Monday, May 30, 2011

Needing a feminine touch

One Man's Meat

As the latest political buzzword in TwitterJaya is anak jantan, perhaps we need more women leaders to make politics more ladylike.

WOULD the world be a better place if it were ruled by women? I had this thought when the machismo in Malaysia politics came to mind.

Last week, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi challenged DAP, saying that if it was an anak jantan (a macho man), it would leave Pakatan and contest on its own in the 13th General Election.

Soon after the quotemeister’s statement was reported in local news websites, the phrase anak jantan was buzzing in Twittersphere. There were even counter challenges from opposition politicians.

On Wednesday, anak jantan became the buzzword of the day in TwitterJaya.

@philipgolingai (that’s me on Twitter) tweeted: “PAS Erdogans – to use Zahid’s fav word – must be Jantan @wansaiful.”

That was in response to Wan Saiful Wan Jan’s tweet (who is CEO of Institute for Democracy and Eco­nomic Affairs Malaysia and The Star iPad columnist): “PAS Erdogans must not be impotent.”
@philipgolingai also tweeted: “I’m bored with this jantan macho talk. Let’s talk about betina.”

On hindsight, betina is not a politically-correct word. A check with AK57’s Weblog ( revealed that “Betina is used to refer to promiscuous women (sluts) and also, I believe, to unmarried women who are pregnant. The reason is that these women behaved like animals by having illegitimate sex.”

Anyway, the point of my tweet is there’s too much testosterone (i.e. Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali) in Malaysian politics that women politician would give a gentler, kinder touch.

Would a woman politician make politics more ladylike?

Perhaps sexier? (Think Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s gorgeous sister who is running for Thai premiership.) Homelier? (Think Corazon Aquino, the homemaker who was thrust into the macho Philippines politics when her husband Ninoy was assassinated.)

Let’s look at American politics.

Sarah Palin? Not a good example. She is more macho than former California governor and Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger (who did the most jantan thing a politician can do – fathering a child with a former housekeeper).

Palin, whose nickname is Sarah Barracuda, is into moose hunting in the Alaskan wilderness. Not only can she hunt, she can skin, cube and cure a whole moose.

She is so jantan. But sexy with her Kazuo Kawasaki glasses.

Britain’s Margaret Thatcher is also very jantan. She is not known as the Iron Lady for nothing.

Our own Iron Lady Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz is not your typical masak-masak (cooking) politician. She can outwit most of her former colleagues in the Cabinet. And she is not the type to mince her words; Rafidah allegedly called a rival female politician jantan.

How about Jelapang assemblyman Hee Yit Foong?

In June 2009, Aulong assemblyman Yew Tian Hoe sued his former DAP comrade for allegedly assaulting him with pepper spray during a chaotic Perak assembly sitting.

On Wednesday, @philipgolingai tweeted: “Zahid says DAP (is an) anak jantan if it leaves Pakatan. If Zahid had a fist fight with @teresakok, who would win?”

And @drshikin (Dr Wan Nora­shikin, Puteri Umno treasurer) replied: “Karaoke je.”

See, that’s a ladylike answer.

Such a tweet would have raised the blood pressure of some male politicians. YouTube is filled with video clips of male dignitaries shouting mari lawan (come and fight).

My personal favourite is the one where a YB kneed another YB in the groin in the Kelantan Legislative Assembly. Ouch!

Yes, we need more feminine politicians. Someone like DAP’s Sri Serdang assemblyman Teoh Nie Ching who sleeps with her Ubah doll (DAP’s hornbill mascot in the recent Sarawak polls), as revealed on her Twitter @teonieching.

The world indeed would be a better place if we had less anak jantan politicians.

You don’t think so? If you are anak jantan, mari lawan!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sexing up the race for PM

By Philip Golingai

IT is the Puppet versus the Clone in the coming Thai elections.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is seen by critics as a politician manipulated by puppet masters – the oligarchy, the military and the hidden hand. The Democrat Party leader who has been prime minister since December 2008 is hoping voters will return him to power on July 3.

Exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra described his younger sister Yingluck as his “clone” after his party Pheu Thai nominated her as lead candidate on May 16. Yingluck is Thaksin’s hope in returning to power after the courts dissolved the pro-Thaksin ruling party in 2008.

With her telegenic good looks and Shinawatra DNA, the 43-year-old CEO is sexing up the rather tense elections in a country where 92 people – including soldiers – were killed and about 2,000 were injured during the two month-long pro-Thaksin Red Shirt protest last year.

On May 22, in the Bangkok Post, Voranai Vanijaka wrote: “Check out the news, surf web forums, eavesdrop on conversations, have discussions with friends and colleagues, and you might find that, perhaps not all, perhaps not even the majority, but a good number of people are excited.

“They are afflicted with Yingluck fever. She’s a woman and she’s hot, and the surname is also quite relevant.”

The Prime Minister is also equally good-looking. At 46, Abhisit is young and photogenic.
“There are a good many women, including some trapped in men’s bodies – and there are countless of them in this kingdom – who melt at the sight of PM Abhisit,” wrote Voranai.

Bangkok Pundit, who blogs on Thai politics, observed that Thais’ reaction to Yingluck has been more positive than negative.

“Most people didn’t know what to expect of Yingluck as she has not had a prominent public role. She doesn’t have a powerful voice for giving speeches but she is very good at interacting with voters at the market,” he noted.

“She is also quite different from Thaksin. Thaksin was known to be abrasive whereas she is very feminine.”

Abhisit was born in Newcastle, England. He studied in Eton College (which has produced 18 British prime ministers in the past 400 years). He earned a politics, philosophy and economics degree and a master’s degree in economics at Oxford University.

Yingluck holds a master’s degree in political science from Kentucky State University, USA. She has run SC Asset Corp, a Thaksin-owned property company. She was also on the board of Manchester City Football Club until Thaksin sold it in 2008.

“If the Thai polls was a beauty contest, who would win?” I asked Suranand Vejjajiva, Abhisit’s first cousin who is with the opposite political camp (he served in Thaksin’s cabinet).

Suranand, now a political analyst after he was banned from politics together with 110 Thaksinites for five years after Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, chuckled. “You are talking to a man, (Yingluck wins) as I prefer a woman.”

Turning serious, he added: “This time, Thais are looking at a woman to run the country.”
Suranand observed that Abhisit and Yingluck are “quite an interesting pair” who possess different strengths and weaknesses.

“Abhisit is a veteran politician who has been an MP for 20 years. He is the most eloquent speaker who is second to none. But he has no experience in the private sector. He doesn’t understand how the business sector works and that is reflected in his two years as PM.

“He has baggage with the bloody crackdown against the Reds. And he has to explain the country’s economic problems – price increase and inflation,” he said in a telephone interview.

“Yingluck is fresh and she doesn’t have any baggage. She’s got the back-up of her brother (Thaksin, 61) and the Pheu Thai machinery. She has business experience.

“The Democrats have attacked her for not having political experience. She can be the one who can bring the people together (the great political and social divide in Thailand between the pro-Thaksin Reds and anti-Thaksin Yellows).”

“Is Yingluck sexing up the elections?” I asked Suranand.

“She is. Yingluck is not the most beautiful woman in Thailand but she has Thaksin’s charm. She is able to attract the attention of the common people. She has made herself accessible to them,” he answered.

The distinctly upper-class Abhisit, in Suranand’s eyes, is aloof.

However, Abhisit’s good looks will always win him votes, he said.

“There are many Thai women who love him. He is still popular among his supporters. A question in this election is whether Yingluck can steal those female voters from Abhisit.”

Worapol Promigabutr, an academic, said Thais perceived Yingluck as a modern CEO who is not a professional politician.

“She is not a ‘dirty politician’ whom Thais despise. Abhisit looks clean but he uses his power in favour of corrupt businessmen,” he said, adding that the same accusation had been levelled against Thaksin.

Pitch Pongsawat, who teaches political science in Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, opined that many women who went gaga over Abhisit no longer think he is the national Prince Charming. Thais, he said, were unhappy with the Prime Minister’s action in the past two years.

But Pitch is positive about Yingluck, saying “she has a good profile as a successful businesswoman.”

“People believe that her femininity will not create big confrontation or tension. In Thai culture, in our concept of manliness, it is difficult for a tough guy (for example, the military) to talk tough with a young woman.”

ML Nattakorn Devakula, host of the English-language news show The Daily Dose, said Red Shirt supporters and hardcore Thaksin loyalists supported Yingluck because she is a Shinawatra and a nominee of Thaksin.

“Yet many others simply feel that Abhisit had his shot for two and half years and despite strong support from the establishment and military, he was unable to pursue effective reform and handle the country’s deepening political divide,” explained Nattakorn via e-mail.

“Many just feel: let the Pheu Thai/Red faction have a shot at returning to power and see whether they can do better. Some are also nostalgic of the 2000 to 2006 Thai Rak Thai (Thaksin’s ruling party) days when the economy was shooting sky-high.”

On whether looks mattered in Thai politics, Bangkok Pundit said being telegenic does help in garnering attention.

“Yingluck is clearly an extrovert and she comes across as friendly and open when talking to people.”

In the past, noted Pitch, looks were important as there was no big conflict in Thai society.
“You can present yourself as a well-educated fresh faced candidate. But now what matters is ‘Are you with me or against me?’”

So who will win, the Puppet or the Clone? Pheu Thai or the Democrats?

According to Worapol, the opposition party Pheu Thai will win about 300 of the 500 seats up for grabs.

“It will be a landslide if there is no interference from the Interior Ministry and other institutions,” he said. “If you believe the opinion polls, Thais are coming to a point of getting to be bored or disillusioned with Abhisit. A fresh face like Yingluck is making them excited,” Suranand said.

“Of course, in the next 30 days or so a lot can happen. Bangkokians do not trust Thaksin but because of the incompetency of this present government, they will throw their weight behind Yingluck if the polls were held now.”

Nattakorn echoed Suranand’s sentiment. “The Bangkok business community prefer Yingluck’s business experience to Abhisit’s lacklustre level of experience in management,” he said.

“However, it is still very early in the race. We still have six weeks to go before elections. We’ll see whether Yingluck flames out.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

World Tweet world

One Man's Meat

From breaking news on Osama’s death to resignation bombshells, Twitter has become a first source of information for some 200 million Twitterers around the world.

SOONER or later an obituary will read: Tan Sri X leaves a wife, five children and 110,017 Twitter followers.

I got the epiphany from a cartoon in The New Yorker, a weekly magazine. The cartoon hammered home the growing popularity of the social networking and microblogging service. There are about 200 million accounts on Twitter, approximately a third of Facebook’s user base.
I use to be disdainful of Twitter, thinking it was the briefer (140 characters) version of the lying blog.

When I was based in Bangkok last year, I received a SMS from a friend in Kuala Lumpur asking whether Malaysians were killed in the Thai capital. I replied: “Not that I know of as right now I’m near Siam Paragon shopping mall and there’s no blood on the street. Who told you?”

She replied: “I read it on Twitter.”

What a twit, I thought. Plus I thought Twitter was a stupid place where people just talked about what they had for breakfast.

Despite my negativity towards the social media, I decided early this year to be a “lurker” (someone listening, reading and following others on Twitter). And Twitter proved to be a vital tool as a news source.

On the morning of March 21, I got a whiff of a sex video scandal when @niknazmi (PKR communications director Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad) tweeted: “A little bird informed me that a doctored video of DSAI having sex is being shown to top editors right now. #fitnah2 not effective?”

(DSAI is the acronym of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and interestingly, Anwar has used his tweets as an alibi to prove his innocence.)

Twitter has become my first source of information. And also for most Twitterers.

Don’t believe me? On May 3, David Pogue @pogue (David Pogue, New York Times tech columnist) tweeted: “Where did the news break about Osama’s death? On Twitter, of course!”

On May 2, @PhilipGolingai (that’s me on Twitter) tweeted: “Sohaib Athar live-tweeted the deadly raid on Osama in Pakistan about seven hours before Obama announced it in a live telecast.”

Twitter rules the world!

Now, I’m a Twitter addict. The first thing I do when I wake up is to fire up Gravity (a Twitter client) on my Nokia N8.

Two Twitterers whom I keenly follow are @Ngobalakrishnan (Pa­­dang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan) and @firdauschris (Parti Kita central committee member Muhammad Firdaus Christopher).

Months before he ditched PKR to become an independent MP, Gobalakrishnan agitated a sacking with Incredible Hulk-like tweets like “The problem with Anwar is he thinks that he is a godsend because when he does wrong all around him applaud him.”

Probably @Ngobalakrishnan is the first Malaysian politician to engineer a political sacking through Twitter. However, PKR ignored him.

Gobalakrishnan had to announce his resignation in Twittersphere. On Jan 29, the Padang Serai MP tweeted: “Good morning to all Malaysians. I hereby resign from all PKR party posts. I will continue my work through a new NGO.”

I enjoy the tick tock, tick tock tweets from @firdauschris that a bombshell will be dropped. Firdaus recently tweeted: “OMG! Get ready for the unleashing... I bet they will be too speechless to utter a single word when it is out for everyone’s viewing pleasure.”

I’m not sure what @firdauschris was twittering about, but I guess it had something to do with the fitnah (slander) which @niknazmi tweeted.

There are Twitterers whom I’ve unfollowed because they bored me. For instance, I used to follow a NGO operative who tweeted inside stories on the fight between PKR and SNAP. After the Sarawak polls, he then tweeted mostly about food that it made me feel fat.

I’ve also unfollowed politicians who have become inactive in TwitterJaya. Inactive followers might kill this addictive social media. Like all trends (remember Friendster?) Twitter might die a natural death.

I wonder how its obit will be written. Perhaps: Twitter leaves 1.5 billion inactive followers.