Friday, September 30, 2011

GLC moves spark questions about race, economy

GLC moves spark questions about race, economy

September 30, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — A spate of corporate takeover bids has raised eyebrows and questions about whether there is a concerted move by government-linked companies (GLCs) to buy over ethnic Chinese-owned assets or a vote of no confidence in the economy by major business tycoons.

Yesterday’s application for merger talks between investment banking group OSK Holdings Berhad — whose single biggest shareholder is Ong Leong Huat, 67, and ranked by Forbes magazine as Malaysia’s 34th richest man — and RHB Capital Berhad has become the latest talking point.

Lee asked why the GLCs are using taxpayers’ money to buy the companies. — File pic
Concern over where this trend is headed was sharpened by Permodalan Nasional Berhad’s (PNB) bid on Tuesday to take over the nation’s second-largest developer by market value, SP Setia.

Sime Darby’s recent acquisition of 30 per cent of property developer Eastern and Oriental (E&O) for RM766 million from businessmen including Terry Tham Ka Hon has also sparked concerns and is now being investigated for alleged insider trading.

“GLCs are [funded by] taxpayers. Why are they using taxpayers’ money to buy them up?” Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, the former Port Klang Authority chairman, told The Malaysian Insider.

“And then after the buying is over, they leave the country. They cash out and go invest outside the country. I thought we are encouraging private entrepreneurship? These are wealthy companies. Why buy them up? They are sending out the wrong signals.”

Amid the race-related backdrop, there is also concern that some of Malaysia’s richest tycoons and businessmen are cashing out and headed overseas because of concerns over Malaysia’s economic prospects.

Before the latest corporate exercises, a number of Chinese Malaysian-held businesses had already started setting their sights away from Malaysia.

Casino operator Genting started its Singapore operations two years ago while YTL Group made a S$3.8 billion (RM9.1 billion) purchase in 2009 of the second-largest power generation company in the island republic, the 3,100-megawatt PowerSeraya.

And in 2007, Malaysia’s richest man Tan Sri Robert Kuok also moved his palm oil operations out of Malaysia and listed them in Singapore in a move that was speculated to be caused by concerns over the government’s continuation of Bumiputera equity policies.

But the latest corporate selling moves are ostensibly on a willing-seller-willing-buyer basis.

RAM Ratings chief economist Yeah Kim Leng said the key issue is whether GLCs can add value to the acquired company, and to what extent.

“We have to remove politics and race from commercial considerations,” he said, but noted those issues lingered whenever takeovers and mergers were discussed.

“We still have an atmosphere of a so-called siege mentality, in the sense that there is still a legacy of robbing Peter to pay Paul, of widespread concern or feeling of being deprived,” Yeah said.

Pua felt racial arguments no longer held much traction with the Chinese ground.
The economist said that despite its snub, SP Setia’s case will be closely monitored because it is seen as the industry model in the construction sector and a GLC takeover may still happen.

Yeah pointed out that there had been successful takeovers in recent years, citing property developer Sunrise Berhad’s acquisition earlier this year by UEM Land Holdings Berhad as an example of a dynamic partnership.

The DAP’s economic expert Tony Pua echoed Yeah’s view, saying racial arguments no longer held much traction with the Chinese ground.

“It does not matter who controls these companies — whether Chinese or Malay — the issue is what is the value-added these GLCs are bringing to the companies through the acquisition exercises,” he said.

“The major implication is the direct opposite of what the prime minister and the cornerstone of NEM want to achieve — that our economy must be private sector-led,” he told The Malaysian Insider, referring to Najib’s New Economic Model to free up more sectors in the economy.

But race remains the elephant in the room.

Political scientist James Chin observed that the Chinese community could get upset because they have little confidence the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government, controlled by lynchpin Malay party Umno, will be able to lift the companies’ performance higher.

“It becomes a racial issue because the Chinese now equate Umno to corruption,” the Monash University lecturer told The Malaysian Insider.

Guan Eng apologises to Johor Sultan | Free Malaysia Today

Guan Eng apologises to Johor Sultan

Stephanie Sta Maria | September 30, 2011-FMT

Penang chief minister issues an apology to Sultan Ibrahim but maintains that he was misrepresented by BN-controlled media

PETALING JAYA: Penang chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, has issued an apology to the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, for his alleged disparaging remarks against the state.

Lim was reported to have maligned Johor during his speech at a luncheon organised by the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore on Aug 12.

According to national news agency, Bernama, Lim had highlighted the falling crime rate in Penang and implied that Johor’s public security situation was still questionable.

Lim has since denied the allegation adding that his speech was made in private and that it contained no mention of Johor.

Deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, has described Lim’s statement as “irresponsible” and backed calls by Umno Youth for Lim to issue an apology.

Lim’s apology came after Sultan Ibrahim said that he was offended by Lim’s statements as the Johor police chief, Mokhtar Shariff, has been doing his job.

“I wish to fully apologise to the Johor Sultan and to the people of Johor,” Lim said in a media statement today. “I have no intention whatsoever to discredit Johor or any other state.”

Lim: ‘I was misrepresented’

Lim also agreed with the Sultan’s earlier statement that politics should be left to politicians and the people should not be dragging rulers into it.

However, he remained firm on his stand that he was misrepresented by BN-controlled media and said that he would pursue the matter in court to determine the truth of where the speech was made, what was actually said and in what context.

“To-date except for the purported tape by TV3, there was no press report of what I spoke in Singapore or Australia.

“I have access to the tape of my interview with Radio Australia. I’m still trying to locate the tape of what I said in Singapore which was made privately in a closed door session,” he said.

Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, added that he has instructed his lawyers to immediately file a suit in court against the BN-controlled media, beginning with Bernama

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Body snatching: Syariah court can't cite kin

Body snatching: Syariah court can't cite kin
Aidila Razak
Sep 29, 11

Lawyers familiar with cases of conversion say the Negri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Department (JHEAINS) cannot cite the family of the late Lawrence Selvanathan for contempt of the syariah court for cremating his remains.

According to noted syariah lawyer Muhamad Burok, this is because the family is Christian and they therefore do not fall under the jurisdiction of the syariah court.

muhamad haji burok syarie lawyers association deputy president pgsm"The jurisdiction of the syariah court, according to the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Negri Sembilan) Enactment 2003, only extends to cases where all parties are Muslim.

"This is the law, but if there is a clause that allows (the contempt action) then let me know," Muhamad (right) said when contacted.

Agreeing with him, lawyer M Kulasegaran said the federal constitution, through the inclusion of clause (1A) into Article 121, clearly states that Malaysia practices two parallel legal systems.

The clause states that the high courts have "no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the syariah court".

It also states that the syariah court has jurisdiction only "over persons professing the religion of Islam".

"In view of this, the law does not apply to non-Muslims, subpoenas don't apply and it is my view that contempt also does not apply," Kulasegaran said.

This would therefore extend to the syariah court order obtained by JHEAINS to stop Lawrence's funeral on Sept 22 as well, added Kulasegaran, who is also DAP's Ipoh Barat MP.

"The family can look at all this with impunity," said the lawyer, who acted for the late Everest mountaineer M Moorthy's wife in the controversial body snatching case in 2005.

everest hero court case 271205 s kaliammal tearfullIn that matter, S Kaliammal (right), Moorthy's widow, lost her final legal redress in the Federal Court in January this year to obtain a declaration that her late husband was still a Hindu prior to his death five years ago and that he be accorded a burial according to Hindu rites.

Agreeing with the position taken by Kulasegaran, Muhamad, argued that the syariah court order would not hold up as it was served on non-Muslim parties.

In cases where Islamic departments find that a deceased person has converted without the family's knowledge, the department could only try to persuade the family to allow him or her to be buried according to Islamic rites.

"Syariah lawyers get frustrated as the court's jurisdiction is narrow, but that is the law. The law does not allow action (in such matters)," Muhamad said.

However, another syariah lawyer, Zulkifli Che Yong said the syariah court has jurisdiction in such matters, even though the parties involved are non-Muslim.

"It depends on the subject matter. In this case, the subject is a man who is said to have converted to Islam," he said, adding that the situation may be less clear in the case of citing the family for contempt.

Political will lacking?

JHEAINS claims that it has a certificate and a video recording proving that Lawrence, 33, had converted to Islam three days before his death and had taken the name Zairy Abdullah.

The agency had at 12.40am on Sept 22, the day of his funeral, served the court order on the family stopping them from proceeding with the funeral, which was to take place at 3pm in Lukut, Port Dickson.

JHEAINS also stopped the family while they were on the way to the funeral mass; but the deceased's friends took matters into their own hands and cremated the body.

On Thursday, the department told Malaysiakini that it is looking atciting Lawrence's family for contempt for having refused to comply to the syariah court order.

NONEIn 2009, the governmentannounced that it would amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 and Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 to deal with disputes over matters of conversion.

The amendments have yet to go through.

According to Kulasegaran (left), the government had formed a committee headed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Koh Tsu Koon, and the matter was then referred to the rulers.

"Nothing has gone through. At the end of the day it's the fault of the government for not addressing this issue, which it feels is politically challenging and sensitive.

"But a pragmatic and realistic government will look at the bigger picture and see the emotional stress and fractures in families caused by this... it shows a lack of willpower by the government," Kulasegaran added.

DAP won’t back down on hudud, says Karpal | Free Malaysia Today

DAP won’t back down on hudud, says Karpal

S Rutra | September 29, 2011-FMT

The DAP chairman maintains the party will continue to oppose the implementation of Islamic laws in the country.

KUALA LUMPUR: DAP chairman Karpal Singh said the party will continue to oppose any attempts at implementing hudud in the country.

“From the very beginning, DAP has also made known its opposition against any attempts by PAS and others to turn the country into an Islamic state,” he said.

“Let me make it very clear: hudud is not in line with the Federal Cosntitution and therefore it is unconstitutional,” Karpal told FMT when commenting on the outcome of last night’s meeting of Pakatan Rakyat’s top brass to discuss the hudud issue.

He said eventhough PAS leaders were adamant (about implementing Islamic laws), DAP was equally firm in its opposition.

“You can’t have Islamic laws in a secular state; it’s as simple as that,” said Karpal, who was also at the meeting at the PAS headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut here.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court led by the then Lord President Mohamed Salleh Abas had declared that the country was a secular state in a landmark decision on a case in 1988.

He reiterated that there will be “no change” in his party’s stand on the matter, adding that he had conveyed this decision to PKR advisor Anwar Ibrahim.

When asked to describe the atmosphere at last night’s meeting, Karpal said it was “very cordial”.

On calls by several MCA and Gerakan leaders to DAP to make its stand clear over the (hudud) issue, Karpal hit out at both parties, calling them “hypocrites”.

“Where were they when Mahathir (former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad) declared that Malaysia was an Islamic state?”

“There was not even a whimper of protest from any of the Barisan National (BN) component parties,” he said.

Asked whether he was concerned that the hudud issue will adversely affect relationship among the Pakatan allies, Karpal said that it was normal to have differences.

“But we still share a common stand on several key issues like human rights and corruption.”

Also read:

Hudud: Nik Aziz terima keputusan Pakatan

PAS using hudud to regain Malay support

Hudud held back by lack of consensus

Pakatan: Hudud only if all parties agree

Pakatan: Hudud only if all parties agree

September 29, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) agreed today that the contentious hudud or Islamic criminal law is not part of its joint policy until all parties agree to it, stepping back from the brink of a major difference that broke an earlier opposition coalition.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told a press conference just after midnight that the set of Islamic laws was “certainly now not PR policy and DAP’s objection has to be respected.”

Anwar said PR will continue to allow its members to air different views. — File pic
“Yes, very clear, it has to be together,” the PKR de facto leader replied to a question on whether any move to implement hudud would need the unanimous agreement of all three parties in the pact.

He had earlier backed imposing the law in Kelantan, just like political foe Umno whose former leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dredged up the issue last week.

Close to 30 top PR leaders had met for over three hours last night to resolve the longstanding hudud issue which has seen the DAP and PAS repeatedly at loggerheads.

Dr Mahathir, who opposed hudud when Kelantan passed the law in 1993, dared Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the state’s mentri besar, to implement hudud now that the country’s longest-serving prime minister was no longer in power.

The PAS spiritual leader then called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to propose amendments to the federal constitution to allow the Islamic law, which prescribes stoning, whipping and amputation as punishment for criminal offences.

But the DAP has insisted that it is not part of PR’s common policy, leading to the three-year-old pact’s unity being questioned.

Secretary-general Lim Guan Eng vowed this week that his entire central leadership would resign their posts if hudud became part of the coalition’s joint stand.

PR issued a gag order earlier this week, barring their members from speaking on the issue until the pact’s emergency meeting last night.

Anwar also said PR will continue to allow its members to air different views but that no policy would become part of its common platform without the consensus of all.

“Why must PAS be denied the right to articulate their views? We cannot deny the right of any party to bring forward any view. PR respects PAS’s initiative and aspiration but we have to reach a consensus,” the former deputy prime minister said.

He added that he could not understand “why (hudud) cannot be discussed? Why the strong abhorrence?”

The Permatang Pauh MP also said that the hudud enactments that were passed in PAS-ruled Kelantan and Terengganu in 1993 and 2003 respectively were done before PR had been formed.

Anwar said that “both enactments are there, but it requires PR consensus and an amendment to the constitution. DAP is not supportive of that particular position.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Middle Malaysia

Middle Malaysia

-by Liew Chin Tong
DAP MP for Bukit Bendera
September 28, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

SEPT 28 — Middle Malaysia is elusive but it is clear that whichever coalition that is able to win across the traditional fault lines of race, religion and regions takes Federal power.

Barisan Nasional is now the world’s oldest elected government still in office. Its predecessor, the Alliance party, first won the Federal election for self-government in 1955.

BN’s longevity in government can be attributed to successful manipulation of the carrot and stick. Carrots range from contracts for big tycoons to rural patronage for the Umno base while the sticks are really big – dissenters can be put behind bars without trial for years while the mass media are muzzled.

But there is something deeper: there is no alternative.

Or more precisely, the ultimate use of the carrot and stick is to ensure that no BN-clone is allowed to exist.

Instead of fighting a single opposition, BN perpetuated a structure which has two flanks — PAS for the Muslims and DAP for the non-Malays — and styled itself as the indispensable pseudo “centrist” coalition that caters for the interests across racial, religious and regional boundaries.

Without a clean and fair electoral system and an unbiased mass media, the moment a moderate centrist coalition emerges it is destroyed without mercy.

Elections in 1964, 1974, 1982, 1995, and 2004 saw a general swing of all ethnic groups in favour of Barisan Nasional for various reasons. Elections in 1978 and 1986 witnessed Barisan Nasional winning across the races but losing heavily among ethnic Chinese voters.

A general anti-establishment swing across races in various degrees towards the Opposition occurred in elections in 1959, 1969, 1990, 2008 while the 1999 election was an oddity with Malays swinging massively towards the Opposition while more than 50 per cent of the supposedly more anti-establishment voted for the ruling coalition out of fear of the Islamic state claim and copycat violence a la Indonesia’s anti-Suharto days.

The de facto centre plus two flanks structure was almost broken in the 1990 general election until the final days of campaign when BN depicted Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as a traitor to the Malays for wearing a Kadazan headgear with a symbol that looks like a cross. At the time, the majority of the ethnic Chinese and nearly half of the Malays were psychologically ready for a change of government.

Since the 2008 general election, BN’s formula to win the next election is not to recognise the two-party reality that it received only 51 per cent of popular votes. In fact, only 49 per cent in peninsular Malaysia voted for BN.

Instead, apart from starving the Opposition of material resources and fair mass media coverage, the strategy is three-pronged – to destroy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s credibility as the alternative prime minister at all costs, to lure PAS’ leaders into the Malay/Muslim exclusivist discourse and to paint DAP as an extremist villain.

It is no small feat that for the last three-and-a-half years since the formation of Pakatan Rakyat as a consequence of the March 2008 election, it has so far been able to hold Middle Malaysia.

The alternative media channels are more mature compared to two decades ago while 70 per cent of Malaysians are now living in the urban areas which allow greater exposure and access to alternative views. In 1980, only 35 per cent of the population live in urban areas.

Umno has also effectively ceded Middle Malaysia to the Opposition since the waving of the keris by Hishammuddin Hussein in July 2005. Its right wing is now dictating policies.

And, to the credit of Pakatan Rakyat, it has stayed in Middle Malaysia all this while.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DAP accuses The Star of misreporting hudud quit vow

DAP accuses The Star of misreporting hudud quit vow

September 27, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — The DAP accused The Star today of falsely reporting that Lim Guan Eng had threatened to pull the party out of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) if hudud became part of the pact’s joint policy.

Zairil Khir Johari, Lim’s political secretary, wrote in an open letter to the English daily that the party secretary-general had merely promised that “the entire central executive committee (CEC) would resign to take full responsibility if hudud” became PR policy.

“An initially correct report had come to be replaced by one that was imaginatively concocted,” Zairil (picture) wrote.

He said that a correct version of the article was uploaded on on September 25 in which the reporter quoted Lim as saying that the party’s CEC would resign if anyone could prove that hudud law was in the Common Policy Framework (CPF) or Buku Jingga.

But a second version was uploaded the next day which changed the headline from “Guan Eng: DAP top leadership will quit if hudud law included in Pakatan policy” to “DAP leaders threaten to quit Pakatan council”.

Zairil said the second article “implied wrongly and falsely that Lim had threatened the resignation of the party’s top leadership” from PR.

PR issued a gag order yesterday on all PR parties, barring their members from speaking on the hudud issue until the pact’s leadership meets tomorrow.

The hudud issue reared its head again recently, reigniting the longstanding squabble among PR parties over whether the Islamic law, which prescribes stoning, whipping and amputation as punishment for criminal offences, should be implemented.

Major newspapers front-paged yesterday the declaration by Lim that his entire DAP central leadership would quit if the controversial law was made a part of PR’s Buku Jingga agenda.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who opposed hudud when Kelantan passed the law in 1993, recently reignited the issue when he dared Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the state’s mentri besar, to implement hudud now that he was no longer in power.

The PAS spiritual leader then called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to propose amendments to the federal constitution to allow the Islamic law.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim also backed PAS’s stand on introducing hudud in Kelantan but the DAP has insisted that it is not part of their common policy, leading to PR’s unity being questioned.

Monday, September 26, 2011

DAP leadership to cede office if hudud law part of Pakatan agenda

DAP leadership to cede office if hudud law part of Pakatan agenda

September 25, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 – DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng today threatened the resignation of his party’s entire leadership if the implementation of hudud law is forced into Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) common policy framework.

His statement comes ahead of plans by the PR leadership to address the longstanding issue during a meeting this Wednesday.

According to Star Online, Lim (picture) pointed out that the tripartite PR pact comprising DAP, PAS and PKR was founded on common policies and understanding, particularly on issues like fighting corruption and upholding justice.

Hudud law, he said, was never included in PR’s common policy framework or its Buku Jingga and should therefore never be part of the pact’s agenda.

“If there is any mention that we want to implement hudud law in our common policy framework and Buku Jingga, the party’s entire central committee will resign,” Lim was quoted in Star Online as saying to reporters after officiating DAP’s Federal Territories convention here.

DAP and PAS has been at loggerheads over the Islamist’s party’s support for the controversial law which prescribes stoning, whipping and amputation as punishment for criminal offences.

PAS has refused to back down from its plan, with its spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat reportedly saying recently that DAP could leave the coalition if it refused to offer support.

Hudud is a prickly subject in multicultural Malaysia where race and religion are closely-linked. The country’s 28-million population is also still haunted by the bloody racial riots of May 13, 1969.

The issue is raised cyclically as political fodder as its divisive nature often causes conflicts to occur within otherwise-friendly circles, making it ideal to pit parties with opposing ideologies against one another.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has also backed the introduction of hudud in Kelantan, saying it would not infringe upon non-Muslims’ rights, further escalating the dispute.

The PR de facto leader also rebuked Barisan Nasional (BN) for purportedly exploiting hudud, or Islamic laws, to gain political support as national polls nears.

He accused Umno of provoking greater tension among the different races and faiths by telling Muslims one thing and non-Muslims something else.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak too had yesterday pledged his administration would block any attempt to implement the Islamic penal law, in a bid to curtail further debate on the fractious subject.

Najib is the second PM to take a strong stand against hudud, after fourth prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had blocked Kelantan’s attempts to implement the Islamic laws in the state.

Najib’s Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, however, recently expressed support for hudud earlier this week, upsetting Umno’s Chinese partner MCA.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has threatened pull his party out of the ruling coalition if senior ally, Umno, goes ahead with enforcing hudud. Gerakan has expressed the same threat.

DAP wants PAS president to make official stand on Islamic state agenda

Monday September 26, 2011

DAP wants PAS president to make official stand on Islamic state agenda

KUALA LUMPUR: The DAP has called for PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to clearly state the party's stand on the hudud controversy even as the two parties remained unyielding on the issue.

Its national chairman Karpal Singh is demanding that Abdul Hadi make an official stand on whether PAS will continue its Islamic state agenda.

Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has threatened a mass resignation of his party's top leaders from the top Pakatan council if it is included in the group's election manifesto.

Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, seemingly impatient over the tug-of-war with DAP, said since his state government had already passed the hudud enactment, the action to implement it must now come from the syariah courts.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

DAP seeks crisis meet over hudud row

DAP seeks crisis meet over hudud row

September 24, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

Karpal said the issue must be headed off immediately and permanently. — File pic
GEORGE TOWN, Sept 24 — DAP today urged for an emergency Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leadership meeting to resolve the ongoing dispute over PAS’s plans to implement hudud laws.

DAP national chairman Karpal Singh, who has been openly critical of the plan, insisted that the party would always reject the establishment of an Islamic state.

According to national news agency Bernama, the Bukit Gelugor MP said any delay in addressing the matter would negatively affect public confidence in PR, especially among the non-Muslim electorate.

“An emergency meeting must be held immediately to publicly clarify Pakatan’s stand on the issue and the controversy must end, once and for all,” he was quoted as saying on Bernama Online.

DAP and PAS have been at loggerheads over the Islamist’s party’s support for the controversial law that prescribes stoning, whipping and amputation as punishment for criminal offences.

PAS has refused to back down from its plan, with its spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat reportedly saying recently that DAP could leave the coalition if it refused to offer support.

Hudud is a prickly subject in multicultural Malaysia where race and religion are closely-linked. The country’s 28-million population is also still haunted by the bloody racial riots of May 13, 1969.

The issue is raised cyclically as political fodder as its divisive nature often causes conflicts to occur within otherwise-friendly circles, making it ideal to pit parties with opposing ideologies against one another.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has backed the introduction of hudud in Kelantan, saying it would not infringe upon non-Muslims’ rights, further escalating the dispute.

The PR de facto leader also moved today to rebuke Nasional (BN) for purportedly exploiting hudud, or Islamic penal laws, to gain political support as national polls nears.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak earlier today pledged that his administration would block any attempt to implement the Islamic penal law, in a bid to curtail further debate on the fractious subject.

Najib’s deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, however, expressed support for hudud earlier this week, upsetting Umno’s Chinese partner, MCA.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has threatened pull his party out of the ruling coalition if senior ally, Umno, goes ahead with enforcing hudud. Gerakan has expressed the same threat.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

BN Government must show sincerity by tendering apology and compensation to ISA vicitms

( Speech at the DAP Sungkai dinner function organized by Sdr. A. Sivanesan Assemblyman for Sungkai on Friday, September 23, 2011)

July 9 this year was day of victory for democracy.

On this day, about 50,000 people had courageously participated in the BERSIH 2.0 rally to demand electoral reforms.

The BN chose to “demonize” the rally by carrying out aggressive publicity attacks. MCA claimed the number of Chinese participants was small.

Yet the truth is that the rally was a tremendous success and caused a negative political impact on the government’s image.

The Prime Minister’s popularity was affected as a result. According to an opinion survey, his popular ratings have dropped to 59%, compared to the peak 79% he once achieved.

And so a panicked Government was in desperation to improve the Prime Minister’s image and popularity, hence came the Malaysia Day announcement of a slew of legislative changes which includes the repeal of ISA.

The prime minister later said the repeal of the ISA was possible at this time because of the success in developing the nation, the increasing maturity of the people and the greater awareness of human rights in society.

He said that it was not due to pressure from any quarter.

There is no doubt that the change is a victory of the people and the changes were due to pressure from the people.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of ISA and I had reiterated the DAP’s stand that the draconian ISA must be abolished.

These were what I had said:-

ISA’s detention without trial goes against the very fundamental principle of the Rule of Law.The history of ISA is a record of abuses by the previous Alliance and the present BN government. ISA has been abused to detain political dissidents, unionists and activists.”

Many DAP leaders became victims of ISA arrests due to such abuse. Sdr Lim Kit Siang himself was twice incarcerated under this draconian law.

Our late Sdr Chian Heng Kai (former national vice chairman) was detained under the ISA when his daughter was only 2 days old and he was only released after losing his freedom for more than 4 years.

I will say tonight that the government should show its sincerity by tendering a public apology and making compensation to the ISA victims for the sufferings inflicted on them and their family.

While we welcome legislative changes announced, we must demand more changes.

It is insufficient for abolishing the annual permit required by newspaper publishers. The government should abolish the license requirement altogether.

All draconian laws must go. Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and Universities and University Colleges Act must go too.

Reforms must involve more aspects, including electoral and economic aspects.

There must be free and fair elections and the economic policies must be fair and just to all Malaysians.

If the Prime Minister is not prepared to embark on more meaningful and real changes, then Malaysia will remain a flawed democracy and his talk of making Malaysia the best democracy will continue to be one of his greatest jokes.

Nazri backs call for non-prosecuting AG | Free Malaysia Today

Nazri backs call for non-prosecuting AG

G Vinod | September 23, 2011-FMT

But he says the government has put constitutional amendments on hold.

PETALING JAYA: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz today expressed support for a call to separate the functions of the Attorney-General and the Public Prosecutor in different individuals, but denied that the government interfered in the AG’s work.

“We can use the United Kingdom as a reference,” he said. “However, this is my personal opinion.”

In Britain, the Attorney General is the government’s chief legal adviser. Prosecution powers are in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Yesterday, the Bar Council called on the government to amend the constitution in order to distinguish the AG from the Public Prosecutor.

Its president, Lim Chee Wen, said that vesting the same person with both functions could give rise to “selective prosecution” due to intervention by the executive arm of government.

Lawyers for Liberty made a similar call, saying the AG should be answerable to Parliament.

Nazri, who sits on the Umno supreme council, dismissed the widely held notion that the government was interfering in the AG’s work.

“During my tenure as law minister, the government never interfered in the AG’s independence,” he said.

Nazri also said the government had put on hold any tabling of laws that would require revising the Federal Constitution. This would be necessary to fulfil the Bar Council’s call.

“It’s because we do not have the two-thirds majority needed to make the amendment and we do not trust the opposition lawmakers will give us their support,” he said.

As for making the AG answerable to Parliament, Nazri said it was not possible under the Malaysian system of government.

“In our parliament, only an elected MP can sit in the Dewan Rakyat.”

‘DAP will support’

One way of getting around this, he said, was to appoint the AG as a senator, “but that may also bring in the question of his independence as he will be part of the government.”

However, DAP chairman Karpal Singh said his party would not have any problem supporting constitutional amendments in the public interest.

“The AG must be independent and he must be perceived as such too,” he said.

According to the veteran lawyer, the AG at present has a conflict of interest because he heads both the prosecution office and the judicial service.

“Most of the judges get appointed from the judicial service. So the judges are the AG’s former staff. It is fused in such a way that the AG’s and the judiciary’s independence are in question.”

Karpal also said the AG could be made answerable to Parliament if the Law Minister was appointed to the position.

“This is not something new,” he said. “From 1963 to 1977, the then law minister, Abdul Kadir Yusuff, also served as the AG and he delegated the prosecution office to the Solicitor-General, Salleh Abas.”

Also read:

Separate AG from prosecutors’ office

Friday, September 23, 2011

Undilah video taken off-air over Ku Li speech, opposition figures

Undilah video taken off-air over Ku Li speech, opposition figures

September 23, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — A video promoting the right to vote has been taken off the air by local broadcasters despite a push for greater democracy because it contains opposition figures and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s speech talking about Malaysia having problems.

The Malaysian Insider learnt that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) directed local broadcasters this week not to use the public service announcement (PSA) produced by musician Pete Teo just days after its launch on September 16.

“MCMC emailed both Astro and Media Prima Bhd about the issue, telling them the video clip should not be aired because Ku Li speaks about the country having problems and also because it features opposition leaders,” an industry source told The Malaysian Insider, referring to Tengku Razaleigh by his popular nickname.

Teo said the move not to play the video is fundamentally undemocratic in intention. — Picture by Jack Ooi
“Only NTV7 used it but the MCMC email was sent to both organisations which control the majority of television channels in the country,” the source added.

A government source confirmed that MCMC sent the email to Media Prima, which is linked to Umno and owns the NTV7 channel, and Astro, the direct broadcast satellite pay-television service.

“The email about the PSA was sent this week,” the source said, adding he was puzzled about the directive as it referred to Tengku Razaleigh, who happens to be the Gua Musang MP for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

The MCMC is an independent regulator but it reports to Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, who was incidentally the Kelantan prince’s comrade in Semangat 46 before the party was dissolved for the politicians to join Umno Baru, the successor party to the original Umno that was declared illegal in 1988.

Apart from Tengku Razaleigh, the 4.38-minute video also features Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong, Deputy Healthy Minister Datuk Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirlin and opposition figures Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

Teo, who produced the independent video as a voluntary project, said the alleged directive was “disturbing” as it went against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s latest announcement to loosen media control and strengthen civil liberties in the country.

Najib had announced on September 15, the eve of Malaysia Day, that his administration would repeal several security laws including the Internal Security Act (ISA) and review media laws to bring about more democracy in the country.

Teo said Tengku Razaleigh’s comments that Malaysia has problems, such as rising cost of living, brain drain, corruption, worsening ethnic relations, declining economic competitiveness, et cetera, was “a commonly acknowledged fact even within the government, let alone among the rakyat”.

“Any objection to the mentioning of ‘problems’ not only flies in the face of reality, it also implicitly denies the need for reform, including those initiated by the PM.

“I think it’d be more constructive if people in authority would help seek solutions to these commonly-known problems rather than try to limit the viewership of our PSA video for mentioning them,” Teo told The Malaysian Insider.

He also responded to the “apparent objection” to the equal representation to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) figures as well as their BN counterparts by saying that “the rakyat’s interest is best served by being offered a choice between competing parties at the ballot box”.

“I believe our unbiased representation of both the government and the opposition honours this crucial idea. Thus, a move to put pressure on broadcasters not to play our non-partisan public service video because it contains opposition figures is fundamentally undemocratic in intention.

“Further, it also goes against the PM’s recent announcement to loosen media control and strengthen civil liberties in the country. For this to happen so soon after the PM’s historic announcement is very disturbing,” he added.

Teo disclosed that the video clip at has seen just under 300,000 views on the video-sharing site YouTube for all four language subtitled versions since the launch last Friday.

“I am very pleased to have done this sort of numbers despite the difficult release conditions. Anyway, the plan was to massively increase (on-site, broadcast and print) publicity in the coming week so we can get more people to see it, but I guess that might be more complicated now.” he said.

Teo confirmed that NTV7 ran the video clip for the first three days of the release and a special interview with those involved, rapper Namewee, actor Afdlin Shauki, director Benji Lim and himself.

“To date, no other broadcaster has committed to broadcasting it, although one has expressed interest. Am not sure if the interest still holds,” said the musician behind the successful 15Malaysia project that featured short films last year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The system’s breaking down — The Malaysian Insider

The system’s breaking down — The Malaysian Insider

September 22, 2011

SEPT 22 — Anti-corruption officers extorted RM1 million from money changers. Policeman sentenced to five years’ jail for shooting 14-year-old boy in the back. The Attorney-General accused of a string of serious and damning offences, including fabricating evidence.

Nope, these are not headlines from a banana republic in Central America or Zimbabwe. This is what is happening in Malaysia and is only a snapshot of a system falling into a serious state of disrepair, where there is a serious blurring of lines between law enforcers and law breakers, where the culture of easy money and lack of respect for the rule of law are hurting the country’s once-respected institutions.

Oh, you can bet that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will talk about how a few bad apples should not sully the whole basket but we believe recent evidence suggests that the problems at the anti-corruption agency are institutional rather than isolated.

Wasn’t it the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Teoh Beng Hock’s death which found the behaviour of the MACC interrogators abhorrent? And of course that was before the Customs official fell to his death and where a CCTV recording mysteriously disappeared.

Aminulrasyid Amzah was shot in the back by a policeman and in another incident, the court awarded RM900,000 to a man who became paralysed after being shot in the back.

Are the cops remorseful? We doubt it judging by the response of top cop Tan Sri Ismail Omar. He did not think it necessary to offer Aminurasyid’s family an apology. Perhaps he had forgotten that his men tried to portray the boy as a criminal to justify the shooting.

Of course, no one can bring the boy back but a simple and heartfelt sorry to the family would have been the proper thing to do.

Instead, they received some mumbo jumbo from Ismail. But we should be grateful for small mercies. At least Ismail said something about this case.

He had said zilch about the reports and letters from his former comrade Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim detailing the alleged abuses of Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail. At the very least, the nature of the accusations merits an independent inquiry.

But Ismail has been quiet as has the prime minister. There is no charade or pretence of an investigation. Just a complete shutdown of any information.

Nobody in the police force or the MACC seems interested in pursuing these allegations.

Or maybe they are too busy making their own headlines.

No split over seat allocations, says Pakatan | Free Malaysia Today

No split over seat allocations, says Pakatan

Syed Jaymal Zahiid | September 22, 2011-FMT

Differences of opinion are normal, according to the opposition leader.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat denied it was divided over seat allocations for the looming general election, saying it should be finalised at the end of this month.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said it was not true that the component parties are squabbling for seats among themselves as reported by the media, adding that it was merely differences of opinion which is normal.

“Sometimes there are differences of opinion over negotiations for parliamentary and state seats but it is normal.

“But it is not true that negotiations have failed,” he told reporters after chairing Pakatant’s leadership council meeting here.

The PKR de facto leader added that each Pakatan’s state branch would submit its line-up to the central committee by month-end.

He said that should they fail, the top leadership would “intervene”.

The widespread reports of in-fighting had prompted PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution to instruct party leaders to stop going to the press to voice their discontent over seat negotiations.

He said doing so would only damage the relationship among the coalition parties.

Meanwhile, PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali said several states have concluded negotiations and submitted their respective line-ups to the central leadership, but stopped short of revealing them.

“I cannot say which states have completed them, but we have told those who have not to proceed with negotiations.

“If they do not complete them within the stipulated timeframe, the central leadership will step in to resolve the remaining seats in question,” Mustafa said.

PKR took 31 seats in the 12th general election, making it the largest opposition party in Parliament while PAS, despite being the biggest Pakatan party in terms of membership, had the smallest representation in Parliament with only 23 MPs.

However, defections by five of its lawmakers have now made DAP the leading opposition in the Dewan Rakyat.

The five seats have also become a point of contention among the three Pakatan parties in the negotiations.

Mustafa said talks are still proceeding on the five constituencies but expressed confidence that it can be solved within the deadline.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mat Sabu charge violates free speech tenets, say rights groups

Mat Sabu charge violates free speech tenets, say rights groups

September 21, 2011
Malaysian Insider

Mat Sabu claimed trial to the charge of criminal defamation in Butterworth this morning. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Human rights groups nationwide today condemned the authorities for charging PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu with criminal defamation, calling such a move a clear violation of human rights and free speech.

The groups said the use of the antiquated law sparks concerns that the government was not serious in implementing legal reforms, even after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement last week that the Internal Security Act (ISA) and other security laws would be repealed to give Malaysians more freedom.

Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, claimed trial today to a criminal defamation charge of glorifying communist guerrillas and defaming policemen and soldiers who defended the Bukit Kepong police station in 1950.

“It is certainly a violation of human rights and could be a violation of free speech as all he did was express a different view of history,” Bar Council Human Rights Committee chairman Andrew Khoo told The Malaysian Insider.

“It puts a damper on anyone who thinks of arbitrating a view that goes against the norm. Just because people didn’t like what he said, does it make it criminal? I can’t see where the criminal intent is,” the lawyer stressed.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) director Dr Kua Kia Soong called it “ridiculous” to charge someone for merely interpreting a part of the country’s history that was still being debated.

Recent history professors have shown views on colonisation that were at odds with most people in this country. Are they going charge them as well?”

“Charging Mat Sabu is the ultimate in dishonesty and injustice because it was only his interpretation of history,” Kua told The Malaysian Insider.

The Suaram director said that Mohamad’s prosecution showed that the government continues to overlook important areas of democratic reform such as freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner Muhammas Sha’ani Abdullah said that the charge was unjustified as Mohamad did not break any law.

“The claim that we have 1,000 police reports does not justify a charge to be made against a citizen for just voicing his opinion. There should be a clear threat to public safety, otherwise it will prevent discussions and debate in the country,” he said to The Malaysian Insider.

Umno’s Utusan Malaysia had first accused the maverick politician of glorifying Ahmad Indera in an August 27 report that quoted Mohamad as saying that the communist leader was a true hero.

The PAS leader denies the accusation, saying he never mentioned “communism” in his speech.

He faces two years in prison and a fine if convicted.

Najib announced a raft of reforms last week to give Malaysians more freedom but Mohamad’s prosecution has renewed fears of a crackdown against dissent.

Opposition politicians are convinced that the Najib administration will continue to prosecute its rivals despite the prime minister’s reform pledges, pointing out plans to replace the ISA with two new security laws.

The charge of criminal defamation was also used in 2008 against controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who claimed that Najib and his wife were involved in the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shariibuu.

DAP chairman Karpal Singh was also charged under the Sedition Act for remarks he made in relation to political changes in Perak.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Community spirit among Sarawakians

Friday September 16, 2011

Community spirit among Sarawakians


Sarawak’s ethnic diversity is well-known. But to actually see the community spirit among the people regardless of race and religion is an experience that touches the hearts of even staunch politicians.

IPOH Barat MP M. Kulasegaran was in typical good humour during an early morning chat at his legal office in Ipoh recently.

“You know, I didn’t see any thambi (“brother” in Tamil) around,” he quipped, referring to Miri and Bintulu where he spent one week campaigning during the Sarawak elections in April.

“There were no Indian restaurants there. No tosai! In fact, I didn’t use my mother tongue during my time there,” he said.

Friendly and earnest: Children with lanterns at the Sarawak Inter-Cultural Mooncake Festival. The spirit of togetherness comes naturally in Sarawak.

Small wonder, really. There may not be many Indians but there are about 27 ethnic groups among Sarawak’s estimated 2.4 million people. Of that, the Ibans constitute 30% of the state’s population.

Skin colour aside, Kulasegaran found it heartwarming that the people of Sarawak could accept one another, even strangers, so easily.

“There is a much larger scope of inter-racial relationships in Sarawak. It is growing and glowing there. The indigenous people are so much more adaptable to each other.”

Almost all road signages are written both in Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese, he said, citing an example.

“And the people were friendly and warm. Everywhere I went, someone would just come up to me and ask: Ini hari ada ceramah? Siapa mari? (Any speeches today? Who’s coming?)” he recalled.

A dragon dance performance at the festival. A trip to Sarawak is so enthralling that you might decide to stay.

While he was there, Kulasegaran said he spoke to the people usually in Bahasa Malaysia or English. In fact, he said that English remained the preferred language in Sarawak courts and the state assembly.

Miri, he said, was much more developed than he had thought.

“It is a well-developed urban place. Everything is accessible. There is Internet access everywhere, wi-fi at most places.”

He sensed a strong Christian presence as well.

“There are churches everywhere; certainly more than Ipoh,” he said.

Sarawak has the highest number of Christians in the country (about 853,000 or 42%); Iban Christians numbered about 408,000 based on the 2000 Population and Housing Census.

Kulasegaran noted, too, that the local coffeeshops employed indigenous people as their workers.

“Pork is available in most shops and also sold at wet markets. People would walk past it, just like that.”

Despite a common perception that Peninsular Malaysia is more developed and progressive, Kulasegaran said it was ironic that Sarawak exhibited greater openness where “things are more relaxed.”

“There seems to be less taboo on matters like pork or liquor consumption,” he noted.

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the Seri Setia (Selangor) assemblyman, shared similar observations, saying:

“Some of my Malay friends from Peninsular Malaysia had qualms about eating food prepared by non-Muslims despite it being halal dishes. In Sarawak, however, the local Muslims found that surprising as they have had few problems with that all their lives!

“Even the very religious Muslims in Sarawak were not fussy about how their food was prepared as long as it was halal,” said Nik Nazmi, who spent two weeks campaigning in Nangka, Sibu.

He also noted that Malay and Chinese stalls co-exist next to each other in places such as food courts. On the other hand, he said he knew of non-Muslims in Peninsular Malaysia who would take extra precautions such as buying new pots and making sure the ingredients were halal if they were cooking for Muslim friends.

Nik Nazmi, who was the youngest candidate to win in the 2008 general election at the age of 26, also felt that Sarawakians were a friendly and earnest lot.

“There, people mingle easily with each other. I’ve heard this about them but it’s really remarkable to see the ease in which they mix with Malays, Ibans, Melanaus, Chinese or any race. For someone from Peninsular Malaysia, it’s really amazing to see that.”

“Also, the lifestyle is far more relaxed. It is so easy to make friends there. We like to take pride that Malaysians are friendly but being a PJ boy all my life, you don’t notice it so much.”

In fact, he found the trip to Sarawak so enthralling that what was supposed to be a five-day visit stretched to a fortnight.

“People in the peninsula – myself included – tend to always regard the peninsula as Malaysia and forget about Sabah and Sarawak. We have many things that we can learn from the Sabahans and Sarawakians.”

Perak state executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, a Foochow boy who grew up in Sitiawan, found that he could fit right in during his visit to Sibu, where the clan dominates.

The Foochows, he explained, are known to be very hard-working, thrifty and a close-knit community.

“Outsiders may find it hard to break into their business circle,” he said, laughing.

Despite his short stay there, Dr Mah said the trip brought back memories of two decades ago.

“The people sitting around at eating places reminded me of those old days when life was simpler. There were not so many taboos then. These days, people tend to be so particular about so many things,” he said.

Racial sentiment was much less in Sarawak, he said, adding that their spirit of “togetherness” seemed to come so naturally.

Dr Mah recalled the times when he attended chapel during his school days in SMK ACS, Sitiawan, although he was not a Christian.

“I can sing many hymms,” said Dr Mah, who gave up a 10-year career as Perak’s leading cardiologist to become a full-time politician in 2009.

(One estimate put the number of Foochows in Sarawak at 120,000 of which about half are Christians.)

Referring to the Aug 4 raid by Selangor Islamic Religious Department on a church over a multi-racial dinner, Dr Mah said he believed that such raids would not happen in Sarawak.

(As someone tweeted that day: “Come to Sarawak. Multi racial dinner happens everywhere, everyday.”)

“These kind of raids were unheard of in the past,” he said.

However, Dr Mah remained optimistic about the future, citing Chenderiang, Perak, in which he is the assemblyman. There are about 20,000 voters there, of which 20% are orang asli, while the Chinese and Malays each formed about one-third of the electorate.

“The level of acceptance is higher in small towns,” he said. “In the schools in Chenderiang, the racial mix is very good. This means that the students have more opportunities to mingle with one another,” he said.

Dr Mah stressed that Malaysians must always be mindful about having a broader perspective in life and that people should be cautious about not making racial remarks.

“At the end of the day, we are all citizens of planet Earth,” he said.

That bold speech on that historic day — Sakmongkol AK47

That bold speech on that historic day — Sakmongkol AK47

September 19, 2011
Malaysian Insider

SEPT 19 — I am a little late to write on the historic speech of the prime minister. Really, I wanted to offer words of encouragement and support. I am tired to continue criticising the PM, who is, after all, my ketua bahagian.

I was thinking, support and congratulations are in order because the media, led by the overzealous minister of information, have led the public to believe that some real goodies are in order; and after that, the public will offer effusive joyousness in response.

They will, I think, if the subject matter that is going to be announced affects them directly and immediately in a positive way. The response from the public will be lukewarm if the subject matter affects them indirectly and inconsequentially. Let us judge the administration on this score.

All week, the public was thinking that PM will announce some measures to be taken by the government that will, in substance, increase the efficiency of governance and government. In the end, those measures will translate into immediate increase in disposable income.

What possible form can such measures take place? Maybe: (1) Restructuring the GLCs including Khazanah so that they won’t become governments unto themselves. Now that 15,000 employees of MAS have threatened industrial action, that shows Khazanah has been doing some cloak and dagger corporate moves; (2) replacing laggard key government officials with those with abilities; (3) removal of structural impediments to transparency and accountability such as removing OSA; (4) shaking up the institutions that deliver justice and the law such as the police and the judiciary; and (5) announce stronger measures on corruption including the conviction of the big guns.

Further, things like direct transfer of money (oil money) to the public like what the Singapore government did during its recent general election. Those states making mountains of money from petroleum royalties distributing money to citizens of the state; Felda Corporation, which made lots of money, giving out money to Felda settlers, etc. That would be the real goodies that would certainly induce the recipients to jump up in uncontrollable euphoria while proclaiming “Najib, you are da man!”

We certainly need some substantive liberty enhancing policies from the current administration that would differentiate the Najib administration positively from previous ones. By liberty-enhancing policies, I mean policies that reduce dependency on the government.

There are some economic pressures that the government needs to address that have political ramifications. Inflationary pressures that cause the price of essential goods to rise make people more dependent on the government.

More people in the rural areas will depend on the welfare department for assistance and, when given, obliges them to be loyal to the benefactor. So what does a desperate government do? Maybe even condone the price increase. We are happy to note the administration is doing everything possible to contain the inflationary pressures.

Maybe the scrapping of the RM50 billion MRT in favour of an improved transport system that is more public friendly, maybe the setting of a ceiling price for houses in the city so that lower- and middle-income earners can work and stay in the city. Instead, they now have to look for houses in the outskirts of town while the city is reserved for the selects. Or maybe some form of a Buffet tax on the super-rich. Or maybe the dismantling of Khazanah and transferring all its shares to Amanah Saham Nasional or Amanah Saham Bumiputera.

Compared to the announcement involving the ISA and the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), government actions on those would be more impactful. But isn’t prosperity predicated on the removal of shackles and chains that perpetuate un-freedom?

I am using the term un-freedom to define freedom and liberty as a state of being free from the arbitrary force and coercion of others. Yes, it does; but the emancipation potential arising from the more down to earth policies could achieve the desired effects of freedom and liberty much more and faster.

The ululating responses would of course make the minister of information look good and perhaps ensure one last hurrah as a Cabinet member? It would be unfair for me to harbour misgivings aforethought.

The desired responses were forthcoming. Everywhere, PM Najib Razak was declared a revolutionary and a bold PM. Rais Yatim must be beaming like a Cheshire cat. PM Najib is really Optimus Prime, the chief Transformer. I have forgotten the never ending list of acronyms. Maybe the APCO people can issue a definitive list signed by Idris Jala, of course.

After the speech and announcement, the euphoria was I think premature. The subject of his bold and revolutionary steps to enhance governance and credibility of his administration are the ISA and the PPPA. Important as they are, I think their impact on governance enhancement and thereafter productivity is outstretched and indirect.

The good intent of abolishing the ISA appears to be blunted by the forewarning that two new Acts will replace the ISA. A person arbitrarily defined as a terrorist can still be detained without trial in open court. The empowering act of Article 149, the fountain from which springs ISA-like enactments, is still there and remains the overarching enabling repressive Act.

I was thinking of some announcement on measures to improve the quality of civil servants, or some measures assuring the best of civil servants that their effort will be well compensated, or the removal of bureaucratic clogs that prevent transparency, accountability and so forth.

Perhaps, if there is full public disclosure, we can once and for all determine, for example, whether Bangladeshi workers are given citizenship to vote in the coming general elections. Perhaps also, if there is full disclosure instead of OSA, then we can resolve the double speak by the Election Commission that the final list of voters are with them and that what the public are looking at are outdated voter registers.

Why would the updated and current list be withheld from public knowledge? I wouldn’t want a Bangladeshi pump attendant to have the same voting rights as I do. How the Election Commission can with impunity insult our intelligence by claiming the latest voters lists are meant for internal circulation is beyond any measure of decency!

I was thinking maybe the removal of the OSA, more insidious than the ISA, which prevents any public spirited citizen of this country from discovering the rationale of many government decisions on tender awards, on selection process and so on.

Now THAT, I thought would have more far reaching impact on the voters.

The ISA and PPPA? Tokens imputing the liberalisation of our society. ISA will be replaced by two new Acts on terrorism? Will the definition of terrorism be assigned to the sole and arbitrary discretion of the PM or the home minister? If it’s that, then the ISA remains in a different form.

People and political opponents, on the pain of being declared a terrorist, can be detained and incarcerated indefinitely without open trial. Owners of newspapers will still need to apply for a one-off licence from the relevant ministers. The liberty to operate a newspaper, therefore, remains only in potential until the minister approves.

Naturally, PM Najib came out brilliantly after delivering what people thought was a very bold move by the PM. Naturally, at least, that was the impression one can safely assume to be gushing out from the sycophantic Umno masses.

Unfortunately for PM Najib , if he cares to listen intently enough, even Umno members are now being critical. With 79 parliamentary seats, it’s no longer PM Najib’s own survival that is at stake, but also that of Umno as a dominant partner in any future government.

To most Umno members, PM Najib’s nervous rendition of his pre-Malaysia Day speech could signal the end of life as they have know it. But that probably is due to a stiffened neck malady — damn the pillow! — or maybe the after effects of his knee surgery.

Mainly, the life of an aristocrat feeding on the toil and labour of the masses while the ruling elite luxuriate in a life with perpetual soirees, jewellery from Jacob & Co, and where the spouses of prominent leaders swap lunatic smalltalk over the latest Hermes Birkin handbags and accessories. —

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pak Samad says ISA repeal plans are result of public pressure

Pak Samad says ISA repeal plans are result of public pressure

September 19, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — National laureate-turned-Bersih icon Datuk A. Samad Said mocked Datuk Seri Najib Razak today for his government’s refusal to admit the planned ISA repeal was a result of public pressure, especially from the young who want democratic change.

He also criticised the prime minister, saying Najib “had not learnt from past mistakes”.

Samad said poetry could become a ‘weapon’ to stir the government into action. — File pic
“For 54 years, they did not think at all that the ISA should be scrapped. Suddenly they are inspired and refuse to admit that this is because of pressure from certain groups, among them our youth, that we cannot take it anymore,” the bespectacled poet was reported as saying in Harakah Daily today.

The soft-spoken 79-year-old, who cuts a striking figure with his long, snowy-white beard, scorned the sixth prime minister for claiming sole credit for last Thursday’s historic announcement.

“The prime minister in the last two or three days said... Oh, we... only we are the ones to repeal the ISA, but he did not tell that it was because of the pressures that drove him to change it,” Samad said at yesterday’s launch of the book “Puisi Jadi Senjata” (Poetry Becomes Weapons), a compilation of poems by youths at the Central Market Annexe here.

“Without those pressures, I don’t think [the ISA will be repealed] because it is a very useful suppression tool,” said the man fondly called Pak Samad.

Samad said poetry was not important just for its artistic value, but could become a “weapon” to stir the government into action.

“There are those who say art is just for play, for entertainment. But in the hands of the youth, poetry has become a weapon,” he said, praising young Malaysians for their desire for change.

Samad urged the youths to use the power of not just poetry but their votes too to end oppression in the coming polls.

“I hope their voices will inspire a regime change,” he said, reminding the youths that they could only blame themselves if change does not happen.

On Thursday night, the prime minister announced the repeal of the ISA and the three Emergency Declarations when both the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat have their next sitting.

He said new laws will be enacted to protect the peace, harmony and security of the country.

He also announced that the government will do away with annual printing and publishing permits with permits that can be cancelled if regulations are flouted.

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has claimed that BN had lifted the idea from its Buku Jingga manifesto.

Najib however said the decision to scrap the ISA was part of his promise to amend the controversial law when he took office in 2009 and the need for a stable government to ensure the country’s future prosperity.

“If politics in our country is in a state of flux... and we do not have political stability, it will affect the country badly,” the PM had said, adding that any lack of stability would put off foreign investors.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pakatan to steer away from smut politics | Free Malaysia Today

Pakatan to steer away from smut politics

Hawkeye | September 18, 2011

PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim says that Pakatan will be highlighting policy issues and won't entertain Umno's dirty politics.

GEORGE TOWN: PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim wants Pakatan Rakyat to focus on policy issues along the socio-economic lines instead of just countering dirty politics in the run up to the next general election.

In his first ceramah after Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s political reforms announced on Malaysia Day and the online uploading of a new video clip concerning his alleged sex scandal, Anwar told a moderate number of people at the City Stadium here last night that Pakatan shall not be dragged
into a pit of dirty and smut politics although such issues tend to be captivating and alluring to the masses.

“I was exchanging tweets with a young man who had asked if Prime Minister Najib has skeletons in his closet. I replied to the young man to stay focused. We are now only championing policy issues and will not be drawn by the smut out there,” Anwar said.

He said that despite the proposal to repeal the ISA, the policy issues of socio-economic and corruption remain at the heart of his struggle.

Anwar said his foes are drawing up smut politics to distract the people from the bigger issues such as the economic management.

They are also undermining the tolerance levels of race and religious issues to create a climate of fear and an uncertainty outlook.

“The issue of racism, corruption, nepotism and cronism however, have not gone away. They remained at the left, right and centre of the people’s disillusionment with Barisan Nasional.”

Solving problems of the Penang Malays

Anwar also said that he fully understands the grouses of the Malays in Penang, especially on their housing needs.

Anwar said the state government was now taking decisive steps to address the issues of the Penang Malays. Anwar blamed Umno for the plight of the Malay community here.

Almost on par with the Chinese community in terms of numbers, the Malays however lag behind others in the socio-economic context here.

The number one issue now in Penang is that they risk being evicted from their ancestry homes in many parts of the island because the land is marked and approved for commercial development.

Many cannot afford decent houses on Penang island because the property prices here are quoted as one of the highest in the country and to make matters worst, the compensation offered to squatters by the landowners and developers, are said to be relatively low.

Against this backdrop, Anwar said the approach taken by Pakatan would be altogether different compared to Umno’s policy.

The state government would focus on the poor by appointing companies who would sincerely help them instead of just enriching themselves, he said.

In the past, Umno’s approach was to appoint cronies to develop housing projects, but they end up enriching themselves, while not building enough to meet the demand for affordable units, he claimed.

Anwar also said that it was also now up to Pakatan to mend the cloud of suspicions about race and religion in the country after Umno in their haste to cling on to power, is supposedly willing to compromise on these two contentious subjects.

Rising debts

PAS vice-president Husam Musa, who also spoke at the same function, claimed that the federal government’s debts continue to rise.

He said the current debt ratio is 54% to the country’s annual gross domestic produce (GDP) output figure.

“Malaysia’s debt figures have been growing since 1998.”

He said the country is only repaying past debts and, has yet to conceive a policy to address its total debt level despite rosy estimates of economic growth and foreign direct investments.

Husam also said the repeal of the ISA means that the election is near.

Pakatan would be ready to claim Putrajaya as Husam sternly believes that Najib is the last ever prime minister from Umno.

Husam also said that the percentage of goodwill payments made by the national oil company Petronas would be increased to 20% across the board annually and it would be distributed to all states, so more development projects can be carried out for the people.

This would be a reality if Pakatan wins over Putrajaya, he exclaimed.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Peanuts, not sweeping reforms | Free Malaysia Today

Peanuts, not sweeping reforms

September 16, 2011-FMT

Let’s not be fooled, people. The changes Najib announced are merely cosmetic, and will have to be passed in Parliament first before they become effective.


By Kee Thuan Chye

PEANUTS. That’s what Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s so-called “sweeping reforms” are. They hardly amount to a political transformation.

While it’s cheering to note that the Internal Security Act (ISA) will be repealed – finally, after our many years of waiting – and that the Emergency proclamations are to be lifted – a decision that is decades overdue – it’s disturbing to be told that they will be replaced by two new laws aimed at preventing subversion and safeguarding public order.

And even though the detention period under these new laws may be shorter, with further extensions to be made by court order, the Home Minister is still the one to decide who gets detained for suspicion of being a terrorist.

This means, theoretically speaking, that although Najib has given the commitment that “no individual will be detained purely based on political ideology”, there is no stopping the government from branding a political opponent a suspected terrorist, whether or not he is one. Just to lock him away.

Another so-called “reform” is scrapping the requirement for publications to renew their printing licences annually.

This, also, is nothing to crow about. It still means that publications have to obtain a licence that the Home Minister may or may not grant. It still means the Home Minister has the absolute power to suspend or revoke a licence at any time. And his decision cannot be challenged in court. He does not even have to give a reason.

It also means the Home Ministry can still call up newspaper editors and cow them into submission for publishing something the ministry finds objectionable. Like what happened recently to The Star when it ran the heading ‘Ramadhan delights’ for an eating-out supplement that was not totally devoted to halal food.

The ministry can still practise the double standards it has been practising – turn a blind eye to the race-baiting and rabble-rousing of Utusan Malaysia but come down hard on the minor transgressions of other publications. So where’s the change?

If the government were truly sincere and had the political will, it should repeal the Publications and Printing Presses Act (PPPA) and no longer require publications to obtain a printing licence. That would be in keeping with the spirit of what Najib talked about instituting in Malaysia when he announced the “reforms” on Sept 15 – a “democratic system based on the universal philosophy of ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’”.

Vague reforms

None of the newly announced “reforms” fully cohere with this spirit.

On Section 27 of the Police Act, Najib said there would be a review to take into consideration the provisions under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees Malaysians the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

But in the same breath, he said police permits would still be required for street demonstrations, subject to certain criteria.

If freedom of assembly, which should be a right of all citizens, is still curtailed in this fashion, what is that rubbish talk of Najib’s about forging a democratic system “of the people, by the people and for the people”?

He did say, however, that “permission to assemble will be given in accordance with procedures to be fixed later that will take into account international norms”. But this sounds vague. What international norms did he mean? And when is “later” going to be?

And speaking of Article 10, why doesn’t the government address the other impediments to freedom of speech, such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the Sedition Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), the Multimedia and Communications Act, the Public Order (Preservation) Ordinance?

No wonder Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was smirking and applauding when Najib made his announcements. His absolute powers remain intact.

Let’s not be fooled, people. The changes Najib announced are merely cosmetic. And of course they will have to be passed in Parliament first before they become effective.

Meanwhile, Articles 149 and 150 are still there to provide Parliament with the power to pass laws that do not have to be consistent with the freedoms guaranteed in Articles 5, 9, 10 and 13, and to allow the Cabinet to declare an emergency. The Emergency proclamations may go, but Article 150 is still around. We the people are still vulnerable.

Some of us may say that we cannot expect the government to make such truly sweeping reforms in one go, and that we should be thankful for the small mercies we are now getting. Some may say this could be just the beginning, and more reforms could come.

That’s well and good. But at the same time, we should give credit where it’s due for this beginning. It’s not Najib we should thank. What we are getting is what has been due us for a long time, what any concerned government should have given us even without our having to pressure them to do so.

We should instead acknowledge that the March 8 effect lives on, and therefore the credit for these changes should go to us the rakyat for voting as we did on March 8, 2008. We voted in a stronger opposition, we denied the ruling party the two-thirds majority that it had abused to increasingly curb our democratic rights over the decades. We sent them the message that enough was enough.

These “reforms” have now come about because Barisan Nasional (BN) wants to stay in power, and it has realised that we have the power to decide whether that will happen. The “reforms” are meant to win back our votes. Ever since Najib took over as prime minister, he has been doing things merely to ensure that BN’s goal is fulfilled, not because he is altruistic or benevolent in spirit. We have seen his meanness in numerous other ways.

Watching him speak on Sept 15 when announcing these “reforms” as part of his Malaysia Day address, we could have contrasted it with his speech to 6,000 Umno members and Malay NGOs at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) a couple of days after the Bersih 2.0 rally, and call him “two-faced”.

Contemptuous chauvinist

At that PWTC gathering, he was far from being the prime minister who cared about reform and the good of the entire country.

He was a truculent thug who roused the crowd with the boast of Umno’s ability to round up a million members to “conquer Kuala Lumpur”. He was a contemptuous chauvinist who exhorted the Malays to unite in order to teach the Bersih 2.0 protesters a lesson and “show them whose country this is”.

No doubt, he has since realised his mistakes in his handling of the Bersih 2.0 rally and is now making amends. His ratings have dropped and he’s trying to make them go up again. Hence these “reforms”. But let’s be wary of his sincerity and be clear about his real purpose.

Let us keep sight as well of the many more ills that the government has not comprehensively addressed, such as corruption, rent-seeking, wasteful spending, Umnoputraism, our pathetic education system.

Let us demand more reforms, especially those pertaining to our institutions, such as the judiciary, the police, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Election Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

There is still a long road ahead. Unless and until the reforms are truly sweeping and the restrictive laws abolished, we should not put our trust in Najib and BN.

Make them sweat, make them work, and don’t let them take us for granted. Never again.

Dramatist and journalist Kee Thuan Chye is the author of ‘March 8: Time for Real Change‘. He is a contributor to FMT.