Friday, November 19, 2010

Is the cat out of the bag?

Exposed: Gov't not oil firms that dictated latest oil price hike

A kind reader flagged out the statement by oil giant Chevron that oil firms in Malaysia have no power to determine pump prices because they take a fixed margin agreed upon with the government.

This shows what experts have long accused the Najib administration of hiding - that the government is the one behind all pump price hikes in the country, not the oil giants or global prices as they would like the Malaysian public to believe.

The way officials keep using as an excuse that most Malaysians use the cheapest ROM95 alternative is also alarming. Not is only the quality of RON 95 much worse, there are safety concerns about its flammability and Malaysians would much prefer ROM97 - if only prices were kept more reasonable and in keeping with that of an oil-producing nation.

Oil price not controlled by companies

PETALING JAYA - Oil companies in Malaysia have no control over price fluctuations of petrol and diesel nor have they the power to determine the pump price for both fuels, said Chevron Malaysia Limited.

The company, which operates the retail brand Caltex, in a statement here yesterday said all oil companies currently operate at a fixed margin determined by the Government’s automatic pricing mechanism.

“Under the current managed float for RON97, the Finance Ministry determines the pump price of RON97 and notifies the oil companies of the applicable price on a monthly basis, reflective of fluctuations of the oil prices in the international market,” it said.

The statement was in response to Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s remark that market forces controlled the price of RON97 and not the Government. - Star

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The quiet revolution in our campuses

The government is now at an impasse regarding university students and their freedom to take active part in politics.

The reality is that the longer the government tries to unreasonably curtail the fundamental rights of students to express their political preference and take up certain causes deemed "too hot", the more it turns its back on the younger generation. The net result is a huge generation of Malaysians who do not support the government.

Some in the BN now think that the tide is turning against the opposition and that come the next general elections, the ruling coalition will win handsomely. The old ways of doing things can then resume - another five decades of rapid growth with roads paved in gold for the well-connected. In short, the business as usual attitude is slowly but surely creeping back.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, one opposition party seems to be in a mess but this does not mean that Malaysians will have no alternative but to return to the BN. My gut feeling is that many will still vote for any party other than the BN.

There are now so many frontiers for the taking. In cyberspace, those bloggers with their obvious political persuasions are now quite exposed. There are also certain websites whose content is becoming quite predictable. So, the BN's attempt to wage cyber warfare, marginally effective, has now run its course.

Ultimately, the BN has to persuade not by showing how hopeless and unprincipled the opposition is but how progressive and "open" the BN can be. To date, we have very few ministers who can admit they have made mistakes and this is really bad.

Politicians who acknowledge mistakes are not weak but intelligent. So long as they don't keep repeating their mistakes, the public knows that "to err is human".

Towering controversy

The proposed 100-storey building in Kuala Lumpur is now a hot topic in cyberspace. There are over a quarter of a million “friends” who have signed up on Facebook to "oppose" the idea.

The prime minister said that no public funds will be involved but the real question is why should something that does not involve public funds be mentioned in a budget speech? Perhaps, the PM felt that people would be happy with a project that will have a great multiplier effect, not realising that what people want is a better quality of life.

Since the issue has come into the limelight, many politicians have asked the government to stand firm on its plans. But this is the same politicians who support a government that "no longer knows best". Since it was consultation that the government wanted, the Facebook initiative is really something the government should applaud.

azlanAt least a quarter of a million Malaysians care enough to register their opposition. Instead of stopping students from participating in the nationwide "blind date", those who think that they are doing the government a favour should re-think their strategy.

If Permodalan Nasional Berhad has done their calculations and plans, it must mean that PNB has the specialist knowledge to set the record straight. Every development project in a heritage sensitive area (in this case involving Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara) will have criticisms.

PNB may want to consider taking their critics head-on. What better way to demonstrate that the government always take into account the opinions of the rakyat than to do a cyber-roadshow arguing the case for the building of the tower?

University officials should also follow suit. Students are and have always been involved with politics. Even at a time of relative peace and prosperity in the early 1990s, we were all politically active. To say that universities are places to get a degree and that, students should "study" and not be involved in politics is to miss the point.

A university is not a factory. Instead, it is a community dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. Without critical thinking and the right to express themselves, our universities are producing workers that cannot participate in the knowledge-based economy that we want to build.

Involvement in politics, the space to express critical ideas about governmental policies, serves to keep politicians and governmental stakeholders on their toes. The net result is a better "educated"student body and a more nimble government.

The place where they cut their teeth

Of course, some BN ministers do not agree with the ban on student involvement in politics. They are catching up with their former colleague Anwar Ibrahim, the firebrand student politician of the 1970s.

azlanAnwar once promised to do away with the infamous Universities and University Colleges Act, if he ever became PM. In fact, as an undergraduate, even former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad used to write critical articles exposing the inequity of life in colonial Malaya under the pseudonym Che Det.

Today, we have a situation where the government "bans" students from attending political gatherings but can do nothing if they joined social networking sites to exchange the same ideas on the net. The result is that the BN will continue to lose the votes of the younger generation.

But what is really tragic is that Malaysian politics has been kept hostage to the tried and tested. Without the idealism of the young, the universities will truly become factories and our hopes of becoming a more knowledge-centric society will never take place. Some in government now realize that you cannot have something for nothing.

NONEYes, there are risks involved. Student activism may result in bigger challenges to government policies and may demand higher standards from ministers. The whole KPI for ministers may have to be revised and only the truly competent can stand the acid test.

Down south, knowing that Singapore can only remain relevant if it can become more efficient and knowledge-centric, former PM Lee Kuan Yew used to visit the National University of Singapore to regularly debate with students regarding some key government policies. The same can happen in Malaysia where student leaders will be forced to earn their stripes through a baptism of reality.

Those who want to represent the student body or a particular cause should meet regularly with governmental stakeholders and implementers so that some sort of middle-ground can be created.

The government has to realise that if it does not do a thorough paradigm shift and allow institutions of higher education to fulfill their original purpose of producing thought leaders, the high income aspiration will remain just ambitions. As for the students of today, the scene is looking very good indeed for a quiet revolution.

NEIL KHOR completed his PhD at Cambridge University and now writes occasionally on matters that he thinks requires better historical treatment. He is quietly optimistic about Malaysia's future.

[Source: Mkini]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A letter from Emmanuel Joseph to Zahid - Patriotism as it should be

Dear YB Dato’ Seri,

A few days ago, I understand from news reports, you mentioned in a speech that non-Malays like me shunned the military service because we are ‘unpatriotic’. Honestly, on a personal note, the reason’s is almost entirely economic. Going through a grueling training regime in the hot Malaysian sun, wet Malaysian tropics and dusty Malaysian roads knowing its not exactly going to provide me with enough money to provide comfortably for my family in the future is not exactly my career path of choice. I would much rather be typing in front of a monitor for a living, much like what I’m doing now, and earn more money doing it.

You see, if our government made more money, which would enable it to pay hard working, life risking civil servants like the military, police and DBKL more, I would probably have grown up wanting to be a member of PASKAL much like every American kid wants to be a Navy Seal.

That being said, if you gave me an M-16 and told me a neighbouring miniature island state was trying to overrun Johor with armed with Israeli training, German guns, American tanks, Russian nationalism and Singaporean kiasuism, I would not think twice about toting a gun to defend our country's honour, and to shoot a few of our long-lost cousins for stealing more than a few of our FDIs, talents and beautiful women over the last four decades.

YB Dato' Seri,

Kiasuism and hot former Malaysians aside, one question has been bugging me lately.

What makes a patriot?

To me, a patriot is someone who loves his or her country, is loyal to her, and would die defending her. By extension of this, a patriot would feel love and devotion to his or her countrymen, and would be loyal to them, and die defending them. And truly, there are many Malaysians I would die for.

I would gladly lay down my life for anyone who would do the same for me. Khalid Samad, I would die for. Haris Ibrahim, definitely. The other Ibrahim who was once your colleague, probably ok, maybe. Kit Siang, Karpal, Gobind, yes. Big yes for Raja Petra. I’d even take a bullet for MCA’s answer to Ron Jeremy or even any of our mega-tower obsessed Prime Ministers! I’m not too sure if I’d take a bullet, even from any pretty former Malaysian-now-Singaporean model, for, say, Zulkifli Nordin, or Ridhuan Tee, or the guy who called my mum a prostitute and dad a beggar. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t either.

How do you measure patriotism?

YB Dato’ Seri,

To me, a municipal cleaner who honestly cleans his street corner well, simply because its his duty, is more of a patriot than a high profile municipal councillor who steals from the coffers he should be guarding. To me, a poor single mother who teaches her child the virtues of loving your country is more of a patriot than some venom-spitting bigwig politician who berates another race to climb the political ladder at the cost of race relations.

To me, an honest policemen who stands at a street corner in the rain and shine, directing traffic on a busy intersection, is a bigger patriot than a corrupt high ranking cop who’s on the take from every Ah Long, Ah Hor and A-Hak Ser Wie out there. To me a stuttering Mentri Besar who is honest and tries genuinely to make his state better is more patriotic than any smooth talking Casanova look-alike minister whose ego is only surpassed by his bank balance and whose biggest contribution to the nation is some collapsed stadium or a roof-leak in a government building or a cracked highway.

To me a politician who tries to fight for a better Malaysia, regardless which camp he or she belongs to, is a patriot.

YB Dato’ Seri,

Patriotism to me is to love one’s country no matter how. We have, after all, some funny ways to show our love for the country already - like having huge record breaking teh-tarik sessions, longest flag pole, biggest mooncake, longest popia, and making the Malaysian flag out of paper cans and one cent coins, and its all good except how many people who participated in those activities felt any more Malaysian doing it? In fact how many were even Malaysian to begin with?

And forgive my pessimism, but somehow I feel grinning broadly next to a 1Malaysia Deepavali kolam pointing your forefinger heavenward while being strategically arranged (Malay, Chinese, Indian & Lain-Lain) for a perfect Muhibbah photo is good only for a facial muscle-phalange exercise unless people stop telling the Indians they’re ingrates with too many temples, the Chinese that you shouldn’t be allowed to have your own schools or anyone, ‘you should be thankful you have citizenship’.

YB Dato’ Seri,

I love my country. Very much. So much that I’m still here despite your party officials insulting my mother, my father, my ancestors and everyone else in my family than can be insulted. I’m still here despite the fact your government has told my church what we can or cannot call our God. I’m still here despite my very real fear that someday I may not be able to enjoy my favourite Taiwanese sausage at the penalty of being caned. I’ll still be here tomorrow despite the fact that most of your party members who read this would go ‘Balik China/India’ almost immediately after. And I still want to serve my country, socially, politically, or otherwise. In my case it’s working towards making a better Malaysia, even if it means replacing the current government democratically.

So YB Dato’Seri , I so badly want to be patriotic. I just hope you’ll allow me to be.



Emmanuel Joseph
A Malaysian Who Sometimes Needs Defending, Too.

Hats off to the students of UTar, Kampar!

University Tun Abdul Rahman (Utar) students in Kampar, who were barred by the campus administration from joining the 1M Malaysian Reject 100-storey Mega Tower, proceeded with their planned meeting at McDonald's this evening.

kampar cake party 161110 cake partyThe university has earlier today deemed the event as political and thus student participation would go against the Universities and University Colleges Act.

There to greet them at the fast-food restaurant was a team of 14 police officers led by Kampar OCPD Abdul Aziz Salleh.

When asked why was there such a heavy police presence, Abdul Aziz pleaded ignorance.

"I'm just here to eat, Why are you taking my photographs?" he told reporters.

McDonald's manager unnerved

kampar cake party 161110 edward chinAbdul Aziz was later seen seated at a table in conservation with
Kampar MP Lee Chee Leong's aide, Andrew Yong.

The manager of McDonald's expressed concern over the heavy police presence at the restaurant, however the students, numbering at about half a dozen, reassured him that there would be no trouble.

"We are just here to eat cake, I assure you that we are here not to
make trouble," said student leader Edward Chin (right).

"We have not brought anything, the police are the one
with batons, not us. In fact, I'm a little afraid of them.

Wearing yellow is political.

Wearing red is political.

Wearing black is political.

More than five people gathered for a birthday party is political.

Holding a candle is political.

Now, cutting and eating a cake is political.

Gee, what a wonderful country!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's time for all good men to come to the aid of his country

Many a time, when I had the opportunity to talk to some of my friends about the going-ons in our country, they acknowledge that things are bad. They can even come out with a simple equation like:

BAD = BN = PDRM = MACC = Judiciary = Education = EC = Corruption = Deaths.

So I asked, "Have you registered yourself as a voter to effect the necessary change for the better?" Their apathic reply, "Nah, I am not a voter and anyway, what can my one vote do?"

Yes, one vote or one unit alone, will not bring about changes, but if every ONE vote was to be pooled together, it can make a whole world of difference.

Look at the following video. Consider throwing ONE starfish back into the sea so that it may live. Using this analogy, we will cast ONE vote into that ballot box so that we may be a nation to be proud of again. It does make a difference.