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Friday, March 23, 2012

Before being known as “Bapa Transformasi”, Najib must show he is not “Bapa U-Turn” first

By Lim Kit Siang

Less than 3 years into his term as the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Tun Razak has already been showered with the accolade of “Bapa Transformasi” courtesy of his many transformation programs. The litany of acronyms associated with Najib is like a never-ending alphabet soup – GTP, ETP, PTP, NEM, NKEA, NKRA, NEAC, EPP, SRIs.

One almost needs a reference dictionary to keep track of them. But despite his many programs, he is still very, very far from being a transformative Prime Minister. And his many programs are still very, very far from being transformative.

On the eve of what will be the most tightly contested general election in our history, Najib has shown a greater willingness to make U-Turns when faced with tough decisions that would have made Malaysia into a more progressive, liberal and vibrant country.

His various transformation programs are nothing more than expensive tax funded PR exercises that masks the business and politics as usual way of doing things that is taking place behind the scenes within the corridors of Putrajaya and within UMNO’s headquarters at PWTC.

Before Najib can earn the title of ‘Bapa Transformasi’, he needs to show that he is not ‘Bapa U-Turn’ first.

Najib’s U-Turn on Religious Freedom in Malaysia makes a mockery of his 1 Malaysia Slogan

Lets start with the most tragic U-turns made by our Prime Minister. Najib made a total mockery of his 1 Malaysia slogan when he not only failed to respect the High Court ruling against the Home Ministry for banning the Herald, a publication of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, for using the word Allah, he made matters worse by appearing to condone protests against this ruling.

The result was an unprecedented 10 attacks against churches (four in the Klang Valley, one in Taiping, two in Negeri Sembilan, one in Melaka, one in Johor, one in Miri), an attack against a Sikh temple (in KL) as well as one surau in Klang.

Najib could have done the right thing by not appealing against the decision of the High Court. Instead, he allowed his Attorney General to appeal this decision. Meanwhile, he tried to do damage control by contributing funds to the Metro Tabernacle church in Kajang, which was badly damaged by a petrol bomb.

This issue would raise its ugly head again in March 2011, just prior to the Sarawak state elections when custom officials refused to release 30,000 Indonesian bibles in Kuching and 5100 Indonesian bibles in Port Klang.

All this could have been prevented if Najib had not U-turned on his 1 Malaysia slogan but had respected the right of Christians, especially the native populations in Sabah and Sarawak, to use the word Allah, as they have done for generations.

Najib’s meeting with the Pope and his push for a Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) are nothing but empty gestures if the basic religious freedoms of Malaysian Christians are not respected.

Najib’s U-Turn on the New Economic Model shows that he is afraid of taking on groups like Perkasa in order to fundamentally transform our economy

Part 1 of the New Economic Model (NEM) was widely praised by a cross-section of society because it emphasized market friendly affirmative action programs that would target the bottom 40% of households, the large majority of whom are Bumiputera.

The move towards an income based affirmative action policy was a strategic departure from the race based affirmative action policy, which includes the 30% Bumiputera equity policy that has been a constant feature in past government policy documents.

One of the strategic initiatives required for this policy to be implemented was the establishment of an Equal Opportunities Commission to ‘ensure fairness and address undue discrimination where occasional abuses by dominant groups are counter’.

Instead of supporting Part 1 of the NEM, Najib caved in to pressures from Perkasa and re-instated the language of the NEP in the 10th Malaysian Plan. The language of market friendly affirmative action policies was significantly watered down in the concluding part of the NEM.

More significantly, the Equal Opportunities Commission was shelved much to the disappointed of the late Dr Zainal Aznam Yusof, a member of the National Economic Advisory Council was drafted the NEM.

Where courage was required, Najib instead choose the path of cowardice.

If the proposals of the NEM were carried out in a comprehensive manner, our country would have been put on the path towards fundamental and necessary economic transformation.

Instead, what we have seen is the lack of political will and courage to do the economically necessary in favor of political expediency.

We have seen Najib making similar U-turns in favor of political expediency because he is scared of groups like Perkasa and also of elements within his own party, UMNO.

He failed to rein in the UMNO owned newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, which made baseless accusations against the opposition and civil society groups and individuals in order to create fear and feeling of ill-will among the Malays towards the non-Malays.

His wife, Datin Seri Rosmah, was also the guest of honor at a recent fund raising dinner for Perkasa, lending support to the accusation that Perkasa is an arm of UMNO.

This only goes to show that Najib will only be too glad to make further U-turns when any of these groups protest against economic policies which are in the interest of the country as a whole but not in their own narrow economic interests.

Najib’s U-Turns on Economic Policies makes a mockery of his statement that ‘the era of government knows best is over”

Najib’s predecessor Tun Abdullah Badawi made a mockery of the phrase ‘Work with me, not for me’. Similarly, Najib is making a mockery of his often repeated phrase that ‘the era of government knows best is over’. So many of his government policies contradict this philosophy that it would take the entire parliamentary session to list out and to debate. Here, I will just list a few for the attention of the Dewan.

The NEM outlines a strategy of government divestment in order to decrease the involvement of the government in the economy. But at the same time, we continue to see the establishment of new government agencies which are involved in significant sectors of the economy.

The most notable of these is 1MDB which has no property development experience or track record whatsoever but has been given the mandate to develop two major parcels of prime land in the heart of Kuala Lumpur – the site of the TUDM air base in Sungai Besi and a major plot of land between Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Sultan Ismail.

Why did Najib not parcel out these lots of land via open tender to the private sector instead of handing these lots over to a government agency? The sale of these plots via open tender would not only raise more revenue for the government but also allow different players from the private sector (including GLCs) which have more experience in property development to participate.

1MDB is not only looking at ventures in property development but is also interested in opportunities in the energy, tourism and agri business. Most recently, 1MDB paid RM8.5 billion to acquire the power assets of Tanjong Energy Sdn Bhd from Ananda Krishnan.

Another initiative announced by Najib is the establishment of the RM500 million government owned private equity fund called Ekuinas which has been tasked to take strategic stakes in certain companies in order to increase bumiputera participation in the economy.

Again, it is not clear how another government agency can add value to the many already existing programs including many which are run by various government ministries can contribute to the goal of increasing bumiputera participation in the economy.

Yet another agency called TERAJU, endowed with RM2 billion in taxpayer funds, was established in order to promote even more Bumiputera participation in the economy. Again, one fails to see how another such agency can add further value to this objective beyond the purview of existing programs and organizations.

These are just a few examples of how Najib’s actions are a U-turn of his statement that “the era of government knows best is over”.

Najib’s propensity to make U-Turns has also infected Senator Idris Jala who now says that Malaysia is no longer in danger of being bankrupt

Senator Idris Jala, who is the CEO of PEMANDU, infamously warned that Malaysia would be bankrupt by 2019 if the country did not deviate from its spending patterns and decrease its dependence on subsidies.

But in a recent column, he seems to think that these dangers have subsided since ‘by all measures the Malaysian government finances are good’.

Sadly, even a consummate and apolitical professional like Idris Jala cannot run away from playing politics. The truth is that there are even more reasons today for us to worry about the state of the government finances compared to May 2010 when Idris first made his dire warning.

Our spending on subsidies have actually increased from RM23.1 billion in 2010 to RM32.8 billion in 2011. Our spending on sugar subsidies have actually doubled from RM262 million to RM567 million despite a fall in global sugar prices.

The government’s operating expenditure was projected to grow at 18.9% from 2010 to 2011 compared to revenue growth of only 14.9% in the same period. This operating expenditure will grow even faster under the newly revised salary scheme which some reports indicate will cost the government an additional RM6 billion per annum.

And all this does not even take into account the rise in contingent liabilities due to the bonds which have been issued by Prasarana for the LRT extension project and the bonds which will be issued by MRT Co for the massive MRT project, by far the largest public infrastructure project in our nation’s history.

At the same time, our economy grew at 5.1% which is at the lower range of the 5% to 5.5% projected growth rate by the Ministry of Finance. This is below the 6% target set by PEMANDU.

A significant proportion of this growth was driven by increases in government spending and government activity. For example, final government consumption increased by 16.8% in 2011 compared to a 6.9% increase in private sector consumption.

During the same period, output of the government services sector grew by 11.6% compared to just 4.5% for the manufacturing sector and 6.8% for the entire services sector.

This kind of government sector led growth is obviously not sustainable in the long run since it is growth in the private sector that will contribute to economic growth and increased tax revenues.

In other words, our country’s public finance outlook has worsened over the past 1 1/2 years without any noticeable improvement in the economic growth outlook of our country, the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) not withstanding.

One cannot help but wonder if Senator Jala has spent too much time with Prime Minister Najib and in doing so, has caught the U-Turn bug.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Similar Scandals, Different Treatment

By M. Bakri Musa

To assert that the Malaysian mass media is nothing more than propaganda arm of the ruling Barisan coalition is no revelation. The personnel in the mainstream dailies, the national news agency Bernama, and the government broadcasting channel RTM are less journalists and editors, more political hacks and spinmeisters. They are, to borrow National Laureate Samad Ismail’s word, the carma (contraction for cari makan, seeking a livelihood) variety.

Less appreciated is the fact that they are hired hands not of the Barisan government but of whatever faction in it that is currently dominant, or trying to be so. Thus one can surmise the tensions and the dynamics of the current swing of the political pendulum within Barisan, specifically UMNO, from perusing the headlines. Perusing is exactly the right word, for there is nothing much worth reading in those dailies.

Consider the contrasting treatment in the mainstream media of the two currently unfolding financial scandals. The first is the National Feedlot Corporation mess (“cow-gate”) that is now ensnaring the husband and family of Women’s Minister Shahrizat Jalil; it had also led to her resignation from her cabinet post. The other is the nearly half-a-million ringgit engagement party for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s daughter and an equally expensive birthday bash for himself that he allegedly tried to on to Treasury, and thus the taxpayers.

Both scandals were first exposed in the Internet through the diligent investigations of Rafizi Ramli, the chief strategist for Pakatan Rakyat. With the first scandal, the mainstream media were quick to pick up on and embellish the story; on the second, there was no mention at all. One can safely conclude that the respective primary players in both scandals, Shahrizat with the first and Najib for the second, are from different factions within UMNO. No marks for guessing which side is on the ascendance.

Rafizi is no rabble rouser throwing off wild accusations here and there. His first exposé of the “cow-gate” was initially dismissed by no less than the chief of police; today the principal player, Shahrizat’s husband, is charged with criminal breach of trust and she was caught in the ensuing wake.

With Rafizi’s track record, you would think that those investigative journalists in the mainstream media would be eager to pursue his leads. At the very least their curiosity should have been piqued. Thus for them to completely ignore the story of the alleged publicly-paid engagement and birthday parties meant that they are journalists only in name, and that they are told what to do.

In terms of monetary value, Najib’s birthday bash and his daughter’s engagement party, both totaling at about “just” half a million ringgit, are but a small change compared to the cow-gate’s RM250 million price tag; cow-gate in turn pales in comparison to the multibillion billion ringgit Port Kang Free Zone Development debacle or the “commission” paid on acquiring the second-hand French submarines that would not submerge.

While the price tag may vary, the underlying mindset of contempt for taxpayers’ money remains. To these leaders the concept of integrity or the diligent exercise of fiduciary responsibility is foreign. At best they are but slogans uttered during election campaigns and then conveniently ignored.

To be sure, this is not a weakness unique only unto Malaysian politicians. In some countries these wayward politicians are caught and brought to justice; in others, well, they continue on business as well, their greed feeding on itself. There is no limit to their avarice. Their “success” would then be celebrated, and they would then become the new role models. Unfortunately that is where Malaysia is today.

What struck me most about this latest scandal, the one involving Najib’s birthday party in particular, was the utter lack of class. Najib has made more than a few UMNOPutras rich through his giving away many lucrative contracts. Surely at least one of them would be generous or grateful enough to host the party for him.

Alas that is the problem with greed; there is literally no boundary to it. Najib’s many rich friends are still expecting to sponge off him! Likewise with Shahrizat’s husband; if he had spread the bounty around just a wee bit as, for example, to include the head of Utusan, Bernama or The New Straits Times to be on the board of directors of his Feedlot Corporation, Rafizi’s accusation would never have gone beyond cyberspace.

Greedy and unscrupulous politicians alone would and could not do in Malaysia. It would take more. There would have to be a general failure of our institutions to allow such abuses and corruption to go on and be tolerated. Toleration soon degenerates into encouragement, and a new cultural norm is established.

This is what happens when the institutions of our society have been let to deteriorate. They are no longer able to function as effective defenders of citizens’ interests. We expect members of the fourth estate to be aware of their awesome responsibility to keep citizens informed. We expect these journalists to be on the vanguard of this sacred task. Alas they too have been taken in; they have prostituted themselves to those in power.

There is an honorable place in this world for cheerleaders, spinmeisters, or even court jesters and others who see themselves doing the bidding of those who hired them, but reporters and journalists they are not. If those in the mainstream media feel that they have to cari makan, then I suggest that they join the advertising and pubic relations industry. If they are talented enough in that endeavor there will get plenty of rewards. They do not need to soil and degrade the hallowed traditions and functions of the fourth estate.

This degradation of our mainstream media is of course not a recent phenomenon, nor is it a subtle. RTM has only a few hundred followers on its Twitter. As for The New Straits Times, if not for its highly subsidized distributions and subscriptions, its circulation would down in the dumps. And if not for the government-paid announcements and advertisements and paid press releases of government-linked corporations, so too would be the paper’s revenue.

Just as the shifts in fortune among the politically powerful are reflected in the coverage of the mainstream media, so too is the dysfunctional leadership among them. We saw this played out during the early days of barely-under-the-surface rivalry between Mahathir and his then deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. Their supporters take their cue from how their patrons were covered in the mainstream media. The New Straits Times rivaled Pravda in this regard. This was repeated when Abdullah Badawi took over; then it was Mahathir’s turn to be at the receiving end.

There is no honor among UMNO leaders. Theirs is a world of hyenas; a world of winner takes all, right to last bit of morsel of their prey. Mahathir did it to Tengku Razaleigh when the latter lost a closely contested leadership contest back in the 1980s. Mahathir did it again later, this time at a more vicious level, with Anwar Ibrahim. Then Abdullah Badawi tried to do it to Mahathir, and learned to regret it.

You would expect the women of UMNO to show some gentleness. Yet there was Shahrizat and Rafidah still at it with their cat fight, now more openly and much uglier.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the present pathetic state in Malaysia. Our callous acceptance of wrong doing among our leaders did not develop overnight. We have been taught, and taught well, to accept these misdeeds as anything but that, aided by those cheerleaders and spinmeisters in the mainstream media. —

Penang shining, thanks to Guan Eng

Free Malaysia Today

Penang CM Lim Guan Eng gets a good mark for his manner of governing the state.

By Dan Martin

GEORGETOWN: Former political detainee Lim Guan Eng wasted no time leaving his mark on Penang after the brash opposition politician won power in the Malaysian state in 2008 general election.

He quickly balanced the books of the former British colonial outpost, which were stained red after a half-century under the control of Malaysia’s authoritarian ruling coalition.

He has virtually eliminated its debt, launched a campaign to halt official corruption, and has, by most accounts, injected new vigour and efficiency into the government of the important economic hub.

Today, Penang — a colorful mix of colonial architecture, pre-war Chinese shophouses, tropical beaches and high-tech factories — is on the up, as property values soar and foreign investment rolls in.

With potentially pivotal new elections expected to be called within months, Lim — a 51-year-old ethnic Chinese former banker with slicked-back hair and a wide chin — says the implications of his record are clear.

“If you can show that you can govern well, it will be a model, a showcase… a precursor of governing the federal government,” he said, pointing to the possibility of the opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim taking power.

Malaysia’s long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition faces voter unease over allegations of misgovernance, corruption, and racial tension, the latter often blamed on policies that promote majority Malays over minority Chinese and Indians.

But the BN insists the Anwar-led opposition can do no better.

Lim’s success in Penang has called that claim into question, however, and his outspokenness mark him as the country’s most potent symbol of minority impatience.

Lim earned a one-year jail term in 1998 for sedition after he criticised the dropping of rape charges against a Malay top ruling party politician and he launches regular broadsides against the BN over its frequent financial and other scandals.

His detractors call him a domineering self-promoter who is benefiting from UNESCO’s 2008 listing of Penang’s capital Georgetown as a World Heritage Site, a bid launched before he took over.

But even opponents acknowledge he gets results.

Bureaucracy more efficient under Lim

“He is very clever, very authoritarian,” said Teng Hock Nan, Penang’s top official for Gerakan, the ruling coalition partner ousted by Lim’s DAP in 2008. “When he gives a directive, it gets done.”

One of Britain’s oldest Asian settlements, Penang was a cosmopolitan trading hub in its 19th-century heyday before going into what Lim calls a “graceful decline”.

Today, run-down Georgetown shophouses — the distinctive rows of buildings seen in parts of Southeast Asia — are being transformed into trendy hotels, cafes and art galleries injecting new life into old neighbourhoods.

A federally-backed grant programme provides seed money for such renovations.

Many credit Lim’s attempts to clean up the rampant backroom deals and political patronage that are typical of Malaysia, whose rating by Transparency International on corruption in recent years has steadily sunk.

Lim launched an unprecedented system of open tenders for state projects and his top officials this year took the unheard-of step of declaring their assets.

Business figures privately say once-routine demands for payoffs are now rare and the bureaucracy more efficient.

“What is sad about Malaysia is that things that are the international norm (clean government) are abnormal,” Lim said.

Foreign investors have signalled their approval. Home to much of Malaysia’s high-tech industry, Penang led the nation in luring manufacturing investment the past two years.

Lim’s moves have been “very substantive in managing finances, cleaning up the government, and initiating green policies”, said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia politics analyst with Singapore Management University.

“I’ve gone there for years and can tell you there is a big difference.”

Australian investors Karl Steinberg and Christopher Ong, who is Penang-born, have restored an Edwardian bungalow and other decaying heritage properties into boutique hotels, lured by the new energy and official “cleanliness”.

“There are places where corruption can make it hard to get things done. Penang is relatively free of that,” Steinberg said.

But Lim’s directness rubs many raw and he faces criticism for overly fast growth as soaring property prices have worsened a low-cost housing shortage. Plans for huge infrastructure projects have fuelled the concerns.

Gerakan accuses him of stoking racial tensions, and national leaders including premier Najib Tun Razak have warned vaguely of threats to Malay dominance, widely seen as referring to ambitious non-Malays like Lim.

Strong grip of Penang

But Francis Loh, head of independent Penang-based democratic rights group Aliran, says Lim’s government has been racially inclusive.

“They represent the opening up of government in Malaysia,” he said.

Leading Malaysia pollster Ibrahim Suffian said Lim looks so secure that the ruling coalition likely views Penang as a “lost cause” in the next polls.

Nationally, the picture is less clear.

Lim doubles as national head of the Chinese-dominated DAP, one of three members of the opposition front, including Anwar’s multi-racial party and an Islamic party.

The alliance won historic gains over the BN in 2008 but remains fractious and its performance is mixed in three other states — Malaysia has 13 — it won four years ago.

But Lim remains hopeful. He relaxes by reading British historian Niall Ferguson’s works on the failures of past national governments through history, in case the opposition wins control.

“If we win… I need to know what are the pitfalls,” he said.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coming clean on election processes

By Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan | The Malay Mail

THE Election Commission (EC) in Malaysia is constituted under Article 114 of the Federal Constitution. Commissioners are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after consultation with the Conference of Rulers.

In appointing them, the Constitution provides that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong “shall have regard to the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence ...” Commissioners cannot be removed from office except on “like grounds and in the like manner as a judge of the Federal Court”.

It goes without saying that the EC is duty bound to act in the interests of the rakyat. They are obliged to act impartially and fairly, such that they enjoy public confidence. And they have all the powers and protection that they need to be fearless and fiercely independent.

Sadly, the reality is otherwise.

This is in part due to the fact that in previous years, the results of our elections were predictable. One party always won with a strong majority.

Although, we have generally had a respectable voter turn-out, the public were resigned to the outcome of our elections and there was an acceptance that the EC ran the elections in accordance with the wishes of the government of the day.

Not until 2008 did the EC come under serious scrutiny by the public. Not until 2008 did the EC face the challenge of having to justify its actions, and prove its independence. Not until 2008 did the public really wake up to the reality that the EC played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of an election.

The often used argument that our elections must be fair because the Opposition had won so many seats in 2008 is flawed. It is not a question of how many seats were won and by whom. It is about whether the electoral system is fair. And if it is fair, it matters not who wins the seats. It only matters that the will of the people is reflected in the results.

It is precisely because our electoral process has not provided an even level playing field for all candidates, that Bersih 2.0 put forward eight demands that are the minimum that must be met before the 13th general election.

Prior to the rally of July 9, 2011, the EC went on a massive campaign to convince the public that none of the demands of Bersih were justified. Not only that, the EC representatives displayed their partisanship when they entered the Barisan Nasional vs Pakatan fray making no excuses for where their loyalties clearly lay.

Nevertheless and to its credit, after Bersih 2.0, the government set up the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to look into electoral reform. This was a momentous move. One that was progressive and one that met the cries of the people for change.

In fact it is a move that is capable of going down in history as a turning point in Malaysia — but if and only if all the electoral reforms are implemented prior to the 13th general election.

Furthermore, if the PSC recommendations and genuine electoral reform are ignored, it would be an insult to the rakyat and to the PSC.

The government must allow the PSC to finish its work, present a report and implement meaningful electoral reform before the 13th general election. Anything less will leave the rakyat feeling shortchanged.

Yet, whilst I am prepared to assume the good faith of the government to implement genuine reform after the PSC report, the information that is received as to what is happening on the ground gives cause for concern. The reports of unusual movements of voters across constituency boundaries, the inexplicable increase in additions to the electoral roll in certain areas and the registering of foreigners are alarming.

The EC seems to react to rectify errors on the roll only when it is pointed out to them.

Then there is the worrying trend of political violence that appears to be on the increase and seems to have the tacit support of the ruling party.

The open use of public funds to win the affections of the people continues unabated.

So how can we be sure the government is sincere about electoral reform? This is where the EC comes in. If the EC would only do the job it is entrusted to do, electoral reform can indeed be a reality.

Bersih 2.0 has always maintained that the eight demands made by them can be implemented even before the PSC issues its report. Like the implementation of the indelible ink which was a welcome move.

What about overseas votes, postal votes, absentee voters which should include all overseas voters, cleaning up of the electoral roll, a 21-day minimum campaign period and a free and fair media? All of these can be implemented immediately.

What is holding the EC back? Why are they reluctant to allow International Observers when this is a good way to prove our elections are indeed fair?

As to election offences why can’t the EC just see to the implementation of the Election Offences Act? Enforcement teams set up under the Act must ensure that “written laws relating to elections are being complied with” (S27E(a)). Under s4(5) of the Elections Act 1958, an enforcement officer appointed shall have all the powers of and perform all duties given to him for the enforcement of laws relating to elections.

The EC complains they have no powers to prosecute electoral offences. That is true. But they have a raft of legislation to help them ensure compliance and they are fully protected under the Federal Constitution.

Even if they cannot prosecute, they owe it to the rakyat to monitor and lodge police reports if offences are committed. Otherwise why have the legislation at all? Electoral offences include bribery and treating which goes on openly and blatantly with no-one being called to account for it.

Until and unless the EC shows they mean business, electoral offences will continue to occur. If they continue to occur unchecked, it can only mean the EC is allowing it to happen.

The EC in India has issued a Code of Conduct that is interesting. Amongst other things, it makes clear that the party in power cannot use its position for electioneering. For example, ministers are not allowed to use the government machinery and amenities to promote their party. The government is not allowed to promise money for votes or to promote themselves for the purposes of elections using public funds. There are many other salutary provisions in the Indian Code of Conduct.

The EC in Malaysia ought to consider implementing such a Code of Conduct. I dare say that there are many on both sides of the political divide who have enough confidence in their own abilities to accept such a move.

The EC has much to answer for.

One other issue is the 2003 re-delineation exercise which is heavily skewed in favour of the government. Less than 20 per cent of the popular vote is required for the ruling party to obtain a simple majority.

The malapportionment is so stark that, for example, one third of Selangor state constituencies have more constituents than the state’s smallest parliamentary seat, Sabak Bernam.

Another example is that nine parliamentary constituencies and 13 state constituencies in Selangor span two or three local authorities.

This not only violates the guidelines under the Federal Constitution for redelineation but violates the trust of the people.

The EC was clearly complicit in this act of re-drawing constituency boundaries to favour the ruling party. These amendments went through Parliament unnoticed by the unsuspecting public. But it is the EC that must search its conscience on the propriety of its actions.

As it stands, the EC have not inspired confidence in its general attitude that they are only “election managers” and nothing more.

Under Article 113, the EC shall conduct elections to the House of Representatives and Legislative Assemblies and this includes the onerous task of constituency re-delineation. It does not say that they are to only “manage” the elections. Conducting elections requires much more, which explains the important status the EC is accorded under the Federal Constitution.

Often the EC’s response has been that it makes recommendations for reform but the government may not implement them. The answer then is for the EC to make the recommendations for reform public and the rakyat will surely support it if the recommendations are sound.

In an election that may prove to be contentious the EC must all the more demonstrate impartiality. Each and every member of the EC must consider their duty to the rakyat carefully.

I appeal to them individually. Serve the rakyat please. If you cannot, or if you do not like the way the EC is conducting itself but are unable to do anything about it, then come clean and do the honourable thing. If you do, you will at least earn the respect of the people for standing up for them.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan is Bersih 2.0 chairman and former Bar Council president

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The PM’s excessive contradictions: A disjunction between words and deeds

By Nurul Izzah Anwar | TMI

Some say contradictions are the result of an unsure, insecure or merely a confused mind.

But some say contradictions are a tactic to deflect and distract attention from real issues.

Other times, they are simply the product of a conniving mind.

Does Malaysia today have a confused or conniving prime minister? Or could it be that he is merely under the thrall of a conniving group of PR consultants? It is hard to tell in light of the many flip-flops and sudden policy reversals of the current administration.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia concept was sadly strangled in its infancy thanks to the “Malay first” statements of his own deputy, as well as the continuous sanctioning and sponsoring of the Perkasa extremist group.

In the economic sphere, his colourful ETP has now been exposed as yet another cover for crony capitalism when the latest KIDEX was “awarded” just one week after the project tender was called. The fact that it appears that the main beneficiaries of the KIDEX are linked to the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis makes it looks more like a political reward that the people of Malaysia will have to bear. If we were to add on the MAS out-of-court and opaque settlement along with the billions already lost and the more billions waiting to be lost — it seems to indicate that plundering and not development is the main motive of the powers-that-be.

The other plank in the current administration’s platform, the GTP, will be tested when the new remuneration scheme for civil servants (skim Saraan Baru Perkhidmatan Awam, or SBPA) will be announced, but this has already been criticised in civil society as a flawed scheme that serves as a way to reward the top 4,000 civil servants with a huge pay increase while leaving the other 99.7 per cent to share the remaining crumbs.

In addition, several supposedly “pro-rakyat” schemes have likewise been exposed as mere camouflages for economic plundering such as the proposed FELDA listing, which is tantamount to legalising the acquisition of a profit-making plantation arm by a loss-making entity. Such is the fate faced by Malaysia’s one unique and successful institution of poverty eradication.

And now it has been disclosed that the supposedly “done deal” of using EPF funds to finance a public housing ownership scheme is currently in a state of limbo. But it was always a poorly thought-out idea, not least because of the ludicrous 6.5 per cent interest charged on poor Malaysians dreaming of owning a unit, whilst the going rate for those close to the ruling clique appears to be only between 2 per cent (as the NFC case has proven) to 4 per cent (see Kumpulan Europlus Sdn Bhd’s Westcoast Highway deal). Are these not sufficient examples of a contradictory, confusing and conniving leadership?

The much touted independence of the judiciary that Barisan Nasional leaders have been touting since the 9 January 2012 judgment has been found to be an unfortunately short-lived comic relief when an unwarranted appeal of the accquital was submitted along with the trend of overturning other appeals such as in the Karpal Singh sedition trial, the ISA-15 trial and Bersih 1 trial. This is in contrast to the lack of action over the RCI on the VK Lingam judiciary tampering case, inaction on the RCI recommendations to set up an IPCMC, as well as the prosecution’s failure to appeal the acquittal in the Altantuya case.

The cruellest joke of all however has to be the so-called “Malaysia Day reforms”, including the promise to repeal the ISA, revoke the Emergency Ordinance, as well as amend the UUCA, PPPA and enact electoral reforms. The Najib government has failed miserably or only worked half-heartedly in all of these counts, betraying their real desire to simply perpetuate the status quo.

Furthermore, all hope for holistic electoral reforms is dashed as the chairman of the parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms reneges on the approved interim PSC report pledge to implement all recommendations before the 13th GE. Isn’t going against the promise made by the highest legislative body in our land a conniving act?

Malaysians need and deserve better than the last three years of mendacity, duplicity and disingenuousness than the current government’s lack of ideas and commitment to reform have wrought.

So prime minister, before we accept, can you throw in the beef?

Nurul Izzah Anwar is the MP for Lembah Pantai and vice-president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Courted today, cheated tomorrow

Sakmongkol AK47

The second episode of “Lord Of The Rings” may come on (if Rais allows after reading this).

Watch the flip-flopping schizoid creature Gollum in action. One minute sweet-talking, next minute venomous and scheming. Gollum (aka Preciousss) only wants the Ring. Because the Ring confers power to protect the Evil One.
As Umno president, Najib has been flip-flopping from day one. His party has no winnable candidates.

That will explain all the forthcoming cheating at the polls of GE13. It will also explain all past moves and present manoeuvrings. If a party has to monopolise the mainstream media to obfuscate the rakyat and make use of a psych-op warfare unit to try and turn voters, you already know it is finished.

The Ring is to make sure Umno is returned to power so that we can get more cheap meat for the next five years?

Or for Felda settlers to sign off their fields, hearing sweet promises that those fields will never be taken away? After all, how can one move a fixed place? But never tell them that the ownership of the fixed place will change hands — for once in the market, who will own what will always be fleeting. That’s what markets are supposed to do.

Last but not least. Voters must stay focused from now on. Remember only one thing. Everything dispensed to you is but a small fraction of the bigger amount skimmed off for a few.

Shahrizat and Toyo are small fry useful as doorstops, respectively to lead Umno Wanita and Umno Selangor. The big ones are elsewhere. So too the bigger sums of the rakyats’ money siphoned off. It’s all about corruption of rakyat money using federal organisations by a combination of proxy process and coerced suppress.

If Umno tells you the Opposition only makes empty promises, hold Umno to it. Tell Umno to distribute more federal funds to Pakatan-run states so that the voters can see if those state governments will be doing any less than Umno-held state governments for the rakyat. Then come talk.

In fact, the Umno general members should vote for the Opposition wherever they be so that Umno can be put to sit in the opposition bench for one term in order to finalise the list of mistakes it should be apologising for.
With what it has been showing all this while, it is only pretending to be sincere, or worse, it doesn’t seem to know.

How else can one explain why the MOE is asking for feedback from the rakyat after half a century spending gruesome amounts of their money to create an education system only best for attracting toxic waste foreign investments and producing BTN-zombies who having been given British-best seats over others more deserving are now only good at badmouthing non-Malays behind their backs?

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We listen to the rakyat, REALLY?

Things are getting from bad to worst daily and I find difficulty to really express my thoughts lately. A few drafts on the table but incomplete. Will try to make adjustment to my mental disorientation and be back to blogging soonest possible.

In the meantime, we have been hearing the cool PM and his Ministries telling us they are listening to the rakyat and are transparent in all government dealings, ARE they?

Nobody knows what or how they are going to improve our education system.

They rush through and passed The Peaceful Assembly Act 2011

How much do you know about the 1Care national health scheme

There are many policies and acts on the way which we do not have details or knowledge off until at the very last stage.

They have been rolling out cash in the billions while the federal coffer is in deficit and are telling us, 'we have the money' but won't divulge where or how these billions came from, Borrowed?

Plus the act of provocations, gangsterism and hooliganism are on the rise and yet the leaders and PDRM are not doing anything about it.

Thousands have turned up in Kuantan and many thousands others at various cities across the nation in protest against Lynas plant but the government still insist that the plant is safe.

I leave you with this latest Namewee video to ponder on:


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