Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A is for Accountability

OSK Research did a 1QFY09 Results Review on HELP International Corp and gave a thumbs-up and this verdict: “We are positive on HELP as it is the most profitable listed education stock in Malaysia and is backed by a solid management team”. Paul Chan had this to say about the results of 1QFY09: “We are proud of the HELP Group. We are achievers and we can be better if HICT people understand the meaning of business”! The message is clear, lucid and straightforward. So do we get his meaning and start to work really smart to turn around the business?

There’s another bit of news that I want to highlight - but it's about French car maker PSA Peugeot Citroen in today’s The New Straits Times (March 31, 2009, p B12) that is worth sitting up and taking notice. Their board has fired chief executive Christian Streiff on Sunday (i.e. March 29). “The board unanimously judged that the exceptional difficulties faced by the auto industry imposed a change in management,” chairman Thierry Peugeot said in a statement. The decision came after Peugeot last month posted a €343 million net loss and said it expected to stay in the red until 2010. Now, that’s accountability.

Streiff himself was parachuted into Peugeot in 2006 from Airbus, where he had been CEO for only 100 days before his ouster. Streiff had been lambasted in the French press for announcing 3000 layoffs right after the French government gave the company three billion euros. He also caught a lot of heat from the government and the media for importing Peugeots manufactured in the Czech Republic for sale in France. And, he was hospitalized from the end of May until July, leading some industry analysts to question the condition of his health.

Nonetheless, Streiff quickly defended his tenure at Peugeot after his firing, saying that policies he had put into place at Peugeot had left the company well-prepared to cope with the economic downturn. He mentioned that under his leadership, Peugeot had introduced popular new models, initiated cost-cutting and effective inventory controls. “The economic and financial community hailed these results. Thus I cannot understand the board’s decision,” he added.

But as Brendan Moore who filed this same news report on March 29 (Webpage
http://www.autosavant.com/2009/03/29/peugeot-citroen-fires-their-ceo/) said, Streiff’s opinion matters for nothing in this process; instead the important opinion is the one the board holds, and the board lost confidence in him, and just like a lot of other senior auto industry executives, Streiff has lost his job in this unforgiving market environment.

Catherine Pulsifer (from Good-bye Manager, Hello Coach!) had preached: "Employers today are looking to their leaders to think more strategically. No longer is it acceptable to focus on the day to day issues. The team is accountable for the day to day decisions". And Stephen Covey is right too when he said: "Accountability breeds response-ability". So HICT's management must get their act together...fast and furious, to quote a popular movie title.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Story to Touch Us

Here's a touching story that should pull our heart strings:

The girl in the picture is Katie Kirkpatrick, she is 21 . Next to her, her fiancé, Nick, 23. The picture was taken shortly before their wedding ceremony, held on January 11, 2005 in the US. Katie has terminal cancer and spend hours a day receiving medication. In the picture, Nick is waiting for her on one of the many chemo sessions to end.

In spite of all the pain, organ failures, and morphine shots, Katie is going along with her wedding and took care of every detail. The dress had to be adjusted a few times due to her constant weight loss.

An unusual accessory at the party is the oxygen tank that Katie used throughout the ceremony and reception as well. The other couple in the picture are Nick's parents, excited to see their son marrying his high school sweetheart.

Here, Katie, in her wheelchair and the oxygen tank, listening to a song from her husband and friends.

At the reception, Katie has to take a few rests.The pain does not let her stand for long periods.

Katie died five days after her wedding day. Watching a woman so ill and weak getting married and with a smile on her face should make all of us think..... Happiness is reachable, no matter how long it lasts. Really...we should stop making our lives complicated.

Life is short
Break the rules
Forgive quickly
Kiss passionately
Love truly
Laugh constantly
And never stop smiling
No matter how strange life is
Life is not always the party we expected to be
But as long as we are here, we should smile and be grateful.

Dr. Paul Chan sent this story. Indeed, life is short, he says! I fully agree. I have always believed that if we cannot live for today, what's the point of having a tomorrow? So, let's make the most of the Life we have today...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jobs Slowdown

The economy is showing a very unhealthy glow. It is a sign of the times that CIMB Research has downgraded JobStreet Corp Berhad’s stock from “outperform” to “neutral”, as it sees no end to the slowdown in jobs in the company’s 3 key markets: Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. And from this online recruitment company’s perspective, there is very little that it can do to counteract a job market that is slipping (The New Straits Times, March 27, p B9).

On March 17 UMNO’s disciplinary board said it had found 15 members guilty of money politics; they included Ali Rustam, chief minister of Malacca, who was campaigning to become deputy party leader. He was duly disqualified. Ali did not, however, step down as chief minister, nor is he facing criminal charges. On the other hand, Khairy Jamaluddin was found guilty, but he merely received a slap on the wrist, i.e. a warning, and he went on to win and was installed as the UMNO Youth chief. Doesn’t this make talk of reform ring hollow? It is interesting to read (The New Straits Times, March 28, p 8) that Foreign Minister Rais Yatim, who lost in his bid for a vice-president’s post, has called for the UMNO disciplinary board to investigate all members of the UMNO supreme council for money politics – a move that is bound to cast aspersions on the (new) office-bearers. Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamed Hasan also did not rule out the possibility of money politics as the main factor that had worked against him - since he has said he was surprised when he lost. And he added tongue-in-cheek, "Maybe they don't like my face. I don't know" (The Star, March 28, p N12). Whatever it is, Najib is already firmly in position to assume control of his party and the country. I can only wait with bated breath what Najib will do next...

It’s all quiet on the football front, but I was reading this Jack Howler article, which carried this headline, “Why Benitez Can’t Smile For Now”, and I must agree that while Liverpool is going great guns at the moment, we must be realistic about our chances to snatch the EPL crown from our nemesis (I don’t have to mention them by name, do I?). Benitez must be thinking along the same lines too. As Howler puts it fluently, “the title is Man United’s to lose. Liverpool can go on winning their remaining matches by huge scorelines, but if the Devils don’t drop points, then the trophy will head back to the Old Trafford cabinet room”. Well, I am going to pray really hard that Man United will drop precious points.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Zaharah Kechik Sdn Bhd

Shocking. The Malay Mail (e.g. March 26, p 3) and The Malaysian Insider (e.g. March 24, 25) have been reporting the scandalous excesses of Balkis (Wives of Selangor Elected Representatives Charity and Welfare Organization). As a Selangor resident, I am fuming. I am galled. I am really pissed off. Nearly a million ringgit spent on four dinners? Disgraceful. RM25,000 on chocolates? Nauseating. RM207,000 for “souvenirs” from China consisting of artificial flowers and 2,700 hats? Loathsome. RM14,900 to pay for business class air travel in 2007 for the former Menteri Besar’s wife (Zaharah Kechik, wife of Mohd Khir Toyo) to visit her son privately in Melbourne (and who was accompanied by Permodalan Negeri Selangor Berhad CEO, Khairiyah Abu Hassan)? Disgusting. A new RM3,600 suit for then PNSB chairman and MB Mohd Khir Toyo? Revolting. And the list goes on. In fact, Khairiyah had disclosed that it was a common practice for the state subsidiary to adhere to all “request” for funds from Balkis, which amounted to between almost RM500,000 to RM1.6 million, annually. Khairiyah (who was deputy CEO in 2002), also disclosed that it was “usual practice” for Balkis officials to make verbal requests for project funds, and it was not unusual for the payments to be made in cash.

Outrageous. And we all wonder why there is this massive erosion of public confidence in government at all levels: If mismanagement can occur in Selangor, they can occur anywhere and everywhere. If state-owned companies and public officials can permit abuses or they themselves engage in these misdeeds, then God help us! We have people who have no shame at all, these miscreants who use their public office and public money to enrich themselves and/or lead ostentatious lives of extravagant luxury! These people will surely find themselves to be reviled objects of undiluted public opprobrium. But I say, we should throw the book at them! Why is MACC slow to act?

On March 23, rural folks were introduced to tear gas and water cannons when a Pakatan Rakyat rally in Bukit Selambau, Kedah was forcibly ended by fascist forces (read, FRU). Surely, not a good way to endear yourself to the people?
I am sounding like a broken gramaphone record, but I did say that with crime so rampant these days - wouldn't it be better to deploy these FRU goons for crime duty instead of allowing them to take battle stations and intimidate the citizenry?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Liverpool Rocks!

A foreign news report devoted some precious space to write about Najib’s mini-budget, expressing real worry for the country (i.e. Malaysia) in the longer-term. Fitch Ratings analyst, James McCormack from Hong Kong estimates that 40 percent of government revenue is derived from the oil and gas sector, which means its public finances are unlikely to recover until the oil price does. No one is forecasting this in the short term, while everyone expects the government to keep on spending. HSBC economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde says, “this is ultimately unsustainable”. Angus Grigg who wrote this report made this remark: “As he has almost no popular support, his only real option is to buy himself some political capital by continuing to spend” (The Australian Financial Review, March 4). It would seem that Najib is having a very serious image problem, both at home and overseas.

In the EPL, a frenzied flourish of happy news are rushing out in euphoric elation, and leaving me gladly breathless.

First, Arsenal whipped Newcastle 3-1, those on target were Bendtner (57), Diaby (64), and Nasri (67). Arsenal are certainly going great guns again!
Second, on this same magical Saturday (March 21), Manchester United caved in to Fulham by a stinging 0-2 score, and hapless Chelsea lost to Tottenham 0-1 – the implication of these results means that Liverpool’s chances to challenge Manchester United for the EPL crown have improved immensely…

Third, this morning in Malaysia (yesterday, March 22 in the UK) saw Liverpool blasting 5 goals past Aston Villa, the deluge of goals coming from Kuyt (8); Riera (33); and Gerrard (penalty 39, 50 & penalty 65). Wow, we are surely heading for an exciting finish to this already unforgettable season! I simply loved this one-line description of the match: "They were washed away by a red tide in the opening 10 minutes. From then on, they simply tried not to drown".
Liverpool rocks!

The only small hiccup to this feast of football is when Dundee United and Celtic battle out a 2-2 draw in an absorbing SPL clash; Celtic’s 2 goals coming from McDonald (24) and Naylor (81). Even with this draw, we are topping the table with 64 points from 29 matches.

Friday, March 20, 2009

American Footballers

SNHU’s Ed Daniels sent me two photos of American football players – both are featured here. No – not American football, but soccer. Yes, they are SNHU players. Yes, soccer is very much alive in SNHU! Now this is something that SNHU students in Malaysia can also rejoice because we share another common interest! I cannot help but wonder out loud now. Among these soccer-playing and/or soccer-supporting Americans, I really do ask myself, whether they follow the EPL, and if so, which club are they supporting? It’ll be interesting to find out, right?

Najib was reported in The Sun yesterday (March 19, p 18) as saying that stimulus packages should not be about resorting to popular policies or handing out cash… but that the government was focused on boosting investments and credit flows while providing government guarantees and infrastructure expansion. I just want to ask 2 questions. Who suffers the most from the current economic climate? From where will the investments come from, assuming of course, we accept this argument that there will be investments? Don’t forget, foreign investments are predicted to fall by 50% to RM26b this year, according to this same news report (although I suspect we will lose more than 50%). We are forgetting this is a global calamity, its raging ill-effects spreading like wildfire, and setting aflame almost every country in its scorching path, and badly searing our major trading partners. Furthermore, Najib was unflagging in his belief that there will be beneficiaries, i.e. Malaysians. But then this is a misplaced belief because the stimulus packages will not positively help the majority of the suffering population – it’s just wishful thinking on his part. I really don’t see how the middle class and the lower-income bracket will benefit. It's the vested interests that will profit - the cronies, the lackeys, the political elite.

In fact, I wish to refer to The New York Times article by Robert Zoellick, World Bank president and reproduced in Knowledge@Wharton, published March 18, 2009. Zoellick is saying that instead of reconfiguring entire economies, countries should focus instead on key pieces, such as social safety nets for the poor. That is precisely the point that I am advocating. We should have a “vulnerability fund” that would reach out and help the hardest hit. Also we should set up a “retrenchment fund” to assist those who are retrenched or are likely to be retrenched anytime soon. As for the economy, which is very much in line with what the World Bank is advocating, we should focus on abetting the small- and medium-sized business sector – because it is a driver of job growth, and often the first victim during economic contraction. But of course, Najib wants to do it his way…

My readers are learning about economics too – see how instructive my blog is? Who says blogging is just the personal writings of a self-centered diarist, the long-winded script of a self-indulgent narcissist, the rambling discourse of a self-involved egoist?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Potent Brew

"A prime minister must have the confidence of the majority of the rakyat…For this to be the case there cannot be anything in the mind of the greater public that, correctly or otherwise, associates him with matters of criminality, wrongful action, improper conduct or abuses of power," so said Zaid Ibrahim in a speech he made yesterday. This former minister's comments come a day after Mahathir Mohamad also piled on the pressure on Najib by saying he did not shine as a deputy prime minister and acknowledging the baggage he carries into the job. The Malaysian Insider (March 18 posting), which carried this story, also highlighted the fact that Najib's popularity rating stands at just 41 per cent, according to a Merdeka Center poll. For those not familiar with Malaysian-style ratings – this would indicate how unpopular Najib is, in the eyes of the urban Malaysian populace.

Arsenal are going to Wembley because they have rediscovered their winning ways. They reached their 26th FA Cup Semi-Final when they orchestrated a 2-1 win over Hull on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Malaysia) with goals from Van Persie, 74th minute; and Gallas, 84th minute).

These days, I am easily intoxicated. Politics and football sure make a potent brew that is at once robust and heady. And why not? Generous helpings of local politics and spirited British football can make anybody’s head spin like an old gramophone record, more so, if consumed in indecent haste. In fact, this reminds me of the time when friends introduced me to a creamy drink that has the same unsober effect; this drink that is a seductive concoction of fresh toddy and cold Stout. Try it…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Talk Cock

The wife of Najib, Malaysia's next prime minister had said that it is his destiny to lead the country, despite opposition attempts to link him to corruption and murder (March 13 interview with the Associated Press and reported in The Straits Times, Singapore, March 14). 'If God says it is his turn, it is his turn,' Rosmah Mansor insisted. Wow, she is even implying that God had a hand in this…

When I checked The Malaysian Insider today, there were already 80 comments on this story – a sample of March 13-14 comments is given below:

Anon: “I have no idea on whether I should cry or laugh!”
ajajal: “After reading I just wanted to throw my shoes at her”
blissfulday: “So so so soooooo eager to be the First Lady of Malaysia.... hehe”
Kevin: “Najib's DESTINY to lead? ....uwek...puke!!”
Malaysian: “hahaha destiny- what a joke this lady is”
Rocky: “God speak(s) to you ka?”
Stephen Yap: “Destiny, my foot”
Joeawk: “Lady, not yet. The ghost of Altantuya may just decide to wreak vengeance on the murderer and those who have a hand in her death, either directly or indirectly”
Greenbug: “I puked”

Look, Man U has lost to Liverpool, by four goals to one! But Alex Ferguson had the cheek to make the claim: “It is a hard one to take because I thought we were the better team and the score does not reflect that". OMG! How can he be so full of bombast? We are the better team! Liverpool rocks, man! Live with this fact, Alex Ferguson and eat your humble pie.

In both these cases, it is about arrogance and boastfulness and conceit.
But it is best that they remember Aesop who had said: “The smaller the mind the greater the conceit”. And Sophocles too: “For God hates utterly The bray of bragging tongues”.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shamrockin' St Patrick's

Wherever the Irish have gone, they have always brought their remarkable zest for life. No more is this spirit more apparent than in the way the Irish celebrate St Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) at home and abroad. So what makes the annual feast of St. Patrick’s so special to the Irish? “It is Ireland’s National Day and a public holiday,” says Ireland’s ambassador to Malaysia, Eugene Hutchinson (Lifestyle, Star, March 07).

And of course, in Malaysia, Guinness is at the heart of all this fun. So having been invited, I had headed to 1 Utama to enjoy a shamrocking St. Patrick’s last Friday (March 13). And there, I met Diana, Fion and Cheryl. Great company! Good music. And free booze and food.

Football continued to bring good news! Celtic wrestled the Co-op Cup from Rangers with a convincing 2-0 score, the goals coming from O’Dea (91) and McGeady (penalty, 120+3), and what a great game that was.

And on Saturday, the Gunners won 4-0 against Blackburn – own goal Ooijer (2); Arshavin (65); and Eboue, 87th and 90+1 minutes). It's nice to see Arsenal winning again!

Rafa Benitez described himself as “optimistic but realistic” about Liverpool’s chances of winning all 9 of their remaining matches and Man U stumbling before the finishing line – this confidence stems from that unforgettable Saturday game, which was the latter’s heaviest home defeat since New Year’s Day 1992, when Man U lost to 4-1 to QPR. Yes, the hope flickers brighter and stronger… After all, the football is round… and anything is possible. And of course, we believe it is possible.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reds 4, Devils 1

Yesterday’s New Straits Times had quoted Najib as saying that the RM6b mini-Budget was not a “silver bullet” against the global economic downturn. “The package was tabled to prevent the country from sliding into recession” (March 13, 2009, p 2). Najib seems to be of two minds about whether we are already in deep shit or not. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter. In many of my postings, I have stood my ground on this issue that is worsening by the day. It is worth adding that the Second Finance Minister, Nor Mohamed Yakcop, when asked by the financial weekly The Edge whether the government had run out of options to help the economy, he left the probability of another boost open. “…we say this is not the silver bullet, not the last bullet”, he had said (The Malaysian Insider, posted March 14 at webpage http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/business/20374-malaysias-q1-q2-to-be-bad-says-nor-mohamed). Is he suspecting that this stimulus package is not going to do the job? So fast, and he's already disbelieving it!

Other parties have also commented on the stimulus budget. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations are saying that “the government should have increased the spending power of the people instead of just giving breathing space because at the end of the day, the people will still find it hard to make ends meet” (as quoted by its secretary-general Muhammad Shaani Abdullah). Even some economists believe that there would have been greater impact if the package included measures to raise disposable income for lower and medium-income groups (The Malaysian Insider, posted March 13 at webpage
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/20135-critics-say-malaysias-huge-stimulus-is-inadequate). Again, I have said my piece on this issue too.

More than a month after Najib and BN ousted the lawful government in Perak, Mahathir Mohamed pronounced that the takeover was not done according to the law. He said mistakes, bad strategy and carelessness in the February 05 power grab had led to the current crisis in the state (The Malaysian Insider, posted on March 14 at webpage
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/20370-dr-m-says-perak-grab-unlawful). Need I say more?

Today’s Premier League game was the match to watch, pitting Liverpool against Manchester United. And what football we were witnessing – it sizzled, it thrilled, it wowed! When the final whistle was blown, the awesome score stood at an amazing 4-1, the incredible goals were contributed by Torres (28th minute), Gerrard (penalty 44th minute), Aurelio (77th minute), and Dossena (90+1 minute). C’mon, admit and be gracious about it – Liverpool is the better team! As somebody said, “We have a title race…” Cowabunga! Owais, Eugene, Mathew and the rest – I am coming to collect my jugs of beer…

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Rockest Blog Ever!!

Clarice who checks out my blog decided to present me with the above-mentioned award. Awww, I am so touched.
Yesterday, I gave back-to-back talks to Fifth Formers at SMK Tengku Ampuan Jemaah in P Klang. Again, it was conducted in a combination of English and BM. So far this year, I have been to 8 schools to give talks.

Today, SPM results are out. So 19 ADP students fanned out to the 9 schools as planned – but there were students who backed out at the eleventh hour! The idea was for them to help out Marketing to promote HICT, and more specifically, ADP. It's about ADP students themselves taking ownership of their own program. For the nineteen who came, I say Thank you very much, and for the others who didn’t bother – well, please remind me not to ask you anymore! I am sorry to even think of asking for your help! Mike pleaded with me not to get upset; and Mathew reminded me that this definitely won’t be the last time that I will be disappointed.

So what’s my verdict on the RM60 billion stimulus package for Malaysia? I have been trying to understand where this all leads to. I agree it is an awful lot of money but I don’t believe it will help us much. I believe Najib is playing it very safe because what he is proposing is the typical fiscal band-aid that countries like the US, Australia, and Japan are similarly applying. The Malaysian Insider headlines it under “Najib signals return to ‘Big Govt’.” It reports that this huge sum of money be spent on loan guarantees, infrastructure and public sector expansion – these are likely to benefit only a few selected and privileged entities (e.g. Proton, Khazanah, RTM). The Internet newspaper had spelt it out clearly: “It is effectively a restatement of Malaysia’s old, government-knows-best policies. It’s the opposite of what Malaysia really needs, which is to ditch this thinking and shift to a business climate that encourages private investment and entrepreneurship”. I happen to subscribe to this view as well. We do need to see the benefits of any “stimulus” go all the way down to the masses, spreading far and wide, and benefiting as many people as possible, thereby creating a real multiplier effect. And what is also a cause for concern is the fact that Malaysia will raise debt to fund this largesse. The fiscal deficit is now projected to reach a whopping 7.6 per cent of GDP, up from 4.8 per cent. Now that’s a big chunk of debt! Let’s hope I am wrong, for the country’s sake...

Arsenal suffered a 0-1 defeat this morning (well, actually Wednesday in the UK) but beat Roma 7-6 on penalties to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. I must admit it was sheer luck that allowed Arsenal to sail through, but if I am to be honest, the Gunners don’t deserve this result because their defending was so lame, and they didn’t play as if they wanted to win!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Najib's Admission

Warren Buffet had described the American economy has having “fallen off a cliff”. IMF’s managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn called our present-day crisis a “Great Recession”. Even Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had declared that this is the most difficult year of the century. And Najib, finally, saw the grim picture of the Malaysian economy. In fact, today’s The Sun reported that his admission had departed markedly from his earlier position that the resilient Malaysian economy could withstand the global economic impact (p 2). I don’t know whether to cry or to laugh at his dim-wittedness – it doesn’t take much intelligence to know that Malaysia is already infected by this economic malaise, and it serves no purpose to blissfully deny it. Still, I suppose, for Najib and the country, it's better late than never...to admit.

The Sun (March 11, p 2) also reported that the government is providing financial aid for 10,000 students to pursue their Masters and 500 others to do their PhD program in local universities (read, public universities as well as Uniten, MMU, and UTP). My quarrel is: Why are these universities favored? Shouldn’t other private universities also merit consideration? More so, when it is public knowledge that standards of tertiary education in these very institutions are declining. I have interviewed many public universities’ graduates for HICT teaching jobs, and it is no exaggeration to say that a majority of them showcased academic quality that is scandalously suspect, even unashamedly inadequate. In fact, I wouldn’t employ them to teach Diploma-level courses, nor even the Foundation-level programs. Yes, they are really flagrantly awful, even shockingly bad.

I really don’t understand what the fuss was all about – Liverpool was playing on home turf and carrying a one goal advantage. And we were expected to steamroll over Real Madrid. Full-stop. And we did. Liverpool with its attacking football demolished Real Madrid 4-0 yesterday (or early this Wednesday morning, if in Malaysia), with goals coming from Torres (16th minute), Gerrard (penalty 28th & 47th minutes), and Dossena (28th minute). This means that the Reds won 5-0 on aggregate to send Liverpool into the Champions League quarter-finals. The football action speaks louder than even my words can – inspite of the fact that I am an accomplished and skillful wordsmith!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ADP Activities

ADP-initiated activities that are being organized include Prom Nite or its glamorous name “Hollywood Glam” (August 15) and a 3D/2N trip to Penang Makan-makan (April 23-25). The organizing part is entrusted to two talented persons, Shireen Ng and Iona Tan respectively. Talents abound in the ADP – so it’s not a coincidence that the former is an SNHU alumni and the latter is a current SNHU student.

And it will be icing on the cake for ADP when we can deliver the ADP student numbers this year as we have promised.

The decades-old lone raintree under which the Perak state assembly held its historical sitting on March 3, 2009 has been named the Tree of Democracy. And visitors are already seizing the opportunity to take photographs of this shy and unassuming tree that is set to become part of Ipoh’s folklore. To further commemorate the event, Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, other Pakatan leaders and state assemblymen also planted five saplings nearby, naming them Transparency, Justice, Integrity, Trustworthiness and Welfare. Predictably, Zambry Abdul Kadir, the brazen pretender called the tree a symbol of treason – I am sure he would love to bring the axe to the tree!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Talking About Football

Even football is not spared by the economic downturn.

Rangers have offered redundancy packages. The Scottish Premier League outfit posted a £3.9m loss for the six months to December 2008 and BBC News has reported that this top club is even now looking to trim even the size of its first-team squad.

Goals from Vela (25th minute), Eduardo (51st minute), and Eboue (84th minute) sealed Arsenal’s victory over Burnley in the FA Cup fifth round; a match that showcased Arsenal’s classy style and lethal potential. It’s about time.

But Celtic’s performance was just the opposite, having lost to St Mirren 0-1, and bowing out at this quarter-final stage of the Scottish Cup for the second year running.

As Gordon Strachan, Celtic manager rightfully admitted, “We weren’t the best team”.

I was trying very hard to take a break from talking about politics – at least for a while – but I guess it is not easy since our country is going through very exciting political times!

Even BBC News (March 07) reported that Malaysian riot police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of people (The Star, March 08, only described hundreds of protesters) in Kuala Lumpur, who protested against the use of English to teach Science and Mathematics in local schools.

"It was a peaceful march. They shot without any warning," protester Hatta Ramli was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency (Webpage http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7930243.stm).

And it is regrettable that we see a heavy police presence only when citizens march and/or demonstrate – most times, with crime surging everywhere, their presence is sparse. 

The tentacles of crime are spreading everywhere. So crime must be quickly and urgently tackled.

Sadly, the police are being deployed to non-crime chores because the government wants to play politics.

PDRM must focus on crime because their duty is to fight crime!  Not to confront non-violent protesters.

Geez, get your priority right!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On this Day in 2008

When we talk of an economic downturn, we know we will be looking at a jobs crisis. With the global economic contraction under way, unemployment is already sky-high and still ascending. No one seems immune: The jobless rate for college graduates has hit its highest point on record, just like the rate for people lacking high school diplomas. The U.S. Labor Department's report, released Friday (March 06), showed pink slips nationwide hitting all categories – blue-collar, white-collar, highly educated and not. As I watched Larry King Live yesterday (March 07) on telly, I heard that 12.5 million Americans are without jobs! Obama has described these job losses as “astounding”.

The unnerving jobless statistic does not include the number of people forced to work part time for economic reasons, who number 8.6 million.

And given the severe gravity of this human carnage from the economic meltdown – it is to be expected that Larry King put this “Jobless in America” issue under the microscope in yesterday’s episode. It is a very topical issue that affects ordinary Americans.

Yet in Malaysia, we are focusing on other less-important issues. Politics is one of these issues, it has reached feverish proportions because of BN’s unceasing machinations ever since BN lost 5 states last year. As The Star said today: “It had been one whole year since the March 8, 2008 polls created a tectonic change in the country’s political landscape” (p N1). But we forget that as in the U.S., unemployment figures in Malaysia are no less serious.

Malaysian Employers Federation’s (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan had cautioned: “During the Asian financial crisis in 1997, we lost 85,000 jobs. This time around when the crisis is much more serious, we might lose 170,000 jobs or even 200,000, if we do not do the right things.” (The Edge, posted March 02, 2009 at website http://www.theedgedaily.com/business-news/1053-mtuc-retrenchment-may-doubleby-mid-year.html). If only we get our priorities right…
But having said this, we must also acknowledge that 50 years of BN rule had bred excesses, and which only on this very date last year did we exercise our right as voters, to effect change. As a nation, we have been obedient. Pliable. Docile. Edward R Murrow did say, "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves”. That was what happened to Bolehland, and March 08, 2008 was a first important step to put a stop to all the avaricious nonsense that we have permitted. As we know now, Pakatan Rakyat won 82 parliamentary seats, and 46.8% of the votes, as well as denying the ruling BN coalition its cutomary two-thirds parliamentary majority. But I believe that the change is more deep-rooted. This change is about Malaysians finally waking up to become a society that is not afraid to stand up and be counted, and in the process, making ourselves heard loud and clear. The people have finally spoken.

Friday, March 6, 2009

ADP News

I am working with my ADP students on a number of projects. An SNHU Alumni Malaysia Chapter. SNHU Graduation ring. Radio station. And many more in the pipeline. SNHU will be really going places, if we succeed to do all of these.

Speaking of projects, our Andy McDonough CD project has now reached 703 CDs todate – a slow but steady progress.

Of course, with SPM results due to be released next Thursday (March 12), I am also mobilizing close to 30 ADP students to help me to promote ADP and Diploma in Business in selected Klang schools. Altogether, it is hoped that these 8 schools can yield us 100 ADP applications, and as many Diploma in Business applications. It will be a major achievement if we can collectively achieve this target. I am hopeful. I am optimistic. I am confident. And by the way, Dr. Paul Chan wishes us “Good luck”! I am reminded by what Lucille Ball had said: "Luck? I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it, and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work - and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't".

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March 14 and April 07: Two Important Dates

Another voice to add to the growing public perception that Perak is a failed state is Tengku Razaleigh’s statement: “The takeover of Perak by Barisan Nasional has set off a ‘chain reaction of illegality’ which threatens to leave the state with no legitimate government (The Sun, March 05, p 2). And this comes from an individual who is not from Pakatan Rakyat nor any of those anti-establishment NGOs; rather he is a respected UMNO statesman, who knows what is right and wrong in this perilous quagmire that is Perak.

On the approaching 3 by-elections, all of which share the same April 07 polling date, Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s director of planning and strategy Saifuddin Nasution Ismail gave this analysis in today’s Malay Mail (p 12): Bukit Gantang “will tell us and the country what the people of Perak truly want – a State election or to move on with the present State government”.. Bukit Selambau would show “whether our influence is still strong or declining”. And Batang Ai would be the yardstick if PR should contest the upcoming Sarawak State elections. Therefore, the by-elections will have a great bearing not only on PR but also on BN and Najib. Irrespective of who wins, the polls are going to be a very bruising affair.

I can’t wait for April 07 for this reason, just as I cannot wait for March 14 because Man U is pitted against Liverpool, in a match that the latter must win! Spurn the naysayers, and reject the pessimists amongst us because we know Liverpool has the talent, the determination, and the courage. Man U fans: I am so sorry but I have to tell you now that we will win!

And yesterday (early this morning in Malaysia), in the Scottish Premier League, Celtic disappointed Kilmarnock by winning 2-1, the goals came from McDonald (27th and 81st minutes). This means Celtic topped the table with 63 points from 28 games, three points more than second-placed Rangers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Meeting Under a Raintree

I must admit that I have been despondent over Liverpool's performance. For a while, I immersed myself in non-football stuff – which means that I missed yesterday’s match between Liverpool and Sunderland. In spite of my deepening disappointment, I still do believe in the Reds. And although this faith is constantly tested, my belief in the team remains steadfast and unshaken. Anyway, we did pick ourselves up and we bested Sunderland 2-0; the goals coming from Ngog (52) and Benayoun (65). What a relief!

But even as Liverpool inched closer to Man U, the fact remains that we do need the latter to falter – for Liverpool to have a realistic chance of winning the EPL crown. We can only hope and wish and pray…Now what’s that saying again? So near, and yet so far…

Arsenal finally sealed a victory by overpowering West Brom 3-1, goals coming from Bendtner (4, 44) and Toure (38).

In Ipoh, yesterday (March 03) Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin and his entourage of Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen were denied entry into the state secretariat building by a phalanx of police and Federal Reserve Unit personnel armed with shields and water cannons - again we see the arbitrary use of law enforcement agencies. Finally, state assembly speaker V Sivakumar declared a small clearing under a raintree (about 50 meters away) as the venue for the emergency meeting of the state assembly,. and subsequently passed a motion calling for a dissolution of the assembly to pave the way for fresh state elections.

This convoluted political drama became further complicated when the Ipoh High Court declared the sitting of the Perak state assembly illegal about 7 hours later. Surely, the Perak palace must realize that the only way to break this murky and entangled impasse is to call for fresh state elections, so that the people can freely choose a new Government! As the Malaysian Insider wrote, "One would hope wisdom prevails for both people and the palace, not the law of the jungle that Perak has witnessed this week, when a raintree provided what the royals could not - shelter from injustice" (Webpage http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/breaking-views/136-breaking-views/19605-peraks-law-of-the-jungle-the-malaysian-insider, accessed March 04, 2009). To add what Ellie Wiesel once said: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ed Daniels

Corporations everywhere continue to bleed profusely, and Dr. Paul Chan has described this as “scary, very very scary”. In fact, he advised that “those who still say everything is OK should have their heads examined”. Well, said. In his customary forthright style and direct manner, Dr. Paul Chan has urged “below average performers to buck up fast, or they will be replaced. Departments and projects that do not perform will be terminated. We have to be totally ruthless about performance – just to ensure we all survive and triumph”. It’s time to bring out the guillotine…

This evening, I had dinner with Edward Daniels, a SNHU visitor to HICT. He wanted Western, and so I brought him to The Ship in Damansara Utama. Over dinner, we talked about lots of stuff - Barack Obama, football (or soccer, as the Americans like to call it), David Beckham even, but mostly we talked about SNHU. Did you know that if … oops, sorry, when I achieve my 500-target number of ADP students, we can pat ourselves on the back because this will represent a quarter of SNHU’s on-campus student population at Manchester, New Hampshire? So all the more reason for us to work harder to build the numbers because this can be a start to something really great…. to build a SNHU community, outside of the USA, that may one day, rival SNHU’s own home base in terms of student numbers! Something interesting I found out too – he googled me before coming out to Malaysia, and he actually found me! Wow! Furthermore, he actually read my blog! Thanks, Ed!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hindraf Ridicules the Police

I already knew the EPL results but I didn’t have the heart to pen my feelings and post them in my blog. It was a Liverpool faux pas; a blundering game when Alonso handed a goal to Middlesbrough in the 32nd minute; a game that became stomach-turning when Sanli buried Liverpool with the second goal in the 63rd minute.

Unsurprisingly, Owais (sadly, a Man U fan) who is in Penang surprised me with a 09:54 AM (Sunday, March 01) call and took a dig at me for Liverpool's failure. After all, we had lost to a team that had just won for the first time in 15 league games. This was a match that we cannot afford not to win. Still, we lost 0-2. Maybe, this was a Rafa Benitez strategy – a clever strategy for Liverpool to concede goals and for Man U to slip-up. But it still doesn’t add up because we are now 7 points adrift from Man U! And we slipped, and skidded, and slumped into third place!

The Arsenal-Fulham game fared no better, having ended in a zero-zero stalemate; a result that again describes the Gunners’ scoring impotency.

The only happy news to greet me on a Sunday morning was to know that Celtic humbled St Mirren, 7-0; an avalanche of goals coming from Nakamura (16, 35, 58), Crosas (51), Brown (55, 68) and an own goal from Potter (76).

Politics-wise, things are still pretty much cheerless. When Hindraf supporters wanted to lodge a police report on the alleged ill-treatment given to ISA detainee, Uthayakumar, the police turned their water cannons toward the 400-600 people who turned up at the Brickfields police station. The Malaysian Insider (March 01) quoted Kuala Lumpur police chief, Mohammad Sabtu Osman as saying that the move to lodge mass reports was to ridicule the police. Now who says that is not a good reason to call in the cavalry? Sometimes, I wish the police can show a little bit more intelligence!

And again, we read of another flip-flop when the Home Ministry rescinded a government gazette issued a day earlier that permitted the conditional use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications. Syed Hamid Albar had attributed this to a mistake. Again, another example of brainless ineptitude from another cabinet minister.

Economics-wise, finally, one Minister managed to do a Houdini, freeing himself from the chunky chains of self-denial. Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop had admitted: “Since Malaysia is plugged into the international economy, we cannot expect to be spared the ill effects” (The Sunday Star, March 01, p N5). And yet our Prime Minister is still insisting that it was not impossible to register growth (ibid, p N4).