Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lopsided power hike inefficient, says DAP

The BN government has made a bold move to raise electricity tariffs by 7.12% on average, and therefore risks losing the vote of manufacturers, medium and high income households as well as exporters who are already feeling the pinch of a strong ringgit. The increase in overall inflation would be palpable, when we as consumers are facing higher petrol prices, higher food prices and higher living costs without having to experience a hike in our electricity bill.

Yes, subsidies in the long run will weigh down the country. But when RM208 million can be spent buying votes in the Sarawak Elections, Billions poured into the failed Port Klang Free Zone, Billions poured into Iskandar Region which would eventually be bought over by Singapore to move the old folk to, and Billions lost through corruption, cronies, and wasteful mismanagement of public funds, how can the people be the ones to bear the brunt of the government's ineptitude?

Tony Pua makes the case about the government's inability to renegotiate the Purchasing Power Agreements between themselves and the Independent Power Producers are a clear case in point. Here is the article from themalaysianinsider.com which highlights the issue:

By Yow Hong Chieh

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — The decision to raise electricity tariffs without reviewing “lopsided” deals with highly inefficient independent power producers (IPPs) is like “righting a wrong with another wrong”, Tony Pua has said.

The DAP publicity chief said raising rates without restructuring purchasing power agreements (PPAs) with IPPs would only worsen inefficiency and place a greater burden on industrial and commercial consumers, who will bear the brunt of the hike.

He pointed out these large-scale users will see an average increase of 8.4 per cent in their power bill, which would not only worsen rising inflation but “deal a bigger blow” to export industries already hurt by the strong ringgit.

“The fact that the government chooses to punish our consumers and industries, without laying a finger on the IPPs, only serves to prove that the Najib administration has no political will to carry out the necessary reforms to our economy,” Pua (picture) said in a statement today.

The Petaling Jaya MP pointed out that despite having to contend with natural gas prices that were more than double that of Malaysia’s, commercial electricity tariffs in Thailand were only 0.4 per cent higher than Malaysia’s RM37.85 kWh rate.

He said the latest tariff hike meant that commercial power rates here would be “significantly higher” than Malaysia’s northern neighbour when they should be 16.9 per cent cheaper, based on existing subsidy rates.

“And the key reason for that is the unfair PPAs which result in ridiculously high levels of electricity reserve margins,” he said, adding that Malaysia’s 52.6 per cent reserve margin in 2010 was double that of Thailand (25.4 per cent) and Java, Indonesia (26 per cent).

“The net effect is TNB (Tenaga Nasional Bhd) is forced to purchase electricity which it does not need from the IPPs, resulting in inflated costs for TNB and correspondingly inflated profits for the IPPs.”

The Najib administration announced yesterday it will raise electricity prices by an average of 7.1 per cent from tomorrow.

The price charged by Petronas to power companies for the natural gas will rise to RM13.70 per mmBtu from RM10.70, and go up by RM3 every month until December 2015, after which market rates apply.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lack of scholarships will accelerate brain drain

Wonderful article published today on Malaysiakini.com.

By Fed Up

The setting up of Talent Corp Malaysia is obviously a waste of time, money, and effort, if the annual mess of scholarships not awarded fairly and justly, continues.

You can't stop a leaking ship with Band-Aids. We need to seal the holes in the leaking ship permanently otherwise there is no way Talent Corp can stem the tide of those leaving the country.
Let me give the policy-makers a case in point - my son who will be finishing his A-levels this year.

Two years ago, he finished his SPM with 10A's. Like others, he applied for a JPA scholarship, but the result was expected - not a chance. Talk of students getting 8A's or 9As get scholarships, is just that, talk only.

So he went on to take his A-levels at a local private college. He studies hard and diligently, consistently scoring straight A's in all his exams.

In fact, while the maximum number of A-level subjects which students are allowed to take is four, he is taking five.

He has to study the extra subject (chemistry) on his own, outside of the college, yet he scores As too. (He is doing this to give himself a better chance of meeting entry requirements of universities in the degree of his choice.)
Like all students, he applied for his entrance into university with his college's forecast results.

With 5A's at A level predicted, he has been accepted into several top universities in UK (one of them is consistently in the top three in UK and top ten in the world). He has tried to obtain a scholarship but to no avail.
To gain entry into any of the top three or top five universities in UK is not easy. They are highly selective in their choice of students, who have to compete against top students from other countries throughout the world.

Even students with all A's are not necessarily accepted. For overseas students, only the crème de la crème are selected, as most places are reserved for UK and European Union (EU) students.

Now, what happens to these top students upon their graduation from these top universities?

From past years, we know what happens. In their final year of study, even before their graduate, top companies are at their university's Job Fair to grab them.
It is not uncommon for top students to get several job offers. Once grabbed, these students, of course, will be working overseas.

After a few years of work (the first three years are the most critical), you might as well say "goodbye" to them because they are highly unlikely to return to Malaysia.
Why? First, they are gaining experience in their work place and promoted to higher position accordingly. Second, they have settled down comfortably and are earning high pay (which they need, in many instances, to pay back their loans).

Third, they are well treated by their employers, with prospects of gaining citizenships easily. Fourth, they are establishing new friendships and getting accustomed to the new culture and way of life. Fifth, they may get married and settle down for good.

All these reasons make it difficult for them to return and start all over again.

Tax incentives and two cheaper cars are not going to get them back.

What are these incentives compared to other more important things - like the education system that rejected them, the racism that rattled them, the discrimination in promotion that discouraged them, the lower pay they have to sacrifice in comparison to what they are getting, the limited job prospects in a developing economy compared to a developed country, their children's future education here compared to the standard overseas.

Therefore, Talent Corp or no Talent Corp, why should they return?

Once the talent has left, it is hard to win them back. Only a scholarship, given before they leave, can win them back.

Deny them the scholarship they need at the most crucial time of their life, and the chances are (with a few exceptions) they will never come back. Isn't that common sense?

When a person leaves, it is a big decision. But when a family leaves to join him or her, it is a decisive decision - they are not going to return. They have cut off all ties to the nation.

Talent Corp may do their best to win them back, but do you think they will come back? How is Talent Corp going to erase their resentment to the nation that has rejected them?
Without a scholarship, they may have to work two or three jobs to pay their way through university, or their parents may have to borrow a huge loan to see them through.

This means they will bear resentment against the nation that rejected them, or they have no choice but to work overseas in order to pay back the huge loan their parents borrowed.

Either way, they are as good as lost to the nation. Once rejected by the nation, they are unlikely to forget.

I know, and you probably know too, of families in which this has already happened. They had suffered the pain and the rejection over the years, resulting in a reverse flow that has now become a flood of emigrants to oversea countries.

This reverse flow is testimony that people are not coming back.

They have left for good - they are voting with their feet, never to return.

Now, back to my son's predicament and the many talented young men and women who are not getting scholarships in spite of their excellent academic performance.

To deny them scholarships now is to lose the crème de la crème of the nation to other countries.

We have been losing that kind of talents for decades and it shows in our economic performance when compared to the other Asian Tigers (Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore).

While once we were on the same level as the Asian Tigers, today they have left us far behind. In spite of our rich natural resources, we could not keep up with their economic growth.

Now, even Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are fast catching up and may soon overtake us in economic development and achievement.
Mediocrity will always produce mediocre results. Only excellence will produce excellent results. Only good trees can produce good fruits.

You can't expect to get good fruits from lousy trees.
Without excellent scholars, we cannot expect high economic performance that is above par.

Lose the nation's talents because of the scholarship mess, and you can't expect the economy in the future to perform above par.

Like trees, it takes years of careful nurturing to produce results. It will take years of giving scholarship to deserving scholars to produce enough talents to get the economy into top gear.

Talents are the seeds we must have in order to grow the economy.
For those who have left, we are unlikely to win them back, whatever Talent Corp may try to do.

Reject the present deserving students of scholarships, and you will lose them forever.

It is no use calling them names later - like ungrateful, unpatriotic, or no loyalty - you are not going to get them back. Be realistic.
Scholarships are what will win them back.

Malaysia must do all it can to keep its talents in the nation and not give them to other countries.
The government must give scholarships to everyone who deserves it.

We have to grow the national talent pool quickly before more are lost forever. Action needs to be taken NOW to reverse the loss.

The more scholarships we give to excellent students, the better for the nation's economic future.

In fact, we should count it as a blessing if we do have such excellent students in the country. The economy cannot run in top gear without talent.

Wake up Malaysia.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "Defence" of Putrajaya

What is Najib really trying to get at? Desperate to defend their presence in Putrajaya from the undesirables, ie. the Opposition. The Star Online had published a watered down version of the story though, knowing that the issues which the PM had raised may stir up public sentiment:


For those who have access to Malaysiakini, a more complete account of the rally is found here:


I'd like to raise a couple of points in response to the call to defend Putrajaya. First of all, let us clarify what Putrajaya really is. Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government, which centrally controls government policy and funding allocation. It is representative of the majority of the parliament, with the model based on the Westminster Parliament. In no where and in no way can a so-called democratic system allow the right of government to be confined with one political party. Therefore the very assertion that Putrajaya is a fort and should be defended against an enemy is absolutely absurd and it insults the very institution that a parliamentary system is based on.

Najib, furthermore is using the opportunity to come and official what is supposedly a non-partisan event and turn it into a party-political. Though not quite to the level of inciting racial hatred, he is desperately making attempts to incite party hatred:

"The opposition said that they want to lelong (auction) off Putrajaya. Will we allow them to sell Putrajaya off? No!" he exclaimed.

"We won't let them sell off Putrajaya because one million youth will be here to defend Putrajaya,

How did he come to the conclusion that the opposition would want to sell off Putrajaya? On the contrary, the opposition wants the chance to govern! Dismantling the seat of power and selling it off would be completely detrimental to the opposition cause, so to suggest it has far reaching political implications, short of feeding lies to the public. If Najib had been schooled in politics 101, he would know that the key to winning elections is not the truth, but whatever you make the people believe.

Najib goes on to say:

"Here we are, the youth together with the government. If the youth back the government, our country will be peaceful.

"Then we will be able to implement all our developmental and transformation plans for the prosperity of this country," he said.

Here again, it directly implies that the opposition is incapable of keeping the peace. Or he is suggesting, if the opposition were to win, BN would ensure the country descends into a civil war? Surely this cannot be the case, but the Prime Minister would do better than to allege such things.

The other point raised is the implementation of the developmental and transformation plans for the future prosperity for the government. I am sorry Mr Prime Minister, but Barisan Nasional has been in power since independence in 1957. For 54 years the party has managed great progress but fell into corrupt practices which resulted in progress costing a lot more than it should have. The income gap has widened, literacy is falling, and the future generations can no longer afford to live in this kind of society.

In short, despite all the money and resources you had in your arsenal, the best you could come up with is the Economic Transformation Programme which would cause inflation, enrich cronies and has no hope of making Malaysia a high income nation. If you have failed to eradicate hardcore poverty in 54 years, something which the DAP government in Penang managed to achieve in 2 years with limited funding, your "People First, Performance Now" campaign is utterly meaningless.

Keep calling for the youth to support your cause Mr. Prime Minister. You would need it come polling day.

Proud to Be Malaysian?

One of the most heartbreaking stories I've heard so far is one of our church members telling a story of her daughter. They were having a conversation around the dining table and they mentioned to the daughter on the importance of learning to speak, read and write Chinese and Malay fluently. Her response frank, unsurprising but incredibly saddening:

"Mum, I'm now 12 years old. Eventually I am going to live overseas. Everyone my age knows that."

Now, I am fortunate to have come from a wealthy and affluent background for my parents to send me to study overseas. I went to school in Singapore, completed my High School in Australia, and graduated with a law degree in the United Kingdom. I am extremely unusual as I am one of the few who came back to Malaysia, despite living overseas since I was 13.

My cousins had received similar educations and all did well in the end. My cousins now work in Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. Once they are there, they have no intention of returning to Malaysia.

"Malaysia is so backward", or "Malaysia presents so few opportunities" or "Malaysia is too full of corruption" or "Malaysia doesn't present equal opportunities" are incredibly common for those Malaysians residing overseas, and these comments are not limited to the Malaysian Chinese, but also the Indians and Malays who have fought their way through the overseas systems and made something of themselves. It is truly saddening to see the nation's best talent fly away never to return because the opportunities beyond our shores are way more promising.

The Barisan Nasional government has recognised this problem by setting up Talent Corp through PEMANDU and also saying that those who return shall receive income tax incentives. Admirable effort, but is it anywhere good enough? How do you sell something where there is no hope for improvement? Despite all that BN tries to do, they simply cannot tear away from the fact that Malaysians are losing hope in the system due to rampant fear and corruption. Malaysians who vote for BN vote for the status quo, and Malaysians who vote for PR vote in the hope that the MPs they elect may make some noise so there is some accountability in the otherwise corrupt and ever-present BN government. There is little hope of reform, and little hope of restoring the pride.

In which other progressive country do their citizens so easily blame everything on the status quo? For example:

Q: "Why is the road so bad?"
A: "It's Malaysia Lah!"

Q: "Why can't the signs make sense?"
A: "It's Malaysia Lah!"

Q: "Why can't our children read or write?"
A: "It's Malaysia Lah!"

For goodness sake, we are not a third world country. We have come too far forward as a country for that to make any sense whatsoever. However, it is so easy to blame everything wrong about the country on the country and accept this as the status quo.

Some people ask me why haven't I just packed up and leave. It really comes down to the fact that I want to see people being proud for being Malaysian again. If thought of as a corporation, Malaysia is a failing company, but with huge pools of resources and massive amounts of cash being poured down the drain. As a smart investor, I would want to come and stop the cash bleeding, redirect the resources, increase the benefits and everyone gets a pay rise. I believe we can, and we have to make the employees, which are the good law abiding citizens of Malaysia, to believe that we are able to do this.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for the DAP and PR to set up. Penang was a great little project. Although it doesn't give automatic license in the ability to rule a country, it helps that when you have experience to manage a project successfully with a limited budget, you realise that great success can be right round the corner.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

MCA - The Twilight

The Malaysian Chinese Association has had a long history and it's not without significance. Formed alongside UMNO and MIC to represent the interests of the Chinese community at a time of racial disunity all the way back in 1947. The MCA yielded Malaysia's first Chinese finance minister in Tun Henry H.S Lee and the Chinese community began to feel reassured that the MCA was indeed there to represent their interests.

My grandfather, who still has an active role in the MCA, would tell us that by joining the MCA, it was truly a platform to serve the Chinese community, which felt they were left external to the affirmative action policies of the government of the day. My grandfather with his huge heart wanted to give back to the community in the light of the wealth he had made. As a result, he managed to build 3 Chinese schools, all of which the MCA took credit for.

Now the MCA is seen increasingly as a lame duck, consistently playing second fiddle to UMNO and running for cover each time they are confronted with a situation. The MCA leaders seem to accept that position quite happily, settling for minor ministries and deputy ministerial positions. But in that time their heads got so inflated, they forgot who they were serving and began serving themselves. RM10,000 a head per table at fund raisers, and companies still pouring money in. What's the point? Too many people have their fingers in the pie. Then Mr. Blow Joe Chan on the street? He gets sidelined in the national agenda.

How did the MCA lose the plot so badly? It's simple. Factions grew within the party, seats felt like fixed deposits at elections, and the people were forgotten. Furthermore, the people began to get sick of racial politics. This is not a matter of Malay vs Chinese vs Indian any more. It is a matter of a Malaysia for Malaysians. We are tired of political parties bickering about racial issues and yet profess to be an united party. It insults the intelligence of all Malaysians and the Chinese community should and would no longer stand for it.

Despite their control over most of the printed media in English and Chinese, including The Star, Sin Chew, Nanyang and China Press as well as Guang Ming, they have failed to inspire confidence in the people. The people quickly turned to the DAP as the alternative. The Chinese tend to give many chances, but once the trust appears to be irreparably broken, it would take a hell of an effort to rebound.

The MCA is quickly following the path of irrelevance. Because of their constant refusal to get their heads out of the clouds, it is little too late. The Chinese community has grown up, grown ears and stopped listening.

Praise for Penang

Taken from http://www.31ogos1957.com

JULY 10, 2010
PENANG EXCEEDED RM1 Billion in revenue in 2009 - 1st time in 52 years

Congratulations to Penang!!!
Congratulations to all the People of Penang for voting in a better govt. While Pahang which Governed by Barisan Nasional for past 52 years is facing bankruptcy.
Penang is praised by Global Anti-Corruption watchdog Transparency International for its anti corruptions efforts.

What makes Malaysia all of a sudden to be ranked on 47 out 180 countries ?

Answer : The Malaysian People made the right choice by denying 2/3 majority enjoyed by Barisan Nasional all this years. It’s a well check and balance by Pakatan on Barisan that led to this 47th position.If Malaysians wants to enjoy this, then you should know what to do in the next election !!!

Anyway congrats to Pakatan Led by DAP in Penang. In just 18 months CM Lim turned around Penang into corrupt free State. Shame on BN & ex-CM Dr Koh of Gerakan. As ex-Gerakan President Lim KY had said: “BN/Gerakan has lost Penang forever.”
“RM 10 billion in losses from corruption per year is a huge sum and there must be greater commitment from the Federal government towards fighting corruption to ensure that 27 million Malaysians can benefit from this RM 10 billion dividend from successfully combating corruption.”


GEORGE TOWN, Sept 24 – Global corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), has ranked Malaysia as the 47th least corrupt nation in the world and commended the island state of Penang for its anti-corruption efforts.Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden was listed by TI as the top three least corrupt countries as measured by the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks countries in terms of the degree to which businessmen and country analysts perceive corruption to exist among public officials and politicians.

Singapore, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands, Australia and Canada rounded off the top least corrupt countries.Malaysia came in 47th out of 180 countries in the index, tied with Hungary and Jordan.

The CPI is part of TI’s Global Corruption Report (GCR) 2009 released yesterday.In its report on Malaysia, TI highlighted the Malaysian practice of the “revolving door” whereby individuals move from government to business, or business to politics, and back again, and estimated that corruption could cost Malaysia as much as RM10 billion a year.

“Significant government participation in the private sector and considerable business participation in politics means that the movement of gatekeepers to players and players to gatekeepers has a negative influence on the concept of checks and balances,” said TI.”The complexity of the relationships between politics and the public and private sectors means that corruption may take place with impunity. Until drastic action is taken to separate the cozy relationship between government, business and politics, the anti-corruption effort will remain no more than a token gesture,” said TI.

Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng says he is “humbled” by the recognition by TI and added that he was concerned over the fact that that corruption could cost Malaysia as much as RM10 billion a year – an amount equivalent to 1 or 2 per cent of GDP as pointed out by the GCR when it cited the findings of the special government business facilitation task force Pemudah and the World Bank.Additional report contents that were of concern to Lim was Malaysia’s per capita spending of only RM5 on anti-corruption efforts and the fact that only about 10 per cent, or just 7,223 potential corruption cases, of the total 71,558 reported between 2000 and 2006 were investigated by the Anti Corruption Agency, the precursor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, with a conviction rate of less than one percent.

“The GCR 2009 concluded that this illustration of the Malaysian government’s inaction in the light of the serious corruption allegations, along with its seeming inability to catch the big fish instead focusing on the ‘small fry’, suggests that what anti-corruption efforts exist are mere tokens,” said Lim.”RM 10 billion in losses from corruption per year is a huge sum and there must be greater commitment from the Federal government towards fighting corruption to ensure that 27 million Malaysians can benefit from this RM 10 billion dividend from successfully combating corruption.”
Lim also today announced that the state has managed to cut about RM36 million or 12 per cent of in operating expenditure this year due to its efforts to curb corruption.”Transparency International’ s recognition of anti-corruption efforts by the Penang state government through CAT (Competency Accountability And Transparency) governance is backed up by savings of nearly 12 per cent of the 2008 Penang state budget of RM 36 million from operating expenditure. This RM 36 million savings has allowed the state government to carry out social programs and implement its people-oriented government,” said Lim.

TI said that the Penang state is the first Malaysian state government to implement the open tender system for government procurement and contracts. It also recognized the state government’s directive barring administrators and state executive councilors from making any new land applications and efforts to attract professionals to serve on various boards, such as the Penang State Appeals Board.

“On behalf of the Penang state government, we feel humbled by the recognition given by a world renowned body such as Transparency International and would redouble efforts to ensure the anti-corruption reforms are institutionalized and ensure more professionals are appointed to key bodies. Fighting corruption generates savings for the people,” said Lim.He added that the two local authorities in Penang are expected to save another RM34 million over three years from a “transparent” negotiation over the price of solid waste disposal that reduced the rates agreed to by the previous Barisan Nasional administration by a further 42.4 per cent.

Lim said that the savings would go towards the state government’s “3E” programme to ”enable” the people with skills and knowledge so that they have an equal opportunity to create wealth, “empower” them with fundamental rights and basic freedoms, and “enrich” the people by sharing wealth and economic benefits.

Friday, May 27, 2011


There has been a lot of talk recently whether the Pakatan Rakyat coalition can work together. After all, the history between PAS and the DAP has been nothing short of colourful. Can the people take us seriously when we are viewed as a bunch of strange bedfellows?

Obviously, the show of unity from the 2008 General Election was surprising to many, but many a PAS candidate faced a mounting challenge, which wasn't so much from UMNO but from public perception. Indeed, politics is perception. The perception of PAS is a party which wants to turn Malaysia into an islamic state and impose hudud and sharia law amongst all in the country. Whether true or not, the mere idea of voting for PAS, especially amongst the Chinese population in Malaysia is close to unbearable.

It is true that Chinese support for PAS has never been higher, which is why Shah Alam with a significant Chinese population, could be wrested away from the arms of UMNO. However, can it or would it happen again? I have people coming up to me and say that they strongly support the DAP, but because the person in their constituency is a PAS candidate, they see UMNO as the lesser of two evils. Of course, the rationale behind the reason to vote, is not so much rational but rather emotional. How can we know to trust these guys? They are going to segregate our cinemas, ban alcohol and eventually ban pork aren't they! This is the fear and it is palpable.

Despite reassurances that the DAP and PAS can and will work together, the people are sceptical of the alliance. Herein lies the dilemma. How long can this partnership last? Is it possible that Chinese support for PAS would wane and in light of the absence of a DAP or even PKR candidate, their vote would go back to UMNO? There is every possibility that this is the case.

One of my friends had come up to me to express his gross unhappiness with YB Khalid Abd Samad. "He is seen as a weak person. In Shah Alam, nothing seems to be improving and a lot of people are now more sympathetic towards Barisan." He also shot me a word of warning "I warn you now, if PAS were to contest in the next GE again, there is no hope of a PR victory. The only thing that you can do is if there is a DAP candidate. We have enough support to pull towards the DAP and the Malay vote would be split between the PAS and UMNO candidate."

This sounds like a rather ominous warning towards the changing mood of the public. Can the DAP negotiate with PAS to keep the seat under PR? Can these claims be substantiated? The DAP has done a fantastic job in Penang, which give the DAP an incredibly strong platform. PAS has a different style, and in urban areas, they do not desire to see their area turned into Kota Bahru or being forced to Islamified.

I know that there is no way that PAS could turn Malaysia into an Islamic state unless they could command a two-third majority in Parliament to change the constitution. However, public perception would always overrun all rational argument. Better the devil you know.

The National Psyche

The key to winning an election is winning the hearts of the people. What is the key to winning the hearts of the people? It is to understand, and empathise as to what they want from their government.

Of course the DAP goes on the front that we want a government which is Competent, Accountable and Transparent or the CAT principle. This is fundamental to our campaign and it resonates strongly with the growing middle class, those with higher education, the youth and the entrepreneur. For too long, we have been putting up with a corrupt BN government and for too long we have sat by and watched as our hard earned money is poured down the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.

Our former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi is truly a great man. He was swept into office by the largest majority in the nation's history since independence, pledging to be Mr. Incorruptible and to clean up the corruption within our system. Our growth under Tun Mahatair came at a price, and it cannot be quantified to what extent the wastage and the corruption money had spread. Could it be that with the money we have spent so far, that our country could have been fully industrialised? I think we can say if we had taken all the money which had been diverted from the nation's coffers to individuals and thrown it all into nation building, Malaysia would be the leading economic power in South East Asia today.

So what made Badawi truly a great man? He opened up a can of worms by attempting to put anti-corruption measures in place and seeing a wonderful backlash as a result of this. Suddenly, everyone in the BN component parties are implicated in one scandal or another, which makes the Chua Soi Lek sex scandal look paltry in comparison to. Chua's biggest mistake was to tell the truth! We all had suspected these issues for years, and when it became clear that the corruption was so ingrained that bribery, cronism, closed tenders, under-hand dealings, scandal had all become a deep scar in the political landscape of this country. Perhaps his greatest contribution was to introduce transparent polling boxes, so that it would become more obvious if the boxes were to be stuffed. As I had mentioned, he was truly a great man, whom through we are able to wake up the people and democracy can thrive again.

The reason why the DAP is able to thrive in major commercial centres such as Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Ipoh and Penang is simply because the majority of the residents in these areas can understand and appreciate what the DAP is trying to achieve, and they all love the idea of a fair, transparent and non-corrupt government. But would one say that this is accurate in other parts of the country, especially the rural areas? What would their concerns about a government ultimately be?

We had Saudari Alice Lau tell us about her experience during the Sarawak State elections. Contesting against Sibu SUPP chairperson Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh in Bawang Assan she went into a typhoon without so much as an umbrella. The people are so poor in this area, lacking basic amenities such as electricity and running water. It was truly heart breaking to see that there are people of Sarawak, presumably one of the wealthiest states in Malaysia, have been deprived of what many would consider a basic human right.

Yet when it came to the crunch, they asked Saudari Alice what she could offer them. She said that she can represent them fairly and fight for them. Ruefully shaking their heads, they pointed to the electric fans and the net books they had received from the BN campaign, and asked the question again "The other people can give us these, so how much can you offer?" Should we really be so horrified by this? Although they don't have electricity or running water, they are still happy to receive anything and everything that they are giving. They said, in return for your vote, we shall receive RM500 for each vote we cast for them.

If it comes down to a dog fight for the better goodies, the DAP and the other PR component parties cannot compete with BN's seemingly unlimited resources. But then the principle comes down to what are the issues which plays in the minds of an aunty or uncle who sits down at the coffee shop when it comes to the government. For many, as long as they receive these three things, it's really simple what the government needs to do:

1. Security
2. Stability
3. Family

The job of the government is not to be intrusive in their daily lives. Where the system works for them, they would chose to vote to keep the system or not vote at all. As long as the government doesn't tax them too much, or raise water and electricity rates and provides decent services, there isn't much of an issue as far as they are concerned. The biggest challenge the DAP has to mount is not against BN, but against apathy. Fortunately, there are in-roads being made.

Perhaps the reason why democracy is so subdued in Malaysia as compared to the west is down to what we have been taught. Our culture is to sit down and shut up. Play the hand that you are dealt and don't dream big, because dreams get you into trouble. For so many, it is because of this doctrine that there is also the fear factor. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of change. How we can make Malaysians dream to bring our country forward is yet to be seen.

Musings - GE 13

With the next General Election coming up round the corner, has it become obvious to all that the current Barisan Nasional government is doing what they can to clean up their image? I see their tactics to stir up public sentiment as such, for example, the fuel subsidy:

1. Scare the public - Say that subsidies must be reduced and the Prime Minister mentions that they are like "Opium". Your aunty starts screaming and says to you that everything is so expensive as it is. How do they expect to survive?

2. Prepare the public - All the public service departments come in and say, be prepared and take the necessary measures to cope. The public sulk and then believe that what would come, would come and they would make their feelings felt in the polls.

3. The Government is the Hero - As the ultimate champion of the people, BN now swoops in and tells everyone that they had crunched the numbers, and no price increase is necessary. The public cheers and ratings for the PM and his wonderful leadership go up.

Now I am no psychologist, but this is one way to play with the minds of the public. The signs are clear that the GE is coming. MCA Kepong had their meeting last week, DAP KOMTAR has their fund raising dinner, UMNO Penang have their meeting at the Vistana and UMNO have begun putting their flags up in Kota Damansara. We can smell blood in the water.

Right now, the government is in a precarious position. They know they had done themselves no favours with the handling of the Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trial in which it was obvious that it sounded more like a guilty ruling than a call for the defence. The rampant corruption which occurred during the Sarawak polls remains un-investigated and it is clear that the Electoral Commission don't want to do anything about it. On top of the irregularities, there is also the barring of "unfavourables" from the campaign period. Activists being refused entry into Sarawak and put onto the first plane back to KL, just in case they would spread "hideous lies" about the government to the people. To the neutral, it doesn't seem too promising.

However, if they put it off, the question is when? It is obvious that the government intend to increase prices soon, but how long can they put it off. With the need to pay their rampant corruption bills, something has to give soon. There is also a confidence put forward by government polls that the people think that the Prime Minister is doing a good job. That would be encouraging and certainly a platform for BN to campaign on. However, if we want to talk about growth and economic stability, shouldn't they wait for October? I doubt so. The coffers would dry up by then.

So when is the GE going to take place? Well, PKR have already geared up and although the Feng Shui masters must have advised Najib that 2011 is not a good year to go to the polls, he would be committing political suicide if he doesn't. Typically, every new Prime Minister must seek the consent of the general public to ensure he has the mandate to rule. We expected this to happen after the handover from Abdullah Badawi, but it simply didn't materialise. It didn't for good reason. Had elections been called again, the anti-BN sentiment was so high at that point that it was extremely likely that Pakatan Rakyat, riding on popular sentiment, would ride straight into Putrajaya.

In the face of increased scrutiny on the opposition, specifically PKR, BN may have no better time to call an election. However, with opposition governments flourishing, the government would have to mount a serious fight to get opposition run states. I predict the dirtiest dog fight of an election in Malaysian history, with the polling date to be July, before the month of Ramandan begins.