Friday, January 30, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Festive season is on!
For the Chinese, it will be a time of giving angpow and receiving angpow, eating, drinking, gambling and late nights.
The economic downturn that seems to affect everyone has dampened the festive mood and of course the spending.
I notice that there is not enough media coverage on the impending slowdown that Malaysia, like many other countries faces.
I read in Singapore Straits Times recently and they devoted many, many pages to the slowdown. The Singapore government wants to prepare the rakyat to face the slowdown.
However, I notice that the Malaysia media do not give adequate coverage of the impending slowdown in Malaysia. Either it is a directive from political power, or lack of awareness by the media on inevitable slowdown that we are going to face.
While other nations have admitted that they are entering recession, Malaysia is still talking about growth of 2-3 percent.
I’ve also read small prints by economic analysis that the government growth will not be more than 1 percent.
Of course I must admit that economic prediction is like weather forecasting. In fact, the American bankers, financial analysts and so-called experts have been proven deadly wrong.
The government should do more to face this impending slowdown or it would turn into déjà-vu or a state of denial.
We are now told that government may introduce a 2nd stimulus package. We have not even heard much about the 1st stimulus package.
Economic stimulation will not work unless implemented properly so that the target group could directly benefit from it.
There is a lack of information in the 1st stimulus package. The government dissemination group should be beefed up in time for crisis in order to keep the rakyat informed and connected of what the government is doing. This will generate goodwill of what the government care and do.
The government has to do more in the stimulus package to lighten the burden of the lower income group in view of inflation and the possibility of reduced income.
I cannot imagine why it takes so long for the government to review the electric tariff, which has a direct impact to all industries.
It has been shown in many countries that direct monetary grant to the lower income group to help them tie over the financial crisis is effective.
It is a question of having accurate data and distribution of the direct grant. Rakyat are normally not appreciative of indirect subsidy since everybody seems to benefit.
A new approach is needed to demonstrate that the government care and willing to share the burden of rakyat. The impact from economic slowdown often has the greatest effect on the lower income group.
It is estimated about 200, 000 people will be retrenched. I suspect more often than not, it is Malaysian workers who get retrenched more than foreign workers.
Enforcement is weak here. Why an employer should retrench a Malaysian worker who is paid RM1000 – RM1200 per month and a foreign worker whose salary is just RM600 – RM800 per month?
There is a need for monitoring mechanism to ensure that the process of retrenchment is not abused.
The government needs to drum home that employers must save cost to save job and not save cost by cutting jobs.
Road accidents and mortality has become part and parcel of any celebration. Our highway becomes a war zone, averaging about 20 deaths a day.
There was even some smart suggestion that express bus should not be allowed to operate after midnight since accidents occur more frequently at night. It is a typical Malaysia knee-jerk reaction by politicians.
Since most crimes are committed at night, then the government should implement curfew after midnight to reduce crime rates.
Politicians should learn to be more creative and innovative in responding to media query rather than shooting from the hip, which often becomes a dining joke.
Let’s not get depressed by such political statement. It will only serve to dampen our festive mood for celebration. Happy Chinese New Year!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Happy Chinese New Year!
May the year of Ox brings peace, health and prosperity to everyone.
I must apologize for not doing any posting in my blog last week.
I was down with flu and was travelling to Penang and Kuala Terengganu and have no time to think and write.
Now, the verdict is out for the Kuala Terengganu by-election.
We have to accept the rakyat’s choice. In any by-election, the medias attention and campaign tend to be very intense with the candidates assuming an equally high media profile.
Conventional wisdom is that during by-election, it is to the advantage of the party in power. This do not seems to be true in this by-election.
BN cannot claim to have a massive and a formidable party organization. With 5 states under PR government, we have observed PR, especially PAS have also a huge party organization and are not lacking in its manpower and financial resources.
PR party has an added advantage that they can openly solicit donation even though they may have the financial resources. It evokes a lot of sympathy and commitment from the voters.
No seat is now a safe seat for BN or PR. While it may provoke competition among the parties, it will definitely intensify politicking both at local and national level.
Soon, there will be politicians who speak what the rakyat likes to hear and do popular things that may not be of national interest in long term, e.g. giving free pipe water, when water should be a scarce and is a limited resource.
BN cannot take any election lightly. BN not only need to change its way of managing the affairs of the country, there is a need also to change its campaign tactic.
The campaign strategy of BN has not change much. It has fixation with local developments and giving goodies.
BN leaders have to be more focused in solving local development and bread and butter issues throughout the year. There have to be more activities that are people friendly and interactive.
Attending and officiating a lot of 1000 people dinners is not going to help very much.
Recently, I was invited to officiate a cultural night in conjunction with the Chinese New Year. While the local MCA leaders have good intention, it has no political impact on the audience.
We have to start late because the local MP who is a Deputy Minister (from UMNO) can only come after prayer; the program starts only by 8.15p.m.
With 6 speakers, the program proper starts only at 9.45p.m., by then a lot of the crowd have left the hall, disappointed with the organizer, MCA. While we understand the Muslims need to pray, the organizer could have started earlier with speeches.
While speeches are delivered in Mandarin and the Deputy Minister obviously have no idea about the content of their speeches. So, while waiting for the MP’s arrival, they can start the function, the impact will be better.
The Chinese in Kuala Terengganu seems to support BN. While we are thankful for their support, we take recognition of several other factors:
1) The increase of 62 votes in Kg. Cina is minimal;
2) A lot of Chinese outstation voters, about 1200 of them out of over 8000 voters do not return to vote. A lot of these voters are of the younger age group and they are perceived to be anti-establishment;
3) The local ADUN who is also the state EXCO YB Toh Chin Yaw (from MCA) is a hardworking and popular local leader.
4) To be fair, the BN state government has been fair in distributing “Wang Ikhsan” to the non-Malays in Terengganu. Temples, Chinese schools, associations and the poor received significant yearly grant from the state government. This has gone down well with the Chinese.
What should be noted is that PAS collected about 40% of the Chinese votes. The Chinese are often regarded as anti PAS and from my experience, PAS candidate in Chinese constituency do not collect more than 20% of the votes.
If more and more start to accept PAS, then MCA and BN need to worry. We cannot rely on Hudud implementation and its punitive action to the community to convince the Chinese not to vote for PAS.
We have to do more and UMNO and BN need to do more to convince the non-Muslim that PAS is not an alternative to UMNO.
Hudud implementation in a multiracial country and its implication need to be explained to non-Muslim.
UMNO leaders cannot be more PAS than PAS leaders when they talk about Islam and other religions.
If the Chinese find UMNO leaders and PAS leaders the same, then PAS’ support among the Chinese will grow.
If some PAS leaders can go to Chinese temple and UMNO leader refuse to go – although this is all symbolic, then MCA will have more work to do.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I went campaigning in the Kuala Terengganu by-election on the 8th January accompanied by YB Chua Tee Yong, the MP for Labis, some MCA, Wanita and Youth members of the Kuala Terengganu division.
Arriving at 8.30a.m. in Kuala Terengganu airport by Firefly, we went for breakfast. After that, we started work.
We covered about 50 shop houses in the city centre. The response was good and I was pleasantly surprised that most of the voters know me by my full name.
A few requested to take photograph with me while some requested for my signature on the New Year greeting card. Of course I have to oblige to their requests. Facial and name recognition seems to help in the walk about.
After lunch, we met up with the Teochew Association of Kuala Terengganu. The Teochews numbered about 80 families in the Kuala Terengganu town.
Most of them are small time businessman. During the dialogue, nothing very much inspired.
However, during teatime interaction, a lot generally acknowledged that if they support PAS, it is because they are not happy with UMNO and not because they subscribe to PAS’ political agenda.
The fact that BN will not lose control at the federal level if it loses the by-election seems to be working to the advantage of the PAS.
I took the opportunity to talk about how voters should exercise their votes wisely and that it should not be swayed by emotion.
During voting, I said that voters should evaluate:
1) The candidate’s party;
2) The quality of the candidate
The party is important. This may explain why very few independent candidates are successful during election.
In this case, we have an UMNO and BN candidate pitted against PAS and PR party.
After the Teochew Association meeting, we went to a medium 4 storey flat. It was a good exercise covering blocks of 4 storeys flat.
Occupants of the 4 floors were surprised to see me when I knock at the door since they assume that they hardly have anyone knocking at the door when they are living on 4th floor.
During 308 election, people voted for change. We now have 5 PR state government. People have the opportunity to evaluate the performance of the PR government.
The important question is whether PR state has done better than BN state government or not.
Have they implemented what is contained in their manifesto, such as local council election and election for village chief?
PAS talks about welfare state during the 308 election and today it is talking about Hudud law. Even Anwar also supports Hudud law by saying that it is only applicable to Muslims.
Is PAS on an expedition of fishing the Malay votes with Kuala Terengganu by-election in mind where Islam holds a central place in daily lives of average Malay in Terengganu?
Will the Chinese be frightened by Hudud law?
I think we have oversimplified Hudud implementation by talking only about the punitive action of Hudud law.
We tend to talk about restriction of the sale of alcohol and gambling outlet as if this is all about Hudud.
We have failed to talk about the bigger picture of Hudud and its effect in a multiracial country like Malaysia.
Today, there are over 50 countries in the world where Muslims is dominant with Islam as the official religion or they are Islamic statehood.
Strictly speaking, there are only 2 among 50 over countries that practice a more western form of Parliamentary democracy, which is Malaysia and Turkey.
The rest are often autocratic. They may have election about what is beyond our comprehension is that often some of these countries have Islamic Religion Council of which their position and power is way above the Parliament. The council members are appointed members.
It can be noted that most of these countries are not doing well economically despite they are having a lot of oil.
Generally, they are not investor and tourism friendly. Often, people will quote the example of Egypt and South Korea.
35 years ago, Egypt and South Korea have the same capital income. But today, Egypt’s per capital income is not even 20 percent that of South Korea.
Hudud implementation has wide ramification and implications in a multiracial country like Malaysia. It will be a messy job to implement Hudud only among Muslims and leaving the non-Muslims to the civil law.
Presently, we have enough confusion and controversy even with syariah and civil law. It will just add more confusion to what is already a difficult problem to resolve between syariah and civil law in some divorce cases where one of the spouse in converted to Islam.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Year 2009 will be a tough year for everyone. The financial turmoil and meltdown in America has become a global issue and Malaysia is not spared as well.
Politically, we are confronted with the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Although the outcome of the by-election will not change the power of BN at the Federal level; however, it is significant in many other aspects.
A few issues to ponder upon in this by-election:
1) The reputation of Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister in waiting Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak is at stake as he is leading the campaign.
2) Will Malay voters support UMNO and BN in a state where political awareness is high and no seat is regarded as safe?
3) Will the Chinese, whose number 8787 (11.4%) support UMNO and BN candidates for in the 308 election? The BN candidate for Parliament constituency actually lost in the Chinese majority area.
This battle is very different from Permatang Pauh since there is no brand name candidates. They are all local boys.
All the big guns from the political divide will be on the battleground, more so to influence fence sitters.
For the Malay voters, majority has their inclination and political affiliations. Off course there are the minority who are the fence sitters.
However, the Chinese voters’ inclination is difficult to gauge. Nonetheless, the core group of MCA supporters is always there.
Since this is by-election, there will be a lot of door-to-door campaigning.
I always suspect its effectiveness if it is not done properly and often more to show that some leaders are ‘working hard’ for BN.
Often the VIP leaders are surrounded by a lot of followers and really there is little interaction between the candidates and the voters.
I often prefer the low-key approach where small group by BN workers, who are local leading the VIP leader and candidate going from house to house with interaction and problem recorded, with follow-up action to resolve and not a quick swing as if the voter will vote a particular candidate because he has the opportunity to shake the hand of the VIP and the candidate.
Gone are those days where voters are excited to see the VIPs. They have seen them too often in television and print media and there is no thrill to the voters anymore.
The soft touch is the preferred method of campaigning. Handouts will be undertaken by both the political divide. It may influence the small number of fence sitter. It is often a question of since it does no harm, why not do it?
For BN, public rally often do not attract the crowd. It can be disheartening, as most voters like to hear speakers critical of government. Government policies are boring topics.
On national issue, I suspect that it will not figure out prominently. Development issue, especially local issues will definitely be exploited to the full by PAS. Often there are weaknesses and poor delivery system of the local council. This will haunt the BN candidates. This time, it will not be an exception.
I understand that there are local issues that have not been resolved like flood, poor drainage system, shops use for bird nest cultivations and completed project without CF.
Rapid resolution of these problems will do the BN candidate a lot of good.
Of course I am involved in the by-election campaign.
Happy campaigning and good luck!
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Therefore, I welcome party members and members of public to post your constructive suggestions and opinions on my blog on how to rebuild and reform the party, eventually enabling MCA to regain support from all party members and the community.
Thank you for your suggestions.