Friday, June 25, 2010


RECENTLY, I was in Bandung, Indonesia, and I observed the security guards at the hotel I was staying in hoisting the Sang Saka Merah Putih, the Indonesian flag, at sunrise.

When the sun set, the guards lowered the flag. Then, it was folded without ever touching the ground and handed over to the reception counter. Apparently, in all government offices, it is the duty of the guards to raise and lower the flag.

I was also told that schoolchildren in Indonesia are taught not only what the colours red and white on the Indonesian flag mean, but also the history of the flag, the protocols and etiquette and even what the correct measurement should be.

During my five days in Bandung, I never once saw a tattered or worn-out Indonesian flag. Here, in Malaysia, have you ever seen security guards at government offices hoisting and lowering the Malaysian and state flags?

The next time you go to government departments or the local council offices, have a look at the worn out and faded Malaysian and Johor flags fluttering on the flagpoles.
In fact, most of us don't even know whether it is lawful to place those miniature Malaysian flags on cars, like what is done during the Merdeka celebration. I always thought that only royalty and army generals were allowed to place a flag on their cars.
I have also seen children dressed in Baju Jalur Gemilang, made from the Malaysian flag. I remember seeing the late singer, Sudirman Arshad, wearing a Baju Jalur Gemilang. Can we sew a Baju Jalur Gemilang?

The question is, how much do we know about the Malaysian and state flags, and the protocols and etiquette involved?Last week, I took a drive from Johor Baru to Kulai.

As I passed government departments, local council offices and business premises, I was disappointed to see so many tattered, soiled and worn-out Malaysian and Johor flags at these premises.

However, nothing prepared me for the ultimate insult - a Johor flag being used to wrap papayas on a tree. I did a search on the Internet and there is a dearth of information on the subject.

I found out that if a flag is to be flown at a certain spot, the static flag pole must not be less than 6.1m high. If the flag is used as a decorative piece or flown for a certain period, the pole must be 3m high and no part of the flag must touch the ground.

Did you know that a static flag is only allowed to be flown from 7am to 7pm, unless there is a floodlight on?Flags at government departments are to be raised when the offices open in the morning and lowered after office hours (have you ever seen this done?).

In schools, the flag is to be raised in the morning and lowered at the end of the last class.

When the national or state flag is flown from houses or shops, the flag should face the road and secured on a pole at 45 degrees.
If two flags are flown, the Malaysian flag must be on the left side of the premises. Most business premises can be seen flying a flag. However, many of the flags have seen better days. Some even position the flags at the wrong places, like on the air-conditioning compressor.

In Johor, the late Sultan Iskandar had decreed in 1985 that the Johor flag must be given prominence and flown on the right side of the Malaysian flag.

However, on Merdeka day, the Malaysian flag takes precedence and is flown on the right side of the state flag.If there are three flag poles, the Johor flag is flown in the centre, the Malaysian flag on the right while the departmental, corporate or institutional flag is flown on the left.

On Merdeka day, the Malaysian flag is raised in the centre and the Johor flag on the right.During the Merdeka celebrations or official federal events, the Johor flag follows after every third Malaysian flag flown as decorations.

The cluster of miniature flags on a utility post also follows the same arrangement.

All flags used for decoration are to be removed two weeks after the event. How often is this done?

I hope the local councils know about this rule and ensure that the contractors engaged to put flags on utility poles also remove and dispose of the flags respectfully. In its bid to to instil patriotism and love for the country, the government encourages all citizens to fly the Malaysian flag, especially during the run up to Merdeka day.

However, I think it is time the government also starts educating the public on the proper protocols and etiquette for hoisting and flying the Malaysian and state flags, and the right way to dispose them.

Frankly, I doubt anyone knows what to do with tattered or worn out flags. A friend told me that he burned his faded Malaysian flag and threw the ash in the sea across Lido beach.

Is "cremation" the correct way?With Merdeka day just two months away and after seeing so many tattered and worn-out flags fluttering in the city, I hope the authorities will carry out a spot check.

At the very least, it should send a circular to all government department and business premises directing that all tattered or worn-out flags be removed and replaced.I believe the Ministry of Information, political parties and non-governmental organisations can play a role in educating the public on the protocols and etiquette for the flag.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Thursday, April 29, 2010


Johor State Assemblymen, are a lucky lot. It seems that all the Assemblymen are soon off for a Scandanavian holiday (naturally, it will be labeled “lawatan sambil belajar).

Johor State Opposition Leader, Dr Boo Cheng Hau, writing in his blog today revealed that all 46 Assemblymen have been invited. The holiday tour would cost RM 13,000.00 (Twin sharing) or Rm16,000.00 (Single Room). If all the Assemblymen were to take up the offer it would cost the long suffering Johor taxpayers RM 700,000. However, the Pakatan Rakyat Assemblymen must be commended for they have decided that should any of their Assemblymen were to go on the holiday tour, they shall go using their own money and not the rakyat’s.

Only in December 2009, the Johor Menteri Besar in his Budget speech said that Johor for 2010 will see a deficit budget of RM 1.5 million and administration expenses is projected at RM785.65 million against an estimated reduced income of RM784.15 million. The state’s loan repayment to Federal government for 2010 is RM30.78.

At a time of sluggish economy and despite Johor in the last few years having a deficit budget and a whopping debt, the Johor government sees fit to offer its State Assemblymen an all expenses paid trip to Scandanavia at the rakyat’s expense.

People First and Performance Now, sure rings hollow, well at least in Johor.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shocking Imbalance In Johor Civil Service
There are only 126 non-Malays out of the 8,372 workforce in the Johor civil service. This startling statistic was revealed by the Johor Menteri Besar Ghani Othman when replying to the written question by Gwee Tong Hian (DAP-Bentayan) during the recent sitting of the Johor state assembly.

According to the menteri besar the racial breakdown of the Johor civil service is as follows:

Malays : 8,244 or 98.47%

Chinese : 10 or 0.12%

Indians : 116 or 1.39%

Others : 2 or 0.02.%

According to the population statistics of Johor from the data of the Johor State Investment Centre, the racial composition of the population of Johor is as follows:
Total population of Johor: 3.17 million ( as at 2006)
Malays/bumiputera : 54 %
Chinese : 33 %
Indians : 6 %

Clearly, judging from the percentages of the Chinese and Indian populations of Johor, the non- Malays are grossly under-represented in the Johor civil service.
The menteri besar in his reply said that the Johor government and the Public Services Commission were committed in their effort towards ensuring that only those who were of quality and with integrity are recruited into the service.
chosen. With a mere 126 non-Malays out of a 8,372 total, the Johor government must be finding it near impossible to find Chinese and Indians with 'quality and integrity' to serve in the Johor civil service. Or is it because of the extraneous and over-stringent prerequisites imposed on Chinese and Indian applicants and thus the 'difficulty'?
In order to attract non-Malays into the Johor civil service, the menteri besar said that the Public Services Commission would take steps to advertise in the Chinese and Tamil-language newspapers.
Rightfully and logically, the Public Services Commission ought to have advertised in the Chinese and Tamil-language papers in the first place if they were genuinely interested in attracting and giving non Malays an opportunity. Further, the Johor government and the Public Services Commission could have worked closely with the MCA, MIC and NGOs in finding suitably qualified Chinese and Indians.
In fact, it would be good to hear from Johor MCA and Johor MIC of what role and what steps they had taken in addressing this gross imbalance in the Johor civil service. May I also propose that if the Johor government and the Public Services Commission are having difficulty in finding Indians to serve in the Johor civil service, they can seek the assistance of the pro-active president of Johor Indian Business Association (Jiba).
I am confident he can easily assist the Johor government and the Public Services Commission. If all efforts fail, I am sure Johor Pakatan Rakyat would be ever willing to assist.
Admittedly, the proximity of Singapore is a lure for many Johoreans to seek employment across the causeway. But I am nevertheless confident that given the opportunity many Chinese and particularly the Indians would want and be willing to work and serve proudly in the Johor civil service.
It is high time the Johor government and the Public Services Commission take proactive and concrete steps to remedy the racial imbalance in the Johor civil service.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010



Singing praises of Bluebird taxis
By Bruce Gale

PUBLIC transportation in Jakarta is widely acknowledged to be chaotic, uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. So it is quite a surprise for newcomers to discover that the capital has a taxi service that is second to none in the region.

Bluebird taxis are ubiquitous in Jakarta. Of the almost 30,000 taxis in the capital, about 12,000 are painted in the familiar metallic blue and sport the company’s geese-like logo. Bluebird taxis arrive promptly when booked over the phone, and the company employs drivers who are polite and often competent in basic English. Many passengers can also relate stories of valuable items left in Bluebird taxis being returned to them after they contacted the company.

Private security consultants recommend Bluebird, particularly when travelling around the capital at night. So do some foreign government travel and trade websites. Indeed, the brand has such a peerless reputation in a country so often regarded as offering little more than second or third rate products and services that it seems reasonable to ask how it was accomplished.

The taxi service began in 1965, when two brothers began a rental car company called Chandra Taxi. The company has been trading under its current name since 1972, when the family matriarch Mutiara Djokosoetono mortgaged the family home in order to finance the purchase of the company’s first 25 taxis. Other transportation services now provided by Bluebird include executive taxi services (Silverbird) and chartered bus services. The company also offers logistics services (including freight forwarding) and runs holiday resorts.

Speaking to the The Straits Times earlier this month, company vice-president Sigit Priawan Djokosoetomo said the company owed its success to its commitment to honesty and good service, both to the customer and the drivers it employs.

It all sounds like public relations hype. But a study of the company’s history, together with interviews with various Bluebird taxi drivers in Jakarta who had no idea their passengers was a Straits Times journalist, has convinced me that it is basically true.

Like most companies aspiring to create a sense of pride and professionalism among their staff, Bluebird puts its drivers through a basic orientation course to familiarise them with company policies and procedures. There are also regular follow-up briefings at which drivers are encouraged to share ideas and experiences in dealing with unusual situations or difficult customers.

But the real reason for the company’s success seem to me to be the way this ethnic Chinese family-owned company treats its employees.

Bluebird maintains an unusual arrangements with drivers under which the latter receive a percentage of the total metered fare. Most other taxi companies in Jakarta and around the region - including those operating in Singapore - impose a flat rental fee instead.

Asked about the policy, Mr. Sigit explained that the company felt that its drivers should never be forced to go home empty-handed. But what if the taxi driver avoids using the meter? “We have 12,000 spies,” he replied. Bluebird drivers get rewards if they spot another Bluebird taxi not using the meter. With many Jakartans actively preferring Bluebird taxis over the competition, drivers also have a vested interest in protecting the company’s reputation.

Bluebird maintains 17 depots in Greater Jakarta. Each has its own clinic staffed by doctors - including dentist as well as ear, nose and throat specialist - all of whom are on Bluebird’s payroll. The company also runs its own health insurance which covers each driver’s immediate family. But these are not the only benefits enjoyed by employees. Several drivers The Straits Times spoke to noted that dormitories at the depots also allow those who live outside Jakarta to save on transport costs by working three or four days at a stretch before returning to their families.

For evidence of the success of the corporate culture in changing driver behaviour, Mr. Sigit referred to the situation in Bandung about three years ago, just before Bluebird entered the market. At that time, no taxi in the city offered metered service, and all had bad reputations. “We recruited the existing taxi drivers over there... We trained them. And the day they worked for our company, they switched behaviour. They knew that if they cheated, they would be sacked”.

Bluebird’s success in Jakarta has spawned numerous imitators, but none has yet managed to replicate the company’s winning formula. Struggling to remain profitable during the economic crisis of the late 1990s, President Taxi - formerly a market leader repainted its yellow taxis blue. Today, there are about 19 taxi companies operating in Jakarta and other Indonesian cities that have adopted a similar tactic. Some also display logos similar to Bluebird’s.

But perhaps the greatest compliment has come from Singapore. In November 2008, representatives from the Singapore Taxi Academy, the Taxi Operators Association and various Singapore-based taxi firms visited Jakarta to meet Bluebird executives and learn more about the reasons for the company’s success. Usually, it is the other way around.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Monday’s February, 2 edition of Johor Streets section had a news titled “City council enforcement officers told to buck up”.

What caught my attention was what Bandar Baru Uda (BBU) zone councillor, Mohd Sunawan Mohd Som who during MBJB’s first council meeting referring to the bombing of a restaurant in Taman Impian Stulang said “There has been speculation that bthe motive was jealousy. I don’t care what the motive was. I only know that MBJB licencing unit had not issued many new licences for Indian Muslim restaurants in the last five years. Yet, this company has opened 11 outlets with nine in areas under the jurisdiction of MBJB since opening of its first outlet in 2006”.

Would the Datuk Bandar Johor Bahru, Mohd Jaffar Awang clarify if there a quotas or restriction on licences for Indian Muslim restaurants. At least that’s what Mohd Sunawan seem to be implying.