Monday, June 30, 2008

Anwar's Sequel

The nation, I believe will be again plunged into a crisis, exactly 10 years after similar allegation appeared against Anwar.

While the Police must be given the time to investigate the allegation, Anwars antics is questionable. Public is angry, that's normal and natural but looking at the following circumstances (by looking at it rationally rather than being emotional), it would not be difficult to phantom that this whole episode may prove to be final curtain for Anwar.

1. Turkish Embassy confirmed that Anwar came to the embassy on his own accord. Contrary to claims by the Opposition leader, he was not invited to seek refuge in the Turkish embassy by the country's ambassador to Malaysia. He allegedly sought an appointment with the ambassador and chose to remain on the embassador's residence.

2. He claimed that he received death threats, yet he chose not to lodge any police report. He preferred to stay in the embassy. And yet, he spoke to the crowd openly right after he came out of the ambassador's residence. He was addressing about 7,000 people in an indoor stadium. What threats? Remember arsenic poisoning claims back then in 1999.

3. He claims he's innocent yet he did not provide any alibi on his whereabouts on the date of the said incident.

4. Anwar and PKR claims that the government had tried to divert the nations attention away from the perceived lost of support for BN Government due to general election results, leadership issues, price hike etc. The same can be said on how PKR and Anwar are trying to divert what should be an alleged crime, by talking about politics, political conspiracy, him standing in the by-elections and defections by BN MPs.

5. So far, he has not denied having been to the condominium, where the crime allegedly took place.

6. He did not file any report or offered to meet the investigators. Instead he filed a suit against the his ex-aide.

7. Anwar linked Dato's Najib as alleged conspirator without providing any of evidence whatsoever. The only evidence available is the picture of the ex-aide with Najib's aide. I have taken picture with Badawi before, can i be the next victim.

8. Common sense would tell that it would be suicidal for anyone in BN to do this, after all the support and sympathy Anwar gained after the 1998 episode.

9. Even Ezam is not surprised. Dr M isn't either.

10. He claims he will form the government by Sept 16, that's two and half months to go and he has yet to get even SAPP MPs to cross over. He maybe desperate and want some sympathy and this would be his greatest opportunity.

10. Let us also now remind ourselves that as far as the court is concerned, Anwar was involved in homosexual activities in the late 90's. The reason he was released was on the issue of the specific incident of homosexual rape/sodomy, and I quote the majority view of the appeal judges, who included the current Chief Judge:
“even though reading the appeal record, we find evidence to confirm that the appellants were involved in homosexual activities”.
Many conveniently exclude this fact when referring to the 1998 episode and subsequent trials.

I maybe proven wrong but something tells me that this guy is not as innocent as what his party, coalition partners and followers think. Dr M may finally be vindicated.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pakatan Rakyat's 100 Days

Pakatan Rakat (PR) celebrated their 100 days in office recently.

As a resident of Kuala Lumpur or rather Selangor (still confused, there will be another article on this) let me present my views on their performance.

There were many promises by the PR for Selangor during the election campaign. Can't really remember many of those but based on the report card published in one of the dailies, they appeared not to have fulfilled many of the pledges. To be fair, we can't expect them to clean up the mess and offer all kind of goodies within 100 days.

As I have mentioned in one of my previous blogs, they came to power mainly due to people's anger directed to BN and not due to PR's strength or claim that they can govern better. In fact, there was no PR before the election, just a loose coalition comprising enemies of BN.

Each state governed by PR appears not consistent and have their own manifestos. Again, this is fine as different states have different issues. For example, the over-development in Klang Valley and Penang is an issue with the folks in Selangor and Penang while people in Kedah and Perak wants further development.

What appears to be quite consistent in all different state report cards appears to be the freebies offered. All states appear to be giving out something, eg. free rice, one off payments to undergraduates, disabled etc. While this is good to help reduce the burden of the poor and needy, this is not sustainable and if maintained for a long period, may result in public depending solely on state governments to survive, akin some form of Social Security, a huge burden for developed countries such US and some countries in Europe.

PR governed states have yet to come up with any 4 year blue print on what they would do in the next 4 years. There are a lot of talk but nothing on paper, except for the delivery of the freebies. Since I'm in Selangor, I would like to review some of the actions of the state government so far.

1. Free Water

The state government only managed to ink the deal in mid-june, after disagreements with Syabas. While the public rejoiced, it remains a fact that the main beneficiaries are those who live on landed properties. What is conveniently forgotten is that the middle class and the poor mainly resides in flats and medium cost apartments. The state government simply announced that all needed to be done was to get the entire resident to agree to change their water meters to individual meters. It;s easier said than done and till today, we have not seen any effort from the state government to get this initiative (changingof meters) going. Recently, the state government announced that there would be a minimum charge of RM 6.00 , regardless whether we use the water or not. In the end, if one carefully calculates, the poor and needy have yet to benefit from this initiative.

2. Balkis

Much has been said over this, the fact remains that the PR government did the right thing, however legalities over the organisation status is not on their side. Anyways, the state governments spend too much time over this issue.

3. Hillside development

The public, I think are happy over their stance of hillside development. They, however, if sincere, should quickly step in and stop many development projects already approved in various different parts in Selangor. Particularly in Selayang area where the hillside development are massive and have continued despite PM Abdullah's directive to stop, way back in his first term.

4. Pig Farm

In what proving to be a PR disaster to the new state government, PR government however, again did the right thing to proceed with the project despite strong opposition from PAS as well as criticism from UMNO. It's fine to make unpopular decision as people would eventually realise it's benefits. The only thing they would have to be careful would be the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of the project, something that local authorities found lacking all the time.

5. Councillor's

They finally decided upon the councilors, exactly after 3 months in office. After the initial excitement over promises of the appointments of non-politicians, the PR displayed the characteristics no different to BN or any other political party. They only allocated 25% of the seats to public while PKR, DAP and PAS were allocated two third of the seats. Can the 25% really make a difference or can they influence the Politicians to to put Rakyat first in all their endeavors, remains to be seen.
6. Local Authorities

In the first few weeks, all the PR state governments had some form of problems dealing with the government machineries or popularly known as the 'Little Napoleons'. It's understandable as the 'Little Napoleons' are so used to govern their area according to their whims and fancies. It would take time to change. However, the general public sees no change in the attitude or services rendered by them. The PR state assemblymen are behaving exactly like their predecessors, going to the ground (turun padang) and meeting and hearing Rakyat's grouses over garbage collection, broken drains etc. This, while may make them popular, is not their job, full stop. Their job in the state government is to ensure that the state government departments are functioning as it should be. The municipality officials and councilors should 'turun padang' and not the state assemblymen.

7. Maternity and Paternity Leave

A laudable move, however no study has been published over how this move impacts the state productivity, services and economy. A recent letter to editor in a local daily has one parent complaining that there would be a shortage of teachers at any one time if this move is implemented.

8. Communication and Media

Unlike what was feared aftermath the formation of the state government, the mainstream media (MSM) has been giving wide and fair coverage to the PR state governments. Some papers, like the Star, had admitted that they (MSM) have to change to survive and have been seen to provide reasonable amount of coverage, although their stories are mainly focused on the happenings in Selangor and Penang. Even Anwar has appeared for interviews in the MSM. UMNO owned media, however has been selective. PKR had their application to have its own daily approved. Suara Keadilan, their mouth piece, would not survive if they continue to be PKR's propaganda tool with many of their nonsensical half-truths.

9. CAT (competency, accountability, transparency)

This is PR's promise in all 5 states. This promise hit the snag almost immediately with the jostling of positions (especially the EXCO positions) among the coalitions members and finally, they were just political consideration taken into account and nothing to do with competency.

The allocation of councilors in Selangor were also hazy, where there appear to be no transparency on how the councilors, especially the politicians were appointed. There are also nothing mentioned about how their Competency would be measured. End of the day, they proved just that, politicians.

On the other hand, they had pledged to introduce Open Tender policy for all government projects and procurements. This is still to be seen in terms of implementation. In the coming days and months, the public would definitely closely watch whether they stay truthful with their pledges of CAT.

10. PR Coalition

There were initial rift when the PR won the elections and suddenly found that they had to form the state governments. Deciding the Menteri Besar and composition of EXCO members was never easy in all the PR states and it did take some time. It also did reveal the rift between the coalition members. However, everything appeared to be fine later.

Perak appears to be fragile with the fact that the Menteri Besar is from PAS, the party with the least number of seats among the PR members.

PAS has also proven to be the torn in the flesh to their fellow friends in PR. DAP had been regularly irritated by statements and actions of the Islamist Party, while PKR always seen to be silent on the issues of Islamic lifestyle etc. With significant non-Muslims in Perak, Penang and Selangor, it would be a suicide to even bother implementing any of the so-called Islamic lifestyle, however good it may be, as this would mean isolating a significant majority.

11. Fuel Price Hike

PR de-facto leader, Anwar Ibrahim claimed recently that he had the magic fomula to keep the fuel price down. I wonder what the formula is, that even governments around the world, IMF and World Bank unable, so far, to come up with.

PR has also gone to the streets to protest the hike. This is a no-brainer unless they have solutions and force government to accept their idea and suggested solution. Anwar on the other hand keeps quiet and appears to be endorsing the protest despite having the 'magic formula'.

12. The Anwar Factor

Despite holding together a coalition of parties with differing ideologies, Anwar has proven that he's a good negotiator, manager and as you know, politician.

He has yet to contest in any by-election and yet he's still talking about becoming the new Prime Minister. He continues to taunt BN with his claims of massive BN MP cross overs and formation of a new government by Sept 16. He even went on to say MCA MPs will be crossing over soon. Not much time is left for him to prove that he is not day-dreaming. Let's see. Malaysian's will be making a big mistake if they ever do choose him to be the next PM. DAP will have to be more careful dealing with this shrewd politician, or else, as in 1999, they (DAP) would be completely wiped out.

Pak Lah's 100 days

'Flip Flop' government. That would sum up the performance of the Federal Government.

Pledges to clean up the judiciary strengthen the ACA, deferment of several mega projects, further aids to Sabah and Sarawak, continuation of the Economic Corridors and his continued patience in the face of criticism has won him some friends and support as well.

Tun Dr Mahathir's continued convincing attacks, Fuel price Flip Flop , the Hindraf 5 in ISA, SAPP no-confidence motion, lack of transparency of subsidy distribution, Rosmah's alleged involvement in Altantunya's case, loss of Pedra Branca, scrutiny of his allies and family's businesses, continued silence on many issues are proving to be his minus points. He may as well transfer his power this December or PRakyat is favored create history in the next polls.

In general, based on various survey undertaken recently by MSM and online medias, general public are generally satisfied with PR State Government’s performance while at the same time willing to give them more time to fulfill their pledges as they say 'new broom sweeps clean'. To me and many others, apart from the impact due to the fuel hike, nothing much has changed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RECAP : Stinking service and quality

ublished in

LETTERS : Sept 14, 2000

Stinking service and quality
Recent complaints from consumers on the hassles in booking Proton Waja caused by some unscrupulous car dealers have prompted me to share the harrowing experience I had with our very own "world class" car manufacturer and dealers when I bought a Proton Wira from USPD.
I went to the USPD showroom next to the Federal Highway after being asked to come by the dealer/agent there. I waited for almost two hours for the dealer, who was the one who set the time of appointment.
While waiting, I asked for permission from a sales personnel to view the interiors of some of the Proton models in the showroom. I was asked to only view from the outside as the car was already sold. What is the point of having the cars in the showroom then? USPD might as well call it a storage.
Finally the dealer came, without apologising or offering any explanation. During the discussion, I was told that the car is already available at their store but only those with full accessories and there were only two colours to choose from. He said that the car will be delivered as soon as I get the loan approved from the financial institution of their choice. Since I have already sold my previous car, I decided to book the car and paid the required deposit.
In less than a week, the loan was approved and when contacted, the dealer said that he was waiting for original documents from the financier before handing over the car. For two weeks, I tried contacting him, but never got a reply. I got him on the third week after booking the car and was told that the delay is due to the customs department which has yet to release the car.
What has the customs department got to do with the car, can anyone explain?
I called the branch manager who revealed that they are still waiting for the car to be delivered from Proton!
Finally, after one and a half months, I received a call directing me to JPJ in Wangsa Maju to register the car. After spending almost two hours there, I was directed to the Federal Highway USPD branch to collect the car. I waited at the showroom for almost four hours. There was no sign of the car or the dealer. When he appeared, again, he did not offer any apologies, merely mentioning that the car had been sent for a wash.
It was almost 10pm when I finally got hold of my car at the back portion of the showroom. There a man approached and offered me the bargain of the day which was a security alarm system for my new car. He showed me how he could break into my car in a matter of seconds and offered me a discount if I were to purchase it on the spot. I was shocked and at the same time thankful for the man's "revelation"; otherwise, I would not have known that Proton cars are not secure.But I am surprised that USPD allows others to operate within its premises, selling a security alarm system for Protons. I am also shocked that Proton which proudly claims that it is a world-class car manufacturer can ignore the lack of security in their cars.
The USPD agent/dealer I dealt with was rude, selfish and untrustworthy. In the one and half months, he only called me thrice while I had called and tried calling him at least 20 times (not an exaggeration).
I still wonder why Bank Negara and the government has acceded to the dealers' demand for commission from financiers. They certainly don't deserve a single sen for doing almost nothing.
As if rubbing salt into the wound, I was told that it will take at least a month before my deposit is refunded. What is USPD doing with the money? Isn't the deposit supposed to be refunded the day I collect my car?
I am sure many consumers have gone through similar experiences and were left wondering how Proton, EON and USPD would be able to survive after year 2005 when Afta comes into effect.
Proton and USPD Tak Boleh!

Recap : 8 years on, Proton lost their market share and no longer the No 1. USPD don't exist anymore. Proton has certainly improved as they are designing their own cars and have their own engine, of course with some help from Lotus Engineering.

I have also sold off the proton in 2004 and have been using Non-Malaysian car ever since and have no plans to own another, for now at least, until they prove they can deliver the same quality and service levels.

Future seems bleak for Proton unless they seek some form of partnership with established car makers and move away from depending on the government. They just don't have the economies of scale to continue investing and developing new models.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

RECAP : Privatised bodies not up to the mark

Letter of the day: Privatised bodies not up to the mark

The New Straits Times, 27 September 2000

THE privatisation programme has seen government agencies such as Tenaga Nasional, Telekom Malaysia, Pos Malaysia, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd, MAS, Petronas and many others being privatised.The objective of the whole exercise was to improve efficiency and profitability of the agencies through less bureaucracy enabling self-dependency thus taking the burden off the Government.The privatisation of these agencies can be said as quite successful with some emerging to become large conglomerates reaping billions in profits every year.

All these companies inherited the infrastructure, assets, skilled manpower and expertise developed over the years by the Government which has put them in a strong footing to face the tough and challenging private sector.While some of the privatised companies face competition locally, they remain largely a monopoly in their respective sectors. With the advent of globalisation and the K-economy, their strength, efficiency and profitability will be put to test when free market systems are implemented.

Over the years the inefficiencies of these companies have been regularly highlighted and recently been prominently featured in the media for all the wrong reasons.We still hear complaints from the public of frequent power disruptions. The recent power disruption in the city should not have happened. Further disruptions, which are usually reported in the media, will erode public and investor confidence in Tenaga Nasional Bhd.The leadership crisis in TNB did not help either sending their share prices crashing in the recent weeks.

Telekom Malaysia Bhd too has seen a never-ending stream of complaints from the public on the inefficiency of their fixed line, mobile and Internet services.They are already unable to compete with two other local mobile telecommunications service providers. Although they are still the biggest, their competitors have been slowly increasing their market share and and if Telekom does not improve its services, the public will soon lose confidence and turn to others for better products and services.

Pos Malaysia Bhd's services is also not up to mark. It is baffling to hear of mail going missing, mail not delivered on time (although the destination of the receiver is in the same city or town), slow counter services and stolen mail.Although their intention to pursue e-commerce, announced recently, is commendable, Pos Malaysia should give priority to improving their services locally before venturing into bigger projects.

The worst among these companies seems to be KTMB. The frequent derailment of both goods and passenger trains are worrying. Their explanation that the railway tracks are old and needs to be replaced is unacceptable.KTMB should have anticipated this earlier and planned ahead to gradually replace the old tracks. Taking action after few railway accidents can be perceived as having no regard for the safety of passengers.Its train services are also very unreliable with many unexplained delays.

The complaints and incidents related to these privatised companies has become a norm in our daily lives. Malaysians seem to have no choice but to subscribe to their whims and fancies as some of them have absolute monopoly in their sector.Lately some of these large conglomerates seem unable to compete or face competition from local companies. Soon, when free market system prevails, only companies that provide quality services and superior products will survive.It looks like the Government, which has a golden share in each of these companies will have to be prepared to bail out our inefficient so-called conglomerates if measures are not taken to improve their quality of services.

K. BalanKuala Lumpur

Recap : Fast Forward 8 years, Nothing much has changed. They continue to be the monopoly in their respective sectors. KTM has certainly gone from bad to worse.

These companies had since introduced Key Performances Indicators (KPIs) and their progress against the KPIs, especially in financial terms, has been good. the same cannot be said about their services to customers. They are, while a big as some global conglomerates, still far off from becoming a world class service providers.


Begining this week, I would like to revisit some of the articles that I wrote from 2000 to 2003 and was published in the New Straits Times, The Star, The Sun Daily and also

The purpose of this recap is just to see how much have things changed between then and now, or has there been any change at all. Some are controversial while other articles are basic layman issues.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Back To Johor and Reality

I went back to Johor Last week for the school holidays.

This time we went to our parents new place. My father, who is supposed to retire in July, decided to continue working and moved to another Oil Palm estate. This estate is remotely located in between small towns of Paloh and Yong Peng.

You have to exit at Yong Peng and the estate is located right in the middle along small link road between Yong Peng and Paloh. This road was proven tough to manouvere for someone who have been so used to two or three lane wide highways.

My kids were excited as they have always been. For them, it's always fun to be somewhere away from the concrete jungle. My parents estate house was a reasonably big 3 room terrace house located right infront of the estate's main office, where my father works. Unlike in other estate's that he had worked, he walks to office now.

There were few stray but clean looking dogs around, cows at the back of the house, a tractor and also excavator/earth mover parked at both sides of the house. My kids were fascinated with the cows, tractors and the earth mover as these are something that they have seen in the cartoons and also something they own in plastic toy form. To see and sit in the real thing is a big deal for them. We took several photographs of my kids at the wheels of the earth mover and tractor.

For me, as someone who have lived half my lifetime in the estates, these are something that we got used to. I can imagine that the large number of kids born in major cities would have never experienced sitting on a tractor or earth mover.

Neither do they would ever experience catching large butterflies, insects, chasing monitor lizards, stumbling upon King Cobras, having monkeys playing at the back of the house (while stealing bananas), climbing and plucking (now it's us who used to steal) various fruits from trees around the estate, stopping for wild boar and elephants crossing the road, tasting spicy dishes of exotic meats such as pangolin and the blue blooded Horseshoe Crab (belangkas), and many other exciting adventures.

We were there for just one night. While I was bored already few hours after we arrived, my kids were not. They were playing in the compound, shouting at the dogs, naming the cows and begged me to take them for a walk around the estate a few times although I took the same route each time. I can imagine that conciously, they feel free, out of the apartments, out of the concrete jungle, wants to explore the estate world, even if it means walking around the small estate repeatedly.

Living in an estate, later a small town and finally settling down in KL has provided me with various different exposure in terms of lifestyle, people, practises and culture. I believe I am different now compared to those born and bred in KL mainly due to these precious exposure and experience.

I did travel alone to the nearest town, Kangkar Baru. Kangkar Baru is a small cowboy town with only one row of shops. I had a drink in one of the Chinese Restaurant while reading a daily. Then I noticed that I can hardly find people of my age amongst the crowd in the restaurant and those passing by. I guess they have left for bigger towns and cities, like me.

Most of them were seen to be laid back, sitting and chatting in the restaurant. I found the whole environment and movement were slow, people never really looked very worried, neither did they look like they were anxious over the outcome of the LingamGate, or whether Anwar will take over soon. It appears that for them, life is over and they are destined to spend the rest of their lives there. There were worried though over the fuel price increase based on some of the conversations that was going on.

My 1 hour one stop there also made me realise something. We in KL have no idea what the rural folks think, what do they feel about issues and what matters to them most. Like BN, we have simply lost touch with the rest of Malaysia.

While we harp on LingamGate, Anwar, Mahathir, Hindraf, Human Rights and other trivial matters such as whether to wear songkok or not, people in rural areas are more worried about their rice bowl, their family and surroundings. Despite all the worries, they appear to have better peace of mind compared to KLites despite not having all the luxuries as in KL.

I am afraid that when my parents leave the estate one day, my kids would never be able to experince a rural, distinctly different lifestyle which also means that they will lose that exposure that made me and my brothers different from others.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Flip Flop Continues

Datuk Sharir was quoted today saying that the government will monitor the petrol price every month but failed to assure if there would be any revision to the prices.

There was an earlier indication that Petrol Prices would not be reviewed for another year. On the other hand, we have our Transport Minister, wearing his MCA hat, urging the government abolish of Road Taxes and Tolls in Klang Valley.

Isn't he the minister that's responsible for both the Highways and the Road Tax. Why does he need to air his views as political party representative. Is it that difficult to raise these suggestions in the cabinet. Why he has to say this now and not before the cabinet had made decisions on the petrol price increase and the rebates. Why these suggestions were not taken into account, or was it ever raised at all. Or is it the minister's political ploy to show that he cares but the government is not listening.

These unnecessary statements only goes to confuse the public further and be convinced that we have a disjointed Cabinet in place, lead by a confused leader. We are fast becoming a laughing stock, especially to our neighbours. This reminds me of the similar policy flip flops undertaken by the Military Government of Thailand last year that scared investor away from Thailand until democratic elections were held.

Where have you gone, Dr M.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flip Flop Government

I was asked to give my take on the recent fuel price increase as well as they way our government handled it.

I think everyone knew that the price increase was imminent, only that the whole nation was shocked with the steep increase, not gradual increase as how it was done before. The public will now have to brace for price hike in almost every other item, except for maybe, as you know, the fuel, for now.

People are equally unhappy with the manner it was done. One day, the minister in-charge, Datuk Sharir Samad says that the planned increase would be in August and two days later, PM Abdullah announces price increase in affect the next day.

Just a week earlier, the minister announced ban of sale of fuel to foreign cars only to overturn the decision later. This flip flop policy changes does not reflect well on the government and I have personally lost the respect I had for my fellow Johorean, Datuk Shahrir. His credibility has gone down the drain the moment he became a minister.

The same goes to PM Abdullah. The way he made the announcement, the speech, body language and choice of words were extremely poor and did not give the public the confidence that the government is doing the right thing for the nation, the right way.

Already this government is facing undue pressure from the opposition, managing this (fuel price) situation was critical to prove government knows what they are doing and that they are doing the right thing, the right way. Unfortunately they flopped big time.

The public is angry. Further announcement on public bus fare hikes also angered the public. The small token, in the form of rebates would not compensate for the expected price increase on all daily necessities.

On the other hand, the World Bank/IMF endorsed economist , the Opposition leader , took the opportunity to take a swipe at the government by announcing that he can do what US, UK, China, EU and India can’t, reduce the fuel prices. What a joke, and at what expense. If he has great ideas and genuinely interested with the welfare of the public, he should share the idea with us and the government. And if his idea is implemented, he can take credit and use it to win the elections, either by-election or the snap election, whichever comes first. You want this opportunist to be your next PM? Will leave that to you.

Perhaps, the first thing he would do is simply raise the interest rates, as he did in 1998. And you know the rest of the story.

And the public is definitely not impressed with his government cost saving measures. They are not interested to know how government can reduce their cost but to know how government is going to help them to reduce the burden.

The information and announcements, coming in bits and pieces are not helpful as public does not get the picture. The reaction from key stakeholders such as transport companies and industries only shows that the government did not engage them in making decisions. They decide and then start talking to concerned parties.

I personally believe that this whole situation has been poorly managed and PM Abdullah has an uphill task to improve his already sliding popularity with the public. I have doubts now whether he can last this term.