Thursday, 23 April 2009

Prem Eja

The Official Malaysian Stimulus Package Website is, for lack of a better praise, wordy.

Colorful too, and obviously done by someone who really loves charts.

BUT it’s sadly nothing more than a rehashed job.

Everything onsite (except for the colorful charts, that is) can easily be gleaned with some patience in screening through the many news reports and speech text of both packages launched in November last year and March this year.

What it does not have are details.

The devil of the stimulus packages, in other words.

Oh, there are enough “facts” therein - not enough to swamp you, though – but they are, shall we say, the useless kinds.

I was hoping to see what and how much goes where and to who, but alas, it’s not to be found in the portal. (It’s a work related research, honest..)

And get this: the FAQ consists of SEVEN questions including this following gem of Q&As:

Soalan: Bagaimanakah peruntukan ini dibahagi-bahagikan?
Jawapan: Kesemua peruntukan diagihkan samada mengikut teras, negeri, agensi atau program.

That’s a big, huge help there.


The feeling similar to hoping someone biting the dust in a Marvel Comics' Hulkie versus Wolvie slugfest.

It would never happened. And even if it did, trust that it's an alternate reality/ dreamscape/nightmare bullshit.
The glowering duo

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Ixora Blues

ExoraI stopped by at my area’s Tesco Hypermarket yesterday after work and saw a gleaming new Proton Exora on display at its concourse.

With minutes to spare before my wife and daughters arrived to join me – plus the fact that there was only a small crowd around the MPV - I took the opportunity to take a closer look at the national car company latest offering.

You know: the knock on dashboard, sit on the seat, flip the sun visor and open the boot kind of scrutiny.

While the look was too much Toyota Wish(y), at RM70K, I would have to say it’s probably a good alternative for those looking for something other than a normal sedan/hatchback of the RM70K region.

Not that I was interested in the Exora as, after ownership of three models which gave me varying levels of headaches and heartaches, I had given up on Proton.

My first ever was a Proton Satria 1.3 which I recalled the salesman graciously assisting in reversing the car out from their showroom for me during collection upon hearing that I had only gotten my driver’s license.

Fortune smiled slightly on me on that one as the alternator decided to die during the warranty period; but others didn’t - fuel gauge that stops at just below the half full mark while moving toward empty, power windows malfunctioning at the best of times and a horn that gives a honk automatically whenever I turn a sharp right (perhaps a safety measure which I wasn’t aware of).

The dreadful Asian Financial Crisis saw me downgrading (or upgrading where door count was concerned) to a Proton Iswara Aeroback.

It wasn’t a perfect car, but the Iswara – as the tens of thousands owners would attest to – is a good workhorse which rarely fails on you.

The only downside was the high-ish 8% interest rate I was slapped with.

When the engine started drinking its oil (after about 3 and a half year), and Proton came out with its all Proton Gen2 model, my wife and I decided it was time to consider another change.

Our choices were: the Proton Waja (seats and reliability sucks, great drive), the Kia Rio (reliability so so, cute looks) and, of course, the Gen2.

A test drive got us hooked for what would turn out to be a nightmare in car ownership.

Barely 1,000km on the odometer the driver power window died right at the Jelapang toll plaza – the first to be followed one by one by the three others - and there was unnerving rattling sounds from God knows where which were never ably rectified.

The Campro engine was also prone to overheating bouts: we’d have the fan whirring away especially after a long journey, something which persisted even after numerous tinkering, a full change in cylinder head and countless number of radiator flushing.

A technician of the workshop where the cylinder head change whatchamaccalit was done blamed the radiator fan for the problem, pointing out that it weakened over time.

All these, in barely three years of ownership.

We had two cars at the time: the other being a 1991 Suzuki Swift and - to tell the truth and nothing but the truth - she was the more reliable (albeit less comfortable) ride.

Then we had three: a Hyundai Matrix, as the Gen2 could no longer be relied on for long journeys.

Finally, fed up and extremely frustrated with the hassle of going in and out of service centres over the never ending overheating problem, we traded it at a loss for a Perodua Viva.

(We still needed of a second car as the Swift was given to my brother in law when we got the Matrix.)

As I sat in the plush leather seat of the Exora and admiring the solidity of its interior, memories in the heady, hateful, days of the Gen2 came back strongly.

If ever I am in need of a seven seater, I’d probably wait until I’m able to buy a non-Proton.

Talking about cars, the “new” Perak State government is somewhat in its sanctimonious best in its auctioning off the Toyota Camrys bought by the “old” State government.

What gives?

Don’t tell me they want to downgrade back to Proton Perdana? A political one-up-manship, perhaps?

I bet if given the choice between the two, the “new” State executive councilors wouldn’t mind travelling in barely broken-in Toyota Camry than a Perdana.

Why not go the whole way by buying the Exora, Dr Zambry? It’s much cheaper and would accommodate two more entourage per vehicle.

Although, I’m betting that even they wouldn’t mind the Camry too.

What’s that I hear: cost savings and helping the national cause?

Oh... Okay then…

(At least the Perak “new” state government is not doing a Dr Khir Toyo’s (paraphrasing here) "If he goes economy his subordinates would be sitting in the baggage section" excuse.. so fair lah..)


Monday, 20 April 2009

Doth Thou Jest?

Homer's at least lovable
The way he goes on and on about “officers” not understanding the technicalities of river management and theme park et cetera et cetera, you’d think the whole administrative arms of the Selangor State government is full of technically inept employees.

(“he” here of course refers to Dr Khir Toyo who failed to grab the Umno Youth Chief position and he who was formerly the Selangor Menteri Besar.)

“Couldn’t understand”, “couldn’t visualize”, “did not understand the concept”…

Either these employee were very Dohh or they were very clever in pretending to “not understand” so that they could perhaps (ahem, drumroll right here) go on technical trips during the school holidays without having to meet up with the very adept technical people who could have imparted with all the “understanding” and “visualization” they needed.

The trips should be enough to provide all the “exposure”.

That said, even The Man himself doesn't seems to know much either.

Marina wasn’t kidding when she asked us to check out the online version of the interview.

A classic, really.

Man O Man.

Friday, 17 April 2009

(Blipping) Cor Blimey!

The Guildford Four
WTF! ... Not another (blipping) by-election!

I may not be in the thick of things (Thank God I managed to get out from journalism last year!) but I am sore at how politicians are taking the resign route when something crops up and thus forcing a by-election.

Come on! All this politicking is killing the already much frayed national solidarity.

It’s already bad enough that the government is seemingly going wayward with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (not to mention those down the line) seemingly having different nation's objectives.

Another by-election at this current stage is just not palatable!

Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin should just (blipping) stand his ground if he is innocent as he say he is.

He’s not even(blipping) charged yet, for goodness sake.

God knows there are many more politicians who are remaining steadfast in their positions who – in my mind, at least – are far more deserving of a (blipping) boot on their (blipping) backside.

You go when you need to go by way of being found guilty either by public opinion or the court of law.

(Just a note: the court of public opinion is when too much proven dirt is washed publicly by way of the mainstream newspapers without you being able to (blipping) justify having so much dirt through the same channel.

Example being Chua Soi Lek’s sexcapade episode.

Some (blipping) (blipping) are however too (blipping) shameless to do so and instead start giving inane justifications for blatant abuse of their (blipping) position.

You should (blipping) know who you are.)

This may well be just another internal political game of wanting to push someone for the Penang deputy chief minister’s post.

If Umno is (ahem..) allegedly full of deadwoods past their time, PKR seems to be full of driftwoods caught in the wake of its sudden surge in public support.

What this says of both is an apparent weakness in their grassroot foundations – the branches and what not – and their inabilities to channel the right kind of leaders into the state and national stages.

Get these (blipping) right and there should be less deadwoods and driftwoods to contend with.

Perhaps the EC should consider amending their regulations to something like this: where someone resigns from their post, the spot goes to their last time opponent unless the majority is bigger than, say, 25% of the electoral rolls.

That would allow a whole lot of us some much need breathing space from by-election politickings.

In the meantime, Fairus should (blipping) stop whining about conspiracies, retract his resignation letter and just (blipping) serve his constituency the best that he (blipping) can.

Being a DUN is not a (blipping) “main-main” thing, after all.

(PS: The picture above is a scene from Jim Sheridan’s 1993 movie “In the Name of the Father”, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Emma Thompson, on the injustice meted on the Guildford Four.

And I do apologise for the many profanities in this posting. Call it politics fatigue.)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Why Now?

(Myopia : A visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred because their images are focused in front of the retina rather than on it; nearsightedness.)

Utusan Malaysia carried this huge headline of “Bangkitlah Melayu” today.

It sounded like a battlecry and I was piqued to see just what it is that the newspaper wanted us Malays to wake up to.

It turns out to be a rhetoric from firebrand MP Ibrahim Ali, the gist of which, asking for a wholly Malay formed government.

Utusan did not however quote Ibrahim Ali verbatim (peculiar this..) but chose to instead paraphrase his words as such:

Katanya, jumlah kerusi terbanyak di Parlimen adalah milik Melayu dan ia cukup untuk membentuk sebuah kerajaan berasaskan wakil rakyat Melayu semata-mata di negara ini.

Katanya, justeru, dari segi politiknya kerajaan itu sepatutnya memenuhi apa sahaja yang menjadi kehendak Melayu kerana mereka adalah majoriti dan bukan asyik bertolak ansur dengan bukan Melayu.


And there I thought Utusan Malaysia (Melayu?) wanted Malays to wake up to the fact that Malay household formed the biggest percentage of those earning RM1,000 and below at 301,000 from a total of 5.8 million household polled in 2007.

Or that Malay millionaires and billionaires represent a mere 7.9% in term of wealth accumulation for the country’s top 40 richest last year.

There are more that ails the community but the two mentioned above are pertinent to Ibrahim Ali’s wanting the Malays led government to fulfill the “kehendak Melayu”.

So what does Ibrahim Ali thinks that we Malays want really?

For the Malay-centric Umno and PAS to come together? Surely not, as two by-elections with the two combatants squaring dealt the losing hand to Umno.

A re-distribution of wealth, perhaps? Especially seeing how this is skewed in favor of non-Malays.

But this is a dangerous line of thought to pursue.

Perhaps we should concentrate in creating a much bigger cake; one that allows the participation of all communities and that raises the income level parity by doing away the "cheap labor is Malaysia" concept that had long depressed our labor market so effectively.

I seem to remember a once-great Statesman who pushed for the “enriching of thy neighbor” so that everyone would be able to reap the benefits.

In the course of the nation’s short life so far, we’ve managed to help enriched some, but not all.

But all throughout, it’s the same Malay majority government who was in administration.

So why does Melayu Perlu Bangkit now?

Bill Sienkiwicz's Elektra

Elektra Natchios

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Final Verdict


A filepix of the murdered victim

High Court Judge Mohd Zaki Md Yasin today found Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri,32, and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 36, guilty for killing for the muder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu three years ago and sentenced to death.

Mohd Zaki said that the two failed to cast any doubt on the prosecution's case.

Based purely on the tried cases (and disregarding rumours, innuendos, conspiracy theories et cetera), we now know as “fact” the following regarding the murdered Mongolian translator/analyst girlfriend/victim:

The who: Azilah and Sirul

The when: between 10 pm, Oct 19 and 1 am, Oct 20, 2006

The where: between Lot 12843 and Lot 16735 Mukim Bukit Raja

And the how: gunshots followed by explosives.

What’s left is the question WHY.

Just WHAT WAS IT that made the two men shoot the deceased and then blow her body to smithereens?

The Prosecution submitted the murder was pre-planned and thus there must be a WHY in place for the two to painstakingly plan out the crime put into effect that night.

In what must be the the basest of crimes against mankind, there is almost always a WHY: hatred, crime of passion, to conceal another crime, fear, jealousy, anger, obstruction.

You’d have to be a truly evil person to kill someone “suka – suka”.

To pre-planned a murder and the body's following disposal of the murdered victim in such a manner indicates that the WHY must be a substantially strong WHY indeed.

Would I be in contempt of court in asking for this WHY?

The judgement in full would make interesting reading.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Quo Vadis Status Quo

Friendly media? Media friendly?

I wonder…

Status Quo?

Both papers main page headliners should probably re-watch “Simply Ballroom” to see the irony of the word Status Quo.

Really… NST and Star: Quo Vadis?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Moving on Up!

Prime Minister's Najib Abdul Razak's new line-up according to Sin Chew Daily.

Out :
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Abdul Samad
Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar
Tourism Minister Azalina Othman
Energy, Water and communications Minister Shaziman Abu Mansor
Federal Territories Minister Zulhasnan Rafique
Rural and Regional Development Minister Muhammad Muhd Taib
Foreign Minister Dr Rais Yatim
Higher Education Minister Mohamed Khalid Nordin
Information Minister Ahmad Shabbery Chik.
Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Chuan

Moving: Hishammuddin Hussein (International Trade and Industry Ministry), Nazri Abdul Aziz (Foreign Ministry, ouch!), Shafie Apdal (Defence Ministry).

Welcomed: Dr Koh Tsu Koon (Huh?), former science, technology and innovation minister Jamaluddin Jarjis, former tourism minister Tengku Adnan Mansor, Khairy Jamaluddin

Not welcomed: S Samy Vellu, Chua Soi Lek

Noteworthy :Number of ministers from 29 to 23

Setting up of a Ministry on Chinese affairs.

(I wonder why this is needed? Are my Chinese friends being sidelined or neglected? How about a ministry for Indian affairs?

We do have to admit that our Indian friends are far more in need of some fresh impetus just like the Malays as these are easily the two biggest contributors where hardcore and marginally hard core poor are concerned.

Are we back to addressing ourselves as Malay, Chinese and Indians as such that Ministries have to be formed to take care of each indigenous group?

It’s a reversion to the politics of old the new age Malaysia would be at odds with.)

Anyway, The Star’s has this following take on the shuffle:
Mustapa Mohamed for Second Finance Minister.

A technocrat for the Economic Planning Unit handler (currently held by former Malayan Banking Bhd CEO Amirsham A. Aziz)

Same old, or vibrantly new?

We’ll see soon enough.

In the meantime, enjoy this art piece by English artist Cliff Warner.

Friday, 3 April 2009

All the Good Men

Dr Manhattan

Watchmen's Dr Manhattan

One of the more famous Bonnie Tyler (those in my age range would probably know her) song goes:

“Where have all the good men gone and where are all the Gods?”

(While the second part of the lyrics might pricked some conscience in how blasphemous it is but I would like to believe Tyler was singing contextually.

The “Gods amongst Men” kind of statement

Tyler’s “I need a Hero” was the first thing that came to my mind when I read a story on Youth and Sports Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob in the online edition of The Sun.

Quoting sources, the news reports cited: “The minister blew his top at one meeting and brought in the MACC to clean up the ministry” .

Through the years (!!) we’ve been fed with countless number of stories on the alleged (ahem..) excesses of certain politicians and their officials.

Of late, even juicier still were the alleged “cashploits” of a certain former Menteri Besar who - despite being less than brave to face up to the Committee which lead to the expose in the first place - has since come out with denials of ANY wrongdoings on his part.

Feeble is one of the more courteous word I can say to that.

Those of us reading such exposes hope in our hearts that something would be done to arrest acts of milking public funds and abuse of positions.

At the same time, though, we are resigned to the reality that most often a majority of these miscreants gets off scot free for a lack of action taken.

Ie. NFA = No further action.

The Sports Minister’s story – while unconfirmed – delighted me to no ends (and more so if it is confirmed) as it goes to show that there are still decent men (and women) whom the nation can still trust to do what is right and not let something as tenuous of political afflictions to hold them back.

We need a lot more “blowing of tops” so that the ball can get rolling for the country to get a head start in tackling the debilitating culture that okays short cuts aka corrupt practices since everyone is allegedly doing them.

The cost of doing things in Malaysia is rife with add-ons from this very culture: RM1,500 to get your child’s file for a school transfer to the top of the pile, RM500 to push the clerk to file the MB Consent for the transfer of deed faster, millions to buddy up with the local political warlord to get some contract works.

All these are hypothetical examples, of course, but as the hierarchy of authoritative powers goes up, so to would the “cost” involved getting things done or not done.

Ridding the nation of corruption is understandably a HUGE and almost impossible task but such steps would make corrupt practices the crimes that they are and not merely the additional cost of doing things that they're treated as.

Just because something is difficult to do doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give it a go.

I hope Ismail – if indeed the story is the unblemished truth – will be back in as a Cabinet Minister next week.

We need more who are not afraid of treading on the foot of their own colleagues and political "friends" to right wrongdoings.

The law of the land must be allowed to run its course to let the damned get their just dessert.

An aging Bats slugging it out in DC's Dark Knight Returns

Twilight years

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Shadow Vacancies

The resignation of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister provides some good opportunities for the country to progress from the current political quagmire.

Current Cabinet Ministers should pay heed to calls from a Senator to resign en bloc “to pave the way for the formation of a new cabinet”.

Selfless act like that of Shahrir Samad (justifying why I listed the JB MP as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate) should be emulated by the rest.

Come on, folks. Make it easy for the new PM (whosoever it may be) to pick a new team.

The selection of Cabinet Ministers has always been the sole prerogative of the PM.

During ordinary times, political expediencies including keeping your party enemies close but out of the way (the (gasp!) foreign affairs portfolio, for example) and close ally in strategic ones (finance, home affairs) would normally be important consideration for appointment.

There is however nothing “ordinary” about these times.

Appointment of the new Cabinet team should therefore be one that could carry the country back on its feet after falling so badly behind our own objectives the last few years.

No matter who the new Prime Minister is (there I go again..), his or her (is there such a candidate?) task is enormous, but we should believe firmly that there are good and capable men and women among the millions of Malaysians to choose from.

There should also be senatorial Ministers but candidates who had been rejected by their constituents the last GE should not put too much hope of being appointed.

A Ministerial portfolio is not a Quango for has-been politicians. Leave these appointments to the non administrative bodies like Suhakam, NIOSH, etc.

Is there a dream list? We wish there is one, but based on the reality of political appointments and the recent Umno election results, it’s perhaps a very, very wishful, dreamy thinking.

There is also other opportunity right across our Parliamentary divide.

With the government having to run the gauntlet with (hopefully) a new team, its opposite in the Pakatan Rakyat should rightfully follow suit with a Shadow Cabinet.

The task is by far easier as these are NOT actual constitutional appointments, but more so to allow a far more concerted check and balance effort to take place.

On top of that, it would help the people judge if the so-call alternative government has what it takes to provide some good measures in governing the nation.

Sure, the coalition of PAS, PKR and DAP has got some models in the State governments of Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan (pity about Perak), but nothing beats having an actual Shadow Cabinet holding exactly the portfolios that matter.

If they are serious about taking over the Federal government, a Shadow Cabinet would be a good training ground.

What is there to fear anyway?

The rakyat would judge the Shadow Cabinet from their viewpoints, ideals and principles, and going by the debates in Parliament, there are enough candidates to fill all the necessary portfolios.

Unlike the actual Cabinet, the opposition does not need deputies and Parliament secretaries. Leave these when (and IF) you form the government.

Will any of these materialize in the coming weeks?

Or will it be same old, same old?

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Jim Sterakno's The Shadow