarious for a courtroom comedy skit but here we are dealing with delays in justice caused by sheer incompetence.

Don't prosecution teams have even a basic checklist to ensure that such cock-ups do not occur(pardon my language)like:

Name of prisoner:
Prison held:
Date of trial:
Medical reports:

I thought the latest salary increase would motivate civil servants to perform basic tasks rather well as most of it require only a few grey cells but I am wrong on that count.

The other issue was that the request to postpone the trial was based on the post-mortem that had not been received. Is that not a feeble excuse?

Perhaps we need to have a cost structure for delays of this kind. They say "Time=Money" but most civil servants have the attitude you need to stretch your work so your job is more secured.

I suggest the Courts should adopt some cost penalties like the following:
Postponements: RM5000 per day on the party asking for the postponement and that includes the judge, the defence or the prosecution.

This step will bring more order to Malaysian courts and speed up cases. Of course the government will only collect fines for itself but the fine will be a measure of the efficiency of the offices.

Graphics: Thanks to http://www.ramdac.org/images/ju$tice_large.jpg

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Remember that Old Saying, "Prevention is Better than Cure"?

Maybe that is not taught anymore in school nowadays.

The proposal to improve the quality of our rivers is good but the method appears rather costly as it proposes to treat the pollution after the water has turned bad.

Such a system will not be cost effective unless more stringent measures are taken before the river gets so polluted.

A few days ago, I was walking along the Rocor Canal in Singapore near the Bus Station and the water in the canal was quite low. In the water I could see hundreds of fishes some about 70mm in length. One can also see fish in the Singapore River. Maybe we can learn some simple effective measures from our southern neighbours.

To me a more cost effective solution would be the following:

1.Control of squatter colonies near rivers with proper sanitation
2.Treatment of all effluents by factories and enforcement of regulations
3.Proper monitoring of factories and waste disposal contractors
4.Enforcement of dumping restrictions near rivers.
5.Ensure landfills are properly managed

The basic steps of water quality improvement should the maximum reduction of wastes entering the river and not trying to undo the damage. Gravel beds require regular maintenance and I expect that to be a recurrent problem with this proposal.

I think the Singapore River took about 10 years to see the vast improvements and usually the first few years of this type of project show negligible results.
There is really no quick fix.

Graphics: Thanks to the Star

Monday, June 04, 2007

People with Sight may Not See or the Fear of an Entire Nation

I watched a documentary on a Health Project in North Korea and the documentary was about the large scale operations of a team of doctors who performed about 1000 operations on eye patients as a charity project.

It was on the National Geographical Channel and called "Inside North Korea" and the most striking thing about the documentary was the complete gratitude of the recovered patients to the nation's leader, KIM Jong Il.

The documentary highlighted the scenes when the eye bandages were removed and how the patients reacted on seeing again or even for the first time. The strangest thing was that no one thanked the doctors profusely but they all focussed their gratitude on the top leader. It was quite scary.

There was a picture of him on the wall and the moment the bandages were removed, all the patients really became obsessive about paying their respects to their "great leader" as if he were a God.

North Korea became independent shortly after WW2 and has been under the tight control of just one man and his father for the past 50 odd years.

It is not only a dictatorship but whole families can be severely punished or killed if one member voices a protest against the leaders. The documentary described prison camps with 50,000 detainees where starvation is a normal condition.

You can read more about North Korea here.

The feature showed how government propaganda can really hold the masses captive and I guess the message from this is that we must pay the price for freedom and that is eternal vigilance.
Do you think Malaysians too have become blind?

Photo: Thanks to http://www.dba-oracle.com/images/ecuador_quito_blind_guitarist.jpg

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Transparency? Just Think Out of the Box

If this is the only measure that the Elections Commission can think of after so many years it is small wonder that democracy and representative government is such a fragile flower in Malaysia.

Of course we do have the elections at the stipulated intervals but these are some of the more blatant offences committed during the election campaigns:

1.Use of government posts and facilities as seen in the frenzied "official" duties during elections.

2.Bribing voters with development projects that miraculously appear during elections as in Ijok.

The use of indelible ink is OK but I suppose a few dozen will prefer not to vote as they don't want to spoil their appearance.

The other function of the EC that should come under close scrutiny should be how they delineate seats and also the disproportionate weight given to rural seats. There should be a Parliamentary Committee to overseer this activity and also the supervision of postal votes.

I am sure readers will be able to think of some other measures that will improve the efficiency and proper functioning of the EC. The RM10.8million spent on those new election boxes would have been more useful to pay for a team of election observers from other democratic Commonwealth nations.

Photo: Thanks to http://users.skynet.be/flowergarden/fotos/fotoblz1/02.jpg

Religious Freedom - Back to the Constitution?

While the Lina Joy case can inspire or dismay thousands, I wonder why the Constitution has not been amended by a majority government so that such cases that create so much bad publicity will not even end up in a subordinate court.

In this case, we have spent so much resources trying to decide the religious beliefs or unbeliefs of a woman who has for many years proclaimed she no longer practises the religion she was born into.

After all Malaysia is a secular nation as stated in the Constitution and Islam is the official religion and no one disputes those basic facts. But our Constitution also states that freedom of religion of the individual is also a basic right.

I know Malaysia is the only country that professes religious freedom and yet denies the majority population the right to freely choose their religion.

Of course parents of all religions feel hurt and disturbed when their children convert to another faith but thousands have done so in Malaysia for love and sometimes commercial gain.

I believe the majority of the population feel that religion is something best left to the individual as God is the ultimate judge and He definitely the thoughts we have even before we have them.

So I suggest to our MPs that they should consider revisiting the Constitution again and removing all the discrepancies that exist there so that ALL Malaysians can truly enjoy religious freedom.

Some may get offended but I suggest that these come from only a small section of the population and I am sure the majority of peace-loving Malaysians can accept their weakness. We need to do this soon as the fires of religious intolerance are only fanned by such a case like Lina Joy.

Graphics:Thanks to http://chantalstainedglass.50megs.com/3peacedove_btn.jpg

Friday, June 01, 2007

I Need a Little Help...

You would have noticed some changes in my blog that now has a different layout.
I have also joined Advertlets and need readers to do a simple poll that is located below the MALAYSIAWATCH POLL.

If you wish to help, please click on the small "recycle" square at the bottom right corner and answer 4 simple questions (nothing very personal)

That will qualify my blog for a little advertising income. Thanks.

Rules of God or Rules of Man?

The saying, "Religion is the Opium of the masses" is attributed to Karl Marx but that only forms part of his thinking.

All religions have rules that are created and administered by man.

Man as we all know is a weak creature and prone to sin and deceit and throughout history religious authorities have made the rules to wield as much power over their followers as possible and that includes some Popes and other religious leaders.

In medieval times it was important for people of the same religion to know that everyone was being faithful to the rules as otherwise entire cities could be under threat.

For example if one turned against his religion and converted to say Islam from Christianity, that person could poison the water in the well or open the gates to the city.
I think the punishment for apostacy probably arose from such historical reasons.
Also pigs being considered haram probably arose from health reasons as in the old days infections were not easy to control.

My basic take is that scholars can quote from whatever authority but the basic reason is that top leaders want to wield control over the reason of men.

If followers do not think it make life so much easier for the leaders. The only question is, "Is not mankind different from the animals by his ability to think?"