Sunday, May 12, 2019

A phenomenon on Corruption...

Why many of our countrymen are so tolerant about corruption?

Everyone knows corruption is a crime. And everyone knows Najib Razak, our former prime minister, is now on trial for charges involving not millions, but billions, of Ringgit. Notwithstanding, he is still the boss-ku to many of his die-hard supporters and admirers. You can understand if these people are not the well-educated or read type, since any figure beyond 3-zeroes is largely beyond their grasps. But to my utter surprise, I see some of my acquaintances in Facebook still think Najib is a victim of slander. These people are senior professionals and well-placed in society, albeit some in retirement now.

I started to think hard…

To Chinese, corruption is a serious crime. It doesn’t mean the Chinese societies are free of corruption. Chinese history is full of stories of corrupt officials and how they met eventually had to pay for their crimes. But corruption is viewed quite differently by Chinese. Corruption involving public money is as bad as robbery. It carries capital punishment in China. The phenomenon you see in Malaysia will not happen. Once you are caught, everyone will treat you like a leper. Nobody is going to help you, no matter how high you once were. And you live with the consequences. But punishment is only a part of the whole cause-and-effect (因果) “ecosystem”. The shame is not on you alone; it cascades down for generations – your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren.  That’s where Confucianism ethics differ from other cultural norms. Not only you suffer, your offspring too!

We even had a minister who said corruption is not a crime until you got caught. This speaks volumes of the attitude towards corruption in Malaysia. When a policeman or a uniformed officer received a gratification, he might actually believe that he was doing the corrupting party a favour, lest the latter would have to be charged for some offences. When millions ended up in a minister or a top government official’s personal account, no actual misery was felt. The “losers” are usually not individuals, but the country or the economy as a whole. But the taker does not feel it when he takes. If the plundering was true, does Najib Razak feel any remorse? After all, some had actually benefited from his “philanthropy”. No wonder!

New IGP at the helm

I suppose most Malaysians would agree that the country's police force, as a whole, is not too bad. Basic law and order is upheld and enforced. But many would agree that few of its previous IGPs were held in high esteem by the public. The Police reputation was virtually destroyed by the recent few holders of the office.

It now has a new leader: Abdul Hamid Bador. Having read stories of his uprightness, we are all hoping that this new IGP will transform the Police force. Immediately upon assuming office, he rallied his top brass to consent to the formation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). It is an obvious decision that any IGP would have to make if he wanted his officers to be respected by the public, yet his predecessor Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quite blind to it.

Sure, many on-the-take would be shivering in their pants. However, if the Commission will use this to make the police to look forward instead of fearing that the past would catch up with them, then this is an opportunity to make a lasting cultural change.

Yes, police officers, especially the junior ones, are not able to live decently with the pay that they are getting. Numbers must go down and quality and productivity up. A portion of all compound fines should be shared with the force, but done in the most transparent manner. (The police can legitimately collect billions out of our errant motorists who blatantly flout traffic rules: speeding, using emergency lanes to gain advantage, double- or triple-parking, etc. Strictly enforcement of traffic rules will also help usher in a set of new driving etiquette or culture, which is sorely needed in this country.)

Weak leaders are consumed by status quo. Great leadership transforms. I am sure IGP Abdul Hamid Bador can do it! 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Modern Slave Masters

For the past decade or so, we have been sucked in by a catch phrase “Share Economy” – first with Uber in more affluent West, followed by Grab in Singapore and Malaysia, and what have you in China and Indonesia, then we have on-line food delivery start=ups like Food Panda, Roo, etc existence of which are now being threatened by Grab Food and Uber Food, etc. We also had bike sharing providers in Singapore, China and many other countries. I was living in Singapore when the bike sharing rushed in. It is nice to ride a bike in Amsterdam. But in Singapore where the weather is so humid. They soon folded up. You don’t need to be a top analyst to see that the concept was not going to work in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta or Bangkok!

I don’t believe the promoters had suffered much. Where did their money came from? OPM, or other people’s money. I am sure most of them had helped themselves with huge salaries and benefits. There is a great deal of musical-chair mentality and gambling appetite in venture capitalists’ mind with their deep war chests, money in the first place is also not theirs. If you erased the halo from a saint’s picture, would he look very different from his compatriots of his era? Recently a senior analyst in an international investment bank was caught not knowing the ABCs of Economics and another wannabe from one of our local stock broking firms was literally was uttering rubbish in The Sun. Ah, the world is full of emperors who do not know they are going around without clothes!

The world is an unfair place to live in. However, I see that people in Grab Food or Uber Food are becoming the modern-day slave masters. My heart sank each time I saw one of their drivers weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic we have in the Klang Valley. They had to work their butts out, not to mention having to endure high humidity or thunderstorms and the high chances of meeting accidents; yet a big percentage of their fees go to the company. They only have two fairly short windows during a day to earn their living.

Uber and Grab et al are talking about raking in (or hundreds of) billions when they go public. They should spare a thought to these motorcyclists who help me to create the mirage.

I couldn’t help admiring the nobility of Sunway Group’s Jeffrey Cheah. Sure, he wants his businesses to make him good money. There is one exception: His education arm. He could have it floated and enjoy the hundreds of millions (or even billions) from the market value this business of his can command in the local bourse. But he is steadfastly sticking to his principle. He is a man with a strong sense of social responsibility.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Great Outcome?

Firefly flight from Subang aborts landing at Seletar Airport

I am a subscriber of Singapore Straits Times and a regular user of Firefly. When this headline came out in its on-line edition yesterday, I naturally took an interest and read it.

Apparently, because of bad weather, the pilots decided to play safe and divert the aircraft to land at Senai Airport. I understand the landing approach is from the southern Johor. It reminds me of Kai Tak when the plane is directly over Pasir Gudang. You could almost touch the roofs of the buildings there! 

I couldn’t help extending it to my chat groups, though not without a little comment: Thanks to our Anthony Loke…

Firefly used to fly from Subang Airport to Changi Airport until a couple of months ago, when Singapore decided to ask it to land at Seletar Airport instead. I welcome the move, since it is a point-to-point service. All hell broke loose when the Harapan came into power. Sovereignty became the primary concern. The management of Firefly, which was all ready to accept Singapore’s decision, found itself in a limbo. All its services to Singapore had to be suspended. The profit contribution from them came to a complete halt. (Firefly charges quite exorbitantly for these routes, especially the Subang-Singapore leg.) Since I stay in Saujana Resort, catching a flight from KLIA to-fro Singapore became a dreadful routine. Many a time it takes almost two hours just to reach home. To add insult to injury, many a time coupon taxis are also not available, even though I was happy to pay the premium fare.

Being a Malaysian, it is only incumbent that I should support our government’s decision. But in my mind, we were simply not very ready. Yes, we all know the Singapore government people can be a very kneah-su (afraid to lose) lot, but they certainly do their homework before they talk or act. At least two incidents instantly flashed through my mind when this sovereignty issue surfaced: (a) MH370; wasn’t it picked up by our radar before it went missing? (b) Someone was hit when a flight landed at Subang in the wee hours of one morning recently? Can we manage things well ourselves? We sure can, but our easy-going and somewhat complacent nature must go in these things.

So, when Firefly resumed its service to Singapore, albeit via Seletar now, I became one of its earliest customers, even though it only flew two flights a day. (I see that it has returned to full service now.) I now only need two hours, besides the flying time, to reach my Singapore destination from my Subang home. And people operating Subang must visit Seletar to see for themselves how they run the airport there.

When I found Hanna Yeoh singing high praises to Anthony Loke in her Facebook posting for the resumption of the service, I asked myself: Is she doing a Trump victory fun?

Most of our ministers are first timers; they are anxious to prove that they can deliver more than their predecessors. Some, and their political officers, are pretty bright – Tony Pua, Ong Kian Ming, Liew Chin Tong, Theresa Kok, Hannah Yeoh, and Yeo Bee Yin, just to name a few.   Few have serious political baggage, but by virtue of the fact they came from parties which hitherto have not been wholehearted regarded as mainstream, few have the knowledge and network to make them effective in a short span of exposure, despite their good work attitude. There is a huge pool of talents whom they can tap for ideas, knowledge and connections in the country; they should take the initiative to reach out. This huge pool is unlikely to offer themselves if they are not asked – for fear of associating themselves with DAP, which has unfortunately been viewed as anti-establishment before GE14. Now that it is a part of the government, it should rebrand itself somewhat.