Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Paying The Price for Freebies

An article about the poor in Singapore and how unconditional welfare assistance is given to them. According to the author, this has engendered an unhealthy dependence on welfare.

The author is of the opinion that assistance must be in terms of providing opportunity for the needy to increase their economic or social performance, rather than simply providing income supplements (give the man a fish vs teaching him to fish). And he recommends making the aid conditional - on repayment and / or other qualification criteria which the recipient will eventually graduate out of - in order to prevent the development of a welfare or handout mentality.

As I read this, I realised that we can draw obvious parallels between this situation and our New Economic Policy (NEP) or NEarly aPartheid in Malaysia.

I find the author's references to Bangladesh's poverty eradication efforts particularly inspiring. The man responsible for this program was recently awarded a Nobel Prize no less. Malaysia can learn so much from Bangladesh... damn, I can't believe I actually said that. But it's true.

Related articles:

Hot Civil Service Jobs

I've got a quickie for ya.

I read this interesting article in The Star about the extremely high number of applicants vs the number of civil service vacancies.

...startling figures in the PSC website: assistant anti-drug officers (7,241 applicants for one vacancy); research officers (15,000 applicants for one vacancy); science officers in the Chemist’s Department (14,608 applicants for 10 vacancies); technical assistants (14,636 applicants for 19 vacancies); and diplomatic and administrative officers (36,121 for 50 vacancies).

...about 76,662 people applied for 1,104 vacant positions for Immigration officers while another 78,113 vied for 867 posts of Asst Supt of Customs.

Both the PSD and Cuepacs have refuted suggestions that the jobs in these two departments provided the opportunity to make “easy money,” describing such talk as preposterous.

Actually, they might have a point. The ratio of applications vs vacancies is not the highest in Customs (69:1) and Immigration (90:1). It's the anti-drug officers (7,241:1) and research officers (15,000:1).

The ratios for Customs and Immigration are actually the lowest, because they offered the most jobs. If the number of vacancies was made known to the applicants at the time of application, then I think the PSD and Cuepacs are right. They were attracted to the higher number of vacancies ie. higher chances of getting the job.

"...Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn believes that the majority of local graduates are shying away from the private sector because they lacked confidence, and preferred the comfort of government service. He said there were about 20,000 vacancies in the private sector, but local graduates were not confident enough, nor proficient in English, to apply for these jobs."

“Most of them don’t seem to understand the requirements of the private sector, which emphasises competence and right attitudes. They are more comfortable in the public sector,” he said."

So, you're saying that unlike the private sector, the public sector is looking for INCOMPETENCE and the WRONG ATTITUDES? Hmmm, based on their performance, the civil service might have found exactly what they're looking for.

This might be the most accurate, if none too intelligent, thing you've said all year, Dr Fong.

Pak Lah, can you spell CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

3 years ago, we, the people, the rakyat, Malaysians, voted in the Barisan National which you lead with an overwhelming majority. A majority the size of which has never been seen by any other Malaysian Prime Minister in history.

One of the main promises of your campaign was that your govt would take a zero tolerance of corruption, wipe it out and eradicate money politics. Under your watch, Malaysia will be transformed into a corruption-free, transparent paradise. You didn't mention exactly how you'd accomplish that monumental task, but nor did we, the public, ask the simple question if you were prepared to get rid of the most corrupted bunch of all, the politicians, party power-brokers, corporate money-spinners and the little napoleons of govt bureaucracy, agencies & local govt.

Malaysians are a gullible lot, you know. We've bought magic stones from conmen because we believed it had the power to help us win the lottery. We've had sex with the neighbourhood bomoh (witch doctor) 52 times because we thought that will help exorcise evil spirits. And we voted in your govt with the largest majority in history because we thought that will give you the support and the courage, to overcome the fierce opposition that you will surely face, when you purge the govt and civil service of corruption.

Damn.., were we wrong.

3 years on, Malaysians all over the country right now are feeling the soreness of just having had sex with the bomoh... 52 times... and no lubrication. The worst thing is, the evil spirits are still there.

And they seem more evil than ever before. Recently we had old "Close-One-Eye" Jasin MP, and now the ongoing Happy Balls Zakaria saga . With regards to Happy Balls, the govt seems content for him to simply give up his MPK councillorship, stop work on his palace and seal off his satay restaurant.

  • Why is there no action regarding the heavily discounted purchase of state land?
  • Why is there no review and investigation of local govt or state procedures when alientating (selling) land?
  • Why is there no disclosure of who else has purchased state land? At what price? Are they also councillors and party strongmen?
  • Why is there no investigation into who else in the govt has not paid their quit rent, or obtained the necessary licenses or obtained approval to build mansions and palaces on cheap state land?
  • What are you going to do about such incidents in other states and municipal councils in other towns?

SURELY... surely Happy Balls Zakaria Mat Deros cannot be the only politician or bureaucrat in the whole country who is guilty of such trangressions?

Is there any reason why the investigation is not extended beyond a single individual?

Isn't a govt-wide, national-scale corruption investigation exactly what your election campaign 3 years ago promised? If so, then why are you chasing after individuals, sacrificial poster boys really and ignoring the deeper, more prevalant corruption that pervades the entire system?

We were promised a thorough national cleanup - not a highly sensationalised case, here & there, every once in a while, when the public smells a cat that's let out of the bag.

In The Sun's interview with Transparency International (TI) regional director for Asia Pacific, Pascal Fabie and its project manager Lisa Prevenslik-Takeda who were in Kuala Lumpur recently, the reasons for the prevalence of corruption were discussed.

"...for countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, the legal system is solid in terms of anti-corruption work but it is in the enforcement that the problem resides, really."

"...talking about institutions to deal with corruption, I think most countries in this region are weak in terms of providing the basic protection and mechanisms for corruption prevention. It means, they are weak in protecting whistle-blowers, weak in reporting of cases, weak in access to information, weak in having judicial mechanisms in place and jurisprudence on cases of corruption."

"Corruption is clandestine in Asia and it is very difficult to get evidence. In some countries which do have a strong legislation and enforcement, oftentimes you don't usually get prosecution because the standard of proof is also very high. So you need a lot of evidence to prove that somebody is corrupt and I think this is a very conservative and traditional approach but it is common throughout the region. And I would guess Malaysia also."
I agree with the ladies from Transparency International. And I would also add that our Malaysian view of corruption is seriously flawed. It attempts to ignore a very important concept: CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The first thing they taught me in Ethics class is 'AVOID conflicts of interest at all costs'. That is a basic and fundamental rule underlying any activity where trust, objectivity and credibility are required. And I'm sure you agree that these qualities are required to run a country well. Sadly, Malaysian politicians have no respect for it.

When politicians and bureaucrats who make decisions on the economy and the law - also own/operate businesses or engage in activities which are affected by these decisions (or have wives, children, siblings, sons in law etc who do) - I'm sure you'll agree the CAPACITY / POSSIBILITY exists for them to make decisions that are biased towards benefiting their own businesses and activities?

Your subordinates will tell you that they are saints, serving the country without fear or favour, reincarnations of Justice Bao, ever ready to behead themselves and members of their own family who dare to break the law. They say they will never favour themselves, their family, friends or cronies over the interests of the nation. They know they can, and they know we know they can, but we should still rest assured that they won't... out of the goodness in their hearts.

One word, sir... Rubbish! If everybody could be trusted to do the right thing all the time, we wouldn't need any laws. We wouldn't have the cronies, Happy Balls, Close-One-Eyes, Oil For Food, Scomis, ECM Libra, AP fiascos, Perwajas, Protons, Class F contractors who farm out govt projects as soon as they get them and thousands other examples of conflicts of interest.

Your good friend, Tun M once said famously that since his children were not in politics, if they didn't do business, how would they put food on the table?

Fair enough. Everyone has the right to eat. Even his kids do. What they don't have is a right to eat, at the expense of the nation! Why can't they get into businesses which do not depend on govt contracts or govt funding? Retail and hotels for instance. Or better yet, bid for jobs overseas.

Is it fair then, to penalise the businesses of family members and friends of politicians?

HELL YES! Of course it is! A political leader that is unquestionably free from conflicts of interest (and therefore, has the undivided trust of the people), is infinitely more valuable than a little inconvenience to his family and friends.

Once you bend the absolute rule of avoiding conflicts of interest, the trust placed in you, your objectivity and credibility can NO LONGER be UNQUESTIONED! And we can't afford that. We need you to be UNQESTIONABLY incorruptible. Remember that. I know you've said that you can handle the conflicts, control the temptation and control yourself... well, that's also what drug addicts, alcoholics and gamblers always say. It's called DENIAL.

If we can tell the world that laws like ISA and the Sedition Act are needed because the rights of certain individuals must not threaten the greater interests of the nation... how is this any different? Shouldn't the individual rights of your children, Tun M's children, Ling Leong Sik's children, the children of all other politicians and bureaucrats... shouldn't their rights to make money be restrained from threatening the interests of our great nation?

Also, don't you think that our politicians have an overly-simplistic view that if they don't make the decisions directly, they don't have a conflict on interest.

Well, lets say that you're the CEO of TNB and you have to decide whether to award a contract to transport coal to Scomi Bhd which is controlled by the PM's son.

Come on, do you really expect TNB's CEO to conscientiously ignore the fact that he's dealing the Prime Minister's son? Can you expect him not to harbour any hope that any favours done for the PM's son might one day be returned, in kind and with interest? Can you truly expect him to bear no fear, that little voice at back of his mind, that to decline the PM's son the contract will jeopardise his future career?

So, let's face it. The problem of corruption based on conflict of interest is very real. It's there in front of you. And it's so pervasive that it's killing Malaysia slowly but surely. Whether you acknowledge it or not.
Related links:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Schumi - Farewell Tribute and Beyond

A final followup to the blog about Michael Schumacher. The Greatest of Them All. I just couldn't walk away and let 16 years of Schumi ride into the sunset just like that. I started watching F1 on Schumi's debut year and he's been at the center of my F1 journey ever since. And it's hard letting go of something so familiar. I feel as bad as I did when I sold my Putra turbo and watched the new owner drive her away from me.

So, I looked for some sort of fan tribute that would encapsulate his impact on F1, on motorsports, on his fans and on me. I found this beautifully crafted montage by solal7 on youtube. Even the background song choice is great... none of the "My Way" or "We are the Champions" rubbish. Simply magnificent.

Tribute to Michael Schumacher

To cap off this blog posting, here's some inside news on Schumi's next career. He's going to work as a petrol station attendant. Serious! Apparently, he's a huge fan of Initial D and wants to walk the road of Takumi Fujiwara. He wants to buy a Toyota Trueno AE86, drive boxes of tofu around and perfect his drifting on mountain roads the world over.

Don't believe me? Here's proof:




Okay, maybe not ;p Here's the real deal. Latest news is that Schumi's going to be Jean Todt's assistant. Who is Jean Todt, you ask? He is better known Datin Yeoh, husband and consort of our very own Datuk Michele Yeoh. And on the days that he can extricate himself from Datuk's bed and pull on his pants, he's goes to work at Scuderia Ferrari as its CEO.

'Super assistant' role for Schu

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Michael Schumacher. The Greatest of Them All.

Michael Schumacher. What remains that has not yet been said about this unparalled F1 champion?

Since he announced of his retirement, the summaries, tributes and mini biographies have poured, more so after his magnificent final race... a race against all odds to 4th place at the 2006 Brazilian GP recently. The debate whether he is the greatest F1 driver ever has raged non-stop since.

There is more or less a concensus on how Schumi lived each of his races and how he raced as though his life depended on it.

“I have great respect for Michael’s on-track achievements, just as I have great appreciation for the way he and I have been able to work together, off-track, within the GPDA, for the good of the sport.

“That said, there’s no question that it must be very difficult for the public to understand some of the things Michael has done on track, and to forgive him for not apologising for having done them." - David Coulthard (current F1 driver and race winner).
I think Coulthard sums up the what most of Schumi's contemporaries on the track think of him. He's the best driver but is rather ruthless and unapologetic on track, even for incidents which are clearly more than 'racing incidents'. Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Rubens Barichello have been on the receiving end of Schumi's... errr, single-mindedness on the race track.

4 of Schumi's incidents forever cloud the thoughts of F1 lovers:

1. Collision with Damon Hill - Adelaide GP 1994
2. Collision with Jacques Villeneuve - Jerez GP 1997
3. Ferrari team orders, Ruben Barrichello yields win - Austrian GP 2002
4. Schumi parks his car during qualifying - Monaco GP 2006

Luckily for you, I have the videos of all 4 incidents below. Enjoy and make up your own mind.

The F1 paddock fraternity agree with Coulthard.
"But though it might change as time mellows memories, he is also certainly going to be remembered, sadly, as an unsporting driver.

I've heard people say that Senna was also guilty of some dodgy on-track tactics. But it was a different thing with Senna, he was more emotionally driven, declared
his intentions beforehand and admitted them afterwards.

It wasn't a default setting like it is with Michael such as when he swerved off the
start line or when he was in a tight championship situation. There were just too many incidents with Michael.
There were a huge number of things that happened that maybe F1 fans don't know about, the background politics or for example that Michael played the safety card but only when it suited him." - Martin Brundle
Martin Brundle is a former F1 driver, former Schumi team-mate and current iTV-F1 commentator - partnered by Murray Walker formerly, currently partners James Allen in the commentary box during every F1 weekend.

Here are links to views of other F1 commentators who travel and interact with the drivers each GP weekend. Murray Walker (retired iTV-F1 commentator, wildly popular and is the "Voice of F1"), Mark Blundell (former F1 driver), Louise Goodman (current iTV-F1 commentator - she's the chick who interviews the F1 drivers on the paddock after they DNF) and Ted Kravitz (current iTV-F1 commentator - the dude who runs around the paddock asking the team managers what's gone wrong).

I find that I agree with Murray Walker the most. Schumi's been at the top of a very demanding sport for 16 years. That's much longer than any other F1 "great", from Fangio to Lauda, Prost to Senna. His records and achievements are unparelled (go here for a list of Facts and Stats of Schumi's Career). You'll be amazed at what this man has accomplished. For me, his achievements and unadulterated racing ability more than outshine any of the shadows some of his 'ill-advised' actions have cast on his career over the years.

All except the one where Rubens was forced to yield the win at the 2002 Austrian GP because of team orders. Denying a team-mate his richly deserved win (Rubens was faster all weekend, taking pole in qualifying and led the whole race) , is unforgiveable, no matter how much of a "team-sport" it is. I think Michael did realise the unfairness and sincerely regretted it. The sadness, embarassment and his act of nudging Rubens to the top podium spot looked genuine to me. But like Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew when it comes to apologies, Schumi was deeply remorseful for Ruben losing the win, but would not apologise for taking it. That might be manifest of Schumi's inability to face his own mistakes that Coulthard was talking about.

In my eyes, he is the greatest F1 driver of all time. The greatest in talent, accomplishments and also flaws. And that's what makes him the greatest ever!

Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari - Schumi's career in that order.

Here's a link to Murray Walker and David Coulthard's Interview videos on BBC. They speak about their thoughts on Schumi. You need to click on the video link near the top of the page, directly beneath the title of the article "Who is the real Schumacher?". Clicking on this video link will open up a small window to view the video.

A link here to Road & Track magazine's interview (audio only) with Schumi on the sidelines of the 2006 Indianapolis GP. I found this interview highly entertaining and cast Schumi's more human and surprisingly humourous side.

And here's a BBC pictorial of
Schumi's career in pictures. Remember to let your mouse hover over the pictures themselves to read the comments that pop-up.

And finally, the videos.

1. Collision with Damon Hill - Adelaide GP 1994

2. Collision with Jacques Villeneuve - Jerez GP 1997

3. Ferrari team orders, Ruben Barrichello yields win - Austrian GP 2002

4. Schumi parks his car during qualifying - Monaco GP 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mahathir vs Abdullah Badawi: Happy Balls Zakaria!

If you remember my previous blog "Why I might not blog about Malaysia either", you might have noticed that I've taken a hiatus away from blogging about Mahathir vs Badawi. You know lah, I'm just not very fond of Club Kamunting, wearing baggy pants with stripes, squatting beside drains to brush my teeth and being some big lonely dude's toothless bitch.

Well... my balls seem to have grown back... and here I go again.

Now, where did I leave off the last time, a few months back...

- AAB was PM
- his son-in-law was in control of the govt
- the govt was a mess
- Tun M was pissed

>>>> Fast forward to the present >>>>

Hmmm, nothing's really changed, has it?

That's Malaysian politics for ya. We could have brine and brimstone, barbarians at the door, foaming at the mouth to plunder our hoard, enslave our children and rape our virgins - but nothing ever changes. As the jaded amongst us would say... biasa lah tu.

The latest was that wildly speculated, but ultimately fruitless Hari Raya meeting. If you had been holidaying in La-La-Land or was rendered unconscious during those few days by the haze, here are links to the press conferences each of them gave after the meeting.

24/10: Transcript of Tun Mahathir's press conference

27/10: Transcript of Pak Lah's press conference

Analyses and opinions abound about the outcome of that anti-climatic meeting. Undoubtedly, you must have read all the spin that the press has been pushing down your throats... that the ministers are disappointed, the politicians are disappointed, the sultan of Johor is disappointed and the rakyat are disappointed. All in all, everyone's disappointed including my neighbour's pet shi-tzu. He has such a sad look on his droopy face that one can only conclude that he's also terribly disappointed with the failure of the "peace talks".

Well, let me venture a guess why the ministers and politicians are disappointed. It's not because they want the distractions to stop so that they can focus on serving the rakyat. Just how gullible do they think we really are?

The ministers and politicians are disappointed because as long as Tun M keeps picking at the bloodied scabs of the govt, the more perceptive & idealistic amongst the rakyat will feel emboldened to do the same and step forward to point out the mischief that our "leaders" have become so accustomed to perpetrating.

For instance, kudos and felicitations to The Sun for breaking the Happy Balls Zakaria story (Zakar-ria -> Happy-balls, get it?) and exposing how palaces are built without approval, restaurants can operate without licences and how the state can sell land worth more than a million ringgit for RM180,000. In another instance, 2.4ha was sold for RM7,000!

Various govt officials have had strong words against Zakaria for the benefit of the press. Heck, the sultan of Selangor's even summoned him but to no avail (he was sick earlier, now he's on holiday). But NOBODY in the govt (not the PM, not his ministers, not party leaders) has expressed any opposition, much less outrage at the Selangor MB's assertion that Happy Balls needs to be let off with a meagre RM24,000 slap on the wrist. Damn... Happy Ball's outright profit from the govt land he bought is nearly 43 times that amount already. That ability to be impudent to all, sundry and royalty, my friends, is the power of an UMNO strongman.

For more on Happy Balls, read this article from the Straits Times, the latest from The Sun (link added to blog on 28/10/2006) and this from The Star after he finally went to face the sultan (link added to blog on 28/10/2006).

If you ask me, the ministers and politicians are disappointed because they are scared. *Scared shitless* that this budding "transparency" will snowball, and one day burst the floodgates to wash all the skeletons out of their closets. Happy Balls is just the tip of the iceberg. And as you know... although icebergs appear to be mountains floating in the sea, 9/10ths of their huge bulk is actually underwater and remains unseen below the waterline. Now, that's not so dissimilar to the mess our country is in right now, is it?

So, what's to come from Mahathir vs Abdullah Badawi?

If there is a god up in heaven above, I hope there will be more probing questions, accusations, revelations and outrage. Let's get this shit out in the open, once and for all. Let's get it all out so that joe public's nose crinkles at the stink and they go to the next General Election as better, more informed voters.

While we wait for the next General Election, let's hope Tun M remains healthy, stays strong and keeps asking the hard questions so that the rest of us mere citizens have the courage to do the same.

And Tun M's role in this is more important than you'd think. He's not just some funky old pensioner with a big mouth and nothing better to do. He's the only one who can directly criticise the govt and not have to take a sudden free vacation at Club Kamunting courtesy of the Special Branch. Have a read of his published statement below.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sir Datuk Seri

Yesterday, I got my daily automobile news update and I saw an article that Carlos Ghosn has been appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE). Below are some excerpts from that article:

Carlos Ghosn is the celebrity CEO of both Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, and is revered in Japan as the auto industry's turnaround king, having rescued Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999 and turning it into one of the world's most profitable carmakers.

"I am deeply honored by this recognition from the United Kingdom," Ghosn was quoted as saying in a statement released by Nissan. "This honor is dedicated to the hard work and achievements of our 5,500 employees and 220 dealers that support the Nissan business in the United Kingdom," he said.

The Brazil-born Frenchman of Lebanese descent cannot use the title "Sir" -- an honor only subjects of the British queen enjoy -- but can call himself Carlos Ghosn, KBE. Past recipients of the title in the business world include Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and Sony Corp. co-founder Akio Morita.
Cool, Britain sure has some distinguished people in their awards lists. So, what awards does the UK give out each year? Here's the Guide to the Honours on BBC.
Guide to the Honours

British honours are awarded on merit, for exceptional achievement or service. Anybody can recommend a British national for an honour, which consist of life peerages, knighthoods, appointments to the Order of the British Empire and gallantry awards to servicemen and women and civilians.

The Queen chooses the recipients on the advice of the Prime Minister, to whom recommendations are sent either by government ministers or by members of the public. The honours are published in the official Crown newspaper, the London Gazette. Private nominations, made by individuals or by representatives of organisations to the Prime Ministers' Office, make up around a quarter of all recommendations. Honorary awards for foreign nationals are recommended by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. A number of these orders for chivalry are made after a personal decision made by the Queen.

Life Peers

Life peerages are the only form of peerages regularly created by the Sovereign. A life peer becomes a baron and sits in the House of Lords on conferment of peerage. These are titles which they hold only during their lifetime and are not passed to their heirs.

Knights Bachelor

The honour of knighthood comes from the days of medieval chivalry, as does the method used to confer the knighthood: the accolade (the touch of a sword by the Sovereign). Although Knights Bachelor do not comprise an order of chivalry, knighthood is a dignity which has its origins in Britain in Saxon times. They are styled "Sir" (except for clergymen who do not receive the accolade) and their wives "Lady". Women receiving the honour are styled "Dame" but do not receive the accolade.

The Order of the Bath

The Order of the Bath is an order of chivalry and was founded in 1725 for service of the highest calibre. The order has a civil and military division and is awarded in the following ranks: Knight Grand Cross (GCB), Knight Commander (KCB) and Companion (CB). The Order takes its name from the symbolic bathing which in former times was often part of the preparation of a candidate for knighthood.

Order of St Michael and St George

This Order was founded by King George III in 1818 and is awarded to British subjects who have rendered extraordinary and important services abroad or in the Commonwealth. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG), Knight or Dame Commander (KCMG or DCMG) and Companion (CMG).

Order of the Companions Honour

This is awarded for service of conspicuous national importance and is limited to 65 people. Recipients wear the initials CH after their name. Orders of the British Empire King George V in 1917 created these honours during World War 1 to reward services to the war effort by civilians at home and servicemen in support positions. The orders are now awarded mainly to civilians and service personnel for public service or other distinctions and has a military and a civil division. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight or Dame Commander (KBE or DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE).

Royal Victorian Order

By 1896, prime ministers and governments had increased their influence over the distribution of awards and had gained almost total control of the system. Therefore, Queen Victoria instituted The Royal Victorian Order as a personal award for services performed on her behalf. Today this honour is still awarded in recognition of services to the royal family. The ranks are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GCVO), Knight or Dame Commander (KCVO or DCVO), Commander (CVO), Lieutenant (LVO) and Member (MVO).

Royal Victorian Medal

Associated with the Royal Victorial Order is the Royal Victorian Medal which has three grades: gold, silver and bronze. The circular medal is attached to the ribbon of the Order. More than one grade may be held by the same person and the medal may be worn along with the insignia of the Order itself.

Royal Red Cross

Founded in 1883 by Queen Victoria, The award is confined to the Nursing Services. Those awarded the First Class are designated "Members" (RRC): those awarded the Second Class are designated "Associates" (ARRC). It is said that the suggestion for the founding of this decoration was made to Queen Victoria by Miss Florence Nightingale.

Queen's Police Medal

This is awarded for distinguished service to the police force.

Queen's Fire Service Medal

This honour is given to firemen who have displayed conspicuous devotion to duty.
Wow, this is some great stuff. How about us? How about awards and honours in Malaysia? It's not all Tun, Tan Sris and Datuks, right?

Here's some information I found on experts.about.com about our local awards:
Malay titles

Federal titles

In Malaysia, federal awards are granted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and some may carry the following federal titles. Such titles are honorary and non-hereditary.


Tun is the most senior federal title awarded to recipients of either the SMN (Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara) or SSM (Seri Setia Mahkota). However, the SMN and SSM are not the highest federal award. The SMN ranks fourth in order of Federal Awards and the SSM ranks fifth. The highest federal award granted by the Malaysian government is the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa.

There may not be more than 25 local living holders of this award at a time. The honorific address for the wife of a Tun is Toh Puan. The most recent recipients (as of June 2005) in Malaysia are former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, who were both bestowed the title upon the former's retirement from politics and the government in October 2003.

The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.

Tan Sri

Tan Sri is the second most senior federal title and a honorific used to denote recipients of the PMN (Panglima Mangku Negara) and the PSM (Panglima Setia Mahkota). the PMN and PSM rank seventh and eight respectively in the order of Malaysian Federal Awards.

There may be at any time up to a maximum of 75 PMN holders living at any one time, and a maximum of 120 PSM holders living at any one time. The wife of a Tan Sri is Puan Sri.

The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.


Datuk is a federal title has been conferred since 1965 and limited to recipients of PJN (Panglima Jasa Negara) of which there may be up to 200 living at any one time, and PSD (Panglima Setia Diraja) of which there may be up to 70 living at any one time. The PJN and PSN rank 9th and 10th respectively in the rank of federal awards.

The wife of a federal Datuk is a Datin.

The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.

Some states also confer awards that carry the title "Datuk". The award of these titles is determined by the individual rulers and there is no set limit on the number of state Datuks. The record on the number of Datukships given out in one year is 2004 by the Sultan of Pahang whereby 92 were awarded in conjunction with his 74th birthday.

State titles

The following titles, which roughly correspond to the British knighthood, can be granted by the Ruler or Governor of each state. They are honorary and non-hereditary.


* Dato' Seri Utama is the highest state title, below Tun but above Tan Sri. The wife of a recipent is "Datin Seri Utama" .
* Dato' Seri or Dato' Paduka ranks below the federal titles above. The wife of a Dato' Seri is a Datin Seri.
* Dato' (Datuk if conferred by Governors rather than Rulers) is the most common chivalrous title. The wife of a Dato' is a Datin, except in Terengganu where they are known as "To' Puan" (not to be confused with "Toh Puan", the wife of a non-hereditary "Tun").
* There are also hereditary Datukships from Negeri Sembilan. These are not conferred by the ruler, but passed on through the customary native laws. The wife of a hereditary Dato' is addressed by courtesy as "To' Puan".

Some state rulers grant awards which carry titles unique to that state, such as the Dato' Seri diRaja of the state of Perak, Dato' Wira of the state of Melaka (Malacca) and Datuk Amar and Datuk Patinggi of the state of Sarawak and Datuk Seri Panglima of the state of Sabah.

State awards may be revoked by the Ruler or Governor, and may be returned by the individual.

Protection of value of titles

Not all Datuks have lived exemplary lives and some have even been convicted of crimes. The various sultans have taken steps to ensure the integrity of the institution.

Tun Dr Mahathir mentioned that one of the problems with titles in Malaysia is the numbers given out. He stated in an interview "Personally, I feel if you want to give value to anything, it must be limited...if you produce a million Ferrari cars, nobody will care about buying a Ferrari.

"The Raja Muda (Prince in line of succession) of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah stated "That is my view. You degrade the award and the Ruler has the right to revoke it. In my opinion, it should be taken away." He also stated that "Sometimes, I think we give away too many datukships...it dilutes and devalues the award."

In the first government following the independence of Malaya in 1957, 5 of 15 cabinet Ministers were Datuks. The finance minister at the time, Tan Siew Sin, held the title Justice of Peace. Later he was granted a Federal award which carried the title Tun. The father of Malayan independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, received no awards and carried the title "Tunku" which was inherited by him being the prince of the state of Kedah. He was honorarily referred to as "Yang Teramat Mulia". The senate held only 14 datuks and parliament held only 7.

* The datuks of Selangor attempted to set up an association of Selangor Datuks. It received approval from the registrar of societies but was shelved when the Sultan forbade any datuk from joining or risk losing the title.
* Four datuks were removed in 2003 by the Sultan of Selangor.
* In 2004 Six Datuks had their titles "suspended" by the Sultan of Selangor. The six are on trial. The palace issued a statement through the state secretary that the title would automatically be withdrawn if they were convicted or restored if they were acquitted. In the meantime they may not use the title "datuk" as issued by the Sultan of Selangor. They may still declare federal titles or titles granted by other states, the six are:

* Tan Sri Eric Chia Eng Hock who was awarded the Datuk Seri Indera Alam Diraja in 1985 which carries the title "Datuk Diraja". He is on trial for criminal breach of trust. He does not use his Selangor title since he has a higher title.
* Datuk Saidin Thambi, former Selangor state asseblyman and executive counciller, awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) in 1985 which carries the title "Datuk". On trial for corruption.
* Datuk Mohd Saberi Salleh, formerly a dean in UiTM, awarded the Datuk Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (DSSA) in 1999 which carries the title "Datuk". On trial for verifying false invoices.
* Former Tabung Haji senior general manager Datuk Mohamad Shafie, awarded the Datuk Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (DSSA) in 1999 which carries the title "Datuk". On trial for cheating.
* Datuk Mohd Shariff Jajang, former Selangor executive counciller, awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) in 1991 which carries the title "Datuk". Additionally he holds the award Setia-Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (SSA) awarded 1988. On trial for corruption.
* Datuk Chow C. K. Kenneth alias A.Wira Tjakrawinata, an Indonesian businessman, awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) in 1999. He is on trial for furnishing false information to the Securities Commission.
* Robert Chan Win Ing and Tan Hok Low had their datukships withdrawn in 2004.

* The sultan of Pahang revoked the titles of two datuks in 2004.
* Datuk Seri Koh Kim Teck, executive director of a stockbroking firm, awarded Sri Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang in 2003. He was charged with the murder of his 14 year-old nephew.
* Datuk Tee Yam lost his Pahang title for involvement in undesirable activities.
Hmmm, looks like the Malaysian honours, titles and awards are a little tainted somewhat. But as our politicians like to argue, we're not the best, but the rest are not that good either. So, let me see... do the British honours suffer from dishonourable conduct from its honourees like ours?

Indeed they do. Lim Kit Siang's blog mentions 2 articles about (1) someone refusing an OBE because it's something you give to toilet cleaners for keeping toilets spotless and (2) a political party chairman being investigated by Scotland Yard for allegedly offering peerages in return for loans.

Seems to pale in comparison to some of the shit our Datuks have their fingers in, doesn't it?

What about the number of awards? Malaysians have always suspected that too many awards are being given out each year. So is this true?

Firstly, how many awards does the Queen of England give out each year?
2006 Honours List
The 2006 list of honourees is 96 pages long with approximately 10 names per page. That means about 1000 people get honours each year from Britain.

So how about Malaysia?

A recent NST article stated that in 2006, the Sultan of Pahang will award honours to 915 people, of which 96 carry the title Datuk or Datuk Seri.
Datukship for Siti Nurhaliza
NST Online 24 Oct 2006
You can check the honour lists in other states from this Star website:
Lists of federal and state awards since 2002.
But I won't go through it one by one. Let me do a rough estimate. My calculations are by necessity simplistic (I can't be bothered), but they do indicate the potential size of our absurdity when awarding honours.

If Pahang issues 915 titles a year, and from Star's list, we have roughly 11 entities (sultans, the yang dipertuan agong and yang dipertuan negeris) giving honours each year... and if each of them give 900 awards a year, we will have 10,000 new honourees each year. And consistent with Pahang 2006, let's say 11% of the awards carry the title Datuk or better, we have over a 1,000 new Datuks a year... or better.

This means that Malaysia probably produces 10 times more honourees than the UK each year (10,000 vs 1,000), and just the number of Malaysian awards that carry titles is as many as the total number of awards in the UK (1,000 vs 1,000).

Let put things into perpective. If quantity means quality, then Malaysia boleh! But when it comes to awards, obviously exclusivity means value.

Malaysia issues 10,000 awards a year for a population of 26 million. This is a ratio of 1 award per 2600 people.

The UK issues 1,000 awards a year for a population of 60 million. The ratio is 1 award per 60,000 people.

So, are we 23 times better than the British when it comes to achievements, merit and contribution?

You tell me, Datuk (assuming that 1,000 Datukships have been issued each year since Independence, there should be roughly 49,000 Datuks today if nobody died. Therefore, there is a 1:5306 chance that the reader of this blog is a Datuk or better, and 1:531 chance that he's has at least one award). So, I better be polite. Mintak maaf ya, Datuk.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Humouring Singapore

A few videos that caught my eye recently. They are hilarious... maybe Singaporeans do have a sense of humour after all.

A song & dance by a local comedian, Hossan Leong, about what it means to be Singaporean.

Here's a link to the posting on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9DHXRILDK8

A skit by some chick named Ruby Pan about English as she is spoken in Singapore.

Here's a link to the posting on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FzNXIZY1p0

Another skit about speaking Singlish. Damn... just what the hell do they teach in those international schools? Kinda surreal watching 13 year old gwai chai (caucasian kids) speak like Phua Chu Kang.

Here's a link to the posting on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxIJ9swGFUQ

This guy is a lecturer at NTU (Nanyang Tech University). He's asking for annual feedback about his teaching from his students. Some of the feedback is damn good.

Here's a link to the posting on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rg7Dl7n8bY

Sunday, October 22, 2006

100th Blog Milestone - Reflections

This is my 100th blog posting. It's more than 5 months since I first started blogging. And damn, a lot of stuff's happened since then.

Since the blog started in May, things in Malaysia seems to have gone from bad to worse. Tun Mahathir went ballistic, starting a war between the devil and the deep blue sea, between the rock and a hard place, between the pot and the kettle, both of whom are as black as the hearts of men are capable of becoming. And both are bad news for Malaysians. So, the both of them are meeting up in the next day or so. What will be the result of the meeting? What lies in store for us? Will Tun M or Abdullah Badawi win? If you ask me, whoever wins, you can be sure that the average Malaysian like you and me will still be on the losing side.


Race relations are at it's lowest point since,.. since I don't know when. The NEP is being continued indefinitely. Merely questioning the validity of the methodology used to measure the variables underlying the NEP is seen as an attack on Malays and the govt. Just ask Dr Lim Teck Ghee, formerly of ASLI. The fact that the NEP is now justified on "facts" that nobody can question or dispute means that the NEP, effectively, no longer needs to be justified.

Indeed, the evolving position of UMNO is that NEP is a privilege rather than assistance. What was once a noble program based on good intentions of helping the poor and disadvantaged (who happened to be Malays) has mutated into a devilish scheme to enrich a section of the population based on the notion of ketuanan Melayu or Malay lordship.

And all this is made worse by the fact that the Malay population, many of whom are still rural, poor and disadvantaged - simply do not see, or do not want to see, that the section of population being filthily enriched by the NEP is a small, elitist group. And this group has no place for them. The elite like being rich and they like to keep the club exclusive.The average Malay fails to see that the NEP has victimised them like it has everyone else. And for them, it's worse because they also bear the indignity of being used as an excuse, as scapegoats for what is largely wrong with Malaysia. And as I've alluded to before,... in order for the elite to champion their poor cousins (so that they enrich themselves from the NEP)... well, they need to have their poor cousins stay poor, don't they? If the poor become rich, who's left to champion? So let me ask any of my Malay countrymen reading this: Who, really... has the most incentive to keep the Malay majority impoverished?

If the NEP is to succeed, and for it not to tear Malaysia apart at the seams, the NEP must... must be justified and implemented on terms purely based on the economic situation of each citizen. If you're poor, you get help. You become rich, you're off the god damn wagon. Think about it, that'll work, wouldn't it? And it's inscrutably fair to everyone, isn't it? Well... maybe not to the rich who enjoy getting richer at the expense of the poor getting poorer.

Ah... the First Son-in-Law, worth a cool 9 million in his first year in politics... he'll be the death of us all.
Then we've got the thorny issue of religion. Recent developments have not been positive. Like I mentioned in my solution to article 11, the muslims want respect for their religion, and the non-muslims just want to be left alone. The achievement of both is not mutually exclusive, you know. I outlined a solution that tightens up conversions. Conversions are the flashpoints of religious conflict, giving rise to situations like apostasy and conflicting muslim and non-muslim interests. If we make damn sure that any conversions that take place are fully considered, that the consequences fully provided for,... we will minimise and eliminate these flashpoints.

The war on corruption promised by PM Abdullah Badawi seems to have stalled. Tun Mahathir made some serious allegations about money politics during the recent UMNO divisional delegate elections where it allegedly takes only RM200 to corrupt someone. If that's true, that will mean the PM's promise to stamp out money politics has come to naught.

We also have 3 municipal councillors from one family in the same council. One of them built a bungalow without approval and didn't pay his property dues for 12 years. How he was never legally pursued by the council or how he still became a councillor is a case of "you know, I know lah". The MB for Selangor has said that he will keep his councillor's seat because of his position in UMNO. A little ways back, the close-one-eye MP for Jasin had several run-ins with the customs dept. No action's been taken against him yet, and I'm not holding my breath. Politicians seem to be more and more beyond the reach of the law.

And the most depressing is that while Pak Lah has ticked them off, he and his administration has simply shied away from the hard questions:

  • Where do these politicians get the money to build multi-million ringgit mansions in the first place?
  • How come Zakaria was able to buy land which is valued by the market at RM1.3 million for merely RM180,000?
  • Besides a RM24,000 fine, which is nothing more than a slap on the wrist (the marble flooring in one room probably costs more than that already), shouldn't these "LEADERS" (and I'm using this word very, very loosely here) be subject to sterner punishments simply because they are leaders who took advantage of their positions and betrayed the people's trust,... besides breaking the law?
  • How can leaders and politicians be measured by the same yardstick used to measure laymen? Shouldn't those in positions of leadership, privilege and responsibility be held to higher ethical standards and codes of conduct? They are rewarded disproportionately compared to mere laymen, and therefore, should be punished disproportionately as well!
  • Malaysians have a right to demand no less than absolute fidelity from their leaders.
  • How can they allowed to remain UMNO leaders, MPs and councillors? Why should Malaysians be forced to tolerate leaders who abuse their positions and ride roughshod over the law?The police force.... there's still no independent commission and we have a new IGP (Inspector General of Police). He's recommended pay rises roundly for the police force and has just recently transferred (and promoted) scores of senior policemen. Will this improve the performance of the police force? We'll just have to wait and see. For now, I'll just take that "Saya Anti Rasuah" badge on the breast of their tunics with a little pinch of salt. And the civil service... the following cartoon says it all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"What's Wrong with Deeparaya?" Musings of an Infidel.

Not too long ago, we had the protests against the Interfaith Commission (IFC), Article 11 and the powers of the civil court over religious (read: Muslim) matters being tested by one high profile case after another.

And we also had a proclaimation a while back by a govt cleric that joint celebrations of Hari Raya and another festival like Deepavali (Deeparaya) or Chinese New Year (Kongsiraya) were haram or contrary to the principles of Islam. Now his colleagues have recently pickup up the baton and reinforced the religious policy-makers' opposition to free mutton curry and pampadam at your neighbour's house.
And it seems like religious intolerance is like bad weather. When it rains, it pours. Deeparaya is being picked on again. Employees of Takaful Insurance have been told not to wish their customers "Selamat Hari Deepavali".

One time, it's funny. Two times, the joke's getting old. Now, I'm not so sure if a Muslim's akidah or faith is really so fragile (as the clerics would have you believe) that if he just so much as stands next to a guy wearing the wrong perfume, he will end up doubting the existence of the almighty.

I just don't know where this intolerance is coming from. But then again, I am a godless infidel, no less.

Why are these clerics so concerned about LOOKING religious in public, rather than truly BEING religious in their homes and their hearts? Why is so much importance placed on superficial FORM, and so much less on true SUBSTANCE?

And why are the clerics focusing on only certain aspects of Islam? Why focus only on the covering of aurat (modest dressing), close proximity of males and females, adultery and public displays of piety? Where is the practice of universal values that Islam prescribes? Why, in comparison, do the clerics speak so little about the values of fairness, justice, honour, charity and respect?

And I cannot understand why these clerics are so afraid that muslims will lose their faith due to such trivial and inconsequential things like wishing his friend happiness on their day of celebration, or joining in SOCIAL festivities which main purpose is to promote friendship and mutual respect, not evangelism.

Is a Muslim's faith so easily shaken? Most my muslim friends are the most pious and god-fearing people I know. I just do not accept that they go home lesser muslims after enjoying a hearty halal meal at my non-Muslim home during Chinese New Year. And I suspect... that they don't accept it as well.

Intellectually Property Rights - Right or Wrong?

This is an interesting article about Intellectual Property (IP) Rights, and how it all seems to be skewed towards the protection of the rights owners - even if it seems detrimental to the rights of everyone else. I particularly like how IP Rights holders are likened to "RENT SEEKERS". And all this comes at a time when Asian governments are taking more action against those who are deemed to have infringed on IP rights. From taking action against mall building management for "tolerating/encouraging" IP pirates on their premises in Malaysia, to the recent arrest of 3 mp3 downloaders in Singapore (due to a tip-off from RIAS, the Recording Industry Association of Singapore). Below is an article of RIAS making police reports against 25 more individual music downloaders.
So, what do I think of IP rights?

I think it has all gone overboard. I respect the IP rights of songwriters, authors, software developers etc... but I think they are GROSSLY IRRESPONSIBLE in the way they carry out their business.

IP owners operate their businesses using technology designed to be as convenient and as accessible to as many people as possible ie. digital data which is easily stored, copied, shared and transmitted. They use digital data to store & sell their IP because it lowers their cost of doing business (increasing their margins). However this practice also makes it ridiculously easy for other people to store, copy, share and transmit that same IP. More importantly, it makes it IMPOSSIBLE for IP owners to CONTROL who can manipulate their IP.

So, what have IP owners done? They have somehow persuaded the authorities to make the USERS responsible to CONTROL the IP ON BEHALF of the owners. This is PURE and UTTER RUBBISH!

Let me illustrate using a comparative.

Imagine that you sell fruits (IP). The cheapest way for you to sell fruit is to put a basket of it at the entrance of the train station (DIGITAL DATA). You put up a sign asking customers to take what they want from the basket and then pay by tossing the money into basket. You leave the basket of fruit unattended (EASE OF COPYING, SHARING and TRANSMISSION).

Now, who do you think should be held responsible if someone takes the fruit without paying? Should the person taking the fruit (mp3 downloader) be blamed? Yes. Should the train station manager (shopping mall mgt) be blamed? Maybe. But how can it be, that the fruit seller is blameless for leaving his damned fruit unattended?

Should the fruit seller be allowed to simply leave the basket of fruit and walk away, and then blame people who are tempted by the lack of security to take the fruit without paying?

Isn't this called ENTRAPMENT? When the police conduct vice raids, undercover policewomen cannot solicit men. They have to wait for men to proposition them. Solicitation creates an OPPORTUNITY for those men to break the law (an opportunity which they would not have had otherwise). To solicit, tempt or encourage those men in any way would have made the undercover policewomen ACCESSORIES to the crime. So, by the same logic, isn't the fruit seller doing the same thing by leaving his fruits unattended, tempting every passerby with the ease by which they can be stolen?

And why should fruit be so special? For every other type of property, it is the owners' responsibility to make sure they are safe and secure. Their liability rises if they cannot show that they have ensured the security of their property. Why should fruit be different? Aren't they just as guilty for NEGLIGENTLY leaving their property in harm's way? How much sympathy should you get if your car is stolen because you left the door open and keys in the ignition?

If airports and customs can penalise passengers for contrabrand put into their baggage when it is left unattended, then why can't we penalise the fruit seller?!

So, shouldn't the IP owners be forced to change their business model, instead of blaming everyone else for what is essentially their own stupidity & laziness? Should everyone else be penalised for their reluctance and inability to keep up with the rapid changes in how IT is used?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Alex Yoong, Finally....

A few years back, nobody would have thunk it. Alex was driving for Minardi, the perpetual whipping boys of F1 at that time (now it's Super Aguri).

He really wasn't that good in the lower formulas and touring cars / sport cars before, so it wasn't much of a surprise that he wasn't very good in F1 either.

He was spinning off, setting painfully slow lap times and basically spending each weekend being a moving "BERHENTI. Pemeriksaan Polis" signboard on the race track. To make things worse, he was partnered with Mark Webber. And as we know, Webber's pretty damn good, scoring points in his debut race.

So, Alex drove bad, and his much more capable team mate made him look a lot worse. And the Malaysian public didn't waste any time ridiculing him, calling him names, telling him he was useless and wasting the public's money. Basically, he was the human equivalent of Proton. I know, because I did my share of Alex-bashing in the forums and during long teh tarik sessions at SS2, SS4 mamaks.

Anyway, when Alex got into this A1 GP thing last year, nobody had high hopes. Everybody's mood was encouraging, "yeah, go for it"... but our hearts were actually thinking "maybe it won't be so god damn embarassing this time". Despite several reasonable showings and a podium last year, the Malaysian public weren't that much convinced. We still basically figured he wasn't that fast, maybe all the other cars were just slow?

So, imagine our surprise when the Negaraku "berkumandang-ed" yesterday when Alex won both the Sprint and Feature races at the Czech A1 GP. And though I can't be bothered to confirm, I think he's the first Asian race winner too.

Congratulations Alex. You showed that you are a race winner. Even when we didn't believe in you, you believed in yourself, and that's important. Malaysia is proud of you and we thank you for giving us, the Malaysian motorsports fans, something to be proud of. (Besides Karamjit lah. Sori ya, Karam, you WRC Group N champion, you).

Keep it up, and maybe we'll take back all those nasty things we said about you the last time around. Remember, everybody loves a winner ;p

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Suzuki Swift Sport 2006. JWRC homologated but cheap!

Update Feb 2007
Update Jan 2007

I have some shots of the Swift JWRC Super1600 taken during the Singapore Motorshow 2006. Managed to get some good shots of engine bay. I was extremely surprised that the rally car has a single throttlebody rather than a quad (the single's big though, maybe 60-70mm like the Nissan SR16VE N1, with supersized intake plenum), carbon air intake and oil cooler.

SUZUKI SPORT Racing 2006 Catalogue (excerpt fr. SuzukiSport site) http://www.suzukisport.com/english/sales/catalogue/inquiry.html
The all new SUZUKI SPORT Racing Catalogue 2006 is now on sale. All the parts including the scheduled parts coming out until 2006 May is published. From all new Swift Sport to Escudo (Grand Vitara), Cappuccino is covered in this catalogue. All pages are in color print. Surely satisfy the owner of the Suzuki.

If you have any questions, or would like to have the quote, or purchase, please contact to us with parts name, parts number and your address: info@suzukisport.com We will answer to your questions, give you the quotation including the shipping fee. Please note that product shipping fee needs to be covered by customers.


This car is S$59,000 in Singapore. That's roughly the price of a Honda City 1.5 Vtec, Toyota Vios 1.5G, Hyundai Accent 1.6 or Proton Gen2 1.6 Highline Edition.

But hang on a minute.. it has 128hp, a 6800rpm rev happy engine, VVT, ABS (Antilock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), 5-stud wheel hubs, 5-speed close ratio gearbox, sports suspension and ARBs and does a 8.9s century sprint topping out at a mfr 200kmh. It has 4 disc brakes (F: ventilated R: solid, I'm still trying to find out the rotor size and the pictures look like single pot calipers) and 6 airbags. The front splitter, side skirts, rear spoiler, rear bumper extensions and valance all designed to reduce lift.

How else do you know it's JWRC homologated? It's got variable high cams (I need to find out the specs), 4-1 extractor, polished intake manifold, shot-peened! + FORGED! pistons, piston oil coolers!, 11.1 compression ratio and 200mm clutch (standard is 190mm). You only see engine specs like that on turbo engines, Honda's legendary B16As, Type Rs or Nissan SR16s. Maybe the much maligned Mivec 4G92. And you'll be hard-pressed to find shot-peened, forged pistons on any unmodified engine. Certainly not in a sub S$60K road car!

Yes, the best of all is the Swift Sport's $S59,000 price tag. Remember, the price competition are Cities, Vioses, Gen2s, Wajas, Hyundai's, Kias.... and that means no competition at all!

Seriously, with engine specs like that, I'm surprised it's only 128hp. Honda gets a standard 160hp with roughly the same specs and compression in 1.6L B16A engine - without the extra tough pistons, mind you. I haven't seen one cracked open yet... but I'm fairly sure with some judicious high rev remapping and a wanton disregard for emissions & fuel consumption, the MA16 has plenty of modification potential.

I suspect if you move the powerband right up to 7500-8000rpm (like for the B16s and SR16s), you could potentially be looking at similar 100hp/litre output. The size of the throttle body should be a very good indicator. Anyone have the measurement or a picture of that? In any case, the forged, shot-peened pistons with piston oil coolers practically promise lots of untapped potential from what seems to me, to be a seriously over-engineered engine. It simply makes no economical sense for a manufacturer to put all that icing on a 128hp cake without an ulterior motive.

The only reason you'd want components like that in an engine is if you want lots of compression (which it has) or boost, lots of revs and run very aggressive ignition and/or valve timing. I can only think that Suzuki's built the headroom into the engine so that the JWRC rally car (which has to run the same base engine as the road car) has the best possible base to ramp up power from the rather pedestrian 128hp to JWRC levels (typically low 200s for the Super1600s). And homologations have the added advantage of making available a good range of aftermarket parts from the big brands with the express objective to do just that.

Based on the specs alone, if there's one car on my Christmas list, it's this one! So instead of spending over 50K on a practical Honda City or homely Toyota Vios, Proton, Kia or Hyundai, I'd much rather put it into a Swift Sport.

Forged pistons are S$1,000 a set for something cheap like JEs, 50-100% for more refined Tomei or HKS, shotpeening at a machine shop costs around S$800 for 4 pistons and rods, plus you'd have to pay another $1,000 for blue printing after that or risk some unwanted resonance. Retrofitting piston oil coolers is anything from $1000-2000 if you can find a tuner who knows what he's doing. I'd say you'd probably pay S$5,000-6,000 in Singapore to get all that engine work done (plus the labour). And you'd lose the 3 year factory warranty. By that reckoning, the S$5,000 extra you pay to upgrade from the 1.5 Swift GL(A) to the 1.6 Swift Sport is worth every cent. You get 100cc more, the better seats, rear disc brakes, 16" wheels and directional tyres, better stereo, bodykit etc for free.

The next driver's car up the price bracket, worthy of being competition (ie. possessing a similarly good base for modifications) to this 2006 Swift Sport, is the 4WD turbocharged S$85,000 Subaru WRX.

A brochure with some good detailed specs is available from http://www.suzuki.co.nz/auto/whatshot.html?featured=1

This is a 14 second NZ tv ad of the 2006 Suzuki Swift Sport. FWD but shown oversteering through the bends with a quick heel&toe shot. Fantastic.

The Swift Sport being put through its paces on the mountain roads of Japan. Mt Akina maybe?

Swift Sport reviewed by Fifth Gear.

Dang! That twit Alonso is going to win this one.. :(

I almost cried when Michael Schumacher's Ferrari began smoking 17 laps from the finish.

I threw my can of Pepsi at the TV when Alonso waltzed past Schumi's stricken car, to take P1 (first place).

I prayed that Alonso's Renault would get a puncture or kiss a tyre wall. If there was a god, he would have. I am now an avowed atheist.

My gut wrenched as Fernando Alonso took the checkered flag to win in Suzuka. Did you ever notice blue and yellow are hideous colours?

Dang... that twit Alonso is going to win this one (2006 F1 Drivers World Championship)!

2006Japanese GP (provisional) result, Suzuka, 53 laps
1. ALONSO Renault +1h23m53.413s
2. MASSA Ferrari +16.151s
3. FISICHELLA Renault +23.953s
4. BUTTON Honda +34.101s
5. RAIKKONEN McLaren +43.596s
6. TRULLI Toyota +46.717s
7. R SCHUMACHER Toyota +48.869s
8. HEIDFELD BMW +1m16.095s
9. KUBICA BMW +1m16.932s
10. ROSBERG Williams +1 lap
11. DE LA ROSA Mclaren +1 lap1
2. BARRICHELLO Honda +1 lap
13. DOORNBOS Red Bull +1 lap
14. LIUZZI Toro Rosso +1 lap
15. SATO Super Aguri +1 lap
16. MONTEIRO Spyker +2 laps
17. YAMAMOTO Super Aguri +3 laps
18. SPEED Toro Rosso +5 laps
R. WEBBER Williams +13 laps
R. M SCHUMACHER Ferrari +16 laps
R. COULTHARD Red Bull +17 laps
R. ALBERS Spyker +31 laps

What to do about the haze and Indonesia?

It was that bad yesterday. I had to shut every window in the house and not go out at all the whole day. You could see the hazy smog in front of your face. And boy, could you smell it too. Like standing next to a BBQ,.... without the food... the coals and the barby.

The PSI yesterday stood at a 9-year high of 150. Anything over 100 is unhealthy. Although the NEA says it's only hazardous past 200, it looked pretty hazardous to me yesterday.

Today, the PSI has improved tremendously. From around 140 when I went to bed, it was below 30 when I went out for my traditional pre-F1 race brunch. No doubt due to the changing wind direction rather than any concerted effort by the Indonesian authorities.

So now, with my stomach full and my temper cooled by the clear sky and fresh air, I will pen a few observations about how Indonesia's neighbours ie. Malaysia and Singapore, can help Indonesia deal with this problem.

The haze is caused by the smoke from raging forest fires in Indonesia. The fires are started and used to clear land for agriculture. Question is, who wants to clear land?


(1) smallholders, and

(2) plantations.

Smallholders. Why do smallholders use fire to clear land? Simply because it is the cheapest way. The only investment is a box of matches. And smallholders are generally impoverished and can't afford much more than that. Threatening them with laws and regulations won't fill their stomachs and send their kids to school.

However, the right question to ask is why do smallholders need to clear land every year? It's because they plant only once a year, and during the non-planting season, the land lies fallow (idle) and is soon overrun by weeds, woody shrubs and returning forests.

Isn't the solution obvious? Plant more than once a year. Keep the land working the whole year and the annual land clearing exercise won't be necessary.

How? Do what Malaysia and Thailand has done. Turn agriculture from a subsistence industry to an income generating one.

Food crops must be improved to generate multiple harvests a year. Plant good paddy breeds which grow and ripen fast. Paddy fields in Malaysia and Thailand are worked all year and produce at least 2 harvests annually. Japonica rice fields in Taiwan and Japan produce up to 3 harvests a year. 4 harvests are not unheard of.

There are quick maturing food crops like maize (jagung), sweet potatoes, tapioca etc.

Cash crops are also an alternative. Most yield multiple harvests a year eg. vegetables and fruits, and the rest is generally perennial eg. coco, coffee, tea etc.

The main thing about year round agriculture is the fertility of the land. Land which is planted all year round loses it's fertility (nutrients and minerals) quickly. It needs to be left fallow for a period in order to regenerate.

So how do you avoid this need to leave the land idle?

(1) Crop rotation. Different crops need different nutrients and minerals from the soil. It's fairly simple to plan the rotation of a certain series of crops on a regular cycle to allow nutrients depleted by Crop A to be regenerate by the time Crop B and Crop C have been harvested. And certain plants also deposit specific nutrients and minerals into the soil as they grow or when their stalks or roots are left to decompose after harvest. With the right combination and timing of crops, the soil can actually be made more fertile for the next Crop B - by having previously planted Crop A - compared to leaving it fallow for a season.

(2) Active fertilisation and chemical conditioning of the soil. This supplements the nutrients and minerals in the soil so that fertility is continuous.

How can Malaysia and Singapore help? Malaysia has vast experience with research into many crops that yield multiple harvests annually and Singapore has a thriving chemical industry. They can certainly help Indonesia smallholders move away from subsistence farming to high yield food or cash cropping. In addition, Indonesia benefits from not only improved agricultural methods but also an opportunity to reduce poverty amongst it's rural folk.

Plantations. Why do plantations burn to clear land? Same as the smallholders... to save money. The difference however is that plantations are corporates which have the money to clear land responsibly (ecologically and environmentally) but they don't because of there's more profit to burn.

The solution is equally obvious. Hit them where it hurts. Open burning and clearing land using forest fires is illegal in Indonesia. Apply the law and apply it without fear or favour.

I have seen the agricultural bureaucracy in Indonesia and have first hand knowledge of the hoops agricultural companies have to jump through before they are allowed to operate in Indonesia. As such, I have no doubt that if the Indonesian authorities wanted to, they can easily take any companies guilty of illegal burning to task and penalise them heavily.

So, why don't they? Why does the Indonesian government throw its hands up and say there's nothing more they can do? Why, when they know exactly which companies are responsible for which plantations and have satellite photos to show exactly which plantations are being burnt?

I don't want to speculate on the workings of the Indonesia government, but let's just say that Indonesia is not ranked 140th (out of 159 countries) on Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perception Index for no reason.

No smoke without fire, yes? (No pun intended).

So what can Malaysia and Singapore do?

Actually, nothing much on a govt to govt level, besides more useless diplomacy. What are you going to do? Send your police to Indonesia or use our navies to enforce an embargo on the country? We can try to pressure Indonesia within ASEAN and Non-Aligned Nations organisations just like how we pressured Myanmar. Note however that Indonesia is hardly the 90 pound economic weakling that Myanmar was. They also outnumber Malaysians and Singaporeans combined, by 4 to 1. And they are close enough for their soldiers to swim over. These soldiers did so... once, 40+ years ago and their citizens are still doing it now.

But not all is lost. There are several measures we can use against the plantation companies themselves, without directly offending the Indonesian govt:

  • Use trade sanctions to penalise the companies responsible for the burning. Stop imports from or implement levies on these companies. Stop them from using our ports to move their product internationally. Stop any ships carrying their products from using Malaysian & Singaporean waters and ports. Detain and delay these ships if possible. Blacklist these companies and ban the sale of machinery or chemicals etc to them.
  • Freeze their funds in Singapore and Malaysian banks. Also freeze the funds of companies held by or associated to, these plantation companies (I suspect this might be very effective). Freeze their investments in property and stock exchanges in our countries as well.
  • Close the offices of these companies in Singapore and Malaysia. Stop the movement of employees of these companies into or out of Singapore and Malaysia.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The haze is back, and it's bad.

You can see it in the photos. They look dull and gloomy, but it's not the camera or my photography skills.

It does look exactly like that standing there... right in the middle of Orchard Rd at 12.46pm. Yup middle of a sunny afternoon... if the sun could penetrate the haze lah.

First pic is Heeren (HMV) and the second is Cathay Cineleisure.

And you can definitely smell it too. A dusky, smoky aroma of wood grilled chicken... err, no, that's Kenny Rogers Roasters... but close enough.

The API's 66 today. It's bad if it's over 51 and dangerous if it tops 100.