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Friday, September 19, 2008

DPM and Badawi Swtich profiles? Well.. here's what the 2nd finance minister did..

By Minuteman

Well the deal is off. The Malaysian taxpayer has so far only lost RM480 million. That is the amount Maybank (a GLC and hence a taxpayer owned company) has paid in deposit money to the Singaporeans to buy over a lame duck bank called Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII).

Now it is debateable if Maybank can recover any of the RM480 million deposit money from the Singaporeans. There are calls now that the Directors and Senior Executives of Maybank should resign if they cannot recover the RM480 million.

'KUALA LUMPUR 6 August: Malayan Banking Bhd's (Maybank) board of directors and senior management should step down if the bank fails to get back its RM480mil deposit for the PT Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) deal'

Maybank agreed to buy 56% of BII for RM4.86 Billion from Temasek Holdings of Singapore. Eventually Maybank would have to pay RM9.0 Billion for an almost 100% stake in BII. But the deal has been torpedoed by Bank Negara after Indonesia changed their bank acquisition rules. (This is what happens when you venture into strange countries which have strange ways of doing business. Remember the TNB coal mine fiasco in Indonesia where TNB lost about RM2.4 billion).

And the man in the centre of the controversy : none other than Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop. Nor Mohd is no stranger to making multi billion Ringgit and hundred million Ringgit losses for the Malaysian taxpayer.

First here is what Nor Mohamed said about this 'fantastic deal' in May:

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 (Reuters) - Malaysia's government on Wednesday rejected opposition criticism against a flurry of acquisitions by top lender Malayan Banking Bhd , saying it was necessary to catch up with neighbouring Singapore. Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop told parliament that Malaysian banks must grow and develop into regional banks to better compete with their peers in the region. 'This is a golden opportunity,' he said. 'It will bring long-term benefits.' Long criticised for being too slow to expand overseas, state-controlled Maybank suddenly sprang into action in March. It bought 15 percent of Vietnam's An Binh Bank for $135 million and a week later paid $2.7 billion for a controlling stake in Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) .

This month, it bought 15 percent of Pakistan's MCB Bank for $680 million, which analysts said was a high price and that it might have to cut the proportion of profits it pays out as dividends and raise capital to restore its balance sheet.

'This is in line with the government's long-term plan to strengthen the country's financial sector and turn it into a regional financial hub especially in Islamic finance,' he said. 'We need to compete with Singapore to develop regional banks.' 'Maybank may have paid a higher price, but it needed to make this decision to compete with Singapore.

This is a completely illogical statement. Nor Mohamed forgot to mention that he was actually bailing out the Singaporenas. They were getting out of BII. How do you compete with the Singaporeans in a business which they have just sold to you? They have exited the scene. And are we really expected to believe that the Singaporeans will sell us a business so that we may happily 'compete with Singapore'?

In 1999, Temasek had paid RM735 million for the same stake. In 2008 Maybank agreed to purchase the BII stake for a hefty price tag of RM4.86 billion. This means Temasek would have made a profit of RM4.125 billion ie 6 times their initial outlay. This was the real reason why Temasek was willing to sell the stake. It was a chance for Temasek to disengage from a troubled investment at a hefty profit - at the expense of the Malaysian taxpayer, and the gain of the unscrupulous high and dirty.

Analysts had also questioned why Maybank had agreed to pay 4.5 times the current market price of BII.

The news item makes it clear that Maybank's purchase of stakes in poor quality banks in Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia is actually a Government directive (read Nor Mohamed Yakcop's directive). As the 2nd Finance Minister Nor Mohamed has complete say over the GLCs like Maybank, Khazanah Nasional, Sime Darby and others.

Khazanah too has been led by Nor Mohamed to make dubious investments in India, which so far have zero benefit to the country or to promoting new technologies in Malaysia – the original intent of Khazanah Nasional Bhd. We have not heard about the value or profitability of investments like the Appolo Hospitals in India. But as usual money has been spent. And as usual the middlemen are always there to make their cuts and commissions.

Then the Sime Darby, Golden Hope and Guthrie Bhd merger created an almost RM30.0 billion listed plantation giant. Nazir Razak's CIMB group and other 'con-sultans' and middlemen made hundreds of million of Ringgit in fees and commissions from arranging this deal. By coincidence or not the consumption of RM150 cigars by the high and dirty has also increased in tandem with all these strange investments, acquisitions and mergers.

There was no real value in creating such a monster plantation giant. Whatever little competition may have existed among plantation GLCs was effectively extinguished through this merger. And Sime Darby is now underperforming on the Bursa. Here is a Star report dated 7 August 08 :

KUALA LUMPUR : Heavyweight plantation stock Sime Darby dragged blue chips lower in early trade on Thursday.. . Sime Darby fell 15 sen to RM7 in active trade'. Prior to the merger Sime Darby's share price reached a 52 week high of RM13.40.

If there are no real economic benefits for the shareholders and the taxpayers in all these mergers and acquisitions, why then do the GLCs embark upon such wasteful acts? The answer lies in another question : Why are the major cash rich GLCs suddenly moving in the direction of mergers and acquisitions? Why merge Sime Darby, Guthrie and Golden Hope? Why should Khazanah buy Appolo Hospitals in India? Why does Maybank suddenly want to buy banks in Pakistan and Indonesia?

And perfectly good assets that belonged to the taxpayer like Avenue Capital were sold to ECM Libra – a private company owned by Kalimullah Hassan, Khairy Jamaludin and others. Obviously the cash rich GLCs are being directed to do these things.

After all it is taxpayers money. The middlemen make the fees and the commissions. The cronies make the big bucks. And foreign deals are also easier to 'manage'. The fees and commissions can be paid directly into foreign bank accounts – out of sight of the half blind ACA and our local Police boys (who are busy stealing millions of Ringgit in drugs from their own safekeeping).

These wasteful deals are just a method for the high and dirty to cream off money. Due to the serious lack of competent Ministers in the Cabinet who cannot understand what is going on the 2nd Finance Minister is looked upon as someone who knows what he is saying and doing. The truth is losses are being made – in the hundreds of millions.

The 2nd Finance Minister is soon expected to have his own listed vehicle (again). He was once Chairman of Mun Loong Berhad which also went bust. According to sources in the Securities Commission, an oil and gas company will soon be listed whose bumiputra shareholder includes the 26 year old son of the 2nd Finance Minister. A Chinese 'Ali Baba' partner has managed to secure a substantial oil and gas contract which will be injected into a listed vehicle. A general offer will be made for the listed vehicle – in effect providing a backdoor listing. They can cream off even more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Proselytizers deserve to be

"We may define "faith" as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of "faith." We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups, substitute different emotions."
— Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Now no matter what you of a certain religion think, those of us not following, I repeat NOT FOLLOWING your line of thought shall not burn in whatever place you designate us to be(which is so funny). Therefore there is no need for you to bring us "on to the right path". That is an extremely bigoted thought and no one will thank you for that.

"People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them."
— Dave Barry

I hope you take note of these few things.

1.You know how many religions there are? Last count, there are over 25 of them. How many have you tried to understand? How many of them the names of which you even know of? You only have the right to preach to me about yours being the "right" or "true" religion once you understand and opened your mind to others.

Your version of heaven and hell may not apply to the rest of your co-inhabitants of earth. Imagine that if I will burn in "your" hell if I don't follow your religion. Well, you will very well burn in "my hell" if you don't follow mine. Get it? By this rule there will be more flames to go around than a arsonist's heaven on earth!

"The God of hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A god who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved; cursed, not worshipped. A heaven presided over by such a god must be below the meanest hell."
— Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899)

2. You know a certain book used to state within that: the sun revolves around the earth? That was the accepted "gospel" truth and people who believed otherwise are branded witches etc. and hanged. Well what do you know? Galileo Galilei and Copernicus did the whole human civilisation a favour by exposing this faux pas of the millenium. Since then the content of the aforementioned book has changed to accomodate the new discovery. Who knows how many "editions" to the book has been done?

Bart D. Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar and textual critic of early Christianity. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has researched the source materials for the Bible. His research proposes that the Biblical text was unintentionally altered by scribes and intentionally altered for a variety of reasons.

A second major theme that runs through his more recent works is the analysis of why such biblical variations are there. The vast majority of the literally hundreds of thousands of differences are due to the unintentional mistakes of scribes.[8] These variations have little to no effect on the meaning of the passages or core tenets of Christian dogma. Changes were made, however, that Ehrman believes with near certainty could not have been mistakes, but were in fact purposeful alterations by the early church fathers and theologians to mold the early Christian writings into what they felt they needed to support their agenda and/or interpretation of Christianity.

Two key examples will be given here to illustrate the critical nature of the variations. Two of the most striking additions that could not possibly be attributed to unintentional scribal error occur in the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark and in 1 John.

In the Gospel of Mark, Ehrman claims that the last 12 verses have been added on to the original text many years later.[8] Unlike some other scribal errors that had little bearing on the major tenets of Christian dogma, this addition to the text has had vast ramifications. In Mark, Jesus' reappearance to his disciples is mentioned only in the 12 verses that were added to the original. Ehrman indicates that when one considers that the Gospel of Mark is generally regarded to be the earliest of the three synoptic gospels, and most likely one of the primary sources for the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke, it becomes apparent that the addition of these 12 verses could have had a monumental effect.

In 1 John, where we find a well known Biblical reference to the doctrine of the Trinity, Ehrman notes that this section appears in no Greek manuscript before the 9th century.[8]
-Bart D. Ehrman

3. Praying of inaminate objects= praying to the devil? Well the devil hides in the candles, the chandeliers and the many statues you have within your halls. HarHar. Last time I checked the entity has an inclination to inhabit things in the shape of the letter X... which when turned ....

4. As how civilised or advanced a society is judged by the way it treats its animals;
How good or benevolent a religion is can be judged by how its "apostates" (for the lack of a better term) are treated. Well, now there's homework for you!

"If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying: Let us go and worship other gods, do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people."(Deuteronomy 13:6-9)

"And he should go and worship other gods and bow down to them or to the sun or the moon or all the army of the heavens, ...and you must stone such one with stones and such one must die."(Deuteronomy 17:3-5)

Catharism was a name given to a radical Christian religious sect with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Catholic Church regarded the sect as dangerously heretical and in 1208 C.E., the Pope unleashed a crusade known as the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. In the ensuing 20-year military campaign, thousands of apostates were executed including 7000 residents of a town called Beziers, who were locked and burnt in a church. According to historians, a horrified onlooker rushed to the papal gates and reminded the crusaders that the some Christians were still trapped in the church together with the Cathars. The officer overseeing the massacre then made a remark that has resounded through the centuries: “Kill them all. God will know his own”[7]

Indeed. All religions should be benevolent. If death is the threat from renouncement of religion, wouldn't it be akin to embracing the "devil"? where to leave is to die?

In Islam, apostasy is called "ridda" ("turning back") and is considered to be a profound insult to God. A person born of Muslim parents that rejects Islam is called a "murtad fitri" (natural apostate), and a person that converted to Islam and later rejects the religion is called a "murtad milli" (apostate from the community).[citation needed]

According to most scholars, if a Muslim consciously and without coercion declares their rejection of Islam and does not change their mind after the time given to him/her by a judge for research, then the penalty for male apostates is death, and for women, life imprisonment. Today apostasy is punishable by death in the countries of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Mauritania and the Comoros

Kill whoever changes his religion. Sahih Bukhari 9:84:57

In 2006, Abdul Rahman, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Rahman_(convert) the Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity has attracted worldwide attention about where Islam stood on religious freedom. Prosecutors asked for the death penalty for him. However, under heavy pressure from foreign governments, the Afghan government claimed he was mentally unfit to stand trial and released him.

"The so-called ******** nations are the most enlightened and progressive ... but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Chu*** has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before ****** religion was born."
— Mark Twain

----------------------- end of excerpt ----------------------------

posted by someone who has been harangued mercilessly over and over her choice of religion.

...... Hmmmm.... things to ponder upon... don't you think?

Still I believe the problems we have in regards to religion are because of the people practising it, not the inherent nature by itself, as religion, can be a tool, and is manipulated by many... think of the many wars that are fought, think how it was used as a tool of oppression by flipping through the pages of history, and you will understand.

I anticipate flak towards this post. But keep your mind open, do not hide into your shell when your faith is being questioned, think logically. For this is how we, the general population feel when you question our faith and practices.

Atheist n. A person to be pitied in that he is unable to believe things for which there is no evidence, and who has thus deprived himself of a convenient means of feeling superior to others."
— Chaz Bufe

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Green Movement

I express my utmost relief and support towards this new move by the Housing and Local Government Ministry “Ministry plans 10sen a bottle incentive for public to recycle”( Tuesday September 16, 2008). It is a relief to know that something concrete is being done for the nation amid the current state of affairs sidetracking nation building. When bottled drink manufacturers set up collection centres, the process of manufacturing, distribution, and recycling comes full circle.

According to data compiled by Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), the content of plastic materials in a municipal solid waste (MSW) has been estimated at 7-12 percent in weight, representing 18-30 percent in volume. Thus, the move is timely and will certainly help to reduce the trash load. However, the location of the centres needs to be strategic and accessible, taking a lesson from the placement of our brown, orange and blue recycling bins that leave much to be desired.

It should also be noted that it is apathy, and not lack of incentives that slows down the green movement. Education is still the key here and recycling campaigns at the school level are the way forward. Policy makers should take a cue from competitions such as Toyota Eco Youth programme which is a success while The-Star itself should have a “Campaign For A Green Earth”, mirroring its current effort :Campaign 4 Rewards(C4R) with this year’s theme “Going Green — Making a Positive Impact on the Environment.” In contrast, “Campaign For A Green Earth” will have a central reoccurring theme. (The theme for C4R changes every year.)

While on the topic of recycling, it is extremely disheartening to see polystyrene products being used so wantonly, knowing that polystyrene waste will still be an eyesore three, four or five generations later. When there is an alternative to polystyrene such as “Ecopak”, a Malaysian company that produces packaging products made from oil palm fibre (www.ecopak.com.my), the government should support such local establishments by introducing a tax on imported petroleum
by-products i.e. plastics, polystyrene and thus encourage the use of biodegradable products. In fact, this technology/product can be exported en masse, boosting our nations economy. Having said that, I am in no way whatsoever connected to the company in mention.

Besides that, by imposing a surcharge of ten cents per plastic bag used at shopping centres, consumers will be compelled to bring shopping bags of their own. Such is the policy of Carrefour, to be followed by a few hypermarkets in Qatar; Geant Supermarket in Dubai-taking note that Dubai and the rest of United Arab Emirates are huge investors in the petroleum sector-; and the whole of China starting June 1. In Malaysia, individual hypermarket chains may be reluctant to initiate the move for fear of being alone in the cause and incurring consumer wrath, but if the government steps in and makes it a common policy among all the hypermarkets, the move would likely be successful.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

At the end of the article...I wanna Have children

A priceless gift for $3

Why your expensive child is the biggest bargain on earth

By Nury Vittachi


It costs the same to raise a child in any particular city as it does to buy a nice three-bedroom house in the same place, researchers have found.

Famil10 Could it be so much?

Well, think about it: school fees, uniform, books, shoes, bus fees, music lessons, teacher bribes, new set of keys when junior flushes yours down the toilet, new suit when junior vomits over your tuxedo, new house when junior burns it down, new car when junior commandeers yours to drive himself and the other four-year-olds to Toys R Us, etc.

“Few of us bother to get out a calculator... if we did, the human race would have died out,” Maureen Rice, a UK researcher who wrote a report called The Parent Trap, told reporters.

Boffins reckon raising a yuppie kid is roughly the same as buying a three-bedroom middle-class dwelling: HK$5 million in Hong Kong, 250,000 pounds in London, and in a typical American city, about US$350,000.

The difference is that when you spend that much on a property, you know about it. When you spend the same amount on junior, it disappears invisibly in tiny bills for Hello Kitty erasers.

Some parents argue that it’s cheaper to have lots of kids, but I tried this argument at my local school, and they just laughed. There’s no discount for bulk. Nor does it work at McDonald’s.

So why do we have children? To answer that question, I worked out exactly how much a child cost from birth to university. It came to about US$3 an hour. Now think what your child gives you for three bucks.

You get an excuse to build sandcastles on the beach.

You get someone to hold your hand every time you go out.

You get the most beautifully decorated fridge in the world.

You get a cast-iron excuse to watch The Jungle Book and The Lion King.

You get to acquire patience to a degree you never thought possible.

You get a reason to go to playgrounds, parks and Disneyland.

You get the world’s funniest comedian, in residence at your home, on call 24 hours a day.

You get a way to recapture the magic of Christmas and similar holidays.

Dad, you get to be the strongest, bravest, cleverest man in the world, a guy who can fix anything.

Mum, you get unimaginably large amounts of worship and adoration (just like your husband used to give you).

Both of you get an excuse to re-read bedtime stories like Narnia and Where the Wild Things Are.

You get an anger management course, absolutely free.

You get so much love that it fills your entire body and floods your eyes.

You both get a three hugs a day, which is 1,095 a year.

You get to vicariously experience all your “firsts” again: your first ice cream, your first play-date, your first plane ride, your first sight of an elephant.

You get to be God, making all the decisions.

You get a walking, talking doll that you can dress any way you like.

You get an excuse to splash out on a new camcorder.

You get an apoplectically enthusiastic greeting every time you come home from work.

You get to be “title sponsor” with naming rights.

You get a broken heart when they leave, but it’s worth it.

Political analyst....

The March 8 tsunami swept our shores.... and left a political topographic impact so big it could have swallowed singapore whole...

The August 26 aftershocks came less as a suprise because
1) we expected it
2) most of us are just too pooped out from trying to find shelter from the Malaysian political weather

I for one am glad that pakatan took 5 states and clearly sending a message to the ruling coalition that we would not take no nonsense no more. I am glad that Anwar has gotten back into the parliament- together with Lim Kit Siang they would be able to outmouth any crappy BN politician.

However I have my reservations about Anwar's plan of september 16th... It just isn't time yet. It would be rushed and the end does not justify the means in this case. I am green where politics is concerned but his move of sailors jumping ships does not feel right... I cannot put it better than this.

Anwar should not even if he could by P. Gunasegaram

EVEN if Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim can live up to his boast that he will topple the government on Sept 16 – we seriously doubt that because if he had the numbers, he would have already – he really, really should not.

He must accept the people’s verdict. If he wants to gain power, he must do it the straight and correct way, keeping alive both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution – at the polls. Anything else is underhand and shows he has not changed enough.

If he goes ahead, it will be morally repugnant, and will lead to an endless cycle of defections and re-defections which will further destabilise the already volatile political scenario. An excessive predilection with politics will come at the expense of other things that government must do and will cost the country dearly.

The figures show that it is not impossible for Anwar to do the unthinkable. There are 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah and 31 in Sarawak and only one from each state is in opposition hands. Anwar has said that if he comes to power, he will give these states an oil royalty of 20% against 5% currently. There are other dissatisfied MPs in the peninsula who would cross over for the right price, even if it is not money.

If 13 MPs from Sabah, 10 from Sarawak and seven from the peninsula crossed over, Anwar would have his 30. But at what price? Are these MPs crossing because they honestly believe in Pakatan Rakyat and its concepts? Money is not the only corrupting influence, power is too. And with power you can make money.

What assurance is there that if they cross to Pakatan, they won’t go back to Barisan Nasional for the right incentives? Is it not more than likely that the Perak state government, where Pakatan has a slender two-seat majority, won’t collapse when a government with a majority of 58 seats, just eight short of two thirds, can?

If Peninsular Malaysians have utter disdain for their politicians, multiply that by 10 for Sabahans and Sabah politicians. Such is the situation in Sabah that nobody but nobody believes that any politician there acts in the interest of the public. The name of the game is self-interest. Ditto for Sarawak.

Are these the kind of people that Anwar wants to populate the ranks of the Pakatan leadership after the change?

Are these the kind of leaders who would lead the charge against corruption, patronage and nepotism?

What kind of a message would he be sending?

It would be the same old game all over again – the rape and pillage of Sabah and Sarawak. Unbelievably, Sabah is the poorest state in Malaysia (one in five Sabahans is poor), Sarawak not much better. How could that be with so much land, resources and so few (relatively) people? The answer: corruption.

Anwar, will you be helping the people if you put 20% of the oil revenue of these states into the hands of these politicians as you have said you will if you came into power with their help?

You, Anwar, have to become part of the change that you so much want to bring. You can’t be espousing high moral standards and then go out and do something dirty and devious to unseat the government. Your Pakatan now controls five states – show us what you can do with the mandate the people have given you.

With a machinery much smaller than Barisan’s, Pakatan gained major footholds throughout the peninsula. Anwar’s Keadilan itself came back from the brink of extinction with just one seat to become the largest single opposition party with 31 seats. Many political novices were elected just because they were on an opposition ticket.

That happened only because the public clamoured for a major change.

If Pakatan wants to spread its influence to Sabah and Sarawak, let it plant the seeds there now and bring the desired change at the polls.

And if Pakatan gets down to work, really honest work – weeding out corruption, bringing in efficiency, having open tenders etc – Barisan will have to follow or be demolished utterly at the next polls.

But if Anwar topples the government or even continues to threaten to do so, he will be short-circuiting the process and preventing all the changes that the public want.

History will judge him harshly if he does.

Yes, it’s tough for Anwar when there is so much resistance to his political return and there are battles to fight on several fronts. But arguably, the legal system will give him a much better chance now. Not to fight according to his stated principles is to give up the fight itself – he will become the enemy he so abhors.

There is a way out if all political parties come to their senses if only for a while: support a simple piece of legislation – any elected representative automatically vacates his seat if he leaves the party on whose platform he was elected. Then, the will of the people will be maintained and if someone wants to change that he will need to seek a fresh mandate from those he represents.

And finally, everyone can go to work running their state governments and the federal government properly.

If they don’t, they will risk losing their mandates in the next polls because for the first time in Malaysia, there is an alternative.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Food for thought!

By Karim Raslan

MALAYSIA, my Malaysia... I know this is going to sound faintly ludicrous, but the Malaysia that has emerged after the March 8 elections is still better than the one that existed before.

It’s more open, more diverse and infinitely more lively; in short it’s less “Barisan” and more Malaysian – because (surprise, surprise) the two are not one and the same.

The coalition and its leading party Umno are no longer the dominant voices they once were. Instead, they have been reduced and sidelined by other infinitely more energetic, impassioned and exciting voices.

Of course the liveliness also has its costs. Businessmen and women are concerned at the disruption caused by the incessant political chatter and melodrama, most notably the storm surrounding Anwar Ibrahim.

The allegations against him have cast an extremely dark shadow over the nation as people try to figure out the difference between prosecution and persecution.

Perhaps we despair too quickly, however. We can’t, after all expect change to be smooth and seamless. This is not the time to roll back on the openness of the days after the last general election.

The more we as a people discuss – and openly – the “what”, “where” and “how” of the nation’s progress the stronger our national consensus will be, going forward. We need more, not less debate, especially over “sensitive” issues.

Malaysians are definitely ready for this – it’s just a shame that the politicians are not.

We now have the makings of a Malaysia that is of our own making – however imperfect, and not the one carved out for us by our masters.

However, all these changes are merely the beginnings of a process to really open up the system. And as the post-Merdeka social contract slowly unravels we will have to create a new, deeper and more dynamic understanding both across the racial chasm and also increasingly across the “class” divide.

We cannot afford to let our political masters control this process. We must not be passive on-lookers. We can’t fall back on our old cynicism.

A Malaysia that refuses to vote, think and speak out simply because politics is “dirty” or because “no one can really make a difference” is the sort of country that the reactionaries want. Apathy will roll back the changes that have been taking place in our country.

Malaysians must be committed, bold and determined. The age of strongman leaders has to give way to that of an engaged and virtuous citizenry holding up the nation. But this doesn’t mean a rejection of politics.

We need it more than ever, in fact. Why? Well, both sides of the political spectrum have their own agendas and we need the different contending voices to balance one another out.

On the one hand, the Barisan will try to curb the reform agenda whilst on the other hand; PAS from the Pakatan side will wish to impose their at times harsh and narrow view of the world on the rest of us.

Barisan will certainly resist reform in certain critical areas – most notably the ISA, the judiciary (look at how the Judicial Appointments Committee has been stalled), press freedoms and other civil liberties.

They’ll be wrong to do so and those who advocate the old-ways – I’ve termed them the “conservatives” – will be punished by the voters in the next election.

Some would have us believe that the people in the kampungs and your average Malaysian salaried man don’t care about such things. It is they who are mistaken. Time and our evolving demographics are on the side of change.

Another word of warning, this time to the members of our esteemed Cabinet. Remember, just as you’re watching us, the nervous “scribblers” in the newspapers and Internet – rest assured that we’re watching you and more importantly, judging you.

You have been weighed, measured and found wanting, as a matter of fact. You can silence individual bloggers or columnists, for example but the media is like a multi-headed hydra – chop off one head and 10 new ones will sprout.

The desire to write and comment on our own world is now firmly lodged within the public experience. Freedom of expression is something we demand. It cannot be extinguished and people no longer fear the long arm of the law as they once did.

But as we move forward one of the most important challenges will be for the Malays, in particular to learn to accept and live with the diversity within the community. There’s going to be enormous pressure from PAS for example to assert a particular spectrum of morality and behaviour.

In this respect, the ulama-led PAS possesses the same will to dominate that Umno currently exhibits.

Whilst many PAS leaders are genuinely incorruptible and deserve credit for this, their self-righteous moralising is unacceptable and we need to defend our public space from them. We will regret the day that one set of tyranny has been exchanged for another.

Part of the subtext of what’s been happening over the past few months has been the way Malaysians has asserting their individual identities – declaring their independence from the widely disseminated “truths” of nation building.

I’d like to end by recounting a personal anecdote. Back in 2002, I published my third book. It was a second collection of articles and essays called Ceritalah Two: Journeys Through Southeast Asia. Rereading the preface now, is a slightly disturbing experience.

Back then I was just coming to terms with what I called “the ugliness and injustice of Anwar Ibrahim’s case”. Despite being a confirmed Anwar sceptic, the events of 1998 – the selectiveness of it all has haunted me. I never quite got over the idea that Malaysia – my Malaysia – could be such an unjust and evil place.

We can’t avoid viewing political events through the prism of our own personal experiences and the last Anwar debacle was to shake me very soundly.

I resolved not to be dependent on Malaysia for my livelihood. As it happened, Indonesia was to become my second home and workplace. Indeed, Indonesia has been very good to me and I am forever indebted to this magnificent country for its welcome.

However, home is still Malaysia for me. I cannot deny my childhood years. I cannot reject my emotional, familial DNA. For all its infuriating flaws and foibles, it is home.

We often hear how Malaysians denigrate their country compared to other places like Australia and (God knows why) Singapore. Listen closely and you will hear frustrated love rather than disdain.

We only hurt the things we love. We complain because we care.

The “turmoil” that our country is undergoing is a sign of how deeply invested all sides are in its future, which makes the anxiety we feel perfectly natural. If it feels like we need to battle, then it is because this country is definitely worth fighting for.

Still as the dark cloud extends further and further across the nation and as the “conservatives” secure their power many of us may well chose to move away once again. We cannot let that happen, as it would mean letting them win.

I hear too many stories and I see too many things. Gross abuses of justice, leaders who are little better than street thugs, men and women who delight in devising ways of ripping off the exchequer.

We are surrounded by those who feel no shame in abusing the system to their own ends.

We have to take back Malaysia for the people. We have to set the agenda. We must speak for ourselves, as one nation. The Bar Council demonstrations. The teacher who racially abused her students. Those are not the faces of the real Malaysia. We are.

Malaysia will not become a “failed state” despite the prophets of doom. But only if we stand up and say, enough is enough; it is time we move forward.

The people of Malaysia will get the country they deserve. Many people groan at this, but I think of the long way we have come, the opportunities that lie ahead – and think otherwise. I believe in the rakyat. I believe in Malaysia.


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