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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

98. Selamat Hari Raya

My Journal will take a short break from tomorrow till 7th October. Will be back on the 8th. Till then, wishing all Muslim friends and readers a very pleasant holiday and greetings of the season.

97. Space walk a Success

China's first spacewalk Saturday seemed to offer a bright spot for British media, laboring for days under the gloom of the global financial crisis.

The Times online carried a story with the headline "China celebrates its first spacewalk," calling it "the latest milestone in an ambitious program."

The video grab taken on Sept. 27, 2008 in Beijing, China, shows Chinese taikonaut Zhai Zhigang is outside the orbital module. (Xinhua Photo)

Zhai Zhigang, the mission commander, floated out of the orbitalmodule's hatch during the spacewalk, beamed live on China's state television service, CCTV, the story describes.

Tethered to handles attached to the exterior of the Shenzhou-7 spaceship's orbital module, Zhai remained outside for about 20 minutes before returning to the module and closing the hatch behind him.

A fellow astronaut, Liu Boming, also emerged briefly from the capsule to hand Zhai a Chinese flag that he waved before an exterior camera filming the event. The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.

A story in The Telegraph, headlined "China carries out first space walk," said "the main purpose of the flight was to prepare the technical skills, including the docking of two orbiters together, necessary for the development of a Chinese space station."

"The mission was also considered an essential step towards a manned mission to the moon," it added.

The Guardian said "Zhai Zhigang today became the first Chinese person to walk in space, marking the highlight of his country's third manned mission."

"The maneuver is a step towards China's long-term goal of assembling a space laboratory and station."

China's first manned spaceflight was in 2003. A second flight manned by two astronauts followed in 2005. The only other countries to have launched humans into space are Russia and the United States - Xinhua.

96. ISA Mass Protest

About 2,000 people staged a peaceful march through the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur tonight calling for the abolishment of Internal Security Act and freeing detainees under the Act

Initially, two separate groups - Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and coalition of NGOs led by the Writer Alliance For Media Independence (Wami) - had initially planned to hold a candlelight vigil at Dataran Merdeka at about 7.30pm. 

When they came across a police cordon at Dataran Merdeka, the Hindraf-led group numbering about 500 decided to march to the temple opposite the Puduraya bus terminal about 1km away. 

The crowd marched unhindered towards their destinations and gradually the crowd swelled to about 2,000 people from all walks of life, with many carrying candles. 

The other group, which was in a procession holding Chinese lanterns, eventually joined up with the Hindraf group. 

The police were caught off-guard by the huge turnout. Many media personnel had also remarked that the large crowd was unanticipated as past vigils had been small in number. 

‘Tonight, we are the judges’

Shouts of “Mansuhkan ISA (Abolish the ISA)”, “Bebaskan Raja Petra (Free Raja Petra)” and “Hindraf Valga (Long live Hindraf)” were chanted by the marchers. 

Eventually, the crowd gathered at the temple compound where several individuals addressed the crowd with highly charged speeches - Malaysiakini.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

95. Why Transfer ?

A Commentary by My Journal

Based on press reports of the proceedings to date of the Anwar Ibrahim Sodomy II, and the request for its transfer to the High Court, I would like to make a few comments as a layman.

The AG is at present under investigation on a complaint lodged by the accused (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) that he (the AG) - the public prosecutor, had tampered with evidence in his case 10 years ago. As a result of that, the Prime Minister had said that the AG will not be involved in this case (what higher authority is there for the AG to report to?).

When asked by the judge, the DPP himself conceded that the AG should not have partaken on the instructions of the Prime Minister. And that is why he is on the floor and not the AG.

That being so, the AG should have by right disqualified himself, and not partaken in anyway in the case. Even signing a document amounts to partaking because it would have amounted to the AG having read the documents and known the consequences to the accused should he be found guilty. Signing a document is not a mechanical process nor a mere formality of rubber stamping.

In the absence of such a disqualification by the AG himself, the transfer certificate rendered would be invalid if signed by the AG. So the argument that only the AG can sign is immaterial.

This is to ensure the credibility of the system and to ensure public confidence of the judiciary.

There is no question of precedence to follow unless the facts of the case, the submissions by the prosecution and defence are similar. This case is unprecedented.

If a sodomy case can be tried in a sessions court, as the court of first instance, then so be it. If Anwar Ibrahim is high profile, so what? A transfer to a higher court should only be allowed if the court or the judge is incompetent to hear the case for various reasons. That being NOT so, the proper court to hear this case will be the present court.

Where there are no laws or if the laws are ambiguous as in the present case, ( the lawmakers would not have been in a position at the time of drafting to think of all possibilities !) , it is the judge's duty to give due weight to the lacuna and prevailing circumstances and make a JUDGEMENT to ensure JUSTICE prevails - My Journal.

94. U.S. Presidential Debate I

by John Whitesides, Political Correspondent, Reuters

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain battled over spending, taxes and the Iraq war on Friday, sharply questioning each other's judgment and ability to lead on the biggest issues facing the United States.

In a 90-minute debate that gave undecided voters their first chance to directly compare the White House candidates in the November 4 election, McCain and Obama traded heated jabs over the economy and security, highlighting broad policy differences but producing no major blunders or knockout blows.

McCain, 72, questioned the first-term senator's readiness for the White House.

"I honestly don't believe that Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience, and (he) has made the wrong judgments in a number of areas," the Arizona senator said.

Obama, 47, repeatedly tied McCain to the policies of unpopular Republican President George W. Bush and said both men had been too focused on the Iraq war while ignoring other problems. "The next president has to have a broader strategic vision about all the challenges we face," he said.

Neither candidate appeared to score a clear victory in the debate at the University of Mississippi, the first of three such encounters.

The debate between the vice presidential contenders, Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, is next up on Thursday.

"I hope I made you proud tonight," McCain told cheering supporters at a small rally after the debate. He headed immediately back to Washington to take part in negotiations on a bailout package for the U.S. financial industry.

Both McCain and Obama said they were optimistic Congress would come up with a $700 billion rescue plan but agreed the huge price tag would limit their agendas as the next president.


McCain said he would freeze federal spending as president on most programs other than defense and veterans' care, and accused Obama of being a big-spending liberal who could not bring together Republicans and Democrats.

"Senator Obama has the most liberal voting record in the Senate," said McCain, who aggressively attacked Obama and at times put him on the defensive. "It's hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left."

Obama said McCain would cut taxes for the wealthy and slash corporate tax rates, and said support of anti-regulatory approaches by Republicans like McCain had led to the collapse on Wall Street.

"This is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policy promoted by George Bush and supported by Senator McCain," he said of the financial crisis.

McCain ended days of suspense earlier on Friday when he flew to Mississippi for the debate, backing away from his promise to skip the showdown if negotiations were not completed on the financial industry rescue.

The debate had been scheduled to focus on foreign policy and national security, but the turmoil on Wall Street has dominated the presidential campaign trail for nearly two weeks and was the first topic raised.

Public opinion polls have shown Obama making gains over the past week on the question of who could best lead the country on economic issues. Most polls have Obama holding a slight and growing lead over McCain.

The debate was expected to draw a big television audience, far more than the 40 million Americans who saw the speeches Obama and McCain gave at their party conventions.


Obama criticized the judgment of McCain, one of the staunchest advocates of the war, for supporting the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"The first question is whether we should have gone into this war in the first place," said Obama, an early war critic.

McCain said the big question facing the next president will be "how we leave and when we leave."

He said Obama showed poor judgment by opposing the "surge" policy that sent more troops to Iraq last year and has been credited with helping reduce violence there.

McCain also attacked Obama for his willingness to talk with leaders of hostile nations like Iran without preconditions.

But Obama pointed out that Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state who is one of McCain's foreign policy advisers, supported the same approach.

The two candidates clashed on Pakistan, with Obama saying the United States should attack militants in Pakistan if Islamabad was unwilling to do so. McCain said he could not back such a policy.

"You don't do that. You don't say that out loud," McCain said.

Friday, September 26, 2008

93. Umno postpones Assembly

The Umno supreme council dealt a blow to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by putting off party polls and its annual general meeting to March next year in the bid to force the party leader to hand over power to his deputy.

The Umno annual general meeting, along with party elections, was originally scheduled to be held in December.

However divisional elections will proceed as scheduled from Oct 9 to Nov 9.

The decisions were made at an hour-long emergency supreme council meeting held this morning at Umno headquarters.

Abdullah had earlier said he would hand over power to his deputy, Najib Abdul Razak, in two years' time.

Speaking to reporters later, Abdullah refused to comment if he would defend his president's post at the party polls, saying that he would decide before the division-level meetings on Oct 9 - giving him a window of two weeks to .

"I have not made any decision as far as this particular point is concerned, I intend to do it before the division meetings begin," he said.

"The decision is mine, you can go on guessing. As far as I'm concerned, I love the party." 

"The postponement of the AGM is to facilitate the transition plan," he added. 

Asked by reporters if he would be going on leave soon, Abdullah said: "I'm not going on leave ... I have lots of work to do." - Malaysiakini.

92. AirAsiaX - Best Newcomer

AirAsia X, the low-cost, long-haul affiliate of AirAsia, has made Malaysia proud after being named winner of the "Best Newcomer" Award at the prestigious 2008 Budgie World Low Cost Airline Awards held last night at the London Queen Elizabeth II Centre.

AirAsia X, whose shareholders include the Virgin Group, was commended for its ground-breaking new business model and excellence in launching its services across the Asia Pacific.

AirAsia X beat British Airways' subsidiary airline, Open Skies, as well as Jin Air and K-Rabi, to the "Best Newcomer" accolade.

It also received the highest number of nominations among all entries. In total, AirAsia Group was shortlisted in four categories, including "Best Low Cost Airline", "Best Low Cost Airline: Asia Pacific" and "CEO of the Year".

Since its inaugural flight to Australia's Gold Coast in November 2007, AirAsia X has announced daily flights to Hangzhou, China, Melbourne and Perth, with plans to launch services to London as early as next year.

At the ceremony to receive the award, Azran Osman-Rani, CEO AirAsia X, said: "It is a great honour for us to receive this award and be in the same peer group with other winners such as Southwest Airlines, EasyJet and Virgin Blue.

"The recognition of our pioneering model proves that Malaysian companies can succeed in the global marketplace. We're proud to keep the Jalur Gemilang flying high," he said in a statement from London to Bernama today.

Azran said despite tough market conditions in 2008, AirAsia X has provided its guests with lowest fares to long-haul destinations many have never had the opportunity to travel before, alongside an enhanced travel experience, including comfortable leather seats and a newly launched "5-star" menu.

"The result has been tremendous and we have already recorded load factors of over 300,000 passengers since inception," he said.

Present was Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO and founder of AirAsia X.

The Budgie World Low Cost Airline Awards recognises leaders, innovators and pioneers in the global low-cost aviation industry.

This year's awards were judged by renowned industry consultants including John Hanlon, secretary-general of European Low Fare Airline Association, John Strickland, CEO of JLS Consulting, Jay Sorensen, CEO of IdeaWorks and Peter Harbison, executive director of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. - Bernama.

Congratulations to Azran Osman-Rani and the AirAsia Group for this very commendable effort to bring the world much closer and to give the "now everyone can fly"  mantra a global perspective - My Journal.

91. Chinese to Space Walk

PHOTONEWS:  China's third manned space mission blasted off on Thursday evening on its most ambitious venture yet. The launch, part of a programme that China's government hopes will see Chinese astronauts landing on the moon as early as 2020, was watched by millions live on national television.

Astronauts on board China's Shenzhou VII spacecraft have successfully reached their final orbit and are preparing to perform the country's first ever spacewalk, expected to take place on Saturday, mission controllers say - Al Jazeera / AFP.

90. Temple Demolished!

The Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) officers who tore down a Hindu temple had acted against a state government directive barring the destruction of places of worship.

State Local Government, Study and Research Committee chairman Ronnie Liu said the state government had issued an order asking all local councils to halt such actions against all places of worship.

It had issued the directive when it first came into power after the March 8 general election.

The Sri Maha Kaliamman temple in Kampung Tasik, Jalan Baru in Ampang was torn down on Sept 9.

These officers had openly defied the order, he said, and had also by-passed the committee on non-Muslim affairs headed by state executive councillors Teresa Kok, Dr Xavier Jayakumar and Liu himself.

“I contacted the council president a day after the incident and asked him investigate the matter and identify those involved.

“I was told he has submitted a preliminary report to my office but I have not read it since I am away in China now; it would be unfair for me comment further on the incident until I have done so,” he said when contacted on Thursday.

Liu had told a press conference a day after the incident that he was upset with the council officers’ move and warned they would face stern action, including being given the sack.

MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu also condemned the action, saying it went against the Opposition’s promise during the election campaign not to demolish any temples.

“It is very careless of the local council to demolish the temple without first relocating the temple,” he said in a statement.

After being informed of the demolition of the temple on Wednesday, Selangor MIC Youth chief M. Yogeswaran immediately lodged a report at the Ampang Jaya police station.

Human Resources Minister Datuk S. Subramaniam said the MIC was extremely disappointed with the Pakatan Rakyat state government and the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).

“Our stand all along has been that if a temple needs to be relocated due to road expansion or some other major development, it can be relocated with the agreement that a new place of worship be built in an ideal area,” he said - The Star.

A thorough investigation is required on this matter. Meanwhile, a new temple is expected to be built and handed to the relevant party with an apology by the authorities - My Journal.

89. PM to step down in 2009?

On the face of it, postponing the party elections until June next year helps Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi more than anyone else in Umno.

He can remain as party president and Prime Minister and have another six to eight months to complete some reforms and salvage his legacy.

And as a bonus he will not have to seek nominations from divisions which have become increasingly confrontational towards him since the Permatang Pauh by-election defeat on August 26.

A win-win proposition for a man with precious few options.

Only in theory, it seems.

Officials familiar with the series of meetings on the transition plan between Abdullah and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak say that the PM was not sold on the idea when his number two raised it on Tuesday.

He reasoned that postponing the party elections would open Umno to ridicule from Malaysians (many of whom already view the party in dim light no thanks to the likes of Ahmad Ismail, etc) and create even more unhappiness among the party grassroots, who have spent the last few months preparing for the elections.

Abdullah's supporters have another reason to object to pushing back the election date: it paints Abdullah as a desperate leader who is willing to do anything to stay on as party president. And this includes staying on in a lame duck capacity.

An Umno Supreme Council member, who is aligned to Abdullah, told The Malaysian Insider: "Najib should either support the transition plan or tell PM that he cannot do so. Then Pak Lah can go on and try and get the nominations to defend his position. This is more honourable than trying to stay on like this…This idea of postponing the elections and then handing the position to Najib only benefits Najib.''

How so?

It appears that the DPM has lost control of his own warlords on the ground. He admitted as much in talks with several supreme council members recently.

As such, he is unable or unwilling to risk the backlash from them if he continues to support the transition plan which will see Abdullah contesting the party elections in December and then handing over power to Najib in 2010.

Najib believes that if he supports the transition plan unconditionally, there is a possibility that he and Abdullah will have to face off with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and other critics of the PM.

He has told his supporters that he is confident that he and Abdullah will be able to emerge victorious but was worried that it will come at a high price.

On the flip side, if he distances himself from Abdullah's transition plan, this is bound to persuade the PM to wage an all out campaign to obtain at least 58 nominations from the divisions and defend his party president's position.

In this scenario, Najib may have to face off with Abdullah, a battle which could be expensive for a politician still recovering from a battering to his image by the Opposition.

So the safest option for Najib was to cobble together a plan which achieved the twin objectives of allowing Abdullah to remain in his position for a few more months without committing to the 2010 transition plan.

He believes that postponing the party elections will keep the peace in the party and allow all the stakeholders to walk away with something.

And yes, it will allow Najib to inherit an intact Umno - The Malaysian Insider.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

88. PM and DPM face to face


Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib are having a private meeting once again today to discuss the transition plans, which may include the possibility of the Prime Minister handing over the reins before 2010.

Today's discussions follow an Umno management committee meeting yesterday chaired by Najib, and which was attended by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Tengku Adnan Mansor, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.

It is understood that members of the management committee were sworn to secrecy after leaks from last week's supreme council meeting caused turmoil.

It was reported that Abdullah, the Umno president, came under severe pressure from his party colleagues to quit during that meeting.

Despite the constant reassurances from Najib that he would stick by the transition plan, which is for Abdullah to hand over power by 2010, the pressure has grown from a number of senior party leaders, as well as from significant numbers among the grassroots, for Abdullah to step down sooner.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider today that some party officials have started floating the idea of postponing the party polls from December to next June.

Such an equation would include having Abdullah hand over power by the middle of next year as well.

This would avoid a potentially bruising and bitter struggle for the party, with Najib then taking over as Umno president and Prime Minister in a smooth, and probably unchallenged, manner.

But such a proposal may still not go down well.

It comes at a time when both Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have accused Abdullah and Najib of turning the party into their own personal property.

The two veteran leaders are of the opinion that members should be given a chance to decide who their leaders are - The Malaysian Insider / Malaysiakini.

87. Gerakan’s position in BN

Gerakan, one of the "founders" of the Barisan Nasional (BN) with about 250,000 members, is in a fix.

Following its dismal performance in the March 8 general election, the party is caught between calls from its grassroot members to evaluate its effectiveness in the ruling coalition and being faithful to the BN family.

The matter had raised the temperature in the party to the extent that the Gerakan central committee (CC), the party’s highest decision-making body, had to convene six meetings to discuss the issue, the last being on Saturday, a day before the Penang Gerakan elections.

As a result, the CC concluded that the party should call an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to disc
uss the matter, and not have it done at the national delegates conference (NDC), if the members persist on debating it, a party source told Bernama on condition of anonymity.

It felt that the proper forum to engage in this thorny issue would be the EGM and not the NDC because "during the NDC, so many other issues have to be discussed and, furthermore, this is a party election year."

"It looks like everyone is pushing Dr Koh  to decide. They want him to make a stand on the matter," a party insider revealed.

The latest CC meet also wanted Koh to meet delegates and members to explain the pros and cons of making such a stand.

"Before calling for an EGM, the party leadership, especially the president, must give a detailed explanation on the matter. It should be a no holds barred discussion behind closed doors, then members can decide for themselves what they want to do," he added.

The members, many feel, should not be emotional in discussing the issue and must always be rational and objective as the issue could touch on sensitive matters. Some party leaders have even pointed their fingers at Koh for allowing the issue get out of hand and for turning a deaf ear to mounting voices of unhappiness in the party.

"This is not just about me. It is about the future of the party itself, the idealogy and the principles which have been decided by our forefathers and veteran party members before.

"It was during the height of the Ahmad Ismail case that I received a phone call from Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu (former Gerakan president and founding member), who reminded me that Gerakan was one of the founding members of Barisan Nasional," Koh, the former Penang chief minister, said in response to the harsh criticism.

Veteran party member Tan Sri Dr Chin Fook Weng explained that it was Gerakan that backed the then Alliance party, consisting of Umno, MCA and MIC, to form a coalition to administer the Penang state government.

"That was the birth of the BN. We now have to explain this in detail. How the birth of the BN came forth and all. We are, in fact, one of the founding members of the BN," Chin said, adding that this was not the time for Gerakan to be impatient.

"We started in 1974, we are one of the founders. We did not join the BN, we founded the BN. We cannot abandon it. The struggle will be very long ... it’s only proper we nurse the sick party even if takes some time to cure," he added.

Gerakan CC member Teng Chang Yeow said the party, despite the history, was at a crossroad now.

Therefore, there was an urgent need for party members to carefully assess the situation and the political developments over the past six months.

"Other component parties of the BN also suffered. There is no clear fault. You just cannot pinpoint anyone and say is was your fault.

"It’s just like a marriage. If the marriage runs into a problem, you will put in an effort to try and save it. Others can tell you do this and that, but at the end of the day, it is you yourself who is going to be affected," he added. - theSun / Bernama.

86. PR will meet King

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will send a letter to King, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin on the transfer of power from Barisan Nasional to the opposition pact, and a request to convene a special parliament session, said the coalition's leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"The letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is about a peaceful transfer of power and a special parliament session to table a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

"We are demanding that the prime minister respect the people's rights to choose us," he told reporters after attending the proceeding related to his sodomy case at the Sessions Court in Jalan Duta here today.

In a press statement issued earlier, Anwar said PR leaders had decided to proceed cautiously and will not take a hasty approach towards attaining their goal of forming the new federal government.

He said PR will not be provoked into taking hasty actions or adopt an irresponsible approach that would lead to instability and greater uncertainty in the country.

Anwar, who met PAS leaders in Kelantan and DAP leaders in KL on Tuesday, said PAS leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the spirit and goals of the coalition while Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng expressed his satisfaction in the progress being made to strengthen and broaden the consensus among Pakatan Rakyat parties and supporters from Barisan Nasional.

Anwar said the among the matters discussed were the next steps that Pakatan Rakyat should take towards forming a government that reflects the support of the majority of Members of Parliament.

"There is a crisis of confidence in the current leadership of the nation at a time when the Malaysian people are demanding solutions for the highest increases in prices in two decades, increasing joblessness and the dramatic decline in investor confidence," said Anwar.

"Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's failure to accede to our request for an emergency session in Parliament represents another attempt by the UMNO-led BN government to sabotage and scuttle the democratic process," he added.

"Nevertheless, I along with my colleagues in Pakatan remain confident that the people's desire for change shall soon be attained," he said.

On another note, Anwar denied any knowledge of claims made by his information chief Tian Chua recently that contacts were made with Government intermediaries for a smooth power transition.

"I am not aware of any negotiations taking place between Pakatan Rakyat and the Prime Minister - statements made suggesting that a line of communication was open were misinformed," he said.

Tian Chua, who was earlier quoted by a foreign news wire as saying that there had been several meetings since the weekend between Pakatan Rakyat's middleperson and Abdullah's middleperson, has since retracted his statements.

Abdullah, who denied such contacts made through intermediaries, was quoted in the media as saying it was the 'craziest report ever' - theSun.

85. Petrol 10 cents cheaper

PUTRAJAYA: Prices of petrol and diesel are 10 sen cheaper from today.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said the retail price of RON97 is reduced from RM2.55 per litre to RM2.45 per litre, the price of RON92 is lowered from RM2.40 to RM2.30, while diesel is reduced from RM2.50 to RM2.40 per litre.

In reading out a statement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badaw, Shahrir said the 10 sen reduction is the maximum value that the Government could reduce.

It is also the second adjustment made by the Government.

The first adjustment to reduce the fuel price was made on Aug 23 - The Star.

84. Next year's school breaks

All schools in the country would open their doors for the 2009 session starting Jan 5 except for Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu where schools start on Jan 4.

A statement from the Ministry of Education said for schools in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, the first term break starts from March 13-21, the second break is from May 29 to June 13 and the third, from Aug 21-29 while the final school holidays start from Nov 20 to Jan 2 of 2010.

For other states, the first term break starts from March 14-22, second term break from May 30 to June 14 and the third from Aug 22-30 while schools close for the final holidays on Nov 21 and re-open on Jan 3, 2010.

According to the Ministry's statement, the total number of schooling days including public holidays for 2009 are 208 - Bernama.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

83. DAP's 'Abolish ISA'

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has laid out a road map for ending the oppressive Internal Security Act, whereby the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance will go to Parliament to get rid of it.

Speaking at the ‘Abolish the ISA’ forum organised by his DAP party last night, Guan Eng said Pakatan will not be contented with merely organising gatherings against the tough security law.

Neither would Pakatan leaders spew mere rhetoric without commensurate action, he promised an audience of about 600.

"I myself will move a private members bill in Parliament for the abolition of the ISA, for its repeal," said Guan Eng to cheers from the audience.

"And then we will see which leaders of Barisan Nasional will practice what they preach and who speak with forked tongue," said Guan Eng, who was himself detained in 1987 at the Kamunting Prison where ISA detainees are usually held.

He said it would be an eye-opener for the nation to see whether BN MPs and ministers, who spoke against the ISA, would follow through and support the bill, or if they were merely paying lip service to soothe the public anger that followed the government’s recent crackdown.

DAP national organising secretary and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng were placed under ISA arrest on Sep 12.

While Kok and Tan have been released, Raja Petra was yesterday sent to Kamunting Prison in Perak to begin a two year detention order.

The arrests moved six cabinet ministers - and a score of Barisan leaders - to express strong objection against the draconian Act, which allows for prolonged detention without trial. They also called for its repeal or review.

Guan Eng singled out MCA leaders as well as his predecessor, Gerakan acting president Koh Tsu Koon, as being among those politicians who should now show their sincerity to the nation.

Meanwhile, Guan Eng praised former law minister Zaid Ibrahim, who resigned from the cabinet to protest the use of the ISA while there were other laws that could have been used by the government to prosecute the three civilians.

The first thing that Pakatan should do when it forms the federal government is repeal the ISA, he said.

Close down Kamunting 

If that does not occur during the next parliamentary session, Guan Eng said he would propose that Pakatan explore the possibility of closing down the Kamunting Prison through acquisition of the land on which the jail complex is built.

The Kamunting Prison is in Perak state, which is controlled by the Pakatan alliance.

"State governments have power over land. Under Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act land can be acquired for economic development or for public purpose," said Guan Eng, who is also MP for Bagan.

"We will not let the Perak government pay the full costs of the acquisition. We have four other Pakatan governments who will chip in," he said.

He also said members of the public would also be encouraged to contribute towards the land purchase, and eventually Kamunting may even be turned into a public housing project.

"Taman Bahagia Kamunting (Kamunting Happy Garden)!" he suggested as a name, to hoots of laughter from the audience.

For the plan to take shape, Pakatan state government representatives currently sitting on the National Land Council will have to begin urging the federal government to allow Kamunting’s takeover.

"We will wipe the stain of the ISA off the face of Malaysia!," Guan Eng promised - Malaysiakini.

82. Anwar urges patience

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim today defended his failure to topple the government a week after claiming he had enough support to seize power, and asked Malaysians to be patient.

Anwar said removing the ruling coalition which has dominated Malaysian politics for half a century was an enormous task and that he wanted to do it smoothly and within the law.

"I appeal to Malaysian citizens, particularly those who want to see a change, to understand this and be a bit more patient because we do not want to transgress the constitution, rules and procedures," he told a press conference.

"It will take a lot of patience, a lot of resolve, to try and unravel this complex web controlled by a few cronies," he said.

Anwar said last week he had the support of more than 31 lawmakers from the Barisan Nasional coalition and called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to agree to negotiations on a handover of power.

Abdullah refused and rejected a request for an emergency session of parliament for the opposition to mount a vote of no confidence against him.

PKR information chief Tian Chua said yesterday the opposition had begun handover talks with the government, with several meetings between intermediaries taking place since the weekend.

Abdullah said there were no such talks and Anwar said Wednesday he was "not aware" of any discussion on a political transition.

But he said he had written to the king to inform him of his actions so far, although he was not yet seeking an audience with the monarch, who would need to approve any change in government.

'If they think I'm a liar, put it to test'

Anwar dismissed the premier's claims that he was merely bluffing about the defectors, whose names he has refused to release.

"If they think I'm a liar, put it to the test and have a vote taken," he said.

Parliament resumes on Oct 13 after a break for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan but even then the opposition faces procedural barriers to mounting a no-confidence vote.

Anwar faces a trial on sodomy allegations - the same charge that saw the former deputy premier sacked and jailed a decade ago.

On Wednesday, his lawyers argued against an application to move the case to the High Court.

"The prosecution is trying very hard to transfer the case to the High Court so it will be heard by a judge decided by them," Anwar said after a hearing at the Sessions Court which reserved its judgement to Oct 7 - Malaysiakini /AFP.

81. Decision on 7th October

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was back in court today over the sodomy charge levelled against him by a former aide, will know on Oct 7 whether the case will be transferred to a higher court.     

The date was fixed by Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court judge SM Komathy Suppiah after hearing arguments this morning from both the prosecution and defence counsel on a technical issue relating to jurisdiction.

The prosecution argued that the court “has no choice” but to allow the transfer as it has no power to reject the move. This position was nevertheless challenged by Anwar’s legal team.

On Oct 7, the judge will rule whether she can hear Anwar’s objection to transfer of the case or allowing the transfer without any questions on the validity of the document.

The prosecution had earlier sought permission for the matter to be transferred to the High Court.

However, the defence team had objected to the transfer certificate as it was signed by attorney-general (AG) Abdul Gani Patail.
Their objection was on the basis that the AG should not have played any role in this case as he was being investigated following a complaint that he had tampered with evidence in Anwar’s trials 10 years ago.

The proceedings started today with AG’s chambers prosecution head Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden submitting in favour of the transfer.

Citing case law, he said the court has no power to decide against the prosecution’s application and that Justice Komathy was bound by these previous court decisions.

In relation to this, the lead prosecutor also argued that the court could not hear or entertain the objection made by Anwar’s defence team.

Under the law, only the AG can sign the certificate to transfer the case but the validity of this document has been challenged by the defence on the ground that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had previously said that Abdul Gani will not be involved in this sodomy case.

On this point, Mohd Yusof said Abdul Gani has had no direct role in the prosecution of the case.

“At the end of the day, the PM can say anything (but) the court (must) respect justice in accordance to law,” he noted.

Justice Komathy asked Mohd Yusof whether public confidence would be undermined if the AG, who has been “disqualified by the PM”, was allowed to be involved.

“I can’t say whether he (AG) has been disqualified, I am obviously not the PM,” replied the prosecutor, adding that “only the law” can disqualify Abdul Gani from involving in the case.

Appeared dissatisfied with the reply, the judge - who had remarked at one point that she was “very troubled” by the PM’s remark - pressed on with the same question.

“Would it not undermine public confidence in the administration of justice when the AG has been disqualified from the case?” she asked again.

“Nothing has changed [...] Bias or no bias, confidence or no confidence, it is only the venue (that is being) changed and that the High Court has more power,” responded Mohd Yusof, who appeared slightly agitated.

‘Clear miscarriage of justice’ 

Anwar’s lead counsel Sulaiman Abdullah interjected at this juncture, saying there was legitimate expectation among the public and his client that the AG would not be involved in the case.

“Is the prosecution saying that the PM just shoots his mouth off without consulting the AG? Why mislead the public that the AG won’t be involved all this while, then?” he asked.

Rebutting the prosecution’s contention that the court has no power to hear the matter, Sulaiman (right) said the court has its inherent power to step in when there is a “clear miscarriage of justice”.

Mohd Yusof, after coming under intense questioning by the judge, then told her that she has “no choice” but to allow the transfer of the high-profile case to the High Court.

“I wouldn’t want to argue with you. You have no choice but to transfer (the case) to High Court. Once the certificate (to transfer) is produced, you have to transfer the case,” he said to murmurs from those in the court room, mainly PKR supporters.

As the arguments persisted, Justice Komathy - who was initially expected to decide on the matter today - said she required a meeting with the prosecution and defence lead counsel in chambers.

When she emerged 30 minutes later, she said she would need two weeks time to study the arguments before making a decision.

High security at court complex

At the Jalan Duta court complex today, security was heightened again for the hearing, with several federal reserve unit trucks on standby and 80-odd police personnel posted at various locations.

Two layers of police security were also in place for those registering to enter the courtroom.

Anwar arrived at the court complex at 9.50am and entered the courtroom eight minutes later. The hearing started at 10.05am, and was over in 90 minutes.

The opposition leader was accompanied by his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and daughter Nurul Izzah, who is also the Lembah Pantai MP.

Asked by reporters about the possible outcome before the proceedings resumed, Anwar said: “You never know (about) justice in this country”.

About 50 supporters and several party leaders were present as a show of support.

Anwar had claimed trial on Aug 7 when charged with sodomising his former aide, 23-year-old Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

If convicted, he could face a 20-year jail term. He is currently out on a RM20,000 personal bond.

There was some fear among his supporters that his bail could be revoked, resulting in Anwar being held in prison while awaiting his trial - a process that could take months. However, the bail issue was not raised in court previously and was not raised today either - Malaysiakini.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

80. King or October 13

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had served up his latest volley last Thursday, asking Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to call for an emergency sitting of Parliament to table a motion of no confidence in the latter's administration.

Abdullah duly rejected the idea the same afternoon but the PR leaders have decided to wait until today's latest deadline to expire before deciding on their next move.

PKR vice-president R. Sivarasa told The Malaysian Insider that while there have been unofficial discussions since Thursday, PR would only decide on a date for a formal meeting today.

Its leadership will decide on the latest move in a series of failed attempts to checkmate the Barisan Nasional government.

Anwar has seen what he now calls the "symbolic date" of Sept 16 come and go, then a request for an appointment with Abdullah go unheeded and now the attempt to convene Parliament today rebuffed.

Sivarasa revealed that there were now only two clear options to back claims that PR has in hand the 31 or more MPs it requires to command the majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

"We can wait until Oct 13 or go to the palace."

With Anwar having made firm statements about the urgent need for a new government to address the country's economic and democratic woes, it would be both unlikely and inconsistent to wait until Parliament reconvenes on Oct 13.

If they do indeed "have the numbers" as PKR often declares, then there is nothing to lose by going to the King.

If they have instead been stalling for time, this may be the riskiest gamble yet. The King could decree that they wait for Oct 13, or decide to inquire into the matter personally and force Anwar to reveal the identities of all, if any, defecting legislators.

Whatever PR decides on, an endgame is nigh. Either the King decides or PKR will go for a no-confidence motion on Oct 13, which would be no different from having one today, save for a three-week wait.

Hence, what DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said of the emergency session applies here as well, as it would serve "to resolve this issue once and for all. If Barisan Nasional has the majority Abdullah will continue to rule and Pakatan Rakyat will accept it.

"But if Pakatan Rakyat has the majority, let him announce that he will gracefully, orderly and democratically effect a transition of power." - The Malaysian Insider.

79. Raja Petra to Kamunting

Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin will be sent to Kamunting Detention Centre in Taiping, Perak today to begin his two-year detention under the Internal Security Act, said his lawyer.

The home minister has signed his detention order last night to be held without trial under section 8 of the tough security law. Under the Act, the government can renew his detention indefinitely.

Lawyers said that the police had informed them this morning that they would be taking Raja Petra to the detention centre.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court is to hear a habeas corpus bid by Raja Petra's lawyers to overturn the detention of the controversial blogger today.

Habeas corpus is a writ ordering prisoners to be brought before a judge to ascertain if there are any procedural defects which could render their detention unlawful. 

The Bar Council said Tuesday it was disappointed with the Government's decision in using the Internal Security Act (ISA) to issue a two-year detention order against prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin.

"The issue of the order on the eve of the hearing of his habeas corpus application is troubling, as it undermined the application," said its president, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, in a statement to Bernama.

She said if Raja Petra had committed offences he can be charged in Court but the ISA was being used against him where other avenues that afford him a chance to defend himself existed.

"It confirms the impression that the ISA is being used for purposes other than national security. It is being used to stifle dissent," she said.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said today he signed the two-year detention order of the Malaysia Today blogger for allegedly publishing articles that insulted Islam - Malaysiakini, Bernama.

78. Letter to King

Pakatan Rakyat would not seek help from the Parliament speaker on its request to convene a special meeting to debate a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the political impasse continues.

Contacted today, Pakatan secretariat member and PKR Sungai Petani MP Johari Abdul said the opposition alliance would not seek Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia’s help to break the deadlock.

He said this is because the power to call for a special meeting when the Parliament is not session only lies with the premier under the parliamentary standing orders.

“Since we have given the prime minister until tomorrow to respond, let’s wait till tomorrow is over and we will decide on our next course of action,” he said when contacted today.
Pakatan however is holding its cards close to its chest as Johari, when asked on the next course of action, only replied: “It is in the pipeline.”

The PKR MP insisted that there should be a written reply from Abdullah as the special meet was clearly requested by Pakatan in the letter sent to the prime minister earlier.

No letter to king yet

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, on the other hand, has conspicuously skipped all his public functions in his constituency in Permatang Pauh, Penang over the weekend.

His wife, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who replaced him at the functions, reportedly said that Anwar was occupied with meetings with BN MPs since more of them ‘were keen to cross over’. 

Abdullah rejected the special meeting last Thursday, saying that he did not see the need to do so since Parliament will resume on Oct 13 after the Ramadhan and Hari Raya break.

Pakatan has given the premier up to tomorrow to respond to its request failing which, it does not rule out the possibility of seeking an audience with the King on the matter - Malaysiakini.

77. Just dump it

Why bother reviewing the need for the Internal Security Act (ISA) when it should be abolished and dumped out with the trash?

Offering this view, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng also said this would be the ideal way to end to the country's ugly chapter on the use of the dreaded law.
Lim who is also DAP secretary-general, blasted the recent call by Gerakan acting president Koh Tsu Koon to set up a parliamentary select committee to review the ISA, which allows for detention without trial.

This would be meaningless, a waste of time and against the public interest, he said, noting that the ISA is historical baggage that has become an obstacle to nation building.
“It’s a draconian law that has caused many problems for the country’s growth into a liberal, progressive and dynamic nation,” he said, pointing out that use of the ISA has also been a hindrance to foreign investments and business expansion.
He told journalists in George Town that Gerakan’s proposal for a review - on whether the law should be repealed, amended or retained - only amounted to passing the buck.

"It’s a waste of time to review it when virtually all Malaysians want to do away with it,” said Lim, who was himself detained under the ISA for 18 months during the infamous Operasi Lallang police sweep in 1987.

Questioning their sincerity in tackling the issue, Lim challenged leaders of Gerakan and MCA to emulate Umno stalwart Zaid Ibrahim and also BN de facto Law Minister who had resigned because of the recent use of the law.

The detention of DAP parliamentarian Teresa Kok, 43, journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, 33, and prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, 58, as reignited calls for abolition of the law. The two women have since been released.

Stronger legal clout

On another matter, the chief minister said the Penang government will tighten current laws to strengthen the public accounts committee (PAC) a la the Westminster model. This is to curb financial mismanagement and malpractices.
“Under the British Westminster model, the PAC is very powerful. We plan to copy the concept to vest more power and authority in the PAC to conduct independent investigations into alleged mismanagement of state funds by public officials,” said Lim.

He was asked to comment on a similar move by the Selangor government which, like Penang, is helmed by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
Lim said the state legal adviser is studying the plan and will come up with recommendations soon on the amendments required.
When these take effect, the PAC will have powers to compel witnesses to testify on allegations of abuse and misuse of power, as well as financial irregularities.

The changes are being introduced in line with state policy that emphasises competency, accountability and transparency - Malaysiakini.

Monday, September 22, 2008

76. No re-peg of the Ringgit

Malaysia will not re-peg the ringgit now or in the future, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday.

"We are committed to allow the market to determine the value of the ringgit," he said in his first meeting at the Finance Ministry here today.

Najib said the government was confident of the ringgit's position and it reflected the real value of the currency.

The ringgit has depreciated from a high of 3.13 in April to 3.41 now due to the appreciation of the US dollar in global markets.

At 9.08am today, the ringgit was higher at 3.4120/4170 against the greenback from 3.4570/4620 on Friday.

Najib was responding to questions on former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's suggestion that the ringgit's exchange rate be fixed again to cushion it against the impact of the weakening dollar against other currencies.

The ringgit was pegged at RM3.80 against the greenback in September 1998 to cushion it against currency speculators during the Asian financial crisis of 1997/1998.

Before the crisis, which started with the attack on the baht in July 1997, the ringgit was trading at a high of RM2.42 but fell steeply against the dollar following excessive speculation.

The ringgit depreciated to RM5.20 at one time in 1998, prompting the government then to impose capital controls and the peg.

Najib, who was previously Defence Minister, swapped portfolios with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday.

He said the country's economy could also withstand global financial uncertainties due to its strong fundamentals and limited exposure to global financial markets such as the derivatives market as well as through better supervision.

"To ensure Malaysia's economy is not affected by global economic developments, all related bodies such as the Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara Malaysia and Securities Commission will step up their supervision.

"This is to ensure that the real economy is not affected," he said.

Najib expected the country to record a growth of 5.7 percent this year.

He said there were also signs of inflation declining.

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, soared to a 26-year high in June to 3.9 percent mainly due to the substantial increase in petrol and diesel prices.

Najib said the government was also committed to fully implement the 2009 Budget.

Meanwhile in another  interview, Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said "the floating exchange rate regime provides Malaysia with the flexibility to adjust to international economic and financial developments.

"The regime also accords exchange rate stability against our main trading partners. What is needed now is stability, not rigidity.

"A fixed exchange does not eliminate volatility. It merely transfers the volatility to domestic prices such as asset prices and inflation.

"Therefore, a re-pegging of the ringgit has never been a consideration. The ringgit will continue to operate under a managed float regime with its value being determined by the market," she said.

Zeti was responding to questions on a suggestion by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the Malaysian currency's exchange rate should be fixed again to cushion the impact of the weakening dollar against other currencies.

Dr Zeti said the central bank operations will continue to aim at ensuring orderly market conditions, in particular, to deal with excessive disruptions to the market.

Going forward, she said, it is expected that this underlying trend would continue.

Since the unpegging of the ringgit in 2005, Dr Zeti said it has been on a gradual appreciating trend, reflecting the fundamentals of the economy.

75. More MPs joining PR

PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that more Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament were keen to cross over to the Pakatan Rakyat.

She said that her husband and Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim were holding discussions with them in Kuala Lumpur.

“Anwar is making extra effort to meet more MPs as some were sent to Taiwan and Hong Kong,” she said.

She said this when asked about Anwar’s absence from his Permatang Pauh constituency yesterday where he was scheduled to give Hari Raya aid.

She also said an official letter had not been sent to the Yang DiPertuan Agong but that would be the next course of action.

In Kuala Lumpur, PKR strategist Saifuddin Nasution said Pakatan Rakyat had started its “countdown” for the takeover and things were moving according to plan.

He said the opposition pact had a “complete and comprehensive checklist” in place, taking in every possible scenario for the takeover.

This, he said, included strategies should Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi step down as Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak take over. He said a change of prime minister would not affect their plans.

“Our timeline is by the hour. Putrajaya is within reach,” he said.

Anwar had set Sept 16 as the date to take over the Government but this did not happen and Barisan leaders said it was a big bluff.

Saifuddin said a detailed and comprehensive planning was necessary because the takeover of Government was a process that had never been done before in Malaysia.

He said the plan looked at aspects such as the powers of the Yang DiPertuan Agong and prime minister, and the possibility of an emergency or snap elections by the Government to prevent a takeover.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said Abdullah should reconsider Anwar’s call to hold an emergency Parliament meeting to table a no-confidence motion against him - The Star.

74. Vote not the only way

by Maria J. Dass, theSun

THE premise that Parliament has to be called for a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister to be passed is too simplistic, said advocate and solicitor Tommy Thomas. He was responding to an interview published on Thursday in theSun with constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi who said that under the Constitution [Article 43(4)], it is Parliament, and not the Agong, which must dismiss the PM.

Article 43(4) of the Constitution reads: If the PM ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the prime minister shall tender the resignation of the cabinet.

“However, for Shad’s interpretation to be correct, Article 43(4) ought to read like this: If the Prime Minister is defeated on a motion of confidence in the House of Representatives, then…” Thomas said.

If Shad’s interpretation is right, it was limited to only one occasion and one fact pattern – that the matter needs to be brought to the Dewan Rakyat, he said, adding that the broad scope of the Constitution allowed for other methods to be applied.

“I accept the method Shad mentioned as the traditional method and the first method of preference; where I am disagreeing is that it is not the only method,” he said in an interview last Friday. 

He said Article 43(4) represented the Reid Commission report draft and maintained its original form and essentially codified the British Constitutional principle that awards the Agong the exact same powers as the British monarch has. He said nearly all Commonwealth countries had persons who were in similar positions to the British monarch and had the same powers. India, being a republic, has a president while Australia and New Zealand have governors-general to represent the Queen.

So what are the other methods instead of a no-confidence vote?

Thomas: To answer this we have to first look at the fact that in almost every Commonwealth nation, there is a supreme head, a constitutional monarch. In Malaysia, it is the Agong as stipulated in Article 32(1) of the Federal Constitution. This supreme head has to be above politics and serve the role of stabilising the nation, especially in a time of crisis like this.

Article 43(2)(a), which states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint PM to preside over the cabinet a member of the House of Representative who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House, leaves the discretion of appointing the PM to the Agong.

The King has to take the advice of the PM 99.999% of the time according to Article 40(1); however the Agong may act in his discretion to appoint the PM and to withhold the consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament according to Article 40(2). 

In some situations he doesn’t take the PM’s advice because the advice may be self-serving. In the case where a PM does not enjoy the support of the majority, his self-serving advice may be to “keep me, don’t sack me”. 

So in these situations and in times of trouble, the King should look above the advice and speak up in the interest of the nation. 

As a constitutional monarch, the Agong cannot remove the PM unless he is convinced that the PM has lost the confidence of the majority of Dewan Rakyat members as stipulated in Article 43(4) and 40(3). 

If the events in 43(4) occur, then the PM can be dismissed if he doesn’t resign.

The provisions in the Constitution give the King a very broad discretion, but he cannot act as a dictator as there are restraints to his absolute discretion. For example, he cannot appoint you or me to be PM because of the simple reason that we are not members of the lower house. That tells you straight away that the choice is limited to 222 people.

How does the King exercise his discretion if there is no vote of no-confidence?

A written and signed declaration signed by the majority members of the lower house, where if a member/members of Parliament sees him and produce documents to show that more than the majority needed have signed a declaration of no confidence.

If the King is satisfied with that and genuineness of the signatures, then he can accept that – the method of ascertaining the losing of confidence.

Now this is where I must comment on Shad’s statement where he cited the Stephen Kalong Ningkan case (1966) where the High Court in Kuching refused to accept this method. 

What Shad failed to mention was a Privy Council case before (Nigerian case: Adegbenro vs Akintola in 1963) and a Malaysian case after which went the other way.

In the Nigerian case, the governor of Nigeria received such a letter and based on this he sacked the Chief Minister (CM) but the CM said “there was no vote against me so I have not been sacked”.

The Privy Council ruled that it was a genuine sacking and decided that the governor can do what he wanted because of his wide discretion.

In 1966 Justice Harley in Kuching in his judgment on the Stephen Kalong Ningkan case said he won’t follow the Nigerian case because Nigeria is different from Sarawak – which in my view is a very simplistic view.

Then 30 years later, we had this case involving Datuk Amir Kahar Mustapha vs Tun Mohd Said Keruak – which involves former chief minister of  Sabah Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan when there were several defections from the party after the 1994 general election and Kitingan lost his position. The appointment of the new governor was later challenged. The facts are very similar and the issue raised was whether a signed letter cum document could be accepted. Justice Kadir Sulaiman followed the Privy Council method and said of course.

What is more interesting is the winning lawyer whose arguments were accepted by Kadir Sulaiman was none other than present Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail, who was arguing for the state government of Sabah.

The disadvantage of this method is the authenticity of the signature, thus the whole idea is proof that the King is acting reasonably and responsibly, not arbitrarily. Therefore, the King has to make his own investigations and satisfy himself and  make known the steps which he took in making the decision for the whole country. To do this the King should summon them, whether he does this or they voluntarily go then this is the best evidence, best proof. If any constitutional monarch did this, then they can be absolutely above criticism.

The King’s say in removing the PM.

Scenario One:

A vote in the lower house takes place and motion is carried. Then the outgoing PM must inform the monarch that he has lost the confidence of the house. The PM then has a prerogative to ask for the dissolution of Parliament so that fresh elections can be held for him to test his mandate with the people.

The King then has to use his discretion at this stage. If he accepts, Parliament will be dissolved and the PM’s government will be appointed as a caretaker government. But if the King says no to dissolve Parliament, the PM must tender his resignation to cabinet. If he refuses to resign, it is implied that the King can sack him.

Scenario Two:

The King does not rely on a motion in the house but upon being satisfied that the PM no longer enjoys the support of the majority in the house, tells the PM to resign and replaces him with a candidate which he sees fit. If the PM refuses, it is implied in the Constitution that he can be sacked.

What happens if a motion of no confidence is not granted by the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat?

This is unconstitutional. But this is precisely why scholars are arguing if this is the only method or if there are other ways of doing this. Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is playing a very careful game where he is exhausting the first and preferred method of tabling a no confidence vote against the PM first. Two such motions have been tabled and disallowed by the Speaker so far.

What happens if Anwar is detained under the Internal Security Act?

Even if Anwar is detained under the Internal Security Act, the King can ask for him to be released to meet him – if he sees him as a person qualified as prime ministerial candidate.

73. Briefing for Najib

The finance ministry will give an extraordinary briefing to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the national economy and financial position as well as the global situation at the ministry tomorrow.

Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said the detailed briefing which covers all aspects concerning the finance ministry would be given by ministry officials to Najib, who is the new finance minister.

"Tomorrow is the first time Najib is attending the meeting at the ministry as finance minister and the ministry has prepared an extraordinary briefing for him.

"Various issues would be presented at the briefing including the economic situation, finance and the challenges faced in Malaysia and in the international arena," he told reporters after distributing Hari Raya contributions to 1,500 poor people organised by the Penang Muslim League at the Masjid Kapitan Keling, here today.

Nor Mohamed said the briefing would also discuss whether the ringgit would be repegged to cushion the impact of the weakening US dollar.

When asked whether the government would reduce or maintain the present retail price for petrol, Nor Mohamed said: "This will also be discussed at the briefing and Datuk Seri Najib will make the decision."

He also said the allegation that the giant insurance company, American International Group (AIG), in this country would be closed down was not true.

"I understand that AIG in this country is a separate company with its own capital. The AIG here is not involved or affected by the position of the AIG abroad," he added - Bernama

72. 'Kickdefella' 's Challenge

A blogger arrested for displaying the national flag upside down on his site today said his detention was politically motivated and challenged the government to charge him.

Syed Azidi Syed Aziz, who writes the popular 'Kickdefella' blog, was released on a month's bail on Saturday. He had spent three days in prison after police arrested him under the Sedition Act.

"I am hoping that they will charge me. Then I can ask the prime minister to be a witness because it was his statement, saying that what I did was evil and malicious, which compelled the police to investigate me," he told AFP.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ordered police to investigate Syed Azidi after he launched a campaign to fly the Malaysian flag upside down in protest against the country's political and economic turmoil.

"I do not think the police are serious about going all out in their investigating paper to charge me," said the blogger, known for his links to the opposition conservative Islamic PAS party.

"The whole scenario was politically motivated.

"They want to break me and they want to send a stern warning out to other bloggers," he added.

The award-winning screenwriter and film director was the second blogger to be arrested in Malaysia over website content - Malaysiakini.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

71. Anwar nearing Endgame

by JED YOONG, Asia Sentinel   

As the opposition leader increases the pressure, the nation's biggest political party asks the prime minister to leave.
Malaysia's 50-year-old political infrastructure is in danger of coming completely apart, with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim amping up the pressure to replace Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi unless the government goes after him with the draconian Internal Security Act, which provides for indefinite detention without trial. 

Anwar, who leads the Pakatan Rakyat, or People's Alliance, demanded Thursday that Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi convene by Tuesday an emergency session of parliament, which is now in recess for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, to allow a no-confidence vote against the premier. 

Abdullah Badawi was weakened further Thursday when the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), which has two lawmakers in parliament, said it would quit the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition. SAPP president Yong Teck Lee said the party would become independent instead of joining the opposition, but attacked the government, saying that "the Barisan Nasional has lost its moral authority to rule." 

Yong is said to be close to Anwar ever since the latter enticed him to switch sides in Sabah state elections in 1994.   The party has split with two federal lawmakers and two state legislators sticking to Yong, and another two state legislators moving to a splinter party. Yong’s Deputy disagreed with SAPP's move and resigned from SAPP

The Barisan itself has been on a downward spiral since March 8, when it lost its two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time since Malaysia became an independent country 50 years ago. 

Abdullah Badawi has largely been made the scapegoat, partly because he is perceived as weak leader, partly because of implacable attacks by the former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, and partly because of deteriorating economic fundamentals as the global economy goes into decline. 

With Anwar breathing down their necks, senior leaders, including cabinet ministers, of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest ethnic party that helms the Barisan Nasional, held a meeting of the Supreme Council at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur last night to openly call for Badawi's resignation as party president and the country's prime minister. Such a move is rare among the usually-complaisant politicians.  

But the editor of a popular Malay-language weekly says UMNO may be united in "hatred" for Anwar.

 Within UMNO itself, said a Kuala Lumpur political observer with ties to the party, the concern about Anwar taking over could trigger the use of the ISA against him. Abdullah Badawi threatened to use the law against Anwar on Tuesday. 

There is considerable concern among UMNO stalwarts that if Anwar takes over, he will seek to prosecute some top officials for corruption, along with law enforcement officials who engineered his imprisonment in 1999 on sexual deviation and corruption charges.

Badawi tried to neutralize his possible forcible ejection from the leadership by swapping portfolios with Najib on Wednesday.  Najib is the now finance minister while Badawi is also defense minister, a position held by Najib for 14 years. Badawi told a press conference Wednesday that he could leave earlier than 2010 under his announced plan to hand the premiership to Najib.

"I will decide when I want to go. I will not be staying more than 2010," he told reporters. "If I should want to go earlier, that is flexible. That is the flexibility we have arranged. It depends on the progress of the role I am giving to Najib. Let's see what he can do."

Mahathir, who has carried on a three-year vendetta to rid the leadership of Abdullah Badawi, has issued an ultimatum to Najib to take over or be taken out along with the prime minister. 

If Najib takes over, however, that will be handing the leadership of UMNO back to the same people who raised popular disgust over corruption and nepotism in the party and contributed to the Barisan's relative drubbing at the polls.

In addition to the possibility of being jailed under the ISA, Anwar also faces charges that he sodomized a 23-year-old aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.  Despite the fact that the doctor who examined Saiful found no evidence of sodomy, the government appears to be going ahead with plans to charge Anwar via a bill rushed through parliament to compel the opposition leader to give a fresh DNA sample. 

Anwar was a rising star in UMNO until Mahathir sacked him as deputy prime minister and finance minister purportedly over policy disputes to contain the financial crisis in 1997/98.  He was then convicted and jailed for sodomy and abuse of power.  However, the sodomy conviction was overturned and he was released in 2004 after serving his sentence for abuse of power.  Anwar and his supporters have always claimed that the charges in 1998 were trumped-up

Anwar originally said he would overthrow the government on September 16. When that didn't happen, the non-event was derided by members of the Barisan Nasional, with the loudest voices coming from within UMNO.  

Anwar initially set Sept 16, the day that Malaysia was formed when Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo merged with Malaya in the peninsula, as the date that he will take over federal government. The criticisms ranged from calling Anwar an outright liar to mobile text messages joking that Anwar really meant "chairs" - kerusi in Malay also means "seat" - and that the "chairs" will be delivered once parliament reconvenes.

70. KL to Tiruchi by AirAsia

Air Asia, an international low cost carrier, will enter the Indian market with its first service to the country on the Kuala Lumpur-Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur sector, scheduled for launch from Nov 1.

The airline had obtained the security clearance from Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and is awaiting clearance from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for commencing operations.

A two-member team from the airline, led by Ahmad Ismail, Manager, Standards and New Stations, Air Asia, visited the airport yesterday for finalisation of the operational and logistical details. They held separate discussions with S. Sreekumar, Airport Director, and T. H. Radhakrishnan, Station Manager, Air India, which will be the ground handling agency.

Speaking to The Hindu after inspecting the facilities at the new terminal building under construction at the airport,  Ismail said the flights on the Kuala Lumpur-Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur sector would be a daily service.

The airline would deploy an all-economy class Airbus 320, with a passenger capacity of 180, on the route. The flight from Kuala Lumpur would arrive here at 8.55am and depart at 9.25am (Airports Authority of India officials at the Tiruchi Airport have already cleared the schedule, sources said).

Ismail said the airline would look to connecting more Indian destinations after the launch of the Tiruchi service. Tiruchi, he said, offered a good potential and the airline would seek to tap the central and south Tamil Nadu market. 

Meanwhile, airport sources said the state-of-the-art new terminal building, being built at an investment of RM70 million, would become operational by the end of this financial year.

Airport sources said Silk Air has also evinced interest in launching services in the Tiruchi-Singapore sector  - The Malaysian Insider / The Hindu.

Congratulations to AirAsia for this service to the Indian subcontinent. Malaysians have been long been awaiting this overdue service. This is the first foray by the low cost carrier to the Indian market - My Journal.

69. Pakatan to King

by Athi Veeranggan, Malaysiakini

Pakatan Rakyat’s relentless pursuit to take control of the central government from Barisan Nasional could well take the opposition coalition to Istana Negara.

Pakatan had already sought an audience with the constitutional monarch to stake its claim on the federal government by sending an official letter to the king a few days ago, PAS Parit Buntar MP Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa told an anti-ISA forum in Penang last night.

If the king grants an audience, which Pakatan leaders hope will happen soon, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim would then produce the names of  parliamentarians backing him to convince the monarch that a change in Putrajaya was inevitable.

Mujahid said the opposition coalition was banking on the king to advise Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to call for an emergency session of Parliament to face the vote of no-confidence which Pakatan intends to table.

Expressing confidence that the king would intervene to thwart a political crisis, Mujahid said the opposition camp was boosted by royal precedents set in its decisive intervention on the appointments of mentris besar for Perak, Perlis and Terengganu after the March general election.

Going the constitutional way

He said Pakatan’s priority was to exhaust all constitutional ways and means to pave the way for a smooth transition of power.

“We will never resort to any unconstitutional, unconventional and undemocratic means and will continue to pursue constitutional means to ensure a smooth transition,” the PAS leader said.

Anwar claims to have the backing of the majority of the country’s 222 MPs, said to be bolstered by defection among government lawmakers, to take over the federal government. The claim has been rubbished as ‘a political bluff’ by BN leaders.

So far, Pakatan’s attempts to trigger a change constitutionally have been futile.

Abdullah has refused to meet Anwar to discuss a smooth transition and the prime minister has also flatly rejected the opposition’s request to call for an emergency session to hold a parliamentary vote of confidence

“So the next stop is Istana Negara and we hope the king will intervene and advise the prime minister to hold an emergency parliamentary session.

“We can then hold a ‘winner take all’ parliamentary vote of confidence and see who commands the majority support of lawmakers,” said Mujahid, who is also the Penang deputy commissioner.

68. ‘Kickdefella’ Released

Malaysian police today freed a prominent political blogger who was arrested for suspected sedition after he launched an online protest against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's embattled government.

The case underscores the government's struggle to tackle increasing public dissent amid a threat by the opposition to topple Abdullah's administration through parliamentary defections.

The blogger, Syed Azidi Syed Aziz, drew the government's ire last month when he posted a picture of Malaysia's national flag upside down on his popular blog and urged other Internet bloggers to follow suit to protest the country's political and economic problems.

Authorities arrested Syed Azidi on Wednesday, saying he was being investigated for sedition, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Syed Azidi said in a statement posted on his "Kickdefella" blog that he was released today. He said police treated him "well and most of the time, beyond the call of duty".

Police officials familiar with Syed Azidi's case could not immediately be contacted, and it was not clear whether he would face formal charges later.

Ahead of Syed Azidi's arrest, authorities detained another political blogger, an opposition lawmaker and a journalist last week under a separate law that allows detention without trial.

The politician and the journalist have since been freed following a public outcry, including by the de facto law minister, who resigned in protest.

Public pressure on the government mounted today as the Malaysian Bar, the main lawyers' group, held an emergency meeting to denounce the arrests under the Internal Security Act, which is used against suspects deemed to be threats to national security.

The lawyers issued a resolution calling for the Internal Security Act to be abolished and for the government "to immediately and unconditionally release all persons presently detained without trial". Activists estimate there are about 60 such detainees. — AP

Saturday, September 20, 2008

67. Free Broadband !


GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has launched “Penang Free WiFi”- the first step in making Penang the country’s first WiFi state.

The initiative, which is the first component of the state’s Wireless@Penang project, is aimed at giving Penangites free wireless broadband services.

“Today, Penang takes a bold step to make the entire state connected through wireless broadband and it’s a journey we want to complete within the next 18 to 24 months.

“This effort is 100% private sector-driven with nearly no or minimal cost put in by the state government. However, there are no rights to exclusivity and all qualified and recognised industry players are welcome in the interest of promoting competition,” Lim said at the launch in Komtar yesterday.

He said the project was different from the Federal Government-initiated High Speed Broadband (HSBB) project costing RM11.3bil.

Lim said a preview of WiMAX@Penang, the state’s next step in providing for serious mobile Internet users who require faster speed, was scheduled for next week.

The Penang Free WiFi project is currently headed by content manager REDtone Telecommunications Sdn Bhd and service enabler Hotgate Technology (M) Sdn Bhd which will set up 750 wireless access points over the next one year.

He said the free WiFi service was already available on Komtar’s concourse level and 28th floor which houses the Chief Minister’s office.

“The WiFi service will be deployed on a ‘ripples strategy’ with simultaneous initial roll-outs in several core market centres on the island and mainland before they spread to cover the entire state,” Lim said.

REDtone group managing director Wei Chuan Beng said they would begin setting up access points in Queensbay Mall and the service should be available within the next four weeks.

“This will be followed by the areas located in Macalister Road, Burma Road, Gurney Plaza and Gurney Drive, Bukit Jambul Complex, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Butterworth and then Tanjung Bungah.

“The connection speed offered is at an average of 10 Mbps, depending on the specification of the notebooks, the speed can vary,” Wei said.

He said the REDtone-Hotgate consortium planned to invest at least RM10mil in the project but expected it to be self-funded from advertisements in the near future.