Thursday, August 31, 2006


Malaysia turns 49 on August 31. Happy Merdeka Day to all Malaysians and friends!!!

The country has come a long way since the late Tunku Abdul Rahman declared independence from the British. The British were not the only colonial masters. The country was under foreign control -- Portugese, Dutch, British, Japanese and back to the British -- for nearly 450 years since the Portugese first landed in Malacca in 1511.

What has Malaysia achieved and what's the road ahead? Daddy will try to write something concise and hopefully meaningful later this week after all the national day wining and dining. :-)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Singapore Diaspora

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng launched a portal in Shanghai over the weekend in a bid to connect with the growing Singapore diaspora, estimated to be at least 140,000-strong Singaporeans.

This is probably the first time the number has been revealed. But the number is definitely understated because it is based on Singaporeans who actually registered with Singapore High Commission overseas.

Dad knows a number of Singaporeans in Malaysia who preferred to stay away from the radar screen.

There was one failed property developer, a couple of brokers who left Singapore due to problems with their licence in Singapore, and a bookie. Of course, there are some famous ex-Singaporeans who have made it big in Malaysia and will never bother to log in to the portal. They include big-time tycoons such as Quek Leng Chan of Hong Leong, Teh Hong Piow of Public Bank and Rashid Hussain, who used to control RHB Bank.

It will probably require a dissertation to analyse the Singapore diaspora. It is a bit difficult to address the problems without some understanding of the demographics of the Singaporeans overseas.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Lesson in How to Give

Another thotful article from daddy's uncle. Dad has plenty of new-found respect for the Gates Foundation and Warren Buffet but he's still busy looking for his first million dollars. Can't afford to give anything away at this time. :-)

The sums of money were almost beyond comprehension. What does it mean when the world’s second richest man gives over US$30 billion that is HK$234,000,000,000 if you want to count the zeros) to the world’s richest man, or at least to his charity?

Both Bill Gates (right and wife Melinda in the centre) and Warren Buffett (left) have much in common. They have an amazing ability to accumulate money and they have shown equal sagacity in giving it away. They are both Americans. They both say that spending their wealth sensibly is just as difficult as making it, or as Buffett says “Giving money away is a much tougher problem than amassing it”. They both support inheritance taxes. They both disapprove of being too generous to their children.

In today’s world there are more and more billionaires who have got everything — property, casinos, horses, women, yachts, entire football teams, jet planes. Entrepreneurs do not like to see their wealth lying idle in the bank. But their huge fortunes are notoriously hard to dispose of.

What makes the examples of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett so special is that they both believe that a meritocratic society is incompatible with inherited wealth. As Mr Buffett said when he gave away his US$30 billion : “I will leave my children enough money so that they can do what they want but not so much that they can do nothing”. Both Gates and Buffett have campaigned strongly against President Bush’s policy goal to abolish the U.S. tax on inherited wealth.

And it is not just Gates and Buffett who are speaking like this. The founder of CNN Ted Turner, the investor George Soros, and Sandy Weill of Citigroup all say the wisest destination for huge wealth is philanthropy. Inherited wealth is harmful to society, they say. Give to society, not to your heirs, is their message. These men are also scathing about governments’ ability as donors of aid. Buffett says only a fool leaves his money to a government.

Is something new stirring in the hearts of the super rich? Will the 21st century be the era when the mega-rich develop an equally large charitable conscience? Are we entering an age of unprecedented philanthropy?

I also admired Warren Buffett’s words at the New York ceremony when he signed letters distributing his wealth. He said that passing wealth down the generations would create the sort of aristocratic society that the founding fathers of the U.S. sought to prevent. He also labelled capitalism as an inefficient distribution mechanism. “When your children have all the advantages, like the best education, it is neither right nor rational to flood them with money”, he said. Even more revealingly, he believes that private inherited wealth and government welfare payments deliver the same result — a cycle of dependency or “a lifetime supply of food stamps” as he puts it.

Finally, Mr Buffett repeatedly emphasised the role of luck in getting rich. He calls himself “a member of the lucky sperm club” by which he means he was lucky enough to be born at the right time, in the right place, so that he could reward his absurd ability for asset allocation. Nor does he care about attaching his name to his wealth; he is not interested in perpetuating his name with a “Buffett Foundation”.

Finally, says Buffett, rich people should look at his gifts as models for what to do with their wealth. I believe Buffett teaches us all something very valuable: how to be wise with money while we are still alive.

Warren Buffett is famous for his humour. As he handed Bill Gates the letter setting out the gift of his $30 billion he quipped “Be careful you don’t lose that letter!”

Dinner Talk

Mom and dad went to a lovely dinner with some friends at Il Lido at Sentosa Golf Club on Sentosa Island recently. They said the food was fantastic! The company -- the CEO of a Singapore-listed company and wife, an experienced retail executive, two public relations consultants and their partners -- was great and the conversations tantalising. I bet dad was in his usual talkative mood after a few glasses of exquisite wine. I could imagine mom rolling her eyes whenever dad gave his conspiracy theory. hahaha.

Inevitably, the conversation drifted to the Dr M-Badawi clash. My dad was outflanked at dinner. They all seemed to blame Dr M for the fiasco. One of them even said quite blatantly that the fight was triggered because of foregone financial gains from the stalled bridge project to replace the causeway (pix). Although the allegation was not new, one of them even put a price tag of RM30 million as the financial motive.

Dad was in his element, I think. He argued that there is always an element of money politics in Malaysia but he didn't think they were the overriding interests in the current clash of the Malay leaders.

"You don't try to unseat the PM over RM30 million!" my dad thundered, adding that they are many creative ways to do things in Malaysia. A business associate could have easily written a cheque to help offset whatever advances that have been made, he argued.

Anyway, my daddy then painted the bigger picture. Dr M is a true Malay nationalist and he will continue to push his way through for what he perceives to be national interest, rightly or wrongly.

My dad said Dr M has demonstrated his nationalist streaks many times along the way, although many commentators simply dismissed them as self-interest or part of the deep-rooted patronage system.

The doctor in Dr M has always shown the tendency to tackle the root of the problems and he is even willing to demolish narrow Malay interests and symbols for a greater good along the way. In a way, he is always a pragmatist like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.


1. Dr M fought against the Sultans (a potent Malay symbol) in 1992 because they were blatantly abusing their powers. Dr M won.

2. Dr M sacked former chosen heir Anwar Ibrahim and rocked the United Malays National Organisation (Umno). Dr M won, but at a heavy price.

3. Dr M fought against the currency traders and called for major reforms of the international financial architecture. There was little personal gain in his move to implement capital controls and fight against the currency traders in 1998. Despite the initial apprehension, the currency peg provided greater certainty to a lot of Malaysian businessmen but it also weighed heavily on Umno/govt-linked companies that had borrowed heavily in US$ -- Renong, UEM, Malaysia Airlines and even the former Konsortium Perkapalan, which was controlled by Dr M's eldest son Mirzan. Dr M won.

A well-known former high-ranking Singapore civil servant recently told dad and his colleagues that Dr M was the only Asian who got it right in his assessment of the currency traders. Dad does agree with Dr M that there is a need to regulate the hedge funds, whose trades can be many times bigger than many real economies. The hedge fund community can also destroy real economies through their attacks on currencies, as seen during the height of the regional financial crisis in 1998.

4. Dad reckons Dr M will continue to fight against Badawi until the bridge is built to replace the causeway. Dad said it's a bit myopic to see the bridge issue as part of the patronage system.

He feels strongly that there is a need to allow water in the straits to flow freely cos the straits is almost like a giant septic tank that has not been flushed for eighty years. This is cos the land-based causeway retards the flow of water in the straits. Of cos, dad said Malaysia must do its part to help up clean up the two dirty rivers flowing into the straits.

5. Dad said Dr M is passionate about Johor issues cos he wants Johor Baru to to be fully developed to rival Singapore. Hence, He helped jumpstart big projects in the state such as Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Senai Airport, and the bridge project to help create a transportation hub (like Singapore). Again, there is national interest here although many people fail to see it beyond a mere bridge project with monetary spin-offs to Dr M's camp.

Despite the disagreements and banter, dad felt it was one of the best dinners he had ever attended, thanks to the PR consultant who organised it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Must-see movies

This is one of the best spoofs I have ever seen on Malaysian politics. So farnee and so well done. Dad helped me interpret the meaning of each one.

A well-done image to reflect the Dr M-Badawi fight, based on the Da Vinci Code movie. "Benci" means "hate" in Malay.

This is based on Malaysian PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's so-called elegant silence during the initial stage of the fight with Dr M. Badawi has since broken his silence, but few would find his answers elegant.

This is quite a good attempt but the image of Dr M on Jet Li in the movie Fearless is not so obvious. Anyway, Che Det was Dr M's pen name when he wrote to newspapers on Malay issues as a young doctor in the northern Malaysian state of Kedah. Not quite sure what it means though.

This is an excellent job. Khairy Jamaluddin -- the son-in-law of Badawi -- is superimposed on the villain called Mr Smith in the Matrix movie series. Apt?

An excellent remake of the movie theme "A Bridge too Far" -- an obvious reference to Malaysia's botched attempt to build a bridge to replace the causeway linking Singapore. The saga plays a big part in Dr M's current crusade to try to unseat Badawi.

Bodyguard Mu

Another article by Uncle. Very interesting. It's amazing how he weaved the colourful history of a major figure called Lung Yun into the probably uneventful meeting with his little-known bodyguard. Can't wait for the next installment from Uncle. Hehe.

Yunnan is a vast province – as big as France. So I was rather surprised that when I was on my way to Zhong Dian from Lijiang in northern Yunnan last month a message arrived as to whether we could deviate from our proposed route to visit an ex-bodyguard of the once formidable de facto ruler of Yunnan, Lung Yun.

Lung Yun was a most powerful man in modern Chinese politics. Many of my dear readers will no doubt have heard of him — and by the way he is the grandfather of a godson of mine!

By the 1940’s Lung Yun was a powerful warlord in Yunnan. Call him a governor if you like but he was virtually the dictator of Yunnan when China was still in the grip of civil war and the war against Japanese imperialism.

Politics of course are but power games played more often than not for someone’s personal gain. So it was with what happened in the infamous case which later came to be known as the Kunming Incident (or 10.3. Incident as more popularly known) in which the bodyguard played a pivotal role.

In 1945 under the pretext of ordering Lung Yun’s forces into Vietnam and Burma to accept the Japanese surrender in these two countries, Chiang Kai Shek was in fact mobilizing his troops to enter Yunnan, to arrest Lung Yun and to take him to Nanjing, the then Nationalist capital. Chiang’s real motive was to reduce Lung Yun to a eunuch, at least politically-speaking.

In came Mr Mu, one of Lung Yun’s bodyguards. Since the age of 16 he had loyally served the warlord and when Chiang’s forces surrounded Lung Yun’s mansion in Kunming (it is now a guest-house) Mu, as one of Lung’s closest and most trusted bodyguards, helped Lung to escape from the mansion through the servant’s exit door at the back of the house with a small group of loyalists.

Lung managed to reach the fortified Wu Tai Shan in Kunming. A few days later, after defiantly thwarting Chiang’s forces, Lung surrendered to the mighty Chiang.

The story had a happy ending for both boss and bodyguard. Lung decided to escape to Hong Kong in 1948. Later he was considered to be a great patriot and after 1949 he was much honoured by the Chinese Government including becoming a vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, a most powerful post.

As for the bodyguard, after a few years in Nanjing he was ordered by Lung to return to Kunming. Like many of his contemporaries Mu suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution but in the 1980’s like many in his previous position he was rehabilitated under Deng Xiao Ping.

So when the opportunity came for me to meet someone who had such a interesting background and who was associated with such a fascinating personality in modern Chinese history who could have resisted the opportunity?

Mu is now 89 years old, in fragile condition but truly alert and like many older people he retains a vivid memory of the past (though not of the present!). He is of course, as far as I am aware, the last surviving link to the ‘10.3 Incident’.

Sophie's note: Dad showed me a Columbia University site that cited famous journalist-turned-writer Edgar Snow's The Long March to supplement my reading. There was some write-up on the warlord Lung Yun.


My dad's uncle likes to write on a wide range of topics although he is a busy lawyer. This is one of the published articles he sent to my dad, who then read it to me. It's very well written.

Hong Kong’s low and simple taxation system is about to be demolished. A Goods & Services Tax — or VAT as it is known in Europe — is to be introduced, though at the lowly rate of 5 percent compared to Europe’s 15 to 22 percent.

But on balance I must agree that a sales tax in HongKong is both overdue and a sound idea. I definitely do not agree with the comment by our last colonial governor, the meddlesome Fat Pang, that such a tax would be ‘socially inequitable’.

For as long as anyone can remember, which means within the lifetime of everyone here in Hong Kong, we have enjoyed a system where a few people pay low direct taxes on their salaries, while the majority pay no tax at all Indeed the super rich have had no need to pay any tax at all since they can always earn their income in the form of dividends which are not taxable.

But I was worried to read that property developments are to be exempted from the new sales tax which is bound to look like government favouritism towards powerful property tycoons.

The crucial point is that, as is being commented on with increasing frequency, only a minority of the working population pays any direct salaries tax. Remember that Hong Kong has no general ‘income tax’, only a selective ‘salaries tax’! Out of a working population of 3.4 million people only 1.2 million people pay the salaries tax. And company tax rates are set low by international standards.

So Hong Kong is noteworthy for being a very rich community where only a small number of people pay tax and the government is greatly dependent on revenue from land sales and rents.

It was the British who invented this clever device and for many decades the Hong Kong people were happy with this colonial system. Landowners, property speculators and tycoons made themselves very rich on the property bandwagon. Meanwhile owner occupiers of flats have increasingly come to realise that the government’s high-land-value policy is in effect a distorting, disguised and indiscriminate form of taxation.

The government owns all the land. If it needs money it sells a little bit and at its sole discretion may permit a skyscraper to be built. So everyone who buys property is paying tax to the government by way of the inflated price. Rentals prices are also a disguised form of taxation.

So if the government now wishes to broaden the tax base by introducing a GST I must congratulate the government. The decision is long overdue but it raises one major question. Does a broader tax base mean the government will be less reliant on revenue from land sales and property? If so, the implication is that land and property prices are likely to fall. Is this why property developments are being exempted from the GST?

The government is caught between two opposing policies. The majority of the population would like to see the lower property prices and rents that the GST could bring, but big business wants property to continue to be vastly overpriced.

The idea of a GST also needs some fine-tuning. Personally, I believe a 5 percent GST is about right but there has to be some adjustment for the poorer members of the community. I also strongly believe that education, including newspapers and magazines, should be exempted from GST.

Certainly teachers who play a crucial part in the dissemination of knowledge should not have their services taxed. I have no quarrels if luxuries are taxed at a higher rate but one thing is certain. In the years to come the tax will only go up and not down. Once blood is tasted who is willing to forgo the pleasure?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Ever noticed the physical difference between policemen on both sides of the Johor causeway? Malaysian policemen seem to have wider girth than their Singapore counterparts. Genetics or better food or more money? Nobody knows.

Malaysia's Special Branch police at a training session in July 2006. Pix from website of Polis Diraja Malaysia.

Singapore police look like leaner fighting machines. Pix from the website of the Singapore Police Force.

Dad doesn't have time to analyse the numbers to establish whether it is indeed true that Singapore police are officially better paid than their Malaysian counterparts.

Please see the Singapore police salary scale and the Malaysian police salary scale. Maybe someone who knows police ranks and numbers well can do a fair comparison for me. I'm still learning Malay and I don't really know how to count yet. :-)

Singapore Police Part 2

This is another example of how the police use its power to maintain control in Singapore, as seen in this artice in The Straits Times today. Please see earlier posting.

Aug 23, 2006
Police say 'no' again to outdoor protests
By Tanya Fong

POLICE are standing by their decision to not allow outdoor demonstrations at next month's World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings.

They said they recognised the important role civil society organisations (CSOs) play at such events. However, they were unable to waive the rules which prohibit outdoor demonstrations as they did not want 'to compromise the high level of security that will be in place during the conference'.

Earlier, the World Bank's Singapore representative Peter Stephens had urged the authorities to allow outdoor protests by accredited groups during the gatherings next month, expected to be attended by 16,000 international delegates from more than 180 countries, including heads of governments, central bankers, finance and corporate chiefs.

He told Bloomberg News: 'The bank's preference is that civil society groups should be able to peacefully express their views outside of the conference facility in a way that doesn't cause disruption.'

He added that 'we have our preference and Singapore has its laws, so we are trying to find an area that's acceptable to all.'

Police said they had made 'maximum effort' to facilitate the involvement of CSOs, within the framework of Singapore's laws. They pointed out that a private secured area in the lobby of Suntec City, the conference venue, had been earlier set aside for accredited groups to hold demonstrations.

The World Bank said this year's meetings are expected to attract 'the largest number ever of CSOs'.

So far, about 200 have been accredited to participate and another 200 are seeking approval. They include non-governmental organisations, faith-based groups, labour unions, and research centres, from over 45 countries.

The World Bank and the IMF's Civil Society Team are jointly organising a forum to which CSO leaders will be invited to take part in the event, including meeting top officials like the Bank's president Paul Wolfowitz.

A spokesman for the meeting coordinator, the Singapore 2006 organising committee, also said the World Bank had 'suggested some alternatives', which the committee will consider.

Yesterday, opposition politician Chee Soon Juan said he planned to lead a protest march during the event. The secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party said its aims are to highlight what he described as the denial of democracy in Singapore, and the plight of its poor and working class.

The objective is noble -- the overriding concerns for security in the biggest-ever event to be held in Singapore -- but critics will always feel that the control stymies healthy developments to promote a more open and vibrant society. I mean, even World Bank people don't mind the protest.

In Singapore, the gathering of five people in a public place without official sanction is considered an illegal assembly. The law seems rather strict. Will a gathering of me and four of my puppy buddies be considered illegal? Hmmm, let me ask daddy. :-)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Malaysian Police

While Singapore police are stickler for rules and laws, I don't think dad can say the same about Malaysian police although he is a Malaysian. I'm sure there are good cops in Malaysia but there are also a lot of bad apples. He has told me a lot of horror stories about corrupted and trigger-happy cops.

My dad said the Malaysian government must do something fast and drastic to revamp the police and the civil service. Malaysian civil servants are better paid nowadays. So the old excuse that some of them resorted to bribery because of low wages may not be so valid. There must be greater enforcement of rules and laws on everyone, including those on policemen and civil servants themselves. Laws must be enforced, without fear or favour.

Even some members of the traffic police are not completely above board in the country although there are good ones who help manage the terrible traffic in Kuala Lumpur.

He told me countless times how he was stopped by policemen for speeding on the Malaysian highway. He used to accede to their blatant request for bribes in order to be let off the hook.

He stopped giving out bribes since the late 1990s. Call it moral awakening. Ironically, he has not been issued any speeding ticket since then.

Why and how? This is what my dad did whenever he was stopped for speeding. He asked the policeman what the speeding ticket would cost. The policeman would quote between RM150 and RM300. He would then ask about the "alternative". The cop would either quote RM50 or say "whatever" or "up to you".

My dad would then ask for the ticket, which would have cost more. He would rather pay a legitimate speeding ticket than bribe another policeman in Malaysia. I'm so proud of him. :-)

But the policemen allowed him to proceed without any speeding ticket instead each time!

Guilt on their part? That's what my dad thought initially. But he also reckoned that the policemen chickened out of issuing summonses after such bargaining out of fear of being accused of soliciting bribes from him.

Whatever the real motive or explanation is, I hope everyone stops giving out bribes, whether they are on or off the road. :-)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Singapore Police Part 1

While mom and dad were out watching the stupid movie called The Break-Up today, I was home alone reading the newspapers on the floor. I noticed this little nice item in The Straits Times on a policeman in Singapore.

Aug 19, 2006
Traffic cop went the extra mile

I WOULD like to express my heartfelt thanks to a Traffic Police officer who went out of his way to assist my family on the road.

On July 6, my husband drove my grandmother to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for a medical appointment. As my grandmother has skin cancer, she did not look well.

The Traffic Police officer, who was patrolling the AYE towards Outram, was very observant and noticed her experiencing discomfort on the journey as he rode past our vehicle.

He stopped and enquired about her condition and surprised us by directing traffic so that we could get to SGH more quickly. He also ensured that we arrived at the clinic building before he rode off on his motorcycle (TP 947Y). The time was between 2.30pm and 3pm.

My family were touched by this very kind Traffic Police officer. We commend him for his conscientiousness and for going beyond the call of duty to help us.

Lim Siew Yin (Ms)

It's heartwarming to read such an account. But it doesn't mean that is dad is totally impressed with the Singapore police although they are generally incorruptible.

He feels that they a real stickler for rules. As a result, they can also be seen as a heavy handed in the treatment of 'undesirable' elements in Singapore, including the political opposition. More to come.

The Break-up

Mom and dad went to a movie called The Break-Up, starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. They said it sucked! Check out some of the less-than-complimentary remarks in this review. Don't even bother to watch the infantile movie with a flat ending.

For those who want a similar and superior movie, please watch a classic such as The Story of Us, starring Michelle Pffeifer and Bruce Willis.

The movie, directed by Rob Reiner who made the classic When Harry Met Sally, also touched on the issue of breaking up due to seemingly petty reasons. But the The Story of Us is superior to The Break-Up as it developed the characters well and has plenty of flashbacks of comical, moving and loving scenes.

Must watch the part on Michelle telling Bruce to 'fuck me' in bed, which is immediately contrasted with the next frame showing an angry Michelle telling Bruce 'fuck you'!

But dad told me I'm too young to watch the movie. Grrr.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Down Under

Dad saw an Aussie today. The guy painted a very positive picture about the country Down Under. He went on and on about how open and great the Australian economy and people are.

It is home to more than 200 nationalities, including many Singaporeans who have migrated there. And he is so proud tt the country has sent its troops to help maintain peace in other countries. It is a beautiful country but dad is not so enamoured by some of its policies, especially its foreign policy.

But the pleasant man appeared to be slightly flustered when grilled on why Australia won't allow Singapore Airlines to fly the trans-Atlantic route from Sydney to Los Angeles. The lucrative route is currently dominated by Qantas Airlines -- Australia's flagship with the kangaroo logo. I like kangaroos although I have never seen one. hehe.

Anyway, instead of trying to shed light on the contentious issue, the Aussie suggested how Singapore too does not practice the concept of open skies completely. He cited the example of how the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur air route is still dominated by the national carriers of the two countries. Well he is not wrong but dad bets the Singapore-KL may be freed up for budget airlines such as AirAsia, Tiger Airways and even Qantas's Jetstar long before Australia agrees to play fair on the trans-Atlantic sector.

Dad didn't bother to stay too long to listen to the Aussie. He was miffed, feeling that Australia doesn't have the moral authority to claim that it is a paragon of virtue (saying it doesn't hang criminals, it has free press, blah blah blah).

One troubling thing is Australia's blind support for the big bully called America (which seems to back Israel blindly). My father told me about the fiasco in Iraq. America invaded the country although it wasn't an imminent threat to Israel or anyone. There was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction (I think he meant weapons tt can kill a lot of people).

Of course, Australia and its former colonial master UK sang the same chorus and supported America's thuggishness. Notice how the white men-run governments tend to help each other even when the cause is clearly and unequivocally wrong.

Maybe it is true that Australia is the deputy sheriff to America, as first pointed out by brown-skinned Dr M.

Mahathir criticizes Australia's support for war on terror
KUALA LUMPUR, 24 Nov 2002

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has criticized Australia for having ''gone too far'' in cooperating in the U.S.-led war on terror, official news agency Bernama reported Sunday.

In an interview with The Australian newspaper, Mahathir said, ''Australia has to choose whether it's an Asian country or a Western country,'' Bernama reported from Melbourne.

''If you (Australia) take the position of being a sheriff, or deputy sheriff, to America, you cannot very well be accepted by the countries of this region,'' Mahathir said in the interview.

The Malaysian leader added that Australia is ''more belligerent'' than many European countries.

''You have never criticized any of the acts of the Americans. Even to the point where the Americans want to go off on their own and attack Iraq. Australia seems to be with the Americans,'' he said.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Football politics

Sigh, I really hate it when politics gets into the way of good things. One example is football, especially the defunct Malaysia Cup.

I saw this letter in The Straits Times on the floor.
Aug 15, 2006
S-League the way to go, not the Malaysia Cup

MR PEH Shing Huei ('Stoke national pride, let's rejoin Malaysia Cup'; ST Insight, Aug 4) suggests that to rekindle national pride in Singaporeans, we should rejoin the Malaysia Cup competition that Singapore pulled out of in 1995.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) agrees that the Malaysia Cup era was a glorious chapter in Singapore's football history. But we have since turned that page decisively. We are now scripting an exciting new chapter for the local game titled 'The S-League'.

For all its draw and excitement, the Malaysia Cup was and still is a domestic, inter-state competition. Eleven years on, having our national team play in this competition will hardly promote national pride, even if we win.

Mr Peh's description of the S-League as 'floundering with low standards and abysmal attendances' is harsh, to say the least. S-League clubs like Home United and Tampines Rovers have done well in Asian Football Confederation Cup competition.

Also, Tampines were crowned Asean Club Champions last year. S-League fans know that most of our clubs are of a fairly good standard. So do objective observers like China national coach Zhu Guanghu; former Singapore national coach and now Liverpool's Director of Recruitment, Barry Whitbread, and ESPN host John Dykes, who paid glowing tributes to the S-League.

Singaporeans should take pride in their very own football league. Every year, more than 400,000 fans and 1.5 million viewers catch the S-League at a nearby stadium or on CNA. With their support, we have created a fledgling football industry that provides jobs for some 800 players, coaches, administrators, marketing and media personnel and private football schools, together generating $250 million worth of value annually. The S-League also provides an important platform for our young local footballers to hone their skills.

This season has witnessed many exciting matches and spectacular goals. We invite Mr Peh to come and watch an S-League game. Or he could catch our games live on Fridays at 7pm on CNA. He will hear the commentators say that the S-League has indeed come a long way.

Nevertheless, FAS recognises that there is magic in our traditional rivalry with Malaysia. For this reason, we have been working closely with the FA of Malaysia to provide suitable avenues for fans to reignite this football rivalry.

We now have an annual Singapore-Malaysia series involving our national 'A' teams. The FAS, for the first time since 1994, sent our under-23 team, the Young Lions, into the Malaysia FA Cup competition. The Young Lions qualified for the semi-finals. For the 'oldies', we have a veterans' game as a curtain-raiser to the annual Sultan of Selangor's Cup.

Mr Peh longs for a packed National Stadium, with the fans cheering themselves hoarse for the Lions. So do we at the FAS. This happened when we lifted the Tiger Cup in January last year. If fans rally resolutely behind the national team, it can happen again. Then, national pride will be properly stoked.

We look forward to this happening on Sept 6 when Singapore takes on China at the National Stadium in an Asian Cup qualifying game.

Stanley Ho Manager
(Corporate Affairs)
Football Association Singapore

But I don't find the letter totally convincing, after having read Mr Peh's well-written piece. I managed to ask dad to retrieve the article. Here it is:

Aug 4, 2006
Stoke national pride, let’s rejoin Malaysia Cup

A MONTH has passed since the World Cup ended, and yet, strangely, the green monster of envy within me refuses to die. Images of cheering and slightly inebriated Germans on the streets of Berlin continue to dance in my mind, driving me to bouts of jealousy.

YouTube footage of wild, nationalistic Koreans watching matches in Los Angeles still lingers, reminding me what fellow Asians have enjoyed. How I yearn to be a part of that fervour, that passion, but alas, as much as I tried, I could never convince myself that I really supported any of the 32teams in the tournament.

Corny as it may be, it is Singapore or nothing. So if jealousy is indeed the jaundice of the soul, as English poet John Drydenonce said, then I guess I may be ill.

But I would like to be cured. The obvious medicine is for Singapore to qualify for the World Cup. Yet, that is just not going to happen any time soon. Goal 2010, that hopelessly romantic and unrealistic target of reaching the World Cup by 2010, has been abandoned by the Football Association of Singapore.

Football fans here joked that referee Shamsul Maidin, who officiated inGermany, was perhaps the closest this country could ever get to the tournament. Does that mean that I would have to remain jaundiced, destined to watch with crushing envy the sporting celebrations of other countries’ citizens? No.

While the World Cup may be out of reach for Singapore, the Malaysia Cup is not. It may be a tad anachronistic to bring up the tournament now, since Singaporehas been out of it for 12 years, but hear me out. The Malaysia Cup gives Singaporeans something we have been deprived of for years: the development of healthy national pride.

Sure, the annual National Day parades usually bring out an outpouring of red and white bursts of patriotism. But they come around just once a year and lack the spontaneity that only the unpredictable world of sports can offer.

And while the likes of golfer Mardan Mamat and bowler Remy Ong have given Singaporeans some cheer, they lack the mass appeal of football.The Malaysia Cup can fill the gap. In the past, it was the tournament that captivated Singaporeans, uniting the citizenry behind a Singapore team. Sixty thousand regularly thronged the National Stadium to watch our team take on the Malaysian states, cheering wildly and making life hell for poor referees who ruled against the Republic.

In 1994, the last year Singapore was in the tournament, 55,000 fans even travelled up to Kuala Lumpur for the final against Pahang, turning the81,000-capacity Sham Alam Stadium into a sea of red. Indeed, many friends admitted to me last month that even though they are not football fans, they watch the World Cup and, yes, followed the Malaysia Cup fervently.

The Malaysia Cup had that magic that seduced even non-sports fans, intoxicating many Singaporeans in the drug called national pride. Resuscitating it would be timely too, since youths here have topped the list among Asians recently for not caring about their country and most likely to want to emigrate.

In an online survey by The Straits Times, 53 per cent of Singapore teens would consider emigration, compared with just 28 per cent of Malaysians and 38 percent of Indians. Would the Malaysia Cup alone be able to inspire greater love for this country among the young ones?

Perhaps not. But it would certainly help. As the German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schduble quipped after seeing his country’s performance — both on and off the pitch — during the World Cup: “We are even beginning to like ourselves.”

Besides imbuing us with national pride, the Malaysia Cup can also be the main and regular act of the proposed Sports Hub at Kallang, ensuring that the $800 million project would not turn into an expensive white elephant. The tournament would also reacquaint young Singaporeans with their neighbours up north, bolstering not only bilateral relations, but also the people-to-people ties that President S R Nathan emphasised during his state visit to Malaysia last year.

In 1995, Singapore quit the Cup amid unhappiness over the Malaysians’ demands for more gate levies and stronger commitment to stamp out match-fixing. The S-League was started and the Malaysians went their own way. More than a decade later, the S-League is floundering with low standards and abysmal attendances, and word from the north suggests that the Malaysia Cup misses the buzz it had when Singapore was part of it.

This divorce is hurting both sides, so why not kiss and make up? After all, Singapore had been out of the Cup twice previously — though never as long as the current break — and rejoined. It would give a young generation of Singaporeans the chance to feel the ecstasy and pain of being part of this nation, bonding them healthily through the process with the land and its people.

National flags waving along the Nicoll Highway after victories? Chants of“Sin-ga-pore, Sin-ga-pore” echoing across the heartland? Yes, that would certainly cure the jaundice of my soul.


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I'm so happy cos mommy came back early to see me. She told me about her long day. I like to jump around while she watches TV.

Daddy came back real late cos he had an appointment to see a good friend, who also re-offered him a job although he doesn't really need it.

Daddy is still thinking about it cos he knows he has to take care of me and mommy. He told me the long-standing job offer is very good but he is concerned about whether he will be passionate about it.

Oh well, I love them cos they always think about each other and me. They also think about providing all the bones to me. That's my job! Hehe.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Titanic Malay clash

And I read this in BT on the floor today.

Business Times - 14 Aug 2006
KL political row could trigger more business casualties

THE escalating political row in Malaysia triggered its first corporate casualties on Friday amid speculation that the fallout in business circles could spread.

On Friday, Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and a rising political figure, sold his entire 1.2 per cent interest in finance firm ECM Libra Avenue for over RM6.5 million (S$2.8 million).


In recent weeks, Dr Mahathir has escalated his attacks on Mr Abdullah, 65, to include his family and friends whom Dr Mahathir alleged had been unfairly helped by the government.

The ex-premier had also questioned ECM Libra's merger with state-owned Avenue Capital Resources in January, alleging that it had been pushed through unfairly to the government's detriment.


I didn't quite understand the whole issue. So I waited for dad to come home to explain to me. He didn't disappoint.

He said it's quite amazing Dr M has managed to draw blood in his clash with Badawi's camp although he is no longer in power.

Dr M (left) is the former PM of Malaysia. He stepped down in 2003 to pave the way for Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (right). But they are now at loggerheads over a host of issues.

But Dr M also said he will stop sniping if Badawi builds a bridge to replace the Causeway linking Singapore.

I also read this in Malaysia's New Straits Times

Dr M: Build the bridge and I'll stop commenting
By Hamidah Atan, 15 August, 2006

PUTRAJAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that he would stop commenting if the bridge across the Johor Strait was built.

"Pak Lah (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) has to build the bridge. If he does that, I don’t have any more comments."

His reply came spontaneously when he was asked by reporters to comment on deputy Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s sale of his stake of 10.2 million shares in ECM Libra Avenue Bhd, a financial services company. Khairy is also Abdullah’s son-in-law.

"Oh yes... that is good. First, they have to sell, then they should leave the fourth floor and go away somewhere and Pak Lah has got to build the bridge. If he does that, I don’t have any more comments."Now Proton is dead... all the vendors, all the dealers and salespeople are all losing money, so they are doing a good job serving Proton as promised by the Prime Minister."


But dad heard that Badawi rebuffed Dr M's olive branch tonight.

Dad is sleepy. He said he will tell me more tales about the titanic Malay clash in Malaysia tomorrow.

But can Dr M win? I want to know. I want to know. Grrr

Big meeting

I read this on Page One of The Straits Times on the floor today.

Aug 14, 2006
Road closures, diversions in Suntec area next month
By K. C. Vijayan

IF YOU are planning a trip to the Suntec City and Marina Square area from Sept 10, take public transport.

If not, be prepared for delays, road diversions and traffic jams because of the security measures being taken for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings.

The meetings at the Suntec Convention Centre are expected to be attended by some 16,000 foreign delegates from 184 countries.

The Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre will be closed to the public from Sept 8 to Sept 20, but the Suntec City Shopping Mall and the office buildings will remain open.

Dad told me that it is the biggest convention to be held in Singapore. All the hotel rooms will be fully booked. The Singapore police think they can outsmart any potential protesters by ring-fencing Suntec City, which is the venue of the IMF meeting.

But I also remember how anti-globalisation people tried to disrupt the last World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong. Those protesters, especially the Korean lobbyists, really hogged the limelight when they clashed with policemen in Hong Kong.

Although it is a different forum in Singapore, protests are still expected as World Bank and IMF policies have far-reaching impacts on some economies. See what happened to countries that went to IMF for financial help during the regional financial crisis.

I can't wait to see what the demonstrators will do to be in the limelight in Singapore. I'm quite sure they will do something fancy to attract attention.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Singapore's Birthday

Wow, what beautiful fireworks to celebrate the birthday of my birthplace. Singapore turned 41 years old on Aug 9 -- well, that's like forty years older than me! :-)

Source: The Straits Times

Dad always tells me that he is always, in no small measure, amazed about the rapid developments of Singapore. The country has grown so fast since it was booted out of Malaysia in 1965 -- just two years before my father was born. Although my father was born in Malaysia, he has studied the history of Singapore and Malaysia closely. He has written quite a bit about the two countries.

One amazing aspect of Singapore is the size of its economy, which is just slightly smaller than Malaysia in absolute terms although the island is puny compared to Malaysia. Singapore's gross domestic product is nearly S$200 billion, which is about RM450 billion.

In comparison, Malaysia's official GDP is about RM500 billion. Of course, Singapore's per capita GDP of nearly S$50,000 is a lot more than Malaysia's income per head of less than RM20,000 or less than S$9,000 due to Malaysia's biggest population base.

Singapore's land size is less than 700 sq km. Can't be absolutely sure cos of the constant reclamation going on to enlarge the physical island. Imagine how it takes dad to drive 1 1/2 hours from one end of Johor to another, while it doesn't take more than half an hour for him to zip from Jurong on the west to Changi on the east in Singapore.

Check out this map.

But dad also thinks that the Malaysian economy is understated cos of the massive underground economy. He says those peddlers of pirated DVDs, pasar malam vendors and his 'financial consultant' brother are unlikely to have been captured in official stats of Bank Negara. Haha.

The Malaysian economy is a bit like China's. Remember the bombshell last year when its government found out that it had understated its economy by a staggering US$300 billion -- more than the combined size of Malaysia and Singapore! As pointed out by one wit, that's bigger than the economy of Australia (I think).

See this article in South China Morning Post in December 2005.

China's economy understated

[BEIJING] China's booming economy, already the seventh largest in the world, has been understated by as much as US$300 billion, the country's first nationwide economic census has discovered, says a report in the South China Morning Post.

The sum, equal to nearly 20 per cent of last year's US$1.65 trillion gross domestic product, highlights the serious understatement of data on the nation's sizzling services sector, according to mainland economists who have been briefed about the census results.

Similarly, the Malaysian economy could be a lot bigger than Singapore if those guys in Bank Negara can fully capture activities in the underground economy. Maybe Malaysia has been hiding a Singapore all these years!!!

But there is no denial that Singapore has done a more remarkable job in building a first world nation in just a generation.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More stories from land of Malay warriors

I waited patiently for my folks to come back from work. I think I behaved quite ok but mom wasn't too happy still cos I bit the pirated DVD discs from Malaysia. Anyway, they told me they went to Putrajaya -- the government nerve centre -- for some passport matters for my grandfather.

The place is coming up nicely with more buildings, nice lakes and awesome bridges.

They told me it was the idea of former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who gave up power willingly in 2003 but it's probably one of his biggest mistakes. More on this another time. Ok?

I like this shot of the man-made lake near the PM's Office. Notice the grand bridge?

Another nice project is the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers in the capital.

They will always remain the tallest pair of buildings in the world, although Taiwan's Taipei 101 has since overtaken the height of the Malaysian buildings. Please see this good piece for the comparison of the heights of major skyscrapers in the world.

Under Dr M for 22 years, Dad said Malaysia has definitely changed into a major industrialised nation from an agricultural-based economy.

Land of Malay warriors

I'm so happy. Mom and dad rushed back from KL, speeding at 150km per hour to come and get me. Yipee! Oh, how I missed them.

And I can't wait to hear their stories about their great journey to the land of the Malay warriors. Hehe.

Well, mom said it was quite an eventful trip. They first drove across the causeway to Johor Baru at the southern tip of Malaysia. The place looked like a warzone because of the many barricades for the stalled crooked bridge project.

Dad showed me the pix of the area.

Daddy said the current causeway has become a thorn in the bilateral ties of Singapore and Malaysia. The two countries have not been able to agree on Malaysia's plan to replace the causeway with a bridge that will allow water to flow freely in the narrow straits of Johor. The causeway was built long time ago in the 1920s. But dad said he will tell me more about it another time. Sigh!

Mom and dad then headed straight for the food once they reached Kuala Lumpur, which is like 320km north of Singapore. They went to PJ and bought some goreng pisang, keropok lekok and heavenly nasi lemak from the mobile stall near Jaya supermarket.

Newspapers on the floor

Day 2 at the hostel is a real bore cos mom and dad are still not back yet. The girl in the shop took me for a walk in the evening but she doesn't tell me stories like my folks. Most of the time, she left me in the enclosure with some newspapers for me to do my business.

But unknown to everyone, I have learnt to read the newspapers on the floor, usually before I do my business, since I was six months' old. Hehe.

In fact, mom and dad think I simply played with the newspapers out of boredom whenever they went to work and left me alone in the kitchen. I tried to flip the pages with my paws and ended up tearing them apart. Dad smacked me a few times for making a big mess. So I now try to read the top layer of the newspapers on the floor without making too big of a mess.


I'm very sad because mommy and daddy went to Malaysia and left me at this pet hostel at Stevens Road, although it looks like a nice place. The girl in the shop sprayed me with anti-flea stuff although I sure I'm not home to those annoying bugs, which caused me to scratch incessantly in the past.

Luckily, daddy removed the two fleas on me when I was three months' old. :-)

But how come mom could not bring me along to Kuala Lumpur? She told me that it won't be a problem to bring me to Malaysia as there is no quarantine rule for dogs from Singapore, but re-entering Singapore from Malaysia will be a problem although I'm a Singapore-born beauty. At least, that's what a pet shop owner told her. I don't quite understand. :-(

But I shall wait patiently for mom and dad to come back to Singapore on Sunday to fetch me. I don't know whether I can take it cos the other dogs here are very noisy. They are friendly but they like to chat with me non-stop. They keep asking me about my diet! I love my lamb chops!!! Grrr!


Harro, my name is Sophie. I'm only ten months old but I'm sure learning fast, thanks to my daddy and mommy.

They talk to me all the time and they tell me what's happening in this world. They tell me that I was born in Singapore, a beautiful island south of Malaysia, from which my parents came.

They tell me a lot of things about the two countries. Some I understand and some I don't.

Anyway, before I tell you more about my world and other stuff, I just want you to see me and mommy dearest. This is how I look like. Cute?