THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Parliament PAC

Should PAC Not Be Dancing With The Wolves?
A Kadir Jasin

EITHER the people at Bernama had misreported or the people at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament had fallen off their rockers.

The national news agency, on Feb. 26, reported that the PAC had called on the government “to set up a Cabinet committee to monitor decisions taken by government-linked companies (GLCs), including Khazanah Nasional.”
This would enable the government to "oversee" the running of these firms, said committee chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad.The Johor Baru Barisan Nasaional MP said there was now a dire need for setting up such a committee as it could not only monitor the performance of these GLCs, but also define their role in nation building.

My question to the multi-party PAC is: Isn’t monitoring the decisions taken by government-linked companies (GLCs), including Khazanah Nasional, part and parcel of the responsibility of the Cabinet?
Is PAC saying that the Cabinet, which is the highest executive body in the land, has not been monitoring the decisions of the GLCs?
If the latter is the case, does it not amount to the Cabinet failing in its responsibility to the people?
Isn’t the GLCs decisions in their finality are also the decisions of the Cabinet? More so when they are major decisions like the sale of government assets.
Is Shahrir suggesting that in the specific case of the merger between the privately-owned ECM Libra Berhad and the government-owned Avenue Capital Resources Berhad the Cabinet was not involved?
Why is the usually outspoken Shahrir so coy when explaining the controversial merger or has Bernama misrepresented facts.

According to the national news agency, the following is Shahrir’s explanation of the issue, which was supposed to be the key item on the committee’s agenda:

He said on the merger between ECM Libra and Avenue Capital, the Finance Minister had explained that there was nothing unusual about the deal since it had obtained clearance from the Securities Commission (SC).

"To say we are satisfied (with the explanation given) is not right since the PAC consists of representatives of various political parties. We all have a different degree of satisfaction. The government feels that since the SC had no objection and the majority of shareholders of the two companies wanted to merge, then the merger should take place without any interference," Shahrir added.

To be specific, it was not the Finance Minister who appeared before the committee to explain the merger but the Second Finance Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
Has Shahrir changed? Is he, like the majority of elected representatives these days, is dancing around the mulberry bush and leading us up the garden path instead of seeking the truth?
Has the case of the smaller privately-owned ECM Libra buying the larger Government-owned Avenue Capital “cheaply” ceased to be a questionable deal because “the Finance Minister had explained that there was nothing unusual about the deal since it had obtained clearance from the Securities Commission (SC)?”

Does it mean that everything is fine or should be fine about the deal simply because the SC has no objection? Could it not have erred in its decision to allow the merger to go through?
It had erred. And in the case of the sale of Pantai Holdings Berhad to Singapore-based Parkway Holdings Limited in 2005 it erred badly.
That oversight forced Khazanah Nasional to fork out RM394 million to re-acquire the Pantai Holdings’ privatized assets (Fomema and Pantai Medivest) when Parkway paid only RM312 million to become controlling shareholder of the hospital company.

And is Shahrir and his PAC colleagues aware that on Jan. 17 the SC had also stated that it had no objection to the plan by Kuok Group to transfer the domicile of its plantation company, PPB Group Berhad, from Malaysia to Singapore?

The question is do we need another Cabinet committee? Is it not the duty of the Cabinet, and more specifically the Ministry of Finance, to scrutinize such a matter as the ECM-Avenue merger since it involved government assets?
What about Bank Negara? What was its opinion on the merger? Or is Bank Negara so free and its leadership so independent that no mention was made of its role in the merger?

Or is Shahrir, like a lot of pembesar (dignitaries) these days, has to thread carefully when dealing with matters that affect the favoured and the powerful like those involved in the ECM-Avenue merger?
It is disappointing that Shahrir and his committee should divert public attention away from the core issue by telling the Cabinet what it should and should not do.
What Shahrir’s audience would like to hear is not his lecturing of the Cabinet. What they want to hear is the PAC ruling on the merger between ECM and Avenue.

Could it be that Shahrir and his PAC colleagues have not been keeping pace with Cabinet affairs? Are they not aware that there are today more than 30 Cabinet Committees? How many more such committees do we need?
What are our 30-odd ministers doing that so many committees have to be set up?
Could this administration by committees be the real reason for the deterioration of the public delivery system? Too much bureaucracy and passing the buck. So in the ECM-Avenue case, blame it on the SC.

With vast parliamentary powers given to them, Shahrir and his PAC colleagues should be dancing with the wolves instead of dancing around the mulberry bush and leading the people up the garden path.

The people want answers and not more excuses.

S-Market Performance


Stock market not a yardstick for economic performance

Khoo Kay Peng
Feb 26, 2007

Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ng Lip Yong reacted last week to a press interview I gave with regards to the economic figures provided by the government and as to whether or not they provided an accurate picture of the country’s economic situation.

Ng said that the ministry’s statistics were accurate. I, however, did not say that the numbers were not accurate but it depended on how one interprets them.

When asked about the ‘good news’ as reported by the government (chiefly through the ministry) on our state of economy, I commented that the government might want to be careful when painting such a rosy picture if the ‘goodies’ do not trickle down to the ground. Earlier, the government has announced that the ministry had approved RM46 billion in investment last year. Perhaps it will be helpful for the ministry to disclose the actual amount of money which has been invested. On paper, the investment figures look extremely good.

While some major investments in the oil and gas and plantation industries have started to trickle down, by and large small and medium enterprises, employees in the private sector and even civil servants are not experiencing a higher level of living standards. Inflationary pressure is higher in the urban areas compared to rural areas and so far no study has been conducted to find out how the urbanites are coping with rising costs.

Hence, it is too early for the government to shout that we have turned around and there is a ‘feel good’ feeling all round.

According to the survey by the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Acccim), the economy had ‘remained relatively stable’ during the second half of 2006. The bi-annual survey, in its 15th year, was conducted last December involving some 257 Acccim members including those from the wholesale, retail, manufacturing, professional and service industry.

Fifty-six percent of respondents felt that for second half of 2006 there was ‘no change’ in economic conditions while 32 percent felt that the economy was ‘deteriorating’. In a nutshell, only 12 percent of the respondents agreed with the government that the economic sentiment was upbeat. In the same report, 55 percent of respondents said they were ‘somewhat optimistic’ about the Malaysian economy over the next two to three years while 19 percent claimed they were ‘optimistic’.

It is fair to say that although the nation’s economic condition is improving, we are not out of the woods yet. The deputy minister said that my views on the economy were based solely on my own perception and not backed up by statistics. But perception is the key in business and many investors make their investment decisions based on the consumer perception index. What are the statistics which suggest that our consumer power is expanding and that our GDP per capita is growing above the inflation rates?

I argue that despite an impressive 25 percent rise in the Malaysian stock market since last November, this is not a good yardstick of our real economic performance. In a Business Times report recently, retail investors are said to have shown little interest in joining in the action at Bursa Malaysia. Exchange data indicates only 10-15 percent of the more than two million accounts in the central depository system are active although the Kuala Lumpur bourse's market cap is moving towards the RM1 trillion mark.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has speculated that the KLCI would break its record thanks to foreign reserves, a lower deficit, approved total investment of RM46 billion, a national trade volume of RM1,069 billion in 2006 and other factors.

Since the prime minister's prediction that the KLCI will hit 1,350 points soon, some second-line and smaller capitalisation counters have seen some movement, indicating the participation of more retail investors. It should be noted that the prime minister's prediction is purely his own judgement and is highly speculative in nature.

The deputy minister told the press that he had warned me not to be too presumptuous in my analysis and that it is my own business if I refused to accept the government's statistics. At the moment, I remained unconvinced that economic fundamentals have strengthened and that we have managed to turn around. Moreover, I am very concerned with the excessive speculation in the economy especially the stock market.

If everything is so buoyant, why do we need Pemudah and the 3P special task forces to help improve the efficiency of government's implementation system and to help cut down excessive bureaucratic red-tape? In the Acccim survey, 43 percent of respondents claim that government policies were ‘adversely affecting’ their business performance. They recommended that the government improve its delivery system and be more transparent and liberal in its policies.

Finally, retail investors should not be lead astray over some speculation on the KLCI. Most of them are the last to get into the market and the last to come out too. Unfortunately, many researchers I have spoken to are of the opinion that the government is building up for a general elections. This kind of perception does not help the government either if it is not telling the truth.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quote JFK

"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country!"

(Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy - January 20th, 1961)

Oscar Winners 2007


....... and the winners are ........

BEST PICTURE: "The Departed," Graham King, producer

BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"

BEST ACTOR: Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

BEST ACTRESS: Helen Mirren, "The Queen"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"

( Picture - Actor Forest Whitaker holds his Oscar for Best Actor at the 79th Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball in Hollywood)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

US Snowstorm

Severe winter storm hammers Midwest, East Coast US

  1. A visitor walks to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington during snowfall (top).
  2. Visitors from Pacific Grove, California make a snowman in Washington outskirts (middle).
  3. The White House is seen after a heavy snowfall in Washington (down).
A severe winter storm dumped snow and freezing rain across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic United States on Sunday, stranding air travelers from Boston to Chicago and causing several traffic deaths.
More than 200 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, with remaining flights delayed 60 to 90 minutes because of the icy snow, Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.
Numerous road closings were reported in the upper Midwest. Wisconsin police reported at least eight traffic-related fatalities, including one accident in southern Wisconsin where a woman's vehicle slammed into a snow plow, killing her and two children.
Thousands of homes lost power. In northern Illinois, utility company ComEd spokesman Jeff Burdick said at its peak, 38,000 customers lost power. Ice on the power lines was a major contributor to the outages, he said.
At least one tornado touched down in Arkansas, while the storm caused a 35-car pileup east of
Denver - REUTERS.

Oscars 2007


........ and the nominees for 2007 are .........

“Babel”“The Departed”“Letters from Iwo Jima”“Little Miss Sunshine”“The Queen”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond” Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” Peter O'Toole in “Venus” Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness”Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland”
Penélope Cruz in “Volver” Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal”Helen Mirren in “The Queen” Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” Kate Winslet in “Little Children”
“Babel” Alejandro González Iñárritu“The Departed” Martin Scorsese “Letters from Iwo Jima” Clint Eastwood “The Queen” Stephen Frears “United 93” Paul Greengrass

This star-studded extravaganza will be beamed live from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood over on ntv7 at 8am, beginning with a half-hour red carpet arrivals segment, The Road to the Oscars. The station will also show a repeat of the awards ceremony at 8.30pm on the same day.

OSCAR FACTS: The official name of the Oscar statuette is the "Academy Award® of Merit."
- Each statuette stands 13½ inches tall and weighs 8½ pounds.
- Each statuette is cast in brittania, a metal alloy, and is then plated in copper, nickel, silver, and finally, 24-karat gold.
- It was designed by Cedric Gibbons, chief art director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
- The Oscar statuette depicts a knight holding a crusader's sword, standing on a reel of film. The film reel features five spokes, signifying the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers.)
- How Oscar received his nickname is not exactly clear.The most popular story is that Margaret Herrick, an Academy librarian and eventual executive director, remarked that the statuette resembled her Uncle Oscar, and the Academy staff began to refer to it as Oscar.
-The name Oscar was only officially used in 1939.
-The Oscar statuette is arguably the most recognized award in the world.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

At the Court

A Gathering of Bloggers United

Rocky, Glad to have met you and the rest of the Bloggers United yesterday.
I thought of meeting the whole group at the foyer before the hearing and hence arrived about two. Had to find my way to the courtroom from the enquiry desk downstairs.
I was with NTV7, Star, AP and the other media people before Mr. Malik Sarwar came and told us the case may be postponed because of late amendment submissions by the defence.
Subsequently I met Rocky and JeffOoi and wished them well. After the hearing Mr.Edmund Bon confirmed the new date to be 2nd April and said they had to decide whether to proceed with the strike-off application after studying the amendments.
Finally on my way down to the cafe, I caught up with Stephen, Bernard, Marina and Nuraina.
At the party, I met a host of bloggers and made so many friends and found the entire get-together wonderful. Imagine meeting members through the Blogs and consolidating friendship in person! Thank you all, not forgetting Microsoft and Google for having made it possible.


Friday, February 23, 2007

RB Hearing 3

Next hearing, April 2

Amended claims. Last Friday, the lawyers for the plaintiffs (NSTP and 4 others) submitted amendments to their original writ of summons that was served to me last month. Given the long weekend (Saturday, Sunday and followed by the two days off in lieu of the Chinese New Year), my lawyer Edmund Bon and I felt we needed more time to study the amended claims.Today's hearing was to hear my application to strike out the plaintiffs' lawsuit.As the claims have just been amended, we sought for an adjournment. The Judge granted it and set April 2 to hear my application to strike out their suit based on the amended claims - Rocky's Bru.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

British Withdrawal

Blair to announce British troop withdrawal from Iraq ?

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to announce on Wednesday that his country will begin withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq within weeks, according to media reports.

According to The Sun, The Times and the BBC, Blair would say that the first contingent of about 1,500 troops will leave the war-torn country and return to Britain in a matter of weeks, and a further 1,500 will follow by the end of the year.

The Guardian said, meanwhile, that Britain will withdraw all of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2008, beginning this summer with about a thousand troops, citing unidentified officials.

While a spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office declined to confirm or deny any of the reports, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed that Blair told US President George W. Bush Tuesday of his plans for troop withdrawal.

Blair is set to appear before parliament on Wednesday for his weekly half-hour question-and-answer session. According to the BBC and Britain's domestic Press Association, Blair is expected to make his announcement shortly after that, at around 12:30 pm.

The political calendar has also favoured a withdrawal - Blair is set to resign by September, with finance minister Gordon Brown the favourite to succeed him, and Labour is lagging behind the main opposition Conservatives in opinion polls in the run-up to local and Scottish elections in May.

Britain has about 7,100 troops in Iraq, most of them based around Basra. It is the second-largest foreign contingent of soldiers after that of the United States.

The country's apparent decision to pull troops out of Iraq comes soon after Bush announced he would send 21,500 extra combat troops to the country, on top of the 138,000 US soldiers already there.

According to several of the media reports, Blair will say that Operation Sinbad -- involving attempts by British and Iraqi troops to secure Basra from insurgents -- has been a success, but will also stress that hopes for a withdrawal are conditional on signs that Iraqi forces are able to take over.

The United Nations said in January that at least 34,452 Iraqis died across the country and another 36,685 were wounded in 2006.

A total of 132 British troops have died since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 while there have been 3,127 US military fatalities in the same period, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures - AFP.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thai Insurgency

Eight dead in Thailand attacks

Eight people were killed and 45 injured in coordinated attacks across Thailand's Muslim south, officials said, just days after Bangkok agreed to accept Malaysian help to start peace talks.

Army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont called a special security meeting to discuss the bombings, shootings, and arson attacks which began late Sunday and continued early Monday with a blast that killed an army officer.

More than 1,900 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in January 2004 in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

Army spokesman, Colonel Acar Tiproch, said most of the overnight attacks had targeted Buddhist or ethnic Chinese businesses and homes, at a time when many people were celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday.

"They want to frighten Buddhists and ethnic Chinese living there so that they will leave the region," Acar said.

The southern region along the Malaysian border was an ethnic Malay sultanate until mainly Buddhist Thailand annexed it a century ago.

Three people were killed in shootings and five others in bombings during the 12 hours of violence, the officials told AFP. A total of 45 people were injured, with 25 of them still in hospital, they added.

On Friday, Surayud agreed to accept a Malaysian offer to help in setting up peace talks with the shadowy insurgents.

The announcement was the latest in a series of peace initiatives taken since Surayud was appointed premier following a bloodless coup in September that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

So far, those efforts have yielded little progress, and violence has surged in the four months since the coup.

Some leaders of an earlier outbreak of separatist violence in the 1980s have expressed a willingness to join talks, but the latest attacks highlighted the divide between the older rebels and the young militants, Sunai said.

"This is a direct challenge to cooperation between Malaysia and Thailand," he said.

"Some of the political leaders may agree to talk to the Thai government, but those behind the attacks don't want to talk to the Thai government," the analyst added.

"The attacks last night will have serious impact on the progress made by the new government."
- AFP.


Good Fortune


The scroll says: "May every year be blessed with stability and roaring fortunes". May the same be true for Malaysia and ALL Malaysians.

Malaysians, Count Your Blessings in this land of Ours!

LensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Britney Spears

Britney goes bald and is seeking treatment

Britney Spears appeared in a tattoo parlor in the San Fernando Valley with her head shaved completely bald.
Video on KABC-TV showed the newly shorn Spears with tiny tattoos on the back of her neck as she sits Friday night for a new tattoo - a pair of red and pink lips.
Derrik Snell, who works at the tattoo parlor, said Spears showed up without notice and stayed for about 90 minutes as about 60 fans, photographers and gawkers gathered outside.
"She seemed fine," Snell said. "I didn't really notice [the hairdo] at first, she had a hood on when she showed up."
The appearance came the same day as reports on TV and Web sites that Spears, who has drawn criticism for her recent partying and sloppy behavior, had briefly checked into rehab.
Larry Rudolph, Spears' manager, couldn't be reached for comment.
Syndicated entertainment TV show "Extra" first reported that Spears had entered a treatment facility. Celebrity Web site then said the singer had entered a treatment center but had checked out one day later. Neither revealed their sources.
People magazine's Web site, citing "a source," said Spears had gone in and out of rehab, and identified the facility as Eric Clapton's Crossroads center in Antigua, in the Caribbean.
A woman who answered the phone at Crossroads told The Associated Press that she couldn't confirm or deny anyone's presence at the facility.
Angelique Uram, a Spears fan who stood on the tattoo parlor's sidewalk for Friday night's spectacle, was aghast at the singer's new look.
"We could see her in the mirror, and her head is completely shaved," she told KABC. "It looks terrible."
Police arrived to control the crowd and helped Spears' bodyguards guide her into a waiting SUV, her head covered by a hooded sweatshirt -AP.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

CNY Greetings

Wishing all
Chinese Bloggers and Readers
"Gong Xi Fa Cai"
and Happy Holidays
Rajahram and Family

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jakarta Floods

Thousands head home as floods recede.

Tens of thousands of people displaced by floods that have inundated the Indonesian capital for almost a week were beginning to leave emergency shelters and start the unpleasant task of cleaning out their mud-filled homes.
"As of 6:00 this morning, there were only about 160,000 refugees left in registered shelters across the city," said an official at the city's crisis centre.
According to the health ministry, 50 people died and at the height of the floods police said more than 340,000 people had fled their flooded homes.
But Ika from the Indonesian Red Cross said the situation was changeable.
"It is difficult to make a count of the number of displaced people at shelter points because the number tends to be fluid as people come and go depending on the situation," Ika said.
A health ministry official toured the city early Thursday to check on medical arrangements for flood victims.
Losses due to the floods were now estimated at 4.3 trillion rupiah (475 million dollars), up from 4.1 trillion rupiah earlier, the state Antara news agency said, quoting National Development Planning Agency deputy head Max Pohan.
He said the figure included losses in public infrastructure and those suffered by private residents but did not yet cover loss of business and other side-effects.
The Indonesian Traders Association said the prices of basic commodities such as rice, sugar, cooking oil and eggs had risen due to distribution problems.
Cheap rice had risen from around 4,200 rupiah (46 cents) a kilogram (2.2 pounds) to 5,000 rupiahs. Police said only about eight areas remained impassable to normal traffic.
"There is no water for cleaning our home, all we can do for now is to push the sludge out of the house," said Wiweko Harjan whose house in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, was flooded under some 1.2 metres (four feet) of water for days.
Similar complaints were heard from returning flood victims in other areas, with the state Antara news agency quoting one resident in East Jakarta as hoping for more rains to flush the sludge and debris away from their residential area - AFP.

Similar to the Johore Floods. A pitiful sight and a catastrophe for the people.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Salute Bloggers

A Commentary

Just in case some of you missed Marina's write up, "The Burden of Responsibility", which appeared on RantingsbyMM of thursday, 1st february, I have reproduced in full my comments below:

Your article about Freedom and Responsibility is interesting. I am unable to comment on these very fundamental democratic values as applied in the case of Jeff and Rocky as I do not have their posts with me.

What I can say, however, is whether this action by a giant on a sparrow is really warranted. Do we really need a sledgehammer to crack a nut ?There are so many other ways to settle this issue. If those ways did not help, only then resort to the 'whip'.

True there is a way to say it. Different people tell their stories differently. But the most important thing is to break the news, tell the truth and unearth the facts.There is no smoke without a fire, so the saying goes.

Be responsible, be accountable. Responsibility and Freedom also applies to politicians, businessmen and the powers that be more so than Bloggers. Bloggers can also act as a check and balance on abuses, excesses, injustices and non-performance in governments in a democratic way of life !

Rumour mills do not exist in a vacuum. They thrive when no answers, explanations and justifications are forthcoming from the authorities/persons mentioned. You can to a certain extent curtail their spread by being open and forthright. True, you cannot keep track of all the stories.Then stop the blogs.They are written stories. Then what about spoken rumours? They will be unheard. At least you can read the blogs.

And then again if their stories are true, bloggers have been responsible to their fellow citizens and their country. They have and will continue to publish stories the mainstream media will not publish. Bloggers have also been the leads to many stories carried by the mainstream. How patriotic! A salute to BLOGGERS.


Burma and Suu Ki


Free immediately Aung San Suu Kyi & other 1400 Burmese political prisoners .

As of today Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for a total of 11 years and 111 days, to be exact.

Aung San Suu Kyi is now serving her third term of house arrest. She was re-arrested on 30 May, 2003 after the regime's militia attacked her convoy and killed up to 100 of her supporters.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

N.Korea Breakthrough

Deal agreed to shut key North Korea nuclear facilities

North Korea agreed to shut down key nuclear facilities in exchange for badly needed fuel, but later appeared to backtrack, with official media saying the deal only required the "temporary suspension" of its nuclear sites.

In return, the United States would hold direct talks on diplomatic relations with North Korea - a member of US President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" - and begin looking at removing it from the US list of terrorist nations.

The deal came after nearly a week of gruelling six-nation talks in Beijing aimed at convincing the secretive Stalinist state, which tested an atomic bomb for the first time in October, to abandon its nuclear weapons.

Chinese negotiator Wu Dawei said an "important consensus" had been reached at the talks, which would resume in Beijing on March 19 to verify that the deal is being properly implemented.

Under the deal, North Korea would have 60 days to shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allow United Nations nuclear inspectors back into the country.

Meanwhile, the energy-starved regime would receive a first tranche of 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil -part of an eventual one million tonnes if the accord progresses as spelt out and the North permanently disables its key nuclear facilities.

Chief US envoy Christopher Hill said he was pleased with the outcome but warned there was still a long way to go before the end goal of a denuclearised North Korea was achieved.

South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have been holding nearly four years of on-again, off-again talks with the North, one of the poorest and most isolated nations in the world.

According to the new agreement, North Korea would "shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment" its main Yongbyon nuclear plant and make an accounting of all its nuclear programmes and capabilities.

Included in that list would be plutonium already extracted from fuel rods, which outside analysts have estimated would be enough for the North to make several nuclear weapons.

But the public announcement made no mention of previous US allegations that the North was secretly enriching uranium -- a charge that led to the breakdown of a previous agreement to help Pyongyang build nuclear reactors for energy.

North Korea had repeatedly said it would not make concessions until the United States ended financial sanctions aimed at blocking its access to the international banking system.

The joint announcement did say that North Korea would address another tricky bilateral dispute - its abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s.

But within an hour of the announcement, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said his country would not provide energy aid until "progress" was made on the abductions issue. Japan believes the North is still holding some of its people - AFP.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Maika Fiasco


Maika in the dark over Samy's scheme

K Kabilan

Maika Holdings, the investment arm of MIC, has no new plans in the pipeline to buy back shares from its investors despite a personal assurance from party president S Samy Vellu three months ago.

A Maika official told malaysiakini that the assurance by Samy Vellu to give RM130 for every RM100 invested was not a plan mooted by the investment arm.

“We have not heard of that plan until Samy Vellu was quoted in the Tamil papers as giving that assurance,” added the official who wanted to remain anonymous.

Last November, Samy Vellu assured Maika shareholders that he will personally ensure that they get their money back in three months.

That deadline is just two days away and many investors are still in the dark as to their situation.
However, the Maika official said the investment arm had not received any proposals from Samy Vellu on the buy-back scheme.

In fact, the official added, Maika Holdings was going to propose its own scheme in the next Annual General Meeting which will be held in June.

“At the meeting, we will explain our situation and then propose a new scheme to buy back shares from our investors,” said the official.

Maika chief executive officer S Vell Paari, who is also Samy Vellu’s son, was not available for comment.

Samy Vellu, who is also the works minister, is presently on an official trip to Ghana and could not be reached for comment.

When malaysiakini visited the Maika headquarters last week, it was learnt that many investors had submitted their share certificates in response to Samy Vellu’s assurance.

For these investors, Maika is in the process of telling them that they would not be getting RM130 for every RM100.

“What we can work out for them is to buy back their shares at the price they bought it for - RM1 for RM1,” said an official who has been dealing with these investors.

Pensioner A Mutthiah, 60, from Rawang said then that he would only believe when he sees the money.

Similarly another shareholder M Alagamai, a rubber tapper, who is in her 60s, is also pessimistic about the prospect of seeing her money again.

Contacted today, both these shareholders were not surprised with the latest development.

“Anyway, he has two more days to go before his deadline ends. He still has time. Let’s see if he comes out with our money,” said Mutthiah.

Maika Holdings was established in 1982 purportedly to enable Indian Malaysians to share in the country’s economic growth.

The company raised RM106 million in 1984 from 66,000 investors - many by pawning their jewellery and selling their properties to invest - but some shareholders had since accused the company of squandering the capital through dubious channels after seeing little returns to their investments.

Many of Maika Holdings business ventures had failed to take off. It has only paid its shareholders cash dividends on seven occasions to date, the last being in 1995.

“Samy Vellu should not be silent on this matter. He should stick to his promise to return the money to the investors,” the daily quoted the Penang businessman as saying.


Microsoft Vista

(Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (R) listens as Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie talks about industry cooperation during their keynote address at the RSA Conference 2007 in San Francisco, February 6, 2007).

Microsoft's new OS Vista spurs computer sales

US sales of computers carrying Microsoft's new operating system Vista soared in the week after it was launched, defying the expectations of analysts who gave Vista lackluster reviews.

"I didn't expect to see such aggressive growth right off the line," Current Analysis research director Samuel Belafonte told AFP. "If you are Microsoft, you have to be pleased with these results."

Adding to the achievement was the fact that computer sales are usually sluggish during the end of January and the beginning of February.

"This bodes well for Vista," Belafonte said, cautioning that a more reliable picture would be shown by PC sales figures in the coming six months.

As Microsoft executives predicted, the majority of people opting for Vista bought the higher-priced Home Premium version and only 22 percent went for the more economical, scaled-down Basic edition.

Microsoft spent five years and six billion dollars creating Vista as the successor to its Windows XP operating system.

The Redmond, Washington, software powerhouse has touted Vista worldwide as its most secure and thoroughly-tested operating system release.

Critics maintain that Vista's complexity forces aspiring users to upgrade computers to meet memory and graphics demands. Computer game developers have complained Vista's security features can block or break their software.

Longtime Microsoft followers advised people to put off upgrading to Vista until flaws and kinks are exposed and fixed, as has been the historical pattern with the company's previous operating systems.

Approximately 95 percent of the 900 million computers in the world run on Windows operating systems - AFP.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Proton's Future

TM: "Proton can choose to be a winner or a loser!"

( From Screenshots of 12.2.2007 )

Former Proton Group CEO Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Ariff throws the present management a challenge: "Who will Proton partner with - a winner or a loser?"

He also posed four questions to the Government, which owns Proton on behalf of the taxpayers, to clarify mounting doubts among the public.

VW the best strategic choice

In an exclusive interview published in the Oriental Daily News today, Tengku Mahaleel says: "Volkswagen is the best strategic choice. When Proton cars are German cars, Malaysians' confidence level will come back instantly; if it is a French car, then Malaysians may cry 'aiyah'!"

By choosing Volkswagen, he said Proton could instantly access the Asean automobile market with annual sales of 1.5 million cars. With that, Proton deals, which now number about 400, can be re-categoried to distribute different brands of the Volkswagen marque.

According to media reports, there are at least four suitors from overseas and three more from local conglomerates which had expressed their interest to take strategic control of Proton, the ailing national car maker.

Names of foreign suitors cited by the Press include Volkswagen (Germany), Peugeot-Citroen (France), General Motors (USA), and Daimler-Chrysler (Germany).

The local suitors of Proton's 42.7% controlling stake, now held by Khazanah Inc., are from the Naza Group, which is controlled by AP King SM Nasimuddin SM Amin, and DRB-Hicom controlled by dominant shareholder Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.

The third local suitor is the Sime Darby Group, which is a GLC currently caught in a mega-merger to make it the world's biggest plantation-based giant. It is said that with the mega-merger, its automobile business (BMW) will be asset-stripped to a new group of beneficiaries.

The scramble for Proton's controlling stake which involves the seven parties will be finalised by next month.

4 questions for the government

Tengku Mahaleel also demanded the government to disclose all details of negotiations with the suitors before the announcement of the ultimate winner of the partnership with any of the seven suitors courted.

Going by the records, forerunner Volkswagen, had called off its joint-venture plan with Proton in January 2006, which subsequently caused the Proton counter and market share to plunge.

Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder was quoted by the Press that it would not consider a joint venture with Proton in the future as there was no accord on the JV plan among Proton, the Malaysian Government and Khazanah Inc.

"What is the government's thinking now? If the government doesn't say it, how do we solve the problems?" Tengku Mahaleel asked. "The controlling stake in Proton is the major hurdle of the issue."

He listed out four key questions that the government should answer:

1 ) Is the automobile industry important to our national economy?
2 ) Do we want to protect our human capital (for the automobile industry)?
3 ) Do we want to give Malaysians a high-level career opportunity?
4 ) Do we still want to create the entrepreneur spirit from tyhe mold of Small and Medium-scale Industries?

Tengku Mahaleel said whatever the government decides on the four questions, the answers will be polarised.

If the answer is yes, the solution factor will be Y; if it's the opposite, the solution factor will be X.

The cliff-hanger from Tengku Mahaleel is this: "The government must be very clear; what do you actually want for this country?"


A Commentary

I refer to the comments which appeared in Nuraina's story of 10/2 entitled "Hiring Bloggers In Elections".

Some journalists are bloggers and some bloggers are journalists. When a journalist publishes his/her story in a web-log (Blog), he/she becomes a blogger.

As journalists our duty is to report a story truthfully. We are responsible and accountable to our conscience and the reading public. As journalists we can also comment but it should be separate and not form part of the news.

Be informative by all means but be fair and truthful. Do not fear or favour.This is where the credibility and integrity of journo-bloggers comes.

The people are turning to the NEW MEDIA for information. Why? Because the OLD MEDIA is controlled. It yearly comes under the purview of the KDN licence. My God, they do not want to lose it !

That is where we come. We have to break the news and unearth the facts. We are in a better position to raise issues and comments because the internet is not censored.

If bloggers are bought over by politicians for the elections, than it is bad news for the Journo-Blogging Community. We lose our independence to be fair and truthful in our ability to speak out for justice.


Change the World

- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, February 9, 2007

UN Defunct ?


"The main thing that endears the United Nations to member governments, and so enables it to survive, is its proven capacity to fail. You can safely appeal to the United Nations in the comfortable certainty that it will let you down."

- Conor Cruise O' Brien.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Temple Demolition


A letter by P. Uthayakumar in Malaysiakini of 1.2.2007

Dear Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,

I refer to your interview with the BBC on Jan 24 upon which this report PM: Non-Muslims not marginalised is based.

YAB, with all due respect may I bring to your kind attention once again that your statement is not true and we beg to differ when it concerns the ethnic minority Hindus in Malaysia on the following grounds.

Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution guarantees religious freedom and when read together with Malaysian Penal Code’s Section 295 (defiling a place of worship), Section 296 (disturbing a religious assembly), 298A (causing racial disharmony) and Section 441 (criminal trespass) means that the Malaysian authorities do not have the legal authority to demolish Hindu temples or any other place of worship for that matter.

From Feb 22, 2006 until Nov 30, 2006 alone, 74 Hindu temples have been recorded by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) to have been either demolished, threatened with demolishment, served with eviction notices, had their deities broken, been torched and burnt down or forced to relocate next to sewage tanks, among others.

These incidents have never happened to any other place of worship in any other part of the world. These acts by the Malaysian authorities are in direct violation of our aforesaid constitutional and legal provisions.

Most of these temples have been in existence for 100 over years or before Malaysia’s independence in 1957 (50 years ago). It has been estimated by Hindraf that about 90 percent of these Hindu temples risk demolishment as they are situated on state or private land.

This matter has been brought to the attention of the DYMM Yang Di Pertuan Agong, the Malay rulers, your goodself as the prime minister, the minister in the prime minister’s department, the attorney-general, chief ministers, the inspector-general of police, mayors, local council chiefs and other officials and relevant parties, etc. More than 60 letters or memorandums have been submitted to them throughout 2006. Yet, there has been no official response from your government.

Having exhausted all avenues, a public interest litigation was filed which has now been fixed for hearing on Feb 15 at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. But despite this High Court proceedings been filed (praying for amongst others an interim order to halt these unconstitutional and unlawful Hindu temple demolishments until the High Court makes a final decision) even as late as Dec 29 last year, temples have been demolished or served with eviction notices or had their deities smashed to pieces.

Mr Prime Minister, in November 2006 at the closing of the ruling party Umno’s general assembly, you had proclaimed that you are a prime minister for all Malaysians. In 2006, Malaysia was also made a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The year 2007 is Visit Malaysia Year and over the last few years Malaysia has been advertising itself as ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’.

On Aug 31, we will be celebrating our Golden Jubilee of 50 years of independence. Today, we are celebrating our world-renowned Thaipusam festival. With all these occasions and especially in light of your above mentioned media statement, we seek your kind indulgence to order all authorities to immediately stop all Hindu temple demolishments in Malaysia. And to also order especially that pre-independence Hindu temples to be sanctioned as Hindu temple reserves and gazetted the same with land titles as what is being done for all Muslim places of worship in Malaysia.

Please Mr Prime Minister. The world is watching us. Please also act as a prime minister for your ethnic minority, Hindu Malaysians.

The writer is legal adviser of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).










Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Journal Announcement

The journal invites readers to send in breaking news, photos, public service announcements like water supply interruption, etc. in your areas for publishing in the journal.
Interested readers are to contact me as follows:
SMS: O16 2721738
HP: 016 2721738

Monday, February 5, 2007

Silencing Cyberspace



Date: 6 February2007 (Tuesday)
Time: 7.30 pm
Venue: KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall


* Mr Yeo Yang Poh, President of the Malaysian Bar Council
* Mr Jeff Ooi, Pioneer Malaysian Blogger
* Ms Sonia Randhawa, Executive Director, Centre for Independent Journalism
* Mr Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader
* Mr Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP

More info here.

Indian Agropreneurs


Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today called on the Indians to actively venture into the agriculture and related sectors.

He said the involvement of all communities was crucial to ensure success of the agriculture sector which the Government was developing aggressively.

The Indians' participation in the agriculture sector was negligible, accounting for only 2.4 per cent or 20,000 people of the total manpower engaged in the sector.

"Of the total, only 3,150 or 0.7 per cent are agriculture entrepreneurs, while the rest are mere workers or family members working as labourers in agriculture farms," he said when opening a agriculture development seminar organised by the MIC national agriculture bureau.

Muhyiddin, however, said Indians are major players in the dairy production sector, making up 95 per cent of dairy farming entrepreneurs.

"With the Indians having an advantage in the dairy farming industry, we can increase milk production and boost the country's self-sufficiency in cow's milk from the current five per cent to a higher level," he added.

Meanwhile, MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who also attended the seminar, said jobless Indian graduates should venture into agriculture and related sectors in a big way.

The Works Minister said state governments should provide them suitable agriculture land to carry out farming and livestock rearing on a commercial scale.

"They should also be given credit facilities, machinery, fertilizers and seeds to encourage them to go into farming aggressively," he added.

About 1,000 Indian professionals, agriculture entrepreneurs, MIC leaders and grassroots members attended the one-day seminar - BERNAMA.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Criminalise War


5th -7th FEBRUARY 2007

On Sunday Feb 4, YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will hold a pre-conference press conference at the Legend Hotel (Helang Room) at 12.30pm.

Details of the conference and guest speakers are available on the PGPO website.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Launch

This week I finally launched my Blog, called Rajahram's Journal which I had been preparing for several weeks before. I invited Jeff and Rocky to do the launching on the 31st of January by introducing me to the Blog Fraternity. See Chilling Effect? Even Retirees Blog! and I Got a Name both of Wednesday 31.1.2007. Thank you, Jeff and Rocky.

That was terrific, and to date I received a total of more than 20 comments at my site. Thank you all for your comments.

A good response for a beginner, and I hope as we get going more and more letters keep coming. I also received a few anonymous letters. Some were good and some were blatantly rude. I had asked the writers of the good letters to give me their names for posting but they didn't. The rude letters, I had to delete.

There were as usual a lot of visitors to the site but did not comment. Thanks for reading but I would appreciate if you leave some comments for me to know your views on that topic. Your views are important to me. I am in this for Public Opinion.

I was also busy visiting various blog sites of the veterans to introduce myself and say hello by dropping a comment or two at their homes. All were very friendly and helpful making me very welcome. I was terribly flattered and felt so much at home with this community of well known journalists.

Since I come from a different background, I only hope I can live up to your expectation in this new field. I intend in the coming weeks to read our veterans blogs more than write to get a feel of the new world. In fact I came to know of the Blogs only after the issue was highlighted in the media.

I had also told Nuraina, that I will be coming for Rocky's hearing on the 22nd. Nuraina’s report from Wisma Denmark and Jeff’s photos did the trick. I only hope everything goes well for Rocky on that day. Hope to see you all there. Till then Happy Blogging !