Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Malaysian media encourages the misguided view that differences of opinion among members of political parties are unhealthy. Differing views are often portrayed as ‘squabbling’ or ‘spats’ or ‘rifts’ between members of the fraternity and indicative of weakness and disunity.
The contrary is true. Firstly, the ability to accept differing opinions is a sign of maturity in political parties or coalitions. Every person is unique, and that uniqueness includes our worldviews and of course, our opinions on matters. Even people in the most intimate of relationships do not agree on everything. Lovers fight. Married couples argue.
Some of us are more opinionated (or if you prefer, stubborn) than others, and when it comes to political parties... well you can expect a much higher concentration of strong-willed, passionate people who have their own take on things. The important thing is that the disagreements are in pursuit of a higher cause. The point of debate goes beyond demolishing the other person’s arguments and proving yours are better. Constructive debate and discourse which involves different viewpoints often results in a compromise that is agreeable to most. And isn’t that the point of a democracy - to reflect the views of the majority?
But even when the middle path is not taken, and when different factions with irreconcilable differences emerge, it can be for the better. Take for example the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States. The business-friendly Republicans believe people should be as free as possible to pursue their own best interests and government should play a minimal role in the economy. The Democrats have a broader social agenda and believe government is crucial in creating a fairer society.
Many would be surprised to learn that these polar-opposites today share the same roots in the Democratic-Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson. Differences of opinion within led to a schism in the 19th century. In the short term, this split certainly was destructive - the Democratic-Republican party ceased to exist. But in the long term, it created two powerful parties that now dominate politics in the richest country in the world.
Disagreements still rumble internally within the parties. Just consider the race to be the Republican candidate for president of the United States. Rick Santorum, the previous front-runner who recently pulled out, is a very conservative Christian focused on social issues. Mitt Romney, the present front-runner, was a successful venture capitalist and presents a more moderate face. All the candidates have hotly debated, and indeed, attacked each other. But the internal competition creates a dynamic in which the strongest, most ‘winnable’ candidate survives, behind which the entire party then closes ranks.
Notice the difference between these mature parties and the immature, insecure ones in our country? The losing candidate is not demonised as a traitor to the party, ostracised or expelled. Neither does he storm off if a huff or retreat to sulk in a corner. He and his followers are absorbed back into the fold and continue the fight for the greater good as the party sees it. The different opinions expressed during the campaign are not viewed as detrimental or bad for the party. Rather, they are recognised for what they are: just different viewpoints. And the winning candidate may well absorb some of these viewpoints.
This brings us to the very important point that successful political parties recognise constructive dissent as not only natural, but also necessary for rejuvenation. The Democratic and Republican parties in the United States have now been in existence for nearly two hundred years. The fact that they are still relevant is testimony to their ability to absorb and accept new ideas and evolve to meet the changing needs and demands of the people they seek to govern. New ideas, and change, by definition, require freedom to dissent and debate.
The real problem is not dissent. It is suppressing dissent. UMNO for example, has not seen a contest for its presidency for a quarter of a century - ever since the titanic battle in 1987 between Tunku Razaleigh and Dr Mahathir which lead to Tengku Razaleigh leaving UMNO to form Semangat 46 and a sycophantic culture developing in the new UMNO. Dr Mahathir recently admitted that UMNO faces a scarcity of competent leaders at the top. The shortage is so severe that the UMNO now cannot find a woman capable enough to helm the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
Take this test yourself. Name the vibrant young leaders in UMNO, MCA and the MIC, the bulwarks of conformity and ‘unity’. Next, name the vibrant young leaders in DAP and PAS, the parties often portrayed by the mainstream media as riven by disagreements.
Differing opinions are simply a natural democratic process, are in the bigger picture constructive, and a mark of a mature, strong parties. So the next time the mainstream media highlights another intra-party ‘spat’ within Pakatan Rakyat, think of it as Ginseng- it is bitter-sweet but is natural and rejuvenating!
 Dr M: Field talented outsiders. The Star, 29 Mar 2012.
 We deliberately avoid mentioning PKR as it is a relatively young party.
Originally published on REFSA, an independent think tank's website.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
|Pie Tee- Top hats|
Type of food: Nyonya ( Peranakan Chinese)
Signature dish: Various dishes
Location: 3K Sports Complex Subang Jaya, Jalan SS13/1, Persiaran Kewajipan 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Opening hours: All days except Monday, 11:30am-3.00pm & 6.00pm-10.00pm
Other: No pork. Medium spicy.
Being an Ampang boy, travelling to Subang Jaya for me was quite the journey. A 40 Minute long drive, got a bit lost on the way, into this road and that highway- very hungry by the time I got there. And like an oasis appearing before the desert, the big sign shouting Nyonya Roots appeared before me in that godforsaken place Ampang people call Subang Jaya. It was well worth the journey.
Before I delve into the food though ( today it'll be more brief in descriptions, lots of dishes to cover), allow me to talk about Nyonya food in general. For those who don't know, Nyonya cuisine originates from a Malaysian culture called the Baba Nyonya. These Baba Nyonya are also called Peranakan Chinese, as they are the descendants of the first Chinese settlers that came to Malaysia ( then called Malaya) a long long time ago. These Chinese settlers had intermarriages with local Malays, and adopted many of their customs, and as you will soon see this resulted in one truly delectable mixing pot of a cuisine.
And Nyonya Roots is a fine example of this great heritage. With a nice comfy environment, reasonably priced and tasty dishes ( more on that in a while), and great company- you can pretty much set up home base in here and lay down your roots. ( pardon the simply awful pun!)
Anyway lest we stray too far from the roots of the issue ( and again!)... The first dish we had was pie tee- Nyonya Top Hats.( see title image) Top Hats are named as such as they look like those hats the "cultured" meme guys and "high class" people used to wear. It's certainly a dish worthy of that. The pie tee at Nyonya Roots is a bit more on the heavy flavoured side, with a nice crispy cup, and a smattering of juicy vegetables inside. The shallots and chilli sauce add up to make this an instant classic.
Crispy, crunchy, juicy, sauce blend of Lea and Perrins and some herbs and spices. Could have been more robust and tender in my opinion though.
Gulai Tumis- A Nyonya favourite, it is their own version of "assam fish" or "curry".
Nice chunky bits of tenggiri. The fish is fresh, and a beautiful blend of herbs and spices give it a fantastic fragrance and wonderful depth of flavour.
|Ju Hu Char|
Yet another Penang specialty. Its basically some vegetables cooked in a broth like substance;giving a really juicy, nutrient filled bite. We had this with lettuce- using the lettuce as a wrap and stuffing in the Ju Hu Char with some chilli sauce... YUM. There is no better way to eat it!
Very good. A good balance between fishiness, and spice. A nice soft pasty texture, wet with the spice-infused juice of the otak, slides into one's mouth.
Appropriately salty, eat with rice, good filler, otherwise nothing to shout about, lacks the wok hei* of a true Master level omelette.
This one was a great find. Fiery, robust and packed with a punch of spices- the burst of flavour in this dish is quite a memorable experience.
Very intriguing taste. First a crunchy standard veggie feel, then as the "gel" inside this fern gets to you, you get a sort of flaky aftertaste in the mouth.
So far so good... but quite standard fare for the veteran Nyonya foodie. But there is more... after that brief breakdown of dishes... Ladies and gentlemen.. I present to you the piece de resistance of the meal... in the form of...
|Gandum a.k.a. wheat|
And as if that wasn't enough, Nyonya Roots delivers a double whammy. The pulut hitam ( black glutinous rice) is so... GOOD. The sweetness and gooeyness of the pulut, blended with a spoon of fresh santan- the black and white dancing in swirls of heavenly dessertness ( is that even a word?)... forget about Soya Cincau, this is the real Black and White of food!
Speaking of cincau.... The cendol is definitely one of the better ones I've had. Simply a burst of santan and light refreshing flavours that make you want to have another.. and another... and another... and OK you get my point. My Egyptian friend was absolutely enamored with it, calling it the Nectar Of the Gods. What a drama king.
All in all, Nyonya Roots is true to its ... Nyonya roots? Haha... terrible puns aside... the food here is authentic, has good flavour profiles, and is reasonably priced. Sorry I can't quote direct prices, lost the receipt, but the meal mentioned above for 9 people cost about RM 180. A really reasonable deal if you ask me, compared to all the pricey posh Nyonya wannabes you get nowadays.
Nyonya Roots is also open for lunch, and from what I can see from their menu, they have set lunches. Also, they serve perut ikan, which is a rarity nowadays and my friend swears by it, if you're feeling adventurous. In any case... Nyonya Roots- definitely one to go for!
Taste: 8.5/10- While the dishes range from decent enough to delicious, the dessert and other standouts really make this restaurant shine.
Value: 7/10- For this kind of food, this kind of environment, it's very reasonable.
Health: 8/10- Well, depends on the dishes, but overall, I would say its a healthy meal.
Ambience: 7/10- Comfy seats, air conditioned area with nice large pictures of more yummy food.
Overall: 3.75 durians!
* Wok hei- It is the "essence" of the fire being imparted to the food. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok#Wok_hei