Author Archives: wcw

Mari Ponteng for MP

MOST of our Members of Parliament wax eloquent about transparency and accountability, and their speeches are always filled with never-ending promises, likely as a display of devotion to their constituents.

And yet, none of us have been able to get full disclosure on the many absent MPs.

So much for transparency and accountability then.

Why can’t Parliament management reveal the attendance of MPs to us, instead of protecting them as if they were top secret officials who could undermine the nation’s security?

Ironically, we are also expected to swallow the bureaucracy of constituents from the 222 areas having to report their attendance to Parliament.

Deputy Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon was quoted saying that constituents could write to the Parliament management to have an MP’s attendance checked.

He also said it’s not appropriate for Parliament to publicly reveal the attendance of MPs.

“We can get their names, but it isn’t proper for us to spread their names. Whoever wants to know (about MPs attendance), they can meet the Parliament management,” he said.

It appears that the Parliament management is just avoiding embarrassing these lawmakers and making it much harder than need be for the media to snag that list.

As taxpayers footing MPs’ allowances, we surely have the right to know their attendance record, and the Parliament management’s salaries.

We must be privy to the identities of these recalcitrants, who are either too busy with their own businesses or simply indifferent to the affairs of the Dewan Rakyat to attend proceedings.

Honestly, they just find sittings unimportant and unnecessary for themselves.

Such indifference wasn’t the case during the election campaign, though, when they passionately rallied their audience, convincing them they would be the voice of the people.

Well, many haven’t showed up since, and that clutch who projected themselves as daring, and vocal politicians, have turned timid lately as they look up to their political masters while enjoying the power and perks of being in government.

It’s unbelievable that Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said it was a tall order for MPs to remain in the Dewan for long hours because of the temperature.

“It’s not easy for us to stay for a long time. It’s very cold sometimes,” said the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who added that such occurrences were normal.

“I think everywhere in the world, you cannot expect MPs to stay in there all the time,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday.

“That’s why we have a bell for the Speaker to ring. For me, it’s a small matter,” he said, adding that he isn’t worried about the poor attendance of Pakatan Harapan MPs in Parliament.

Well, YB, I don’t think Malaysians will find that reason acceptable at all! Come up with a better excuse, please!

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has pledged that MPs who failed to attend enough Dewan Rakyat sittings would get a dressing-down.

The Prime Minister said Parliament attendance would figure in his decision-making for dropping MPs when he reshuffles his Cabinet.

“We will have to have a talk with the parliamentarians, as they were very anxious to be candidates.

“But after being elected, they are behaving as if they are not serious about serving the people,” Dr Mahathir lamented.

But there’s little room for him to affect a change. Politicians have thick hides and can even smile when being reprimanded, and that’s just about all Dr Mahathir can do.

After all, the absentees also include the front benches comprising ministers and deputies. What can the PM do to them? Precious little.

Recently, only 24 of 222 MPs were present; a quorum requires a minimum of 26 MPs. The Dewan Rakyat sitting was delayed by the Speaker under Dewan Rakyat Meeting Standing Order Number 13 (1). The same thing happened in October, too.

In fact, in July, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Arrif Md Yusof had to order the House to stand down when Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi (PBB-Kapit) noted that the number of MPs present was insufficient.

“There are no ministers or deputy ministers in the House, so can we proceed as there is a lack of quorum?” Alexander asked when the House resumed at 2.30pm following lunch break.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong weighed in, saying it was the government’s duty to ensure they have enough MPs present to endorse the Budget.

“Out of 127 government lawmakers, why can’t you get 40 to 60 MPs at any one time in the House if you don’t want the Opposition to ambush you?” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday.

He said it was the duty of Opposition MPs to keep the government on its toes.

“It is our duty to teach them a lesson, and I hope they have learned it,” he added.

Dr Wee, who is Ayer Hitam MP, also condemned the reasons bandied to justify Pakatan MPs’ absence during voting on the budget.

“There is no excuse for them to say they are new and have no experience, or they are fatigued. To me, this is rubbish and nonsense.

“Don’t find excuses for your weaknesses,” he asserted.

It’s not difficult for most MPs and reporters to pinpoint serial absentees, but unfortunately, they don’t have the stats to corroborate visual findings.

The only effective way to curb this malaise is for Dewan Rakyat to provide the attendance list of MPs, as appropriately suggested by Subang MP Wong Chen.

He also pointed out that a typical daily attendance rate is an abysmal 20% to 30%, while the minimum requirement for proceedings to progress is 26 MPs, or 12% of the entire Dewan Rakyat.

“Bottomline is, Parliament should publish a list of daily attendance. There is no greater cure to tak apa and sluggishness, than some transparency. Then let the absent MPs explain why they couldn’t be there. Sick leave and those overseas on official business/conferences can be excused,” he was quoted.

And if any of us truly believes that attendance is likely to improve soon, then we will believe in everything these MPs have promised us, too.

We can only hope our MPs don’t earn a rep for Mari Ponteng because of their notorious record for truancy.

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, likewise the nation

Time to deliver: The public is counting on and holding accountable all promises made by the Pakatan government.

OUR politicians don’t seem to get it. Malaysians are exhausted from their endless politicking at the expense of homing in on pressing issues affecting the people.

The message of the people from the Tanjung Piai by-election is clear, but it looks like that reality hasn’t set in as it should have.

Politicians succumb to amnesia easily and develop dementia much earlier than the rest of us, which probably explains why promises pledged in their manifesto can even quickly be forgotten.

A clutch of politicians from previous elections have even placed an expiry date on their manifesto – the voting deadline of 5pm on polling day.

But things have changed. For the first time in the country’s electoral history, promises made and broken are being discussed, even 18 months after the general election.

The public is counting on and holding accountable all promises made by the Pakatan Harapan government.

Sure, three years are needed for these promises to be realised but breaking them is another thing altogether.

Reneging on promises is worse than not fulfilling them, and that has become a significant source of resentment for the people.

So, imagine the disgust of Malaysians when reading about a plot – real or imagined – executed in the dead of the night to meddle in the country’s leadership transition.

It’s unprecedented in the nation’s politics for party allegiance to be cloak and dagger affairs, and solidarity to have little meaning. But that’s indicative of the kind of politicians in our midst these days.

Before this, we knew exactly who we were dealing with – they were either with the Government or the Opposition. There were no perforated lines and the distinction was clear.

Now, we have the Opposition – namely PAS and some Umno leaders – that has pleaded with the Prime Minister to remain in his post until he turns 98. Yes, two years shy of a centurion, that’s how old Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be by the next general election.

So now, we have the Opposition rooting for the head of the government to keep his post instead of wresting it from him, which is the primary ambition of normal opposition parties.

The mind-boggling situation has come under sharper focus with former Umno vice-president Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein and PKR deputy president Datuk Azmin Ali singled out for plotting to ensure status quo.

Now, it’s apparent Azmin isn’t rooting for his party boss but Dr Mahathir instead, the leader of another party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, a component party of PH.

Within Umno and its 37 seats, consensus have split nearly down the middle as to whether Dr Mahathir should continue, or the reins be handed to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim instead.

This is likely what’s happening – Umno probably doesn’t have a candidate in mind from its ranks to sit in the hot PM seat and form the next government. Isn’t that what an opposition party is supposed to do, offer the alternative?

So, the best they can hope for is to have someone who is prepared to, at the very least, be sympathetic to them.

It’s complicated, and unfortunately, there are no hand guides. So, are you following so far? Welcome to Malaysia’s paradoxical politics.

Bersatu, which won only 13 parliamentary seats in last year’s polls, had the privilege of heading the federal government and most state governments. PKR has 50 seats, DAP 42 and Amanah 11.

Bersatu, however, gained seats after a series of defections, going from 13 to 27. It lost one following the Tanjung Piai byelection, though.

Dr Mahathir, of course, was given the job because without him, PH would never have been able to knock Barisan Nasional out of government.

He was the super glue that bound everything together while Anwar was still languishing in prison. Anwar wasn’t a Member of Parliament, so he certainly couldn’t become the PM.

So, for peculiar reasons, Bersatu now has more Mentris Besar in states where the combined PKR-DAP seats number higher.

And DAP, which has the sizeable 42 parliamentary seats, has cleverly stayed clear of the issue, so far.

For all the bravado, no one in PH can hope of becoming the PM without the support of the DAP, because Cabinet revamps would be impossible without the approval of PH component parties.

Dr Mahathir’s hands are tied. He failed to implement his Cabinet changes and even when he attempts the next one, he will find that juggling party and geographical factors won’t make the job any easier.

When Dr Mahathir was the PM first time around, he was the most powerful man in Umno and Barisan. He had full control and could choose who should succeed him.

The scenario is far different now. Most members of the press, and even veteran politicians, seem to overlook the new political determinants.

Besides being the smallest component party, there is also an agreement, signed by representatives of PH, that Anwar will succeed Dr Mahathir. His name is specifically mentioned.

But there is no timeline for how long Dr Mahathir stays. The two-year tenure was mentioned by the leaders but was eventually omitted in the agreement since many didn’t want Dr Mahathir to be a lame duck PM.

So, it will be the PH presidential council that will have to enforce the agreement because their leaders are signatories. The council also has the power to decide how long Dr Mahathir stays.

The agreement was inked by representatives of the four parties at midnight on July 14,2017, at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

But the agreement may not be enough, and that’s why the move by Anwar’s nemeses include – even if these dramas are mere optics – tying his hands and cutting deals to ensure their political relevance.

If anyone thinks that politicians spend their time working for the people, then they must have been born yesterday, or live in a dream world.

Here’s what Anwar faces – the Federal Constitution stipulates that the PM must be a member of the Dewan Rakyat who, by the decree of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in Parliament.

PKR rebels have sent a message to Anwar that they can cause much mischief – with the help of PAS and some Umno MPs – if they command enough numbers to support a motion for Dr Mahathir to serve the full five-year term.

Obviously, it’s not because they love him dearly or want him to be in the pink of health, as the top position has a way of chipping away precious minutes and seconds of one’s life given the demands of the job.

Anwar is stuck, in a way. He can’t sack his defiant PKR leaders, and for these recalcitrants, starting a new party would hardly be an ideal solution. In fact, it could even tear apart the PH coalition now under heavy criticism from the people.

Anwar’s image and leadership have taken a beating by his inability to keep the party together.

His nemeses were once his fanatical supporters, but now, they have turned against him.

They were on the front lines of the Reformasi protests and movement of 20 years ago when they took the streets.

Surely there must be something very wrong somewhere for this change of heart?

So, everyday people are caught in what has is now known as the Great Unhappiness, where we grapple with the cost of putting food on the table, struggle to pay bills, and deal with the lack of job opportunities and a weakening ringgit.

Reforms and good governance may top the priority list of the PH, but this new culture doesn’t fill the people’s stomachs – only Perut Economy matters at the minute.

It doesn’t help that the public sees some ministers as either incompetent or arrogant. Perception is everything in politics, after all.

We haven’t seen any shared prosperity, but what we do know is that politicians are busy fighting among themselves for positions, party and government, all at our expense.

We all stand together

Even with all the signs pointing to unity being our greatest asset, some quarters continue to sow divisive politics as part of their delusions of grandeur.

STRANGE as it seems, the only schools with a multi-racial student enrolment and teachers are vernacular ones, specifically Chinese primary schools. For doubters, especially politicians, they only need to visit these grounds of education and see for themselves.

I have visited many schools across the nation in my time, particularly during the run-up to the National Day celebrations to drum up patriotism with a fervour, and in those many years, I’ve noticed a steady increase in non-Chinese students in Chinese primary schools.

Reports say the non-Chinese made up more than 50% of the new intake at SJKC Masai, Johor Baru, last year, making it perhaps the Chinese school with the highest ratio of non-Chinese pupils down south. According to a news report, the school accepted 233 new pupils, of whom 130 are non-Chinese. The school has a total of 1,559 pupils at last count, and 667 (or 43%) are non-Chinese.

SJKC Tionghua Kok Bin, a small school in Klang with an enrolment of only 379, has an amazing multi-racial make-up of 50% Chinese, 42% Malays, 6% Indians and others making up the balance.

Speaking from a neutral standpoint, being an advocate of re-introducing English as a medium of instruction into our schools, this can only bode well for unity, what with the benefits that come with it.

I am the product of a time when English was the main language in teaching. I also belong to the last batch which sat for the Malaysia Certificate of Education, or the equivalent of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

Likewise, I took the Higher School Certificate examination as the entry examination for local university seats.

It was my years of education at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang that shaped my world view, which provided the right dosage of liberalism. But more importantly, it’s where I made firm friends of all races.

Not just Malays and Indians, but many Eurasians, too, a community more familiar to those living in Penang and Melaka.

These multi-racial schools were neutral grounds, where real friendship with various races were truly forged. And time has proven that they weren’t superficial relationships or mere professional ties, either.

There was also another factor – England was then a real economic powerhouse and China and Taiwan were second-class citizens. And just when education had seemed sacred ground, the degrees from their universities weren’t recognised and even seen as inferior.English was the language of the elite and Mandarin was confined to the working class and blue-collar workers.

But the situation has turned on its head now. Anyone who has visited Beijing, Shanghai and the top tier cities of China, will attest to how much the Asian powerhouse has overtaken the United States, Britain and many European cities.

If we are unfamiliar with China, know that the situation is worse in western countries, where they still have superior views of themselves.

It should be frightening to see how far we’ve lagged as the world around us has evolved. We should rue missed opportunities and be annoyed at how we’ve drawn ourselves out of the loop of progress.

Vietnam are on our coattails, even at Asean level, while Indonesia and Thailand are easily on par.

While our politicians are preoccupied with their aimless and unproductive politicking, other nations have raced ahead with their determination and focused goals in achieving economic advancements.

And maintaining commerce with China is a top priority, what with its huge market and growing population of wealthy people.

The ace up our sleeve is our people’s ability to speak Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. Excluding Singapore, no Asean country can match us in this realm.

Doing business in China involves plenty of relationship building, and it’s done through guanxi (pronounced gwon-she). It’s simply a Chinese term meaning “networks” or “connections”, which opens doors for new businesses and facilitates deals. A person with a lot of guanxi will be in a better position to generate business compared to someone lacking it.

To compensate for the inability to speak Mandarin, I have tried to capture their hearts with my ability to drink endless rounds of distilled Chinese liquor with them while staying sober.

Basically, knowing to read and write in Chinese – the language of the world’s biggest customer market of all business types – is a tremendous advantage.

Mandarin has economic value as a language. So too Bahasa Malaysia, Hindi and Tamil, especially to the Indonesian and Indian markets, what with their humongous markets. And Arabic is just as essential.

In many European countries, national language apart, students are expected to learn and pass English, French and German language exams. We know kids are completely capable, but the self-appointed champions of race and religion are the ones making it difficult for others to learn.

So, we must bear with a lawyer’s nonsensical attempt to portray the existence of vernacular schools as unconstitutional.

Rightly, the Chief Judge of Malaya dismissed Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz’s leave application, on the grounds that it was within the Parliament’s power to form such schools.

Mohd Khairul’s lawyer Datuk Shaharudin Ali said he was “surprised” by the court’s decision and said his next step might be to file a new motion on the issue at the High Court.

Well, we’re surprised that he was shocked, and in keeping with the current theme of humour going around, many Malaysians are surprised that he was surprised.

If he has chosen to pick on vernacular schools, then he should also challenge the existence of so many international schools that essentially use English as a medium of instruction.

It seems acceptable for those who can afford it to study at these schools which use English, while the rest of the country remains out of reach of such a luxury.

It’s counterproductive to spend time cooking up plots to derail, or even to eradicate vernacular schools, when these institutions have proven to be assets with how they’ve produced many of our finest leaders, businessmen and community leaders.

It’s part of wilful imagination, and it’s fictitious to claim that vernacular schools have threatened national unity.

At these vernacular schools, racial harmony is heavily promoted. However, that tenet can’t be attributed to politicians and groups who claim these schools are the source of unity problems.

Knocking on death’s door at the Bangkok Forensic Museum

At the forensic museum in Bangkok are countless glass containers of deformed and diseased babies, including Siamese or conjoined twins, all preserved in formaldehyde.

Halloween may have just passed, but there’s surely never a time to turn down a morbid and creepy tale to feed our psyche, is there?

And providing that in a real-life setting is the Bangkok Forensic Museum, famously known as the Museum of Death. It’s a highly recommended destination for dark tourists – travellers who search for places historically associated with death and tragedy.

Many adventure seekers have been inspired by journalist David Farrier, through his exploits in his Netflix documentary, where, among other things, he swam in a lake in Kazakhstan formed by a nuclear blast, highlighted a Japanese town hit by heavy radiation, and even featured a haunted forest.

Having walked through the Suicide Forest in Aokigahara last Halloween, an area on the north-western part of Japan’s Mount Fuji, where about 200 people killed themselves in the dense forest, I knew I had to add something to my list to mark this macabre occasion this year.

So, a trip to the forensic hospital in Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital it was.

I had perused the news sites and watched enough videos to know what I was dealing with. But with patience being a virtue, it wasn’t surprising that getting there wasn’t as easy as I thought, even after making sure my hotel receptionist detailed my destination in Thai on a piece of paper for me to show my taxi driver.

The Bangkok Forensic Museum, or more famously known as the Museum of Death, is for those looking for their dose of horror.The Bangkok Forensic Museum, or more famously known as the Museum of Death, is for those looking for their dose of horror.

When I reached the hospital, I could tell from the exasperated driver’s expression that he couldn’t drop me right at “death’s” doors because some roads were closed due to on-going construction work. That translated to me having to walk a short distance.

Since most Thais don’t speak English, I had to stop every step of the way to ask for directions from those who do.

The journey through the huge hospital seemed premeditated for me to see the sufferings at the country’s largest hospital. It was simply filled to the brim and for the first time, I saw so many beds along the corridors of a hospital.

Some patients looked like their time on earth was about up as loved ones cuddled them. It was disturbing as there were heart wrenching scenes.

I finally located the forensic museum, but before being let in, the security guard ordered me to write down my name and nationality. My journalist senses tingled, so I swiftly scanned the names of visitors with similar strange interests.

They were mostly Japanese, some Dutch, Britons and Australians. I was the only Malaysian on the long list. Don’t ask me why the majority looked to be from Japan, though.

The hospital has six distinct museums within two separate buildings. The creepiest ones are the Ellis Pathological Museum, Songkran Niyomse Forensic Medicine Museum and Congdon Anatomical Museum. Most of the museums are on the second floor of the Adulyadejvikrom Building.

But the sinister experience began with a bummer – only after paying the 200 Baht entrance fee did the receptionist tell me photography wasn’t allowed!

The rule was introduced about six months ago, and since then, some exhibits have been removed as a mark of respect. Bags were strictly ordered to be kept in a locker, so my hopes of doing a video were also dashed.

But I wasn’t going to let a minor setback ruin my pre-Halloween outing.

From being shot in the head to being killed in horrible vehicular circumstances, these “teaching aids” were meant to show medical students the impact of damage to the skull.From being shot in the head to being killed in horrible vehicular circumstances, these “teaching aids” were meant to show medical students the impact of damage to the skull.There were countless glass containers of deformed and diseased babies, including Siamese or conjoined twins, all preserved in formaldehyde.

Then, there were aborted foetuses in various stages of development. They shook me because I never fathomed a life could exist in mere weeks. That scene certainly evoked deeper thought on abortions and their implications. I guess it’s tough to see a young and innocent life snuffed out.

The exhibits ran the gamut, including a two-headed foetus of a child with “mermaid syndrome” (where legs fuse together), skulls fractured by gunshots and other weaponry used to inflict fatal blows to the head, and accident victims.

From being shot in the head to being killed in horrible vehicular circumstances, these “teaching aids” were meant to show medical students the impact of damage to the skull.

They may seem gruesome, but it’s hard to deny them being informative.

There was another big disappointment – the notorious mummified corpse of the legendary Si Quey was no longer on display. He was one of the most feared men in Thailand.

He had come to the country as a Chinese immigrant in 1944 and earned the distinction of being one of the first known serial killers. Apparently, he murdered and ate the livers of many young boys 60 years ago, believing that this would make him stronger.

In June, the Medical Science Faculty of Siriraj hospital removed the “cannibal” label from the display case containing the embalmed remains of Thailand’s only alleged maneater.

The faculty dean instructed the label’s removal in response to a campaign to restore human dignity to the deceased, leaving only his name in English. Like a double whammy, the move also included the ban on photography.

According to news reports, Quey’s alleged cannibalism spawned many movies, books and dramas during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was said that the mere mention of his name would stop a child crying. Myths aside, no evidence has been found to prove that he ate the organs of his victims.

But one mind blowing exhibit was a two-and-a-half-foot-wide diseased scrotum, which came with parasites you never knew could exist in a human body.

What was on display was a huge, preserved, swollen scrotum of a man who suffered from Elephantitis as a result of Lymphatic Filariasis, which infected him by microscopic worms.

Above the formaldehyde case containing his appendage is a photo of the poor man with his 75kg nut sack.

Until then, I wasn’t squeamish, but that safe passage ended when I walked into another building, where more containers of deformed babies awaited.

But two babies caught my attention – there were offerings of toys and children’s food for them. I didn’t want to find out more.

Having lived in Asia all my life, where we’ve often heard stories of strange spooky things, I knew what the offerings meant. The museum would most likely be securely locked up at night, and as I write this close to midnight, I can feel the prickling of goose pimples on my body as my mind reaches back to the second floor of the museum.

Good night, and I hope you have no nightmares tonight. The Siriraj Forensic Museum awaits those who dare tread paths less ventured.

How to get there:The Siriraj Forensic Museum lurks in the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Visitors need to take the BTS Skytrain Station to Sala Daeng on the Silom Line to get there. From there, take the express boat (with orange flag on the back) to the Siriraj Pier (N 10) or simply hop on a taxi.

Time to steady the ship

A year-and-a-half into new governance, and the economy has shown little sign of improving. It’s time to up anchor from stagnation and brave the waves with conviction.

JUST over a year ago, the Pakatan Harapan coalition swept into power and dethroned Barisan Nasional, which had been the ruling party for over six decades.

The nation was in a state of euphoria as Malaysians welcomed a new era, with promises of fresh approaches to governance and ideals under a New Malaysia.

The victors guaranteed everything under the sun because they never imagined they would be in government, and that has been the open admission of Pakatan leaders.

The exuberance that once greeted Pakatan politicians at every mammoth ceramah during the General Election has unceremoniously faded. Their cause hasn’t been helped by some ministers fumbling and struggling after a year in office.

In some situations, these ministers have been simply incompetent. Had they been in the private sector, they would have got the boot after the probation period.

The Prime Minister’s attempt to revamp the Cabinet has failed to take off, forcing him to live with the hastily cobbled together line-up. However, if his officials have been honest with him, the murmurings of discontent must surely have reached his ears.

Yes, positive achievements have been recorded in the past year-plus – integrity and public accountability in our institutions have been restored, and once-untouchable corrupt figures have been apprehended by the long arm of the law and hauled to court.

But Malaysians are also tired of ministers blaming the past government for the country’s shortcomings. Sure, the claims are probably true, but they should just zip it and fix the holes. That’s why they were elected in the first place.

In fact, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s popularity has taken a beating, and one only needs to look at the comments on social media to gauge the disenchantment on the ground. A formal and more structured survey will likely reveal the same assessment, too.

While racial and religious sentiments have been employed to beguile the crucial and decisive Muslim-Malay electorate, there is also an equal amount of unhappiness among the non-Malays.

DAP leaders are used to being treated with near-idolatry status by Chinese voters, but of late, some party bigwigs have been heckled and booed at gatherings.

From being champions of the Chinese community, they have now found themselves branded apologists of Dr Mahathir. It’s as if the DAP and MCA have traded places, as the latter was severely criticised in the past while under the Barisan government.

While the recovery of the nation’s money from the 1MDB looters has given Pakatan brownie points, it’s obviously not enough to sustain the desired level of support.

Any political science student will know that in any uprising and toppling of a strong government, there is always a level of growing expectations. And often, the sentiments are even unrealistic, but that’s the price populist politicians must pay when elected.

Unfulfilled expectations have caused the Pakatan government to lose its ratings with the electorate. In the digital age, where politicians’ promises are recorded in the public domain, Pakatan leaders have now found themselves unable to meet these expectations. Even if the reason is real, such as empty coffers, it’s difficult to explain to the electorate.

We can’t say we are short of money and yet spend anything from RM800mil to RM1.67bil to provide meals to all primary school children, especially when it should be channelled to only needy students, particularly those from rural areas.

And why are we planning to build an airport in Kulim costing RM1.6bil when the Penang International Airport is just 26km away?

The failure to get recognition for the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) – the school leaving certificate of the Malaysian Independent Chinese secondary schools – as stated in Pakatan’s GE14 Manifesto remains a sore point among Chinese voters who view education and economy as two primary concerns.

It was also a bitter pill to swallow when Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, for two Budgets in a row (2019 and 2020), denied Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) its annual matching grants of RM30mil, totalling RM60mil.

The decision has drawn continued flak from the Chinese community, simply because the grants are meant to keep the tuition fees affordable for low and middle-income groups.

In a video that has gone viral, Lim is depicted declaring to the audience at a ceramah during the GE, that each of TAR UC’s 28,000 students would get RM1,000 if Pakatan formed the government.

The promise wasn’t fulfilled, and rubbing salt into the wound, there’s now no matching grant either. The justification given was that the government would direct the funds to the private higher education institution if the MCA was willing to relinquish its ownership of it.

Lim said this was in line with the government’s stand that public funds shouldn’t be channelled to politically-owned organisations.

But the explanation hasn’t convinced most Chinese because TAR UC has never been an MCA-indoctrinated institution, and any TAR UC graduate can attest to that.

MCA has had to finance these institutions with the support of the Barisan government, tycoons and ordinary people.

While the DAP and MCA are enemies, the general feeling is that when it comes to matters of education which benefit the Chinese, its community is left disappointed because the students and families have become victims of a political rivalry at a time when Malay unity is being openly promoted.

It’s a known fact that several DAP leaders are alumni of TAR UC, and all its campuses are in constituencies which have come under the control of Pakatan since the last General Election.

In Kampar, Perak, where Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) is located, the constituency is now under the DAP despite the large number of student and lecturer voters.

The UEC is perhaps a much more complicated matter. While the Chinese community wants instant recognition, the examination has unfortunately turned into a highly racialised and politicised issue, and its subtext now is about the fear of losing Malay support.

UEC task force chairman Eddin Khoo said the final report on the recognition of the examination certificate is currently undergoing an internal discussion.

But the UEC issue has been dragging on for decades and wasn’t recognised even during Dr Mahathir’s first tenure as PM.

Obviously, Pakatan won most of the Chinese votes during GE14 mainly because, among other promises, its manifesto and leaders pledged to recognise the UEC.

So we have an odd situation where the UEC is recognised by the top universities in the world including the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Oxford University, University of Cambridge, University of Toronto, University of Tokyo, National University of Singapore, University of Hong Kong, University of Melbourne, Peking University and Kyoto University, but not here.

Based on The Times Higher Education World University Rankings Top 200 of 2014, more than 70 of these world-class universities have accepted the enrolment of UEC graduates to pursue tertiary education.

And yet, we see these mulling and delaying tactics being applied despite the bravado pledges of recognising the UEC.

The education débâcle apart, the continuing weak economy, the declining value of the ringgit, the increasing cost of living, the lack of economic programmes and taxation of all forms, have all become a source of discontent for the Chinese at all levels.

It’s still too early to predict the outcome of the Tanjung Piai by-election, and difficult to suss out if the huge crowd at a recent multiracial Barisan ceramah is any indication that voters want to send a strong message to the Pakatan government that they are dissatisfied.

But the grievances of daily issues, particularly the cost of putting food on the table and job opportunities, have become loud grumblings at the expense of largely positive actions by the government.

A gorgeous island that’s just a hop, skip and jump away

I’ve had the privilege and luxury of travelling to a multitude of places near and far, and in more recent time, my preoccupation has been on the living world, particularly in our oceans. Our region has some of the most fascinating marine life, and while Sabah’s Mabul and Sipadan islands have drawn international repute and is home to a menagerie of amazing animals, for city dwellers in the peninsula, particularly those in the capital, Redang Island is only a hop, skip and jump away from the daily grind.

The ace up its sleeve is the island is easy to reach from Kuala Lumpur and offers the most accessible spots for snorkelling and scuba diving, given its crystal-clear waters. For a simple and short weekend getaway, Redang is hard to beat and provides the best value.

It is just a little less than an hour’s flight from either the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang or KLIA to Kuala Terengganu, from which, a short 45-minute boat ride takes visitors to the island located in Kuala Nerus.

Redang is one of the largest islands off the east coast of the peninsula with an international reputation for its clean and clear waters, and white sandy beaches.

Taking advantage of the low tourist season with the monsoon just picking up, I popped over to the island paradise last week.

There are between six and eight turtles that regularly turn up at Redang Island’s Turtle Point.

Sure, like in the Klang Valley, there were showers in the evenings, but they were brief. Luckily, there was plenty of sun in the morning for the three days I was there.

Getting there from the Merang jetty was a rocky ride because the waves were choppy, but once the boat reached the open sea, the undulating waves petered out, providing a much smoother and calmer journey. No sick bag needed for this slowly-but-surely developing seafarer.

The northeast monsoon season from the South China Sea, which just begun, ends in January. Most hotels halt operations during this heavy rainy season, what with its strong winds and waves. All ferry schedules are restricted from the months of November through to February.

But I capitalised on this window period when hotel rates are better and fewer tourists are present, evidenced by the low turnout at the snorkelling spots in the marine park.

I made it in as the last of the tourists, before the island ceased operations for the wet season, which comes with its dangerous sea conditions.

Redang has never failed to impress me. Dipping into its waters is like swimming in an aquarium full of colourful friendly coral fishes.

It’s one of nine islands forming a marine sanctuary park, where snorkelling and diving are the main attractions.

Plenty of clownfish can be found here. — Photos: ANG KUAN WEI

Having been there previously, this time, I picked two places – Pasir Akar and Teluk Mak Simpang, popularly known as Turtle Point, which isn’t far from the upscale The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort operated by the Berjaya Group.

The wall of the island here protects it from the ocean’s currents, making it ideal for snorkellers and less experienced swimmers, and for kids, too.

Watching YouTube videos or ogling at picture postcards of the place is fine and dandy, but to get a real sense of the place, you must swim in Redang’s waters. Like a recurring wave of a reminder, I couldn’t help feeling how blessed Malaysia is and what a beautiful marine park we have in this part of our country.

For those who prefer to keep dry or have a fear of sea water, fret not – Redang’s splendid beauty can also be enjoyed from the cosy confines of the boat, where one can still feast their eyes on the fishes.

There are also between six and eight turtles who regularly visit the area. Call them resident turtles if you like, and the most popular one is named Jojo. However, visitors here are usually on the lookout for three gigantic whale sharks.

But unlike the ones at Maratua in Derawan, East Kalimantan, which are easier to spot because they always swim around the numerous fishing platforms, this trio is rather elusive.

Literally swimming with the fishes!

Some lucky divers and even snorkellers have spotted them though at the Big Mount and Pulau Lima dive sites, of which the northern Big Mount has had sightings of whale sharks, black tip sharks and even manta rays.

Apparently, strong currents at this spot help nourish these filter feeders, but these dangerous conditions also make it privy to only experienced scuba divers.

I have read that at the southern tip, there are small caves filled with lobsters and crabs, and also huge moray eels and groupers. Reading about all this and not experiencing it first-hand is becoming a drag, so, now might just be the right time to take up scuba diving.

With over 500 species of live corals, more than 1,000 species of invertebrates and almost 3,000 species of fishes, this island is indeed a marine haven.

The titan triggerfish is just one of the fishes you can find here. — KENNETH LAM

Redang means so many things to so many people – some seek it for a change in pace, and some for its scenery. And some go there to be one with nature, but for me, it’s all of the above. It’s simply a spectacular place to be, given its accessibility, accommodation ranging from utilitarian to premium, and its safeness.

And soon, those seeking her charms can hop on a plane operated by Berjaya and fly directly there from Subang.

Can’t afford to meddle

Big pressure: Malaysia’s palm oil sector faces a new threat after Indian traders were asked to halt purchases amid a row over Kashmir. – AFP

It seems counterproductive to be irking a major contributor of our economy when the price of one of our main commodities is on the wane.

BOYCOTTING our palm oil may not be the Indian government’s official stand, not even two weeks after the controversy surfaced, but the lobbying by some Indian groups – including the media – to punish Malaysia is still unsettling, especially when the price of the commodity is at its lowest.

At stake is the huge Indian market worth RM6.9 billion, so the call for prejudice isn’t something to be overlooked since the country is the world’s largest vegetable oil importer, with Indonesia and Malaysia its palm oil suppliers.

The palm oil downstream products that India needs include ghee, soap, vegetable oil, biofuel, pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products.

Recently, an Indian trade body representing oilseed crushers, advised its members not to buy palm oil from Malaysia, taking a cue from New Delhi’s protest of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the Kashmir conflict.

“The recent developments pertaining to strained relations between our nation and Malaysia has put a lot of responsibility on our industry in view of huge imports of palm oil from that country,” said Atul Chaturvedi, president of the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India.

“In your own interest as well as a mark of solidarity with our nation, we should avoid purchases from Malaysia for the time being. We trust you would heed our advice, ” he said in a statement.

Chaturvedi said the Indian government “has not taken kindly” to Malaysia’s position on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly.

“It would be in fitness of things, as responsible Indian vegetable oil industry, we avoid purchasing of palm oil from Malaysia till such time clarity on the way forward emerges from the Indian government, ” he added.

The furore started when Dr Mahathir said in his speech at the 74th session of the General Assembly, “despite UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, the country has been invaded and occupied, ” and called on India to “work with Pakistan to resolve this problem”.

In its bid to thwart protests in the region, the Indian government, on Aug 5, revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s legally autonomous status and imposed many unprecedented security measures, including cutting off the Internet and phone services.

The PM’s opinion hit a raw nerve there and led to India’s Ministry of External Affairs rebuking Dr Mahathir’s references to Kashmir on Oct 4.

Added fuel to the fire, the media, particularly Magna Indica-anchored News Z, has been broadcasting a clip nearly every five minutes why India must support Hindus in Malaysia up in arms against Dr Mahathir.

Basically, Malaysia is being accused of taking sides and backing Pakistan – India’s long-time nemesis. It’s hard to ignore controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik either wittingly or unwittingly playing a part in this diplomatic debacle.

Zakir, unwelcome in any nation, including Muslim majority countries, is a permanent resident in Malaysia. He was thought to be a Saudi Arabian citizen, but apparently, he isn’t, and even the Saudis don’t want him.

Indian groups, including the media, need to take a step back and look at the effects of trade wars and tariffs. It benefits no one except the inflated egos of shallow politicians who think they are statesmen.

The clear example is the escalating US and China trade war, which has led to spill over effects to the rest of the world, as the two superpowers clash. So, trade wars, in any form, is bad for any country.

As Dr Rais Hussin, the Emir Research CEO, put it aptly in his description of trade wars, “they trigger a dyadic trade relationship that is toxic on the rest of the global value chain, with India included.

“If that is an economic fact, why should India emulate the example of Washington DC and Beijing?

“Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, an unsaid yet practical principle in Asean is – any country wishing to be part of a thriving region of 680 million people, cannot be seen supporting the opposition there.”

He wrote that Prime Minister Modi has had a “Southerly Policy” with Asean since 2015, and is a member of the East Asian Summit, Dialogue Partner of Asean.

“India is destroying a key principle of its own diplomatic engagement. Not only will the whole of Asean oppose it, but the rest of the East Asian region will see India’s behaviour as the beginning of the use of ‘hatchet diplomacy’.”

There is another point to consider, much of Indonesia’s palm oil is owned and sold by the likes of Malaysian companies IOI and Genting.

That aside, there are growing concerns among India’s long-time friends that Modi’s hard-nosed approach to nationalism, bordering on religious fervour, is discomforting to many. These actions by Hindu militants, according to many reports, are affecting minorities including Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

For the time being, the prices of crude palm oil are expected to remain competitive, at least until the first half of next year, pending any official announcements from India.

The Star recently quoted sources saying the offtake of Malaysian palm oil was still stable, and with demand still exceeding supply, CPO prices would hold steady. That’s comforting news.

Without a firm word directly from the Indian government, the market is treating the potential boycott by Indian importers on local palm oil as mere speculation. The MB Investment Bank’s regional head of plantation research, Ivy Ng, said excluding potential impact on demand from speculation of the boycott, CPO prices should recover next year, averaging at around RM2,300 per tonne.

In March, it was reported that China was bumping up its palm oil purchase from Malaysia by around 50% to around 4.7 million tonnes, which will be a huge boost to local planters and the government.

Last year, Malaysia exported 3.07 million tonnes of palm oil and palm products to China worth a total of RM8.38bil, marking, from 2017, an increase of 7.3% from 2.86 million tonnes worth about RM9.39bil.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said that the agreements were a “good start”, following the delegation meeting between the two countries in August last year, during which it was decided that the Chinese uptake of Malaysian palm oil would be increased by half a million tonnes.

The agreements inked for the purchase of 1.62 million tonnes of palm oil were very significant, said China Ambassador Bai Tian, especially in view of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China this year.

“This is really a very big number and I believe in the near future, there is possibility that China will increase its uptake of palm oil from Malaysia,” he said.

“As I have said before, China imposes no glass ceiling on the import of Malaysian palm oil, ” he added.

There was the perception that China was quietly stalling purchasing our oil palm, following the change of the federal government last year and the uncertainties over numerous Chinese projects in Malaysia as its consequence. Concern abounded since China is Malaysia’s third largest importer of our palm oil.

Dr Mahathir was outspoken during his first tenure as PM. He was the champion of Third World countries, and he initiated the Group of 20 comprising developing countries, giving his brutally frank views of western countries in the process.

Although Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, and even hosted CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting) in 1989, Dr Mahathir once said there has never been a “common wealth” among the member nations, which were all once colonised by the British.

That’s Dr Mahathir for you, and as he reaches 95 years old next year, I don’t think we can expect him to change. He will speak up, without fear or favour, and whether we like it or not, but he must also take cognisance of how Malaysia, which he helmed for 22 years earlier, no longer has a double-digit economic growth. And the prices of crude palm oil and crude oil have dropped drastically over the years.

India and Pakistan will likely continue being at loggerheads, and whatever Malaysia says, will not please anyone. Likewise, there was no need for Dr Mahathir to suggest that Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam quit, which did nothing more than irk China.

He was responding to a question from Hong Kong Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes during a question-and-answer session at a forum in Hong Kong, probably not realising that Dykes is an unwelcome man in Beijing.

In fact, the vice-chairman Edwin Choy quit over the association’s failure to condemn protesters’ violent actions in the ongoing anti-government demonstrations.

Malaysia can stay out of harm’s way if he refrains from commenting on issues involving other countries. After all, we have enough problems of our own.

It’s a holi-holiday

THE year is not even over yet, and we still have a good two months to go, but a list detailing national public holidays and how Malaysians can go for vacations on long weekends with just nine days of leave, has already been circulating.

It’s as if Malaysians can’t wait for more off days for 2020, to make use of the provision to start planning their getaways.

Malaysians will be able to enjoy 12 long weekends next year. The extended holiday is the result of having a public holiday fall on either Friday or Monday.

We are not even talking about the 13 days of gazetted national public holidays and the extra holidays declared by the states.

Oh, what a blessed country Malaysia is, indeed, and how some whine and grumble about ethnicity, whether at congress or at the office, yet love the holidays to celebrate the festivals of every ethnic group.

Even the fanatically loud racists, who conveniently forget their origins, rejoice in these celebrations.

If that’s not enough, some of us even “celebrate” silently when a VVIP dies because it means another off day!

Then, there are state government leaders who simply declare public holidays when their state football team wins silverware. And it’s not even the AFF Suzuki Cup.

But the most incredulous and outrageous public holiday was the one Kelantan declared to boost attendance at the protest against the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) in the federal capital last December.

We have heard of cuti sakit (medical leave), cuti kahwin (marriage leave), cuti bersalin (maternity leave), and so for the first time, we had cuti protes (leave to protest).

Last week, Malaysian women workers were told that they will have longer maternity leave. They will automatically be entitled to 90 days of leave each time they have a baby.

Among the incentives announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng when tabling the 2020 Budget was a review of the Employment Act 1955 to increase maternity leave from 60 days to 90 days effective 2021.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said it was a very basic leave that women were asking for and when babies are with their mothers for the first three months, there would be less incidences of babies choking on milk.

Previously, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran had said: “Maternity leave is essential for a new mother as after birth, she needs to take good care of herself to rebuild her strength and will need plenty of rest, good nutrition and help. Both maternity leave and paternity leave are part of workers’ welfare, family well-being and the well-being of the community.”

Yeoh said it was a myth that women abused their maternity leave by spending it on holiday. She said that maternity leave for mothers was to ensure both babies and mothers spend time together and so that babies are breastfed.

“Maternity leave is not for holiday or fun, it is really for exclusive breastfeeding. Doctors always encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies for six months, ” she told reporters last week.

Not many Malaysians, especially employers, are willing to openly express their discontent on the maternity extension.

It’s simply politically incorrect, and anyone saying it affects productivity would earn the wrath of workers groups.

But privately, many employers are already complaining that Malaysians have too many public holidays, where they must shoulder the absence of their employees while productivity takes a hit.

The fact remains that when mothers go on maternity leave, someone has to pick up the slack, and most often, at no extra pay or incentive.

Just ask the teachers, especially the single ones who are forced to handle these tasks, and the resentment is palpable. It doesn’t help that there are those who seem to be more (re)productive in delivering babies than others.

With so many breaks, maternity or gazetted holidays, it has caused critical work needing to be delayed or postponed.

Clients overseas have always queried why Malaysia has to be among the countries with the most public holidays, and cynically questioned if we work at all.

In fact, we are the South East Asian nation with the most public holidays, if we account for state holidays as well. We have won it by default because no other Asean country has states, though some have provinces.

And of course, every state – except Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak – has a Ruler, meaning scripted public holidays marking their official birthdays.

This year alone, there have been 15 national public holidays – with four resulting in extended weekend breaks. Plus, the 30 state-level holidays and two-day weekends.

That belt of 10 weeks had six public holidays – starting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s installation on July 30, right through to Malaysia Day on Sept 16.

In many cases, where work operations continue, even during public holidays, employers have had to pay their staff three to four times more than the daily wage rate when they have worked on public holidays.

With stiff competition from the emerging industrial economies in the region, our manufacturers have no choice but to keep their plants operating on public holidays even at the cost of sacrificing their profit margin in paying the overtime wage rates.

China, which is known as the factory of the world for producing almost everything, has only seven declared holidays.

Malaysia is already a high-cost country for basic manufacturing because we are short of labour. It can’t be denied that the frequent public holidays make it more difficult for the country to compete in low-cost production.

It might come as a surprise to most Malaysians, but the United States is one of few countries with 10 days of public holidays, while Germany only has nine.

As unpopular a decision as it may seem, it’s time the government recalibrates the system and takes the bold step to do away with minor public holidays.

It’s unacceptable to declare a public holiday for winning the Malaysia Cup or to attend a protest. It should be made illegal.

Just read up on countries with many public holidays, and you will find a European country which had to be bailed out by international financial institutions.

What’s next? Be a populist government and promise longer paternity leave because as fathers, we also need to build that special bond with our child from day one, which is only possible if we spend more time at home with the toddlers?

Keep foreign extremism at bay

THE arrest of two DAP lawmakers – including a state executive councillor – for their suspected links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant group is certainly one of the most explosive stories of the week.

This isn’t the first time that DAP leaders have found themselves accused of supporting the Sri Lankan terrorist group, since even Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P. Ramasamy and Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran have been entangled in that same web.

Old pictures, purportedly showing them with flags and paraphernalia from the LTTE, have been circulating on social media for a while, but recently received a new lease of life.

Both Dr Ramasamy and Kulasegaran have one thing in common – they have both spoken out against controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik. They have continuously lobbied for his deportation and the revoking of his permanent residence status. Many believe that their incessant calls have angered some individuals and groups linked to religious units, who have stepped up their campaign against the two.

But while this has been nothing more than political rhetoric, details provided by Bukit Aman’s counterterrorism division chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchai on Thursday have taken a new complexion.

The two DAP leaders – Melaka exco member G. Saminathan and Seremban Jaya assemblyman P. Gunasekaran – are among seven people arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, which comes with 28 days of detention. The possible arrest of Dr Ramasamy, a former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political science lecturer, has also cropped up.

Obviously, Saminathan and Gunasekaran have been under surveillance for a while, because the police said they were arrested for giving speeches during an LTTE Heroes Day event in Melaka on Nov 28 last year. They were also allegedly involved in activities promoting the movement, where they were said to have distributed fliers at the events.

Ayob also said that two of the seven detainees had been charged with assaulting the Sri Lankan ambassador at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in September 2016. He said police also arrested a 28-year-old insurance agent in Kuala Lumpur, who is believed to have planned an attack on the Sri Lanka High Commission in the city.

However, Ayob noted that race and religion did not factor in the arrest of the seven, adding that the force’s stance is consistent on all terror groups: “There is no issue of favouritism based on race and religion because for us, anyone who is a threat to national security will be arrested, ” he told The Malaysian Insight.

He said investigation papers would list all the evidence, to be submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador, meanwhile, said there was ample evidence against the suspects.

As a follow-up, the police will now have to provide evidence of their alleged involvement in terrorism activities – even if the LTTE is now defunct – and it remains to be seen if the AGC will quickly charge them in open court.

These are serious accusations, so surely this group of seven would want to defend themselves, while the public will be expecting the police to charge them since their actions are detrimental to the nation. However, there is also a sense of disbelief, and even cynicism, that this is a mere political game to appease powerful religious and racial forces.

After all, Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran has been dead for a decade now. He was cornered and killed with 18 of his most loyal bodyguards by the Sri Lankan military, it was reported. More than 10,000 former LTTE fighters, many of whom were forcibly conscripted by the rebels, have been rehabilitated since the war ended on May 18,2009, with only 300 still in detention, revealed Sri Lankan government figures.

Ayob must have anticipated such a reaction because he conceded that the police had also acted strongly against those who supported the Islamic State movement, adding that the police are professionals adhering to the letter of the law.

It’s unclear if the two are linked to the other arrested individuals because the latter party seems more radical in their actions and plans.

The arrest of Malaysian politicians, with their alleged involvement with LTTE, is, without doubt, the first of its kind in Malaysia.

But it comes as no surprise that the Malaysian anti-terrorism division has been vigilant against any attempts by Malaysians to revive support for LTTE, since India’s Home Ministry has also just renewed its ban on the group.

Recent news reports indicate that a representative of the Trans-national Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) met select media personnel in Chennai to announce a “tree sapling planting programme” to mark the “Mullivaikkal genocide” on May 18 – the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, in which the LTTE was annihilated.

According to an report on May 15 this year, the TGTE “member of Parliament” quietly left India.

“Formed after the defeat of LTTE, the TGTE is a government-in-exile with Visvanathan Rudrakumaran as ‘Prime Minister’. Internationally, the ex-LTTE members have organised themselves in two or three factions, including the TGTE, ” it said, adding that the five-year ban was aimed at stopping fringe groups from raising the “Eelam” banner or reviving the slogan of an independent Tamil nation.

The report also quoted security experts in Sri Lanka saying they were wary of a revival of the LTTE.

“We have information that they are re-organising in Canada and Europe, ” said renowned international terrorism expert Professor Rohan Gunaratna.

“As long as attempts are being made to propagate LTTE ideology, India should continue to extend the ban.”

The news report said that although a ban has been in place for close to three decades, Tamil nationalist groups and individuals have been flaunting their affinity with LTTE with impunity, including “hailing Prabhakaran publicly and putting up photos and posters”.

So, the Indian government hasn’t been able to stamp out support for LTTE completely in India, and no politician would want to antagonise the Tamil voters.

Perhaps there isn’t much difference for Malaysian Indian politicians to tamper with Tamil sentiments, the affinity for LTTE, or to win the minority but still crucial Indian votes as part of their game plan. Race and religion remain toxic subjects, regardless of their form or variation. Adding fuel to the fire, it’s worse that this foreign extremism is imported into Malaysia, only to find life in our already complicated politics.

Waiting in the wings

SUCCESSION planning is a mandatory requirement in any private company, especially public-listed ones, where staff are generally distinguished by two categories – ready to take over and being groomed to take over.

It’s simply a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace the old guard when they leave, retire or die.

There’s nothing insensitive or unusual about this practice because it helps increase the number of experienced and capable employees ready to assume these roles as they become available.

It also helps motivate leaders in a company, because they know they are being prepared to take over higher positions.

At any given place in the hierarchy, there are usually three names for every role, and not necessarily only for the chief executive officer post, but for those at C-suite level, too.

The term C-suite refers to the highest executive-level managers within a company, including the CEO, chief financial officer and chief operating officer. The term is derived from the use of the letter C in these positions.

Companies take this practice very seriously, with detailed scenarios deliberated, including a CEO retiring without warning, suddenly calling it quits, or God forbid, dealt the proverbial “getting hit by a bus” scenario – all of which can pull the rug from beneath the feet of succession planning.

But in the case of Malaysian politics, we don’t seem to handle it well. In fact, it borders on abysmal.

Little dialogue is conjured about the succession planning process for the Prime Minister’s position because it’s deemed politically incorrect and can come across as insensitive to many people.

Out of respect, the bulk of us choose to adopt a muted approach, because Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is simply over-whelmingly popular. Never mind that he turns 95 next year.

Despite his age, he shames even those in their 30s and 40s with his sharp mind and ability, and it seems, by and large, Malaysians want him to stay longer, if not forever.

But the reality is that Dr Mahathir is a mere mortal. Yes, he’s almost a superman, with his superb health and mental frame at his age but if he remains in office until the next election, he would be 98 years old then.

That’s a little too far fetched for us to imagine, and in all honesty, deep down in our hearts, we are not sure if that’s feasible, or even healthy for Malaysia.

Apparently, his desk in Putrajaya is overflowing with files right now, and Malaysia today is a far cry from the nation he governed during his previous tenure as PM.

If we care for him more than ourselves, we should be able to tell that he deserves to be enjoying the twilight years of his life in a better way. He said that he slogs 18 hours a day, and is constantly working against the clock. That can’t possibly be good for him.

Right now, we have an odd situation where the Prime Minister is fielding questions every few months about his timeline for passing the baton to his successor. Last week, he said he “expects to remain as PM for some three years.”

“I promise that I will step down before the next election and give way to another candidate. So I may have, at the most, three years perhaps, ” he said at a dialogue held at the Council on Foreign Relations here on Thursday.

In June, Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying he would hand over the reins to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim “within three years”.

The PM-in-waiting has been more precise, saying he should be in the hot seat by around May 2020, which is roughly seven months away.

When he was queried in a television interview on whether the transition would happen two years from Dr Mahathir assuming control, Anwar said, “there’s an understanding that it should be around that time, but I don’t think I should be too petty about the exact month.” Though he added, “But there is this understanding that he will resign at the appropriate time.”

To be fair to Dr Mahathir, he has been pretty consistent in his statements, unless one chooses to pick a bone with the meaning of every word and sentence he has uttered about the issue.

He has already named Anwar as his successor, mirrored in the single name which exists in the agreement that was signed by the heads of the Pakatan Harapan component parties.

There are no other names, and certainly, there is no deadline for Dr Mahathir to step down, either.

However, there are lingering doubts among cynical Malaysians, simply because politicians have a bad record of keeping their promises. They can’t even keep their election promises despite putting these pledges in black and white in their election manifesto.

Politicians are known to reverse decisions, earning mistrust in the process, and Dr Mahathir is no exception. It doesn’t help either that there is a history of acrimony between him and Anwar.

To complicate matters, Anwar has also gained a nemesis – from within his party – who wants Dr Mahathir to continue as PM forever, so that the wait will turn into nothing eventually.

It is no secret that Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who has fallen out with his boss, would want the PM’s post, too. It’s natural for politicians to be ambitious.

And let’s not write off Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Because she is the Deputy Prime Minister, and if anything should happen to Dr Mahathir, God forbid, she is next in line to assume the post to ensure a smooth transition if the plotting turns complicated.

That raises another point. We have an unusual situation where the successor – Anwar – has no role, no post and no clout in the government. He has been reduced to delivering speeches at universities and events, and that’s about it. In our entrenched political patronage system, it has put Anwar in a fix.

So will Dr Mahathir hand the reigns over to Anwar by May? Not a chance. It wouldn’t be like Dr Mahathir to stay away from the limelight as the host of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Kuala Lumpur next November.

He would surely want to be on that stage, basking in the global limelight, standing in the middle and flanked by US President Donald Trump, Chinese premier Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

In all likelihood, Anwar will have to wait until 2021 for the succession to happen, and if we listen to Dr Mahathir, it could be 2022.

But if the waiting game stretches for too long, patience will wear thin, and consequently the rot of distrust and discontent will set in.

So while we know that Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will be succeeding Lee Hsien Loong soon, the press will still be posing the same question to Dr Mahathir and Anwar over the next three years.