Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ishak Ismail, Al Fatihah

Wed 19 July 2017 (25 Syawal 1438)

At 12.20 noon today, I stood on the first line of the funeral congregation at the Paroi Jaya mosque, right behind the covered shroud containing the remains of my old friend, Ishak Ismail, Dato', Yang Berhormat, the late Assemblyman for Lenggeng. At around past midnight last night, Jimi called, saying that Ishak had just collapsed at YB Samad of Seri Menanti's Raya function, and died. He asked that I visit the next morning, in Kuala Pilah. I calculated that services would be at around zohor prayers, and there would be sufficient time for my regular 9-holes before driving back to KP. But as I was unloading my golf bag from my boot at the club's car park, I heard over the p.a. system of the nearby  Paroi Jaya mosque the bilal announcing  the funeral bathing and prayer  arrangements there, not in KP.  So here I was, in good time, saying my silent goodbye to a fellow "wakil rakyat". We started together in 1995. Ishak was 66.

Ishak would have been proud of the thousand-plus crowd that came. The car park was full, overflowing on to the roadside outside. It was mostly men, with a smaller group of women, as is customary.Many familiar faces were there, many expected ones were absent, but the vast majority were unfamiliar faces and they took up all the space in the mosque, as well as  filling the footpath area  outside. The ablution took longer than expected, but by 12.15 the freshly washed and shrouded remains were brought into the prayer hall. The prayers were led by the incumbent UMNO Ketua Bahagian of Seremban, YB Dato Abu, who surprisingly beat Ishak in the last party elections. 

As a long-time party man, Ishak had both supporters and detractors. He was loud and very opinionanted, and took sides bravely. You may not agree with him, and many don't, but he was never shy. I thought that he was unnecessarily strident when a quiet, firm stand would have sufficed, and at other times strangely mute, when the public issue demanded criticism from someone in his exact position. His own private follies had become more public in recent times, sadly, but we're in no position to judge him. He most certainly attracted admirers in robustly carrying out his responsibilities as an Assemblyman and the long-time chief of UMNO Seremban. It's interesting, but probably fitting, that the quiet man who toppled him led the final prayers for him today.

May Allah accept all your supplications, and forgives all your weaknesses, Ishak. Al Fatihah !


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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Port Dickson's Federation Military College alumni Raya.

Sunday 16 July 2017 - 22Syawal 1438.

About 150 of us gathered at the OPA Penthouse, Saujana, at noon today, for a Raya gathering of the Port Dickson batch of the 1952 - 1961 intakes. These were those who entered the College at the Port Dickson camp, because in the middle of 1961 the College moved to Sungai Besi. Of those surviving who could make it, anyway. When Salim Rahim and Halim Shah Murad finished marking in red all the names pinned on the wall of these intakes now deceased, there was a generous swath of red ink across the list. When Radzi Shiekh Ahmad, the gathering chairman, offered prayers for the dear departed, I felt a touch of sadness doubtless many present shared with me. For the 1952 intakes, they're now 65 years past their third-form ages of around 15, making them about 80 years old. The youngest intake of 1961 like me are all above 70 years ! Certainly the hairlines and hair tones were indicative, and there were a few walking sticks, too. Many showed the ravages of time, but there were those that seemed to age well, like Yusuf Ali Zain and Raja Aman.

I recognized, greeted and exchanged banter with many of my 1961 intake. There was Hank, Salim, Shahruddin, Nor Shaari, Mooi Yoke Loong, Gurdial Singh, Yusuf Ali Zain, Amin, Abd. Rahman, Megat, Hamid Arshad, Farid Wardi, Mansor Salleh, Raja Aman, Liew Yeow Kheong, Li Heng Tiong and Khairuddin amongst them. I recognized many of the older intakes, too. It was nostalgic.

In spite of being a life member of OPA and a former member of the Saujana Golf Club from 1980 to 2000, this was the first time I set foot into the OPA penthouse. I had the vague idea that it was closer to the golf club than it actually is. I think it's quite a nice place and seems well-run. I see that the whole area has been fully developed and looks well-to-do, as it should be, I suppose. It's a Paremba project, I think. In fact it's OPA Razali of Paremba who got the site for the Penthouse, if I'm not mistaken.

After the customary photo sessions, the food served was good. I had a bit of everything, as it was exactly lunchtime. But I slipped out early through the kitchen while the din grew louder with the live music in the dining room, and everyone was engaged with everyone else. I had to get back to Seremban because the missus had to attend some function of her own.

Well done, Nawi & co.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Najib girds up for 14th GE.

Friday July 7th. 2017.

The good news is there could be a 14th GE after all.  Najib could very well avoid having one if he fears losing. He can't do it constitutionally, but that hasn't stopped him in the recent past. The only salvaging possibility is that there are enough strong-willed and right-minded officers in the Police and the Armed Forces to stop him from flouting the constitution. The Police doesn't look a likely source of help right now, but the Army's assistance is as yet undetermined. Their respective veteran's associations seem a possible recourse.

So what choice do we have for the next  government?

72-year-old UMNO  would tout it's longevity. It has been dominant in all the 13 GE's, and has been in power for the last 58 years. It looks a long time to us. After all, UMNO has been the ruling party since independence, and the good and bad have been brought  only by them, intentionally or otherwise.

In real terms, though, half a century isn't that long. It's only half of a life time. All worldly political parties have suffered changes, and mostly for the worse. The hardy Communist party, born at about the same time as UMNO, is today unrecognizable to Marx, Lenin and Mao Tze Tung. England's weak Conservative no longer hogs centre stage with Labour. US's White House is supposed to be Republican, but the occupant neither sounds nor looks Republican, much less Democratic. India's Modi, having removed the erstwhile Congress, is espousing Hinduism and embracing Zionism, probably turning the Ghandis' (not related, of course) in their graves. And the list goes on and on.

Looking at Islamic history,  the 4 Rightly Guided Caliphs ruled for 29 short years. Three of the Caliphs were murdered. The succeeding Ummayiad dynasty lasted 89 years. The Abbassids wrested power and lasted longer - 580 years. Seljuk Turks ended Abbassid power but retained their titular rule until 1258 when the Mongols sacked Bagdad, their capital, and ended the Abbassid caliphate. Mongol Khannate converted to Islam within the next 100 years. Delhi became the most important Islamic capital in the East. The Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal ( an adaptation of the word "Mongol") Empire (1526-1857) helped spread Islam to South East Asia. Meanwhile the Seljuk Turks who conquered Abbassid lands converted to Islam and became de facto Caliphs. The 13th. century saw the rise of the Uthmaniyah Empire. In 1453 Uthmaniyah Muhammad II captured Constantinople, and that caliphate lasted until 1924. The "Ottomans" (the Westerners are forever bastardizing original names) lasted 600 years. Now, that's long. The Islamic faith is as strong as ever, if not more so. But Islamic governments all over the world in the end have not fared well.

Age is not sacrosanct. Presumably the less of it, the less sacrosanct. Certainly Najib's people consider Mahathir's age not sacrosanct at all. The same could be said of  UMNO.

The discerning mind should look for guidance when faced with a choice.

The next GE is about choosing who, and which political party leads the country. Since the ballot box is about numbers, let's look at them.

It's about race. 

A 2010 census says that out of a population of 29.63 million, Malays & Bumiputras make up 60.3%, Chinese 24.6% and Indians 7.1%, spread unevenly over 13 states and 3 Federal Territories, with a distinct rural-urban distribution, and pronounced income-distribution differences strongly connected to racial and geographical factors. Religion, a life-value strongly held, closely corresponds to the race type.  This is a field ripe for all kinds of political "dirty tricks". 61.1% of the population are of voting age. Race & religion would play a heavy hand.

It's about political party.

The last GE probably cast the die on the Chinese and Indian votes. The 38 Parliamentry seats that went to DAP could become 44 for the Peninsula alone. An unchanged 6 from Sabah/Sarawak would give the party a total 50 seats, or 22.5% of Parliament.

PAS's 21 could be reduced because of the PAN split, and the negative reaction to its UMNO tie-up. A generous guess is it keeps 17 seats. That's just  7.7% of Parliament.

Sabah's habit of changing governments is endemic. The 14 UMNO seats could see at least a 50-50 split between UMNO and BERSATU. That's if extra "zinc and water tanks" continues to be offered this time around. The 8 remaining Parliamentry seats would probably be very local-orientated and stay with de facto BN. So BN keeps 15 seats, which is  60% of Sabah's total Parliamentry contribution.

Sarawak has lately been loudly sounding "separatist", helped by acrimony and a childish cabinet quarrel about tourism.  Having zero UMNO presence means none of the UMNO spin there also. But their quarrel is inter-federation. Their 25 Parliamentry seats could be up for grabs to whoever wins Parliament next time. That's a nice 11% of Parliament.

Then there's the" gran' ol' party" - UMNO.

Once upon a time, it was the gentleman UMNO of old, of Malay school teachers, urban Malay government servants, and Malay rural folks who were happy with their modest lot, because they knew no better. The omnipresent UMNO displays and repetitive UMNO sounds meant that they went to sleep and got up with UMNO's sight & sound. Little personal difficulties and daily personal hardship were never related to what the government was, or wasn't doing. UMNO had won Independence. The Malays are rulers in the "Malay Land", and the head-of-Islam rulers are Malays. We should be ever so grateful. And this rosy-painted sentiment and nostalgia   had culminated with the resounding 90.5% Parliamentry win in 2004, UMNO's best performance.  But that was then.

Since 2013 a few things happened. 

The print and tv-radio newsmedia by now has been completely overwhelmed by electronic social media.  Everybody has access to instant news they can pick and manipulate, and the younger, better educated population is able to participate, spreading the word to their older, less educated kith &  kin, clashing with old held beliefs.

The 1MDB fiasco exploded.

And Najib & co. went into war mode.

Rumour-mongering has always been fun, if spiteful. But the tedious letter-writing and laborious 'phone call now gives way to total control at the fingertips,  and the debates come with coloured videos the instant things happen. 

1MDB episode requires a whole blog to expound. What suffices here is to say  the zillions going around finally changed UMNO, and caused havoc in the government.

In a relatively short 12 years UMNO has managed to convert its most handsome Parliamentry victory  into a stinking mess. The no. 2 man in the country and the the no.1 man in Kedah were discarded like garbage, all for asking questions on 1MDB. The deafening silence of the UMNO ranks has never been seen before, and the party is now not even a pale shadow of its historic past. The keris in its sheath is useless. It's obvious the party is now full of spineless sychophants and strangely subdued lackeys. Well fed, obviously.

In the government,  good people are summarily removed, and strange appointees replaced familiar faces. All semblence of good governance, in and out of Parliament, is nonchalantly  discarded, audit & other Parliamentry reports are covered up, hard questions ignored, whistle-blowers arrested, wrong-doings denied, old dirt dug up, and most of  all,  our intelligence  absolutely  insulted by the sheer stupidity of the yarn the spokesmen offer as they try to deflect, deviate from, and deny the public outcry. GST was supposed to replace sales tax, and "3.8" Mat Maslan on live tv said "GST will reduce prices" but now it's lumped on everything, and of course they cost more. Even PTPTN loan and the water bill carry it. The weak ringgit means imports cost more. The mounting national debt means all costs would be eventually more. And the government's guarantee of 1MDB's out of this world non-functional loans would end up on top of all these ever mounting  costs, and we all pay in the end, and probably to no end!

So out of the 74 Parliamentry seats UMNO secured from the Peninsula states, how many would remain ? Remember, 51 seats are in Felda areas, and  remember the mess Isa made there in 4 "shorty"  years finally forced Najib to remove him abruptly, just days after the FGV boardroom ballyhoo ? Let's say 50% is lost. That leaves 37 seats. With 7 from Sabah, UMNO would have 44. That's less than 20% of Parliament.

The rakyat deserves a better government.That's our singular choice. A new one looks highly likely.



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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Malay trump card for UMNO lovers?

Wed 5/7/17.
Scaring the rural Malays into voting for UMNO because otherwise the Chinese (meaning DAP) would rule Malaysia seems to be the trump card for UMNO lovers, excuse the horrid pun. (Horrid because of the name-sake, but that, as they say, is another story.)

This has been going on for sometime now, uttered publicly by no less than Najib himself on more than one occassion. Having said so many unclever things lately, trying to save his skin, I just laughed this off, until this morning, when Molod called and among other things said the government pensioners' group in Seremban is going around repeating after Najib, and I gave an expletive. C'mon, man, are you thinking at all? These were very, very senior government servants who should have good heads on their shoulders !

Parliament has 222 seats. To gain power, a party must win at least 112 seats. DAP won 39 seats in the last GE, the most they have ever won.  The COMBINED opposition won between 15 to 53 seats for each of the previous 11 GE's. How the hell can DAP become the ruling party?

NS has 8 Parliamentry seats. The 2 Chinese dominated seats went to DAP in 2013.  They should carry these 2 for the forseeable future, but that's it.

Playing to the Chinese in front of MCA & Gerakan at one time, saying one thing, and playing to the rural Malays in front of them at another, saying the opposite, UMNO leaders are really stretching it. Seems like they're scared stiff of one very old man!

Malay ex-civil servants are not running for office, they're too old. But they should still have their marbles. Unless their brains are scrambled. Look at the facts lah, don't just repeat the stupid spin !



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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

PAS's role in the "save UMNO/BN" strategy.

PAS is probably thinking it can throw its weight around, with GE14 around the corner, and with the poor UMNO/BN pact, well, cornered.

The numbers, however,  are less than impressive.

PAS has 21 seats in the 222-seat parliament. That's less than 10%.

It has 82 seats in the 576-seat State Assemblies. That's slightly over 14%. And 56% of these seats are in 2 states - Kelantan & Terengganu, which two states together make up about 15% of all the 13 states in the Federation. That's not exactly having a killer punch.

And this is before the split into PAS & PAN. 

If UMNO in the Peninsula retains the 74 seats in Parliament, and takes a handsome 50% chunk of the 14 seats in Sabah, it will have 81 seats in Parliament come GE 14. Give PAS 80% of the 21 seats because of the PAN break-up, i.e. 17 seats, and UMNO and its new-found ally would have a grand total of 98 seats. That's still 14 short of a simple majority in Parliament.

Sarawak's 25 Parliamentry seats in BN can be counted on to give the required majority, of course. But after foul-mouth Nazri and other constitutional issues being recently dug out in that state, can the 25 seats be considered safe?

But can BERSATU be discounted in view of the Mahathir onslought and the Isa Samad Felda debacale in the 51 Felda-dominated seats in Parliament ? How many of the 74 Peninsula seats and 14 Sabah seats  counted above would actually remain in UMNO's hands? If only 50% is lost to BERSATU in the Peninsula, 50% in Sabah (where party changes happen all the time) all the figures assumed above would give UMNO/BN 89 seats, or only 40% of Parliament.

What about MCA-MIC-Gerakan ?  you say. I say the 12 seats accounted in GE13 for can be discounted. DAP would mop up the Chinese and Indian votes.  

Where is the  source of arragonce, then?


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Monday, June 19, 2017

The first right step in the FGV fiasco.

Following my last blog on the ongoing FGV boardroom mess, I see today, Monday 19th.June, the first right step has been taken. Najib finally asked Isa to go. Something long overdue. In fact something that shouldn't have happened in the first place - putting someone totally incompetent to run the largest estate in the country. Let's see how the new guy find his way through all the shit left behind.

Looks like the estate owner has become a lorry driver. The wife can be the "kelindan" - somewhat less than all the first class flying she did in the past. And by the way, they should collect the 200,000 she owes the travel agent.



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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The latest bad publicity for Felda.

8th. June 2017.

In the last 2 days, the FGV boardroom tussle has captured the local limelight. The size of the funds involved, and the width of the area covered could soon make this latest smelly episode international.

The chairman of FGV, the troubled company, is trying to remove the ceo. Pure and simple. The many words used by the chairman during the p.c. in the video circulated may be his attempt at downplaying this. But what he's really trying to do can't be missed. 

In the phone call shown immediately after, the ceo said he is saddened by what's happening to him, after 31 years in Felda. The chairman had been "friendly" to him, and so he was surprised by it, he said.

Which is a lesson seen and ignored too often - you don't see the knife until it's too late, and the smile can distract.

My take is, this attempt at sacking the poor ceo is without due process. I would fight, and I'm told he's fighting.  Good.

First of all, there's the record of  31 years of managerial business experience to rely on. The chairman has no business experience. Look at the record of service, and of any criminal cases. For both, I might add.

Then look at the powers bestowed to the chairman and the ceo. Have they been acting within these? Has the board been informed of all the decisions made by the ceo?

All registered companies must carry out annual financial auditing. Within the company, an internal audit machinery normally exists. Where do these reports go first, and what are the procedures installed? In this case, have both the internal audit and the financial audit reports been properly done? Has the company's board of directors discussed them ? 

I think there's more than meets the eyes.

Since the chairman was appointed, Felda has seen too many financial scandals, right from the IPO objected to by practically all the staff at that time. The exercise only made political sense, and events have shown how bad this exercise has been. With the huge amount of cash coming from new investors ( some willing, some not so willing ), Felda went on some wild spending spree, going where it had no business to go, and spending good money for bad buys. Everyone in the market talks about these, and the same chairman in right in the centre of things.

It seems the chairman is chasing after a small oil spill, when he's mired in a bigger mess !

In spite of the "friendliness" and the smiles, the chairman must be very angry at the ceo, and there must be a very strong reason, because as a long-time politician he knows when things can be left alone.  Maybe one operation in your leaky boat spills some stuff, but if overall things are ok for you,  don't rock the boat, don't draw attention. After all, when he was running a state,they could never consolidate the accounts of the various ventures the state went into, and he stayed longer than Mahathir !

Or maybe after doing it to four other guys and getting away with it, he feels his method is tried and true.

Probably not this time.

But first things first, the ceo should engage a good lawyer with an excellent judicial review record. 

Like Aman Shah, I cry for Felda !


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