Monday, December 09, 2013

Najib should use cabinet reshuffle to get his administration back on track

If Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is planning to conduct a cabinet reshuffle by year-end and after the conclusion of the MCA party elections, he should give priority to those who understand the importance of perception and public relations.

Najib’s legacy is not going to be determined by just how well he can survive as Umno’s president. His legacy is going to be measured by how successful he can regain the support of urban folks. They are going to be the barometer that helps to measure Najib’s performance as the prime minister and the head of his administration.

At the heart of policymaking, Najib needs the best brains who have the political will and leadership to help him chart the right policy direction. Gone is the era of personality-centric leadership where a supreme commander can drag the whole administration with him. Najib simply does not have the capacity or the capability to act as a supreme commander-in-chief. He needs a good team and effective members in his cabinet.

The popularity of an administration can suffer from poor policy responses and inept governance as much as it can be affected by bad public relations and perception.

Since the May general election, Najib’s administration has suffered several controversies and a spate of bad public relations. The combined effect of these setbacks is beginning to create a poor public perception for his government.

Click here to read the full article.

PAS’ uncertainty is Pakatan’s biggest dilemma as coalition eyes Putrajaya

It is too early for leaders and supporters of Pakatan Rakyat to feel overly jubilant over the results of PAS’ latest party elections. Mohamad Sabu had successfully defended his deputy president position against his challenger, Datuk Mohd Amar Nik, with a 98-vote majority or barely 9 per cent of the total votes.

Mohamad, who is popularly known as Mat Sabu, is seen as a strong supporter of PAS’ liaison with both the DAP and PKR. Mat Sabu shares cordial relationships with top leaders of both parties and he is seen as the leader of a pro-Pakatan faction within his party.

To the leaders and supporters of Pakatan, the victory of Mat Sabu is a clear endorsement of PAS’ intention to remain in the coalition. However, the fact that it was a straight fight between the “Erdogan” and the ulama candidates showed that the latter is consolidating its forces to keep PAS on the original track of promoting an Islamic state and protecting the Islamic values.

An ulama candidate, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, was elected as a vice-president. Joining him were Datuk Husam Musa, who enjoys a solid support from the party’s spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, and Salahudin Ayub.

The line-up shows that the delegates wanted an inclusive team to consider all interests within the party and they are not willing to allow any particular faction to dominate the direction of the party.

Click here to read full article.

Worst not over yet for Najib

With most of the incumbents who are friendly to his leadership successfully elected to the top leadership of Umno, Datuk Seri Najib Razak appeared to have consolidated his position in the party. However, it could just be a temporary relief for the embattled Umno president and prime minister.

His detractors may have had some unkind words for him leading to the party elections, but Najib had used the right strategy by saying very little or nothing at all when he was faced with a difficult controversy or issue. This way, he made fewer mistakes and avoided offending any fence-sitters and core supporters. No one, not even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, disputed that Najib was the best candidate to continue to lead the party.

Najib secured himself another three-year term. However, it would be a mistake if the first-term and duly elected president and prime minister thinks that the worse is over. There are several teething challenges laid on his path.

First, he needs to quickly decide if Umno is still keen to pursue public governance through the Barisan Nasional platform or taking it through its own party domain. It is obvious that key component parties such as the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC are at their lowest ebb and there isn’t any indication that their fortune is about to change.

Click here to read full article.

Can DAP motivate its PR partners?

If there is a political party that deserves to win the most improved award, it has to be the DAP. Since its worst electoral performance in 1999, where two of its stalwarts Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh lost their respective parliamentary seats, the party has bounced back in style.

The party’s fate took a dramatic change in the 2008 general election. It was the turning point for the DAP. The party won 28 parliamentary seats, the most since its founding in 1966. The icing on the cake was the coveted success in capturing the government of Penang, aided primarily by PKR.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was appointed the chief minister, fulfilling the dream of his father Kit Siang who had tried a few times to defeat the BN state government. However, the elder Lim should be credited with laying the foundation for the party to win big in 2008. His victory over Gerakan strongman Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu in 1990 was the start of the deterioration of Gerakan’s influence and support in the state.

The party’s resurgence continued in the 2013 general election and it added 10 more parliamentary seats to push the tally to 38. It also won a record 95 state seats in GE13. The results put the DAP as the second biggest party in Parliament after Umno.

Click here to read full article.

Only UMNO can decide its own demise

It is very hard to imagine the day when Umno loses its grip on the national leadership. But do not be surprised if the day is just hovering around the corner.

The iconic ex-Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that Umno will “die of old age” unless the party rejuvenates. He said Umno needs younger leaders. Age is only a factor but the party needs to embrace a new political reality with a new mindset too.

Malaysian voters, especially the educated urbanites, are demanding more results than rhetoric. With growing urbanisation, more than 75 per cent of Malaysians are going to live and work in the cities by 2015. The new generation of voters is less susceptible to hollow promises and unscrupulous racial and religious politicking.

It would be a mistake to assume that these voters are easily duped into believing in shallow and divisive racial propaganda. It would work during the 60s, 70s and 80s but it is simply not convincing enough to blame another ethnic community for the malaise and problems facing a particular race in 2013.

Click here to read the full article.

BN-PR Dialogue a Must

On the night of the 13th general election on May 5, the PKR de facto leader and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was throwing a tantrum when his coalition won the popular vote (50.3 per cent) but failed to capture the federal government.

His immediate reaction was to call for the “Black 505” demonstrations around the country. His coalition partners, the DAP and PAS, had supported his claims of electoral fraud almost immediately by urging their supporters to back the “Blackout” rallies.

For more, click here to read full article.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Would Umno gain if Waytha quits govt?

Indians made up almost 8 per cent of the country’s population. Recently, the police have made an alarming claim that almost 71 per cent of all triad members are Malaysians of Indian origin.

In a 2012 report, the deputy minister of home affairs Lee Chee Leong said that almost 60 per cent of the total prison inmates were Malaysian Indians.

P Uthayakumar, the brother of Deputy Minister P Waythamoorthy and a Hindraf founder, has blamed it on Umno for neglecting and excluding the Indians from the mainstream development. He said that Indians have been denied equal opportunities in jobs, business, education, licences, et cetera that would give them upward mobility opportunities.

Ironically, Uthayakumar is also part of the prison statistics. He is currently serving a jail term of two years and six months after being found guilty of writing a letter of a seditious nature against the government to former British prime minister Gordon Brown six years ago.

Weeks before the 13th general election (GE13) last May, Waythamoorthy pledged his support for Barisan Nasional (BN) after signing a memorandum of understanding with the BN government to improve the economic position of the Indian community. His action had caused a spilt within Hindraf and he was subsequently “sacked” from the faction led by Uthayakumar.

For more, please click here.

Politicians’ skewed views of fighting crime

A spate of shooting cases, snatch thefts and armed robberies have put public safety as the top talking point in the country today. The killing of Arab-Malaysian Bank founder Hussain Ahmad Najadi, a high-profile victim, has prompted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to pledge “the police anything they need in their fight against serious crime” and ordered confidence to be restored immediately.

Reports of tourists cancelling their weekend trips to Malaysia, businesses cutting short their operating hours, concerned businessmen hiring personal bodyguards and night owls who choose to stay at home rather than going out are worsening public confidence.

The public has the right to voice their concern and fear. But the reaction from the ruling elites and politicians is disappointing. Their responses are symptomatic of their endless political friction. Most of them are not striving for a real solution.

Accusations have become a problem and not a solution. DAP’s Chong Chieng Jen has accused sections of the federal government of “allowing” a rise in crime and gun violence in order to reintroduce preventive detention laws similar to the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

According to Chong, there is a political conspiracy involved to pave the way for the reintroduction of preventive detention laws similar to the EO.

Earlier, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has “blamed” the abolishment of the EO as the main cause of gun violence and a rise in armed crime. The minister has been pushing hard for a new security law to replace the repealed EO. Those familiar with the new law, which is still in its drafting stage, say it may end up looking very much like its forebear which had allowed detention without trial.

For more, please click here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Politicians and Zealots Are the Main Culprits For Malaysian Education Decay

I had spoken to a number of local CEOs on their recruitment and manpower dilemma. A local CEO told me that he would hire anyone with "a pulse" who walks into his office! A number of them lamented that they are left with the lesser qualified because the country is going through a serious brain drain issue.

If the discourse of education remained the same from 10 years ago, that the best students were not selected for local universities, the Federal government should not lament over the outflow of talents overseas. If some students with cumulative grade point averages (CGPA) of 4.0 were unable to get places in universities, the Ministry of Education and the selection panel have to ponder over their roles seriously. 

A lack of integrity and meritocracy in the selection process is a sure bet to push the nation backward. How can we hope to compete on brain power and attract FDI on our best talents if the authorities are working to deny the best students places in our local universities? We are barely 7 years away from the grand vision and milestone of 2020. I do not think it bears any significant meaning if our dialogue on education is still stuck with the same issue? 

Now, the zealots in the ministry want to make the Islamic and Asian Civilisation Studies (Titas) to be a compulsory subject for local private colleges. The question is why just the Islamic studies? In a Friday report, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a parliamentary written reply to Dr Ko Chung Sen (DAP-Kampar) that the move was to standardise requirements between public and private universities. He said that the move, to take effect in private tertiary institutions on Sept 1, would also include Ethnic Relations and Malaysian Studies.

Yet, the ministry and Pemandu want to make Malaysia a regional education hub? What can the ministry hope to achieve by making these subjects compulsory? Again, the politicians are making the people the sacrificial lambs for their own political mischief that has been contributing to disunity, ethnoreligious conflicts and racial tensions. 

Why would international students want to come to Malaysia and spend their time taking so many compulsory subject which do not contribute to their cognitive skills? Why would non-Muslim students want to do the same?

If the Federal government insists on implementing these subjects, because this is their mother land and birthright, they should make them as electives. Remember, compulsion is not part of Islam. Compulsion can be a huge push factor too. It might end up doing more bad than good for the understanding of Islam and its civilisation.

It is time for our civil servants, ministers and academicians do the right thing. Arrest the decline of our education system and start to create good quality graduates before the trend sees a collapse of our knowledge economy. 

Already, the employers are lamenting about the lack of qualified and good quality graduates and workers. Some are paying for more than they should for second grade workers. Others may just move abroad to take an advantage of better employees availability. 

It is a wake up call for the nation. It is time for the people to tell our politicians to be careful of their antics and stop meddling with our education system. This country belongs to all Malaysians, regardless of race or creed, and we must reclaim it from the hands of unscrupulous politicians. 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

DAP's Distorted Reality: A Master Class Act to Justify the Party's Action and Inaction

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is unhappy that Penang is still unable to enforce its Freedom of Information (FOI) Enactment, which was gazetted in early 2012. He told the state assembly today that state Legal Advisor Faiza Zulkifli was still finalising all the necessary work on it and that he hoped the state would be able to enforce it by early next year. 

He said she had told him the FOI would be enforced once all rules, regulations, guidelines and charges had been gazetted. 

Here is another example where policies and public projects in Penang are conducted in reverse order. Why gazette the FOI enactment if the procedures, guidelines and operational process are not yet ready? 

The party leadership has criticized the BN for playing to the gallery when it took a drastic decision to cancel the EO but short of studying its consequences and steps that need to be taken. Is the DAP doing the same for the FOI? It was approved and gazetted because the DAP was trying to shore up support for the last GE?

Similarly, the undersea tunnel was approved and awarded without conducting any necessary studies to justify the project. No DEIA yet but contractors have started to appoint subcontractors but the government is telling us that the project might still be rescinded if 'independent' studies are negative. This is a classic case of DAP's distorted reality.

First distortion: the government has to build the tunnel because the Fed govt refuses to approve public bus license.

Second distortion: the Fed govt is sabotaging Penang's public transport.

Third distortion: build undersea tunnel because the building of a third bridge needs Fed approval.

Fourth distortion: the undersea tunnel and roads worth RM6.3 bil are FREE!

Fifth distortion: if you voted against BN/UMNO means you support the undersea tunnel.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Fighting Crime: A Chance for Bipartisan Cooperation

Facebook is running abuzz with Khairy Jamaluddin's acknowledgement that crime situation in Malaysia is not a perception but a reality. His confession came after his mother's house was burglarized last weekend. 

He said, ""The burglary is a reminder to all of us that crime is a serious problem in Malaysia and I hope that everyone, including victims, remain steadfast."

In a quick response, his fellow MP on the Opposition bench was quick to send his sympathy. Tony Pua took the opportunity to call on the police and government to face up to the reality of severe crime in Malaysia and start reforms. The Petaling Jaya Utara MP said: "Only and unless the Government and the police are willing to accept that fact, there will be no sense of urgency among the authorities to make things better."

However, Pua should offer more than just his sympathy and criticism of the Federal government and the police force. Yes, it would have been easier if the Federal government accepts the crime indexes and the growing fear and anxiety among urbanites of falling victims to crime. What we need is a bipartisan cooperation to combat crime.

State governments (including those being run by PR) and the Federal government must work hand-in-hand with the police force to fight criminals. There are more to be done by all parties to help keep the streets, residential estates, towns, car parks, schools, public areas and malls for all. 

Hence, all parties should stop the blame game and form a joint committee at both the national and state level to address at the problem. What can be done? There are several steps:
  1. The stakeholders should work closely with the public and victims to map out a crime matrix to identify highly prone and high risk areas. 
  2. The state government, via the local councils, should identify if anything can be done to improve infrastructure at the identified areas e.g. clearing of bushes, install more street lights/lamps, install CCTV cameras, send out local authority officers to make regular visits to the areas, identify any illegal activities and identify high risk individuals or groups in the areas.
  3. Police should work hand-in-hand with the local councils and state governments to provide training to local/residential security guards and volunteers on methods to combat crime. Police should plan out their resources to focus on public safety, surveillance, prevention and investigation.
  4. Federal government should make special allocations available to state governments and the police force for the purpose of fighting crime. Allocations should be given to voluntary corps and community security forces to help strengthen their ability to fight crime.
  5. The police force should not get involved in any politically motivated operations and to reserve their resources for crime fighting purposes only. 
  6. A comprehensive study should be conducted to understand the nature of crime and what can be done to address them. The solutions needed might not just be more policing but they can also come from the socio-economic and education angles. It is pertinent to address the root cause of crime.
These steps are preliminary but I am sure the parties involved can work out more areas to work on if they are serious about fight crime and protecting the property and safety of common people. A life lost to crime is far too many. 

It is time for politicians, from both coalitions, to start walk the talk on crime prevention by making this initiative a bipartisan one. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Do We Need Reconciliation? What Do We Need After Each General Election?

The Malaysian Insider said the "GE13 was like a tornado cutting through Malaysian society, tossing friendships like confetti and leaving the country reeling under the rubble of hate, fear-mongering, suspicion and just plain nastiness." 

It added that "Malaysia cannot continue on this path of score-settling and destruction. At stake are race relations, its economic well-being, political stability, simple civility and the country's hard-earned reputation for moderation."

It asked if "the Najib administration will put aside the corrosive elements of anger, betrayal, retribution against born and bred Malaysians who did not vote for Barisan Nasional – and focus instead on building bridges."

There is another burning question: Do we need a reconciliation after every GE? Is the Najib administration responsible solely for national reconciliation? What about the PR coalition's reluctance to accept the GE results and its demands on reconciliation e.g. BN must admit electoral fraud, sack the EC leadership and reform the electoral system?

The first demand is enough to kill any possibility of reconciliation. If reconciliation is unachievable, what can we achieve post-GE?

Firstly, it is very important to address the need for politicians to focus on nation building and not on its destruction through a lack of interest for policy making and governance. It is pertinent to remind the politicians that the electoral process is used to select and elect policy makers whose job, after the GE, is to provide leadership in governance. It is not a game or a competition. Winners are not rewarded with gold bars or riches. It means shouldering the responsibility to govern and to serve the nation. 

However, the electoral process has become a sort of competition lately where political parties and politicians are more interested in winning rather than the responsibility and expectations that follow after the elections.

If politicians are able to appreciate the true meaning of elections, then there is a little need to focus on reconciliation after every GE. The focus should not be on the politicians but the nation and the people. It is an irony that the whole nation is now being held ransom by the unending and continuous political bickering after the GE.

Secondly, I agree that some reforms have to be done. It is undeniably important for all participating parties and stakeholders to accept, respect and embrace the electoral system as an important democratic instrument to elect leadership. Hence, instead of focusing on a negotiated truce we should instead focus on building the credibility of the electoral system. This is going to be very difficult because who or which organization is capable to arbitrate the process of gaining acceptance and respect of the electoral system from all parties?

The answer may rests in the independence of the Election Commission. Here, I agree with Bersih's chief Ambiga that the commission should be made independent of the parliament but any changes or proposals made by the commission must be tabled at the parliament for approval. It means the leadership of the Election Commission is going to be paramount. Its leaders must not come from the civil service or ex-civil servants and should be appointed by the King. Is Malaysia short of eminent persons?

On this aspect, I agree that there is a need of a total leadership revamp of the EC after the indelible ink fiasco. Although it might be difficult to prove that the 'edible/delible' ink had contributed to electoral fraud but its procurement was a clear cut negligence and incompetence. Unfortunately, the EC leadership has to be made accountable for the folly. 

Next, I think it is pertinent for a reliable, credible and independent third party to organize a meeting between the BN and the PR to work out mutually acceptable reforms and ground rules for the 14th GE. The third party has to be the EC. Hence, it is very crucial to sort out the new appointments of EC leadership before any 'reconciliation' and reforms can kick start.

I also agree that the MPs and elected assemblymen should work for the collective interest and well-being of the people. There is a need to change the orientation of the current political landscape in the country. The focus now is overwhelmingly on politicians. It is time we end our infatuation and idolization of politicians. It is time we demand for service and results because we are paying for it.