29 March 2008

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday March 26, 2008
Diversity, not race, our strength

I HAD two jaw dropping experiences this past week. The first was while viewing a video of an aspiring YB facing a group of citizens concerned about unfettered development in their area.

The potential YB not only refused to answer the questions directly but instead displayed a performance so outstandingly arrogant that you had to conclude that he did not really want to be elected. It was an abject lesson in how to lose an election.

Then I saw a report in a Chinese newspaper on how the newly appointed MB of Perak had stunned a Chinese crowd in Ipoh by speaking to them in Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, English and Malay.

It may well have been no more than words of greeting but still, the very idea of a Malay politician speaking to a Chinese audience in their own language and dialects is novelty enough these days to be impressive.

Our recent elections has been a jaw dropping experience overall. Perhaps that is only because we are not used to these things that we find them unusual and curious.

As with anything else, there may soon come a day when seeing politicians and other public figures “cross over” racial lines becomes something very normal and no longer anything to remark on.

Perhaps the day when vertical thinking along racial lines is nearer than we dreamt.

I had the opportunity to listen for the second time to Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault and Nissan, the other night on how diversity should be viewed as a strength.

He said he was impressed with Malaysia because it was obvious that our success comes from our natural ethnic diversity.

Coming from a diverse background himself and successfully managing two very different car companies with very different cultures, Ghosn knows what he is talking about.

The important thing, he said, is to acknowledge and respect people’s separate identities and view that as a strength that can be tapped for success. These days, smart global companies don’t impose one type of management style all over the world but adapt to each cultural situation.

If only he knew how hard it is to convince our own people of this. People in political power still think that championing racial rights is their only raison d’etr.

Yet the elections have shown that people vote across racial lines because they are more concerned about pressing issues that affect everyone. They thought that people who used the racial rights argument were waving an old tattered banner, out of a lack of ideas.

To be sure, some issues affect some communities more than others. But these are not genetic; they are related to the circumstances that some members of these communities find themselves in.

The challenge is to alter those circumstances in a way that the communities themselves can find their way out of these problems.

We yearn these days for leaders with new ideas. We want to be given hope for the future, not revisit the same old problems over and over again. Not that we want history ignored because we need to know where to start from but we do want to see that shiny path ahead of us clearly and within reach.

I read the extraordinary speech made by US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama in Philadelphia where he tackled the problem of race.

In reviewing America’s history with race, he said: “I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.”

Some of the issues that have concerned Americans have also concerned us, and the lack of unity is one of them.

To this, Obama responded by acknowledging his mixed ethnic background and saying, “It is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.”

And indeed Democratic voters agreed with him and voted for him even in states that had seemed prejudiced against black men.

The same thing happened in our country. Unfortunately, race politics has not really died down yet, and some people reacted as if ethnic cleansing had just taken place.

Where is our own Obama to lead us into our future, with faith and hope? Have we heard yet one speech of optimism recently that inspires and unites us all?

21 March 2008

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday March 12, 2008
The voters have spoken

If politicians should learn one lesson from these elections, it is that humility is the keyword, both for winners and losers.

FOR many it was like the proverbial saying, being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Vote the despicable but familiar, or take the leap into the unknown and vote for the other side. In the end, many decided to chance it.

Going by the various confessions that I have been hearing, many older people – those who have voted in every election and who have voted for the party in power each time – decided that they would try something new this year.

For some, it was an emotional decision, for others it was easy. But all felt they had to do it because they could not take it anymore.

To vote in a government that simply seemed out of touch was un-bearable.

Many said they were simply fed up. They wanted to teach the Government a lesson.

So they just went for it with a vengeance and spared few, felling even those who had been good MPs, and electing untested candidates with few credentials.

Perhaps they had taken a leaf from other countries where unpopular governments had been summarily dismissed.

Of course, being Malaysian, we always have an out clause.

We change most things but not everything. So we left a familiar Government but just made it substantially weaker.

But in four states, and Kuala Lumpur, we decided to try out entirely new administrations.

To bagi chance, as many put it.

It’s a chance for them as well as for us, so that next time round, we can truly make an informed choice and get to compare apples with apples.

But, to see the types of excuses being given by those who lost, one would think that the lesson of this election has simply gone over their heads.

It is everyone else’s fault but theirs.

One even blamed the very voters he had so assiduously courted before.

Others still believe that despite the debacle, people still want them and they should continue.

It’s a bit like a spouse who doesn’t believe the marriage has broken down even when he or she is served the divorce papers.

In the face of denial such as this, there is no room for subtlety.

As polite as we are normally, this is not the time for it when unwanted people just don’t understand.

We should come out and say, “We didn’t vote for you because we don’t like you, that’s all there is to it.”

And even if we didn’t personally reject you because we couldn’t vote in your constituency, the fact that we rejected your cohorts elsewhere is a clear enough signal that we want you out, too.

It’s about that concept known as accountability.

How often do we read of major corporate executives who had to resign because they lost their companies millions and billions of dollars?

Or politicians elsewhere who had to step down because of some major scandal?

Someone has to take responsibility for not performing.

And what else is a general election but a report card on performance, which in this case, (the Government) gained a D, if not an outright F?

What’s more, it takes a courageous and noble man to take responsibility.

By refusing to acknowledge responsibility, our former and current leaders are showing not only arrogance but also cowardice.

They believe that by staying in office, they will be protected from possible demands for answers to tricky questions.

And why should they not believe that, when they have done the same to others?

So staying in office is not an act of responsibility, but one of weakness and cowardice.

It is also an act of wilful blindness and deafness.

To wear eyeshades and earplugs is only a temporary measure to block out the growing mumblings among the electorate that their will is only being partially obeyed.

If this continues, then they will make that will known in the not-too-distant future by punishing those who ignored their message.

That will be even more humiliating. So while the opportunity exists for an honourable withdrawal, it should be taken.

Not to say that those who won should feel too triumphant.

If politicians should learn one lesson from these elections, it is that hubris has no place in their make-up.

Humility is the keyword, both for winners and losers.

The thing about arrogance is that, by nature, it cannot be hidden.

The public is not as blind as the arrogant would like to believe.

Nor is the public unable to detect a lack of sincerity and genuineness.

I watched one politician emphatically calling for respect for her opponent at all her ceramah, only to be summarily booted out last Saturday.

The major lesson is that power rightfully rests with the people.

It’s all in that little piece of paper every five years.

01 March 2008

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday February 27, 2008
Still a man’s world, politically

THE election season is upon us in full force, and since the day Parliament was dissolved, nomination lists have been scrutinised and re-scrutinised, with several dramatic drop-outs and resurrections. It’s a soap opera almost worth prolonging.

But nomination day finally arrived and microscopes were out, poring over each and every candidate to see who’s who.

So far the most remarked on fact seems to be the numbers of sons, daughters, sons- and daughters-in-law, nephews, brothers (but not sisters) that have been fielded.

Which rather makes you wonder if we are becoming like some countries where electoral seats are passed down within families.

My interest is, of course, in how many women candidates have been fielded this time. A rough count has yielded me at least 85 names that I recognise as female (the difficulty is that there are some names whose gender is difficult to ascertain), which is an impressive number.

Most of them are in state seats, and my impression is that the Opposition has fielded more women candidates than the Barisan Nasional. Which is rather interesting, given that at least one of the Opposition parties has always seemed rather women-unfriendly.

I would certainly like to know why political parties have fielded more women this time. Did they heed the call of various women’s NGOs and the Women’s Ministry to have more female candidates?

If so, their response is far from universal, since Perlis has fielded no women candidates at all. To add insult to injury, they had picked one woman candidate for a parliamentary seat only to take it away from her after a few hours.

Another woman, an incumbent, lost her seat to her own brother, which leads you to wonder why they couldn’t have just found him another seat instead of taking hers away?

Three women won their seats uncontested. At least one of them won due to the incompetence of her potential rival; but it would have been good to know what the mettle of the other women actually are, gauged through an actual election battle.

Several women candidates are pitted against other women candidates, leading us to wonder if the sex of the candidate is a factor at all. In any case, we should celebrate anyway since, win or lose, we will have a woman representative in.

Some people have asked why it is necessary to be concerned about the numbers of women elected representatives. Why, they ask, can’t we just choose people based on ability, rather than sex?

The thing is, politics by and large is a man’s game. It is stacked against women in every way, from the finances needed to run for office, to the long hours, to the types of issues that are promoted.

When women come in, they are pressured to not push for any women’s issues because these are seen as “discriminatory” against men. They are supposed to be “gender-neutral” instead.

But gender-neutrality is not the same as gender equality when the playing field between men and women is not level.

When the head of the state-level Wanita branch can be denied a seat because someone’s brother wants it, it makes for a strong argument to have seats reserved for women.

Otherwise everybody’s brother, son, son-in-law or nephew will elbow out every single woman candidate available, especially when the one who has the final say is a man.

Still, having more women representatives does not necessarily mean better representation. But the higher numbers are more likely to yield more quality representatives than low numbers of women.

Besides, women are less likely to make quips about leaks and tunnels, already a bonus in itself.

We are supposed to be aiming for 30% female representation in elected bodies. That’s below the actual proportion of women in the population. Yet, there are people who think this is too much.

Worse still, there are women who are in the position to make this happen who think that we should go slowly on this. As if waiting 50 years isn’t slow enough.

There are going to be women representatives who will make blunders because of lack of experience. They will be judged far more harshly than male representatives of similar ilk. It will be seen as a far greater weakness than male incompetence.

Sexism prevails, unless the women themselves want to change it and will unite, regardless of party affiliation. For that too, they need the numbers in order to be strong.

If more women win seats this time, they will gain the confidence to stand up for their rights, or at least for greater respect in the House.

Meantime, we need to decide whom to vote for, and get out there and vote. No excuses this time. It’s too important.