Friday, December 14, 2018

The road to a "truly Malaysian car"

Pic from Paul Tan's
If anyone had any doubts about the ties that bind Proton and its maker, the 121218 launch of the much-anticipated X70 cleared the air. Clearly, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad holds Proton very close to his heart. This is his big baby, after all. And much as he was not overly pleased about Proton's marriage to China's Geely in 2017, he could hardly conceal his excitement with their firstborn: the X70. The pictures of Tun Dr Mahathir and his wife with the Proton SUV, against a nostalgic backdrop, tells a thousand words. And while Dr M's wish that the marriage would give birth to a "truly Malaysian car" may never come true, we can expect this Malaysian car manufacturer to start making truly great cars.

A discerning millennial'a take on the X70:

Read also Handsome old man and the X70 by Annie (who is certainly not a millennial)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tying to stay colour blind ...

Pictures sometimes lie. But these Lynas workers who are fighting to keep their jobs look like Malays, all of them. And those who want to close down Lynas (and make those Malays jobless) have always been predominantly Chinese.  
Am I wrong to see a clash of colours here?  
But Annie, I notice, is experiencing the same symptoms. Her latest posting Why YBY and gang want to close down Lynas contains words like "overwhelming Chinese majority", "the support of the Chinese community" and "DAP". 
I'm hoping it's just the light, playing tricks on our eyes ..

p.s. The Star has a clip on the rallying Lynas workers at Parliament today. While DAP's anti-Lynas rallies have always been picnic-like, the workers look grim. One was even crying. Watch laaah.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tabung Haji vs Tabung Haji (or is it PWC vs EY?)

Updated, Melayu vs Melayu: Apa punya manusia, Tabung Haji pun mereka noda oleh A. Kadir Jasin vs Isu Tabung Haji: Apa yang perlu kita tahu oleh Cucu Tok Selampit

Inexperience + Arrogance = ? This government's problem is not so much that too many of its ministers are green but that they can be arrogant like hell. The Malay has a most apt description for it: bodoh sombong. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department for Islamic Affairs, Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (pic), would be the quintessential BS if you were to ask his growing army of detractors. His latest statements on the Tabung Haji affair could seal that reputation for him. Read h e r e where the minister said that from 2014 to 2017, TH was paying dividends to its depositors "illegally". 

The facts of the matter, however, are:

1. TH cannot - dulu, kini dan selamanya - pay any dividend without the approval of the Auditor-General. And Ambrin Buang, in this Feb 2016 article, clearly deemed it "legal" for dividends to be paid to the 9 million depositors. Bank Negara was also satisfied with TH's ability to pay, according to the same article:

 2. Other than the AG, external auditors have always been in the picture. PWC was appointed after Pakatan Harapan won the general election in May (Mujahid did mention this) but before that it was Earnst & Young. It was learned that from 2015 to 2017, the auditors reported asset surplus over liabilities for TH: some RM1.4 billion in 2015, over RM701 million in 2016, and well over RM350 million in 2017.

Now, could Mujahid have been selective or even ignorant when representing PWC's findings? It won't be the first or most radical with this government: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng pushed Malaysia's debts to over a trillion ringgit almost overnight despite the rosier reality (Moody's maintains Malaysia debt burden at 50.8 per cent of GDP). 

But why? Politics, of course!

If one is not convinced that TH is being used as a pawn for the (new) political masters, then try swallowing Mujahid's assurance (at the same press conference where he had just revealed the RM4 billion "hole" in TH) that the depositors will get their dividends this year (2018):

“Now that the restructuring plan is here, if we can fulfil two conditions and if there is profit, then definitely we will get (dividends). 

"But that will be announced before the end of the year, we have not close our (sic) accounts for the year yet.” - Mujahid: Tabung Haji paid dividends illegal since 2014 as debts exceeded assets

Writing on his Facebook yesterday, Azmi Arshad, accountant and social media journalist, is clearly disturbed:

"He was trying to give the impression that TH was never in the financial position to pay hibah. But…. MAGICALLY…. Tabung Haji will be able to pay dividend in 2018. Why? How? You’ll have to ask Mujahid how he will suddenly pluck RM4 billion cash out of nowhere, especially when the stock market has plunged under the present government – it closed today at a nearly 2-year low." - Mujahid's TH Horror Story - Another PHollywood Production

How, indeed?

p.s. I totally agree with former deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who said this government may spook depositors with its alarmist statements on TH. Read Stop issuing alarmist statements and sue TH bossesNeither green nor arrogant, this Umno Youth leader. Not in this instant, anyway.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Walking against ICERD

In spirit I walk with my fellow Malaysians today. They are, even as I write this, gathering in growing numbers to show appreciation of the Government for deciding NOT to ratify the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (ICERD). 

Thank you, especially, to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for making the timely U-turn on the matter. It could not have been easy for him. But perhaps the good doctor realised how flawed this UN convention is in the context of our nation. Or perhaps he did not wish to risk the wrath of the "lazy" and "corruptible" Malays. Either way, it's one U-turn of his that gets my thumbs-up.  
Lim Kit Siang says the ICERD episode shows that Malaysia has "a long way to go to accomplish our new goal of a new Malaysia, which is to make Malaysia a top world-class nation and not a divided and fractured one, warring against itself".  
As if ratifying ICERD will make us a top world class nation tomorrow.  
But, to be fair to him, the DAP leader also concedes that considering the multi-cultural nature of Malaysia, the country should not ratify the treaty as long as the majority of Malaysians do not want it. 
As I see it, the reason why Dr Mahathir decided there was no need to ratify ICERD is simple: ICERD is flawed and will not do Malaysia any good. This country has been progressing well - certainly better than its neighbours including, in some departments, even Singapore - and the people have enjoyed peace and unity all this while (except for a brief period in 1969 which was sparked by politicians at the time, many of who are still alive and active today).
What we have ain't broke. Far from it. 
But threatening to "fix" the system - and the Malays/Bumiputeras - compelled the "lazy" race to come out in numbers today to show their displeasure. And if you didn't know, Melayus generally keep their word: when they've decided to do something, they don't backtrack. Pantang undur. So when Dr Mahathir decided on the U-turn, they gently turned a potentially angry demonstration into one big, gentle thanksgiving where they show their appreciation and say their doas.

Read also:
The illusion of power in post-Reformasi Malaysia by Tajuddin Rasdi
... Discrimination against Malay-Muslims by Mak Khuin Weng
Lynas, ICERD, and DAP by A Voice
Malaysian Opposition garners support with protest march by Straits Times Singapore

Friday, December 07, 2018

Political hysteria behind Lynas ... among other things

Ho-ho-ho! [apologies to Santa Claus and the wonderful spirit of Christmas], Fuziah Salleh ain't gonna be too happy with Akramshah Sanusi for this unexpected stinger on Lynas (Judge Lynas on merit, not political hysteria, says PPBM leader). 

In a nutshell, Akramshah has accused the PKR Kuantan MP of acting irresponsibly and that she and her "larger cabal" including DAP MP Wong Tack "were seeking forgiveness for their irresponsibility by claiming that their environment, or the environmental health of their community, was their priority". 

He also said Fuziah was taking political hysteria to new heights.

The chemical engineer questioned the push by Fuziah and Wong Tack for the removal of waste on grounds of environmental health when the main threat to the health and safety of Kuantan's community was the bauxite industry which "regularly paints the town red with dust".

Akramshah said many other things. 

So I think it's better that I re-post the entire FMT article here:

Judge Lynas on merit, not political hysteria, urges PPBM leader

PETALING JAYA: A PPBM Supreme Council member has urged the government to judge Lynas Malaysia based on merit, not “political hysteria”.
Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi, who is also a chemical engineer, accused PKR’s Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh of leading such sentiments since 2011, which he said had led to many missed opportunities for the Malaysian economy.
In a statement, he referred to a proposed 2012 joint venture between Siemens and Lynas to manufacture high-end rare earth magnets in Kuantan. He said the plan never materialised due to the perceived high political risk.
Siemens instead built the plant in Vietnam, exemplifying, he said, why no similar rare earth-dependent manufacturer had chosen to build a supply chain in the area.
This is despite Lynas producing 22% of the world’s rare earth elements necessary for producing high-tech products, from mobile phones and flat-screen televisions to turbines for wind generators and electric vehicle motors.
Accusing Fuziah of acting irresponsibly in the matter, he said she and her “larger cabal”, which included Bentong MP Wong Tack, were “seeking forgiveness for their irresponsibility by claiming that their environment, or more specifically, the environmental health of the community, is their priority”.
He noted that Lynas had a six-year track record of safe operations supported by audit reports from both government regulators such as the Department of Environment (DoE) and Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the review committee commissioned by the new government.
He said the review committee, led by Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin, and comprising experts previously critical of the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP), had published a report that supported its continued operations.
However, he claimed Fuziah was taking the “hysteria” to “new heights” by “spinning the reported findings and through emotive misinformation”.
“Bahagian 8 from page 91 of the LAMP Review Committee Report endorses the building of a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for all the waste, including the mildly radioactive waste, and urging completion of the research for the conversion of the said waste to safe materials such as fertilisers with the ongoing support of local universities,” he said.
“Exporting the waste is only seen as an option should the first two recommended efforts be deemed unsuccessful.”
He also questioned the push by Fuziah, Wong Tack and others for the removal of waste on grounds of environmental health when in fact the main threat to the health and safety of Kuantan’s community was the bauxite industry which “regularly paints the town red with dust”.
He voiced concern that the Cabinet might decide on Lynas’ fate based on a case presented by a minister who had been influenced by such claims.
“Yeo was publicly opposed to Lynas before her appointment as the minister, and now presides over the plant’s regulators, the DoE and AELB. As a Pakatan Harapan leader, our higher standards should have led her to recusing herself from decisions pertaining to Lynas, instead of being the one that instructs the regulators.
“As she has chosen not to recuse herself, one would expect her to at least demonstrate her impartiality by visiting the plant formally before forming any recommendations on Lynas’s fate. She has not.”
He said the Cabinet must stand above political hysteria and residual bias as Malaysia’s reputation as a high-end industrial and technological investment destination was at stake, in addition to the livelihoods of Lynas’ employees, suppliers and their families.
“At the very least, as a chemical engineer who has operated a hazardous plant before, I recommend that key Cabinet members, even the prime minister, visit the Lynas plant before deciding on its fate.”

p.s. I got to know Akramshah during the blogging heydays (circa 2006) when he regularly shared his thoughts on Tangents: Restless Musings of a Malay Mind. I was pleasantly surprised just now to discover that his blog is still alive although the last entry was in August this year about the proposed third national car. Before leaving Umno for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's Pribumi Bersatu in 2016, Akram actively campaigned against the MRT's decision to build lines too close to some homes, including in his neighbourhood.