Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Latheefa Koya saga -- it depends on whose ox is being gored

Whether you are happy or bothered by Latheefa Koya's appointment as MACC chief depends almost entirely on where you lie on the political spectrum of Pakatan Harapan, and specifically within PKR.

Basically, if you are in the pro-Anwar faction,  you fall into "concerned about process" camp. If you are in the pro-Azmin camp, you are in the "the PM has the right to appoint whoever he wants" camp.

And if you are not into PKR politics or even Pakatan politics, you are probably glad that Latheefa Koya has been selected to head MACC because of her reputation as an idealist and activist. You believe she will make criminals shiver, as Ambiga put it.

I am of the same opinion as Ambiga. From what I've read of Latheefa, she probably would make a good MACC chief.

That doesn't mean there isn't any concern whatsoever about process. I think it's not a good thing that the process promised by Pakatan was not adhered to. However, my concern about process has nothing to do with whether I'm in the pro-Anwar vs pro-Azmin camp. I think it's important that the executive does not have so much powers.

It would have been interesting to see how each of these camps would have reacted if someone who was anti-Azmin and pro-Anwar was selected the same way to become MACC chief. I suspect that if that had happened, the very same people who are concerned about process suddenly don't mind that the process was not followed. Similarly, the very people who don't think that process is important, would suddenly be harping about process and why it should have been followed.

In other words, it depends on whose ox is being gored. What position you take has little to do with process or no process and has everything to do with which faction you support.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Dr M continues to surprise

He's unpredictable!

Just when you thought Dr M is spiralling towards his old self again, adopting UMNO-type tactics of harping on bumiputra issues and dragging his feet on reforms, he surprises you... not with one but two things. Both are welcome developments but with caveats.

The first one was the surprise appointment of Latheefa Koya as the MACC chief. Her appointment was met with a chorus of praise from members of civil society:

Ambiga Sreenevasan said: "No doubt many crooks will be uncomfortable and terrified."

Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) Executive Director Cynthia Gabriel said: "I am completely taken by surprise but am happy about the choice. She is fearless, brave and a no-nonsense person. She will bring MACC to new heights."

Bersih Chairperson Thomas Fann said: “She is known to be a highly principled and courageous lawyer. Such qualities would make her a great chief of the MACC.

Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phil Robertson said: "Her strong adherence to human rights principles, tenacity and astuteness will serve her well in this new position to hold Malaysian politicians and civil servants accountable."

There are some criticisms about her being from PKR but the main concern has been with the process by which she was appointed. Dr M didn't even inform his Cabinet. Explaining this, Dr M said: "If the cabinet had to make the decision, it would have restricted me."

C4's Gabriel's response to this perfectly captures how I feel about this situation: "Although the appointment process should have been open to applications and reviewed by the parliamentary select committee, the random choice made in this case is a good one."

The other thing that came as a pleasant surprise was Dr M's views about Gopal Sri Ram's suggestion that the government hold an internal inquiry into judicial misconduct rather than have a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the matter. Sri Ram had said that an RCI was inappropriate as it would violate the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

However Dr M has come out against an internal inquiry and for an RCI. Why? Because that's what the public wants. He said: "There are many different opinions, but largely, the public wants an RCI."

That is correct. It is what the public wants. If the judiciary has been corrupted, the public wants to know what happened and who was involved. This is the only way to restore confidence in the judiciary, which has been eroded over the years (ironically because of some of Dr M's actions).

Having an RCI is absolutely the right way forward. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Team-building @TGV Indulge

Our judo club was turning four years old. We had never had an annual dinner before and I felt our fourth anniversary would be a good occasion to have one for the first time.

I toyed around with a few different ideas. I initially thought of booking a Japanese restaurant. I even thought of catering food. In the end, we decided to try something a little bit different. How about giving our players a nice buffet dinner and a movie afterwards?

Everybody loves a buffet cos they can eat to their hearts' delight and who doesn't love a movie?

When I inquired about it, I was surprised to find that it was actually affordable. Indulge, which is TGV's in-house restaurant (available at TGV 1 Utama and Sunway Velocity), had several different buffet options, the cheapest of which was around RM40 per head. You'd need to have a group of around 30 people though. We did have that so the dinner part was very viable for us. It would have been pretty costly to buy everyone an Indulge movie ticket but a regular cinema ticket, at RM19 each, was doable.

Of course when you have a team-building event, you need to have some team-building activities. That's not the easiest thing to do in a dinner setting. But I researched online and found an interesting game which I adapted for my judo club members. It's called "2 truths and 1 lie". We had everyone post on our Whatsapp Group two truths about themselves and one lie -- relating to their judo experiences. Then the group would have to try to figure out which one was the lie. It actually worked out quite well. We got to know each other better through that game. And there were a lot of laughs too.

We also gave away special judo keychain souveniers and had a lucky draw for four Indulge cinema tickets. Everybody liked that too.

We had set aside two hours for the dinner so that people could relax and not be in a rush. By the time the movie was about to start, we were done with the food and talking and were ready for the show.

Overall it was a great experience for our members. We normally just meet each other on the judo mat and for the first time we had an activity outside of the mat. It was the right choice to do this.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Still lots of hope left in Harapan

So a year has come and gone since the miracle happened that gave birth to the New Malaysia. I know there are a lot of skeptics and critics who say that Pakatan Harapan has been a letdown. Just the other day, a former journalist turned successful businessman said to me: "From one ex-journalist to another, what's your honest view of Pakatan Harapan so far?

This is what I told him: Pakatan might not have fulfilled some of its promises and the pace of reforms may have been much slower than expected but on the whole, this new government is a million times better than the previous one.

That ex-journalist agreed with me. I suspect there are many who feel exactly the same way. Yes, Pakatan has been a letdown in some ways but it's still way, way, way better than the alternative. Nobody wants to go back to the BN era.

Some cynics might point to recent by-elections where Pakatan got beaten but these by-elections are not a clear indication of how the electorate would vote in a general election. In by-elections, voters know whether there's anything at stake. Will the state government fall because of this by-election? Will the federal government change hands because of this by-election? If the answer is no, then not much urgency or priority is given to the by-election.

If a voter is out of town (for university or for work), he or she might not bother to return home to vote because win or lose, it won't cause a change in government. In other words, the by-election is deemed to be rather inconsequential.

In contrast, if this were a general election, that same voter might think: "If I don't vote, I might be contributing to the defeat of Pakatan Harapan (either at state or federal level)". So that person makes a point to return to vote because the last thing he or she wants is a return to BN rule.

So, BN might have won three by-elections in a row. It's no indication that it will do any better in GE15 than it did in GE14. In fact, I believe it will do far, far worse in GE15 (but that's a topic for a future blog posting).

The pace of reforms has been slow but you have to understand Dr M is not by nature a reformist. At the very most he is a grudging reformist who has agreed to some reforms because of the insistence of his coalition partners. If he had his druthers, he would prefer to retain all the draconian laws like Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act and so on. Heck, there's probably a part of him who deep inside would like it if the ISA could be reinstated.

You are not going to see a whole lot of reforms during his tenure, which is already one year in on a two year stint. For real reform that will satisfy civil society, we really have to wait until Anwar comes to power. He is more likely to push through such reforms.

What you will get from Dr M are two things. Firstly, a push-back against royal political activism. The royals should be above politics although that's not always the case. Dr M will ensure that under our system of constitutional monarchy, it is the elected politicians who wield political power. Ours is not an absolute monarchy. Under a constitutional monarchy, it is the party that wins which gets to decide who becomes the prime minister and the menteri besar.

Secondly, prosecution of corruption, especially for 1MDB-related crimes. There will be no back-peddling or going soft on people who robbed the country of billions of ringgit. There will be no amnesty for these people. Dr M will make sure everyone responsible be brought to justice.

If all Dr M does is accomplish these two things during the one year he has left before handing the keys over to Anwar, our nation would owe him a debt of gratitude. What kind of prime minister would Anwar be? Of course we can't say for sure but he's not exactly a man of mystery. There are certain things we can expect.

For example, the pace of reforms when it comes to civil liberties would probably pick up considerably. I would be surprised if under and Anwar administration all the repressive laws are not thrown out. I expect them to be abolished before GE15.

Anwar has also been more consistent than Dr M when it comes to multi-racialism. Dr M's party is the only one in the coalition that is race-based. PKR has been multi-racial (thought predominantly Malay) since the start.

What's not clear is how Anwar would deal with the royals. Right now he seems to be the good cop to Dr M's bad cop. But if one looks back at history, back when Dr M first battled the royals during his first stint at PM, Anwar was his staunchest supporter and was strident in pushing back against royals. Will he be as strong as Dr M in this area when he is PM? One would think he would insist on the political party in power having the right to determine who is to become the menteri besar and so on, just like Dr M. But it's hard to say because of late he is seen to be softer than Dr M on this issue. Then again, his role may be that of the good cop for now. So we shall see what happens when Dr M leaves the political scene.

How about clamping down on corruption? There is no question Anwar will come down hard against corruption. He is committed to that. If anything, he will want his administration to be seen to be even cleaner than the current one (which is already a whole lot cleaner than the previous one). But will he be as aggressive when it comes to the 1MDB case? Or will he be softer on that? Again, that is hard to say but perhaps the main culprits behind the 1MDB scandal will be behind bars by the time he takes over.

Although we have not seen sweeping changes when it comes to repressive laws etc, to me the outlook looks good. I, for one, am damn glad that BN is no longer the government. I still pinch myself every now and then to make sure this is not a dream. Yes, we are free from that corrupt regime. Happy 1st birthday, New Malaysia!

Friday, April 12, 2019

TGV at i-City: Taking the cinematic experience to another level

Technology has disrupted many industries – news, music, TV – and the movie industry is no exception. As more and more people consume entertainment content online through their laptops, tablets and mobile phones, cinema chains have to constantly innovate to stay competitive and appeal to an audience that is spoiled for choice.

One approach could be to offer a bare-bones offering at a very low price and become the AirAsia of cinemas. The other way is to double-down and offer luxury and amenities that will making going to the cinema a whole different experience.

This is what TGV, the leading local cinema chain, has been doing. It’s been gradually upgrading many of its cinemas and has just opened its largest (nine halls, with a total of over 1600 seats, spread over 5500 square metres) cinema at the new Central i-City Mall in Shah Alam. I was there for the opening.

It’s also its most technologically advanced one to date, with immersive sound systems, state-of-the-art screens and luxury seating with generous legroom. And speaking of luxury, it has a Royal Selangor shop that sells movie-related collectables, two spacious lounges and an event space. For consumer convenience there is Wi-Fi, mobile phone charging stations and self-service ticketing machines.

Normally recording video at a cinema is a big no-no (you will get arrested for that!) but the grand opening was an exception and I was allowed to shoot freely, even inside the cinema halls. It was a bit noisy throughout but check out the visuals!

Grand Opening

Family-Friendly Hall

To cater to the entire family, especially those with small children, there is the Family Friendly Hall which has a children’s activity room attached to it. Inside the theatre hall, there will be a mix of family lounger (for the parents and two children), deluxe seats, colourful children seats and loungers situated just below the screen. The restroom is also children-friendly.

Deluxe Hall

The main feature of the Deluxe hall features are its premium gliding seats that are very wide and super comfortable. A total of 160 seats in all.

Samsung Onyx Hall

The Samsung Onyx hall features the largest Samsung LED cinema screen in Southeast Asia, offering top-notch visuals with superb colours. Really ideal for watching those movies with lots of special effects.


If you like the IMAX experience, you will love the massive IMAX hall here which features a premium seating and a floor-to-ceiling screen. Coupled with a superb sound system, it will give you a total ultimate immersive cinema experience.

So, will all these luxury halls cost you and arm and a leg? You’ll be surprised to hear that tickets start at RM16 with premium options at around RM20. Too good to be true? It’s worth making a trip to TGV at Central i-City Mall to experience it for yourself.