Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Last Few days of 2011

For some it's a joyous wait for the New Year after a merry Christmas. It's time to close the 2011 chapter of your book of life and look forward to a bright 2012.

For others there are many sad things to recall and it's time to pray that those things will not recur. These include all the victims of war and socio-political uprisings in many Muslim countries causing deaths and destruction by the hands of foreign interventionists or by one's own countrymen. The trouble is not over although many heads of local leaders had rolled and new ones are taking over, without any convincing sign of getting the full support of the entire population. It would appear that once a country is divided, so many factors will come in to make sure that it will remain that way. Especially when the so-called "liberation from autocratic rule" and the "freedom" gained, is brought in with the help of a foreign power. It's more than nine years since Iraq is liberated and the new government which took over can in no way be described as truly democratic and popular. Afghanistan and Libya are in no better position after the the change of leadership and government. And so is Egypt....

Of course no government is really stable for long when the people become fully conscious of their rights, are completely free to express their views and begin to make uncompromising demands on the government.. What makes the difference is whether people move for a change in government in an orderly and lawful manner or take to the streets in anger and frustration. When the government is flexible enough to allow for a change without using its might and military power on the people, the chances for a peaceful transition is greater. Otherwise every change is forced through with bloodshed and followed by more bloodshed. Developing countries would do well to recognize this fact and develop greater flexibility for change without depending on outside powers to help prevent the change or force it through.

Malaysia has been and is still one of the most stable governments in Asia. But like all governments the forces of change are never absent. It is how the government adjusts to and accommodates changes that will determine whether we will continue to enjoy peace and harmony in the near future or be sucked in by the forces of internal conflict and enmity. God forbids but it's the people who cause it to happen and only the people in the country can prevent or stop it from happening. You cannot expect to have peace and harmony in your country if you're more adept at creating conflicts and disagreement rather than solving them.This is more so if interracial matters are highlighted or blown up more than efforts to resolve the differences amicably.

As 2011 draws to a close the importance of the the forthcoming GE13 becomes more obvious. Barisan National owes it to the Malays to see that all the sentiments and allegations directed at UMNO are cleared up and popular new faces are lined up for the leadership rather than maintaining the veterans whose accumulated wealth is a matter of great concern. Unless the trust and confidence of the grassroots is regained, all the efforts made to show that government cares for the welfare of the people might not bring them then necessary votes to stay in power, Especially since the MCA and MIC are showing a renewed vigor in bringing up partisan interest. The loose Pakatan which captured five States in the last election but lost one to Batisan later, may appear to be in a bit of a disarray. But it has much to say against Barisan and a dissatisfied public can be easily swayed by the negative views expressed.

In any case the last few days of 2011 allow us to take stock of what has transpired this year and decide on what is possible in 2012. That would tell us how we should prepare ourselves, so that we wouldn't be taken by surprise. Common sense, right? But that is what we sometimes lack in facing the deluge of unexpected development around us, especially political moves that presage the coming of a general election. Brick walls of resistant to some public demand can suddenly collapse and hangouts undreamt of in the past come rolling in together with improvements in the remuneration scheme for workers.

Well, the New Year is at our doorstep no matter what. Happy new year and be prepared for the consequences of the sudden liberal year-end spending at both the national and personal level.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Steel Framework of Administration.

The Malaysian Civil Service used to be considered as the steel framework of administration in the country. It is neutral or apolitical and it serves whoever comes to power through the political processes of selecting the leaders in the nation. All its dealings and decision-making processes are governed by tight and documented procedures to ensure justice and fairness to all. Financial procedures were watertight, to avoid any misuse of government funds which come from taxes and dues collected from the people of the nation.

How far have we moved away from these norms now? Politics have taken over as the steel scaffolding of the administration with policy decisions made by the political bosses, elected by the people and certainly representing some partisan interest. No matter how fair and objective they are in their deliberation, people will think that they will decide in the interest of their supporters. They are not bound by the infamous bureaucratic rules and can side-step all the regulations so long as their legal advisers okayed their move. If any law or regulation stands in the way of what they earmarked as "development", the laws or regulation can be changed or amended through Parliament.

Hence the political leaders not only set the direction and goals of development but also the way it is to be done. This involves the identification and selection of development projects since they determine the priorities according to public demand, who gets the project since the lowest offer may not be the best, and what adjustments must be made since the project must meet the expectation of the public which is best known by the political bosses. Routine administrative matters must also be tempered with at times to speed up matters, take political exigencies into consideration, adjust priorities according to the strength of political influence and make the bureaucracy more sensitive to the urgent need of the public. Even the promotions and emplacement of key officers must be considered in terms of suitability, loyalty and capability, while seniority and experience mean nothing much anymore.

Yes, the civil service has changed a lot and will be changed further. Secretaries-General and Directors-General as administrative heads of ministries and departments must kowtow to the political and private secretaries of political bosses who knew better what the political bosses want. Even the transferring of officers due to promotion, the matching up of expertise and experience woth the requirements of the job, and and allowing for job rotation to get the best out of peoplr, must be agreed to by the political bosses for suitability in terms of working relationship is more important than all of the previous requirememts.

Will the steel framework od administration hold with many of the crucial nuts and bolts removed to allow for political flexibility? Will the old prestige and authoritativeness ofbthe civil service remain when young and inexperienced officers can suddenly take over as the administrative bosses over older and experienced hands, even coming in from outside the service trough laterl entery without any proper training and acclamatization? Will the politicisation of the civil service produce better results than the steel framework of yesteryears? Let's wait and see the outcome of the vsrious changes in the next few yesrs, especially when the political superstructure itself undergoes some critical changes in line with changes in tbe political climate..

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Father Christmas is Coming to Town...

Yes, Father Christmas is coming to town in Malaysia this Yuletide with huge bags of goodies for families earning below RM3000 pm,
cash gifts for schoolchildren, salary increases for all government servants, special Funds for struggling entrepreneurs, for thirtiary-level students in need pf help, for police and army personnel, for needy farmers and fishermen and even for national writers and mosques' officials.

Ho,Ho,Ho,Ho come people and get your goodies. There are some forms to fill in though which require current address, bank account number, and other personal information of applicant to be given. There will certainly be some checking to be done and the possibility that some applications will be rejected. Will that raise more problems and unhappiness than the gifts or handouts distributed? Let Father Christmas and his advisers work on that.

This coming Christmas is certainly a windfall (durian runtuh) for many. Civil servants' salary will increase from 13 - 30% out seems.
The last time there was a raise by some 12% ( I forgot when) the Ministers, their Deputies, Parliamentary Secretaries and the Parliamentarians in general got a hefty increase as well. The real percentage was never disclosed. Will it be the same this time.

And why not? The country's economy is booming and we are racing headlong to become a high income nation. Investments are coming in hopefully as heavy as the monsoon rain and tourist are visiting us in droves. That's the impression I get from following the more than lavish attitude shown and the nature of government spending with hundreds of millions spent on promoting tourism including the billions to be poured to the Langkawi Five Year Development Plan. The Iskandar Regional development plan in Johore sounds like the duck that lays the golden egg. Will the Causeway and the Gelang Patah bridge be sufficient to bring in
the business tycoons and super entreprenuers from our neighboring country, especially since KTM does not go beyond Woodland anymore. May be we have money for another bridge to facilitate the flow of goods and people, a beautiful straight one and not a croocket one anymore.

Well, all the political and economic transformation plans and agenda seem to be rolling on very smoothly with the NKRA measuring the success achieved. Progress on all key result areas seems to be on target as said by the show master YB Idris Jala while the YAB PM himself is renowned for his walk-around supervisory style. Let's hope that he sees what he wants and not just what is shown to him! It really looks like a glorious New Year is awaiting us all and, of course, a promising BN victory in GE13.

Let's be fair and say a few words for the Perikatan - claimed to be at it loosest condition right now. We see the in-fighting and the prominent stars battling each other. Dr Hassan Ali is even suggesting a possible exit, perhaps waiting for a door to open up somewhere. Promises made during GE12 don't seem to be fully met but I hear that some people are very happy in Penang. The welfare state agenda of PAS seems to be an unacceptable alternative to the Islamic State objective for Dr Hassan Ali but when the BN Chief decides to become Father Christmas this Yuletide, I wonder if the welfare idea had not been taken over by him.

Merry Christmas everyone and a cheerful windfall.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Let Our Handphones Talk.....

While there's no doubt that our country and people are progressing very well on the road to becoming a developed nation, there are many areas in the country where development has gone the wrong way or never picked up speed. These areas are often secluded and buried deep in the rural areas but they can often be seen from the roadside.

What do I mean by development going the wrong way? The most obvious sign is the modern ghettoes. You have modern buildings and infrastructure but the whole area stinks like a rubbish dump. Public facilities are vandalized and left unrepaired, the roads are full of potholes and ditches, and rubbish are strewn around like confetti. You may find this in the urban areas but mostly in the new townships which failed to grow as planned (by charlatans of course). Many buildings had turned green or brownish depending on whether the moss had done a better job that the rain and the red earth or vice versa. The lawn and the playground, if it had been provided for, would only be most comfortable to the buffaloes.

But the signs of progress and development among the people are obvious from the cars that are parked by the houses, the TV antennae, and the extensions done to the small original house, including those which are reminiscent of yesteryears. In fact there are places with a trace of the original village with their fruits and coconut trees which had been displaced by new roads and posts for the power lines but allowed to slip back into a ghetto-like scenario. In fact some villages which had been so-called "modernized" appear more like a deserted and dilapidated area for most of the inhabitants have moved to the towns and urban centers.

Actual poverty stricken areas which the floodlight of development had not spotted also exist in the rural depth. The village development committees have either missed them or averted them because of their unfriendly political leanings. More importantly some village heads have never brought the machinery of or the funds for develpment to these areas because of certain prejudice or misgivings, and no higher authority had seen it fit to intervene.The neglect, purposeful or otherwise, is kept a secret or the people could be reported as non-supportive of the government in power so that the higher authorities would not insist on helping them.

How can we bring out all these neglects and negative development into the open so that the government may recognize their existence and cause an inquiry to be made, call the peoples' representative responsible for the area to answer for them , and get some ameliorative action going? Only the private TV stations sometimes bring these areas into focus as done by Karam Singh Walia
and cause remedial action to be taken. Others remain unknown to the public and the government until found by accident.

It is in this regard that the newfound technology in the form of high-tech handphones with sophisticated cameras, the Facebook, twitters etc. can play a very important role in exposing these hidden or invisible dimensions of negative development or where development had not progressed at par with the national standard. Let us turn our hp cameras in the direction of these misfits and 'misfortunates' in as much as we love to capture the images of modernity, progress and the beauty of our people. We share them through the blogs, facebooks and the many faces of internet so that the government and those responsible cannot miss them. By exposing the areas and conditions in pictures, we will also expose the public servants or leaders who fail to take action to remedy the wrong or patch up the neglect. We cannot just depend oo the private TV station to do that while the radio can only describe the situation without showing convincing pictures. We must actually see them to be convinced and the entire population of the country with hps can certainly uncover every aspect of the neglect or negatives development in this country.

Yes, let our handphones with their digital imaging facilities talk. They don't lie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

LIMA 2011 and Langkawi's 5 Year Development Plan

The Langkawi international Marine and Air show started on 6th December this yesr and will not end till tomorrow (10.12.11). The island is thronging with tourists and major hotels are full to capacity. Kuah the commercial centre, the Aiport area where the airshow activities are focused on, and Pantai Cenang the resort and entertaiment hubb reaching up to Porto Malai, are buzzing with people. You see them in dark coats and ties (the coperate and business people), in uniforms with shiny brass and colorful braids and stripes ( the police, army, marine and air officials) and those in casual holiday attire ( the tourists and other visitors). The first two groups can be seen rushing around to perform their duties, the thord group enjoying their visitation and shopping spree.

This time around another group became more prominent - the artists and cultural performers. LIMA had been combined with the Langkawi Cultural Festival organised by the Ministry of Tourism,, the Ministry of information and the Local Authority. While the days were filled with LIMA activities highlighted by the sights and sound of screaming jet planes crisscrossing the sky, the nights were filled with cultural shows that attracted the entire population of the island. At all the festival sites new make-shift shopping and business centers sprung up to blend with the existing permanet business premises. All seemed to be doing brisk business.

While the exhibition displaying models of the jet planes, jet engines, warships weaponries etc and the actual airshow with the MIG 29Ns, the Typhoons, the Super Hornets, the Sukhois etc performing all sorts of stunts in the air were excellent and breathtaking, one could not fail to notice that the number of partipants in both had shrunk. There were a number of empty counters in the Exhibition Center and the number of planes taking part in the airshow had decreased. Only five Smokeys took part in the air stunts perFormed by TUDM while there used to be nine. The rolls, the loops, the free falls, the steep climbs, the formation exhibits etc were okay but there was no Red Arrow kind of heart-throbbing performance, no double or tripple rolls with a jet shooting through it since shooting through the trail of a heart as performed by the TUDM wasn't that spectacular. There was no low,upside-down flying accross the airfield, which was shown once before by the Red Arrow team.

I did not visit the Marine show at Porta Malai since not much was said about it and the display of putting out a fire on a ship in open sea and the foiling of a boat's take-over attempt by pirates which i once saw, was not too spectacular either. i did not take the opportunity to see the controversial submarine that TLDM bought at a supposedly inflated price.

The question that must be asked is whether government had exploited the LIMA show to the full to promote Langkawi as a world class tourist destination. The participation of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information and Cultural Heritage seems to have made LIMA more eventful but my visit to the Cable Car ride at Gunung Mat Cincang, the Geopark River Ride, the Perdana Galleria, the Buffaloe Park, the handicraft Glass-blowing Center etc , did not convince me that these centers of attraction had been effectively marketted although some centers like the Makam Mahsuri had been improved. They were quite empty during my visit and there was no special events to greet the group visit asit was done outside the scheduled time. I would think that special events should be held when visitors arrived, not force them to come according to the scedule of the operators. The nature and elaborateness of the event or demonstration can be geared towards the size of the visiting group to cut down expenses. These and more events had to be organized if Langkawi is to become a world class tourist center like Bali, Phukett snd even Hawaii.

The M!inistry of Defence had to view LIMA as more than just a military showcase to display all the modern machine and weapons of war and combat and their capability. The social dimensions of defence must be explored and that includes protecting and promoting the cultural and economic aspects of life in Malaysia and on the legendary island. It must also think tourism like all the other ministrues since tourism is fast becoming a major income earner for the nation bringing in RM56.5 billion last year. All potentials for expanding the tourist trade mus be explored throuhg LIMA. Since the public has been shownn through LIMA all the capabilities of the jet planes and warships made by different countries, the public's view can also be sampled during The LIMA celebration. At least the Ministry and the Governmen will know what the public feels abput buying combat jet planes costing RM 3billion each as opposed to buying cheaper ones.

The Langkawi 5 Year Development Plan has also been announced by the PM which intends to bringing in 3 million by 2015 and earmarks a RM5billion investment package. The Plan will focus on promoting the Geopark, developing Pulau Dayang Bunting and Gunung Mat Cincang, building 5 more 5 star hotels, creating a Park Ranger Team, improving infrastructure , provide ding chartered air service and providing more incentives for holding meetings and convention in Langkawi. Would all these really attract more visitors if the entertainment packages are not significantly increased in variety and quality. The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information and Cultural Heritage should be spearheading a thorough reorganization, upgrading and marketing of the entertainment packages to support the 5 Year Development Plan.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Religion in a World of Science and Technology

Superpersonal Objects and Goals
A religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt about the significance of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation - Einstein.

A truly religious person will certainly respect the religious activities and rites of his/her friends and fellowmen or women, no matter what faith they espouse. It is usually the less religious or one who hold no proper religious faith that looks askance at or even look down upon people faithfully performing the prescriptions of their religious belief. As Einstein implied the "significance of those superpersonal objects and goals neither require nor are capable of rational foundation", meaning that you don't question them at all.

We don't question the faith that we hold nor should we question the faiths that others adopt. We respect their rights to perform all the activities and rites that their religion requires and we expect them to respect ours. The problem is those who don't hold on to any faith or who just pay lip service to a religion, do not know how to respect its requirements and prescriptions. In Islam especially among the Malays, that include those who consider themselves to be Muslims by birth and had no strong commitment to the religion. These people often flout the call to prayer five times in a day and night, would not refrain from taking food and drinks in the month of Ramadhan , would not go to the mosque for mass prayer and listen to the khutbah on Friday, would join others to ogle at females who strut around in a flimsy dress or takes pride in showing off their bossoms, instead of chiding them etc.

The adherents of a religion who do not uphold the requirements of the religion will of course have to contend with their own God in the hereafter (if at all they belief in that). But when they or those who don't subscribe to any religion, refuse to allow others to take time off to fulfill their religious obligations, that's a different story. They are showing disrespect and denying the rights of people to practice their own religion. This is apparent when, for example, meetings are held during the Muslim prayer time, functions begun in the evening before Muslims could perform the Maghrib prayer, and Muslims are not allowed to go off early on Friday to attend mass prayer at the mosque. Bosses who show such disrespect for the religion, are not only being irreligious but can be classified as anti-religion.

The lack of concern and respect for a religion and the activities or rites connected with it, is often reflected in a general apathy to the provision of facilities for fulfilling the requirement of the religion. The call to prayer in Islam is an essential part of the religion and yet there are people who oppose it, saying that it makes too much noise. What about the chanting and the singing in the church or temple? Printing the time schedule for Muslim prayers in the front page of the papers had been a long established practice. But that has been moved to the second or third page and in today's NST (2.12.11) , it's not even there anymore. The radio usually announced the time as we come close to it, but the TV, I am not sure. Must check it again. Such announcement is very important for the time schedule for Muslim prayers changes unlike the time schedule for Sunday Mass etc.

Even in this age of science and technology, religion still plays a major role in the life of most people.Why? It provides a set of values that never change while other values keep changing with the time. Religious truths are never challenged while all other truths are transient in nature and keep changing. What is truthe today may become an untruth tomorrow. Not in religion. Hence those who live by the good book are never derailed. Those who don't, even when they are highly educated and assume the status of geniuses, can ultimately flounder and become drowned in the quagmire of life's mysteries.