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Sunday, September 30, 2012

BATTLE OF THE TITANS: All set for GE13 after Najib's 'last bullet' Budget flops

By Kim Quek | Malaysia Chronicle

Barisan Nasional’s election-orientated budget 2013 is disappointing because it concentrates on raining one-off cash on the electorate to ease their pain, while forgetting to address the ills that necessitate such profuse dosage of pain-relievers in the first place.

If the people are affluent and contented, do they need to be showered with such pacifiers; or alternatively, would the feeding of such sweeteners sway their decision on whom they are going to vote for?

Obviously there are vast masses of disgruntled electorate who are not happy with the current living conditions.

They are unhappy because they find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet; and they are also worried about the worsening safety of their environment.

The common people are simply overwhelmed by a cost of living that forever is speeding far ahead of their slow moving income increment.

Needless to say, our economy is in trouble.

What’s wrong with our economy?


Malaysia is plagued by economic malaise, which in turn is caused by a draught of private investment – Malaysia’s peculiar economic disease that first surfaced in the Asian financial crisis in the late nineties. Since that watershed event, its private investment as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), as repeatedly reminded by the World Bank, has been staying at the doldrums, hovering around 10%, which is among the lowest in the region. Investors, both foreign and domestic, have fled the country, as exemplified by Malaysia having a net FDI (foreign direct investment) outflow for many years, a unique dubious distinction among developing countries. Such apparent loss of economic competitiveness is described by economists as the middle income trap, from which Malaysia does not seem to be able to extricate itself from.

A main culprit of this predicament is of course the notorious and obsolete NEP (New Economic Policy) – an affirmative action policy that has been morphed into a monstrosity of racism and corruption, which has been conveniently used by the ruling elite to corruptly amass personal fortunes at the expense of the people and the country. Spinning from that central policy is the phenomenon of GLC (government linked corporation), an ever sprawling network of state-controlled enterprises that has grown to dominate the nation’s economy. GLC, with its overbearing and negative influence over the economy, is of course also a retarder to the spontaneous flowering of entrepreneurship in the country, as it practices the philosophy of the NEP.

Compounding the economic misery of Malaysia is the hegemony of Umno – the ruling power that has wielded almost unlimited political power, perpetuated through its racial-divide-and-rule policy. As the famous saying goes “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, Umno has become openly corrupted with impunity.


And the toxic cocktail of Umno’s corrupt hegemony, NEP and GLC has played havoc to the Malaysian economy.

Skeptics of my view may ask: if Umno’s economic management of the country has been so bad, why is it that Malaysia’s economy is still standing strong? My simple answer is: if it has not been for Petronas and the associated petroleum income, which contributes almost half of the government’s operating expenses, this country would have gone bust ages ago.

In fact, the country’s economy has been so badly run by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who seems to be perpetually operating in an electioneering mode, and squandering public funds to curry favours from the electorate incessantly without commensurate economic returns that public debts have escalated exponentially, climbing a whopping 71% from RM266 billion in 2007 to RM456 billion in 2011. This debt figure, which is close to the statutory limit of 55% of GDP, does not include hidden liability of RM117 billion (12% of GDP) in the form of guarantees issued against commercial loans to government agencies and GLCs.

While all this frightening debt-incurring is going on, there is no sign that the economy has started to stir from its slumber.

Against this darkening economic backdrop, what tiding has the Prime Minister brought with his budget 2013 proposal to deal with the underlying causes of our economic ills? Nothing. To be frank, he looks more like Santa Claus bringing a bagful of Christmas gifts, which will of course bring momentary joy. But the awful truth is that we are sick, and what we need is medical treatment that will restore health, not gifts that will cheers us just for a while.


In this connection, the Pakatan Rakyat shadow budget is immensely superior, in that it boldly introduces measures to tackle the root causes, in addition to bringing welfare relief for the needy.

It proposes to replace the NEP with an affirmative policy that is need based.

Corollary to that, Pakatan will dismantle the unwieldy economic creatures that have blossomed under BN’s crony-capitalism, namely the current monopolies, oligopolies and cartels that have enjoyed the regime’s favours and protection; and Pakatan will free the economy to open and fair competition.

To enforce that policy, Pakatan will set up an Anti-Trust Commission to punish offenders and break up recalcitrant outfits.

It will also review numerous lopsided concessions improperly awarded to cronies by the current regime at the expense of public interests. This will be done through the establishment of a Public Contracts Commission under the proposed enactment of Unfair Public Contracts Act.

At the moment, Malaysia’s economy is heavily distorted by GLCs, monopolies, oligopolies, cartels and concessionaires, whose tentacles have stretched far and wide to affect almost every aspect of a citizen’s livelihood. As these bodies normally enjoy undue advantages and special privileges from the ruling power, they don’t operate on optimum efficiency while enjoying undeserved profits; and naturally consumers and national economy have become their victims.

The removal of these parasitic elements and privileged groups in our economy will at once lower the price of goods and services, while it will also open up a competitive field where pent-up entrepreneur energy inherent in our people will be released.

Pakatan also proposes to re-instate open and competitive tenders for public procurement in replacement of BN’s long-established murky award of contracts, which has been the mother of all corruption. Billions after billions have been leaked through such corrupt practices that have prevailed not only among the ruling political elite, but also in every strata and segment of Malaysia’s public services and GLCs.

By plugging such leakages through open tenders, tens of billions of ringgit of public funds so saved would be sufficient to finance most of the welfare services proposed by Pakatan to help the needy.


Indeed, these simultaneous measures will see the transformation of Malaysia’s economic landscape.

The elimination of corruption and cronyism, with the corollary induction of accountability and transparency, coupled with the opening up of the economy for fair competition will surely restore investors’ confidence and re-hoist the Malaysian flag in the radar screens of international investors.

Many Malaysians may still remember the boom days of the nineties up to the Asian financial crisis. Those good days were brought about by robust influx of FDI and local investment. During those days, private investment to GDP ratios were fluctuating close to 30%, reaching a peak of 37% , which was the highest in the region then, according to the inaugural issue of ‘Malaysian Economic Monitor’ released by the World Bank .

The same scenario can return if we have a competent political leadership to make sweeping changes in tune with current time to replace defunct policies. Prosperity is certainly not beyond our reach because Malaysia has the good fortune of having abundance of natural endowment and human resources, the latter of course still have to be upgraded through a more enlightened educational policy.

We must realize that it is only through sustained economic prosperity – brought about by genuine entrepreneurship and high productivity – that our people will find true relief to their current economic hardship. As such heightened economic activities will boost citizens’s income , in addition to topping the public coffers.

And for that to happen, the people must first install a good political leadership to whelm the country.

Kim Quek is the author of banned book 'The March to Putrajaya'

The Budget 2013 - Lim Guan Eng

Lim Guan Eng | TMI

Even though many goodies where announced during yesterday’s Budget 2013 speech by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, this budget has failed the Malaysian people by not addressing three crucial areas which are necessary to guarantee the long term well-being of our country and its people — namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases.

Firstly, even though the budget deficit is projected to come down from 4.5 per cent in 2012 to a ‘mere’ 4.0 per cent in 2013, this figure masks the poor track record of the BN government in sticking to its spending plans.

For example, total expenditure for Budget 2012 was announced at RM232.8 billion in last’s year’s budget speech. But in this year’s Economic Report 2012 / 2013, total expenditure for 2012 is projected to total up to RM252.4b.

This is almost RM20b more than the projected expenditure announced last year. We were fortunate that projected revenue is expected to be RM207 billion for 2012, RM20 billion more than the RM186.9 bilion projected revenue announced last year. Without this tax ‘windfall’, our budget deficit would have ballooned up to 6.7 per cent of GDP rather than the projected 4.5 per cent for 2012.

But we cannot expect that actual revenue will continue to exceed projected revenue especially given the slowing global economy. Furthermore revenue from oil related tax revenue is likely to decrease given the change in the dividend policy of Petronas as well as political uncertainty in Southern Sudan which could decrease Petronas’s bottom line by as much as US1 billion.

While we do not object to giving financial assistance to the truly deserving, there is nothing to indicate that the government has stopped leakages in the BR1M program which went to people like an MCA Datuk in Pahang.

The initial RM1.8 billion that was allocated to BR1M for 3.4m households in the 2012 budget ballooned to over RM2 billion for over 4 million households. A country whose GDP is projected to expand by 5 per cent in 2012 should see fewer households earning less than 3000RM. And yet, BR1M recipients are projected to increase to 4.3 million households with another 2.7m individuals earning less than 2000RM joining them.

Without proper checks and balances, the RM3b that has been allocated to BR1M 2.0 for Budget 2013 can easily increase to more than RM4b, if not more. The same lack of fiscal prudence could be seen in the expenditure on subsidies.

An allocation of RM32.8 billion was given for subsidies in Budget 2012 but the actual expenditure on subsidies is projected to be at RM42.4 billion, an increase of RM9.6 billion or 29.3 per cent over the original budget! If the same kind of trajectory is followed, the RM37.6 billion which is allocated for subsidies in Budget 2013 could easily increase to almost RM50 billion!

Given the BN’s poor record for fiscal prudence and especially if elections are held next year, it is likely that BN will break the bank to funnel out as much taxpayer’s money as possible in a blatant attempt to buy votes by giving handouts irresponsibly. I would not be surprised if our total expenditure will be RM30 billion over budget and our budget deficit for 2013 would end up well in excess of 5.0 per cent!

Secondly, this budget provides incentives and handouts which favours certain projects and parties rather than providing the basis for longer term sustainable economic growth that will benefit all.

In fact, many of these incentives will skew the system against hardworking Malaysian entrepreneurs who are not in the position to receive and benefit from these incentives.

For example, Budget 2013 continues to give preferred incentives and tax treatments for companies who want to locate to and developers who want to build in the Tun Razak Exchange formerly known as the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) including tax exemptions for property developers, income tax exemption for 10 years for TRX-status companies, stamp duty exemptions, industrial building allowance and accelerated capital allowances for TRX Marquee-status companies.

The aggressive promotion of TRX not only increases the problem of a property glut in commercial office space in Kuala Lumpur, it also unfairly disadvantages developers who own and are in the process of developing commercial property which TRX is directly competing against.

These developers would lose out if existing or future tenants decide to relocate to TRX and at the same time, the taxpayer would also lose out since these companies would be given income tax exemption for 10 years.

As part of this initiative, 1MDB will be allocated an additional RM400m from the Prime Minister’s Department in Budget 2013, an unnecessary expenditure for what is essentially a property development project.

Similarly, under the guise of lowering prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, the government is introducing 57 Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia or KR1M stores at the cost of RM386 million. Just like in Peninsular Malaysia, the ones who will be hurt by this move are the owners of the kedai runcit stores who cannot compete against the government subsidized KR1M stores.

It would make more sense for the government to abolish the cabotage policy and to improve the transportation network in Sabah and Sarawak to reduce prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, which is what Pakatan is proposing, rather than to subsidize KR1M stores that are run by one private company which would drive out many existing kedai runcit owners out of business.

These kinds of initiatives contradict PM Najib’s statement that the era of ‘government knows best is over’. Indeed, according to the Economic Report 2012 / 2013, the public sector is expected to expand by 13.3 per cent in 2012 to account for 25.2 per cent of GDP (up from 23.3 per cent in 2011), meaning that the government will play a larger role in the economy, rather than to reduce its footprint and to allow the private sector to thrive and drive the economy forward.

By promoting and undertaking these initiatives, Najib is contradicting one of the major thrust of the New Economic Model (NEM) and also the impetus behind the Economic Transformation Program (ETP). Thirdly, this budget fails to bring to the table long term solutions for the problem of rising cost of living, especially in the urban areas.

Crime is one of the main drivers of cost of living increases. Businesses which have to spend more on security pass the costs to consumers. Residents who have to pay for private security have less disposable income.

Sadly, the measures which are in Budget 2013 to reduce crime leave much to be desired. There are no recommendations to re-organize the police force by re-allocating Special Branch officers, which have twice as many investigating officers / detectives as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), or by re-allocating some of the 14,000 General Operations Force (GOF) police personnel, an organizational legacy from the Communist fighting days, to the CID and the frontlines of fighting crime.

Instead, what was provided was the allocation of RM20m to buy 1000 motorcycles at a cost of RM20,000 per motorcycle to set up a Motorcycle Patrolling Unit. In addition, there were hardly any efforts proposed to involve the state and local authorities to fight crime.

All that was mentioned as the allocation to buy 496 units of CCTVs for 25 local authorities to prevent street crimes in urban areas. This works out to 20 units of CCTVs for every local authority which is not even sufficient to cover one neighbourhood, much less the area in one state authority.

Similarly, the ambitious program to build more than 100,000 affordable and low cost houses will come to naught if these housing projects are not integrated with public transportation. The MRT project and the LRT extension cannot possibly cover all the areas which have or will have low cost and affordable homes, assuming that they even get built.

Allowing the state and local authorities to provide bus services would be one possible solution to this problem. But instead of this, the federal government is expanding the federally owned RAPID bus services to other places, this time to Kuantan.

With car prices still at very unaffordable levels, especially for the lower middle income groups, the issue of affordable and low cost housing cannot be seen in isolation from the issue of public transportation.

Unfortunately, PM Najib does not seem to have realized this as seen by his Budget 2013. Pakatan Rakyat’s budget, on the other hand, exercises much more fiscal prudence. Not only is our projected deficit lower at 3.5 per cent of GDP or approximately RM37 billion, our revenue and expenditure projections are also much more conservative, at RM197 billion and RM234 billion respectively.

A more conservative budget would give us more room to maneuver if Pakatan does take over power at the federal level and puts its budget in place. PR’s budget is also more economically sustainable in that we do not attempt to favor one sector or project over another. Instead we will set out to abolish monopolies, abolish unfair practices and increase competition in all sectors of the economy.

Our budget also gives more focus on long term solutions to address cost of living issues including a proper redeployment and reallocation of police personnel to fight crime, more involvement of local authorities to reduce crime and provide public transportation alternatives, reduce and abolish toll rates to put money back into the pockets of the people and to find new ways of providing affordable public housing.

The choice for Malaysians is very clear. Najib’s 2013 budget is full of one shot goodies and handouts which do not adequately address the long term concerns of the country namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases.

Pakatan, through its Alternative Budget, and through the state governments in Penang and Selangor, have shown that it can govern with fiscal responsibility in mind, with sustainable policies which encourage fair competition and with measures that puts money in the pockets of the people in the long term. Let the people of Malaysia choose wisely.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

2013 Budget hides a very unconfident Najib who is haunted and hounded by the phobia that his fourth budget speech may be the last Umno/BN budget in Parliament

By Lim Kit Siang

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s barefaced denial yesterday that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 2013 Budget was an “election budget” illustrated what is wrong with the UMNO/Barisan Nasional government after 55 years in power – that the Umno/BN government leaders suffer from the dual terminal ailments of denial complex and unprecedented credibility gap.

Even UMNO/Barisan Nasional Ministers, MPs and members would not believe Muhyiddin’s brazen denial that Najib’s 2013 Budget was not an “election budget”.

Why then is the Deputy Prime Minister making a denial that is completely bereft of credibility, whether in Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional camps?

The only answer is that UMNO/BN leaders continue to suffer from the false sense that they could transform Malaysian politics into a world of make-believe and get ordinary Malaysians to believe what the UMNO/BN leaders decreed, although totally divorced from the world of reality.

It is because of this misguided and misplaced complex that caused UMNO/BN leaders to continue to deny that the growing fear of crime among Malaysians as well as rampant corruption in the country are major problems in the country, falling back on discredited GTP and NKRA statistics and claims of falling crime index and progress in the war against corruption.

But this is false sense of make-believe and denial is not sustainable in the real world, especially in the era of Internet and information technology where information travels at the speed of light and could no more be buried by the BN mainstream media.

Najib had put his finger on the pulse of the problem when he became Prime Minister in April 2009, when he declared that “the era that the government knows best is over”, but the tragedy is that Najib had demonstrated in his 42 months as Prime Minister that he could diagnose the problem afflicting UMNO/BN government but he could not act on the diagnosis, either for lack of political will or personal convictions.

Najib made dubious history yesterday when he transformed his 2013 Budget – which had goodies for almost every sector of the electorate – into a brazen electioneering speech.

Despite Muhyiddin’s post-budget claim that the 2013 Budget is not an “election budget”, Najib devoted more than 10 per cent of his budget speech in a blatant electioneering appeal for continued support for Umno/BN while launching a most improper attack on Pakatan Rakyat.

Najib took MPs and the listening Malaysian public by surprise when he devoted the first six paragraphs of his 2013 Budget speech appealing to Malaysians for continued electoral support for Umno/BN government after 55 years, and hurled charges and insinuations against Pakatan Rakyat.

But he outdid himself at the end of the budget speech when he devoted the last 14 paragraphs of his 174-paragraph budget speech on a unashamed glorification of Umno/BN rule and condemned Pakatan Rakyat, causing many on both sides of the political divide to shake their heads with the common complaint that the 2013 Budget presentation was a poor reflection on the “class” and “standard” both on the Prime Minister and the annual budget.

It is evident that the 2013 Budget hides a very unconfident Najib who is haunted and hounded by the phobia that his fourth budget speech as Finance Minister may be the last Umno/BN budget in Parliament in the nation’s history.

This is why despite all the chest-thumping and braggadocio of supreme confidence that Malaysia will witness six more budgets to be tabled by the Umno/BN Government to transform Malaysia from middle to a high-income developed country, Najib has continued to play the role of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To Be or Not To Be”, agonizing over whether “To dissolve or not to dissolve Parliament” since last year.

The reason is simple – Najib has no confidence that he would not be the last Umno Prime Minister in Malaysia or that he would not be toppled as UMNO President and Prime Minister in a repeat scenario like what happened to Tun Abdullah in 2009, becominng the latest “trophy” of Tun Mahathir with the scalps of three DPMs and two PMs!

Buying love on a Budget

Gomen Man | TMI

Is this it? This is not a Budget, what was announced yesterday by Finance Minister Najib Razak was vote-buying through the liberal use of taxpayers’ funds.

Yesterday was making Malaysians more addicted to handouts, the opiate of the masses.

Idris Jala, aka the salesman, can talk all he wants about GST and Malaysia’s readiness to wean itself of subsidies and Najib can go on about cutting the budget deficit but this government did this country a great disservice yesterday: it mortgaged the future for short-term gain.

And it also did the virtually impossible: it cut taxes, gave out more money and said that it would still cut the deficit. Najib should bottle this miraculous potion and sell it to the US.

The finance minister unashamedly said later that Malaysian should vote BN for more of WHAT WE HAVE TODAY! No talk about high-income economy; reducing dependency on foreign workers, etc.


1) A completely corrupt political and civil service elite. The only difference in these two groups is that it appears only the civil servants are being charged in court. Ministers wantonly flaunt their wealth, their wealth accumulation usually the result of kickbacks from privatisation awards to their cronies.

2) A country divided. The mainstream Malay media and Umno have positioned the Chinese as ungrateful. Under the veneer of unity, this is a country fractured and in dire need of rehabilitation and reconciliation.

3) The country’s debt is rising and is at an all-time high. And it is not 53 per cent of the GDP as announced in the Budget but 67 per cent. This includes government guarantees. The red flag should be raised when debt ratio to GDP is 55 per cent. It is now 67 per cent and you can bet that a government which does not know anything apart from spending will make our grandchildren pay dearly.

4) Rent-seeking has always been a feature of privatisation in Malaysia. Now the leaders of this country offer us liars and award contracts to companies which have no track record for billion ringgit deals. The inflated cost will be borne by you and me and our children.

Yesterday’s Budget was very much in keeping with a BN government which has tried to paper over cracks and gaps in this country by money.

It is like a parent who, devoid of any ideas of proper parenting, has decided to buy the affection of his children.

Budget 2013 showdown: BN vs Pakatan

Review by Lee Wei Lian | TMI

Now that both Budget 2013 from the ruling coalition and the shadow budget from the opposition have been presented, let’s take a look at how the two budgets stack up against one another.

This is the last budget before the general election and the stakes are high. Barisan Nasional (BN) has had a lot of experience in crafting budgets and surprised no one when it dished out cash and other goodies, particularly to the younger generation who are a significant chunk of the newly registered electorate and are an unknown quantity in terms of their voting inclinations.

It scored some points however for not going overboard with spending as expected by some economists and still managed to pare down its expected budget deficit to four per cent from an estimated 4.5 per cent this year.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is a relative novice when it comes to federal budgets and presented one that appears to be much more geared toward reforming the economy than the one from the Najib administration which appeared to have more-of-the-same type policy tinkering rather than sweeping fundamental changes.

Najib gives the thumb’s up to Budget 2013 which he presented in Parliament on September 28, 2012. — Picture by Choo Choy MayYou can’t really blame Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for not wanting to rock the boat too much and going back for more of the same approach that delivered impressively higher than expected GDP growth this year despite economic slowdowns elsewhere in the world.

But PR’s budget, on the other hand, is more exciting as it really shows teeth when it comes to tackling things like monopolies, cartels and downsizing the state’s involvement in business.

Not everything in the two budgets can be compared directly but one of the things that can be put side by side is the fiscal numbers. So we start off with:

The Balanced Budget Category

Budget deficit

BN: 4 per cent

PR: 3.5 per cent

Winner: PR

BN managed to cut the projected deficit from 4.5 per cent this year to 4 per cent in 2013 but it wasn’t enough to beat PR. BN can say of course that PR can promise anything since it is less accountable as it is not in power.

PR meanwhile has talked a lot about eliminating corruption, leakages and wastages but all that effort appeared to yield only a slightly better deficit number than BN’s. Still, the slight improvement is enough to give it an edge over BN in the eyes of ratings agencies and economists.

Economic Development

BN’s approach appears to be via a sprinkling of incentives based on wish lists from industry groups while PR’s approach looks to be tackling things at the fundamental level by boosting the country’s intrinsic competitiveness.

BN advocates incentives such as tax relief for R&D, a RM1 billion fund to boost domestic investments, incentives to take over foreign firms, incentives for the tech industry such as income tax relief for Angel investors and recognising intellectual property as collateral, and a RM10 billion Working Capital Guarantee Scheme for SMEs.

PR has gone for the reform route for development, saying that it will seek first to purify the economy of toxicities and flush out rent seeking, corruption, cronyism by dismantling cartels, abolishing monopolies so that the economy can more easily flourish free from the scourges of distortions and inefficiencies. By aggressively reducing state capitalism by reforming the role of GLCs, it also promised to make entrepreneurship the bedrock of the economy.

Winner: Both approaches have their merits. BN’s incentive-based approach is safe but boring and PR’s reforms are more exciting and have the potential to send the economy to first-world status. A hybrid approach would be best as SMEs shouldn’t have to choose between a working capital guarantee scheme and a business environment free from cartels and rent-seeking. But based on the potential value that the approaches will bring over the long term, PR wins this one.


A country’s future is won or lost in its schools. BN recently launched an education blueprint devised with input from experts but surprisingly cut its education budget drastically from RM50 billion in the last budget to RM38.7 billion in 2013. The prime minister did say that they wanted to “look at the outcome of each child per ringgit spent” during the blueprint launch so maybe they found ways to cut out wastage and increase efficiency.

PR, on the other hand, had little to say about education in the budget and the most noticeable thing was that it wanted to abolish the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN). While the intention is good and some restructuring of PTPTN might be in order which includes a certain degree of debt forgiveness, and its proposed fee subsidies for private education is a good idea, wiping out PTPTN debts could backfire as it would give students a sense of entitlement and increase their reliance on the government. Many ex-students who paid back their PTPTN loans are already complaining that they should have waited.

Winner: BN admitted Malaysia’s poor showing in international testing and vowed to improve it via the new blueprint. The apparent cut in education spending is puzzling but PR’s move to wipe out PTPTN debt smacks of populism and vote-buying. What kind of message does that send to students? That they don’t have to pay back debts? Based on this and its recent blueprint which drew mixed reviews but was nevertheless a step in the right direction, BN wins education.

Personal Income

BN has once again committed to direct cash transfers to the low income to help with the rising cost of living. PR, on the other hand, says that it will increase money in the pocket indirectly by making cars cheaper via excise duty reductions, toll abolishment, waiver of PTPTN and savings from lower fuel and transportation charges.

BN also cut income tax rates for taxable income up to RM50,000 but tax experts expect that this is just in preparation for the introduction of GST.

Winner: Both have their pros and cons. Direct cash transfers can help in times of economic slowdown as it boost domestic consumption. It however can also be perceived as a vote-buying tactic and is one-off so it is not sustainable. A one-percentage point cut in income tax is not much when you consider that other countries have income tax as low as 11 per cent for RM300,000 in taxable income or have higher income tax than Malaysia but offer better public services in exchange. PR’s approach by increasing income by removing economic distortions is more sustainable so it wins this one although it’s a hold-your-nose winner as it includes PTPTN waivers as part of its income boost.


Housing is a big issue as many have complained that putting a roof over their head has become more unaffordable.

BN’s approach has been via increasing real property gains tax (RPGT) by five per cent in the first two brackets to combat speculation and also to spend RM1.9 billion to build 123,000 low-cost houses.

It would also make it easier for young people earning less than RM5,000 to get loans for a house.

PR proposed to build 100,000 affordable homes within the price range of RM130,000 to RM300,000 to be built by a National Housing Board with an injection of initial seed capital of RM5 billion in 2013.

Winner: Both advocate more public housing but BN tackles the issue of property speculation via RPGT while PR does not. BN though could be setting the stage for financial problems by making it even easier for people earning less than RM5,000 to own their own homes without coming up with so much as three months’ instalments in savings, let alone a downpayment which really appears to promote irresponsible lending. I call this a tie with no clear winner.

Public Transport

Both said they are committed to improving public transport.

BN didn’t have much new to say about it other than discounts for KTM for those earning less than RM3,000.

PR, on the other hand, vowed to decentralise transport planning and make it a more local issue and said it would review the MRT in favour of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).

Winner: Both are for public transport. PR’s fetish for BRT however is worrying as it looks to cities like Bogota and Johannesburg rather than cities like Zurich and Tokyo which are world leaders in public transport and use rail as their backbone rather than buses. Buses are OK for short hops but nobody likes to sit on a bus for long durations. PR’s push for more local transport planning is good but BN wins this as while it admits BRT has its place in some situations, it is less ideological about BRT.


PR wins in more categories overall — Balanced Budget, Economic Development and Personal Income.

BN wins in Education and Public Transport with Housing being a Tie.

BN has a more cautious and Santa Claus-like approach in its budget with more policy tinkering, incentives and goodies and the conservativeness could be a reflection of its status as an incumbent.

PR has a bolder, more progressive and reform-minded approach to the budget which could be reflection of its challenger status.

Which do you prefer?

Candied Budget unlikely to sweeten GE13 for BN, say analysts

By Amin Iskandar, Hafidz Baharom, Md Izwan and Nomy Nozwir | TMI

Voters have grown more discerning and are unlikely to be swayed by cash incentives and other one-off perks into casting their ballot for the Barisan Nasional (BN) government at national polls due soon, pundits said in weighing in on the impact of Budget 2013.

Political observers interviewed by The Malaysian Insider wholly agreed that the RM251.6 billion announced yesterday, which promised a slew of cash handouts and tax cuts spread across the board, was trained to appeal to key demographic groups in the run-up to the 13th general election, but said voters had become increasingly shrewd and capable of weighing the short-term personal gains against the long-term fiscal impact on the national economy.

“There are only two words to describe it — election budget,” said Monash University’s political science lecturer James Chin.

He noted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has “pulled out all the stops and given the voters their sentiments, to let them think twice about voting for the opposition” in elections that must be held by next April when BN’s five-year mandate won in March 2008 runs out.

“People will compare the budget to Pakatan Rakyat’s and will also see how the second round of Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) will fuel inflation,” Chin added.

The fledging Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact, formed just four years ago in the wake of landmark wins in Election 2008, has promised to raise the disposable income of Malaysians in an alternative set of Budget proposals just two days before the Najib administration unveiled its official proposals for spending and taxes.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had said disposable income would rise through fiscal reform measures such as cutting the triple import taxes on foreign-made cars, abolishment of tolls and waiver of student loans, as PR sought to pre-empt Najib’s Budget announcement.

Anwar said a PR government would be able to pay for the proposed measures not through raising taxes but by plugging leakages that arise as a result of inefficiencies and corruption.

Arnold Puyok, a political scientist from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Sabah, said the goodies announced for the young and singles “is an indication that the ruling party is set to win the hearts and minds of first-time voters in the upcoming election”.

He said it was still too early to tell if such sweeteners will tilt the hotly-contested elections in BN’s favour.

“Young people are not easily attracted to monetary incentives especially when they are related to electoral politics. They may consider the goodies as a form of government assistance. But whether this is translated into votes remain to be seen,” Arnold said.

But another analyst, Faisal Hazis, believes voters have smartened up since Election 2008.

“Voters today are smarter, not so easy for them to fall for sweet deals as before,” said the head of political science and international relations at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

“Cash handouts like BR1M do not promise permanent support as shown in the Merdeka Center’s earlier survey some months back where support for Najib rose several percentage points after the first round of BR1M, but dropped not long after it was handed out,” Faisal said.

According to independent pollster Merdeka Center, the PM’s personal approval score dipped four percentage points in the last survey in May from 69 per cent to 65 per cent in February, following a repeat in April of last year’s violent clashes between police and civil society demonstrators lobbying for the electoral roll to be cleaned up.

Herizal Hazri, deputy country representative for Asia Foundation, a US-based NGO working to improve governance, law and civil society issues through policy, said the people-friendly budget geared towards low-income earners was a positive move to raise the disposable income and spur domestic growth, but highlighted the lack of controls to monitor government spending.

“What’s worrisome in this budget is that there is no discussion of methods to monitor the implementation of the Budget, whether it will truly be carried out in a transparent manner or otherwise,” he said.

Professor Jayum A. Jawan, who lectures on politics and government in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), shared a similar view with Kuching-based Faisal, describing the “one-off handouts” as a populist stunt to fish for votes among the less politically-aware groups who are usually based in rural areas, notably the interior of Malaysia’s two easternmost states across the South China Sea which are still largely forested.

“The allocation for transport, public infrastructure, fishermen, farmers and those in Sabah and Sarawak are very welcome. The one worrisome thing is how will all these be delivered? Will all the proposals reach the man in the interior there?” asked the deputy dean of post-graduate studies in UPM’s Faculty of Human Ecology.

“The ‘one-off’ handouts are only temporary and will have a limited impact on some people,” he added.

Jayum said he was concerned that the budget was too heavily concentrated on operational costs and cautioned that the government needed to ensure increased productivity levels among the civil service force to balance out the high operating costs.

Like Jayum, Monash University’s Chin was also hesitant to say that the people-friendly proposals to cut rocketing costs of living that Najib put forward in Budget 2013 would result in voters paying back the favour to BN at the ballot box where it most matters.

“The ultimate test of the budget will be the stock market reaction on Monday; it will surely go up and will also effect the Astro initial public offering (IPO). It all fits in.

“If he (Najib) does not call for an election now, he’s crazy,” Chin said.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Can there be a SPM trial exam question: Is it appropriate for police to use tear gas, water cannon or physical violence against peaceful demonstrators?

By Lim Kit Siang

Would the Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his two deputies, Puad Zarkashi and Datuk Wee Ka Siong give their tacit approval or close their eyes and shut their ears if any of the following questions had appeared in a SPM trial examination paper for Moral Education:

• Is it appropriate for the police to use tear-gas or chemically-laced water cannon or used physical violence against peaceful demonstrators comprising all races, religions, age and gender who merely wanted to send a clear and unmistakable to the government that they want free, fair and clean elections?

• Is it appropriate for any government to misuse public funds for political party purposes especially in the run-up to a general election?

• Is it appropriate for voters in a general election to support candidates from a political coalition which is responsible for Malaysia having the lowest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index ranking of No. 60 as well as lowest CPI score of 4.3 in 2012?

• Is it appropriate for any Minister or MP to go against national unity efforts as publicly dissociating from the 1Malaysia policy, declaring that he or she is Malay first and Malaysian second?

Of course not. There can be no shadow of doubt that if such questions had appeared in any school SPM trial examination paper, there would be an orchestrated howl of protest and condemnation in the mainstream mass media of Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and the Star as well as on government/Barisan Nasional radio and television channels, followed by a witch-hunt to expose, penalise and even criminalise those responsible for setting the questions.

Surely, Puad would not say: “As long as it does not affect the racial or religious sensitivities or malign any individual, I feel (the question) is not a problem…It is up to the rakyat to decide”.

This is what Puad said when commenting on a question in a school SPM trial examination on Moral Education in Johore Baru, which featured two photographs of the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28, and asked: “Is it appropriate for a citizen to participate in an illegal assembly?”
A photograph of the question referring to the Bersih 3.0 rally from a an SPM trial examination paper at a school in Johore Baru appeared on Facebook, which showed that the answer given by the student – “tidak wajar (not appropriate)” – was ticked as correct.
Would Muhyiddin, Puad and Wee take the position that there is nothing wrong with the setting of questions like the four above for students, just as they now strike the posture that its “not a problem” for such a Bersih question to be posed in the SPM school trial examination?

In fact, in another trial examination for STPM General Paper in a school in Johore Baru, there is a clear insinuation that those who supported the Opposition could have their citizenship revoked?

Would Muhyiddin, Puad and Wee agree and approve if STPM General Paper school trial examination poses the question whether a person who supported corrupt political leaders have failed their citizenship responsibilities?

Clearly the politicisation of education has reached a new low with the Education Minister and his two deputy Ministers failing to condemn in the strongest possible terms the setting of these tendentious and misguided questions – which amounts no less to an irresponsible attempt to indoctrinate and brainwash schoolchildren to parrot the views of the ruling coalition.

With such continued politicisation of education, there can be very little public confidence that under continued UMNO/Barisan Nasional government, the education system could unite rather than divide Malaysians or that the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 recently launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak would be able to make any fundamental difference to the problems of politicisation and deterioration of educational standards in Malaysia.

A truly Malaysian Lady!

By Victor Lim | Malaysia Chronicle

NOW! Does anyone have a beef with me for segregating Malays into Umno Malays, PAS Malays and PKR Malays?

If you have, please read what this lady (a very reserved word for the print media, meant only for the truly deserving) has to say about 1Malaysia.

And I have been identifying the Malays as such in my blog postings, for those who had noticed.

And please, I am not anti-Malay. I am just anti-Umno Malays who are led by cows. If you don’t get what I mean, google “Shahrizat cows” and read what you have missed out in the world!

Now, back to what I am getting at. I am 54+ years old and this Malaysian Lady is definitely a decade younger than me. She has my full respect for the facebook posting which I reproduced below.

Shame on you Muhyiddin ‘I am Malay First, Malaysian Second’ Yassin, the racist deputy prime minister of Malaysia and Umno deputy president.

Shame on you Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for lacking the courage to tick off your deputy, thus failing to defend your 1Malaysia. Your cowardice is a reflection of your meaningless and pathetic 1Malaysia.

The Opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has, to date, been consistent in defending against Umno’s racist and religious attacks on Malaysians (note: intentionally avoiding using the word non-Malays).

Malaysia will surely prosper with more of such Ladies.

1,000,000 Chinese don't want MCA to represent the Chinese
Suara cicit Tunku Abdul Rahman - Sharyn Lisa Shufiyan

Both my parents are Malay. My mum’s heritage includes Chinese, Thai and Arab, while my dad is Minangkabau. Due to my skin colour, I am often mistaken for a Chinese.

I’m happy that I don’t have the typical Malay look but I do get annoyed when people call me Ah Moi or ask me straight up “Are you Chinese or Malay”

Like, why does it matter? Before I used to answer “Malay” but now I’m trying to consciously answer Malaysian instead.

There’s this incident from primary school that I remember till today. Someone told me that I will be called last during Judgement Day because I don’t have a Muslim name. Of course, I was scared then but now that I’m older, I realise that a name is just a name. It doesn’t define you as a good or bad person and there is definitely no such thing as a Muslim name. You can be named Rashid or Ali and still be a Christian.

I’ve heard of the 1Malaysia concept, but I think we don’t need to be told to be united. We’ve come such a long way that it should already be embedded in our hearts and minds that we are united. Unfortunately, you can still see racial discrimination and polarisation. There is still this ethno-centric view that the Malays are the dominant group and their rights must be protected, and non Malays are forever the outsiders.

For the concept to succeed, I think the government should stop with the race politics. It’s tiring, really. We grew up with application forms asking us to tick our race. We should stop painting a negative image of the other races, stop thinking about ‘us’ and ‘them’ and focus on ‘we’, ‘our’ and ‘Malaysians’.

No one should be made uncomfortable in their own home. A dear Chinese friend of mine said to me once, “I don’t feel patriotic because I am not made to feel like Malaysia is my home, and I don’t feel an affinity to China because I have never lived there.

I know some baby Nyonya friends who can trace their lineage back hundreds of years. I’m a fourth generation Malaysian. If I am Bumiputra, why can’t they be, too? Clearly I have issues with the term.

I think the main reason why we still can’t achieve total unity is because of this ‘Malay rights’ concept. I’d rather ‘Malay rights’ be replaced by human rights. So unless we get rid of this Bumiputra status, or reform our views and policies on rights, we will never achieve unity.

For my Merdeka wish, I’d like for Malaysians to have more voice, to be respected and heard. I wish that the government would uphold the true essence of parliamentary democracy. I wish for the people to no longer fear and discriminate against each other, to see that we are one and the same.

I wish that Malaysia would truly live up to the tourism spin of Malaysia truly Asia. Malaysians to lead – whatever their ethnic background. Only ONE NATIONALITY MALAYSIAN. No Malays, No Chinese, No Indians – ONLY MALAYSIANS…Choose whatever religion one is comfortable with.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Belanjawan PR - Pakatan Rakyat 2013 Budget

Pakatan Rakyat Budget 2013 proposal




Complete report available HERE

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A call for a more constructive media

Bridget Welsh | TMI

Too much of the reporting on political events within Malaysia is based on fabrications, rather than analysis anchored in research and responsible journalism. There has been noticeable decay in the professionalism of journalists, either from selling out their principles to engage in partisanship, or through the lack of proper mentorship or training.

Some of this is a product of the growing competitive political environment, where formerly more reliable mainstream papers have compromised their integrity for their political masters, while in other cases, the drive to publish the story first and make it the most sensational has comprised the due diligence of proper reporting.

Simple things, such as checking facts and quotes, have gone by the wayside. Worse yet, it has become acceptable for some to publish shoddy work, and rather than be chided for this practice, it is openly encouraged and financially rewarded.

Readers sometimes take what is published at face value, rather than adopting a more discerning approach to what they are reading. Too much of the discussion of politics is tied to misrepresentation and misunderstanding.

It is a time of political transition in Malaysia. The incumbent party that has held onto power since 1957 ― 55 years ― is facing the most competitive polls in history. At a public forum on Monday September 17th in Kuala Lumpur, I explained why based on polling trajectories and fieldwork, the Barisan Nasional (BN) has not regained significant ground since March 2008.

I suggested, however, that voters alone will not decide the electoral outcome. Concerns involve the fairness of the elections. The impact of a widening unlevel electoral playing field is not yet known. We have also seen over the last three years since the March 2008 polls that the situation is very fluid, as Najib Razak’s administration reached a high in support last November and has been declining in popularity since the April Bersih rally, although at varied levels among different communities.

While most Malaysians have decided how they will vote, the middle ground is in flux and has the potential to move again as the campaign evolves.

As such, the election is difficult to call. My own analysis indicates that a third of the seats are extremely close. I pointed to the states of Sabah, Pahang, Perak, Johor and Selangor as the states with highly competitive seats, but argued that every seat will matter in the upcoming General Elections.

The campaign, candidate selection and use of state resources will also shape the final outcome. The majority of my other remarks focused on new trends in voting behaviour, issues that will be presented in future articles.

The quality of the media coverage of the forum raises concerns and provokes a call for greater constructive and responsible dialogue as Malaysia enters new uncertain political terrain. When the forum began, we asked the media to check quotes with speakers and to operate with professionalism.

Instead, a reporter from The Malaysian Insider (TMI) and subsequent media reports by journalists who were not at the event, have distorted the discussion, misquoted remarks and acted irresponsibly. None of the reports on the event have followed the request to check their facts and most of the reports of the event are second- and third-hand reports made from the original flawed report TMI report.

Initially, there were two areas of concern. First of all, the TMI media report of the event focused on the response to the last question of the night in the two-and-a-half hours of discussions, rather than covering the discussion in the meeting as a whole.

The mischaracterization of the forum as a discussion of “casting doubts about Pakatan” was from the onset a distortion. The article’s headline was misleading and not reflective of the proceedings. This is a troubling trend in Malaysian reporting ― a focus on sensationalism rather than substance.

The issues that were discussed covered a range from human rights concerns and Sabah politics to the rising environmental movement and the role of morality in voting.

Second, the TMI report had a number of factual errors. For example, my position to the question whether “Can Pakatan Rule?” was not reported. I clearly stated that “Malaysians voters should decide.” Subsequent interpretations of this inaccurate reporting of my response have been misconstrued to imply that I support one side or another.

My remarks in the forum highlighted the challenges both sides will face in governing. I noted that whoever won the election would face a trust deficit among a share of voters, as Malaysian voters are polarized.

In another example of error, the TMI reporting completely misconstrued the discussion of Dr Mahathir’s legacy on Malaysian politics. My remarks discussed the challenges Umno as a party faced to reform, pointing out that it has not reformed since 2008, and arguing that this had to do in part with the legacy Mahathir left on the party.

I argued that both Tun Abdullah Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak faced difficulties in carrying out reforms due to pressures from this legacy of constraint. The overall context of the discussion was left out of the report and mistakenly interpreted as praise for either Mahathir or Najib. The irony of the errors in the report by TMI is that they completely missed the key points of analysis.

To compound the original problems in the reporting of the forum, other journalists who were not at the event and also did not check their facts used it for their stories. In one column for The Star newspaper by columnist Baradan Kuppusamy, elements in the original article were embellished with such partisan gusto and mischief that it had evolved away from misconstrued reality to fantasy.

To suggest, for example, that the speakers buttressed “Najib’s reformist credentials” is factually incorrect. This is a complete fabrication. My own remarks centred on public concerns with corruption and public perceptions of the lack of substantive reforms. I never used the word “reformist” or “reformer”.

The focus of my remarks was on factors affecting voting behaviour and their possible impact on the next polls. The column is embarrassingly riddled with multiple factual errors, as the columnist was not present at the forum nor did he follow due diligence in checking the facts. It is a sad day when this sort of reporting is paid for.

In the initial TMI report, the reporter was inexperienced, and my original tack was to have a quiet word to encourage better practice. Also some of the original report did accurately account some of the issues that were raised, even if the context was not provided and the headline misleading.

The situation became even more egregious when reporters who did not bother to do any homework opted to use a flawed report as the basis of a story or in at least one case a fable. I understand that in the Malaysian context misreporting is common. It is unfortunately clear that fabrications are also becoming more common as well.

This does not take away from the reality that these practices are wrong and destructive. Media integrity and low standards of professionalism are serious problems and those that are hurt by them are ordinary readers. They are undermining the constructive discussion that is needed to strengthen Malaysia as it moves toward a better future. Malaysians deserve better.

* Editor’s Note: The Malaysian Insider apologises for misrepresentation and errors made in its report of the forum after checking with the reporter’s notes and recording. The news report has been corrected with the full quotes made by Dr Bridget Welsh in the forum to the question that was asked. Once again, our apologies to the speakers in the forum. Thank you.

* Dr Welsh asked that this comment be appended following the publication of her piece. “Thank you, TMI, for your professionalism, graciousness and constructive response.”

To free is to save

May Chee Chook Ying | TMI

Civil society is under siege in Malaysia. That does not augur well for a nation, touted by the powers-that-be, to be the best democracy in the world. How on earth can anyone even begin to espouse a democratic way of life if he doesn’t even recognise the role civil society plays? Is this so-called democratic government effective or legitimate, at all?

According to a mainstream newspaper, some RM20 million was poured into 11 organisations in a plot to destabilise the government. RM20 million from genuine benefactors can destabilise the government when hundreds of billions plundered by present and past leaders have gone unchecked?

If at all the present government can be destabilised, it can only come from its own undoing! Don’t go pointing fingers at others. “Sila tepuk dada, tanya selera!”

A large part of humanity lives in darkness, even now in the 21st century. We have seen how, in Tunisia, fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself to draw attention to police corruption and ill treatment. Will history show that this selfless act of sacrifice as an exercise in vain? I’m no soothsayer but I think history will show, in time, how a solitary act of selflessness and sacrifice will liberate a huge chunk of humanity. It always begins with that solitary act. Always.

When I first started working almost three decades ago, I saw a copy of Aliran on a table in the staff room. What I read both shocked and mesmerised me. The founder himself wrote with such courage and tenacity. I was instantly converted and started to subscribe to Aliran soon after.

From his writings, I learnt about inequality in society. I learnt about how each of us can play our role in bringing about a more equitable Malaysia. I read about how we should demand good governance and how we should hold the government of the day to account.

Now, when I read what “he” has to say, I die a little inside. He was one of those in civil society who could have resurrected our ailing nation to a new life. He could have taught us how to rise up to a tyranny.

Instead now, with what he has to say, he justifies their very existence; to continue to oppress the people he once loved and cared for, so much so that he fought with his every being. I feel as if we have lost a comrade and the world is a little darker now because he has gone to the “other side”.

But I have to thank him for the seed he sowed in me years ago. Thank you for teaching me how to love my neighbour and to stand up to injustice, inequality and untruths. For me, once upon a time, you were the one who could “awaken, animate and impel”. I miss the old you. I really do.

Media funded by political parties can never, ever, play the role of true journalism. So, it’s only proper not to rely on such parties. Malaysiakini and CIJ are right to seek funds from elsewhere to remain independent and to be able to aid projects that promote press freedom in the country and elsewhere.

Their efforts to remain independent and with unbiased reporting, allow the people to make their own informed decisions regarding issues close to their hearts should be lauded. Theirs should be a public forum where conversation, debate and dialogue must be encouraged to bring about a lively democracy. Not one “yang sudah mati pucuk”!

The oppression of rural and urban masses is perpetuated by preventing people from grouping together to discuss and understand their situation, including their rights. This “hidden violence” opposes unity. In my humble opinion, that is the aim and hopeful end result of this present selective persecution by our cowardly powers-that-be.

Yet, I thought I read somewhere that they have delivered and asked to be given one more term to do more. More damage? Are you out of your mind or you do you think I’m out of mine?

Did someone say we need not have a human rights watchdog? You mean you can guarantee that there won’t be any more custodial deaths? Did Kugan, Teoh Beng Hock, and more than a hundred of others die because their lives were worth a lot less than yours?

You know now why we have to continue to support the LFL? Some people are numbskulls, alright!

No one on planet Earth can doubt for a moment, the good works of SUARAM. Only morons, thieves and buyers of submarines that don’t dive! To harass and intimidate those who campaign against corruption and abuses is as good as digging your own grave. Morons, alright!

As for the young movers and shakers in LoyarBurok, to whom the future of Malaysia rightfully belongs to, like I’ve said before, no one can take away the good you do no matter how they spin! Keep up the good work, guys, and do not be intimidated by those who refuse to free their minds, bodies or souls. Those who are held captive by their office and ambitions. Those little people.

I would have left out many others who have done a lot and are still doing a lot for society, at large. Please forgive me this transgression of mine but know that there are many of us out there who can’t do without you people. We are eternally grateful to all of you who are in civil society and other organizations who do your bit to watch over us and give us hope for a better tomorrow.

Those of you who through your good work, help us to understand and advance ourselves; to grow . Those of you who deny yourself time and privilege to educate our conscience. Those of you who through your own example, guide, influence and give us a direction in life.

Be comforted in the fact that those who love the truth will recognize the truth. I’ve faith that most Malaysians do and to them, you are our towering Malaysians. Syabas to all of you!

This is an exceptional moment. We, fellow Malaysians, share the same history and like it or not, we must accept a common destiny.

For Malaysia’s true destiny to be given the chance to be played out, we must overcome our very own insecurities and not to be divided by our inherent differences.

We must not be afraid. We must, be like those above, stand our ground and remain steadfast. Demand that we be a free people, the way we are supposed to be. To give the present government another term is to delay our very own resurrection; to rise to a new life, living with integrity, dignity and in truth.

We must know our goal, walk towards it, achieve our truth and arrive at life. We will orient our own history, not stooges who repeatedly fail us.

To free is to save. Let’s free Malaysia. Let’s save our motherland. Have faith and God bless.

Umno provoking state conflict to destroy opposition

Koon Yew Yin | TMI

The latest dirty trick in Umno’s attempt to destroy the present Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor has just been unveiled by the Pahang Mentri Besar Adnan Yaakob, after he opened the mini Maha programme at Dataran Bentong recently. This comes in the form of the threat to review its planned sale of raw water to Selangor if the Pakatan Rakyat continues to rule that state.

“We want a review and may even opt to cancel the agreement as the Selangor government appears not to be interested in proceeding with the deal,” said Adnan.

“Initially, we agreed to sell raw water to Selangor at 10 sen per cubic metre but if Pakatan retains the state in the next elections, we would need to review the price. The agreed price with Selangor earlier was at the time it was under the Barisan Nasional.”

According to the Pahang MB, “if Pakatan is taking charge, we may increase it to RM1 per cubic metre.”

To most Malaysians and me, this is the worst type of blatant political blackmail. How can a political leader with any integrity engage in such threats? How dare the mentri besar use the basic necessity of water as a political football?

It is very apparent that Umno with its Barisan Nasional cronies are scraping the bottom of the barrel in their dirty tricks to retain power in the coming elections.

It is not a surprise that present on the occasion of the Pahang Mentri Besar’s threat were Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Noh Omar and Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai. The latter incidentally is also Deputy MCA president and Bentong MP. The Barisan Nasional objective is clear and it is to intimidate the rakyat of Selangor – the crown jewel among state governments – into voting against the Pakatan Rakyat.

Unfortunately for Adnan Yaakob, he has underestimated the quality and good sense of our voting public in Selangor and also all over the country. If he thinks that such fear mongering and scare tactics will work, he is living on another planet. I am confident that not only will our Selangor rakyat not be intimidated by this despicable political manoeuvre but also that it will backfire badly on the BN. The days when our voters can be bullied and hoodwinked are over as the coming elections will surely demonstrate once and for all.

To the MCA, the message that it is disgusting and unacceptable that they permit themselves to be part of this political hooliganism must be sent out loud and clear. I predict that this will be the final nail in the MCA’s coffin as they go round the country during election campaigning and are asked the question: why are you supporting the Pahang Mentri Besar when he threatens to raise the water agreement price ten times more from 10 sen to one ringgit per cubic metre just because there is a different state government in power?

Besides this unprecedented act of political blackmail aimed at the electorate, the public should also be alert to the way in which the Barisan Nasional is pitting one state against another. This strategy of fostering animosity and conflict among states has never before happened. Yes, there has been rivalry and disagreement between states. But these differences in the past have been carefully negotiated, and ethical standards of political conduct have been maintained.

Ours is a constitutional system of federalism in which state rights and autonomy are paramount and should be respected. This irresponsible and destabilizing threat by Adnan Yaakob introduces a new element of political instability. This is because federal dominance is not only pursued through the arbitrary concentration of power at the federal level but also sought through the use of state governments acting as proxies to undermine and destroy opposition held states. I hope the legal and constitutional experts in this country can take this issue up and address it without fear.

There is one other issue in relation to the water war being waged by the Barisan which needs to be put out in the public sphere for scrutiny. Adnan disclosed that in earlier negotiations with former Selangor mentri besar Khir Toyo, Pahang had agreed to lower the price from 15 sen to 10 sen per cubic metre in exchange for a share in the water treatment plant. Even at the price of 10 sen per cu m. Selangor is expected to pay Pahang RM70 million a year. If the price is increased to one ringgit per cu m. Selangor is expected to pay Pahang RM700 million a year. Imagine the consumers have to pay this amount! That is why Mentri Besar Khalid Ibraham is doing whatever he can to protect the Selangor consumers.

The proposed Langat water treatment plant has billions of ringgit of associated contracts to be given out – the project itself is estimated to cost RM8.5 billion. Who are these contracts being given out to? Who will benefit from the Pahang state government’s share? Is the Pahang share and concern with the contracts the real reason for the extraordinary action of the Pahang mentri besar in twisting the arm of the Selangor state government?

Selangor consumers should not worry: Finally Selangor consumers need to be reassured that there are other cheaper sources of water as pointed out in my earlier article. There is no urgency to develop a new source of water supply.

Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim is right in resisting the Langat white elephant which the Federal Government and its cronies are seeking to impose on the state.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Should Pakatan Reveal Its Shadow Cabinet?

By Kee Thuan Chye | Malaysian Digest

I’m surprised that even intelligent people are questioning whether Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is ready to govern at federal level. I must admit I read this on an online news website and the full implications of what they said at a forum last Sunday may not have been comprehensively conveyed, but the gist of it is, they seem sceptical.

To me, the question of whether PR is ready to be the federal government is an unfair one. Was the Alliance ready to rule when the British handed the administration to it in the 1950s?

I believe we have to give people a chance. In many instances, when they are given that chance, they simply step up to the job. That’s what PR did when in 2008 they won, to their great surprise, the state governments of Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Perak. They had no prior experience then of doing the job but they got down to business straight away.

Some observers would say that the PR government in Perak was doing quite well, headed by Nizar Jamaluddin, until Barisan Nasional (BN) inveigled its way into the driver’s seat. The public knew practically nothing about Nizar when he was sworn in as menteri besar, but he turned out to be an effective and likeable leader for the 11 months he served. In other words, he stepped up to the job.

Meanwhile, the state governments of Penang and Selangor have shown their abilities to rule in their first time out. There is a buzz of excitement about Penang these days that had not been there for at least a couple of decades. Lim Guan Eng’s government attracted investments totalling RM10 billion in 2011.

But more than that, the Penang and Selangor state governments have won plaudits from the Auditor-General for their financial management. They have succeeded in increasing revenue and reducing public debt. As a Selangor resident, I can say that the government under Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has not done anything I would object to. In fact, among other things, I support its bid to take over the four water concessionaires in the state.

Were they ready to rule before 2008? Did either one have a shadow executive council prior to that year’s general election?

So I’m surprised that lawyer Andrew Khoo, whose views I usually hold in high regard, expressed at last Sunday’s forum his reservations about PR’s readiness to govern.

I’m sure Khoo’s concern is not a misplaced one and could be easily misinterpreted in the way the report on the forum was angled and written. I also believe that he was not writing off PR as an entity incapable of governing but was instead urging the coalition to get its act together. I base this on what he said: “To me, the great tragedy of Malaysia would be if PR won and then failed as a government.”

My only quarrel with that quote is that it is too pessimistic and drastic. And it is too broad. How does one determine such failure anyway? By the same token, is the current BN government a “failed” one? If it is, would a PR government not do better? If it isn’t, would a PR government, at the very least, not do as well?

In Khoo’s reckoning, PR’s credibility is “restricted” because it has not come up with a shadow Cabinet, i.e. a line-up of people who will helm the government if PR takes Putrajaya at the next general election.

He also says, “Although (PR) have a common policy in (their) Buku Jingga … (the) inability or reluctance of PR to form a shadow Cabinet … has meant they are unable to articulate what their policy is going to be.”

I can’t agree with that. The fact that there is already a policy is a plus point; the articulation will come if and when PR takes office. I don’t think PR needs to name its ministers first in order to articulate this policy. When Najib named his Cabinet, we didn’t know what his policies would be. As time went on, he came up with 1Malaysia and the transformation programmes. Later on, he opted for populist policies aimed mainly at winning the general election. Where do policy and personnel figure in this?

Khoo’s request for a shadow Cabinet is, however, a reasonable one. As some would argue, you need to know if a company can handle the job before you’d hire it. It is also a request that would have a strong place in a true democracy. And certainly in a democracy unfettered by racial and religious prejudices.

But in a Malaysia that is rent by the politics of race and religion and goodness-knows-what-else, the risk an Opposition coalition takes in revealing its shadow Cabinet is as high as automatically losing the general election.

To all intents and purposes, PR may already have a shadow Cabinet, or at least a rough idea of one, but given the vicious tendency of BN hawks to rip apart everything that PR does, revealing the shadow Cabinet would be exposing PR to deadly attacks that could bring deadly consequences.

Once released, the line-up would be pounced upon by the BN-controlled mainstream media and pro-BN bloggers. If the shadow Cabinet were seen to be too multi-racial or if non-Malays were given significant portfolios like Finance or Trade and Industry or even Defence (simply because they merited them), it would suffer race-baiting excoriation. The hyperboles would fly.

BN would go to town reinforcing the fiction that the Malays would truly lose power if the government were run by such a Cabinet. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim would be called a traitor who sold out his race. PAS leaders would be accused of being puppets who gave in to the influence of the infidels. The DAP would be seen to be more dangerous than Dajjal, capable of mesmerising its coalition partners into surrendering power to it.

If, on the other hand, not enough non-Malays were represented, the non-Malay voters might become disenchanted and not vote for PR. They might say Anwar is someone who could not be trusted after all. Hindraf, or some reincarnation of it, might pop up and hold a massive rally outside PKR’s headquarters.

Either way, it’s a powderkeg. It’s a lose-lose situation. PR’s ratings would drop like a cylinder loaded with C4 explosives. It could result in PR losing the general election even before it’s called. And losing the war before you’ve fought it would be very poor strategy indeed.

In the first place, why take such an unnecessary risk? PR knows how to play the political game. For that reason, I’m sure it knows it cannot reveal its shadow Cabinet. Not now. Not when the general election is called. Not even on the day before voting – because goodness knows what bad press might emerge from there to undermine the coalition’s prospects.

All it takes is an honest mistake, like that on the eve of the 1990 general election when the mainstream media crucified Tengku Razaleigh for wearing a Kadazan headgear that bore on its front what looked like a cross. It cost his Parti Melayu Semangat 46 a lot of Malay votes – and, up to that point, a good chance for the Opposition to at least break BN’s two-thirds majority.

For now, we know Anwar Ibrahim will be prime minister if PR wins. And if that happens, he should only reveal his Cabinet after he’s been sworn in. Not a minute sooner.

And of course, to be perverse, perhaps we should ask whether he is ready to be prime minister since he’s had no experience being one, forgetting that Najib had none either, and neither did Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Abdullah Badawi or even Mahathir Mohamad himself.

So why do we really need to know PR’s shadow Cabinet? Why do we demand so much of PR simply because it may be the new kid in government if it wins? Do we know what Najib’s Cabinet will be if BN wins? He’s likely to reshuffle it, but do we demand to know the likely line-up? I haven’t heard anyone asking. So why pick on PR?

Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, available in major bookstores.

Education blueprint: Don’t stampede us into approval

By Dr Lim Teck Ghee | CPI

I call on the Government not to stampede Malaysians into approving the education blueprint recently presented to the public. This is because there are many unresolved and critical issues which need clarification and deliberation before the blueprint can be considered a satisfactory framework for responding to the deep crisis in our education system and the many challenges that we face in economy and society.

Rushing the blueprint as the final roadmap just ahead of the coming elections not only smacks of political opportunism but it will also adversely impact our students through its untimely implementation of contentious policies in key areas.

Is a new NEP part of the blueprint?

In my opinion, the draft although containing some useful recommendations for reform, has many shortcomings, including the failure to address key problem areas arising from past politicization of the educational system. This politicization associated with the implementation of the New Economic Policy in education has led to a drastic fall in standards as well as the declining quality of human resource development and a less resilient, cohesive and competitive society. It awaits a fuller discussion and analysis in the revised report.

The question of whether there is a covert new NEP agenda in the blueprint that could emerge in its later operation is of the utmost importance. It should be dealt with openly and transparently.

At the macro level too, the blueprint is especially vague on principles, strategies and policies on religious schools; poorer performing rural schools in Sabah and Sarawak as well as the National-Type Chinese and Tamil schools. It also failed to make any mention of the establishment of an English language vernacular stream among other areas of public concern.

An answer is urgently needed to the key question whether the vernacular schools will continue to be treated as stepchildren in the national school system. It is presently not forthcoming from the draft.

A finalized blueprint needs to state unequivocally that there will be no discrimination against the vernacular schools in all policies, especially in terms of resource allocation. In the absence of a specific assurance in the blueprint, the fear that it will be business as usual is totally understandable. There may be little or no departure from the traditional ways in which these schools have been marginalized and discriminated against by policymakers and implementers.

What place for Islamic and Mara schools?

The position of Islamic religious schools and its growing number of students is a potential disruptive game changer in our secular and multi-religious society. But the Sekolah Agama have not been given the importance or close examination that they deserve. The human resource potential available from these schools needs to be integrated such that they can contribute to the larger society rather than serve the interests of those bent on imposing an Islamic agenda on the country. This more positive objective needs to be spelt out and the strategies and operational steps given substance and specifics.

There is strong evidence that that the disparities in student performance that take up so much attention in the report are the outcome of NEP policies aimed at building up a Malay professional and upper class. Thus a disproportionately large quantum of resources has been deployed towards an elite group of schools that have catered for a small minority of students, mostly coming from already privileged backgrounds.

The failure of the report to be explicit and transparent on these inequitable policies and resource allocations especially for the Mara junior science colleges will result in their continuation into the future, particularly if public discussion and scrutiny are constrained or prohibited. Yet it is of national importance that alternatives to the current Mara system are presented and critically assessed in the blueprint so that all stakeholders can weigh the pros and cons of this stream and its privileged special position in the educational system.

Manipulating history education into the blueprint

At the curriculum level, the authorities need to be open and transparent as to whether the decision to make history a compulsory subject beginning at the primary school level and the new requirement that students need to have a pass in the subject for their SPM, is or is not a part of the blueprint.

The team responsible for the blueprint must surely know that the announcement on the history subject was made at the 2010 Umno general assembly. This anomaly smacks of a politicization of the school syllabus and the suspicion that policy changes were initiated by politicians (from one party) and not by educationists. They must also be aware that this issue is of concern to many parents and educationists who have campaigned for a truthful, liberal and progressive history curriculum in place of the currently religiously and racially skewed one; and who are against any decision to make history education a political football.

This issue is a litmus test as to whether the Prime Minister will honour his promise to approach education from a national viewpoint and not from partisan lines, and also of his undertaking to depoliticize education.

It is also a potential black mark staining the reputation and integrity of the officials, educationists and other individuals associated with the preparation of the blueprint if they are seen as permitting themselves to be made use of by politicians seeking to indoctrinate our young with a racially and religiously skewed version of the history of Malaysia and the world.

Can the Ministry and the education system rise above racial politics?

Finally, more than the 11 shifts listed in the report, the following shifts are necessary in the Ministry of Education and teaching profession if we are to repair the damage inflicted on our education system and transform it so that our young people emerge with the right knowledge, skills, analytical and critical thinking and creativity to participate in a modern, multi-cultural and competitive world. These shifts are:

* Learning from the past but not to be imprisoned by past paradigms,

* Ensuring that educational rights are not made a political football because of perceived racial, social or economic disparities,

* Practicing transparency, openness, fairness and integrity of governance in all aspects of education. Positive values are necessary not only as values for students but also for the Ministry of Education officials and teachers engaged in education,

* Rising above racial, religious or political agendas. Every component of our national school system must be regarded as important in our multiracial society and must be provided fair and equal treatment.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

MCA President Chua Soi Lek playing destructive role of Utusan Malaysia seeking to frighten Chinese voters with lies and falsehoods in the same manner Utusan trying to scare Malay voters

By Lim Kit Siang

The MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek is playing the destructive role of Utusan Malaysia seeking to frighten Chinese voters with lies and falsehoods in the same manner Utusan has been trying in the past three years to scare Malay voters with its daily staple of lies and falsehoods.

The role of Utusan Malaysia, the official organ of UMNO, is to violate all ethics of journalism to systematically and unconscionably concoct and dispense lies and falsehoods about the DAP and the Pakatan Rakyat to stampede the Malay voters to vote solidly for UMNO.

For instance, Utusan Malaysia had been publishing downright lies and falsehoods about the DAP, spreading the completely baseless allegation that the DAP is anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-Malay Rulers, that the DAP wants to create a Christian Malaysia to replace Islam as the official religion, appoint a Christian Prime Minister, establish a Republic and abolish the system of Malay monarchy.

In the past months, it has become obvious that the MCA President is playing the irresponsible and divisive role of Utusan Malaysia by seeking to frighten the Chinese voters to stampede them to vote for MCA through what MCA strategists believe is the MCA trump card – the issue of Islamic state and hudud implementation.

DAP’s stand on Malaysia as a secular state has always been constant and consistent.

We hold firm to our fundamental principle that an Islamic state and hudud laws are inappropriate and unsuitable for Malaysia as a plural society.

We do not hide our fundamental principle and beliefs, whether from PAS or any other political party or the Malaysian people. We know PAS’ stand on Islamic State and hukum hudud, just as PAS knows our different stand on these two issues.

Although DAP, PAS and PKR have our differences, the Pakatan Rakyat leadership has repeatedly reaffirmed our unswerving commitment to common policy agreements reached by the three component parties, whether before or after the 13th General Election, in the PR Common Policy Framework of December 19, 2009, Buku Jingga of 20th December 2010 or other Joint PR Leadership statements and documents.

The PR Leadership has also repeatedly reaffirmed the principle that there must be consensus among the three PR component parties before there could be any change in any agreed PR policy.

The PR Leadership has also repeatedly emphasized that the implementation of hudud is not part of the PR Common Policy Framework.

This means that if Pakatan Rakyat wins the 13th General Election and forms the Federal Government in Putrajaya, for the next five years from 2012/2013 to 2017/8, the implementation of hudud will not be part of the Pakatan Rakyat Federal Government policy or programme unless all the three PR parties can reach a consensus on it.

This position is very clear, simple and straightforward but the MCA President is doing his utmost in his politics of desperation, fear and irresponsibility to try to cause panic and fear so as to stampede the Chinese voters to vote for MCA in the 13th General Election.

One of Chua’s favourite gambits is to cite the PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu claiming that Mohamad Sabu had announced that PAS will amend the Federal Constitution to implement hudud if Pakatan Rakyat comes into power – totally ignoring Mohamad Sabu’s denial of ever having made such a statement and the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council’s policy pronouncement that the implementation of hudud is not part of Pakatan Rakyat policies, a policy position which binds all Pakatan Rakyat parties for the next four to five years until the 14th General Elections.

Another favourite Chua gambit is to shout from the rooftops that hudud implementation is a certainty if Pakatan Rakyat wins in the 13th general election, claiming that “judging from the 222 MPs, of whom most were Muslims, PAS could easily obtain the two-thirds majority to implement its version of hudud”.

Chua had gone on public record in saying: “So, this is a political reality that all non-Muslims must face. This is not a threat. It is something that all of us most think about carefully.”

This is a downright lie and utter rubbish. It shows that in his politics of desperation, Chua Soi Lek has utter contempt for figures, facts and the truth.

Firstly, the number of Muslim MPs, as it stands, still falls short of the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution.

After the 2008 GE, for Peninsular Malaysia, there were 107 Muslim MPs, i.e. 65 MPs from BN and 42 MPs – a far cry from the two-thirds majority of 148 MPs required to amend the constitution.

Even when Sabah and Sarawak are included (and Sabah and Sarawak must be considered separately, as Malaysia’s position as a secular state is specifically underlined in Sabah’s 20-Point Agreement and Sarawak’s 18-Point Agreement in the formation of Malaysia in 1963), the total number of Muslim MPs still fall short of two-thirds majority.

Including Sabah and Sarawak, the 2008 GE elected 130 Muslim MPs out of 222 or 59%, 18 MPs short of a two-thirds majority – with 88 Muslim MPs from BN and 42 Muslim MPs are from PR. (Table 1 below)

Table 1: Muslim and Non-Muslim MPs by BN / PR and by Region / State post GE2008

Region / State               ||         BN               ||                  PR
                                    Muslim   Non-Muslim         Muslim   Non-Muslim
P.Malaysia                         65          20                     42            38
Sabah                               9           21                      -             1
Sarawak                           14           11                      -             1
Total                                88           52                    42             40

It would be simplistic to assume that the Muslim MPs from BN in East Malaysia would blindly support a motion to declare Malaysia as an Islamic state especially since some of these MPs, such as those from PBB in Sarawak, are from parties with non-Muslim members and representatives among their midst.

If we consider only the Muslim MPs in Peninsular Malaysia, they only constitute 107 MPs, less than 50% of the total number of MPs in Malaysia, far short of the two-thirds of 66.7% required for any constitutional amendment.

Table 2: Muslim and Non-Muslim Majority seats by Region / State

Region / State   |   Muslim Majority   |   Non-Muslim Majority   |   Total
P.Malaysia                   113                           52                       165
Sabah                         15                             11                       26
Sarawak                        8                             23                       31
Total                           136                           86                       222

Even if we take the number of Muslim majority versus Non-Muslim majority seats, there are only 136 Muslim majority seats in the whole country (61%), still 12 short of a two thirds majority of 148.

Again, the rationale of Sabah and Sarawak Muslim MPs not necessarily supporting such a motion still holds.

From Table 1 and 2, even in the most extreme circumstances where ALL of the MPs in Muslim majority seats vote to support an Islamic state motion, it would still not be sufficient to reach a two-thirds majority.

These two tables debunk the lie that the MCA President is spreading all over the country, that it is virtually a certainty that there would be two-thirds parliamentary majority of Muslim MPs to support a constitutional amendment to implement hudud when Pakatan Rakyat comes into power in Putrajaya in the 13th General Election.

I would advise the MCA President to cease and desist and halt all his politics of fear, desperation and irresponsibility. Let him act responsibly for a change and show greater respect for figures, facts and the truth.

(Speech at the DAP Pasir Pinji 919 UBAH nite in Ipoh on Wednesday, 19th September 2012 at 9pm)


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