Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dissecting the ETP Annual Report (Part 1) — Grade A+ for obfuscation! — Ong Kian Ming and Teh Chi-Chang

Dissecting the ETP Annual Report (Part 1) — Grade A+ for obfuscation! — Ong Kian Ming and Teh Chi-Chang

May 31, 2012
Malaysian Insider
 
MAY 31 — Top marks for befuddling even highly-qualified Malaysians. PEMANDU released its annual report last month to an expected chorus of praise. An economist at a leading financial institution gushed that the ETP deserves an “A” for transformation.

 Our analysis however, finds that pretentious words and slick presentations, protestations of diligence and toil and selective representation of data obscure the true picture.

Real GNI grew only 4.7 per cent last year. This is well below the 6 per cent per year growth rate called upon for the duration of the ETP. Nominal GNI growth, which includes inflation, was 12.3 per cent. But inflation does nothing for our real quality of life, and it is only because inflation was higher than expected that the nominal GNI growth rate hit double-digits.

PEMANDU’s GNI “target” is questionable. PEMANDU claims it has outperformed as GNI last year exceeded its RM797 billion target. Strangely enough, this “target” was declared only after the actual data was already out. Furthermore, the target was exceptionally low. As far back as October 2010, the Ministry of Finance was already projecting RM811 billion GNI. It is easy to exceed targets when they are low, and only declared after the fact. No real value is added, though.

Scoring is easy when you can shift the goalposts. The subterfuge by PEMANDU includes attempting to steal credit for 2010 economic growth, conflating GDP with GNI and using exchange rate movements to amplify performance. And these are just on the subject of headline economic performance. We shall uncover more ruses as we delve into the execution details. Stay tuned!

● PEMANDU’s RM797 billion nominal GNI “target” for 2011 was very low, and only declared in 2012, after the actual data was out!

● Real GNI growth was just 4.7 per cent. Nominal growth was higher because inflation was much higher than expected.

● The ETP focuses on GNI, but CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala misdirected Malaysians by citing the stronger GDP numbers.

● Let’s be honest. Celebrate successes. But also admit mistakes and share the learning experience so we can all transform.

Data integrity has reached abysmal depths

PEMANDU claimed an achievement of astounding performance in the inaugural Annual Report of the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) released last month. Each National Key Economic Area (NKEA) achieved marks ranging from 65 per cent to a flabbergasting 170 per cent, depending on which of 3 self-defined criteria is applied.

The Annual Report claims the ETP met or exceeded nearly all of the targets outlined in the ETP Roadmap Report released in October 2010. These achievements include:
1. Surpassing its income and private investment targets for 2011:
a) RM830 billion GNI (Gross National Income) vs RM797 billion target;
b) RM94 billion private investment vs RM83 billion target;
2. 72 out of the 131 EPPs (Entry Point Projects) taking off;
3. EPP investments totalling RM179 billion, creating RM130 billion of GNI and nearly 314,000 new jobs.

The “achievements” were impressive enough for analysts at the likes of financial institutions such as CIMB Group to give it an “A for transformation”. These analysts took PEMANDU at face value.

Our analysis concludes that PEMANDU does deserve an A+ indeed, but for obfuscation. Data integrity and transparency have reached abysmal depths as far as the ETP is concerned. As we have seen all too often with PEMANDU and the ETP, the true picture is obscured behind pretentious words and slick presentations, protestations of diligence and toil and selective representation of data, sometimes bordering on misrepresentation.

Read on for the foundations underpinning our strong words.

PEMANDU exceeded its GNI “target” but delivered nothing
The ETP continues to be plagued by data integrity problems which cast doubt on the self-proclaimed excellent performance. The first and most major issue is PEMANDU claiming credit for exceeding performance benchmarks which are declared only after the event:

Prior to this Annual Report, PEMANDU had never explicitly stated that the ETP had a 2011 nominal GNI target;

However, after the Ministry of Finance released the national income statistics showing RM830 billion of GNI, PEMANDU claimed that the RM797 billion GNI targeted by the ETP had been exceeded;

Where did this RM797 billion target come from? It was not stated in the ETP Roadmap that launched it all in October 2010. Nor did PEMANDU mention it in its numerous communiqués and updates last year.
Furthermore, the RM797 billion GNI “target” that PEMANDU claimed it exceeded for 2011 is exceptionally low:

● The Ministry of Finance (MoF) as far back as October 2010 had already projected RM811 billion GNI for 2011;

● The MoF’s projection was equivalent to 9.6 per cent nominal growth. PEMANDU’s “target” was equivalent to just 7.8 per cent nominal growth from 2010. This is lower than PEMANDU’s average 8.8 per cent annual growth rate target stated in the ETP Roadmap Report.

PEMANDU might have exceeded its “target”. But what value did it deliver? The MoF was already projecting GNI higher than PEMANDU’s claim of RM797 billion “target”, even without the benefit of the ETP!

And as we have highlighted, PEMANDU’s so-called “target” is underwhelming. Taken at face value, PEMANDU is dragging down the Malaysian economy instead of transforming it. How else would you explain PEMANDU’s target for national income (GNI) being smaller than the forecast made by the MoF?
In response to an article recently published by Ong Kian Ming, PEMANDU senior analyst Marc Fong wrote the following on the methodology employed to calculate the GNI target:

“The ETP’s true north has and will continue to be US$15,000 GNI per capita in 2020. The aggregate national GNI is the numerator but denominator is total population. In order to establish a yardstick by which we measure ourselves, we adopted a linear approach to calculating the GNI target that would indicate we were on the right path.”

In that paper, Kian Ming questioned the basis for PEMANDU’s RM797 billion GNI “target” for 2011 and highlighted that it called for just 7.8 per cent growth, whereas the ETP Roadmap Report targets 8.8 per cent growth per year. Marc Fong’s reply fails to shed any light. Using a “linear approach”,

GNI has to increase by RM78 billion every year under the ETP to reach the “true north” target. On this basis, the GNI target for 2011 should have been RM817 billion, and not RM797 billion. PEMANDU’s figures just do not compute.

In our view, this is yet another demonstration of PEMANDU’s preference for obfuscation over clarification. A simple answer with numbers would have sufficed. Instead verbose language and tortuous arguments are employed to cloak its methodologies and data. It is easy to score when you can shift the goalposts

Scoring is easy when the goalposts can be moved to your advantage. And PEMANDU does move the goalposts to make itself look good. Sometimes the shift is obvious. At other times, it is insidious.

A particularly sly example can be found in the very first “Transformation Blues” column by PEMANDU CEO Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala. He wrote: “… our GDP grew by 7.2 per cent in 2010 and 5.1 per cent in 2011 and that’s an average of 6.2 per cent; we are meeting our Economic Transformation Program (ETP) target.” That statement contains two counts of serious intellectual dishonesty:

1. Firstly, the ETP was launched only in late October 2010, which means that PEMANDU cannot possibly take credit for the 7.2 per cent economic growth in 2010, which was actually relatively high because it bounced off the low base of a recession year in 2009. So the focus really should have been just on 2011, where real GDP grew by just 5.1 per cent;

2. Secondly, why did the good Datuk Seri talk about GDP (Gross Domestic Product) when the ETP focuses on GNI growth, not GDP. This misdirection is particularly devious given that PEMANDU just two weeks earlier in response to a REFSA critique said that “comparing GDP to GNI is incorrect” since “this is comparing apples and oranges, and this begs the question as to why REFSA is choosing to compare two different measures”.

This wilful obfuscation between GDP (Gross Domestic Product) instead of GNI (Gross National Income) hides the fact that real GNI growth in 2010 and 2011 was just 3.9 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively — which is far below the 6 per cent real GNI growth rate targeted by the ETP.

And why are the goalposts in American dollars?

Idris Jala, in his Transformation Blues column on May 7, said: “In 2010, our GNI per capita was US$8,126 and this rose to US$9,508, a 17 per cent increase in 2011. We are well on track to reach our high-income target by 2020.”

Ordinary Malaysians live and work and spend their money mostly in Malaysia and in our domestic currency, the ringgit. A jump in our GNI per capita because the US$ weakens against the ringgit would not have a direct impact on the quality of life of most Malaysians. For example, let us say GNI per capita today is RM24,000, or US$8,100 based on an exchange rate of RM3.00:US$1. If the US$ were to depreciate to, say, RM2.80:US$1, our GNI per capita would increase to US$8,571 even though it remains unchanged in ringgit.

The weaker US$ may help those who go abroad for their holidays, and may result in cheaper imported goods but those are big “ifs”. The value of the US$ hinges on many factors, most of which are beyond the control of PEMANDU. For example, a US-specific economic issue might result in the US$ weakening against most major currencies. If that were to happen, we might be richer in US$ terms, but not when compared to other currencies such as the euro, yen and Australian dollar because they all also appreciated in tandem.

Which makes us wonder why Datuk Seri Idris chose to express the changes in our GNI per capita in US dollars instead of in ringgit terms. It is surely just coincidence that, measured in ringgit, the performance is a lot less impressive. In ringgit, GNI per capita increased by just 11.2 per cent in 2011.

And by the way, the goalposts are not real

Detractors might accuse us of carping — after all, 11.2 per cent might be lower than 17 per cent, but it is still a double-digit growth rate GNI per capita growth rate. Furthermore, total nominal GNI grew by 12.3 per cent, which at first glance, is far higher than the 6 per cent growth rate targeted by the ETP.

This brings us to another very crucial point — the difference between nominal income and real income. Nominal GNI growth of 12.3 per cent includes inflation. Real GNI growth was only 4.7 per cent. This is well below the ETP’s target of 6 per cent.

As we have pointed out, it is real income that matters. For example, if your nominal income goes up by 10 per cent, but inflation makes your cup of kopi-O and all the other things you buy 15 per cent more expensive, you are actually worse off!

It’s time for an honest referee to step in

PEMANDU asserts that it is exceeding the “transformative” and “ambitious” targets set by the ETP. The mainstream media goes along with the charade. That is not surprising. However, it is disconcerting that professional analysts and economists have also chosen to bury their heads in the sand and take PEMANDU’s assertions at face value. The lack of due diligence is disappointing.

We are therefore extending our DEEDS framework to evaluate the ETP Annual Report and PEMANDU’s declarations of outperformance. In this Focus Paper, we focused on Data Integrity, starting with PEMANDU’s impact on national income (GNI). As we have seen:

1. The ETP has FAILED when measured by real GNI growth. Real GNI grew by just 4.7 per cent in 2011, compared to the 6 per cent per year target cited in the ETP Roadmap Report;

2. PEMANDU is GUILTY of obfuscation. CEO Datuk Seri Idris spotlighted GDP numbers which obscure the fact that PEMANDU had failed to deliver on GNI. This is especially insidious as just a fortnight before,
PEMANDU had censured its critics for apparently not understanding the difference between GDP and GNI;
3. PEMANDU steals credit when none is due. Datuk Seri Idris cited 2010 economic numbers as part of his achievements, but the ETP Roadmap Report was published only in October 2010;

4. PEMANDU is DISCONNECTED from everyday reality in Malaysia. CEO Datuk Seri Idris sometimes chooses to measure his performance in American dollars. But it is ringgit that is important to ordinary Malaysians;

5. PEMANDU sets LOW TARGETS that result in no value being added when they are exceeded:

a) Its claim of RM797 billion “target” for 2011 GNI was lower than the MoF forecast of RM811 billion. Why was PEMANDU, which is supposed to add value, forecasting a number lower than the MoF?

b) The professed RM797 billion GNI target for 2011 is on very shaky foundations. This “target” was only publicised after the GNI data was released by the MoF. Furthermore, it is very low, calling for just 7.8 per cent growth, well below the average 8.8 per cent targeted in the ETP Roadmap Report.

In subsequent Focus Papers in this series, we shall cover Execution, Enterprise, Diversity and Socio-Economic Impact. We shall delve deeper into the investments numbers and status of EPPs (Entry Point Projects) and show more evidence of how PEMANDU and its CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala selectively choose figures and data to show targets being reached but fail to acknowledge that other targets have not been reached.

This is not a fault-finding exercise. It is crucial that PEMANDU, which is tasked with transforming the Malaysian economy, provides accurate information and works from solid foundations:

1. Firstly, if PEMANDU gets even the headline GNI numbers wrong or is obfuscating these numbers, it makes one wonder whether other statistics touted, which are much more opaque, such as the achievements of each individual EPP, can be trusted. And if we don’t even know where we are, how can we plan for the future?

2. Secondly, life is not a bed of roses. Things don’t always go according to plan, and yet, based on the ETP Annual Report, almost everything is hunky dory. Nothing is said about stalled or abandoned projects.
Successes should be celebrated, but failures and missteps must be acknowledged and remedial action taken.  Learning from our mistakes will help us grow faster.

As we will show later in this series, not everything is as rosy as the picture painted by PEMANDU and the ETP Annual Report.

About this series and DEEDS

Let’s evaluate PEMANDU on its DEEDS, published on January 25, 2012, introduced DEEDS and a series assessing PEMANDU and the ETP on the goals, plans and targets stated in the ETP Roadmap document. Doing so facilitates constructive discourse as it uses the framework which PEMANDU has chosen to work within. In keeping with the spirit of the alphabet soup of NKEAs, NKRAs, SRIs, EPPs, and GNI surrounding the entire GTP, we evaluated PEMANDU and the ETP on its DEEDS - Data transparency, Execution, Enterprise, Diversity and Socio-Economic Impact. The 8 Focus Papers in this series, together with related infographics and a Powerpoint presentation can be found at www.refsa.org.

Note on PEMANDU’s response

We wrote to PEMANDU seeking clarification on the methodology and assumptions used to calculate their claimed GNI target.  The only response has been Marc Fong’s article referred to herein. — REFSA (Research for Social Advancement)

* Dr Ong Kian Ming holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University and Economics degrees from the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics. He is attached to UCSI University, which has been named as the project owner of two Entry Point Projects (EPPs). To avoid any potential conflict of interest, he will not make references to or analyse these two EPPs. He can be reached at im.ok.man@gmail.com.

* REFSA (Research for Social Advancement) executive director Teh Chi-Chang holds a first class degree in Accounting & Financial Analysis from the University of Warwick, an MBA from the University of Cambridge and the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) charter. Prior to joining REFSA, he headed highly-regarded investment research teams covering Malaysia, and was himself highly-ranked as an analyst. He can be reached at chichang@refsa.org.

PEMANDU hiding ETP failure, say critics

PEMANDU hiding ETP failure, say critics

May 31, 2012
Malaysian Insider
 
KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Putrajaya’s efficiency unit is “shifting the goalposts” to hide its failure to transform the economy since launching its ambitious Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) in October 2010, says the Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) think-tank.

The opposition-linked think-tank, which has published a series of critiques on the ETP that aims to double per capita income by 2020, said in a focus paper released today that the Performance Management and Delivery Unit’s (PEMANDU) gross national income (GNI) targets were lower than those set by the government.

Idris has been accused of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ by taking credit for the 7.2 per cent gross domestic product growth in 2010. — File pic
REFSA noted that after the Finance Ministry (MoF) released the national income figure of RM830 billion for 2011, PEMANDU claimed the RM797 billion target had been exceeded.

The unit under the Prime Minister’s Office is tasked with executing various transformation plans,
“Where did this RM797 billion target come from? It was not stated in the ETP Roadmap launched in Oct 2010. The MoF had already projected RM811 billion GNI for 2011, before the ETP Roadmap was launched.

“PEMANDU’s so-called ‘target’ is underwhelming. Taken at face value, PEMANDU is dragging down the Malaysian economy instead of transforming it. How else would you explain PEMANDU’s target for GNI being smaller than the forecast made by the MoF?,” REFSA said.

It added that while nominal GNI growth hit 12.3 per cent in 2011, this was due to the 7.6 per cent hike in prices under its “GNI deflator” which incorporates all goods instead of a basket of goods which includes price-controlled items.

“The ETP has failed when measured by real GNI growth. Real GNI grew by just 4.7 per cent in 2011 compared to the six per cent per year target cited in the ETP Roadmap Report,” it said.

The paper, authored by political analyst Ong Kian Ming and Teh Chi Chang, who was previously economic adviser to the DAP, added that PEMANDU’s target was equivalent to just 7.8 per cent nominal growth, lower than its own 8.8 per cent average annual growth target to achieve high-income status.

“PEMANDU might have exceeded its ‘target’ but what value did it deliver? The MoF was already projecting GNI higher than PEMANDU’s... even without the benefit of the ETP,” they wrote.

They also accused PEMANDU chief executive Datuk Seri Idris Jala of “intellectual dishonesty” by taking credit for the 7.2 per cent gross domestic product growth in 2010.

“PEMANDU steals credit when none is due. Idris cited 2010 economic numbers as part of his achievements but the ETP was launched only in late October 2010,” said the paper, referring to the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

PEMANDU has previously insisted that the ETP was developed accurately despite assertions by the think-tank that the government agency’s figures do not add up.

“We stand by the fact that the ETP Roadmap was developed with thought and input from a wide base of expertise and as the intention is to make Malaysia globally competitive, international benchmarks were used,” it said in a blog posting in February.

The unit was set up after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took office in April 2009. On Monday, he announced 21 new projects worth over RM20 billion under the ETP, that was expected to boost the GNI by RM4.59 billion in 2020 and create 39,918 jobs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bersih to snub Hanif-led probe panel

Bersih to snub Hanif-led probe panel

May 30, 2012
Malaysian Insider
 
Hanif’s open criticism of Bersih 3.0 prior to his appointment suggests of his bias, said Ambiga. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — Bersih has joined the Bar Council in refusing to participate in the “Hanif panel” investigating police violence in the April 28 rally for electoral reforms, saying the probe would be “seriously flawed” under Tun Hanif Omar’s chairmanship.
 Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan repeated the council’s view that Hanif’s involvement in the panel, following the latter’s criticism of Bersih 3.0 protesters as communist sympathisers, would affect the impartiality of the investigation.

“Our stand has not changed. It is not personal, we have nothing personal against Tun Hanif but we think it is seriously flawed as he is chairing it (the panel).

“Justice must be seen to be done and he has already made a pronouncement about Bersih in a negative light, so we think he should not even be there (in the panel), let alone to chair it,” she told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

Following the Bersih 3.0 sit-in on April 28, Hanif alleged that communist sympathisers had participated in the rally and agreed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim that the demonstration was an attempt to oust the present government.
Justice must be seen to be done and he has already made a pronouncement about Bersih in a negative light
Despite his views, Hanif was later appointed to lead Putrajaya’s six-man investigation panel on allegations of widespread police violence during the rally.

Ambiga also took the same view as the Bar Council on the legal standing of the panel, which she said could not be compared with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

She also pointed out that Suhakam was already conducting its own inquiry into Bersih 3.0, and it was not necessary to duplicate the process of investigation.

“And what powers does this (independent) panel have? What is its legal standing? Since Suhakam has said they will hold an inquiry, this is where we (Bersih) will be concentrating our efforts,” she said.

Hanif said on Monday that he was willing to meet the Bar Council as well as Bersih leaders as part of the panel’s investigation, adding that he wanted the inquiry team to be given a chance to carry out its duties without “suspicion” from any parties.

“With regards to concerns that there may be several parties like the Bar Council and Bersih who are unco-operative, I would like to state that the panel is only an alternative channel for those who want to co-operate willingly.

“I am prepared to meet the Bar Council or any other parties, including going to their office, for (everyone’s) mutual benefit,” Hanif had said in a statement.

Bar Council vice-president Christopher Leong told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that the council would not participate in the panel’s investigation, saying it was pointless to do so when Suhakam was also conducting its own probe.

“We do not see the purpose to duplicate the process... we already said earlier that we would participate in Suhakam’s inquiry. There is no public purpose served by duplicating the enquiry process,” he said.

The Najib administration had formed a bi-partisan parliamentary select committee for electoral reforms after Bersih 2.0 last July, which agreed on 22 recommendations for the Election Commission (EC).

But Bersih and opposition parties had argued the recommendations do not cover cleaning up the electoral rolls to prevent fraud and the alleged existence of “phantom voters”.

Despite complaints of gerrymandering over the years, the nascent opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat (PR) won 82 federal seats and five state governments in Election 2008, which Barisan Nasional said was proof of clean and fair elections.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bar Council to shun Hanif panel, backs Suhakam’s Bersih probe

Bar Council to shun Hanif panel, backs Suhakam’s Bersih probe

May 29, 2012
Malaysian Insider
 
KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — The Bar Council will not participate in Putrajaya’s “Hanif panel” investigation on violence during Bersih 3.0, saying today it was pointless to do so when the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is already conducting its own probe.

“We do not see the purpose to duplicate the process... we already said earlier that we would participate in Suhakam’s inquiry. There is no public purpose served by duplicating the enquiry process,” council vice-president Christopher Leong told The Malaysian Insider when contacted here.

He said the council holds strong to its position that Tun Hanif Omar (picture) should be disqualified from the post of the panel’s chairman as the latter had already previously indicated his anti-Bersih views.
Leong stressed, however, that the council was not questioning Hanif’s integrity as it respects the former Inspector-General of Police’s contribution to the country.

“It is unfortunately about the perception of independence and public confidence in the panel,” he said.

Following the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28, Hanif had alleged that communist sympathisers had participated in the event and agreed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim that the demonstration was an attempt to oust the present government.

Despite his views, Hanif was later appointed to lead Putrajaya’s six-man investigation panel on allegations of widespread police violence during the rally.

Leong also pointed out that the panel, unlike Suhakam which is a statutory body established by law, does not have legal standing and power to subpoena witnesses for its probe.

“Suhakam is the proper body to undertake the inquiry; it has the experience, statutory mandate and legal framework to do so. The Suhakam Act (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999) provides for this,” he said in a short text message to The Malaysian Insider.

Leong, however, added that the council would be willing to meet privately with Hanif to discuss its position on the matter.

Hanif had said yesterday that he was willing to meet the Bar Council as well as Bersih leaders as part of the panel’s investigation, saying he wanted the inquiry team to be given a chance to carry out its duties without “suspicion” from any parties.

“With regards to concerns that there may be several parties like the Bar Council and Bersih who are unco-operative, I would like to state that the panel is only an alternative channel for those who want to co-operate willingly.

“I am prepared to meet the Bar Council or any other parties, including going to their office, for (everyone’s) mutual benefit,” Hanif had said in a statement.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Call on the Prime Minister to show his rejection of incessant harassment against Datuk Ambiga and his preparedness to show solidarity with her by paying her a visit at her house.

Media Statement by M Kula Segaran DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat at the Solidarity with Ambiga event held at Little India , Ipoh at 10am, on Sunday, 27.5.2012

Call on the Prime Minister to show his rejection of  incessant harassment against Datuk Ambiga and his preparedness to show solidarity with her by paying her a visit at her house.
The huge turnout at the Bersih 3.0 sit in protest held on April 28 showed the people’s determination in demanding free and fair elections.

428 will certainly go down in history as an important chapter in the people’s struggle for a vibrant and true democracy.
Instead of accepting the 8 Bersih demands, the BN government has chosen to demonise the 428 rally.
In fact, when attending a recent function held in Kelantan, Najib has demonized the rally and declared “fight in the election if you are anak jantan.
I have thrown him a counter challenge which he has not replied. I repeat my challenge here--Fight the Opposition fair and square.  If you a true reformist, implement all the Berish demands now.
Let’s see if he is prepared to take up this challenge.

I wish to take this opportunity to condemn the incessant harassment against Datuk Ambiga, violating her privacy and human rights.

Such harassment, coupled with the lack of necessary actions by the authorities against the perpetrators, have made Malaysia a laughing stock of the world.
Such harassment and attacks are totally unacceptable, disgraceful and must immediately cease.
I agree with Pak Samad’s views that Ambiga is being targeted for her race, religion and to some extent, gender issues that are often played up by the powers-that-be.

Let’s not forget Ambiga was one of eight recipients of the US Secretary of State “International Women of Courage” Award in 2009.  Her detractors must realize she is no push over! 
All political parties must therefore express their  solidarity with Ambiga and the police must take the necessary actions to prevent any further infringement of her privacy and human rights.
I wish to call on the Prime Minister to show his rejection of the incessant harassment against Ambiga and his preparedness to show solidarity with her by paying her a visit at her house.

Five on hunger strike over school land | Free Malaysia Today

Five on hunger strike over school land

Aneesa Alphonsus | May 27, 2012
They want MIC to return three acres of land originally given to SRJK (T) Effingham.
KUALA LUMPUR: Five members of Return Effingham Land Action Team (Reflax) are staging a hunger strike to seek the return of three acres of land belonging to the Effingham Tamil School (SRJK (T) Effingham) in Bandar Utama here.

The hunger strike commenced with seven participants at 8.20am yesterday at the water fountain in Brickfield’s Little India.

Two hunger strike protesters dropped out at 6.30pm on Saturday and 12.30am on Sunday citing personal reasons.

Reflax which has been holding candlelight vigils every Saturday night for the past 14 weeks said that the three out of six acres have been grabbed by the MIC, a component party in the Barisan National.

PKR’s MP for Subang R Sivarasa said that MIC had initially planned to build their headquarters on the three acres, but as of May 3 this year claimed that it will now house a hostel for urban students from the estates.
“All the other schools (allocated the land in the area) have kept their six acres – no one has tried to take it from them. But here, with the Tamil school, MIC is trying to grab the three acres for personal use,” said Sivarasa.

Reflax chairman Manivanan Gowin added that after procuring the services of a land surveyor, they have since found out that the three acres is valued at an estimated RM52 million.
“This is perhaps the main reason why MIC is being so stubborn about not letting go of the three acres. I hope that they will take this hunger strike seriously and return the three acres on humanitarian grounds.

“This is a peaceful protest and if MIC fails to return the land in light of this hunger strike, then I don’t think they understand the Hindu concept of what it means and stands for,” said Manivaran.

Last resort

This hunger strike is seen as the  last resort to urge the return of the three acres land for the future expansion of the school.

“When G Palanivel became MIC president in 2009, he kept mum about this issue which has been in existence since 2007. And now suddenly, there are plans for a hostel,” added Manivaran.

“Here, we have five people who have volunteered their time, and lives for this cause. They are roughing it out with the hope that it will bring about the desired outcome.
“They are determined to continue with this hardcore hunger strike without even drink, until the desired outcome is achieved,” he said.

Dr Streram Sinnasamy who examined the 5 protesters today said they are doing well without any signs of fatigue after over 30 hours without food or drink.

“The average person can go without water or food for about three days. After that, they will start to show signs of fatique, lethargy and dizziness. We had checked them before the hunger strike commenced and will perform daily checks to monitor their health,” he said.

1,000 Indians voice support for Pakatan

1,000 Indians voice support for Pakatan
  • Leven Woon
  • 5:31PM May 27, 2012
 
Hindraf splinter group Malaysian Indian Voice (MIV) today held their first Hindraf-inspired rally, dubbed Indian Rights Action Force (Indraf) 2.0 in Brickfields today, with more than 1,000 packing a hall to voice support for Pakatan Rakyat.

Indraf 2.0 Malaysian Indian VoiceEntitled ‘Unity Road with Pakatan Rakyat to Putrajaya’, MIV saw the attendance of a slew of Pakatan leaders. The event began at about 3pm with the singing of the national anthem, while the cheering crowd waved flags of the Pakatan parties.

They also displayed banners with their 10-point demands, which  among others read ‘Hindraf will never bury the voice of Indian unity’, ‘The government should plan and implement a comprehensive policy for retirees’, The government should put in place  relevant measures to preserve and develop Tamil schools, language and literature’.

The MIV leaders, many of whom are Pakatan members, heaped praise on the opposition pact in their speeches and repeatedly urged the attendees to support Pakatan.

V Raidu president Malaysian Indian VoiceMIV chairperson V Raidu (at podium), in his speech, commended Pakatan for successfully resolving a list of longstanding problems affecting the Indian community within four years of their administration in four states.

He also announced that the Selangor government has approved 120 sites for Indian temples.

“Let us be united to bring change and take over Putrajaya,” he said to a roar of applause.
In between relay of speeches by more than 10 speakers from Pakatan and MIV, some periods were devoted to the singing of a Tamil motivational song and the chanting of “Long live Pakatan”, “Long live Indraf”, “Long live MIV”.

Among the Pakatan leaders who attended the rally were opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Selangor exco member Ronnie Liu.
'Gov't must provide appropriate affirmative aid'
R Kengandharan, who was an Internal Security Act detainee under Hindraf, noted that a rightful government must provide appropriate affirmative aid to an underprivileged group, but that was not the case with the BN government.

Indraf 2.0 Malaysian Indian Voice - Ramasamy, Thasleem, Mat Sabu“If you have four children in a family and one is handicapped, then extra attention must be given to the handicapped one,” he said.

He added that the Indian community has “wasted 55 years” with MIC and the time has come to clamour for change.

Meanwhile, Mohamad, or fondly known as Mat Sabu, in his speech accused the government of stirring up racial sentiments again as the general election looms.

He said the demonisation of Bersih’s Malay supporters as backing a Hindu woman is a clear instance that shows Umno cannot abandon racial politics.

“But this is not a racial issues, this is about people’s rights. We will not waver but continue to strive to change the politics of this country,” he said.

The three-hour rally concluded with a round of cheers for Pakatan and a replay of the motivational song.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The hope for the Indian community lies with Pakatan Rakyat.


Speech by M Kula Segaran , DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat at the DAP Johor Indian Community Forum held in Skudai on Saturday,  26.5.2012

The hope for the Indian community lies with Pakatan Rakyat. 

Two days ago, MIC president Datuk Palanivel announced that officials in Putrajaya will huddle with a team of professionals to formulate a comprehensive plan aimed at “rescuing” the country’s Indian poor.

The initiative is expected to be finalised during a roundtable conference to be chaired by Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which is expected to be called by July.

Palanivel said the government could not take its Indian support for granted, despite reports that the community has begun returning to BN’s fold.

“The prime minister must help us. He has to give us a sizeable budget to take the Indian community out of their present problems,” he told a press conference after meeting with several think tank groups on the proposed initiative.

“For the Indian support to return to BN, we need to rescue the people. The more we do that, the more our support will grow.

“We cannot depend on the existing support and be confident that everyone has come back to us. The more we help them, the more they grow confident and the more our support will grow.”

What can we read from Palanivel’s announcement?

Firstly, he is probably hinting that the next general election will not be held anytime earlier than July since the prime minister will only chair the roundtable table conference in July.

Secondly, the Indians cannot count much on BN as after having been in power for decades as well as having lost significant Indian support at the last general election, BN is still talking about holding conference to discuss how to rescue the Indians!

Indians also cannot place their hopes on the prime minister simply because he has been the prime minister for more than 3 years yet he has not implemented bold, effective and immediate policies and programmes to help the Indians.

Neither can the Indians place their trust on MIC as MIC under the new leadership is as ineffective as before.
Palanivel said that at least 30 per cent of the country’s Indian community are either living in poverty or in dismal conditions, suffering from debt problems and are unable to make ends meet.

He further said:-
“A good percentage of the community has been marginalised... they are trapped in poverty, earning low or no income, trapped with money lenders, their homes facing auction, they are unable to pay their basic utility bills, they cannot send their children to school, pay bus fares for them and so on... they are in deep problem”.

If the BN government was sincere and serious about helping the Indian community, all the right and necessary programs should have been implemented decades ago.

If BN had learnt its lesson from the 308 general election, the government ought to have walked its talk 3 years ago after Najib became the nation’s prime minister.

Yet today Palanivel is talking about holding conference and 10 year road map.

What the Indian community needs last is conference, announcement and talk.

Indians do not need Palanivel to tell us decades" old problems as if these are newly discovered by MIC.
What the Indians need are action, fairness and justice.

Palanivel also talked about the need for the government to “ rescue “the Indian community.

I will say that the roundtable conference is just going to be a mere public relations exercise for BN to try to rescue itself.

Indians can only rescue themselves by going for political change which will bring about a Better Malaysia for ALL.

Although there is no single parliamentary or state assembly seat whereby the Indian voters form the majority of the electorate, Indian voter percentage can still help decide the electoral outcome.

In other words, we can be the kingmakers.

So with the political awakening of the Indian community, the Indians played their kingmaker role and helped create the 308 political history.

In the last general election, the Kingmaker role played by many Indian voters has helped to create the political tsunami that dealt BN its unprecedented electoral debacle.

There are 6 parliamentary seats in Johore where the Indian voters constitute more than 6 % of the electorate. The Indian percentage is enough to influence the electoral outcome in these constituencies. namely, Simpang Renngam, Gelang Patah, Pasir Gudang, Segamat, Labis, and Tebrau.

The next general election is going to be the most important one in the nation’s history.

The hope for the Indian community lies with Pakatan Rakyat.

Hence, Indians in Johore should together with Indians all over the country, rise to the occasion in the next general election and play their kingmaker role and vote Pakatan Rakyat to bring about A Better Malaysia for All.



Enough is enough! Whether the next general election is held in June, July or September, Malaysians should rise to the occasion and go for total change to end the BN rule.


Speech by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat at DAP Gelanag Patah Dinner , Johore  on Friday, May 25, 2012

Enough is enough! Whether the next general election is held in June, July or September, Malaysians should rise to the occasion and go for total change to end the BN rule. 

Speculation is rife that the nation’s 13 th general election in early July this year .However, there is a strong possibility that the Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib may decide to dissolve Parliament in September due to the negative impact brought against the BN government by the recent historic Bersih 3.0 sit in protest.

Over the last 12 months, there have been much speculations about the dissolution of Parliament but all these did not come to materialize. 

Some people have said that the past speculations were mere wild guesses, but I believe the Prime Minister had actually thought about an earlier election but had decided to abandon the idea simply because he was not confident about BN’s electoral performance. 

His delaying in calling for the dissolution of Parliament will give him more time to announce more “electoral goodies” to the people, but it will not help to strengthen support for BN.

Why? 

It is simply because Malaysians who have long yearned for change will not be swayed by such electoral goodies like the BR 1M RM 500 cash handouts. 

Many Malaysians have waited for decades for real, significant political changes and they are now more convinced about two things. 

Firstly, the BN government is not a government that is committed to real, significant political changes.
Secondly, the hope of seeing a change that will bring about a Better Malaysia for All can only come about through total change. 

Anyone would have thought after the 2008 general election where BN was dealt the unprecedented blow, causing it to lose its traditional two thirds parliamentary majority and a few state governmental powers, BN would have leant its lessons and changed. 

But time proves that it is a coalition that cannot change. 

Just take a look at the BN’s education policy. 

Tamil and Chinese schools continue to be accorded unfair treatment. Longstanding problems of school and teacher shortage remain unresolved. 

What is 1 Malaysia concept when there are still educational institutions like Mara which take in students based on their skin color only? 

Why are only 10 % of places in Matriculation Colleges opened to non bumiputra students? 

If the government can allow so many private universities in Malaysia, including some foreign universities to set up their overseas campus here in our country, why can’t the government allow the setting up of more independent Chinese schools? 

The Education Minister has two days ago said that he cannot approve any new independent Chinese school because his hands are tied by present laws and past policy.

His reasons are totally unacceptable and are not true. 

Can he point out which law prohibits him from approving the setting up of new independent Chinese school?
Even if truly there are laws and policies that “tie his hands”, the government can always amend the laws and change the policies.

Since the BN government is unwilling to change, then we should change the government. 

The recent big turn out by Johoreans at the 428 Bersih 3.0 protest held in JB shows that the political winds of change are now blowing strong in the BN traditional stronghold state of Johore. 

I call on Johoreans to keep spreading the word of change and ensure that come the next general election, Johoreans will help create a political tsunami stronger than the 308 tsunami so as to bring about a total change that will bring about a Better Malaysia for All. 

Enough is enough! Whether the next general election is held in June, July or September, Malaysians should rise to the occasion and go for total change to end the BN rule.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Ambiga a victim of race and religion, says Pak Samad

Ambiga a victim of race and religion, says Pak Samad
  • Nigel Aw
  • 4:00PM May 24, 2012
 
Today, as Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan's Bukit Damansara residence is turned into a bizarre combination of a mini market, crime scene and conflict zone with pro- and anti-Ambiga groups taking their positions under the watchful eyes of the authorities outside her house, it is business as usual at the Bangsar Utama flat of her fellow co-chairperson A Samad Said.

Since the Bersih 3.0 protest on April 28 which organisers claimed saw some 250,000 participants taking to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, anti-Bersih groups have taken their counter-protest to the doorstep of Ambiga’s residence with burger stalls, butt exercises and now, a mini-market.

But for the 77-year-old A Samad, or more fondly known as Pak Samad, the situation at his residence has been anything but unusual, despite his cheeky baiting of the protesters at Ambiga’s residence.

This tale of two Bersih chiefs, Pak Samad said, is likely because Ambiga is being targeted for her race, religion and to some extent, gender; issues that are often played up by the powers-that-be.

NONE“Ambiga should rightfully lead, she is a lawyer with vast experience, she has received various awards but unfortunately, she is an Indian, a non-Muslim, that is unfortunate.

“If Ambiga was me, these threats targeting her would not have happened,” he said in an interview with Malaysiakini on Tuesday.

Adding that race was inherently a contentious issue, he said this is being manipulated and perpetrated by the powers-that-be with claims such as the position of Malays are being threatened.

The national laureate added that he, too, has faced accusations of a similar nature, though not as severe as the harassment faced by Ambiga.

‘I’m already Malay, I want to be Malaysian’


Among the accusations, he said, was that he has betrayed his own race by participating in the Bersih movement.

“To say that I am not championing my race... There is no need to ask me to be Malay, I am already Malay, I want to be Malaysian,” he said in his usual poetic tone.

The septuagenarian added that he has also been labelled as senile, to which he said: “Then those who have invited me to speak, must be really foolish to invite a senile old man to talk.”

NONE“I grow old not to become stupid, I grow old to become wiser,” he added.

His age, added Pak Samad, has allowed him to break free of being the “slave of power”, which he described as the mainstream media when he was a journalist and editor.

“At that time, I worked in the newspapers, a servant of the powers-that-be. That time, I thought, I had children to care for, a family to care for.

“Because of that, I swallowed whatever bitterness there was for the sake of my family... But now, I am prepared to be langgar (hit),” he said.

NONEPak Samad is perhaps the most prominent literati in the electoral reform movement, but not all his literary colleagues share his activism, with some frowning on his action.

“The literary community is quite divided... it is not about the label of literati, but for individuals to decide whether we want to improve our democracy,” he said.

Pak Samad added that it was not his duty to convince fellow literati to the cause, instead, it was up to them to ask their heart if they should join the movement.

“My duty is merely to explain the state of our country, whether we want this to continue or we want a change,” he said.

By opting for a ‘road not taken’ by many others of his stature, the spotlight has fallen on Pak Samad, who has since been offered bodyguard protection.

“But I rejected (the bodyguards), at my age and this point of my life, even with tens of bodyguards, if my time has come, I will still die... I do not want to be accompanied by bodyguards aside from my wife, that is fate, if it’s time for death then it is death,” he said.

Ambiga says ‘sorry’ for not pushing Bersih agenda harder

Ambiga says ‘sorry’ for not pushing Bersih agenda harder

May 24, 2012
Malaysian Insider
Bersih 3.0 co-chairman Datuk A. Samad Said showing the memorandum to the media at Datuk Ambiga’s house. – Photo by Jack Ooi
KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 – Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has refused to apologise to anti-Bersih groups who gathered at her home earlier today for what took place during the April 28 rally, and maintained that Bersih’s struggle was relevant for Malaysia’s future.
 Two anti-Bersih groups – one led by traders calling themselves “Bersih 4.0” and the other “Halau 1.0” – had gathered near Ambiga’s residence here in Bukit Damansara earlier today demanding she apologise for the violence and alleged property damage which occurred during the Bersih 3.0 rally.

Both groups presented separate memoranda to Ambiga, which was received instead by Bersih co-chairman Datuk A. Samad Said.

“I’m prepared to apologise. I’m 55. I apologise to the next generation because I did not fight harder... I should have so that Malaysia won’t descend to this level, that is all I will apologise for.

“It is unacceptable that the situation come to this level that my neighbourhood was like a war zone, authorities could have nipped it in the bud,” Ambiga told reporters after the two groups had left.

The former Bar Council chairman stressed that she was “not unsympathetic to people who genuinely lost money” but added that they had to weigh their incurred losses to gains made in the name of free and fair elections.

“I have done enough. There were two memorandums (sic) handed today... I want you to judge its contents for yourself,” she told reporters.

Ambiga was flanked by most of the Bersih steering committee members as well as dozens of supporters who came today to show support for the Bersih co-chairman.

Ambiga’s private residence in Bukit Damansara has been the target of protest gatherings of late, in the uproar that followed the Bersih 3.0 rally for free and fair elections.

To date, two separate groups have held protests outside her home.

The first involved some 10 traders who prepared about 200 chicken and beef burgers, and even offered some to the Bersih leader, who is vegetarian and a Hindu.

The group also promised a larger protest with 500 traders but later cancelled the May 24 event, saying they had taught Ambiga a lesson after Bersih said there were no plans for another rally.

A few days later, about 10 retired soldiers from the Malay Armed Forces Veterans Association (PVTM) exercised their bottoms outside of Ambiga’s house to protest against the Bersih chief for being — according to them — an “enemy” of the nation.

“Bersih 4.0” leader Datuk Jamal Md Yunos announced today that his group of traders will organise a 150,000-strong gathering at Stadium Bukit Jalil next month as part of an on-going protest to demand compensation for alleged losses incurred during the April 28 rally in the city capital.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stop personal attacks on Ambiga, invasion of her privacy and show decency and mutual respect

Stop personal attacks on Ambiga, invasion of her privacy and show decency and mutual respect


Joint Press Statement by Bersih 3.0 Perak and Coalition of 51 NGOs
24.05.2012 

Stop personal attacks on Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan. Stop Invasion of Privacy. Show Decency and Mutual Respect

Malaysians and in particular Perakians have followed with increasing disgust the persistent attacks on Bersih 3.0 Steering Committee Co-Chairperson Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan to intimidate and “break” her resolve.

The perpetrators have stooped so low as to have absolutely no qualms in belittling her religious sensitivities and have further undertaken acts of vulgarity and indecency unheard of in our society! And there seems to be no stopping them, not even by the powers that be. More such dirty, disgraceful and simply unacceptable activities by any standards of a civil society are being planned outside Ambiga’s home.

It is time we made our STAND known in no uncertain terms!

That is why Bersih 3.0 Perak and the coalition of more than 51 NGOs, after receiving so many calls from the public, including from people who are usually placid but now find that their patience is running out, have decided that we, the people, need to take a STAND on this matter and send a clear message to the perpetrators that this is not the Malaysia we want and hope for, for our children and future generations.



Firstly, we want justice for Ambiga. No citizen of our country should be subjected to such incessant tormenting just for speaking up for the rights of the people.

Secondly, these are not just attacks on Ambiga. These are attacks which threaten all our fundamental rights and liberties that are enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

Article 5 of the Federal Constitution states that “No person shall be deprived of his/her life or personal liberties save in accordance with the law.” The Federal Court in the case of Sivarasa Rasiah vs Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor (2010) 3 CLJ 507 had the occasion to state that right to personal liberty includes the right to privacy.

The perpetrators are bent on using dirty intimidating tactics which are alien to our Malaysian culture for the sole purpose of silencing the majority and imposing their unsolicited will on us.

Malaysia is a beautiful country and it is so not by chance. This nation is built not only on the back of its sheer hardworking people but also by the faith and belief system brought by our fore fathers from around the world.

We are a multiethnic and multi religious society proud of our rich and diverse culture. We have lived together with mutual respect, understanding and tolerance by adhering to the moral and spiritual values in all our religions, which values underpin the very harmonious society that we enjoy till today..

So, Bersih 3.0 Perak, in collaboration with all its supporting NGOs denounce the shameful attacks on Ambiga and also denounce the dirty, intimidating and bullying culture we Malaysians have jointly fought against for so long that is now rapidly rearing its ugly head in our society again.

We, the coalition of NGOs in denouncing these dirty, intimidating and bullying tactics will adopt a moral and spiritual approach that we value and hold dear and as such we call upon all Malaysians to congregate, conduct and offer prayers in their respective religious homes and sanctuaries for Decency, Mutual Respect and Protection of Fundamental Rights of Human Beings.

Now is the right time for all Malaysians and in particular Perakians, to stand up , stand together and be counted in bringing back all these moral and spiritual values we hold dear in our society. As long as we are guided by such values, we will be a harmonious and progressive society.