Tuesday, July 29, 2008

RECAP : Undergraduates Should Be Grateful

Away from Politics (though not entirely) for a while, this Letter to the Editor was first published on 13th August 2001 in The New Straits Times. It was also published in the Sun newspaper at around the same time.

Over the last three years, much has been said and written about the conduct and performance of undergraduates of local universities.
The recent statements by leaders especially both the Prime Minister and his deputy reflects their seriousness in wanting to correct the situation in the campusses in Malaysia.
Undergraduates have to realise that they are grateful lot. They should realise that there are many other students out there who, although with reasonably good qualification but missed the boat to be enrolled in the universities.
Many of these students comes from poor families who can't afford to send their children for higher education at private higher institution of learning.
Just look around us and we will not be suprised that there are many students who works during the day and goes for part time classes to complete their courses at private colleges. Quite a number of students goes the other way, taking full times courses and works at night.
It is not easy to work and study at the same time. I am also one of them. There are times that the work pressure is just too much that on many occasions I have contemplated to give up my studies.
The situation, I was told, is totally different at the university campus. The students are provided with the necessary environment for them to excell in their choice of courses. They have access to library, frequent contact with lecturers, surrounded by coursemates and seniors, even additional lectures when necessary.
This is considered luxury compared to the situation faced by students who work and study at the same time. One hardly has any time to go to libarary, contacts with course mates and lecturers are rare and finally time is always limited due to work committment.
The undergraduates have only themselves to blame if the fail at the university. They have to count their blessings for gaining admission to university. They have to thank the government for providing such an opportunity to many students every other year without fail.The government also looking into building more public universities and colleges which will benefit more students in years to come.
Among developing countries, Malaysia is said to have the best universities, in terms of facilities as well as quality.
Many foreign students enrolled in local universities such as the International Islamic University had many times revealed in press interviews that they are grateful that Malaysian University gave them the opportunity since there aren't such facilities in their own country.
Unfortunately increasing number of undergraduates has become ungrateful and bit the hands that feed them. Their indulgence in activities unrelated to their studies reflects their poor attitude towards gaining knowledge and improving themself.
The undergraduates have this thinking that they are matured and ready to talk about politics, human rights and ISA. The fact is many have never experienced live outside their homes, former schools and now the universities. They have long way to go before becoming a fully matured person. They have yet to face the reality of working, getting married, having children and also building a career hindered by many obstacles. Only then they will know how hard life is and how working adults toil to earn money to support their family. Only then they will realise how hard it is to raise a family.
They do not know how hard life is because almost everything is provided by the government and also their parents to the extend that there are also many that complains that government has gone overboard in helping students, especially the bumiputras.
Political parties has known to take advantage of vulnerability of undergraduates and slowly they brainwash the students to become subscibe to their narrow minded and selfish agenda.
This had resulted in some students taking to the streets protesting government policies and actions. They are also asking for repeal of Universities and Colleges act, in move they call to provide them more freedom.
The undergraduates are admitted to universities to study and nothing else. They should ask themselves, why are they in universities for? What is the society and they parents expecting from them. What would their brothers and sisters think of them? They should always remember that their parents has worked hard to bring them up to where they are today. The undergraduates don't have to excell in their studies to please the government, do it for your parents, society and the nation.
They should be focused on their studies and justify their places. They, especially the bumiputras should prove to public that they are capable of gaining good results despite many gaining admission with the help of quota system. They also should prove that they are just as good as those who were denied of places in the university due to the same quota system. Only then no one can dispute their entry to the universities.
The realisation period will come when they start working but for many it will be too late.
Kuala Lumpur

Recap : Almost 8 years have passed. See how much had things changed.

The goverment now claims that the entry to Universities are now based on meritocracy. Local universities are nowehere near world class while quality of graduates continue to be poor and often criticised.

There is also talk of repeal or amendment of the Universities & Colleges Act which would provide more freedom to both students and staff to enggage in other activities.

If this happens, the quality of our graduates would suffer further. With the current brain drain all the way to the top, yes the very top, don't expect the relaxation of rules to result in birth and surge of creativity among the undergraduates. There would be a gap before that happens, a gap where students get all excited with the freedom leading them to be irresponsible with their acts to the time when they actually realise their follies, appreciate the freedom and finally translate those freedom to creativity. The gap would, however, result in some casualties.

This would also mean that more political activities by students and we may see more and more University and College professors appearing on Television ala CNN as analyst giving their opinion on almost anything and everything.

Having never been to a University, difficult for me to comment on the environment. But having worked with large number of fresh graduates for many years, a great deal of change is required in our universities and colleges before we can proudly proclaim that we produce world class graduates.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Other Malaysia

I'm sure that Malaysian's are generally confused. Confused about their future, confused about their financial situation, political situation, children's future, their race, religion etc..

What brought about this situation? March 8, yeah..absolutely right as far as many politicians and analyst are concerned.

Malaysians apparently voted for tranparency, more freedom, democracy, security, fairness accountability and other similar terms that I can't think of. The irony is that none of us actually want all these, and we Malaysian are hypoctites to the core. Before you get angry, please read on.

If we really want all these (tranparency, more freedom, democracy, security, fairness accountability), then the rights of each and every race in this country will be affected in some way or the other.

Just imagine if government reverts to meritocracy in terms of awarding contracts, the rich businessmen will surely secure the contract due to the economy of scale that they posses , track record and ability to offer the lowest price. Guess what, all the bumiputra and Indian contractors will never secure anything.

Just Imagine if Scholarship are awarded based on Meritocracy, then majority of it would go to rich students based on urban areas who can afford to study overseas on their own expense. More and more poor bumiputra and other smaller ethnic groups will be deprived of deserved opportunity. Would you accept this?

Just Imagine that the Traffic police becomes more efficient and there are no more discounts on summons. Would you want that?

Just imagine that decisions on building of schools and temples are based on majority decisions based on the locality and population in that area, there would not be any more Chinese and Tamil schools and temples built.

Just Imagine that the local councills are strict to the core, thousands of temples and suraus needs to be demolised and relocated.

Just imagine that the judiciary follows the laws strictly, then the prisons in the country would not be sufficient, if it is not already.

There will be demonstrations everyday, even for flimsy issues like inability of police to track missing cats. Shops, schools, clinics will be closed during demonstrations, productivity drops and more and more people will be inclined to demontrate rather than finding amicable solutions to all problems.

Just imagine meritocracy prevails in government department recruitments, more and more Malays would be jobless.

Just imagine that the government becomes transparent in all their dealings, what would probably happen is that government would never be able to buy arms, fund NGOs, maintain the Space Agency, or other advanced defence technology as Malaysians would question each and every step they take.

Just imagine all political parties are transparent, all of them would have to reveal their accounts and source of funds. Which political party would want to do that? Talk about transparency!

Just imagine that the local councils and Domestic Trade and Industry ministry become extremlely efficient, we would not be able to buy all the pirated DVDs, watches, jerseys and handbags.

Just Imagine press is made absolutely free coupled with lifting of sedition and Official Secrets Act, then you would be reading tabloids in the form of newspaper because you would not know what not to believe anymore.

Just imagine that the local council suddenly plans that we must become world class, we would see the end of teh-tarik stalls and hawker food.

Just imagine that the government do away with Bumiputra discounts in various schemes eg Houses, shares etc, the bumiputra's will continue to languish in the lower rung of the society and probably end up the squatters again.

Malaysian Malaysia or ketuanan rakyat or Bangsa Malaysia cannot be achieved unless all malaysians agree to go through the same school, use same language as medium of instruction, full stop. Would you agree to this and close all Tamil and Chinese Schools? No more MARA boarding schools as well.

Taxes obtained from so called sin-industries such as gambling, alcohol and pig related industries must be utilised for all purpose for all people for the sake of fairness and transparency. Would the muslims agree to this?.

There are also suggestions that local councillors, mayors are to be elected to prove that it's democratic, we will have elections every year, everywhere and the government of the day will be busy with this rather than planning development or taking care of rakyat's needs. Due to this the government of the day will be overthrown in the next election and the next government will be facing the same contraints. In summary, we will end up like India where small political parties will hold the bigger parties on ransom due to slim margin of majority to govern.

There should be 2 party system in the country and both must be mutliracial to reflect the composition of the population. Any takers?

If we strive for (tranparency, more freedom, democracy, security, fairness accountability) in the western context, we will definitely see continuous instability in this country. We will also see that the poor will be poorer and the rich will be even richer. The nation would be further distabilised and there would be change of government every 5 years, or if Anwar is around, every 3 years.

We, the rakyat, have to clearly define what kind of tranparency, freedom, democracy, security, fairness and accountability that we want before even thinking of casting protest votes or changing governments.

My arguements maybe flimsy but the fact is majority of us enjoy the benefits due to weaknesses of others in the country and may not want to lose that in the name of tranparency, freedom, democracy, security, fairness and accountability. That's why I mentioned that we are hypocrites.

The vision 2020 maybe achieved economic wise, but not possible on social, unity, & equality aspects.

Without a clear definition of what we want, we would be forever confused as both BN (Pak Lah's administration) and Pakatan's (with combination of PAS and DAP) views, thinking and ideology which are short sighted. Niether has any concrete vision whatsoever.

Like Singapore, we need not have good Human Rights or Press Freedom records, we need a new leader who is firm, visionary, fair and proves himself a true Malaysian. I have yet to see one, not among the current set of leaders.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Debate - Missing The Point

I know this is a bit too late. Being a lazy armchair analyst myself, would not want to miss out from commenting on the Famous Anwar vs Shabery debate.

General consensus is that Anwar won the debate while Shabery won respect from all quarters for standing up against Anwar. Shabery should stand for any of the post available in the upcoming UMNO elections and I'm quite sure that with his current standing, after this debate, he will easily find himself in the highest decision making body of UMNO by end of the year.

Many also commented that the actual winner is the people of Malaysia. This includes some major mainstream newspapers who claims that this is a victory for democracy. I'm not sure what this got to do with democracy. It's was just a change of venue and audience, from claims and counter claims that these politicians are good at, only that this time, it's face to face rather than out in the padangs and stadiums shouting out their point of view.

I found that the arguements and questions were quite weak and responses were never straight to the point and at times, both of them had to cheek to claim of lack of time when in fact they were beating around the bush.

I also glaringly found that both Anwar and Shabery missed the main points. Let me elaborate below;

1. Both spoke about Petrol Price and it's relative impact on rising prices and inflation etc. What Petrol price got to do with Rising prices and inflation? No one spoke about diesel price! Rise in diesel price caused transportation cost to go up, which will in turn have impact on prices of goods and public transportation services.

2. Shabery did not speak about rebates given to motorist to counter Anwar's arguement.

3. No one touched the fact that Diesel is still being subsidised via fleet cards issued to transportation companies and fisherman.

4. Shabery simply failed to articulate government's policy of redistribution of subsidies, i.e subsidy and assistance given to the most deserving in the form of rebates for motorist , fleet cards to transportation companies and fisherman etc.

5. Shabery also failed to provide any further measures being taken by the government eg Fuel Subsidies for taxis were announced just a week later and more announcement to come via Budget 2009.

6. Shabery failed to highlight that no other country has reduced fuel prices. He only spoke about nett oil producing countries with high inflation.

7. Shabery also failed to link subsidies to widening budget deficits which will have impact on country's sovereign ratings among creditors.

8. Anwar simply argued on the wastages by TNB and IPPs. Shabery missed to point out that windfall tax has been imposed on the IPPs thus cancelling out Anwar's arguement.

9. Anwar appear not to realise or rather not aware that any forced changes to IPP agreement and even the imposition of Windfall tax has been severely criticised by the market as they the fear impact on our bond market.

10. No one spoke at lenght about rising food prices due to low production, rise in commodity prices, climate issues as a separate reason for inflation. Both linked inflation to rise of fuel prices.

11. Corruption and wastages by government was a weak arguement without being supported by facts and figures. Even prices in Hong Kong, Singapore and scandinavian countries, known for their 'clean' image, rose.

12. I think Anwar chose, for this moment and for the purpose of publicity, to forget numerous advise by IMF and World Bank and economic experts that subsidies are not sustainable.

13. Anwar claims that we may discover more oil reserves when Shabery argued that we maybe a nett importer in 2015. I wonder if Anwar has a crystal ball in his hands or rather his segambut home.

14. Anwar failed to explain what he would do if Malaysia becomes a nett importer in 2015 or earlier. Will he increase the fuel price by few hundred percent or continue to subsidise until bulk of the national budget goes to fuel subsidy rather than education and healthcare?

15. Anwar also failed to explain (Shabery and the panelist failed to ask) what measure he would take if the fuel price rises further to USD 200 per barrel.

To me, the debate was just a political duel which excited supporter from both parties and chance for Abdullah to claim that there's more democracy during his current term.

I would rather think that this was a waste of funds and time as nothing significant came out of this debate. Those who missed the debate : never mind, you did not really miss anything and yes , the fuel price stays.

PS. Anwar was arrested the next day and he claimed that he was under severe pain after being made to sleep on cement floor. But how can he stand for hours on the stage? I have heard advice from expert physicians that for those with back problems, it would only be good to sleep on hard surface rather than a Dreamland mattress.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

RECAP : KL Or Selangor

This letter was published in Malaysiakini.com on 1st march 2001. Also Published under the title 'Much ado over 'correct' home address' in the Star daily on 5th March 2001. Also published in the Sun Newspaper at around the same time with similar headings.

KL or Selangor?

I live in Selayang. However, my official home address and post code says 68100, Batu Caves, Selangor. People who see the address immediately have an impression that I live somewhere near Batu Caves, which is not true. The buses that go to Batu Caves never stop anywhere near my home.

There is more to add to this confusion. The local authority for the area is Majlis Perbandaran Selayang (MPS) yet I do not know the existence of any town called Bandar Selayang although there are areas such as Selayang Bahru, Selayang Jaya and Bandar Baru Selayang which are also within the district of Batu Caves.

To my understanding, Batu Caves and Rawang also fall under the jurisdiction of MPS. So rightly, the whole district under the jurisdiction of MPS should be called Daerah Selayang with its own postcode as opposed to the present situation with different districts such as Batu Caves and Rawang and different post codes for them.

To further confuse the people in my area, we pay our quit rent to Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). Our rubbish and waste are collected by Alam Flora who I suppose was assigned by DBKL.

I do remember when I purchased the property years ago, the land area stated in the sale and purchase agreement (S&P) is the Batu district, which is in Kuala Lumpur. The whole S&P transaction involved authorities in Kuala Lumpur and not Selangor. This is why I acknowledge Kuala Lumpur as the place I live in.

Our water supply comes from a dam within the district in Selangor while the electricity supply originates from Selayang. The police patrol cars in the neighbourhood are from Balai Polis Jinjang and sometimes Balai Polis Selayang.

I remember subscribing fixed line telephone services from Telekom Malaysia in Kepong. Kepong! Now that is further confusing.

And the wholesale market located in the area, the biggest in Klang Valley, calls itself Pasar Borong Besar Selayang when it should have been called Pasar Borong Besar Batu Caves since the address falls within the district of Batu Caves. The signage directing traffic into the wholesale market states 'Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur'. So which is correct?

The signage indicating the existence of a Rukun Tetangga (neigbourhood watch) Unit in our area indicates that the unit is under the jurisdiction of Kawasan Bandar Sentul while another signage just next to it indicates a PAS ( Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) branch under Batu district, Kuala Lumpur.

So can anyone from the authorities tell us exactly where we live and also explain why those inconsistent signages and addresses were approved?

The list actually goes on to further add to the confusion. I will not be surprised if a similar situation is prevalent in other parts of the country. I hope the relevant authorities will take note of this and make the effort to streamline this problem of district and jurisdiction to ease the confusion among the residents and visitors to a particular area or district.

K Balan Kuala Lumpur

Recap : A years later, The National Registration department changed the address of my daughter birth certificate to 68100, Kuala Lumpur and no longer Batu Caves, which means we are, at least officially in Kuala Lumpur. My entire family's Identification Card address had since been changed to 68100, Kuala Lumpur. Now, the postal office would be confused as Batu Caves still carry 68100 as their post code as well. Oh, what an improvement made over 7 years.

I have yet to find where is Bandar Selayang! Nothing else changed and no one, except me, seems to bother or complain. So, I presume that the authorities are not going to do anything, just to please an ordinary resident like me.