Friday, September 14, 2012

A Familiar Place

Our PM in January visited South Africa and its government, the African National Congress (ANC). You might not read too much into it if you don’t know South African politics (I am not well versed at all). However having read a little into South African history and current affairs, you might notice something – as if you’ve heard of it before.

Let’s go back a few years. History-wise, they are not entirely similar, because British, through the Union of South Africa Act, established a united South Africa but reserves political rights for white. Unlike in this country, we were never treated as horribly because of our color – not that we were treated wonderfully either.

In 1948, the pro-Afrikaner National Party got elected and begins instituting apartheid. I’m sure I don’t really need to explain what that is.

In 1961, a certain Nelson Mandela urges ANC to launch an armed struggle and in 1964 he and other ANC leaders got jailed. In 1990, Mandela is freed from prison and 4 years later he becomes the first democratically elected President of South Africa. In 1999 Thabo Mbeki succeeds Mandela and in 2009, Jacob Zuma replaced Mbeki. Jacob Zuma is the one our PM met.

Jacob Zuma by the way, was sacked as Vice President in 2005 by Mbeki after being charged with corruption and tried for rape (he was acquitted).Zuma then forced Mbeki out of office in 2008. You might think this is where the similarity lies as there is hint of resemblance to affairs in Malaysia – the Mahathir-Anwar 1998 debacle. But it’s actually quite different because Zuma won in the end.

Let’s get back to current affairs. South Africa’s economy is growing steadily since its apartheid days; however income inequality has also been growing to the detriment of those not well connected politically. Their situation is worst, I believe, with 8.7 million people out of its 50 million-population (mostly black) earning less than $1.25 a day.

There is now a phenomenon in the African country, known as tenderpreneur – describing those who get rich from government contracts or from dispensing them for kickbacks. Now this sounds eerily similar. The national Special Investigating Unit reckons that up to a quarter of annual state spending is wasted through overpayment and graft. The Auditor General says a third of all government departments have awarded contracts to companies owned by officials or their families – cow anyone? A bit too famooliar.

Those being investigated for suspected corruption include two ministers, the country’s top policeman and the head of ANC’s Youth League. Hmm, cow, Jakim and well, ex-top policeman. Let’s extend that to include AG and ex-ministers. But of course, all deny the charges, there and here.

Zuma however, has taken action having sacked two ministers, suspended top officials including the police chief and set up an independent inquiry into an arms deal. They have done more than our government in that sense.

Zuma himself is tainted by corruption charges – he was linked to the arms deal through one of his advisers who was jailed in 2005 for soliciting bribes on his behalf (he was Vice President then). Where have I heard that before? But wait, the adviser to the story closer to home didn’t get jailed. Moving on...

Now with such a record, why does the ANC get voted in year-in-year-out? Why do they control more than 2/3 of parliament? 

They invoke their legend. You cannot turn your back on legend and this is what the older generation of South Africans say. Admittedly, ANC has a powerful legacy. They got black South Africans out of the doldrums of apartheid. Much like how UMNO claim they fought for freedom. Of course ANC’s fight and UMNO’s fight is totally different - the way it was fought was also different.

The younger generation blames the older generation for electing ANC as government. However times have changed and ANC is no longer all-powerful throughout the nation. They’ve been losing seats. They’ve also lost three previously safe seats in local by-elections. The opposition is gaining ground, the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s support rose from 1.7% in 1996 general election to 16.7% in 2009.

Historically, demographically and geographically they are a different nation. But overall, they’re not that different from us. Weird eh?

*this was post was written and published in this here blog first http://suaraserak.blogspot.com in January, but since I'm not writing anything new so I thought I'd just post this again...also most information I got from Times magazine.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Somewhere Down The Road...


It’s been a hectic couple of months for me (changed jobs, puasa, raya). I know I said I wanted to restart the blog, I did that and I stopped. Blurrgh.

BUT I did update my photography blog when I recently went to Dhaka, Bangladesh on a mission. Can read it here: http://syazwanrahimy.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/bangladesh-the-forgotten-country/

Didn’t really want to give an in depth view of what I saw there and how it is compared to Malaysia. I actually like the country and do not want other people’s view of the country to be skewed by my point of view. Sufficed to say, the country is not progressing as fast as the rest of the world. I fear though, that if Malaysia doesn’t buck up, we might end up on the same track.

We won’t, of course, end up exactly like Bangladesh as we have progressed quite well. But I fear more for the wealth gap between the poor and the rich.

If you want to experience Dhaka, you have to go out  on the town at night. It may be dark but it would shed some light on the situation. You can see big buildings, so colourful, so bright, and so opulent but does nothing for the many that stands and even sleeps outside its gates.

At first dismissing it as something that happens only to third world countries, to my surprise, 3-4 weeks after my return from Bangladesh I read a feature in The Star which kind of confirms my fears. Thousands are homeless and living in KL - our proud capital city which houses the rich and the famous and yes, big, colourful, bright, opulent buildings.

Forget not being able to afford a house in PJ or not being able to drink cappuccino at Starbucks, if thousands living on the streets doesn’t speak of great income disparity, what does?

My only counsel is that we should keep the powers that be in check. No matter who is the government, there’s every chance that the administration will screw up. But even though Government have executive power the people have the power to decide. Enough pressure and they’ll turn their heads.

With election around the corner, we’ll be seeing a lot of PROMISES, ACCUSATIONS, thieves bearing GIFTS and the whole lot - words, mostly words. What we need to do is understand the facts behind those words, the reality behind the deception, the tears behind the joys and so on so forth.

Figuring all these things out once every 5 years is not exactly the hardest part, but making sure the government stands by certain principles is. In the end, you will never know if you’ve chosen the right government; but for the one you’ve chosen*, try to make them choose the right actions. That is a continuous tiring process, but someone’s gotta do it.

* Yes, I know for some of us the government we wanted is not exactly the one that is chosen, but we can still do something about that. No, not overthrow. Remind.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Divorce

Startling - back in 2011, a news report stated that Muslim couple gets divorced every 15 minutes in Malaysia. Divorce among Muslims makes up 82 percent of total divorce in Malaysia even though Muslims make up only 60 percent of the population.


It must be said, this post may be a year late to that report but it's always of concern. Lately I've been getting such grim news from some of my closest friends. 


Here I am asking how's life and the response I get is "actually,we're no longer together", "I'm divorced", "we're on a trial separation"; okay the last one was made up but essentially for a particular case that's what's happening - they just don't term it that way.


I must admit here,the main cause in all of the cases to which I have knowledge of is caused by the guy. As much as I believe that the failure of marriage is the failure of both husband and wife, but someone must have the lion share of the blame, and as far as I know from my acquaintances, the guys have that share.


My general feeling when I find out is, of course first of all surprised. Then I'll ask questions, lots and lots of questions. I just simply do not understand how things cannot work out when several months ago everything was okay - not to say all rosie after 4-5 years of marriage,but there was no indication that everything would go pear shaped.


Cases vary from having another woman in the man's life, lack of understanding, lack of faith, failure to communicate, differences in beliefs. Usually my lady friend would say they would like things to work out and is still hopeful. I don't know how much they should ride on that. Sometimes, it is better to move on.


So here's what I think, going into a marriage of course everyone is confident that they are solemnizing to the one. Yes, ideally you would like to believe that you are going to spend the rest of your life with someone whom you love (and will love you back) and that person is as close to perfect as any person you'll ever meet. That confidence is good, but don't be so naive so as to think that you'll never find a person who is more attractive, kinder, gentler, whatever, there's always someone out there who would be able to outdo your spouse in whatever category. That's just human nature, no one's perfect. Admit that and you'll rest easy knowing that you're with someone who is perfect for you and loves you.


But that doesn't solve anything. The other thing that must be strong, and this is a little bit of a cliche, is the fundamentals. To me, fundamentals are based on two basic things: communications and trust. You like someone, tell your spouse. Tell your spouse what you like about that person. In an ideal situation, your spouse would be understanding and would try to understand what you want. Face it, love is a feeling. Fondness to a person however is based on superficial factors like looks, character, attitude. None of which is ever consistent. But it does influence feelings.


You don't go into a marriage one day thinking you can stay the same forever as the day before solemnization, that's ridiculous. Living with another person is totally different. Feelings are volatile. But if you make your feelings known (communication) and you try not to judge (trust) then things can be worked out.


What can't be worked out however is beliefs. This is tricky. If you don't believe in the same thing, more than likely it will not work out. I'm not sure whether love is stronger than belief. I have no strong opinion on this.


I'm already into my 5th year of marriage and it obviously has its ups and downs. But one thing my wife and I always do is talk. 5 years isn't long, I know, there's that 7 year itch thing I've been hearing and which I'm looking forward to. Why? Because I do have confidence in my marriage and any hindrances, to me, is a lesson. If there's a breakdown somewhere it should be straightened out swiftly. I've given up trying to be perfect, What I will never give up doing is to consider the feelings of those around me and the impact it would have on everyone. I used to be very defensive, but I know it's wrong. When it's your fault, it's your fault. There's not a time when you're not at all to blame. None. Share the blame.


But divorce, it's tricky. There's no answer to a failed marriage. It just fails.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Getting rid of the rust...

Very rusty. Very rusty indeed. Haven't been writing in this here blog for almost a year now (last post June 18 2011,post Bersih 2.0). So where do I begin? Maybe I'll just post random thoughts on anything that I can think of.


Twitter; been doing a lot of tweeting lately. I guess I still have the urge to write but haven't got the time (or just lazy). The thing about twitter is, it's 140 characters. My rantings are usually long and at times structured, therefore there's still a gaping hole where my 'satisfaction level' is concerned. Anyhoo, In twitter there are several types of people. Those who think they're kingmakers, the IT (that's 'it' not 'Information Technology', damn you acronyms of the world) crowd who thinks very highly of themselves; those who post very random stuff, usually very friendly and this is  the group I like; the emotional youngsters who I find very set to their age group stereotype; and the rest who just tweet for the love of tweeting and connecting with people. Of course this list is not exhaustive but I find these four big groups to be more apparent than others.


Politics; Not much have changed. If you don't believe me, read my last ever post on Bersih 2.0 and everything said there applies to Bersih 3.0. The difference being I was actually at the rally this time and not blocked from entering KL like the last time. Election is very near and you can already feel the heat. Election itself hasn't been called but the campaigning has started. BN (in particular UMNO) is back to its usual thuggery after a relatively brief layoff, whilst PR now have to deal with a lot of things coming its way. A lot of them are set to face court time and of course the usual UMNO-PAS muzakarah, DAP trying to takeover Malaysia,non-Malay PM,sex scandals involving opposition leaders, etc. One issue that really stands out in my eyes is the Scorpene case but a lot of people give it a miss because it's not mainstream. Just let me state here: YOUR PM IS BEING MENTIONED IN A FRENCH COURT FOR HIS INVOLVEMENT IN AN INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL...OPEN YOUR EYES AND QUESTION WHAT'S NEEDED TO BE QUESTIONED. I'm not implying anything though. *not seditious, not seditious, not seditious*


Football; Euro is about to start. I'm supporting France because I'm 1/8 French (I'm lying). With Blanc I have more confidence in the team. I seriously hated Domenech; I thought he ruined the French team when most their star players were at their peak (Henry, Zidane, Thuram) and that's a pity. On the domestic front (not that I'm staying in England) Arsenal did well last season taking into consideration all the mess they created with the Fabregas/Nasri affair and not signing players early on. I've always had faith in Wenger, never doubted him and the team once. It's good that we had a very bumpy ride, at least we know that in the end, Arsenal is a team built on a very strong foundation and that no matter who plays for us,we're still a top team.


Sigh, I'm quite disappointed with my comeback entry. But, again rusty, very rusty.