Saturday 25 February 2012

Can't Explain Yourself? Be A Pak Pandir!

This is a second time I am writing about Pak Pandir, a character in the Malay folklore. Briefly, Pak Pandir symbolises a person who is naive and stupid. One of the stories about him is about the death of his son. He overfeed the son with porridge until the innocent little kid died. The tiny body was wrapped in a mat and was brought for burial. Somehow the body slipped through and Pak Pandir buried the empty map. On his way back home he saw the body of his son and said to himself "I am not the only one who lost a son today".

To many Malaysians, the above short story about Pak Pandir is meant to be a joke. That's why when somebody did something foolish, the person will be equated as Pak Pandir and people will just laugh off and move on. So, Pak Pandir is not only an escapism in the old days but a way to excuse oneself when there is no other option to choose.

In the modern days, many people use the option to be Pak Pandir when they are caught at a corner and could not explain their behaviors or conducts. By insinuating that others did the same or they did the same thing in the past and nobody was bothered, one indirectly says, "Hang on guys, I am a Pak Pandir, just laugh at me and move on. Don't worry for what I did".

Unfortunately, many Malaysians will forgive Pak Pandir easily, irrespective where the contemporary Pak Pandirs sit in our society. Perhaps, unconsciously the concept of Pak Pandir has been hardwired in our brains. It could be that we themselves want to ensure this escape route is open for us to use should we need it. Many of us love Pak Pandir so much so that we kiss their hands when we meet them.

So, we when we are caught doing something which we could not explain, be a Pak Pandir and we will be forgiven.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Kuala Selangor Re-visited

Kuala Selangor is the old capital of Selangor and famous for firefly sighting. I was there not for the firefly but to enjoy seafood which is fresh and reasonably priced. The new KL-Kuala Selangor Expressway (LATAR) which was opened in June 2011 reduced my traveling time to around 30 minutes compared to an hour previously.

I normally have my meal at the restaurants which are located along the river. There are also shops selling seafood products such as dried fish and squids around the area. The supply of fresh seafood is not a problem as many fishermen land their catch there. Given the distance and traveling time, Kuala Selangor should be one the places which you could consider for a nice lunch on weekends.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Inner Strength

We have a lot of things that we want for ourselves. Great life, financial freedom, good company and many other things. Some of these are within reach, some may remain on our wish list forever. Nevertheless, wishing (and working) to get what we want requires efforts and perseverance.

Some people have enough motivation and inner strength to continue to strive towards what they want. Some requires assistance of others. Some, however, expect to be assisted and are proud of that fact. I am sure we want to avoid to be grouped in the last category but somehow we do have many around us who are proud of having that right.

While many people would like to determine their future and would be willing to strive for a better life, there are others who make themselves important by getting others to rely on them. They will go around handing out little goodies and keep on promising more.

What is more surprising is that there are people who rely on others in protecting their own beliefs and faiths. Faith and beliefs are something which flow inside out, not the other direction. If our inner defense is weak due to our own doubts about what we believe, we should not blame other for articulating their viewpoints and arguments. In a plural society, this issue is very important as it could lead towards tension if not managed appropriately.

So, if we believe in something, we better keep on reinforcing that rather than expecting other to do it for us. Otherwise, we should be concern that our "faith" may not be there in the first place.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Another Holiday

I was told that when the former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, the Hong Kong born John So, was asked about the meaning of Australia Day to him, he said, "It's a holiday". Ironically, public holidays are accorded to commemorate events which are significant to the society, religiously or historically. 

However, over time, the significance or meaning of these public holidays are less appreciated although a day or two off from working could be a huge relief to many of us. On top of this, commercial interests have turned many public holidays into opportunities for businesses to churn hugh profits. Many religious-related holidays are now becoming shopping seasons with less and less emphasis on the original aspects of the events. Sometimes, the activities in the holiday seasons contradict the essence of the celebration themselves.

On the other hand, these significant events are celebrated in form has taken rather than celebrating their substance. People are more concerned in displaying how involved they are in celebrating or remembering rather than living or demonstrating the essence of what are being remembered. Many people will lead processions whenever events which symbolise values or beliefs but never practice those values or beliefs themselves. Some see this as opportunities to be popular among their communities. 

For example, Muslims believe that Muhammad s.a.w. it the last prophet who will lead them to salvation both on this world and the hereafter. Muhammad s.a.w. has four attributes; truthful, honest, communicative and smart. How many of his followers who lead processions without fail annually who could demonstrate these attributes?

The society on the other hand could also be part of this issue. Over time, we associate holidays as a way to respect our values or beliefs rather than ensuring those values and beliefs are applied on daily basis. We keep on asking for more holidays and care less whether such break form work really enable us to externalise the meaning of what being celebrated.

Can we propose a better approach in celebrating events, values and historical moments in the future? Let's make the substance of what we celebrate more meaningful rather than the form of the celebration.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Lost in Translation

I was asked to share my views on corporate governance with a group of directors, with one caveat, it would be in Malay. I did a lot of presentations and participated in forums before, mostly in English. This would be a new experience for me as most of the references on governance which I normally refer to are in English.

Naturally, I had to slog to translate the slides from my previous presentations for this occasion. Luckily there were Google Translate and the online Reference Centre for Malay Literature. I was cautious not to overlook words which could "poke people's eyes".
The Malay term for corporate governance is "tadbir urus koperat". Out of interest I explored further the meaning of "tadbir". Apparently, is has deeper meaning especially if it's Arabic root is considered. Simply, "tadbir" is to reflect the outcomes of a particular action and to proceed if it results in goodness and to refrain from proceeding if the outcomes is bad. This seems to be similar to one of the principles popularised by Stephen Covey, the author of the book The Seven Habits of Most Effective People, start with the end in mind.

Such definition of "tadbir" is very powerful, from the perspective of governance. Reflecting outcomes requires a person to think, consider options and determine actions leading to the achievement of the plan. Is this not strategic planning, one of the responsibilities of directors? 

Deciding whether the outcomes are good or bad requires certain reference point. If the person believes in divine revelation i.e. religion, that could be his or her first port of call. Otherwise, the reference point could be what is commonly good or bad. For Malays, they can't run away from the teaching of Islam, as commonly argued by many of them nowadays. I suppose if they are truthful to their claims, we should not be facing with many governance related issues.

More importantly, the act of reflection as suggested by "tadbir" focuses on the person rather than the corporate arrangements and structures. This positions a person as human to be at the centre rather than the corporate arrangements which are normally associated with corporate governance. A person is driven by the voices in his or her heart. If the heart points the person towards righteousness, the outcomes would be good but if otherwise, we could expect disasters.

If such strong concepts of governance already existed in the Malay language, I wonder why they are not translated in the behaviors and actions of Malays? Could they have understood the word "tadbir" differently or it is only relevant to "Pegawai Tadmir" or administrative officers?

Could the real meaning of "tadbir" was lost in translation?

Thursday 2 February 2012

Losing Talents in Soccer Too?

The Malaysian soccer striker Safee Sali could be the first Malaysian millionaire footballer when he signed a two-year extension of his contract with Pelita Jaya, an Indonesian Super League side. Who says that there is no money in soccer for Malaysians?

Picture from New Straits Times website

With this development, Malaysian soccer players should open their eyes and realise that if they are world-class players, the reward would be there for them. Sadly, that reward may not be in Malaysia as our league is still struggling and our level of salary and rewards are still low compared even to other leagues in South East Asia.

To make thing worse, there is now concern that corruption could be tainting our local soccer scene again. If this epidemic is not checked immediately, the spectators would not be flocking to watch matches when they perceive the results have been decided off the field. Without huge followers, not many companies would be willing to sponsor soccer teams and this would cap the salaries of our soccer players.

Although the performance of the Malaysia national team has significantly improved in the last few years, I am not sure whether the overall soccer standards in this country has gone up considerably. The format of the league keeps on changing and policies are changed frequently as well. Only this year we have foreign players again after they were not allowed for a while. Even so, we don't attract the best of them because the level of benefits that we could offer would not attract better players.

More need to be done on the management of soccer as a whole and teams in general. Does the system that we adopt allow the best persons to be appointed on boards and committees of soccer related outfits? Do our soccer teams live on revenue generated through their performance or they rely on grants and financial support obtained through other means?

Unfortunately, even in sports, real performance counts. Nobody can fake success and achievements. Unless soccer in Malaysia fundamentally change, it would not be reading for talented players to stay back because of nationalism alone. Eventually, they will realise that for the talents and skills that they have (only relevant for great players) there are team beyond our shores which would reward them significantly above our local rates.

Is this a start that Malaysia will lose talents in soccer or other sports as well?