Friday, June 28, 2013

Lim Guan Eng proposes, Anwar disposes

Exchanging oranges for limes, but still better than nothing.

Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng is expected to propose on behalf of Pakatan Rakyat, Law Choo Kiang as Speaker and Ustaz Maktar Hj. Shapee as Deputy Speaker for the Penang State Assembly tomorrow (28/6/2013). Both are second term PKR state assemblyman for Bukit Tambun and Sungai Bakap respectively. Deputy Chief Minister 1 for Penang, Rashid Hasnon will second the motion.

Lim had also, in his press release, made known that prior to the final decision, Penang PKR chairman, Dato Mansor Othman was unanimously proposed and supported by the Penang EXCO, consisting of both DAP and PKR members, for the Speaker post. He attributes the change to a consultation with Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR’s de facto leader and Parliamentary Opposition Leader.

The initial move to propose Dato Mansor may be politically correct, or reversely, simply an olive branch from DAP to iron out the outburst of the ‘Tokong’ issue which emerged since last August. A recording purportedly of Dato Mansor accusing Lim as being a deity, and in no circumstances a friendly term, put him under unfavourable conditions in the months that followed, leading to his ‘upgrade’ to contest during the 13th General Elections as a Member of Parliament instead of a state assemblyman.

Law proposed to appease Chinese PKR members

While the nomination for Law to be the Speaker may appease some Chinese members in PKR, many still fume over the loss of the Chinese EXCO seat, which was previously held by Law. To add salt to the wound, only four Chinese candidates were fielded in the state seats this time round as compared to five in 2008. All four won their seats with a larger majority than before; they are: Law Choo Kiang (Bukit Tambun), Ong Chin Wen (Bukit Tengah), Lee Khai Loon (Machang Bubuk) and Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga).

Even though Dato Mansor was largely supported to be the Speaker, the nomination of Law instead, points to the rationale that the PKR leadership appreciates the contributions of its Chinese members and proportioned all three EXCO seats in Penang to PKR Malays only because there was a lack of Malay leaders in DAP.

Although a similar situation arose in Selangor, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Menteri Besar of Selangor, reduced the number of EXCO seats to DAP from four to three, to accommodate a PKR Chinese appointment. DAP was compensated with a Speaker seat originally meant for PAS.

Nomination not based on gender quota

The nomination of Ustaz Maktar as Deputy Speaker displaces Dr. Norlela Ariffin, the state assemblyman for Penanti, initially announced by Dato Mansor to be the Deputy Speaker. An enthusiastic newcomer to politics, she was a beacon of hope for women. While women continue to struggle for more representation, the post of the Deputy Speaker went in favour of a senior politician with more experience.

It remains to be seen the length of time taken for PKR to attain her commitment in achieving 30% women’s representation in politics.

Lim Guan Eng proposes, Anwar disposes link to MSN

Where there is haze, there is fire

The episodes of haze has returned yet again, and this is among two of the bad haze conditions faced since 1997 and 2005.

There is no exception to human error when the health of the whole region comes under siege annually due to the clearing of land by palm oil and timber companies in Indonesia. So far, eight concessionaires have been identified by the Indonesian Environment Minister and National Disaster Mitigation Board, Balthasar Kambuaya.

An environmental group known as Greenpeace claim that these plantations belong to Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean conglomerates. The forest fire are said to originate from Riau and Jambi, the eastern side of Central Sumatra. Based on reports by the NOAA satellite, there are currently 227 hotspots and it is expected to continue burning well into the following month due to the high temperature and dry weather.

Efforts for cloud-seeding in the region have borne little results as clouds do not form over the hotspots. It is also impossible to trace clouds through the satellite imagery because of the thick haze. The most recent cloud-seeding operation which was carried out on Sunday triggered half an hour of rain in the Dumai district of Riau province. However, this did not prevent new hotspots from emerging. This highly technical operation involves dumping iodized salt onto dense clouds to help induce rain.

When the westerly monsoon winds start blowing in June, the haze gets carried into Malaysia and Singapore.

The alarming Air Pollution Index and poor visibility have prompted an emergency call for schools to shut down in several states in Malaysia, since Monday. The burning, which started on June 11 poses a health threat and is potentially life-threatening especially for children, the elderly and those already with cardiac and respiratory problems like asthma. Ordinary face masks do not help much as the smog molecules are smaller than what the masks filter. The haze consists of tiny particles measuring 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller.

Although citizens are encouraged to purchase N95 respirator masks, it is also not advisable to provide the N95 masks to those categorized as vulnerable as the mask causes the lungs to work harder and requires more effort to breath. Experts caution against providing the elderly, pregnant women, those below 15 years of age and those with chronic respiratory and cardiac diseases with N95. According to NIOSH, the agency responsible for the N95 rating, these masks are supposed to filter out 95% of airborne particles.

In spite of recurring occurrences together with two especially bad episodes of haze, one in 1997 and another in 2005, not much has been done by the authorities. This had however, prompted an agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, signed by the ASEAN countries in 2002, to monitor and combat pollution caused by forest fires.

Regionally, neighbouring countries are pressuring Indonesia for a solution. So far, no companies have been fined or taken action against. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono publicly apologized to Singapore and Malaysia today for the illegal raging fire that caused the air pollution hitting hazardous levels.

"As the president of Indonesia, I apologize for what has happened and ask for the understanding of the people of Malaysia and Singapore," Mr Yudhoyono said. "We accept it is our responsibility to tackle the problem."

He also sought for understanding from Singapore and Malaysia over the problem.

Please click the below link for the story:

Where there is haze, there is fire link to MSN

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm Coming Home - A Poem by Carolyn Khor

I left my sweet love o’er the hills,
For I thought the stars would lead me home,
But far beyond a thousand journeys,
The faint echoes drum repeatedly:
Please come home,
Please come home. 

The wind and breeze bear witness,
To my dying wish I be laid to rest,
In the grounds of my beloved birthplace,
Where the smell of flowers bid me:
You are home,
You are home.

But as I wander through the vast empty land,
My guiding star I search in vain,
And so a promise I give myself –
Nev'r to stop till my love I find again:
I’m coming home,
I’m coming home.

June 27, 2013 - Carolyn Khor