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Friday, June 30, 2006

MALAYSIA NI DAH NAK HANCUR

Despite what you people think about the 'Looney Tun', the crooked bridge could actually be a brilliant-brilliant idea. Here is why… (excerpts from Aizah Ariff's article)

The Scenic or `Crooked' Bridge. No one would disagree if we were to say that this is the most stupid idea yet to come out of Dr Mahathir's mind. Why build half a bridge? Why build such a silly looking bridge that would wind its way around because it had to join the Causeway halfway across the Straits of Johor or Tebrau Straits?

If they built a full bridge, then the bridge could be built straight, lower and shorter at maybe almost the same cost as half a bridge. But now they are building half a bridge, so it has to be crooked and higher -- and the cost for half a bridge is not half the cost of a full, straight bridge. But they can't build a straight or full bridge because Singapore will not allow their half of the Causeway to be demolished and they are not interested in building the other half of the bridge on their side or within their territorial waters.

Singapore could of course agree to join Malaysia in this bridge project and agree to the Causeway being demolished and a full, straight bridge be built to replace the Causeway. But Singapore wanted the bridge to be packaged with a lot of other goodies, all in Singapore's favour. These goodies would be like throwing in the supply of sand, allowing Singapore Air Force planes more flights over Malaysian air space, plus a re-look at the water agreement.

Dr Mahathir did not agree to this. He would not package the bridge with all these other issues and he wanted each issue to be an issue by itself and to be negotiated separately and on its own merits. Dr Mahathir was no fool. He knew if he rejected Singapore's demand for a packaged deal, then Singapore would not agree to the bridge. Malaysia could go on with the bridge if it wanted, but it can only build a bridge on Malaysia's side, not on Singapore's side. Therefore it would have to be a silly-looking half-bridge that would need to be highly elevated and winding.

That was exactly what Dr Mahathir wanted. He wanted Singapore to reject the full, straight bridge idea and stipulate that Malaysia can only build half a bridge if it still insisted on proceeding with the plan. Dr Mahathir did not want a full bridge. He wanted a half-bridge. A full bridge would mean it would have to be straight and therefore low. A half-bridge would force the bridge to curve and therefore it would have to be built highly elevated.

What Dr Mahathir really wanted is the space beneath the bridge which a full bridge would not offer while a half-bridge would. And why did he want this space? He wanted it because he wanted large container ships and oil tankers to be able to sail under the bridge.

The Straits of Melaka is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. But ships plying the Straits cannot reach Johor Port unless they sail around Singapore. So they would rather stop at the Port of Singapore instead of coming to Johor. Even ships carrying goods bound for Malaysia would rather stop at Singapore for transhipment to Malaysia rather than sail to Malaysia. Once there is a highly elevated bridge, then the ships can bypass Singapore and come straight to Malaysia.

In short, a highly elevated `crooked' bridge would boost the viability of Johor Port and pose a serious threat to the Port of Singapore. To be more dramatic, the bridge could actually kill the Port of Singapore and make Johor Port the new centre for imports to and exports from Malaysia -- plus for those Indonesian importers and exporters as well who currently would rather use Singapore than sail the extra distance around Singapore to come to Johor.

That was what Dr Mahathir really wanted. He was not actually interested in the bridge. He was more interested in Malaysia overtaking Singapore in the port business. And the crooked, high, half-bridge would be able to achieve this. A straight, low, full bridge would not. Dr Mahathir very cleverly manoeuvred so that Singapore would disagree with the full bridge and would instead ask Malaysia to proceed with half a bridge. Once they said that, Dr Mahathir got them exactly where he wanted them. The half-bridge is Singapore's idea, not Dr Mahathir's, so Singapore cannot now turn around and say that they had been tricked and the bridge was merely a Red Herring and that the real motive was to outdo the Port of Singapore.

Somehow, along the way, Malaysia's Foreign Minister packaged the supply of sand and more SAF flights over Malaysian air space in the bridge deal. Dr Mahathir never agreed to this. But Abdullah did for reasons known only to himself and his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin. The sand would of course come from Johor and those individuals who will be awarded the contract to supply sand to Singapore are family members of those involved in the decision-making process at the very top echelons of power -- those walking in the corridors of power. The supply of sand is not a government effort but a private arrangement. What is even more perturbing to Dr Mahathir is that Singapore did not demand that the supply of sand be included in the deal. This idea came from Malaysia. It was Malaysia that proposed it, not Singapore that demanded it.

When the Johor Menteri Besar found out about the supply of sand arrangement he was outraged. Dr Mahathir had banned the export of sand back in 1997 and Johor was quite happy with this as the sand was coming from Johor and it is the politicians and their cronies who are making hundreds of millions out of it. For the first time in his life this very polished man who always has a sweet smile for anyone he encounters lost his cool. He never raises his voice, especially to the Prime Minister. But that day he did and he told the Prime Minister that Umno Johor will strongly oppose any Johor sand being sold to Singapore. Even the palace got into the act and there was a danger of another Constitutional Crisis erupting.

In short, there was a mutiny and Johor was in revolt. A crisis never before seen in Malaysian history was about to explode. This was a state-federal conflict in the making. Abdullah had blundered big time. He had agreed that the bridge would include the supply of sand to Singapore. Now Johor, the source of the sand, put its foot down and threatened to resist at whatever cost, and Johor can be as independent as Kelantan if it so wishes.

They would also reveal the names of all those who stand to benefit from this supply of sand; family members of those at the very top of the Abdullah administration. If you think the Mahathir-Anwar crisis was exciting, the supply of sand to Singapore would dwarf this by far.
Two days later, Abdullah announced that the bridge project would be aborted, after starting work on it (and incurring a liability of RM100 million). Three weeks before that, Parliament had reiterated the bridge project would go on and the Minister of Works himself assured Parliament that this would be so. But now it was off. They would not be proceeding with the bridge. They could not proceed with it. To proceed with it would mean they have to supply sand to Singapore. And this would create a massive crisis between the federal government and the Johor state government. The only way out of the supply of sand commitment would be to abort the bridge project. No bridge, no sand, and no federal government-Johor state government crisis, plain and simple.

But it is out of the frying pan, into the fire. Without the bridge, there would be no way ships could sail to Johor Port through the Straits and the Port of Singapore would continue to dominate this region. Dr Mahathir's plan to build up Johor Port and challenge Singapore's dominance was thwarted. And it was thwarted by no other than his successor who had promised him that the bridge would go on. And it was thwarted because some greedy people in the decision-making team had tried to get rich quick through selling sand to Singapore by packaging the sand supply deal in the bridge proposal.

Dr Mahathir was hopping mad. Abdullah had made a big booboo, and to get out of this booboo he cancelled the bridge project. Abdullah was trying to save his arse. But in doing so he sacrificed Malaysia. Johor Port would now have to remain as pathetic as it has always been. And the Port of Singapore would remain the big wheel of this region. Flushed down the toilet is Dr Mahathir's plan for overtaking Singapore. And, to make it worse, Abdullah had promised Dr Mahathir the bridge would go on. And he understood fully well why it must. And he realised that the bridge was for the good of Malaysia's commerce. But saving his arse was his first priority. Saving Johor Port has to come second.

That is the story of the `Crooked' Bridge. There are many other stories such as about the double tracking railway line, the national car, and more. Suffice to say, the double tracking railway line had the same objective as the `Crooked' Bridge; in that Malaysia's commerce would improve and Singapore's dominance in the region would be given a serious challenge. But Abdullah aborted this as well.

The double tracking railway line was actually the first move. Once the double tracking was done, then the high speed train was supposed to follow. Imagine the day when one could live in a cheaper town like Ipoh where property prices are half those in the big city, yet work in Kuala Lumpur -- and the time it takes to get to work from Ipoh would be faster than driving from Subang Jaya to Kuala Lumpur today. The small towns would boom and development would be spread out throughout the country instead of concentrated in a few key areas like it is today. But that too now remains just a dream.

The MV Agusta matter is another issue. Dr Mahathir was going to use MV Agusta to develop a peoples' car (volks wagen) that could be marketed for as low as RM10,000, or less. MV Agusta had the technology to do this and the cost to buy MV Agusta, in spite of it debts, was still lower than embarking on this project doing your own R&D from scratch. R&D costs billions of Ringgit and to develop a car from scratch would not only cost more but would be time consuming as well. Even if you are prepared to pay the higher cost, the time would take too long. MV Agusta was a short cut and at a cheaper price on top of that.

But MV Agusta was sold off for RM4 and Dr Mahathir's RM10,000 peoples' car went down the toilet, just like all the others. In fact, the sale of MV Agusta itself raises other questions. How did they decide who to sell it to and do those in the decision-making process have an interest in the company that bought MV Agusta? (Which raises the issue of conflict of interest.) Dr Mahathir knows the real story, as he does about who those sand suppliers are, but he is not revealing all, at least not just yet.

It is not that Abdullah is ignorant about all this. He knows the agenda behind the `Crooked' Bridge, double tracking railway line, MV Agusta, and much more. He knows that all these are mere catalysts for bigger things. And he agreed that these are necessary for the future of the country. Yet he dismantled them one by one just to make it appear like Dr Mahathir is stupid and that all his ideas are stupid. It is all about politics and of trying to undermine Dr Mahathir. And what better way to do this than to dismantle what Dr Mahathir started and give the impression that the previous Prime Minister was a nut case. So the country suffers. So what? That is the small picture. The big picture is: Dr Mahathir is embarrassed.

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is another thing that Dr Mahathir was and still is against. All those years he was prime minister he resisted the FTA. Then, late last year, Abdullah secretly signed the FTA with Japan whereby Japanese automobiles would have free access to the Malaysian market while Malaysian vegetables would have free access to the Japanese market. Malaysian vegetables? What vegetables do we have that we can export to Japan? We do not even grow enough for our own consumption and almost everything we eat needs to be supplemented with imports. Anyway, do the Japanese eat our vegetables? Abdullah might as well have signed an FTA with Canada whereby we export ice cubes to the Eskimos.

The FTA Abdullah signed with Japan was so confidential that even the Cabinet did not know about it until Abdullah informed its members later, after it had been signed. The Cabinet members were shocked, but by then it was too late to do anything about it. And how is Proton going to survive once Japanese cars get free access to the Malaysian market when even Europe and the United States can't compete with them?

Proton is a dead man walking. Its days are numbered and it will be just a matter of time when the national car folds. As the Malays would say: siap kain kapan (prepare the funeral shroud).
Now the United States also wants the FTA with Malaysia signed and the US-Malaysia FTA would open all government contracts and procurement to US companies. That is the end of the New Economic Policy. The days of the Bumiputera businessmen are numbered. Malays will have to revert to becoming clerks and drivers again.

Dr Mahathir is beginning to doubt whether Abdullah knows what he is doing. As far as Dr Mahathir is concerned, whatever he did, he did with the interest of the nation at heart. But Abdullah's moves, the way Dr Mahathir sees it, are moves of a traitor who does not care about the country's interest. Dr Mahathir is quite prepared to allow Abdullah to run this country the way he, as Prime Minister, sees fit. But Dr Mahathir will not remain silent and allow this state of affairs to continue if, as he put it, Malaysia's sovereignty is jeopardised. Dr Mahathir would rather take on Abdullah than allow the man to destroy this country. Not just Dr Mahathir, but many Umno veterans as well believe that power in the hands of Abdullah is like giving a flower to a monkey. Monkeys do not appreciate the beauty of flowers .

Thursday, June 29, 2006

RE : AKU SUKA KAKI AYAM, MAMPUS AKULA!

Dear Sir,

You might not be aware of this but economic growth does not necessarily bring benefits to humankind and the thought that the greater the growth the more widespread the benefit is just nothing but a plate of bullshit.

In many instances, economic growth benefits only a small portion of the population. Take Equador for instance, it is now worse off than before it was introduced to 'growth' i.e. modern economics, banking and engineering, and before they let the foreign oil companies roam freely up the Pastaza’s canyons and dig deep into their Amazon forests.

Now digest this, for every $100 of crude oil taken from the Ecuadorian rain forests, foreign oil companies get $75. Of the remaining 25 bucks, 75% goes to paying off the foreign debt used to finance the developmental projects, which was supposed to generate growth. And with most of the remainder are used to cover military and government expenses – plus minus, it leaves about 2.5 bucks for health, education and programs aimed at helping the poor. Meaning, out of every 100 bucks worth of oil, less than 3 goes to the people who need the money most.

Since 1968, Ecuador’s poverty level has risen from 50 to 70 percent, unemployment rate from 15 to 70 percent while public debt increased from 240 million to a whopping 16 billion!

So what growth are we talking about here? What growth are we talking about when it caused the third world countries debt grew to more than 2.5 trillion with servicing cost (interest) of – over 375 billion? That’s twenty times what developing countries receive annually in foreign aid.

The result of this today runs amok, de facto, the rich gest richer, the poor gets poorer, a one sided party, misery on the other, nothing new about it. Why? Because we keep celebrating this totally screwed up, erroneous system in the first place! We wake up every morning, pursuing growth, pursuing the global culture of consumerisme, keep purchasing things which have now become our civic duty rather than fulfilling needs.

All of these have to stop now, along with the corollary belief that the people who drive growth deserve special status and titles which should be rejected totally. These so called captains of the industry i.e. The Management, such as yourself should no longer have the right to tell us or let's be specific, me; 'people born at the fringes free for exploits' what to do!

You should by now learn to stop telling me how to behave or how I should live my life (or whatever is left from it).

Point of the matter, that is, if you are reading this, I like to walk barefooted in the office, it does not necessarily mean that I am an anti establishment, it only means that I like my feet naked. So you can send me a 'memo' or do whatever you want I am still walking barefooted! Please take note.

Cheers.

MODERN VISION OF DANTE'S INFERNO

Sweat on my forehead trickled down the neck and then moved gradually down the spine, which finally stopped around the belly joining the rest of the splotch on the crispy blue shirt.

I am weak, and I am a big hypocrite. I have to blame it all on my social background, these generic emotions of wanting more and more was generated by the fact that I grew up as a poor puritan among so many wealthy, hedonistic preppies of Prep School back in 1993.

I have, all my life been influenced, by money, by wealth and by the lives of those who “make it” and their accoutrements – their Bukit Bandaraya mansions, KLCC view condos, yachts and private jets. I am a victim. I am being victimised by such erroneous system, the system that celebrates gluttonous consumption of the earth’s resources - that I consume, consume, consume and give nothing back. I am a sad case. I am a tragedy; it’s like watching a train getting derailed slowly.

Sekali ada sorang budak kecik ni who look so familiar pakai seluar pendek, baju belang belang lalu depan aku, dia cakap,

“Abang, tau takpe!” And then he disappeared.

Sigh.

13 years after being a backseat member of our education system which the outcome has been composed by series of coincidences and happenstances, who would’ve thought that I will end up getting so worked up by an American designed Finance Paper.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The big ass crooked bridge that was never built…

I was about to write about that big ass crooked bridge that was never built when a friend of mine called,"I'm so broke I can't even afford to buy new pair of socks!" which was not the actual reason why he called.

He called to tell me about a particular friend who just got back from the States recently, did chemical engineering, brilliant guy, was offered a very important job with BASF but declined because he claimed that that big ass German Company was statistically guilty of polluting the world. He is now in his parents eroding retirement savings payroll while living in one of their condo in Taman Duta.

"You know a guy who drives parents car and living in his parents house like that can't afford to get easily annoyed and worked up over things"I didn't agree with him, but I could see his point.

"No, no, you see everything annoys him, even with lining up at the ATM in Bangsar, you know what he said? Queuing up is part of the Government's propaganda, education system have been keeping us lined up for life. Everything is political for him now, its all about the working class... I mean does he even know what it means? To be working?"

"Really?" - "Yeah! And I think he suffers from rhinotillexomania"
"What's that?" - "An obsession with nose-picking, I mean it, all the time, its like a grotesque art, you know like one of those paintings they bought for MAS Chairman"

This particular friend of mine actually works as a doctor in Selayang. Both of them were good buddies back then when they were in St. John. However, they were separated after Form Five, my doctor friend went to UKM, Bangi with JPA Scholarship while the other to Purdue with parents' money. At the moment, while my doctor friend is trying to work his way up to become economically independent, in other words the middle class, the other one strive to fight for the working class.

"Brader! This middle class working as fighters for working class thing is a normal thing actually. Working class all the time busy working, where got time to fight, so these trust fund babies who are not working, actually doing the working class a favour by fighting for the people who are so busy working."

And then trying to digress I told him, how I was about to write about this big ass crooked bridge which will get Tanjung Pelepas and that old man more money.

To which he replied, "Yea, you have a point, (mind you, he didn't), you know I was in one of this Theater Workshop thingy about 5-6 years ago, when I came to realise about these things. Me and a couple of friends were watching Vagina Monologue when after the show they opened up the floor for discussion.

There was this one lady, with her leopard print selendang, big ass Prada hand bag by her side with her big ass bling bling bracelet, who commented about the hardships of the kampung women. Washing clothes by the river, giving birth using bidan kampung with no epidural and even explaining vividly how kampung husbands like to take their wives for granted, beating them and shit like that… and then her daughter also added, I feel their pain… All of these are shites man!

Needless to say, more than 90% of the input during the open floor discussion, if not all… silence was more compelling. But I was 19 at that time; 19! And all I did was conforming, nodding to everything. I am no more 19 now, and I have earned a living. I am not going to conform anymore. Conformity is the mother of all futility! So fuck that man!" the doctor friend said.

Ok. So I had to hang up after that cause I couldn't really understand what was it all about anymore. Whether he was angry with a friend or with the System... I got lost somewhere in between. Things get political when you start working. Everything, even the air you breathe… and then, as if that was not enough, we fight about ideas… about religion and faith, you know 'big words' like that. So yea, I think I got tired of it already.

Anyway, so, about that crooked bridge…