Friday, November 30, 2012

RM40m Sabah Umno ‘donation’ is pittance, say Umno delegates

RM40m Sabah Umno ‘donation’ is pittance, say Umno delegates

UPDATED @ 03:30:29 PM 30-11-2012
November 30, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Several Umno members appeared today to dismiss the controversy over Sabah Umno’s RM40 million “political donation”, saying the sum was pittance compared to the millions the party dishes out during elections.

Arsit Sedi @ Sidik, a delegate from Sabah, even described the sum as “a very small dot” and revealed that in the Putatan constituency in his home state, Umno would have to spend up to RM6 million during the polls.
“RM40 million is a small sum, I don’t think it can even support the next election.

“The amount needed is very high, especially Sabah. If you are talking RM40 million, it is not enough to even move the election machinery.

“RM40 million is a very small dot only,” he told The Malaysian Insider when approached on the sidelines of Umno’s 66th general assembly here.

Sabah Umno chief Datuk Musa Aman has been at the centre of allegations linking him to a RM40 million corruption scandal that the opposition has been using as fodder to discredit the Barisan Nasional (BN) state government in its east Malaysian fortress.

The issue hit media headlines last month when Umno minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz told Parliament that Musa had been cleared of corruption and money-laundering allegations in a case involving Sabah timber trader Michael Chia.

“I think it’s only the opposition trying to make a huge issue out of it; it is a very small allegation,” added Arsit.
Sabah delegate Sahak Noh from Batu Sapi also agreed that the amount stated was insignificant for the needs of the coming election, and that this issue would have no effect on the state.

“In my opinion, this is a personal issue that has been manipulated by the opposition so close to the general election,” said Sahak. “I’m certain that the people will realise that this is an issue meant to trick the public.”
When asked, former Home Minister and now Land Public Transport Commission chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar refrained from describing the RM40 million as insubstantial, but did admit that Sabah would likely need a lot of funds because “there is a lot more work to be done” in Sabah as the area is “wide” and “a lot of the places are inaccessible”.

Musa’s alleged link with Chia first exploded in the media following an April article by whistleblower site Sarawak Report, which had claimed that latter was caught trying to leave the Hong Kong International Airport with the RM40 million in Singapore currency.

At the time, Chia had allegedly told the authorities that the money was meant for Musa, kicking off a probe on the series of funds transfers from Malaysia to Hong Kong that was then believed to be the possible laundering of monies generated from illegal logging activities in Sabah.

But Nazri said Musa’s name was cleared after Malaysian and Hong Kong anti-graft authorities found that the money was a “political donation” to Sabah Umno and was not meant for Musa’s personal use.

In the ensuing debates on the issue, however, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers chided Nazri for declaring Musa innocent without providing proof that Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had cleared the chief minister of its own accord.

According to Nazri, the ICAC had closed the case after the MACC discovered in its probe that the money in Chia’s possession was meant for Sabah Umno and not Musa.

Shame on you, Shahrizat: You are a fear-monger — P. Ramakrishnan

Shame on you, Shahrizat: You are a fear-monger — P. Ramakrishnan

November 30, 2012
Malaysian Insider--Side Views
NOV 30 — As a former minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil should have more sense to be responsible and appreciate the democratic process. Instead, she comes across as someone who is not prepared to accept the verdict of the people in a democratic election if that verdict went against Umno.
Is she planting the seeds of hatred in the minds of Umno members and instigating them to run amok and create havoc?
How does one view her statement when she said at the Wanita Umno assembly: “If we are no longer in power, we would lose political stability. Certainly, the Malays, the majority in this country, would be unsettled” (Malaysiakini, November 28).
“I am concerned and worried that this would bring racial tensions that could lead to a repeat of the May 13, 1969 tragedy.”
Is she threatening Malaysians that there will be a recurrence of the May 13, 1969 tragedy if Umno were to lose power? Why should that be so? Is she calling on Umno members to get ready to do the unthinkable if they were forced by the electorate to vacate Putrajaya?
Is she aware of the terrible consequence of rioting following the likely routing of Umno? She doesn’t care to think for a moment of the destruction and the loss of innocent lives that can ensue in such an eventuality. Her concern seems not to be for the well-being of the country and the people but only focused on remaining in power at whatever cost.
This is utterly irresponsible!
Her unintelligent gibberish only bewilders thinking Malaysians. Consider this for a moment when she rambles: “We must address this now if we don’t want to be refugees in our own land. A split in the Malay vote would dull the political power of the Malays.”
How can citizens become refugees in their country? Refugees are people who flee their own country because they no longer feel safe for their lives. Refugees run away to another country for some valid reasons: political oppression, social upheavals, unrest, persecution, absence of rule of law, absence of protection from the government, inability to eke out a livelihood, etc.
Can anyone foresee this ever happening in this country i.e. people being forced to flee? She has to exaggerate this lie to create fear and horror in the minds of unthinking Umno members!
How would “a split in the Malay vote dull the political power of the Malays”? The Malay vote has been split for decades. That has not dulled the political power of the Malays. This goes to show that Umno doesn’t necessarily equate with the Malays, and vice versa. The political reality is much more complex than Umno would like us to believe. Besides, Malays, like any other ethnic group in the country, should instead unite around noble principles of justice, equality and compassion.
Take Kelantan, for example. There was and has been a split in the Malay vote but has that dulled the political power of the Malays? Has that forced Umno members to seek refuge elsewhere outside the country?
There was a change in government in Kedah. Has that dulled the political power of the Malays? How many Umno members fled Kedah to seek safer haven elsewhere?
Take the case of Perak that was taken over by the Pakatan Rakyat. In recognising the political reality and the make-up of the polity of this country, Datuk Nizar Jamaluddin was appointed the mentri besar of Perak. Obviously, Pakatan was very sensitive to the Malay sentiment and did not do anything that could be upsetting. We are not aware if Umno members were involved in any exodus from Perak!
Then there is Penang, which fell to Pakatan Rakyat in March 2008. In keeping with the tradition and original understanding — unlike Malacca — Lim Guan Eng was sworn in as chief minister. There was no unrest. There was no flight of refugees from Penang.
So there is no basis to claim that the Malays will become refugees or that their political power will be diminished. What has been established is the fact that change can be peaceful and that the harmony of the country will not necessarily be destroyed.
As long as we accept and respect the political process as a legitimate avenue of expression, political change will be without any untoward incident. By and large, the majority of Malaysians are peaceful, sensible and responsible. However we must be on the lookout for the few who may try and stir up trouble. We should leave them to the police to take care of.
Umno must be desperate if such lies have to be manufactured! —
* This article was originally published by

Umno leaders and London properties | Free Malaysia Today

Umno leaders and London properties

Luke Rintod | November 30, 2012
It a known fact among Malaysians in the UK that senior Umno leaders own an extensive array of properties in London.
LONDON: There is no doubt that Umno leaders are filthy rich. In fact, word here is that almost all senior federal leaders in Umno are so wealthy that they own multiple properties in central London.
Not surprising, their spendthrift ways and that of their children have been making the news for a while.
Malaysians living in London have been privy to this information for decades and view it with repugnance and shame.
They are surprised that despite the dazzling light on the unusual wealth accumulated by government ministers which is displayed in their purchase of numerous properties around the world, their brazen hypocrisy elicits little comment back home.
Malaysians living here claim a former top Umno leader is linked to over a thousand properties in various parts of central London. Most of the properties are in the Canary Wharf areas.
“We know for a fact of this Umno guy who owns 1,400 properties in London. He is filthy rich… very, very rich. He even has a new wife now,” said one Malaysian who has been residing here for the last 20 years.
He told FMT that politically-aware Malaysians in London do keep tabs on these Umno leaders, while the Umno leaders in turn are aware that their properties in the United Kingdom are no secret at all to Malaysians residing here.
“We know some of their kids are studying here and we know where they live and what they do. They may be Muslims but they drink and they flirt a lot here, something that they dare not do openly back home, but who cares when they are here,” the London resident said.
Political rot
He said that it was a known fact that many Umno national leaders, both present and past, are rich and own properties around the world, including here in central London.
“The [federal] ministers own at least a few properties in London. Once in a while they do visit their houses or in some cases their children and family stayed while on study or holidays here.”
Asked if he could provide evidence of his claims, he said it was no secret here and that some of them have been caught on camera and the photos had made their way onto social media sites.
Another Malaysian residing here, who also requested anonymity, claimed that Sabah and Sarawak leaders also own properties in various places here either under their own names or their family members.
“How can they afford it? With just a minister’s salary they could not be this rich… they own properties everywhere in Europe.
“We also know of one who have bought properties even in Argentina.
“He could be preparing for himself to live in Argentina if Umno loses at the coming general election to Pakatan Rakyat,” he said.
The fact that Malaysians outside the country are mortified by the wealth of their nation’s leaders should be a reminder to delegates at the ongoing annual general assembly in Kuala Lumpur that what they consider non-issue speaks volumes about how deep is the political rot in the country.

Malays not under threat, Umno is | Free Malaysia Today

Malays not under threat, Umno is

Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz | November 30, 2012
There are 18 million Malays in this country and all the security forces plus every level of the government is Malay, so what threat is Najib Tun Razak talking about?
You can’t produce anything different from the same mould. As such, the idea which Malaysians must emulate is to change this government and move forward from there.
Let us all leave Najib Tun Razak and his pot of Mongolian alphabet goulash behind.

Change comes from a changed leadership and a new government.

Now, let us examine what Najib means when he says Malays must unite and Malay unity is no threat to others.

When Najib uses the phrase “Malays must unite”, he can mean the following things:
i) All Malays must make sure Umno wins so that he can continue to be prime minister.
ii) Malays submit themselves under Umno.
iii) Malays must ensure Malays dominate Malaysian politics.

The first two meanings are self-serving. The third implies that if Malays stay disunited, they will face threats.
So we ask in turn, threats from whom? There are 18 million Malays in this country. All the security forces and every level of the government are already controlled by Malays.

So where does the threat come from and to whom is the threat directed? The threat arises from the political and social consciousness of the people.

Threat not ‘people to people’

After 55 years, Umno has carried out ruinous economic and social policies that have resulted in a less than prime economy and a more divisive nation.

This is the lie that Umno has imposed on Malays by making them believe that they are protected only if Umno is around.

The truth is the threat is directed towards Najib’s PM-ship and Umno.

The threat is not from the people to the people but directed towards a parasitic ruling class that has enriched itself while creating economic injustice on the people.

How do you unite a nation so divided with no shared ideals and beliefs?

How do you motivate the majority to have the acquisitive inclinations to move up the social ladder when they see those cutting corners and bluffing their way through getting equal rewards?

Najib can’t unite people, much less a nation. The sad truth is, Najib does not know how to secure unity.
He doesn’t see that the way to structure the country upon shared beliefs and ideals must start with a universal acceptance of the supremacy and rule of law.

When the rule of law is compromised, it is impossible to establish shared ideals and beliefs. This is because the various groups as stakeholders in the country will always harbor suspicions that the other will seek to manipulate power to their own advantage.

When one is equally protected by the law, there isn’t a necessity to refer yourself according to your ethnicity, as is now done in Malaysia.

The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman but has since joined DAP. He is a FMT columnist.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Deepak says he paid Najib's family for land deal

Deepak says he paid Najib's family for land deal
EXCLUSIVE Businessperson Deepak Jaikishan claimed that he paid the family of Najib Abdul Razak an undisclosed sum for the premier's intervention to allow him to come in as a party in a Defence Ministry project deal.

According to Deepak, he stitched a deal with a Selangor Umno leader's company where he would participate as a third party in the proposed project.

NONEThis began, Deepak explained, with a privatisation agreement in 2005 where the company was tasked to work on a Defence Ministry project in Putrajaya.

In exchange for the estimated RM100 million project, which the company was to build at its own cost, the company would be paid RM20 million by the government and would acquire 223.3 acres of government land in Klang.

However, Deepak said the politician did not have the credit-worthiness at that time to secure a land bond of RM72.5 million necessary for the project and had therefore approached him for help.

The deal, he added, would require him to secure the RM72.5 million land bond and top it up with RM23 million in cash payments to the company.

In return, Deepak said the politician's company was to give him ownership of the said property, which is a piece of prime land adjacent to the now booming Setia Alam township.

najib abdul razak in perth chogm 1The names of the politician and the company involved have been withheld pending their reply to Malaysiakini's request for comments.

"She couldn't get the government to agree that the land bond be issued to a third party because under privatisation, the company that gets the privatisation (project), the land must remain under their name.

"So, I organised a meeting for her to meet (Najib), at that time our defence minister, to allow this land be transferred to a third party company," he said.

Deepak said the transfer was made possible after he "contributed heavily" to Najib's family.

Below is the excerpt of Malaysiakini’s interview with Deepak:

Malaysiakini: You mentioned earlier that there were bribes involved in this project?

Deepak: Okay, I think as far as the dealings with the politician were concerned, it was a business deal. But yes, as I mentioned - I wouldn't use that word that you used just now - but we had to contribute heavily to ensure that we get the approval from the defence minister at that time.

Contribute to whom?

A close family of his (Najib) lah. I will elaborate at later sessions.

Why the deal?

We couldn't procure the land to be given to a third party otherwise.

It happened around 2007?


Can you disclose how much?

Not (at) this session.

Was a substantial amount of money involved?


How big is the amount?

Maybe we go to the next question.

For clarity, this "contribution" is with regard to the meeting that you mentioned just now, set up between the politician and the then defence minister?


The contribution is in terms of money and not material?

Najib expressed 'no opposition'
Deepak noted that "a third-party scenario should not happen in normal circumstances", but was only made possible with Najib's help.

He claimed that he possessed the minutes of the meeting in which Najib expressed "no opposition" in approving the third-party land transfer.

The revelation comes following a land dispute in which Deepak's company had not received the promised land from the politician, despite, he said, having kept up his end of the bargain.

"He (Najib) is well aware (of this dispute) but I don't see any action coming out. I don't see him carrying the responsibility of solving this matter," he said.

Deepak has filed a legal suit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court and a police report on the matter was lodged in July.
The carpet trader told Malaysiakini yesterday that he regretted helping a female friend in the case involving private eye P Balasubramaniam.

This interview was jointly conducted by Fathi Aris Omar, Wong Teck Chi and Nigel Aw.

Lay off Elton John, DAP tells PAS | Free Malaysia Today

Lay off Elton John, DAP tells PAS

Alyaa Azhar and G Vinod | November 28, 2012
DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke says that PAS Youth's argument that the concert would promote social ills is both simplistic and unacceptable.
KUALA LUMPUR: DAP today urged PAS Youth to cancel its protest against Elton John’s concert, which is scheduled for this Saturday in Genting Highlands.
In a statement, DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke said that his party supports the concert and it should proceed as planned.
“We see no reason why the authority should withdraw the permit for the concert. PAS Youth should change its approach in addressing social problems,” said Loke who is also Rasah MP.
Elton John, a homosexual, is currently married to his partner after the United Kingdom allowed same sex marriages in recent years.
Yesterday, PAS Youth chief Nasruddin Hassan Tantawi said that the movement would continue to protest against the legendary singer from performing in Malaysia.
“We will use the approach of submitting a memorandum to protest against the concert.
“This is one of the measures we intend to take to check social ills in Malaysia,” Nasruddin was reported saying.
Loke said that he disagreed with Nasruddin’s notion that Elton John’s concert would promote homosexuality and other social ills, saying the argument is both simplistic and unacceptable.
“People go to his concert to enjoy his music, not to support and be influenced by his sexual orientation. Banning a concert is not the solution to tackle our social ills.
“PAS Youth should focus on education and awareness campaign instead of imposing their views and values on young people, “ he said.
Loke added that PAS Youth’s move against the singer would only give more ammunition to Barisan Nasional (BN) to paint the Islamist party a regressive organisation.
“This will not help Pakatan Rakyat to convince Malaysians that we are a progressive and moderate coalitio, that is ready to replace BN as the federal government,” said Loke.
‘We like his music’

PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali concured with Loke’s assessment, saying that people crowd Elton John’s concerts only because they love his music.
“We accept Elton John because we like his music, not because of his personal life, religion or whatever,” said the Gombak MP.
However, Azmin said that he was confident that PAS Youth would be able to provide an explanation on the matter.
“And we will be able to resolve this matter,” he said.
Meanwhile, PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub was coy on the matter, saying that there was no rule that bars non-Muslims from attending the concert.
“As for Muslims, just give it a thought first before choosing to go,” said the Kubang Kerian MP.

PAS serious about upholding religious freedom, says DAP

PAS serious about upholding religious freedom, says DAP

November 28, 2012
Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 — PAS’ swift response to non-Muslim concern over Kelantan’s controversial gender segregation policy at hair salons in the state reinforces the Islamist party’s moderate stance and pledge to hold freedom of religion for all, its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner, DAP, said today.

The secular party’s secretary-general, Lim Guan Eng, said its central executive committee (CEC) welcomed PAS’ assurances yesterday that Islamic morality by-laws enforced by the Kota Baru Municipal Council were an oversight and not meant to be used on non-Muslims and urged the PAS-led state to cancel the summonses served to prove their point.

“The DAP CEC at its CEC meeting last night considers the reaffirmation by PAS that it views seriously the concerns of non-Muslim and that implementation of laws based on Islamic principles must not be forcibly imposed on non-Muslims as a positive step that will serve to reinforce Pakatan Rakyat’s commitment towards justice for all and the moderation of PAS in upholding freedom of religion,” Lim (picture) said in a statement today.

“Unlike Umno which wants to impose Islamic laws on non-Muslims, PAS has taken a more enlightened position in wanting to apply Islamic laws only on Muslims,” he added.

The Penang chief minister highlighted that PAS has taken a moderate position in another religious row over the use of the Arabic word “Allah” by Christians to refer to their god compared to the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal coalition and its mainstay, Umno, which has been pushing for its ban.

The Catholic Church had won a landmark victory at the High Court in December 2009 to publish the disputed word in their weekly, The Herald, but remains barred from doing so pending the Home Ministry’s three-year-old appeal against the judgment at the Court of Appeal, which has yet to fix a hearing date.
Shipments of Malay-language bibles containing the word “Allah” were also seized previously and only later released after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak intervened directly.

“The readiness of the Kelantan PAS state government to admit to an oversight is a stark contrast to the stubborn refusal by Umno to admit to mistakes made such as Umno’s revocation of funding for Sekolah Agama Rakyat after losses suffered in the 1999 general elections,” Lim said, stressing further the disparity between the two Malay rival parties.

He said it was PR that restored the money aid to the Islamic religious schools and other vernacular and mission schools, after Election 2008 when the opposition parties took power in five states and became the government in Penang, Selangor, Kedah, Perak while maintaining Kelantan.

The pact eventually lost Perak in 2009 after several state lawmakers jumped ship to swear loyalty to BN.
PAS moved yesterday to soothe the ruffled bouffants of the non-Muslim community over Kelantan’s latest move to ban unisex hair salons and segregate women hairdressers from cutting men’s hair and vice-versa.
The Islamist party’s president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, said it viewed seriously the objections from non-Muslims to the PAS-led state’s enforcement last week and will work to resolve the issue swiftly.
The Marang MP also said the state’s Syariah (II) Criminal Enactment 1993 had never been enforced on non-Muslims there.

Kelantan has been drawing widespread criticism after several non-Muslim hairdressers in Kota Baru highlighted last week that they were fined for the local council after being nabbed for styling the hair of male customers — reigniting fears that hudud, the strict Islamic penal law, will be enforced on all citizens and not just Muslims, should PAS succeed in taking federal power.

The state was reported by English-language daily The Star as having defended the law enforcement, saying it was in line with the state government’s Islamic policies and to safeguard women from sexual harassment in the workplace.
The hudud issue has been played up in various media outlets in recent times, with PAS reportedly adamant on implementing hudud for Muslims if PR were to assume federal power.

DAP, however, has consistently stated that hudud was incompatible with secular Malaysia.

It’s the system that turns good leaders bad | Free Malaysia Today

It’s the system that turns good leaders bad

Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz | November 28, 2012
Malaysians think that by changing the present set of bad people with good ones everything will be all right, but nothing is farther from the truth.
People do not want to believe that if you have an intrinsically bad system, you are good at the beginning, but you are eventually going to degenerate.
But people don’t want to accept this.

Let’s assume Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is a good person (he probably is) but the system which sustains him is bad. It will eventually cause him to turn bad.

So it isn’t enough to transform society by changing the people leading it, but the system that structures our society must be changed too.

That is our (Pakatan Rakyat’s ) agenda now. Not just changing of guards, but changing the system that structures our society.

Just as a free market requires a libertarian system or liberal democracy, so do good people at the top who can stay good but only if we have a good system of government.

The leader who respects the opinions of the people he leads stays a good leader but only if the system sustains him so.

But Najib can’t stay a good leader because Umno structures the world around us in a bad way.
Najib’s New Economic Model (NEM) in reality is just an extension of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s way of renouncing the NEP and choosing to jump-start Malay economics by picking and choosing winners.

He, at that point, chose mostly devils he knew and enriched them.

Najib is now continuing to do the same by his market-driven affirmative action that forms his NEM.

Dangerous thinking

Author Fredrik Hayek makes an interesting point in his book, “The Road to Serfdom”. He explains why the worst get to the top.

If we interpret his observation against modern terms, it is that people are willing to suspend reality in exchange for a sanitised world.

Hayek opines that it is dangerous to think that “good men can overcome a bad system”. It is simply wrong thinking.

Malaysia unfortunately appears to be in that situation.

We adjust ourselves and accommodate totalitarian tendencies believing that such a system or political arrangement is not at fault.

We think that by changing the present set of bad people with good and decent people, everything is all right.
But nothing is farther from the truth.

The agenda the opposition seeks is not only changing the bad people on top, but reforming the structure of this country.

If we don’t put the correct structure in place, even when good men lead, they will soon be overwhelmed by the system.

The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman but has since joined DAP. He is a FMT columnist.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marchers hold 'people's meeting' next to Dataran

Marchers hold 'people's meeting' next to Dataran
Marchers of Himpunan Hijau are holding a 'people's meeting' this morning next to the cordoned-off Dataran Merdeka to discuss three resolutions calling for the closure of the Lynas rare earth plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

NONESome 200 participants of the 13-day Green March from Kuantan spent the night near the iconic square yesterday after a 300km long march, sleeping on the road just in front of the barricade set up by the police to stop them from entering the square.

This morning they were joined by some 150 supporters.

Although exhausted, they were in high spirits and seen chit-chatting with one another while others were having breakfast.

Himpunan Hijau publicity chief Lee Chean Chung said a 'people's meeting' was to pass three resolutions which were first raised at the mammoth Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally in Kuantan on Feb 26 this year.

NONE"We also hope that MPs will come to support us," he said. Among parliamentarians seen with the group this morning include DAP leader Lim Kit Siang.
At 9.15am, Zamri Zanal, one of the participants who completed the long march from Kuantan, read out the three resolutions.

Other than calling the government to stop Lynas, the resolutions demanded for closure or re-evaluation of all hazardous projects in Malaysia including the gold mine in Bukit Koman, Pahang, the high-tension electrical tower in Rawang, Selangor, and the refinery and petrochemical integrated development project (Rapid) in Pengerang, Johor.

They also demanded an end to the land grab of Orang Asli villages.

NONEMore than a dozen of MPs and state assemblypersons, all from the opposition, sat together with the marchers on the road and pledged to support the resolutions.

They include Lim Kit Siang (Ipoh Timor MP), William Leong (Selayang MP), Tan Kok Wai (Cheras MP), Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah MP), Dr D Jeyakumar (Sungai Siput MP), Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam MP), Liew Chin Tong (Bukit Bendera MP), Nga Kor Ming (Taiping MP), Loh Gwo Bourne (Kelana Jaya MP), Fong Kui Lun (Bukit Bintang MP), Sim Tong Lim (Kota Melaka MP), Ronnie Liu (Pandamaran assemblyperson), Ng Wei Aik (Komtar assemblyperson) and Khoo Poay Tiong (Ayer Keroh assemblyperson).
Some tension last night

According to Lee, the 'long march' participants were jubilant although many were exhausted and suffering from muscle pains.

NONENONE"We had a music performance last night and played the guitar until 2am. We were in a happy mood, celebrating (the success of Green March)," he told Malaysiakini when met at Dataran Merdeka this morning.

Lee revealed that there was a brief moment of tension at around 1am when some 70 police officers came in three buses while the participants were enjoying the music performance.

"We thought the police were going to take action against us. They walked into the restricted area and had a 20-minute briefing.

"We held a dozen of the national flags (to deter the police)," he said.

However, it turned out to be a false alarm as the men in blue were deployed to guard the restricted area.

Yesterday the marchers from Kuantan were joined by some 20,000 people when they reached the city centre after a grueling 13-day walk.

NONEFollowing the closure of Dataran Merdeka by the police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Himpunan Hijau chief Wong Tack called on supporters not to enter the square by force but gather peacefully beside the barricade.

NONEThey called on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who could be attending the current Parliament session just some 1km away today, to come to the square and listen to their pleas to stop the Lynas rare earth refinery.

Last night the participants held mini-ceramahs and mini-concerts beside the barricade until midnight under the careful watch of hundreds of police officers, who however did not interfere.

Additional reporting Ahmad Fadli KC

Descendants of rubber tappers want land preserved

Descendants of rubber tappers want land preserved
An overflow crowd of about 1,000 people turned up at the Gandhi Memorial Hall in Sitiawan, Perak, yesterday to oppose the sale of a 2-hectare piece of land for development in a commercial hub of the town.

The land which was purchased in the 1930s by a group of rubber tappers from 32 surrounding estates has been the subject of a tug-of-war between the legatees of its deceased owners, who want it preserved as a heritage site, and the Dindings Indian Association, the custodian of property which wants it developed for commercial ends.

NONEThe sense at yesterday's meeting, called by residents of Sitiawan interested to preserve the place for posterity, was that the sacrifices made by land's original purchasers would be dishonoured if the place is sold for commercial development.

"We will institute measures to preserve this land for its original purposes which were educational more than anything else," said M Kulasegaran, the DAP MP who is the party's national vice-chairperson.

Kulasegaran was one of the speakers at the gathering, together with Ngeh Koo Ham, the DAP Perak chief who is also state assemblyperson for Sitiawan.

Ngeh said that judging from the sentiments of the huge crowd that turned up for the meeting convened at Gandhi Memorial Hall which is located on the premises, the land should be preserved as a heritage site.

History of land recounted

In his speech to the gathering, Kulasegaran recounted the history of the land which he said was purchased over 80 years ago from the aggregate contributions of four weeks' wages over a year of rubber tappers from 32 estates in the vicinity.

The MP for Ipoh Barat said that over 10,000 Indians worked in these estates and that they had wanted their children to attend English lessons in the afternoon after having gone to Tamil school in the morning.

NONE"A school known as the Simpang Empat English School was built on the land purchased by these tappers, which was later renamed Gandhi School," said Kulasegaran.

"Later, the Gandhi Memorial Hall was built where ashes from his funeral pyre were interred," he added.

He said a society called Dindings Indian Association was formed and the land and its buildings were registered in its name.

"But DIA was just the custodian and not the property's beneficial owner," revealed Kulasegaran.

NONEHe said two attempts were made to take over the land, one through a joint venture between DIA and a property developer in 2000 and another through the Education Ministry which wanted to build a school on the site in 2010.

Kulasegaran (left) said both attempts were stonewalled by the legatees of the land's original owners from a desire to preserve the site for posterity.

He said that because sentiment continues to run against development and in favour of preservation of the site, he would work with the representatives of the land's original owners, including taking legal action, to accomplish the aim.

Signature Campaign to save the Indian Heritage Land in Sitiawan.

Speech by M.Kula Segaran , MP ( Ipoh Barat)  and DAP National Vice Chairman at Gandhi Memorial Hall, Sitiawan on 25thNovember 2012
 Signature Campaign to save the Indian Heritage Land in Sitiawan.

The only Indian heritage land in Sitiawan is in grave danger of being taken away from the community. This must not happen as otherwise all the sweat and tears of the Indians who worked the land in this part of Perak will come to nothing.

There were over 32 rubber states in the Sitiawan area. Over 10,000 Indians were employed as rubber tappers in  these estates. There were Tamil schools where the children went to in the morning.  But tappers also wanted their children to learn and master the English language. Thus although mere wage earners and poor,  each family had contributed  4 weeks of their salary over a period of a year.

After enough money was  raised together with the help of well wishers, the tappers bought the land of over 2 hectares in the early 1930s in Simpang Empat ( Sitiawan). A school was built, known as Simpang Empat English school, also known as Gandhi School. 

A hall was built known as Gandhi Memorial hall where Gandhi's ashes were interred.

A society was formed, known as Dindings Indian Association (DIA). The land was registered in the name of DIA for the Indians. Thus DIA is the custodian of this land and not its beneficial owner!

Joint venture to develop in 2000 

Suddenly locals were told that a joint venture agreement was entered between DIA and King Ong Development Sdn.  Bhd. Shophouses and a new hall were proposed to be built. This didn't go well with the Indian community. After numerous protests,  the deal to develop was called off. New members were to be taken in but the DIA president forestalled this.

Proposed acquisition of land to rebuild a new National School in 2010

Notice was given by the Education Ministry and an inquiry was scheduled to be held to ascertain the amount to be paid to acquire this land to rebuild a new school. The local community objected to it. Finally, the Government relented. The acquisition was cancelled. The Government realised the sensitivity of the issue and its hold on the sentiments of the local Indian people. 

Indian Heritage land

Thus a clarion call went up for the land to be declared an Indian Heritage Land. This land is very close to the hearts and minds of the Indian community. The land should be only for the purposes of a school and promotion of cultural centre. There should be no commercial development and nprofiteering

DIA committee wants to develop land 

Regardless of sacrifices of the Indian rubber tappers whose hard earned savings enabled purchase of the land, it seems the DIA committee is bent on developing the land for commercial purposes. Why are they so stubborn? Why have they failed to realise that the tappers children and grandchildren are against this development?

N. Krishna has been president of DIA for over 20 years. 

Can we ask

 1) How much money has been saved under his management? 

2) How many Indian students have been given help in education?

3) What type of Indian cultural activities have taken place here? 

4) How many talks on Gandhi and his life have been conducted

The answer, sadly, is ZERO.

Clearly all these go to show that Mr Krishna is out of touch with the people. Do he and DIA have personal agendas?

DIA should realise they are only custodians of the land. Any development or improvement must be in furtherance of the interest of the Indian community.

Not a single cent was contributed for the initial purchase of the land by the DIA.

They should buy their own land and develop. We have no objections. Donride piggy on the sweat-stained backs of the Indians who purchased the property.

If Mr Kirhsna and his committee have any honour,  they should resign and apologise to the Indian community. But no, they want to build a 4,000seater hall and 39 shop houses. Well, by all means raise the money by yourself and build these things.

The land is now worth over RM20 million and is a priceless possession of the Indians. 

Next steps

In view of the greed and dangerous path taken by the DIA and its committee,  we plan to institute the following to help preserve the Indian Heritage Land.

1) We will launch a signature campaign to canvass support in demanding that the local authority and state government to refuse  planning approvals

2) That the developer be told to lay off this Heritage Land

3) That a through scrutiny of all aspects of the joint venture be made and that reports be lodged and necessary court action taken

4) That a meeting with the Registrar of Societies to push for the admission into the DIA of qualified members who have been denied membership

5) And that steps be taken to declare this land as Indian Heritage Land.

We want all that was built on this land to remain with the Indian community at all costs. As the DIA is unable to safeguard the interests of Indians, I suggest they just hand over to us and we will do it without loosing a single inch of Indian heritage land to those who have no claim to it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What a joke!!!

What a joke!!!


Look at what BN has done for you, Najib tells Indians

November 23, 2012
Najib (centre) said allocations for Indians have gone up since he became prime minister. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tonight urged the country’s Indian community to re-evaluate the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s contribution and assistance to the community throughout the past four years. The government had resolved many of the community’s pending problems, including providing large allocations to upgrade their education and economic status, he said.
“Since becoming prime minister, the allocations for Indians increased significantly. Assistance for Tamil schools between 2009 and 2012 touched RM300 million, with an additional RM100 million in the 2013 Budget,” he said at the launch of Tamil books by local authors, at the Dewan Tunku Chancellor, Universiti Malaya here.
He said the government had also resolved other problems they had faced, such as identity card and birth certificate applications and citizenship status.
“Under the 1 Malaysia concept, we want to ensure all government policies benefit every ethnic group, big or small,” he added.
He cautioned the people to not believe the opposition coalition who seemed to be confused with their separate views.
“They’re sleeping on the same pillow but having different dreams. We cannot gamble our future. Our future and that of our children is too valuable for that,” he said.
In relation to the Tamil books, Najib requested the Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books to assist more such publications in order to preserve the Indian community’s cultural and literary heritage for future generations.
He said although the Indian community was no different from other ethnic groups in wanting to preserve its own identity, they still contributed towards the nation’s unity and the Malaysian society.
“I’m here to support Makkal Sakti Party and Universiti Malaya’s efforts because I understand it is close to the Tamil community’s heart.
“I believe this programme can give ‘Puthiya Nambikkai’ (new hope) for Tamil authors in Malaysia,” he said while launching 10 Tamil books by local authors, at the event.
Also present were Sakti Foundation president Datuk RS Thananthiran and Cherish & Share Programme director, Prof Dr M.Rajantheran. — Bernama

Friday, November 23, 2012

DIA is only Custodians of the Indian Heritage land.

Media statement by M. Kula Segaran MP for Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman in Ipoh on Thursday, November 2012

DIA is only Custodians of the Indian Heritage land.

On 15thNovember2012 local Indian leaders, NGO's and concerned people gathered to discuss how best to play a role to save the Indian Heritage land of Sitiawan.

We now learn that the trustees of the 2 hectare land in Sitiawan have entered into a joint venture with a company known as Kong Ong Development Sdn Bhd.

The local people are not happy that this Indian heritage land which is worth over more than RM 20 million would end up in the hands of non Indians.

This Indian heritage land was bought with donations from Indian labourers who had raised their monies from what they    had earned as rubber tappers in the 1930's

Let me remind Dindings Indian Association (DIA) that they did not buy this land. It was bought from the monies provided by the rubber tappers and others and registered in the Name of DIA. Thus DIA and its officials are only CUSTODIANS of the land.

The dealing with the land must at all time be done in the furtherance and benefit of the ordinary labourers and local Indians.

In some of today's Tamil papers it is reported that the joint venture entered will benefit the Indians as a hall of 4000 seating capacity will be built and 39 shop houses will be built and sold to Indians.

By all means build a hall but raise your own money and build. Don't sell Indian heritage land and build.

In the whole of Sitiawan, we have more than 1000 shophouses yet only less than 10 Indians own shop houses. Why? Because Indians don't have the means and it costs over a million Ringgit to buy shop houses.

All this deal by DIA is a “lose lose “situation to the Indian community.

DIA needs to state weather was open tender to develop called? How many other and more so local Indian developers were considered before entering into a joint venture development with Kong Ong Development Sdn Bhd?

As requested earlier , we want DIA President N.Krishna and his committee to come to Gandhi Hall, on 25thNovember2012 at 3.30pm and explain to all why this joint venture is necessary and in particular to satisfy all on the following main issues of public importance:

1) Produce the Joint Venture agreement( J/V) and explain and justify the terms;

2) How will the J/V promote the economic well being of local Indians?

3) How many other developers were considered before entering into this J/V. Why choose King Ong Development Sdn Bhd ?

4) How will the Gandhi Hall be preserved as this is a heritage building with Gandh’s ashes buried there?

5) The property is worth over Rm20 million now. How will the J/V see the community deriving at least Rm20million with this J/V?

6) Why has DIA failed to have discussion with the local Indian Community before the J/V was entered?

DIA cannot and should not act on the land as though the land belongs to them personally.

The local Indians want the DIA committee to be present with the above requested details and to give a full and true picture of the deal and how it will protect and benefit the Indians in the Sitiawan area.

Education Ministry patches botched written reply

Education Ministry patches botched written reply
It was a case of "now you see it, now you don't" at Parliament yesterday when the Education Ministry scrambled to amend a written ministerial reply, possibly to avert a backlash from Chinese voters.

NONETwo days ago, the ministry had issued a written reply to Pandan MP Ong Tee Keat who had sought an explanation on the whether there are different considerations for applications to set up private schools, international schools and private Chinese schools.

Ong, who is former MCA chief, had also asked what were the restrictions that were imposed on such schools.

Among other issues, the ministry had replied that applications for Chinese independent schools were "no longer open" because such schools run a curriculum not conforming to the national curriculum.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, Malaysiakini's Chinese edition ran the news while several Chinese newspapers had dispatched text message news alerts.

Legacy reasons

Following this, the Education Ministry sent out a revised copy of written reply to the press in which references to the cessation of applications for Chinese private schools were removed.

Instead, the new reply stated that 60 Chinese independent high schools exist because of legacy reasons. [Scroll down to see comparison of both replies.]

"After the Education Act 1961 was in force, some secondary schools chose to adopt the national curriculum and were classified as SMJK, or 'conforming schools', while the rest became Chinese independent schools.

"However, independent schools remain at 'status quo' as stipulated in Section 151 of the Education Act 1996.

"This statement is in line with speech by Najib Abdul Razak (as then education minister) when tabling the Education Regulation Bill 1995 on Dec 18, 1995," he said.

The revised copy was sent through email to news organisations. Normally, a written reply can only be obtained from the media room in Parliament or directly from the MPs.

An Education Ministry official, who requested anonymity, said that written reply that was made available in Parliament was a draft that had yet to be scrutinised by the education minister's office.

English is okay

The written reply comes at a time when Chinese educationist group Dong Zong is on an aggressive campaign for the establishment of several Chinese independent high schools.

NONEThe group has scored a victory in Kuantan, which currently has no independent secondary schools, and is now focusing on getting government approval for another independent school in Segamat, Johor.

Meanwhile, the written reply explained that entrepreneurs were allowed to establish independent schools which used Malay as the medium of instruction or international schools which used English as part of a liberalisation policy.

The entrepreneurs' financial capabilities, teaching strength, specialisation and availability of a suitable location would be taken into consideration.

Applications for new Chinese independent schools were however not addressed directly.

Contacted later, Ong said the issuance of a new written reply was "baffling" and he has never encountered such an incident in his political career. He added that the new written reply was placed on the bench where he sits in Dewan Rakyat.


Traffic enforcement must not be privatised, says ex-IGP

Traffic enforcement must not be privatised, says ex-IGP

November 23, 2012
Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Putrajaya should not privatise law enforcement as it will create the impression the government is only interested in making money, former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said, after Parliament approved the roll-out of an outsourced automated system to catch and penalise speeding motorists.

The retired police officer is the latest to weigh in on the controversial Automated Enforcement System (AES), which has drawn ire from the public and opposition lawmakers alarmed at the profit motive built into the concession agreement awarded to two private companies to install and manage the speed trap cameras over the next five years.

“To me, enforcement cannot be privatised,” Musa told The Malaysian Insider.
Musa said the AES is a ‘good system’ but its use could be broadened to other areas such as national security surveillance at key entry points. — File pic
“This will only create the perception that the government only wants to make profit on the people [sic],” he added in a telephone interview..
 The 60-year-old agreed with critics who have pointed out that the AES has many flaws that have yet to be addressed, including a 17 per cent minimum profit margin to the two concession holders — ATES Sdn Bhd and Beta Tegap — which would need to issue a whopping 2.72 million speeding tickets each over the next five years just to recoup their reported RM700 million investments.
He noted that there may be difficulties with enforcing fines issued by the private companies should the public challenge the summonses they receive in court.
He said there are two types of summonses, the first being fines that cannot be compounded and the second fines that can be compounded.

Musa said the latter type of summonses should rightfully be handled by government enforcement agencies such as the police and the Road Transport Department (RTD).

The AES is handled only by the RTD, not the police who have their own speed trap cameras.
“The public will have two ways, first pay at RTD counters and second, stand trial in court and let the court decide,” he said.

But Musa said the AES is a “good system” and could be used meaningfully to bolster national security surveillance at key entry points instead of being limited to traffic coverage.
“AES is a good system, but its use is not only for traffic.

“I hope it can be broadened to other sectors, like security,” he said, listing installing at airports and railway stations to monitor the situation there among other uses for the cameras.

The unpopular system that automatically detects and issues fines to speeding motorists as well as those who beat traffic lights has also seen growing resistance from Umno grassroots with a blog and Facebook account set up earlier this month to oppose the speed cameras, which could unite voters behind the federal opposition against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) at the 13th general election due soon.

A number of BN politicians are also becoming worried about it becoming a major campaign issue in the general election, and want the government to suspend the AES.

However, the BN lawmakers voted in favour of the AES on Wednesday when the Transport Ministry’s estimated expenditure under Budget 2013 was passed in Parliament in what the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs said was a vote for the unpopular camera system.

The 831 AES cameras will be installed by the two private companies nationwide and the management of the operation system will passed over to the RTD within five years.

Earlier this month, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop was reported telling Parliament that police would continue to use their mobile speed trap cameras despite the introduction of the AES.

The AES cameras, which have received much opposition from the public, are in their pilot phase, with 14 installed in Perak and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya as well as Selangor despite the latter state’s PR government saying it is opposed to the privatised fine system.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A disappointment to all young Malaysians — Ong Kian Ming

A disappointment to all young Malaysians — Ong Kian Ming

November 22, 2012
Malaysian Insider--Side Views
NOV 22 — I had the opportunity to have lunch with Chua Tee Yong (CTY, hereafter) before I joined the DAP. I was grateful for this opportunity given that I had already written a few less-than-complementary articles about his father, Dr Chua Soi Lek, in his capacity as MCA president. I wanted to meet up with him because I had been somewhat impressed by the manner in which he handled himself in Parliament. He was articulate in his parliamentary replies and he responded coolly and calmly to the supplementary questions thrown his way. I thought that this MCA leader, in his capacity as the chairman of his party’s Young Professionals Bureau, could raise the overall level of political discourse by attracting more qualified young people to be engaged in the political landscape. I never thought that less than a year later he would instead drown in a puddle of his own making, snuffing out whatever little hope his party had of rejuvenation and regeneration.

The cause of CTY’s massive loss of what credibility he may have had is well known — the so-called RM1 billion Talam “scandal”. When he first announced this “scandal”, many of us in the opposition were worried that he had actually uncovered an issue that could potentially sink the Pakatan government in Selangor. He displayed tremendous confidence which we now know was actually ignorance masked by cockiness. The utter baselessness of his accusations has been exposed by my colleagues in Pakatan. I don’t need to go into the details here except to say that he has been faulting the Selangor Pakatan state government for trying to retrieve debts owed to the state, something which the BN federal government has failed to do time and again because of “obligations” to cronies such as those behind the PKFZ scandal, the NFC scandal, the MAS bailout, and a long list of other real scandals. The public at large, with access to alternative sources of information, have also figured out that CTY is barking and continues to bark up the wrong tree, especially after the recent release by the Selangor state government of the Talam White Paper.

What I will highlight is the utter disappointment that CTY has been to the young people of Malaysia. The political landscape post-GE2008 had been thrown wide open. Given his privileged position as a new MP who had inherited his father’s seat in Labis, Johor, his rapid promotion to the position of a deputy minister and the access to the resources of the MCA and indirectly, the Star, CTY could have been a noteworthy young leader in influencing the political landscape especially among young Malaysians.

A small but growing number of young Malaysians were awakened politically post-GE2008. Many of them were looking for direction, for avenues to be more politically engaged and for young political leaders who could inspire and perhaps even lead them. CTY could have positioned himself as one of the key young BN leaders to watch by engaging in thought leadership on the important issues of the day including political reform and economic transformation, by taking on Pakatan on substantive issues (read: NOT TALAM!), by building a team of young aspiring leaders to renew his flagging party, by having meaningful engagements and reaching out to the younger generation through the strategic use of social media, by taking strategic contrarian positions to set himself and his party apart from the larger BN infrastructure, just to mention a few. I’m sure there are (hopefully!) many experienced and politically savvy MCA leaders whose advice he could have followed in order to take full advantage of the changed and changing political landscape.

Disappointingly, instead of taking the bull by the horns and charting out a new progressive direction of leadership, he has squander his privileged position in the manner in which he handled the one issue that will define him for many years to come — the non-scandal of “Talamgate”.

The Talam issue is a financially complicated deal with many moving parts. Even though I think there was no basis for CTY to use this issue to attack the Selangor state government, he could have potentially salvaged some pride and his reputation by at least agreeing to have a debate with any one of the Pakatan MPs from Selangor who were more than willing to take him on. If he was that convinced of his case and if he was confident that he could convince the larger public, he should have taken up one of the many offers made to him to have a public debate with — Tony Pua, Teresa Kok, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and William Leong. By doing so, he would have put himself in the firing line and perhaps come away with some “street cred” for daring to take on some of these Pakatan heavyweights. Instead, he chickened out. Worse yet, he failed to allow a single Pakatan MP to be heard when the MCA organised a discussion/debate on Talam because he insisted on debating with the Selangor MB, Khalid Ibrahim (this is akin to Tony Pua wanting to debate with the PM), who instead sent four able and willing representatives (three Pakatan MPs and his political secretary) to answer CTY’s allegations.

Perhaps he should have followed the example of some of his BN colleagues who have responded to the changing political times. Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin does not seem to have an issue with debating PKR’s director of strategy, Rafizi Ramli, not once but twice, even though Rafizi does not hold any elected position within his party. And Khairy regularly shares the same platform in panels and dialogue sessions with younger Pakatan leaders such as Nurul Izzah, Tony Pua and Anthony Loke.

Does CTY perceive his political stature to be above that of Khairy so much so that these sorts of political engagements are beneath his office? Or perhaps he thinks that such debates and dialogues are not part of Malaysian culture? If so, he should take the lead of a fellow BN deputy minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, currently deputy minister for higher education. Saifuddin regularly engages not just with Pakatan politicians but also many NGOs including youth groups from a wide spectrum of society and political leanings. It is worth highlighting that Khairy and Saifuddin have been working with MCA Senator Gan Peng Sieu, who is also the deputy minister for youth and sports, rather than CTY on making stands against certain government positions including urging the government not to appeal the decision by the Court of Appeal that section 15 of the Universities and Universities Colleges Act (UUCA) is unconstitutional as well as making a stand against the controversial amendment to section 114A of the Evidence Act.

CTY’s Talamgate attacks have negative political repercussions not just for him but also for his party and the BN. The fact that an MCA politician from Johor had to be “catapulted” to Selangor to lead the charge against the Selangor government speaks volumes about the confidence which Chua Soi Lek has in Selangor MCA chairman Donald Lim Siang Chai. The fact that Chua Soi Lek has to use this channel to promote his son also speaks volume about the leadership dynamics within the MCA, especially with regard to the availability of young and articulate leaders. Sadly, this is a reflection of a larger systemic problem within the BN component parties, namely the lack of young, inspiring thought leaders which has led to the ceding of more and more political ground to the ever-dominant Umno.

Not that I should be complaining. CTY’s antics are definitely helping convince the voting public that BN, especially the MCA, is a lost cause. But from a perspective of someone who thinks that raising the level of political discourse and increasing meaningful youth participation in politics on both sides of the political divide is a positive and necessary step for the country, CTY’s inability to take advantage of his privileged position is very disappointing indeed.

* Ong Kian Ming is the DAP’s election strategist.

From Kuantan to Dataran Merdeka: The emancipatory journey for a green Malaysia — Boon Kia Meng

From Kuantan to Dataran Merdeka: The emancipatory journey for a green Malaysia — Boon Kia Meng

November 22, 2012
Malaysian Insider
NOV 22 — Humans make history; but never in circumstances and situations of their own choosing. This insightful observation by Marx, as he watched over the social upheavals unfolding in Europe in the middle of the 19th century, is a timely expression on what is happening in Malaysia today.

Have Malaysians ever heard of a group of ordinary, fellow Malaysians — our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, our children — marching slowly but surely, on foot, all 300 kilometres of it, rain or shine, from Kuantan to Dataran Merdeka? All united in a common cause: to stop any further environmental degradation in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, where stopping the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng, and the Murum and Baram dams in Sarawak, constitutes a fundamental demand.

These Malaysian citizens chose to embark on this journey (dubbed “Langkah Lestari”) because for far too long we have collectively as a nation allowed indiscriminate “development” and rapacious capitalistic resource extraction to go on, all in the name of economic growth and wealth creation.

Just witness the rapid decimation of our natural forestry and the displacement of our fellow indigenous Malaysian communities in Sabah/Sarawak and the peninsula. These have become common phenomena and Malaysians know deep inside that the present state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely without irreversible consequences to our common habitat.

It was their spirit and determination that drew me and my friends to join them in their walk for environmental justice. Donning green shirts and a peasant farmer’s hat, we experienced first-hand what ordinary Malaysians can achieve when they organise themselves, a trend that typifies the sea change in people’s attitude and participation in citizenship activism since 2008.

Ordinary mothers arrange lodgings and food distribution, grandpas and grandmas providing moral support with their feet and encouraging words, fathers managing logistic details, while the young, even little children, learn to take their first baby steps in authentic environmentalism and love for the country.

In other words, “Langkah Lestari” epitomises what has been truly essential in any democratic movement for bringing real social change: the twin values of self-organisation and mutual aid. Against these values, no authoritarian state or oppressive regime can stand a chance. Ordinary citizens, learning to organise themselves, little by little, will win the hearts and minds of the majority of the populace.

Make no mistake. The detractors and spokespersons for corporate and vested interests, such as Lynas Corp, will try to justify the viability of their operations on the grounds of economic development and job creation. Malaysian citizens have to judge for themselves whether this “win-win” deal is really beneficial for the country, especially for the residents in Gebeng/Kuantan.

What are Malaysians getting in exchange for the 12-year tax holiday given to Lynas, estimated at RM1.8 billion per annum, not to mention the billions of ringgit of revenue Lynas will generate from these operations? In reality, this is a classic case of neoliberal capitalism in action: the privatisation of profits, whilst socialising the costs, both human and environmental.

In the Lynas case, it is even more farcical, where we have a case of a foreign mining corporation, which is reaping stratospheric profits as a result of the Western Australian mining boom, deciding to externalise its social costs to another country. Instead of acting as protector and guardian of her citizens’ security and well-being, the Malaysian government has abdicated that role for the sake of endless capital accumulation.

It is no wonder that people from all walks of life are seeing through the lies of neoliberal ideology and deciding to leave the sidelines and join this struggle. The patronising dogma of big business that preaches wealth trickling down to the masses is increasingly hollow and losing its ideological hold on the people.

Try telling the Orang Asal brothers and sisters from Sarawak, who are marching daily with their Semenanjung compatriots, on the merits of an unfettered, free market economy that promises prosperity for all. Our indigenous brothers and sisters will tell you about the true face of “economic development”, where countless thousands of them have experienced forced displacement, land grabbing and environmental destruction.

Politicians from both sides wax lyrical about the need for more development and allocation funds for Sabah and Sarawak. They fail to see that uneven development and destruction of traditional forms of living have led to increasing proletarianisation (making them wage-earners, instead of their traditional self-sufficient farming existence) of our indigenous peoples, precisely what a capitalist economy cannot fail but generate.
These are the hard truths made visible by this 300km walk. It forces us to confront the dark, hidden side of our exploitative economy and its unsustainable ecological trajectory.

This brings us back to the significance of this Sunday, November 25, in the history of this nation. The marchers have decided to occupy Dataran Merdeka once they reach there, awaiting the presence of the prime minister and Members of Parliament from both sides of the political divide the very next morning.

Again ordinary Malaysians like them face the arbitrary exercise of state power in the hands of City Hall and the police when the mayor of KL said that no gathering in Dataran is allowed without an application for permit. We know that the upsurge of participation of Malaysians in public protests since Bersih 3.0 is no historical accident. The momentum of people’s movements will only grow stronger and stronger by the day and “Himpunan Hijau 2.0: Langkah Lestari” in Dataran Merdeka this Sunday will be no different. Thousands upon thousands of Malaysians will be there, come what may.

As I sat in the room with our fellow marchers, listening to the children of Bentong sing a song dedicated to their struggle, I felt strangely emotional. It was as if their voices helped us peer into a future of a new Malaysia that is taking shape right before our eyes. Of its shape and detail, no one could tell with any certainty. But one thing is for sure. It will be a Malaysia very different from the present one, burdened by her heavy history of class and environmental exploitation, and ethnic-based political ideologies.

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains,” the radical democrat Rosa Luxemburg once said. Thank you, participants of Langkah Lestari, for walking and making Malaysians conscious of the shackles that are enslaving us. Thank you, Saudara Wong Tack (the organising chairperson), for reminding all Malaysians that true emancipation lies in our very own hands: “Pilihan di tangan kita!”