Featured Sociopolitical Stories

Malaysian F1 Riddle – Why Cosworth and not Lotus?

Whoever made the decision to utilise Lotus’ name blundered on one major factor – the F1 cars we are so proud to call ours are not even using Lotus developed engines!

By Delimma

One of my old mates from college dropped by a few days ago to exchange our lives’ experiences and to catch up on things, so to say. Whilst I am saddened at his present state of affairs, I am surprised at what he had to say about our Malaysian F1 team.

What shocked me was not the amount of money spent and being spent as well as going to be spent on the team in the years to come if we want to make our team as competitive as the big boys. The real shocker comes from the fact that the team’s inception and its brand name poses a riddle which only the powers-that-be can answer.

We have participated in F1 through Petronas over the years, and this year is no exception. The return of Schumi to the F1 active scene is seen as a great marketing ploy by Mercedes to get the fans roaring for something, even if Schumi seems to be beyond his years and domination in F1. Petronas really made a coup d tat in allying themselves with Mercedes GP. Despite their poor season so far, the airtime covering Schumi and the team helps to bring Petronas into the homes of people around the world, and this in my view is the greatest marketing strategy that Mobil, Shell and the big boys have been doing for years.

The question is, do we really need another Malaysian F1 team? Despite claims of patriotism or even the chance to grow our homegrown talent in motorsports, the amount of money used by Herr Fernandez in setting up the new team could have been well spent in key areas such as engineering, design and even race driver training with our current crop of youngsters in Petronas and even in smaller racing circuits. The hurrah surrounding Fairuz Fauzy’s inclusion as the reserve driver has fallen flat since he has yet to start a race for the “Malaysian” team! If he is not good enough, he should not even be a reserve driver. If he is good enough, he should be one of the two main drivers. Since the team belongs to a Malaysian (as claimed), the first riddle to answer is, why can’t we put a Malaysian on the starting grid?

The frail Alex Yoong himself got a chance to race in F1 (doesn’t matter he did badly, he got in!) when the team was not even Malaysian, so why can’t Fairuz be given that chance; unless his inclusion is just Fernandez’s goodwill gesture to the Malaysian people and government for allowing him to use the Malaysian name in his team. The decision to race a Malaysian rests with the team principal (Sir Tony) and we have to wonder why Fairuz is yet to take a grid position as yet. The team at present is not going anywhere up the standings anyway, so the exposure will do Fairuz a world of good for his future as well as other Malaysian F1 hopefuls.

The second riddle goes to the Malaysian government, whom Fernandez claims fully endorsed his involvement and use of the Malaysian name. We already have a brand carrier called Petronas in F1, so the poor people in the kampongs and hinterlands would like to know why on earth do we need two flag bearers in F1. Wouldn’t it be proper just to develop a Petronas racing team rather than form a new one and actively competing against the other? Two heads put together are better than one, we have this saying. Are we now telling people that Fernandez’s team will do better than Petronas who has been in F1 for more than 10 years now?

The third and most intriguing riddle should be answered by the government, Lotus and Proton. As we Malaysians all are made aware of, Lotus is a 100% company owned by Proton, even if they still have their own management, direction and competitive edge. So I was shocked to learn that the announcement of the Lotus F1 Malaysian team was not even their idea ... in fact the whole announcement and team naming didn’t even go through them, or with their blessing! How on earth can this happen? Lotus asked Proton, Proton asked Lotus, but both parties were in agreement neither gave their blessing let alone approval.

Then I saw the caption of the team and suddenly realised that whoever made the decision to utilise Lotus’ name blundered on one major factor – the F1 cars we are so proud to call ours are not even using Lotus developed engines! Instead, as captioned in TV for the world to see, Team Lotus F1 Malaysia is using Cosworth engines. Errr... I am not a rocket scientist, neither am I an engineer, but what on earth is Cosworth doing at Fernandez’ Malaysian Lotus F1 team? Are we saying that despite being in F1 so many years ago, Lotus does not have the capability to design and mount its own engines in its cars? I was also made to understand that there is nothing Lotus about the Lotus car anyway, except for the name. I couldn’t disagree, how could it when the company is not even involved in the team set up from the very beginning.

I shudder to think if this is yet another episode of Bolehland attitude being practiced by someone who thinks just because he is close to the administration he can do whatever he wants. The fact that Lotus and Proton have not even commented on this issue is perplexing. Of course, the companies’ bosses also have to safeguard their steady income, interests and vested interests not only in keeping their jobs but also the perks and extras that come with it. And I pity both Lotus and Proton. Rather than work hard to resolve the escalating production costs (amidst claims that the escalation was to cover certain ‘interests’) which baffles everyone and throws any synergies or potential partnerships out the window; they are now embroiled in yet another controversy, although not as earth shattering as the Scorpene fiasco which is about to hit the fan.
If there are riddles that can become folklore and legends such as those we treasure from our childhood days; the F1 riddle might make it into a halls of legend just in its first year!

M'sia needs a Water Demand Management plan

Malaysians should acknowledge the good work of our authorities in providing, for the most part, a reliable supply of water in our homes and workplaces. Through the years, as Malaysia developed and demand for treated water grew, this was achieved by putting in place an expanding water supply infrastructure.

This included the building of dams and reservoirs, treatment plants, storage and balancing reservoirs and a distribution network of pipelines. And this approach of ensuring water supply is known as water supply management and is a valid approach in the early phase of a nation's economic development. For that, well done and bravo!

However, at some point it becomes necessary to combine water supply management with water demand management not only to ensure a reliable water supply but also to sustain the multiple benefits of our water resources.

When the carrying capacity (i.e. the maximum number of people that a region's key resource supports) of water is exceeded, ecologically, this signals over-development and, doubly, the need to implement an effective water demand management plan.

In Selangor, this stage was reached some ten years ago. Excessive water withdrawal from Sg. Selangor has decimated the berembang trees along the banks, the synchronously flashing fireflies they attracted and the eco-tourism around them that drew thousands of visitors from around the world.

Water demand management refers to the formal set of measures that a water authority implements with the aim of reducing demand for water. For example, requiring that toilets sold in the market meet a minimum water efficiency standard and doing the same for washing machines – are measures that could be introduced as a part of a comprehensive water demand management plan.

The absence of a water demand management in Malaysia can be compared to having tens of thousands of drivers on roads that have no traffic lights, stop signs, speed limits, speed bumps, and penalties to guide and regulate traffic circulation – but only ads that advise, "Drive carefully".

So, we have our "save water" campaigns and conferences on Water Demand Management, which star the 'synchronously flashing', big water infrastructure contractors and consultants, but whose goal and craft are to ensure there are mega projects for them at regular intervals.

Sure enough, at regular intervals, our decision-makers initiate prohibitively costly mega projects, like the Pahang Selangor Water Transfer Project, which typically eject indigenous people from their traditional lands and in flagrant disregard of our environmental laws, ruin forever some of Mother Nature's priceless gems.

Yes, save our water, please.

from People2People View

PPSMI: Here we go again

I thought the PPSMI issue (The Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English) was laid down to rest (as it should) when the government decided to discontinue the dumb policy and revert to the old policy of using the national language/mother tongue as medium of instruction for Science and Maths.

But no, apparently the Parent Action for Education Group Malaysia (PAGE), an elitist mob of misguided people, has now intensified its campaign by engaging none other than Perkasa and other Malay nationalist groups (oh, the irony!) to support its cause.

My beef with PPSMI is not connected to shallow nationalism or confused hatred towards our former colonial power. Let me reaffirm my belief that mastery of English is very crucial to the development of individuals and the country. The main issue, for me at least, is the fact that the policy was not based on any sound research or proper planning.

The arguments for PPSMI are mainly based on emotions and twisted logic. The foremost argument is since English is an international language and is widely used in business and technology, then it makes sense to teach Maths and Science in English.

By teaching Maths and Science in English, we could increase students' proficiency in the language and since the reference books are mainly in English, we could improve their understanding of the subjects.

This argument is completely preposterous. First, there is no evidence that teaching any subjects in English will increase proficiency. There are better, proven methods of increasing proficiency in English. Secondly, research has shown that teaching in an official school language that is not the mother tongue is a major barrier in the child's learning.

Then, there is this idea that parents should be able to choose either to stick with PPSMI or revert to old policy. Admittedly, school choice is an interesting and workable idea. It has been successfully implemented in Sweden, Chile and a few other countries.

However, these countries share ! one char acteristic that Malaysia doesn't have a common language/mother tongue. If parents are allowed to dictate which medium of instruction they want in schools, then how about the teachers?

Teachers' training is mainly provided by government teaching colleges. Teachers sent to teach in Damansara Heights and teachers sent to teach in, say, Jerantut are trained using the same syllabus. How do we decide their placements then? Do we send the good ones to urban schools and the not-so-good ones to rural schools?

I understand the concerns over the declining standard of English in our country. I just don't agree with the solution. The right step for PAGE and its ilk is to use their considerable influence to get the government to commission an in-depth policy research by local (and possibly foreign) universities on our education system.

A proper long-term education policy addressing the weaknesses of current system should be introduced based on the research. The stakeholders in the education system could then be reasonable assured of the direction of the country and its human resources, rather than being treated like a bunch of lab rats.

See What Pakatan Rakyat Gotta Say?