20 April 2015

The Goodfather




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He (father) said, "See that man walking into the mosque? He owns a Ferrari. He is a Chartered Accountant. Be like him." So I became a Chartered Accountant but I never really did afford to buy a Ferrari like that rich man, who is known as Tan Sri Azman Hashim. But of course, I do earn a decent income, unlike what I could have earned if I had become an artist. This is one of those blessings in disguise for an earlier sadness that arose from a denial by a father.


 father is a figure head. Even in a mafia organisation they refer to their leader as the Godfather. I remembered when I was small, the entity that I fear most was my father, more than I fear God. I asked my wife to describe her memory of her father and she said, "Passionate, Teacher and Role Model." Some may have good things to say about their father and some may have many negative things to say about their father... but rest assured, those negative things are meant for a better future. No father would want to ill advise their kids, would they?

My father was a strict man. Everyone in the household was scared of him. When he yells, the roof of the house shivers as if a typhoon was partying outside. There were many desires I had that were denied by my father - things like toys and such - for which, only now I comprehend. Whenever my kids ask for toys, I would only buy 2 out of 10 times asked. Obviously monetary and discipline were the two reasons. As a boy who has passion in art, I wanted to become an artist and later an architect. He (my father) discouraged me. He (father) said, "See that man walking into the mosque? He owns a Ferrari. He is a Chartered Accountant. Be like him." So I became a Chartered Accountant but I never really did afford to buy a Ferrari like that rich man, who is known as Tan Sri Azman Hashim. But of course, I do earn a decent income, unlike what I could have earned if I had become an artist. This is one of those blessings in disguise for an earlier sadness that arose from a denial by a father. 

Today my two kids fought over some pieces of Lego. The elder boy who is 10 refused to share his with his younger brother who is 4 years old. I was doing my work and to simply end things with an utmost veto power, I screamed, "Just give the Lego to your brother" without bothering to inquire why he hesitated. Now the 10 year old started crying. So I asked, "Why would a 10 year old like you cry over some Lego?" He said, "I like my Lego. They are my collection." At that moment I realised that he has already developed his own sense of appreciation that warrants respect from others; just like how I would get mad if anybody tried to disturb my guitar collection. To put things into perpective, I said, "When you were small, about 2 yeas old, you took my mobile phone and started to stir the water in the toilet bowl while saying. 'Daddy look' with a huge smile on your face. Deep down inside I was so angry because the phone was a RM1,000 phone and I had to throw them away. I did not scold you because you were a small little boy who did not understand. This is the same with your little brother now." He understood what I was saying,... in his own way.

After 10 years of fatherhood and 2 delightful kids, I realised that I had found pleasure in it. I missed watching my sons grow up because I was aways working late to secure a good career. I had to resort to using the diary to ensure time allocation for my kids. This is done so that I would always treat them as important as work, if not more. For the 52 weekends in the calendar I have slotted in sessions for movies, playing kites, paintings and holidays. Every Sunday morning I would bring my sons for a swimming class that usually ends with a ritual Roti Canai (breakfast, the Malaysian way) session at a Mamak (Malaysian Cafe). My wife and I are always in a look out for some kids programmes so that we could bring our kids for a treat. The latest one was the Ultraman Show at Genting Highland.  

The responsibility of being a parent is not easy. It requires patience and will power. Between me and my wife, we try to cover as much areas as possible. I would train my kids how to pray and my wife would look after their school matters. I would see that they go to their swimming and piano classes while my wife would ensure that they have enough clothing and food. I would pay for their education fees and health insurance while she (the wife) brings them to see their Grandpas and Grandmas. I cannot imagine doing all this without my wife to assist. Many people refer to family as an institution because it requires a systematic order for harmonisation. I would prefer calling it 'Life'. We take things for granted assuming that all this is a burden when if lost, only would we realise that it is a gift - from God. A gift (kids) that some may not have even after 10 yeas of marital life. I take pleasure in managing my family especially when we end up doing crazy things like singing together out loud or play fire crackers - but not as crazy as the Addams Family.






* kopihangtuah


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14 April 2015

The POTA Dilemma


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The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) gives a government panel the right to imprison terror suspects for two years, with multiple extensions, or restrict their movements for five years. Critics spy another blow to civil liberties, which were already under siege



ERRORISM in the name of religion, race and politics has been widespread everywhere and Malaysia is not excluded. It has been a popular topic for coffee chit chats of late and some (discussions) progressed to fierce debates. Recently a friend who had migrated to the United Kingdom (UK) had an interesting conversation with me regarding the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We had differing opinions of course. How else would it be interesting? I would like to share that here for my followers to ponder:


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FRIEND: Three years ago Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, fulfilled a promise to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA), a draconian colonial-era law which had long been used to lock up dissenters without trial. In the early hours of April 7th legislators approved a new bill which reinstates some of the old law’s power. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) gives a government panel the right to imprison terror suspects for two years, with multiple extensions, or restrict their movements for five years. Critics spy another blow to civil liberties, which were already under siege.

ME: The POTA was passed with majority votes in the parliament. Majority rules regardless of foreigners' opinions. On the ground Malays demanded for this. He (Najib) had to follow majority's call even if he disagrees. Or else he will lose elections. The oppositions did not even turn out in the parliament... well many of them were absent.

FRIEND: Why do Malays demand this? Isn't this designed to stifle opposition, especially from Parti Agama Islam Semenanjung (PAS), who are most likely to have supporters who might be construed (without trial or evidence) to be potentially "terrorists"? Are you sure the demand was for a law that can detain people without charge for up to 2 years and restrict movement for 5 years? Have you ever thought what this means? I mean I am sure you assume it won't be you, but all you have to do is to consider whether this law is any good. What happens if it is you - or someone from your family? Would you still be happy / supportive of this law? Imagine if this law was enacted by the oppositions while they were in power? Would you still be happy then? That is the true test. If a law is just and useful, you should not care who is in the Government. I suspect in the hypothetical event that this law is still around and PAS or Democratic Action Party (DAP) is in power, you would not be so happy.

ME: For me it is simple. Majority rules. If majority Members of Parliament supports, then law is enacted. If you do not agree, in the next General Election, do campaign well to throw away the existing ruling Government. Until then, law is law as long as it goes through the parliamentary proceedings. If opposition wins and they too put through the law by way of parliamentary proceedings, I will accept even if I do not agree. The Constitution and the laws created by law makers via the Constitution needs to be respected. Or else all hell breaks lose.

FRIEND: I agree with you on the principle that if a majority puts in a law, then it is de facto a law. Not arguing about this or democracy. Was debating merits of the law. If you are happy to accept whatever law is put in place, as long as it was put in place by majority, then sure, I understand your position, but I don't agree with the law. Members of Parliament are not perfect. Laws are not perfect. Citizens have the right and responsibility to hold their representatives to account via the ballot box and via public discourse (not through violence or slander, etc.) So I agree with your position that the law was legitimately drafted and enacted but I disagree with the actual content. But I also agree that the right way to address this is via voting / public discourse within the context of a constitutional democracy. The problem here of course is the real politics of the fact that if the majority never changes, then even if all minorities vote, the laws will not change. Hence my question why do Malays want this? Why does the majority wants this?

ME: Good that you agree with me so I do not have to debate further. Why do they (Malays) want POTA? Well from the streets, many Malays are fed up of Islam being humiliated by non-Muslims - including PAS. They are fed up with nonsense such as riots that destroy peace in the country. Many wants peace and when they see that oppositions are using propaganda via religion and race sentiments, they got disgusted. Not just the current Government supporters, many of the PAS supporters are also disagreeing with DAP so when people starts using religion as propaganda, they demand that charges are taken. Th demographics of Malaysia has more Islamist than before. Forget about Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) because they lost many supporters. Because PAS and DAP/PKR cannot get along, they some how cannot come to a consensus to attend the parliamentary session to vote against the POTA. So Barisan Nasional (BN) had an easy win. The opposition is not effective here anymore because of their non cohesiveness. Chaotic man.

FRIEND: Not chaotic Sir. Normal. You are too used to one party rule - that is the exception, not the rule! Everywhere else, the political world is splintering. That's the problem with democracy. 1 person 1 vote. So now there is a party for every single opinion.

ME: Well, that is the price of democracy. You either go with it or leave the country like what you did. But if you choose to stay, as long as laws are not broken, you accept as it is. If you do not like the Government, then in the next General Election, choose someone else. If you so happen to be in the minority and the ones you chose did not win, too bad. Why rally outside and cause discomfort, breaching peace and destabilise the country via chaos? So POTA will deal with this. They (the people) have elected their Members of Parliament so those Members of Parliament can raise the matter in the Parliament without being charged under POTA. This (riots and rallies) does not happen in Singapore does it? Why? Because the late Lee Kwan Yew would have fried them until there is no tomorrow.

FRIEND: Indeed. Singapore is arguably worse than Malaysia in terms of civil liberties! The opposition in Malaysia is really quite incompetent, but that doesn't mean that every issue they raise has no merit. It's also unfair to say that everything the Government has done has been bad - that is clearly an unfair assessment. But things could be better! My point regarding democracy is that it is happening everywhere, not just in Malaysia. Australia, UK, the United States of America (USA), France, Germany - everywhere we are seeing the splintering of political voices. The extreme gets more extreme and us poor centre / balanced guys finding it harder and harder to be represented above all the noise from the fringes.

ME: Finally, we are on the same page then.



Law is law as long as it goes through the parliamentary proceedings. If opposition wins and they too put through the law by way of parliamentary proceedings, I will accept even if I do not agree. The Constitution and the laws created by law makers via the Constitution needs to be respected. Or else all hell breaks lose.






* kopihangtuah


 
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12 April 2015

Let Us Worry About the Malaysian Economy Rather Than Uncertain Accusations




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Information and discoveries on Altantuya, 1MDB and GST should come from the relevant authorities such as AG, PAC, the Police, the Judiciary Service and the Royal Customs, whoever is responsible. I find it inappropriate for the Prime Minister to answer those questions. He is conflicted. You need a third party to dig in. The most he should do is to state his innocence (or guilt). What is more important is the economic state of our country. How is Malaysia doing?

ALAYSIANS seem to be hostile to their Prime Minister, YAB Dato' Sri Najib Razak, particularly on the social media. What is more worrying is that the ex-Prime Minister, YABhg Tun Mahathir, and the ex-Finance Minister, YABhg Tun Daim, have also joined the bandwagon, much to the delight of the opposition parties regardless of their intentions. For a non-partisan observer like me, this is indeed damaging to the country. What is (assuming) a stable position (economy) can undergo a u-turn when the World's confidence in the country is diminished causing further impairment to the Malaysian currency, Ringgit. This is a game of perception and not necessarily the underlying reality. Whilst there are many reasons for public queries (including those by Tun Mahathir) to be answered (by Dato' Sri Najib), due care and diligence is also required to establish whether or not those queries are fair.

The debacle on Altantuya's murder for example. The question about who instructed the murder should be answered by the Judiciary Service if not the police. How is it logical that the question was directed to the Prime Minister? In addition, whether or not to allow any further investigations to proceed or to suspend the death sentence to the accused, it is never the executive decision of the Prime Minister, and it never should be, and it never was to begin with. I find it rather amusing really.

In the case of Goods and Services Tax (GST), I think Malaysians need to read more. If I am not mistaken, the newspapers (as well as social media) have been publishing pages of explanations, diagrams, examples, lists, Questions and Answers and all sorts of information being made available by the Government. I have personally read all these and I have also done it from a lay-man's perspective when comprehending those articles. In my mind, it is not just adequate but comprehensive.

Then there is 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). We have a bi-partisan ombudsmen mechanism called the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose members are appointed by the parliament from both the governing parties as well as the opposition parties with significant degree of independence and they (the Committee) are charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights. I am not sure what the PAC is doing but at least the Auditor General (AG), who reports to the PAC, has commenced investigation with the help of the police. The Prime Minister has made it clear that his comments (on 1MDB), if made, should not carry any weight because he is conflicted by the fact that his family member is implicated (his step son). The Minister of Finance II, Dato' Sri Husni Hanadzlah, has tabled all necessary information on 1MDB in the parliament, some of which have been made public via newspapers. Anything more than that will have to come from the result of the investigation by the AG (or PAC), logically speaking.

In short, what I am trying to say is, information and discoveries on Altantuya, 1MDB and GST should come from the relevant authorities such as AG, PAC, the Police, the Judiciary Service and the Royal Customs, whoever is responsible. I find it inappropriate for the Prime Minister to answer those questions. He is conflicted. You need a third party to dig in. The most he should do is to state his innocence (or guilt). What is more important is the economic state of our country. How is Malaysia doing? Well, I am very, very fortunate to have really good friends on Facebook who give numerous comments that are relevant to the quesion of Malaysian economy. I learn a lot from these people and hence, I have decided to collate those status comments into proper paragraphs describing the Malaysian economy as follows:

Budget Deficit

Firstly, the Government has been reducing the budget deficit by 0.5% every year since 2009. That equals to 3% deficit reduction. 2015 is budgeted to achieve a revised deficit of 3.2% as opposed to the earlier budget of 3.0%. A mere 0.2% is not going to have any significant impact on the country's ratings. It is a necessary adjustment to allow some funds to be channeled for recovery activities relating to the mega flood of 2014/2015 as well as the drop in oil prices. With this rate of reduction in budget deficits, Malaysia should reach about 0.7% deficit by 2020. This is a very good target.

Foreign Reserves
Secondly, many concerns over the foreign reserves are misunderstood concerns. The foreign reserves are not measured by the absolute amount but by the number of months that the amount can finance retained imports. As at 15 September 2014, Bank Negara Malaysia reported that the International reserves stood at RM422.3 billion sufficient to cover 8.9 months of retained imports. This is a really good statistic considering that the Global standard is at 6 months. A 50% margin of safety (2.9 months / 6 months) is a really strong position. This same reserve can also cover 1.2 times Malaysian short term external foreign debt balance. This is indeed a healthy liquidity position.

Ringgit Malaysia
Thirdly, let's talk about the weakenig Ringgit. Of course we worry that the weakening of the Ringgit or the strengthening of the United States of America Dollars (USD). Why do we worry? We worry if we have to settle our obligations in other currencies. If we look at the flip side of it, those who wants Ringgit can get Ringgit cheaper. Who are they? Our export partners. A relatively weaker Ringgit will actually grow our exports and hence, drive the Gross National Income (GNI). This will result in Malaysia accumulating more foreign currencies to balance the weak Ringgit position and strengthen our foreign reserves. This is good. If our exporters close down, our exports will fall resulting in a dampening domestic consumption due to reduced income. This would certainly paralyse Malaysia akin to what Greece is experiencing. Luckily we are not heading that way. So should we now have a positive perception of the Government? Go figure!
A relatively weaker Ringgit will actually grow our exports and hence, drive the Gross National Income (GNI). This weill result in Malaysia accumulating more foreign currencies to balance the weak Ringgit position and strengthen our foreign reserves.





* kopihangtuah




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