The Truth Revealed

Saturday, March 31, 2007


A Japanese Scientist Lights Up the World
Bob Johnstone (Link edited by YM)
30 March 2007

The inventor Shuji Nakamura

Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulb may finally be ready for the scrapheap of history Shuji Nakamura never meant to change the world. All the Japanese scientist wanted was to do some original research, write a few academic papers, make his presence felt. But he ended up revolutionizing the world of light. In 1993, working in isolation at Nichia Chemical, an obscure firm located in the Japanese hinterland, Nakamura invented the bright blue light-emitting diode. It was the first step on the road to a revolutionary new light source that promises to replace the carbon filament bulb patented by Thomas Edison in 1880, which wastes 95 percent of its energy as heat.

The role of simple light bulbs as culprits in global warming has assumed increasing importance over the last two to three years, with Australia becoming the first industrialized country to ban the bulb and Cuba and Venezuela phasing them out. The European Union is expected to follow. Eliminating the standard bulb could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 800 million tonnes per year across the world.

The trouble is that the incandescent bulb’s most likely replacement, the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL, has its own drawbacks. Despite the fact that CFLs uses 80 percent less energy and last indefinitely, they are up to eight times more expensive, produce a harsh light that makes human skin look unhealthy and can’t be dimmed. CFLs also contain toxic mercury vapor, which makes disposal difficult.

The light-emitting diode, or LED, looks like a better bet. LEDs were invented in 1962 and thirty years later, you could get bright red ones, but not bright blue, or green. This meant that you could not produce white (which is made by adding colors, like the red, green, and blue dots on your TV screen).

The story of Shuji Nakamura and how he invented bright blue LEDs, is a classic study of innovation. In addition to Nakamura’s determination, the other key ingredient is that his boss ‑ Nichia’s founder Nobuo Ogawa – was prepared to bet big on his star researcher’s ability to come up with the goods. For years, Nakamura kept at it, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. After his first breakthrough, he followed up with a series of other innovations ‑ bright green LEDs, white ones, even brighter blue ones. For the next six years the rest of the world ate his dust.

Then in 1999, Nakamura shocked the world again, decamping from Nichia, where he had worked for 20 years, to become a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The breakup was acrimonious: Nichia sued Nakamura for leaking trade secrets (the suit was dismissed). Nakamura counter-sued Nichia claiming unfair compensation on an invention that had netted the company billions of dollars. He was paid just 20,000 yen – US$180 – for the patent he filed on his breakthrough invention. The suit was eventually settled for 840 million yen (US$7 million), at that time the largest ever paid by a Japanese company.

Nakamura’s invention ‑ High-brightness LEDs ‑ are even more energy efficient than fluorescents. Their light can be blended to produce warm white light which resembles that of incandescent light. LEDs are also robust, non-toxic, and effectively last forever.

.... and there was light

High-brightness LEDs are already ubiquitous. They are in your cellphone (as backlights for the screen and keypad), your computer (those flashing blue lights so beloved of geeks), and your car (center brake lights and interior illumination). Soon, they will be in your house, initially as a replacement for halogen downlights, then for every other kind of light as well. Builders in California have already begun implementing LED lighting fixtures in their high-end homes.

Fourteen years after Nakamura’s initial breakthrough, the market for high-brightness LEDs is growing an annual rate of 17 percent. It is expected to hit US$9 billion in 2010. General illumination is the fastest-growing sector of the market, outpacing mobile applications and other sectors such as electronic billboards and signals.

The growing billions of LEDs manufactured annually are mostly made in Asia. Nichia is still the leading manufacturer of high-brightness blue, green, and white LEDs, with a share of over 20 percent. Nichia’s Taiwanese licensee, Epistar, is coming on strong.

The success of Taiwanese LED makers like Epistar has not gone unnoticed on China’s mainland. Today, China serves is a massive market for LED products. Witness the huge outdoor display screens and gaudy color-changing buildings like Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower that light up Chinese cityscapes at night.

But the Chinese government has also recognized the enormous energy-saving potential of LEDs. It has been estimated that if, over the next ten years, LEDs were to take 40 percent of China’s lighting market, the annual saving would be 100 billion kilowatt hours. That is more than the output of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest electric power generating plant.

Beijing has designated light emitting diodes as one of 11 key technologies in the battle to cut demand for electricity. A nationwide program was established in 2003 to develop and commercialize the technology. In addition to the national government, it involves 11 regional governments, 15 national research institutes, and more than 50 commercial firms such as Dalian Lumei Optoelectronics.

Chinese manufacturers like Shenzhen Jiawei Industries have discovered that LEDs are a natural match for solar cells. They export millions of stand-alone lights for use in illuminating the gardens of wealthy westerners.

This same combination, with the addition of a battery, has profound implications for the one-third of humanity which, having no access to electricity, is forced to depend on kerosene bottle lamps for illumination. Kerosene lamps are smoky, dirty, and easily knocked over, causing horrible burns.

LEDs could also bring safe and affordable lighting to hundreds of millions of people in countries like India who live off the electricity grid. Substituting a locally-assembled solar-driven LED system purchased on micro-credit can have truly transformative educational and economic potential . For example, in Nepal and Sri Lanka, where the first trials of such systems are taking place under the auspices of Canada’s Light Up the World foundation.

Village children there gain clean light by which to do their homework, parents boost their income through cottage industries. An added benefit is that since, unlike kerosene, LED lighting systems are a non-recurring expense, families have extra cash to spend.

Asked which of the consequences of his inventions gives him most satisfaction, Shuji Nakamura replies, “Helping to prevent the effects of global warming and helping the people of third-world countries by giving them a safe lighting system.”

Bob Johnstone was formerly technology correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review. His new book, Brilliant! Shuji Nakamura and the Revolution in Lighting Technology, is published by Prometheus in April.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

DIY pleasure for single women: Study

DIY* pleasure for single women: study
The Sydney Morning Herald, March 28, 2007 - 1:27PM
(Link edited by YM)

A new sexuality survey has confirmed what women know and some men fear - single females have far more luck achieving orgasm than those partnered off.

Taking men out of the picture allows women to "better connect with themselves", according to sex therapists behind the Queensland study of 500 older women.

The research found that 56 per cent of sexually-active women with no current partner could reach orgasm every time with masturbation compared with only 24 per cent of women with partners.

"That's a significant difference and I'd imagine there are few men out there a little surprised and unimpressed that women have better luck without them," said medical sex therapist Dr Jane Howard.

The findings come from the study 'What Does Sexuality Mean To Older Women?', which assessed the sex lives of women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s to find trends over the ages.

Dr Howard said she believed women on their own were better at achieving orgasm because they don't have the "distraction" of having to please a man or subscribe to male-type sexual fantasies.

"Arousal is a lot about what erotic thoughts go through the mind, and for women that's very different to men," Dr Howard said.

"It may be focusing on Colin Firth's smouldering eyes, some romantic novel or a waterfall or whatever."

The therapist said the most outstanding aspect of the study was the variety of ways people lived their lives.

"Some people are in relationships and having sex, some are in relationships with no sex, others are single and are having sex ... it was just so varied," Dr Howard said.

She said her results destroyed the cultural myth that people stay in life-long relationships and are sexually functional until they die.

"We like to think of people having wild sex for their whole lives but the reality isn't quite like that," Dr Howard said.
More than 80 per cent of women in their 40s were sexually active, but this figure declined to 27 per cent for those in their 70s.

The fact that 70 per cent of men in their 70s were not capable of having an erection could affect this figure.

But results showed that three quarters of women over 70 were indifferent to sex.

While their libido dropped off and arousal was less, their capacity to orgasm was seemingly unaffected by age.

"That was quite surprising, actually," Dr Howard said.

She said the results would help people understand the true impact that ageing had on sex.

The findings are part of the Longitudinal Assessment of Ageing in Women, conducted by the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

DIY* Do It Yourself

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Hostile welcome for Lee Kuan Yew
Craig Skehan, March 28, 2007 - 1:50PM
Sydney Morning Herald
(Link edited by YM)
Protesters and a fiery exchange with reporters marred a ceremony honouring Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, at the Australian University in Canberra today.

The university stirred up controversy by bestowing an honorary law doctorate on Mr Lee, who governed the tiny city state for decades with an iron hand, delivering prosperity but restricting civil liberities.

Mr Lee led Singapore to independence and served as its first prime minister, being regularly re-elected until 1990.

About 150 protesters chanted anti-Lee slogans and waved placards that described him as a "dictator''.

A group of law students said they had also briefed a senior barrister to mount a court challenge against the awarding of the doctorate on the ground that the ANU's own procedures weren't followed.

During the cermony inside ANU's University House, Mr Lee was praised for bringing financial success and stability to Singapore.

However, many seats in the auditorium were vacant because of a boycott by some university staff.

Wearing an academic cap and red gown, Mr Lee, 83, delivered a speech in which he declared that Australia and Singapore shared a common strategic outlook.

Later, Mr Lee had a hostile encounter with waiting reporters.

"If I allowed you to run my country, we would spiral down to rock bottom,'' a defiant Mr Lee told the journalists.

Many years ago Mr Lee once warned Australians that they were risk of becoming "white trash'' in Asia.

Questioned about this today he said he had made the comment at different time in Australia's history.

"Now you have changed,'' he said pointing to Australia's former discriminatory immigration policies which were still in place in the 1960s.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer this week acknowledged there had been international concern about human rights issues in Singapore but he praised Mr Lee as a "great regional leader".

"The fact is in the overall sense, Singapore has been a spectacular success," Mr Downer said.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Harapkan Pagar, Pagar Makan Padi

The ethics of rice-eating fences
By Sim Kwang Yang
(Link edited by YM)
'An Examined Life' appears in Malaysiakini every Saturday.

Pagar makan padi. That is the old Malay proverbial description of corruption. It translates awkwardly into “rice-eating fences”, meaning that the fencing erected to protect the rice field turns around and devours the rice instead.

The Malay language is a colourful tongue in its native form, if you can steer clear from the deadened officialised version. In this case,the old proverb portrays beautifully the concept of betrayal of public trust involved by public officials in enriching themselves. As a human vice, corruption is as old as prostitution, and yet it has probably wrought much more havoc upon human societies than prostitution, because it can be a curse upon the stability and prosperity of nations.

In China, corruption has been an inseparable feature of government from ancient times to the present. An old Chinese proverb has it that nine out of 10 public officials are expected to be corrupt. That is what I would call a conservative estimate. There, entire dynasties have declined and fallen because of widespread corruption within the centralised governing bureaucracy since the time of the Chin Emperor 2,500 years ago.

Corruption by senior eunuchs trusted by the Emperors was particularly vicious, as they were the only ones close to the Emperor and his many wives, giving them unlimited access to the royal ears. The so-called Western liberal democracies nowadays may frown upon corruption as one of the cardinal sins in public life. It has not always been so.

In the earlier part of their historical evolution, corruption was as rampant as it is now in developing nations and failed states. Francis Bacon (1561 -1626) was one of the leading thinkers in the West, and yet he was also prosecuted for taking bribes during his tenure as Lord Chancellor. He pleaded guilty and said that presents never influenced his decision. Honour among the corrupt commenting on his fall from grace in public life, Bertrand Russell has this to say in his book History of Western Philosophy, "The ethics of the legal profession in those days were somewhat lax. Almost every judge accepted presents, usually from both sides.

Nowadays, we think it atrocious for a judge to take bribes, but even more atrocious, after taking them, to decide against the givers of them. In those days, presents were a matter of course, and a judge showed his ‘virtue’ by not being influenced by them." Only philosophers will discuss about the rule of ethical behaviour in such an unethical practice as corruption. Corrupt public officials are like thieves who steal from public money in one way or another, directly or indirectly. Apparently, even corrupt people demands honour among thieves.

In our country, our democracy is young, and we are still struggling to build the institutions and mechanism to arrest corruption. Unfortunately, the problem is deeply rooted at the very top political level. The whole election process is terminally polluted by various forms of vote buying. The exchange of votes for cash and other giftsis particularly rampant in Sabah and Sarawak.

Naturally, election candidates who spend a fortune on his campaign expect some returns upon holding offices of various grades. Corruption on such grand and pervasive scale cannot be kept secret. Truths and half truths have been circulated in the grapevine like wild fire. When state powers hang in the balance, then elected representatives are traded like goats and buffaloes. Such deals are always struck insecrecy, so one can only speculate as to why certain YB would jump party. The first reaction among a cynical electorate is often that the YB has been offered a sweetened fat pig.

Here, I cannot avoid getting a little personal. I served from 1982 to 1995 as the Member of Parliament for my hometown of Bandar Kuching. By some accounts, commentators have remembered me as one of the more effective opposition MPs. I have always tried to be as clean as a whistle.

A personal example.

Even so, there was this lingering suspicion among some voters and my former party members that I was “bought”, just because I chose to retire from active politics, or failed to turn up in any election to support the opposition candidate. That is neither here nor there. What needs telling is that during my tenure as an MP, invariably some very fat offers came my way. I could see how elected representatives of the people can be tempted. It almost always starts with a middle-man. Recalling the events now, this employment of an agent must be a precaution in case the person being presented with the gargantuan bribe decides to spill the beans. The real person behind the offer can always deny that he knows anything about it. Such a middle man, a lower ranking official of the ruling Barisan Nasional approached me and suggested a covert meeting. At the appointed hour, in cover of darkness, he laid out the deal from his boss. If I agreed to the offer, I would be flown first-class to a top hotel in Singapore. There, I would be given a few millions in cash, plus shares from certain very lucrative companies held by a certain political elite in Sarawak. I did not even have to resign from my party or my position. All I had to do was to sign a letter of undertaking, and thenceforth proceed to England to pursue my further studies, and be absent from the political scene until the next general election. It was understood that I should not seek re-election. I had met this middle-man with the intention of finding out how such buying of YBs works.

But having been thus offered, I had a twisted idea. What if I took the offer, donated the money to my party and some charities of my choice, and then refused to be a turn-coat, continuing politically as I had always been - a brazen opposition MP. Would it be ethical to do such a thing? What would be the ramification of such a creative move? I presented the idea to my then party boss. He told me he had never been offered such a deal, and we discussed the lighter aspect of this dastardly form of political corruption. Then he advised me to just turn it down flat, instead of playing around with it. Such unethical betrayal of a corrupt contract may bring unforeseen circumstances. I returned to the middle man and told him no.

To my surprise, he was glad that I turned down the offer, even if it meant that he would lose out on his 10% commission worth a few hundred thousand Ringgits. Should I have gone to the ACA? Knowing how that agency works during that period of time, more or less, I would have wasted my time if Idid. That does not mean that the ACA cannot be useful now, for tactical purposes even, as recent events have shown. But it is too much to expect the ACA alone, as it is, under the PM’s Department, to go after the really big shark.

By now, leadership by example has taken roots. Corruption by public officials at the very top level for past decades of independence has spread the cancer of taking bribes in various forms down through the entire body politics. The cancer has not reached the terminal stage of metastasis yet, as has already happened in other countries, especially in Africa and other parts of Asia. But it is certainly one of the most distasteful aspects about living and working in Malaysia.

To eradicate this rampant corruption would require many radical institutional changes, and I am glad some silver linings around the dark clouds of rice-eating have become dimly visible.
Hypocritcal ethos

A complete change of government would be the most radical but effective way of clearing away the corrupt politicians and their cronies. Unfortunately, I cannot see any sign that the BN will lose its hold on power any time soon, in the next, or in future general elections. Obviously, Malaysian voters are not angry enough about widespread corruption. Here, I cannot help but lament the hypocritical ethos of our Malaysian society.

Informed people generally have a rough idea about how serious corruption is in high places. But they have more or less resigned themselves to a form of fatalistic resignation as if no matter who comes to power, the corruption will continue unabated anyway. They will reject the idea of changing the government, because – according to their perception – the opposition would be equally corrupt when in power anyway. The most cynical voters, especially businessmen, will also tell you they do not mind corruption, as long as it is not too painful. It is good for business. They will say any political shark can take a bite, as long as it leaves some bones and morsels for those down the ladder in the political food-chain. It is perverted ethics like that which has spawned ruinous corruption on a large and expansive scale. This sort of corrupt ethics is what makes government officials corrupt!

At the end of the day, widespread corruption by government officials is a mere tell-tale symptom of a much greater moral crisis infecting our entire national soul.

About the Author:

SIM KWANG YANG was DAP MP for Bandar Kuching in Sarawak 1982-1995. Since retiring in 1995, he has become a freelance writer in the Chinese-language press, and taught philosophy in a local college for three years. He is now working with an NGO in Kuala Lumpur, the Omnicron Learning Circle, which is aimed at continuing learning for working adults and college students. Suggestions and feedback can reach him at:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Ibans - The People

The Ibans - the people

Closely connected with the death cult is the headhunting activities of the Iban long ago. In the past, head trophies ( antu pata ) were secured to ceremonially end the long and strict period of mourning after a death. Other important occasion which required the acquisitions of head trophies include-- the death of leader, and the birth of a child, especially a male child. Head trophies were also acquired during bejalai missions of tribal warfare. The acquisition of head trophies was a sign of valour in battle and brought prestige to the conquering warrior.

In Sarawak, the dominant tribal groups are the Dayak. Tribal people live in longhouses. There are the Iban (Sea Dayak), and the Bidayuh (Land Dayak). All of Malaysia’s tribal people feel a strong spiritual connection to the rainforest. The Iban grow rice and fruit, and hunt and fish.The Ibans form the largest percentage of Sarawak's population, making up some 30% (= 400,000 people). Reputed to be the most formidable headhunters on the island of Borneo, the Ibans of today are a generous, hospitable and placid people. Because of their history as pirates and fishermen, they were conventionally referred to as the "Sea Dayaks".

The Iban is a friendly and hospitable tribe. The majority of Sarawak Ibans, especially in the lowlands, are living mostly in longhouses along the main rivers and their tributaries. They are Christians, but they still maintain their strong cultural identity and heritage. The Ibans are also famous for their tuak, a sweet rice wine, which is served during big celebrations and festive occasions. Please bare in mind, that whenever you visit a longhouse, at the entrance you will be given a glass of tuak for warm welcoming and never say no, because if you resist you are not respecting their kind offer.

An Iban boy starts to use the implements of the wood-worker and carver from an early age.The decorated bamboo containers are sign of a bachelor's affection for a young, unattached women as well as being a mark of his own accomplishment and refinement. Once an a serious affair started beyond the first largely physical attraction, the young man carves a decorated bamboo container as a permanent token of his affection. Once married, the Iban groom either moves to his wife's family or the bride moves to the husband's family.

Iban man and his prize winning fighting cock

An Iban is a member of a bilek family, which in turn is one unit of a longhouse. About two years after the marriage, especially if a child has been born, the couple will move out of the parental unit to start its own bilek (strictly a bilek is an unit in a long house, but the word also denotes a discrete family unit within a longhouse). It is the man's role to protect his family and fields from terrestrial and extraterrestrial pests & predators.Farming is a critically important activity for the Iban family, because it provides the substance which keeps them alive.

Smiling Iban maiden

Iban have many festivals called 'Gawai'. There are the 'Gawai Kenyalang' (hornbill festival), 'Gawai Antu' (festival for the dead) and 'Gawai Dayak' (harvesting festival). During such festivals, besides the customary observance of ritual, there is usually much drinking of the locally brewed rice wine called 'tuak', much merriment and dancing called 'ngajat' and displays of elaborate traditional costumes.

Recipe Tuak

Tuak is our special rice wine. It is a drink for all occassions, be it Gawai, weddings or entertaining our visitors. Westerns who have had a taste of tuak, love it, and in some cases might smuggle it home too!

Preparation: Glutinous rice is cooked and left to cool in a 'tapan' or any flat utensils. For every 5 Kg of glutinous rice you will need 5 kg of round 'ragi' (yeast) and 5 pieces of thin slice ragi. (round ragi for bitterness, slice ragi for sweetness). The yeast are pounded into powder and mixed with the rice after it has cool. This mixture is then left to ferment in any clean container (jar) for a week or so. Cool, boiled water plus sugar (syrup) is added to this mixture. (10 kg sugar for 20 liters of water) Depending on your taste, your tuak is now ready. if you prefer you can wait another week. The longer you keep your tuak the more portent it will be.

In recent decades much of their rainforest has been cleared by logging and plantation companies. The Iban and other tribes have frequently blockaded logging roads to try to protect their forest.

In many Iban longhouses you find only old people and young children. I got the feeling that the whole community is reduced to an exhausted past, and an uncertain future.Naturally, without the younger generations to inherit their rich cultural legacies, but traditions are dying. The ancient crafts of making boats, building longhouses, weaving, dancing, tattooing, and native art are now dying fast. Even the whole oral tradition of telling tales and myths is disappearing.

Native Iban hunting nearby a waterfall in Batang Ai.

Friday, March 23, 2007

How to ctrl, alt, delete US$38 billion

How to ctrl, alt, delete $38 billion

Perhaps you know that sinking feeling when a single keystroke accidentally destroys hours of work. Now imagine wiping out a disk drive containing information for an account worth $US38 billion (US$1=RM3.75).

That's what happened to a computer technician reformatting a disk drive at the Alaska Department of Revenue. While doing routine maintenance work, the technician accidentally deleted applicant information for an oil-funded account - one of Alaska residents' biggest perks - and mistakenly reformatted the backup drive, as well.

There was still hope, until the department discovered its third line of defence, backup tapes, were unreadable.

"Nobody panicked, but we instantly went into planning for the worst-case scenario," said Permanent Fund Dividend Division Director Amy Skow. The July computer foul-up, which wiped out dividend distribution information for the fund, would end up costing the department more than $200,000 ($A250,000).

Over the next few days, as the department, the division and consultants from Microsoft and Dell laboured to retrieve the data, it became obvious the worst-case scenario was at hand.

Nine months worth of applicant information for the yearly payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund was gone: some 800,000 electronic images that had been painstakingly scanned into the system months earlier, the 2006 paper applications that people had either mailed in or filed over the counter, and supporting documentation such as birth certificates and proof of residence.

And the only backup was the paperwork itself - stored in more than 300 cardboard boxes.

"We had to bring that paper back to the scanning room, and send it through again, and quality control it, and then you have to have a way to link that paper to that person's file," Skow said.

Half a dozen seasonal workers came back to assist the regular division staff, and about 70 people working overtime and weekends re-entered all the lost data by the end of August.

"They were just ready, willing and able to chip in and, in fact, we needed all of them to chip in to get all the paperwork rescanned in a timely manner so that we could meet our obligations to the public," Skow said.

Last October and November, the department met its obligation to the public. A majority of the estimated 600,000 payments for last year's $US1106.96 individual dividends went out on schedule, including those for 28,000 applicants who were still under review when the computer disaster struck.

Former Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus said no one was ever blamed for the incident. "Everybody felt very bad about it and we all learned a lesson. There was no witch hunt," Corbus said.

According to department staff, they now have a proven and regularly tested backup and restore procedure.
The department is asking lawmakers to approve a supplemental budget request for $US220,700 to cover the excess costs incurred during the six-week recovery effort, including about $US128,400 in overtime and $US71,800 for computer consultants.

The money would come from the permanent fund earnings, the money earmarked for the dividends. That means recipients could find their next cheque docked by about US37 cents.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two Contrasting Cultures, Steeped In Traditions.

Here are the wedding pictures of my niece (Tracy Anak Temaga @Nor Alia) married to a Kelantanese Malay steeped in traditions; Iban Traditional wedding 'bersanding' and Malay Traditional 'bersanding' ceremony held in July 2006. It is truly reflections of the Malaysian Multi-cultural society. The Iban Traditional bersanding was held at the bride's Longhouse at Rumah Sadan, Sg Laong, Bakong, Baram District. Meanwhile the Malay akad nikah and bersanding was held at Dewan Suarah, Miri. Both ceremonies was attended by both families and friends of the couple.

Iban traditional Bersanding

The bridegroom (Nik Syahril) is working as an Enforcement Officer with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs, Enforcement Division in Miri, Sarawak, hails from the state of Kelantan in West Malaysia.

Iban Traditional Costume

Malay Traditional Costume

Iban Traditional bersanding ceremony, The bride and The bridegroom wearing the Iban Costume dress

Malay Traditional Bersanding

The bride and Her Father
The Bride and Her Mother

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sarawak Bumis - Wither Equality?

Sarawak Bumis - Wither Equality?
by Dr Jayum A Jawan, Ph.D

It has been about 44 years since the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. That is a long period of time in which to make good the unwritten promise of bringing about development to the various indigenous populations of Sabah and Sarawak.

During the negotiation period (for the formation of the Federation of Malaysia), many indigenous leaders were brought over to Kuala Lumpur and then taken on guided tours of various selected development areas.

It was impressed upon them that if they accepted the proposed concept and formation of the Federation of Malaysia, they and their peoples would be assured of experiencing similar development taking places in their states.

Economic development is only one of the areas that was promised to be developed rapidly after Malaysia. The reason, it was argued then, was to bring up Sabah and Sarawak to a level on par with the rate of development already experienced by some states in the Federation of Malaya then.

This article is a brief reflection of cultural minorities in the process of development. It poses many questions, but does not pretend to be able to provide any solutions. Many of the statements made in this article are relevant and based mostly on studies and experiences of the Dayak community of Sarawak.

Nevertheless, generalisations drawn from the studies of Dayak Iban community are not far from being untrue of other cultural and ethnic minorities in Malaysia. This is because they share a common feature and problem - their peripherality from the corridors of power, which in turn isolates them from the process of mainstream national development.

Elusive concept

Malaysia’s cultural diversities come from Sabah and Sarawak. In Malaysia, there are no less than 44 known and acknowledged ethnic and cultural groups - each with its unique culture, language and beliefs system. Of that number, only four are to be found in the Peninsula, namely the Malay, Chinese, Indian and the Orang Asli (aborigines). Of the remaining forty ethnic and cultural groups, 20 each are to be found in Sabah and Sarawak.

Politics in plural societies are characterised by ethnic manoeuvring and inter - ethnic rivalries. Every ethnic leader attempting to dominate the political process has to first appeal to his own group. This is sometime done by arousing the ethnic sensitivities of that particular group. But when a leader has to rely on the support of the other ethnic communities to fulfil his larger political ambition, he is then therefore forced to appear to be compromising and willing to adopt a multi-ethnic approach.

But whether this dual approach/face to politics might eventually lead to a meaningful power sharing and an equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth remains difficult to determine and ascertain.

In Malaysia, the concept of a minority is an elusive one. For what exactly is a minority but merely a number that continuously change in meaning and significance? In general, a minority connotes a group that is marginalised in many aspects, particularly in the political process and socio-economic development.

However, in Malaysian politics, this is not always true and a minority may be at a disadvantaged in one aspect but not in others. Although a minority, the Chinese have been, and still are to a large extent, a dominant force in the Malaysian economy. As a whole, they may be a minority group, but in Pulau Pinang they constitute a population and legislative majorities.

Despite its more plural nature in comparison to Sabah and states in the Peninsula, Sarawak is rather unfortunate in that its state leadership has not benefitted from its cultural and ethnic diversities. A Malay has yet to become the chief minister, so too a Bidayuh or an Orang Ulu. In the same vein, an Iban, Bidayuh, or an Orang Ulu has yet to occupy the post of the head of state.

Minority representation

The important agenda of any newly emerging nation-state is national integration and subsequently nation-building. In Malaysia, the process of national integration was accelerated following the outbreak of the 1969 ethnic riots.

Instrumental in spearheading the process of national integration were a number of national plans and policies, but one which had the potential to effectively promote national integration was undoubtedly the New Economic Policy. This was to have been done through its restructuring objective - that is to restructure the Malaysian society to reflect its plural nature.

The NEP was important because it was formulated and proceeded from the basis that national integration could only be promoted and achieved among equals - that is between bumiputera and non-bumiputera. Malaysia has been praised for its efficient political management whereby representatives from the main ethnic communities are brought, at any cost, into the Barisan Nasional coalition.

Sabah and Sarawak have always been represented in the federal cabinet, although the characteristics of their respective representatives may or may not reflect or take into account the state’s ethnic plurality. For example, Sarawak has had its share of Dayak, Malay-Melanau and Chinese in the federal cabinet, although the Orang Ulu only came as far as having its representative appointed as a federal deputy minister.

Sarawak Chinese representatives only joined the federal cabinet in 1970, when SUPP joined the state coalition, while the Dayak had Temenggong Jugah, as a federal minister until 1970, and then Leo Moggie, who was appointed in 1976, after Snap joined the coalition. Similarly, there was never a period in which Sabah did not have its members as federal ministers.

However, since the adoption of the Muslim bumiputera, non-Muslim bumiputera and Chinese, the mid-1990s was perhaps the first brief period in which one major ethnic, the non-Muslim bumiputera, was not represented in the federal cabinet.

Less opportunities

As Malaysia has about 44 identified ethnic minorities, it may be unrealistic to expect every one of these groups to be represented everywhere and at every level. There must be some compromise somewhere. While it is easy to target politically-appointed offices as subjects of scrutiny, non-politically motivated offices, including the federal and state civil services must also be considered.

At these levels, opportunities for multi-ethnic participation has been even less even. For example, how many Sabahans or Sarawakians have been given the opportunities to be appointed as heads (ie, secretaries-general) of federal government ministries? Only in the 1990s, we heard that one East Malaysian from Sarawak came only as high as being appointed as a director-general of a section within the Education Ministry.

Among the nine public institutions of higher learning, not even one is headed by an East Malaysian. The closest that an East Malaysian came in to heading a public university is as a deputy vice-chancellor of one in Kota Samarahan.

East Malaysians have yet to be accepted as ‘equals’ in many considerations involving top government jobs. This uneven pattern of ethnic participation will certainly not auger well for the famed power sharing arrangement for which Malaysia is being noted for.

At the state level and in Sarawak, the image of power sharing projected by mere physical presence of the various ethnic communities in the state cabinet is not reflected at the lower level of government such as in the state civil services, state statutory bodies, state-owned or controlled corporations and local authorities. They tend to be dominated by one ethnic /cultural group from the main component of the state ruling coalition.

For example, how many Ibans, Bidayuh, or Orang Ulu have been given the opportunities to head state government ministries, government departments, state statutory bodies and local authorities.

Sometimes, even a local authority that have more Iban residents is led by an appointee from another community. In such a case, how can that particular person be ‘sensitive’ enough to the needs, aspirations and problems facing the other communities?

I have argued elsewhere, that the state of the economic development of ethnic minorities is closely tied to a number of factors, namely, their relationship to the centre of power, the state of their political unity, and the willingness and sincerity of the political leadership of the day to bring them into the mainstream of national development.

The case for which I argued extensively was the lack of development among the Dayak minority despite their substantial number in Sarawak. For example, the majority of the Ibans are still trapped in low-return agricultural activities, low-paying jobs, and lack access to education and business opportunities.

No follow through

The terms for distributing the benefits of economic growth, in order to restructure the Malaysian society, have been clearly spelt out by the NEP. If only its implementators followed through with the mechanism, the least that would have happened is that some form of economic benefits would surely have trickled down to the Ibans as well as other ethnic minorities.

The fact that the non-Malay ethnic minorities are also classified as bumiputera does not elevate them to a special status, unlike the Muslim-Malay bumiputera who enjoy special consideration in many aspects dealing with various facets of development, including access to education, scholarship, business and other opportunities made available during the period 1970-1990, when the Malaysian economic development experienced an unprecedented growth rate.

As a direct result of the NEP, many opportunities in government and businesses have been expanded and many ‘newly rich’ have emerged, but how many are from the communities such as the Dayak Iban, Dayak Bidayuh, Dayak Orang Ulu, Bajau, Murut, Orang Sungai, etc?

How many of these ethnic minorities sit as chief executive officers in large government-owned or controlled corporations and as heads of federal and state statutory bodies in comparison to others?

The government started on the right path with the introduction of the NEP, but it did not follow through in its implementation. This has resulted in the alienation and peripheralisation of many ethnic communities.

Playing politics

Therefore, although the initial goal of national integration may have been, to some extent, achieved in a limited way because there have been some interactions between the various ethnic communities in many situations and contexts, but whether that has led to the emergence of a Malaysian identity at the same time is very much doubtful.

The Malaysian identity cannot be forced out by any policy, but must flow from the hearts. Subscription to the Malaysian identity is more than just that. It must involve believing in and identifying with these characteristics.

The choice of consensual politics is not only consistent with the basic tenet of democracy, but extremely appropriate for a multi-ethnic and plural societies such as Malaysia. However, involving any particular group of ethnic minority in governance must be done with sincerity and not for the sake of image-building.

All ethnic groups may not be able to be brought into the highest level of governance - that is into the cabinet - but there are other lower levels of political appointments that can fulfill the same aim.

Very frequently, the objective of integrating ethnic minorities in all levels of government and in development is hampered because one or the combination of the following factors: (1) top government managers simply do not understand their roles and functions; (2) they went out of their way to reinterpret what they should have simply carried out; (3) their sentiment affects their better judgement; and (4) they play too much politics.

Sometimes, it is often easy to lay the blame for underdevelopment and the exclusion of one or more ethnic minorities on the political leadership. It is too convenient to blame ‘the government’ for Dayak socio-economic problem and exclusion from the mainstream development. But precisely which government at what level and which individuals from what agencies are responsible?

For example, the Dayaks have never being excluded from the state coalition, but their voices of discontent are heard from time to time - at times, these have been expressed even by former Dayak members of the federal and state cabinets who hurled various accusations against the state leadership. Who is at fault? Certainly the government! But which one? The federal? The state? The petty bureaucrats?

No guidelines

The objective of the NEP is clear. The target group is also precise. But as far as can be remembered, there has been no effort made to define how the Kadazandusun, Murut, Bajau, Dayak Iban, Dayak Bidayuh and Dayak Orang Ulu feature in the 30 percent NEP target.

In the absence of any guideline, it is too easy to leave out one or more ethnic group by allocating the bumiputera share of the economic pie to only one or two ehtnic minorities within the bumiputera category.

In line with the new government’s promotion of a new culture of transparency and public accountability, it is timely that the state leadership take the initiative to table the state of economic development in Sarawak and in Sabah, specifically relating to how the various ethnic groups have progressed during the 1971-1990 period as a basis to help achieve a more ethnically equitable development.

It is clear that many ethnic minorities have not benefitted as much as they should have from the implementation of the NEP. The major part of the blame must fall on the state leadership for not being just in distributing the benefits of economic growth in line with the policy and objectives of the federal government to promote national integration in its effort to build a united Malaysian society.

JAYUM A JAWAN, Ph D is attached to the Dept of Government and Civilisation Studies, Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia. The above article is based on a paper he first presented in 1998.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Police to record ACA D-G's statement over allegations

Police To Record ACA D-G's Statement Over Allegations

KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 (Bernama) -- Police will summon Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Director-General Datuk Zulkipli Mat Noor to record his statement over allegations of corruption, having business interests and sexual misconduct levelled at him.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan told Bernama that Zulkipli would be called soon together with all witnesses and police officers who had investigated the cases.

Meanwhile, Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who is on an official visit abroad, had been informed of the allegations.

Commenting on the developments, Zulkipli told Bernama that he was ready to give explanation and furnish evidence against the claims.

"I have the confidence and courage to face the problem because I believe in God and only a person with guilt needs to be afraid," he said.

Zulkipli said he was ready to explain to the prime minister if ordered to do so and appear before the Parliamentary Special Committee on March 12 with detailed evidence.

"I don't want to be emotional over the matter. Instead, I still do the job as usual as the director-general and conduct daily meetings with my staff," he said and urged all quarters not to make speculations about him.

Musa said a special team had been set up to re-examine the sexual allegation based on a police report lodged by a businesswoman in July 1997 at the Cheras station.

The woman alleged that Zulkipli had hit her for refusing to have sex with him. Earlier in Seremban, Musa told reporters that the police would also open an investigation paper to find out whether Zulkipli had declared his assets and was involved in business.

The allegations against Zulkipli surfaced after a movement who call themselves "Gerakan Demokrasi dan Anti Korupsi" (Democracy and Anti Corruption Movement or Gerak), posted in a local blog a claim by senior ACA officer Mohamad Ramli Manan, who retired on Dec 8 last year, that Zulkipli possessed assets beyond his means.

Zulkipli is alleged to have interests in various businesses and own properties including six houses in Pagoh, Johor, and misused government vehicles. Before assuming the post of ACA director-general in 2001, he served with the Royal Malaysia Police for 20 years including as Johor chief police officer and Sarawak police commissioner.

His term as the ACA director-general has been extended three times.

Fu said Musa and the Attorney-General's Chamber had informed the Internal Security Ministry about the allegations and whether Zulkipli's service would be suspended or terminated depended on the outcome of the investigation. Any decision on Zulkipli's position rested with the prime minister, he said.

"The prime minister has been informed of the matter and he views it as serious," he said.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said Zulkipli was not guilty of any crime until he had been proven so by the court.

In the meantime, Zulkipli would continue to head the ACA, which is under the Prime Minister's Department, he said. "The law in our country says he is innocent until proven guilty. So, there is no need for us to suspend him from his duties or ask him to step down," he told Bernama.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said Zulkipli and those who testified against him would be asked to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity on March 12. Dompok who heads the 12-member committee, said the committee would determine whether the allegations involved elements of integrity and if so, submit the necessary recommendation to Parliament.-- BERNAMA

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007

The Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007

The Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) is an annual publication of The World Economic Forum (WEF) that enhances global understanding of the factors influencing private-sector led economic growth and explains why some countries are much more successful than others at creating new employment opportunities and raising the income level of their respective populations.

For participating countries, the GCR reports on performance and policy conditions affecting the ability of private sector firms to be globally competitive – able to create and add value within the global marketplace. According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2006 - 2007, Malaysia ranked 26 falling from 25 position in 2005 with GCI (Global Competitive Index) score of 5.11 for the 2006 period, released by the World Economic Forum on 26 September 2006., in the Growth Competitiveness Index from the 117 countries listed.

According to the report, Malaysia, ranked 26th overall, has one of the most efficient economies in the region with flexible labour markets, relatively undistorted goods markets and public institutions which in many areas (e.g., rule of law, the legal system) are already operating at the level of the top performing new EU members.

Switzerland, Finland and Sweden are the world’s most competitive economies according to The Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007, while Denmark, Singapore, the United States, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom complete the top ten list, but the United States shows the most pronounced drop, falling from first to sixth.

The rankings are drawn from a combination of publicly available hard data and the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, together with its network of Partner Institutes (leading research institutes and business organizations) in the countries covered by the Report. This year, over 11,000 business leaders were polled in a record 125 economies worldwide.

"The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy for boosting competitiveness in an increasingly complex global economy," according to Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist; Director, Global Competitiveness Network.

Raising productivity—meaning making better use of available factors and resources—is the driving force behind the rates of return on investment which, in turn, determine the aggregate growth rates of an economy.Thus, a more competitive economy will be one which will likely grow faster in a medium to long-term perspective.

Education and training are emerging as key drivers of competitiveness. As the global economy has become more complex, it has become evident that to compete and maintain a presence in global markets it is essential to boost the human capital endowments of the labor force, whose members must have access to new knowledge, be constantly trained in new processes and in the operation of the latest technologies. As coverage of primary education has expanded rapidly in the developing world, higher education has gained importance. Thus, countries which have invested heavily in creating a well-developed infrastructure for tertiary education have reaped enormous benefits in terms of growth.

As noted above, the GCI, albeit simple in structure, provides a holistic overview of factors that are critical to driving productivity and competitiveness, and groups them into nine pillars:

  1. Institutions
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Macroeconomy
  4. Health and primary education
  5. Higher education and training
  6. Market efficiency
  7. Technological readiness
  8. Business sophistication
  9. Innovation

It is important to note that none of these factors alone can ensure competitiveness.The value of increased spending in education will be undermined if rigidities in the labor market and other institutional weaknesses make it difficult for new graduates to gain access to suitable employment opportunities. Attempts to improve the macroeconomic environment—e.g., bringing public finances under control—are more likely to be successful and receive public support in countries where there is reasonable transparency in the management of public resources, as opposed to widespread corruption and abuse. Innovation or the adoption of new technologies or upgrading management practices will most likely not receive broad-based support in the business community, if protection of the domestic market ensures that the returns to seeking rents are higher than those for new investments. Therefore, the most competitive economies in the world will typically be those where concerted efforts have been made to frame policies in a comprehensive way, that is, those which recognize the importance of a broad array of factors, their interconnection, and the need to address the underlying weaknesses they reveal in a proactive way.