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Expectations

 

I went to university with several Malaysian students and had I been asked to write what I knew about Malaysia before going there, these would have been on my list:

  • Malaysia is the principal world producer of natural rubber.  Rubber was originally introduced by British planters from South America.  During world war two the Japanese effectively stopped access to Malaysian Rubber.  As a result, United States invested heavily in Guayule a desert growing rubber plant; and in the rapid development of synthetic rubbers.  To protect of the Malaysian Rubber industry after the war United States voluntarily burnt or ploughed-in all the Guayule they had planted.  I once wrote a report on Guayule as a potential crop for arid Australia. 
  • Malaysia's population consists of about half Malays, together with the remnant indigenous population, and half other races, predominantly Chinese, Indian and mixed.
  • Malaysia has long played a role in Australia's defence policy and is a strong ally, Australia having maintained an RAAF base there for many years and having committed troops to the Malayan emergency, against communist insurgency; and again against Indonesia, during the period of Confrontation.
  • When the previous British Straits Colonies came to together to form Malaysia in 1963 Singapore was a part of the confederation.  But Lee Kuan Yu pulled Singapore out when it became evident that the confederation intended to give the economic preference to Malays ahead of Chinese citizens.  I remember him crying on television.
  • Malaysia is a successful multi-cultural religiously tolerant country in which English is the official common language.

Today few Malaysians would agree with all, or perhaps any, of the points on my list.

Despite our trip to the Highlands we had seen far more rubber trees in Vietnam then we saw in Malaya.  Almost the entire coastal strip is a mono culture plantation of oil palms.  New areas are being cleared for oil palm even up into the Highlands.  But there is a lot we didn't see and rubber must still be important somewhere.  The Encyclopaedia of Nations tells me: ' In 1999, Malaysia produced 10.55 million metric tons of palm oil, one of the world's largest producers.  Almost 85 percent or 8.8 million metric tons of this was exported to international market.  Malaysia remains one of the world's leading suppliers of rubber, producing 767,000 metric tons of rubber in 1999.  However, in the 1990s, large plantation companies began to turn to the more profitable palm oil production.  Malaysia also is the world's fourth-largest producer of cocoa, producing 84,000 metric tons in 1999.'

Malays now out-number Chinese and other races.  Chinese people we spoke to said this is because they are discriminated against in Malaysia.  They regard the policy of economic preference in favour of Malays to be discrimination against them.  As a result many have left the country and as a matter of course they send their children overseas to be educated; never to return.  We were told that sixth or seventh generation Chinese feel they are now treated like guest workers and one of the children was reportedly told by a schoolteacher to 'go back to China'.

I visited a number of museums and there is virtually no acknowledgement of Australia's commitment to the development of Malaysia and its independence.  Several of the references appear to be antagonistic.  In Malacca and Penang the British and Chinese role in the early development of Malaya is acknowledged but in the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur this is put in the context of perceived aggression against the Muslim princes.  Today the ancestors of these princes take turns at being the King in the Malaysian constitutional monarchy.  They are all Muslim and are charged with being the defender of the faith. 

It is interesting to look at the photographs of the prime minister's who followed independence and to note that they wished to reinforce the secular nature of the government.  As in Turkey their wives did not wear scarves, even on formal and religious occasions.

 

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Islam took on additional stridency with the advent of Mahathir Mohamad as PM, who Australian PM Paul Keating exasperatedly called 'recalcitrant', resulting in several years of diplomatic chill, and who subsequently had his deputy PM and political rival jailed for alleged buggery.  But this stridency seems to vary across the country and to fluctuate with time. 

It's a pity that Singapore did not stay in the federation.  Although Malaysia has done very well economically the predominantly Chinese Singapore has done significantly better.  The United Nations Human Development Index now places Singapore one step below the United Kingdom in the highly developed group.  Hong Kong has done even better and is now several places above the United Kingdom. 

At the top of the list is Norway followed by Australia and New Zealand; then the United States.  I have speculated elsewhere on this website about the factors important in Australia's success.

English is no longer a common language.  But while many non-Chinese or non-Indian people could not speak English, almost everyone was polite and as helpful as they could be.  Unlike many developing countries, it seems most people can at least read a map.


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Travel

South Korea & China

March 2016

 

 

South Korea

 

 

I hadn't written up our trip to South Korea (in March 2016) but Google Pictures gratuitously put an album together from my Cloud library so I was motivated to add a few words and put it up on my Website.  Normally I would use selected images to illustrate observations about a place visited.  This is the other way about, with a lot of images that I may not have otherwise chosen.  It requires you to go to the link below if you want to see pictures. You may find some of the images interesting and want to by-pass others quickly. Your choice. In addition to the album, Google generated a short movie in an 8mm style - complete with dust flecks. You can see this by clicking the last frame, at the bottom of the album.

A few days in Seoul were followed by travels around the country, helpfully illustrated in the album by Google generated maps: a picture is worth a thousand words; ending back in Seoul before spending a few days in China on the way home to OZ. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The U-2 Incident

 

 

 

In 1960 the Russians shot down an American U-2 spy plane that was overflying and photographing their military bases.  The U-2 Incident was big news when I was in High School and I remember it quite clearly. 

The Incident forms the background to Bridge of Spies a 2015 movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance from a screenplay written by Matt Charman together with Ethan and Joel Coen that centres on these true events. 

Spielberg and the Cohen Brothers.  Who could miss it?

 

 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Australia's $20 billion Climate strategy

 

 

 

We can sum this up in a word:

Hydrogen

According to 'Scotty from Marketing', and his mate 'Twiggy' Forrest, hydrogen is the, newly discovered panacea, to all our environmental woes:
 

The Hon Scott Morrison MP - Prime Minister of Australia

"Australia is on the pathway to net zero. Our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.

For Australia, it is not a question of if or even by when for net zero, but importantly how.

That is why we are investing in priority new technology solutions, through our Technology Investment Roadmap initiative.

We are investing around $20 billion to achieve ambitious goals that will bring the cost of clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture to commercial parity. We expect this to leverage more than $80 billion in investment in the decade ahead.

In Australia our ambition is to produce the cheapest clean hydrogen in the world, at $2 per kilogram Australian.

Mr President, in the United States you have the Silicon Valley. Here in Australia we are creating our own ‘Hydrogen Valleys’. Where we will transform our transport industries, our mining and resource sectors, our manufacturing, our fuel and energy production.

In Australia our journey to net zero is being led by world class pioneering Australian companies like Fortescue, led by Dr Andrew Forrest..."

From: Transcript, Remarks, Leaders Summit on Climate, 22 Apr 2021
 

 

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