Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Anwar's Appeal Afterthought Part 2

Part 1, written in October is here.

Interlude is here.


Around 12 hours before the outcome was delivered at exactly 12.10 pm one week ago, I've asked one of my friends and source over whether if Najib can do an 11th hour act on the appeal outcome. The obvious reason is that he may need an unlikely ally to fight against Daim and Mahathir in the likes of Anwar Ibrahim.

No was the definite answer. The Old Man is controlling the shot here. No way he'd let Anwar move out on the street and office as usual to indirectly help Najib. It can implied while Najib is PM in name, but the action is being controlled by someone else. 

"Are you going down to Putrajaya to witness the proceedings?" I asked, being the last question before we adjourned our dinner talk.

"No. There's nothing much to be surprised and awed about. Just go home and go to bed, wait for the bickering from the trial to die down and see the usual stuff that the other ultra primates will do in craziness before they start shaking legs like nothing happened....

"We're not going to depend on him anyway like if it's the end of everything." I finished the line, knowing that I am no fan of him, having being bored of the stuff he talks since 2011.


At least this time, unlike 3 years ago that these Pakatan people were already expecting the thing to come. When the High Court first declared a not-guilty verdict in 2012, the spanner was thrown into the plan since it was built on the assumption that he'd be sent to jail directly at that time. But even if they are ready this time round, there still remains the question mark of who will stand in his place - until they have finished their meeting later tonight or so forth.

The PMO's statement, released immediately after the panel of judges dismissed the appeal raised some eyebrows over whether it is still a fixed trial despite repeated statements that it had prepared both guilty and not guilty press statements. It comes days after Mahathir's statement asking for the court decision to be "accepted"  with other bigger issues that remains to be unanswered including 1MDB, the real motive behind Altantuya's murder (a loose end since the two cops were sentenced to death) and a few other scandals that yet to reach the conclusion. 

19 days ago, Zulkifli Noordin and the NGO Tibai have made a wild accusation saying that Anwar will flee the country if the verdict is against him and have asked for police action to avoid the circumstance that happened to Sirul. Sirul was not in court when the Federal Court delivered a death sentence for his part in the Altantuya murder. But his response, his 10 day-roadshow and his last  defiant-oriented press statement before going off to Sungai Buloh prison is to portray himself as an example of someone going against the myth of the lazy native and embarking on the spirit of adventurism (semangat adventurisma).

According to Revolusi Mental, the definition of a lazy native includes characteristics such being a fatalist, insincere of oneselves, not seeing to their own faults, lack the courage to fight for the truth (read: everything must be accepted, even if wrong), making promises that are warm as a fowl's manure, contentment - that is no courage to take risks and many more that can be named.

In July 1995, Dr. Mahathir made a call:

“Semangat adventurism ini kalau dalam bidang ilmu ialah kesediaan untuk diuji dan dicabar. Kita tidak boleh mendakwa menjadi orang ilmu atau pakar sekiranya kita tidak diuji pada peringkat paling tinggi.”

In observation and on the outset, Dr. Mahathir wanted to encourage things that will break the myth of the lazy native. He ultimately failed, in what was admitted as his biggest failure in his 22 years as PM. Pak Habib Al-Attas once saw Anwar as a person who can pick up that baton and continue that fighting spirit, considering of the age gap, but this ideal has yet to demonstrated and seen by the masses.

Why is our Police Inspector-General agitated when a cartoonist and a opposition MP have made a statement of disagreement and then demanded a Sedition-Act investigation against them? The two men are just defending the country against a government. Could this a sign that we are heading to a failed state, with the top cop showing a sign of not being impartial like what he tweeted?

Does it imply that everything cannot be questioned at all and people should be meek?


I will not be surprised that within one year or so after this, Shafee Abdullah will be given the post of Attorney General when Gani Patail, having finished banging his table for the 3-year quest of incarcerating one man. I won't be surprised that the supporting players in this drama are given various rewards for the role they played.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Yes Or No, What Is The Vote Count?

Note: This posting can be considered as filler for Part 2. Part 1, written in October 2014 can be read here.

There is less than two days to go before the Federal Court decides if Anwar Ibrahim's appeal against Sodomy II conviction is dismissed (read: Go to Jail) or overturned again.

Three weeks ago I was invited for a dinner session by a friend at Bangsar as to discuss certain business matters having driven straight away from a small retreat in Bukit Tinggi. I've asked him whether if he had seen a live streaming of Anwar Ibrahim's talk session at One World Hotel held on that afternoon itself. 

He said no, but asked what are the points that Anwar mentioned throughout the three hours there. 

Based on what was mentioned in certain news portals, I just gave him the points in summary based on what I've skimmed through. After that, based on what Anwar said, my friend speaks of things that seems to be certain.

"This means my information is correct. They (judges) are going to throw out the appeal and send him to the jail."

So it seems to confirm my hunch feeling that I've written a few months ago (assuming that the judges are going to deliver on that same day). A few days to that, Syed Akbar Ali's information seems to match with what he said and what I felt. So it confirms my suspicion that some of the politikus aligning to the Old Man is determined to throw him off. And I keep imagining that the AG has been banging his table for more than 3 years since the High Court gave a not guilty verdict baying for his blood like a hound.

"What's the vote of hands?" I asked.

It's 3 to 2. 

Hmm... seems to match my hunch too. My friend doesn't think that it would be 4-1. One week ago, Raja Petra Kamarudin seems to think it's 4-1, if the judges have their own way.

The next question was who are the judges likely to send him to jail. My friend and his source said "You know, the usual lot"...

Scratching my head, I tried to recall the names of 5 judges who presided in the Federal court appeal. 

According to the insider source, it is likely that Raus Sharif, Suriyadi Omar and Ramly Ali are the ones that could vote yes to dismissing appeal, while the CJ Ariffin and Hamid Embong (they say he has a very good singing voice) is likely to say otherwise. When I asked about Raus and Suriyadi, my friend scorned at hearing the names of the two judges.

The last question we went to our business matter talk is of what happens after that? Assuming that we stick to the guilty verdict, I believed that there are many UMNO supporters and flea-primates are likely to jump up and down in excitement to see someone so badly in jail and then after a few days would shake their legs as if business is back to usual and the trend of "yes man" behind the scenes resumes as usual.

"You got it wrong, my friend."

He went to elaborate that once the verdict is out, people, starting with the opposition supporters will start to get angry at Najib, government and UMNO. Next few months down the line, ordinary people will start to join the queue, once they start to feel the real pinch of GST and worsening economy from the ongoing currency and petrol price wars between the big nations. Later, more people, especially the Malay people out of sympathy could jump ship in support. So this too hews closely Syed Akbar's opinion as well.

"You can be surprised that he can do more damage from the prison."

In anyway, Najib and Co gets a double whammy. Even at the 11th hour, with Najib deciding to intervene with the 5 judges,  considering possible reaction, his internal party would not be very happy would start to use any means to kick him out. The label "incompetent" is hovering around Najib by some of them.

If there are people thinking that everything will vanish one way or another after the fallout of the trial, they are sadly mistaken. I will not be surprised the outcome in the future can be turned into a revolution one way or another, internal or external. And as Matthias Chang once said, it's not surprising that the new four letter work replacing the word "FUCK" is "UMNO".

Friday, January 2, 2015

Praying By Itself Will Never Solve Problems

If there's one thing common that I've seen on twitter whenever there is an incident such as the Airasia QZ8501 / Malaysia Airlines MH 17 or the east coast flood lines is that the hashtags for those incidents will something like:

#PrayForMH17 #PrayForMH370 #PrayForPantaiTimur and so forth.

It is something that I didn't really 

The Malay Mail's Boo Su Lyn has succinctly summed up what I'd want to say in the last few days. She said:

We live in the 21st century.

But instead, we still have such superstitious beliefs governing Malaysian life.

When the ferocity of the floods hit, hashtags like #PrayForPantaiTimur and #PrayForEastCoast emerged.

Similarly, after Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 disappeared Sunday, hashtags #PrayForQZ8501 and #PrayForAirAsia appeared.

There is nothing wrong with prayer. Prayer may be a very calming act at a time when everything seems to fall apart beyond one’s control.

But it is far more crucial to take preventive measures so that such environmental and aviation disasters do not happen again.

Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said last Friday that disasters were God’s will which could not be stopped by humans and went on to pass the buck to Putrajaya over the floods.

Prayer will not prevent floods from happening again this year or the next if Kelantan insists on prioritising considerations of deity over practical measures. - 

In his Kastamonu speech (30 August 1925), Ataturk, the founding father of Turkish Republic said:

"In the face of knowledge, science, and of the whole extent of radiant civilization, I cannot accept the presence in Turkey's civilized community of people primitive enough to seek material and spiritual benefits in the guidance of sheiks. The Turkish republic cannot be a country of sheiks, dervishes, and disciples. The best, the truest order is the order of civilization. To be a man it is enough to carry out the requirements of civilization. The leaders of dervish orders will understand the truth of my words, and will themselves close down their lodges [tekke] and admit that their disciplines have grown up."
In light of our disasters, what do you really get hope to get asides from the idea coping yourself the lazy way as she asked? But this does not mean that we should not pray. 

Rather, the problem is that we've been too much relying and dwelling on spiritual and material benefits in the guidance of the clergy. We seem to be neglecting the importance of the progressive mankind. Even the holy books never explicitly say that it should be interpreted base on the time when its narratives were written. Vision 2020 also alludes on civilized community one that is well knowledgeable and radiant, but we've not yet reach that kind of society that was striven 23 years ago. We're about 5 years to reaching that target but not much of progress seen.

Malaysia should not be a country that has the same attribute that Ataturk has said above.

Are we saying that we should be pray but without accompanying action as of what the columnist said pray for the beggar but not offering food, shelter nor clothing?

Are we saying that while we pray, we leave things as it is, left untouched?

Why didn't we lift a finger in improving the drainage and rainwater flow system years earlier? Is it just because we have a zero-sum thinking that the other party should not collaborate with the federal level for everybody's benefit?

Why didn't we bother to pay attention to the slightest portions of the current air aviation system ineffectiveness? 

Do we need to have an apocalypse or something to bang in your head to wake up? Too many times, people have ignored it until they finally wake up when people reach the end of the world.

No wonder the fatalistic attribute described in the Myth of The Lazy Native rings true. Fatalistic in the sense of  saying "everything is the will of God" but we didn't bother doing things to accompany it. Fatalism is this kind of attribute that Patton, the famous WW2 general poured scorn onto it. 

As for side note, there have been question of why our Arab friends aren't helping in form of action aid to our airplane crisis nor the country's floods whereas it is China and Taiwan who are offering aid first?

Why aren't our Arab friends helping us in this time of trouble when we keep harping praises of the Arabs?

Why do you keep calling China communists while they came and offer relief humanitarian aid to our flood victims?

Get real!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Anwar's Appeal Afterthought Part 1

There Are No Winners

Some of us have thought that Anwar Ibrahim’s final appeal could finish in the space of two days last week, but surprisingly lasted for nearly a week. As of today, 7 November, the trial may finish, provided if the five judges presiding the trial has reached a quick verdict. Otherwise it is likely just as with the Allah-appeal by Herald sometime back, they might reserve judgment, taking consideration of new written submissions and a period of time of careful deliberation before presenting their summary judgment at a later date.

Regardless of whether the verdict goes to either which way whether to dismiss the appeal or to set aside the Court of Appeal’s, there will be at least three definite reactions to the fallout of the trial that is definitely can be figured out by anyone who has been monitoring the news.


The judiciary will definitely get whacked left and right by both opposition and ruling fronts. First, assuming that Anwar’s appeal has been dismissed, PKR and their partners, as core of their loose alliance of Pakatan Rakyat will definitely something in the tones / examples like the judiciary decided to sell out to their masters, still being manipulated by those walking in the corridors of power, and even would cite previous cases where they decided to go against although against what it should be (e.g Perak crisis, Allah Bible crisis, etc..). In this case, the slogan of conspiracy theory that is being shouted before and throughout the trial has will be made a correct hypothesis by them. Barisan will definitely say in the tones of “suckers out there”, “we have nothing to do with them”, etc… will use the opposite excuses at PR as well. On Monday, Tian Chua said that PKR wouldplan to organize a mammoth rally, hoping to recapture the 1998 Reformasi style if the appeal gets dismissed. 

So what if it is the other way round? As Zaid Ibrahim pondered, is UMNO, especially its root level members, going to do the same thing, the mammoth rally, if the conviction gets set aside? By looking at the other side of the veil or the mirror as you can say, we would notice that the responses would be the completely opposite. UMNO, considering how many members would react in emotion in contrast to logic in particular would scream, about that man (A.I), with all sorts of expletives allowed to let go. Next thing, immediately all fingers pointing at the judiciary.

Sure, you can’t please everybody and it is these five judges that will be scrutinized by everybody of whatever individual verdict that they will likely reach in the first three days after the verdict has been delivered. In any case, as to satisfy each and every of their egos including fans of their respective parties, this entity, called the judiciary is in a lose-lose situation.

By the way, don’t be surprised if Shafee Abdullah happens to replace Gani Patail as the next A-G when he retires next year when he wins the case here. This obviously was warned way back a year or two ago and not many seems to notice it. 

I remembered reading a few of international reactions to Anwar’s first trial during secondary school and throughout the years in tertiary education. Many of the reactions are mostly negative in nature. No doubt that the foreign press, some international diplomats and human rights groups are getting ready to roast Malaysia upside down, if that is not enough with their attempt to show themselves being amoderate Muslim-majority country ended up with more criticism vs to the praise that is to be expected.

The common revealing the sudden emotional outburst and the inferiority complex with lack of logic defending from the certain men with suits and ties, even with songkoks from those in the federal government is not a surprising thing and is already expected. If people’s frustrations are turned away by those who are supposed to serve us, just because they do not believe of the reality they were told or shown, what are other forced-to-take alternatives to be considered including telling the outside of what is happening? 

Why not ask Rafizi Ramli and his small group of people who were in Australia recently that got Pak Shahidan jumping up and down? Why not ask or why not ask Pak Shahidan himself? 

After all, aren’t some of those people wanting to get themselves praised that they eventually get complacent as there is nothing written that is critical against themselves in nature vs the more praising and bootlicking? I’m already expecting that these groups of people are going to jump up and down, with their balls dropped if international media like Time Magazine, Huffington Post, BBC or even top international news / magazine portals will start grilling Malaysia like a raw marinated meat on the BBQ pit. They would BBQ until to the point that they would use black markers or tearing out the 3-5 pages of what they find it offensive even though they won’t admit their mischief!

One week ago, veteran newsman Kadir Jasin, a known Dr. Mahathir man, has stated that Barisan stands nothing to gain but to suffer more regardless of the outcome. The trial has placed (either by circumstance or deliberate design) Anwar into either he can be a martyr (in the eyes of his supporters) in jail or a saint that was framed of all charges by enemies who have hate to see him off by the crooked means. There are still some who still are angered at Abdullah Badawi for his part of releasing Anwar in 2004 after serving his first prison term.

Trust in the government has dropped a lot while mostly the naïve, the ignorant and the fools are the ones that are remaining. Maybe Dr. Mahathir was right one time previously. There are too many of them with such characteristics in his own organization while the professionals are in opposition parties even though there are some who exhibit those characteristics above.

The gist is that while both sides cheer or mock the other for whatever is happening people seem to forget about the long term and bigger problems such as the high cost of living, especially in light that the government isn’t willing to drop petrol prices in line with the falling price of crude oil. I already had seen ahead that they are not likely to be truthful and insincere of many things, as what a government deputy minister has indirectly inferred to the other day when queried about the falling oil prices.

The question is whether is it worth it to cheer while you neglect your home?

There are no definite winners in this trial, not even the judiciary. Each side will try to claim moral victory. Each side will try to say that they are better because something and vice-versa. What is certain is that both of them are cut from the same cloth that weaves them, with both get cut in 1998. No matter how hard each site tries to up ahead their opponent one step at a time, the only definite thing that they do not have to be in this game scenario is if that premise didn’t exist at all.

If I am asked to hazard a guess of what will be the verdict to come, I’d put it at either 4-1 or 3-2 that appeal will be dismissed. No matter how well proven the defense counsel’s arguments are here, at least three judges would are the ones deciding because the man’s a danger, full stop. I’d guess that the CJ himself Ariffin Zakaria and Raus Sharif as the ones definitely to say “No” just as what they did for the Allah Bible appeal and the one that could be dissenting is Ramly Ali, if given what of the overview of judges presiding in this appeal.        

to be continued

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Itch That Got Scratched Too Long

The so-called Kajang Move is over and instead of Kak Wan Azizah as MB intended by certain quarters within PKR, it's instead Anwar's protege Azmin Ali who was finally chosen as the MB after His Highness the Sultan has gone through the shortlist of candidates. At first I thought that Iskandar Samad may have a shot on it, but when he's allegedly brought up the health problem issue during the interview process, it might have saved in two-fold further bickering from PAS and the further ramifications from their other two partners PKR and DAP.

I didn't want to say anything about this Kajang mess from the beginning because I didn't stay in Selangor for that long enough to be qualified as "anak jati Selangor", despite working in the Klang Valley for some years to give a proper assessment of Selangor. Many people that I know of are indeed very angry, in summary of their rantings, that they have been taken for a ride out of nothing. Obviously, this is what most people would say if they are not playing the political games that the rats from both sides of the divide would do.

Today's current generation of rulers are no pushovers, as what is shown now, unlike their predecessors, while the old guard still remaining (Pahang and Kedah). They are mostly much more educated, and clearly understood that they will have to adjust themselves as we are now in the 21st century and they are things that may fit decades ago but not at the present time. The only time that one ruler who showed that he was a no pushover was during the Perak MB imbroglio in the mid-1970s when he famously declared that he would not shave until Ghazali Jawi vacated his post as agreed upon initially (it was his second stint as MB).

Note that I'm confident enough that these rulers are able to handle themselves that it is not required for those screaming men from NGOs to jump and make a lot of ruckus to portray themselves as sacrificial lambs for the rulers.

Ideally, to be more sure, I would have thought His Highness could have call all the 30 assemblymen who allegedly say they support Azizah and ask them one-by-one. There will be a few who would say that they signed the SD (statutory declarations) just to go along with the idea compared to their actual answer of saying "why do I need to sign that piece of paper?" Aha! He would certainly know that not all in the 30 has the confidence of Kak Wan. Fortunately for this round, His Highness played his cards well, to make sure that things are in according to his terms.

The only thing I was amused in this episode was about was how PKR and DAP gave one name to the palace instead of the explicitly stated "more than two names", meaning three or more. This is one thing that even schoolchildren who learn Bahasa and English can even understand, whereas both parties can't even understand a simple sentence of Bahasa Malaysia. My god, they can even understand Malay grammar? Keeping an open mind, it can be seen that DAP, had to play along with the ringleaders that is Anwar and Rafizi, considering that there are some, like in the respective parties didn't agree with the idea in their own heart.

As to go back to the very beginning why this Kajang Move happened in this place, base on my information set, it is possible to have it summarized in three possible reasons:

1. U.G - This problem happened way back since 2008 after GE-12 where UMNO wanted to band together with PAS to form the state government. There are some who wanted the idea while many didn't agree to the idea. According to some sources, the trigger point occurred when Anwar received intel that there are some PAS assemblymen who have been tempted to at least jump ship and band together with UMNO - a certain former PAS assemblymen as the moderator.

2. Khalid Ibrahim refused to play ball with Anwar despite the former was told from the beginning that he'd be put on the seat as a warm-up before he moves in. Khalid didn't have much of the politicking maneuverability unlike Anwar who uses the ends to justify the means.

3. Considering a mass reserve of RM 3 billion in the state coffers, you would definitely want to use it again to jump start his mini projects again in mind (you can name a few).

This takes into account that the bible confiscation and the Kidex thing didn't happen right from the beginning where they took over the state - but only at the beginning of 2014.

Anwar and Rafizi thought this time can go through without much of a hitch but this same problem they encountered was identical to the #KL112 incident where PKR did not anticipate the possibility of the other scenario that he would be acquitted (that was before the overturning of the appeal later). Anyone who clearly understands Murphy's law would mean that not all what was planned can work properly and it can go awry as this.

Anwar is not Dr. Mahathir. He doesn't have the sufficient means and tools to bulldoze through like he, Ghafar and Dr. Mahathir did during the two constitutional crisis 20-30 years ago. The ball game is not the same as it was then. As expected by other analysts, Rafizi says that Kajang move was a success, but not really at the threshold that these two men would expect. If you are one who is not from a state that has a Malay ruler, there will be a handicap of not able to understand how the rulers operate.

PAS too has a share of fault to be responsible. They come up straight that they do not want Khalid to continue before the 13th GE, but his performance in his duties was something that they could not shake it away lest people will ask why throwing someone who has done a very good job in the space of 5 years? Also according to a few friends, another bone of contention by PAS is that they keep harping the argument that because while Wan Azizah is a female, there is a "muhrim" factor, meaning that she can only go up to a certain time a day unlike their male counterparts who can sit longer and talk through with their colleagues on. It is this factor that they have an issue on while PKR and DAP do not have.  

There is saying that if you scratch too much, you injure yourself. In this case, it was an itch that got scratched for too long hoping it will go away but in the end, it was someone else that takes the next turn of the silver platter. Now that Azmin has the silver platter, there is a fallout that has to be handled, but how long will the fallout be? A few friends have even said that from the get go when Azmin starts day 1 in the office, they would be keen to get his answer about PJ Sentral or the 9 million thing that it is  hoped that he'd better start answering.

In the end, what was Rafizi and Anwar actually thinking about? Certainly when they planned the move, they have taken into account of what will happen if they decided to leave it as is. It is an open question that there can invite many answers and theories to that.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recollections of New Hollywood Canning Garden

On 10 September 2014, The Rakyat Post published an interesting article on the subject of New Hollywood coffee shop located at a corner along Jalan Lee Kwee Foh in Canning Garden. The coffee shop is reputedly to be one of the rare Chinese-eating places in Ipoh where there’s a lot of patronization by Malays. It was born out of an experiment and request from Malay college students who enjoyed eating but asked if they can serve something else besides pork.

Anyone who grew up in Ipoh in from the 70s would definitely know of this place and well, can be said love the variety of delicacies offered, even if it is halal.

It is interesting to note that according to history, the late Sultan Idris Iskandar, one day in 1978 decided to have a meal there following a morning walk and became a frequent customer, subsequently members of the royal family too patronized this area there. : (see Excerpt)

In 1978, the late Sultan Idris Iskandar Shah II patronised the coffee shop after one of his frequent walks in the area and became a regular customer, said Chan.

“Later on, other members of the royal families and former Perak Menteri Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib also became regular patrons.

“Their patronage gave the public strong confidence and, in turn, trust that the food served is indeed pork-free,” he said.

Of course with modern technology, comes social media and it helps to expand the word of mouth which makes this place a popular eating place in Ipoh. 

However, there is an interesting story on my family's side on that place.

My late grandparents were close to His Highness on a strict private capacity, having known him and a select few of his siblings since the 1950s until his death. Unfortunately, my gran was only Chinese-literate, could not speak the proper Malay language, but the market-style language. Understandably, His Highness, aware of her shortfalls and just to get along with the common people rather of making it hard for people to approach him was acceptable and open to speaking with the normal Malay style language with her as long as both understood what the other is saying.

Asides from the infamous beef noodles, the place there also serves fried koay teow, wantan noodles with chicken, lobak, rojak, chee cheong fun, while prawn mee is served in the aftenoons. On Sundays, there will be a mobile stall selling fish ball hor hee. We were also quite well acquainted with a few of the hawkers including the current coffee shop owners (the Chans).

Behind the shop is the Canning Garden wet market

The infamous beef brisket noodles, served with soup and dry.

The lobak from Mr. Khoo, my classmate's dad.

The uncle who served the beef noodles retired about two years ago. Before he and his wife moved to the coffee shop, he used to sell those noodles at a hawker stall in front of Maybank (in front of Jalan Lau Pak Khuan roundabout – the stalls were demolished down in the late 80s). He knew my gran and Annie, the 4th wife of His Highness since that time and both women would enjoy having his food.

In fact, yes, there were a few occasions within those final six years up to 1984 where both of them would join Annie and occasionally His Highness (they remained good friends for the rest of their lives) for food. Even her children would also at times tag along with her.  However, I could not recall exactly if the four of them were at that place on that fateful occasion in 1978.

This was one of our favorite breakfast places that my grandparents would visit to for the rest of their lives. On college breaks, I would go with them on one of the mornings every week, considering that it is one of the nearest coffee shops near home.

Disclaimer: pics are based on Google searches, with thanks to original pixmen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Uber's Ruffling of Feathers

Uber arrived in Malaysia not that long ago at the end of last year and has gained popularity in the space of a few short months. It's popularity has rattled the balls of many Klang Valley taxi associations and drivers by cutting through the competition by offering much more better services than these associations. It has delighted many users in particular because of the opportunity for them to choose the car of choosing, better fare, booking and pay by mobile technology and most important of all, a complete guarantee that there will be at least one vehicle that will come to the pick up point where you will be.

Some of us have recalled that Kuala Lumpur was ranked by TripAdvisor the third in the world with the worst-taxi drivers based on observations by tourists who visit the city there. Aside from them, even locals are not even spared from the problems that ranges from:

a) Price haggling, with the cab driver would throw a huge figure to reach one place, more for tourists, especially in towns and other cities outside Klang Valley that don't use meters. From my understanding, how they count is based on the estimate distance and mentally calculated with either the rate (not sure is the latest or the one five years back) + small margin of profit. In the end, you, as the customer still overpay.

b) Some of the taxis can smell smoky (if the cab driver is a smoker) and sometimes cabs that you go in, especially the older ones are quite dirty at times.

c) Picky drivers - the bane of passengers. Some will say, I don't know where it is, or outright, no I am not going there, etc. 

d) Even there are crime-cases involved taxi drivers, especially rape and rob cases where passengers were taken for a ride and then either raped (especially females) or robbed.

Despite these issues being highlighted to the tourism industry and to the worldwide travel media, well, many of those there still couldn't take it well and may have screamed "you are bias at us" or other sorts of expletives. Then again, how the usual taxi driver attitudes act to their potential passengers was what caused the negative perception and ranking there, even if they spot a proper uniform or a proper taxi car. 

Before Uber reached our shores late last year, MyTeksi was one of the taxi apps that will allow you to book from the place you are to the place to go. It was no doubt the best avenue to go as it adheres to the meter system, during my one week of work without a car. In December 2013, I had to leave my car at a workshop for about 5-8 days for a repaint job. Knowing of how usual taxi drivers would respond when you flag them from the shoulder of the road, I decided to use that app to have a taxi sending me to my client's office or to my home or other places for that weekend itself.

It's about 80% useful. The only issue with them is that sometimes there are no responses from any potential cab drivers who are within the vicinity of the place. At one time, after work it took me about 8-10 attempts before a response was made. On one occasion, a potential taxi driver aborted the agreement when he admitted that he was unable to turn into the road leading to my office due to a bumper-to-bumper crawl in front of G Tower.

I had two friends who loved Uber so much. One even told me that by getting pick the car he wants to ride on, he gets to show off to other of his friends that he can come to some nice social event (e.g clubbing, event hosted at a hotel) in a very nice big car like a celebrity.

Another one felt that Uber was better because it will come to pick him at his working place no matter how bad is the traffic heading there, as he has to shuttle back and forth to a few branches he has to supervise when necessary like in Bangsar, TTDI, and Bukit Damansara.

Looking at the rate of Uber X and Uber Black, the cost of 0.55 per kilometer, with a base fare of RM 1.50 definitely makes people think that taking this service saves the cost by a certain margin. The diagram here (by SoyaCincau.com) shows the comparison:

The launch of Uber X has got a lot of people excited and in admission, because of it's cheaper rate, resulted in overwhelming response, Uber told its drivers in the Black-car-class category to pick up X-class customers, something that a few parties are a bit dismayed off. Note that Miami is one of the cities in the States that does not allow Uber.

According to some driver forums, UberX trips tend to be shorter and thus the per-ride fairs are lower. Further, the rates, minimum fares, and Uber commissions are different for each of these tiers. Even if the result is more trips per hour, and thus more total income, this change looks to many like a bait and switch that forces drivers to do significantly more work for the same (or marginally more) pay. 

There’s also the problem that UberX and Uber XL attract a different customer demographic than do Uber Black and Uber SUV. So for a some who chose to drive for Uber expecting a high-end experience, this new program often means something far different. However, Uber's requirement with these drivers is that the passenger acceptance rate has to be at least 80 percent or more, with the highest performers rate is at 97 percent at most.

Ah, the threshold acceptance rate could something that was missing from either SPAD or the taxi companies. In Ireland, the transport regulator had no objections to its use as long it sticks to their rule of thumb, which is that their rates cannot be more than what is permitted there. SPAD has a legit reason to be concerned with because of the past episode of "taxi sapu". In the years prior to the launch of MyTeksi, this case has been prominently spotted not just in KL but in Georgetown as well. More than ten years ago, these cabs ply their trade around Komtar, asking for passengers but without spotting taxi paint and meter that a passenger might not be aware of. Such memory like that is what regulars of taxi may be worried about.

It is also taken into account that some taxi drivers had to do it considering that they do not, at this point of time have the ability to own individual licenses to operate their own taxis. Bear in mind that they out of the total fares collected per day, a large portion has to be paid off for the daily rental of vehicles from their cab cartels. Some will have to go along with the cartel lines despite disagreeing to that on the individual capacity lest deemed insubordination by their organization. 

Uber is no doubt a double-edge sword in Malaysia. Uber should continue to have more sessions of talking and shouting with SPAD. SPAD to my opinion is more of the moderator, but the real party that Uber has to faced here is the taxi cartels.

But to scream that Uber cuts away a slice of a pie shows two things in a nutshell:

a) Our taxi cartel and service is not confident of giving a solid competition with a new kid on the block
b) There isn't any willingness to provide another option of the taxi transportation especially during desperate times.

You may want to picture yourself in the worst-case scenario when there is no taxi or bus coming in the area due to extraordinary circumstances while your mouth foams about Uber.

See also SPAD's press release statement on Uber here (29 August 2014)


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