Sunday, August 24, 2014

Criticim vs Condemnation

People usually hate to be criticised. They loved to be flattered or praised. This is irrespective of their being leaders or ordinary citizens. If you're not careful with your criticism you might get a punch in the nose by the person criticised if he is an ordinary person, or some form of prosecution or persecution if the person is some kind of a leader, depending on the severity of your criticism. He or she might even file a civil suit seeking payment for damage to his or her reputation.

Only in the developed nations is criticism of leaders or between ordinary citizens accepted without fear or fury. It is considered as a healthy input for self rectification or improvement. Even the President and other high dignitaries can be criticised without getting the police involved in tracking the critic and throwing the book at him or her. TV and radio shows often become very popular because a lot of critical remarks are made against certain popular leader, making both the critic and the leader criticised to become even more popular.
Everyone hates criticism and welcome praises
In Malaysia criticism against the government and its leaders is often considered as an act of opposing the government.Hence, those involved in making such criticism can get into a lot of trouble, even when the criticism is made in personal website such as the Facebook, Blogspot. Twitter, Chat page etc. You can get hauled up by the police for some silly or cynical remarks made in FB. Whether intentional or not the remarks can turn out to be seditious, damaging or just contemptuous. More serious, it can be considered as an act of disloyalty or traitorous, a vicious condemnation of the king country and people.

Thus, a lot depends on how you criticise, There is such a thing as healthy criticism, where the intention is merely to show some weakness or defects in whatever is being discussed so that it can be improved further. And there's such a thing as outright condemnation, without any fair appreciation at all of what good has been done or the beneficial aspect of whatever is being discussed. The Opposition and the Government seemed to be the champion in the latter practice. Whatever is done by the Government is always considered 'undesirable' or 'wasteful' by the Opposition and whatever is done by the Opposition will be considered harmful or treacherous by the Government. The public, of course. expect them to do so and must make up their own mind as to who is right…

In a democracy, ordinary citizens can of course make their own easement and criticism of the leaders in the country whether the leaders are in the Government or in the Opposition. People may agree or may not agree with the views expressed as long as no harm is done. But when a very influential citizen and an ex-leader of the nation like Tun Dr Mahathir levels a criticism on the current Prime Minister, it can really cause a stir. It adds weight to all the criticisms that had been made by other innocuous critics of the Premier, especially on the issue of Government spending and the outright cash gifts (BRIM1,2 and 3) to the so-called low-income people - not just the poor and impoverished. The habit of giving away large amount of money to finance certain projects just before a general election is also criticised for it produces a familiar odour of corruption which the country if fighting against.
the national transformation program
and the architects

While the progress of the NTP (National Trnsformation Program with the target of making Malaysia a developed nation with a per cap income of US15,000 (RM47,400) by 20202, is considered on target by Minister responsible for monitoring its progress, many fear that the country's economy is heading for trouble. Though it is said that we have reached a per cap income of US$10,00 last year, what does that mean if 15% of the population take 85% of the cake and 85% share the remainder 15%. One would check the distribution figures and the nature of property and asset ownership to ensure that everyone is having a fair share of the country's wealth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Transformation: the Good and the Ugly.

Transformation is the rallying call of the Malaysians today. Our leaders talk about economic transformation, political transformation, value transformation (traditional to modern, rural to urban, local to global etc.), educational transformation (from emphasising the 3Rs to preparation for the need of the labor market, from emphasising basic skills to imparting marketable skill etc.) and national-image transformation ( from a multiracial country to a one-Malaysia image with racial origins deleted from all personal identification documents, although the names like Abdullah, Wong Kam Choon, Daljit Singh, Sameon etc will still tell a story.

The government has developed detailed mechanism to evaluate the transformation process in several areas of development with Ministers working full-time on evaluating the progress made each year.The administrative mechanism is called the National Key Result Area (NKRA) evaluation system where six areas of national improvement are identified as the basis for the desired TRANSFORMATION. The areas include: improving access to quality education, reduce crime rate, eradicate corruption, raise the living standing or low income people, strengthen rural infrastructure and improve the public transport system. A minister is put in-charege of each area of concern.
The NKRA -a complex evaluation system

And the result? We're making very good progress according to the government.Only the political transformation involved doing something with the image of the coalition government i.e. BARISAN NASIONAL ( THE NATIONAL FRONT)and the constituent political parties involved especially UMNO, and the leaders within the party, who are alleged to be more concerned with enriching themselves rather than developing the country and the people. The Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) as another major constituent of BARISAN, had been losing support while the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) had problems with establishing a new leadership as authoritative as Samy Veloo was. If corruption is to be stamped out in this country, many believed it should start with checking on the issuance of multibillion and multimillion government contracts and what kickbacks are involved. Even the issuance of smaller contracts to cronies must be stopped, down to the level of village heads (ketua kampung). If political bigwigs and little lords at the village levels continue to enrich themselves through corrupt practices , don't ever hope that corruption among lesser public officials and businessmen will ever stop.

From the economic point of view, the Chinese are rich and superrich because they have been in business since Malaya was a British colony. They had monopolised the business world and the urban centres.
Their entrepreneurs controlled the industries and their middlemen controlled the business outlets and distribution centres. The rich Indians are also traders, businessmen and professionals. Now look at the Malays. Most of the very rich are political leaders, their business colleagues, and strong supporters and assistants or runners. The genuine businessmen who had made it rich can be counted on one hand.
The rich Malays
rich Malaysians
The political and economic landscape has to be transformed. Can the current leadership do it? The Pakatan Rakyat consisting of the Party Keadilan Rakyat, DAP and PAS offers a good alternative as shown by the results of the 13thGE. But the members are now at odds with each other as a result of several issues topped by the choice of a Chief Minster for Selangor, the richest State in Malaysia. The battle for power and wealth seems to haunt the Pakatan Rakyat as it did the BARISAN NASIONAL where the pecking order had now been well esestablished. So can the transformation be undertaken at all without disturbing the current political order?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back to the Village for Celebration….

When I was a young boy my friends and I used to go to the town for celebration after the Aidilfitri prayers and the feasting at the mosque (or madrasah) were done. We went to the movie to see a new Malay film or sometimes just frolicked around with other friends. There was't any big shopping malls or complexes then to roam around and watch people enjoy themselves shopping or eating at the food courts. We just enjoyed the town's offerings.

Now, people in the towns and cities go back in droves to the villages to celebrate festive days like the Aidilfitri and Aidil Adha. Those who could not get any leave of absence to go back to their hometown and villages for the occasion felt very bad about it. The towns and cities become quite empty - or at least the roads become so. I suppose even the non-Muslims take the opportunity to go on vacation for the period of the public holidays.
going back to the villages

The Muslims especially the Malays who do not go back to the villages for the Adilfitri (or Aidil Adha) vacation are normally those who no longer have their parents or any close relatives in those villages. Or who never came from the remote villages but originate from the towns or cities themselves. Some whom I talked to, felt very sad about not having a place to go to in the village. Their 'kampung' on the vicinity of the towns or cities have become a part of the metropolitan area and lost its rural splendour.

Going around the rural villages during the festive days, gives one a full realisation on how the nation has progressed. The wooden houses have been renovated to feature some of the the most modern architectural designs, combining traditional Malay woodcraft and the wonders of concrete, fibres and aluminium. We have wooden frontages and concrete halls and kitchens aplenty, replete with modern furnishing and cooking facilities. In the huge courtyard are expensive cars glittering in the sunlight - not three or four but going up to eleven or twelve. All the kids returned home with their new luxury cars and hordes of children. It's a sight that warms the heart tremendously for those who have many children, and a sad, sad moment of reflection for those who have none. The gathering of children and relatives is what that makes the festive days a real festival. And now they all come back home to the kampung….
the 'halaman rumah' (courtyard) filled with cars is a common sight

Rural roads can become jammed up. Especially with a lot of food and fruit stalls lining up the road and inviting travellers to slow down for a good look or slowly stopping by to make a purchase. In Negeri Sembilan the Seremban-Kuala Pilah road is famous for this, especial between Ulu Bendul/Terachi and Tanjung Ipoh, my hometown. The trip can take up to two hours on a really bad (or good shopping?) day. You can really get all the varieties of food stuff and local fruits or appetisers that you want.
a group pic of relatives

On the fourth or fifth day after Aidilfitri, the villages are quite empty again with only one or two old cars left behind. The towns and cities are crowded to the brim again. All attempts to make the rural areas more attractive to the young to live and work in, seem to have little results, except in rural ares where an urban sprawl had been created. But these places have little that can give a village atmosphere and even the Malay population there will go back to their villages for a few days of authentic 'hariraya' celebration to satisfy their nostalgic yearning.