Monday 28 April 2014

Pekong di Dada dan Kuman di Seberang

According to Barack Obama :

Malaysia must ensure non-Muslims in the country also have equal opportunities as its Muslim majority if the Southeast Asian nation  wanted to continue prospering.....

Malaysia won't succeed if the non-Muslims do not have the same opportunity.

(see Jennifer Gomez, The Malaysian Insider April 27th, 2014)

Let's look at who has the most opportunity for attaining prosperity.

Mean Monthly Gross Household Income by Ethnicity, Strata and State, 1970-2012.
Note that the richest states in the Peninsula - Penang and Selangor 'belong' to the Opposition.

To summarize the above which is not too legible, for which I apologize:

                          1970                  2012    
Bumiputera          172                    4457
Chinese                394                   6366
Indians                 304                   5233
Others                  813                   3843
Average for
Malaysia               264                   5000

On another aspect of   "equal opportunities"  let's compare the poverty index of  the world's most powerful and richest country with that of Malaysia.  According to the World  Bank, Malaysia's  Poverty Rate was 3.8% in 2009 and 1.7% in 2012.  The United States of America, with a US$17 trillion economy, had a poverty rate of 15% in 2012.  Since it has been suggested to the President that the minorities in Malaysia are treated unfairly  and he had to advise us that that would impair our future prosperity, how did USA manage to "prosper" when the Poverty Rate (2012)  of the Blacks measure 35%, the Hispanics 33% and the Whites just 13% ?

Our human rights brigade, granted a precious audience with the President,  had the privilege of spilling out their angst about life in Malaysia , something which the poor in USA surely wish they could do too - people like .....

Homeless in Washington -
One out of every 5 children in the US is now living in poverty ( Source: US Census).  This child may have the same colour as the President but he doesn't have the privilege of growing up in a white middle class family.   This child, unlike the President, comes from a a line of slaves and whose forefathers knew only discrimination and abuse in a Judaeo-Christian culture.  Could he have been elected as a president like Barack Obama?
Usually, when I come across a feature on life in the USA, I notice one group has been carefully omitted.  These are the people you see in Hollywood movies killing and massacring the pioneer whites.  These'pioneers',  like all immigrants are always positively represented as hardworking, enterprising and hence deservedly successful.

Those left out are the Native Americans.  From The Guardian 22 April 2012 :  The UN is to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans, the first such mission in its history. 

  Photograph: Jennifer Brown/Corbis.   Taken from the Guardian.

Many of the country's estimated 2.7 million Native Americans  live in federally recognised  tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, incest and other social problems.

......... some US conservatives likely to object to international interference in domestic matters.

Now , doesn't that sound familiar?  To quote the MI :   "Obama said non-Muslims in Malaysia are currently facing hostility, and some have felt oppressed.  There shouldn't be reason to discriminate, and you have to make sure that you are speaking out against this in daily life.

Do read this:

It all started with the Pilgrim Fathers - escaping the prejudices of their motherland in Europe - immigrants starting a new life and all the blah, blah blahs about their toil and their sacrifice and of course their Thanksgiving Day.  Initially, they were welcomed by the Native Indians.  But the new arrivals had this caveat - one the Christians practised where ever they left their footprint.

Taken from Punch Diary 1973
Now that most people in Malaysia have watched the blockbuster movie Captain America why not give this movie "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee" a try?  It's not breathtakingly exciting, -  full of thrills and spills - but it might make you cry.

 Here's a little background from YouTube.

Finally the MI wrote:  Obama  said that almost every religion teaches the basic principle of "do unto others as you want others to do unto you"  

Well, 'Muslim Malaysia's' track record here is not too bad.    Christians are hardly sidelined.    Read the following scans (courtesy of Iain Buchanan).

What more can Malaysia do?  Who is being  "discriminated against and sidelined" ?

I wonder?  Did anyone at the  "700-strong crowd of youths  and civil society representatives"  ask President Obama about his election promise to close down Guantanamo Bay prison?  Also, as he specifically asked "the new generation to stand in other 'people's shoes and look at things through their eyes'  ", did these civil society representatives ask the President  if he could imagine himself as one of the 11 people in Yemen who were killed by an American drone attack in December 2013 as they were returning from a wedding?
Mind you, this was not the first or the last murder-by-drone under the President's watch.

Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, - though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst, - the cant of criticism is the most tormenting!   (Laurence Sterne 1713-1768)

Friday 25 April 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 3

....And back to Zaidgeist's prescription for a better Malaysia!

One  of Zaidgeist's suggestions as to why Malaysia should tread in the footsteps of the Sifus and Mandarins south of  Selat Tebrau was:

  Malaysia's corruption index would be low..

It cannot be denied that the level of  corruption in Malaysia is disgraceful, ranking 53rd out of 177 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) , 2013.

I recall taking a driving holiday in the Semenanjung in the early 1970s.   I was stopped by a policeman in Malacca,  who first asked me for my driving licence, then my passport/identity card, then my Car Insurance - all of which I happily provided.  He paused and then asked me where I was heading  and I mentioned Si Rusa Inn at Port Dickson.  He paused again looking a little uncomfortable.  Then I asked him "Ada masaalah lain, Inche?"  He gave us a wan smile and waved us on to continue our journey.  Apparently, he knew that we knew what he was waiting for.  I was told later by someone who knew the ropes that the policeman expected  some ringgit when I handed over my documents.  But I didn't know how the system worked and he could not or did not know how to bring himself to say,  "Saya mahu duit kopi!"  I guess my ignorance or my innocence saved me - and him too?

All countries, even the great and good, get sucked into the pit of corruption - ranging from the petty bakshish to large scale financial and political scandals.  Take a look at these 10 ways of lining one's nest as an MP.

Where did the above large scale, long term corruption of MPs occur?  Is it in some Asian or Southeast Asian or African state?  Surprise, surprise!  It happened in the Mother of Parliaments - the British Parliament - and was exposed by the Daily Telegraph in May 2009.    And after all the hand-wringing, and excuses, and  'punishments' , it didn't stop: Tory Peer Lord Hanningfield, at the end of 2013 claimed an attendance allowance of GBP 300 for clocking in for just 21 minutes in the House of Lords.    And where is the UK on the Corruption Index?

That however is peanuts compared to the fat bonuses and pay-offs that the big banks dish out to their failed directors and CEOs in UK.

But back to Singapore.    Here's an extract from The Real Singapore (August 2012):

The recent spate of high-profile corruption cases involving senior civil servants and leaders of the establishment has set some Singaporeans questioning if Singapore is that 'clean'after all.
However, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam uses 'human nature' to deflect public concerns, saying that "corruption and falling to temptation are basic vices that have existed since time immemorial".    

And here are some quotes from the Minister, taken from the above article.

1. "Like in all societies, and in Singapore as well, there have always been people who have been corrupt.  There will always be people who will be corrupt.
2. "There will be people who, whatever rules you put in, they will look to find a way around the rules and they will fall for temptation."
3. "There is no society in the world, in the past or the present, where every person is totally clean."

But I do know of someone who is 'totally clean'.  My brother knew a young Malay engineer who studied with him in England and came home to begin a job in a Government Department.  Every morning, this young man would find a bundle of money in an envelope on his table.   He knew this 'temptation' came from a contractor, who happened to be Chinese, and who wanted to get first choice in a planned project.  The young engineer sent the money back to him every time - to indicate this was not how he worked.  Some time later, he discovered a large deposit of money in his bank account.  He was terrified at the extent to which he could be framed for corruption.  He got the bank to return the money and resigned from his job to escape harassment from such bona fide businessmen.

Most of the time we punish the receiver of the bribe.  But the tempter, the seducer usually gets away.

The Real Singapore added:  Speaking at a National Day celebration dinner in Chong Pang on Saturday, Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore cannot completely eradicate fraud and bad conduct, even though it has created a system that is very clean and efficient by international standards.

So who are these cankers in the Singapore rose?

1.  Singapore Speaker Michael Palmer resigned his post  and seat in Parliament following an extramarital affair.  ( December 2012)

2.  Ex-chief of the Central Narcotics Bureau Ng Boon Gay " was charged with four counts of corruption for obtaining sexual gratification"  in June 2012.  However he was acquitted because he and the key witness "were in a consensual and intimate relationship".

3.  Former National University of Singapore Law Professor Tey Tsun Hung was found guilty on six counts of corruption, of receiving from his student, sexual gratification and gifts for grades..    He was sentenced to 5 months'imprisonment. (July 2012)

4. Former Singapore Civil Defence Force Chief Peter Lim was convicted for corruption in June 2012.  He was a former  State Scholar.

5.  A Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau ( CPIB) Assistant Director Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was charged with CBT, forgery and misappropriating $1.7 million between 2008 and 2012.  Part of the loot was used to feed his gambling habit at the Marina Bay Sands Casino.

6. Lim Cheng Hoe, a diplomat - a former chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - overcharged the authorities S$89,000 for gifts bought for official purposes.  He was  jailed for 15 months In February 2014.

7.  Some time in July 2013, Deputy Superintendent Lim Kwo Yin was fined S$10,000 for negligence that caused the death of an inmate at Changi Prison.

8.  From the lower echelon of the Civil Service, the Malaysian Insider reported on a Senior Staff Sergeant Iskandar Rahmat  who was charged with the murder of two men.  It seemed that he had financial problems even though he was not a gambler.

I take off my hat to the Minister for acknowledging that humans (and nations) cannot be perfect and that like other mortals, Singaporeans are 'humans' after all.  Yes, people are capable of breaking the law,  be it moral or criminal.  But it is so depressing to watch the fall of  the  great and good and squeaky clean.  Who can we look up to as countries to emulate -  as the paragons of  "low corruption levels" ?

Finally,  here's a bigger picture of what corruption really involves.  It's not just a matter of bribery and fraud.

Here's a little tale of  a different type of corruption - from the past.   From this  book ......

.... I found this interesting little snippet on page 83. After the signing of the treaty  "which made over Singapore to the East India Company" on February 1819, there was a little celebration.   "After the ceremony and sealing was over, presents were given, consisting of opium, arms and woolens of scarlet colour."   Guess who gave away the opium and arms to sweeten the contract.

Today there would be grand gifts of an all-paid-for holiday to Europe or USA, or a Mercedes Sports car or if the stakes are high enough. a condominium.  The reckless and foolish Malay would part with his heritage and tanah air for a handful of silver.  That is why when the British schemed to set up the Malay 'Protectorates' in the 19th Century, it was not without the support of the elites, the collaborators, the opportunists, the connivers and the carpet baggers among the Malays too.  And we still practise  that  tabiat today, but on a grander scale.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 2

"Yes we should be like Singapore" wrote Datuk Zaid in his Zaidgeist,  March 26,  2014.

One reason is :

If Malaysia emulates Singapore's success,  "at least Malaysians could speak and write better English than say, the Americans."  There are two assumptions here:  that Singaporeans speak and write better English than the Americans and that Singapore's success is due to a proficiency in English.

What are the implications for Malaysia?   Singapore's education policy and her "success"  has seen the demise of Malay, Chinese and Tamil medium schools.   If  Malaysia decided to create a National Education system based on English or Malay or English-Malay, imagine the outcry from the other two mediums.  Only an authoritarian one-party state could manage this manipulation of an education system that has prevailed for the last 50+ years after independence and for even longer than that.

Think of the repercussions.  Zaidgeist is aware that unlike Singapore, Malaysia has many "conflicting interests" to deal with.  As a republic with a 76% Chinese majority, the PAP leadership has a freer hand in handling their "conflicting interests".  Singapore only had to deal with the Chinese faction.  When dialect was abolished, there were very few squeaks of dissent.  It was accepted wholeheartedly - Radio and TV stations stopped dialect and with alacrity  parents began to hanyu pinyinise their children's names as well.

What if Malaysia decided to ban the use of all dialects pertaining to Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sabahans and Sarawakians, there would be riots in the streets - even if the Country had a 76% Malay majority.

As Singapore was an island republic with no natural resources, the PAP leadership recognised the role of their main resource, their population.  The education system and policy were revamped and re-organised and English medium schools became the national-type schools.  Singapore could not afford to maintain the fragmented education system that they inherited from the time the island was a British Colony.

In this new scheme the Malay population had no choice.  A Malay medium education could not ensure their children's future in the job market - especially after Singapore was ejected from Malaysia.  I watched the dying throes of Malay medium schools when I was teaching at Sekolah Menengah Yusof  Ishak .  In my students' School Leaving Certificates,  I wrote the "Comments" section in English - hoping that it would give them just a slight edge when they applied for a job - even if they were lower level jobs.

The Tamil medium also died a natural death - again for the same reasons - realising that they were an even smaller fish in the ocean of a Chinese majority.

Chinese medium schools were naturally more adamant about preserving their status. After all, they had Nanyang University where their high flyers could find a place.  Chinese educated Singaporeans have little difficulty in gaining jobs because of the nature of Singapore's Chinese-run economy.  The Chinese language establishment did not give the PAP leadership an easy time especially when more and more Chinese parents opted for the English medium schools.  It could be a political  minefield if the leadership could not sway the Chinese language pressure groups to their side. 

So, the Government applied the carrot sans stick approach .  They set up the Special Assistance Plan  Schools (SAPS) to enrich students' learning of Chinese language and values.  If that is not 'mollycoddling", what is?  If that is not a special Chinese language rights, then special Malay rights do not exist in Malaysia. They even provided immersion programmes in China which involved "extended programmes of up to six months in key Chinese cities".

Looking at this special treatment, it's no wonder that Dong Zong and Jiao Zong (and Taiwan!) pursued this agenda for Chinese medium schools in Malaysia!

So that's how Singapore worked out the English medium national system of education and managed to keep the Chinese medium sweet and happy.

So I wonder why Malaya, after Independence, didn't set up a similar system?  The country could have an English medium and create a SAPS system for the Malay language schools.  Alas the Malays lacked the economic clout the Chinese possessed - and anyway why should they have such a system?  This was their tanah air.  The British had had to scheme and/or negotiate with them to gain a foothold in the Peninsula , and the result was a flood of immigrants from China and India, making the Malays a minority in their own land from the 1930s to 1950s.   But even the British and others had to use Malay to get what they wanted!

From Kalender DBP 1964


More reasons for emulating Singapore:

1. the corruption index will be low
2. civil servants will be more multi-racial
3. a top class public transport system
4. cleaner public toilets
5. home-ownership model

AsH shall tackle this in a few days' time. Feeling quite knackered after we topped up our water supply and took Rusty for an emergency visit to the vet -  for the third time in the last two months.   No reflection on the vet - it's just that Rusty, being a modern cat, likes eating rubbish.

L to R : Socks, Comot and Rusty.

Pak Ngah Iain dan Mak Ngah 'dah balik!!!  

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Emulating Singapore - Part 1

I'm an ex-Singaporean who grew up and lived in Singapore  from 1945 to 1978.  I had the 'benefit' of an English language colonial education - and got as far as the pukka University of Singapore. I went through historical events like being in and out of Malaysia, the race riots of the early 1960s,  Singapore's Independence and living under the 'aegis' of that master Sifu Mr Lee Kuan Yew.  I also had the privilege of teaching in both the Malay and English mediums and for just a month I discovered the intricacies of teaching in a top-notch Christian Junior College.  After 1978, I hopped between Singapore, Brunei and England. Each time I left that island  for Brunei and England, I felt so relieved that I did not have to spend the rest of my life there.  Knowing what I went through as an educated Malay, I vowed that my brother and his family should have the same chance I had - the chance for a better life in Malaysia.  But we had no intention of taking any handouts or freebies from Malaysia , even though we could.  My brother left behind his wife and son in Singapore while he pursued his degree in Hull.  When he finally made the move to Malaysia, he did not come empty-handed - he had something to give to his father's and grandfather's Tanah Air.

He misses - I miss - our childhood places where we grew up  while living and schooling in Pasir Panjang.  Tempat jatuh lagi dikenang, inikan lagi tempat bermain.

In 2011, we made a sentimental journey to our primary school,  Pasir Panjang English School.  It is now a rehab centre run by evangelical Christians.
Seperti sirih pulang ke gagang - we finally carried out what Abah wanted us to do many years ago: but we had to leave our father and youngest brother in their final resting place at Pusara Abadi, Jalan Bahar.

Back in our father's homeland, my brother's family had a chance - to work hard and study diligently to  make full use of the opportunities available.  Malaysia helped him and his wife to bring up an engineer, a doctor and a lawyer.  Don't ever think they were fed with a silver spoon by the Government.  My brother and wife sacrificed and committed their resources to educating their children to enable them to compete for their places in the University.  I am so proud that my engineer-nephew who had been head-hunted for a job in Toyota, Frankfurt made a decision, albeit a heart-wrenching one, to go home and serve out his bond in his country instead.
And so, this ex-Singaporean finds  it very amusing when Malaysians, especially the Malays, wax lyrical about the achievements and development of the Republic of Temasek.  And when they go on and on about how Malaysia  should follow in the footsteps of the Mandarins and Sifus  of Singapore, I can't help thinking of an  image of a gibbon crushing a flower in its hands.

If these clever and articulate Malay-Malaysians had to live and study and work in Singapore they wouldn't like it one bit - for the sake of their children and their future, they would move heaven and earth to escape to Malaysia, as they did in the 1960s and 1970s.     Later these Malays became more adventurous and migrated to Perth, Vancouver, Washington, Auckland - they were the pioneers of the Malay Diaspora!

So what is wrong with Malaysia - in comparison to Singapore ?

Here's an insight from the writing of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, as reported by The Malay Mail 26 March 2014.

To quote the MM : The policy of mollycoddling the Malays will only get in the way of efforts to keep up with rapid globalisation, industrialisation and modernization.  There are two issues here.  Firstly, in what ways has Malaysia failed to "keep up" with globalisation etc?  And who has benefited the most from Globalization, Industrialisation, and Modernization - this Holy Trinity of  "Progress"?  Most certainly they would be the inhabitants of the urban areas.  That certainly leaves the non-urban Malays and the Indians out of the picture.  Albeit there would be a smattering of  'globalized' Malays;  the elites who benefited from the NEP  ( the vehicle of 'mollycoddling' ) and the elites from the old feudal and colonial days.  

Secondly, when did 'mollycoddling'  begin ?  That choice of word is an unfortunate and deliberate snipe at the policy of affirmative action for the bumiputeras.  

If we look back at the history of the Peninsula from the period of Portuguese conquest and British "intervention" there is no doubt at all that the urban non-bumis in Malaya especially were the main beneficiaries of Imperial rule.  One could say they never had it so good  in the Peninsula and Straits Settlements during the reign of  Imperial Britain, compared to Chinese immigrants in Indonesia, the Philippines, the USA and in South Africa during the same period.  I shall leave the details and statistics to the experts.  One only has to look at this item from a 1957 school textbook  (Bahasa Kita by D.R. Hughes - an introduction to the Malay Language for non-Malay pupils in Lower Secondary Schools in Malaya ) to understand who got the bigger slice of' 'modernization'  in British Malaya.

BUT, nowhere in Datuk Zaid's  Zaidgeist did he use the word 'mollycoddle' - it was the choice-word of the Malay Mail entirely.  The closest reference to that boo word is Datuk Zaid's  "Our Malay leaders, whether from Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat, are very protective of Malays".

One mollycoddles or spoils someone who doesn't need or deserve the special treatment.  Malay privileges and the NEP , especially after the trauma of 13 May  represented the importance of bridging the yawning gap of wealth and development between the (rural) Malays and the (urban) mainly Chinese immigrants.  This was the toxic 'heritage' that the British gave to the Malays.

How did Semenanjung Tanah Melayu turn into "a plural society"?  Were the Malays sleepwalking into this demographic time-bomb created by the British?  Read this and compare the concern and awareness of the Malays then with the "modernized, globalized, industrialised" Malays today.

And despite such Malay voices of concern (in 1948 and from 30 years before that), the 1957 population data recorded the Malays making up less than half of the population with the Chinese making up the largest immigrant population at 37 per cent.  Do read Item 11 in the above footnote - I like the sense of humour in this Reader from 1955.

Just in case the above sounds like a load of unwarranted whingeing from the Malays,  let's look at the misfortunes suffered by the natives in other parts of the British Empire as a result of "British Development"..  This is from my father's book on :

This was the way the British dealt with the problem of mixed peoples in their Empire after the Second World War.

For Canada, there is no mention or recognition of the people of the First Nation - the Indians from the north of the North American Continent - only the immigrant Europeans.  As for the natives of the southern part of the African Continent there are far too many of them. My word!  They outnumber the immigrant whites!!  How the whites fear about being swamped.  But who cares about the protests of the natives in the Peninsula who faced the same fear as the immigrant whites (as noted in the Majlis of 1948)?  But Australia and New Zealand take the first prize for 'mollycoddling'(?) their kind. Just keep out the Asiatics like Chinese, Indians, Malays, Indonesians, etc. etc.  Oh, how protective of their "purity" are those immigrant whites, when they want to keep a country they have colonised just  for themselves!

   But what of the Semenanjung?    The British coined the term 'Malaya' (as in the "Malayan Union") in 1946 - mainly for administrative purposes and  to accommodate the immigrant Chinese and Indians within the motley collection of colonies (the Straits Settlements), protectorates (the Federated Malay States), Unfederated Malay States and independent Johor.   The inclusion of the word "Malay" in 'Malaya' would keep the Malays quiet and dull their feelings of displacement and discrimination in their Tanah Air.   It was just window dressing, as was the formation of the Malayan Union in 1946.   However, this time the (Malay) worms decided to turn.   After some adjustments the Federation of Malaya was created in 1948.   I suppose we should be grateful that they did not rename the Peninsula Victoriana after Queen Victoria, like the Philippines after King Philip of Spain!

I salute those brave voices from over 75 years ago.  But now their modern, globalised, and highly educated grandchildren and great-grandchildren have a strange desire to emulate that golden child of British imperialism from down south.    Or at the very least take their Singdollars?

                                                        Banana Boat Song -Beetlejuice