Sun Tzu - Art of War

''Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness" - Sun Tzu

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Quality Articles - Articles that made an impact

Using Computer Algorithm to calculate relevance

In this example we cut and paste some writings from Michael
Backman and analyse it:

There are several keys to high quality articles that
can made an impact.

A computer program should parse the articles and learn the

1. Subjects of Discussion (Names/Nouns in Caps eg Proton, Mahathir, Anwar, Daim, Petronas, Razaleigh, Fairuz, Rafidah, KLCC etc)

2. Comparison sentences (eg Australia VS Malaysia)

3. Powerful sentences/words (eg yet, probably, obsession, disgrace, instead)

4. Popular word buzz nouns (Khairy, monkeys, boleh, bodoh, protest, judiciary, demonstration, police, fraud, corruption, video clip, arrest)

5. Figures/Numbers (eg 40,000, million, years, percent, time that happen or will happen, has happened aka ago)

6. Measure of Subject (eg Powerful, Tallest, Most)

7. Quotes (eg Section 15 of... )

8. Repercussion of action (eg fine, jail, arrest)

9. Sentences with questions (ie ?)

10. Paragraphs should not be too long and each has points/target.

11. The Chains of events/actions

12. The Reaction/response of subjects


Truth and justice are no longer Malaysian way

By Michael Backman
The Age
November 21, 2007

THE Government of Australia will probably change hands this weekend.
There will be no arrests, no tear gas and
no water cannons. The Government of John Howard will leave office,
the Opposition will form a government and
everyone will accept the verdict.

For this, every Australian can feel justifiably proud. This playing
by the rules is what has made Australia rich and a
good place in which to invest. It is a country to which people want
to migrate; not leave.

Now consider Malaysia. The weekend before last, up to 40,000
Malaysians took to the streets in Kuala Lumpur to
protest peacefully against the judiciary's lack of independence,
electoral fraud, corruption and a controlled media.

In response, they were threatened by the Prime Minister, called
monkeys by his powerful son-in-law, and blasted
with water cannons and tear gas. And yet the vast majority of
Malaysians do not want a change of government. All
they want is for their government to govern better.

Both Malaysia and Australia have a rule of law that's based on the
English system. Both started out as colonies of
Britain. So why is Malaysia getting it so wrong now?

Malaysia's Government hates feedback. Dissent is regarded as
dangerous, rather than a product of diversity. And
like the wicked witch so ugly that she can't stand mirrors, the
Government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi
controls the media so that it doesn't have to see its own

Demonstrations are typically banned. But what every Malaysian should
know is that in Britain, Australia and other
modern countries, when people wish to demonstrate, the police
typically clear the way and make sure no one gets
hurt. The streets belong to the people. And the police, like the
politicians, are their servants. It is not the other way

But increasingly in Malaysia, Malaysians are being denied a voice
— especially young people.

Section 15 of Malaysia's Universities and University Colleges Act
states that no student shall be a member of or in
any manner associate with any society, political party, trade union
or any other organisation, body or group of
people whatsoever, be it in or outside Malaysia, unless it is
approved in advance and in writing by the vice-

Nor can any student express or do anything that may be construed as
expressing support, sympathy or opposition
to any political party or union. Breaking this law can lead to a
fine, a jail term or both.

The judiciary as a source of independent viewpoints has been
squashed. The previous prime minister, Mahathir
Mohamad, did many good things for Malaysia, but his firing of the
Lord President (chief justice) and two other
Supreme Court judges in 1988 was an unmitigated disaster. Since
then, what passes for a judiciary in Malaysia has
been an utter disgrace and the Government knows it.

Several years ago, Daim Zainuddin, the country's then powerful
finance minister, told me that judges in Malaysia
were a bunch of idiots. Of course we want them to be biased, he told
me, but not that biased.

Rarely do government ministers need to telephone a judge and demand
this or that verdict because the judges are
so in tune with the Government's desires that they automatically do
the Government's beckoning.

Just how appalling Malaysia's judiciary has become was made clear in
recent weeks with the circulation of a video
clip showing a senior lawyer assuring someone by telephone that he
will lobby the Government to have him made
Lord President of the Supreme Court because he had been loyal to the
Government. That someone is believed to
have been Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim, who did in fact become Lord

A protest march organised by the Malaysian Bar Council was staged in
response to this, and corruption among the
judiciary in general. But the mainstream Malaysian media barely
covered the march even though up to 2000 Bar
Council members were taking part. Reportedly, the Prime Minister's
office instructed editors to play down the event.

Instead of a free media, independent judges and open public debate,
Malaysians are given stunts — the world's
tallest building and most recently, a Malaysian cosmonaut.
Essentially, they are given the play things of modernity
but not modernity itself.

Many senior Malays are absolutely despairing at the direction of
their country today. But with the media tightly
controlled they have no way of getting their views out to their
fellow countrymen. This means that most Malaysians
falsely assume that the Malay elite is unified when it comes to the
country's direction.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister and today still a
member of the Government, told me several
weeks ago in Kuala Lumpur that he could see no reason why today
Malaysia could not have a completely free
media, a completely independent judiciary and that corrupt ministers
and other officials should be publicly exposed
and humiliated.

According to Tengku Razaleigh, all of the institutions designed to
make Malaysia's Government accountable and
honest have been dismantled or neutered.

It didn't need to be like this. Malaysia is not North Korea or
Indonesia. It is something quite different. Its legal
system is based on British codes. Coupled with traditional Malay
culture, which is one of the world's most
hospitable, decent and gentle cultures, Malaysia has the cultural
and historical underpinnings to become one of
Asia's most civilised, rules-based, successful societies.

Instead, Malaysia's Government is incrementally wasting Malaysia's


While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry

By Michael Backman
The Age
November 15, 2006

MALAYSIA'S been at it again, arguing about what proportion of the
economy each of its two main races
— the Malays and the Chinese — owns. It's an argument that's
been running for 40 years. That wealth
and race are not synonymous is important for national cohesion, but
really it's time Malaysia grew up.

It's a tough world out there and there can be little sympathy for a
country that prefers to argue about
how to divide wealth rather than get on with the job of creating

The long-held aim is for 30 per cent of corporate equity to be in
Malay hands, but the figure that the
Government uses to justify handing over huge swathes of public
companies to Malays but not to other
races is absurd. It bases its figure on equity valued, not at market
value, but at par value.

Many shares have a par value of say $1 but a market value of $12.
And so the Government figure (18.9
per cent is the most recent figure) is a gross underestimate. Last
month a paper by a researcher at a
local think-tank came up with a figure of 45 per cent based on
actual stock prices. All hell broke loose.
The paper was withdrawn and the researcher resigned in protest. Part
of the problem is that he is

"Malaysia boleh!" is Malaysia's national catch cry. It
translates to "Malaysia can!" and Malaysia certainly
can. Few countries are as good at wasting money. It is richly
endowed with natural resources and the
national obsession seems to be to extract these, sell them off and
then collectively spray the proceeds
up against the wall.

This all happens in the context of Malaysia's grossly inflated sense
of its place in the world.

Most Malaysians are convinced that the eyes of the world are on
their country and that their leaders are
world figures. This is thanks to Malaysia's tame media and the
bravado of former prime minister Mahathir
Mohamad. The truth is, few people on the streets of London or New
York could point to Malaysia on a
map much less name its prime minister or capital city.

As if to make this point, a recent episode of The Simpsons features
a newsreader trying to announce
that a tidal wave had hit some place called Kuala Lumpur. He
couldn't pronounce the city's name and so
made up one, as if no-one cared anyway. But the joke was on the
script writers — Kuala Lumpur is

Petronas, the national oil company is well run, particularly when
compared to the disaster that passes for
a national oil company in neighbouring Indonesia. But in some
respects, this is Malaysia's problem. The
very success of Petronas means that it is used to underwrite all
manner of excess.

The KLCC development in central Kuala Lumpur is an example. It
includes the Twin Towers, the tallest
buildings in the world when they were built, which was their point.
It certainly wasn't that there was an
office shortage in Kuala Lumpur — there wasn't.

Malaysians are very proud of these towers. Goodness knows why. They
had little to do with them. The
money for them came out of the ground and the engineering was
contracted out to South Korean
companies. They don't even run the shopping centre that's beneath
them. That's handled by Australia's

Next year, a Malaysian astronaut will go into space aboard a Russian
rocket — the first Malay in space.
And the cost? $RM95 million ($A34.3 million), to be footed by
Malaysian taxpayers. The Science and
Technology Minister has said that a moon landing in 2020 is the next
target, aboard a US flight. There's
no indication of what the Americans will charge for this, assuming
there's even a chance that they will
consider it. But what is Malaysia getting by using the space
programs of others as a taxi service? There
are no obvious technical benefits, but no doubt Malaysians will be
told once again, that they are "boleh".
The trouble is, they're not. It's not their space program.

Back in July, the Government announced that it would spend $RM490
million on a sports complex near
the London Olympics site so that Malaysian athletes can train there
and "get used to cold weather". But
the summer Olympics are held in the summer.

So what is the complex's real purpose? The dozens of goodwill
missions by ministers and bureaucrats to
London to check on the centre's construction and then on the
athletes while they train might provide a

Bank bale outs, a formula one racing track, an entire new capital
city — Petronas has paid for them all.
It's been an orgy of nonsense that Malaysia can ill afford.

Why? Because Malaysia's oil will run out in about 19 years. As it
is, Malaysia will become a net oil
importer in 2011 — that's just five years away.

So it's in this context that the latest debate about race and wealth
is so sad.

It is time to move on, time to prepare the economy for life after
oil. But, like Nero fiddling while Rome
burned, the Malaysian Government is more interested in stunts like
sending a Malaysian into space
when Malaysia's inadequate schools could have done with the cash,
and arguing about wealth
distribution using transparently ridiculous statistics.

That's not Malaysia "boleh", that's Malaysia "bodoh"


Michael Backman - most wasteful projects in Malaysia

Exclusive Interview with Michael Backman

1. What was the initial thought that prompted you to write about
your “Boleh or Bodoh column”? What was and has been your
intention in writing the article?

Malaysia has good people, good resources and a legal system that
ought to function. It depresses me that Malaysia hasn’t been more
successful than it has and that it is still fighting the old fights
of the 1960s.

Malaysia ’s Chinese have accepted the NEP and its successor
policies. They define themselves as Malaysians first and foremost
and are among the proudest Malaysians. They have learned Malay.
Essentially, they have done everything that has been required of
them and yet still there is this endless preoccupation with race in

Meanwhile the rest of the world is just so unbelievably dynamic now.
Malaysia is looking more and more like a sleepy backwater relative
to what’s going on elsewhere in the world.

Many Malaysians don’t seem to understand this. Many like to travel
overseas - but when they do, too many look but they don’t see.
They don’t see how things in Malaysia could be improved. They
don’t want to learn from anywhere else. They think Malaysia is a
special case. They should be bringing back new ideas to Malaysia.
Instead they just want to bring back duty free.

2. Have you ever considered the impact the column might have upon
your relationship with Malaysian government and its people? We
understand Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia’s Minister for Trade and
Industry, criticised your column by saying you probably know nothing
about Malaysia. Has there been any (positive or negative)
impact/response from publishing the column?

I write to be read and I write to have an impact, otherwise there is
no point in writing. I criticised the space program for Malaysia’s
first astronaut - the making of teh tarik and so on - and the
Malaysian Government changed its mind on that and announced that the
astronaut would be doing sensible scientific experiments after all.
Perhaps I had an impact there.

In any event, more than a thousand Malaysians e-mailed me to say
that they agreed with my views. If I am giving a voice to those
Malaysians who share the same views but feel that they can’t
express them then I’m happy to have been of some help.

But then why should I as a non-Malaysian comment about Malaysia? As
far as I am concerned, strict notions of nationality are breaking
down. We are all involved in each other’s countries now.
Malaysians have a lot of investments in Australia. Australians
invest in Asia and so on. We all have stakes in other countries and
so all should be able to comment on how they are run. The free flow
of ideas and openness are good things. The only people who do not
like this are politicians in Malaysia and Singapore. You will never
hear Australian or UK politicians complaining about those things. So
you should ask yourself, why do Malaysian and Singaporean
politicians dislike public debate and openness?

As for Rafidah, I know quite a lot about Malaysia. And I know quite
a lot about Rafidah, which is why I wrote about the corruption
allegations against her in my second column. Rafidah understands her
trade brief very well, but she is dictatorial. Look at how she rules
UMNO Wanita.

Sadly, I suspect I know more about Malaysia than many Malaysians.
One reason for this is because Malaysia’s media is so poor and
many things cannot be discussed openly. Ministers like Rafidah would
prefer that Malaysians are not told things. Perhaps they have
something to hide.

There is an idea among Malaysians that their country is particularly
special and unique and that non-Malaysians simply cannot know much
about Malaysia. That simply isn’t true. All countries are complex
and have their nuances. You can be expert in a country without being
from that country. Indeed, sometimes it helps not to be from that
country. If more Malaysians sent more time away from Malaysia, they
would gain a far clearer picture of what Malaysia is and what it is

I have met many Malaysian politicians and business people, spent
time in almost every Malaysian state, sat through sessions of the
Malaysian parliament and even attended an UMNO general assembly,
stayed in kampongs, visited rubber plantations, and so on - that’s
more than most Malaysians. I have stayed with Malaysian friends in
Damansara, in Ampang and in Pandan Jaya. But Rafidah only stays in

3. We understand you’re an expert on Asia’s political and
economical affairs. But you seem to have taken an extra interest in
Malaysia (like having a special column for Malaysia’s articles on
your webpage
( Why Malaysia?

I studied at an Australian university. Many of my classmates were
Malaysian students - Chinese, Malay and Indians. I became very
interested in Malaysia from that time on.

4. After reading the column, one can hardly not to think that
Malaysia is a somewhat badly “managed” country. We know it might
be a big question, but what do you think has contributed to the
“mismanagement”of the country?

It is not all bad news. Malaysia has handled race relations well.
The NEP with all its imperfections was good for Malaysia. But
Malaysia is rich in resources and there is a lot of squandering of
those resources.

Education is big part of the problem. Malaysian schools are not
nearly good enough. There are Malaysians who are now very regretful
and resentful that they attended school in Malaysia. Some have told
me that they have spent a lot of their adult lives trying to undo
the damage of rote learning and ‘follow the leader’-type
training that they were given in Malaysia.

Malaysian schools are a long, long way behind schooling in the West
in which emphasis is very much on learning how to question, be
creative and not being afraid to publicly voice your opinions. When
I was at school in Australia I was encouraged to write essays in
which I took the opposite view to my teachers. And the more I argued
against my teachers’ positions on things such as social and
political issues, the higher the grades that I received. Malaysian
schools need to become like this.

5. From the top of your head, what would you rank as the most
wasteful projects/policies ever implemented by Malaysia Government
in the past 10 years, and why?

Proton - Malaysia should NOT have a national car. You cannot get
sufficient economies of scale with a population as small as
Malaysia’s when it comes to car manufacturing
Putrajaya - removing civil servants from ordinary society does not
make for good government
KLIA - all that infrastructure, very little air traffic and it still
takes forever for your luggage to come though - it is ridiculous
Petronas Towers - the lower floors are mostly full of lift shafts -
you can’t rent out a lift shaft

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

AWSJ: Abdullah v. Anwar

February 19, 2008

Abdullah v. Anwar
By Rose Ismail

KUALA LUMPUR -- In the midst of preparations for national polls on
March 8, a curious ailment has struck Malaysia's top politician:
selective amnesia.

"I don't remember Anwar Ibrahim," said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi last Thursday, responding to press questions about the former
deputy prime minister, also the country's most prominent opposition
leader. When asked whether the polling date was set to keep Mr. Anwar
out of the elections, the prime minister said: "We forgot about him."

The prime minister's dismissive statements about one of his chief
political foes may possibly be a reflection of uncertainty over Mr.
Anwar's involvement in the election felt by the United Malays National
Organization (UMNO), the Malay-based party which leads the ruling
Barisan Nasional coalition. It can't be a coincidence that the polling
day has been fixed a month before Mr. Anwar is eligible to run for
political office. (Mr. Anwar was convicted and sentenced for
corruption and sodomy in 1999 and 2000, and released in 2004.
Malaysian law prevents those convicted of crimes from standing for
elections for four years.)

Despite his current ineligibility for public office, Mr. Anwar wields
considerable influence as an adviser to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a
marginal multiracial party which boasts only one parliamentary seat,
held by his wife. In recent months, he has forcefully re-entered
public life here, commenting on just about every issue, from poverty
to the price of essential goods. The media blitz is an indication of
his resolve to lead the nation, a goal he nearly reached when serving
as Malaysia's second most powerful politician in former Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad's government.

This strategy doesn't come without risks, however. In September last
year -- to great fanfare -- Mr. Anwar produced a 2002 video allegedly
showing a well-connected lawyer discussing the appointment of judges
with a senior member of the judiciary. Mr. Anwar probably meant to
discredit the previous regime's oversight of the judiciary. Instead,
the tape reminded Malaysians of the critical role he played in Mr.
Mahathir's government, for surely he would have known the machinations
in the judiciary while he was deputy prime minister.

Mr. Anwar may also not have the public confidence he once enjoyed. The
years in jail have kept him out of the public eye, allowing other
political figures to step in, such as the politically agile and
eloquent Khairy Jamaluddin, Mr. Abdullah's son-in-law. In fact, the
March polls may turn out to be Mr. Anwar's most difficult test yet --
or even mark the beginning of his end in national politics.

Outside Malaysia, Mr. Anwar may look like he presents a viable
alternative to a coalition that has been in power for five decades.
Inside Malaysia, his political ambitions are bound inextricably to the
PKR's upcoming electoral performance. If the party's past performance
is any measure, that's not a sure bet. The rumor that the party
intends to contest up to 100 parliamentary seats, out of 219, is
already being viewed as a sign of desperation rather than confidence.

Mr. Anwar has also optimistically declared that an opposition member
of parliament will vacate his or her seat for him come March, thus
triggering a sure victory in a by-election after the polls. While he
doubtless intends to publicize his party's unstinting loyalty, many
view this claim as a last-ditch attempt to remain in the political
game once his ban from politics is lifted.

All this seems to indicate that Mr. Abdullah's selective amnesia may
be justified. Malaysia's political opposition is in practice a loose
grouping of parties, including the Chinese-based Democratic Action
Party, the pro-Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia and the PKR. While
these parties are openly cooperating to deny the ruling coalition its
two-thirds parliamentary majority, their divergent and often
diametrically opposed ideologies have always weakened rather than
strengthened the opposition alliance.
* * *

Mr. Abdullah's biggest challenge may present itself after the
election, when the new government must begin translating its campaign
promises into action. In his first term, Mr. Abdullah was given wide
leeway from a public exhausted by a demanding and fast-paced 22 years
under Mr. Mahathir. People were also charmed by Mr. Abdullah's voluble
promises of clean governance.

The prime minister's efforts have, on occasion, produced dichotomous
results. In the early days of his administration, Mr. Abdullah seemed
open to public debate on delicate matters such as ethnicity and
religion as well as the social contract established at independence 50
years ago. Now, these debates are strongly discouraged. While the
government has made arduous efforts to be more accountable,
transparent and tolerant -- promises the prime minister made in 2004
-- the results there, too, have been mixed.

Public discontent, largely kept under control, is simmering. In recent
months, nongovernmental organizations have organized street protests
to air a variety of grievances, from alleged discriminatory treatment
of minorities to concern over judicial reform. The police have quashed
these gatherings and harshly penalized the organizers. A few
individuals have even been detained under the Internal Security Act,
which allows for detention without trial, and this has created a
public outcry. But the government is holding firm; on Saturday, police
used tear gas and chemical-laced water cannons to disperse a crowd
marching for ethnic Indians' rights.

Mr. Abdullah's second term will undoubtedly be more challenging than
his first. He is no longer viewed as a transitional leader, but as a
politician who must stand on his own merits. He has taken several
positive actions to bolster economic growth through tax cuts,
infrastructure projects and increased public spending. But there are
also challenges that he can't control, such as a slowing global
economy and rising imported inflation. That makes his choice of
cabinet advisers particularly important.

Mr. Abdullah enters the election with a clear lead over Mr. Anwar's
opposition partners. But Malaysia is still a democracy. The value of
the vote rises with each election, as does voter sophistication. Mr.
Abdullah must therefore deliver on his political promises to maintain
his coalition's credibility.

Ms. Ismail, a former editor with the "New Straits Times," now heads
Salt Media Consultancy.