Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What can Bloggers do in General Election?

I've been thinking about this question for some time now. Reading this blog entry Hiring Bloggers In Elections led me to put thoughts down in written form and hopefully through this new media attract feedback and input from other bloggers who are interested to help.

Let me start by listing down several frustration I have as a voter and taxpayer in democratic Malaysia:

  • campaign period is too short for the voting public to interact and evaluate each candidate
  • there are limited opportunities for candidates to broadcast their manifesto and plans for their local constituency
  • promises made during campaign period are not recorded and voters are unable to hold their elected MP to these promises
  • sophisticated voters who take the trouble to do homework to evaluate, question and interogate aspirant MPs are not able to benefit other voters with their findings and conclusions
  • seditious, vulgar, racist, less-than-intelligent utterances made in the campaign trail are not recorded and exposed
  • voters do not get equal access of information on contending candidates
  • we end up sending incompetent (unelectable) individuals to our legislatures just because the party put them forward to us

The best source of information on any candidate is from the grassroot. Tamper this with intelligent analysis and scrutiny by a community of bloggers, we create for ourselves a robust screening process. With the use of readily available technology, it is possible to create a grassroot driven repository of information on our legislators - www.KnowYourYB.com.

Imagine a web portal of grassroot content - text, links, videos, mp3, pictures - on all candidates seeking election. In this portal, readers can download lists of "Questions You Should Ask Your Candidate". With the proliferation of video phones, we encourage the public to record their conversation with candidates and especially record their responses to questions directed to them. These videos are uploaded and made available to all.

If a candidate makes an election promise in his campaign, ask that he/she repeats it on camera and upload it to the portal as public record. Election speeches delivered at rallies, seminars and forums are recorded and uploaded as MP3 or videos.

This portal should also provide all nominated candidates equal and fair access to put up their own materials - bio, cv, speeches, manifesto, personal notes, campaign timetable etc etc.

After the election period, this same portal can continue to report on the successful candidates - speeches, voting record, attendance in Parliament or state assemblies, public service actitivities, local issues etc etc. Sort of a transparent and LIVE public report card on each MP. This set of information archive would serve as valuable resource for voters as well as the candidates when they seek re-election.

The mission here is to create "that" media platform for public accountability that has eluded Malaysians. To make this work, we need a group of neutral and like minded promoters who are not members of any political parties. Their motivation has to be apolitical.

My personal motivation is that some day in the future, my children and grandchildren are able make informed choices to elect effective and accountable legislatures. This is one thing they deserve to receive from me.

Do you believe your children deserves the same?

I have more ideas on how to make this work. However, it will take more than one man's effort to pull this off. I am sure you have some ideas of your own too. If you feel compelled, please help spread the word. Link this entry to your blog. I like to know if there are others out there who feel sufficiently motivated to turn this idea into reality.

I am sending this out to get feedback and comments.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Celaka Singapore!

Our leaders have a habit of finger pointing at others for our own woes. Summary of the most recent episode found here.

MrBrownNetwork sent their investigative journalist to interview the finger pointing man for their news talk show. The clip is here.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Case for Unified Traffic Summons

According to this the RTD and police have agreed to a unified scheme for traffic offence summons from Feb 15, onwards.

The decision was made four months after the Transport Ministry and the police began discussions on the amount of fines for traffic offenders.

Last September, the ministry was unhappy with the police for discounting fines between 50 and 70 per cent for traffic offences.

The move was intended to encourage offenders to settle summonses and discourage bribery. But Chan slammed the police, saying the cut in fines would send a wrong signal to hardcore traffic offenders.
Bolehkah? Is this revised scheme going to achieve its twin objectives (1) reduce traffic accidents and fatalities (2) reduce incidence of corruption?

Almost immediately, you have this response from a spokesman representing the heaviest road user (abuser?) group.

I remember a podcast by MrBrown "discussing" the merit of the police's original discounting proposal. Click here to listen to podcast.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Blogs Push towards Transparency

Now this is really interesting. In the midst of 2 law suits against bloggers by NSTP and the PM's public statement defending the action against Jeff and Rocky, a few bloggers picked up on the government purchase of a luxury jet.

I agree with Rocky, that local bloggers should take credit for:

  • exposing the story that the mainstream media chose to ignore
  • getting the facts right, albeit lacking in complete details
  • undertaking to publish government response in full
  • forcing the PM to come out and confirm the purchase

For a PM who held up transparency as cornerstone in his style of governance, he should thank the blogs maintained by loyal Malaysians who "told him the truth".

See sir, bloggers ARE responsible and will go the extra mile to answer your challenge to advance our country's human/intellectual capital. They have integrity, they do not choose to shy away from important news nor ply politically safe passages. Their ambitions and aspirations, I believe are in line with yours, to make Malaysia a better and stronger nation.

They are not in it for the money. Neither are they in it to gain your personal favour and be invited to Seri Perdana for private dinners. They dont claim to be your friend. They just want the room and right to exercise their right as citizen of the country; to have a government they deserve and a government that deserves them.

So sir, do you deserve us? If you think you do, please show us due respect. Your lame statement, confirming that a new jet has been purchased but at the same time denying that the government is paying for it is simply insulting.

Some people say you have a good heart although not that smart. But I cant believe you are that ...! First of all, as the ultimate "ceo" of ALL the stakeholders in this transaction, your finger print can be clearly traced at every turn of this major capital decision.

For the sake of transparency (I feel it is time you get some practise and put your election manifesto into action), get your PR machinery to answer the following:

  1. Whose idea was it that the government needed a new plane? (Yours?)
  2. What are the expected benefits (or pressing needs) justifying this purchase (Providing current value of expenditure on executive(VIP) travel costs using prevailing modes and existing aircraft; flight incidence in the past 3 years, projected flight incidence in the next 5-10 years, passenger load etc would be useful for this purpose)
  3. What is the expected value to be recovered from aircraft(s) retired or disposed subsequent to this new acquisition (the new aircraft is a replacement and not an addition right?)
  4. Are the terms of the lease with PMB competitive (could some one else have offered you a better deal?)
  5. As Chairman of Khazanah, what is the ROI PMB expects to make from leasing this aircraft to the government (you did look at the ROI right?)
  6. If PMB projects to make a profit from this transaction, does that mean the government could have completed this transaction on its own at a lower cost? (common sense says so)
  7. If PMB is not expected to make a profit, and instead will shoulder a loss, why do you as the Chairman of Khazanah approve a loss making transaction
  8. Can we continue trust you to be trustworthy steward and manager or our nation's wealth? (Are you sure you wont repeat a the Pantai repurchase-type deal in future? Or sell off your assets cheap again?)
  9. As the Prime Minister, if the Government does not own it, who is responsible for the costs of the security details around the aircraft (is this built in to the price of the lease?)
  10. Will you proudly showcase this "cuma sewa, bukan beli" expense as an example of your government's prudent fiscal management in BN's next election manifesto? (i'll be sure to look out for it, when BN candidates come knocking at my door. So YB DUN N10737- Bukit Lanjan, and YB Parlimen P107- Subang, you know what to bring with you next time, okay)

Please sir, lay it on us! Malaysians have told you many truths. You now start, tell us some truth. Unlike some of your ministers, we know how to handle truths.

Monday, January 29, 2007

China Bans Pigs !!

Sensational? Got your attention? Surprised? Incredible? Read on...

I picked up this weekend's AWSJ which caried an article by Gordon Fairclough and Geoffrey Fowler (online version requires sub).

Apparently, China Central Television, the nationwide state owned TV network banned all images and spoken references to the animal in commercials, including those tied to the Lunar New Year, China's biggest holiday.

The intent: "to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean". "China is a multiethnic country. To show respect to Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any 'pig' images off the TV screen", said a statement issued by the networks ad department to ad agencies.

Several MNCs in the FMCG sector had to suddenly cancel and modify their campaigns, scrambling to adapt to the last minute rule change, altering spots that had included pigs. Nestle, Coca-Cola Co., and Walt Disney are the few big ones mentioned in the article.

The end of the article recalled a misunderstanding 12 years ago (last occurance of the pig zodiac) when some newspapers published a tale in which a pig saves the life of Muhammad. That incident aroused a lot of anger.

Despite this ban, there are still gonna be plenty of pigs in China!. Prints, display and billboards will ensure pigs abound throughout the festive seasons and possibly through the year.

I see the latest move as a gesture of some magnitude to remind and sensitize the general public of the need to respect differences in society. This development is interesting and I value it as an example of sensible governance in an increasingly intolerant world.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who Briefs our PM?

I believe our PM is a man with good heart. Intellectually several notches below Tun but deep down a decent, caring and loving person. Amongst the elligible honchos in the UMNO hierarchy at the material time to appoint a successor, I was glad Tun picked him. In my mind, he was less likely to be evil. Probably one who actually takes our interest at heart.

In his career as a politician and executive of the country, I dont recall him helming any lucrative ministry. There was no contract of significant value to dish out. Neither was there money printing licensing/permit issuing authority.

So when he launched his election manifesto and promised a clean government, independent judiciary and efficient bureaucracy, I told myself our country is set on the right track - sharing the same feeling as the majority of Malaysians at that time.

However, soon after winning the landslide election victory, I began to see signs to the contrary:

  • he ballooned the size of executive and along with it the countries administrative budget by creating new ministries rather than reduce them (more efficient??)
  • personally chair numerous working committees which cannot possibly be an efficient way to run the country (better delivery? empowerment of people?)
  • repeating the same sound bites in his speeches with little follow through (honesty? integrity?)
  • apart from the pre-election dismissal of Kasitah Gadam (he must now wished he was an UMNO member!), other ministers were tacitly proclaimed "clean" and protected with extension of service
  • No follow through on the AP scandal (was evidence really lacking?)
  • plead ignorance in the ECM-Avenue deal that was approved by his ministry (who pushed the deal if the minister himself is not aware of it?)
  • had to intervene to deconstruct an illegal deal (sale of Pantai) done by people close to him (I am still waiting for action on accountability, who push this deal through in the first place? what law was broken, who is culpable?)

At this point in time, I still think he is a man with a good heart. A good heart alone is not enough to run the country. As a man who is humble by nature, I can see him relying on men he trusts to provide him advise.

The integrity of these men have absolute impact and enormous effect on the way Pak-lah functions as PM. The PM needs to surround himself with men who are not motivated by greed and personal gain.

Reading Pak-lah's comments on the lawsuit against bloggers here, I have a feeling the men who brief him are less than honest.

In this case, the ethical ones are the bloggers and those who lie and attempt to hide are your own advisors, sir.

Your trust in them has been betrayed more than once - in ECM-Avenue and Pantai deals. The more worrying thing to me sir, you bestow so much trust on these men, that you are not even aware of the trickery they pull in front of you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NST versus Malaysians

I came across the this article
3540 Jalan Sudin: Please, Sir, Not the NST which echoes my personal feelings.

Over the weekend I took some time to reflect on the ongoing law suit against Jeff and Rocky. It has led to a groundswell of protest amongst bloggers and blog readers. Many (most) condemn the action by NST and the individuals as an attempt to silence independent commentators and persistent antagonists of the Kali-led NST by drawing these two individuals into a costly legal battle.

As an individual, if I felt I had been maligned in untrue writings by another person, I would demand a retraction and an unreserved apology. If this is not forthcoming, I want to have the right to seek remedy through legal channel. In this case, I am not aware of prior attempts by these individuals to seek retraction of offending articles. Why Not? They instead chose to jump straight to the legal process. Why?

Reading between the lines and re-reading recent comments and warnings by the government, I suspect, there is a wider agenda at play. Our local blogsphere has slowly but surely developed into a credible alternative media. They offer independent analysis and commentary on current events and government policies.

Official government PR machinery (of which NST is one) is finding it more and more difficult to spin its news for our "want to perform, but cannot" government of the day. Every attempt is quickly dissected and unspun by probing bloggers. Jeff Ooi and Rocky do this consistently on their blogs. As a result, the segment of English speaking and reading Malaysian that forms the core audience of NST are no longer reachable.

Kalimullah was appointed to head the NST by Pak-lah to serve one purpose - not unlike head-honchos before him - to protect our PM's political image and spin his political agenda. However I think he is probably the most ineffective appointee in history. The more he tries prop-up the failing PM, the harder he fails, no thanks to bloggers like Jeff and Rocky.

Whoever is behind this idea to sue bloggers has got it all wrong. Unlike commercial entity that are motivated by profits, independent bloggers and its community of readers are motivated by something purer than just money. This is something I believe men who are motivated by money alone can never understand. The longer this fight drags on, the stronger the support base will grow. NST's reputation will be destroyed along with the reputation of the government it seeks to promote.

For those of you who are shareholders of NST, do ensure your shareholder funds are not used to pay for the legal costs of the individuals involved in this case, especially since one of them is not even an employee of the paper anymore.