Sunday, June 24, 2007

THE MALAYSIAN DISEASE


HANTU LAUT

Jakarta 1982, a bustling and sweltering city of ten million,a city of contrast, between the ignominious wealth of the elite class and the appalling poverty of the urban poor.

This is a city of "macet", a perpetual gridlock. Getting caught in a macet in a taxi without a/c (Indonesian version of air-con) can be a horrifying experience, not only the heat and dust will wear you down, the assortment of smells from rotting garbage to open sewers can overload your olfactory organs.

By the time I reached my destination, the Jakarta Hilton Hotel, I was about half an hour late and had to apologise profusely to my host who was at the lobby to meet me. Most Indonesian are superficially polite, placable, giving an impression of warmth and friendliness and can be quite comical in their ways.

My host said "Jangan susah Pa, ini perkara biasa, kan ini Indonesia, lambat saminggu pun masi boleh diterima".

I couldn't agree more with him on that issue. Indonesian aren't well known for punctuality. Malaysians, not much better. American, Japanese and European are stickler for keeping time and the Arabs are the worst timekeeper in the world.

I hate to generalise but my personal experience have shown that Japanese, American and European came top in time management. Arabs, the most inconsiderate of all people, no matter how educated there are have no respect for time and for others, "time and tide wait for no man" is definitely not in their dictionary.Am I making a racist remarks? No! I don't think so, I am stating a fact.

When we arrived at the restaurant there were already three other Indonesians at the table, I guessed, must be Rustam's business partners or friends. After formal introduction we sat down to our sumptuous meals and made small talk about business, politics and about the many similarities of Indonesian and Malaysian cultures and last but not least, a usually taboo subject ..... religions.

This was where I made my first mistake by saying something that trigger off an argument which, on hindsight, was an eye opener for me to the great divide between the two nations.

I suggested that Indonesia being the biggest Islamic country in the world would one day become a nation of fundamentalists with strict syriah and hudud law.At that very moment I could feel the tension and uneasiness I have caused to my Indonesian friends.One of them retorted in Bahasa Indonesia "Itu kan salah pemifikiran Bapa, Indonesia tidak mungkin sampai begitu, disini yang penting bagi rakyat Indonesia ia lah 'Pancasila' bukan ugama, seperti di Malaysia. Yang sa benar nya kami di Indonesia kurang senang dengan keadaan di Malaysia, dimana fundmentalis Islam bergerak pentas dan akan mengambil kuasa pemerentah jika tidak diberi perhatian". My second mistake was to disagree with him and he went on to say "Jika Bapa mahu tahu kami di Indonesia memberi name itu "MALAYSIAN DISEASE", takut-takut akan merebak ka sini nanti".

My Bahasa Indonesia isn't that great, the English version would be something like this "Your opinion is wrong, Indonesia will not come to that, here the most important thing to every Indonesian is the 'Pancasila', not religion, like in Malaysia.As a matter of fact, we, in Indonesia are worried with the situation in Malaysia where fundamental Islam is getting a strong foothold and spreading fast and may take over power in the very near future if nothing is done now to keep it under control", and he went on to say "If you really want to know, in Indonesia, we called it the "MALAYSIAN DISEASE" and we are afraid it may spread over here"

The reality of his statement struck me almost twenty five years later.

Up to now Indonesia has no shariah law.The state does not interfere with how Muslims should practice their religion. There are no moral policemen to nap courting couples, no enforcement officers to catch Muslims who do not fast during Ramadan, no interference in mixed racial or religious marriages and no compulsion to stay in Islam if one wishes not to.

In 1984, I attended a conference "International Business Environment" jointly organised by International Herald Tribune and Oxford Analytica. It was a three-day conference from 11th-13th April held at Magdalen College, Oxford University. Discussions and dialogs covered all five continents with particular emphasis on countries that had shown rapid economic growth and potentials for future sustainable economic growth.Each participant was given a booklet that gave background information on the regions covering social, political and economic aspects of the countries within the region.

I will confine my story to the Asean region in general and Malaysia in particular. Malaysia came under the South East Asia region.

South East Asia was the fastest growing region in the 1970s with an average growth of 7.5% for the 1979-1981 period.The ASEAN economies experienced unprecedented high economic growth of between 6-9% for two decades--until the world recession at that time.The area's entrepreneurial spirit prompted by hard-nosed Chinese diaspora and good government fiscal policies helped inspire investors' confidence.

The following are brief extracts from the booklet:

Malaysia:

Malaysia must still be regarded as one of the more stable members of ASEAN.It is prosperous and, despite the effects of the global recession, is likely to become more so in the later 1980s and 1990s.

Nevertheless there are constitutional, religious and socio-economic problems to face.None pose an immediate threat to the country's relative stability; but, as with any multi-racial, multi-lingual and predominantly Islamic nation with a wide gulf between rich and poor, conditions exist for long term tension.

The country's medium term outlook is dominated by three major concerns:

--firstly, the delicate constitutional balance between elected politicians and the Sultans.There are likely to be continuing conflicts between progressive democrats and those who believe that certain powers should remain with the traditional rulers;

--secondly, the recent rapid growth in the influence of Islam overlaps the constitutional struggles.The Islamic movement is notionally headed by the Sultans and other traditional rulers.Decisions which cause affront to the Sultans could inflame Islamic passions already smouldering under the influence of global Islamic revival.

--thirdly, there is a long term threat to Malaysia's comparative serenity stemming from the complex and ambitious economic reorganization launched in 1971, the New Economic Policy.The NEP has its main target a massive increase in public ownership by the Malay (or bumiputra) community.By 1990, the NEP architects say, bumiputra participation in the economy should be at least 30%--a target which non-Malay critics say is too high.But the firm implementation of the policy suggests that some of the targets will be realized.After 1990, though, any further favouring of the bumiputras might exacerbate tensions between the racial groups--a spectre which, since the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, remains at the back of all Malaysian ruler's mind.

Singapore:

The most developed and most stable of the ASEAN countries continues to be dominated by Lee Kuan Yew, and his policies of activist and international economic management.

Thailand:

Thai politics are at a point of stalemate.Groups opposed to the continuing dominance of the army--the urban middle class and rural peasantry--are, if anything, more opposed to each other.

Thailand has the appearance of a systemically unstable state, and it is.But paradoxically, Thailand's chronic instability gives it a unique form of long term political stability--no matter how many times the regimes change, and there have been 14 coup attempts in the last 50 years, the ultimate effect, and the type of government, is invariably the same.

Indonesia:

Indonesia is experiencing a number of internal problems, largely concerned with the breakdown of the law-an-order, and the criminal activities and alliances of some opposition politicians. General Suharto has utilized draconian techniques to deal with the problem. Units of the Indonesian Special Forces--the KOPASANTA, headed by General Murdani--have engaged in a ruthless programme of arrests and killings.

This programme, widely condemned by the international community, appears to have been effective, and the urban areas--in which the middle classes felt very insecure--are now considerably safer.

Philippines:

The Philippines is the sick man of ASEAN.The political situation looks set to reach a crisis point in the not too distant future, and the country now has the dubious honour of being the first ASEAN member to require debt-rescheduling.Total debt now exceeds US$18 bn and credit rating is very low.Even with rescheduling, the country's reserve position is precarious.

The grand finale of the conference was a grand banquet at Blenheim Palace with Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former President of France as guest of honour.It was a memorable night and gave me a glimpse of the opulence surroundings of the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchhill.

As the focus of my story is on Malaysia, I will not comment on the other countries.

Let us ponder for a moment on the accuracy of some of the assessments made in the booklet.

There were two constitutional crisis during Mahathir's time. The first one, was the sacking of the Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas in 1988 and than followed by the 1993 constitutional crisis with the Sultans.

However, as Mahathir influence and support with the masses and the beholden were strong he managed to push through the constitutional changes.

The other even more menacing problem was the growing influence of the Islamists which pose a serious threat to the racial and religious harmony in Malaysia.

The Lina Joy case was a prime example of the influence it has on many branches of government including the judiciary. The acquiescence of the Lina Joy judgement showed all is not well in the country.The people had no choice but to reluctantly accept the unacceptable.Her case has reached the end of the road. She either leaves the country or face the consequence of her action at the sharia court, which, by now should not have any jurisdiction over her as she is no more a Muslim. The case of the forced burial of M.Moorthy as a Muslim inspite of strong protest from his Hindu widow has sparked outcry and strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction among the non-Muslim. There were also cases where children were taken away from their mother, wife taken away from husband, non muslims arrested for close proximity and a civil court sent a Hindu to seek redress from a Sharia Court.

The Islamists movement has intensified since current Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over the reins from Mahathir. The moral policemen had become completely blind in raiding Muslim couples.They brought shame to the country when they tried to arrest an elderly non-muslim foreign couples in the wee hours of the morning.

Places of entertainment were raided, young muslim girls hauled up, handcuffed, insulted and arrested.Is this the begining of the Talibanisation of Malaysia? Are we going to end up like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, wrecked by their extremely distorted beliefs of the religion? It was obvious that the state of sobriety is gradually breaking down and the government didn't want to intervene for fear of losing the politicial support of the Malay community. For UMNO it is "damned if you do, damned if you don't".

Malaysia, blessed with abundant supply of natural resources, high literacy rate, fairly good public administration and good infrastructure has, over the past three decades, been transformed from a tropical backwater into one of the largest exporting nations in the world. The growth rate over the past three decades had been quite impressive and commendable. Its financial management could have been better if greater care were taken in public spending. The NEP, a child born out of the May 13 race riot was introduced to uplift the economic standard of the Malays, to be at par with the Chinese and other non-Malay.

Unfortunately, over the same period, it has lost its noble objective and was used as a gravy train to facilitate wealth for those in power and those close to power. The late Tun Razak, main architect of the NEP, would have been utterly shocked if he could see the abuses encapsulating the NEP . Never in his wildest dream would he had planned to use the NEP to enrich those in power. The late Tun Razak and late Tun Ismail were gems during their time.Corruption at the top was unheard of. It was not for nothing they called the late Tun Dr Ismail as "the man who saved Malaysia".

Government projects given to selected people were given with over inflated prices and, more often than not, the project would not be worked by the recipients but sold on "ali-baba" basis. Many projects were on "design, build and transfer" method with minimal or zero supervision from the relevent authorities. The spate of cracked highways, cracked buildings and host of other problems are the consequences of this unorthodox method of awarding contracts. Even some of those using the conventional contractual method were not spared the unscrupulous and unconscionable actions of irresponsible leaders and contractors.

Unsheathing of the keris and beating of the war drum a while ago by a Malay warrior named Hishamuddin, gave the NEP a new lease of life and was extended indefinitely, the reason being, Malays were still lagging behind and have not yet met the desired equity ratio.A warning shot was also fired to warn the Chinese and others not to make an issue out of it, it was an irrevocable social contract, not to be questioned

Hishamuddin, may have underestimated the importance of the Chinese to this country and miscalculated the role they played in the economy and prosperity of the nation. The 28% Chinese were the major economic engine of the country and contributed about 70% of GDP. Majority of companies listed on KLSE were dominated by Chinese. Even worse, almost 90% of retail business were under their control. The Malay equity on KLSE were mostly held by GLCs and very small portion came from individual Malays.

Was the May 13th race riot a true harbinger of the NEP ? To continue the NEP indefinitely may be perilous to Malaysia, probably the only country in the world, that have affirmative action for the majority.

Since its inception in 1971, the NEP has shown to be counter-productive for the Malays as reflected by the unattainable equity participation. It is almost thirty five years since the NEP was first introduced and the Malays failed to catch up.

Much of Malaysia economic achievements have been contributed by the non-bumiputra communities.Unfortunately, very little recognition were given to them. Only former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, after stepping down did casually mentioned that the Chinese paid the most taxes.

How could you build a competitive Malay society if the dependency syndrome must continue ? How could anyone appreciate wealth if it can come so easy and so quickly?

It's high time the government take serious view of the NEP and formulate alternative policy that can effectively create a competitive Malay mindset.

Don't simply put it on the platter. Educate!, educate!, educate! is the only way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

WE ARE NOT MALAYS

HANTU LAUT

We are not Malays.We don't want to be called Malays.That's the sound echoing throughout Sabah the past one week. The aftershocks of the Rustam's earthquake.

Suddenly, nobody wanted to be Malays in Sabah and Sarawak.Yes, it's getting out of fashion.Chinese and Indians don't want to be Malays, that's fine, understandable, but what about Kadazans, Muruts, Dusuns, Bajaus, Suluks, Kagayan, Sibutu, Ilanuns (gosh! never heard of some of the names before). Oops! my sincere apology it should be Iranun, lest we offend the Chief Lanun.

It's an enormously complex task to classify races especially those with very ambiguous origin.Let us find out where the Malays stand in the world of anthropology and languages. Malay came under the group called the Malay race which is a branch of Malayo-Polynesian, a sub-category of Austronesian.It covers Malaysia,Indonesia,Philippines, and some South Pacific Islands.However, the ethnic origin of the Malays are still much disputed. One theory by Johann F.Blumenbach, an anthropologist, considered the Malays as sub-category of Ethiopian and Mongoloid races. He described the Malays as "brown colour, from olive and a clear mahogany to the darkest clove or chestnut brown" He classified races into five categories, namely, Caucasian (white race), Mongolian (yellow race), Malayan (brown race), Ethiopian (black race), and American (red race).I didn't know anthropology was that simple.

So, who are the Malays other than those in West Malaysia? According to anthropological findings and study of languages almost all of the indigenous groups in Sabah and Sarawak came under Malayo-Polynesian through the Malay race. There are 1265 languages under Austronesian. The theory is, you can speak different languages, but still can come from the same root. Just like the Indo-European group of languages which includes Hindi, Urdu, Pashtun, Persian and most European languages.

So why are people like Leo Moggie, Bernard Dompok and surprisingly Pendikar Amin Mulia who couldn't be more Malay than his name , suddenly, woke up one fine morning and found out they were no more Malays.

At the joint Gawai Kaamataan Festival at Kota Kinabalu, Leo Moggie said "the Dayaks and KadazanDusuns still need to be given special attention to get a fair race.Toward this end discontinuing the NEP would be a disadvantage for the natives of Sabah and Sarawak because we are still not at the same level to compete.

Dompok, a true blue blooded Kadazan said "both communities were looking forward to the day their companies can be seen in Kuala Lumpur and listed on the main board of Bursa Malaysia".

Well, Mr Dompok seems to have selective memory and let me refresh his memory for a while. When PBS was in power in Sabah he was a senior member of the Sabah state cabinet and the Kadazans had all the opportunities to embark on their entrepreneurial journey.They controlled the state coffers and all state projects.What did they do? They were only interested in selling state assets and state lands. Even worse, they allowed an MBO of one state company to a Kadazan businessman on deferred payment and what did this Kadazan boy do.He stripped most of the assets and never paid the government the full sum and eventually returned the company back to the state.What hope have you got to reach the main board of KLSE if you couldn' even manage a company handed to you on the platter.

Even more absurd was the statements of Pendikar Amin and to quote him verbatim "even though the communities under USBO(comprising the Bajau, Iranun, Ubian, Yakan, Suluk, Kagayan, Binadan, Sibutu, Sikubang, Simunul) are Muslims and having almost similar cultures and lifestyles of the Malays, in reality they are not Malays", and went on to say "in this issue the difference in mother tongue and origins is evidence that should not be hidden and discounted", and finally he said "USBO also feels that the NEP should be continued with a view that the government concentrates on new targets like communities under the USBO wing"

Another self-absorbed and fallacious statements.Sabah have had five Chief Ministers from that tribal grouping, if that befits the definition.Why are the people still so backward and poor and only the leaders are rich? Kota Belud, the Bajau's heartland, have had two Chief Ministers, a father and a son, held the elected seats since independence and did absolutely nothing for their own district. You can see the incompetence and couldn't care less attitude of the leaders just by looking at the conditions of the town itself. Five former Chief Ministers from the USBO stables, all without any track records to speak off, you should now know why the state of Sabah has always been behind other states.

If the Chinese can do business and survive without the NEP, why can't the Malays, the Bajaus, the Dayaks, the Kadazans and the Iranuns? Isn't one NEP more than enough?Do we need to provide custom-made crutches for each and everyone of them?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

GLOBAL TERRORISM - IS AMERICA TO BLAME?

HANTU LAUT

United States of America, the greatest nation on earth, the only superpower and a belligerent nation.



The Vietnam War raged from 1959 to 1975, came to an end, with the fall of Saigon and defeat of the United States military forces in April 1975. America lost 60,000 combatants during the period.The loss of civilian life was difficult to verify but was estimated between 2 to 5 million Vietnamese died during the war.

What has America learned from the Vietnam War? Why are they fighting a war that has nothing to do with them? Are they becoming a menace to the rest of the world?

The Gulf War, to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait started in January 1991, lasted 44 days, and succeeded in removing the invaders from Kuwait but failed to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The Iraq War in 2003 was in retaliation of 9/11 and not as what the American claimed, to disarm Iraq of weapon of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein support for terrorism. No WMD was ever found and no link to any terror group was ever established.

Both wars had the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia, who, after the invasion of Kuwait, feared the expansionist policy of Saddam Hussein. In the event of an invasion from its northern neighbour, the Saudis had no capacity to defend themselves without the help of external military forces.The only nation that have such capability was America.



The attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York on 11th Sept 2001 is now casting doubts on the real identities of the plotters. How could two prestigious and well-built buildings came crashing down as if they were under controlled demolition? Why didn't the section on top of the point of impact tip over and crash down to the street below instead of the whole building? Many questions were left unanswered and the United States government was not at all interested to find out the truth.Michael Moore's controversial movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, posed many pertinent questions. Despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and funded by Saudi money the American were more interested in shifting the blame to Afghanistan and Iraq. Was there a conspiracy between the American and Saudi government or was it really the work of Al-Qaeda? Was 9/11 created to justify the war on Iraq?

What are the causes that led to the birth of terrorists organisations like Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiya, and a dozen or so more in the Middle East? What attracts so many Muslims to join them, some, brought up and educated in the West? Why are they prepared to take their own life together with many other innocent people?

To get some answers we must go back at least sixty years in time into the history of the Middle East.

After World War I, there was a strong Zionist movement led by Haim Weizmann, a Russian Jew, supported by Britain, to create a Jewish homeland. The plan was known as the Balfour Declaration and strange as it may sound, Uganda and Argentina, were countries also suggested as possible homeland for the Jews.Lord Balfour himself suggested Uganda but the Zionists was not receptive to the idea.Imagine, if Uganda or Argentina were chosen as the Jewish homeland, the face of terrorism today would have been completely different.At that time the Western powers were so powerful that they can virtually draw a circle on the world map and decided it to be a new country.The Jewish state did not come into being until much later.

After World War II and the pogrom of Jews by Hitler's Nazi Germany, the victorious allied countries, especially Britain, felt great sympathy for the Jewish people and decided to quickly carve a nation for them out of a land called Palestine. The nation of Israel was born on 15th May 1948 and the Arab countries immediately declared war on Israel.The Arabs forces were defeated and Israel gained 50% more territory after the war.In 1956 Egypt seized the Suez Canal and the Strait of Tiran and closed it to Israel shipping and Israel took it as, declaration of war, mounted an invasion of the Sinai with the collaboration of France and Britain.In 1967 Gamel Abdul Nasser of Egypt again closed the Strait of Turin to Israel shipping and Israel retaliated and occupied the Sinai and Gaza from Egypt,the West Bank from Jordan, and Golan Height from Syria.

In October 1973, also known as the Yom Kippur War, the Arab coalition forces led by Egypt attempted to retake the Sinai and Golan Heights but was severely defeated by Israeli armed forces, with the help of the United States, providing them with aerial information, on ground movements and strength of Arab coalition forces .America was the eyes in the sky using airborne surveillance planes to relay back information to Israel military commands.

In June 1981, with the support and encouragement of the United States, Israel air force bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, Iraq and crippled it. The American completed the job in the 1991 Gulf War and completely destroyed it


In June 1982 Israel, in retaliation, of the attempted assassination of its ambassador to United Kingdom by Abu Nidal, ordered a massive invasion of Lebanon, targeting Palestinian refugee camps and PLO fighters. The Phalangists, Lebanese Christian Militia, allied with Israel, were allowed by Israel armed forces to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps which ended with the massacre of about 3500 defenceless Palestinians.Israel Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon was indirectly implicated with the massacre and resigned his post.



Scene of death and destruction from the massacre at Sabra and Shatila refugees camp

The massacre of innocent men, women, children at Sabra and Shatila was one of many atrocities committed by the Israeli armed forces .In her book,"FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM", Dr Ang Swee Chai wrote "The slaughter of unarmed children,women,the aged and the infirm was shocking.For me I was doubly outraged that I have to discover the truth about a brave and generous people only through their deaths.Until then I never knew Palestinian refugees existed.As a fundamentalists Christian, I had been a supporter of Israel, hated Arabs and saw the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as terrorists to be loathed and feared". Dr Ang, an orthopedic surgeon, was an eyewitness to the massacre at Sabra and Shatila.In 1982 she saw on television the relentless bombing of Beirut by Israeli planes.Shocked, her view of Israel began to change.When she heard an international appeal for orthopedic surgeon to treat war victims in war-ravaged Beirut, she resigned her job in London, bade her husband farewell and set out for Beirut.

Following the 1982 massacre, she together with her husband and some friends formed a British charity, Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP). In1987 she was bestowed the 'Star of Palestine' by Yasser Arafat, the highest award for service to the Palestinian people.

America played a crucial role in the Middle East, using Israel as its asset in the region.Israel is now the premier military power in the Middle East due to protection accorded by America and its allies.

America has no permanent friends or enemies, as long as you are prepared to serve Americans interests, you are friend, and the moment you don't, you are enemy.After the fall of the Shah of Iran, militant Iranian students took over the American Embassy in Teheran and took 63 hostages.Soon after, the Iran-Iraq War broke out. America declared its neutrality which was designed to deceive the Iranians.They operated a clandestine operation through Saudi Arabia to provide exaggerated report of Iran military weakness to Iraq so as to encourage Saddam to invade Iran.At the height of the war America furnished the Iraqis with intelligence reports on Iranian troop concentration and damage assessment of Iraqi attacks on Iran.They did not object to the extensive use of chemical weapons against Iran.They also gave billions of dollars in commodity credits and guarantees and encouraged other European nations to supply arms to Iraq.Iran has become the common enemy of Iraq and America and it used Iraq as its proxy.

Diplomatic initiatives on the current crisis with Iran to stop her nuclear programme has not been successful.America has imposed sanctions and even threaten war on Iran.On 25th Feb 2007 the Telegraph of UK reported - US FUNDS TERROR GROUPS TO SOW CHAOS IN IRAN. According to the report, America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist group to destabilise Iran.It was also reported that the funding came directly from CIA classified budget.Almost 40% of Iran population were of non-Persian stock.They are Kurds, Azeris, Ahwazi Arabs, and Baluchis.In the past there have been ethnic unrest in the border areas with bombing and assassinations campaigns against soldiers and government officials by some of the ethnic minorities.

The hurt America campaign came about because of the incapability of Arab countries to deal with the Palestinian issue, the invincibility of Israel, and America hostile stance toward Muslim nations supporting the Palestinian cause. Many Arabs consider their leaders weak, incapable, and are stooges of America.It was obvious that Americans double standard and impunity to the atrocities committed by Israel on the Palestinian people were major contributing factors to the birth of terrorism.The war on Iraq has given terrorism a quantum leap.It has gone global and is now a multi-national business with subsidiaries and affiliates throughout the Muslim world.

In the past, most terror groups were confined within borders of the country or within a region.Al-Qaeda headed by Osama bin Laden was the only one with far-reaching influence and extensive networks.It was formed in 1988 to help the mujahedeens to drive out the Soviets from Afganistan.The jihadists war in Afganistan was partly sponsored and financed by the CIA and partly Arabs money mostly Saudis. Al-Qaeda was given the responsiblility for bringing in foreign mujahedeens into Afganistan to help the local mujahedeens.Between 1982 and 1992 almost 35,000 foreign mujahedeens from 43 countries participated in the war in Afganistan.

Iraq is now the most dangerous country on earth, daily bombings and killing of innocent Iraqis continued unabated.Almost every day you hear of innocent civilians killed or maimed by suicide bombers.Sectarian violence and killings occurred every day. Since the first Gulf War it was estimated that more than 500,000. Iraqis had been killed and killed mostly by Americans guns and bombs.The situations in Afghanistan was no better.The two countries are now the "killing fields" created by America as a war of attrition to weaken the Muslims Ummah.

For the Americans to leave Iraq now there would be complete anarchy.The sectarian violence, slaughter, and massacre would be of unimaginable proportion and fragmentation of Iraq would be inevitable.The Vietnam War lasted almost fifteen years.Would Iraq be another Vietnam and killed many more innocent Iraqis before the Americans withdrew?

Was the invasion of Iraq legitimate? Since it was proven that Iraq did not have WMD and were not linked to Al-Qaeda or any terror group, shouldn't George Bust and Tony Blair, architects of the war, be tried as war criminals? Should America and its allies be made to pay war reparations to both Iraq and Afghanistan?

Who can stop America?





Tuesday, June 12, 2007

INSTANT MALAY

HANTU LAUT

Instant coffee, instant tea, and instant mee.Now, instant Malay!

How would you like to be an instant Malay? Now, you can. Just go and see the Chief Minster of Malacca Mohd Ali Rustam.He has found a magic formula that can transform Chinese, Indian, Kadazan and any non Malay into instant Malay.It's like your three-minute Maggie mee - "Cepat dimasak sedap dimakan". To quote him verbatim "It is easy to become a Malay.Even if that person is Chinese or Indian or Kadazan, if they are Muslims or have converted, converse in Malay, and follow Malay tradition, then they are Malays.The Kadazans if they are Muslims we consider them as Malays, if not, then they are bumiputras. There you are, the magic formula.

Changing your religion may make some sense but why change your race? Would you be more privilaged being a Malay? Well, those of you who got all excited about the idea of becoming a Malay better think twice. Just don't forget the recent case of Lina Joy and should any of you know the Eagles, a rock band in the eighties, just remember the song 'Hotel California' and the verse that goes "you can check out anytime but you can never leave".

One would have thought, the Chinese, known for their opportunistic ways would have rejoiced at the idea. Sorry mate, not so, it seems the Chinese and even the Kadazan are proud of their race and culture. Some Chinese and Kadazan leaders from both sides of the political fence took offence.Some say it was a gross insult. The Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport Liow Tiong Lai from MCA said "If I am a Chinese and convert to Islam, I am still a Chinese".

For all intents and purposes Ali Rustam have not intended to insult the non Malays in Sabah. He made the statement thinking it was good and a smart thing to say to Sabahans. Little did he realise that Sabahans are also equally good at making a storm in a teacup.

What he said was not entirely untrue. Prime examples of the truth of his statement can be seen in the Federal leaderships. Mahathir Mohammed, Zainuddin Maidin, Anwar Ibrahim and even our present Prime Minster are not unadulterated Malays. In Sabah you had Harris Salleh and now Musa Aman.He was only expressing the definition of a Malay according to the Malaysian Constitution. He may be right but has it ever been widely practised?

The situation in Sabah and Sarawak were entirely different and more complex than what Ali Rustam would have thought. There are Dusuns or Kadazans who have Muslim names but are Christians. There are also Sabahans or Sarawkians of Indonesian extract who also carry Muslim names but are not Muslims. There are also some who has Christian names but are Muslims. So, in the two states Muslim names are not synonymous with Islam or the Malay race.

The ignorance and arrogance of many Malay civil servants at the Registration Dept Headquarters in KualaLumpur who has the ultimate say in your status, race and religion are making matters worse.There were many cases where Christians became Muslims and vice versa. A recent case in Sarawak where the son of a prominent Dayak politician applied for a bumiputra loan but was rejected and told by a Malay officer from West Malaysia that he was not eligible for it because he was not a bumiputra. Many bumiputras in Sabah especially those from the Sino-Kadazan group that have Chinese surnames are disallowed from buying ASB. Why should the fates of Sabahans and Sarawakians be in the hands of some knuckle-head West Malaysians.

Unlike the Japanese zaibatsu, where employees to be posted to a foreign land were given an intensive course of the language and culture of the people of the country, Malaysia Federal civil service and financial institutions do not bother to infuse such information. It's arrogance bordering on stupidity. Even the Pakistani clothes sellers are doing far better.The new one would take lessons from the returnees while in Pakistan to learn Bahasa Melayu and the different cultures in this country before they embark on their journey.

Ali Rustam was a victim of his own device, a pseudo-perception and racialist belief of "ketuanan Melayu" (Malay supremacy or Malay dominance). Islam teaches equality for all human beings and fairness and kindness to all living things including animals.Why should the Malays be " first among equals"?

This is Malaysia.A molehill can become a mountain.Politicians, for nothing else better to do, like to spend time on trivialities.

Many politicians, especially those from UMNO, are always shouting that we must maintain racial and religious harmony among the races and promote integration. It is amazing, more often than not, they are the one that incite racial and religious disharmony.

They are specialists in lip service and masters in polarisation.

Monday, June 4, 2007

PROTON: ONE MAN'S MEAT ANOTHER MAN'S POISON

Hantu Laut

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently directed Proton to start turning around its financial performance after having incurred losses of RM619 million. Would that be enough for the management in Proton to shape up? Can it survive without massive capital injection from the government or fresh equity participation from established foreign carmaker?

Proton, the brainchild of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed was launched in July 1985.It is now well over twenty years and it still has not been able to stand on its own. The problems are worsening due to stiff competition from other carmakers entering the market with cheaper and better quality models.

Most of Proton's troubles were of its own making. Unimaginative and apathetic management are the main cause of its troubles. New models put on the market were unattractive and of poor quality. Some models are just bad copies of older European models.Two new models put on the market recently was a marketing disaster , the Savvy which looked like an updated version of the Fiat 500 and the Gen 2, looking more like a squeezed down version of the old Alfa Romeo Alfasud.

The Wira, first introduced in 1993, the best selling model in the Proton stable, was an old Mitsubishi model and is still fitted with thirty-year old technology engine. This gas guzzling little monster consumed more fuel than the latest medium size Mercedes Benz.

To produce new models means costly retooling and Proton's many new models failed to excite car buyers. Negotiations with foreign carmaker, Volkswagen, to take up equity in the company collapsed due to the government demand for control of the company and control of the future direction of Proton.No one in their right mind, after having bought controlling interest in a company, would accede to such terms.

Was Proton not a viable project in the first place? Was Mahathir wrong in his vision of the industrialisation of Malaysia? Was it fair for the present administration to blame him for the troubles at Proton? Or was it just another exercise by the current administration to dismantle another one of his legacy?

Let us go to Japan and see how the car industries started, how it has produced many famous brands and how it gave birth to the biggest car manufacturer in the world.

Car manufacturers in Japan started maufacturing passenger cars in the 1920s/30s. The oldest manufacturers are Mitsubishi, Nissan and Isuzu.In their formative years, most of them, have collobrated with British auto manufacturers which had, at that time, one of the best mass manufacturing technology.In 1922, Isuzu, teamed up with Wolseley Motor Company of UK and produced the Wolseley A9 locally. Nissan chose Austin of UK as its partner to gain access to automobile and engine design and initially assembled the Austin 7 model locally for sale in Japan. Mitsubishi, another big zaibatsu has courted alliances with many foreign partners.A significant stake in the auto division was sold to Chrysler in 1971.The latecomer to the industry was Toyota which only put its first passenger car on the market in 1936.It is now the biggest car manufacturer in the world in term of revenue.Together with its subsidiary, Daihatsu, it plans to produce 9.4 million units in 2007.

Almost all of the Japanese carmakers have produced special brand in the US for the US market. Toyota has Lexus, Honda called theirs Acura and Nissan called their's Infinite. In 2003, Toyota, launched another brand in the US which they called Scion, to try capture the generation Y market.The US is the biggest markets for automobiles which the Japanese have succesfully penetrated and make their brands household names.

The other commendable country is South Korea which is even more impressive.Its car industry only started in 1955, initially as assemblers.Today, it is the fifth largest manufacturer in the world in term of volume.

Toyota has overtaken GM as the world biggest supplier of automobiles..This can only come about due to intensive product research, forward looking development activities and good corporate culture. Most Japanese carmakers have had their ups and downs but somehow managed to pull through and survive.Many British carmakers, some of which were pioneers of the industry, have fallen on the wayside and the few that are still around have been taken over by foreign companies. Quality and reliability still plagued most British made cars. The Range Rover, a high end luxury model, was voted one of the ten worst luxury cars in the US in 2006.

The 2nd national car manufacturer, Perodua didn't have the same problem that Proton has.Perodua is basically a Japanese company and managed on the same corporate culture. Daihatsu and Mitsui together control more than 51% equity in the manufacturing arm, Perodua Auto Corporation Sdn.Bhd and its subsidiaries. Although much smaller than Proton, it has delivered some good models. The Myvi, a model launched in May 2006 was a hot seller and still is. Perodua cars are selling well and are eroding Proton's share of the market. It recently launched another new model called the Viva.

If Perodua can survive and continue to gain bigger share of the market why can't Proton?What caused Proton to slide downhill so fast? Who is to blame, Mahathir or the present administration?

To say Proton is not viable is a myopic view of those who are more concerned with placing blames rather than doing something constructive to save the ailing company.It's the easy way out.

Chrysler, a company near bankruptcy once, was a good example of the strong and unwavering conviction of one man that believed the company should be saved and saved hundreds of thousand of jobs. While the majority have condemned and destined the company to the graveyard, one man stood alone, convinced the United States Congress to give him loan guarantees to enable him to save the company. With objections, protests, actions to undermine his proposal coming from almost every sector of the business community, and ridiculed by the press, it wasn't an easy task for Lee Iacocca to convince Congress to accept his proposal which, fortunately for Chrysler, Congress finally did.

With new financing available he managed to turn the company around and paid up all loans seven years ahead of time. I would suggest top executives and directors of Proton to read his book - IACOCCA AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

Is there someone in Proton who has the conviction and courage to do what Iacocca did? The weakness in the current administration and management of Proton are reflected in their action when they decided to sell off the investment in Mv Agusta for a song.This unconscionable decision cost Proton a loss of almost RM500 million.Proton's business advisor, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad said he has no prior knowledge and weren't consulted.He should have known better.They knew he would be an obstacle.Why appoint someone as your business advisor if you don't need inputs from him?

The buyer must have great confidence in MvAgusta to dare buy the share written off by Proton. The irony is, MvAgusta is still around, it hasn't been foreclosed or wound up as predicted by the Malay soothsayers in Proton and the government. They are still producing new high end motorbikes.

Those in Proton and government must put on their thinking caps to find the best solution to save the company from extinction.After so much time,money and effort spent to nuture Proton to what it is today, its demise, should not be an option.