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Friday, March 27, 2009

THE SOCIAL CONTRACT – correcting the misconceptions

The in-thing nowadays seems to be the phrase “social contract”. Every Tom Dick, hairy or otherwise, seems to be so well versed with this subject. You make a bit of noise about the Federal Constitution and you would be referred to the “social contract”. You question a teeny wee bit about equality and you would surely be referred to the “social contract”. I think the next time somebody cuts you off in a traffic jam, you should shout “social contract” at that socially inept moron!

The latest outburst on the social contract had to of course come from Hishamuddin Hussein, the newly minted UMNO Vice-President. In his last speech as the UMNO Youth Chief – of course, it was also a speech designed to garner votes for his VP-ship – Hishamuddin branded those who question the social contract as “arrogant”. In his words :-

Mereka begitu angkuh, sombong dan bongkak mempersoalkan kontrak sosial dan mempertikai hak kedudukan orang Melayu dan kaum Bumiputera. Kontrak sosial telah sengaja disalah tafsir dan dijadikan tajuk untuk menyemarakkan api perkauman.”

Before we talk of something important and of far reaching consequence, we should know what we are talking about. We should not just blabber aimlessly and throw about allegations and accusations as if it is our God’s given right to belittle other people. What is this creature called the “social contract”? Is there such a thing? Is it like any other contract? Must it be signed? And stamped? If so, who signed it? Before that, who drafted it? What are the terms and conditions? Can they be changed? What if it is breached? What are the consequences of such breach? Does anybody know?

Allow me to explain this concept.

Human Beings and Their Natural Rights

Early philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle postulated the existence of natural justice or natural rights. These concepts were premised on the theory that human beings were born with and naturally follow a set of “natural” morality and behavioural patterns which are independent of human made regulations. The concepts of “good” and “evil” for example, are inherent in every human being. Thus being the case, the people’s grasp of and adherence to such “natural rules” are independent of human made regulations and their enforcement.

If we accept the postulations that human beings are born with a set of natural behavioural patterns, than we must also accept the fact that human beings are also entitled to several basic rights. These are rights so fundamental to the existence of a human being that the denial or transgression of such rights would render his or her existence as a human being almost meaningless. The most basic of these rights are rights which are universal to every human being, regardless of creed and breed, of cultures and upbringing, of religion and school.

The advent of civilisations had seen humans transformed from being individualistic and stateless animals into socio-politico creatures. Cities were built and societies developed. Governments and states were born. The rise of the states and the ensuing assumptions of power by the states and their governments would see the surrender of certain individual rights to the states and governments for the greater good of the society in general.

The Social Contract as a Concept

If it was human nature to be able to roam free anywhere and at any time, and to take whatever was thought to be necessary to survive, why would humans then surrender these basic rights to the states or governments for such rights to be regulated or even curtailed? Why must a human being respect a property which belongs to another and who, in that instance, defines and decides on the ownership of such property in the first place? Why would the people agree to follow and obey executive orders when the people, by nature, are born to be free of constraints?

Here lies the premise of social contracts. The earliest known articulations on social contracts were by Plato who postulated that members of any given society implicitly agree to be bound by the social contract by their continued presence within that society. Implicit in most form of social contracts are the “freedom of movement”, which later was termed as one of the “natural right”. The postulations of a social contract existing between a society, a state or a government and the people centre on the needs of the people to build nations and to maintain social orders within their nations. Thus, for the benefit of the nation, the people implicitly agree to surrender some of their rights to the state or government in exchange for social order and greater benefits to all.

Thomas Hobbes explained it clearly. In a state of nature, human beings have unlimited natural freedoms. However, these unlimited natural freedoms would impinge on each other’s rights as each person would feel free to do anything against each other (also described as “the rights to all things”). Men then created civil societies where these rights were governed in order to establish a social order. In exchange for subjecting themselves to the state or government, the people gained “civil rights”, which were sacrosanct and unalienable, even to the state or government.

Social Contract as a Living Document and the Consequence of its Breach

John Locke argues that the social contract and the civil rights are living documents in that their terms could be renegotiated to suit the needs of changing times. These contracts and rights are only legitimate to the extent that they benefit the general interest. Locke even posits the rights of rebellion in the event the social contracts lead to tyranny.

The breach of these social contracts by the people would result in some forms of punishment on the defaulting party, which could entail the lost of any or some of their civil rights. Thus, a thief may lose his rights to freedom when he is sentenced to imprisonment for stealing. A Government which breaches the social contracts by abusing its powers may consequently, argues Locke, be overthrown. We have seen many instances where Locke’s position has been taken to its natural conclusion. In Thailand and the Philippines for example, the people rise to overthrow Governments which were perceived to have breached to social contract by various abuses of their powers and transgression of human rights.

However, in modern states, especially in a democracy, it is submitted that the natural consequence to a Government for its failure to uphold the social contract through abuse of its powers would rest with the people’s vote in an election. The real power therefore rests with the members of the state, namely, the people and the voters to elect a new Government at an opportune time.

The Rights of the State vs the Rights of the People

The concept of social contracts also appeals to later day philosophers, such as John Rawls (1921-2002). He branded states which violate human rights as “outlaw states” and “benevolent absolutism” and argued that these states should not command mutual respect and toleration from “liberal and decent people”. Rawls of course premised his postulations on the assumptions that human beings are both “reasonable and rational” and that we are reasonable only to the extent that we are able to achieve an end together within a set of specific regulatory principles. In going about achieving this end, we, as the people, would affirm some fundamentally basic liberties or freedom, such as “freedom of conscience, expression and association”.

Analysing all the concepts of the states or government versus the rights of the people, as well as the concept of the social contract between the two elements, the question is of course one of the quantity and quality of rights which the people are ready and willing to surrender to the state or government in exchange for the greater societal benefits which may be yielded from the state. Are there in existence, for example, rights which are so basic and fundamental, which ought not to be surrendered at any cost? Or is the greater good of the state or society a justification for the transgression by the state of the people’s fundamental rights? Are there rights which are so fundamental to the existence of the people that these rights are universal in nature? Or are there values, cultural, religious or otherwise, which make these rights vary from one society to another?

Mahathir Mohammad and Lee Kuan Yew are perfect examples of the propagator and practitioners of “benevolent absolutism”. Both share a common perspective towards democracy. Under the guise of “Asian values”, they argued that democracy in Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore, cannot and should not entail the concept of absolute “freedom” as practised in the West. Freedom, according to Mahathir, should be curtailed for the greater good of the country. What Mahathir and his ilk failed to address is the fact that no reasonable citizen of this country would question the curtailment of freedom for the greater good of the nation. But what is being demanded is that such curtailment must be done in accordance with the law. Such curtailment should not, at any rate, be done without the due process of the law. That basic right is cast, almost in stone, in the Federal Constitution and that is a part of the social contract, if we want to harp on the same. In truth, the Asian values which were being brandished about by Mahathir and LKY are but a lame excuse for benevolent absolutism. Pure and simple.

Underlying the “agreement” of the people to surrender some of their rights to the State for the greater good of the society as a whole is a system of “check and balance” which is ingrained in our justice and administration system. Now, what is left to the people if such check and balance mechanism is obliterated by the Government? Isn’t that a blatant breach of the social contract?

The point is this. Nobody in their right mind, and that includes me, is questioning the need for a controlled curtailment of some individual rights in favour of an orderly society. I hope I have made that clear. What is being questioned is the mechanism of such curtailment. It must be done witg due process of the law. That is the social contract. It stems from the realisation that the primacy of the individual has to be balanced with the paramountcy of society (to borrow the words of Shashi Tharoor in his excellent dissertation, “Are Human Rights Universal?” appearing in the World Policy Journal). And in my opinion, the element which provides the leverage between the two seemingly opposing rights is nothing but the law and justice system.

The Malay Annals (“Sejarah Melayu”) and the Social Contract

Just as the Magna Carta and the Bills of Rights 1689 defined early social contracts between the subjects and the English King or States, the Malays have their own version of a social contract. This is contained in the Malay Annals, an excellent satirical work by Tun Sri Lanang which consists of and is believed to have been based on facts which were romanticised with folklores. In it was narrated the story of Sang Utama Sri Tri Buana (the Palembang ruler from whom all Malay royalty claims descent) who, in his quest to rule the people, made a pact with Demang Lebar Daun, who represented the people.

Demang Lebar Daun promised that "the descendants of your humble servants shall be the subjects of your majesty's throne, but they must be well-treated by your descendants. If they offend, they shall not, however grave their offence, be disgraced or reviled with evil words: if their offence is grave, let them be out to death, if that is in accordance with Muslim law". To which Sang Utama replied " I agree to give the undertaking for which you ask, but I in turn require an undertaking from you ... that your descendants shall never for the rest of time be disloyal to my descendants, oppress them and behave in an evil way to them." To which Demang Lebar Daun agreed " ... but if your descendants depart from the terms of the pact, then so will mine.. subjects shall never be disloyal or treacherous to their rulers, even if their rulers behave cruelly and immorally ... and if any ruler puts a single one of his subjects to shame, that shall be a sign that his kingdom shall be destroyed by Almighty God.” ( as taken from the Tuah Legend website.)

Thus was born the oft-quoted Malay saying, “Raja adil Raja di sembah, Raja zalim, Raja di sanggah”, which form the basis of the loyalty of the Malay subjects to their King. The Hang Jebat rebellion against Sultan Mansur Shah was an illustration of how this social contract was practised.

The Social Contract is not Cast in Stone

As pointed out above, Locke argues that the social contract is a living document and its terms may be renegotiated as and when the needs arise. Rawl on the other hand posits that we, as human beings, are reasonable only to the extent that we are able to achieve an end together within a set of specific regulatory principles. Thus, by no means a social contract is an unmovable object. As society evolves, generations and consequently values and cultures change, internal and external dynamics would redefine the society’s priorities and needs. It follows that the social contract would change and vary in order to achieve newer objectives and ends.

Thus in India, we would now see the practice of suttee, where a surviving widow would be burned alongside her husband’s body, being outlawed. Slavery in the United States and other parts of the world become a practice which is frowned upon. Gay marriages are now permitted, even in Singapore. Such is the power of time and progress.

The Federal Constitution for example, had never contained provisions for the New Economic Policy or a new education policy. In the aftermath of May 13th 1969 however, the NEP was introduced out of societal necessities as well as, probably, political necessity. Thus a new social contract was born. What about the new education policy, where the English took a back seat, as opposed to the pre-Merdeka policy where a certain degree of emphasis was given to the English language? Wasn’t that a change to the social contract?

The Federal Constitution is, to my mind, the social contract between the people of Malaysia and the State or Government. But it has been amended countless time to suit the needs of the society (although one could present a really substantive argument that it was amended for political expediency on countless occasions). The Judiciary for example, in whom was imbued judicial power in the original Federal Constitution (and thus the original social contract), was later deprived of judicial powers save and except provided for by the Parliament through yet another amendment of the Federal Constitution. Wasn’t that a change to our social contract?

Hishamuddin talked about the actions of some parties who dare to belittle our Royal institution. With respect, that is almost hypocrisy. Under the original social contract, the Malay Rulers cannot be sued in any Court. No legal action may be brought against any of the Rulers. Mahathir Mohammad’s regime amended the Federal Constitution to allow the Rulers to be sued in a special Court. Many of us would have read the recent suit by a bank against one of the Malay Rulers. Wasn’t that a change to our social contract? How about the necessity for Royal assent to a bill of law before that bill could legally become law? Originally that was the position. But again, the Federal Constitution was amended to do away with such requirement. Wasn’t that yet another change to the social contract?

Hishamuddin and his ilk should realise that nobody is questioning the rights of the Malays and the status of Islam as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. What is being questioned is the implementation of the Government’s affirmative policy. There are obvious differences between the two. In any event, the social contract, as proven above, has been varied and changed on countless occasions, by none other than the BN Government itself. Of course, the BN Government would argue that those changes were necessary for the betterment of the society as a whole.

Why then, when anybody other than the BN leaders stand up to raise a question on the social contract, or when he or she would even dare to suggest a discussion on, let alone a change to the social contract, he or she would be deemed arrogant, or in Hishamuddin’s own words, “sombong, angkuh dan bongkak”?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ucapan Dasar UMNO - andainya saya Presiden

Salam sejahtera saudara-saudari, teman-teman dan sahabat seperjuangan.

Terlebih dahulu saya ucapkan terima kasih kerana memberi kepercayaan kepada saya untuk memimpin parti kita. Parti ini parti kita, parti ibu-bapa kita dan ibu-bapa mereka. Parti ini terlalu penting buat kita dan buat negara kita. Kepercayaan saudara-saudari kepada saya merupakan satu penghormatan yang tidak terhingga bagi saya. Dan sememangnya kepercayaan yang diberikan ini membawa perasaan gembira dan bangaa kepada saya. Namun di dalam kegembiraan dan kebangaan diri, di dalam riuh-rendah ucapan tahniah dan tari kemenangan, saya akur pada satu kenyataan. Yang nyata ialah kedudukan saya sebagai pemimpin parti ini ialah satu amanah yang saudara-saudari berikan pada saya. Satu amanah yang maha berat untuk ditanggung dan dilaksanakan oleh saya.

Sememangnya mengikut konvensyen perlembagaan persekutuan, dengan kedudukan saya sebagai pemimpin parti ini, datanglah kedudukan saya sebagia Perdana Menteri negara kita. Dengan itu, jika ditinjau amanah yang saya perlu laksanakan, ianya berat sekali. Malah perlu saya katakan bahawa amanah ini tidak boleh saya laksanakan. Tiada manusia yang mampu melaksanakan amanah ini. Saya hanya boleh berjanji akan cuba dengan segala upaya saya untuk melaksanakannya. Dan Insya Allah, dengan pertolongan, bantuan dan semua sokongan saudara-saudari, beban perlaksanaan amanah ini akan menjadi sedikit ringan. Sama-samalah kita berusaha, sahabat-sahabat sekalian. Seperigi kita bermandian. Sesalur sungai kita berenangan. Setapak tanah kita kerjakan. Sepohon hijau kita berteduhan. Sehidang nasi kita bersarapan. Harapnya ketekunan kita bersama akan membuahkan kejayaan. Insya Allah.

Maafkan saya. Maafkan saya kerana saat ini tiada berita gembira yang saya bawa. Tiada janji manis yang saya beri. Parti kita kini berada di paras bawahan, harus saya nyatakan. Kekalahan demi kekalahan telah kita alami. Pihak-pihak yang membantah kita dan parti kita semakin hari semakin kuat. Malah laungan maki hamun hina dan cerca terhadap kita dan parti kita semakin kuat. Namun kita tidak perlu takut. Kita tidak perlu lari dari kenyataan. Itu semua satu cabaran politik. Sekiranya kita ingin maju dan terus berjaya, maka kita perlu, saat ini, berdiri dan cerminkan diri.

Apakah yang membuat parti kita dicemuhi, dibenci dan dicaci-cerca? Apakah bezanya masa kini dan masa lampau di mana parti kita adalah parti ulung? Apakah yang menjadikan masyarakat masa kini benci dengan kita? Apakah salah kita? Di mana kekurangan kita? Adakah parti-parti lain sememangnya lebih kuat dari parti kita ataupun parti kita yang menjadi semakin lemah? Apa yang perlu kita buat untuk membaikkan keadaan? Mampukah kita menerima hakikat bahawa kita sudah tidak disukai? Mampukah kita berubah dari jalan-jalan yang tidak disenangi? Mampukah kita?

Itu cabaran kita saudara-saudari. Itu cabaran kita. Dan sekiranya kita lari dari cabaran ini, maka kita dan parti kita akan menjadi catatan sejarah tidak lama lagi. Biar saya berterus terang sekarang juga. Sekiranyna kita, sebagai satu pasukan, tidak mahu mengambil langkah-langkah untuk membaikkan diri dan memenangi hati masayrakat Malaysia semula, maka lebih baik kita menyerah kalah sekarang juga. Tapi itu pengecut namanya. Itu dayus politik namanya.

Sebagai pemimpin, saya tidak mampu menerima kekalhan tanpa apa-apa percubaan untuk menang. Pantang kita orang Melayu menunduk sembah mencium kaki lawan tanpa berlawan. Pantang adat kita. Pantang keluarga kita. Saya seru kepada saudara-saudari, inilah masanya kita berdiri dan membaikkan diri. Inilah masanya. Bukan kelmarin dan bukan besuk. Kelmarin itu kita jadikan teladan. Yang baik kita baikkan lagi. Yang buruk kita pelajari dan teladani. Hari ini kita perlu bersatu hati. Besuk kita takluki semula hati rakyat yang sudan terluka dengan kemelut kita.

Ibnu Khaldun, bapa sosiologi Islam, di dalam karangan beliau, Mukadimah-Satu Pengenalan Kepada Sejarah, meneropong dan menganalisa kejayaan Islam dari mula hingga jatuhnya Empayar Abasiyah dan Umaiyah. Dalam berbuat demekian, beliau bertanya, kenapa dan bagaimana puak-puak nomad di gurun Sahara, yang hidup bergerak-gerak dari satu tempat ke satu tempat yang lain, dapat menawan, menakluki dan memerintah hampir separuh dunia yang bertamaddun. Beliau bertanya bagaimana boleh satu kaum kecil yang ditindas di tempat mereka sendiri di Mekah, dan selepas mereka bergerak ke Madinah, dapat bertapak kuat di bumi Arab, dan terus merentas dua benua dengan keagungan pemerintahan Islam yang terbilang? Bagaimana? Mengapa?

Maka jawap Ibnu Khaldun, "assabiya". Itu jawapannya. Maksudnya, "kepentingan masyarakat". Setiap seorang penghuni puak nomad tersebut hanya mempunyai "assabiya" ataupun kepentingan masyarakat di dalam hati mereka. Itu sebabnya Nabi Muhammad s.a.w. dan Islam pada 'amnya mementingkan "ummah". Islam tidak mementingkan individu. Setiap yang dilakukan adalah untuk "ummah". "Assabiya", saudara-saudari, itu jawapan kita. Itu jawapan parti ini.

Sebelum merdeka, beberapa pertubuhan Melayu lahir di sana-sini. Berselerak di sudut-sudut Tanah Melayu. Kita tiada suara yang bersatu. Sehinggalah parti yang kita sayangi ini diwujudkan. Di bawah naungan parti kita, semua pertubuhan kecil-kecilan ini bersatu dan menjadi besar. Suara kita kemudiannya lantang. Kita bagaikan puak-puak nomad di gurun Sahara yang dinyatakan oleh Ibnu Khaldun, saudara-saudari. KIta ber"assabiya" di bawah nama UMNO. Kita mempunyai satu tujuan. Satu matlamat. Kita mahukan kemerdekaan. Kita mahu dimertabatkan sebagai negara merdeka. Negara berdaulat. Bangsa berdaulat. Itu "assabiya" kita.

Malangnya saudar-saudari, setelah sekian lama kita memerintah negara ini, matlamat kita sudah terpesung. Kemahuan diri menjadi keutamaan. Wang dan pangkat kita kejar. Kita akhirnya menjadi sombong dan bongkak. Kita berenang dan khayal di dalam kuasa yang kita ada.

Begitu juga jadinya dengan empayar-empayar Islam saudara-saudari. Ibnu Khaldun mengatakan bahawa pemerintah-pemerintah Islam mabuk di dalam kejayaan dan kekuasaan mereka. Mereka tidak lagi bekerja keras untuk masyarakat dan negara mereka. Mereka akhirnya menjadi malas. Dengan kemalasan itu mereka menjadi lembik dan longlai. Mereka tidak lagi dapat mengorak langkah menghunus pedang untuk melawan musuh. Mereka akhirnya jatuh.

Kita juga akan menjadi sedemikian saudara-saudari. KIta telah terlampau lama mabuk dan peka di dalam kuasa dan kejayaan kita. Hari ini saudara-saudari. Hari ini kita mesti berubah. Tidak besuk tidak lusa. Itu cabaran kita. Mari kita semua mencari dan mementingkan "assabiya" kita kembali. Mari kita pulang ke pangkal dan mulakan semuanya sekali lagi. Mari kita kerjakan tanah subur ini. Kita kerjakan bersama tanah subur ini untuk kepentingan semua. Untuk negara kita.

Lupakan saja hak-hak kita sebagai satu kaum. Apa gunanya hak sekiranyan hak itu tidak dapat digunakan untuk kejayaan kita dan negara? Hari ini saudara-saudari, sahabat handai, mari kita lihat dalam diri. Mari kita selami adat keadaan.

Mari kita cari "assabiya" kita.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stimulating The Masses -unpacking the package

Yes. Finally. And it is never too late to introduce a stimulus, says the DPM cum Finance Minister cum PM-in-waiting. And so, here we are. The economic viagra which is supposed to turn our already flaccid economy into a turgid and erect powerhouse is now out of the box. Yes sir. And if all of you clueless people feel clueless as to how this stimulus package (yes, it comes in a package, no less!) works towards achieving an economic erection, well, just don't change the channel, because, yes, more than clues are needed to understand the true extent, latent and patent, of this stimulus package. You won't get stimulated just by reading about it. No, this stimulus is not like an erotic story. You need to do more than that.

But, don't worry. I am here. I have set out on a mystique journey for a stimulating enlightenment. And I had sat under the stimulus tree to ponder. And I have squatted (also under a tree) to find the key to this puzzlement. I have meditated - although it is not yoga I must hasten to add - to understand. And now, after the rain has all gone - though the SMART tunnel is still closed - there is nary a blot of cloud in the horizon. I am in complete understanding. This 60 billion stimulus is a great one. It is going to work.

Only a few enlightened ones are to understand this thing. Because, like any great work, it takes a lot to understand. I must proudly confess that I am one of those who do. Probably because I was taught Maths and Science in English. Or probably too, because I don't read NST and the Star. But understand I do. And here is my guide to all of you clueless people. To the detractors. To the oppositions. To the closet economists. This is it. The defining guide towards reaping the highest, biggest and stonkiest benefits out of the recently announced 60 billion ringgit "mini-budget" aka economics stimulus package aka Christmas-comes-in-March-albeit-spread-over-two-years economics thingy.

First of all, there will be RM480 million worth of compensation which is proposed to be paid to toll operators for their gracious agreement not to increase toll. Yes folks. Read my lip. Be grateful. There shall be no toll increase this year. And that means you all don't have to pay more for using the highways. Not a single sen more than what you are all paying now, although of course, in a better and more responsible scheme of thing, you all are not supposed to pay anything at all for using the highways. And because you all are not going to have to pay more than what you are paying now, the Government will pay "compensation" to the toll operators in the sum of RM480 million. Folks. You don't have to pay. But your good and benevolent Government will pay for you.

The thing is though, the Government is going to pay the compensation from your money which you pay the Government every year and every day of your life in the form of taxes. Ooops...but that means we are all paying anyway, does it not? Yes, it does. But you see, you don't have to pay directly. You pay the Government and the Government pays the toll operators. But doesn't that mean we are all paying anyway? Well, don't be a pedant, okay!

So, the question is, how do we all reap benefits from this payment of RM480 million to the toll operators. Simple. If we divide (that's "bahagi" for those who are taught Maths in BM) RM480 million with 27 million people, we would get about RM18 each. But assuming there are only 10 million highway users in Malaysia, the Government is in effect giving away RM48 to each of us, the highway users. Yes my friends. With a stroke of the pen, all of us highway users are now richer by RM48. Think of what we all can do with RM48. That is equivalent to 25 loaves of Gardenia bread my friends. So, you all should go and buy 25 loaves of Gardenia. That is the benefit from this RM480 million compensation. See. This stimulus is so clever. Aren't you all stimulated yet?

Secondly, if you have a car which is at least 10 years old, go and sell that darn old hag! No, I don't mean your wife. Or your hubby, as the case may be. I mean your 10 year old car that is. Then, you all should buy a new Proton car. Never mind if your 10 year old car is a BMW, Porsche, Mercs, Honda or what have you. Just sell it. And buy a new Proton. Instantly, you will be RM5000 richer. Yes my friend. That is 5000 bucks to spend! Eezeee peezeee money penny.

Who will give you 5k just like that? Are you all nuts? But of course, you have to bear in mind one thing lah. They won't give you 5k in cold hard cash. They will give you a 5k discount on the new Proton car you are buying. But hey, that would mean you save 5k right? And that means you are now richer by 5k. Get it?

At this time, as a responsible man, I need to register a caution. If you buy a Proton Perdana as part of this initiative, it would be prudent for you to provide a maintenance budget of about RM58000 per year. And on top of that a sum of RM30000 every 2 years or so to change the gearbox. Ok? Don't say I didn't tell you. And of course, with all the stress of the Perdana having to go to the workshop every now and then, you might as well provide a sum of RM60000 for a by-pass at IJN (this is on the assumption that IJN is not taken over by Sime Darby, UEM, Khazanah Nasional, TNB or whatever. Because if it is, then the provision for your by-pass should be double as I am quite sure the by-pass fees would increase in that event).

Now, back to reaping the benefits from the stimulus package. And so, we would now be RM5048 richer. 48 bucks from the highway compensation. Plus 5000 bucks from the new Proton. What's more. We have a spanking new car. And of course, a new hire-purchase agreement which we would have to repay in the next 5-7 years. But hey, no pain no gain. Don't be greedy la. For those of you who can't get a hire-purchase facility, well, tough!

Third. To those who are about to graduate and become a part of the Malaysian unemployment statistic. My message is simple. Don't look for a job. Don't try to do business. Just stay as a student. But not just any student. Be a post-graduate student. Do your Masters and if applicable to you, do your PhD. By doing so, you instantly earn RM10k and RM20k respectively. You would be instantly richer, though notionally lah, by either RM10k or RM20k. And that's not all guys and gals. By doing so, you also would not be called an unemployed person. Hah...you see. RM10-20k richer and not unemployed. Clever or not this stimulus? I think it's brilliant!

So, by now, if you are a highway user, and you sell your 10 year old car and buy a new Proton, and you register for your PhD course, you are now richer by a whopping RM25048!!! Whoa...which Government gives that amount of money to its people? You tell me!

Fourthly, if you have a bit of cash and are in a position to buy a house or two, there is another way of making money under this stimulus package. But you must be tax paying to gain this benefit. Firstly, you have to go and buy a house (or two) (or three even). But you have to take bank loans to get this benefit. So, don't you go out and buy the house in cash lah. Take a loan (or loans, if applicable). From CIMB ker, Maybank ker, aper aper lah. You see, in doing so, you can claim RM10000 in interest payment for your housing loan as personal relief from your income taxes for the next 3 years. That means guys and gals, if you are in the 29% tax paying bracket, you would instantly save RM2900 per year for the next 3 years for every house that you purchase. That would also mean you are richer by RM2900 every year for the next 3 years my friend! That's a total of RM8700! But not in cash lah. But still, you save what. And every penny saved is a penny earned. Consequently you are richer by RM8700 no?

But of course, do remember to repay the housing loan too lah. If you cannot take a loan, than, again, tough lah. But if you can, and you are also a highway user and a new Proton owner, and a PhD student and a new house buyer, whoaaa...by this time ah, you are richer by RM33748! Bloody hell! That's a lot man.

After that, to those of you who already have a business and your company's capital is below 5 million ringgit, you can now instantly increase your nett worth by applying for the Government's assistance to increase your company's capital. So, say your company's capital is now RM200000 with you holding 50% of the shares. You can now increase your company's capital to RM2.2 million by applying for a loan. Don't worry. The Government will guarantee this loan. Sure hebat one. And sure dapat one. After that, your company would have a capital of RM2.2 million. Your 50% shareholding will now immediately be worth RM1.1 million instead of the meager RM100000. By now, your nett worth, because of the stimulus, would be RM1133748! That is one million odd my friend. You are now a millionaire. Just imagine!

Then, if your company has 8 or 10 staffs (or even 50 for that matter), there is another sure fire way to benefit. You can go and employ the retrenched workers as cheap labour. But they must have been retrenched after 1st July 2008 (so the 70000 new and fresh Bangladeshis don't apply okay!). Once you do that, your company can claim double tax deduction on their remuneration. Hmm...what if you already have enough workers and you don't want to employ anymore than what you have now but you still want to get this benefit. Easy. You can retrench all your current workers. Then you re-employ them. I tell ya...you all should thank me for this. After that your company can claim double tax deduction for employing retrenched workers. Depending on the number of workers you haveand how much you pay them, your company might save, I would presume, a hell of a lot. Say about RM10000 lah, conservatively. That would mean you are now richer by RM1143748.

Next is the RM2 billion smackeroonies which the Government is going to spend on a new LCCT. Hmmm...how ah? They had just announced that the second LCCT by Air-Asia and Sime will not be built. But now, the Government itself is going to build a new one. If the Government has no money, so much so that our budget deficit is now 9% of our GDP, why wouldn't it just let Air-Asia and Sime to build this new LCCT themselves?

Anyway, to reap the benefit from this new LCCT initiative, you all must, from the completion of this new LCCT, fly only budget airlines. So, I will assume this new LCCT will cater for 3 million people a year. That means, if you fly budget airlines, you will be richer by RM666 per year for the next 3 years after the LCCT is completed. That is RM2 billion divided ("bahagi" in BM, for those who were taught Maths in BM) by 3 million LCCT users every year. Why did I limit to 3 years? Simple. Because after 3 years, I am sure another and newer LCCT will be built. LOL!!! With that, you are now worth a majestic RM1144414.00!

Another RM2 billion will be spent to "improve facilities" in 752 schools. Hooray yippiya yeay! People, make sure you all enroll your kids in one of these 752 school for this benefit. Assuming again that there are 2000 school kids in each of this school, the benefit to every student would be RM1329 per student. So people, send 2 kids each to one of this school and you will be richer by RM2658! If you don't have kids or not enough kids, my advise is, go and adopt as many kids as possible. Now!

Anyway, assuming you send 2 kids to one of these schools, you are now worth RM1147072.00.

Woohoo...just imagine how good this would look like on your loan application form or whatever. Your asset value is one million one hundred forty seven thousand odd! Never mind how much your NET asset value is lah...what matters is what you are worth.

And we are not even talking about the 10 billion which the Government is going to use to buy equities. When this is done, the share market will fly to the moon, especially with the addition of the earlier 5 billion Valuecap injection. Howahhh...if you hold shares your worth will also increase after this. But our share market must be full of stupid punters and fund managers la...you know why I say so? Because so far, even after all these are announced, the share market hasn't moved! Stupid or what?

Then there is RM15 billion of fiscal injection. That's a lot of clams I tell you. But of course, at this moment we do not know how and into what (or into who) this 15 billion is going to be injected la. So we would have to wait. As for now, I have no comment on this.

So, that's it folks. RM1147072.00 richer. You stimulated?

I am already ejaculating!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maths and Science in English - a rocket which will never ever take off!

I have written about this topic on Navel Gazing no less than twice, I think. And now, as the issue has transformed itself into a full blown political one, complete with a demonstration and the proverbial tear gas and all, I think I should write about it again.

First of all, I wish to make it clear that I support the freedom of expression. And that includes the right to assemble peacefully. I would therefore support the right of all the people who assembled in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday to make known their stand against the teaching of Maths and Science in the English language in our school.

That however does not mean that I support their cause. I also do not support their reasons or rationale for their cause. As I understand it, the purpose of their assembly was to voice their objection against the teaching of the two subjects in English. And as I understand it further, the reason for their objection is that the move would relegate the status of Bahasa Malaysia (or is it Bahasa Melayu? or Bahasa Kebangsaan? or Bahasa Baku? whatever lah!) and reduce its status as the official language of Malaysia. Bahasa Malaysia, apparently "mestilah dimertabadkan". As if language is something which could be put on a pedestal, moved around and idolised like some kind of a Maharajah! The whole cockamajik about this can be read here.

It is of great disappointment to note that even the National Laureate, Bapak Samad Said, had joined the bandwagon. And it is even of greater concern that Pakatan Rakyat had seen it fit to make this issue a political one during the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Pakatan Rakyat should not descend into this lowly gutter politics! In seemingly championing this issue, it has descended into the lowness of the BN hypocritical politics and reduced itself into a pragmatist political outfit which is ever ready to exploit whatever issue(s) which would bring it political support for the day. That is living for the moment without any clear plan for the future. That is politik lalang, in the Malay lingo. And I find that nauseating! If you all would permit me, itu politik murahan!

But is it any wonder that Anwar Ibrahim would champion this issue? After all, it was him, during his tenure as the Education Minister in the BN government not so long ago, who championed this and that in Bahasa Malaysia. Road names were changed into Bahasa Malaysia. Birch becomes Tun Perak. Jalan whatever becomes Maharajalela. Even the names of Victoria Institution was to be changed in Bahasa Malaysia name. I wonder what it was to be. Institusi Gambir? And it was all in the name of "memertabadkan Bahasa ibunda". The sad state of the level of the English proficiency among our students now is, without doubt, to a certain extent, contributed by Anwar Ibrahim and the policy of the Education Ministry helmed by him before. And so, wonder no more.

If the objection against the usage of English for the teachings of the two subjects is premised upon the fact that it is demeaning to the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the official language, I would like to ask:

  • all these years, when Bahasa Malaysia is the "lingua franca" of our schools and universities, how many great literary and academic works in Bahasa Malaysia have been published?;
  • how many great works in other languages have been translated into Bahasa Malaysia for the benfit of all our students who now don't even know the different between "go", "went" and "gone"?;
  • how many great works in Bahasa Malaysia have been translated into other languages for the benefit of the rest of the non-Bahasa Malaysia speaking world?
  • and last but definitely not the least, what is the extent of the usage of Bahasa Malaysia in the commercial world?

The truth is, the pride and dignity of a race is in its achievements. Not its language. Or the way the people dress. Or the way the people scream and shout about how lofty its language is. Or whatever. In the olden days, the Arabs learned Latin, Hebrew and even Greek just so that they could learn the old and established works of the Greek, the Jews and the Romans. And did the Arabic language vanish into oblivion because of that? I just could not understand why the fuss over this.

As for the Education Ministry's move to teach the two subjects in English just so that the English standard may be improved among our students, I have this to say. You all are laughable in your stupidity! Just imagine a Form 2 student. All his school life he has been taught Maths and Science in Bahasa Malaysia. That means 8 years of his life. One fine day he wakes up and go to school and "campur" becomes "add"; "tolak" becomes "substract" and "pecahan" becomes "fraction". In science, "buah pinggang" suddenly becomes "kidney"; "karbon oksida" morphs into "carbon dioxide" and "khatulistiwa" becomes "equator". How in heaven does that make his command of the English language better?

And what about the teachers? All these while, they teach Maths and Science in Bahasa Malaysia. And one fine day they have to switch into English. And not to forget, they are also the product of a school system which taught them in Bahasa Malaysia. It's like the proverbial buta leading the buta! Are you all nuts?

Please. If the thinking is that the standard of English would suddenly improve by teaching these two subjects in English, don't even bother. It is not going to work! A more total and holistic approach is needed to achieve that objective. This is not going to work.

As simple as that.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The "Tree Injunction" - my thoughts

I shall call it the "tree injunction". Not because it was granted under a tree. But it was obviously aimed to stop the sitting of the Perak Legislative Assembly under a tree and any other similar "unlawful" assembly.

Firstly, the question is whether Sivakumar should be represented by the State Legal Adviser. The Judicial Commissioner said he should be and therefore "private lawyers" were banned from the hearing. At the risk of being pedantic, I have to say, first of all, there is no such thing as private lawyers. There are advocate and solicitors. And on the side of the Government, there are Federal Counsel, or State Legal Adviser who appear in civil cases and Deputy Public Prosecutor or the Attorney General himself who appear in criminal cases. On the issue whether Sivakumar must be represented by the State Legal Adviser, an opinion has been rendered at Loyar Burok. I find myself in complete agreement with that opinion and I will not add anything.

Secondly, I am just puzzled and bewildered at the stand taken by Zambry, the person whom the BN is saying is the legitimate MB. Now, if he is the legitimate MB, shouldn't he be represented also by the State Legal Adviser? If so, how come he was represented by "private lawyers"? I don't understand this part.

Thirdly, I am even more puzzled and bewildered at the end result of the argument by Mohd Hafarizam on the first issue above. If what he said is correct, namely, that Sivakumar should be represented by the State Legal Advisor, and consequently Zambry also has to be so represented, wouldn't there be a clear and obvious conflict of interest on the part of the State Legal Adviser in this matter? How could he act for both parties, who are advancing, quite clearly, directly opposing arguments in the matter?

Fourthly, when asked whether the Tree Injunction which he obtained would cover the tree assembly which went on the morning before the tree injunction was granted, Hafarizam was quoted by MalaysiaKini reports as follows:

"For Barisan Nasional’s lawyers, the order which bars the speaker from convening “any unlawful meeting” covers the emergency assembly sitting held under a tree yesterday.
“Frankly, there is no time frame. So it should include the assembly held yesterday,” said Mohd Hafarizam Harun, in a text message reply today.
Mohd Hafarizam is one of the lawyers acting on behalf of Perak Menteri Besar Zambry Abd Kadir and his six cabinet members, who obtained the court order against Sivakumar yesterday.
Mohd Hafarizam argued that the speaker was served a notice of the court action on Monday while the sitting was held on Tuesday.
“So it would appear that it covers the (Tuesday) morning (sitting),” he told Malaysiakini."

If indeed Hafarizam said what he was reported to have said above, with all due respect to him as a fellow practising Advocate and Solicitor, I wish to say that that statement is laughable in its absurdity! I don't know what book on injunction which Hafarizam reads and what obscure 16th century case law on injunction which he reads - or case law of which country for that matter - but my 22 years of legal practice don't support what he said.

Let me explain why. An injunction, the type of which was obtained by Hafarizam, is an order to restrain a person from doing an act. Now, if the purpose is to restrain, it goes without saying that the act which is sought to be restrained has not been committed yet. How to restrain an act which has been committed? If Hafarizam wants to deal with an act which has been done, he should obtain a declaration that such act is illegal or unlawful or both. He could also obtain a further declaration that all resolutions passed at that assembly are void and of no effect. The tree injunction does not operate to make illegal or unlawful the assembly which took place before the tree injunction was granted. I would have thought that that position would be elementary.

Fitfhly, Chan Kok Keong, the "private lawyer" (excuse me, I need to laugh...hahahaha) who acts for Sivakumar was quoted by Malaysia Today in its report as saying that the tree injunction says as follows:

"It is hereby ordered that the 1st defendant, YB Encik V Sivakumar is restraint from convening any unlawful meetings purporting it to be a meeting of the Perak state legislative assembly."

Which begs the question, what is "unlawful meetings"? What if Sivakumar convene an assembly thinking, honestly and sincerely, and after legal advice, that the assembly is not unlawful? Can he be committed for contempt for having breached the tree injunction? I don't think so. Because for him to be committed for contempt, he must be shown to have intended to breach the tree injunction. Now, if he was under the impression, after considering legal advice that the assembly he was convening was not unlawful, where is the intention to breach the injunction? And if any meeting convened by Sivakumar is unlawful on the face of it, why must he be restrained from convening such meeting in the first place? After all, that meeting is already unlawful and is of no effect whatsoever. Why bother?

I think the tree injunction is not valid and is liable to be set aside on appeal because it is vague. In legal jargon, that tree injunction lacks precision. In a case called lawrence David Ltd v Ashton reported at page 385 of the All England Law Report, the Court of Appeal in the UK was considering an injunction which sought to restrain a person from "disclosing to any person or making use of any confidential information or trade secret belonging to the Plaintiff".

The words in italic and bold letters above were however not defined in any way in the injunction. One of the appeal Judges said:

"I have always understood it to be a cardinal rule that any injunction must be capable of being framed with sufficient precision so as to enable a person injuncted to know what it is he is to be prevented from doing. After all he is at risk of being committed for contempt if he breaks an order of the court. The inability of the Plaintiff to define, with any degree of precision, what they sought to call confidential information or trade secrets militates against an injunction of this nature. This is indeed a long recognised practice." (all emphasis are mine).

Similarly, in the tree injunction, what constitute "unlawful meetings" is not defined at all, let alone with precision. And so I think the tree injunction is as dead as a tree in a dessert!

Lastly, can a Speaker or his acts in a the Legislative Assembly be questioned in court? In legal jargon, are his acts jucticiable? The Bar Council says they are not. I agree. Otherwise, a Legislative Assembly would not be able to function as every decision of the Speaker could be brought to the Court and open up for questioning.

Could you imagine Pandikar Ali be sued each time he makes a ruling in the Parliament? The Courts might have to convene under a tree in such circumstances as there might not be enough Court room to hear the matters.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lament for the Fall of Saville - an analysis of UMNO’s undoing

Introduction

I am writing this because I have not forsaken my friends, some of whom are within the inner circle of power in UMNO. I shall not name them. They know who they are. We have known each other before their UMNO days. To me, they are human beings first and politicians second. We are all subjects of a set of higher moral law, which, unlike the man made laws, cannot be changed or altered. Which, unlike the man made laws, reside somewhere within the recesses of our mind and will not go away, no matter how hard we try to ignore them, no matter how many times we have walked away from them. Although to a certain extent we cannot deny that we are what we are because of UMNO, I would prefer to say that I am what I am in spite of UMNO. This post is dedicated to them.

The fall from grace

“Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life...........

.........Where is Cordoba, the home of the sciences, and many a scholar whose rank was once lofty in it?

Where is Seville and the pleasures it contains, as well as its sweet river overflowing and brimming full?

[They are] capitals which were the pillars of the land, yet when the pillars are gone, it may no longer endure!

The tap of the white ablution fount weeps in despair, like a passionate lover weeping at the departure of the beloved,

Over dwellings emptied of Islam that were first vacated and are now inhabited by unbelief;

In which the mosques have become churches wherein only bells and crosses may be found.

Even the mihrabs weep though they are solid; even the pulpits mourn though they are wooden!

0 you who remain heedless though you have a warning in Fate: if you are asleep, Fate is always awake!.....”

For half a millennium after the passing of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Islamic history was a story of military, political and cultural dominance. The first four Caliphs worked towards the unity of the “ummah” (the Muslim community) and later embarked on expansionism programs which were then deemed necessary to consolidate the position of Islam (although the expansionism moves were necessitated more by political rather than religious reasons). The later Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates continued in the same vein. At the peak of the Islamic expansionism programs, the Abbasid ruled part of North Africa, stretching its rule to the East, over Damascus, the Arabian Peninsula, Persia and Khurasan in the Near East. At the same time, the remnant of the Umayyad Caliphate continued to rule Spain (the Muslim Andalus region), with Cordoba as the centre of its rule.

By the end of the 11th century however, the Abbasid Caliphate in the Near East and the Umayyad’s rule in Spain slowly descended into decay and chaos. While the various clashes between the Muslims and the Byzantine armies were only to be expected, though did nothing to weaken the Muslim rules, the fighting between and among the Muslims themselves did much to weaken the Muslim rules and did in fact precipitate the demise of the Muslim rules. With each passing century, the animosity between the Shi’ite Fatimid empire in Egypt and the Sunni majority of the near east worsen. The Fatimid forged an alliance with the North African tribe and swept across Tunisia and into power in Egypt. Its leader proclaimed himself as the Caliph, resulting in no less than the Muslim world having at least 3 Caliphs at the same time! Hakim, the Fatimid caliph of the 11th century even proclaimed himself as the messiah and persecuted those who did not treat him as such. Later, the Muslims also saw the rise of the Turkish Seljuk dynasty in the near east giving rose to more infighting. Unity, which was the bedrock of the Muslim’s expansionism success, became a thing of the past.

With all these divisiveness, it was only a matter of time that the Muslim rules were to be decimated and almost obliterated. It started in 1095 with Pope Urban’s call for a crusade. In 1099, Jerusalem fell to the Christian. The Muslim rules and what was then known as the Muslim world would never ever be the same again. Though the rise of Salah-ad-Din ensured the return of Jerusalem to the Muslims in 1187 and managed to restore a semblance of normalcy to the Muslim reign, a reprieve from the Christian’s assault was only temporary. The end of Muslim dominance was written on the wall. However, nothing, except for some small measures of unity achieved during the reign of Sala-ad-Din, was accomplished by the Muslims to permanently repel the Christian’s assault and restore the former glory of Islamic rule.

The disintegration of the Muslim rules was finally completed with the fall of Muslim Spain in the 13th century. This coincided with the rise of the Christian kings of Castille, Aragon and Portugal. By 1236, King Fernando III had taken over Cordoba, the administrative centre of the Muslim’s Andalus rule. Valencia, which earlier saw the Muslims and Christians fighting together in an army, fell in 1238. In November 1248, Seville fell. That left the small enclave of Granada to be the one and only Muslim state left in the Andalus. Two hundred years later and after the completion of the Alhambra, Granada too was taken by Christian rule. The Muslim rule over Persia and Khurasan was, by then, also diminishing. Finally, the Mongolians walked into Khurasan and Persia and chipped away Muslim rule over the two vast near east states. Further to the west Tamerlane wreaked havoc with his conquest. Muslim dominance, by this time, was consigned to mere memories, finding its way into vast archives as historical facts and nothing more. Why, the Muslim world can’t even deal with a belligerent little dot on the world map called Israel now!

The above is an excerpt from a poem, Lament for the Fall of Saville, written by Abu al-Baqa' al-Rundi in 1267, after the fall of Cordoba, Valencia and Saville, in the hope of gaining help from Muslims in North Africa as several cities were surrendered to Alfonso X.

“Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life”

If we let ourselves be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life after what we perceive as perfection, declines would of course set in. With the sweetness of a pleasant life, we lose all perspective. Our initial aims and motivations are forgotten. Complacency sets in. With that we become arrogant. We drown in our pride thinking only of our achievements and strengths. Our surrounding has become irrelevant. We however need to maintain what we have achieved. And so we set out to obtain more, without giving more. We would perfect the art of maximising our takings with the minimum of giving. We then become greedy. And our methodology of taking more than we give would result in corruption. Material corruption is one thing. But corruption of the mind is more insidious and long lasting. It leaves marks everywhere within our soul. With that, we would slowly decay into oblivion.

If 1957 could be regarded as UMNO’s greatest victory and the beginning of a great political dynasty in Malaysia, March 8 2008 must have been UMNO’s version of the fall of Jerusalem to the motley crew of crusaders in 1099. If UMNO was the Abbasid of Malaysia for 50 years since independence, then in 2008 the majority of Malaysians were the Frankish knights who rose to claim what they believed belonged and were owed to them. And that was democracy, the right to be heard, to be treated as equals, to ask question and to be provided answers, to demand accountability and responsibility. Last but not least, the right to be treated as a part of a civilised society where the government’s sole purpose was to serve the society for its betterment as a whole and not in part and parcel as deemed fit by the government. In March 2008, the Malaysian crusaders laid siege at UMNO’s wall of perceived perfection and rendered blow after blow of democratic assaults, tearing it apart and bringing it down. The Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections were the destruction of the remnant of that wall. The three by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai later would, in the normal course of history, be the fall of some isolated enclaves of rebels and splinter groups. The Cordoba, Valencia and Saville of UMNO would soon come. That if UMNO does not change. And change fast.

Within UMNO, the Lament for the Fall of UMNO has been composed and recited by many. Mahathir Mohammad himself has lamented. Muhyiddin Yassin said UMNO has to change. Najib Razak agreed too. But the true poetic Lament for the Fall of UMNO has been written by Zaid Ibrahim and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. They are UMNO’s version of Abu al-Baqa’ al-Rundi. They lamented. They coaxed. They appealed. But to no avail. Nobody listened. Nobody seemed to care.

UMNO has in fact been drowned in self-importance and perceived perfection. Its leaders then got carried away. They let themselves to be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life. Slowly but surely they were more concerned with the preservation of all that was sweet. They forgot what they were there for. In their pursuit of a pleasant life, they decayed into corruption and greed.

Change is the only option. Because, "0 you who remain heedless though you have a warning in Fate: if you are asleep, Fate is always awake!."