Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Proton Gen2 sedan. More of the same.

Below are a couple sneak peeks at Proton's upcoming Gen2 sedan. I've commented quite a bit on the problem with Proton... one of which is their obsession with a single, narrow market segment.

And at a time when the market at Proton's price range is clamouring for space maximised mini-MPVs (Perodua Myvi) and flat floor, short bonnet large cabin sedans (Honda City and Toyota Vios), Proton still insists on launching one cramped sub-compact after another.

Besides the Perdana... aren't all of Proton's models more or less the same thing? And don't they cannibalise each other and raise Proton's costs unnecessarily due to all the different chassis, engines of different makes, body panels and components being used? To me, Proton has only a single product offering ie. a sub-compact, with sedan and hatch variants. The worse thing is that they've gone to great lengths to make life difficult for itself in terms of the huge, unrelated number of parts used - which imho was done solely to increase the number of parts they needed to stock and develop, thereby printing money for their politically connected suppliers.



Credit for Gen2 sedan photos: sizzlingnoodles




New Gen2 sedan, Waja, Wira and Iswara/Saga... it's the same 4 door sub-compact sedan with 1.3-1.8 liter engines. Best thing is, they are ALL being sold at the same time, to the same people. A better managed car company would have phased out the older models before introducing the newer ones, so that cannibalisation is minimised in order to maximise the volume of the higher margin new models.

Only Proton's elite marketing and strategy team has this absurd idea that there are standalone, independent market segments for each of their "models" ie. a Gen2 sedan market, a Waja market, a Wira market and an Iswara market... instead of an overall sub-compact market. That's what you get for hiring people solely because of their political connections or racial background.

If I were running Proton, I wouldn't even bother with the Gen2 sedan. Scrap it altogether. It's a waste of time because they already have another 3 other cars competing in the same segment, in the form of the Waja, Wira and Iswara. If they insist on launching it, then phase out the Waja, Wira and Iswara, put the fear of god into suppliers and production to improve the build quality of the new Gen2 sedan, and then direct all available resources into launching a mini-MPV.




And what can I say about the Gen2, Satria Neo and Savvy? Whether 2 or 4 doors, they're pretty much the same cramped hatch. I can't imagine why Proton needs so many hatches... In dire financial straits, Proton needs to gamble on a last ditch winning model that caters to the largest market segment in order to have any chance of surviving. But instead, it keeps churning new variants of the same tired old car that nobody wants... possibly just to fill the order books of suppliers and keep their workers employed.

Let me be the first to say, adios Proton. If the govt does not reinstate some form of protection or resume wasting taxpayer money propping it up, my bets are on its quick demise in the next few years or so.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Foreigners need Singapore, but Singapore needs them more.

This letter which appeared in the Today newspaper is typical of the attitude of Singaporean heartlanders* when it concerns professional immigrants (or "foreign talent" as the govt likes to call them).

* in Malaysia-speak - heartlander is similar to "kampung / Jinjang / ulu / ah beng-ah lian."

Heartlanders are pissed off about foreign talent because:

1. Foreign talents are taking jobs away from Singaporeans. They help themselves to the economic opportunities in Singapore, but...

2. ... they decline to become citizens, preferring instead to remain PRs (Permanent Residents) or WPs (Work Permits)....

3. ...because they don't want to shoulder an equal burden for the sustenance of Singapore in the form of national service.

Let me try to enlighten Singaporeans who are still oblivious to their 'situation'... or predicament as I'd call it.

Foreigners create jobs in Singapore. They take up jobs which wouldn't exist in the first place if they weren't there. Howzat, you ask?

Singapore has a shrinking local population. They don't breed enough to replace themselves. What follows is a dwindling population that gets older and older, and less and less productive. Without foreigners to supply the additional hands and wallets, many jobs wouldn't exist. Simply because there would be no critical mass in terms of talent (pool of people of sufficient nationalities, cultures and skills to employ from) and market (greater demand for goods and services) to create those jobs in the first place. Foreign talent is like foreign investment. They bring resources along with them to Singapore, and the economic multiplier works its magic. Without foreigners, Singaporeans are deluding themselves if they think that the big MNCs, international trade, tourists and high value industries would have been there anyway.

Singaporeans cannot keep fantasising that they have somehow singlehandedly produced this grand economic buffet, and foreigners are only now coming at the closing stages to tuck in to it. The Singapore economy is a product of both Singaporean and foreign hands and both parties partake equitably from it. Both reap only what they themselves have sown.

As for national service... think of it this way. Singaporeans spend a couple of years doing it. After which they think they are Jesus Christ, having "sacrificed and suffered" for all mankind. Wake up and smell the roses. Foreign talent uproot themselves from their homes, families and everything dear to them... for tens of years (if not permanently) to come to Singapore. And in the process, they expose themselves to the unestimable vagaries and hardships of migration and take up jobs that Singaporeans are unwilling to do, or are unable to do in sufficient numbers. That is the migrant's sacrifice for Singapore. If you ask me, doing a couple years of army training at a camp 30 minutes away from their HDB homes via MRT or feeder bus - pales in the harsh light of comparison.
Some foreigners, like the Taiwanese and Koreans have put in their years of national service... albeit in a country other than Singapore. How does one reconcile that?

In addition, Singaporeans themselves migrate overseas in large numbers, and usually at the most productive stage of their lives (economically and biologically). This is an issue which heartlanders seem to ignore... choosing instead to harp on 'unreliable' PRs / WPs instead of questioning 'disloyal' citizens. Who do they think values Singapore more? PRs and WPs who are actually there on the island or citizens who are somewhere else? Who's paying Singapore taxes? Who's standing in front of their faces right now, pissing them off, stepping up to be counted where it matters?

Lastly, former Indonesian President Habibie once said that Singapore is a little red dot in a sea of green. Singapore depends on migrants from other countries to survive. That is a fact of life. In many ways, the dependency is largely reciprocal. Singapore needs foreign skills and labour to maintain it's affluence and way of life. Foreigners need Singapore to improve their standards of living.

But at the end of the day, though Singaporeans may only admit it within the deepest recesses of their minds, they know that the relationship is not equal. Without foreigners, Singapore disappears into oblivion. Without Singapore, foreigners simply go elsewhere. They will only keep coming to Singapore and keep its economic wheel turning, if Singapore manages to keep itself attractive to them. Like for foreign investment, one of the main attractions is the freedom to come and go.

Foreigners need Singapore, but Singapore needs them more. Stop bitching and live with it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Road Rage caught on camera

I don't know what happens when people get behind the wheel or handlebars (as the case may be), but they sometimes get transformed into monsters. Over-reacting, and with violence, to any perceived provocation by other road users.

Is it the stress of modern life in general or the stress of the daily commute in particular or is it that these are simply dysfunctional people who think they can get away with violence because they happen to be already sitting in their getaway vehicle?

Road Rage caught on Camera (NST)

KUALA LUMPUR: A motorcyclist went on a rampage and smashed the window of a car which had earlier grazed his motorcycle along the Federal Highway in front of the Angkasapuri complex yesterday.


PTPTN study loan defaulters are on govt missions

I was reading an article in Sun2Surf about the low attendance of MPs and Ministers in Parliament sessions during the Ijok by-elections. In the article, some interesting references were made about an amendment to the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) (Amendment) Bill 2007.

On Wednesday (April 25), shortly after the bill was opened for debate, most of those who rose to speak described as harsh a provision that would allow the corporation to enlist police and the immigration help to prevent loan defaulters from leaving the country.

Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) described the provision as draconian. Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Bandar Kuching) said that the corporation should require such a provision speaks volume for its lack of confidence in bringing loan defaulters to court.

Abdul Ghapur Salleh (BN-Kalabakan) said: "Please withdraw the harsh provision as people will not vote BN if it is implemented."

Mahadzir Mohd Khir (BN-Sungai Petani) said it would be most embarrassing for [the] defaulter, probably due to no reason of his, to be prevented from boarding his plane at the airport as he was about to depart for some government mission.
There you have it! NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY (not the Opposition MPs, and certainly not the govt ones) seems to be acting in the best interests of the country.

Karpal Singh (DAP) is opposing the amendment for the sake of putting up an opposition.

Chong (DAP) opposes it only to highlight the fact that a government agency / ministry is incompetent.

Ghapur (UMNO) thinks it will make voters dislike him.

Mahadzir (UMNO) is afraid of embarrassing the defaulters!

Why aren't any of you concerned about NOT collecting the monies owed? Why aren't any of you concerned about making sure that these bastards do not continue cheating taxpayers?

Is it because many of these motherfuckers... opps, defaulters are working in the govt?

And before someone decides to sue me, I didn't say it... the extremely clever Mahadzir Mohd Khir (BN-Sungai Petani) did. In addition to saying that defaulters could be embarrassed, he added that the said embarassment was likely to come at a time when the defaulters were about to "depart for some government mission."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Will Thais adopt the Malaysian concept of 'National' religion?

Reading an article about Thai monks demonstrating in Bangkok to make Buddhism the national religion in Thailand's new constitution, this sentence caught my attention.

Some Thais are concerned any declaration would further alienate the country's Muslim minority in the South.
It'll be rather interesting if Buddhism is indeed legislated as the national religion. With Buddhists having an even bigger religious majority in Thailand compared to Muslims in Malaysia, we'll have to see if the Thais adopt the tactics of the Malaysian religious establishment like:

- demolishing and denying construction approvals for places of worship of the minority religions,
- stealing corpses of alleged converts to the national religion,
- abducting citizens allegedly of national religion & children of alleged national religion parents,
- insisting that citizens of minority religions be subjected to the laws and courts of the national religion, or
- making the national religion the basis of govt conduct and national culture.

If this comes to pass, we'll see how the religious terrorists in southern Thailand like them apples.

Bernama becomes spin doctoring BN bitch

This is an example of RUBBISH JOURNALISM at work.

What has Anwar got to do with Wolfowitz's current problems? What was the purpose of putting Anwar's name on the headline, if not hoping to tar him with a scandal totally unrelated to him?

If this is the type of garbage partisan journalism that Bernama represents, it seems like the appointment of Yong Soo Heong as Bernama Editor-in-Chief a few short weeks ago has done absolutely nothing but destroy the credibility of this news agency.

Is this the "quality, professional" mainstream journalism that bloggers are supposed to emulate?

Rubbish! Absolute farkin rubbish! I'm too disgusted for words.

Anwar's Ally Now Battling For Survival After Pay Scandal
April 26, 2007 16:32 PM
http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/printable.php?id=258925

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 (Bernama) -- While Former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is battling it out to win some votes for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Saturday's Ijok by-election, his longtime ally Paul Wolfowitz is battling for survival as World Bank President.

There have been mounting calls for Wolfowitz's resignation after it was discovered that he had approved a promotion and hefty pay rise for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, an employee at the World Bank, before she was assigned to work at the U.S. State Department.

Scrapping 15 year old cars.

Last night's TV3's news program, Buletin Utama, ran an interesting sms poll. It asked - with regards to banning cars that are more than 15 years old - whether the ban will unduly benefit "certain parties" (pihak tertentu).

Firstly, what does an age-scrapping policy mean? It means that anyone who intends to use a car for anything more than a 15 year period, will now have to buy 2 cars, instead of one. For eg. where I can now derive the use of a car for 30 years from just buying 1 car - this policy will force me to buy 2 cars in order to derive the same 30 years of utilisation.

If all Malaysians kept their cars for 30 years, this policy will effectively double the current car market from 500,000 units a year to 1,000,000 units per year. But of course, there are many of us who change cars more frequently than once every 15 years and won't be affected by a scrapping policy. That's why a post-policy car market will lie somewhere in between the extremes of 500,000 and 1,000,000 units. What is certain though, is that the car market will grow tremendously.

And it really annoys me that the car (and car loan) industry would make such a bare-faced proposal in order to boost their sales... instead of looking at improving their own practices like pricing and service or increasing their productivity. You fuckers are businesses. Why don't you act like one? Nobody owes you a living. I don't see you giving your customers discounts when the times are good.

What irks me even more is that the govt is giving their proposal the time of day. Has the govt even thought of the impact of such an inane proposal on its citizens? Has the govt thought of how the additional costs will need to be defrayed or does it expect the public to shoulder the additional burden entirely? Does the govt realise that this is no more than an attempt to rob the public in order to keep these inefficient and unviable businesses in business? Does the govt see as I do, that this is a golden opportunity to weed out and terminate all those leeches and parasites in the car industry? Can anybody tell me how many directors and shareholders of these businesses affiliated to the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Car Dealers and Credit Companies Association - are also UMNO/BN office holders?

No decision yet on scrapping of 15-year-old cars
Pauline Puah
http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=17737

KUALA LUMPUR (April 25, 2007): The government has not made a decision on a proposal to scrap cars that are more than 15 years old, Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ng Lip Yong said.

"What was reported in newspapers was only a suggestion. A meeting held at the Transport Ministry on March 16 to discuss the proposal by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Car Dealers and Credit Companies Association did not make any decision.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Doing what they know best... mengamuk.

Do these two UMNO "leaders" (and I use that word more loosely than the panties of Kazakhstan's #3 prostitute) look like victims or aggressors?

One likes to wave a keris around ostensibly to be bathed by Chinese blood... otherwise known as the 'Education' Minister. The other says it's not wrong to fight for one's race, even if it means insulting and threatening other races.

That's the future of UMNO for ya. Scary, isn't it?

Photos taken from Malaysia-today.net:

Civic Type R and Megane F1 R26 to be launched in Singapore

The south islanders have it good. The authorised dealers of Honda and Renault are bringing in some serious competition for the WRX and Golf GTi. The 200-250hp market sector is getting rather interesting. Below are print ads from yesterday's newspapers.




Saturday, April 21, 2007

Phantom of the Opera @Spore Esplanade - An ergonomic nightmare

I had watched the Phantom of the Opera about 2 weeks ago. It's currently showing at the Singapore Esplanade. Well, I have never watched a play or an opera before. I never was a big fan of Western artistic culture. I like their pop culture a lot more.

So when my company was handing out free tickets, I put my hand up. I reckoned what the heck... how bad can it be? I've heard some of the songs on CD, and I genuinely enjoy a few of them. In any case, air conditioning... soft, comfy seats... if it stinks, what better place to take a nap?

I'm not the artsy fartsy, haute couture kinda guy. I'm all t-shirt, short pants and bad manners. So to me, when you've seen one gwailo "tuk-tuk chiang" (white man's Chinese opera), you've seen them all. Some of the more contemporary songs were really good though. The rest... well, suffice it to say I won't watch it if I had to pay for the ticket myself (like I said, this was a freebie).

My biggest complaint though was NOT the play itself, but the seating.

Good merciful god... the Circle 4 seats on level 4 (refer graphic) that I was in were BY FAR, WITHOUT DOUBT NOR RESERVATION, THE WORST SEATS I'VE EVER SAT IN, IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!! And this includes all manner of seating like benches at the park, stone slabs, planks on stacked bricks, airplane seats, bas kilang seats, toilet seats, foot stools and a folded newspaper on the floor.

The seats were padded, but there was NO ROOM. None for my well-endowed ass, gangly elbows and no head rest for my oversized head. The worst bit was that there was no leg room. NONE at all. The seat in front is about 2 feet lower and guess what, the back of the seat is right in front of your feet.

For 2 hours, I had to sit motionless, bolt upright while blood pooled in my trapped feet and the shrill voices of the singers drained what was left from my head. I can safely say the part of the play I enjoyed the most by far, was the 15 minute intermission. The sensation of pins and needles when circulation resumed to my lower extremities is my only lingering memory of that night.

My takeaway... Singapore Esplanade, never, ever again. Well, not in those seats anyway.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

During by-elections... The Karaoke PAYS YOU to sing!

Is this song-buying or vote-buying? I reckon this deserves a big HMMMM... from the Election Commission. According to Sun2surf...

At about 200m from a DAP centre at Machap Baru flat, MCA also organised an open-air karaoke session for the villagers.

According to a party worker, the response was overwhelming and that some 40 residents who had registered to participate were limited to sing only half of their songs due to time constraints.

Each of them would be given RM20 as a token of appreciation for singing in the karaoke session which is very popular among the households here.

Before the karaoke started, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai had given about two hours of speeches to garner support of the people in the by-election.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

N'utilisez pas les condoms. Masturbate à la place.

I totally approve of masturbation. It's good, clean fun and cost effective. And if done regularly... it helps fights prostate cancer, besides underlining the value of self sufficiency. Helps to make your forearms bigger too.

In any case, some French girly-man (get a load of his name, Jean-Marie...) agrees.

France’s Le Pen defends masturbation comments

PARIS (April 9, 2007): French far-right presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen yesterday defended his recommendation that young people should be encouraged to masturbate rather than be provided with condoms.

Le Pen first made the suggestion at a forum organised by the glossy magazine Elle on Thursday (April 5). Several presidential candidates were invited to speak at the day-long event to discuss “what women want”. His comments angered the audience of women and students at the elite Paris university where the event was held.

“When they asked me, whether I agreed with the distribution of condoms to young secondary school children, I said listen ... they could always use the ‘manu militari’ method,” he said on TV5 television. “It’s much less dangerous than using condoms.” – Reuters

More Cracking Comments about the Great Singapore Pay Increase

MONEY WELL SPENT?

While MP Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) was — like most backbenchers who spoke up yesterday — supportive of the notion of paying more for talent, he questioned the timing of the announcement.

"We have just introduced Workfare for the less well-off. (Yet) the expenditure on the civil servants and ministers’ salary increase is almost the same as that of the total Workfare Income Supplement scheme. What signal are we sending Singaporeans?"

“Has the Prime Minister lost a minister or a Permanent Secretary? I think the issue is not as urgent as it’s made to seem. Here we are in the House, (where we were) about a month ago, debating and arguing why we shouldn’t be giving our Public Assistance recipients — some 3,000 of them — another $100 monthly-assistance increase, and (now) we’re talking about million-dollar salary increases.”

“How do we answer the man-in-the-street when we’re told that about one-quarter to one-third of the expected revenue increase this year from the GST is going to be for the proposed ministerial and civil service salary increases, about $240 million, I was told?”


Opposition MP Mr Low Thia Kiang also referred to the recent debate on increasing the amounts for public assistance.

“It’s also ironic that we are consuming taxpayers’ money and … discussing how much more of a fraction of a million to pay civil servants and ministers while we haggle over additional tens of dollars to hand out to our needy and disadvantaged citizens,” he said.
BENCHMARK BLUES.

Starting salaries will also rise in June. Elite Administrative Service officers benchmarked to the top earners aged 32 in the private sector will have their annual salaries raised by 3 per cent to $384,000. Some MPs, however, saw problems in benchmarking civil servants pay to the private sector, pointing out to disparities in the risks taken by top private sector executives compared to ministers and top civil servants.

Marine Parade MP Lim Biow Chuan:

“I struggle to understand what a top Admin Officer aged 32 at grade SR9 has to worry about that will justify him receiving $363,000 a year … From many people’s perspectives, they take no personal risk and are at best, paid employees.”

Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang objected to benchmarking pay to the top performers each year in the private sector.

“By benchmarking civil servants’ annual pay against individuals who have performed well during that year, there is an implicit assumption that civil servants and ministers never make incorrect decisions. But are they truly superhuman beings, forever errorfree?”

Previous blogpost: Paying the Piper: The great Singapore civil servant salary debate
.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sickening: Singapore still dragging its feet on F1 GP.

Somehow, they are just unwilling to come right out and confirm the damn thing.

Still... when commenting on the road closures, the Foreign Minister did say that:

"we [the govt] decided to go ahead, so I hope we can minimise the inconveniences to members of the public"
"Decided" is past tense, right? But the thing is... did he mean go ahead with hosting the F1,... or go ahead with the negotiations? Like I said... sickening.

In the meantime, check out Bernie's comments about Sepang:
"It's starting to get a little shabby and looks a bit tired."

"There is rubbish all over the place and it's not really a good sign for Malaysia. We're on worldwide television and it needs to look good, much like in the beginning."
Damn, for Bernie to say something like that to the press, it's got to be pretty darn bad. Bloody disgraceful too but as Forrest Gump would say... NEP will do as NEP does. This is the kind of shit that ALWAYS HAPPENS, bar none... when the best man never wins [the contract/project].

You know what?... I've got a feeling that in Bernie's mind... we just handed the long term F1 franchise to Singapore on a silver platter. Way to go, Sepang.

Previous blogpost: Expert: No announcement on Singapore F1 until after Malaysia F1 GP

Paying the Piper: The great Singapore civil servant salary debate

This article in today's Today newspaper highlights some very good comments and questions surrounding the imminent increase in Singapore's ministerial and top civil servant salaries.

No one can dispute the need to pay the top performers the market rate. But to the Average Joe on the street, the question is... how sure is he that the top civil servants would have been top performers in the private sector?

Most of the '30-something year old entry-level superscalers' would have entered the civil service directly from school. They've never seen even one day of private sector service. And guess what?... the private sector is quite different from the civil service in terms of job security, stress, pressure and competitiveness. How do we convince the public that a high flying civil servant would have been flown just as high in a privatised sky? How can they be convinced that a top politician would have been a top entrepreneur or business person?

The public has also been told there is an issue with high rates of resignations, which makes these pay hikes necessary in the first place. And these resignations are draining top brains and talent from the civil service into the private sector and overseas. No offense but by definition, wouldn't that make the ones who stayed back... of somewhat lesser quality compared to the top performers who have apparently already left?

But at the end of the day, nobody would begrudge good pay for good work. And therein lies the crux of the issue. While salary benchmarks are transparent, the performance benchmarks are NOT as well publicised. Essentially, the public must be informed of exactly what a top civil servant achieved each year, relative to clearly stated targets - in order to be considered equivalent to a top private sector performer.

Perhaps the bulk of the pay package should be directly tied to private sector salary growth or better yet, middle and lower income salary growth. Increases in standards of living, decreases in costs of living, income per capita, better healthcare, lower unemployment, reducing the lower income gap etc are also good performance determinants. Perhaps if the civil servants salaries were tied to tangible things each Singaporean can see and touch everyday, they might be more willing to swallow the hikes.

The final decision: Top civil servants will get a pay increase of between 14% and 33%

Read the previous blogpost on this topic and from ChannelNewsAsia, here's some quick insight into the benchmarking process:

The salaries of Singapore's Ministers and administrative officers are benchmarked against the top earners in six professions.

These are bankers, lawyers, engineers, accountants, local manufacturers and employees of multi-national corporations.

The Public Service Division said these are some of the occupations that Singapore's top civil servants could have joined.

Currently, there are two benchmarks that are being used.

For the most senior Permanent Secretaries, the top eight earners in six professions are first identified.

That makes a group of 48 persons.

This group is then sorted out according to their income.

After the middle-income earner is picked out, that person's income is multiplied by two-thirds.

Based on this calculation, the private sector benchmark now stands at S$2.2 million, while that in the civil service is at S$1.21 million, which is 55 percent of the private sector salaries.

The second benchmarking is for the lowest superscale grade, where officers in the early to mid-30s enter the senior ranks.

In this exercise, the top earners aged 32 in six professions are chosen.

Their incomes are then sorted out and the 15th person in the line-up is picked out.

For this group, the Public Service Division said the benchmark has climbed again.
And if you read the previous blogpost on this topic, you'll remember that the lowest superscale grade (SR9) paid an astronomical S$371,830 per annum last year. How many 30 year olds do you know, earn that kind of salary? That's not a top performer, I reckon that's the top performer!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Chinese-based BN party bitch-slapped yet again!

First it was MCA's Ong Tee Keat for asking where govt money for Chinese schools went, and now it's Gerakan's turn to be bitch slapped for taking a mufti to task.

Federal Territory Gerakan chairman Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong yesterday apologised for his remarks about the Perak mufti, Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, during a press conference at the FT Gerakan convention here last Sunday.

“I humbly and sincerely apologise for the remarks,” he said in a press release, adding that it was made in his personal capacity.
This is just pathetic. And I think it underlines the reality that non-Malay BN component parties have virtually no power to even speak up, much less safeguard the rights and interests of the Chinese, Indians dan lain-lain, in this country. I hope the voters in Machap take this latest example of the escalating racial & religious erosion of secular Malaysia, into consideration during polling day.

And those of you who are thinking of giving PAS the benefit of a doubt,... maybe they are more honest than UMNO because they are god-fearing men... THINK AGAIN!

Read the article (text below) by Farouk A. Peru about PAS' comments in relation to this Gerakan-mufti issue. PAS is NO DIFFERENT from UMNO. Birds of the same feather, infected by the same thuggish, chauvinistic, domineering bird flu.

UMNO threatens to repeat the May 13, 1969 incident to 'defend' the "special rights" of Malays. (incidentally, I read this funny comment on "special rights". When we say "special children" or "special people"... we usually refer to the retarded right? So... when we say people with "special rights"... hmmmm...).

PAS threatens to repeat the May 13, 1969 incident to 'defend' the "sanctity" of Islam.

In my book, both UMNO and PAS have stated in no uncertain terms that they will readily resort to violence and bloodshed, when they are bankrupt of morally justifiable reasons for their discriminatory actions (be it racial or religious). Both must be stopped dead at the polling booth!

Voters of Machap... place your vote well... or else Machap might eventually turn into Mati, taking the rest of this country with it.

Poverty of political thuggery
Farouk A. Peru
http://malaysia-today.net/blog2006/index.php?itemid=3705

Muslims are told in the Quran to uphold fairness and justice, even if it is against themselves. They are told that God commands with justice and never with things which are considered obscene. Unfortunately, this was not displayed in PAS’s reaction here.

A background of the story can be found here and if the news were true, then clear is this: The Mufti of Perak was guilty of gross misconduct. To my knowledge, he wasn’t made to pay for his actions.

Gerakan has called for the Mufti’s sacking. Are they right in doing so? Lets follow PAS’s line of reasoning along with my comments:

“Gerakan diingatkan agar lebih cermat dalam membuat sesuatu usul demi menjaga perpaduan nasional kerana umat Islam tidak boleh menerima apabila Islam dicabar,” ujar Ahli Jawatankuasa PAS Pusat, Ustaz Taib Azamuddin kepada Harakahdaily pagi tadi.(Gerakan is reminded to be more careful in doing something in the interest of national unity because the Islamic ummah cannot accept when Islam is challenged’ said the PAS central committee member, Ustaz Taib Azamuddin to Harakahdaily this morning).

My comments:

1. What does ‘more careful’ mean in this case? Asking him to be questioned and then prosecuted?
2. Speaking for the Muslim ummah is presumptuous. There are enough Muslims with a fair conscience, who aren’t afraid to speak the truth, to call a spade a spade. Taib here is looking for political mileage, something quite common in PAS politics.
3. Was ISLAM challenged here, Taib? Gerakan is actually calling for an ISLAMIC response to the matter which is the upholding of justice. This Mufti guy nearly caused a race riot because of his insecurities and so why is calling him to be punished a challenge to ‘Islam’. My guess is because if the Mufti falls, then the next to fall would be the PAS higher echelons who have been very irresponsible in their pronouncements too. Lets not forget the Nik Aziz and the ‘carut’ incident.

Beliau yang merupakan bekas Imam Besar Masjid Negara berkata persoalan Mufti bukanlah perkara yang bersifat peribadi tetapi ia merupakan suatu jawatan yang menyentuh kewibawaan Islam itu sendiri (Taib, who was the ex-Head Imam of the National Mosque said that the issue of Mufti’s was not something personal but was a position which touched the dignity and station of Islam itself).

For the issue to be a challenge to the dignity and station of Islam itself, the Mufti should have acted in accordance with Islam itself. News reports tell us that the Mufti had ample chance to investigate the matter before creating the kind of panic would have ‘bathed the nation in blood’, to use a popular current expression in Malaysian politics.

Beliau juga mengingatkan kepada Umno agar lebih prihatin dalam perkara-perkara seperti ini, kerana apabila mereka sendiri yang longgar dalam urusan agama ini, ia sekaligus menjadi peluang untuk mencemarkan perkara yang berkaitan dengan agama di masa akan datang. (He also reminds UMNO to be more aware in matters such as these because when they themselves are lenient in religious matters, they become opportunities to discredit matters with regards to religion in the future).

And this, my dear readers is the crux of the matter. Nicely tucked away for our subconscious minds to catch. It’s UMNO’s leniency which will allow opportunities to discredit the religion. PAS however won’t be so lenient, until of course it’s time to win your vote. When that happens, Tuan Guru (master teacher) will gently persuade you that his Islamic state (his, don’t forget) will be very fair to non-Muslims.

Moving on to another PAS figure, we hear even stranger things:

Dalam pada itu, Pengerusi Lajnah Kebajikan dan Kemasyarakatan, Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat, Ustaz Ridhuan Mohd Nor ketika dihubungi berkata, “Pemuda juga memberi amaran tegas kepada pemimpin Gerakan supaya tidak campurtangan dalam urusan agama Islam kerana ia cukup sensitif.” (At the same time, The Head of the Welfare and Social Division of the PAS Youth Assembly, Ustaz Ridhuan Mohd Nor when contacted said ‘The Youth also gives a strong warning to Gerakan leadership to stay out of Islamic religious affairs because it’s very sensitive’).

Once again, Islamic religious affairs are mentioned and touted as very sensitive. One might ask, do non-Muslims not have feelings and are they not sensitive. The emotional emasculation caused by this incident must have hurt the feelings of many.

Beliau yang juga Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Menangani Isu Murtad (FORKAD) juga mengharapkan Gerakan menghormati perkara 3, Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan kedudukan orang Melayu sebagai penduduk pribumi Malaysia. (He who is also the head of the Committee to Handle the Issue of Apostacy (FORKAD) also hopes that Gerakan respects the 3rd point of the Federal Constitution and the status of Malays as the native inhabitants of Malaysia.

He is reminding us of the very same constitution which PAS will efface the second they take power. Quite, quite strange.

Menurutnya, pada tahun 1950 orang Melayu telah berkompromi dengan kaum lain dan memperakukan mereka sebagai penduduk imigran dan mereka menerima hak istimewa orang Melayu dan Islam sebagai elemen yang didominasi oleh orang Melayu. (According to him, in 1950, the Malays had compromised with other races and acknowledged them as immigrants and they in turn accepted the Malay special rights and Islam as an element dominated by Malays).

Unbelievable!

Are non-Malays still immigrants 50 years on? They were born and bred in this country so show some respect. They are fellow Malaysians.

Islam is an element dominated by Malays? What if the entire country became Muslim? Hypothetically, would you accept them as your brothers in Islam or would Islam still be dominated by Malays. What did Prophet Mohamed say about this?

Tegas beliau, Forkad memberi amaran tegas kepada mana-mana pemimpin negara dan NGO supaya tidak bermain api kerana bimbang akan berulang kembali peristiwa 13 Mei 1969 (He strongly adds, FORKAD gives a stern warning to any national leader and NGO to not play with fire because of the worry of repetition of the incident of 13th May 1969).

And manifests the thuggery at last....

A gentler response can be seen from The Head of Information of PAS’s Muslim Women’s Assembly:

Menurut beliau jika sekiranya Dato’ Seri Harussaini bersalah, maka yang berhak dan berkuasa untuk mengambil tindakan terhadap beliau adalah Sultan Perak.(According to her, if Dato Seri Harussani was guilty, then the rightful and authoritative one to act against him would be the Sultan of Perak):

That would be constitutionally correct if the Mufti was acting as a Mufti. We must remember that a Mufti should have a great command of the corpus Islamica and should know that Muslims are commanded not to follow unverified information. Norman Fernandez had to remind the Mufti about how to handle information the Quranic way.

Malaysia is losing the respectable racial harmony it once had, given this piece of news. PAS is now using the ‘race card’ to win over voters with the voicing of its views. Not atypical of PAS but quite hypocritical given the ‘good cop’ style persuasion employed to win over non-Muslims.

I urge the Muslims to remember, the Quran doesn’t teach us to ignore our own failings. Rather we have a constant duty to correct ourselves and carry out our duties to better society, humankind as a whole. That is the ‘kewibawaan’ Islam which Prophet Muhammad brought forth. That is the same ‘kewibawaan Islam’ which is being challenged by the actions of the Mufti of Perak and now his defenders, PAS. Creating panic and threatening others who attempt to invoke justice is the opposite of Islam.

Let us act accordingly.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Employers, not Election Comm, are responsible for Machap voter turnout.

Here's something absurd...

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants employers to give flexibility to out-of-town voters who want to exercise their voting rights in the Machap by-election on Thursday.

Since polling fell on a working day, employers must give some relaxation for their employees to cast their ballots, the Deputy Prime Minister said.

"Employers must accept and understand their responsibility in encouraging their workers to vote. If they prevent them from voting, this will lead to a low voter turnout on polling day," he told reporters.
WHY is the polling day on a working day in the first place? Why not on the weekend? Why place the burden of encouraging voter turnout on employers instead of the Election Commission?

It's like saying all doctors must accept and understand their responsibility not to let gunshot victims die. But he forgets to ask the police why people are getting shot in the first place.

The M'sian govt's blogroll and a Thai king

The govt wants "politically motivated" bloggers to register with the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications in order to "monitor" them for "malicious" viewpoints and information.

While we can debate till the cows come home [and have calves] exactly what the terms "politically motivated, monitor and malicious" mean... one thing is for certain. Malaysian laws can only be enforced within her shores. Therefore, only blogs hosted by local internet companies will be affected.

There's simply no way to enforce local laws on foreign companies not incorporated locally. That means foreign blogsites like Blogspot, Wordpress and Spaces etc. will not be affected by any new Malaysian laws drawn up to register bloggers. So what any new laws will do, is simply encourage locally hosted blogs to migrate onto foreign blogsites. That's it.

While some bloggers have pointed out this fact, they shouldn't rejoice yet.

Although foreign internet companies seem to be all gung ho about "free speech" and "no censorship",... they will oftentimes be pressured to compromise by vested interests - like govts, religious or special interest groups and big corporates - all trying to impose their individual "sensitivities & values" upon the global internet.

For instance, you must have heard by now of youtube's controversy with the Thais. While youtube seems to be holding firm... for now at least, it remains to be seen if they will capitulate like they did under the pressure of Viacom's suit over uploaded user-recorded movie clips.

"While we will not take down videos that do not violate our policies, and will not assist in implementing censorship, we have offered to educate the Thai ministry about YouTube and how it works," YouTube spokeswoman Julie Supan said.

"It's up to the Thailand government to decide whether to block specific videos, but we would rather that than have them block the entire site," she added.

Although the original clip has been removed by the user who created it, the others are similar, often showing pictures of the king next to images of feet – seen as deeply offensive in Thailand.

Four more videos have been posted to the site mocking the king, but also taking aim at Thailand's strict lese majeste law, which is rigorously enforced against anyone deemed to have offended the royal family.

The ban on YouTube has sparked a fierce debate over freedom of speech on the Internet, and on Thailand's effort to enforce a law that dates from the time of absolute monarchy more than 75 years ago in the era of a modern global media.

The ban came a week after Thailand jailed a Swiss man for 10 years for insulting the king by vandalising his portraits during a drunken spree.
Background reading on the Malaysian situation:

Bloggers to register with Energy, Water & Communications Ministry.

Information Minister backs registration of politically motivated blogs.

Deputy Minister denies censorship goal for blog registration

Naza ready for anything, Proton doesn't care

Naza's mouth is wide open, ready and waiting to cash in on Proton's misery.

THE Naza Group stands ready to accept any number of shares in Proton Holdings Bhd should the Government decide to offer it a stake in the national carmaker, founder Tan Sri SM Nasimuddin SM Amin said yesterday.

"We are open (to any level of Proton stake for sale to us). If the Government offers 30 per cent, we will take it. If it's 22 per cent, we will (also) take it."

He [Nasimiddin] suggested that the authorities name a local partner for Proton first before identifying a foreign strategic partner.

"If we announce the strategic partner for Proton, it will be game over. The local partner should lead and look for a (foreign) strategic partner," he said.
Game over, game over lah. What's wrong with that?

Last I heard, the National Automotive Policy (NAP) wasn't implemented just to make you rich. If Proton is going to get a foreign partner anyway, why must Naza be made the middleman to... ahem... "lead and look for" one? Why add another layer to the negotiations? Why add another non-contributing shareholder to Proton's structure?

And meanwhile, Proton just doesn't care what happens to it.
Proton Holdings Bhd has no specific preference on the suitor for its strategic partner as discussions with foreign carmakers Volkswagen and General Motors are still ongoing, it's managing director, Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamad Tahir said.
If I were Proton MD/CEO, I would have already conducted a thorough analysis on the synergies with each prospective partner and be lobbying my testicles off right now, to make sure Proton gets the best chance of survival.

But then again, I'm not Proton MD. And I will never be as I'm too concerned with Proton's unprotected survival, and not concerned enough with the survival & protection of the parasites leeching off it.
Syed Zainal, however, declined to reveal the “sticky issues” that were probably causing the delay in finding Proton’s partner. He also dismissed a suggestion that similar “sticky issues” had caused the negotiations with PSA Peugeot to collapse last month.
Aiyo, do we really still need to ask what the sticky issues are?
.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Clarkson destroys worst car in the world: Malaysians pissed off!

Judging from the comments on blogs and postings about this stunt by Top Gear host, Jeremy Clarkson (aired over 2 years ago) – some Malaysians actually did take offence. And they want the govt to “take action” against Clarkson and the BBC.

This reminds me of a certain Aussie journalist who wrote a little while back that Malaysians are blinded by a gross over-estimation of their place and importance in the world.

Folks, I hate to have to tell you this,… but:

1. There’s nothing we can do… why don’t you go to London and try to bathe your kerises in some British blood, and pick on someone more than your own size for a change.
2. Clarkson doesn’t fucking care… I mean, we watch his shows, he doesn’t watch ours.
3. His show is classified as humour/comedy. Plus he is a Brit and Brit-humour is dry and cynical. Do we expect all British comedians to be funny ala Mr Bean? Where the hell is your sense of humour?
4. If you ever seen a Kelisa (and Kancil) in an accident, I assure you that you’ll be left with no doubt that they are not much better than dustbin covers stapled together.

Anyway, here’s the scene you guys are so pissed about from youtube. Take a look at it… tell me it ain’t funny. Video below:


Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Proton saga continues

A surprisingly lucid commentary from govt owned newspaper, The Star, on the ongoing Proton negotiations to court a foreign or domestic partner.

Although it sharply criticises the delay in deciding on Proton's future, as well as points out the folly of obsessing over a "national car industry" as opposed to a "viable car industry" - The article doesn't let us forget that the paper is at the end of the day, still just a noisy pooch on a short leash. The article blames nobody in particular and quickly glosses over the real Problem with Proton with merely a passing comment on its "wealth distribution" policies.

But a worthwhile read anyway. Just be careful of the numbers in the graphic (table). I think they represent the number of cars sold each year, rather than the stated RM'000 of sales. The article below:

Proton saga continues
http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/4/5/business/17354785&sec=business

THE Proton saga continues. There are reports that Volkswagen would be the new major shareholder. There are also reports that the new major shareholder would be a local party. We next learnt that the March 31 deadline for Proton’s partner had not been met. In this apparently never-ending merry-go-round, ordinary Malaysians are utterly confused over the Proton story.

As consumers, all the ordinary Malaysians want is a car of reasonable quality at a reasonable price. Ordinary Malaysians have been massively subsidising Proton and at the end, we still have a company that simply cannot compete against anyone in the world.

An Australian fresh graduate can earn A$2,000-A$3,000 per month and drive a brand new Toyota Camry for A$33,000. A Malaysian fresh graduate earns RM2,000-RM3,000 per month and has to make do with a discounted Proton Saga.

What does the Government want for Proton? They want Proton to spearhead the country’s industrialisation process and at the same time, achieve income and wealth redistribution.

In the recent Geneva Motor Show, there were various attractive models from China and India. Lotus was there. Proton was absent.

Proton has tried for more than two decades and failed and will fail again if the right things are not done.

The issue to resolve is this: How can we make Proton globally competitive?

Will the local party have the skills, resources, management, alliances, experience, technologies and a huge host of other critical assets to turn Proton around? Or will it come in and give us a lifetime guarantee that millions of ordinary Malaysians will have to keep subsidising it?

We should learn from the Czechs. Their willingness to give up their national marque, the Skoda, brought about immense benefits to the economy. From a marque that sold only 120,000 cars in 1991, Skoda sold 559,821 cars in 2006, equivalent to the size of Malaysia’s total vehicle sales.

How did they do it? By bringing the marque to a globally acceptable level of quality and by building up exports. Skoda is not the only marque that has exports driving its performance (see table).

Proton has not only become a saga. No “real” explanation has been given as to why the March 31 deadline was not met and we do not know if there will be a new deadline and whether it will be met. All we know is that the whole country and its future are being held ransom to parties that do not bother to explain to Malaysians why there is another missed deadline.

In the first place, should we have a national car? Thailand does not. Taiwan does not. What is even more glaring is that even China does not have a national car project. The domestic market of China is big enough to support numerous national cars. In 2006 alone, China sold approximately seven million cars.

The skills and technology available to China are advanced enough for her to start a national car project. Yet, China has chosen a different strategy from Malaysia. China is realistic enough to eat humble pie and have joint ventures with the foreign carmakers instead of arrogantly striking out on her own. Now, we have China cars reaching our shores. Proton has yet to reach China after two decades.

Let us make our investment and business decisions based on sound commercial reasons.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Raja Nazrin: "A place under the Malaysian sun for all"

A striking display of quality from the man who will one day become King.

"Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun."

Lead... and your people will follow, my liege.


Previous blogpost on Raja Nazrin: About Unity: An Interview with Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.

The full text of his speech at the Bar Council below:


KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY DULI YANG TERAMAT MULIA RAJA MUDA PERAK DARUL RIDZUAN RAJA NAZRIN SHAH IBNI SULTAN AZLAN MUHIBBUDDIN SHAH AT THE 'YOUNG MALAYSIANS' ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON NATIONAL UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT IN MALAYSIA: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES FOR NATION BUILDING

DATE: 3 APRIL 2007 TIME: 8:45AM VENUE: BAR COUNCIL, KUALA LUMPUR

Ladies and Gentlemen:

1. It is my pleasure to be here to deliver the keynote address at this Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development in Malaysia: Challenges and Prospects for Nation Building. I am always happy to take part in an event where there are many young informed Malaysians. I find that this is time well spent. Not only does it give me a chance to share my thoughts, but it also lets me do a bit of opinion research among the younger generation. We like to say that our youths are the future of this country, but then we proceed to ignore or marginalise them. We want our future generations to be able to think and act wisely, but then we do not give them sufficient opportunities to do so.

2. In my view, this is not a good way to prepare those who will take our place. If the young are to be good leaders and citizens, they must be exposed to more than just abstract concepts. Even those nation states which have failed miserably have had great political ideals. I believe that good and upright leadership must be demonstrated. It has to be both taught and observed at work. Then, those who are found to be able must be mentored by those who are capable. In this way, success can be learned and replicated. Finally, the young must be given responsibilities they can handle. They should be allowed to make mistakes along the way as part of their overall learning process. If we do these things, our actions will echo loudly into the future.

3. My address this morning is on the challenges and prospects of nation building, a topic that is of the greatest and gravest importance. Nation building is essential to national unity which lies at the heart of what this country was, is and will be. With the passage of time, it seems that we are starting to forget this and it is imperative that we do not. In the time available, I hope to say enough to provide some fuel for the discussions to follow. It is my earnest wish that you will gain some further perspectives on the nature of nation building and that you will also deliberate on specific actionable ways to further it in this country.

4. Confucius insisted that language must be properly used if things are to get done, if justice is not to go astray, and if people are not to "stand about in helpless confusion." He disapproved of those who misused words to hide their true intentions and actions. So what exactly is nation building? Not surprisingly, there are many definitions, some which differ by a little and others by quite a lot. In his book, The Making of a Nation, for example, Professor Cheah Boon Kheng defined it as "both economic progress and socio-political integration of a nation, i.e. prosperity and national unity." This captures what are hopefully the two end results of nation building, but it makes no mention of its nature and process. I prefer the more common understanding, which is that it is the use of state power across different dimensions to ensure that a country is politically stable and viable in the long term. These dimensions include ethnicity and religion.

5. As a brief footnote, it should be noted that nation building is a heated and even hated notion in some parts of the world. The main reasons for this are, first, that it is taking place in the midst of great domestic turmoil and, second, that it is primarily initiated and managed by foreign powers. Trying to cobble a functioning state by papering over deep social and political rifts is, of course, easier said than done. History has shown us time and again, that it is much easier to break down, rather than build up, nations.

6. In the case of Malaysia, nation building has occurred in generally peaceful circumstances. It was not imposed by another country. And it is undertaken mainly by collective choice rather than compulsion. The fact that we have been able to forge a nation without resorting to the rule of the gun has made us something of a rarity and a case to be studied, if not emulated. It has allowed a relatively effective system of governance to develop. Our track record at development and resolving problems such as illiteracy, poverty and poor health has been good.

7. There is, of course, much more that can be done. Our institutions of governance are far from perfect and quality improvements will probably occupy us for at least the next fifty years, if not longer. Nevertheless, for all the criticisms that have been made, it is only common sense that we could not have survived, let alone prosper, these last 50 years if government institutions had not been responsive or effective.

8. So what are the central challenges to nation building going forward? Let me speak first more generally about the world, and then move specifically to Malaysia. To my mind, there are many challenges, but the one that stands out most is that of having to balance the need for change with that of continuity. Globalisation, in particular, has unleashed sweeping economic, political, social and cultural transformations that have weakened national institutions, values and norms. It is as if all the boats on the ocean had suddenly lost their anchors, rudders and compasses overnight. Naturally, this has produced a strong reaction in the form of a desire to preserve identity, character and tradition. These are among the strongest motivations known to mankind and have been at the foreground or background of practically every conflict that has ever been waged. Add to this, a deep sense of deprivation, powerlessness and injustice, both real and imagined, and the tension between change and continuity mount greatly.

9. Managing change on a national level is never easy, and certainly not on the scale and speed that we are witnessing. Multi-ethnic countries have to be especially watchful, and particularly if they have a weak sense of national collective identity. In the absence of a strong binding nationalism, they are prone to polarisation and competition along ethno-religious lines. The state, which may well start out by being a relatively honest broker, can become increasingly pressured to act in ways that favour the interests of one group over another. If the pendulum swings too far in one direction, dissatisfaction and frustrations will inevitably result. These can be expressed in ways that range from passive non-cooperation to active opposition and even violent conflict. To a large extent, this has led to the fragmentation of states.

10. Countries need to recognise the larger macro forces at work and understand their implications. They have to engage creatively to ensure that there are sufficient investments in social capital and cohesion. They must create and capitalise on co-operative systems within societies. In recent times, it has become usual to try and place the blame for the disintegrating state of world affairs on the doorstep of religion. This is a misunderstanding of the first order. Religion is not the cause of societal dystrophy; it is the antidote. It is a social stabiliser that allows believers to reconnect to values that are fast being lost in today's ever more materialistic and self-centred world.

11. What does Malaysia have to do to ensure that it continues to be successful at nation building? Psychologists say that our short-term memory can only hold seven items. Let me outline seven guidelines that I think will have to be borne in mind in future national building efforts.

12. First, Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun. Only when each citizen believes that he or she has a common home and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul. In Malaysia, the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara and Vision 2020 encapsulate the rights, hopes and aspirations of the population in a way that no other documents do. The integrity of these documents must be defended and promoted, especially the first.

13. Second, when we seek solutions to problems in nation building, we must be careful not to assume away problems. Nation building is required precisely because there are stark differences within society. If we all walked, talked and thought the same, it would probably not be needed. There will therefore be chauvinistic groups in this country, just as there are in others. They will fight the idea of national unity, block social change and try to be politically dominant. The existence of these groups, however, does not mean that nation building is a futile exercise. It does mean that we must be prepared to negotiate our way through and around these differences. We can, for example, create social movements that aim to enlighten and dissuade popular support being given to them.

14. Third, nation building requires accommodation and compromise. In our haste to be prescriptive, we should not be so idealistic that we are incapable of also being practical. We should not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good. Yes, we should seek the best solutions and expect the highest standards of performance. But we should also be prepared to sacrifice some part of our positions for the good of the whole. The virtues of pure self-interest are largely a myth. What seems to be a reality is that individuals end up worse off when they act out of self-interest, as opposed to acting in their collective group interests.

15. Fourth, if nation building is to be successful, enforced solutions must be avoided. Nation building is effectively rendered null and void by coercion or the threat of violence. 'Might' cannot and must not be shown to be 'right'. If solutions cannot be found within the political and social structures, there will be a strong temptation to resort to illegitimate ways and means.

16. Fifth, nation building occurs when society is open, tolerant and forward-looking. So important are these values that they are embedded in Vision 2020's nine strategic challenges, as are those of mature democracy, caring society and innovation. Only by being inclusive and participative can the various sectors of our society be productively engaged. It follows that all forms of extremism, chauvinism, racism and isolationism must be guarded against. They must be soundly sanctioned socially, politically and, if necessary, also legally.

17. Sixth, nation building is a process rather than an outcome. When Malaysia started off 50 years ago, there were no examples to study. There were no manuals to follow. Mistakes were made and, to a greater or lesser extent, lessons have been learned. While a sense of impatience is perhaps fully understandable, nation building takes place over a period of time and only with persistence. Where there is no trust, trust has to be built. Where there is no cooperative network, one has to be established. Building on layers of foundation is the only way to ensure that the process is solid and sustainable.

18. Seventh, the political, social and economic incentives must reward good behaviour and penalise bad. I know that this statement is virtually self-evident, but it is a fact that many countries are as likely to punish good behaviour as to reward it. After all, if there are benefits for corruption, then there is a real cost to being honest. The incentives for building up a nation must be greater and more compelling than breaking it down. The price of racial and cultural intolerance must be made prohibitively high.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

19. I believe fostering national unity is the responsibility of every Malaysian. However, schools, institutions of higher learning and sports centers have a very special role to play. This is because the sense of national unity is best inculcated in the young. Through textbooks, sports and interaction, educators should eliminate ethnic stereo-types. Through the imaginative teaching of the history of Islamic, Chinese and Indian civilisation, educators could foster greater understanding among different ethnic groups.

20. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe this is true. To me the village comprises three main institutions - family, school and community. From birth we should be taught to respect and honour each other's culture and heritage. Learning to interact with others is part of this process. Playing with children of other races on the play ground and in friends' homes, we learn to go beyond the colour lines early in life. In school we should be taught about other cultures and beliefs under the same roof as others of different ethnic groups - once again cutting through the colour lines.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

21. I am aware that there are many Malaysians who are deeply troubled at the state of national unity in this country. What I have tried to do today is disabuse you of the notion that there are any 'quick fix' solutions in nation building. If you look closely enough at any country, even ones that are regarded today as highly successful such as Japan, you will find there have been episodes in its past where events were very tenuous. I hope we will do our best to guard against cynicism and hopelessness. And I hope we will all stay the course. Failure, may I remind you all, is a costly option.

22. I wish all speakers, facilitators and participants a constructive and fulfilling day ahead.

Expert: No announcement on Singapore F1 until after Malaysia F1 GP

If there's no Singapore F1 announcement this week, perhaps next week then?

"I don't believe an announcement will necessarily be made right on the eve of the Malaysian GP in Sepang because it will be a little discourteous for Malaysians if we did that. I'm sure there is a lot of negotiation going on at the moment, very high level, there will be a lot of things that need to be sorted out - rights and internally within Singapore on things such as the road closure and everything else," says Steve Slater, F1 Commentator.
Also giving it the thumbs up - former F1 driver Alex Yoong from Malaysia: "It would be better for Malaysia if it was the only track in South East Asia to have Formula One but at the same time I say a Singapore race would be good as well… there are obvious advantages to having a neighbour that has embraced motor sports so well."
Previous blogpost: Mark Webber testdrives Singapore F1 Street Circuit

Full article from ChannelNewAsia below:
S'pore F1 race decision possibly after Malaysian Grand Prix: expert
Patwant Singh 03 April 2007 2308 hrs
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/268312/1/.html

SINGAPORE: The decision on the proposed Formula One circuit in Singapore is not likely to be made this week.

This, according to veteran F1 commentator Steve Slater, who is attending a two-day forum on Motor Sports here.

He told reporters the decision is likely to be made after the Malaysia Grand Prix, which is being held at the end of this week.

Formula One driver Mark Webber's spin through the proposed Singapore circuit last weekend was the latest spark to fuel the speculation that a decision on the Singapore race was imminent.

Tuesday’s forum, attended by some 150 delegates, saw more discussion on the business possibilities of staging an F1 race in Singapore.

So the stage is set for an announcement if Singapore gets to play host - but one expert believes that everyone has to wait a little longer.

"I don't believe an announcement will necessarily be made right on the eve of the Malaysian GP in Sepang because it will be a little discourteous for Malaysians if we did that. I'm sure there is a lot of negotiation going on at the moment, very high level, there will be a lot of things that need to be sorted out - rights and internally within Singapore on things such as the road closure and everything else," says Steve Slater, F1 Commentator.

The Englishman has been involved in the sport for more than two decades.

He thinks Singapore's proposal for a night race is a great suggestion which is being considered.

But there are issues to be resolved, such as driver safety and even television coverage, under the night lights.

On the bright side, the street circuit could have other benefits for the city, besides receiving international attention.

"We are talking about blocks and fences fundamentally that can be moved around. All cities evolve and grow every year, particularly here and particularly in Asia, so it's possible to change the configuration of the track, incorporate elements into the design of new buildings and it could become a feature of the city itself," says David Clare, CEO, A1 GP, Asian Region.

Also giving it the thumbs up - former F1 driver Alex Yoong from Malaysia: "It would be better for Malaysia if it was the only track in South East Asia to have Formula One but at the same time I say a Singapore race would be good as well… there are obvious advantages to having a neighbour that has embraced motor sports so well."

According to Yoong, based on Malaysia's experience, F1 alone has not helped the growth of the local motor sports industry.

He suggested that it would be good for Singapore to host both F1 and A1, because from his observation, A1 has been a catalyst to develop motor sports and has managed to garner a strong following at the local level. - CNA/yy

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

From the horse's mouth: Malik Imtiaz, Subashini's Lead Counsel

A very vigorous discussion about the Subashini case broke out at aisehman.org. I must say the quality of comments made by the readers was quite good. Better though was the courtesy, civility and just downright good manners displayed by all who commented (you'll understand what I mean if you ever come across the 'swearing-infested', ultra-bigoted, free-for-all situations so common in Malaysia-Today).

Anyway, the blogpost prompted a personal response from Malik Imtiaz, the Lead Counsel for Subashini. Here's the comment he added explaining the basis of Subashini's argument

Aisehman,

Thanks for the posting and to the rest, thanks for having considered the issue important enough to express a point of view, whatever the point of view is.

I think it is important that we keep in mind the difference between the law as it is written and the law as some of us would aspire it to be.

Islamic law is applicable only on three conditions:

(1) there must be enacted law i.e. law having been made by parliament or the state legislature; and

(2) where all parties to the dispute are Muslims and

(3) where the issues involved are matters which, by law, are within the jurisdiction of the syariah courts.

Subashini’s team took the position that:

(1) the applicable legal provision is Section 51 of the Law Reform (Marriages & Divorce) Act which specifically provides for a situation where a party to a civil marriage converts to Islam. The provision provides that the divorce proceeding and ancillary relief is to be sought in the High Court. This makes sense as the marriage was solemnised under this law in the first place;

2) legal provisions giving jurisdiction to the syariah courts on matters of divorce and custody relate to marriages solemnised under Islamic law. This makes sense as all parties to such marriages are muslims and they had married under and in accordance with the principles of Islamic law (as enacted by the state legislature);

3) to expand “divorce” and “custody” in the syariah court to include disputes arising from marriages solemnised under civil law would be to expand the jurisdiction of the syariah courts in a way not permitted under the constitution. This is because

(a) the syariah court only has jurisdiction over matters of Islamic law and the marriage having been solemnised under civil law, the syariah court has no power to dissolve it

(b) the syariah court only has jurisdiction over persons professing Islam. It follows that one of the parties to the marriage would not be a muslim and there is no certainty that the children would also be muslims.

4) The scenario has been dealt with by the Supreme Court in 1995 which ruled that the civil court has jurisdiction in matters of this nature on the strength of S51. There is really, in that sense, nothing new here.

That is the law as it is written and declared. This is perfectly consistent with the constitution.

I started off by referring to aspirations because the confusion is caused, I think, by the aspirations of some for a wider Islamic system. This they suggest is required of them as Muslims.

Leaving aside the merits of the aspiration (I will write a post on my blog), the crucial thing to recognise is that that aspiration should only be made a reality through the proper routes i.e. constitutional amendment. Until that is done, Muslims should not be interpreting the law to suit their own personal beliefs and at their convenience.

A121(1A) does not prevent the High Court from ruling in the situation above. Section 51 makes it clear that this a matter within the jurisdiction of the High Court. The syariah court has no jurisdiction over civil marriages. This has been explained above (of course, the lawyers for the husband have a different view).

In any event, I cannot see anything un-Islamic about the High Court deciding the case under Section 51. It is not a mandatory precept of the religion to have dispute resolved by a syariah court. The Quran does not make a distinction between syariah courts and civil courts. The Quran does prescribe justice and non-discrimination. It also prescribes non-compulsion. The Husband may have chosen to become a Muslim but he has to respect his wife’s rights and the fact that she does have a say over the upbringing of their children.

The constitution uses the word ‘parent’ in Article 12 but Article 8 provides that there can be no discrimination grounds of gender. Both parents have an equal say in questions of guardianship. This is provided for under the Guardianship of Infants Act. Therefore it is not correct to say that as the word ‘parent’ is used as opposed to ‘parents’, the Husband in this case has the final say.

Regards,
Malik Imtiaz

Know your rights: Read the RED BOOK

What do you do when confronted by police? The Malaysian Bar has a simple 6-page RED BOOK detailing your basic rights when:

1. Police stop you
2. Police question you when stopped
3. Questioning by police without arrest
4. Police arrest you
5. Your rights after arrest & during detention
6. Remand order by magistrate after arrest
7. Body search without arrest
8. Body search upon arrest
9. Questioning by police after arrest


Download the RED BOOK. The site shows only 30,000 copies have been downloaded. That just means more people need to know what their basic rights are.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Temporary reprieve for Subashini

Subashini won an injunction, albeit a temporary one, against her estranged, sneakily converted husband Saravanan - to the effect that he cannot apply to the Syariah court to end their marriage and convert their child. Subashini's counsel argued that the injunction was critical and necessary, pending her appeal to the Federal Court.

And indeed it is. As her lawyer said:

...the injunction was important because even if the Federal Court were to decide in her favour later, the judgment would be rendered academic if the husband, T. Saravanan, was allowed to get a final order of divorce from the syariah court first.

“All I am asking for is the preservation of status quo."
As a non-Muslim layman, it has always appeared to me the Syariah Court seemed to be obsessed with a "first past the post" mentality. When it comes to conversions, as long as the convert is able to complete the necessary rites of passage and sign the papers, he/she (and whichever child is unfortunate enough to be party to it), will immediately be considered Muslims in the eyes of the Syariah Court.

Never mind that the convert still has messy ties & relationships with non-Muslims, or has unresolved non-Muslim obligations or that the conversions of children were done in deliberate secrecy and ill intent to deceive the other parent. The fact that the convert is legally unfit / incapacitated / restricted or morally undeserving appeared to hold no water with the Syariah Court. To a casual observer, it sometimes seemed that mere rituals, rites and paperwork was sufficient for the court, even when confronted with fact that the prior and subsequent conduct & lifestyle of the convert were "un-Islamic" in nature. This was shown in several cases, the most spectacular of them being the corpse-snatching Moorthy case

Consequently, non-Muslims can only draw a perception that the Syariah Court subscribes to the "nasi sudah menjadi bubur" (rice has become porridge) thinking. That the FORM (ritual) of the conversion is more important and binding, than the SUBSTANCE (faith and sincerity) of the convert. Perhaps it is this same preoccupation with 'form over function' that results in the religious authorities having task forces and armies of storm troopers to catch people holding hands in public places - but remain deafeningly silent and violently motionless on the real issues like corruption and racial discrimination, for instance.

Therefore, even though a Federal Court appeal is pending... if Saravanan was somehow able complete the rites and rituals to divorce his wife and convert the child - the Syariah Court will find itself helpless but to uphold the divorce and conversion... paving the way for yet another round of Civil vs Syariah court showdown.

Here's where I think Justice Suriyadi is being unreasonable:
Justice Suriyadi then asked: “Has there been any attempt to convert the second child since the day we gave judgment?”

Malik: “Not that we know of. Perhaps my learned friend for the respondent can shed more light on this.”

Justice Suriyadi: “This is your case. You show me. I am looking at things in a rather clinical manner. You want an injunction you must show to me why it should be granted. I do not want to be set by external factors. I asked, are there any changes, and you said 'No'. So, status quo is the same.”
My dear Mr Justice, perhaps you could enlighten us laymen as to what injunctions are for? I always thought they were to PREVENT the status quo from changing.

If you require that the status quo to HAVE CHANGED FIRST, before actually issuing the injunction - wouldn't that already be too late (nasi sudah menjadi bubur) and render the injunction useless and moot before it even sees the light of day?

I mean no disrespect, but perhaps you would allow me to sneak a peek at the law degree hanging on your office wall. I've got a funny feeling that the name of university on the parchment might have a spelling error... like 'UNIV3RSITI OF LUNDUN' or something.
Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who acted for Saravanan, said that the panel could not grant an injunction now since it had earlier affirmed the setting aside of an interim injunction granted to Subashini when it dismissed her appeal on March 13.

Haniff: “It amounts to the court reviewing its own decision.”

Justice Sri Ram: “Nonsense. This is a fresh application. We are not reviewing. We are asking you to prevent the husband from pursuing his case in the other court pending his wife’s appeal to the Federal Court.”
Heh heh... I'm beginning to like Justice Sri Ram more and more.

Nonsense indeed. In fact I think that aptly describes the judgement of this panel to send Subashini, a non-Muslim, to the Syariah Court.

Previous blogposts:

- Non-Muslim wife's appeal dismissed in favour of Muslim husband
- Islamic experts tell non-Muslims not to be prejudiced against syariah courts

Press articles on the injunction hearing below.

Stay against Syariah proceedings
By CHELSEA L.Y. NG
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/3/31/courts/17314381&sec=courts

PUTRAJAYA: R. Subashini, who was told to go to the Syariah Court to fight for her matrimonial rights, obtained a temporary injunction from the Court of Appeal to preserve her civil rights pending her appeal to the Federal Court.

In a majority judgment, Justices Gopal Sri Ram, Suriyadi Halim Omar and Hassan Lah, who heard Subashini’s application yesterday, granted an injunction preventing her husband, who had converted to become a Muslim, from initiating or continuing with any proceedings in the syariah courts or converting their younger son. Justice Suriyadi dissented.

Subashini’s lead counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar had argued that the injunction was important because even if the Federal Court were to decide in her favour later, the judgment would be rendered academic if the husband, T. Saravanan, was allowed to get a final order of divorce from the syariah court first.

“All I am asking for is the preservation of status quo. The Syariah Court orders, if not stopped, will cause my client severe prejudice,” said Malik.

Justice Suriyadi then asked: “Has there been any attempt to convert the second child since the day we gave judgment?”

Malik: “Not that we know of. Perhaps my learned friend for the respondent can shed more light on this.”

Justice Suriyadi: “This is your case. You show me. I am looking at things in a rather clinical manner. You want an injunction you must show to me why it should be granted. I do not want to be set by external factors. I asked, are there any changes, and you said 'No'. So, status quo is the same.”

Justice Sri Ram then asked Malik whether there was any custody issue involved, to which the counsel said that his client was a mother who would be deprived of her right to custody of her children if her husband succeeded.

Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who acted for Saravanan, then said the injunction bid was “another attempt to restrain the husband from reaping the fruits of a judgment in his favour”.

Haniff then said that the panel could not grant an injunction now since it had earlier affirmed the setting aside of an interim injunction granted to Subashini when it dismissed her appeal on March 13.

Haniff: “It amounts to the court reviewing its own decision.”

Justice Sri Ram: “Nonsense. This is a fresh application. We are not reviewing. We are asking you to prevent the husband from pursuing his case in the other court pending his wife’s appeal to the Federal Court.”

On March 13, the same panel had in a majority judgment ordered Subashini to battle out her divorce and custody claims at the Syariah Court.

Earlier on Sept 25 last year, Judicial Commissioner Aziah Ali set aside the injunction granted to 28-year-old Subashini a month earlier, which had enabled her to temporarily restrain Saravanan, 31, from commencing with the proceedings in the Syariah Court.

The couple, who has yet to finalise their divorce, has two children, Dharvin Joshua, three, and one-year-old Sharvin.

Saravanan, whose Muslim name is Muhammad Shafi Abdullah, claims that the elder child had converted to Islam with him in May.

Later yesterday, Subashini’s solicitor K. Shanmugam filed her application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court.

Subashini granted temporary injunction to stop husband from syariah court action
R. Surenthira Kumar
http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=17465

PUTRAJAYA (March 30, 2007): R. Subashini's Muslim convert husband has been temporarily prevented from using the syariah court to dissolve their civil marriage, seek custody of their children, and unilaterally convert one child.

In a majority decision today, the Court of Appeal granted Subashini an interim injunction to restrain T. Saravanan, now known by his Muslim name of Muhamad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, from proceeding with his case at the syariah courts pending the disposal of her application to the Federal Court to hear her appeal of the appeal court's earlier decision.

On March 13, the same Court of Appeal bench, in a majority decision with Justice Gopal Sri Ram dissenting, had dismissed Subashini's appeal to stop Saravanan from dissolving their marriage, seeking custody of their children and unilaterally converting their children to Islam, saying she could seek recourse through the Syariah Appeal Court.

The three-person bench was chaired by Sri Ram, and also comprised Justices Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Suriyadi Halim Omar.

Today's injunction order prevents Saravanan from converting his second child, one-year-old Sharvind, to Islam.

The formerly Hindu businessman converted the first child, Dharvin Joshua, to Islam without Subashini's knowledge.

Sri Ram and Hasan allowed the injunction, while Suriyadi dissented but no reason was given for his decision.

Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, representing Subashini told the court their application for leave to appeal against the March 13 Court of Appeal decision would become pointless if Saravanan proceeded and succeeded with his actions in the syariah court.

"This would render the application for leave and the subsequent appeal nugatory, and deprive Subashini of the fruits of her litigation," said Malik Imtiaz.

He said the effect of the Court of Appeal's majority decision on March 13 was so momentous, in that for the first time the civil courts have told a non-Muslim that she must submit to the syariah courts to be adjudicated according to Islamic law.

The Federal Court, Malik Imtiaz said, ought to be given an opportunity to properly consider the application to appeal.

"It would, therefore, also be in the public interest for the status quo to be preserved," he added.

Suriyadi asked Malik Imtiaz if there had been any attempts by Saravanan to convert the second child.

Malik Imtiaz said, as far as they knew, there was none.

Suriyadi then said, since there was no change to the status quo on the matter, Malik Imtiaz had to provide concrete reasons for his argument.

"You want an injunction, you establish to me the reasons for it. Likewise, I want to approach the case in a clinical manner and not be influenced by external factors," said Suriyadi.

Sri Ram asked if there was still a tussle between Saravanan and Subashini over custody of their children, to which Malik Imtiaz said it has yet to be decided on.

Suriyadi pointed out that an ex-parte interim order had been issued by the Syariah High Court giving custody of the elder son to Saravanan on May 23, 2006.

Lawyer representing Saravanan, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, said Subashini's application was an attempt to restrain her husband from proceeding to seek recourse through the syariah courts following the March 13 Court of Appeal decision.

Mohamed Khatri Haniff also argued that it should be the Federal Court that heard today's application, but his argument was shot down by Sri Ram who said the Court of Appeal had the authority to do so.

The lawyer also said the move was akin to the court attempting to review its previous decision.

Sri Ram said there was no such attempt.

"This is a very serious encroachment of her rights. Injunctions are normally granted by the courts on the basis of preventing injustice," said Sri Ram.

He also noted that there were no circumstances to show that Saravanan planned to convert Sharvind.

But Malik Imtiaz said there was no guarantee that would not happen, hence the threat still existed.

Following today's interim injunction, Subashini later filed the leave application to the Federal Court.

Haris Mohd Ibrahim, K. Shanmuga and Richard Wee Thiam Seng appeared together with Malik Imtiaz while Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar appeared with Mohamed Haniff Khatri.

Meera Samanther held a watching brief for the Women's Aid Organisation, Women's Centre For Change, Women's Development Collective, Sisters In Islam, All Women's Action Society and the Bar Council, and Ng Chek for the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.