Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Mubahalah" By Saiful - a fair trial is now impossible?

It is reported by Malaysiakini that Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the man accusing Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy, had sworn on the Quran that Anwar Ibrahim had sodomised him without his consent. He had done so at the Federal Teritorry Mosque in Jalan Duta. During a press conference at a hotel on 15th August, a 2 minute video recording of the swearing - which is called "mubahalah" in Islamic term - was shown to reporters.

The process of "mubahalah" is a process whereby a Muslim would swear to the truthfulness of a fact asserted by him or her as true in the name of Allah and in front of the Quran. Muslims believe that if a Muslim dares to go through the process of "mubahalah" knowing that what he or she is asserting is not true, he or she would be a sure candidate for hell in the afterlife and that various hardship would befall him or her even before death. It would not be an understatement to say that "mubahalah" is almost the ultimate test to determine whether somebody is telling the truth or otherwise in Islam. Almost all Muslims would believe in a person who had asserted a fact through this process as no Muslim would even dare to swear by the Quran - let alone in a mosque and in the name of Allah - if he or she is not telling the truth. (In Chinese tradition, we of course would have come across the act of slaughtering a chicken in a temple to prove that one is telling the truth).

Anwar Ibrahim has been accused of sodomy by Saiful and he was in fact charged in the Sessions Court recently. The fact that there is a court proceeding pending against Anwar Ibrahim is therefore beyond any argument. It is last reported by Malaysiakini that the case is now fixed for mention on the 10th September 2008 on which date an application to transfer the case to the High Court would be made by the prosecution.

The question now is whether a fair trial of Anwar Ibrahim is possible in view of Saiful's "mubahalah". It is arguable that a fair trial of the case is now impossible. Should the case be fixed for trial before a Muslim Judge, with all due respect, it will always be in the mind of the Muslim Judge that Saiful, the accuser, had sworn in a mosque in the name of Allah and in front of the Quran. It would be reasonable to assume that the Judge woud find it difficult to disbelieve what Saiful had said in view of him swearing as such. By contrast, Anwar Ibrahim has not done so. It is not unreasonable to conclude that this would lead to an almost incontrovertible "proof" in the mind of any Muslim Judge that Anwar Ibrahim is guilty of sodomising Saiful without his consent.

In addition, I am sure there will be many Muslim witnesses who would appear for the prosecution or the defence. The same belief will always linger in the mind of these Muslim witnesses. These witnesses would include any expert forensic witness and any other witnesses who would appear in Court to support the prosecution's case or the defence. Regardless of who they are - and for which side of the fence they are appearing for - these Muslim witnesses may have trouble to be independent in view of Saiful's action. It would not be unreasonable for any of the Muslim witnesses to now change their intended testimony in view of the "mubahalah" by Saiful. It would not be surprising that even some of the Muslim Counsel appearing in the case to now have doubt about Anwar Ibrahim's innocence!

Under the law, the case is now sub judice (a latin phrase which literally means "under judgement"). When a matter is sub judice, any comment or action which could prejudice the fair trial of the case or which could obstruct the process of justice is prohibited. In my opinion, the "mubahalah" by Saiful is an action which unnecessarily prejudices the fiar trial of the case. In fact, it could be even argued that it amounts to an obstruction of justice in view of the fact that there would be many Muslims who are directly involved in the case.

Any party who makes any statement or commits any act against the principle of sub judice may have commiteed contempt of Court. Anwar Ibrahim's Counsel, I am sure, will now be looking at the matter closely. But if I were one of them, I would be filing contempt proceedings against Saiful by next week!

Is a fair trial of the sodomy case now possible? I will let all of you decide.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The fading dreams - a true story #2

During the Khazanah Nasional's "hari raya open house" last year, I chanced upon a Senator from UMNO. We sat at the same table. Talks of the then  impending general election was going around the table. The Bar Council's call for a reform of the judiciary was a hot topic at that time. Everybody at our table was talking about those issues.

The Senator was in a very confident mood. It was his opinion that the BN would win the general election comfortably if the general election was held "any time soon". Sipping his drink, he turned to me and asked my opinion. I told him I wasn't so sure about that. In my opinion, the people were not happy about a lot of things. There were too many issues which were not resolved. The undercurrent was then against the BN government. Allegations of corruptions, cronyism and inefficiency were too rife, I said. And I don't see the leadership's willingness to engage the people on all these issues, let alone try to solve those issues.

The senator smiled. He said he disagreed with me. He told me to go to Suria KLCC. People are happy there. They are purchasing things and that means they are doing well financially. Look at the business section of our newspaper, he said. Companies are reporting good numbers, which means good profit. The economy is doing well, he further stated his case. When the economy is doing well, it means the people have money and that would translate into a state of general happiness. That is why the shopping complexes are full of people, he said. When the people are happy, the current BN government will win the election, he opined.

He said only "intellectuals" like me who are not happy. The "normal" people are happy. He then asked me to tell him what was it that I wanted the most. I told him that highest on my list is an independent judiciary. He smiled again. He said independence is subjective. He repeated that the people are all happy because they are doing well financially and that is what that matters the most. "You feed them well, and they will vote for you", said him.

Everybody at the table smiled in tacit agreement. I looked at him and asked, "YB, have you heard of Maslow's pyramid of needs"? He said, "of course".

"You see YB, we, Malaysians, have crossed the first 3 steps of the pyramid. We are now not just  looking for food, shelter, education, employment and property anymore YB. We are now crossing those first 3 steps. We are now looking for self esteem, achievements, emancipation and freedom. These are the final 2 steps of the pyramid of needs. We now seek self-actualisation and esteem", I replied.

"That is your intellect talking. The reality is, the people are just concerned about money", the good Senator rebutted.

We then moved on to different topics. He was kind enough to entertain me and all the others at the table. And I must say he did it with refinement, not with the kind of responses we all are accustomed to expect from the Parliament. After we parted, I text him to thank him for the nice conversation we had. He replied to say that it was his pleasure.

After that event, I could not help but conclude that the BN government had lost the plot. The leaders were too mired in their belief that the people were only concerned with financial stability. They  theorised that if the people were making money, they would be thankful to "us" and would then vote for "us" again. In the meantime, we can all forget about freedom of religion; freedom of speech; judicial independence;  an honourable police force, anti-corruption agency and attorney general chambers. Forget about racial discriminations; controlled news and mass media; inefficiency in the government; corruption; abuse of power; cronyism; and all things which do not have anything to do with money. Because in their minds, the people were just concerned about money, and nothing else.

What Abdullah Ahmad, his band of ministers and minders have failed to note was Malaysia in 2007 and 2008 was not the same Malaysia of the 1960's, 70's or even the 80's. I suppose none in Abdullah Ahmad's cocoon of political blissfulness had ever thought of Maslow's  theory. It is human nature to first seek for the basic needs. The very basic needs, like food and water; air to breathe; places to excrete and even sex would be foremost in our minds. When we get those things, we would then be thinking of owning a house for shelter; employment; a family and probably even education. Next on the agenda would be sexual intimacy and friendship or anything which has to do with love and sense of belonging. It is naive, and even downright ignorant,  for Abdullah Ahmad and his advisers to think that in 2007 and 2008, Malaysians were all still just craving for these things. I suppose, only the politicians are still seeking for these very basic needs.

The truth is Malaysians have passed all those basic lines. We have taken the first 3 steps of Maslow's pyramid and have progressed far far away from the clutches of basic needs. We are now seeking  self esteem; mutual respect of and from each others and achievements. Malaysians in 2007 and 2008 are also talking about morality; creativity and the banishment of any kind of prejudice or discrimination.When we talk about seeking "morality", we are of course expecting the government to take a holistic approach towards preventing corruptions and the provision of transparency in all public dealings. We of course demand accountability and tied to this is a fully responsible government, whose various agencies  would not pass the buck around every time  something bad had happened. Included in the "morality" category is also an independent judiciary, an essential arm of the administration of the country. Banishment of prejudices and discriminations of course entail the finding of solutions for equal rights for every citizen regardless of their race or religion.

What this government is not accustomed to and what it has failed to provide the Malaysians is intellectual engagement with the people on issues closed to their heart. When faced with difficult issues, this government would choose to be on  the offensive. The SOP, in such situations would be:

  • firstly, deny the existence of the issue - the Senator was a prime example. He denied the people were concerned about various issues.
  • secondly, if the first step fails, brand the issue as a political one and ask the people not to "politicise" the issue. This is forgetting the fact that almost everything which we do as human beings involves, and is in fact, politics (as politics, by its widest definition, involves act or acts of persuading others to agree with us)!
  • thirdly, brand the people or body of people who raise the issue as "the opposition party" or "behaving like the opposition". Nazri Aziz did this when the Bar organised the walk for justice to demand an independent judiciary.
  • fourthly, assume the issue as a "challenge" to democracy or the Malay rights and deem it 'sensitive". The recent forum on the problems faced by some of the people arising out of conversion of their spouse to Islam is a prime example. Another example is whenever the non-Malays raise the issue of equal opportunities for admission into public universities or higher institutions of learning (the UiTM issue yesterday is an example).
  • fifthly, threaten to use the ISA.
  • sixthly, ignore the issue altogether and pretend it is not there. Nazri Aziz again, is a prime example of this when he said at a seminar organised by the Bar Coucil last year that he saw absolutely no reason for the establishment of a judicial appointment committee because among others, there was absolutely no problem with the current system.

This failure - and inability - to engage is the most irritatingly frustrating aspect of this government. Abdullah Ahmad had promised in his maiden speech as the President of UMNO to lend an ear to all Malaysians. He had even asked all Malaysians to "work with me and not for me". Lending an ear to Malaysians does not mean he can hear but choose not to listen, and respond, to Malaysians. He failed miserably to listen and respond. Malaysians are ever ready and willing to work with him for the betterment of Malaysia. However, he and his government don't seem to be interested to reciprocate.

What the good Senator said to me last year is reflective of the shallow mindedness of this administration. To think that Malaysians are still struggling at the first 2 steps of the pyramid of needs is insulting to Malaysians and is a sad reflection of the present administration's ability to analise the needs and desire of the people.

If the BN government needs any proof that I was right, just take a look at the result of this year's general election. And if this government continues to ignore the people's wishes and dismiss the people's views - as recent events would show - I am afraid I have to say that the end is nigh.

Friday, August 8, 2008

skirting the issue - the latest court of appeal decision

Malaysian Insider reported yesterday about the Court of Appeal's (the CoA) majority decision to dismiss a woman's appeal against the High Court's decision refusing to grant her application for a declaration that she has a right to renounce Islam. The CoA apparently, in a 2-1 decision, decided to dismiss her appeal because the name appearing in her originating summons "no longer existed".

This is yet another shallow minded, convenient and fearful approach taken by the second highest court of the land when being confronted by matters involving conversion from Islam by anybody who had earlier professed to be a Muslim. Rather than seizing the opportunity to make a fully reasoned decision by confronting the issue at hand heads on, the CoA would rather hide behind trivial technicalities as if procedures are made to hamper, rather than aid, litigants.

I have lost count on how many such cases have come up for appeals in the CoA or even in the highest Courts of the land, the Federal Courts. Not a single one has been decided on its merit. The most that has been said in these cases is that the matter is within the purview of the Syariah Court and thus the civil courts do not have jurisdiction to entertain the cases. Since when the Syariah Courts have jurisdiction to decide on a Constitutional issue is quite beyond my remembrance.

In this latest episode, the woman had used both her Muslim and her Chinese names in her summons. The purpose of stating one's name on a summons or in any legal documentation is to identify oneself. In the olden days in England, one did not only have to state one's name but also was required to state one's address and/or profession. That is solely for the purpose of identification so that a Robin Hood of Nottingham Forrest would not be mistaken for a Robin Hood of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The practice of stating one's name and address continues to this very day because as we all know, there is no such thing as an identity card over there.

That practice was adopted here. Thus, one has to state one's name and address in any summons and also affidavit. However, our Courts take the matter so seriously so much so that there are Judges who dismiss cases or reject affidavits just because the address is not stated or the name is not spelt correctly. In doing that, the Judges have failed to appreciate the rationale for such procedural rule (I would even say they don't actually know the rationale). They also forget that in Malaysia, an identification could be specifically done just by stating the Identity Card number! Thus, the rule requiring that one's name and address or even profession be stated must be taken in that perspective.

One of the CoA Judges was in the case yesterday was reported as saying "the question before us is who is appearing in the appeal? Is it the Chinese name or the Muslim name?". First of all, the one appearing before the CoA was not the "name" but the PERSON being represented by her Counsel. Second of all, her Counsel had already clarified that the name appearing on the Court papers was the name of the PERSON appealing. So, what was the issue? Where was the confusion? It also speaks volume of the quality of the AG Chambers' advocacy skills when all they could muster in such an important case was an objection of this nature.

The truth is that the real issue at hand is the proverbial hot potato which no one would like to handle. The name or names was just a convenient excuse to pass the buck. One wonders why the CoA did not seize the opportunity to decide on a very importand and almost a cardinal Constitutional issue. After all, the issue is one of fundemental liberties of Malaysians as provided by the Federal Constitution and not about Islam. It so incidental that in this case the religion being professed is Islam but this does not detract from the constitutional issue which begs to be argued and determined. The Syariah Courts clearly do not have jurisdiction over this matter.

Malaysia must be the only Commenwealth country where a Constitutional law issue is being dismissed by the Courts because the litigant has used a wrong name!

That's the inconvenient truth of it all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

ASSTROfornication - a world on repeat mode

One afternoon, just about one or two months away from my MCE (now known as "SPM") examinations, all of us Form Fivers were called into the hostel dining room for some kind of prep talk. On the raised platform in front were 4 young lecturers from UKM, apparently invited by the school to give us advice on the impending examinations. A question was asked during the Q&A session by a friend who wanted to know why some students managed to remember everything they read about as opposed to some who did not manage to do so. One of the lecturers answered that question by posting a rhetorical question. "How do you remember that the grass is green? Do you memorise it?", he asked.

He then asked why was it that we managed to remember the grass is green even though we did not make any effort to remember that fact. That is the power of repetition, according to him.

Thinking about it, repetition, is indeed a powerful tool. In the olden days, information would be repeated by the King throughout his kingdom as a matter of propaganda, especially during a war. In peaceful times, information would be repeated on perhaps the necessity of paying taxes or perhaps also to put the citizenry on notice that such and such a person was being sought after by the King for whatever offence. No matter what the purpose of the repetition of the information was, the process of repeating was laborious, to say the least. It will perhaps involve men on horses, riding from one village to the other, shouting the information repeatedly.

The oldest hobby of homo sapiens is perhaps the participation in the oldest form of chain e-mails, namely, the act of gossiping. This is of course during the time before gossiping was elevated into an industry worth billion of dollars. Gossiping is, in itself a form of repetition, where a certain unproven matter or matters about something or somebody, which is normally of a very scandalous variety, would be whispered into the ears of a set of people. The recipient(s) would then repeat the same to another set of people, but of course with a certain latitude of additions or omissions, as the repeater deemed fit for his or her purpose. And this process would be repeated over and over again, each time to a different set of audience. The obvious element of this act is of course, first of all, secrecy of the originator. The design of this act is almost always to scandalise or at least embarrass the subject of the act, which could be a person, a household, an institution or a group of people.

Malay folklore are replete with tales of vicious schemes undertaken through the act of gossiping, which almost always ended tragically. The beautiful Mahsuri, for example, died impaled by bamboo sticks because of an unfounded gossip. Hang Tuah was sentenced to death by the King after being gossiped of having an affair with one of the King's female servants. He luckily survived. Hang Nadim, a boy, was sentenced to death and executed, when it was gossiped that he was too smart so much so that he could overthrow the palace!

Thus was the power of repetition in the olden days.

The need to repeat a certain act is also perhaps owed to the nature of human beings, who are of course, blessed with memory, albeit at varying degree. The ability to memorise or to remember results in human beings' fondness to indulge in the act of reminiscing, which is a form of natural recreation. Before the advent of technology, the act of reminiscing was of course restricted to the act of closing one's eyes and projecting images of the acts or things being remembered or reminisced about. When human beings were able to draw or paint, these images would be drawn or painted in some caves or on some stone tablets. The Pharaohs, for instance, would decree that a whole history of their rules be painted on a whole plain of rock to ensure that they do not vanish from the Earth without being remembered. The Incas would paint or inscribed the whole picture of their irrigation system on a plain of rock, just for posterity sake.

When human beings began writing, of course, some of them began recording events on paper which could be in written form alone, or sometime, even accompanied with drawings or paintings. These were borne out of the necessity to revisit events, whether out of personal attachment to the events, a learning activity or curiosity. Whatever it was, the act of repetition was then becoming mildly sophisticated.

The printing business revolutionised the whole act of repetition. The common people could now revisit events just by re-reading the printed material. By this time, technology had also made it possible to record an event in pictorial form. Together, these abilities brought to the world a new economics gadgetry called "advertising". By this time, the masses could already store their nice remembrances in printed forms. So were articles, stories, literature and learned works. All these could be read repeatedly, at one's own time during one's leisure or period of necessity. Repetition became an act done with relative ease as compared to the time when men on horses going about shouting repeated information for the King. The act of mass repeating, other than the act of gossiping, was at last available to the masses at relative ease and cheapness.

If the act of publishing prints of articles, stories etc gave the amenity to repeat reading or visual visitation of events, stories etc, the act of advertising exploited the power of repetition and human beings' ability to memorise and remember, albeit in subliminal and/or subconscious form. The media of communication would be used to print short articles about certain product with a certain message and publish the same repeatedly. These short articles, coupled with images of the product, or the lifestyles to which the product was related to, would be placed at certain strategic places in the publication where it was deemed inescapable from the view and attention of the masses or readers. Subliminally or subconsciously, these articles and their images would "stick" in the minds of the masses or readers, who would later purchase the subject of the advertisements whenever necessary or even unnecessarily. The true power of repetition was, at this stage of civilisation, almost realised.

Just after this, the radio and television, as well as the cinemas, would provide endless avenues for the masses to indulge in repetitive enjoyment of stories, movies and songs. Favourite songs could be played over and over again on the gramophones while movies could be shown, and watched, numerous times. While at first, the images were in black and white, later they were able to be projected in colours. While at first, the gramaphone was an odd looking piece of steel with rotating table which had to be manually turned via a handle, it was later replaced with a motor driven turntable driven by electric motors. Later this gadget became mobile with the advent of cassette tapes. The transistor radios replaced the humongous valve radios and later became mobile too, with radios shrinking in sizes. Repetition, at this time, became so easy to perform and its technology easy to purchase and own.

The digital revolution however pushed the frontiers of repetition to a new level. The masses could not only repeat a certain media at his or her own leisure time (and needs), they could also repeat a particular segment from within that media with modified intensity or speed. Thus, one could repeat a scene in the movie "Untouchables" for umpteen times in slow motion, at a rate up to 8 times slower than the original speed. (I must confess I am one of those who repeated the scene where Sean Connery was assassinated interspersed with the images of De Niro crying at the opera house 89 times, in slow motion too!) The same could be done to songs, although there is not much fun in repeating a song at a slower speed unless one is playing it backwards in order to find subliminal satanic messages. If before, the liberty to repeat at one's whims and fancy was only possessed by the industry, the digital age has altered that to give more power to repeat and to decide in what manner the repeat is to be done to the masses. Pornography, at this time, is taken to a new height, and depth (pun not intended).

Elsewhere, computer games gives the masses to the ability to "interact" with the games they are playing on the computer enabling them to repeat the game by trying out varieties of responses and reactions to a given set of situations provided by the game, each of the responses and reactions coming with a different set of counter-responses and reactions and ultimately, results. Images and stories, articles and works, learned or otherwise, are now not only available via the print media, but also stored in digital form in cyberspace, ready to be accessed at a click of a mouse.

At macro level, a whole new approach to story making, as well as digital gossiping, were taking place. The ability to repeat a scene, whether in "motion" pictures or still pictures has now empowered the industry to create a whole new scene which would be entirely different from the original scene which was being repeated through a process known as "digital editing". At micro level, the masses could also do this, albeit, through less sophisticated methodology and means via a process popularly known as "photoshop". The industry now is equipped with technology to repeat a scene from a series of pictures, splice up some of them, cut them out and "paste" them on a particular scene, doctor them, mutate and morph them out into an entirely different scene altogether. Thus, in the movie Forrest Gump for example, the character Gump was shown to have shaken hand with JF Kennedy. This of course had never taken place. But employing digital editing, this entirely new, and untrue, scene was there for all to see. Repetition is by now elevated to an art form.

The masses was not to be left out either. The "cut and paste" methodology was widely, and cheaply, available. A whole new dimension of digital gossiping ensued. Thus we could see for example, a picture of Najib Razak dining with Altantuya Sharibu on the internet, although it was admitted later that that picture was "doctored" or "digitally processed", to use the digital linggo. The digital camera, which is now cheaply available in every mobile phone, could also be easily and instantly called into service by the masses when events which necessitate or deemed justified for a recording (for future repeats of course) take place. Thus we could now see a proliferation of recording of sexual acts between consenting adults on the computer. These acts (the acts of recording the events and uploading the recording onto a website) is fueled by the knowledge that the recording could and might be repeatedly watched by the masses. Repetition is now a cause of self exhibitionism. Self exhibitionism, on the other hand, is enhanced by repetition. They co-exist in an inter-dependent and inter-beneficial world called the cyber world, the e-world, the world wide webs.

Acts of gossiping has become borderless. Where before, gossiping entails words passed from a person to another, with the minds projecting images as described by words, digital gossiping would come complete with words, pictures and sounds. Chua Soi Lek found that to his chagrin. Invasion of privacy is now just a click away. Voyeurism is now almost too easy and has therefore, probably, lost its sinister edge.

Digital recording and editing has made the act of prying into and revealing a person's private life in all its sordid details all too easy and almost convenient. On the other hand, while digital editing and recording has caught many a person with their pants literally down, it has also provided the masses with a defence whenever they are caught in such situation. Thus we have Ida Nerina saying in her defence that the sexual video showing a woman who looked like her (although we do not know whether she sounded like her) in it is not genuine. Linda Rafar defended herself from allegation of sexual misconduct after pictures of someone looking like her naked with a KRU member appeared in the net by saying that those pictures were a "cut and paste" job. The whole digital editing and recording liberty even managed to cause a Royal Commission to be established in Malaysia, the results of which I am sure is within everybody's knowledge. The same tactic is employed here, namely, the decrying of such recording as a work of ingenuity. Others, like Paris Hilton or Pamela Anderson, on the other hand, reveled in joyous celebrations and probably even benefited both financially and publicity wise after their sexual recordings and pictures appeared. It is obvious that the masses are now in control of repetition and will not be afraid or even hesitate to utilise it depending on their respective needs.

At macro level digital recording technology provides another dimension to security services. The private sectors install CCTV in order to monitor the masses on their premises for security (or might also be for commercial) purposes. The streets and highways of Great Britain have more cameras littered around than a Holywood studio, all in the name of security . Big Brother is now watching every step taken by the masses.

Elsewhere, sports analysis are made through repetitive display of an opposing team's performance. Tactics, strategies, weaknesses and strengths of the opposing numbers are looked into, with minute details, from repetition technology. So are the tactics, strategies, weaknesses and strengths of one team being ascertained and addressed by the same technology, in reverse order.

The world now revolves around and from the employment of repetition. If knowledge is power, repetition is therefore knowledge in itself.

However, nothing can beat the perfection of the power of repetition by Astro. Just the other night I was watching "Death Wish" by Charles Bronson for the 77th time. And that is in this year alone. I have also watched "Home Alone" 35 times. Two weeks ago, in July, they were showing reruns of "The Champion's League Updates" which was originally shown in March this year. And it was repeated complete with March promos which were encouraging me to watch the Champion's League sudden death round! All in July mind you. Here is a company, which turns repetition into a multi million ringgit business. Repetition is now a business on its own. Astro - selling repeats!

Repetition now exists, and justifies itself, by itself. That's what I call ASSTROfornication!

But then again, just imagine the power of repetition being used, and abused, by political powers for non other than political gains. I think I will write about this next...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Comment on Malaysia Building Society Berhad's Promo Material

I was at the Malaysia Building Society Berhad (MBSB) yesterday on some business and as I had to wait, I did what I usually do when I don't bring a book with me, stroll over to the brochures, take one each and then go back to the counter and read whatever I have. So I have put up there for you MBSB's Personal Finance - i (what's with these stupid names? Just call it what it is lah!) brochure. 

Maybe I'm warped but if you read their tag line, it seems to hint at an element of recklessness: We put the money in your wallet, and the rest is up to you. Thankfully they had enough class to leave the apostrophe out. Let's break it down here. MBSB will put money in my wallet and the rest is up to me? Great! Now I can take this loan and finally afford to get into those top class karaokes or get me that dream foursome going, or wait, wait, now I can finally get that kilo of coke that I've been scraping and saving for. It's so easy! Sheesh. What kind of pitch is this? Mind you they went with this angle of pitch probably ignorant of the backdrop of increasing bankruptcies due to credit cards. Bernama reported on 21 May 2008 the following: 

As for the number of people declared bankrupt due to credit card debts, Nor Mohamed (ed: the Second Finance Minister) said the number last year was 1,873 people compared with 1,656 in 2006 and 1,479 in 2005 and 1,397 people in 2004.

Then there's the brochure below titled "Exec-Entrepreneur" Financing - i (Pembiayaan Usahawan Muda-i). You may not be able to read what's written on it unless you download the picture and then enlarge it but I'll save you the trouble and put up what they have written in sequence:

(Yellow words) For those determine to succeed. - we make it happen. 
Their Malay translation: Untuk mereka yang mempunyai wawasan untuk berjaya.

(Black bold) This package is offered to graduates to start their own business. 
Pakej ini memberi peluang kepada graduan untuk memulakan perniagaan

(I won't put the translations for the ones below)
  • Payment period between 2 to 7 years
  • Minimum RM 5,000 - Maximum RM 50,000
  • Salary deduction from employer, Biro Perkhidmatan Angkasa (BPA), post dated cheque or standing instruction
  • MDTA Takaful throughout the financing period
  • One guarantor or collateral is required
  • Joint borrower
Let's take it from the top: 

'For those determine to succeed' 

God. You know nobody checked this. They should pull the d out of the editor's arse, turn it around and then stuff it up his arse again. Unless he likes that, of course. Then don't bother. (Sorry, just couldn't help myself. How can you not crack an arsehole or sodomy joke in Malaysia right now?! Pun intended of course!)

Then let's consider their tag line 'For those determine to succeed. - we make it happen.' But how do they do that aside form chucking money at that Usahawan Muda? Nothing. All they talk about is the terms of the loan. 

There is no value added service such as some rudimentary advice on what's available to them as a mode for starting their business - partnership, sole trader, company - private or limited, etc and some basics on the areas to keep an eye on (cash flow, regular expenses) and certain common pitfalls that afflict newcomers (selling the same thing without any added value). 

This is important since they are pitching to graduates - people who essentially just came out of school. Because really, having looked at the personal financing 'features' and compared it to this one we're discussing - there's little difference in terms of what you eventually get (the former has a higher 'financing' loan amount - RM 75,000 and lower minimum RM 3,000.00). It's like being at a restaurant where they list 50 items on the menu but they all refer to the same dish. 

I could tell you also about the MBSB Assist Personal Financing-i, which describes itself as 'an exclusive medical assistance package for UKM KESIHATAN clients/patients to assist their loved one.' but I'd be wasting both our time. The only significant difference from the "Exec-Entrepreneur" Financing - i is that the MBSB Assist option gives you a '5.5% flat profit-sharing rate' whatever the heck that is. We get 5.5% of the profit shared out amongst all of us? Profit made when? What if there's no profit? Argh. Okay, maybe I'm just dumb about this stuff. But if you get right down to it, it's just a slice of salad with the goddamned chicken. All I can say is what lousy financial products they have. Zero added value aside from loaning you money. 

Sometimes I wonder you know. Is it just me? Maybe I'm the one who's missing something here. Maybe it actually all makes sense and it's me that's out of the loop of sense, both common and uncommon. Maybe, maybe, I should take some medicine. The type that makes me feel good. Yeah! That type of medicine. Then, then this will all make sense. Or I hope so anyway...

Monday, August 4, 2008

weekend observations...



I tell grandma had a tough time deciding which one to buy for my mom's 76th birthday.


A long long time ago, if your family has always been  some kinda "smith", ie, locksmith or  whateversmith, than your surname might be "Smith". Ditto if your family's  been dabbling in witchcraft, your surname might be "Witch". Of course, now, if your family is in the construction business.....

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Not Reading

There will inevitably be those times when we simply do not have time to do even those things that are important for ourselves. It is certainly the sign of the times when in the past, people could not take care of their health because of the lack of knowledge or wealth. These days however, people fail to do so simply because they just don't have the time. Work seems to intrude on just about everything these days that I am sometimes tempted to think that overwork and working over time is one of the greatest social evils of our age more so than illegal substances and corruption. I shall save that rant for some other day. But it is in those times that I tend to find myself not reading something. Although I do read a lot in one day (submissions, letters, cause papers, emails and all the usual routine paperwork), when I say I do not read something I mean something different,. And something different means something either tangentially related to the law (judges biographies, the state of law in other jurisdictions, etc.) or something different altogether - psychology, economics, religion or good fiction (the classics or those that come highly recommended by my more literary friends). And newspapers by the way do not count because they are generally biased, does not provide much food for thought and the quality of writing in general leaves some style and ability to be desired.

I find that after about 2 weeks of not reading and being in the thick of work, I will slowly start to get uneasy about not reading something substantive or substantial or thought provoking. I need something new to keep my thoughts and mind churning over some other matters. If these needs are not met by the 3rd week that's when I start to think and feel that the neurons in my head that are not used begin to implode. Day by day, I become more and more convinced I'm becoming stupid. If this is not addressed in another 2 - 3 weeks (usually because of work and by now there would have been some pissed up parties and hang overs), that's when the fear digs deep. By now I will brook no dispute that I am marginally intelligent than an amoeba and paralysis in my reading and writing sets in. When I try to write, the fear freezes my hands and a little voice whispers in my ear that it's not good enough and never will be. If I try to now actually read something, I find that the words become heavy and no longer can I embrace each word no matter how short because my 'literary arms' have become weak. The words fall heavily and painfully on to my feet. The sentences stab right through my soft head and my eyes are like pools of water mirroring the emptiness of my head.

Thankfully I have never gotten further than that because if I had, I would have probably joined UMNO and started raping goats in the kampung or something with black polish on my body. But I try my best not to go without reading too long because the road back to actually read something substantive and meaningful is a long and painful one, letter by letter, word by word and sentence by sentence. But oh, to read and resonate, how wonderful a thing it is!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Of Selling Stuff

I often find myself declaring that I could not sell a heater to an eskimo to save my life, not so much because I want to lull the eskimo into a false sense of security before I hit him with my sales pitch, but because it is simply true. I used to dread those times of charity when instead of generously allowing me to make a fool of myself in the attempt to raise money, they gave me tickets to sell. Ugh. Seriously. Ask me to sing. Ask me to dance (take me to France... ... never mind). Ask me to do both in a bear suit. But for fuck's sake don't ask me to sell something. Once when I could afford all the tickets, I bought it out and then give them away. It was easier that way, plus it was a good way to get in touch with people. I mean, the first rule of freebies is that people respond to freebies. The second rule of freebies is that people RESPOND to freebies.*

I have not quite understood this inability of mine because if you asked me for a recommendation for a particular gadget i.e. laptop, cameras, etc. I would in all probability give a better sales pitch then if you paid me wages and had me sell those things. So it's not that I cannot make a sales pitch - I am able to understand and grasp the features of an object and their particular advantage, framing an object and its price, how to create a sales opening, etc because I have read books on how to sell things - but I am incredibly inhibited if paid to sell things. Very strange. Perhaps when I am not paid to give my recommendations it helps me feel independent and not feel particularly beholden to a particular manufacturer, so I feel less inhibited and more enthusiastic in my recommendations to someone. I think it also has to do with me as well - I don't like the idea that I am persuading or encouraging someone to buy something that they may not actually want or need simply to make a sale simply because I dislike others doing that to me. And do unto others as you would have others do unto you kind of thing. 

Although, modesty aside, I am pretty sure I could advise him on a tortious claim should the heater end up melting his igloo and spoiling his fine selection of rare caviar. 

*(Palahniuk, Fight Club, in case you were wondering)