We still have a colonial mindset

The brouhaha over the Finance Minister’s releasing an official statement in three languages – Malay, English, and Mandarin – has exposed (at least, in my humble opinion) the last frontier in the development of Malaysia: Overcoming our colonial mindset.

First off, let’s be consistent. If issuing an official language in Mandarin is “insulting towards the national language and racist”, as some in UMNO (and, sadly, PPBM) say, then why is issuing an official statement in English alright? According to their reasoning, they say it’s OK because that version was meant for the international press.

This, of course, is…well…plainly stupid. China now has the second largest economy in the world, and is among the three largest foreign investors in Malaysia. Moreover, all of the projects signed with them are under government review – don’t you think that their press will take greater interest in statements from the Malaysian government rather than Western countries? This, of course, goes without saying – just like our dismal football team, we don’t really attract much interest in other countries (sorry to dispel your beliefs about the need for an “international” press release in the first place then). Surely, if you have people who are already proficient in Mandarin, it would make the China press’ jobs a lot easier if you released a statement in Mandarin AS WELL (remember, there were already two other versions).

The sad truth is that most – if not all – of UMNO (and, sadly, most Malaysians) still has a colonial mindset. We still believe that “white is right”. Look at how many government (i.e. MARA) scholars are sent to second-rate universities in the US and the UK. Or, on the non-government side (i.e. the Malaysian-Chinese community) – look at how many parents spend good money sending their kids to Australia.

To gain some perspective, I did a comparison in 2015 (so please be mindful of the exchange rate). All of these figures are readily available on the Web, so you can check the figures out yourself. I compared how much it would cost if you sent your kids to Curtin University in West Australia (to Australia, not to the Sarawak campus) to get a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) field versus one of Japan’s top universities, Keio University. This is what I came up with:

  Course Curtin Australia Keio
BUSINESS Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) RM 77,004 RM 39,985
ENGINEERING Bachelor of Engineering RM 86,490 RM 54,974
IT Bachelor of Computer Science RM 86,490 RM 54,974
SCIENCE Bachelor of Science RM 85,653 RM 54,974

 

This just shows the average cost of tuition fees per year (nearly all universities use a four-year degree system now), and doesn’t factor in the cost of living. And before any of you jump on the language aspect, the Japanese government has been forcing their top twenty universities (of which Keio is part of) to offer these courses in English as part of an “international program”.

Bottom line is this. Maybe if your kid wanted to study English literature, then Australia would be a better choice than Japan. But if it’s a STEM field…well…when’s the last time you drove an Australian car or watched an Australian TV? Yet, we overwhelmingly send our kids to Australia….

Finally, by the phrase “top university”, I mean where the elites of that particular country go. Let’s put it this way, no Australian PM has come from Curtin; Keio has at least three (plus a plethora of Cabinet ministers). Obviously, the Australian elite aren’t lining up at Curtin’s doors. This, of course, doesn’t mean to deride the education that you’d get at Curtin; it’s probably a very good school. All I’m saying, however, is that we have choices – if we were only willing to get rid of our colonial mindset.

Don’t let the slime balls get away with it!

There seems to be a new scandal every day. First, we had 1MDB. That was followed in rapid succession by Tabung Haji, Felda, and MARA. Then we had the SRC (part of 1MDB), and the pipelines. Now, Pharmaniaga wants to get in on the act.

What’s really worrying is that these are the scandals that the new government have either uncovered or are actively investigating. How about the stuff that is alleged, but has not been acted upon by the authorities…yet? I’m of course talking about the mismanagement of Sarawak during Taib’s leadership (i.e. the actual reason why the Sarawak Report was established in the first place), military land, and PFI. My friend told me that the latter was old news, circulating on WhatsApp back in 2014. But why should we get fussy?

While I wonder how rich Malaysia would be if the country had been better run, my immediate concern is how many of these perpetrators will get away with it. For example, as I predicted in my earlier article that Arul Kanda would plead guilty to being a lousy CEO, he also pointed out that that wassn’t against the law.

More worryingly, to a layman like me, Jho Low – the alleged architect of the 1MDB scandal – didn’t commit any crime. Here’s my thinking; see if it makes sense (remember, I don’t have any legal training, so if you don’t agree, please be gentle). To me, the whole 1MDB affair is like buying a second-hand car.

In this scenario, Jho Low is the used car salesman, and 1MDB is the sucker who has just walked onto the lot. Without being too disparaging towards used car salesmen, we all know that they tend to – let’s see, what term shall we use? – overestimate the quality of the cars that they’re selling. That’s why the guy who wants to buy has to at least take the car out for a test drive.

Likewise, Jho Low’s cars were the various investment opportunities that he presented to 1MDB. Just as a used car dealer would do, Jho Low told 1MDB that – in his professional opinion (remember, he’s a Wharton graduate) – these were good investments. Unlike the guy buying a used car, however, it looks like the people running 1MDB never even bothered to look at the opportunity (or maybe they rejected the opportunity but were overruled?). Much less take a test drive. So, once these “investments” went belly up, was Jho Low really at fault?

The corruption part seems to be on the 1MDB side. I mean, it really looks like once this “investment method” was discovered, Najib decided to raise easy money by transferring government assets to 1MDB at a pittance (e.g. Sg Besi land). Yeah, you might say that Jho Low is complicit by funneling that money back to Najib, but I suspect it’s going to be really difficult to prove this. I mean, nobody is STUPID enough to put that money directly into his own personal bank account, right? Oh… Well, Jho Low isn’t that stupid, right?

I really hope I’m wrong, but I have a bad feeling that – at most – they’re only going to get Jho Low on relatively trivial stuff. {t will just be a slap on the wrist – not what most Malaysians want (personally, I think hanging would be a good target for our new AG).

Why does Ridhuan Tee hate so much?

I’ve often wondered what could drive someone like Ridhuan Tee to be what he is. I mean it’s pretty clear that this guy hates himself so much that he’s taken on a new persona. It’s not even about converting to another religion; I have many friends who’ve converted, but to my knowledge, none espouse so much hatred.

So, when a psychiatrist friend from the US came for a visit, I took the opportunity to ask what could drive someone to such self-loathing. He basically said that someone from the group he displays so much animosity towards (i.e. the “kiasu” people) must have abused him when he was a child. When I suggested physical abuse, my friend said while that was possible, it’s unlikely because he doesn’t seem to have any physical scars. In his learned opinion, it had to be some form of sexual abuse – and for the hatred to be so deep-rooted, it must have been done repeatedly.

Now I’m a pretty liberal guy, so I’m pretty much OK with whatever gets you off – as long as it’s between consenting adults. Key word being “adults”. I draw the line at pedophilia (I’m not too keen on that bestiality stuff, either, but who am I to judge?) You have to be a sick demented evil individual to abuse a defenseless child.

I have no way of knowing if this is the truth (I’ve thankfully never met the man), but Ridhuan, if indeed you were repeatedly raped as a child, please seek some professional help. You will see that not all “kiasu” people are bad.

SO JAMAL “Red Shirts” Yusof has run off to Indonesia, eh? What a joke. Jamal, you were nothing buy a typical bully. As all bullies do when their intended victims stand up to them, you ran away. But the joke gets even funnier.

According to Jamal, “powerful people” want to apprehend him, so in a video that he released, he pleaded for help and protection from Tan Sri Muhyiddin. When asked about this by a reporter, our Home Minister asked back: “Want to protect from what?” HAHAHA!

The joke’s on you, Jamal. All the really “powerful people” are busy saving the country from the thievery that your boss (and his cronies) did. Either that or they’re busy trying to stop these crooks from liquidating all their assets and leaving the country – like that video of “well-connected” people selling their luxury cars at massive discounts show. See, Jamal? That’s how low down the pecking order you are – so low that you don’t even have anything for the MACC to go after. At least Musa Aman ran off to London. Where are you Jamal? In the middle of an Indonesian palm oil estate? Why are you even still a Datuk?

Why does Jamal expect to have special treatment?

In the May 27, 2018 edition of the Malay Mail, Jamal Yunos’ lawyer, Datuk Mohd Imran Tamrin, said that the Red Shirts leader “…is still unwell and will only cooperate with authorities to complete his bail process after he feels better…”

This raises the question: Why does Jamal think that he deserves any special treatment? After all, he left before his bail process was complete. This technically means that he’s jumped bail, and is a fugitive. To their credit, PDRM put – and to my knowledge, still has – an All-Points Bulletin (APB) out for his arrest after his “escape”.

To me, this just points to the fact that UMNO-BN leaders are still living in some sort of deluded reality where they can thumb their noses at the law. You have Najib still in denial that what the Malaysian government owes is over RM 1 trillion; the de facto head of UMNO Perlis basically telling that state’s Ruler that it is he (not the Ruler) who decides who becomes the Menteri Besar; Arul Kanda thinking that by giving a rubbish answer like “I’m on gardening leave” is satisfactory; or, UMNO itself telling the government to “return” all that cash found in Najib’s mansion to them because “it belongs to the party”.

This led me to an interesting conversation recently. Why don’t we just throw the book at the lot of them and put them in jail already?

One of the people I had the conversation with gave an interesting perspective. This whole “wayang” isn’t meant for us city folk. If you’re reading this, chances are that you are a PH supporter who has already pretty much decided who the “bad guys” are. My learned friend, however, told me to think about the “kampung folk”, who still made UMNO the biggest single party in Parliament (they still have 54 Federal seats). Due process aside, the reason is to show the thievery that was done in its entirety in the hopes that our rural friends will finally see that “Amanah, Bangsa, Negara” was just a tagline to enable thievery on a massive scale. Hopefully, this will bury UMNO (and with it, BN) once and for all.

KUDOS TO Setiawangsa MP and PKR Youth Chief, Nik Nazmi, who – on the same day – called for the National Civics Bureau (BTN) to be shut down. Nearly everyone who has dealt with the civil service will tell you a story of how the BTN ran programs to practically brainwash Malay attendees that they were under siege from Malaysians of different races and religions. Of all the vile organizations set up by the BN when in power, the BTN was probably the most insidious – and effective – in spreading hatred and national disunity.

How effective was it? I remember when I was in Standard Six. I had a good friend named Ismail. We were really tight – sat next to each other in class, played football together…basically, shared a lot of good times. Then, he went to one of the Malays-only residential schools. Within a year, his demeanor totally changed – not only was he unfriendly, you could tell that he was weary talking to me. As if I were some sort of devil! I’m nearly fifty now, so that’s nearly 40 years of hatred this country has to overcome. That’s why I say that although Siti Kasim has her heart in the right place, please don’t expect Dr Maszlee to perform miracles in overhauling the education system. What I want to know, though, is how those countless civil servants (“political appointees”, no doubt) who ran the BTN sleep at night? Do they actually think it’s OK spreading lies and hatred?

Dr Maszlee isn’t a miracle worker, so don’t expect miracles!

Now making the rounds in WhatsApp world is a rather longish text purportedly written by civil rights activist and lawyer, Siti Kasim. You may or may not agree with her politics, but you have to admit that she has guts. It’s one thing to have unorthodox opinions, but it’s another to stand up to JAKIM for them. So, I have the utmost respect for her.

Anyway, her longish message was an open letter to our new Minister of Education, Dr Maszlee. It can basically be summarized in two parts. The first part asks Dr Maszlee to assure the Rakyat that his supposed extremist religious leanings will not “weigh in (his) decisions as Minister of Education”. In the second, she says that we the Rakyat have “yet to hear anything substantive…with respect to the overt and over bearing religious-centric character of our current education system, curriculum, and teachers.”

While what she says is true, Siti Kasim is being unreasonable. I mean, does she know just how broken our education system is? As I wrote in The elephant in the room, Chinese parents would actually be doing their kids a disservice by sending them to kebangsaan schools. The problem isn’t the syllabus (although it could be improved greatly). The problem is that the schools themselves have been turned into mini-brainwashing centers where discrimination based on race and religion are promoted. Who can forget the case where non-Muslims were forced to eat in the school restrooms during Ramadhan?

There are, unfortunately, even more basic problems. A friend of a friend pulled her son out of a kebangsaan primary school in Subang because the teachers never showed up to teach – they were always on leave or had a meeting. She got suspicious when she noticed that her son didn’t have any homework for around six months! In another case, an English teacher in a rural area told my friend that he wasn’t qualified to teach English. He was only doing it because the other teachers in his school were even worse at English! These are all anecdotes, but I think most Malaysians outside of BN don’t find these stories surprising for a reason.

So, Siti Kasim and those who agree with her on this issue, let’s not talk about overhauling the syllabus, or some great education revolution – YET. The sad truth is that we’re not prepared for such a huge undertaking. If Dr Maszlee can just get qualified teachers in all of our schools by the time his tenure is up, that would be an achievement. If he can get these teachers to actually show up and do their jobs with dedication, now that would REALLY be something.  But if you expect him to rid the system of bigotry, well, I’m afraid you’re going to be waiting for a long time.

My point is let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. He may not be the best choice for the Education post, but after listening to him speak, we could do a lot worse (and we have). The important thing is that for the first time in a long time, we have someone who seems sincere and committed to making improvements, so let’s give him a chance.

Arul’s a stinking liar – but he’s probably going to get away with it

In yesterday’s Malay Mail Online (23 May 2018), our Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng, said that a 1MDB director, Datuk Kamal Mohd Ali, basically admitted that as much as RM 9.8 billion worth of investments parked abroad by 1MDB were a “scam”. To top it off, 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda said that he was clueless when asked the value of the investments – or if they even existed at all. The reason for his sudden amnesia? He’s been on gardening leave.

Contrast this to the video of him in Bangsar that circulated on May 8 – right before the election. In it, he pleads with the crowd to let him answer. Well, Arul, the Finance Minister gave you your chance, and all you could say was that you’ve been on gardening leave? In fact, there was another video of you right after the Bangsar event saying that you were disappointed with PH leaders for not turning up to challenge you. When Guan Eng challenged you this time, you sure came up with a good one, eh?

What happened yesterday at the Finance Ministry, Arul? Did you buckle under pressure?

All this while, you’ve been telling the country that 1MDB is solvent (i.e. able to meet its obligations). Yet, when the truth has finally come out, you’re suddenly clueless. Arul, YOU ARE A DISGRACE.

The sad part, however, is that his sudden cluelessness is probably a legal gambit. I mean, he didn’t start 1MDB; he merely became CEO once everything started falling apart. As for his public statements as to the solvency of 1MDB, he’ll probably say that – at most – he was mistaken. Sure, he’ll be guilty of being a really LOUSY executive and investment banker…but, unfortunately, that’s not a crime.

We all want him tried for treason, which carries a death penalty, but he’s just going to feign stupidity. Sure, his reputation is in tatters, but a smart boy like him would have squirrelled enough money away to last a lifetime. So, just lay low and take the condemnation for a while, and then get out of the country! Sure beats spending time in prison.

That’s the legal system, I’m afraid. And if you know how to manipulate it, you can escape, no matter how guilty you are. It’s just like some Malaysians who said that putting Najib (and Rosmah) on a travel ban right after the elections was wrong. Their reasoning was that if you want to take away (some of) his rights, then charge him with a crime. The problem with that is how can you charge anyone with a crime if there haven’t been any investigations? Yet, do you expect me to believe that these two thieving bastards would actually return from their brief “family holiday”?

Come on. When a house is on fire, you don’t expect the fireman to knock on the door and ask if he can come in to put out the fire, do you? Yet this is what some Malaysians actually said to me. You’re probably right theoretically, but when Arul thumbs his nose at us from wherever he’s escaped to, let me know what you think.

A viable opposition?

Over the weekend, various leaders of UMNO, the MCA, the MIC, and Gerakan held press conferences saying that they would do a post-mortem, and then decide how best to reform themselves to form a “viable opposition”. Forgive me while I step outside to throw up.

I mean, what part of the election didn’t these guys understand? Haven’t they been watching the news or reading the papers? It’s all filled head-to-toe with details of how MO1 and his wife have been systematically robbing our country. From a BILLION ringgit in cash stored in fake walls to over 200 Birkin bags, don’t these BN leaders know that most – if not all – Malaysians hold them complicit in the thievery?

Let me put it in even simpler terms. Why would we trust these clowns to hold the new government to account – when they didn’t even do this WHEN THEY WERE IN THE CABINET? Remember how Rosmah told people not to go overboard when buying Hari Raya goodies for the family? Or Najib telling those who were struggling to make ends meet to go and drive Uber? Wow, the nerve of these two…. Yet, all the while the BN leadership – who want to be a “viable opposition” – kept silent.

I think the Gerakan Youth leader (Tan Keng Lian; it was reported in the Star) thought he was being clever when he reminded Dr M that PH forbade the PM to hold more than one portfolio in its manifesto. He called it a “gentle reminder”. Dude, you can be clever all you want, but my question is why didn’t you remind Najib that stealing billions of ringgit is against the law? Idiot.

Bottom line – they can’t be a “viable opposition” because nobody trusts them. They’re just like that annoying relative who always tries to sell you insurance or get you involved in some sort of MLM scheme. We loathe them because, deep down, we know they couldn’t give a toss about us. They just want us for our money.

Most Malaysians are usually just too polite to tell them to bugger off. Well, if GE14 was anything to go by, I think we’ve spoken loudly and clearly this time!

A LOT HAS ALSO been made about the appointment of Dr Maszlee Malik as Education Minister. Some people say he’s a Salafist, while others say that he sympathises with the Muslim Brotherhood. I’m no Middle East expert, but I know enough that you can’t be a Salafist and support the Muslim Brotherhood at the same time, as they are diametrically opposed to each other.

The Salafists support the ultra-conservative monarchies of the Middle East like Saudi Arabia. Basically, they want to return Islamic society to the days of the Prophet. The Brotherhood, on the other hand, want to build an Islamic society based on modern institutions. If I’m not mistaken, Amanah models their concept of governance based on this template.

Regardless, my stance is let’s judge Dr Maszlee on what he DOES, rather than what he believes. When I worked in a factory, I learned not to wait for a 100% solution; it will never come. If you really believe in improvement and change, it’s much better to take the 50% solution that is available immediately, and build from there. The awful truth is that our education system is so bad at the moment that if Dr Maszlee can improve it – no matter how slightly – it will be an accomplishment. Besides, Ong Kian Meng (the DAP MP for Bangi) has publicly vouched for Dr Maszlee. I don’t think he would support a nutcase, so let’s give him a chance.