Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pride and Prejudice

It is difficult to overcome ancient prejudices in matters of race and culture but if one makes a conscious effort to disassociate one's mind from overly simplistic generalizations and avoid giving in to that temptation (because thinking is hard), it is rather doable. As philosophers ponder on whether laziness or fear is the biggest obstacle to human progress, in this alley at least, i believe intellectual laziness is the cause and effect of our innate prejudices. But wait, how about one's past bad experiences that reinforce one's prejudices against a certain race/culture? If say, a Chinese Landlord had a tough time with his defaulting Malay tenant or a Malay customer gets cheated by a Chinese towkay selling counterfeit goods/gets overcharged or an Indian man drunk on alcohol physically abuses his spouse/partner, do any of these experiences justify and should they reinforce our ever lurking prejudices and preconceptions? The answer is NO. 
One must always remain vigilant and alert but especially with focus on the INDIVIDUAL and not to give in to easily stereotype an individual belonging to a certain race to a group of misbehaving miscreants based on the color of their skin or their cultural association. 
In Malaysia we still have some ways to go before we graduate from merely tolerating each other into open arm acceptance and embrace of our racial and cultural differences. Some of us are already there but the rest of us still have some catching up to do. But if the truth matters to you, that little effort in objective thinking is well worth the sacrifice.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Politicus Minimis

When No Politics is Good Politics

I've always believed that in life politics is inevitable. Like Bernie Sanders, one needs to get into politics so as to steer life clear of its ugliest excesses. However, i also believe that too much politics is bad in any given situation. Our country has been embroiled in endless politics for what seems like forever. From the Perak state government ouster to the stripping of titles of the incumbent Terengganu Menteri Besar, the casual observer can be forgiven to feel an overwhelming sense of nausea at the direction that this country is spinning towards. Instead of a sleeves-up and let's-get-down-to-work attitude, our people seem to favour indulging more and more in political play mostly of the petty and egregious type. I admit, politics cannot be avoided. But surely it can be moved away from always hogging the limelight? We have more important work to be done. Our educational system is still stuck in limbo, our system of checks and balances have mostly given way to a system of governance under the thumb of the executive branch of government, our judiciary appear trepidatious and afraid to stand its ground on matters of Principal. Granted that this country is still peaceful at least, we can count our lucky stars for that. But as Shakespeare's Julius Caesar co-conspirator Cassius said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars But in ourselves, that we are underlings".   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review: "The Chinese Dilemma" by Ye Lin-Sheng

I'm about 12 years late to review this book which was first printed in Feb 2004. I had seen its title and my initial reaction was: "Oh no, not another Dilemma book." And so i didn't give it a second glance back then. But having just finished all 197 pages of it, I can say that Malaysian Chinese businessman Ye Lin-Sheng has done an admirable job of summarising the concerns and common grouses of the Malaysian Chinese and non-Malays especially in regards to the New Economic Policy (NEP) and its 1990 successor the National Development Policy (NDP) or the Affirmative Action program of the Malaysian Government. From its inception to implementation and the public reception and the mainly (according to Ye) positive results through all these years. Ye who grew up in a rural environment with Malay neighbours and friends and has worked in the civil service during the colonial era, struck a conciliatory tone with the merits of such government policies. He lays out the pros and cons of affirmative action policies in Malaysia, compares it with American experiences, lists the Malaysian Chinese' largely lukewarm reception to it, its social and economic impact, the nett effect on outwards migration of the Malaysian Chinese and whether it truly is as bad as it is made out to seem. 
He ends the book on a positive note with this piece of advice: "Make it work or lose it all here". 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

No Glue for Unity and yet...

I went for Tun Dr M's speech during the recent world international peace day open forum organized by the Malacca Bar. He said something interesting. Speaking on the topic of unity, Tun said that there is no "glue" holding Malaysians of different races and religion together and yet somehow we have managed to get along peacefully without any major incidents for the past 58 years except for the May 13 tragedy which happened 46 years ago. How was this possible? That we are thrown into this land whether or not we like each other but for the sake of making a good life we sacrifice certain wishes so that we can get along with each other? Tun remarked that in Malaysia, perhaps it was not such a bad thing that everyone is dissatisfied for not being able to get their way 100% of the time but if this was the price to pay for peace and relative harmony, then it is a sacrifice well worth the price. Let's hope that the next 58 years will draw us closer and not further apart. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015


"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose..."

I'm not a theist so i have left out the last part "...under heaven" because i don't believe in a theist heaven anymore. But what i do believe is there is a time and a place for everything. A time to live, a time to rejoice, a time to love, a time to weep, and a time even for death. The time for our incumbent Prime Minister now isn't death literally, but time overdue for him to resign. Please please please, letak jawatan before the office of prime minister becomes a hollow shell echoing only the eerie sounds of your hired sycophants. You do not want to be remembered as a tyrant, you do not want to besmirch the memory of your father our second prime minister. If you truly love Malaysia, quit now.   

Friday, July 24, 2015

Oh Najib, remorse repent resign retire reflect

Events of the last year or so have culminated in the suspension of TheEdge Daily and The Edge weekly papers today, arguably the last bastion of what's left of Malaysia's formerly free press. There are of course opposition-based publications and perhaps The Sun newspaper, but the night is now darkest before the breaking dawn, as the saying goes. 

I'll not mince words. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has lost the confidence of the majority of Malaysians and he must resign immediately. 

He is unable to answer the various allegations leveled against him, he is evasive, he has kept silent in the face of serious questions posed on the moral and legal legitimacy of his premiership and he has shown time and time again that he is morally intellectually politically and legally unfit to be our prime minister. 

Whatever coercive actions being taken by his morally-challenged administration to perpetuate its grip on power cannot whitewash his shortcomings, indeed they amplify it all the more. If Parliament is unable to move a motion of no confidence because of the party whip that is in force, then it is incumbent on us the rakyat to keep pushing until he does sign his letter of resignation. The judiciary, the press, the legislative branch, the police, the PAC, the MACC, all the organs of government are under the powerful sway of the executive office and they are unable to discharge their duties effectively nor do as  they are mandated to do by law. Rule of law has degenerated into rule by law. All our institutions have become emasculated and they are scarce able to safeguard the constitution, let alone the rights of the rakyat. Whistle blowers are being persecuted while the well-connected elites continue with their abusive rule unscathed, unafraid, disrespectful of the true objects of the law.  

But i am optimistic even in these dark times. I believe in the light at the end of the tunnel. And i believe with a passion that we are witnessing the dying throes of a hopelessly corrupt regime ensnared in its own trap. We will prevail and we will have a brighter future.

Long Live Malaysia. Long Live Freedom. Power to the People. Hidup Rakyat Malaysia!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on "The Malaysian Dilemma"

The following are a very rough transcript of the Center for a Better Tomorrow's talk by Tun Dr Mahathir entitled, "The Malaysian Dilemma" held on 12 Feb 2015 from 10.10am till 12.30pm at the Connexion@ Nexus, Bangsar South City, Jalan Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur. I could not transcript the entire 2 hour talk so i can only publish the more notable bits which i found relevant and amusing in Tun's own light-hearted manner.

(Tun flanked by Lim Chee Wee standing to the left and Gan Ping Sieu seated to the right)

I was the first to get at the venue this morning after an hour and a half of driving during the early pre-dawn hours up to KL to meet The Man. And boy, Tun didn't disappoint me in the least. Let's just say that this was a most memorable and fruitful trip in recent memory for Yours Truly.

Tun: "Dilemma means if you do you are damned, if you don't you will also be damned. So, if you are going to be damned anyway, let's do something about it (referring to the government's efforts to decrease the disparity between the rich and the poor in Malaysia and the disparity between the races which was why the New Economic Policy was introduced). "It resolved the disparity during that time and the country grew by 12% almost every year but now we grow by about 5% annually so it is still OK. When you are poorer the rate of growth is much higher. If you look at the Developed countries, if they achieve 1-2% growth that is fantastic because they already have a high base but for us we still need about 5% growth which is still good."

Tun: "So we have a dilemma. Do we continue with the formula which has served us well or do we discard it now that we have done well? That is the Dilemma. It is a Tongkat. Some people think that it is a Status Symbol but we have to disabuse them of this thinking. The process is one of changing their culture, their values system. I find that whether they (the Malays) succeed or not is a function of their culture/values system. The hardworking men, the hardworking nation will succeed. A nation that is postponing everything till tomorrow will not succeed. That is why we promoted the "Look East" Policy. You know, today Europe is in Big Trouble. Japan is also in trouble. But China and Korea (South) are doing well. Samsung is doing well, they manufacture all sorts of gadgets tvs handphones and consumer items, etc So we have to look east because we see people who have succeeded there while in the west people have failed. It is the culture needed by the Malay community. They HAVE to CHANGE if they want to succeed. They do not have to go to Japan, they have a role model from the Chinese in this country."

 During the Q & A session which lasted for about an hour after the hour-long talk by Tun (remarkably, this almost 90-year old man stood for over 2 hours speaking on the rostrum!), a teenage student posed a question about the difficulties faced by students under the new education system.

Tun replied that he personally never liked the Malaysian education system even when he was still the Prime Minister and that he wished to emphasize the importance of mastering the English language so as students can better grasp maths and science subjects where daily advancements and tremendous changes are all written in the English medium. That is why he insisted on having maths and science to be taught in English. He added that it was impossible to translate all technical advancements from English to the Malay language and the quickest way to acquire such knowledge and know-how was to be competent in English.

Tun's personal advice to Students in particular and Malaysians in general?
"Read as widely as you can, acquire knowledge and skills through reading as many books as you can. Nowadays people do not do much reading, kids play with their hand-held gadgets or computers etc, adults do the same. But reading books is so very important."

Asked about his comments on the perception that Malaysian society had become more polarised and divided in recent times, Tun remarked that there will always be extremists from all sides of the political divide and of all races and one had to have the courage as a moderate to speak up and not remain quiet although the tendency of a moderate is usually to be quiet and maintain a low profile. Tun said: "They (the extremists) will always be a minority but sometimes when we speak up we are accused ourselves of being an extremist (to much laughter from the floor). But if you do not speak up as a moderate, then you will be deemed to have accepted the extremists' views and so their views will set the agenda." He added that the perception of increased polarisation and division in Malaysian society was also a minority view as whenever he personally went out shopping to places like Pavillion in Kuala Lumpur as he liked to do, ordinary malaysians from all walks of life and ethnicity would come up to him and tell their children to shake his hands and greet him which would not happen if there truly was such polarisation and division in Malaysian society.

On communal politiics and whether the Barisan Nasional ethnic-based parties were themselves a cause of the perceived polarisation, Tun continued: "By and large we have gotten well together through the years after independence, despite the occasional bickering and quarrels. We have not become like Iraq, Syria or Libya for example. What is so important is the concept of "KONGSI" or Sharing in Malaysia. The Malays being the majority with the political power shared their political power while the Chinese with their dominant economic clout in Malaysia shared their economic power. We are not depriving anyone of their slice of the cake but we seek to enlarge the cake so that everyone can have a bigger slice of it respectively."
Tun stressed that only by continuing and being willing to Share can the  peace and stability enjoyed by all Malaysians and the nation's continued prosperity be assured and Wawasan 2020 or Vision 2020 (the year when the Malaysia government has set its target to become  a developed nation) is achieveable.

He said that someday a time may come when there was no need to have communal-based parties but for now as people still generally identified themselves by race first rather than as Malaysians, they were a part of life in Malaysia. He described how once during an overseas trip to Japan he overheard some young people walking behind him speaking in perfect Malay amongst themselves. "When i turned around i found that they were Indonesian ethnic Chinese", he said. So it is this issue of race and language which must first be overcome before a Bangsa Malaysia can be achieved.

To a question from the audience about 1MDB, Tun said that he would never have such a body in his time as it was not necessary. "They have only loans and you must pay back loans", he added, saying that loans were not assets as such. He likened 1MDB's loans to the Malays in the kampungs owing monies and loans to their local chettiars and once when his own father had passed away, his late father's chettiar appeared at his doorstep to ask for repayment of his late father's loan. When told that Tun's father had died, the chettiar simply replied that although tun's father had died, the loan had not died (to much roars of laughter from the floor).

Tun said that at the end of the day, a leader was only a leader when he had followers. "A leader does what he does to serve the interests of his followers. If he is there just to enjoy himself, then well..." (again to much applause and laughter).

 (Tun accepts a token of appreciation from Cenbet moderator Gan Ping Sieu)

While the above transcript is faithfully reproduced from memory and personal handwritten notes and Yours Truly was seated about 5 rows away from Tun, apologies are in order for any unintended mistakes errors omissions or misheard/misreported comments. No malice is intended and this transcript is intended to be for public consumption in honour of our former Prime Minster. Tun was also good enough to autograph my copy of his memoirs (see below, but alas to rotate anti-clockwise once).