Archive for November, 2012


The pioneer in world of cyber journalism in Malaysia or even South East Asia is the Late MGG Pillai and his mailing list – discussion forum “Sang Kancil”, years before the likes of Malaysiakini and Malaysia-Today were even established. My respects for him and I consider him my Guru!

Before social media, journalists had very little tools to “listen” to the people – the audience. It was mostly through polls, emails, etc. Now, you have a slew of online communities that allow journalists to keep their hands on the pulse of what’s going on. Social Media has also allowed the people to directly connect and humanize the journalists who were mostly kept behind the veiled publication without much control and influence (except for a PR person).

Now, it’s created a two way channel for the people and journalists to connect. While a lot of journalists and publications are moving in light speed to capture mind share, connect, and engage via tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+Hangout, the very core essence of journalism cannot be forgotten.

Journalists are entrusted by the public to tell the story in an objective manner with credible sources and provide information that is both educational and insightful. Journalists have a duty to the public to tell the story using various channels via blogs, etc. but ensure the story is credible, factual, and compelling. While Social Media may have changed the fundamentals of communication and delivery, the core foundation of journalism cannot be mistaken or forgotten

When one talks about social media, it’s a three level approach:

First – to disseminate information to relevant target audience at the right time, using the right channel.
Second – to engage target audience by relating and ‘connecting’ to them.
Third – to generate loyal ambassadors in a way that they represent you in the good sense among other target audience and answer on your behalf thus building a credible image.

The potential of social media to provide opportunities to ‘convert’ is huge but it requires strategising and extensive planning.

Anwar Ibrahim, has sure emerged as the star of Malaysian Politics through social media. With his blog, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ Hangout, he seems to have been in the news and has been the trending topic on most social media for awhile. This seems to have given a sudden twist in the ability of social media to reach the right target audience. While Umno and Barisan National at one time mocked and even said that social media is for people who have got nothing better to do and have doubted the ability of Social Media to reach their target audience, today they play a different tune after Anwar Ibrahim has proved a point. Najib Tun Razak is also trying hard with his Facebook, Twitter and his recent Goggle+hangout, but sad to say he is yet there.

This is the first time in Malaysian Politics that anybody has attempted to reach out to Malaysians on social media and we must say, what a campaign! The team behind Anwar Ibrahim’s campaign seems to have researched well and they have splurged content on all social media where it matters. They are on Twitter, Facebook, G+, some of the top social networking sites and they are in touch with the right set of influencers in the online world to extensively talk about Anwar’s campaign in the digital medium. The campaign is brilliant and they do the updating of information on the go and they ensure that they have researched the potential of all features of the top social networking sites and use it to their advantage. While most other political parties are harping on being first people to adopt social media, we are yet to see a campaign of this magnitude that effectively utilizes relevant features of social media.

So, has this campaign proved to be the best social media campaign in Malaysia? In some ways yes, this is the first campaign of its kind where there has been an effective utilization of digital medium in such a magnitude. The reach is significant and the design brilliant. However the effort is yet to spill over to the next levels – engagement. The campaign has just begun, but will it hold the audience glued? The Facebook posts are great but the comments are yet to be monitored and catered to. There are several comments that need to be addressed, but it does not look like anybody cares. Facebook does provide the opportunity to convert people but Najib Tun Razak’s team is yet to use it fully to their benefit. Going by number of fans or number of people talking about the page as a metric to determine popularity, is now passé. The number of people talking about the page could be phenomenal, but how many are talking positive and helping spread political awareness is the question, specially his 1Malaysia. But as Facebook users know all too well, a “fan” may not always be a fan and a “friend” may not always be a friend. And sometimes “likes” is just a five letter word.

Najib should remember, starting is 50% of work done. But will Najib’s team deliver the other half? Even though his has been a brilliant campaign with the help of APCO Worldwide, but there are signs of fading, unless of course there is constant innovation in reaching the target audience online. What has happened so far is the mandate of his social media presence. His group has failed to cross the first level – appropriate presence. The second level of engagement is to ‘connect’ and cater to audience in real time, the magic to move towards conversion. This level is yet to be achieved in Najib’s campaign.

The impact on netizans of this ‘move towards social media’ could be several, but the impact on Malaysian Politics and on Malaysia is immeasurable. The next thing we know is, Malaysian politicians embarrassing social media to make their impact. This is an era where you could clearly say – a politician is a fool to not have a social media presence! The politicians will be forced to take to social media and we might see a new breed of net savvy politicians who have the presence of mind to ‘connect’ in the real sense. The web 2.0 (now moving to 3.0) experience will force politicians to at least move towards what is right if not ‘do what is right’.

With mobile phones are already showing high penetration, politicians and government will ensure that there is internet connectivity at every corner in Malaysia so that they are able to at least present their messages if not ‘interact’. Rais Yatim should wake up and do better on the internet connectivity in Sabah which is only 30% and Barisan National should stop blowing their trumpets saying Sabah being the “fixed Deposit. Rais Yatim does zilch to improve the internet connectivity in Sabah!

Just because people respond to you through social media — by liking and friending and following you — that does not mean their virtual support will always translate into actual support, Rais Yatim!


There’s something obscene about the opposition commentariat’s obsession with the Chief Minister of Sabah, Musa Aman. That obsession has nothing to do with the awe-inspiring work he has done over the past decade, converting Sabah into the most developed State of Malaysia with spectacular achievements in many fields. Sabah today is a model economy that generates both envy and aspiration among the people of other States. Rare, if any, is the State Government that does not ask itself: If Sabah can achieve the seemingly impossible, why can’t we?

True, Sabah’s amazing success story has been made possible, in large measure, by hardworking Sabahans. What stifled it was bad governance, absence of leadership and rampant corruption, which has proved to be the undoing of the best of intentions of many a Government, both at the Centre and in the States. This is where Musa Aman’s contribution has made a qualitative difference, recasting the role of Government: He has demonstrated that maximum governance is possible with minimum Government.

To achieve that goal, he adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards corruption, reduced the role of the Government to that of a facilitator and placed a premium on the hallmark of quality in everything that was done to create the right conditions. Hence, roads and highways were built conforming to global standards, emphasis was laid on creating infrastructure that would cater not only to current and emerging demands but also needs of the future, and social development was given its due prominence on the Government’s ‘To Do’ list.

Meanwhile, Musa Aman did what any visionary leaders are supposed to do: He kept on coming up with ideas that were at once big and creative. He placed the people at the centre of his projects, making them the ultimate beneficiaries. If investors were encouraged to invest their money in Sabah, it was not merely to enable them to reap profits but also create wealth through income for the everyday Sabahan.

But there’s more to the Sabah story than just securing investments. Just as Musa Aman has encouraged investors to look at Sabah as their preferred destination, he has also encouraged the people of Sabah to make the maximum use of the opportunities created by such investment. He has constantly played up Sabah’s ‘pride’, which in turn has instilled a tremendous sense of self-confidence in all Sabahans. Barack Hussein Obama’s winning slogan, “Yes, we can”, could well have been Sabah’s contribution to the 2008 US presidential campaign.

Yet, none of this and more has ever found mention in the non-stop outpouring of criticism and rebuke directed at Musa Aman by the opposition commentariat which just can’t see anything right, leave alone good, about the Government he heads and its enviable governance record. The criticism and rebuke could have been ignored but for the fact that electronic media is controlled by those who love to hate Musa Aman and a sustained campaign of calumny does tend to influence opinion, especially among those who have little or no knowledge of what transpired back in the 80’s and 90’s, in which they were still in infancy I’m sure.

As Musa Aman said during the State Legislative Assembly sitting in response to Luyang assemblywoman Melania Chia’s queries regarding the alleged hundreds of million of ringgits in his Swiss bank accounts, ” You can ask me… you can even repeat it outside the house. I won’t sue you because I am not worried at all. To me there is no such thing. You think if I am wrong I would be standing here. I am open anytime to be investigated. I am ready to face it anytime.” They were indeed true. Any other Chief Minister would have broken-down, but not Musa Aman, who chose to tell the truth.

Then when the story about Micheal Chia got detained at the HK International Airport in August 2008 with S$16 million (RM40 million) in cash on him came out, many blogs played this to the maximum and said Micheal Chai was an ally of Musa Aman and that the money belonged to Musa Aman.

Seriously?

Musa Aman has got no time for a young punk like Micheal Chai, who doesn’t even have formal school education. Michael Chai is a drunkard, a gambler, a womaniser and the only thing he has is a rich father who happens to own a stevedoring company and a friend call Nazri Aziz. Besides, Micheal Chai was never caught in the Hong Kong International Airport over currency trafficking and laundering with S$16 million cash in Singapore currency in his luggage before boarding a flight to Kuala Lumpur as I have written in the past, see here. In fact the money was found in a hotel room in Hong Kong were Micheal Chai was staying.

Even the Prime Minister last month (Oct. 19) denied that there was any attempt to smuggle the RM40 million “donation for Sabah UMNO” into the country. It was Musa Aman’s foes, self-appointed, self-righteous activists, who instigated a slew of cases seeking to implicate him in some way or the other with Micheal Chia’s RM40 million scandal. With more than a little help from a conniving electronic media, they almost succeeded in their mission to tar him. But as the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz told Parliament last month that the cash Micheal Chia was carrying was not meant for Musa personally but was a donation to Sabah Umno. That statement in Parliament by the Minister last month shows, the truth does prevail over jaundiced lies.

I personally believe that there was huge propaganda against Musa Aman, and in a case where there is a criminal investigation, propaganda can never be hard evidence. I do believe that there wasn’t a shred of evidence against him. It was all propaganda, a fact which is now coming to be established even further.

The Leader of Party Bersatu Sabah outside the Sabah State Assembly recently, was eloquent in his response, describing Musa Aman’s ‘investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Hong Kong’ and trialed by the electronic media as a trial by fire, from which he had emerged unscathed. The PBS’s senior leader, reiterated the indisputable fact that “never in the history of this country has a leader been a victim of a sustained misinformation campaign”. Sadly, neither the MACC’s and ICAC’s verdict nor the elaboration by Najib Tun Razak what is known and established will serve to halt the ‘sustained misinformation campaign’, the peddling of ‘propaganda as evidence’ by those who are not impressed by the long and arduous investigation to which Musa Aman has been subjected. In fact in a recent statement that he released yesterday, Musa Aman expresses regret over the fact that the ” Opposition is not willing to accept the truth. What more do they want? They are trying again to use the same complaint to gain political mileage. They are rehashing the same old story.” Musa also says that he is “entitled to conclude that the Opposition is political bankrupt” and to “to treat their recent rehashed allegation with the contempt it so richly deserves”, an opinion that I stand behind.

Many Malaysians, do not necessarily subscribe to the constant barrage of accusations against Musa Aman by the raucous voices of those stuck in the past and for whom manufactured lies is a useful tool to mobilise rakyats opinion.

This is where Musa Aman’s innovation can make a difference. He has ensured, as he says, “peace, unity, social harmony and brotherhood”, which have collectively given “further impetus to the process of development”. That peace, unity, social harmony and brotherhood now need to be made into permanent features. It’s not easy for a person who has been vilified for so long to say this, but Musa Aman has, reaching out to all Malaysians: “No state, society or individual can claim to be perfect. I am grateful to all those who pointed out my genuine mistakes during last 10 years. I seek your blessings to serve the people of Sabah with devotion free from all human shortcomings.”

At present, I can say that no one could have been more honest, sincere and human about the State of Sabah. No one could have reflected courage and dedication in a more convincing manner. No one apart from Musa Aman.


by Joe Fernandez

COMMENT Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, in his Deepavali Day message, asked the Indian Nation in Malaysia – a people without territory in the Diaspora – to place Nambikkai (trust) in him. If he wants to be given the benefit of the doubt, there’s little indication that he deserves it.

This should not be about a man, a personality cult, but a system. Leaders come and go, but a system lives on, a people live on.

Indians, others as well, cannot continue to be held to ransom by whoever occupies the Prime Minister’s chair.

Instead, they need to see concrete action on the ground to dismantle the apartheid-like structure that Umno has foisted on Malaysia.

Indians in particular are victims of this structure of evil which is a manifestation of racism – feelings of inferiority – prejudice (being against something for no rhyme or reason) and opportunism (the ruling class monopolizing all opportunities).

Deepavali is a Time for Remembering that the Government continues to take away from the Indian Nation in Malaysia what little they have in order to reduce them to a community of thieves, beggars, and prostitutes eaking out a living in the shanty towns so that some other people can look good and feel good.

Indians are bearing the brunt of government policies which works against them. If this process continues, Indians will become refugees in their own land, internally-displaced people confined to the shantytowns.

Indians first in Peninsular Malaysia after Orang Asli

If we go back in history, we will discover that Indians were the first people to be in Peninsular Malaysia after the Orang Asli who themselves made their way from East Africa by way of the Indian coast. Between now and the coming of the Orang Asli, there have always been Indians in Peninsular Malaysia. The Kedaram Civilisation in Kedah arose from more than a millennium ago on the back of colonials, the Pallavas, from India. The purpose was to act as the middlemen in trade between India and China.

Indian presence in Peninsular Malaysia predates the Thais and the present Malay-speaking communities – Bugis, Javanese, Minang, and Acehnese etc – but has been downplayed by politically-minded historians to a mere phenomenon of British colonialism from two hundred years ago.

Away from history, Indians in Peninsular Malaysia today find themselves marginalized and disenfranchised under the Umno Government which has lasted, by hook and by crook if not default, for 55 years. Indians don’t have even one seat in Parliament or any of the state assemblies.

The result of marginalisation and disenfranchisement has as placed Indians in an unfortunate position where even the little that they have continues to be taken away from them by Umno under administrative laws – government policies in action – and there appears to be no let up in the process.

Najib’s nambikkai focused on ballot box, his survival

It’s in this atmosphere of mistrust and distrust that Najib is pleading for nambikkai from Indians with an eye on the ballot box and his political survival.

An example, as pointed out by Hindraf Makkal Sakthi Legal Advisor P. Uthayakumar, is that no local authority in Malaysia will issue even a cendol licence to Indians. If Najib cannot ensure that Indians can’t obtain even a cendol licence, he has no business asking for nambikkai from Indians.

The civil service, at one time, used to be the bastion of support for Indians to the extent that they made up over 60 per cent of the top-ranking staff. Meritocracy reigned.

Today, it’s a far cry as the lack of diversity – blame it on mediocrity — in the civil service has seen the number of non-Malays decline to less than 10 per cent. This may be attributed to the fact that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohd advised the civil service in his day to throw away applications from non-Malays. This fact was recorded in a PhD study by Professor Ramasamy, the present Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang. Rama was booted out from a university for the revelation and was invited by Dap to join up. The rest is history.

Najib has made no effort whatsoever to ensure that the civil service embraces the concept of diversity. Instead, we are being told that non-Malays are not interested to signing on and a great pretence is being made in wooing non-Malays. Ajak ajak ayam!

In 2008, Indians voted against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and helped the Opposition win by default in the face of an urban-rural divide.

Recipe for political victimization after 13th General Elections

This time, Indians are being asked to choose between the BN and the Opposition. This call makes little sense since the community has been effectively marginalized and disenfranchised as evident, at the risk of repetition, in zero seats for them in Parliament and the state assemblies. Hence, being forced to choose between the BN and the Opposition is a sure recipe for political victimization in the aftermath of the elections.

The Indians would be better off if they eschew party politics and coalition politics.
Hindraf Makkal Sakthi is engaged in talks with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). The ad hoc human rights organisation working across the political divide has a 18 Point List of Demands. http://hindraf.org/18-points-demand.html

Najib has jumped on the bandwagon and wants to engage Hindraf too. He forgets that Badawi, his predecessor, spurned the opportunity in late 2007 in the face of racist advice and suffered March 2008.

It’s not really necessary that Indians must be represented in Parliament and the state assemblies since such representation does not benefit them but only a handful willing to subscribe to tokenism and window-dressing. Hindraf calls it mandore politics, whatever that means. But they may have a point or two here if Indian legislators are afraid to even utter the word “Indian” for fear of being branded “racist” and losing their non-Indian votes.

It’s a no win situation.

Indians must flock to the ballot box independent of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and other political parties.

Indians must forsake party politics, coalition politics

This calls for voting against any Indian who offers himself or herself to the electorate at the forthcoming 13th General Election.

Indians must also forsake party politics and coalition politics and look at the track record of the incumbents and candidates who offer themselves.

Indians, being members of a 3rd Force which can emerge in Parliament to ensure that no one has a two-third majority, should not vote for or against parties or coalitions.

They should vote against incumbents who have not performed for them.

They should also vote against incumbents who have performed for them but have been in the state legislatures or Parliament three terms or more in a row.

Elements of the 3rd Force in Parliament: Sabah and Sarawak in general and the Orang Asal in particular; Sabahans & Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia; Orang Asli; other minorities; Christians in Peninsular M’sia; fence-sitters i.e. those who support neither PR or BN; the Indian underclass and other Indians; Youths including the children of the Tudungs; and Women including the Tudungs who are being enslaved mentally and being deprived of their human rights; the urban poor; and the citizenship-holding relatives of stateless people, special pass holders, temporary residents & permanent residents; and victims of loan sharks, banks – being denied access to credit — the Land Office, local authorities, the Courts and police brutality.

Deepavali is a Time to Focus on Victory over Evil, Light over Darkness.

Evil, keeping the Nazi holocaust in mind, is best defined as the lack of empathy.

Happy Deepavali 2012!

Posted: November 12, 2012 in about me

On the joyous occasion of Deepavali, I extend my warm greetings and good wishes to all my family members, my readers to this blog and all my countrymen in Malaysia and around the world.

Deepavali is a time for festivity and happiness cutting across all faiths and cultures. It is an occasion to share our joy with those who are needy and deprived. Deepavali signifies the end of the darkness of ignorance and the beginning of light that enlightens all.

Lets channel our energies towards vanquishing want and suffering and strive hard for the collective growth of Malaysia on this auspicious occasion.

May this festival of lights dispel darkness and bring joy and prosperity to all.

Berhati hati di jalan raya!

Happy Deepavali! Happy Deepavali!


Shafie Apdal, the Minister of Rural Development is very much jealous of his counterpart in Sabah, Musa aman and is repeatedly attacking Musa and opposing his candidature for the continuation as Chief Minister. Shafie was responsible for undermining Musa Aman’s leadership by instigating Lajim Okim to call for the removal of Musa as chief minister by appeasing Lajim with a RM150 million road project from his Rural Ministry. Shafie also helped form KDM Malaysia to divide the Kadazan Dusun Murut (KDM) community, politically weakening Pairin Kitingan and PBS, hence forming a wedge between Pairin and Musa. Now, Shafie Apdal is masterminding the return of Yong Teck Lee (SAPP) into the BN fold and claiming he has the tacit approval of Najib Tun Razak to negotiate the return, despite word of the Sabah BN components distrusting Yong. Yong Teck Lee, Shafie Apdal and Joseph Ambrose Lee were partners in crime, taking over the RM30-billion timber wealth of Yayasan Sabah through share-swap, in a time when Yong Teck Lee was Sabah chief Minister and Shafie Apdal was Directer of Yayasan Sabah.

Like it or not, it was Musa Aman who was the then state finance minister who rejected this share-swap deal, saving Yayasan Sabah from a pending doom. Shafie Apdal’s intention of bringing Yong Teck Lee back into BN will weaken Musa Aman’s leadership among BN followers in Sabah due to Musa and Yong’s bitter relationship. At this moment of time Musa Aman and all the other BN component parties have got a fantastic working relationship.

SO the big question is: Why is Shafie so jealous of Musa Aman?

Obviously Shafie dreams of being the top dog, for sure, but I firmly see it envy forming due to Musa’s many achievements which has catapulted Sabah to the top position among the States in Malaysia.

It is wrong to say that Sabah has registered improvement in one or two areas. In fact there is no area in which Sabah has not progressed. Education, law and order, good environmental practices, forest protection, clean water supply, electricity, agriculture, industrial progress, urban development, rural development, exports, solution to Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem, increase for oil royalty – in whatever angle you look at, Sabah attracts deeper attention in every area, registering a surplus in many areas. But Sabah is not satisfied with this achievement. It is not resting on its laurels but is focusing on earning more surpluses. The reason for this attitude is that Sabah does not think only about itself. It thinks for the whole of Malaysia. Sabah is the locomotive engine of Malaysia and is keen to contribute more for Malaysia’s growth.

When Sabah attained independence in 1963, Malaysia was born. Right from independence in 1963 to 1985, Alliance- Barisan National ruled Sabah. After 1985, Datuk Harris Salleh was defeated, Pairin Kitingan from Party Bersatu Sabah became the Chief Minister. But even at that time Sabah was ruled by the Barisan National until 1986 when PBS pulled out from BN. In 1994, BN wrested control of the power from PBS when Lajim defected from Parti Bersatu Sabah which won the Sabah election, and his action opened a floodgate of defections from PBS and saw the collapse of Pairin’s PBS government. Sakaran Dandai became the first Umno Chief Minister in Sabah in 1994.

In 2003, Musa Aman was appointed chief minister. Musa Aman faced crisis after crisis immediately on assuming office. First the state treasury was nearly negative, Yayasan Sabah was on the verge of going bust, state agency were negative and the financial situation of the state was in shambles. Musa Aman had to prudently turn around the mess he inherited. In 2004, Musa Aman faced assembly elections and captured more seats than in 1999 and became the Chief Minister again. He won again in 2008 with a thumping victory winning 59 out of the 60 state seats. Musa Aman has earned the title as the longest serving Chief Minister of Sabah. Musa Aman is facing elections again expected within the next six months.

Sabah registered remarkable progress in the last ten years of Musa Aman’s rule. Nobody including his opponents can deny this.

This year Musa Aman unveiled a RM4.09bil budget the largest in the history of Sabah which is a RM40mil increase over last year’s budget of some RM4.05bil. Of this RM2.07bil would go towards the economic sector, RM988.23mil for public utilities, including water supply, rural electrification and sewerage projects, RM764mil would be spent on infrastructure including the construction of roads and bridges as well as ports and harbours and the upgrading of Borneo’s only rail service, Sabah Railways. Musa also announced a special RM1mil allocation and the RM500,000 sentuhan kasih (touch of compassion) funding for each state constituency be continued next year. So we see the expenditure is aimed at eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life of the people by improving basic infrastructure and public amenities while at the same time developing high quality youth and human capital and not ignoring to strengthen Sabah’s financial position.

Under Musa Aman, Sabah has even earned praise from Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang for demonstrating sound financial management and for maintaining its record of efficient and prudent handling of its finances over the last 12 years. One hundred and six departments and agencies were audited last year and each showed that its financial management was at a very good level. This places Sabah among the best states in Malaysia in terms of accountability and financial management efficiency. This has given Sabah a positive image as it proves that the state has succeeded in managing its resources well, efficiently and in an orderly manner. The auditor-general’s positive assessment should erase the allegations from certain quarters, who always question the state government’s capability and efficiency in managing its finances. In fact, the auditor-general was so impressed with Sabah’s financial management that he wants it to be a role model for other states.

Even Moody International has certified the Sabah government for efficient and proper budget management for three years running and RAM has given it a triple-A rating for its finances.

Sure there were problems in the past. Sabah’s problem of good drinking water would be an example of such an issue. Due to this, dry taps were a norm often in the past. In the kampongs, women and children had to walk far to fetch drinking water to their homes. There was scarcity of electricity and even the quality of electricity supplied was not up to the mark. Sabah lagged behind in girls’ education. Road facilities were not adequate and their quality was also not sound. But under Musa Aman, all these defects faded away in the last ten years. Now there are separate facilities for ground water and drinking water.

There is still some shortage of electricity in Sabah but has improved tremendously from the past where power failures and power cuts were a common thing. Now in most towns electricity is supplied for 24 hours a day. Electricity is supplied for agriculture through a separate feeder. What is even more praiseworthy is that the electricity is available with good quality. No Sabahans purchases stabilizers along with television or refrigerators. Sabah has registered remarkable progress in education as well. Native children and girls are attending school and receiving proper education at an increasing number.

Now you ask: How were all these feats achieved? It is simply Musa Aman’s focus and dedication. After reading the above facts, I think one can understand the reason for Shafie Apdal’s jealousy. Even though Shafie Apdal was MP for Semporna for 4 terms since 1995, he has done nothing much to improve the livelihood of the Semporna folks although he has got a huge budget at his disposal now from his Rural Ministry, his achievements pale into insignificance compared to that of Musa Aman’s.

To add to this, word on the street is that Musa Aman is set on becoming the Finance Minister of Malaysia in 2017.

There are over 3 million people living in Sabah. This forms 10% of Malaysian population. Sabah has an area of 73620 sq km. This is 60% of total land surface of Peninsular Malaysia. In oil palm production, Sabah’s share is 40%, Sabah contributes 25% in cocoa production, 27% in rubber production, 40% in natural gas, 55% in petroleum, 70% in tiger prawns production about 9000 metric tons, 60% in ginger production and 35% in cabbage production. If Musa Aman remains in power for another ten years uninterrupted, Sabah will be the most prosperous and peaceful place in the whole world. But unfortunately for the Sabahans, Musa Aman will be the Chief Minister only for the next five years. He is likely to be elevated as the Finance Minister of Malaysia. But Sabah’s loss is the rest of Malaysia’s gain. This is because Musa Aman will ensure Malaysia’s prosperity with his rich administrative experience, involvement, focus, dedication, concentration, sincerity and sense of purpose.

Footnote:
I know that all kinds of epithets will be hurled at me for praising Musa Aman and Sabah. I do not care about criticism. A journalist should speak the truth and nothing else. I have done my duty in reporting the truth about Sabah and Musa Aman. This satisfaction is enough for me as a writer.


Lopsidedness is a matter of perspective. Consider this: 35% of Malaysia’s disposable income comes from the top six cities. The bottom 1000+ kampongs account for 35% of income. Of the rest of the income, 30% is in the remaining hundreds of towns. These are what some marketing pundits euphorically call the Tier-2 towns, places with perceived potential for immense growth. Does this Tier-2 layer really exist?

This must be judged from the headline news — “Malaysia’s August inflation seen steady at 1.4%”, “Falling Inflation”, “Bank Negara and the Malaysian economists celebrate volubly”. Is this really worth celebrating for all?

I was recently touring Kundasang, home to South East Asia’s highest mountain – Mount Kinabalu, also South East Asia’s largest cabbage and broccoli market which I’m very familiar with, as I was one of the pioneers years ago doing experiments on pesticides and introducing hybrid cabbage and highland vegetable seeds from Taiwan and Japan some twenty years ago. I can’t say people of Kundasang would celebrate a fall in highland vegetables i.e. cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli prices. Hundreds of farmers are mourning the crash of prices, sometimes to even below the cost of production.

The cost of cabbages has fallen at the farm gate by over 50% over just 6 months! Overall, prices have deflated over 30%. But it will take years before they could go up again.

Unfortunately, the farmer is not treated like an investor whose money commands the headlines, and who reports farm level profitability. No farmer ever computes his ROI (return on investment) on the land that he owns. It is inherited and comes for free to cultivate.

If we were to cost up all farm level production based on the cost of fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weedicides, labour and land, everything will be ten times more expensive! Not many recognise this, but Malaysian agriculture is highly subsidised by the farmer who treats the cost of land as free.

Think about the positives of inflation for a moment. How many people know how inflation is computed actually? There are 435 articles or commodities across three major groups that are taken into consideration and given different weights. Milk has the highest weight (4.4), rice is (2.44), weights for all fruits and vegetables are less than that of milk.

This raises another question: how many times do the media complain about the cost of milk? Cabbages and most highland vegetables have a collective weight of 0.54, jagung (corn) even less (0.09). Then, why are corn prices more of an issue than cabbages? The Malaysian farmer would say that vegetables and fruits get unfairly low attention in the context of the perceived causes of inflation. I want to argue that farmers need inflation for a better living.

When I did economics as one of my first year papers in uni, as a student, I was taught that “a little inflation is not such a bad thing”. But how ‘little’ is little? The bigger issue is, 65% of Malaysia that lives off agriculture, will have to suffer from curtailed income due to deflation. And this clearly takes money out of the hands of semi-urban and rural people.

Would the Tier-2 story stand then with just 2% inflation? I would think not.

One also begins to wonder about the policy-making process and about those who are entrusted with the hallowed job of policy-making as well. Time and again, we have seen that Parliament is not where policy is made; it seems as though it is an arena where political parties stage their differences in acts of one-upmanship.

Policymakers are influenced heavily by three kinds of people: the man in the street types who just look at day-to-day gains and valuation; the politicians who do not understand economics when it is separated from politics; and the global investors who are at best opportunists and who treat Malaysia like a cell in a game of snakes-and-ladders.

The point is, good intentions of a few policymakers are not getting translated into ground reality at the farm level. There is too much media glare on produce prices than is required.

There is an urgent need for a fresh look at the needs of specific businesses in rural Malaysia, in terms of supply chain infrastructure, training and financial support. One size does not fit all. Individual ministries must debate thoughts and ideas with commercial businesses at the grassroots level, to understand the travails and opportunities.

Meantime, surely the dreams of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies and other categories must be put on hold till the work performed by farmers in smaller towns and kampongs for their livelihood becomes profitable again. Some inflation is surely good.


Hummer 2 SUV, one of the most expensive vehicle in the world.

A gift from Micheal Chia Tien Foh to Mohamad Nedim Nazri, the son of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz.



HAVING witnessed democracy in action in the form of state assembly elections in Sarawak recently, it is worthwhile looking at what the Sarawak elections had exposed. Political analysts have already made pronouncements about identity politics, that is, the politics of race and community, being pushed to the side by new demands for development. They have pronounced on the virtues of being “with the people” in the manner of Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, as opposed to the “parachute politics” of Anwar Ibrahim.

Corruption has been mentioned, but in terms that are not very clear, at least to lay people like myself. Has this exercise in democracy proved that there is widespread anger at the corruption that exists in almost all parts of society, in public bodies and authorities as well as in private entities? From what one can comprehend, the answer is the familiar “yes-and-no” that analysts take shelter behind when faced with a phenomenon they cannot really understand.

The verdict cannot be against corruption in, for example, Sarawak, where the reputation of the ruling Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and the other Sarawak BN component parties combine is not of its being a group of saints, to put it mildly. For the record, the perception about the party that lost badly, the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) which lost 13 of 19 seats it contested and its President Dr. George Chan Hong Nam, Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, humiliating defeat in the hands of the DAP, is no better.

In Sarawak, no one will take you seriously if you claim that the Barisan National Sarawak is pure as driven snow; that the losing SUPP was seen as utterly corrupt, which is why it lost; and that the Sarawak BN and Taib Mahmud is responsible for the chopping down of most of Sarawak’s rainforests at the expense of the indigenous communities; and Taib Mahmud was also seen as corrupt and the protector of corrupt allies. The fact is that all of them are seen as corrupt.

Without making any solemn pronouncements on why a party won or lost, or the role played by rebel candidates of all parties in splitting vote banks, one can say with a degree of certainty that a rejection of corruption was not really the main issue in the election. And that is the truly worrying factor in this round of exercise of democracy.

Equally worrying is the sense one gets that the major political parties know this and are not really bothered. They also know, from the look of things, that the public protestation of corruption will never ever amount to anything as far as political power in our system is concerned. The parties strategise their moves and countermoves on the basis of other considerations, which they think to be more effective and relevant. So we can continue to bark corruption, coruption, coruption but nothing is gonna happen and nothing is gonna change, it has not change for the last 50 years.

An article that appeared not so long ago in The Nation cited a study by a group of scholars in the London School of Economics, which said that the comparisons made by various writers and experts between Malaysia and Singapore as emerging economic powers were erroneous; that Malaysia could never hope to be a rival to the economic powerhouse that Singapore already is. One reason given for this is the all-pervasive corruption in Malaysia.

This trend of thinking will in all likelihood catch on, despite brave words from leaders of Barisan National. One can sense it in the way the Malaysian stock market has behaved; in the way the ringgit has got weaker by the day; and in the general gloom among bankers, which they will not admit to publicly but will talk about mainly among themselves. It is not gloom about the immediate future – it is about Malaysia in the long term. It is, finally, about the nature of Malaysian democracy.

There are those who increasingly see signs of fatal flaws in Malaysian democracy because of the way it has developed. Political parties in power, from regional parties to so-called national parties, depend on corruption from the top down to survive, and survival is all that matters. An even more dangerous trend was the failure to improve the education standards.

Malaysia’s failure to provide quality education means that eventually our young men and women will lack the intellectual capabilities, leading to a falling off of quality of work, of skill levels and so on, with its inevitable ill effects on the economy as a whole. But are our politicians who are engaged in the task of survival, interested or concerned?

Eventually, one has to conclude that Malaysian-style democracy and the ills afflicting our economy, our industry, our infrastructure, our health services and our education system will ensure that Malaysia does not become an economic superpower, emerging or otherwise, and that it will have to depend on aid to keep itself going after all the natural resources have depleted. Then, multinational corporations will start to invest in other more lucrative ASEAN countries. Remember, Malaysia’s debts is now a whopping RM0.5 TRILLION.

Now, a lot depends on what young leaders such as Nurul Izzah and others such as Chief Ministers Musa Aman of Sabah and Lim Guan Eng of Penang do. There is little to be gained by looking at any other leader; those who are indeed leaders are either erratic and whimsical, or interested only in lining their pockets. Some like Taib Mahmud although in his twilight may well take Sarawak towards development, but he has to provide proof of that, as Musa Aman has done so admirably.