Category: ask the right question

The mystery behind the Cisewu Tyger

OK, so everyone had a chuckle and some fun over the Cisewu Tiger. And rightly so because it looks like the sculptor was smoking something illegal that the police confiscated when fashioning his magnum opus. But as usual, people miss asking the right questions when it comes to such stories.

The questions:

  1. Who was the sculptor and what’s his claim to fame if not being the relative of some high ranking military man?
  2. Who in the military commissioned the sculptor?
  3. How is it that presumably sensible military commanders could approve this comical sight and pay the sculptor?

In short (with apologies to William Blake):

What immoral hand or eye,
Could frame thy laughable symmetry?

Comical tiger statue at military base torn down but netizen frenzy remains

Amusement is one thing you might rarely find in a military base.

But this was not the case at the Subdistrict Military Command (Koramil) 1123 in Cisewu, West Java, when a smiling tiger statue at the base generated laughter and glee around the country.

On Monday, however, the odd-looking statue located at the base’s main entrance was taken down into pieces. The tiger is the symbol of the Siliwangi Military Command, which oversees the entire West Java province. For a few days prior to Monday, netizens shared the hashtag #MacanCisewu (Cisewu Tiger), with the picture of the statue going viral.

With its wide smile, the tiger would surely put a smile on the face of any visitor to the base. Social media users had every reason to post hilarious comments on the statue, but high-ranking military officers felt irritated by the online fuss.

The cheeky netizens were deemed bullies by the military and alas, the military eventually decided to dismantle the tiger.

Source: Comical tiger statue at military base torn down but netizen frenzy remains – Entertainment – The Jakarta Post

Go Jek, Uber, Grab and other ride-hailing services is a KPPU issue

The demonstration by taxi and the public transport rivers yesterday received much criticism from the Netcitizenship, who naturally gravitate to things Webby, disruptive and saves them money.

The transport drivers are apparently disgruntled over dwindling income caused by their ride-hailing services and the ostensible reason for objecting to the latter’s presence are claims that they do not pay tax, do not have proper permits and may be foreign companies invading Indonesian turf.

 

These are wrong reasons to demonstrate, even though a demonstration is justified. It is justified because the ride-hailing services are engaging in unfair trade practices. It is unfair to the taxi and other public transport drivers because they cannot compete against heavily subsidised prices of Go Jek and the other ride hailers. The ride hailers aren’t making money at this stage but trying to win market share through heavily discounted prices. They can sustain their discounts because they have investors who are willing to pump money into them in the gamble that they would turn out to be the Next Big Thing.25d067bf-a9b8-4276-b8a9-53df94733391_169

How long will these subsidies last? As long as investors are willing to inject capital into the ride hailers. It may be six months ayear or beyond but what’s interesting are the repercussions they cause in the meantime.

Never mind the fly-by-night and dubious taxi companies who provide shoddy and unreliable service. They deserve to perish. But a company such as Blue Bird that has won the trust of many Indonesians because they had relative clean and serviceable cars and reliable drivers when the market was full of bad ones are affected too.

So a scenario could develop where the taxi companies, even Blue Bird, all start to fold or deteriorate because of reduced revenues. This situation, however, is no guarantee that the ride hailers would succeed or become a viable replacement. What if most of them fold because the investors got bored or dismayed by the continual financial losses? Where would we be then? Bereft of quality traditional public  transport as well as affordable ride hailers?

This issue also raises a question of how much and how long it is fair to provide discounts to win market share. Most products hold promotions and provide discounts to do just that but they are usually short-lived ones as the real economic pressures assert themselves. But with ride hailers the only economic hidden hand is that of the investor, often with access to huge funds.

So is this unfair business practices, that should be looked at by the KPPU? Or is this the new world of disruption that will herald new business models for public transport?

 

The incredible silence and welcome to China’s effrontery to Malaysia

Something incredible, unprecedented and potentially dangerous happened in Malaysia last Friday that most Malaysians do not seem to have paid much notice to.

In fact many of the Malaysian Chinese actually welcomed it, fed up as they were by Malay hooligans trying to stir up Malay supremacist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia.

Photo from Free Malaysia Today: “He was there to assure Chinese traders that they will be safe tomorrow and that the police were watching over them in the event there was trouble.”

The incident took place in Petaling Street, an enclave of Chinese traders and shopkeepers right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, that has become the symbol of Chinese presence in Malaysia ever since the Red Shirt Rally on September 16.

Before we go on, a bit of context for those that don’t follow Malaysian political developments closely. The Malaysian Prime Minister is in trouble, not least because of his own stupidity. Already unpopular, he was caught with a smoking gun – US$700 million deposited in his personal account.

His refusal to explain how a large sum come to be in his account, apart from it being from a mysterious Middle East donor, has added to the attacks on him and his government. Adding on the pressure was a huge rally of about 500,000 people that was organised by Bersih, originally an elections watchdog grouping on August 29.

Besieged, Najib or his followers retaliated with a Red Shirt Rally on September 16. The Red Shirts ostensibly were rallying to protect “Malay dignity” and the disrespect the Chinese (the predominant ethnic group in the Bearish rally) have shown to the Malays and their leader, Najib. During their rally a group of the Red Shirts attempted to enter Petaling Street but they were stopped by Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Unit, a specialist division of the police that deals with crowd control.

They were left licking their wounds but threatened to stage a comeback on September 26 where the Red Shirts would enter Petaling Street to stage a protest and demand better conditions for Malay traders so they can also do business there. That was the ostensible reason but in the meantime the organiser Jamal Yunos threatened violence and was, rightly arrested by the police on September 25, a day before the planned rally.

In the meantime, though, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Hui Kang made a bizarre visit to the traders at Petaling Street on the evening of September 26 where he calmed the nerves of the traders by saying, as reported by Free Malaysia Today:

PETALING JAYA: China’s Ambassador to Malaysia has stated his firm belief that all Malaysians, save a handful, already enjoyed racial harmony and appealed to those bent on causing trouble tomorrow, to kindly refrain from doing so.

At a press conference, after distributing mooncakes to those present, Huang Hui Kang said, “I believe that 99 per cent of the Chinese and Malays live harmoniously and only a small number of them want to cause trouble tomorrow.

“We told businesspeople here that they can open as usual tomorrow if they want but if they feel unsafe, the choice is theirs to close instead.”

He also said that the traders at Petaling Street only wanted to carry out their business in peace and that for those who chose to open tomorrow, the police would be on standby to offer security in the event there was trouble.

“So far, about 50 per cent of traders, which equals to around 600 in number, are still fearful of opening tomorrow. However we will keep abreast of the news and act accordingly,” he said.

If you look at the social media feeds, his actions have been lauded and praised. The Chinese welcomed his comments and visit as a show of solidarity and brotherhood. Some even gave the impression that they would welcome China being their benefactor.

Others, including Chinese and Malay leaders in the Government and Opposition have been strangely silent. Only Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, Wisma Putra, seems to be concerned by this development and has leaked the news that they will be summoning the Chinese Ambassador  for a discussion.

Where foreign relations go this is an incredible development on some levels.

On one level you have China blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. The ambassador was making statements more appropriate for a Malaysian Minister than an envoy. Who begs the question of whether his message and gesture was sanctioned by China’s government. If it had been we should all shudder as you ask what China has to gain by stoking the racial fire. If it had not, was the Ambassador totally out of line and why has he not been recalled yet? The Chinese Embassy’s explanation sounds as credible as Mao doing a hip hop song. 

On another level, the Malaysian Chinese are making a grave mistake by accepting the Ambassador’s words and deeds as a sign of solidarity and empathy. The ancestors of the malaysian Chinese have been migrating out of China for at least the last couple of centuries – and for good reason, China is not a place that they would want to live in because of the socio, political and economic hardships. IN the intervening years, whole generation of Malaysian Chinese have grown up in a different political and social environment. The last thing they would want is China dictating their politics and social norms. China’s interest is not necessarily the same as those of the Malaysian Chinese and they should never forget that. Yet no prominent Chinese leader has come forward to denounce the Ambassador’s blatant assault to Malaysia’s sovereignty. And why? Because what’s popular now among the Chinese is anything slamming Najib and Umno. They won’t do the right but popular thing. 

 

On the third level is the response of the government. Has it become so weak that Wisma Putra has to leak stories to the media that it was summoning the Ambassador to chastise him? His offence has very clearly broken diplomatic protocols. Will this weakness lead to even bolder moves by China? The only criticism so far has come from the Government mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and Umno Youth but no officials?

 

Light at the End of the Road for Bersih?

Then commentary in Malaysiakini by Neil Koh headlined End of the Road for Bersih?  is great food for thought.

Unspun agrees with the author that by allowing the Bersih 4.0 rally to go on Najib has let the steam out of the pressure cooker.

Part of the allure of the Bersih 4 rally was that it was forbidden fruit and as such it provided many Malaysians a forum to vent their frustration and defiance at the Government. But if there was nothing to defy in the calling of the next protest rally, would the Malaysians turn out in such numbers again? One doubts this.

“So, what is next for Bersih? ” the author Neil Khor asks, and answers: “I see a network of micro-neighbourhood level action that is truly colour blind and that serves to connect Malaysians at the individual level.

“Only then can the movement breach the walls that politicians have put up to separate us. Only then can we truly connect.”

That might be the case but IMHO that would not do much for the future for Malaysia. With a ruling Umno-led coalition that is corrupt to the core and will cling on top power at any cost; and an opposition that is helmed by outdated leaders that have a difficult time keeping the opposition intact, let alone being able to imagine ruling the country, it is clear that no change will come if Malaysia leaves politics to the politicians.

Perhaps it is time for the people behind Bersih and other concerned Malaysians to think of taking politics away from the politicians. Perhaps they should think of organizing themselves to, as a first step, take a few crucial urban parliamentary seats from the government at the earliest opportunity. Any why not?

Social media has resulted in a much more informed public. It has also made the cost of disseminating messages extremely low. With social media, you can effectively have your own newspapers (blogs), radio stations (podcasts) and TV stations (YouTube channels, periscope etc). You can easily level the playing field, especially when you can crowdsource support.

In Indonesia, for instance, a whole new crop of politicians like jakarta governor Ahok and Ridwan Kamil are riding high and securing lots of support through the use of social media. Granted they both came to power on the backs of political parties. But in Ahok’s case when the party tried to rein him in he resigned from the Gerindra party. He’s now an independent, his supporters are the ones using social media to support him, and if he has to run for Governor again without any political party backing, he’s likely to win.

Consider, for instance, if, say, the Parliamentary seat of Federal Territory of KL were to become vacant for some reason. Someone of Ambiga’s stature stands for election to the seat. What would happen? The DAP would probably field their candidate, the Barisan would field theirs. The party machinery would swing into action.

But Ambiga would have a groundswell of supporters and followers. They would use social media to broadcast her messages, coordinate support and raise funds. In a plugged-in, urban electorate this has a good chance of working.

let’s just say she wins. What are the implications then? It would change the power equation in Malaysia entirely. Both Barisan and Pakatan or whatever form of coalition the Opposition takes would be shocked to their core because their duopolistic hold on political power in Malaysia would have been broken. They would have to truly change or face one defeat after another as other Malaysians, inspired by Ambiga’s win, take them on.

Such grassroots leaders would unlikely capture seats where there is no urban, educated and plugged in populations. They would never capture enough seats to be a significant opposition. But they would become symbols that the people can take power from the politicians. And that’s a lesson that Malaysia’s politicians must learn quickly before the country gathers too much momentum in its decline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mt. Kinabalu tragedy: what are schoolchildren doing there?

Last year a group of us decided to climb Mt. Kinabalu. We weren’t the fittest 40-50 somethings but we weren’t slouches either.We had in tow a 12-year old.

a member of the group, Unspun, for instance,  is in his mid-50s but hits the gym at an average of three times a week chalking up 40 minutes each session on the treadmill at a clip of about 9km/hr.

In spite of this we found the going up Mt. Kinabalu pretty tough. It was one of the mist difficult climbs Unspun has undertaken as the climb up the mountain was an relentless series of fairly high uneven stone steps. And it gets worse the higher you go because the air thins.

Our group managed to trudge the 6.5km or so the first day up to the base station at Laban Rata. It was perched 3,270 meters above sea level. We were exhausted and thought we could sleep well after dinner. But we all spent a restless night tossing about in our bunk beds as the altitude got to us. Kinabalu

At 3am the next morning we all woke up, had our breakfast and began our ascend to the summit, hopefully, in time to catch the summit. It was cold, dark and very difficult because the thin air made the climb tougher. Our 12-year old had a headache, probably a sympton of altitude sickness so we left him to recover at the laban Rata base station.

The remaining four of us trudged on. The trail was manageable until we hit the section where the trail became a wall of granite rocks that we could only scale with the aid of ropes. It was challenging for someone like me who has no fear of heights but it was terrible for some of us in the group who had to scale those walls in the dark and with the cold wind blowing.

We started thinking that it was a good idea that we had left the 12-year old behind as the steep climbs was actually too dangerous for children. We also started getting a bit angry over two things – why the park authorities had not posted a warning to climbers of the extent of the difficulty in the climb and the potential dangers; and why it allowed children below at least 16 or 18 years to scale the mountain when it was already difficult and dangerous to reasonably fit adults? We also spoke among ourselves what park authorities in Western countries – who generally have a higher level of care to such details – would have done. We concluded that they would at least have adequate warnings on their website of the challenges that climbers would face.

We managed to clear the section and got up to about 3,400 meters above sea level where there is a reporting station. Our guide (and yes its true what they say about the stamina, courage and level of care of the Kinabalu guides) told us that we would not be able to make sunrise at the pace we were going.

As we were all exhausted, we decided to abort the climb and started trekking down, through the wall of granite and back to Laban Rata. The rest of the climb down was jarring and difficult but manageable.

I thought of posting something about the danger to children climbing Mount Kinabalu but got busy and forgot about it.

The recent earthquake and the tragedy unfolding at Mount Kinabalu has prompted me to write this in hopes that the Park authorities will at least in the future provide adequate warning to would-be climbers and considering upping the age-limit of the climbers.

Right now the official Mt. Kinabalu website cheerily gives the impression that anyone between 10 and 80 years old who’s reasonably fit can make the climb. That is inaccurate and dangerous information.

But a disturbing question is this: did the teachers are the Singapore primary school not do their research before deciding to take the schoolchildren on the hike up Mt. Kinabalu? Our did they, like us, take the information on the Kinabalu official website on surface value as well?