Friday, 20 July 2018

Tun Dah Merajuk

If you're wondering why, he is peeved over the failure of the national car, and understandably so, as that was his baby. I am, sadly, old enough to remember the first ever Proton that rolled out sometime in the mid 80s.

It sent our spirits soaring, boosted our hopes, flung ambitions high -- and it also dashed some dreams, frustrated some aspirations, and frankly disappointed us.

Oh Proton, you could have been so much more.

Alas, but Proton was why the average Malaysian could not afford a decent car, because there was so much protectionism in way of tariffs on any imported car. To make matters worse, it appeared that Proton had haemorrhaged its good engineers and was devoid of creative design inspiration when it proposed designing an Islamic car.

I have nothing against religion, but I hardly think there is a market for Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish cars anymore than there is for Islamic cars.

The Japanese and Koreans emerged from humble beginnings to become serious automobile manufacturers. We were supposed to "Look East" and emulate them, but alas, Proton didn't quite scale those heights.

Dr M describes how the Austins and Morrises of yesteryear have largely disappeared from the market despite being popular European cars.

I could go one step further and rubbish BMW for its drivetrain issues and Volkswagon for its emission scandal. Oh, and let's not forget Audi, whose CEO was arrested over the same issue.

European cars are so yesterday, while American cars are mostly crap and not even worthy of a scandal.

No doubt my readership may wish to disagree, and I am open to being schooled on this subject, if said readership is convincing enough.

But back to the topic of a national car. Dr M asserts that Japan's and Korea's success with their cars has led to their high quality of life, wealth, improved technology, robust economy etc -- if we had followed suit, we would be in a better place than we are at the moment.

I suspect that that is a spurious argument as Japan has a massive deficit, possibly even worse than the US (and that is saying something). Many Japanese have adopted a minimalist lifestyle which suggests that they are not entirely content with the ostentatious way of life. Behind that veneer of perfection is a troubled economy.

"Nevermind," says Dr M, "Malaysia is a nation of consumers, rice planters and fishermen. That's what we want and that's what we get."

A bit unfair, methinks. The world needs more farmers and food producers. What it does not need is more fossil-fuelled cars polluting the environment.

The trend these days is to invent electric cars, not just hybrids. Fossil fuels are going out of fashion, and even power generation has veered towards renewable energy: hydro, solar and wind.

To get about, we should be walking or cycling, not driving.

When it comes to producing traditional cars, ladies and gentlemen, that ship has sailed.

We could become a hugely successful and prosperous nation, but if we do, it wouldn't be because of cars.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

China And 1MDB

That ah pek fella, Tony Pua, has been going around calling the 1MDB scandal the great-grandmother of all scandals, and now it appears to have caught on -- even with the BBC. The bugger is now a special officer to the finance minister -- job scope: to look through the mountains of documentation related to 1MDB.

Not bad eh?

Though everyone with a minimum of two brain cells knew, even back then, that what Tony Pua was banging on about was, of course, a legitimate issue. I think what shocks people is the scale of the problem, the sheer magnitude of the actual problem.

It has spread to, and now involves a force that most Malaysians would prefer not to bother: China.

The Mahathir administration has suspended three major construction projects with Chinese firms. The mind-blowing bit is that 88% of the cost had been paid to China, even though only 13% of the work had been completed.

How can that happen, I hear you ask. Two words: Money Laundering.

Two of the contracts were pipelines. I know right, what better way to channel money away than by using a pipeline? #Ironic

Anyway, the companies involved were contacted for *ahem* comment. According to the BBC:

Emails to China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau about Mr Pua's allegations went unanswered, but the Chinese embassy in London gave its response.

"We have noted the relevant report. China has all along conducted economic, trade and investment cooperation with Malaysia, as well as other countries, with the principle of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes," said a spokesman.

Pooh. These people, with their capacity for sanctimonious waffle, really do talk like the North Koreans.

According to the Malay Mail, Putrajaya is investigating whether part of a loan from a Chinese state-owned bank for projects worth US$2.3 billion (RM9.3 billion) was used to help repay dues of scandal-ridden state fund 1MDB.

What's the significance of this?

About three years ago, to quote the Business Insider, Xi Jinping Just Took His War On Corruption To A Whole New Level.

Even high level officials, like Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief and retired Politburo Standing Committee member and Communist Party General Secretary and Politburo member Sun Zhengcai, have been indicted.

Most of the people who have been rooted out have been caught plundering state resources. Clearly, personal and private enrichment hurts China.

The question is, what happens to those who have been plundering other nations? Is that acceptable by Xi's standards?

It's all about perception, at the end of the day. In China, local governments, often collude with businesses to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, evoking backlash in the form of mass protest and social unrest, and threatening the party’s power.

Corruption in foreign places like Malaysia is unlikely to solicit backlash in China.

Nevertheless, ball's in your court, China. Remember, the world is watching.

Related: Jho Low And The China Issue

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Police

In a previous post, I complained about the police investigating a non-issue.

Perhaps another sector of society and the administration of it that needs to be overhauled to build this new Malaysia is: the police.

Not heard of Jason Lim and his run-ins with the police? Clare Rewcastle Brown is taking journalism in her birthplace very seriously and Sarawak Report has all the details.

Time To Clear Out The Police Force To Create The New Malaysia

Friday, 13 July 2018

How Are You Treated In Your Own Country?

It's a tricky situation.

China wants to be taken seriously as an emerging power. For the most part, China is heading in the right direction; it is leading where the West is declining, thanks to the UK's parochial bickering over Brexit and Donald Trump's America First policies.

Unfortunately, in its zest to attract foreign investment and international respect, it has sidelined its own.

One massively glaring example is Wuxi Institute of Technology that gave overseas students preferential treatment, by forcing the local Chinese students to give up their rooms to foreigners and move to inferior accommodation.

That is a constant gripe in Malaysia; the Malays frequently complain that they are 'lost in their own land'. This is their basis for instituting affirmative action, or preserving their special rights.

I sympathise with Malays being treated badly in their own land. Actually, I sympathise with every other Malaysian as well, who was born in this country, paid their taxes, contributed to the well-being of the nation and still remains sidelined despite their best efforts.

In the case of the Wuxi students, they were not merely given older, less fancy accommodation to live in, the facilities were also inferior, in that the bathrooms did not have hot running water 24 hours a day. That, in most countries, is a basic human right. To send off students in your own country to less adequate accommodation is just miserable behaviour and most unbecoming of any country that wishes to take itself seriously.

A teacher was seen in a video, urging students to move out of the building, and quarrelling with them as they refuse to leave. "This is the school’s property," yells the teacher in the video. "Who are you?"

I hope this will never happen in Malaysia and that whatever befalls, however we seek to progress, we will, at the very least, protect our own.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Seriously, Do People Even Know What Sedition Is?

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri is clearly an intelligent woman, and that in Malaysia, even the 'new' Malaysia is a dangerous thing to some people.

I partly understand. People have been travelling the same sodden path for years and perhaps this change is too much for them. I am pleased though. It is heart-warming to find fellow-intellectuals and comforting to know that we think alike.

Fadiah clearly has more gumption than I do, and certainly far more knowledge on the subject of royalty and its institution. She is very articulate and puts forward her points very well.

In the UK, the topic of the monarchy and its role in society and democracy used to be debated rather frequently, and I recall that in the past, people agreed to disagree. These days, this topic seems increasingly to be the domain of racists and those who fantasise about Britain in the past. (Perhaps understandable as western civilisation is crumbling.)

It suggests that close-mindedness is a sign of a society in decline.

This is particularly why I am opposed to accusations that Fadiah bringing up the topic of royalty is tantamount to sedition.

It is not.

Sedition is when people rouse the rabble and incite violence. Fadiah is clearly miles away from that. She merely opened a path to intellectual discussion about customs we may have held for centuries.

These customs may be sacred to some people, dear to others and archaic or outdated to yet some others.

I am opposed to the new government, especially the police, leaping up and falling over themselves to question or detain her. She has done nothing wrong and in our progressive society, this is a backward move.

2. I’m not alone, says lawyer accused of sedition

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The Evils Of Palm Oil

There are dozens of people who would have read the title and nodded enthusiastically; there is even a term for them: Useful Idiot.

Fine, I didn't really set out to be nasty, but I have grown increasingly frustrated with the gullible people of the world, who protest issues without actually knowing the facts.

Frequently, the production of oil palm is conflated with deforestation that harms wildlife and in particular, orangutans.

Europe has decided to launch an anti-palm-oil campaign. Malaysia and Indonesia are trying to counter it.

Now, I have no qualms about stating my absolute dislike for the practice of widespread logging and deforestation. If I weren't an engineer, I would make a stellar Luddite. Maybe.

But the point is, while it is possible to replant the trees that have been cut down, it is less easy to repopulate the micro flora and fauna that live within the ecosystem that very old trees host. We really shouldn't be cutting down our trees, especially as trees help prevent the climate from heating up to ridiculous levels. And God knows Malaysian temperatures are skyrocketing.

George Monbiot bangs on about the decline of wildlife, particularly where he lives. Unfortunately, we have a similar situation over here. In fact, Malaysia's issues involve even the exotic animals like tigers, orangutan and rhinoceros -- and not just the garden variety, easily overlooked species that tend to quietly disappear without a bang.

This is really sad. We used to be rich in flora and fauna. Inexplicably, most of these conservation organisations prefer to blame the plantations for the loss of flora and fauna rather than the illegal (and purportedly legal; there is no limit to corruption in some places) loggers who plunder the forests.

It is, indeed, lucrative. Cilisos claims that we have an excellent forest management system, but I am less inclined to agree. The truth is, there has been significant deforestation due to logging and it did not involve palm plantations.

Tons of timber go to India, as there is massive demand there. You can't blame the Indians for buying them, but you can blame whoever has approved the ridiculous scale of logging: Taib Mahmud.

Now if there was a termite, an absolute pest, that could get away with anything, it's him. Sarawak Report has over 490 articles on him, so you can read for yourselves his shenanigans. It's not just about logging, it's about land appropriation as well. He doesn't just make wildlife homeless, he also destroys the homes of Sarawak's indigenous populations.

I particularly loathe the guy. He knows how to use all the resources at his fingertips to get away with his crimes. This includes getting the FBI of Seattle to become snivelling little puppy dogs and protect his domain. The FBI are the absolute sh!t.

Where now are the self-righteous protesters from Europe and America who want to "make a difference" and "take the moral high ground"? The truth is, it's just mere bullying; they think they can more easily take on less powerful South East Asian countries rather than the FBI. And then you wonder why it's so difficult to respect these people.

There is a nuance to this anti-palm-oil campaign though. Europe has voted to limit the amount of palm oil, soy, maize and other food crops to be used in biofuels. The problem is, policies to promote biofuels from crops – whether in Indonesia or Europe – are perverse and will continue to boost global carbon emissions.

We need to stop burning stuff to generate energy. We really do. There are other forms of renewable energy available like wind, water and sun. It's just a matter of developing the technology.

However, there is nothing wrong with growing and consuming palm oil. On a per hectare basis, oil palm trees are 6-10 times more efficient at producing oil than temperate oilseed crops such as rapeseed, soybean, olive and sunflower. The land management of palm plantations just needs to be improved, and thugs (particularly those in suits and ties) who (mis)appropriate land need to be jailed.

In the past, there were studies that claimed that palm oil was unhealthy for consumption, and that better alternatives were soy, almond and rapeseed. The truth is, palm oil is high in vitamins and good for cholesterol. Once the truth was made clear, the opponents of palm oil decided to go after the production of it instead of the content of the oil.

Clearly, this is an economic issue rather than a health or moral one.

I, for one, am not going to be suckered into this fear campaign over palm oil, but perhaps we should advocate more caution over biofuels and deforestation.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fake News

A WhatsApp joke has been making the rounds:

Before Fake News Bill 2018

Dungu: I'm on the way, a bit jam lah.
Abuden: Ya, me too, traffic really bad.

After Fake News Bill 2018

Dungu: Still in bed; I overslept.
Abuden: Ya, me too. See you in an hour.

People have been lying since the serpent told Eve back in the Garden that everything would be fine if she ate that fruit.

These days, the truth has been so bent out of shape that election machineries that have traditionally been the foundation of modern democracies have faltered; rife with twisted untruths and blatant lies.

The United States of America has had its citizens manipulated into voting a candidate that is worthless; one who has none of their best interests at heart.

The United Kingdom has withdrawn from the European Union under false information provided during a referendum; albeit one that was wholly unnecessary.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have been fingered. The next few days will probably hold an avalanche of further information.

Fake news, if you will permit me a colloquialism, is certainly a pain in the butt. The problem is, that it means that every new morsel of information has to be scrutinised to assess if it is genuine or just plain bunk. Clearly, discretion ought to be a part of every human interaction, but these days, it is so well-disguised as truth, that spotting it is becoming more difficult.

Having anti-fake news laws would act as a deterrent for malicious parties seeking to spread disinformation, but what constitutes "fake news"?

In Malaysia, the law covers digital publications (like news websites and blogs) and social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) and will purportedly apply to offenders who maliciously spread fake news inside and outside Malaysia.

This includes foreigners, but one really questions how this law could claim extra-territorial jurisdiction; i.e. apply to a citizen of a foreign country without having any extradition treaties with sovereign nations.

My issue really is that this law is being used to stifle dissent and criticism; not to mention prevent the public from being informed of the shenanigans of the ruling coalition. 1MDB is one of the biggest fiascos in the world, and I am still thinking of that Mongolian model blown up with C4 explosives.

News like this is particularly critical, considering the impending elections. The Malaysian government has always had a tenuous grasp of the concept of truth, as it frequently lies via the newspapers and the government owned TV channels.

Bare-faced lies.

The question is whether the public will allow itself to be manipulated into self-censorship or will it be business as usual?

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Seriously High-Quality Manifesto Suggestions

I don't say this merely because the writer of those suggestions makes Candide references.

Some are tongue-in-cheek, I think.

But quite a few of the points raised are well thought through and deliberated. Granted, some are also a bit vague, but debating them before enacting the laws are, after all, the role of our elected representatives.

My favourites (I appear to prefer the vague ones) are:

1. Institute a law to address discrimination in the private sector with a focus on race, religion, political belief and gender.
2. Minimum mandatory 30 days paternity leave to address gender pay gap and change societal expectations on gender.

Civil liberties
1. Limit the police’s ability to restrict peaceful assemblies.
2. Address discrimination against religious minority.
3. Sosma to be limited towards terror activities only.
4. Sedition Act to be scaled down.
5. Tighter requirements for book banning.
6. Stronger privacy and data protections law and enforcement.

Read them in their entirety at Manifesto promises I would like to see made by the self-proclaimed "reasonably libertarian" Hafiz Noor Shams.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Returning Awards

It all started when Dr M went and vilified a notorious crook, who holds high public office. He is famously of Bugis ancestry, this particular crook.

Unfortunately, said crook isn't the only Bugis in town.

Back in the 15th century, the Bugis were the best seafarers in the region, quite expectedly, given that they were predominantly Sulawesi islanders. A small number of them were also pirates.

A few of them, however, held court in the Peninsular. Literally. By that, I mean they were Rulers - Selangor royalty, for example, are of Bugis ancestry.

Unfortunately, it is this group that Dr M has managed to offend by pointing out the piracy connections that the Bugis have.

Perhaps this is similar to pointing out that white people have been slave-owners, and even doing it in a pejorative way. Malaysians don't particularly shy away from hurling abuse at each other, quite frankly.

I don't think there was any doubt in the collective minds of the crowd, at whom the vilification and somewhat personal slur was aimed. No one was thinking of the Selangor palace. But the palace took offence nevertheless, and rebuked Dr M for it.

This is always an awkward situation, because two generations of sultans had awarded Dr M (and his wife) in the past; once in 1978 and again in 2003.

It became a lot more personal after newspaper tabloids (namely government rags Utusan and Star) fuelled the flames of dissent by taking up vast columns and pouring out volumes of angst.

In other words: making a mountain out of a molehill.

You and I know what the game plan is. Najib wants to create ill-will towards Dr M - understandably, since Dr M has been taking him to task over his ridiculously kleptomanic tendencies.

So Najib has to deflect the insults to a wider group of recipients including the Sultan of Selangor, who now becomes forced to make statements and even rebuke Dr M publicly.

But you gotta hand it to Mahathir Mohamad. He does not hold on to awards with the sentimentality of the aged.

One of those was the highest order awarded by the state. It did not hold them back. Both Dr M and Dr Siti Hasmah returned them with no comment.

(Other than, perhaps, "Nah, nak ambik, ambik ah!")

Some people see it as a sign of arrogance, others as disrespect.

I am, however, impressed. It brings a new dimension to the guy I used to call the Loony Tun, because while I thought he was power-hungry, he is clearly not bogged down by niceties and convention.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Malaysian Military And Jerusalem

From Yahoo News:

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian Armed Forces is prepared to head to the Middle East if its services are needed there following the US government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today.

The US recognition as announced by the Trump administration had drawn widespread condemnation from the Muslim world, including Malaysia which has long been sympathetic to Palestine which has been engaged in a decades-long conflict with the Zionist regime of Israel.

Okay. Trump is a war-mongering f-wit. He has no discernible diplomatic skill. Actually he has no discernible determination to pursue diplomatic solutions. Why are so many diplomatic posts still unfilled nearly a year into his presidency?

However, who seriously thinks the solution to the Israeli issue is a military one?

Only people with brains the the same size as The Donald's. Hint: it rivals a pea. (Agent Orange has only one organ smaller than his brain.)

Deploying the Malaysian military to Jerusalem is a extraordinarily bad idea. The only quantity of liquid greater than the tears engendered will be blood.

And still nothing will be accomplished.

The good people of Malaysia want, do they, noble military personnel returned to the country in body bags in coffins, draped with the Malaysian flag?

Absolutely not.

The world is collectively outraged by Agent Orange's actions; perhaps it's pertinent to maintain their sympathies, rather than squander it by deploying unnecessary military force and confirming the opinions of judgmental people that Muslims are always angry and violent.

A careful, cautious step backwards and a thoughtful contribution to diplomatic debate is a far more valuable step by Malaysia.

RELATED: Palestinians recognize Texas as part of Mexico ;-)