Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Samad Ismail : Of Friends & Foes

I read something about my late father yesterday. He was mentioned in an article written by a former Singapore Minister Othman Wok in a tribute to the republic's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who died on Monday.
I reproduce it (in bold) from (excerpt) of Othman's piece that was published in the Straits Times (Singapore).
It is a nice tribute to Singapore's founding father. But the bit on my late dad - not so nice.
For reasons, perhaps known only to Othman who considers my father "a good friend", he chose to repeat and publish a false allegation made decades ago against my late father - that he was a "card-carrying member" of the Malayan Communist Party. A charge my father had denied following his release in 1981 after four-and-half years in detention under the ISA.
I write, on behalf of my sisters and brothers, to say that  - with due respect to Othman, we find the reference made of our father despicable and a deliberate act to malign him.

We will not be drawn into further remarks to set the record straight or to clear our father's name for obvious reasons. Individiuals  (from both sides of the causeway) responsible for the detention of our father are all dead and gone.

We will let it rest but we must register our protest and to express our regret and that we are deeply saddened by Othman's invocation of our father's name - by resurrecting and repeating a false accusation - a false narrative -  that had been put to rest decades ago.

Below is part of Othman's article.
"I told him my concerns were about how we were going to cope with the communist threat in an independent Singapore. He said to me: "You don't worry. I will handle them."
He made good on this promise, dealing firmly and deftly with the communists after Independence. Some have expressed disagreement with Kuan Yew on his subsequent actions, since many of those detained continued to insist for many years that they were not communists.
This is a misunderstanding of how the communists worked in that era. They did not admit they were communists then because communist organisations had been declared illegal from the time of the Malayan Emergency. So it became their strategy to go underground and to secretly infiltrate groups throughout society. My good friend Samad Ismail, also an Utusan Melayu newsman, did not admit to being a communist at the time, but he turned out to be a card-carrying member of the Malayan Communist Party.
Samad was detained in Malaysia in the 1970s. I have no doubt there were detainees in Singapore who, like him, were underground communist members or strong communist sympathisers who fought for the same violent cause. Kuan Yew fought the communists vigorously and Singapore is better off because of it."
You can read Othman's piece published by The Straits Times (Singapore) -  "Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Trusted Friend and Political Comrade" HERE .  
Othman Wok, 90, served in Lee Kuan Yew's Cabinet as Social Affairs Minister from 1963 to 1977.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Flip Flop On Fares Hike

I kinda don' get it.

One day you announce "adjustments" (hike) in train & bus fares.

And a couple of days later, you announce that the increase was being postponed.

I call that a clear case of flip flop. Brings back memories.

A decision is made, stick to your guns-lah. Then deal with the effects in the best way you can. GST (goods & services tax) or no GST.

The grounds for fare adjustments seem fair to me. Justified. After all, the last review was in 2009.

Why had there been no review from 2009 until today? Baffling. Unacceptable. You know the dire straits of public transport. The ongoing MRT project aside, our public transport is a sad affair. There has been improvement here and there, but overall, it is in quite a mess.

Is there a disconnect between the decision-makers, political masters and the situation on the ground that improving public transport is not considered terribly urgent.

The (fare) adjustments would spur an exercise to improve the taxi services in the Klang Valley. This decision follows a thorough study of what needs to be done to improve our public transport services overall.

The decision to increase fares by SPAD (The Land Public Transport Commission) certainly was not going be popular.

Any decision to increase goods and services is never popular. Nobody likes price hikes. That's the way we are.
And of course, the spectre of the GST is hovering, compelling the government to postpone the fare hike.

Personally, I felt it was justified and about time too seeing how this could fix some really bad problems in our public transport services and system. You have to start somewhere.

So what if it is unpopular. Besides, the decision to postpone ain't gonna make you popular, let me tell you that.

It is therefore,  status quo.

I know consumers and commuters got really upset by the announcement to increase the fares.

I am so politically incorrect when I say that it is a mistake to postpone the hike.. In the long-term it benefits no one -- not the regulators, not the operators and certainly not the consumers.

Perhaps, they are waiting for the MRT to begin operation before any increase is affected.

Let me express my concern -- the last review was in 2009. Don't wait too long.  It's not going to be a pretty picture.
Meanwhile - good luck!

Friday, March 20, 2015

BN Leaders Support PM

Bikin serupa cakap, ya.
Here's the NST report today:
KUALA LUMPUR: Leaders of all 14 Barisan Nasional component parties yesterday expressed their full support for Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the prime minister and BN chairman.
Speaking on behalf of the leaders, MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said they also backed Najib’s leadership in implementing the national transformation programme to drive the nation and achieve its vision of becoming a developed nation by 2020.
“We will stand behind him and have confidence in his leadership. We are confident that the national transformation programme will achieve its target before 2020,” he said at Parliament yesterday. 
Present were BN leaders, including MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Kiong, PPP president Tan Sri M. Kayveas, PBS president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, PBRS president Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, LDP president Datuk Teo Chee Kang, UPKO acting president Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau, SPDP president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing and SUPP president Tan Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui. 
Liow said the decision to express their support for Najib was made by all the component party leaders following a meeting earlier yesterday.
All of us decided to voice our support for the prime minister. “It is important for us to be united and strong to face challenges, especially in the years ahead when we are transforming BN.”
Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the statement of support was unanimous and there were no dissenting voices. 
“This includes all BN component parties in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.” He said the support was made “to avoid any unnecessary speculation on BN”.

Let's Talk Hudud

Most people say if you are no Islamic scholar or have no expertise in Islamic law and jurisprudence, you should shut the F up and not comment on Hudud.

This issue has been the subject of heated debate in the wake of the Kelantan Hudud.

It is also the source of discontent in the Pakatan Rakyat with PAS at loggerheads with its partners DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Ugly politics here but pure unadulterated show of conflicting ideologies. And everyone is saying - "See, I told you so. All this marriage of convenience is bound to fall apart because they differ in fundamentals".

Siapa nak makan humble pie?

Back to this subject of Hudud.

So, why can't I talk about Hudud? It affects me directly.
Can't I just do some plain talking about whether I agree to Hudud or not. I am no scholar but I know what the Shariah (Syariah) is.

In my beloved country, Malaysia, there is a dual legal system in force in which Muslims are subject to the laws of Islam pertaining to family, marriage&divorce, inheritance and apostasy and other Islamic practices.

(Crimes such as theft, rape , sodomy and murder come under the Malaysian penal code.)

The shariah laws are established in state laws and in each state they differ in practice and enforcement.

If you ask any Muslim, he or she will most likely not reject the Hudud which we all understand to be God's laws and God is fair, just, compassionate and merciful.

Even if they do, most will not be open about it. This, I have found to be the case because there are too many holier-than-thou people out there ready to demonise their Muslim brothers and sisters with differing views.

In my simple view, if God's laws are in force, heaven is on this earth. There should be no poverty and no inequality. There should be peace for mankind. And women will be protected and respected. And there will be no teen pregnancies or baby dumping.

How ideal is that?

Under Islamic law, when a man steals, he does not lose his limbs just like that. No sireeee.

The accused will be tried and his background will be scrutinised.  Is he too poor? Why is he poor that he was pushed to steal? And so on and so on. Mitigating factors are serious considerations. That is justice.

So, to me how wonderful IF we can enforce the Shariah to a T as God ordains it.

My problem is that I have little confidence in the enforcers of Hudud.

These enforcers are no saints. They are not infallible.They are not perfect .
 How do we check against abuse? Like I said I am not going to debate the Hudud.

I have trust issues.
Having seen how our moral guardians have shown themselves to be.

I speak in general terms here because I am sure there are good people in that institution. But what we have witnessed so far (without my going into details) does not convince me that we are ready for Hudud.

Besides, the issue is outrightly so politically-infused, it is embarrassing.

Be that as it may, let me say here that I'd like to see a better and more effective enforcement of shariah laws that are now in place in THIS country. Strengthen that first and then we can do Hudud.

For now, let's just talk about it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Did Nurul Izzah Utter Seditious Remarks In Parliament?

Maybe she did.

Even if she did, should she be slapped with sedition charges. Is there another way of dealing with this MP?

Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah was alleged to have made seditious remarks in Parliament when she delivered a speech on behalf of her father, jailed Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

She is now freed on bail.

Nurul Izzah attacked the judiciary - specifically the five Federal Court judges who upheld Anwar's conviction under Section 377A.

Her supporters are defending her legal right  saying that she enjoyed parliamentary privileges as her her remarks were uttered in parliament.

Others who are pissed with her have cited a section under the Sedition Act on parliamentary privileges.

Whether or not Nurul Izzah as an MP,  is subject to or is exempted from this privilege is an issue of debate.

Perhaps, her remarks were excessive. And offensive. In fact, they were meant to attack the judges. After all, that was Anwar's speech.

Frankly, I think there are "better" ways to deal with this kind of situations. Censure her, perhaps. Debate it in the august house, perhaps.

That was clearly very political, on Nurul Izzah's part. So, deal with her on the same turf even if it is in the House.

You can explain it all you want. Justfify it all you want. You know that this ain't looking good from wherever you are standing.

You and I may disagree with her remarks but they were were uttered in Parliament. She did not touch on the Rulers and all that are forbidden.

And you still wonder why?

Damn If They Do, Damn If They Don't

SPAD: Higher Taxi & Bus Fares

There is never a good time to raise fares because consumers are directly affected.

I say it is about time.

If I hadn't known about how little cabbies in the is country make a month in earnings, I would have responded as anyone would to price increase -- in anger.

And it is easy to only see one side because we see and hear from only one side -- the consumers whom we have always regarded to be the aggrieved party.

I mean, haven't we heard of errant taxi drivers who do not use their meters and cheat not only tourists but Malaysians? Time and again.
How could they have got away with their shenanigans all this while?

What about the rogue cabbies at KLCC who make life hell for people and other cabbies?

Where is the enforcement?
What have the enforcement authorities been doing?

This was not happening just yesterday. It's been happening for decades.

People feel that the way our taxis operate is like a Third World country. You can't trust them. So we need to have coupons and tickets at the airports and train stations.

We should have overhauled and cleaned up the taxi services along with taxi ownership and fare structure a long time ago so that today we have a system that we can be proud of.

That being said, I must confess that I am among people who do not need to take taxis to move round the city.  I used to during my pre-car-ownership days in the mid 70s.

My complaint then would be that cabbies were selective of destinations and many refused to use meters during peak/rush hours.

Anyway, today, I would have ordinarily been rather caustic in response to the announcement by SPAD (The Land Public Transport Commission) today of taxi&bus fare increase but after looking from their side, I empathise and sympathise.

Most cabbies make less than RM2,000 - many as little as RM800  - a month. They have to make daily payments for their taxis to companies or individuals. It is tough. How to live like that?

For details read  the latest posting by Another Brick In The Wall "Plight of Cab Drivers".

The last taxi & bus fare increase was in 2009.

Let's face it. Prices of so many things have gone up. The cost of living is madness today -- so seems only right and fair that these fares go up. And it is not was though they are going be 100 times richer.

As for SPAD -- obviously they will be brutalised by angry consumers/commuters and well,  political machais.

But it is true -- damn if they don't, damn if they do.  Te devil and the deep blue sea,

Now here's where I would like to rant.

When I began working back in the late 70s, the first thing I wanted to own was a car. I dreaded having to take cabs to move around to get to work, assignments and home. It was the way the taxis operate.

Then when the call-a-cab operations came into being, it was a bit better.

I didn't like take buses because of their schedule.

The moment I could afford a car, I bought one.

And then there was the taxi system at the airports. So Third World until today. I don't know the rationale but I understand it is an ugly legacy or baggage from an era gone by.

Here's the thing - there are more than 30,000 cabbies in the Klang Valley. People still need them. Even with a fantastic bus or rail transport system, people will still need taxis for convenience.

With the  first phase of the  MRT to be in operation by end of next year, taxis will face some stiff competition for sure.

I'd like to see the authorities overhaul the taxi operation system/structure. Clean it up. Raise it. Enhance it. Make it profitable for cabbies and of value to commuters.

Listen. The last time taxi&bus fares were raised was in 2009. That is so cavalier.

Why did the government NOT review the fares since then?

That is so sloppy and negligent. Inexcusable to neglect this sector.

But let's not gripe and bitch. Let's mvd forward.

Let's look at some workable models from other countries that we can adapt and use.

If we have this lethargic mindset to not want to change, we deserve all that's not going right for us.

I'm no transport expert but even I can say that there surely is a win-win system.