Check Your Voting Status

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Malay middle ground: Pakatan has most to gain

By Liew Chin Tong | The Malaysian Insider

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is writing Barisan Nasional’s political obituary by focusing on micro electoral targets while refusing to confront macro policy matters.

The window to call election before the month of Ramadan has come and gone. The next possible window, which starts from September, is small and very much constrained by the Hari Raya Haji celebration on October 26, Deepavali festival on November 14, and the subsequent annual year-end floods.

Having sounded the war drums for at least two years since 2010 and making it very loud since late last year, Najib was visibly scared to pull the trigger at last, to the chagrin of many Umno leaders who want to get over it and done with.

As Najib calibrates his perfect moments, which I believe have long gone and will never return again, the nation was left in a lurch with numerous policy paralyses, flip-flops, and stalemates.

Lately, we were told that a consolidated intelligence report shown that Barisan Nasional has 80 seats in the bag and was close to winning another 50 seats, giving it 130 seats or a majority of 18 seats.

The police’s Special Branch, we were told, puts the figure at 118, which is a bare six-seat majority. To form the federal government, 112 out of the lower house’s 222 seats are required.

The numbers have clearly spooked the ruling party, especially Najib’s inner circle. For the rest of Umno, as long as Barisan Nasional remains in power, their high society lives go on.

But for Najib, a victory is not enough. He has set for himself a high bar — to win with a two-thirds majority or at least to win back the state of Selangor for Barisan Nasional; preferably both.

He doesn’t want to be remembered as the worst-performing PM — a record held by his predecessor Tun Abdullah Badawi, who lost Barisan Nasional’s two-thirds majority in Parliament and five states to Pakatan Rakyat.

It is, hence, amusing to see Najib talking about “14–0″ — that Barisan Nasional would win all 13 states plus the majority of Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Najib is obsessed with micro electoral targets to the extent of trying to keep “winnable” retirees such as Abdullah Badawi and former MCA Presidents Ong Ka Ting from retirement.

He visits each and every one of the swing seats in an attempt to rub some of his perceived popularity onto BN candidates there.

And all government resources are channelled to buy favours from voters of various “swing” segments of the population. But he is just seeing the trees and missing the beautiful Malaysian rainforest altogether.

Malaysia is a multiethnic nation. Any coalition that fails to take the centrist posture to convince sufficient number of non-Malay and non-Muslim voters would face defeat.

Allowing Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Utusan Malaysia, Perkasa as well as other instantly-formed racist groups a free hand to set the agenda and hold the government hostage will only alienate more voters, including moderate Malays.

Failure to deal with the aspirations of Malaysians to see a more open, fairer and democratic society will dissipate middle class urban supports. The tear gas and water cannon at Bersih 2.0 and 3.0 are turning passive concerned citizens into frontline activists against Barisan Nasional.

Finally, it is clear that in most of the opinion polls over the past three years, 60 per cent of the Malays are aware of how corrupt Umno is, but only around 45 per cent are ready to vote for Pakatan Rakyat.

If only the mass media stops behaving like the Soviet-style propaganda machine.

There exists at least a 15 per cent middle ground among the Malays that will either be pushed to Pakatan Rakyat if Umno is seen as totally hopeless in reforming itself or be pulled by Pakatan Rakyat if it comes up with credible alternatives.

Those are fundamental issues determining the next election but Najib’s obsession for his personal legacy somehow misses them completely. — The Rocket

Monday, June 25, 2012

CM Lim Guan Eng Speech: Inaugural Conference of the The ASEAN Coalition Of Clean Governance

The ASEAN Coalition Of Clean Governance seeks to establish a system that ensures policies are made for public interest through the essential mechanism that establishes institutions which builds integrity in leadership and decision making, effective internal controls to check and punish corruption as well as rewarding whistle-blowers.

On behalf of Penang Institute as well as the state government of Penang, allow me to start by wishing everyone a warm welcome both to Penang as well as to the inaugural conference of the ASEAN Coalition for Clean Governance. Organising a conference in the midst of the month-long internationally renowned GeorgeTown Heritage Fest with the theme “What enables clean governance in democracies? ASEAN perspectives.”, is appropriate. After all GeorgeTown’s future as a UNESCO World Heritage City is inextricably intertwined with its survival linked to clean governance.

Clean governance is an issue that is very close to my heart. It is one of the reasons why I am here as the new Penang Chief Minister and one of the critical reforms in my administration which will decide whether I will still be around. Therefore, it is important to understand the correlation between development and clean governance.

History is rife with numerous examples throughout the world where weak governance, corruption and abuse of power have resulted in grinding poverty and the widening wealth inequality and income disparity. When a government is corrupt and inefficient, it is almost a certainty that its economic development will be unbalanced, inequitable and even unfair; with its socio-economic distribution skewed in favour of the cronies.

Clean governance can be broadly defined as a system that ensures policies are made for public interest through the essential mechanism that establishes institutions which builds integrity in leadership and decision making, an effective internal control to check and punish corruption as well as rewarding whistle-blowers. More specifically, we need to understand whether clean governance is relevant in the ASEAN context to engender social, political, economic and sustainable development.

It is for this reason that the Penang Institute has organised this conference today by bringing together leading proponents of clean governance from around the region with the aim of raising awareness of clean governance, discussing its enabling factors, setting up institutions, exchanging experience and more importantly establishing a culture of clean governance throughout ASEAN.

In extraordinary times we should not forget the importance of a return to the basic Principle, Of Doing Not Only The Right Thing But Also Doing It Right. We are gathered here in extraordinary times. The global picture today is one that would have been unrecognisable just a decade ago.

Today we see totalitarian governments and once-untouchable dictatorships being toppled one after another like dominos. Meanwhile, the Western economies are teetering on the edge of a meltdown, consumed by the weight of a crunching debt crisis that offers little room for optimism.

We are now living in extraordinary times. The effects of the global economic crisis are already obvious. ASEAN economies will not be spared and is expected to face weakening exports and a slowdown in FDI. As a result, economic management has become an increasingly challenging effort. In these extraordinary times, some say we require extraordinary ideas and extraordinary efforts. However, we should not forget a return to the basic principle of not just doing the right thing but also doing it right.

ASEAN countries are bound together not only by geography and economy, but also by cultural and political values. In that sense, this great economic challenge that we are facing is a collective dilemma, and must therefore be met by collective leadership and collective action.

Need for clean public institutions

When I talk about leadership, I am not only talking about economic leadership. While that is important, I would like to suggest that there is also a need for ethical leadership. In other words, in such dire times, the only way to ensure protection for the people is to ensure that public institutions are strong, resilient and most importantly, clean.

The pillar of a society is its public institutions, which can be defined as the “rules of the game” which govern the interaction within and between governments, markets and society. Now, imagine if the rules of the game were not firm, or if the enforcement of the rules were lax. You would have irresponsible parties taking advantage of the system in order to enrich themselves and worse, to suppress the rights of others. This is how a corrupt and oppressive society is formed.

Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn summarised it well by saying, “The causes of financial crises and poverty are one and the same… If countries do not have good governance, if they do not confront the issue of corruption, if they do not have a complete legal system which protects human rights, property rights and contracts… their development is fundamentally flawed and will not last.”

In other words, the relationship between public institutions and the socio-economic development of a society is a symbiotic one. Good and clean governance will result in positive socio-economic development. Conversely, ineffective public institutions and weak governance will facilitate corruption, misguided allocation of resources, arbitrary justice and excessive government intervention. This will in turn reduce economic competitiveness, deter private sector investment and prejudice the distribution of wealth.

Freedom is Empowerment

True development is not merely material but must also refer to the accessibility and availability of opportunity to a society. In other words, a truly developed society is one where its people are empowered with the freedom to fulfil their aspirations and capabilities.

In this, I am guided by the great economist for the poor and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, who questions the fundamental assumption of development economics by arguing that development should not be measured primarily by wealth or income. According to Sen, poverty is not merely material but should also be seen as the “deprivation of basic capabilities”, which he defines as human freedoms.

In other words, development is a process of expanding the instrumental freedoms of individuals, which he encapsulates in five elemental forms:

1. Political freedoms, 2. Economic facilities, 3. Social opportunities, 4. Transparency guarantees, 5. Protective security.

Political freedoms encompass basic human rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of information. It also significantly refers to public participation, checks and balances, the need for democratically-elected bodies at all levels as well as institutional respect for the Rule of Law.

Economic facilities are defined as the availability of access to economic resources, markets and female participation in the workforce, while social opportunities refer to education, health and other community facilities that allow individuals to gain better agency.

Transparency guarantees are meant to ensure a mechanism for seeking justice, the prevention of corruption, abuse of power and conflict of interest through public disclosure of information. Lastly, protective security talks about the need for the state to provide a social safety net to mitigate deprivation and poverty caused by epidemics, natural disasters and war.

These five forms of human freedoms as described by Sen are complementary and interrelated concepts that encompass processes as well as opportunities. They are both a fundamental aspect, as well as an enabler to achieving development. In other words, they are not only the means but also the ends.

More importantly, we must understand that Sen’s hypothesis is centred on the idea that freedom is empowerment. By providing the instruments of freedom to an individual, we will enhance the ability of individuals to fulfil their own potential and capabilities. It is this collective empowerment of individuals that will in turn lead our societies to true development.

Institutionalising Freedom through Clean Governance

If we make development our objective, and we recognise that freedom is both the means and the ends to development, then it follows that we must build public institutions that embrace the universal of truth, accountability and transparency. After all, Sen’s parameters of human freedom entail the fulfilment of basic human rights, political equality, socio-economic justice, equitable access to opportunity, fairer distribution of wealth, integrity in leadership and commitment to the rule of law.

Thus, the only way to crystallise these parameters of freedom is to institutionalise them through the instruments of democracy. In other words, freedom can only be guaranteed and protected by clean, efficient, accountable and transparent public institutions.

I would hence like to suggest that public institutions should conform to a universal framework of good governance as described by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This framework contains five principles, which are:

1. Legitimacy and Voice 2. Direction 3. Performance 4. Accountability 5. Fairness

It is critical to recognise that public institutions must be democratically legitimate and participatory in nature. All men and women should have a voice in decision-making, either directly or indirectly. Such participation can only be built by honouring basic rights such as freedom of association and speech.

At the same time, governance must be guided by a strategic vision that is both forward-looking and cognisant of the complexities of its local history and society. Institutions and processes must also be robust and responsive in order to serve its stakeholders effectively. Very importantly, they must also be accountable and transparent. Decision-makers are ultimately responsible to the public, and must therefore ensure that the public have direct access to sufficient information.

Lastly, governance of public institutions must be fair and provide equality regardless of gender or skin colour. Above all, it is imperative that institutions are guided by the rule of law. However, we must also ensure that the law is responsive to freedom, justice and the tenets of human rights.

These five UNDP principles of good and clean governance must act as our guide if we wish to achieve development without compromising on freedom and democracy.

CAT Governance: The Penang Experience

Penang’s commitment towards clean governance is exemplified by CAT of competency, accountability and transparent administration. CAT has managed to arrest the graceful decline of Penang over the 18 years prior to 2008.

Based on CAT principles, we became the first state in Malaysia to introduce open competitive tenders for all public procurements and supplies. To the outside world, this is normal practice. However, it was ground-shattering in our country. We were immediately subject to a barrage of criticisms from various quarters who felt that their rice bowls were threatened.

By implementing open competitive tenders, we effectively eliminated the opportunity for corruption. Previously, contractors had to seek out “middlemen” for projects. Now, everything is done online through our e-Procurement system. Where previously the road to a government contract required political connections, it now only requires an internet connection.

In addition, we disclose fully the contents of government contracts signed with the private sector. We have also passed the Freedom of Information Enactment which allows disclosure of government contracts for public scrutiny. What’s more, we have also taken steps to engage the public on the state government’s proposed projects and plans.

To top it off, we have also become the first state in Malaysia to have the entire state executive council (EXCO) including the Chief Minister make a full public declaration of assets. And more recently, we have sought to empower more decentralised decision-making by passing the Local Government Elections Enactment, as part of our commitment towards participatory governance.

Our efforts are bearing fruit. In the last four years, we have turned the state’s finances around with surplus budgets for every single year since we took over. More importantly in an era of high debts, we have successfully reduced state government debt by 95 per cent, from RM630 million when we took over to just RM30 million today.

For all our efforts, we have garnered accolades not only from the Auditor-General’s annual reports, but we have also become the only state government in Malaysia to be praised by global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

However, praise alone does not mean anything if it is not translated into real achievements. For the first time in Penang’s history, we managed to become the number one investment location of the country in 2010. Over the last 2 years, Penang contributed towards nearly 30 per cent of Malaysia’s total foreign direct investment (FDI). For a state with only 6 per cent of the country’s population, we are certainly punching way above our weight.

GeorgeTown is now the most livable city in Malaysia in 2011. And to prove that it was no fluke, we followed up by repeating this feat this year. Last but not least, CAT governance is not only about clean governance but also about providing democratic space and fostering a culture of freedom. For example, we established the first Speaker’s Corner in Malaysia, where one can not only enjoy freedom of speech, but also freedom after speech. We allow people to speak their minds, even when it is often used to speak out against us.

More importantly, we also believe that it is incumbent upon the state to provide economic facilities and social opportunities for the people. As such, we embarked on a string of people-centric social welfare programmes that have seen Penang become the first state in Malaysia to eradicate hardcore poverty and on our way to wipe out poverty completely by 2015.

In addition, we also go to great lengths to ensure that the downtrodden are taken care of by giving cash aid to senior citizens, single mothers, the disabled, schoolchildren, newborn babies, subsidised dialysis treatments and even free bus services in the inner city and across our famous Penang Bridge. This is all part of our commitment to ensure that our people enjoy freedom from want.

The Penang Declaration Of Clean Governance: Laying Future Foundations

It is my hope that our conference today will mark the beginning of a strong movement for clean governance in ASEAN. It is especially important in current times to ensure clean governance of our public institutions and freedom of our people. To do this, we must be aware of the collective aspirations of our people. We must be responsive to their needs and engage them on their wants. Above all, freedom must be institutionalised.

And so, at the end of today’s proceedings, we hope to launch an important document, titled “The Penang Declaration”. It is a document that symbolises the commitment of the participants here today in acknowledging the principles of clean, accountable and transparent governance, and the universal values of truth, freedom and democracy. It also recognises the need for clean governance and the rule of law in order to attain socio-economic development and progress, as well as the necessity of building public institutions.

The Penang Declaration will reaffirm the five principles of good governance as described by the UNDP, as well as to encourage the implementation of public declaration of assets, open competitive tenders and the disclosure of government contracts.

Perhaps significantly, the document will also call for an important element of the anti-corruption process, which is the need for whistle-blower protection. In addition, our coalition will also bear no tolerance for corruption and abuse of power by insisting that powers of prosecution in corruption cases must be independently-wielded.

Finally, the Penang Declaration is a pledge to embrace cultural and social transformation in governance and integrity to engender inclusive, equitable and participatory social, political, economic and sustainable development for the people of ASEAN.


The Penang Institute would like to thank everyone for attending the day’s proceedings, especially our distinguished speakers who are great leaders in their own countries. We have guests from Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines and Laos. It is indeed a proud day for Penang and the Penang Institute.

I am certain that everyone here today shares our desire for improvement in governance, and I hope that the establishment of this ASEAN Coalition for Clean Governance will be the first step of a collective journey towards this ideal. As such, I thank you all once again for taking this important step together with us.

Together, we will face the scourge of corruption and abuse of power by advocating, encouraging and implementing clean governance. We do this because it is our responsibility to. In the words of Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And remind ourselves that cleanliness is next to holiness!

Deep and Dirty: Malaysia's Submarine Scandal

Asia Sentinel

Leaked prosecution documents show a pattern of official misdeeds in two countries

A two-decade campaign by the French state-owned defense giant DCN and its subsidiaries to sell submarines to the Malaysian ministry of defense has resulted in a long tangle of blackmail, bribery, influence peddling, misuse of corporate assets and concealment, among other allegations, according to documents made available to Asia Sentinel.

Some of the misdeeds appear to have taken place with the knowledge of top French government officials including then-foreign Minister Alain Juppe and with the consent of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, according to the documents, comprising 133 separate files and hundreds of pages. They were presented to the French Prosecuting Magistrate at the Court de Grand Instance de Paris in May and June of 2011. French lawyers have begun preparing subpoenas for leading Malaysian politicians including Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, the current Defense Minister, Ahmad Zaki Hamad and several other figures.

Read full story here

Sunday, June 24, 2012

By now, Umno-BN the most corrupt regime in ASEAN with largest stash of illicit outflows

By Moaz Nair | Malaysia Chronicle

Najib may preach to the people on ‘political certainty’ to save BN (Barisan Nasional) from tumbling in the next general election. But little does he realise that political certainty and economic stability remain an ideal when corruption is endemic in the government. Corruption or misuse of public power is synonymous to bad governance of a country.

“UMNO and BN are whirling with a welter of scandals and corruption, a festering economy and of late the exposé that foreign authorities have been poring over the bank accounts of well-established Malaysians including politicians,” commented a senior lawmaker. “Nothing seems to bode well for the government before the next general election,” he added.

Malaysia’s CPI in 2011 as published in TI (Transparency International) was 4.3 – the worst ever score in the past 10 years. This figure is bound to drop more with the revelation of more corruption cases by the strong Opposition force in the country now.

This will put the country on a par with many other developing countries that are facing the same blights – corruption, political uncertainty and economic instability.

Political stability is imperative for investors and for development. And this stability can only be augmented when there is a two-party system. Check-and-balance is crucial in ensuring that there is a healthy democracy, accountability and no misuse of public power for private benefit. Oppressing the Opposition with lies and hatred will make the incumbent government none the wiser.

“To ensure political certainty and stability only politicians with integrity, competence and who are not corrupt are chosen to lead the nation,” commented a university lecturer.

Evidence of good governance

The two-party system of the country has paved the way for both BN and PR engrossment in taking charge of the states in the country.

If evidence of good governance is what the people seek then they are the four states under PR (Pakatan) government – Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan – that have paved the veracious way for all other states to emulate.

The success of states under PR is testimony that the nation will not be in jeopardy or will nose-dive into the gorge of ruins if the Opposition is given the chance to govern the country.

Political certainty is crucial for economic growth. In line with this, investors are convinced that Penang and Selangor are the two most successful and stable states in the country. These two states achieved the utmost in terms of economic growth for the past four years.

They are well-managed financially and economically. Kedah and Kelantan have also done well.

The combined total of economic growth of all the four states under PR has been the highest compared to the combined total all the states under BN rule in the past four years. The reason to this is that they know about wealth creation, not corruption and wastage. Selangor, for instance, has recorded the highest sum in reserves, amounting to RM1.9 billion for last year.

Nothing is more evident

Penang’s debt to the federal government has been reduced from RM630 million to only RM30 million. Hence, nothing is more evident to support this notion of success than what is happening right now in Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Kelantan.

Efficiency and free of corruption have played the role in the relative economic prosperity enjoyed by these states since the PR government took over. These states have seen stability and prosperity not only economically but also in the social and religious aspects as well.

BN or PR there can always be political certainty in the country. The only way to ensure this climate is to have a check-and-balance on the misuse of public power by having a strong Opposition. In the local context the Opposition can now be either BN or PR – thanks to the advent of a two-party system in the country that has benefitted the people.

The country now has four successful states under PR where BN is the Opposition. In all the other states PR is the Opposition.

Regimes have collapsed

Corruption in all forms is hampering the political certainty for BN to stay in power. With PR making major inroads in many parts of the country the next general election could see a change in the political equation in the country. Ideally, no single political party or coalition should be at the helm of power for decades as this would breed venality.

History has proven that many regimes have collapsed in the past when politicians misuse public power for their private benefit. Corruption in all its forms has brought changes to governments the world over.

History has seen how countries in the present and past that have been under a single authoritative power for decades but finally collapse in a throbbing manner. Decades of unchallenged power or suppression of the people is akin to a ‘time bomb’ waiting to implode and for the regimes in these countries to cave in.

When leaders, their families and cronies enrich themselves at the expense of the masses and the poor the rot starts. After or just before their downfall these self-seeking groups would seek to leave the country with their illegally accumulated wealth all stashed overseas and in foreign banks. Their close family members are turned into billionaires and own properties and palaces in developed countries.

Many countries have faced the fate of having leaders identical to the late Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, to quote just two examples.

‘Expensive wife’

Ferdinand Marcos was a Filipino politician who held the title of President of the Philippines for more than two decades (1965 to 1986). His administration later was marred by massive authoritarian, political despotism, and human rights violations.

1986 saw his removal from power and eventual exile in Hawaii. It was later discovered that, during his 20 years in power, he and his ‘expensive’ wife Imelda Marcos had moved billions of dollars of embezzled public funds to accounts and investments in the United States, Switzerland, and other countries.

The damage done was so bad that even after Marcos’ regime had long gone the CPI of the country still stands at 2.8 to 3.4 for the past 10 years.

Corruption and abuse of power

The CPI for Egypt was 2.8 to 3.4 for the past 10 years. Hosni Mubarak served as the fourth President of Egypt for about 3 decades from 1981 to 2011.

Mubarak was ousted after 18 days of demonstrations during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Mubarak and both his sons were detained and questioned about allegations of corruption and abuse of power. The family is reputed to be among the world’s richest people.

It was reported that state corruption during Mubarak's presidency was rife. The Egyptian government under him came up with bureaucratic regulations, registration requirements, and other controls that often fed corruption. Corruption remained a major problem under Mubarak, who promised to do much, but in fact neither did anything substantial to tackle it effectively.

In 2010, TI’s CPI report assessed Egypt with a CPI score of 3.1, based on perceptions of the degree of corruption from business people and country analysts.

Many countries have faced political uncertainties due not to the people or the Opposition but self-seeking politicians within the sitting governments who were more interested in lining their pockets will wealth through devious means.

It will affect UMNO more

Political certainty or stability is again the function of many other factors, including an incumbent government willing to step down if it is found not good enough and ineffectual. It’s only when a regime refuses to relinquish power when losing an election will it cause political volatility. “Changing government democratically will always ensure political certainty and economic stability,” commented a local political observer. “It is only when the sitting government refuses to concede defeat and relinquish power with there be disorder,” he added.

As long as democracy is cherished the country will progress without glitches – whichever coalition takes over the rein.

If at all there is going to political uncertainty in the country it will affect UMNO more than PAS – the two dominant Malay-based parties in the country. Stoking racial and religious polarisation has not put UMNO in the good book of investors. When UMNO plays the race card the people can sense that this will lead to the political uncertainty or survival of UMNO itself.

Race relations in the country has fortunately been moderated by PAS – the party that has shown much reasonableness when it comes to race relations.

Beyond that, the recent Bersih 3.0 rally has also proven to the investors that people of all races in the country can come together in cohesion to express their discontent for a government that does not subscribe to free and fair elections.

People are now wise enough to see racism in UMNO politics. They also perceive the government as so corrupt and inefficient in managing the country’s wealth.

“Racism, inefficient and corrupt government are responsible for making the lives of the people difficult,” said a 28-year-old university graduate. “If this is allowed to go on, it will cause political uncertainty in the country. It actually will affect UMNO more in our political equation,” he added.

Alternative platform

Political certainty and stability can only be achieved when an elected government is not corrupt, transparent and accountable to the people.

Najib or Mahathir can stop coercing voters to stick to BN. When a government is irresponsible, corrupt, inept, or cheats and spends way beyond their means the people will seek an alternative platform to ensure stability for the country.

Without a viable competition in politics there will be monopoly of power that can lead to more corruption, incompetence and financial abuse. BN thus cannot be allowed to monopolise power.

“They are the sources of instability because they grind down taxpayer’s money and make life miserable for many Malaysians,” commented a businessman in Kuala Lumpur. “Corrupt practices have put BN in a bad shape in the eyes of the people,” he added.

The people aspire for change not to ‘rock the boat’ but to seek a better bet for political and economic stability of the country. Najib has to edify himself that the source of political uncertainty or instability is the government, not the people.

Apparently, what seems to be uncertain here is UMNO’s political future when PAS has obviously become the people’s preferred choice to replace the ‘hoary’ party.

Has UMNO and BN outlived their usefulness to the country?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1 Malaysia, 2 BNs, 3 agendas

By Zairil Khir Johari | TMI

As Malaysians begin to grow weary of the guessing game that is the election date, a more amusing charade is beginning to develop in the northern corner of our country. Of late, one particular state — in fact the second smallest one — seems to be grabbing the lion’s share of media attention.

The sudden obsession with Penang, as evidenced by the unrelenting headlines and the constant barrage of political proclamations on a multitude of Penang-related issues, would appear to speak of a concerted attempt to consolidate the entire federal machinery towards the goal of dismantling the current state government.

Yet interestingly enough, if one were to scrutinise between the lines of the numerous statements made by various Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders regarding Penang, one would begin to wonder whether the blue orchestra was performing in single harmony, or whether they were in fact being directed by numerous conductors playing to different beats.

It all started two months ago with the appointment of Teng Chang Yeow as the new Penang BN chairman. Touted as a strong, credible figure who is able to galvanise a dispirited Penang BN into shape and to captain them to a comeback following their worst-ever defeat, expectations ran high.

Soon after his appointment, Teng opened the offensive by announcing the BN’s grand blueprint to recapture Penang. This plan involved a slew of fanciful ideas such as establishing an international financial centre, an innovation park, an aquaculture hub as well as an international tourism hub. Capping off this litany of promises was a golden carrot in the form of a promise to return “free port” status to the island.

However, even before Teng’s free port idea had the chance to sink in, the BN hull began to crack.

Barely two weeks after Teng’s tour de force, a press conference was called under the BN banner featuring Penang Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan and Penang Umno bigwig cum Penang Port chairman Datuk Seri Hilmi Yahaya to announce that a free port may not be the best idea, after all.

Instead, it was proposed that a designated duty-free CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) zone be built on the mainland. In fact, Hilmi, a former deputy chief minister of Penang, even went so far as to downplay the idea of a free port by stating that, “… it cannot be like before where the whole island would be duty-free.”

At a time when the BN badly needs to consolidate its machinery ahead of a crucial general election, the appearance of this purported “Team B” only serves to confuse the public. Two BN camps saying two different things? Who’s right and who’s wrong? That’s where Big Brother comes in.

Assuming we live in a world of logic, then it must follow that since Teng Chang Yeow is the anointed BN chief, his view would represent the official party position. This is especially so when, at his own earlier press conference, Teng had himself confidently stressed: “When I raised the matter with the PM, he did say he will look into it positively.”

It would appear, however, that either Teng or the prime minister had suffered a bout of miscommunication. In the latest development, the prime minister had, through a parliamentary reply last week, stated that “bearing in mind that Penang has five free trade zones and that the free port concept is now non-existent, the issue of granting free port status to Penang no longer arises.”

It is not enough that Teng’s own colleagues disagree with him; it now appears that his own boss does not support him as well. But wait, it gets better. After all, no good drama is complete without a third party joining the fray.

As if the divergent stances on the free port agenda weren’t enough, the MCA — feeling a bit left out — has now thrown its hat into the crowded ring by supporting a plan to privatise the Penang Port to Umno-linked tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.

Flexing his muscles as the chairman of the Penang Port commission, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek recently issued a derisive warning to the Penang state government. According to the MCA president, any attempt to derail or refusal to co-operate with the federal government’s plan to privatise the Penang Port would only be “sabotaging” what he asserts to be a move that would “improve the efficiency of the port.”

Of course, no decision in this country has weight unless the prime minister himself has backed it. Thus, Dr Chua was quick to drop his name by claiming that it was a decision agreed to by the prime minister after he had “looked at the effect on the entire state before making a decision on the privatisation of Penang Port.”

Teng, however, does not appear to be convinced. Breaking ranks from the federal leadership, the Penang BN chief has instead chosen to echo the DAP leaders in the Penang state government by opposing the Penang Port privatisation plan. In his latest statement, Teng insists that he and his colleagues would urge the prime minister to reconsider.

The situation within Penang BN is getting more ridiculous by the day. On the one hand, a new state chief was chosen for his purported ability to “rejuvenate” the ailing coalition in order to “regain BN’s pride and dignity.” On the other, a group of renegade state BN leaders have, in their zeal to prove their relevance, ended up undermining the efforts of the former.

And to further complicate matters, you have an even more irrelevant leader trying to promote an idea that is immediately and vehemently opposed not only by the rival state government but also by the state BN chairman. This, of course, wouldn’t be half the problem it is if the prime minister didn’t also support it.

Two months ago, when Teng Chang Yeow boldly announced on his Facebook page that he was prepared to “fight policy to policy”, I think even he had no clue that he would end up battling not only his own colleagues but also his own boss.

Truly, with friends like these, Teng needs no enemies.

Do you trust them?

Ali Kadir | TMI

Everything begins and ends with this question: Do you trust them?

Do you trust Khaled Nordin to look after the interest of Malaysians or do you believe that the Parliamentary Select Committee was set up to regurgitate information provided by Lynas and merely rubber stamp an investment already banked in by the Barisan Nasional government?

Please bear in mind that Khaled is also the minister who believed he was doing the right thing when he froze federal loans to students at Unisel in a show a political gamesmanship that he lost.

Do you trust Rais Yatim when he tells all and sundry that only 22,000 Malaysians attended Bersih 3.0?

Do you trust M. Kayveas when he says that urban Malaysians are navel-gazers and an ungrateful bunch who only know how to whine?

Do you trust Muhyiddin Yassin when he says that the BN government has forged national unity in Malaysia?

This coming from the man who is the darling of the party’s right-wing movement, the politician ensconced with Perkasa and Pekida, and the man who really believes that Malay unity is the same as national unity.

Do you trust Idris Jala when he talks about statistics, whether it is crime stats or a prosperity index?

Should you trust anyone who supposedly transformed Malaysia Airlines and basked in the glory of “success”, only for Malaysians to be told now that the national icon is on the verge of collapse?

Trust. This is what it boils down to. I dare say that no one in the Malaysian Cabinet can command that important ingredient today when their lips move

Send telegram to defend Ambiga, Bersih

RK Anand | FMT

Disappointed with the continued harassment of Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga, a MIC leader has called on Malaysians to send a message to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

S Vell Paari suggested a telegram protest to get the point across and this was backed by NGO WargaAman and PKR vice-president N Surendran.

The MIC central working committee member said the issue had transcended political and racial boundaries.

According to Vell Paari, Ambiga and Bersih were fighting for free and fair elections and he found it difficult to digest the accusation that it was an attempt to topple the government.

“I know the critics will ask ‘why must MIC get involved in this?’ But I am making this call not as a member of MIC but on a personal note because I believe what they are doing is wrong.

“Demanding Ambiga to pay for the damages and to compensate for ‘overtime’ as well as for the food and drinks given to DBKL staff is downright ridiculous,” he told FMT.

Vell Paari said Bersih was given a police permit to hold the rally and the electoral watchdog did not erect the steel barriers outside Dataran Merdeka.

“So how can DBKL charge Ambiga for the barriers? When you have people like this, Barisan Nasional does not need enemies,” he added.

He also questioned why Ambiga and Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah were targeted and not others like national laureate A Samad Said, who was the co-chairperson of Bersih.

Vell Paari was responding to letter of demand from DBKL seeking more than RM350,000 from the two Bersih leaders with regard to the losses incurred during the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28.

Previously, the government demanded RM122,000 from Bersih for the damage to police vehicles during the rally.

Prior to that, disgruntled burger sellers set up a stall outside Ambiga’s residence to protest the losses suffered due to the Bersih 3.0 rally and this was followed by a vulgar aerobic exercise.

However, the Bersih chairperson refused to be intimidated and vowed to continue her struggle for free and fair elections.

Vell Paari said Malaysians should send a telegram, addressed to Najib to express their dissatisfaction over the harassment.

“I know this will ruffle the feathers of some people in power but I refuse to stand by and watch Ambiga being harassed for fighting for something she believes in. So the PM must intervene to stop this harassment,” he stressed.

“So go to your nearest post office and send the telegram; it is a small price to pay in return for Ambiga’s huge sacrifice,” he added.

Send telegrams to WargaAman office

Supporting the telegram protest, WargaAman secretary-general S Barathidasan lauded Vell Paari for having the courage to make the suggestion.

He said the NGO was willing to participate in this effort and Malaysians could post their telegrams to WargaAman’s office located at: 260-2, second floor, Batu 2 ½, Jalan Ipoh, 51200, Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.

“We will then collect the telegrams and submit them to the Prime Minister’s Office,” he added, urging Malaysians of all races to lend support to the cause.

Criticising DBKL over its letter of demand, Barathidasan said the move was a clear form of harassment.

“Instead of looking into the points raised by Bersih regarding free and fair elections, the authorities are choosing to penalise Ambiga and her associates,” he told FMT.

In a related development, Surendran also welcomed the telegram protest to exert pressure on the government to withdraw its legal actions.

“Any form of legitimate and peaceful pressure to stop an unjust act must be welcomed. I think it is a good and peaceful manner to put the point across to the government,” said the PKR vice-president.

“It allows an avenue for the people to express their unhappiness and discontent over the persecution of Ambiga and Bersih.

“The telegram protest is a positive thing and it will help send the message that the public is upset with what the government is doing,” he added.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An open letter to Datuk Kayveas

I was there Datuk Kayveas, and I can solemnly swear I was not paid a single cent and I am fully awake on why I attended Bersih 3.0 rally - Richard Loh

Tan Zhong Yan | TMI

Dear Datuk Kayveas,

I, as part of a younger generation of Malaysians and a participant of Bersih 3.0, am totally disappointed with your statement which states that 99 per cent of those who went for the sit-in demonstration did not know why they were there and that they were paid. Your statement is not only absurd and irresponsible but also insulting.

If the people do not know the purpose of the sit-in demonstration, why would they want to waste their time? Were they there to get a taste of the tear gas, water cannons and how it feels to be beaten up by the police?

I would like to tell you that I was there; neither because my parents asked me to (in fact, I am the one who asked my dad to tag along) nor because I was paid. I was there because I was aware of the fact that elections in Malaysia are not clean, free or fair. I was there because I fully understand that we need clean, free and fair elections. Only clean, free and fair elections will guarantee a better future. Only clean, free and fair elections will make Malaysia a true democracy.

And if I, as a youth with normal intelligence, am able to understand this, I truly believe that at least 99 per cent of all Malaysians will be able to understand this as well. Therefore, I believe at least 99 per cent of those who went to the rally do understand the purpose of the demonstration.

You say that 99 per cent of those tens of thousands who went to the rally do not understand why they were there and they were there because of money, and if what you say were true, then perhaps we should blame the government and the Malaysian education system for producing such a stupid and ignorant bunch of citizens.

Therefore, I, as a Malaysian, would like to demand that you apologise sincerely to all Malaysians, specifically to the participants of Bersih 3.0 for your absurd, irresponsible and insulting statement.

You have insulted the intelligence of the people for saying that they did not know what they were doing. You have insulted the people for saying that they were there because they were paid. I would like to tell you that we, the ordinary citizens of Malaysia, are not like those kataks in politics who can be bought with money nor are we prostitutes who will betray ourselves just for money.

So, please stop insulting us!

Tan Zhong Yan

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ambiga: Let there be no witchhunt

 By RK Anand | FMT

Should Pakatan Rakyat form the government, the Bersih chairperson says it should set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into issues of corruption.

There is a fear lurking in the hearts of some that should Pakatan Rakyat form the federal government, it will embark on a witchhunt against the corrupt.

The condemning paper trails, observers noted, might land high-ranking civil servants, politicians and their kin as well as corporate captains behind bars.

The courts would need to work overtime as prosecutions would involve those at the bottom and at the top of the food chain.

But Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga argued that it would be counter-productive to do so.

The former Bar Council president said the nation should not be burdened with these court proceedings during a period of transition in governance.

“If Pakatan wins the next general election, they should refrain from initiating a witchhunt and I believe that they won’t resort to such a move based on the statements made [by the leaders].

“But at the same time, those guilty of corruption must be made accountable,” she told FMT.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In view of this, Ambiga suggested that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – a court-like restorative justice body – be formed to look into the cases of corruption and recovering lost assets.

She said the new government should also explore the possibility of granting amnesty, pointing out that there were many ways how this could be implemented.

“One way is to grant complete amnesty to those who choose to come clean while those who don’t will have to face the full force of the law.

“Those in the lower ranks of the civil service can be granted amnesty; there are no hard and fast rules, it requires thought and a study on the corruption,” she added.

Ambiga also stressed the importance of asset recovery.

“I suggest that they [Pakatan] look at amnesty together with asset recovery as this is one way that those guilty of corruption can be made accountable,” she added.

Conceding that the amnesty proposal would draw brickbats, she said: “Many will resist the idea but it must be explained to them, how and why it is important and how it can help move the nation forward.”

However, Ambiga said that amnesty should be for monetary-related offences and not crimes involving violence, such as alleged state-sanctioned communal bloodletting and custodial deaths.

“Acts of violence cannot be forgiven,” she stressed.

Noting that a TRC is a complex and exhaustive process, Ambiga said Pakatan must start planning it even before the general election is called.

One of the consistent allegations against the Barisan Nasional government, which had ruled the nation for more than five decades, is that corruption had become institutionalised under its watch and the nation is bleeding colossal sums of money due to this.

In a paper presented at a convention in Geneva last year, Ambiga had underscored how graft affected Malaysia’s economy.

Citing the United Nations World Investment Report 2010, she said that illegal capital flight from Malaysia had surpassed legitimate capital inflows in recent years.

“The report is especially worrying as it shows that the outflow has tripled in the monitored period of eight years,” she added.

Look into race-relations as well

Ambiga told FMT that a witchhunt might breed resistance, which in turn could present obstacles for a nation in transition.

To illustrate her point, she cited the problems encountered by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with regard to its dragnet against errant policemen.

The tension subsided after the announcement of a partial amnesty for minor acts of corruption.

Ambiga said the TRC should also look into race-relations and other issues which affected the fabric of Malaysian society as well as accept complaints from the public with regard to all institutions.

“Many things are in need of correction after 54 years of independence and race-relations happens to be one of them,” she added.

The witchhunt issue surfaced following DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang’s statement that former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad feared prosecution should Pakatan seize control of Putrajaya.

In his response, Mahathir claimed that he never indulged in corrupt practices during his 22-year tenure and accused Lim of harbouring a desire to see him imprisoned or sentenced to death.

Weighing in on the matter, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah said that Pakatan had no intention of incarcerating Mahathir as it is more concerned about saving Malaysia.

Raise the bar on debates

Meanwhile, sharing her views on the opposition, Ambiga said Pakatan must behave like a government in waiting.

Although the opposition bloc had outlined certain ideas, she added that it is imperative for Pakatan to provide more depth to its socio-economic blueprint for governing this nation.

Responding to a question, she agreed that Pakatan should also reveal its shadow Cabinet list for the people to evaluate.

“It is time for them to raise the bar on the debate; they must bring it to the level of statesmanship. At present, all parties appear to be indulging largely in the trading of barbs,” she said.

Ambiga also called on all parties to address the issues troubling the people, one of which being political violence.

“I have always said that the parties should look at a bipartisan solution. It is advisable for all leaders to come out strongly, to take a stand and assure the people. Such an assurance will be telling.

“The people want to be assured that this [political violence] will stop. I dare say this will affect the way they vote. The people are watching.
“Crime is another matter of concern. So rather than defending the indefensible, they must look into the issues troubling the rakyat,” she added.

In a related development, Nurul said she welcomed Ambiga’s suggestions to set up a TRC and grant amnesty if Pakatan comes into power.

“I am very receptive to her suggestions, especially in light of Mahathir’s recent outburst, which probably is indicative of his guilt-stricken paranoia,” the PKR vice-president told FMT.

“We need to source a workable mechanism that helps to address the country’s drying coffers yet not to the detriment of a smooth and peaceful transition,” she added.

In the 2008 general election, Pakatan, under the stewardship of Nurul’s father Anwar Ibrahim, dealt a severe blow to BN, denying the ruling coalition its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and robbing it of several states.

The coming election, which would be the nation’s 13th, is a poignant contest for both sides of the political divide as the opposition had set its sights on the administrative capital.

No Sticker Lady Here: Malaysia Welcomes a New Banksy

 By Trinna Leong
Wall Street Journal

When a six-meter-tall graffiti image of an old man’s face appeared on the wall outside an Armenian Street corner shop in George Town, Penang, it had local residents buzzing. Instead of demanding it be removed, however, they asked for more, and starting from today, that’s exactly what they’re getting as part of the annual George Town Festival.

The man behind the image is Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, 25, who first visited Penang in 2009 after graduating from London’s Middlesex University. Intrigued by Malaysia, he moved there last year and began depicting its people and culture, mainly on canvas and paper. He also opened an art center for children in one of George Town’s old colonial streets.

Street Art Paints Penang

  That might explain why kids feature in his creations for the festival. “When I was looking for ideas, I noticed that paintings with children look livelier,” he said. “Adults tend to be more shy,” he added, noting that he works from his own photographs.

Close to a temple on Muntri Street, where you can still find George Town’s 19th-century shophouses, it’s hard to miss Mr. Zacharevic’s huge, playful painting of one of his eight-year-old students dressed in a Wushu outfit. At ground level on Armenian Street, two life-size siblings ride on the back of a mountain bike (only the bicycle, propped against the wall, is real).
Ernest Zacharevic
This work by the artist features a real bicycle.
To date, the artist has completed three of the six works commissioned by the festival and is slated to finish the remainder before the event ends next month. Meanwhile, he has been flooded with new requests. “People just started coming to my office offering their wall[s],” he said.

Mr. Zacharevic isn’t the first person in the city to experiment with street art. In 2010, the government launched a contest that called for creatives to brand the city with their designs in an effort to promote George Town’s status as a Unesco World Heritage site. The winning entry, from Kuala Lumpur firm Sculpture At Work, installed over 200 caricature sculptures across the city’s walls, pavements and phone booths, including a two-dimensional tribute to Penang native son Jimmy Choo, the shoe designer.

It’s no surprise, then, that Mr. Zacharevic’s work has been met with open arms by George Town residents and authorities, though street painting in tropical Malaysia has proved to be a challenge. His Armenian Street image of the old man is already fading due to the heat, rain and humidity, prompting him to experiment with different paints to make his artworks more durable.

As for future projects, the artist remains open-minded. “A Chinese temple wanted me to paint on a building that is in a remote, isolated island, where no one even goes,” he said. “But then I thought that this could be an interesting project, so why not?”

Street Arts Paints Penang

George Town Festival runs through July 15.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

BN's kiss of death

by Dean Johns | Malaysiakini

Of the dozens of comments on Malaysiakini’s story on the appearance of Najib Abdul Razak’s picture on the 100Plus can, the most telling I saw was from someone writing as ‘Patchen’: “Can you imagine putting your lips on Najib’s face as you drink?…It’s like kissing him…!”

Like Patchen and seemingly almost everyone else, I  have been racking my brains to think why F&N (Fraser & Neave) would defile one of its most popular brands with pictures of Najib.

Was it a ‘clever’ marketing concept gone horribly wrong? Or the company’s misguided attempt to get itself back into BN’s good books after Ambiga Sreenivasan committed the unforgiveable sin of kindly offering 100Plus to anti-BERSIH protesters outside her house?

Or was F&N’s use of Najib’s picture on the can of one of their most popular brands in response to a Mafia-style BN “offer that they couldn’t refuse”? Whichever, it certainly served to highlight the increasingly evident fact that, to multitudes of Malaysians, Najib, his BN accomplices, and all their works and words are the absolute kiss of death.

Terminal blight

They have even managed to terminally blight their own 1Malaysia brand by making it a by-word for suspect, shoddy or otherwise undesirable products and services foisted on an unsuspecting public by crony suppliers.

1Malaysia shops notoriously sold, and perhaps still sell, a whole range of illegally-labelled goods, many of them no more cheaply than the genuine articles available elsewhere.

And they even stooped so low as to cheat mothers and children by selling so-called “growing-up” milk powder completely devoid of essential vitamins and minerals.

The 1Malaysia email service was launched as a “free” link for citizens with the government and its agencies, yet outrageously paid the crony operators of this “service”, and may do so still as far as I know, 50 sen of public money for every message subscribers sent.

As for the BR1Malaysia “gift” of RM500 to every needy Malaysian, there’s been no accounting or auditing that I’ve seen, and so I assume at least some of those responsible for dispensing the cash kept a good deal of it for themselves in the notorious “I help you, you help me” spirit of 1Malaysia.

And recently we saw the launch of the 1Malaysia tablet, which was greeted by those claiming far more IT expertise than I have to be both under-performing and overpriced.

But surely the most insulting offering to date has been the book Menyerlalahkan Amalan Nilai-Nilai Murni 1Malaysia(Highlighting 1Malaysia’s values), which was launched by Information Minister Rais Yatim as an ideal gift for supporters of BERSIH.

 With a cover prominently featuring Najib Razak pressing the flesh with a member of his adoring public, this sickening exercise in hypocrisy proposes 21 “moral values” including patience, discipline, respect, meritocracy, cleanliness, education, integrity, humility, courtesy and loyalty.

Thus vividly highlighting the fact that the BN 1Malaysia gang practices none of the virtues to which it pays lip-service, and clearly has no intention of ever doing so.

Indeed, it can’t manage a morsel of morality even when its activities almost literally result in the kiss of death, as in the disgracefully-disorganised drag-race at its so-called “Millions of Youths” gathering in Putrajaya last month.

The Sports Minister had the extraordinary cheek to claim that there were “no grounds for the government to apologise” to the families of seven young people seriously injured when a car ran off the inadequately barriered track.

In fact he went so far as to claim that “the victims’ families understood that (had) their children not been there, they would have gone somewhere else and faced other mishaps,” and thus they “have foregone suing the government as had been urged by certain quarters.”

Catastrophic crash

I wonder if the Minister for Transport (MCA-BN) will be so callous and cavalier in his attitude to victims and their families if and when the allegedly defective 1Malaysia regime air traffic control radar upgrade results in a catastrophic crash.

Of course there’s always the chance he wouldn’t even notice, as these days he seems to be devoting most of his attention to trying to stifle public anger aroused by the antics of the lying Health Minister (MCA_BN) Low Tiong Lai over his alleged bid for a WWW number plate

And the Malaysian public would be shielded from any bad news about the 1Malaysia brand and its promoters, as usual, by the 1Malaysia “news” media, largely owned as they are by BN and its crony “communications” corporation, Media Prima.

But to judge by the sinking circulations of most of its so-called “newspapers” and the pathetic content, on-air-personalities and production values of its television stations, Media Prima appears to be succumbing to the 1Malaysia kiss of death too.

Though not as quickly, unfortunately, as many of us would like. Elsewhere the process appears to be speeding-up, however, with virtually instant calls for a boycott of 100Plus following the appearance of the number 1 promoter of 1Malaysia on its can.

So, considering the visceral revulsion of Patchen and countless others at the thought of pressing their lips to a lMalaysia-polluted drink can, I hope has plans for lots more crony-enriching 1Malaysia scams posing as products and services.

The opportunities are endless. From foodstuffs, or rather stuff-ups like 1Malaysia beef from the National Feedlot Corporation to a range of sub-standard 1Malaysia cosmetics featuring lipsticks with a picture of a pouting Najib Razak on their packs.

We can’t look forward to a 1Malaysia car, unfortunately, as the country is already stuck with the 1Mahathir Proton.But the Najib Razak administration has already floated the prospect of as 1Malaysia nuclear power. 

And if that comes to pass, and proves as much of a combined rip-off and stuff-up as most other BN projects, it could prove the kiss of death for millions of citizens.

Though by then there would likely be a chain of 1Malaysia undertakers, so surviving BN politicians and cronies could still go on making a killing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Secret now out – allegation that Bersih 3.0 rally a coup attempt by PR to topple government completely baseless but Najib government afraid of “salt and water bottles” for fear of having lost support of the people

 Lim Kit Siang in Parliament

Question No. 4 during Question Time in Parliament today was the star attraction of the day as I had asked the Prime Minister to substantiate his allegation more than a month ago that Bersih 3.0 rally was a coup attempt by the Opposition to overthrow the government.

MPs from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat were expecting some “shocking” revelations to substantiate the very serious allegation by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Gua Musang on 4th May and which had the immediate support of three former Inspectors-General of Police, Tun Hanif Omar, Tan Sri Rahim Noor and Tan Sri Musa Hassan that the Bersih 3.0 rally was a coup d’etat attempt by Pakatan Rakyat to overthrow the Najib government on April 28 itself!

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who replied on behalf of Najib, was however a total disappointment as he could not give even an iota of evidence to substantiate Najib’s allegation and went completely off tangent into a tirade against Bersih 3.0 and Pakatan Rakyat.

Nazri is entitled to his jaundiced views about Bersih 3.0 and Pakatan Rakyat but they do not constitute evidence that the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28 was a coup attempt by Pakatan Rakyat to topple the Barisan Nasional government by force on April 28.

As I countered Nazri during my supplementary question, is the Najib government so weak that “salt and water bottles” (which was all that some of the peaceful Bersih 3.0 protestors were armed that day to defend themselves against any police tear gas and chemically-laced water cannons) could even topple it?

Nazri was deadly serious in his reply, saying “Don’t underrate salt and Water bottles” saying that in Tunisia, the government was toppled by handphones when it did not have the support of the people.

The secret is now out – the Prime Minister and the three former IGPs have absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back the wild and reckless allegation that Bersih 3.0 rally was a coup attempt to topple the government by force, but the Najib government is mortally afraid of “salt and water bottles” because they can topple governments which have lost support of the people.

The challenge to Najib is to find out why despite all the big talk of transformations in various aspects of national life in the past three years, he is losing rather than gaining popular support.

As I repeated in Parliament this morning, the government’s misjudgment and mishandling of Bersih 3.0 and continuing demonization of Bersih 3.0 organisers and Pakatan Rakyat is an even bigger public relations disaster than the government’s initial misjudgment and mishandling of Bersih 2.0 rally of July 9, 2011.

For a start, Najib and three former IGPs Hanif, Rahim and Musa should have the decency to publicly apologise for the baseless allegation that Bersih 3.0 was a coup attempt by Opposition to topple the government by force.

Secondly, the government should dissolve the Hanif “independent advisory panel” inquiring into Bersih 3.0 violence and brutality, unless the panel’s has a secret agenda and term of reference – to come out with a finding that Bersih 3.0 rally was a coup attempt by the Opposition to topple the government by force.

Instead, the government should give full support to the Suhakam inquiry into Bersih 3.0 to find out what went wrong on April 28 to result in the violence and brutality which marred a peaceful and momentous gathering of hundreds of thousands of Malaysians regardless of race, religion, class, region, age or gender in support of a common national cause – a clean election!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How Malaysia’s Leader Is Damaging His Reformist Reputation

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has styled himself a reformer, but his government's prosecution of protesters shows he still has a long way to go.

Report By TimeWorld

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appears determined to give himself a political black eye. On June 13, government prosecutors will haul into court 10 leaders of Bersih, a coalition of civil society groups campaigning to clean up the country’s corrupt elections commission. The government is demanding damages for destruction to public property during a clash between Bersih demonstrators and police in Kuala Lumpur on April 28. At least 100,000 people marched for clean elections in the Malaysian capital that day, while tens of thousands more joined protests in 11 other cities across the country and 80 cities around the world. Whether or not the government wins compensation in court, however, no amount of money will undo the damage it is inflicting upon its own reputation by pursuing the case.

The April 28 demonstrations were a stunning show of discontent in a country where protests are rarely tolerated. In half a century, Malaysia has advanced from a poor British colony with a plantation economy to an ambitious, middle-income nation with science parks, cybercities and skyscrapers. But in a trade-off typical of Asia, the Barisan National coalition, which has ruled the country since independence in 1957, curtails civil liberties and keeps a tight rein on political opposition in exchange for delivering prosperity. That governing model, however, contains the seeds of its own decay. Malaysia’s successful development “translates into a better-educated electorate who have more sophisticated demands and expectations,” political scientist Prof. Farish Noor tells TIME.

In recent years, the government has found it increasingly difficult to meet those expectations. According to World Bank data on the Gini coefficient, a measure of wealth inequality, the gap between rich and poor in Malaysia is larger than it is in neighboring Thailand, where inequality has been a factor driving civil unrest and political violence in recent years. Since the beginning of the global economic crisis in late 2008, Noor says there is also a “growing anxiety” among the middle classes in Malaysia “who feel their jobs and economic opportunities are threatened.”

Keenly aware of the escalating problems, Najib has tried to present himself as a reformer. The steps he has taken so far, however, haven’t done much to improve BN’s image as increasingly corrupt, ill-equipped to deal with global economic complexities and out of touch with the aspirations of significant segments of the population. In 2008, BN was shocked when opposition parties captured five of the country’s 13 states in national elections—the worst showing in the coalition’s history. If voters are more dissatisfied now, they are also more frustrated: few can see how real change can be achieved as long as the BN controls access to the media and elections continue to be riddled with irregularities. Najib’s attempts at reform “ring hollow when the electoral system remains flawed,” Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan, Bersih chairperson one of the defendants in the case brought by the government, tells TIME. “The stark reality is that genuine reform will not benefit those in power.”

Najib has received credit for repealing the draconian Internal Security Act that was used to suppress dissent. But he then turned around and decided to prosecute Bersih leaders over the violence on April 28. Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch contends that video evidence shows security forces were actually responsible for the clashes. The forces initially allowed demonstrators into Merdeka (Independence) Square, which the government had previously declared off limits, and then began attacking the demonstrators with tear gas and batons for breaching the area. “If the prime minister was a true reformer, he would have condemned this violence and called for an independent inquiry by the Human Rights Commission,’’ Sreenavasan says.

The irony is that Sreenavsan believes Najib truly wants to be a reformer, but is constrained by the realities of his governing coalition–he relies heavily on the support of politicians who control rural provinces in a semi-feudal style. To appease rural voters, Najib and his coalition have showered them with populist policies, such as a new minimum wage that will raise incomes for an estimated 3.2 million people and a 13% pay rise for civil servants. By contrast, they have ignored Bersih’s eight demands for freer and fairer elections, such as cleaning the voter rolls of fake names.

Enacting electoral reforms would benefit the government. The coalition would probably still prevail at the ballot box because of its populism and emerge with a stronger mandate because it obtained its victory fair and square. Instead, the rulers are opting to suppress Bersih. That will only serve to stoke a political pressure cooker, deepen divisions and undercut the legitimacy of the government. “This is nothing less than a battle for the political soul of Malaysia,’’ Robertson says. No matter the outcome of the court case, it’s a battle that is far from over.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Muhyiddin has confirmed that the greatest threat to Najib’s signature 1Malaysia policy is the “Malay first, Malaysian second” DPM

 Lim Kit Siang

Tan Sri Muhyiddinm Yassin has confirmed that the greatest threat to Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s signature 1Malaysia policy is his “Malay first, Malaysian second” Deputy Prime Minister.

In his speech yesterday, Muhyiddin said Malaysians cannot refute the fact that the future of the nation depended on the unity of the Malays and Muslims, who formed the majority.

Muhyiddin said if the Muslims split due to differences in politics or other fundamental issues related to religion, then it would be difficult to achieve peace and unity for the nation as a whole.

Muhyiddin is wrong as forming a greater majority than Malays and Muslims in the country are Malaysians regardless of religious faiths
Muhyiddin yesterday completely repudiated Najib’s signature 1Malaysia policy, which is defined by the 1Malaysia Government Transformation Programme (GTP) Roadmap launched by Najib in his first year as Prime Minister, viz:

“The goal of 1Malaysia is to make Malaysia more vibrant, more productive and more competitive – and ultimately a greater nation: a nation where, it is hoped, every Malaysian perceives himself or herself as Malaysian first, and by race, religion, geographical region or socio-economic background second and where the principles of 1Malaysia are woven into the economic, political and social fabric of society.”
It is clear that after 39 months as Najib’s Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin has not become more 1Malaysia-minded but instead has remained as racist as ever as when he declared in his response to my challenge on April 1, 2010 that he was “a Malay first and then only a Malaysian”.

Muhyiddin had said: “How can I say I’m Malaysian first and Malay second? All the Malays will shun me and say that it is not proper.”

He even challenged me to declare that I was Malaysian first and Chinese second.

I never had hesitation to declare both inside Parliament and outside that I am Malaysian first and Chinese second.

It is a reflection of the failure of the Malaysian nation-building process as well as the hollowness of the 1Malaysia Policy that up to now, Najib dared not set the example to declare that he is Malaysian first and Malay second.

Just as a Malaysian who declared that he is Malaysian first and Chinese second does not make him or her less of a Chinese, similarly a person who declared that he is Malaysian first and Malay, Indian, Kadazan or Iban second does not make him or her less of a Malay, Indian, Kadazan or Iban!

If Muhyiddin still maintains that it is wrong for a Malay leader to declare that he is “Malaysian first and Malay second”, is he going to take the next logical step and propose in Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council to scrap the 1Malaysia Policy as a total failure after three years?

Or worse, that it is a complete fraud on Malaysians for the past three years especially as the objective of the 1Malaysia policy has not found unanimity or consensus in Barisan Nasional let alone majority support of UMNO, the political hegemon in Barisan Nasional!

Even the de facto Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir and other UMNO leaders have criticised the 1Malaysia slogan as “hollow” and “inconsistent”.

When is Najib going to be frank with Malaysians – that his signature 1Malaysia Policy is just an empty slogan without serious purpose or meaning whatsoever?

Schoolboy antics over PTPTN

The Malaysian Insider

Are schoolboys in charge of education in Malaysia? It sure seems that way when Putrajaya’s education czars decide to sulk and pull back scholarships for those studying in Selangor’s Universiti Selangor (Unisel) this past week.

Only to flip flop, be wishy-washy, do a volte-face and overturn that emotional decision a day later. Is that how a government runs things? Aren’t these ministers — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin — an embarrassment to Datuk Seri Najib Razak?

They can’t even be gracious and admit their mistake. Take Khaled’s statement that Unisel’s appeal for National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) loans to be restored showed that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) could not deliver its promise of free education.

Is that how a Barisan Nasional (BN) minister behaves? Use state facilities to prove a point? And let students seeking a better future be at his whim and fancy?

Does he think these students will think highly of him? Or be “grateful” to the federal government? If anything, Khaled has pushed Selangor to prove it can fund these students with RM30 million from the sale of UniSel land. And if Selangor can do it, why the need for PTPTN? Or a BN government minister who is vindictive?

One would expect a better performance from Khaled. He isn’t some junior minister out to impress his superiors or his followers with such an emotional response to PR’s promises.

In a marketplace of idea, Khaled and those of his ilk should try to out-think PR, not resort to a schoolyard scrap over who is better or stronger and the loser walking off in a huff vowing not to friend the victor.

Why has politics in Malaysia gone down to just being mean spirited, grumpy and sulking in a corner by some of the BN chaps? Especially these two from Johor, the birthplace of Umno. One expects a lot more from a state that gave Umno its founding president, Datuk Onn Jaafar.

Perhaps Khaled might think he won this round against PR. In reality, its a fiasco, an own goal for BN. This childish decision and about-turn is the latest in a long line of blunders that won’t endear some of these ministers to the people. What more students who will vote in the future and can influence their parents to vote for the opposing side

These BN ministers are undermining the prime minister’s strategy of winning back support for his personal mandate to make a better Malaysia. They are petty-minded and just fumbling in scoring points at the expense of goodwill.

What a pity. If this is how they see “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.”, then they have gone opposite of the concept’s tagline, like schoolboys who don’t understand anything and make it up as they go along.

We don’t need schoolboys in the Cabinet. We need real men, and gentlemen at that with the nation’s interests in their hearts.

Correcting the civil service racial imbalance

Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Can the government promise that all young Malaysians will be given fair treatment, and racial or regional discrimination will not be tolerated in order to encourage non-Malay recruitment into the civil service?

Once more the government appears to be clueless and befuddled as to why the non-Malay young do not want to take up civil service jobs. Once more, there will be a taskforce and a high-level committee at work to produce yet another report on how to attract non-Malays to join the service.

Once more the almost obligatory letters are appearing in the mainstream papers applauding the government (in this case) the Public Service Commission new chairman for his bold initiative in proposing a study “to nail down…the reasons for the poor number of applications from non-Bumiputeras for public and civil service jobs”.

Do we need more studies?

Come on, we already have a plethora of research and studies on the subject. We have more than enough figures and data showing that the severely racially imbalanced civil service is not a recent problem but one going back more than 30 years. Do we need some more studies?

Everyone – well – just about, everyone knows the reason why non-Malays are avoiding joining what one of the top Barisan Nasional leaders has described as the best civil service in the world. As one cynic in the blog world recently remarked,

“Even the … office boys in those departments can see the unfairness [in promotions], and we have top civil servants wondering why. Please, just practice fairness and they (non-Malays) will come.”

Rampant racial discrimination

The most important reason why disparity in civil service participation amongst the races exists is the discrimination against non-Malays in recruitment and promotion exercises. This explains why the numbers applying have dropped dramatically. If there is going to be an uneven playing field and if others less qualified or less capable than you are promoted ahead of you – and this is perceived to be a standard practice – why stay in the job, even if it may be a well paying or secure one.

Factors of pride, dignity and self-respect also come into play which explains why non-Malays refuse to remain in the service even when they have a good position. After a few years of frustration and alienation with racially structured obstacles when they apply for promotion or other career opportunities, many see the writing on the wall and opt to strike out for the private sector or self employment even though they may have to make sacrifices.

This game of pretending not to know why non-Malay recruitment and enrolment is so low in the civil service has been going on for so long that many of its practitioners appear to believe their own fairy tales and prejudices about non-Malays being less patriotic (explaining their low enrolment in the military and police); or more grasping and calculating (hence, less attracted to teaching or other service occupations); etc.


Let’s do away with the pretense and acting dumb on this long-standing blot in our societal make up. The steps to ensure higher non-Malay (and East Malaysian bumiputera) participation in the civil service are simple:

1. Firstly, there must be a solemn declaration and promise by the prime minister and government that racial intake as well as all treatment after recruitment in the civil service will be fair and transparent and that racial or regional discrimination will not be tolerated.

2. Secondly, the Public Services Commission and Public Services Department must be a party to this declaration and should mainstream this declaration into all service manuals and directives. It is a fact that some of the major obstacles to making the civil service more racially representative comes from within the civil service itself.

3. Thirdly, all recruitment, appointment, promotion and other service related committees and boards should have full multi-racial representation. Inclusion of token non-Malays as we have seen in the past does not work.

4. Fourthly, a new civil service quota system – in this case specifically used as a temporary affirmative action tool to increase non-Malay numbers and reduce marginalization – should be formulated. This can be done in a way as to meet with the constitutional provisions providing for the special position of the Malays and bumiputera groups of Sabah and Sarawak. A 60-40 recruitment system would be relatively easy and painless to implement. It would guarantee Malay dominance but not over-dominance and help to bring about a gradual increase in the number and proportion of non-Malay civil servants in the country.

5. Finally, we need a civil service ombudsman to act on cases of racial discrimination within the service as well as to respond to allegations of racially biased policies and programmes.
Make or break the nation

It is a truism that the civil service can make or break a nation, more especially in the case of multiracial societies such as ours where neutral stake players are necessary to play a critical role in balancing complex and contentious racial demands.

Democratic norms call for a representative, impartial and neutral bureaucracy to ensure that public policies are responsive to the needs of all citizens in a fair and equitable fashion. A genuinely multi-racial civil service is also necessary to ensure that there is an absence of racial bias in the individual or collective manner in which civil servants formulate policies and conduct their work.

Unfortunately, we have moved away from these democratic norms for so long that nothing but a radical change in the mindsets and actions of our politicians and civil service elites can stop the rot. A mono-ethnic civil service – which is what we are fast moving towards – is the single biggest obstacle to the goal of 1Malaysia.

Gruesome reminders of failure of Najib premiership in one of its most important tasks – to reduce crime and eradicate the fear of crime

By Lim Kit Siang

The bloody mugging of Bersih steering committee member Wong Chin Huat while jogging near his home in Section 18, Petaling Jaya this morning, and the serious case of Bandar Kinrara, Puchong teacher Teoh Soo Kim, 51, fighting for her life after she suffered severe head injuries and lost consciousness in an abduction on Wednesday are gruesome reminders to Malaysians that the Najib administration has failed in one of its most important tasks – to reduce crime and to eradicate the fear of crime among Malaysians.

It is no use the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and the CEO of Pemandu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Idris Jala boasting about Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and National Key Result Areas (NKRA) successes, such as claiming that the overall crime index for 2011 had dropped by 11.1%, while street crime decreased significantly by 39.7% compared with 35% in 2010 – and a marked improvement from the 15% reduction in street crime set under the NKRA in 2010 – when Malaysians still do not feel safe from the fear of crime whether in the privacy of their homes, or outside in the streets and public places.

The mobilisation of over 14,00 police personnel on April 28 to deal with the peaceful Bersih 3.0 rally, and the continued demonisation of 200,000 Malaysians regardless of race, religion, class, region, age or gender who had gathered peacefully for a common national cause for a clean election have made the failure of the Najib government to reduce crime and eradicate the fear of crime among Malaysians in the urban areas even more unacceptable.

Seven years after the Dzaiddin Police Royal Commission of Inquiry which made 125 recommendations in 2005 to transform the Malaysian police force into an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service focussed on three core functions to reduce crime, eradicate corruption and protect human rights, the Malaysian police force has still to undergo a total change of its mindset to transform its function from regime policing to democratic policing – i.e. changing its priority from protecting the government, Ministers and leaders of the day to protecting the citizenry and their fundamental rights, including the fundamental right to a low crime rate and to be free from crime, as well as the human rights which a modern citizen is entitled in a democratic society.

The alphabet soup of GTP, NKRAs, ETPs, PTPs etc popularised by the Najib premiership has no meaning to ordinary Malaysians who want to know what the government is doing to ensure that Wong Chin Huat can jog safely near his home in Section 18 PJ and citizens like Teoh Soo Kim can safely go about her work and life without fear of being a victim of a dastardly criminal attack.

Let Hishammuddin and the Inspector-General of Police tell Malaysians what they are doing to deliver low crime rate and eradicate the fear of crime among Malaysians!


Related Posts with Thumbnails