Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The blind patriotism of BN. What's new?

IPOH, April 22 - The Perak state government will purchase a new fleet of Proton Perdanas for executive councillors to replace the Toyota Camrys bought by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration. [The Malaysian Insider]

This is blind patriotism personified. The newly formed Barisan Nasional (BN) state government of Perak decided on replacing the fleet of 16 Toyota Camrys as official cars, saying it was patriotic to use a local car maker's marque. The latter was purchased for RM2.7mil under the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration to replace the ageing and cost ineffective Proton Perdana V6s. Other PR-ruled states also bought new cars for their state executive councillors last year and Proton marque was once again not the preferred choice.

It was understood that the Proton Perdana V6s require high maintenance costs due to its poor quality, amounting to RM30,000 a year according Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

This view is not only restricted to the Pakatan Rakyat as Terengganu was the first state to decide on replacing its fleet of Proton Perdanas. The BN state government spent RM3.43mil for 14 Mercedes E200 Kompressor cars for its state executive councillors and senior officials. However, former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ordered the cars to only be used for visiting foreign dignitaries after much public dissatisfaction over the choice of car brand.

The BN, which controversially ousted the PR to become Perak's new state government in March, said it will auction the Toyota Camrys in what seems as a move to erase the legacy of the previous administration.

"We will get them new and cheap. We have always believed in using the Proton cars because they are our national pride.We are aware that there were previous complaints on the high cost of maintenance for the vehicles. This is one of our concerns too. However, we will speak with Proton on how to better maintain the vehicles without forking out too much," Chief Minister Datuk Dr Zambry Kadir said today. [The Malaysian Insider, 22/4/09]

But wait a minute. Zambry acknowledges the high cost of maintenance for the Proton Perdanas and yet he still decides to have a go at the purchase? Simply speaking to Proton to 'better maintain' the cars at lower costs does not solve the problem. If the Proton Perdana V6 model had been around since 1999 and there is only so much of improvement to its quality, how does Zambry plan to 'better maintain' such vehicles?

If the Perak state government had intended for its state executive councillors to use their private vehicles after auctioning the Toyota Camrys, I would had given Zambry and his men two thumbs up. But putting the newly-purchased Toyota Camrys on the bidding table would mean they are to be sold at a lower price and thus, incurring losses for the state- given the Toyota Camrys have already been paid for. Does Zambry and his administration believe it is a wise thing to do given the current economic plight, never mind the high maintenance cost that is to come with the new replacement vehicles?

The Perak government also did not give any assurances that the purchase of the new Protons would be an open tender. This is one aspect of the deal that could raise an eyebrow or two.

But what is most foolish is Perak government's rationality behind their decision to dump the 6-month old Toyota Camrys for Proton Perdanas. I mean, does Perak government really need these new cars?

The all-time BN favourite Proton Perdana design was based on Japan's Mitsubishi Galant. So much for our 'national pride'.

The Chief Minister of Perak said it was a patriot's thing to do for the state government to use Proton cars. Well, I say: What has Proton achieve or done to suddenly taken on the mantle to symbolise national pride and honour? How does a marque that still demands excise duty rebates and protection policies in order to survive even after more than 25 years of existence become the 'national pride' of Malaysia? With Proton suffering from significant amount of consumer derision and lack of international competitiveness, Zambry's yardstick for a marque to be a matter of 'national pride' can only go lower.

When both Perak and Kedah replaced their official cars with Toyota Camrys, former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi called Pakatan Rakyat state leaders 'unpatriotic' [source]. But what is more patriotic then? Is spending taxpayer's money unnecessarily for new cars any more 'patriotic'?

I reckon that it would be wiser and more 'patriotic' (since it is the new buzzword) to keep the Toyota Camrys, regardless of who bought it, than to open the chequebooks again to buy inventories the state government does not need at this point of time.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Malaysia doesn't need the non-Malays, says MP and newspaper

The Prime Minister also said he wanted a world-class, fact based reporting and a media that was fair and responsible in its reporting so that it could foster a constructive debate about the nation’s future. [ TheStar Online, 6/4/09]

Note the words: World-class, fair, responsible and fostering constructive debate.

And then we have an article published a week later by Utusan Malaysia, perceived to be an UMNO-controlled newspaper, urging the Malay community to 'rise and unite' against the 'extreme demands' of the other races. The article also suggests the Malay community not to 'bow down' to the extremist demands of the non-Malays which have weakened the political strength and status quo of the Malays.

Datuk Ibrahim Ali, MP of Pasir Mas claims that there are already enough 'Malay' seats in the Parliament to form a 'Malay-only' government. In other words, Ibrahim Ali is presenting a premise that Malaysia or rather, his "Malay-sia" does not need the contribution of the non-Malays to run the country.

The article also goes on to say that the government has no obligations to address the demands of the non-Malays simply because the Malays are the majority and thus, there should be no compromise with them.

Ibrahim Ali, being disillusioned as he already is, told Utusan Malaysia that he believes the non-Malays would 'automatically' support the Barisan Nasional if and when UMNO is strong (despite being an Independent MP himself).

"The Malay Party will be strong if the Malays are cared for. Therefore, UMNO has to cast their focus on the Malays. For that UMNO has nothing to fear because I believe when UMNO is strong, the non-Malays will automatically support the Barisan Nasional...just like before," he said. [Utusan Online 15/4/09]
Whatever happened to the "we don't need the non-Malays" part? So why even bother about the support of the non-Malays to the Barisan Nasional when apparently there is no need for the their votes?

This is not what Malaysia need in this time of economic and political uncertainty - A racially-motivated newspaper that publishes potentially seditious articles. It is very sad that our country, despite her cultural diversity, is still plagued with racial purist beliefs that should have been buried after 50 years of independence. The survival of such bigotry has newspapers like Utusan Malaysia to thank where fallacy seem to be their only way to boost readership numbers.

In the spirit of freedom of speech, Utusan Malaysia have every right to express their views though many Malaysians including myself disagree with it. However, that does not spare Utusan Malaysia and people who take their articles as gospel truth from looking and sounding stupid. Perhaps they should make 'being stupid' a criminal offence, I suppose?

One can only imagine the grim prospect if the table is turned around; a Chinese-language newspaper suggesting the non-Malays can form the government or run the country without the Malays. There is no doubt that the ISA would come knocking on its door with all sirens blaring and guns blazing.

And one does not need to be Einstein to guess why Utusan Malaysia has yet to be rebuked or reprimanded by our country's leaders.

If Najib is serious about his business of encouraging a world-class and informed media in the country, he should probably first keep his tabs on Utusan Malaysia. With articles like that, it is no rocket science that the latter is a far cry from being world-class. And needless to say, Utusan Malaysia and Ibrahim Ali has just contradicted Najib's OneMalaysia philosophy.

Utusan Malaysia and people like Ibrahim Ali should re-take their History lessons again. The Malaysia we all know today is not built upon the shoulders on just one race but is a collective effort of the various ethnic communities who have chosen to call this land home. As for as I know and care, the only 'majority' that there is and ever will be in the Parliament and in the streets are simply called Malaysians - not Malays, Chinese, Indians or the lain-lain.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BN lost. So blame it on the Chinese and Indians?

KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is confused, perplexed, puzzled...wonders whether the Chinese have begun to think of themselves as kingmakers in the new political landscape. [The Malaysian Insider, 12/4/09]

Speaking on the loss of two by-elections (Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau) recently, Malaysia's newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (image) believes the voters from the Chinese community were the deciding factor in sending the Barisan Nasional contingent packing for home.

In an interview with Mingguan Malaysia, Muhyiddin was reported to have called the Chinese Malaysian voters 'ungrateful' for ditching the Barisan Nasional despite the latter pouring in millions of ringgit every year to improve Chinese-vernacular schools.

Muhyiddin continues to suggest that the non-Malay community have begun to think of themselves as kingmakers in the new political landscape and is jeopardizing the status quo of the Barisan Nasional establishment.

"The Chinese even though are a minority group feel that they have the deciding power because the Malays are split into three groups… In such a situation, they can decide the outcome of an election and this can be seen from the general election and the by-elections. They think they have the power to decide. It is not only the Chinese but the Indian community as well,’’ he told Mingguan Malaysia today. [The Malaysian Insider, 12/9/09]
Isn't the 'power to decide' the reason why we all vote?

A columnist of Mingguan Malaysia echoed Muhyiddin's sentiments against the non-Malays especially the Chinese community for the loss of the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections.

Para pengundi bukan Melayu seperti biasa akan membuat banyak tuntutan pada musim kempen tetapi undi mereka tetap kepada pembangkang. Ini termasuk peti-peti undi yang paling banyak menerima peruntukan yang ditagih oleh pelbagai pihak mewakili pengundi antaranya RM1 juta untuk sekolah Cina, RM400,000 sekolah Tamil, tuntutan tanah rizab dan puluhan lagi. Apa makna ini semua? Bukankah ia menampakkan BN terus dipermainkan oleh pengundi bukan Melayu... keputusan kedua-dua pilihan raya kecil itu dan beberapa yang lain sebelum ini adalah isyarat jelas kepada BN supaya jangan lagi terperangkap dengan muslihat sedemikian. [source]

Non-Malay voters are bound to make plenty of demands during election campaigns but their votes still belong to the Opposition. This includes the various financial allocations given to constituents like to RM1 million set aside Chinese-vernacular schools, RM 400,000 to Tamil school and etc. What do all these mean then? This is a clear indication that the Barisan Nasional is being taken for granted and is dictated by the non-Malays. These defeats (in the by-elections) should serve as a lesson to the BN to not fall for the ploys of the non-Malays again.
I find myself feeling disgusted at the Deputy Prime Minister's statement and the column published by Mingguan Malaysia. To hear such statements coming from a minister, never mind a Deputy Prime Minister and a national newspaper further reiterates why many believe certain institutions in this country are beyond repair.

Muhyiddin's knowledge of Chinese votes going to the Opposition and not Barisan Nasional is first of all, very perplexing. Are not votes suppose to be private and confidential? Even if that is not the case, Muhyiddin's reproach of non-Malays casting their votes for the Opposition underlines his failure to understand the basic concepts of democracy - the right of the people to decide.

To call the non-Malays kingmakers of Malaysian politics at the expense of the majority (the Malay community) is to take cheap shots. Too cheap, in fact. Muhyiddin did not realise this but there are also Malays who voted for the Opposition.

Is Muhyiddin also trying to imply that the non-Malays have no say in the choice of government? UMNO refuses to back down on their racial politics simply because securing the total support of the Malays is enough to secure them the power to govern by default. But contrary to the myths of racial politics, not all Malays are for UMNO. Likewise with the Chinese and MCA, and the Indians for MIC.

But the biggest disappointment rests not with the Deputy Prime Minister calling the non-Malays kingmakers or a Malay-language daily blaming the Chinese for BN's defeats, it is the whole argument of race, race and race that our leaders are bringing to the fold - yet again. Just less than 2 weeks ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (image) urged the nation "to embark on a great journey together to transform the country, promising them that his administration would place priority on performance and the people." Poetic words indeed.

One Malaysia is a concept coined by Najib and his administration which he pledges to place the needs of the people first, regardless of ethnic backgrounds. But it seems easier said than done if his second-in-command continues to view things racially.

The non-Malay voters of Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau may be kingmakers this time around but they are not stupid to exchange their democratic rights for cash splurges and school donations. The non-Malays are not beggars where all praise and gratitude is due to the Barisan Nasional government. In fact, the Barisan Nasional should be grateful to the people as they have been given the mandate to rule and develop this nation of ours since independence from the British. That being said, it looks like BN have a lot of thinking to do now for the next General Elections.

And good luck, Najib in realising the One Malaysia concept of yours.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taking Najib with a pinch of salt....for now

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — New prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tonight freed 13 ISA detainees and lifted the suspension of two opposition papers — Harakah and Suara Keadilan. [The Malaysian Insider]

April 3 marks the appointment of Malaysia's 6th Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak - succeeding Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the nation's helm amidst much political and economic volatility. But going into office with the new premier are not hope and optimism for a better future but rather, skepticism and uncertainties surrounding the very man himself.

Najib, who is also the newly-elected party president of UMNO said on March 29 that he wants the people to judge him by his actions and on not preconceptions and rumours. But one may be forgiven to take this with a pinch of salt whilst keeping his/her fingers crossed.

My judgement for Najib to be a better Prime Minister remains undecided. But I am nonetheless skeptical of his recent actions that he hopes are able to strike a favourable rapport with the Malaysian people.

One of the first things Najib did in less than a week in office was to release 13 detainees held under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA). Among them were members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiah . Hindraf are considered a 'terrorist' group by the government while members of the Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiah were detained for their connection to the Bali bombings of 2002. [source]

Granting 'freedom' to these men who were detained without trial are for public display, as the restrictions imposed on the freed Hindraf members suggest their new-found liberty are actually short-changed.

The two Hindraf lawyers V. Ganabatirao and R. Kengadharan revealed that they cannot leave the districts they live in, must be back home by 7pm, must acquire written permission from the district police to leave their districts and cannot give any press conference, take part in gatherings of more then five people or take part in organised political activities [source]. Is this what it means to be 'free'?

Najib also ordered the ban on two Opposition-backed newspapers - Harakkah and SuaraKeadilan to be lifted. They were first banned by the Home Ministry for three months on March 23 for repeatedly publishing stories that were “wrong, sensational and sensitive in nature”, according to Home Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar. But many Malaysians saw this as a move by the Barisan Nasional to handicap the Opposition's media coverage on the three by-elections scheduled for April 7.

Thus, I cannot help but to question the timing of this: Why only lift the ban now? Why did Najib fail to stop the ban from going through in the first place or to settle for something lesser like publicly voicing his disapproval of the ministry's decision when he was then the Deputy Prime Minister?

Another example that similarly demands the why-only-now? response is Najib's latest excursion to the streets to meet ordinary citizens. He took time to visit hawkers, shopkeepers and restaurant operators in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

But how often does that happen when Najib was a mere minister and then, the Deputy Prime Minister? Why the sudden urge now to get his leather shoes dirty to meet ordinary citizens in the streets. Though I commend Najib's latest move to be the 'people's PM' all Prime Ministers ought to be but the skeptic in me refuses to back down from asking: why only now?

Najib kindly asks to be judged for his actions upon his appointment. As much as I would like to give the greenhorn Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, I say actions with hypocritical public displays of being a dedicated leader deserves no judgement but of a poor one.

Forgive me, but it is not easy to be optimistic when a man with unresolved allegations of corruption and murder ascends to office and will ultimately lead this beloved nation of ours. I'd say judge Najib over the years as Prime Minister; not just a week of street excursions, ban lifts and detainee releases.
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