Monday, October 31, 2011

Two-party system will defeat BN, says Mustafa Ali

Two-party system will defeat BN, says Mustafa Ali

October 30, 2011
Malaysian Insider

Harakah Daily reported the PAS secretary-general as saying the two-party system would be achievable in five to 10 years, but was difficult now due to hesitation from some party members. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 – Datuk Mustafa Ali believes a two-party system is the answer to end powerful Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 54-year rule and has called on PAS colleagues to work towards that particular goal in the coming national polls.

Harakah Daily reported the PAS secretary-general as saying the two-party system would be achievable in five to 10 years, but was difficult now due to hesitation from some party members who question if they are compromising the party’s ultimate plan to make Malaysia an Islamic state.

The Islamist party had teamed up with the secular DAP and the reformist PKR to form a political alliance after beating the ruling coalition in the landmark 2008 elections to take five states.

“A two-party system is important to PAS and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) because it will ease joint efforts to defeat BN in the elections,” the political party’s paper cited Mustafa as saying yesterday.

“Only with a two-party system can PAS, PKR and DAP in Pakatan Rakyat stand under one symbol as is done by BN component parties during elections,” he added to persuade party members of the benefits of working together with its two partners who have their different political goals.

He noted the Opposition parties managed to deny the BN its two-thirds hold to grab 84 out of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat in the last polls, and wrest Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor while maintaining Kelantan.

Mustafa said PAS members must accept that cooperation among the three PR parties is the only way forward for the Opposition to take over Putrajaya.

He said political cooperation, which he called the concept of “tahaluf siyasi” was a significantly different political approach from its policy championing an Islamic state.

That, Mustafa said, was what confused PAS members. He said the party’s information machinery has been ordered to disseminate this information so grassroots members gain a better understanding of the push for political cooperation with its allies who do not necessarily share their religious compulsion.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Karpal: Crimes will rise under hudud laws | Free Malaysia Today

Karpal: Crimes will rise under hudud laws

Athi Shankar | October 30, 2011-FMT

Criminals would prefer hudud laws because it will be impossible for the prosecution to prove its case without four witnesses, argues the DAP national chairman.

GEORGE TOWN: Hudud laws will boost, and not deter, crimes because of the high standard of proof that would impede the prosecution from establishing its case, DAP national chairman Karpal Singh said here today.

He said the rigid requirement to have four witnesses under hudud laws meant that the case must be proven with certainty.

He said this was contrary to the current criminal legal system which only required the prosecution to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt.

Moreover, he added that under the hudud legal system, the four witnesses must be upright and good practising Muslims.

He said the prosecution would face a thorny task to produce four such witnesses to prove cases like adultery, zina, and khalwat or close proximity.

“Criminals would prefer hudud laws because it will be impossible for the prosecution to prove its case.

“Hudud will indeed set criminals to roam freely and crime will increase,” Karpal told reporters during his visit to his Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency.

Currently, the country is being governed by uniformed criminal laws for all enacted by Parliament.

The state governments, however, have the power to enact Muslim family or personal syariah laws.

Karpal brushed aside suggestions that hudud laws were God-made laws to deter crime and instill fear in the people, describing it as “a misconception”.

Referring to global human rights watchdog Amnesty International’s declaration that the death penalty was cruel and unjust punishment, he questioned the severity of amputating legs and arms under hudud laws.

“Hudud laws have no place in the country’s legal system,” he added.

He was commenting on Kelantan state executive councillor Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah’s call for the criminal laws to be made as severe as hudud laws to deter crime.

Amar is deputy chairman of the state technical committee studying hudud enactments and the Kelantan government official spokesman on hudud issues.

Larger issues

Karpal dismissed Amar’s proposal as “not a step in the right direction”.

He pointed out that the Penal Code was amended on Jan 15, 2008, providing for enhanced severity of punishments on several crimes.

For instance, the punishment for manslaughter under Section 304 was increased from 20 years in jail to a maximum of 30 years.

Punishment for rape under Section 376 has increased from five to 30 years, plus whipping while severe penalties were also introduced for sodomy and incest.

A new charge and punishment of a maximum five-year imprisonment have been enforced for husbands raping wives.

Karpal also recalled that in early 1990s then deputy home minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub has told Parliament that drug trafficking had increased in the country despite the introduction of mandatory death penalty under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

“This shows that severe punishment does not deter crime,” said Karpal.

He reiterated DAP’s opposition to the Islamist agenda of its Pakatan Rakyat ally, PAS.

“The DAP will cooperate with PAS on larger issues of public interests, but not on hudud and Islamic state.

“We are associated with PAS with a caveat that we oppose the Islamic agenda.

“It will not be included in Pakatan’s election manifesto,” he said.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Implement hudud by force, he says

Opinion

Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com

Implement hudud by force, he says

October 28, 2011
Malaysian Insider

OCT 28 — “Hudud needs to be implemented by force!”

I was shocked to hear an academician, Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, utter those words at a recent Islamic forum on hudud.

According to the academician who teaches at the National Defence University, time is running out and it looks like the non-Muslims will never accept hudud and Islam.

As a Muslim myself, I felt ashamed and embarrassed by what he said at such a public forum.

First of all, I would like to ask one vital question. If non-Muslims are not willing to accept hudud or Islam, why question their reasoning for it?

The non-Muslims would have made their decision based on what they have seen, heard and observed. Can you blame them if what they’ve seen has been all negative?

So, maybe what he should have said, instead of using force, look within and solve the internal problems before you start preaching outside.

Any educated individual who has even a little bit of learned experience, Muslim or non-Muslim, will tell you that Islam is not, and never was, a religion of force.

Free will and compulsion is something that is stressed upon in the religion and is stated all over the Quran.

Surah Al Baqarah states that:

“There is no compulsion in religion. Certainly, right has become clearly distinct from wrong.”

And this is reaffirmed in Surah Al Ghashiyya:

“(Muhammad), preach, you are only a preacher. You do not have full control over them.”

And again in Surah Qaf:

“We know best what they say and you (Muhammad) cannot compel them. Remind, by way of the Quran, those who have fear of My warnings.”

He also, during the forum, said that hudud is the law of God and that is one of the reasons why it should be implemented even by force.

Here, I would like to take the opportunity to remind him that these laws are men’s attempt to understand God’s decree in a particular context, and hence are man-made.

Hudud and syariah rules are really just opinions of jurists from a long time ago (mainly the Abbasid period). This is known as fiqh, or jurisprudence.

The laws that are being planned to be implemented today consist of what were made during this long gone period, which did not even resemble our modern society today.

And the problems that arise are exactly the kind that we see today. We see it as something archaic, medieval and barbaric.

Our society today has evolved way beyond the 8th century of the Abbasid period. And it is only natural to expect the laws to also evolve.

Which brings me to the Islamic concept of Khilafat which decrees that a government needs to be ruled by the free choice of the people.

And Shura, which means that anything that is to be implemented in a certain society needs to be done with the consultation of the people.

Surah Al Shura states:

“Those who listen to their Lord, and establish regular prayer; who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what we bestow on them for sustenance, [are praised].”

“The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrong doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a penalty grievous.”

And again in Surah Al Imran:

“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”

For someone with numerous academic qualifications and a member of several Islamic consultative organisations and agencies, he must surely know this.

Then, in his rant, he goes on to say that it was never the intention of God to have in existence a multiracial country and that each country is intended for a specific race.

By then, I just gave up in exasperation and concluded that no one could actually take the words of this man seriously. Thank God for that!

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

MTUC warns Najib labour law battle will go on to polls

MTUC warns Najib labour law battle will go on to polls

October 28, 2011
Malaysian Insider

MTUC members protest amendments to the Employment Act, outside Parliament in Kuala Lumpur, October 3, 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May
SUBANG JAYA, Oct 28 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) warned Datuk Seri Najib Razak today that the votes of 5.7 million workers “could decide matters” on polling day unless labour law changes that could affect job security and workers’ rights are withdrawn.

The umbrella body, which comprises 390 of the 692 labour unions and a total of 802,323 members, said in a press conference today that “we are non-partisan, but our battle will have to go on” against amendments to the Employment Act passed on October 6 which it has called “a return to slavery.”

“We call on the prime minister to hear our calls that have become shouts and screams on behalf of 5.7 million voters. There are 5.7 million workers who are registered workers. That is our signal to him,” general secretary Abdul Halim Mansor told reporters today.

The MTUC affirmed today that its nationwide picket in at least 20 locations on November 3 continues “an ongoing action” against legislation that it says will “green light investors to hire Malaysians as contract workers instead of permanent staff.”

It said this will encourage companies to outsource more of labour requirements, handing over responsibility over rights and benefits such as social security and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributions to third-party contractors who “can escape easily when business goes bad.”

The MTUC had first protested the amendments on October 3, drawing hundreds of workers to the gates of Parliament.

Najib tabled his Budget 2012 proposals earlier this month that provided cash handouts and an extra one per cent employers’ contribution to the pension fund for those earning up to RM5,000 a month, which covers most of MTUC’s members.

His government has also promised to implement a minimum wage policy by end-2011 but Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have already pledged a national minimum of RM1,100 and support for the union’s protest against labour law changes.

Najib is expected to hold a general election soon, after announcing RM4.5 billion in direct assistance to citizens and pay hikes for some 1.3 million civil servants for next year’s Budget.

National Council of Professors has lost its voice

National Council of Professors has lost its voice

COMMENT Minister of Higher Education Khaled Nordin, in his speech announcing the establishment of the National Council of Professors, reminded Malaysian professors to not only be “super gurus” in focusing on their respective careers but to contribute their expertise and participate in national life.

The recently established professors’ council comprising over 1,500 professors in the public universities did indeed weigh in on a national debate not too long ago, namely, ‘Was Mat Indera a communist or a patriot?’

Academics such as professors and professor emeritus Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Ramlah Adam, Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, Khoo Kay Kim and their ilk enjoy the academic rights and freedom of expression through their comments appearing regularly in the mass media.

Having themselves taken advantage of these rights - in my view, correctly so, and one further assumes they would want to continue to enjoy such freedom - their silence therefore on the action taken by Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) don, Prof Abdul Aziz Bari, is somewhat of an anomaly.

NONEAziz Bari (left) has the responsibility to use his expertise to enlighten the public on matters related to his field of interest and scholarship, which extends to commenting on Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s recent decree in relation to the raid on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church by the Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor.

Over 140 academics signed a petition supporting Aziz Bari in this and condemning the authorities for coming down on his academic rights and freedom.

In addition to the petition signed by academics in their individual capacity, there have been statements from five academic organisations condemning the actions by the authorities against Aziz.

The five organisations are the academic staff associations of UIA, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia; Ikatan Ilmuan Nasional (Ilmuan); and the Malaysian Academic Movement (Move), with the last being the earliest to come out with a press statement on Oct 19 decrying the actions taken by the authorities.

But where is the voice of the National Council of Professors on this developing controversy? Or for that matter other prominent academic organisations such as the Malaysian Social Science Association.

And what about the rest of the numerous academic staff associations as well as other professional organisations spawned by and working in the burgeoning number of public and private universities in the country?

Aziz Bari presents an important test case of academic freedom. Yet the majority of staff associations and many thousands of individual academics have not put their names to the petition or voiced their support for Aziz Bari and in defence of the cause of academic freedom.

Silence of the lambs

The silence of the great majority of the country’s academia - individually and collectively - can be attributed to various reasons including:

  • They are not aware of the case of Aziz Bari. They could not care less about what is happening in the case.
  • They are concerned but either cannot be bothered to voice their concerns or are too afraid of what they feel may be adverse repercussions to their careers.

What is especially noticeable is the silence from some of the most vocal academics whose views on race, religion, history and politics, etc, are much sought after by the mainstream media.

One assumes that they should want to provide feedback in their own areas of expertise without fear of being victimised by the authorities or being hauled up under the Universities and University Colleges Act; Aku Janji; or other regulations.

One also assumes that they would be in sympathy with Aziz Bari and should be among the first to protest against the harsh and unacceptable actions taken.

But perhaps their silence is because they think Aziz Bari deserves being punished whilst they themselves have special immunity from the treatment meted out to other academics that dare to speak out against the status quo.

However now is not the time for the rest of the traditional ‘silent majority’ (over 35,000 academics in the public universities and possibly similar numbers in the private universities) to become deaf and mute.

If they have not done so, it is not too late for them to declare their support for academic freedom by adding their names to the signature campaign which can be found here.

Aziz Bari was doing exactly what the higher education minister was calling for, that is, for academics to descend from the ivory tower and contribute their knowledge to national issues.
All academics should stand by and with Aziz Bari.

We should also all be aware of the truism: ‘If you don't exercise your rights, if you don't show the government that you value those rights, eventually you will lose them.’

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Police Report Will Be Lodged Against UMNO Online Within 48 Hours If No Withdrawal And Apology Is Made By UMNO Online

A Police Report Will Be Lodged Against UMNO Online Within 48 Hours If No Withdrawal And Apology Is Made By UMNO Online


By Lim Guan Eng

Both my wife and I are outraged at the continued attacks by BN leaders on the lies about my young son outraging the modesty of his girl classmate, causing him to be transferred to another school and that I had even paid RM200,000 to the girl’s family to hush up the matter. I had wanted to let the matter rest after my young son, who is not even 16, was proven innocent.

My son was clearly a victim of morally despicable and barbaric lies when proven that: -

  1. my son had transferred to St Xavier Institution in January 2011 and not in May 2011 as alleged;

  2. the picture of the alleged girl classmate victim was “faked”, as she is a 21 year old woman from Hong Kong and not even a Malaysian

  3. the alleged victim, Anya Corke, had issued a statement denying the allegation. She said that she had not been victimized by my son and she had never met me or my son. Anya added that she had never been assaulted and that the only way in which her ‘modesty was outraged’ has been by the publication of her picture by the pro-UMNO blogs in connection with these lies.

  4. my son’s former school, SMJK Heng Ee principal Mr Goh Boon Poh has also publicly denied that such an incident had happened; and

  5. Penang Education Director Encik Ahmad Tarmizi Kamaruddin had told the Star on 22.10.2011 that his department found no evidence to back the claims of sexual misconduct against my son in the pro-UMNO blogs.


I wanted to put the matter to rest so as not to affect my young son. He had skipped school for two days when the lies first surfaced. I had no wish for him to go through with this again or deal with police investigations which involves ninja character assassins operating behind shadowy pro-BN blogs.

However MCA and UMNO’s have continued unrelenting hate-filled attacks in their blogs such as UMNO Online, despite the above irrefutable denials. Even Bernama reported the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as joining in the controversy against my son, by saying that a denial was not enough and challenged for a police report to be lodged.

It is cowardly for BN and UMNO politicians to pick on and make fun of a young boy, especially UMNO Youth President Khairy Jamaluddin shameful lewd remarks. Khairy must be the biggest bully in Malaysia to pick on a young boy who can not defend himself. What type of father is Khairy to his two young sons when Khairy does not feel any remorse at his shameful lewd remarks?

I had urged BN and UMNO not to behave cowardly and that if you want to finish me off politically by any means, do your worst but please leave my young child alone. Unfortunately UMNO has refused and continued to imply that there must be something wrong if no police report is lodged.

UMNO Online even quoted a fictitious report from Guang Ming(immediately denied by Guang Ming) that I had said my young son was transferred out to another school because of drug problems in his former school. Lately pro-MCA blogs have also joined in politicizing the issue by agreeing with Muhyiddin and hinted that I am not a good father for refusing to lodge a police report.

My family and I are touched by the support shown by many Malaysians disgusted by BN and UMNO’s gutter politics. We are also deeply appreciative of Anya Corke for coming out publicly to clear my young son’s name and testify his innocence. We are encouraged by Anya mother’s statement that she is considering legal action to protect her daughter.

After discussions with my family and my son, we have decided with some reluctance that we have no choice but to act. Not to act will allow these bullies to continue to stain my young son’s image. My young son says that he will try to find the courage to face these bullies and cowards who refuse to apologise for their morally despicable and barbaric lies.

We will give UMNO Online 48 hours to withdraw and apologise for their dirty politics and lies against my son that he outraged a modesty of a girl classmate or else a police report will be lodged and other action taken.

Penang’s state debt has dropped 95pc, says Guan Eng

Penang’s state debt has dropped 95pc, says Guan Eng

October 26, 2011
Malaysian Insider

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 26 – Penang has sliced RM600 million or 95 per cent of the state’s debt since the Pakatan Rakyat took over the state in March 2008, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.

The first-term chief minister pointed out the state debt stood at RM29.66 million as of September 30 compared to the massive RM630.13 million in March 2008.

Guan Eng (picture) also said Penang’s Budget 2012 will be a surplus even as it is expected to undergo a deficit of RM107.78 million because the state has regained RM1.13 billion in reserves as at end of last year.

With such glowing figures in the black, the Johor-born DAP leader could not help but point to his political foes helming Putrajaya which saw the national debt grow as much as RM190 billion or 71 per cent within the same period.

The federal government’s debt is due to rise to RM456 billion this year from RM266 billion at end 2007, Lim said.

In a Deepavali speech in George Town, Lim said “this success propelled the Penang state government to introduce all kinds of welfare programmes to benefit state residents.”

He promised families earning RM500 a month and less – classified as harcore poor – that the state government will top the difference to ensure they get at least RM600 monthly.

Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, said the state will also give RM100 pocket money a year to each student in Primary 1 and 4, as well as Secondary 1 and 4 starting next year to lessen the burden on parents who have to buy their children new uniforms and other school gear.

He said the new scheme, which he called “Skim Pelajar Emas”, will cost RM10 million.

“The state government proposes to pay this amount every year and not just five years once or only during election season,” Lim vowed at the state’s Deepavali open house celebration in Times Square today.

The federal government recently announced a one-off payment of RM500 cash aid to all households earning below RM3,000 and RM100 to all primary and secondary schoolgoers in its Budget 2012.

Lim had offered other similar goodies in the weeks leading up to Deepavali, including a promise to the Hindu Endowment Board to inject RM1 million in funds yearly.

Last Sunday, he handed over keys to brand new double-storey homes to 24 families who were evicted from Kampung Buah Pala two years ago.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beautiful messages for Deepavali | Free Malaysia Today

Beautiful messages for Deepavali

Stanley Koh | October 25, 2011-FMT

There is a time to sow and a time to reap, and when it comes to the festival of lights, it is the time when good triumphs over evil.

COMMENT

The religions and cultures may be different but they all share a universal principle of divine creation. And the basic percept is that the good never fails to triumph over the evil.

Deepavali is a five-day celebration by Hindus in southern India, Diwali in the north, by the Jains and by all Hindus across the globe.

According to Wikipedia, “Diwali”, celebrated by Jains, marks the attainment of “moksha” or “nirvana” by Mahavira in 527 BC. Also known as Nigantha Nataputta in the Buddhist Pali Canon, Mahavira is revered for his establishment of the central tenets of Jainism.

Besides being significant in southern India, “Deepavali” also marks the thanksgiving ending of the harvest season in most parts of India. The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities commence their financial year.

According to Indian folklore, the second day celebration marks the vanquishing of demon Naraka Chaturdasi by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama and on the third day, the worshipping of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj) whereby sisters would invite their brothers to their homes for the celebration.

Religious rituals and prayers also known as “puja prashad” mark the celebration, which is noted for its unique lighting of small clay lamps (divas or dipas) filled with either oil or ghee (diyas) placed in rows of 20 to symbolise “light over darkness”, the triumph of good over evil and in legendary tales, to welcome back Rama after 14 years of banishment.

In the “Bhagavad-gita”, Krishna laid down ideals for his disciple (chela) Arjuna, mentally preparing him for the divine spiritual path. Krishna advised his disciple to cultivate endurance to physical discomforts like matter of heat and cold, pleasure and pain.

Perhaps, the greatest subtle message in Deepavali conveyed to us is that the material world and all the people within it belong to, as what Shakespeare had described, “the passing show.”

All physical things are but a momentary interest in life; they are not really our own and the attachment to them is only temporary.

But the greatest difficulty is detaching our “Ego”. The battle within us is the fight between the “goodness” and the “evil’ in each of us.

I like to share this beautiful symbolic message on this battle within the Ego, taught to me by a Hindu yoga master. It says:

“Chela, sit in the darkness of war. Sit and wait and look for the silence to bloom. Look, Chela, look for the flower to bloom in the silence that follows the storm.

“Then will come a calm like the calm of a tropical countryside that follows the storm. Study it. Enjoy it. You are now torn and bruised.

“Then out of the silence, a voice will say, ‘It is not good, Chela, you must sow again for you have reaped’.

“Knowing it to be the voice of your (own) spirit, you shall obey, the battle begins. Stand aside in the battle to come. Let the warrior within fight. Listen and take his advice, for it is the advice of the King (Divine Spirit).

“Fight and yet not fight. Just as the battle begins, it ends.

“March on, Chela. March towards the victory for thou art the victor. Drink from the fountain of (spiritual) power. Enter the Hall of Learning and eat at the Table of Knowledge. Now you are able to stand and run side by side with the Master, for your heart has bled.

“Now the path to the Heart is revealed but it is covered with the growth of gaint weeds. Kill them all – only the strong can do it. The weak has to wait for its growth, its fruition and its death.

“Go Chela. Destroy the weeds and clear the path to your heart for you have proven yourself a warrior. When you have entered your heart, you will die many deaths. Then the song of life will be sung by the Gods.

“Listen to the song of life – store it in your memory. And learn to look intelligently into the hearts of Men. For it is the hearts of Men that makes this world in which you live.

“Look around you and learn. No one is your enemy and no one is your friend. Your enemy is a problem to be solved. Your friend is an extension of yourself.

“Only one thing that is hard to know. That is your own heart.”

Desire and the human Ego are often the offspring of the senses and evil wrong-doings. When these senses lust or greed for something, their power can overwhelm the mind and goes on creating karma.

Indeed, even Lord Krishna told the world of his divine duties. Says he: “Wherever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata, and there is an exaltation of unrighteousness, then I myself come forth.

“For the protection of good, for the destruction of evildoers; for the sake of family establishing righteousness, am I born from age to age.”

Scientists may have hit on cure against Nipah and Hendra

Scientists may have hit on cure against Nipah and Hendra

October 25, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 ― Scientists may finally have a cure for the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses, the New York Times (NYT) reported today.

Citing recent research, the US daily said a treatment using human antibodies had seen 12 monkeys injected with lethal doses of the two scariest new viruses survive the test.

The NYT added that emergency treatment on humans may also have saved the lives of an Australian mother and daughter who were exposed to a horse dying from one of the viruses. Both viruses are related.

The study was published in US journal Science Translational Medicine and has been backed by the National Institutes of Health, the newspaper said.

NYT added that the antibody, called m102.4, and fights both the Hendra and Nipah, which were discovered in the 1990s in fruit bats, also called flying foxes.

The Nipah virus was first discovered in April 1999 when it caused an outbreak in several Malaysian pig farms starting with Kampung Nipah in Negri Sembilan ― where it got its name ― and then spreading to other states and Singapore, resulting in 257 human cases, including 105 human deaths and the culling of one million pigs.

The virus usually infects pigs, which get it from food contaminated with bat droppings or urine. The fictional virus in the movie “Contagion”, which was recently screened here, was based on it.

The Hendra virus usually infects horses. It was discovered in September 1994 when it caused the deaths of thirteen horses, and a trainer at a training complex in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia.

Seven human cases have been confirmed; four were fatal. But an ongoing outbreak appears to have struck in Australia, resulting in over 70 horses suspected of being infected, killed.

The NYT reported that antibodies are expensive to make, adding that scientists are looking to develop more affordable cures.

Another treatment called peptides, which are easier to produce than antibodies, have worked in hamsters, according to the newspaper.

It noted two other 2009 studies found that chloroquine, a cheap malaria drug, worked in the laboratory but failed when tested on hamsters and ferrets.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nine ministries overspent RM3.73b, says government audit

Nine ministries overspent RM3.73b, says government audit

October 24, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — Nine ministries and government departments overspent last year’s overall operational allocation by a total of RM3.73 billion, according to the Auditor-General’s Report released today.

The ministries include the Education Ministry, Health Ministry, Home Ministry, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry, Public Service Department, Attorney-General’s Department, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Services Commission.

The report stated that the overspending in several ministries was unavoidable due to additional activities and unscheduled payments.

“According to financial rules, an expenditure can only be carried out if the approved financial allocation was enough. The audit checks found that this rule was not fully abided by several ministries who have overspent beyond what has been allocated.

“This shows that there is still weakness in the planning and management of expenditures even though this issue has been frequently raised,” said the report.

The report also found 75 cases of over-expenditure in 14 different ministries in terms of service payments and supplies amounting to RM306.01 million.

There were also 17 cases within eight ministries last year where a total of RM98.8 million in allocations was unspent.

National debt in 2010 at RM407b, says government audit

National debt in 2010 at RM407b, says government audit

UPDATED @ 01:04:33 PM 24-10-2011
October 24, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — Malaysia’s national debt rose by 12.3 per cent to over RM407 billion last year, according to the Auditor-General’s report released today.

Although the economy grew by 7.2 per cent in 2010, last year’s fiscal deficit maintained public debt at over 50 per cent of GDP for the second year running.

The Auditor-General said in the report that the government owed 53.1 per cent of GDP, slightly down from 53.7 per cent last year.

“The ratio of the federal government debt to GDP at the end of 2010 is 53.1 per cent, over 50 per cent for the second year running,” Tan Sri Ambrin Buang (picture) wrote.

The audit report stated public debt from domestic sources rose by RM41.76 billion to RM390.36 billion while loans from foreign sources rose to RM16.75 billion, up RM2.96 billion.

The Loan (Local) and Government Investment Acts set a domestic debt ceiling of 55 per cent for the government while the External Loans Act 1963 limits foreign loan exposure to RM35 billion.

Putrajaya's domestic debt level at the end of 2010 stands at 51 per cent of GDP, according to the audit figures.

The government has tried to rein in the budget deficit from a two-decade high of over 7 per cent in 2009 with Budget 2012 forecasting a 4.7 deficit.

But the opposition has called for bigger cuts to public spending, pointing to a central bank report that said the national debt as of June 30 had risen to RM437 billion with domestic debt amounting to RM421 billion and foreign debt at RM16 billion.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The stupidest comment of ‘em all

The stupidest comment of ‘em all


Comment by Thomas Lee Seng Hock

I am simply amazed and stunned that a person of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s status can come out with such a stupid comment on the case of Lim Guan Eng’s son.

The Deputy Prime Minister cum Education Minister has remarked that Guan Eng’s denial of the sexual harassment claims against his son was “inadequate”.

Muhyiddin told the media on Saturday 22 October 2011 that if the Penang chief minister “thinks it is important to correct the information, then he has to come up with a strong statement; mere denial is not enough.”

Either Muhyiddin cannot read or he is not so intelligent to understand what the media have been reporting during the last few days. Not only has the principal of the school where the alleged incident was said to have committed come out to refute the lies by the Umno bloggers, but the so-called victim whose photograph was used by the unethical and uncouth Umno people has also issued a strong statement refuting their wicked lies.

What “strong statement” does the deputy prime minister and Umno deputy president expect Guan Eng to out with to counter the evil personal assault against his son? Any simple person with just simple common sense will know that the whole mischievous fiasco was fabricated with the deceitful intent of sabotaging the political achievements of Guan Eng, especially so after the strong denial by the school principal and the firm refutation by the young lady named in the false accusation.

The most crude and crummy statement by the deputy prime minister is surely a very sad reflection of the quality of our federal leaders, whose intelligence is generally found wanting. How can we achieve the status of a developed nation and high-performance citizenry when our deputy prime minister, who is also the education minister, is a person of such irrational and irresponsible character?

Muhyiddin’s performance as education minister has been the subject of contemptuous ridicule and derision among the educated class and intelligentsia of the nation, especially his inconsistent and fickle policy on the use of the English language in the teaching of science and mathematics. His constant changing merry-go-round manaeuvre of the schooling system is confusing not only the students, but the teachers and parents, too.

Evaluating his comment on the case of Guan Eng’s son objectively will lead us to the conclusion that Muhyiddin is certainly not fit to be a government leader, and it is surely horrifying to think that he may even become the prime minister one day!

If we entrust the nation into the hand of such people, who lack the character, wisdom, intelligence, credibility, and integrity, then woes betide us.

And while I am on this issue of Guan Eng’s son, I want to say that the silence on the part of the prime minister and leaders of the Barisan Nasional component parties like the MCA and MIC is surely deafening.

The whole fiasco should be publicly censured and condemned by all right-thinking and righteous persons, but the Umno president is apparently condoning the dastardly diabolical smear campaign against Guan Eng and his son by keeping quiet. Any real and credible stateman would take a firm stand against such disgusting evil action on the part of the Umno bloggers, and express real strong revulsion and profound indignation on the matter. But not the Umno president or any of the Barisan Nasional component party leaders. So sad that these are the people on whom the destiny of the nation is dependent on now.

Hence, I believe it is time that all true and patriotic Malaysians who love the country and call Malaysia their home should unite at the ballot box to create a political revolution to bring about a real transformation to the life and thoughts of the nation and its people. This has nothing to do with racial affiliation or religion affinity, but simply the coming together of all peace-loving Malaysians to bring about the installation of a competent, accountable and transparent (CAT) federal government comprising aficionado leaders who are morally righteous, truthful, honest, credible, incorruptible, and people-centric.

The fate of our nation lies in our hands, in how we vote at the next general election. We either break the long-time bondage of being under a crooked and corrupt regime, or we bring in a new era of transformed and transfigured people-centric administration operating on the profound democratic principle of government of the people, by the people, for the people.

DAP: DPM needs to have his head inspected | Free Malaysia Today

DAP: DPM needs to have his head inspected

October 23, 2011-FMT

The party is upset that the DPM gives credence to despicable rumours and implicit support to lies by Umno bloggers.

COMMENT

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak must reprimand his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin for giving implicit support to the Umno bloggers to defame and destroy an innocent 16-year-old child

We are shocked and appalled by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who reportedly said that if Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng “thinks it is important to correct the information, then he has to come up with a strong statement. Mere denial is not enough.”

Muhyiddin was commenting on the case where Lim’s 16-year-old son was accused of sexual harassment by a plethora of Umno bloggers following his transfer to another school this year.

The deputy prime minister needs to have his head seriously inspected – not only did Lim strongly deny the alleged sexual harassment in the strongest possible terms by calling the allegations “barbaric lies”, we have proven that the case is entirely fictitious when the alleged victim is a 21-year-old university student in the United States from Hong Kong who never went to school in Penang.

The alleged victim has even sent a statement to all press, stating clearly that she has not been to Malaysia for the past seven years, and “the only way in which my ‘modesty was outraged’ has been the publication of my picture in connection with these scurrilous and unfounded rumours.”

The principal of SMK Heng Ee, where Lim’s son was studying until the end of last year, Goh Boon Poh has also come out to state that he was shocked by the allegations that Lim’s son had sexually harassed a female student of the school, and that it was “completely untrue”.

Despite Lim having nothing else to prove, Tan Sri Muhyiddin has chosen to lend credence to the despicable rumours and give support implicit to the UMNO bloggers by stating that “mere denial is not enough”.

Instead of taking stern action against those perpetrating the evil lies to humiliate the Penang Chief Minister’s family, especially since they are all Umno leaders and members, Muhyiddin has chosen to defend the indefensible.

The onus to prove the scurrilous allegations is on the accusers, and not those unjustly maligned.

To protect the image of the government, the prime minister and Umno president Najib must immediately put a stop to this madness by sternly reprimanding his deputy and all his members from making further unfounded claims against an innocent 16-year-old boy.

Otherwise, it’ll prove to all Malaysians that Umno has become morally bankrupt in its pursuit to hold on power at all cost, including attacking innocent children.

Tony Pua is the DAP national publicity secretary and the MP for Petaling Jaya Utara.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

DAP: Let Fernandes and Ahmad Jauhari go head-to-head

DAP: Let Fernandes and Ahmad Jauhari go head-to-head

October 22, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — The DAP wants Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to drop Tan Sri Tony Fernandes from its board so the AirAsia boss can compete with the flag carrier’s new chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

The party’s international secretary, Liew Chin Tong, said today the appointment of Ahmad Jauhari, who had transformed Malakoff Berhad from a “once-sleepy company into Malaysia’s largest independent power producer,” did away with the need for AirAsia CEO Fernandes to continue on the MAS board.

“Unshackle the talented Fernandes and Jauhari to compete head-to-head. Ordinary Malaysians will benefit, while competition can only make AirAsia and MAS stronger,” he said in a statement.

The Bukit Bendera MP said the government should cancel the controversial share swap deal between the two airlines which enabled Fernandes and his partner Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Meranun to sit on the MAS board and ostensibly help turn it around.

Liew (picture) also cited Johor Baru MP Datuk Seri Shahrir Samad’s complaint earlier this week that MAS subsidiary Firefly has cancelled flights from Senai Airport to Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Surabaya, Bandung and Bangkok following the MAS-AirAsia collaboration.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers had earlier told MAS to dispose of its subsidiary Firefly to ensure competition for air travel after the national carrier’s share swap with AirAsia.

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua had said even if there was no active price fixing “there will be collusion as ‘I don’t reduce, you don’t reduce, we all make money’.”

But MAS announced last Tuesday its subsidiary will now focus on its turbo-prop fleet, with all its jet aircraft being redeployed into the parent company’s operations by December 4.

MAS and AirAsia inked the deal on August 9, which allows the loss-making national carrier to swap a 20 per cent stake for 10 per cent in Asia’s top money-making budget carrier.

But Liew said today that “when competitors like MAS and Air Asia choose to collaborate, consumers lose. Collaboration means fewer flights, just like what is now happening in Johor, and higher ticket prices.”

“Firefly is now moving up to a full-service model. With the competition from Firefly gone, what will prevent AirAsia from increasing prices?” Liew asked.

MAS had announced in August a net loss of RM527 million for the second quarter of 2011 due to higher fuel costs despite recording a better yield and a nine per cent growth in passenger revenue from the same period last year.

This brings total losses in the first half of the year to RM769 million even as the airline said that profit outlook for the second half of the year appears bleak.

MAS had been doing well until the Asian financial crisis hit in 1998, which later led to its assets being sold off to resolve its balance sheets.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Let light conquer darkness at the next general election.

( Speech at DAP Ipoh Barat Deepavali Open House in Ipoh on Friday, October 21, 2011.)

Let light conquer darkness at the next general election.

Malaysians are indeed blessed to live in a multi racial, multi religious and multi cultural nation.

Here, not only can we enjoy the delicious multi racial foods, experience the rich and fascinating multi cultures, we can also celebrate together the multi religiousl festivals through our unique Malaysian open houses.

But we must not take things for granted and must always endeavour to ensure that the mutual tolerance and respect for racial, cultural and religious diversity continues to exist and to grow stronger.

The government must show greater responsibility and commitment towards the concept of unity in diversity .

The government’s policies and programmes must reflect its commitment.

Unfortunately, after 54 years of having achieved Independence from the British, BN government has failed to make all Malaysians feel that they can enjoy an equal place under the Malaysian sun.

Even after having introduced the 1 Malaysia concept and slogan for more than two years, the prime minister has failed to bring about much needed reforms that will ensure a better Malaysia for all.

Deeapvali is the celebration of good over evil, light over darkness.

As speculation is getting rife that the next general election will be held within 6 months, with the earliest possible date being next month, I wish to urge Malaysians who have long wished for a better Malaysia for all to keep the light of democracy and justice burning till the polling day of the next general election.

The recent despicable and baseless attack by pro UMNO cyber troopers on Sdr Lim Guan Eng’s son shows just how dirty the next election will be.

I dare predict that the next election will go down history as the dirtiest ever.

DAP and Pakatan Rakyat must therefore be totally prepared for the next general election which will be the most important in the nation’s electoral history.

Come next general election, Malaysian must rise to the occasion and vote Pakatan Rakyat to helm Putrajaya so as to end the political darkness that BN has brought to this nation for the last 54 years.

Let light conquer darkness at the next general election

Ipoh High Court throws out Indira Gandhi's application to transfer case to Federal court

Indira Gandhi case: Ipoh High Court disallows application to transfer case direct to Federal Court.

Indira Ghandhi married her husband Patmanathan in 1993 according to Hindu rites. They have 3 children

On 11th March 2009, the husband converted to Islam and adopted his new name as Muhammad Riduan Bin Abdullah

On 2nd April 2009; three children of the family were also converted into Islam by their father Patmanathan at the Bahagian Dakwah, Jabatan Agama Islam, Ipoh, Perak.

The conversion was without the knowledge and or consent of the children's mother.

There after the family got separated and the husband took the youngest child of the family and went missing. He is still hiding at an undisclosed location

On 9th June 2009, Indira filed a motion at the High Court to quash the decision of the Syariah Court dated 8th April2009 which Court had given custody and control of the 3 children to Muhammad Riduan Bin Abdullah. The case has been filed against 6 Defendants namely 1.PENGARAH JABATAN AGAMA ISLAM PERAK 2.PENDAFTAR MUALLAF 3) KERAJAAN NEGRI PERAK 4) KEMENTERIAN PELAJARAN MALAYSIA 5) KERAJAAN MALAYSIA 6) PATMANATHAN A/L KRISHNAN (known as Muhammad Riduan bin Abdullah)

On 28th July2010, the Ipoh Civil High Court gave leave to quash the decision of the Syariah Court to Indira notwithstanding to the strenuous objections from the Attorney General‘s office.

As this mater involves questions of great public importance and will affect many, we decided to file an application to transfer this case to the Federal Court. Unfortunately today the Government lawyers and Indiria's husband’ lawyers strenuously objected to our application.

Unfortunately the court has to day delivered the decision disallowing our application to transfer this case to the Federal Court.

A most unfortunate decision which will result in a longer process to dispose off the case. There are many in similar predicament who will now have to endure much hardship and uncertainty by reason of this decision.

Today"s decision means it will take years for the disposal of the case as after a full hearing in the High Court, parties have further opportunity to ventilate the issues further at the Court of Appeal and then to the Federal Court.

We felt to save time and to conclude this matter expeditiously, best if this matter could be referred to the Federal court to adjudicate the following matters of public importance namely;

Questions of law for the determination of the Federal Court

In the case of parents and children of a marriage registered under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (“a non Muslim marriage”):

1. Can one parent unilaterally convert a minor child of a non Muslim marriage to Islam without the consent of the other parent?

2. Does the High Court retain its jurisdiction to determine the validity of any such “conversion” even when it has been registered by a Registrar of Muallafs, and to determine all matters concerning the custody care and control of such children?

3. Does the Syariah court have any jurisdiction to make any order in relation to such children where one parent remains a person who does not profess Islam?

4. In the event the High Court and Syariah Court make conflicting orders, which Court’s decision should prevail

In the event the High Court and Syariah Court make conflicting orders, which Court’s decision should prevail?

As the law is unclear on conversion cases, this case has to be brought to the Court to decide on the controversy .

The Government must legislate clear laws to govern cases of conversion. This delay by the Government shows lack of a political will.

http://ipohbaratvoice.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/mkula

Anya Corke: I don’t know Guan Eng’s son

Anya Corke: I don’t know Guan Eng’s son

October 21, 2011
Malaysian Insider

Corke said she has never met or even heard of any of the people involved in the controversy. — Picture courtesy of www.chessbase.com
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — The girl whose photograph was used by pro-Umno bloggers to level accusations of sexual harassment against Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s son has denied ever meeting or hearing of the 16-year-old schoolboy.

Chess grandmaster Anya Sun Corke said today that she was “shocked, dismayed and baffled” as to how her photo was used without her knowledge or consent.

“I have never met or even heard of any of the people involved. I have never been physically assaulted in any way. I have never been victimised in any way by this boy or his family.

“The only way in which my ‘modesty was outraged’ has been by the publication of my picture in connection with these scurrilous and unfounded rumours,” the undergraduate at Wellesley College said in a statement.

Pro-Umno bloggers had claimed that Lim’s son had assaulted a 16-year-old schoolmate and tried to escape punishment by using his father’s name.

But the DAP showed at a press conference on Wednesday screenshots from the blogs which used pictures of Corke that matched those from www.chessbase.com.

Lim had denied the allegations on Tuesday, saying he was furious with the “barbaric lies” made about his teenage son by “pro-Umno ferocious beasts.”

His colleagues in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have come out strongly in support of the DAP secretary-general against what they call “the lowest gutter politics” seen in decades.

The principal of SMK Heng Ee in George Town also moved two days ago to put an end to the accusations, calling them “completely untrue.”

Sensing growing public anger, Umno MPs have been quick to distance themselves from the allegations.

Corke said today that she has not visited Malaysia for seven years.

“I would also like to express my sympathies to the boy who was defamed by these baseless allegations.

“Last but not least, I hope that members of the public and the Malaysian media will respect my privacy and refrain from making unsolicited contact with me and my family, college, chess federation, and any other affiliation,” she said.

According to Corke’s Wikipedia listing, she “is a Woman Grandmaster and the top chess player from Hong Kong who is currently playing for England.”

She earned the title with her performance in 36th Chess Olympiad, playing for the Hong Kong men’s team.

She was the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008 Hong Kong National Champion (for men and women), thought to be one of the youngest national champions ever.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Malaysia Losses From Racial Law Exposed

Malaysia Losses From Racial Law Exposed


By Chong Pooi Koon | Oct 20, 2011
Bloomberg

Lim Guan Eng turned Malaysia’s second-smallest state into the nation’s biggest economic success after he bumped into two National Instruments Corp. (NATI) executives at the local airport in 2008.

Elected in March that year as Penang’s first chief minister from an opposition party in 36 years, Lim was struggling with the prospect of federal funding cuts. He convinced the managers to set up a research and production center in the state, and within two years the former British trading post was Malaysia’s top destination for foreign manufacturing investment.

“The deal was struck very quickly,” said Eugene Cheong, a director at the local unit of the Austin, Texas-based maker of industrial testing and automation equipment.

Lim’s speed in closing deals with companies from National Instruments to Robert Bosch GmbH is helping Penang achieve what every Malaysian prime minister sought since Mahathir Mohamad started his Multimedia Super Corridor technology zone in the 1990s near Kuala Lumpur: a transition from low-cost assembly to a research and development base for industries such as solar cells and life sciences.

With a general election due by early 2013, Penang’s progress highlights the challenges facing the rest of Malaysia and the National Front government as China, Indonesia and Vietnam offer investors bigger workforces while Singapore lures talent with lower taxes and easier immigration. Lim, 50, the country’s only ethnic-Chinese state leader, embodies the contrast between Penang’s business transparency and the four- decade old policies of the ruling party that favor Malays, which the World Bank says undermine competitiveness.

‘Been Sleeping’

“We’ve been sleeping,” said Ooi Kee Beng, Penang-born author of “Era of Transition: Malaysia after Mahathir” and a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “Penang now has a chance to show that if you have good governance, and if you put fairness and justice as your main qualities, free of race considerations, that is actually the way to go for Malaysia.”

In the first seven months of 2011, Penang won 3.6 billion ringgit ($1.2 billion) of approved foreign manufacturing investment, ahead of the 3.4 billion ringgit that went to Selangor, the state that surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur, a government report showed last month.

It’s not the first time the state has set the pace for technology investment in Malaysia. Penang, a base for the spread of British influence in the 18th century, was the center of a manufacturing push in Malaysia’s shift from rubber and tin production in the 1970s, attracting companies including Intel Corp. (INTC) and Robert Bosch to assemble chips and build car radios.

Political Alternative

Penang’s economic resurgence may bolster the opposition alliance’s claim it can be an alternative to the National Front, which has run the country since independence from British rule in 1957. A national election may be called with 60 days’ notice at the discretion of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“A lot of this has to do with the dynamism of the chief minister,” said Ong Kian Ming, a political analyst at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur and columnist for the Edge newspaper.

Lim has managed to keep Penang attractive for international companies even as Najib focuses federal support on regions such as Johor and Sarawak, where his ruling coalition has among its biggest parliamentary-seat majorities.

Under Najib’s Economic Transformation Program, his government is promoting about 65.8 billion ringgit of private- sector-led projects for southern Johor state, compared with at least 375 million ringgit for Penang, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The comparison excludes projects covering multiple states or those without a clear single location, which amounted to 34.3 billion ringgit nationwide.

Federal Support

“Investment decisions are made on the basis of need not politics,” said Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, a spokesman for the prime minister. “Over the last year we have invested more than 1 billion ringgit of federal funding in Penang and will continue to support their economic progress in whatever way we can,” he said in an e-mail.

Malaysia’s efforts to woo investments in recent years may have been hampered by its policy of giving preferential treatment to ethnic Malays and some indigenous groups, collectively known as Bumiputera, in government jobs, contracts, education and cheaper housing, said Ooi.

When the economy was booming along with its neighbors before the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, the effects of the policy were less apparent, he said. When growth slowed, the race-based program became a greater damper, according to Ooi. While the nation outperformed rivals in the early and mid 1990s, it has struggled to maintain that edge since the regional crisis.

Malay Contracts

Under federal rules, government construction contracts valued below 200,000 ringgit must be given to indigenous or Malay contractors. In addition, a main goal of the affirmative action programs was to raise the Bumiputera share of corporate stock ownership to at least 30 percent.

Najib said Sept. 27 that the programs, introduced in the early 1970s to reduce poverty and narrow income disparities between different ethnic groups, are becoming more merit-based.

In an interview in his 28th floor office, where the walls are lined with paintings and sketches of Penang, some from the 19th century, Lim said the relationship between state and central government wouldn’t hold Penang back.

“We may have political differences but we are cordial and professional,” he said as he sipped ginseng tea made by his wife. “If Penang fails, Malaysia fails.”

Ambiguous Practices

To prevent corruption, Penang requires open bidding on contracts of more than 200,000 ringgit and has awarded about 125 million ringgit of jobs through competitive tenders, according to Lim. Transparency International said in a 2009 report that Penang, an island and coastal enclave linked by a 13.5-kilometer (8.4-mile) bridge, was Malaysia’s first state to implement open tenders for government contracts.

While Lim said his government awards contracts based on merit within the national guidelines, the federal government states that it has no obligation to accept the lowest offer or to give any reason for rejecting a bid. Under Malaysian federal rules, agencies are only required to invite quotations from at least five bidders for works contracts.

“In domestic tenders, preferences are provided for Bumiputera suppliers and other domestic suppliers,” the U.S. Department of State said in a March report on Malaysia’s investment climate. Implementations of the affirmative action policy “vary greatly; some practices are explicit and contained in law or regulation while others are informal, leaving much ambiguity for potential investors,” it said.

Trained Accountant

The Malaysian government says it is also pushing for greater transparency, including introducing a whistleblower protection act to fight corruption and a planned competition law next year.

“Open tender is a virtue, it’s a policy that is being pushed through federally too,” Idris Jala, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and chief executive officer of the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit, said in Singapore yesterday. “For a country to grow, to become high income, we must have competitiveness.”

Lim, who holds a Bachelor of Economics from Australia’s Monash University, says his training as an accountant helps him spot any discrepancies in state finances.

Property developers such as Ivory Properties Group Bhd. (IVORY) will benefit from the inflow of workers and expatriates to support Penang’s industries, while local electronics companies Eng Teknologi Holdings Bhd. and Globetronics Technology Bhd. (GTB) may gain from orders to supply foreign manufacturers, said Choo Swee Kee, who manages about 700 million ringgit as chief investment officer of TA Investment Management Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur.

Property Shares

Eastern & Oriental Bhd. (EAST), which is reclaiming up to 980 acres of land to build luxury homes in what it says is the island’s largest seafront development, has seen its shares soar 25 percent this year. The main FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index slid 4.5 percent during the same period.

“We have been a believer of Penang’s potential for a long time,” said Eric Chan, deputy managing director of E&O, which also owns the 126-year-old Eastern & Oriental Hotel in the island’s historic Georgetown. “China is no longer cheap and some global companies are looking to move their operations to alternative locations like Penang.”

Lim says ethnic Malays also benefit from the state’s economic growth. In the Malaysian state with the highest proportion of ethnic Chinese, at 42 percent, Malay contractors have won most of the jobs awarded by his government through the open tenders, Lim said. The Malay community doesn’t need racial quotas to succeed, he said.

Brain Drain

“We have proven that this is the way forward,” Lim said in an interview in July on Penang Hill, at an event promoting the state’s efforts to woo talent. “Malaysia has a historical opportunity for change.”

Malaysia’s racial policies spurred a brain drain of largely Chinese and Indian minorities, and limited foreign investment, Philip Schellekens, a senior economist at the World Bank, said in April. In its latest Malaysia Economic Monitor report that month, the Washington-based lender said the migration of talent out of Malaysia undermines the country’s aspiration to become a high-income nation.

“Discontent with Malaysia’s inclusiveness policies is a key factor,” the World Bank said. “Productivity and inclusiveness lie at the heart of Malaysia’s transformation programs. Implementing these forcefully will go a long way towards turning the brain drain into a gain.”

Growth Impediment

The U.S. Department of State said that Malaysia’s “complex network of preferences” to promote the acquisition of economic assets by ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups is a “significant impediment” to economic growth. The country’s affirmative-action policy is unique among Southeast Asian neighbors including Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“It clearly slows things as many competent people leave Malaysia because of it,” said Jim Rogers, the chairman of Rogers Holdings who moved to neighboring Singapore from New York in 2007. Malaysia should “abolish the policy and open the economy and society to all” to boost its competitiveness among international investors, he said in an e-mail. Proposed changes to the policy are making the country more attractive, he said.

Malaysia’s economy expanded at an average pace of 9.2 percent from 1990 through 1997, compared with the 7.1 percent for newly industrialized Asian nations as a group, International Monetary Fund data show. By contrast, Malaysia’s 5.1 percent average growth since 1999 is little more than the group’s 4.8 percent overall mean performance, according to the IMF.

Beating Singapore

Mahathir’s Multimedia Super Corridor, centered around an area in Selangor state that was carved out of oil palm plantations, offered tax breaks and relaxed rules on hiring foreigners to entice software engineers.

While Penang lured research, development and production, the MSC’s more notable successes were getting information- technology support and service centers for companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Deutsche Post AG’s DHL division. The government later broadened the incentives to include companies that weren’t physically located in the main MSC area.

To win the investment in Penang from National Instruments, Lim had to overcome rivals from Singapore and the Philippines to Vietnam and China.

Tax Breaks

Stuttgart, Germany-based Robert Bosch will spend 520 million euros ($720 million) on a factory in Penang that will be one of its largest, employing 2,000 workers to make photovoltaic solar modules. Agilent Technologies Inc. told local media in March it was adding a life-sciences facility that undertakes research and development. Both companies have operated in Penang for about four decades, starting in the 1970s, when foreign investors used the state’s cheap labor to make low-end electronics parts.

The state can’t offer tax breaks for investors or sell bonds, both controlled by the federal government, so it plans to use revenue from local land levies to build more roads and a third bridge linking the island to its mainland territories, according to Lim, who is also secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Action Party.

Penang, bigger only than Perlis of Malaysia’s 13 states, is used to an underdog status. Founded by Captain Francis Light in 1786 after the East India Co. took over the island from the Kedah Sultanate, Britain set it up as a trading post to break Dutch Malacca’s monopoly of the spice trade.

Paddy Fields

Intel spent $1.6 million in 1972 to set up the company’s first offshore chip assembly plant in the state amid paddy fields, employing 100 batik-clad workers. Now, it also designs semiconductor devices in the state.

Penang had 16 percent of the country’s approved foreign manufacturing investment from 2006 to March this year, government data show. The state, a tourist destination with beach resorts and a colonial-era town designated as a United Nations World Heritage site, made up 8.1 percent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product in 2009, based on constant prices.

“The change in government meant that you have reenergized this place,” said Chris Ong, who owns boutique hotels converted from heritage buildings in Penang. “The old state government was here for far too long.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No parliament sitting on Deepavali eve | Free Malaysia Today

No parliament sitting on Deepavali eve

Tarani Palani | October 19, 2011-FMT

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has requested for parliament to break on Oct 25.

KUALA LUMPUR: Parliament will not sit on Oct 25, the eve of Deepavali, as requested by opposition party DAP.

The decision, which was announced by Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia in parliament this morning was in deferences to a request from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Pandikar said that he had received a request from Najib for parliament not sit next Tuesday, the day before Deepavali.

Parliament will however reconvene on Thurday, Oct 27. Deepavali is on Oct 26.

Last week, Pakatan leaders cried foul over the fact that Parliament was scheduled to sit on Deepavali eve.

At the press conference, Ipoh Barat MP, M Kulasegaran said the eve of Deepavali was when Hindus, in a time-honoured tradition, gather for family reunions and offer prayers to their ancestors.

He said that by scheduling the sitting on a day before Deepavali, “the government had reneged on its word and deliberately failed in its pledge to look after the sensitivities of the Indian community.”

This parliament session which began on Oct 3 is schedule to end in December.

Najib’s word

To his credit Naib has already directed programmes surrounding the Deepavali festivities to be rescheduled.

Deepavali is a gazetted public holiday in Malaysia.

Earlier in July, during the launch of the 1Malaysia Indian Students Movement at Universiti Malaya, Najib announced that the curriculum and exam schedules in Malaysia would be revamped to ensure that it did not clash with Deepavali.

For the past 20-years Indians were stuck with the problem of examinations which invariably always fell either a day before or on the day of the festival.

Many, as such rarely returned home and missed out on the celebrations.

Since Najib’s announcement, an official circular from the Education Ministry asking universities to reschedule exams and classes in order to provide a longer break for Deepavali has already been implemented in public universities.

Remember 2007

Ignoring Deepavali, is not a new issue in Malaysia. Kulasegaran flagged the same issue in 2007.

In 2007, Umno, much to the shock and chagrin of Malaysian, both Hindus and non-Hindus, had held its Annual General Assembly on Nov 8, which was Deepavali day.

The brazen and “growing pattern of insensitivity by the powers-that-be” further stoked public discontent.

The seering discontent among the Indians, Chinese and Malays eventually led to Barisan Nasional losing its hold on five states and Umno suffering a most humiliating defeat in the 12th general election in 2008

PAS opts out of Himpun to keep it apolitical

PAS opts out of Himpun to keep it apolitical

October 19, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — PAS will skip Saturday’s gathering to protest against Christians “challenging the sovereignty” of Islam, a move that placates its non-Muslim partners in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) but ruffles its own party conservatives.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang however claimed the decision, made by the party’s political bureau during a meeting last night, was to avoid turning the protest political.

“PAS was informed that the event does not involve any political party so PAS has decided not to participate, out of respect for the organisers’ wishes,” Hadi (picture) said in a statement issued here.

The decision contradicts the stand of PAS’s youth wing which had yesterday pledged to offer the same support it had given to Bersih 2.0 during its rally for free and fair elections on July 9.

PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan had said in a statement that wing members would come out in full force to attend the gathering and expressed hope it would achieve its goals.

However, last night’s political bureau decision effectively overrides Nasrudin’s announcement.

The decision will also likely help PAS avoid further conflict from its non-Muslim partners in Pakatan Rakyat.

The Islamist party and DAP are said to be still smarting from their recent disagreement over the controversial hudud law, a squabble that resulted in a deadlock decision that both parties would “agree to disagree”.

This Saturday’s gathering, known as Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun) or Gathering of a Million Faithful, is organised by various right-wing religious groups and is said to have the backing of both Umno and PAS Youth leaders.

Christian leaders have spoken out against the purpose of the rally, which is to protest alleged acts of proselytisation by Christians, pointing out that no concrete proof has yet been found.

The rally was mooted after the controversial raid on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) on August 3 where it was alleged that Christians were proselytising to Muslims there.

Despite deciding against his party’s participation however, Hadi urged all those attending the event to act within the confines of the law in order to protect national harmony.

“Any effort to create a racial or religious polemic will lead the country into a situation that benefits no one,” he warned.

“PAS views seriously any attempt by any party to try and use this event as an opportunity for politics or for the coming elections.”

The Marang MP expressed PAS’s full support for efforts by NGOs to strengthen the Islamic faith but said their objectives must be sincere and handled carefully.

He said the strengthening of Islam must be done “peacefully”, adding that the religion was accepted into the community through peaceful means.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guan Eng slams pro-Umno ‘beasts’ for targetting son in ‘barbaric lies’

Guan Eng slams pro-Umno ‘beasts’ for targetting son in ‘barbaric lies’

UPDATED @ 03:37:11 PM 18-10-2011
October 18, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Lim Guan Eng said today he was furious with the “barbaric lies” made about his young son by “pro-Umno ferocious beasts” and singled out Khairy Jamaluddin and other party leaders for perpetrating the allegations with snide comments on blogs and on social media.

“My family and I deplore these lies and fabrications against my young son as morally despicable and barbaric. Umno should act against those trying to wreck the life of my young son with cruel and barbaric lies just to finish me off politically,” Lim (picture) said in a strongly-worded statement today.

The Penang chief minister pointed to the allegations highlighted in Bukit Gelugor Umno division chairman Dr Novandri Hasan Basri’s blog and a subsequent comment posted by Khairy on his Twitter account.

The allegations centre on Lim’s 16-year-old son conduct in school and accuses the youth of using his father’s name to escape punishment.

Dr Novandri and other bloggers also accused Lim of paying RM200,000 to keep the scandal out of the media and said the chief minister had then transferred his son to another school after the incident.

“Sadly, even Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaludin joined in these shameful lies by poking fun at my son with this tweet,” Lim said today, citing Khairy’s remarks on the microblogging site yesterday.

Using the Twitter handle @Khairykj, Khairy had written, “Mungkin dia roboh Kampung Buah Pala sebab nak ganti dengan Kampung Buah Dada” in response to another tweet by pro-Umno blogger “@PapaGomo”. [English translation: Maybe he destroyed Kampung Buah Pala because he wanted to replace it with Kampung Buah Dada.]

“I hope those poking fun and spreading lies at my young son can look at themselves in the mirror as a father and ask whether they want their own child to suffer the trauma of such lies,” said Lim.

Denying the allegations, he explained that his son had requested a transfer to St Xavier’s Institution in Penang from SMK (C) Heng Yee as he did not want to have a “crew-cut” hairstyle as required in the latter school.

Lim said he had promised to allow the transfer if his son scored at least 6As in his PMR.

But following the allegations, Lim said his son was “very shaken up” and has been unable to face school for the past few days.

“In this modern world, it is difficult for a young kid growing up, especially so when his father is a chief minister targeted daily by the pro-BN media. For a young kid growing up, to be maligned in such a beastly and cruel fashion publicly is unacceptable and inhumane.

“I urge these ferocious pro-Umnno beasts not to prey on the innocence of my young children. If you want to finish me off, do your worst to me but leave my innocent children alone,” he said.

Lim urged the Umno leadership to take action against party members guilty of perpetuating the rumouts, adding a warning that he too reserves the right to take further action.

“In the meantime, my wife and I will try to heal my young son and pray that he will recover from having his innocence so cruelly destroyed by these pro-Umno beasts,” he said.

The black swan

Opinion

Liew Chin Tong is the DAP MP for Bukit Bendera.

The black swan

October 18, 2011

OCT 18 — Nassim Taleb’s bestseller “The Black Swan” talks about a world shaped by highly improbable events. He argues that most of what that we take for granted after the event was considered impossible before the event.

We know swans are white and that acquired common sense often stops us from realising that there are black swans too. We are not given to being counter-intuitive.

As we reflect upon world politics towards the end of 2011, we see that the landscape now has changed beyond recognition when compared to how it was in the beginning of the year. And those changes are permanent, irreversible and will continue to redefine the world in the years to come.

No one expected an Arab Spring to happen. Likewise, the electoral swing to the opposition in Singapore, the riots on the streets of London, the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign in India, the Camila Vallejo school fees protest that shocked the Chilean establishment and now the Occupy Wall Street movement were not anticipated at the beginning of the year.

In the years to come, the world will remember 2011 as it does 1968 and 1989. The year 1968 saw the climax of the anti-Vietnam War protest which sparked worldwide anti-establishment movements. In 1989, the collapse of the communist bloc was perhaps the most unexpected spectacle of the century.

As in 1968 and 1989, the existing world political and economic orders are crumbling in 2011, but as yet, no new balance has been found.

While we can’t tell whether a black swan will soon visit Malaysia or not, the country is exhibiting huge and glaring economic, political and demographic contradictions.

Economically, 60 per cent of the population earns a household income of less than RM3,000 per month. The bottom 40 per cent live on a household income of less than RM1,500 per month, with the supposedly favoured Bumiputeras constituting as much as two-thirds of this category.

It is no doubt true that low-income groups can survive in silence if and when the economic pie is steadily growing. But when inflation suddenly kicks in just when growth slows, then the uneasy equilibrium cannot be maintained.

In a rural setting, as long as the weather permits, many live on a semi-subsistent existence by growing food and rearing livestock. But urban dwellers from low -and middle-income families have nowhere to go when times are bad.

This is a serious challenge in a country where growth is slowing and state capacity is weak. The urban proportion of the population in Malaysia was estimated by the World Bank at 70.36 per cent in 2008, up from 35 per cent in 1980.

This eats into the credibility of the ruling parties. For urban dwellers, who now have access to Facebook and other social media, sources of information are multiple and not easily controlled by the government. And daily encounters with establishment cronies flaunting their wealth further erode Umno’s claim to being Malay champions.

Umno continues to survive electorally thanks to blatant gerrymandering and massive mal-apportionment of constituencies. Sixty-five per cent of the seats are in rural areas. For instance, the seat of Kapar now reports a voting population of 122,011 (Q1, 2011; 104,185 in the 2008 general election) while Umno seats have an average of 49,429 voters (in the 2008 general election).

Through manipulating the electoral system, Umno has amplified the significance of its “fixed deposit” voter groups, including Umno members, civil servants, police, military personnel, Felda settlers and Bumiputeras from Sabah and Sarawak.

In essence, Umno is a narrowly-based vested interest party. In the 2008 general election, 10.6 million were registered to vote, of whom close to 2.45 million did not bother to turn up to vote. Barisan Nasional received 51.4 per cent of the popular votes while the opposition as a whole garnered 48.6 per cent of the votes.

According to the Election Commission, as of August 2011 Malaysia has 15.98 million citizens above the age of 21 but, as of June 2011, those who have registered are only 12.27 million. Twenty-three per cent or some 3.7 million have as yet not claimed their right to vote.

The black swan may come in the form of the two million first-time voters in the next general election — 130,000 (estimated), 276,621(Election Commission figure) and 851,260 (Election Commission figure) were registered in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. Another 900,000 new voters are estimated to be registered in 2011.

Admittedly, the number of problematic registrations among the new voters, such as the ongoing foreign-worker-turned-citizen-turned-voter scam, may be substantial and if they are concentrated in Pakatan marginal seats, the balance may tip in Barisan Nasional’s favour. The PAS’s experience in Terengganu in 2004 is a case in point.

Nevertheless, genuine voters will probably still far outweigh phantom voters.

Typically new voters are urban-based and young, with slightly more being Malays than non-Malays. Fifty per cent of Malaysia’s population are below 25 years of age while nearly 70 per cent are below 40. This is characteristically an Arab Spring-type demography.

It is clear that Budget 2012 did not address the economic gap and provides no plan for those below 40 years of age. Politically, the proposed tweaking of security laws lags far behind an ever-rising expectation for a more democratic society.

These economic, political and demographic contradictions hold the potential of springing a black swan on Malaysia.

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