Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dissecting Mahathir’s grand design

Dissecting Mahathir’s grand design

30 January, 2012

by Liew Chin Tong

Not many of us remembered that Barisan Nasional survived and thrived electorally for an extended period from 1991 to 2005 as a result of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s grand compromise in the form of Vision 2020.

Coercive tools and undemocratic means like security power to arrest legitimate political opponents without trial, legal and financial controls over mass media, and a distorted electoral system, have helped BN to remain in power, becoming the current longest serving elected government in the world.

The Alliance formula and the beginning of “Malay First” hegemony

BN’s predecessor the Alliance’s formula was to win half of the votes of all ethnic groups. Being the sole coalition with multi-ethnic representation at all levels, the strategy paid off well in 1959 and 1964.

But the Alliance also pursued a small-government-do-very-little approach, resulting in rising inequality. It eventually resulted in an increased support for the opposition among members of all ethnic groups, including Malays, in 1969.

Contrary to the popular belief that only Chinese supported the opposition in the 1969 election, the Malays played their part too. Dr. Mahathir lost his Kota Setar Selatan seat as well as the defeats of other UMNO bigwigs demonstrated that there were substantial Malay swing against the Alliance.

Post-1969, Tun Razak’s formula strived to achieve a 70 percent Malay electoral support for BN. Non-Malay support was considered non-essential in such formula. All policies under the new arrangement, symbolised by the New Economic Policy, were geared towards that goal.

The “Malay first” strategy served UMNO well until the 1990 general election when the Malay votes were split after the formation of Semangat 46, led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and other former senior UMNO leaders.

The Semangat 46-led opposition front almost won the day when BN managed to survive through a very cunning last-three-day manipulation of Tengku Razaleigh’s photo image with Kadazan headgear which resembled a Christian cross, suggesting to the Malay constituents that the opposition was about to sell out on Malay rights and dignities to foreign powers.

However, Malay votes for BN have not returned to the NEP-era level since then. Indeed, Malay votes for BN have further declined in every election since 1990, with the exception of the 2004 election, the first in the post-Mahathir era. (In 2004, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi won due to his promises of reforms.)

BN won the 1995 election with the all-time high of 65 percent popular votes despite suffering a mild decline in Malay support and continued to survive the 1999 election despite more than half of the Malays voting against BN; a reaction against the sacking and subsequent jailing of Anwar Ibrahim.

How did Dr Mahathir and Barisan Nasional survive since the 1990 election?

Vision 2020 and “Bangsa Malaysia”

Barely four months after the October 1990 election, Dr Mahathir unveiled his Vision 2020 and the concept of “Bangsa Malaysia” in February 1991 which set the tone for the next fourteen years until July 2005.

The strategy was to supplement the declining Malay base of UMNO with new-found Chinese middle class support by staring down the Malay right and cooling off racial temperatures. The major bones of contention among ethnic Chinese against UMNO between 1970 and 1990 were the lack of economic opportunities and cultural rights.

In the early 1990s, however, the economy was growing rapidly and life was good. Instead of curbing the cultural desire of ethnic Chinese, all rights were allowed as long as the price was paid.

For instance, higher education opportunities for ordinary ethnic Chinese were extremely lacking in the 1970s and 1980s. But in the 1990s when one was willing to pay for private education, hundreds of colleges were jostling for students.

Another example is Chinese language television broadcast time. In the 1970s and 1980s, not more than two hours of airtime were allocated for Chinese language broadcast on television. In the 1990s, if you could pay for satellite television, endless programmes await to tame the noisy middle class.

If you do not belong to the burgeoning middle class, or could not afford to pay for your children’s private education, or to pay for satellite television, don’t blame the government. It is your problem – either you are not lucky or you don’t work hard enough. After all, BN strategists were fully aware that the poorer components of both Malay and Chinese electorates would vote for PAS and DAP, respectively, anyway.

Imagined enemies and the short reign of Abdullah Badawi

During the 1970s and 1980s, a month would not pass without seeing some racial fanfare being played out in the media. But in the 1990s, whenever Dr Mahathir needed a whipping boy to consolidate his standing among the Malay base, it was always a choice among the British “colonisers”, the American “oppressors”, the Jewish “conspirators”, or the “arrogant” and “uncouth” Australians.

And, if Dr Mahathir needed an ethnic Chinese-looking enemy, the “surrogate” Chinese across the Causeway was there for him to attack. Images of UMNO Youth demonstrating in Johor Bahru against Singapore from this side of the Tebrau Straits vividly summed up the politics of the time perfectly – that UMNO did not have to change its methods, just look beyond our shores to see the “enemy”.

In 2004, Abdullah Badawi inherited Dr. Mahathir’s framework with an even more “Malaysian” or wasatiyyah (moderate) message. In his first National Day Address in August 2004, Abdullah said, “Kita semua adalah sama, kita semua rakyat Malaysia. Tidak ada individu di negara ini yang diiktiraf ‘lebih Malaysia’ dari individu lain.” (We are all the same, we are all Malaysians. No individual in this country is more Malaysian than others)

But something changed in 2005. The grand bargain ended abruptly in the last week of July of that year, something which I will discuss next week. –The Rocket

Pongal harvest festival event

Ipoh Barat DAP celebrated Pongal harvest festival on Sunday at 2.30 pm at the Tawas Hall, Kg.Tawas.
It was well attended by over 500 people.

The contents of my speech are as follows:

Pongal is a four-days-long harvest festival is celebrated by the Indians in India and in many parts of the world. Tamil people living abroad follow their cultural values during this festival.

Pongal is one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year. Pongal is an ancient festival of people in South India particularly Tamils. The history of the festival can be traced back to the Sangam Age i.e. 200 B.C. To 300 A.D.

Some legendary stories are also associated with Pongal festival celebrations. The two most popular legends of Pongal are stories related to Lord Shiva and Lord Indra.

In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. 'Bogi' is celebrated on January 13, 'Pongal' on Jan 14, 'Maattuppongal' on Jan 15, and 'Thiruvalluvar Day' on Jan 16.

A festival called Jalli kathu is held in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur,all in Tamil Nadu, on this day. Bundles of money are tied to the horns of Pongal ferocious bulls which the villagers try to retrieve.

The first day of Pongal known as 'Bhogi Pongal' is a day for family gathering and is dedicated to Lord Indra. The houses are then cleaned till they shine and are decorated with Kolams painted using rice flour.

The second day of Pongal known as 'Surya Pongal' is dedicated to the Sun God.

The third day known as 'Mattu Pongal' is dedicated to the cattle as cowherds and shepherds pay thanks to their cows and bulls, paint their horns and cover them with shining metal caps.

The fourth day is termed as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, people travel to see other family members. On this day, the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money. Another thing many do is leave food out on banana leaves for birds to take. Many South Indian people will take the first bit of rice cooked in any given day and set it outside for the crows to take, so this is not necessarily a habit only for Pongal.

This Kaanum Pongal is misinterpretated as Kanni Pongal. Kaanum means 'what you see.' Kanni means girls who are still unmarried. Therefore this Kaanum Pongal must not be altered to Kanni Pongal.

Nowadays, Pongal has become a vibrant festival with a global presence. At the moment there are seventy million Tamils spread in over fifty countries of the world. 80 percent of them celebrate Pongal.

The early settlement patterns of the Tamils could be traced to the sugar cane plantations of Mauritius, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname in South America and plantations in Malaysia.

Due to the large number of Tamils residing in the various countries of South East Asia, Pongal is extremely popular festival in these places.

Indonesia has about 2,000 to 10,000 Tamils,
Singapore has about 200,000 Tamils
Malaysia has a 1,060,000 Tamil population
Myanmar (previously Burma) had a Tamil population of 200,000 at a peak time. After Second World War the number has been reduced to a mere few thousands.
Thailand has 10,000 tamils
Even in China there is a population of 5,000 celebrating Pongal.
Cambodia has less than 1,000

We must emphasise on the fact that in Malaysia there are one million Tamils who celebrate Ponggal. In other countries the figure stands only in a few thousands. We must keep the Malaysian figure remained. Malaysian Indians must be united to safeguard their religious traditions like Ponggal.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Speak up for MCA, prove Utusan wrong: Kit Siang to Soi Lek

Speak up for MCA, prove Utusan wrong: Kit Siang to Soi Lek

January 30, 2012
Malaysian Insider

Lim said Utusan was becoming more overt in its attempt to create friction within Malaysian society. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — Amidst a worsening spat today, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang dared the president of MCA to take on the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia to prove the latter’s party still had clout in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

The DAP veteran said this was especially needed as Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has been telling MCA's dwindling Chinese support that “a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and a victory for DAP in the next general election is paving the road for PAS’s ‘days of glory’.”

“Utusan Malaysia is living up to its reputation as the most unprincipled, unscrupulous, extremist and racist voice in Malaysia,” the DAP advisor said in a statement today.

“Even Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak cannot bring it into line,” the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leader added.

He stressed that Utusan was turning more desperate as its circulation and credibility continued to plunge, suggesting that the paper was becoming harder to deal with and that such a situation was dangerous for non-Malays, including those within the ruling coalition.

“This should concern the MCA president as Utusan Malaysia is the official newspaper of Umno, the political hegemon in Barisan Nasional,” Lim said.

The Ipoh-Timor MP questioned the BN leader’s silence over what he termed Utusan’s attempt to incite racial hatred and tension among multiethnic-multireligious Malaysia, noting the “subservience, impotence and irrelevance of MCA and other non-Umno leaders”.

Lim said the onus was also now on Dr Chua to clear his party’s indirect link to outspoken Malay rights group Perkasa.

He highlighted that federal lawmakers’ reports and futures were now less in the PM’s control than that of the Malay-language paper.

“If Utusan Malaysia is right [that] DAP is the world’s most racist party, then Chua is wrong. If Chua is right, then Utusan must be wrong,” Lim said.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CNY Open House at Bercham, Ipoh

Speech by M Kula Segaran , DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat at Chinese New Year Open House organized by DAP Bercham branch on Sunday, January 29, 2012

It was claimed that yesterday’s CNY function attended by the Prime Minister Dato Srii Najib attracted 50,000 people. But our sources said only 5000 attended.

This is a clear sign that BN has not regained much support from the people despite the fact that Najib has helmed the government for almost 3 years.

In its attempt to win support, BN has resorted to giving away cash assistance to the people. But this “ang pow ”of RM 500 is temporary and government is giving from borrowed monies. Voters must therefore not be carried away.

I wish to take this opportunity to call on the government to lift the ban on firecrackers and fireworks as the total ban has robbed the Chinese community of a part of their traditional celebration of Chinese New Year.

I also wish to take this occasion to remind the Federal government that Bercham needs a new Chinese school. The present school is overcrowded and the need for a new primary and a secondary school is long overdue.

It has been widely speculated that the 13th general election will be held within 6 months. PR is ready to do battle with BN in what could be the dirtiest election in the nation’s history. BN will surely employ all possible tactics to try to stay in power.

Not long ago, Najib talked about making Malaysia the best democracy in the world. But what democracy was he talking about when public rallies are still banned in Malaysia?

There are many democratic and electoral reforms that must be done if Malaysia is
to become a true and vibrant democracy.

The lifting of the ban on public rallies is one of the basic steps that the Government must do before Parliament is dissolved to pave way for the next general election.

Kit Siang promises NFC RCI if Pakatan takes power

Kit Siang promises NFC RCI if Pakatan takes power

UPDATED @ 12:08:32 PM 29-01-2012
January 29, 2012
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — Lim Kit Siang has pledged a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the scandal-hit RM250 million National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project if Pakatan Rakyat (PR) take over federal government.

The DAP parliamentary leader (picture) said this in a speech last night after Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, rejected calls for such a panel to investigate the project run by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family.

“Who is Muhyiddin to reject the call for a RCI when Muhyiddin himself, as the Agriculture and Agro-based Minister who approved the controversial project back in 2006, would himself be one of the subjects of any RCI investigation?

“I have discussed with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and he has agreed that a new PR government in Putrajaya... will establish a RCI into the RM336.64 million NFC “cattle condo” scandal,” he said at the Perak PR Chinese New Year open house in Gopeng.

A copy of the veteran opposition leader’s speech was emailed to The Malaysian Insider this morning.

Shahrizat has taken three weeks leave as Women, Family and Community Development Minister to enable the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate whether she had a role in awarding the project to her family although the controversy is over the company spending money on properties rather than the cattle project.

PKR has made a series of exposes alleging that the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) that runs the national cattle farming project has spent at least RM27 million on land, property and expenses unrelated to cattle farming.

But NFCorp has insisted that the purchases were an investment while waiting for the government to complete an abattoir.

It has also insisted it was “unreasonable” to suggest it would abuse public funds as the RM250 million is in the form of a loan and non-payment would result in the owners — Shahrizat’s husband and three children — being jailed or declared bankrupt.

Lim said last night “it smacks of conflict of interest on Muhyiddin’s part and he should exclude himself from any decision-making as to whether there should be a RCI into the cattle condo scandal, instead of being so gung-ho in opposing the proposal.”

“The 13th General Elections is around the corner. Let Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political affiliation speak loud and clear (if) they want a RCI to reveal the full details of the true horror stories of the RM336.64 million “cattle condo” scandal.

Muhyiddin had claimed that there is no need for an RCI as on-going investigations by the police and the MACC are sufficient.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

DAP rakes Putrajaya over RM7b highway deal

DAP rakes Putrajaya over RM7b highway deal

January 28, 2012
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The DAP has blasted the Najib administration for awarding a lucrative RM7 billion highway deal, to be tolled for a record 60 years, to a company known principally for making and selling granular and powder-activated carbon.

Public-listed Kumpulan Europlus Bhd (KEuro) told Bursa Malaysia late on Thursday it had also won a RM2.24 billion government soft loan and a three per cent interest subsidy on commercial loans for a period of 22 years, on top of Putrajaya paying RM980 million in land acquisition cost to join Banting in south Selangor a total 316km to Taiping in north Perak.

Industry observers have described the new highway project as the closest alternative to the congested North-South Expressway.

“This deal reeks of cronyism and this does not bode well for Najib’s transformation programme,” the opposition party lawmaker Tony Pua (picture) told The Malaysian Insider, speaking of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's New Economic Model (NEM) to make the country a high-income nation by 2020.

The PM has been seeking to burnish his credentials as a reformer and so spur Malaysia’s growth as a global an investment hub.

In the filing to Bursa Malaysia, KEuro disclosed that its subsidiary, West Coast Expressway Sdn Bhd (WCE), has received an approval letter dated the same day from the federal government to build and operate the Banting-Taiping highway for the next 60 years estimated to cost RM7.07 billion.

It said the 224km of the highway will be tolled compared to 92km that will be toll-free.

The public-listed company also disclosed receiving a RM2.24 billion government soft loan starting from next year and an interest subsidy of only three per cent on commercial loans for a period of 22 years to build the highway apart from the government bearing the estimated RM980 million in land acquisition cost for the highway project.

“This is shocking! Why [did they get] such good terms?” Pua asked.

“Taxpayers are being doubly abused. First, they will have to pay for the construction of the road and then will be asked to pay for the use of the road,” he said.

The DAP publicity chief pointed out that KEuro’s president and chief executive Tan Sri Chan Ah Chye was also onboard the controversial housing developer Talam Corporation Bhd, and that both companies had fallen into debt in the past.

“Despite that, it has continued to win support from the Najib administration and got a sweetheart deal in order to see through the project,” Pua said.

“Why is the government giving it to him [Chan]?” he asked, noting that Chan owns a controlling 27.58 per cent in KEuro, with the second major shareholder at 22.7 per cent going to multi-industry giant IJM Corporation Bhd.

Pua said that KEuro had made only RM15 million in revenue and RM5 million in profit in the first nine months of last year after racking up RM24.1 million in losses on revenue of RM20.5 million in 2010.

“Now they are awarded a highway that is expected to cost RM7.07 billion to build. It’s a property developer with records of abandoned housing projects. It has no experience in building highways that I can recall,” Pua said, clarifying that IJM has, but not KEuro.

“Here we are in Pakatan Rakyat putting in our common policy framework to restructure and remove tolls while the BN government is putting on their agenda privatisation policies that impose additional tolls on ordinary Malaysians and prioritise their cronies.”

Pua urged the government to call off its deal with KEuro, which he said had yet to be signed; and to open the project to competitive tender so that the public will not be burdened by tolls for 60 years.

“It’s the longest [toll concession] ever, longer than with PLUS,” the Petaling Jaya Utara MP said.

Pua, who is among the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc’s economic experts, related that the West Coast highway project had been mooted and first approved during the administration of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad — Najib’s mentor — but had stalled in the late 1990s.

“Because of the Asian economic crisis, Europlus could not raise the money to build the highway,” he said.

He added: “It’s an old deal that should have been terminated when Europlus first failed to build the highway.”

KEuro is described as an investment holding company in stock exchange records and its businesses are organised into three divisions, namely manufacturing and trading of industrial products, construction, and leasing, management services and investment holding.

Fears still linger over Lynas plant | Free Malaysia Today

Fears still linger over Lynas plant

Stephanie Sta Maria | January 27, 2012-FMT

Corporation's 300-page application permit reinforces fears that the RM2.5-billion plant would spell doom for Kuantan residents

PETALING JAYA: Two independent experts are standing by their initial apprehension of Lynas Corporation’s rare earth plant in Gebeng even after reviewing its lengthy application permit.

Epidemiologist, Professor Chan Chee Khoon, and chemical engineer, Professor Tan Ka Khang, both said that Lynas’ 300-page document reinforced their fears that the RM2.5-billion plant would spell doom for Kuantan residents.

According to Chan, the main issue of Lynas’ vague waste management plan remained hanging in the air and the Australian mining giant was still looking into recycling the residue into gypsum boards.

Lynas plans to produce synthetic gypsum from its recycled waste and sell it to Kuantan residents in the form of phospogypsum plaster boards.

“The world has spent the past three decades phasing out asbestos due to its carcinogenic component and here we are adding it in the form of gypsum boards,” said Chan.

“If Lynas’ commercialisation attempt fails, then it plans to store the waste in a permanent disposal facility and we will have a replay of the Papan tragedy.”

Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd (ARE) set up operations in the Bukit Merah Industrial area in the 1980s.

Up to 80,000 200-litre drums of radioactive waste was found stored behind Papan town two years ago after residents were told by none other than former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, that a “small amount” of nuclear waste was “buried deep in the ground” in Perak.

Chan, a public health scientist with Universiti Malaya, pointed out that there was a high possibility of an unknown number of illegal dumpsites still existing at unknown locations in Ipoh.

He warned that if the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) was granted an operational licence, then a similar future would be awaiting Kuantan.

Lynas talking nonsense

Chan flayed various official bodies for their blithe assurance that the projected levels of radiation exposure met the safety standards set by the International Commission of Radiological Protection.

He pointed out that the government bodies had ignored a crucial debate that has been raging for years over the effect of low-level radiation.

“International experts still can’t reach a consensus on the risk of low-level exposure,” said Chan. “Lynas’ document doesn’t take into account internal emitters from inhaling or ingesting radioactive particles.”

“They are talking nonsense when they say it is safe. And the Kuantan community will become lab rats in this experiment.”

Tan’s anxieties, meanwhile, rested on the absence of an analysis on the ore concentrate that Lynas will be bringing into Malaysia.

Calling the current document “contradictory and confusing”, he also questioned the true amount of waste that would be generated from LAMP.

“The figures in the application permit are based purely on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and are estimations at best,” Tan said.

“So what is the real total amount of waste and what exactly is coming into our country?”

While he stressed that a more detailed EIA report is necessary, he also pointed out that doing so without the ore concentrate would be a mere paper exercise.

“Right now the government appears to be helping Lynas clean up its act,” Tan said. “So who is really leading the show here?”

“And will the government allow Lynas to be another ARE which conveniently closed down when it was in the red? These are questions that need to be answered for the next generation.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Najib’s economic policies benefit cronies, says Anwar

Najib’s economic policies benefit cronies, says Anwar

January 27, 2012
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has lashed out at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bid to reform Malaysia’s economy and spur growth, saying his political rival’s ideas regarding corporate deals would only benefit the well-connected few.

With the Sodomy II trial out of the way, the battle to win voter support in the next general election between the prime minister and his political arch-foe appears wholly centred on the economy.

Prime Minister Najib (picture) has been styling himself a reformer and has also embarked on a series of sales of government assets to spur growth.

Earlier this month, a government state investment fund sold its stake in carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd to DRB-Hicom Bhd .

Last year government-linked funds swapped shares in state-run Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) with budget airline AirAsia Bhd.

“The overall principle is that we want the government-linked companies to sell off their non-core and non-competitive assets,” Najib told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) two weeks ago.

“We are always looking out for how to add value to the country,” he said.

State investment fund Khazanah Nasional said in a statement that it chose the best suitor for the job and the country, after the Proton deal.

A government official told the WSJ that the administration was “fully committed to openness and transparency in all privatisations and divestments of state-owned assets and to tackling corruption wherever and whenever it is found.”

The official added that Malaysia had introduced a new online database of government contracts so that anybody can alert the authorities to any potentially improper actions.

In an interview published today, Anwar told the WSJ that Najib’s series of sales of government assets to private entities without open public tenders would continue to place key companies in the hands of a few well-heeled and politically-connected individuals.

Privatisation, the former finance minister-turned-opposition leader, said “looks good, but look again at the procedures”. He added that Najib’s economic policies will result in greater cronyism.

“The issue is not about privatisation, it is blatant corruption,” Anwar told the WSJ.

The economic adviser to the Selangor government, the resource-rich country’s wealthiest state, has been drumming up popular support especially from among the ethnic Chinese and Indians with promises to abolish Najib’s affirmative action policies aimed to give a leg up to the 28 million population’s majority Malays.

The de facto chief of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc told the daily he will propel privatisation and do more to free up markets to operate more efficiently by making government contracts more transparent.

In the article, the 64-year-old pushed his series of economic reform policies to promote transparency and accountability, especially in the award of government contracts and end widespread corruption under the current Barisan Nasional (BN) government led by Najib.

Anwar told the WSJ that he was not just “anti-Umno” but wanted to ensure that Malaysia would emerge on top as it competed with neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Vietnam that was pulling in foreign investments.

“We must always compare Malaysia to Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan,” he told the WSJ.

He told the daily that he would push for more privatisation programmes and free up the markets to run business more efficiently.

Malaysia, once among the top economic magnets in Asia, has been criticised for continuing with economic policies that benefit only one race to get in the way of trade and investments.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What BN needs is a bigger lesson and hence a bigger political tsunami.

Speech by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat at Jalong, Sg. Siput Chinese New Year function held on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What BN needs is a bigger lesson and hence a bigger political tsunami.

Until January 9, it was widely believed that the Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib would dissolve the Parliament to pave way for the nation’s 13th general election in March.

However, with the surprise acquittal of the Opposition Leader Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim of his sodomy 2 charge that has lifted the spirit of the opposition supporters, and the RM 250 million National Feedlot Centre scandal which is causing BN to lose support, Najib obviously has to rethink his choice of date or risk losing big in the next general election.

So it did not come as a surprise when Najib recently indicated to the Wall Street Journal that the general election will not be held soon.

He said that the 13th general election will not be held so soon as the Government's reform initiatives are not in full swing yet.

But what was surprising was what he said --“I hope it will be the right time soon enough, but we still have not delivered on our promises and it's important for people to have the feeling that the reforms we have promised will actually benefit them”.

Was not he admitting that the BN government has still not delivered on its promises?!

Najib assumed the post of Prime Minister almost 3 years ago and yet he has not delivered his promises to the people!

3 years is not a short period of time.

Should Malaysians give him more time and chance?

Does he deserve the people’s support?

What BN and the Prime Minister lack is not time.

What Najib lacks is the political will and commitment to make meaningful and significant changes that Malaysians yearn for.

In fact, time has proven that in the 54 years that BN has ruled this nation, it has not been committed to bring about the necessary changes Malaysia needs.

It is obvious that the electoral debacle that BN suffered in the 2008 general election is not enough lesson for BN government.

What BN needs is a bigger lesson and hence a bigger political tsunami.

So in the coming general election, Malaysians should rise to the occasion and vote for new federal government helmed by Pakatan Rakyat and with Anwar Ibrahim as the new Prime Minister.

For Perakians, we must never forget how the mandate given by the people to the PR at the last general election was robbed by the BN government.

So the next general election must be a ‘pay back” time – voters must vote to punish BN severely and reinstall the Pakatan Rakyat government.

However, the next general election is likely to be the dirtiest in the nation’s electoral history.

PR and the opposition supporters must therefore be ready to fight what is going to be the dirtiest but most important election ever.

I am optimistic that the Year of the Dragon 2012 will be good year for PR and Malaysians, and will bring about a new political scenario that will ensure a Better Malaysia for All.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rights in Malaysia – No action, talk only | Free Malaysia Today

Rights in Malaysia – No action, talk only

K Pragalath | January 23, 2012-FMT

HRW's latest report claims that the government's efforts in promoting human rights leave a lot to be desired.

PETALING JAYA: The state of human rights in Malaysia is filled with promises of reforms and politicians backtracking their words, according to Human Rights Watch’s 22nd annual report entitled World Report 2012 that was released yesterday.

The report looked into eight key issues in Malaysia but the one main issue was Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial.

HRW noted that Anwar’s legal team was denied access to the prosecution’s witness list, critical forensic samples for independent examination, and medical examiners’ notes from hospital examinations of the accuser – all in violation of international fair trial standards.

Anwar has since been acquitted on Jan 9 due to questionable DNA evidence and the Attorney General’s Chambers has filed an appeal last week.

Violations against freedom of expression, association and assembly are also well documented in the report, through the Bersih rally on July 9 last year and the detention of six political activists under the Emergency Ordinance.

“Malaysia’s leaders are fooling themselves by thinking they can backtrack on public promises to respect the rights to demonstrate peacefully and criticize the government without fear.

“The more Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and government politicians play their game of big talk, with little action on rights, the more they should expect popular pushback,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia region at Human Rights Watch on these violations.

Media censorship

Under the sub-heading of media censorship, HRW stated that Home Ministry has continued to deny online news portal Malaysiakini rights to publish newspapers on the grounds that publishing permit was “a privilege,” not a right.

It also criticised the proposed reforms on the Printing Presses and Publications Act. Under the reform measures, annual licensing for print has been revoked but the Home Minister retains broad authority, without judicial review, to refuse permission to publish anything he determines “likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security … or national interest.”

The report also highlighted Najib’s announcement to repeal the controversial Internal Security Act 1960 and the revocation of the three emergency proclamations and the review of the Restricted Residence Act.

“However, he committed to introducing two new laws under article 149 (Special Laws against Subversion) of the Federal Constitution, which allows parliament to enact sweeping security provisions that deny basic freedoms.

The Malaysia – Australia refugee swap deal signed on July 25, but eventually cancelled, was also criticised in the report because Malaysia has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention which means that Malaysia had failed to differentiate refugees, asylum seekers, trafficking victims, and undocumented migrants.

The swap deal would have permitted Australia to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for refugee screening in exchange for 4,000 refugees. However an Australian High Court judgment deemed the swap deal as illegal.

The Malaysian Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was also rubbished as it failed to provide protection to the victims

Sexual orientation

Under the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity, the government’s refusal to repeal Article 377B of the Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, was criticised.

HRW highlighted the banning of Seksualiti Merdeka which was a seven day festival for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to express their issues.

It also highlighted the case of Aleesha Farhnan Abdul Aziz who failed to compel the National Registration Department to recognise him as a female.

The HRW was also concerned about the freedom of religion among the minorities following a raid by the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department on Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On changing horses midstream and the man who can walk on water — Sakmongkol AK47

On changing horses midstream and the man who can walk on water — Sakmongkol AK47

January 21, 2012
Malaysian Insider

JAN 21 — The prime minister told the people not to change horses midstream. So we asked, don’t we change even if the horse is limping and is running on three legs? In endurance races, riders change horses in order to arrive at the destination. Malaysians should be pragmatic when it comes to deciding their future.

Midstream for Barisan Nasional and Umno is already over 50 years. Since 1955, when the first elections took place until now, from Perikatan to BN, we have had more than 50 years of BN rule. What do we have?

We have development, for sure, but are also damaged by rampant corruption, utter disregard for the rule of law, abuses of all kinds, political manipulations, deception and lies and gross mismanagement of the economy. To all that, the PM says, we don’t change? If we don’t, we shall have another 50 years of unchecked corruption, emasculation of the judiciary, thugs running the legal institutions, abuses and gross mismanagement.

At another point in his speech, the PM says we don’t know whether the opposition knows what to do if they come into power. We don’t know whether, under Pakatan Rakyatwe, we can achieve developed status by 2020 with the fabled per capita income of US$15,000.

Of course Pakatan knows what to do. In the short years since they came into power, direct investments have been highest in Pakatan led states of Penang, Selangor and Kedah. These states have achieved balanced budgets without doing arithmetic tricks.

In Penang, which is led by a non-Muslim, grants to Islamic religious institutions have reached RM30 million a year. Compare that to Negri Sembilan, which is led by a good Muslim, where the grant is only RM 12 million a year. How is that possible? Because the state coffers have been managed better in one state than in the other managed by BN and Umno.

So, in answer to the PM’s pained exhortations, we should change horses if and when necessary. It’s now most necessary to change the tired horse. Retire him. But as a good animal lover, we won’t put it to sleep, but maybe employ it as a riding horse for children.

The other piece of news that struck me as odd was the statement from Khazanah Nasional that it didn’t make a profit from its sale of Proton shares to DRB-Hicom. If no profits were made, why sell the shares? You mean, a simple bottom-line judgement call require a phalanx of Oxbridge analysts to justify in order to sell at a profit?

Secondly, Khazanah’s statement can be construed as an admission that it was given a fait acompli, take-this-and-don’t-ask-any-questions offer. In Malaysia, only one person can do that – the man who can walk on water.

I hope I can throw more light on the sale of Proton shares to DRB-Hicom. Were there any other bids besides DRB-Hicom’s that were presented to Khazanah? Is Khazanah brave enough to publish the identity of all bidders?

If it has the courage to do so, we shall not be surprised if the bidders were only the Tengku Mahaleel- Arumugam group, DRB-Hicom, plus Nadzmi Salleh and Co.

If that is the case, whoever gets the shares has only one master. The man who can walk on water. — sakmongkol.blogspot.com

* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Unite and kick out BN, Kit Siang tells Malaysian Chinese voters

Unite and kick out BN, Kit Siang tells Malaysian Chinese voters

January 21, 2012
Malaysian Insider

Lim said the economy had developed despite the misgovernance, corruption and abuses of power of the Umno-BN leadership and Malaysians had nothing to thank BN for. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — The ethnic Chinese community should unite and work together with other Malaysians to ensure a change of government in the coming election, Lim Kit Siang said today.

The DAP parliamentary leader said Malaysians needed to vote the opposition into power as Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) suffered from an “incorrigible disease of denial complex” in refusing to admit the failures of government and nation-building.

“If more evidence is needed to prove how cut off the Barisan Nasional leadership has become from the aspirations of ordinary Malaysians, one need only refer to the message by the MCA president yesterday calling on the Chinese voters not to ‘experiment’ in the next general election as Barisan Nasional’s leadership has allowed the community to prosper.

“Just as the Malaysian economy has developed in the past few decades despite the misgovernance, corruption and abuses of power of the Umno-BN leadership, the prosperity of the Chinese community had been achieved despite the failings of the Barisan Nasional leadership,” Lim said in a statement.

The Ipoh Timur MP stressed that Malaysians not only had nothing to thank BN for but were entitled to blame the ruling coalition for “lost opportunities” to make the country developed, prosperous, competitive and more united.

“This is why a total change of power in Putrajaya is uppermost in the minds of more and more Malaysians and I call on the Malaysian Chinese to unite and rise as one dragon, together with all other Malaysians, to effect a change of power in Putrajaya in the next general election to begin a new page of history celebrating the greatness of all Malaysians,” he said.

Appeal fuels idea BN wants Anwar out, say analysts

Appeal fuels idea BN wants Anwar out, say analysts

January 21, 2012
Malaysian Insider

Anwar and PR’s jubilation over the opposition leader’s acquittal has turned out to be premature. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — The decision to appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal in his two-year-long sodomy trial has boosted the notion that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) will stop at nothing to end the opposition leader’s political ambitions, say analysts.

Prosecutors filed an appeal yesterday although trial judge Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah ruled they had not done enough and that DNA evidence may have been compromised when finding Anwar not guilty of sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

“Most Malaysians have grown so cynical over the unrelenting series of criminal charges brought against Anwar, that the proposition (that BN wants to stop Anwar) is the most natural and compelling inference to be drawn,” Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee told The Malaysian Insider.

He also questioned why Solicitor-General II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden — “the third most important man in the Attorney General’s Chambers” — should spend his time “prosecuting this crime which is victimless and based on morality” instead of more serious offences such as corruption and murder.

James Chin, a political science lecturer at Monash University, told AP that the move reflects negatively on Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claims that he does not interfere with the judiciary and is serious about ensuring civil liberty.

“It’s back to square one. It is a setback for Anwar because he will have to spend time in the appeal process and won’t be able to focus fully on forthcoming elections,” he said.

Ibrahim Suffian of independent pollsters Merdeka Center also told Reuters “the appeal by the prosecution plays into the opposition story that the government will not stop at anything to get rid of the Anwar politically.”

“It also clouds Prime Minister Najib’s reforms at this crucial time before an election. Like it or not, Malaysians tend to feel that the government is behind this [trial],” he said.

The opposition, especially Anwar himself, has campaigned hard across the country ever since Saiful first made the accusation in June 2008, claiming the allegation is a political ploy to end Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) hopes of coming into power.

But the government failed to seize the opportunity given by the High Court here to “bow out gracefully from Anwar’s politically motivated prosecution,” said Human Rights Watch.

“This decision means the citizens of Malaysia will be further subjected to the more political machinations in the courtroom as the government perpetuates this travesty of a trial for a crime that should not be a crime in the first place,” said the human rights watchdog’s deputy Asia chief Phil Robertson.

Anwar, 64, was similarly indicted of sodomy in 1998, before being exonerated six years later.

The PKR de facto leader then led the PR opposition pact to deny BN its customary two-third majority of Parliament and five state governments.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, chairman of electoral reforms movement Bersih, believes the Najib administration’s move may prove to be counterproductive.

“Any goodwill they may have gained by the acquittal now down the drain with this appeal. Pity!” she said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Karpal says appealing reversal of sedition acquittal

Karpal says appealing reversal of sedition acquittal

By Clara Chooi
January 20, 2012
Malaysian Insider

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 20 — Karpal Singh said today he will appeal this morning’s Court of Appeal decision to call for his defence in his sedition charge over remarks involving the Perak Sultan.

The DAP chairman told reporters here that although the call for his defence was “not a final order and therefore not appealable”, it could be deemed unconstitutional if his right to appeal were denied.

He pointed out that had the Court of Appeal decided today to uphold the High Court’s decision to acquit and discharge him, the prosecution would have likely exercised its right to appeal the case with the apex court.

“I think I have the option to take it up to the Federal Court... although there’s an authority which says that if defence is called, then it is not a final order and therefore not appealable.

“So clearly there is discrimination when it comes to this,” he said.

Karpal said he believed his bid could be a test case to determine the constitutionality of denying a defendant the right to appeal once he is ordered to enter a defence.

The Court of Appeal today allowed an appeal by the Attorney-General’s Chambers against a High Court’s decision to acquit and discharge Karpal of a charge of uttering seditious words against the Perak Sultan during the height of the state’s constitutional crisis in 2009.

Justice Datuk Ahmad Maarop who sat with justices Datuk Clement Alan Skinner and Datuk Mohamad Apandi Ali, said the appellants had successfully proved a prima facie case against the DAP chairman and ordered him to enter his defence.

Karpal had been indicted under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 for allegedly uttering seditious words against the Perak Sultan at his legal firm in Jalan Pudu Lama, Kuala Lumpur on February 6, 2009, during the Perak constitutional crisis.

He is alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin as Perak mentri besar and the appointment of Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir by the Sultan could be questioned in a court of law.

Karpal was later acquitted of the charges by trial judge Azman Abdullah. The A-G’s Chambers subsequently filed its appeal last year, contending that the judge had taken a wrong approach when he ruled the prosecution had failed to prove prima facie.

“I accept the decision for the moment. But let it be brought on to the Federal Court and see what happens there,” said Karpal.

He maintained, however, that the Sedition Act 1949 was an “archaic” piece of legislation that should be repealed as it violates an individual’s constitutional right to free speech.

“In fact, if the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) comes to power, and I think there is every likelihood that we will come to power, we will give priority to repealing the Act through Parliament,” he vowed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Najib should heed his own call “to make voice of moderation of louder” by declaring transformation of Utusan Malaysia into the Voice of Moderation

Najib should heed his own call “to make voice of moderation of louder” by declaring transformation of Utusan Malaysia into the Voice of Moderation

--Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader

“Najib: Make voice of moderation louder” – this is yesterday’s front-page headline of UMNO-owned New Straits Times reporting on the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak opening speech of the inaugural International Conference on Global Movement of Moderates on Tuesday.

Najib should heed his own call “to make voice of moderation louder” by declaring the transformation of the UMNO-owned Utusan Malaysia into the Voice of Reason and Moderation, ceasing henceforth to be the Voice of Enmity, Malice, Unreason and Extremism which had caused the degeneration of Najib’s 33 months as Prime Minister into the country’s most divisive, divided and polarized times both in racial and religious terms as compared to the first 33 months of the country’s first five Prime Ministers – Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah.

If Najib is not prepared to make his “voice of moderation louder” and make a commitment to transform Utusan Malaysia from being the Voice of Extremism to become the Voice of Moderation, then Malaysians are entitled to ask what is the real purpose of the International Conference on Global Movement of Moderates which would have cost the government a fortune to host.

Najib would be guilty of not complying with his own prescription to the International Conference, i.e. that it is time for the masses to stand up and say to the extremists “with a single breath a firm and resounding no” – reducing the whole conference into an international joke and a farce!

There is another pressing test for Najib on whether the Prime Minister can claim the mantle of a “moderate” – whether he is prepared to renounce his past as an extremist and all vestiges of such extremism especially his extremist speech at the 2010 UMNO General Assembly, by retracting his “crushed bodies, lives lost” declaration (“walau berkecai tulang dan juga badan, walau bercerai jasad dari nyawa”) to defend UMNO from losing power in the next general elections.

If he is to qualify as a “Voice of Moderation”, Najib should categorically and unequivocally make an immediate and public commitment that he, UMNO and the Barisan Nasional will peacefully and with open heart accept the verdict of Malaysians in the 13th General Elections, including a change of government in Putrajaya with
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim taking over as the seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia!

If Najib is not prepared to make these two declarations – to transform Utusan Malaysia into the “Voice of Moderation” and to peacefully accept the verdict of the forthcoming general elections including the establishment of a Pakatan Rakyat Federal Government, then his claims of “moderation” are completely suspect.

It is more than just coincidence that the International Conference on Global Movement of Moderates took place at the same time as the Suhakam public inquiry into the 709 Bersih 2.0 public gathering last year, with the Bersih 2.0 chair person Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan making the very serious accusation against the Prime Minister of “endorsing” threats and criminal intimidation against her.

She recounted her “horrifying” experiences when her personal safety was “intimidated by state actors and non-state actors alike”, with Najib lending support to a silat group Pertubuhan Seni Silat Lincah Malaysia which had threatened to take on Bersih 2.0 if its rally was not called off.

Najib had labeled Ambiga as a “threat to Islam” and “enemy of the country”, while she was accused of being supportive of apostates, with calls to strip her of her citizenship and a campaign of demonization against Bersih by state-controlled media.

She said: “I believe all this was condoned by the government”.
Malay-rights group Perkasa had burned pictures of her and widely distributed leaflets stating ‘Awas! Ambiga wanita Hindu yang berbahaya’.

Perkasa called her a traitor and made veiled threat when their chief Ibrahim Ali warned the Chinese against joining the rally, asking them to stay home and “stock up on food”, in reference to the curfew declared during the 1969 racial riots.

The mainstream media blatantly accused Bersih 2.0 of being a front for Christian, Jewish and foreign groups.

Up to now, no action had been taken against these criminal intimidation against Ambiga and Bersih 2.0.

Is Najib prepared to publicly apologise to Ambiga and Bersih 2.0 for these extremist actions to demonstate his seriousness in calling for moderates to unite against all forms of extremism whether in Malaysia or outside?

Why did they free Anwar? — P. Ramakrishnan

Why did they free Anwar? — P. Ramakrishnan

January 18, 2012
Malaysian Insider

JAN 18 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal and discharge could not have earned the judiciary any brownie points. Neither did the trial judge, Justice Datuk Zabidin Mohd Diah, come across as someone capable of blazing a new trail in proactive justice.

In fact, the court proceedings only disappointed Malaysians the way the judge denied the defence the many crucial notes they were entitled to, dismissed their right to question the prime minister and his wife by granting their application not to appear as witnesses, and refused to recuse himself as the presiding judge by dismissing Anwar’s application that he was biased in the proceedings.

He even strengthened this belief by concluding at the end of the prosecution case that Saiful was a “truthful and credible witness” without even hearing the defence side of the case. The bias was so blatant and so obvious.

Who can forget the doctor who testified under oath at the trial? He wilfully refused to refer to his notes in a deliberate attempt to deny the defence his notes.

In spite of Karpal Singh coaxing him to refer to the notes while testifying, he stubbornly refused to look at his notes. The question arises, why would he want to deny the defence access to his notes? Was he coached not to refer to his notes? What was in those notes that would have been helpful in Anwar’s defence that they desperately wanted to hide?

Again, the way Anwar’s DNA was obtained was questionable and unethical. In spite of Anwar having assured the police that he would turn up at the police station to give his statement, he was waylaid, arrested and taken to the police station as if he was a common criminal. And they unnecessarily kept him overnight to obtain his DNA surreptitiously. Indeed that was how they obtained his DNA.

Anwar’s objection to the admission of his DNA was initially allowed because it was obtained by trickery. But later the judge allowed the DNA as an exhibit following the prosecution’s appeal.

So when the judge acquitted Anwar at the end of the trial, his decision was a clear contradiction to the way the case had progressed and proceeded. Going strictly by the court proceedings, Anwar should have been convicted. There were no two ways about it. The court decision took everyone by surprise.

The entire proceedings went against Anwar thus allowing an injustice to prevail. It created the unmistakable impression that the court was colluding with the executive to put away Anwar for good.

Widespread anger

So why was Anwar freed?

While the prosecution went all out to obtain a conviction, the powers-that-be could not ignore the sentiment on the ground. There was wide-spread anger and frustration among a wide-ranging spectrum of the population.

I was on my way to keep an appointment at the General Hospital in Penang on January 9, when I was informed of the outcome, moments after the judge had delivered his verdict to acquit and discharge Anwar. I met so many people at the hospital, the majority of whom were Malays and who were total strangers. When I told them that Anwar was freed, all of them without an exception praised God and were openly very happy.

I called my friend in Kuala Lumpur and related my experience with these people. I was told that this euphoria was not confined to Penang only but was felt everywhere in KL and elsewhere in the country.

With this kind of sympathy and support for Anwar, a guilty verdict and a prison sentence would have outraged all these people. The backlash arising out of this injustice would have punished the Barisan Nasional mercilessly in the 13th General Election.

Political motive?

According to many observers, it was a political decision to go after Anwar with this trumped up charge as he was seen as a threat to the BN’s continued domination of Malaysian politics. Now it was also a political decision to free him in order to mollify the public anger against the BN.

But if this was their strategy for the time being, will they allow Anwar the freedom to roam around the country, galvanising the people and spreading the wings of Pakatan all over Malaysia?

It is very likely that they would want to appeal this verdict and knowing the trend of the judiciary — you win round one and lose round two — the appeal would be allowed. In this way they can keep Anwar tied down with the court cases and continue to harass him giving him little rope to campaign effectively.

But this raises a serious issue. Who will decide if the prosecution should appeal? Following the norm, that decision is with the Attorney General, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail. But would that be fair to Anwar?

In the first sodomy trial, Manjit Singh who was representing Nallakaruppan revealed that Gani Patail had asked Nallakaruppan to incriminate Anwar offering a plea bargain. This incident should disqualify Gani Patail from deciding on the question of appeal. Apparently there would be a case of conflict of interest.

But the best decision is for the executive and the judiciary to accept the decision of the High Court and bring a closure to this unhappy event. There would be no justification for wasting countless hours of the court and unnecessarily incurring huge further costs in pursuing this case.

If the A-G proceeds with the appeal, the inevitable conclusion would be that it is a case of political vendetta against Anwar, plain and simple. It would debunk the claim made by some that the verdict showed the judiciary is independent. It would only establish the fact that nothing has changed in the judiciary. The rot has permeated beyond repair and redemption.

Hope only lies in a change of government for a better Malaysia and a better future for Malaysians. — aliran.com

* P. Ramakrishnan is an Aliran exco member

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Set up RCI on NFC or pay price, Kit Siang tells Najib

Set up RCI on NFC or pay price, Kit Siang tells Najib

January 18, 2012
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — DAP’s Lim Kit Siang today urged the prime minister to set up a royal panel to investigate all top-ranking government officials linked to the national cattle project scandal, warning that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government may pay dearly otherwise.

The veteran lawmaker said Datuk Seri Najib Razak had little choice but to set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal as the public had little confidence that their many questions would be fully answered by the authorities, be it the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Lim warned Najib that public disillusionment with Umno could result in the party “losing even more than the 30 parliamentary seats currently estimated” at the polls. — file pic
“Najib should bow to the inevitable and set up an RCI into the NFC scandal ... [or] it [will] become a major issue in the forthcoming general elections,” the Ipoh-Timur MP said in a statement today.

He pointed out the public wanted to know why it took six months before law enforcers started investigations into the RM250 million project when the Auditor-General had reported the project had failed to meet production targets in his 2010 report.

Lim said the audit report was available to Cabinet members and all ministries as early as June last year but was “deliberately held back in Parliament until the last week of October 2011.”

The publicly-funded cattle farming project hit national headlines following the Auditor-General’s 2010 report last year and continued to hog the limelight after it was linked to minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family.

The senior minister’s husband and children run the corporation.

Lim said today the commission must also investigate Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was agriculture and agro-based minister in charge of awarding the project at the time, and also Najib, because he has chaired the High Impact Project Committee, a key government panel that approved the project in 2006.

The National Feedlot Corporation’s link to minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family has kept the scandal in the limelight. — file pic
“Has the MACC already interrogated not only Shahrizat but also other Cabinet ministers involved in the decision-making process approving the NFC project, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and even the prime minister himself?” the DAP advisor asked.

The trio he named are all senior politicians in Umno, the lynchpin party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Shahrizat is Wanita chief while Muhyiddin and Najib hold the posts of party deputy and president respectively.

“Most important of all, the RCI should probe the many other similar NFCorp scandals littered all over the government, but presently ‘hidden’ from public view,” he stressed, noting that the high-impact projects may be seen to benefit only a select few in Umno.

Lim warned Najib that the public were becoming disillusioned with Umno and that could result in Umno “losing even more than the 30 parliamentary seats currently estimated, as well as making it impossible for Umno to defend several state governments, especially Negri Sembilan”.

He added that BN partners, MCA and Gerakan, “are openly admitting that Umno has become incorrigibly rotten and corrupt” and that their speeches indicating as such have been uploaded online.

Police and the MACC are probing the NFC for possible criminal breach of trust following PKR’s allegations that millions in federal funds meant for the cattle-raising scheme were used to purchase land and property unrelated to cattle farming.

World Bank: Growth in Malaysia, Asia-Pac to slow in 2012

World Bank: Growth in Malaysia, Asia-Pac to slow in 2012

January 18, 2012
Malaysian Insider

A worker inspects a container at North Port in Port Klang outside Kuala Lumpur January 8, 2009. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — Developing economies in Asia-Pacific, including Malaysia, will slow for a second straight year in 2012 as Europe’s debt woes and weaker global trade drag down growth prospects, the World Bank said.

The US-based lender said in its Global Economic Prospects 2012 report the health of Europe’s economy, bogged down by a sovereign debt crisis, represented the “strongest risk” for most of the countries in the region at this time.

“If the situation in Europe deteriorates sharply, global trade could fall by 5 or more per cent with serious implications for the very open East Asia region,” it said.

The report pointed out that a 17 per cent annual decline in European imports had depressed global trade volumes by 8 per cent during the three months ending October, and cut growth world trade volumes projections to 4.7 per cent from 7.7 per cent.

The World Bank also noted that the economies of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines slowed sharply to 4.6 per cent in 2011 from 6.9 per cent in 2012, and predicted that growth in these countries would be mixed this year.

However, it said the expected strengthening in domestic demand in the ASEAN-4 countries would help offset the dampening effects of any decline in global trade.

“Though subject to much risk on the trade side, GDP gains for these countries could reach 5.2 and 5.7 per cent for 2012 and 2013, respectively,” the report said.

Malaysia, along with China, Indonesia and Thailand, will also be exposed to possible market disruptions, exchange rate volatility and external financing pressures as the odds of international capital flows freezing increased, it added.

The report said vulnerabilities would be “more acute” for countries with large shares of short term and maturing debt or current account deficits.

Malaysia’s central bank has left overnight rates unchanged in recent meetings to shield the economy from the protracted debt crisis in the eurozone, where growth is expected to contract by 0.3 per cent this year.

Standard Chartered predicted yesterday that Malaysia’s GDP growth will slow to 2.7 per cent this year from an estimated 4.8 per cent last year on sluggish demand in the US and the crisis-hit eurozone.

The government has repeatedly expressed confidence that the national economy will expand by at least 5 per cent in 2012, in line with the annual growth target set out in its ambitious Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ex-minister claims BN bought votes with cash

Ex-minister claims BN bought votes with cash

January 17, 2012
Malaysian Insider

PETALING JAYA, Jan 17 — A former federal minister from Umno claimed today that cash was handed out in previous election campaigns in attempts to buy votes, a tactic known as “bomb”.

Tan Sri Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said in a forum today that he had experienced himself how cash handouts ranging from RM200 to RM1,000 was used in Barisan Nasional’s election campaigns to gain voter support.

“I have been the head of delegation of many campaigns and I have been given lump sums of money to distribute,” said the former Information Minister at the Malaysia Strategic Outlook Conference 2012 here. “It was a blatant use of money to buy votes.”

Abdul Kadir (picture), who was also formerly the Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, said that the word used for the strategy was called “bomb”.

He added though that he personally didn’t use the money.

James Chin, who heads the School of Social Sciences at Monash University at Sunway, and who spoke at the forum after Abdul Kadir said that “bombing” was a very effective tool in Sabah and Sarawak.

During his presentation, Abdul Kadir said that while he still held positions in Umno, he wanted to remind them of the “Merdeka trust” — which meant giving the people the right to truly free and fair elections.

He also urged Umno not to fear losing if it was sincere in its intentions.

“If you lose accept it; people change governments all the time in US and Australia,” he said. “I am an Umno man, I don’t mind if I lose. If you are there just to make millions for yourself and your cronies or if I have made my billions and am afraid I will be arrested after I lose power, then I will do all these tricks.”

“If you are sincere, you have nothing to fear,” he added.

He said that to have free and fair elections, there must be equal access to the media and GLCs and government departments must be neutral.

“You must give them (the opposition) the freedom to have TV, radio and newspapers,” he said. “For 50 years, PAS has been asking for a newspaper licence but none given — the government is a big bully.”

He also said that during elections, Barisan Nasional should not be making use of the Ministry of Information, Felda, Felcra, the Special Branch and other federal agencies to support their campaign.

Abdul Kadir is also the deputy president of non-partisan pro-unity NGO Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) and executive chairman of the Sazean group.

DPM ultimately responsible for NFC mess, says Kit Siang

DPM ultimately responsible for NFC mess, says Kit Siang

January 17, 2012
Malaysian insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — DAP’s Lim Kit Siang suggested today that “full and final responsibility” for the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal should rest with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Ipoh Timor MP said that this was because it was Muhyiddin, as the former Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister, who approved the RM250 million federally-funded project in 2007.

Lim pointed to a statement by the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) issued this afternoon which confirmed that the government, through Muhyiddin’s ministry, had inked a loan agreement for the project on December 6, 2007.

As such, Lim (picture) said a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) should be formed and its probe should also look into Muhyiddin’s role and responsibility as the minister in charge then.

“Let the RCI answer the question: Who else apart from Muhyiddin should bear the full and final responsibility for the NFC ‘mess’ where the objective of the project on cattle production to boost the nation’s beef self-sufficiency could go so wrong.

“NFC not only failed to meet its target, (but) the RM250 million 2 per cent-interest soft loan had been diverted not only to buy two luxury condominiums in Bangsar and a luxury condominium in Singapore but also for many other dubious transactions,” Lim said in a statement here.

In its clarification this afternoon, NFCorp also explained that its loan agreement with the government covers a period of 20 years, with repayment to commence early this year through annual instalments over 17 years at 2 per cent per annum.

The company, which is being run by minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abd Jalil’s family and is currently under probe for graft, said the first RM7 million drawdown from the RM250 million loan was only made in January 2008.

The statement was issued to rebut a claim made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year and published by the media that the loan had been disbursed in 2007 although it was only signed in 2010.

“The NFCorp statement today also reminds Malaysians that the PAC has been acting in a most unusual manner as, apart from its initial meeting, it had failed to carry out full investigations into the scandal,” Lim added.

He said the PAC’s full investigation report should be ready to be presented when Parliament sits next on March 12.

“Malaysians are entitled to know why the PAC is behaving in so tardy a fashion, giving the impression that the PAC is avoiding from coming to grips with the issue,” he said.