Why I cannot condemn Mahathir

wpid-drm-2010-05-22-11-39.jpgSome call him a power crazed dictator.
The Opposition vilify him without end, blaming him for the worst of Malaysia’s excesses, our endemic corruption and our current struggle to remain competitive.
Politics is a game of power. As everyone knows, power corrupts.

Mahathir understood the game better than most and he knew that to win, you needed strategy. Strategy would sometimes mean sacrifices and unfortunately, Mahathir subscribed to the school of ‘the end justifies the means’.

On the altar of his ambitions, he gave up press freedom. Made a bonfire from the judiciary, fed the hungry flames of profiteering.
He used the ISA with impunity and repaid every perceived slight or threat a thousand times over.

My stand has always been that Anwar’s downfall was not brought about by Mahathir, but by his own support base.
If Anwar’s supporters had just waited, fed Mahathir’s ego and patiently waited I have no doubt Anwar would have been prime minister.
Their mistake was to attempt to topple Mahathir, to go against the ultimate political player.

I believe that Mahathir truly had the best of intentions. He believed Malaysia could be so much more, that by empowering the Malays with development and riches, he could take the country forward.
His weakness was believing that he could make the Malays conform through the sheer strength of his will. That the power of his vision could mobilise the country and propel it along.

He never counted on the greed and sheer selfishness of the people he helped build up. That the fat cats would only care about their bellies and not the greater good.
Mahathir truly believed that his political decisions were justified and for the greater good.

So I salute his intentions even if I disagree with his methods. He was a man who believed in greatness and it is a tragedy that he will not be remembered as a great man.

Ghosts can’t hurt you

Like a bogeyman, May 13 is oft invoked.

Malaysians are seen as little children who need to be scared into behaving.

Beware, beware May 13, some quarters chant.
What they don’t realise is that the ‘children’ are growing up.
Once, we were discouraged from talking about it. Now, Perkasa won’t shut up about May 13.

Let it rest. Yes, it was a dark moment in our history. But it is time we move on and start paying attention to the living, breathing problems: our low-income economy, falling education standards, lack of competitiveness globally and the problem of poverty.

It’s been 41 years and so much has changed. Yet some things still remain the same. The Indians remain a marginalised community struggling with problems such as crime, poverty, lack of access to quality education. They got a bum deal before Independence, they’re still getting a bum deal after.

The divide between the rich and poor still exists but you see it everywhere now and it is colour-blind. Yes, there are more poor Malays than there are poor Chinese but there are far more Malays in the first place. MCA is so desperate to get the Chinese breeding the political party now finds itself matchmaking and exhorting its brethren to have babies.

Back to May 13. As a nation we are young. We are still struggling to deal with the complexities that comes with being who we are – our diversity is our strength but it is also our challenge.
When it comes down to it, a lot of problems we have now are due to problems with policy.

The NEP was created to level the playing ground. Has it? Yes, we now see plenty of Malay and Bumi fat cats. Only a select few benefitted from the government attempting to prime the pump. They get richer, their brethren get poorer. Malaysia Boleh.

I don’t give a damn about my MP drinking himself under the table. I just want him to wake up the next morning, sober enough to defend my rights in Parliament. I am not interested in my MP’s midlife crisis and sudden desire to take Wife Number 202. I just expect him to spend as much, if not more, time in Parliament than playing referee between his wives.

If you want to bury May 13 forever, then stop dissecting it. Analysing it. Waving it around like a flag.

Acknowledge it. Remember it. For mistakes that are forgotten will oft be repeated.
Perhaps Perkasa’s obsession with May 13 is a reflection of the Malay fixation on ghosts, hantu, jin, toyol, jadi-jadian.
What do you think fuels sales of the crap tabloid of lurid ghost stories, Mastika?

This ridiculous obsession with things that cannot hurt you. “Engkau takut Tuhan ke, takut hantu?”
So politicans, why try scare us with ghosts? They can’t hurt us. But you can. You have. You will.

You are the real bogeyman every time you attempt to stuff your racially-charged agendas down our throats.
If you are more scared of ghosts than you are for our economic future, then you have no business leading us.
If you try to scare us with bogeymen instead of doing your job, you don’t give Malaysians enough credit.
Though you wish they would stop voting in so many ‘hantu’ into Parliament. Ah, my country.

Nuclear energy – a future Malaysian disaster

The last time I spoke out against a nuclear plant in the country, I got plenty of flak.

There was plenty of talk about how nuclear energy is cleaner, that it would beat us relying on fossil fuels, that the technology was tested and greener alternatives were costlier to research or implement.

Let me be frank about the main reason I don’t support us going nuclear:
I don’t trust the government.

I don’t trust it to administer the plant with qualified staff, put in place the proper safety procedures, keep the tendering process open or not let the whole process become mired in corruption.

Now all you opposition supporters – no, I don’t want to hear your usual “This is why you should vote for Pakatan in the next election”. Shush already. You are sounding like brainwashed parrots and this is not a political note. This is a very angry non-partisan.
And if you say it anyway, I’ll delete your comment and/or unfriend you. I am not a democratic country.

The more likely scenario will be the typical one:
Plant construction contract will be given in a closed tendering process to some firm that some politician/relative of politician has interests in.

It will cost taxpayers at least 20 percent more than it actually does.
Construction work will be delayed/done shoddily.
Some asskissing yes-man will be in charge of the whole thing despite being as competent as SpongeBob in an arms factory.

Waste management will be handled by someone whose idea of nuclear waste disposal is dumping it in Port Klang.
I know I sound incredibly pessimistic but all I have to do is point at TNB Sabah.

Years of shoddy infrastructure management, power outages and endemic corruption. And you expect me to believe the federal government can be trusted with a nuclear plant?
Fossil fuels, coal and the like are harmful to the environment right now and are just unsustainable in the long run.

But ‘cleaner’ nuclear energy leaves behind waste that will outlast us and hundreds of generations. Short of shooting the stuff into space (sorry E.T), nuclear waste disposal is always going to be hazardous and fraught with potential risks.

Until the government can prove competent management of our current energy facilities, I am vehemently opposed to nuclear energy in this country.

Blog Action Day: The fight for a greener M’sia

"Wow, the haze is pretty bad," said my companion on the train today. "Are the Indonesians burning stuff again?"

Looking out the LRT windows, I merely said, "It’s just pollution."

Just pollution. Perhaps I sounded blase but isn’t that the reality of city life?

All the cars on the road.

All the trash on the streets.

All the industrial waste and soon we’ll need to worry about nuclear waste as well, due to our government being hellbent on building a reactor whether we want one or not.

What about solar energy? Wind? Other means of renewable energy that doesn’t involve destroying the delicate balance of nature?

No, it’s the Malaysian way. We want things fast, cheap and regardless of the consequences.

If I ever have children or grandchildren, I shudder at the world I’m leaving behind for them. I imagine the building-high trash mounds of Manilla. The wasteland of Chernobyl. And I weep for the rainforests we have sacrificed to timber concessions, victim of our politicians’ greed.

Even the Maliau basin in Sabah isn’t spared. Despite it supposedly being a protected reserve, logging still goes on, encroaching on that precious space for the preservation of flora and fauna.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Sarawak is destroying people’s livelihoods to build dams.

It’s not about politics. It’s about understanding that our resources are finite. That there are things we throw away that we can’t replace easily or at all. The things we are doing to our land, to our country isn’t just affecting us but our neighbours as well. Indonesia’s rampant open burning practices pollute our air with haze. Likewise, our poisoning the ground water and decimating valuable green lungs has consequences.

Stop building all those damn malls.

Fill up all those condos instead of building new ones.

Tell your state reps/Wakil Rakyats that you’re not going to put up with pollution/nuclear reactors/hazards to health, safety and the environment.

Today is Blog Action Day and like many bloggers all over the world, I’m having my say about climate change. I say that we can do something about it.

So why don’t we?

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Justice isn’t just a political party

As the Tweets keep coming in about the brutal suppression of the anti-ISA protests, I wonder just how much more of this we can endure.
We are seeing change whether we, or the government, likes it or not. There is a shift in public awareness that we cannot deny and we see it clearly in today’s youth.
They’re more aware, more well-informed, more concerned about the future of the country. They discuss openly politics, good governance, ethics and social justice. It’s the way it should be -the future is theirs, after all, and they have every right to fight for it.
But being for the country does not, my countrymen, equate choosing a political side. I see boors on both sides of the divide. On the left, the worst are the over-idealistic fanboys who forget the opposition heroes are men, not deities. I shake my head at my friends who rant about their countrymen who refuse to stand up and be counted at rallies or public protests. There are many ways to effect change – public demonstrations are one means but not the be all and end all.
Then on the other side are my friends who complain about how protestors are causing traffic jams. Evidently doing your Saturday shopping is far more important that your fellow citizens expressing their discontent with an unjust state of affairs. Then there are the much too entrenched politicians too busy, going on questionable overseas trips and building huge mansions, to address the needs of the poor and the needy.
Which side am I on? On God’s. No side but God’s. But it’s ironic that for a nation that puts ‘Belief in God’ right at the top of our national creed, we don’t reflect it in the Malaysian mentality.
Do we ask ourselves if we met our Maker tomorrow if he would be pleased with the way we conducted our lives?
Would God forgive us our bribing the policemen to let us off for traffic offenses, real or fabricated?
Would God really be fine with us either cursing our countrymen for protesting or cursing them for not protesting?
Wouldn’t God ask us why we didn’t do more for the hungry, the oppressed, the sick and the suffering?
Is God really more concerned with unmarried couples getting it on than with orphaned children, impoverished widows and those deprived of basic necessities?
A caveat here – if you don’t believe in God, atheists are cool with me too. And if you did good for its sake and not for some hypothetical deity you don’t believe exists, that certainly says something for your character.
The point I’m trying to make is you can call for governance, ethics, compassion and yes, justice, without it being political.
It’s not political to want to do and be good.
To do right by all people and not just the privileged few is something everyone should have the freedom and space to do. No one should need to pay allegiance to a party or political messiahs to do the right thing.
Here and now, I profess no political leanings. No party affiliations. No belief in any creed but God’s.
I just wonder what God thinks of water cannons, tear gas and the unarmed people they’re used on.

With rose tinted glasses, she could only see love

I heard of Yasmin Ahmad’s passing while I was learning a song, and checking my Tweets ever so often.
My Twitter feed was littered with tributes. The sadness was palpable. We’d lost someone inspiring, who’d touched so many people with her stories and her genuine warmth.
I ended up doing a mashup of the hymn I was listening to as tribute. Because I have no words left to describe the force of nature Yasmin Ahmad was. So many deaths of icons this year and Yasmin was our dreamer and storyteller.
We’ll miss you so much. RIP. Al-Fatihah.
(Lyrics mashed up without mercy from the old Lutheran hymn, Be Still, My Soul)
Be still, my soul:
when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened
in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know
His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe
thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul:
when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed
we shall meet at last.

On no side but God’s

I’ve always been forthright about my political views. But after some reassessment, I’m going to declare openly my nonpartisanship.

Perhaps you’ll call me chicken or think that this is motivated by my being in PR. No, my backbone is still very much intact, thanks very much. My decision was motivated by Billy Graham’s example. A while ago, he publicly declared his support for the Republican party and Senator John McCarthy, communist witchhunter extraordinaire.

But Graham exercised that one power we all human beings possess – he changed his mind. Despite being attacked by the Christian right, he moved away from their circle and in answer to their condemnation, he said:

"I don’t think Jesus or the Apostles took sides in the political arenas of their day.”

From now on, I will (attempt to) reserve comments on our politicians. Believe me, they irk me on both sides of the fence.

I refuse to be a member of any political party, of any politically-affiliated body or concern myself with politics. It takes a certain kind of person to be a politician and thankfully, I’m not one. But I will concern myself with issues that need voicing. The growing divide between rich and poor. The inadequacy of our education system. The pitiful support structure for our arts scene. The suffering of migrants and the displaced.

Those concern me because I believe that God would want me to give a damn about those things, and not politics. So before you accuse me of not caring about my country, I will tell you that I choose, instead, to care about its people. And all people.

DiGi – the better mobile broadband bet

“If you think this is as good as it gets, I swear you ain’t seen nothing yet.” *

Corny sounding, yet rather appropriately describing what DiGi brings to the mobile broadband table. Got invited to another blogger’s event (might be my last one for a while, more on that in some other post) to the DiGi Broadband briefing for bloggers.

I have Streamyx, two DiGi EDGE accounts and Maxis Wireless Supposed Broad-But-Really-Crappyband. So I do have some basis for comparison. Of all the telco providers I’ve used, I’ve found Celcom to have the widest coverage but the worst customer service, Maxis the spottiest 3G connections and DiGi the better rates with an EDGE connection more reliable than all the men I’ve ever dated.

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To be frank, I was disappointed DiGi decided to roll out a wireless broadband service before upgrading all us loyal EDGE users to 3G. We kept the faith, after all, when DiGi was denied a 3G license and we still refused to mass migrate to Maxis or Celcom.

Though I had the chance to get an early preview of the service a few weeks ago, I decided to see how the service evolved before jumping. My experience with Maxis Wireless Broadband was painful, to tell you the truth. Frequent disconnects, clueless technical support and speeds that were plainly ridiculous for what I was paying.

DiGi claims that it’s ‘managing expectations’ by being upfront about its plans’ average speeds as well as the bandwidth cap. I’m all for bandwidth caps, really. Torrenting is something I find patently annoying and I really hate the thought of someone hogging the bandwidth to get illegal film copies, making it hard for people like me who just want to watch YouTube or check email.

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There are three plans, each with differing bandwidth caps. After you pass your caps, your speed is throttled to EDGE speeds and for the cheaper Discover and Explore plans, you’ll be charged for extra data. Fortunately, those charges are capped to RM138 so you’ll never pay more than RM138 no matter how much data you end up using on those plans. More information can be found on the plans at this URL: http://www.digi.com.my/broadband/

I was wary about the latency issues, what with my horrendous Maxis Wireless experience. Nazim from the DiGi Broadband team said that they were working on ensuring that latency would be kept around 70-100ms. Of course that would be tougher when it came to international links, but for certain sites DiGi would be using technology like caching or sites like (Edit: Akamai) to deliver better customer experiences. Hopefully they have Facebook on their list since Streamyx takes forever to load it these days.

DiGi’s trying to be more transparent, likely learning from Maxis’s poor attempt at dodging all the uncomfortable questions about its bandwidth caps. At least someone’s getting that overpromising and underdelivering just doesn’t work.

Would I recommend the plans? I’d say that DiGi’s broadband is a nice alternative for those wanting a second or backup line, or don’t mind paying a little more for reliable light surfing. If you don’t use broadband for more than email, IM, surfing and the occasional YouTube video, you might find DiGi a better bet than the hassle which is installing Streamyx.

Now I eagerly await DiGi 3G for my mobile phone. I’ve been faithful enough and resisted the temptation of switching to the other two, even when one dangled the JesusPhone as motivation. Not happening – you’d take my Nokia 5800 over my dead body.

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DiGi Broadband’s gotten off to a good start with a lot of positive buzz in the market. So now the challenge is to build on that momentum and show the return of investment on taking over TIME’s 3G spectrum. Keep listening to your customers, don’t overhype, stay transparent and keep providing good support and service.

Just one thing: my friends would like you to improve your coverage because they’re tired of hearing ‘this number is not in service’ when I’m pretty sure I paid for Call Waiting. Otherwise, great start, DiGi, and you have my number when you start rolling out 3G for phones.

*Lyrics from my new favourite Brian McKnight song, The Rest of My Life.

Feeling the wave of change

January 20, 2009: An historic day

(Image by karen_2020 via Flickr)

It’s curious, the wave of excitement that’s cresting around the world. My friends are happily buzzing about Barack Obama’s inauguration, on Twitter and Facebook.

Funny how I don’t have to call and ask people what they’re doing tonight on this historic moment as the world shares in the excitement. I know so many of them will be watching the television or getting live feeds from the Internet.

I don’t feel all that excited right now. Yes, I was teary eyed when all that happened but right now, today, it’s just witnessing the inevitable and it’s just his first step towards ushering in a new tide for the US of A.

What the world needs right now is hope. The economy’s crumbling in many countries; so many are dead, dying in war and famine. So tonight, let Barack Obama be that beacon to light up the darkness that threatens to engulf us in despair. Shine on, Mr. Obama and let us hope that you are strong enough to bear that light – and not die out like a brief candle.

Refugees – only finding home

et Working for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) literally saved my life. I’d been diagnosed with clinical depression, and struggled with thoughts of suicide and the side effects of my medication.

It helped put my own sorrow in perspective to be surrounded by those who had lost so much – home, family and a sense of belonging. My half-year stint there tested the limits of my empathy and compassion; for that I’ll always be grateful to the refugees and my wonderful colleagues at Bukit Petaling.

But to a lot of people, refugees are considered the human equivalent of vermin.

Parasites. Burdens. Potential criminals.

Go home.

We don’t want you here.

Malaysians are just as guilty of mistreating or even patently ignoring the plight of these ‘unwanted guests’ of ours.

Do you know that our police regularly beat or extort refugees for money? That our immigration officials have no qualms about dumping migrants at the border or deporting them where they face imprisonment or torture?

Refugees all long for a place called home, and given the choice would not leave their homelands. They flee and find refuge elsewhere because they simply have no choice.

Knowing my passion for refugee causes, Irene helpfully pointed me over to the latest Bloggers Unite endeavour. Today, November 10, bloggers from all over are helping spread awareness about refugee issues.

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Kudo as well to Angelina Jolie for using her star power to get publicity for the UNHCR.

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If you’ve got spare change, why not donate to the UNHCR online? And yes, I put my money where my mouth is and have been donating for the past year. Autodebit for the win. Even the boyfriend’s asked me just how he can donate to the cause as well.

Even if you don’t personally donate to the UNHCR or aren’t up to volunteering time to the cause, at least be informed. Understand that refugees are merely displaced individuals who cannot remain in their countries, due either to war or the threat of persecution for political/religious/racial status or views.

Malaysia still refuses to ratify the UN Refugee Convention, and when not locking them up in detention camps, letting our policemen harass and harm them, pretends they don’t exist.

I hope you won’t. Because in our uncertain political climate, who knows if you’ll know someone who might find himself running for his life to another country. It could be your priest. Your local social worker. Your father, mother, brother, sister. And perhaps, it could even be you.