Archive for March 26th, 2007

Harvard University task force to improve public service delivery – waste of public funds?

The answer by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Ministry, Datuk Lee Kah Choon during question time today that the government does not have statistics about the number of patients nationwide who died in ambulance on their way to hospital is the latest evidence not only of deteriorating medical and health services in the country, but of the larger issue of the macro problem of the worsening public delivery system despite all the promises of reform.

I find the indifference and insensitivity demonstrated by Lee’s answer most unacceptable as it was only on Friday that the country was shocked by the news report of the totally unnecessary death of Yusnita Abas, 31, wife of factory worker, Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim because the ambulances at Kepala Batas Hospital were “all out of petrol” and could not send her in time for emergency surgery at the Penang Hospital.

In the 50-year independent history of Malaysia, this is the first time a person had died because all the ambulances at a hospital had run out of petrol — tragic proof that public service delivery system and ethos have been getting from bad to worse.

Such a shameful episode had not happened when the country achieved independence in 1957 and the ensuing 49 years. Why is it happening now?

Developed countries are aiming at ambulance emergency response time within eight minutes, but the Health Minister, Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek seemed quite happy with an ambulance response time of more than 30 minutes in his response to public criticisms over businesswoman Zara Davies Abdul Rahman’s traumatic experience in trying to get accident and emergency help from Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Klang to save an accident victim’s life near the Batu Tiga toll booth on Dec. 13 last year, but in vain. Read the rest of this entry »


Tun Ismail: No Ordinary Politician

Review by Bakri Musa

Tun Ismail: No Ordinary Politician
The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr. Ismail and His Time
Ooi Kee Beng

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2006
338 pp RM55.00

Reading Ooi Kee Beng’s biography of the late Tun Ismail is akin to eating at a buffet in a cheap Chinese restaurant. The offering was generous and you gorged yourself. However, an hour later you were hungry again; worse you could not even recall what was so special about the menu. Then it dawned on you that the food tasted good simply because you were so darn hungry.

With the present pathetic state of leadership in Malaysia, there is a yearning for the kind of leaders like the late Tun Ismail, men of
strong convictions and who did not hesitate acting on them. Ooi quoted Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman who bore the wrath of Ismail’s anger over Tunku’s sudden policy change towards China. Ismail was so incensed that he tendered his resignation immediately. You would never see that kind of bravery among today’s leaders; they are more adept at toadying and ingratiating themselves.

Ooi worked hard for his book, interviewing scores of people and reviewing many documents locally and abroad. There is no shortage of quotes and anecdotes from those who knew Ismail, and Ooi added many details of Tun’s life. Therein lies the problem. The essence of the man gets buried in the avalanche of factoid overload. It does not enlighten us to know that he was awarded the National Order of Vietnam, or that he was president of the American Malaysian Society.

Ooi did not have to quote every interview. The book could do without the many “He was tough, brilliant, blunt, … ” type of general comments. They added nothing and took up valuable space.

Two interviewees, Lee Kuan Yew and Ghaffar Baba, stood out; they illuminated well Ismail’s character. Lee was expounding in his usual erudite and logical manner on a particular issue. At the end he asked Ismail what he thought about it, and the Tun simply replied, “I disagree!” Flabbergasted, Lee asked Ismail for his reasons, at which point Ismail remarked that since Lee had so brilliantly enumerated all the salient points there was nothing more for him (Ismail) to add. That reflected supreme self-confidence. By not trying to “out lawyer” the lawyerly Lee, Ismail stumped him. Read the rest of this entry »