Rogue MB

I’m kind of sick and tired of the political games being played by PKR in Selangor.

If you want to engineer the removal of the Menteri Besar, the Law already provides for such a thing. Trying to oust him through extra-legal methods is sickening. I can expect such things from PKR, which is a party made up of largely UMNO rejects, but I certainly hope that the DAP and PAS do not support such a move.

The things is that as political parties that purport to support the Rule of Law, you need to show that you are actually capable of using the Law correctly. While the post of a Menteri Besar is a powerful one, it is not absolute. There are checks and balances built into the system.

All that they need to do is to muster enough votes in the State Assembly to pass a vote of no confidence against him. This could come in the form of a money bill, for example. That will show that the MB no longer commands the house.

He will then be forced to either tender the resignation of the entire Exco (including himself) or to call for snap elections.

I for one, think that snap elections is a good opportunity to poll the people for their views. If the people think that you did the right thing in booting out the MB, you will be returned to power without question. However, if you did not do the right thing, then you’re in for some shit.

That’s the sticking point.

I think that PKR knows that they are not doing the right thing and they are fearful of snap polls. I think that if snap polls were to be called for, it is PKR that will suffer the wrath of the voters, and not PAS. Now I know why the UMNO rejects joined PKR.

Even if they kick him out of the party, he would still be the MB as there is no recognition of political parties under the Law. If PR chooses to get the Sultan involved in replacing the MB (ala Perak), they will lose all moral authority in that case as they demonstrate just how low they will stoop to get shit done.

They can choose to do the right thing by simply letting things be.

Yes, they now have a rogue MB in their midst but until he does something that is actually wrong, they do not have any reason to remove him. In fact, most quarters seem to think that he is doing things right.

Personally, I think that he’s doing the right thing by doing the right thing and not consulting with the component parties. I have personally always been against the idea of decision making through consensus. That just encourages irresponsible decision making as nobody is held to account.

With a rogue MB in town, the MB is held to account. If things go wrong, he will have nobody to back him up and nobody else to blame. Therefore, he will have to be held responsible for his actions. Personally, I think that will encourage better behaviour.

Personally, I hope that the MB fights this tooth and nail. While I do not deny that the political parties have a role to play and the MB can be replaced, I fervently hope that they actually use the Law to do it correctly.

No closed-door shenanigans please.

PS: Please stop making unfounded accusations against the MB. If there is a clear back-room deal with regards to his debts, show the public the evidence. Then if snap polls are called, the people will back you. However, the replacement had better be cleaner than Khalid!

Agreement Disclosure – Non!

This article first appeared on DNA.

THE non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has come to be known as the ‘Silicon Valley Handshake,’ and is now de rigeur in our local industry, especially when dealing with technology companies.

It is often signed right after exchanging our salam (greetings), before any serious business is done.

Over the years, I have developed a certain disdain for the venerable NDA and I now refuse to sign any, as a matter of general principle. Needless to say, I have lost some valuable business due to this as it is often considered sine qua non in commercial relationships with certain types of companies.

And it seems that I’m not alone in this. IBM refuses to sign one unless it is required to receive specifically identified confidential information, while Intel and Microsoft include clauses that exclude from the NDA any information that their employees manage to keep in their heads.

But my personal bias aside, there are some real issues to think about when one is considering whether to sign an NDA or otherwise.

First is the issue of practicality.

When I released my first product in the late 1990s, I was advised to get everyone to sign an NDA before showing it to them. This is what a lot of startups do these days too. I was told that this would help to protect my intellectual property.

Not knowing any better, I blindly followed the practice.

Later, I learned how silly this was as it is impractical for me to enforce the NDA anyway, due to a lack of financial means.

I also learned that business relationships are built on trust. The NDA does not build trust but actually erects hurdles to idea exchange and increases the cost of information management.

Besides lawyers, I do not know of anyone who actually thinks that it is ever a good idea to enforce an NDA in a costly legal battle. It is well known that prevention is better than cure. Therefore, the best way to protect truly confidential data is to, simply, never reveal it.

Second is the issue of legality.

As someone reading law, I have learned that a mere NDA is not enforceable as it often lacks legal consideration – a required element for any enforceable contract. In legal parlance, consideration in this case means receiving something for a promise to keep the secret.

As an example, a legally enforceable NDA is one that a new employee signs at point of hire because he or she receives a job for a promise to keep the secret. But one that is signed after the person is gainfully employed is not usually enforceable unless there is additional consideration given to the employee.

Therefore, asking a potential investor to sign one before a product pitch and getting an external consultant to sign one before preliminary discussions are two situations where the NDA is not enforceable for want of consideration.

Third, an NDA may force the signee to violate fiduciary duties.

This is true for company directors under S.132 of our Companies Act 1965. Amongst other things, it requires a director to consider only the interests of the company alone and no one else, not even personal interests, when exercising his duties.

A company director who signs an NDA can be caught in a situation arising out of a conflict between the company interests and the NDA signed with another company. In such a situation, said director can be sued as a result of not acting in the best interest of the company.

This is also true for consultants. It goes without saying that professionals, such as engineers, owe a duty of care to our clients foremost amongst others, but a consultant will have other clients in the future, often the competitors of their current client as they are operating in the same sphere or industry.

A consultant who signs an NDA can be caught in a situation of conflict between the interests of their future clients and the NDA signed with the current client. They can then be sued by their future clients under negligence for not providing a professional standard of service.

I’d also like to highlight that a registered engineer can get deregistered under S.15 of our Registration of Engineers Act 1967 for a disgraceful act, which includes things like revealing client secrets.

Therefore, an NDA actually creates a no-win scenario for the signee, such as registered professionals and company directors, or anyone else who owes a fiduciary duty to another.

In conclusion, I personally think that NDAs are a silly thing to have and the distasteful practice should be discontinued. In most situations, it is neither legally nor practicably enforceable. It is much better to never reveal trade secrets or to get all intellectual property properly registered and protected.

A good recommendation is that one should only sign an NDA if, and only if, the other party signs an agreement indemnifying the signee against all future lawsuits arising from a conflict between the NDA and any future agreements or fiduciary responsibilities. Personally, I like this idea.

As per my usual disclaimer, I am not a lawyer.

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Examine, Evaluate, Estimate

I recently read that the new Form 3 exams are going to be called PT3 – Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3. As far as I understand it, taksir means to estimate. Checking the DBP dictionary, it seems that I am not wrong in saying that one of the meanings of taksir is anggar or estimate.

So, we’ve moved from examinations, to evaluations and finally to estimations. Whomever came up with the idea for PT3 deserves a medal. I can imagine all the jokes that the kids are going to crack about their PT3 results – merely an estimate.

The idea of decentralisation is great, assuming that we have the system in place to manage it. Otherwise, it is just going to be abused by the schools to improve their own rankings by ensuring that everyone scores. It’s a win-win situation.

This is probably why they’re calling it an estimate – because the results are not accurate as they’re subject to what the teacher had for breakfast that day. A student’s results will vary depending on which school they were enrolled in.

In order to moderate and mitigate such problems, teachers need to be transferred regularly. This is the same system that I always use to moderate marks when judging national/international competitions.

The typical way of doing judging at these competitions is to break the teams up into groups and have each group judged by a different panel of judges. The judges then select the best from each group and then filter out which ones are the winners. If necessary, the finalists are called for another round of judging.

Much like the World Cup, actually.

However, this results in a lot of favouritism as each panel will have their favourites and will try to stick to their favourites. This is what I’ve seen every time I conduct judging at these competitions. To solve the problem, I rotate the judges at the group stage.

As a result, there are no fixed panels and every judge sees a different set of teams. So, it’s not easy for anyone to hold onto their favourites. We’ll still need to find the best teams from each group, but the judges in each group are now rotated – and moderated.

So, I’ll recommend a similar system be used for PT3 – that teachers are rotated regularly so that they do not keep to their favourites. At the very least, their exam papers should be divided into groups and marked by teachers from different schools.

But this is just going to complicate things and I doubt that the MOE has the resources to coordinate such things.

Good luck to those taking their PT3 this year though. It’s tough being the guinea pigs.

What is My Malaysia?

This video got me thinking.

What is my Malaysia?

I see Malaysia as full of possibilities. We’re a nation blessed in so many ways. We have an abundance of natural resources, have a diverse population, and are strategically located. But I think that it’s our people that are our greatest assets.

Malaysians are special.

We are a nation of cynics. Malaysians view the cops as the most corrupt, more so than politicians. That’s quite an achievement for a country with the longest surviving civilian government in power for over 5 decades, to be considered less corrupt than the cops.

We are a nation of creative thinkers. Sure, our kids don’t do very well in problem solving tests, but give them a road without a zebra crossing and they will find a way to cross it even if they don’t have to. You won’t find this in Singapore. We have our own ways to settle all problems.

We’re also a nation of geniuses. Every Malaysian is multi-lingual. Recent studies have shown that people who speak more than one language are smarter. Malaysians are so damn smart that we’re in high demand throughout the world. As a recent World Bank study showed, we have the highest level of diaspora in the world.

We are also the most lalang people around. We can bicker and fight about the most sensitive of things such as race and religion. But give us a Thomas Cup finals and we can flip aside all differences and come together as a nation for at least 6-hours. Of course, we go back to arguing about race and religion right after. But this shows that our differences aren’t all that deep.

We also have so many pretenders around – Chinese who do not speak Chinese, Indians who do not speak any Indian, and even Malays who have trouble with Malay. A nation of pendatangs, we’re all caught in an identity crisis. None of us are truly who our ICs say we are. We are truly and uniquely Malaysian, in that sense.

Anyway, I could go on but I need to get back to studying.

I love you, Malaysia.

PS: When did Nat become an artiste?

Double Traffic Standards

This rant has been a long time coming. I am kind of frustrated with the blatant law breaking ways that motorcyclists in this country ride on the roads. Honestly, it has come to the point where, if I were to see a motorcycle involved in an accident, I’m inclined to presume that it’s the motorcyclists fault.

As far as I a know, all motor vehicles are governed by the same Law in Malaysia. The fact is that we all take and pass the same undang-undang test before we are allowed to get our license. While we are governed by the same Law, it seems to be applied differently to motorcyclists.

Firstly, motorcyclists seem to think that they are merely petrol powered bicycles. They are often found going in the opposite direction as traffic and riding on pedestrian or bicycle lanes. They do this largely to cut through short cuts and avoid the main thoroughfares.

They are also endangering the lives of others when they do that – particularly that of pedestrians and bicycles. I have actually seen pedestrians curse at motorcycles who horn them to get out of the way.

Secondly, motorcyclists don’t seem to realise that they are supposed to ride in the lanes of the road and not on the dotted lines between the lanes. This is a sure fire way to get themselves killed by motor vehicles that cannot see them. They do this largely to get an express lane through traffic.

The troubling thing is that they think that it’s their right to do so and don’t even realise that it is wrong – and it’s going to get themselves killed. When riding between lanes, they are exposed to being hit from more sides than if they were within a lane.

Thirdly, motorcyclists like to weave through traffic even when it’s flowing normally and not at a standstill. I’m sure that you know what I mean when I say ‘weave’. What makes it worse is that they will even curse at you if you’re in their way.

What’s worse is that such unlawful and dangerous practices have become entrenched because there has never been enforcement action taken against them. Now, they think that it’s a legal right, regardless of what they learn in undang-undang class.

Sadly, this is the state of traffic double standards in Malaysia.

Non Agreement Disclosure

I have a personal beef with the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). If we look around, it’s quite a common practice by large organisations to get people to sign NDAs with them before dealing with them.

I was recently approached by a GLC to aid them with some work, which I turned down when they asked me to sign an NDA before we even had a single meeting. Call me old fashioned, but I do not think that a business relationship can survive without trust. So, that’s the first thing that I look for in a business relationship – building trust. Asking me to sign an NDA is a sign of distrust.

The reason that I do not like dealing with companies that ask me to sign an NDA is because it reflects a fundamental philosophical difference in approach to intellectual property. To me, if they have some secret sauce, they should seek proper IP protection. Otherwise, if they just want to gag me, it’s an infringement on my fundamental right to freedom of expression, which I detest.

Furthermore, getting me to sign an agreement that is not legally binding is a sad reflection on how silly things are getting when it comes to IP. Whomever is giving them legal advice is probably not giving them an accurate picture of things. This to me, is amateurish practice. There is no point in getting someone to sign a document with no legal power except as a power play, which is stupid.

However, the main reason that I do not sign an NDA is because it’s because I’m an accredited professional. What this means is that I am to provide the best service that I can to my clients, whomever they are. If I were to be hired by Company A to help do something, and then I was later hired by Company B to do something, I must provide both companies with the best service that I can even if they are competitors.

If I ever act in an unethical manner, they are free to report me and get my Chartered Engineer registration revoked. What adds insult to injury is that the people asking me to sign the NDA are non-accredited professionals themselves.

Maybe I’m crazy to expect trust from larger organisations.

GST is Good for Malaysia

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Last week, tens of thousands of Malaysians descended on the road in front of Merdeka Square (as the Square itself was being refurbished) to have a protest rally on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) that our government intends to introduce in April 2015. However, I did not join the rally this time around because I actually think that the implementation of GST will be good for this country.
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Disoriented Musings of a Technology Romantic


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