Have the police stopped policing the highways?

Since GE14, I have noticed that more and more motorcyclists don’t seem to be using the dedicated lanes built for them, and, instead, are using the highway. Motorcyclists weaving through traffic seems to be the norm now, at least on the Federal Highway which is my main traffic route to nearly everywhere!

It has become a little scary using the Federal Highway these days because you just never know when a motorcyclist will speed up from behind you to the right or left!

Before GE14, you would only see a lone occasional motorcyclist shooting through the traffic. Why is there a change now?

Are the p0olice not policing now? Prior to GE14, you would often see a police patrol car taking the emergency lane and stop those on it. You would also see police checks on the motorcyclists’ lane. But, these days you don’t see them.

There are not that many roadblocks now like there used to be under the previous government, which, I must admit, is a good sign! Previously, you would drive unsuspectingly to a roadblock fairly often and be ready for a negotiation with the policeman to get a summons or get off the hook for a “fee”!

With the absence of roadblocks, it seems as if the police have decided they are doing away with this additional income or pocket money! That’s very commendable of them. But, are they “giving back” by not policing the streets, especially the highways, and, specifically, the Federal Highway which I use often?

Maybe there’s a legitimate reason why the cops don’t seem to be stopping motorcyclists from using the highway. Perhaps, some stretches of the dedicated motorcyclists’ lane are being repaired. But, at those stretches, detours have been made for the motorcyclists to get past the obstructions. But, why aren’t they following the detours?

Malaysians, generally, are easy-going about following rules. When no one’s looking we break the rules, especially road rules, without blinking an eye! So, some traffic policing is necessary to help us develop the habit of following road rules!

I am looking forward to seeing more traffic policemen patrolling the highways and particularly the Federal Highway so that I can drive on the Federal Highway and other highways without the added stress of having to deal with motorcyclists surprising me from either side of my car!

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Happy Deepavali celebrants!

People must be happy. For the first time in years, I heard the firecrackers go off of and on throughout Deepavali day and the days after!

Usually, at the turn of midnight, whatever the feast, there would be a loud night-shattering explosion of fireworks for about half an hour. Then, everything goes silent, and I would wonder if anyone is celebrating the feast! Whether it’s Chinese New Year — when we expect a lot of fireworks — or Hari Raya Puasa, you only hear celebrations for the first half hour of the festive day. After that, there is no sound of anyone celebrating the feast.

It was different this Deepavali! Firecrackers went off throughout Deepavali — not continuously, but intermittently — and there was movement in some Hindu homes — at least that was how it was where I live in USJ, Subang Jaya.

Urban Hindu homes were still shuttered with most out of town as in the case during Hari Raya Puasa or Chinese New Year with Muslims and Chinese respectively. But this Deepavali, some Hindus stayed home and celebrated.

It may be a sign that the financial situation for many in the lower income groups is changing for the better. In a way, it is. Prices of a range of essential commodities have come down. Or, the Budget has given people some good news especially in the form of the fuel subsidy and RM100 monthly passes for unlimited trips on RapidKL rail or bus services.

The Budget has given some relief to the B40 group. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of economic recovery, even if some contraction is necessary to manage resources efficiently with minimum wastage. The benefits may come later and people may be willing to enjoy the simple perks now while waiting for better things to come.

The Pakatan Harapan government now has to ensure a mechanism that will deliver the promised benefits to the people, especially, where the fuel subsidy is concerned which is supposed to take effect from April next year. The delivery mechanism has to be efficient and glitch-free so that implementation from April will go smoothly.

If the government implements the fuel subsidy successfully it will prove its ability to deliver efficiently. That would only enhance the government’s credibility in the eyes of the people.

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Some prices are down, Happy Deepavali!

In the past month, I noticed that the prices of some products have dropped in some places. I don’t know if the price drop is across the board but in certain shops, the price lists show the change. At one of the supermarkets where I shop, the discounted items have increased and they are always snapped up!

This is true of a number of the less expensive products. From my observations, there has been no change in the price of the more expensive products. So, some of the price changes are related to the cheaper goods. If this is a result of the change from the GST to the SST, it should augur well for the low-income groups. It is coming at the right time for those who celebrate Deepavali!

I usually give the lady who has been cleaning my house for more than 25 years a bonus for Deepavali — which she celebrates — and Christmas — which I celebrate! But, this year, since there were a number of goods on discount I bought them and made a nice food hamper for her. She happily took it home!

I hope the Budget, which will be announced today will give the low-income groups some good reasons to be happy. Those who can afford it are still able to adjust their lifestyles to cost-cutting measures but the poor should be spared.

For the rest of us, lowering our standard somewhat, won’t kill us! Tightening our belts now may be necessary for future benefits and success.

Hopefully, the small signs of price drops here and there foretell of better things to come. I hope this first Pakatan Harapan Budget will sow the seeds for a healthy rejuvenation of the economy. We can wait and look forward to it happening!

In the meantime, we can enjoy the little perks we get along the way in the hope that one day the perks will change to real economic upliftment for all strata of society.

In true Malaysian style, Happy Deepavali to all!

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Change is good!

GE14 gave us a golden opportunity to make changes to ensure a better Malaysia for everyone. No doubt, it would take time to weed out corruption, introduce reforms and create policies for economic recovery in order to become a progressive and developed nation.

It is an enviable opportunity we have been given with, enviable because other nations want the same but don’t have it but we got it! However, despite this wonderful opportunity before us, I’m not sure if people are seizing it to embrace change to bring out outcomes that will be good not only to the individual but to the corporate culture of the nation as well.

Change is renewal. It allows us to develop new skills and new ways of doing things and to correct the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, people are stuck in the old way and fail to explore and discover new opportunities to grow and develop.

Take the former government ministers for example. The people have clearly put them in the opposition corner but they don’t want to function as an opposition. Instead, in the old style, they are shamelessly finding the easy way out by scheming and wheeling and dealing in making pacts to work with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. They are posturing and manoeuvering to become part of the government either now or possibly when Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim becomes prime minister (since they had held a meeting with him recently). If in the process, others become the opposition that’s fine with them!

The former ruling party Umno wanted a unity government and now Gabungan Bersatu Sabah — a coalition of Sabah parties who are former Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties — have declared they are ready to form a new government in Sabah and work with PH. They spoke with the prime minister-in-waiting Anwar but not the prime minister in government Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Why don’t they just work hard at being the opposition and win the people’s support through an election? The current situation gives them the opportunity to work hard to get the mandate of the people but hard work they don’t want. They would rather make unholy pacts — unholy because the rakyat did not vote for it — and destabilize the political environment in the process.

Investors can see these pacts being worked out and they would rather wait than invest now. So, those who are engaging in these moves are clearly putting their own interests ahead of the nation. My feeling is that the opposition would refrain from taking initiatives to make pacts with PH parties if they know that such initiatives are not welcome.

Perhaps, that’s the problem: There are some PH coalition parties which are open to the idea of pacts, which is what is causing the current political instability. PH parties need to demonstrate their unstinting support to the PH government leadership to ensure political stability. That would prove their commitment to put the nation first. With political stability, we can expect a flow of foreign investments to usher in economic progress.

It is understandable that those who benefitted from the BN government without personal effort would be at a loss on how to cope now that the crutch is gone. That, really, is the beginning of true independence and building confidence in one’s abilities. Without the crutch, one has to learn to make it on one’s own. That is a great lesson in self-development. It begins with exploring options and seizing the opportunities that come your way and discovering the means to create new opportunities, all of which will aid in helping the individual become a self-determining person, the master of his or her own destiny.

So, the taxi drivers who suffer losses because the new government will not remove Grab from the competition need to understand this. The prospects may seem dim but they need to see in the current situation the golden opportunity to find new opportunities. The outcome can only be good. Who knows, it might be the start of a new culture in nurturing a new breed of self-made very successful businessmen.

Change facilitates development and growth. If we see this golden opportunity that we have been entrusted with as a way for a better future, we will make it work to our advantage. And, that can only mean well for the individual and the nation.

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In men-women relationships, a “No” simply means just that: “No”!

The #MeToo movement and the controversy over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court have put the issue of sexual harassment back in the news. It is good that the public is talking about this very sensitive issue. I have only one point to make about it: When a woman — or a man, for that matter — says “No”, it means “No” and it must be respected.

The problem is particularly harassing to women more than men because somewhere at the back of the sexist male psyche is this notion that a man — if he is a man — should not take “No” for an answer. Well, not any more.

He may justify his actions by saying she doesn’t mean it and impose himself on her which is sexual harassment. He may “chase” after her when she has already said “No. That is sexual harassment. He may give it back to her for saying “No” and make it hard for her to work or live. That is sexual harassment.

Even in a relationship where both parties like each other, when one side says “No”, it must be respected. The person who said “No” may have said it for his or her own reasons even if he or she likes the other party concerned. In a healthy relationship, “No” will be respected. If the “No” changes to a “Yes” at some later date, that person will signal it. Then, it’s for the partner to take his or her cue. Where both sides like each other, some emotional space is needed to navigate through and a “No” may be temporary. If it is definite and unlikely to change, respect it and back off indefinitely!

Always back off in the face of a “No” and take action only when the signals indicate a change to “Yes.” If the signals seem mixed then just talk with the involved partner. When people interact at a healthy level, communication channels are often left open so there are always opportunities to talk and iron things out.

In a one-sided relationship, a “No” is simply a “No”! If you are not interested in a romantic relationship with that person and you have clearly given a definite “No”, and that person won’t accept it, tell him or her to talk a walk or run round the block!

The general rule in any healthy, equal relationship is to take the cues from each other. If both sides give cues to go ahead, then go ahead! If one side holds back, respect it and back off until the cues indicate otherwise. If it’s one-sided and you have said a definite “No”, the other party — if he or she is self-respecting — will leave you alone.

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It’s the govt’s job to protect vulnerable groups

A survey conducted in Port Dickson recently by Selangor think-tank Institut Darul Ehsan reported that although voters had complained that they no longer received cash handouts and welfare aid as they did from the previous administration, they generally favour the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and would likely support the PH candidate in the PD by-election.

Kudos to the voters! They graciously accepted all the benefits the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government gave and voted for them in return until they decided it was time for a change and turned their noses at the privileges offered and voted in a new ruling party!

The perks are gone but the voters are willing to give PH a chance to improve their lot without the handouts. That speaks much of the desire of the voters for something better than immediate, temporary benefits and they are willing to trust the PH government to deliver.

The previous administration took advantage of the helplessness of the people by giving short-term benefits in exchange for votes. That is exploitation in the guise of “government aid”! No government should take advantage of its people, especially the poor, the helpless and the marginalised and give them handouts so that they are not free to make choices on their own free will,

These groups are vulnerable to being baited with carrot sticks because their conditions make them powerless to choose to decline. Manipulating them so that there is no freedom of choice is totally undemocratic. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that people are free from any sort of manipulation to make their own choices.

Every time a case crops up when people are manipulated, the government has to be quick to intervene and ensure that the people are free to choose unencumbered.

So, when politicians go on the campaign trail and dinners and concerts are given, the government must step in and ensure that the people are not being “manipulated” with free gifts even in the form of a free beach party or dinner. This wasn’t seen in the PD by-election.

Perhaps, that is the role of the Election Commission. Understandably, in the new Malaysia with new people helming institutions, it will take time to ensure a code of conduct for candidates on the campaign trail but some statement should have been made to indicate that we are heading in that direction.

It’s the same issue with the recent cases of alcohol poisoning. Those who died were right at the bottom of the social heap. While I’m not encouraging drinking into a stupor, I recognize that the poor don’t have the means to buy the more expensive but safer non-toxic drinks and are choicelessly exposed to unscrupulous manufacturers who exploit their poverty and sell adulterated drinks which are fatal.

Society should not sit by quietly and watch these people die. This is another situation where the government should intervene to protect the underprivileged. The government should move quickly to revoke the licences of such manufacturers and take the necessary action to stop such unwanted deaths.

It’s not for the government to moralise whether the victims’ choices or lifestyles are right or wrong. It is its responsibility to ensure that the vulnerable are not denied their rights and that their lives are not put at risk.

 

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Entitlement precedes corruption

There were no surprises in last week’s Umno general assembly. It was business as usual with the leaders making the usual “Malay first” pronouncements by bandying about racist-like slogans like “Melayu baru”, “DAP racists” and claiming their entitled position to form a unity government and be a government-in-waiting.

Typically old Umno which underplayed the younger voices desiring a clearer direction and a commitment to form a strong opposition in step with the current realities of abiding by the will of the people which threw them out of office.

It’s a real pity. The old guard had a chance to reinvent themselves by shedding off the attitude of entitlement to government and the resources available to them through it and learn to start all over again by working for an honest living.

Politicians — in fact, everyone in public office — need to realise that they are not entitled to government positions and funds. It’s no one’s right to be in government or be a minister or prime minister — unless they are elected into office. If the people give them that right, they must take it and use the position and funds to help the people — not make themselves wealthy!

Public servants have to work hard honestly to earn a living. That’s what Umno politicians can do now: Set an example for others and work hard at being an effective opposition to bring benefits to their supporters instead of finding short-cuts to position and funds.

The entitled might find it hard to simply work hard and earn honest wages. These are the people with the attitude that they have a right to the nation’s wealth because they are citizens. This is their country and the government should give to them.

True. Every citizen has a right to the nation’s wealth but they must work hard to get it not sit back and think that it’s the government’s job to give and theirs to take. It’s this attitude of entitlement that has opened the door to corruption in the civil service. It has permeated the civil service right down to the lowest rung of staff. Nothing gets done until there’s some greasing of palms. And, it’s very open.

Everyone knows cops do it. I know of a police station (I won’t mention names) where the cops at the entrance have a list of the money they take for offences. It’s less than the official sum. Whether the money goes into the police coffers or their own pockets, I don’t know. But, if you don’t want to pay them, they will direct you to the payment counters inside to pay the official amount.

When I told them that I’m a journalist and don’t do this sort of thing, they snickered and smiled in embarrassment and directed me to the payment counter!

This is true of municipal and district council workers as well. Small businesses and hawkers will tell you how they can’t get licences or operate without an exchange of money.

If you feel entitled you won’t work hard for what you want. It’s like rich children who know they don’t have to work hard for money because their parents have more than enough to give them. If those kids don’t value their parents’ hard-earned wealth, they’ll give others “access” to these funds for a fee, which, sometimes, are phenomenal sums!

To remove corruption from government, it is necessary to rebuild a work culture based on effort and merit. That culture of good work ethics can only be nurtured when the attitude of entitlement is destroyed.

Those in public office need to know they are entitled to nothing except what is legally and appropriately made available to them. When they don’t feel entitled, they will realise that they have no choice but to work hard, and, then, corruption becomes a dirty word because it would deprive them of an honest income.

 

 

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