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

Monday, December 28, 2009

> The Fury of the Sea

People across Asia paused Saturday to observe the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2004 that killed up to 230,000 people in about a dozen countries.

The devastating December 26 tsunami destroyed entire coastal communities, decimated families and crashed over tourist-filled beaches, sweeping away everyone and everything in its path.

Brief memorials were held in mosques throughout the region beside mass graves, and at seaside resorts and communities on the rim of the Indian Ocean.

The tsunami was triggered by an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 that struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Over the next seven hours, a wall of water reached across the Indian Ocean, devastating coastal areas as far away as East Africa.

In a coincidence, a strong earthquake struck Indonesia on Saturday just before 6 p.m. local time (0857 UTC). The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, was centered in the Banda Sea region off the Tanimbar Islands. A tsunami warning was not issued by authorities, and there were no immediate reports of injury or serious damage.

In the 2004 tsunami some locations reported waves of nine meters or more on the shoreline. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Thailand sustained massive damage.

Tens of thousands were reported dead or missing in Sri Lanka and India, a large number of them on the Indian Andaman and Nicobar Islands territory. The low-lying island country of Maldives reported more than 100 casualties and immense economic damage. Several thousand tourists vacationing in the region also were reported dead or missing.

The lack of food, clean water and medical treatment extended the list of casualties.
Long-term environmental damage was severe as well, with villages, tourist resorts, farmland and fishing grounds demolished or inundated with debris, bodies and plant-killing salt water - Voice of America.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

> Christmas Greetings


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

> Congress passes Guantanamo bill

The US Senate has voted to continue to allow Guantanamo inmates to be tried on US soil, removing a hurdle as the Obama administration seeks to close the camp.

The measure, which was passed by the House last week, permits Guantanamo detainees to be brought to the US only in order to face trial in US courts.

Those cleared cannot remain in the US. The bill - passed 79-19 by the Senate - largely mirrors existing restrictions.

It will now go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

Mr Obama has set a 22 January 2010 deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, where more than 220 inmates are still held.

While some will be tried on US soil, others could be sent to abroad or face military tribunals.

Republican concerns

The legislation passed by Congress on Tuesday removes one of the many legal, diplomatic and political obstacles to the closing of the Guantanamo detention centre.

Under its terms, Congress must be provided with a detailed assessment of the security risk involved before a detainee can be brought to the US.

The administration must also give 15 days' notice of any transfer.

Some Republicans have objected to plans to hold Guantanamo detainees in US prisons, arguing that they do not deserve the protections afforded under US law.

"There is too much at stake to grant the unprecedented benefit of our legal system's complex procedural safeguards to foreign nationals who were captured outside the United States during a time of war," said Senator Saxby Chambliss during the debate.

Correspondents say the legislation will be considered a victory for President Obama.

Under its terms, those convicted will not be able to serve their sentences in US prisons, and those cleared will not be allowed to remain on US soil, even when no other country will accept them.

The matter is to be decided by future legislation or by the Supreme Court - which has begun hearing an appeal by a group of Chinese ethnic Uighurs, who were cleared while being held at Guantanamo.

Their lawyers argue that they should be allowed to resettle in the US rather than China, where as ethnic Muslim Uighurs they would be subjected to persecution.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

> Surprised, humbled Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize

President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision designed to build momentum behind his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.

Obama said he was surprised and deeply humbled by the honor, and planned to travel to Oslo to accept the prize.

"I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize," he said. "I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century."

Many observers were shocked by the unexpected choice so early in the Obama presidency, which began less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline and has yet to yield concrete achievements in peacemaking.

Some around the world objected to the choice of Obama, who still oversees wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has launched deadly counter-terror strikes in Pakistan and Somalia.

Obama said he was working to end the war in Iraq and "to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies" in Afghanistan.

Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said their choice could be seen as an early vote of confidence in Obama intended to build global support for his policies. They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.

Aagot Valle, a lawmaker for the Socialist Left party who joined the committee this year, said she hoped the selection would be viewed as "support and a commitment for Obama."

"And I hope it will be an inspiration for all those that work with nuclear disarmament and disarmament," she told The Associated Press in a rare interview. Members of the Nobel peace committee usually speak only through its chairman.

The peace prize was created partly to encourage ongoing peace efforts but Obama's efforts are at far earlier stages than past winners'. The Nobel committee acknowledged that they may not bear fruit at all.

"Some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early? Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now," Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said. "It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us."

In Europe and much of the world Obama is lionized for bringing the United States closer to mainstream global thinking on issues like climate change and multilateralism. A 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found double-digit boosts to the percentage of people viewing the U.S. favorably in countries around the world. That indicator had plunged across the world under President George W. Bush.

At home, the picture is more complicated. Obama is often criticized as he attempts to carry out his agenda — drawing fire over a host of issues from government spending to health care to the conduct of the war in Afghanistan.

U.S. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele contended that Obama won the prize as a result of his "star power" rather than meaningful accomplishments.

"The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?'" Steele said.

Drawing criticism from some on the left, Obama has been slow to bring troops home from Iraq and the real end of the U.S. military presence there won't come until at least 2012.

In Afghanistan, he is seriously considering ramping up the number of U.S. troops on the ground and asking for help from others, too.

"I don't think Obama deserves this. I don't know who's making all these decisions. The prize should go to someone who has done something for peace and humanity," said Ahmad Shabir, 18-year-old student in Kabul. "Since he is the president, I don't see any change in U.S. strategy in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Obama has said that battling climate change is a priority. But the U.S. seems likely to head into crucial international negotiations set for Copenhagen in December with Obama-backed legislation still stalled in Congress.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who won the prize in 1983, questioned whether Obama deserved it now.

"So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act," Walesa said.

Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, the peace prize is given out by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Like the Parliament, the committee has a leftist slant, with three members elected by left-of-center parties. Jagland said the decision to honor Obama was unanimous.

The identity of the person who nominated Obama will not be made public unless that person steps forward. The Nobel committee received a record 205 nominations for this year's prize.

The award appeared to be at least partly a slap at Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"Those who were in support of Bush in his belief in war solving problems, on rearmament, and that nuclear weapons play an important role ... probably won't be happy," said Valle, the Nobel Committee member.

Obama is the third sitting U.S. president to win the award: President Theodore Roosevelt won in 1906 and President Woodrow Wilson was awarded the prize in 1919. Wilson received the prize for his role in founding the League of Nations, the hopeful but ultimately failed precursor to the contemporary United Nations.

The Nobel committee chairman said after awarding the 2002 prize to former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, for his mediation in international conflicts, that it should be seen as a "kick in the leg" to the Bush administration's hard line in the buildup to the Iraq war.

Five years later, the committee honored Bush's adversary in the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore, for his campaign to raise awareness about global warming.

In July talks in Moscow, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed that their negotiators would work out a new limit on delivery vehicles for nuclear warheads of between 500 and 1,100. They also agreed that warhead limits would be reduced from the current range of 1,700-2,200 to as low as 1,500. The United States now has about 2,200 such warheads, compared to about 2,800 for the Russians.

But there has been no word on whether either side has started to act on the reductions.
Former Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, said Obama has already provided outstanding leadership in the effort to prevent nuclear proliferation.

"He has shown an unshakable commitment to diplomacy, mutual respect and dialogue as the best means of resolving conflicts," ElBaradei said.

Obama also has attempted to restart stalled talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, but just a day after Obama hosted the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in New York, Israeli officials boasted that they had fended off U.S. pressure to halt settlement construction. Moderate Palestinians said they felt undermined by Obama's failure to back up his demand for a freeze.

"I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead to advance peace," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a message of congratulations to Obama.

In the Gaza Strip, leaders of the radical Hamas movement said they had heard Obama's speeches seeking better relations with the Islamic world but had not been moved.

"We are in need of actions, not sayings," Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said. "If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward."

Obama was to meet with his top advisers on the Afghan war on Friday to consider a request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to send as many as 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan as the U.S war there enters its ninth year.

Obama ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan earlier this year and has continued the use of unmanned drones for attacks on militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a strategy devised by the Bush administration. The attacks often kill or injure civilians living in the area.

A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan has condemned President Barack Obama's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize, saying the American president had only escalated the war by sending more troops.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi accused Obama "of having the blood of the Afghan people on his hands."

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

Nominators for the prize include former laureates; current and former members of the committee and their staff; members of national governments and legislatures; university professors of law, theology, social sciences, history and philosophy; leaders of peace research and foreign affairs institutes; and members of international courts of law.

The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel's guidelines, expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat poverty, disease and climate change.

Until seconds before the award, speculation had focused on a wide variety of candidates besides Obama: Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a Colombian senator, a Chinese dissident and an Afghan woman's rights activist, among others.

by KARL RITTER and MATT MOORE, Associated Press Writers.
Associated Press writers Ian MacDougall in Oslo, Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Celean Jacobson in Johannesburg, George Jahn in Vienna, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki and Jennifer Loven in Washington contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

> 'Thief shouting thief' over Buah Pala

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today lashed out at Gerakan state chief Teng Hock Nan and accused him and Barisan Nasional of 'selling out' the Kampung Buah Pala villagers.

In a hard-hitting statement, he asked why Teng has not repented by apologising for his part in selling the land at such cheap rates without consulting the villagers?

Lim urged Teng and BN to provide proof or stop their "shocking lies" that the Pakatan Rakyat government finalised the village land deal and sold Kampung Buah Pala to Koperasi Pegawai Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang (Koperasi).

"No amount of false reports by their 'character assassins' will convince Penangnites that BN and the Gerakan government did not rob the villagers of their land," he said.
'Thief shouting thief'

Lim said the declassification of exco minutes on July 7, 2009 showed that the BN state government under then chief minister and Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon were principally culpable for alienating the land twice to Koperasi in exco meetings on Aug 8, 2004 and June 8, 2005 without consulting the villagers.

"The land was alienated by BN at a ridiculously low land premium of RM10 per square feet (when the market rate then was at least RM50 psf) with unanimous support from all MCA, Gerakan, Umno and MIC state exco members including Teng.

"Teng never repented and apologised... and he is now blaming the Pakatan state government of robbing the villagers of their land, a classic case of 'the thief shouting thief'," he added.

After losing their land, Lim said the BN "land robbers" treated the villagers as illegal squatters with no rights to own their land.

The exco minutes showed that BN offered a RM75,000 flat unit to Kampung Buah Pala villagers.

Unlike BN, Lim said his state government treated them as landowners who were allowed to stay by the original British landlord nearly 150 years ago.

He said the Pakatan state government worked hard to compel the developer to offer a double-storey terrace house with 99 years lease to the residents worth RM600,000.

This successful compensation is widely recognised as the best in Malaysian history, he added.

'There's nothing we could do'

Lim explained that once the decision of the BN state exco was conveyed by approval letters for land alienation and development orders sent out to Koperasi and the developer, the state government was legally bound.

"There is nothing the new government can do. This was also affirmed by the Federal Court decision. The order for eviction and demolition was issued to the developer and not initiated by the state government," he added.

Lim challenged BN to deny that they had issued numerous letters of eviction to the villagers when they were in power.

In contrast, he said, the new state government never issued a single letter of eviction.

"Similarly until now BN or Teng cannot show prove that I promised that I would return the land back to the villagers during the general election as I did not even campaign there," he added.

On the same note, Lim asked: "If BN And Gerakan are so innocent, why is it that Koh (former CM) dare not take up his own challenge of an open public debate with me on national television?"

Lim said the only solution to saving Kampung Buah Pala was to forcibly acquire the land.

"However this would cost the state more than RM100 million, a sum 1.5 million Penangnites can not afford for 24 houses in Kampung Buah Pala.

"Unless of course Teng can write the cheque for the acquisition to redeem and atone for BN's mistake, which he has still not done so," he added - Malaysiakini.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

> SIS files revision against Kartika's whipping

Sisters in Islam yesterday filed an application to the Syariah High Court in Kuantan asking for a revision and a stay of execution against Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno's whipping sentence.

“As an advocacy group working on women's rights in Islam, SIS is acting in the public interest so as to resolve the controversies and to provide clarity on this issue,” said SIS executive director Dr Hamidah Marican.

Kartika, 32, was arrested at a hotel nightclub and sentenced to six strokes of the cane two month ago in a rare prosecution of religious laws that ban alcohol for Muslims.

Her insistence that she was ready to face her punishment and would not appeal threw the government and religious authorities into a spin as they attempted to carry out the sentence on a woman for the first time.

Last month, as the mother-of-two was detained ahead of the thrashing, she was abruptly released and the punishment is now being held back until after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Hamidah also expressed concern that the Pahang Religious Department intended to execute the sentence on Kartika without any prior notice despite newspaper reports that the state chief syarie judge has also filed for a revision of Kartika's sentence

“Since Kartika's case has generated much public concern, nationally and internationally, the insistence on executing the sentence when legal avenues for revision and clarification have not been exhausted shows an utter disregard of a matter of great public and international interest,” said Hamidah.

“SIS urges the authorities to refrain from executing the sentence on Kartika until all legal and other avenues have been exhausted.”

Kartika: Leave me alone

Kartika, who refused to file an appeal against the sentence, had on Wednesday issued a statement that she wanted be left alone and that the caning to proceed.

According to her, too many individuals had tried to press her into filing for a revision of the sentence.

“As such, I give notice that I do not want to be disturbed by any individuals, politicians, government organisations and non-governmental organisations...," she said.

Kartika was fined RM5,000 and and sentenced to six strokes of the rotan by the Kuantan Syariah High Court on July 20 after pleading guilty to drinking alochol at a hotel in Cherating on July 11, 2008.

On Aug 24, the caning was postponed by Pahang Syariah High Court judge Abdul Rahman Yunus out of respect for the month of Ramadan - Malaysiakini.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

> Penan rape: Protest held in front of PM's office

Yip Ai Tsin

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) today staged a picket outside the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya alleging that the government lacked commitment to resolve the plight of the Penan women and girls who were raped by loggers.

Shortly after singing "Negaraku" to commemorate "Hari Malaysia", the group was told to disperse by a group of 15 police personnel who threatened to arrest them for illegal assembly.

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), which comprises five Malaysian women's rights groups, Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) wants the government to:

1) make public the current status of the police criminal investigation of the sexual abuse cases and allocate adequate resources for the investigation as well as the prosecution of the perpetrators;

2) conduct an investigation into the activities of the logging companies identified in the cases of sexual abuse as well as other companies with commercial interests in the Orang Asal native customary rights lands , with a view to uncover and stop violations of human rights;

3) provide support for the survivors of sexual abuse in the form of financial aid, healthcare, education and counselling for the individuals concerned and their families;

4) take steps to ensure that survivors of sexual violence among isolated or rural indigenous communities such as the Penan are able to obtain legal redress by making the justice system more accessible to women from these communities, eradicating corruption among the police force and disseminating easy-to-understand information on their rights and the law;

5) abide by its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

6) fully incorporate the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into federal and state legislation and policies, and not to act in any manner inconsistent with the rights protected therein.

Implement task force

JAG also demanded that the government immediately implement the recommendations of the task force and closely monitor their implementation.

While noting that Malaysia voted for the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, JAG said that the Department of Orang Asli Affairs director-general continue to have the power to displace Orang Asli communities from reserve lands and award compensation for the displacement at his/her discretion, without the communities' free, prior and informed consent.

(The declaration affirmed indigenous community's right not to be forcibly removed from their lands or territories, and the right to participate in decision-making.)

"Sabahan and Sarawakian indigenous people continue to find themselves having to take, often at tremendous risk and very little financial support, case after case native customary land rights to court.

"The communities are all still waiting for justice. They have been met by stone-walling, summary dismissals of their concerns, false allegations of foreign intervention, and a seeming lack of interest by the authorities on meeting their obligations to protect, fulfill and promote human rights in this country," said JAG in a statement.

Orang Asli activist Jenita Engi (right) urged the government to take heed and resolve the matter as justice has been eluding the Penan people for a long time.

Also present was PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin (left) who described the report prepared by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil as inadequate as it did not lay out action against the culprits and measures to ensure the safety of the Penan women.

"We wonder why is Shahrizat keeping quiet and beating around the bush in this matter. We are even more surprised with Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu for doubting the Penans and blaming the NGOs for making up stories," she said.

Instead of protecting the Penans, BN's Sarawak state government is more bent in safeguarding the interest of the logging companies, she added.

"Clearly, self-serving Shahrizat is in cahoots with them," she said.
Report finally made public

Last year, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development set up a task force, comprising ministry officials and women NGO representatives, to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against Penan women and girls in Sarawak.

Its report was released earlier this week and listed at least eight cases of sexual abuse of Penan girls and women by logging camp workers. The report said several of the victims were schoolgirls as young as 10.

Local NGOs claim these documented cases were only a small fraction of the total number of cases of sexual abuse.

Allegations first surfaced on the Bruno Manser Foundation website last year - Malaysiakini.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

> Tony Fernandes takes 1 Malaysia into Formula One

Formula One’s governing body today named Lotus as the 13th team for the 2010 championship. The new outfit will be led by Tony Fernandes of Malaysia, it was announced here.

In Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also confirmed the news and said the team will be known as the 1 Malaysia Formula One team, although Reuters quotes the FIA as calling the new outfit the Lotus F1 team.

According to Reuters, the new team is a partnership between the Malaysian government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs.

The FIA said the team principal will be leading Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes. The 45-year-old set up Asian budget airline Air Asia and, with a net worth of US$220 million (RM770.57 million), is Malaysia’s 15th richest man, according to Forbes Malaysia 2009 rich list.

Investors in the new team are Air Asia co-founders Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and Fernandes as well as SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin of Naza.

Technical director Mike Gascoyne has more than 20 years of experience in Formula One having previously performed the same role for the Force India, Toyota, Renault and Jordan Formula One teams.

As part of its application to compete in the 2010 championship, the Lotus team agreed an engine supply deal with Cosworth.

The team will initially be based in Norfolk, some 10 miles from the Lotus Cars factory in Eastern England.

The team’s future design, manufacturing and technical centre will be purpose built at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit, the FIA statement said.

1Malaysia is Najib’s platform for uniting Malaysians irrespective of ethnicity and creating a performance based culture.

The concept has gotten mixed reviews as some have praised its objectives while others have criticised its vagueness, which Najib says is deliberate.

The Malaysian government has gone on overdrive to promote 1Malaysia via billboards and song competitions.

Najib declined to disclose the amount that the public-private initiative will cost.

He added however that the government’s investment will be via proton.

Lotus, one of the most successful and glorious names from Formula One’s past, will return next year replacing BMW-Sauber as the 13th entry on the starting grid.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement that, after due diligence and an intensive selection process, it had chosen Lotus.

“The cars will be made in Malaysia, by Malaysians,” the Malaysian government said in a separate statement.

The vacancy arose after BMW announced that they were withdrawing at the end of the season, following a path already trodden by Japan’s Honda.

The FIA said BMW-Sauber, who are still seeking a buyer, had been given a reserve slot to fill any vacancy that might occur between now and the start of the 2010 championship.

“The team will announce its two drivers by October 31, 2009. Currently six local and international drivers have been selected,” the Malaysian government said.

Three teams had been on the FIA shortlist for the 13th slot: Lotus, a BMW-Sauber entry to be renamed under eventual new ownership and Spain’s Epsilon Euskadi.

The original Lotus won seven Formula One constructors’ titles and six drivers’ crowns between 1963 and 1978 under the inspirational leadership of the late Colin Chapman, one of the most innovative engineers in the sport.

Chapman died of a heart attack in 1982 and the company slid into administration in 1994 after giving the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna his first victory in 1985.

British great Jim Clark spent his entire F1 career with Lotus, winning two titles. The team’s other champions include compatriot Graham Hill, Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi and American Mario Andretti.

In 1970 the team’s Austrian driver Jochen Rindt became the sport’s only posthumous champion.

The right to the Lotus F1 name was acquired by David Hunt, brother of the 1976 champion James, while the British-based car company was bought by Malaysian state-owned Proton - The Malaysian Insider.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

> Jeffrey: Time to recognise Sabah, S'wak as equal partners

by Leong Sai Ho

Jeffrey Kitingan says this is the right time for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to recognize the equal partnership and status of Sabah and Sarawak and correct the deviation from the original concept of Malaysia.

“This year is the most appropriate year for the government to declare Sept. 16 as national public holiday, if they are really serious about 1Malaysia,” he told the Malaysian Mirror in an exclusive interview here.

He says this is also a favourable time to recall the contributions of our leaders in the formation of Malaysia and hold seminars, symposiums and exhibitions on the history of Malaysia’s formation.

“The true history, not the manipulated history,” he stresses, adding that such activities should be organised and held nation-wide.

“In this way,” he explains, “We can talk about Malaysia through the exhibitions to all Malaysians, especially the young who could get to know and appreciate the concept of a true Malaysian federation.”

Restore special rights

Jeffrey, a younger brother of Joseph Pairin Kitingan, president of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and a deputy chief minister in the state Cabinet, believes this is an appropriate time for the prime minister to recognise the equal partnership and status of Sabah and Sarawak.

“Our prime minister could do so by restoring the special rights and status of Sabah and Sarawak to differentiate them from other states in the peninsula. Now we have been down graded.

“If he can do this, he will be recognised as a prime minister who restored dignity to the people of Sabah and Sarawak and complied with the true spirit of the Malaysia Agreement,” he exhorts.

That, he adds, would be a great gift to the founding fathers from the two states and to the future generations of Malaysians.

Touching further on the significance of Malaysia Day celebrated on Sept 16, the day in 1963 when the Malaysian Federation was formed with Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya as partners in nationhood.

“It should be a national day, a public holiday. When we talk about 1Malaysia, what is it if not Malaysia?

“We should accord due importance and acceptance to it as Malaysia Day, the day we became one nation, a day when Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya came together.”

No relations to Aug 31

He says that if we want to celebrate on Aug. 31, then it should be celebrated as Independence Day separately for the Malayan states there.

“Their independence year was 1957 and ours is 1963. So we cannot use 1957 as the basis for National Day celebration, since Sabah and Sarawak have no relations to it.”

Jeffrey asserts, “If you insist in doing that, you are saying there is no Malaysia, only Malaya. That would mean that Sabah and Sarawak are just an appendix or colony.”

It seemed to him that no one at the federal level is listening to this issue. At the same time, he feels that Sabah and Sarawak leaders (in the government) have no determination to pursue the matter, get the necessary attention and get this issue resolved.

“So, this renders meaningless the BN concept of cooperation and power sharing. I am glad to see that the Pakatan Rakyat government has started recognizing Sept 16 as a significant date for national union by having that day declared as a public holiday.”

He said this has been done in some states (that are under the control of PR) like Penang and Selangor.

Jeffrey’s sentiments on Malaysia Day have been echoed by other leaders in Sabah. Among them is Eric Majimbun, Member of Parliament for Sepanggar, and a deputy president of Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP).

He told the Malaysian Mirror in a separate interview that Sept 16 should be officially recognised by the government and is also calling for it to be declared a national public holiday.

“By doing so our young Malaysians would know that Malaysia was formed by four nations, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya. This means we are not one of 13 states in Malaysia. We are equal partners of the three components of the federation.

“Our young ones think that we are just one of the 13 states in Malaysia because they regard Aug. 31 1957 as Merdeka, five years of difference,”

Majimbun says that in terms of development, this is also the yardstick we look at.

“So, development is also different. We are far behind in development, especially in infrastructure and in agriculture. We may think we are at par with the other states in plantations, but they are all from outside and not locals. This is the problem we face.”

In the case of Sabah, Sept 16 is a public holiday by virtue of the fact that it is a day on which the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Head of State) celebrates his official birthday.

'Malaysia Day Countdown'

Meanwhile, the United Sabah Dusun Association (Usda) has organised a “Malaysia Day Countdown” at Padang Selupuh in Tuaran beginning at 8pm on Sept. 15.

Its president, Kalakau Untol, has called on Sabahans “who envisage changes in politics and the system of governance” to attend the function.

“This is an opportunity not to be missed, especially the younger generation to know events of history that brought about Sabah’s involvement in the formation of Malaysia and also the consequences of being in the Federation since Sept 16, 1963.”

He says among leaders invited to speak at that function are: MP for Tuaran, Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing, who is also deputy president of Upko; Dr Jeffrey Kitingan; former senator Karim Ghani from Umno Sabah; and Haji Ansari Abdullah, another leader from PKR Sabah.

Kalakau said in his statement announcing the event that the people of Sabah, especially the younger generation, “must not forget” that Sabah together with Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya formed a new federation called Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

Singapore, however, pulled out in August 1965 - Malaysian Mirror.

> Get set for a Pakatan surprise in Bagan Pinang

by Rahmah Ghazali

The Bagan Pinang Umno stronghold holds no fear for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim as he believes that Pakatan Rakyat will emerge triumphant in that state constituency's upcoming by-election.

"God willing, with the people's support, we will pull a surprise," said Anwar from his PKR headquarters in Tropicana, Damansara after chairing a Pakatan leadership council meeting today.

Expressing his concern over the Election Commission's selection of dates, he lamented that on seats considered a Barisan Nasional stronghold, polls would be held over the weekend.

"And on seats within our stronghold, polls would be held during the weekdays," said Anwar (left), who is PKR de-facto leader.

EC chief Abdul Aziz Yusof had this morning announced that Oct 3 (Saturday) has been picked for nominations with Oct 11 (Sunday) set for the polls.

Anwar also said that PKR and DAP will provide a strong support for the PAS candidate throughout the by-election campaign period.

This is the ninth by-election since the 12th general election in March last year.

The seat fell vacant following the death of incumbent BN assemblyperson Azman Mohammad Noor, on Sept 4, from blood infection.

In the general election in March 2008, Azman defeated PAS' Ramli Ismail with a majority of 2,333 votes. He polled 6,430 votes against Ramli's 4,097.

Kit Siang: It is an uphill battle

Describing the fight against arch-rivals BN as an "uphill battle", DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang however said it is up to the voters to "demonstrate their desire for change in this sea of by-elections".

Meanwhile, PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali admitted that Pakatan, and PAS especially will face a "quite different situation" this time around as Bagan Pinang constituency has a huge number of postal voters.

"Although it is usual for the postal votes to be in favour of BN, we hope they would use their intelligence by voting for Pakatan, allowing us the opportunity to prove our ability," said Mustapha.

There are 13,664 voters in Bagan Pinang, of which 9,060 are ordinary voters with the remainder of 4,604 being postal voters. The postal voters large number is due to the several army camps located in the constituency.

PKR man to stand as independent

Meanwhile, several hours after Pakatan leaders spoke about springing a surprise in Bagan Pinang, a local level PKR leader threw his name to the hat as a potential independent candidate.

Kota Lukut PKR division committee member Shahrudin Abdul Hamid today said he was going to contest for the state seat, providing for a potential three-cornered fight between himself as an independent, BN and PAS.

Shahrudin, 52, a former aide to PKR's Teluk Kemang MP Kamarul Baharin, said he wanted to contest to promote the tourism industry in Port Dickson.

"Here tourism is important. I want to play my role in uplifting the facilities here. Presently I don't see anyone doing that," he told Malaysiakini today.

The former Umno man is involved in events management - Malaysiakini.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

> Subra says his loss was due to money politics

S Subramaniam, who lost in his bid to regain the MIC deputy president's post, attributed vote buying as largely contributing to his defeat.

He said, money was openly given, a minimum of RM300 to each delegate.

"It was very disappointing. I did not expect (the loss)," he told reporters.

Asked whether he would join another party or form a new political party, or what his next move would possibly be, the once long-time deputy president said: "I will take some time to think about it (next move).

Asked to comment on the possible disciplinary action against him as he had been referred to the disciplinary board for making a statement on party elections held in 1977, Subramaniam said he was not bothered about it.

"I will know what to do," he said.

Meanwhile, many of Subramaniam's supporters were in tears. They vented their anger by shouting that money politics was the cause of the defeat and urged him to join other parties.

Another deputy presidential candidate, S Sothinathan, said he accepted the defeat.

"Despite what the prime minister said this morning... delegates made their decision and nothing has changed," he lamented - Malaysiakini.

> Palanivel is Deputy President of MIC

Incumbent G Palanivel retained the MIC deputy president post by fighting off a strong challenge from rivals S Subramaniam and S Sothinathan.

Palanivel (left) garnered 629 votes against former deputy president Subramaniam, 547, and former vice-president Sothinathan, 280. His margin of majority was rather slim - 82 votes.

All three candidates endorsed by MIC president S Samy Vellu have also been elected to the three vice-president posts in today's party polls.

Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam was the top vote getter with 1,260 votes, while deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department SK Devamany came second with 1,122 votes and Federal Territories deputy minister M Saravanan joining the other two with 1,030 votes.

It is also learnt that most of Samy Vellu's men have won the lion's share of the 23 seats in the party's central working committee.

Samy Vellu feeling 'much better'

A visibly distraught Sothinathan said he accepted the verdict from the 1,469 party delegates.

"Even after what the prime minister had said today, they don't change. What can I do? Everybody knows the situation. The public know but still..."

Meanwhile, Subramanian supporters looked dejected and there appeared to be an air of disbelief among them.

Some expressed anger, saying that MIC would never change and that they might as well support the Pakatan Rakyat opposition.

MIC supremo Samy Vellu, when asked how he felt, laughed and said: "Much better... much better."

A close aide of had earlier told Malaysiakini that the party boss visited a temple just before the elections to 'invoke the armies of Hanuman' (monkey god) to help his team win.

Subra mobbed by dejected supporters

In an immediate reaction, Subramaniam said he accepted the decision of the delegates although he was disappointed.

He however expressed surprise that the delegates had failed to heed Najib's advice this morning.

"I don't know if they did not understand it or refused to listen but they have decided and I shall accept their decision," he said.

He was mobbed by his somber supporters as he came out of the counting room. He urged his supporters to remain calm and leave peacefully.

Subramaniam also said that he needed some time to think about what he would do next. He also refused to comment if he will be leaving MIC for another party or form a new party.

"Give me some time. I will answer all these later," he said.

He blamed his defeat on money politics by the president's team.

"So much of money was given. They did not stop giving," he lamented.

KP Samy: We'll form a new party

Some of Subramaniam's supporters were in tears after the unofficial results indicated his defeat.

A few blamed Sothinathan for splitting the votes and playing the spoiler in the deputy president race, while others were angry with Samy Vellu for orchestrating their leader's defeat.

While Subramaniam is silent about his future in MIC, many his loyalists said their man's political future lies outside the party that had rejected him today.

Subramaniam left the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) where the MIC 63rd AGM is being held before the official results were announced.

A highly emotional KP Samy, who is a staunch supporter of Subramaniam, vowed to leave MIC.

"We will form a new party and teach these people a lesson. We will tell the PM not to rely on this fellow (Samy Vellu)," he said.

Jubilant Samy sings

After the election commission steering committee head K Vijayanathan announced the results, a jubilant Samy Vellu thanked the delegates and broke out into a song.

A few minutes later, he returned to the microphone and asked for the music to be turned down in the hall.

The president then thanked the media representatives and called on the delegates to give them a resounding applause.

Samy Vellu also argued that there had been changes in the party line-up.

"They wanted changes and I have made them. About 18 out of the 23 CWC members are new. All three vice-presidents are new.

"The deputy president is only three years old while the president is 73-years-old," he quipped.

"I will take care of them, train them, so that they can run a strong party."

Following this, Palanivel thanked the delegates for voting him. Responding to a question, he denied that the election has caused fissures in the party.

"There is no split in the party. The party is united."

Balloting lasted three hours

Earlier today, the 1,469 MIC delegates took three hours to complete their voting in what is considered as the most tense and most watched polls in the party's 63-year history.

According to Vijayanathan, who is also MIC secretary-general, there were 54 polling booths and 28 ballot boxes.

The balloting, which kicked off at 1pm, came to a close at 4pm.

The ballot boxes were taken to Bilik Pangkor, on the third floor of the PWTC, for the counting of votes.

At 4.25pm, the contestants emerged from the main conference hall.

Subramaniam was greeted with a resounding applause while the reception was a little muted for his key rival, Palanivel. Some of Subramanian's supporters shouted "give change a chance".

However, most of the delegates have decided to back their long-time president, who has led the party for 33 years, and his men.


Deputy president

G Palanivel* - 629
S Subramaniam - 547
S Sothinathan - 280

Vice-president (3 posts)

Dr S Subramaniam - 1,260
SK Devamany - 1,122
M Saravanan - 1,030
S Balakrishnan - 471
VKK Teagarajan - 220
P Subramaniam - 215
P Mariayee - 61

* Incumbent. Those in bold are MIC president S Samy Vellu's men.

Central Working Committee (23 seats)

1. KR Partiban
2. M Asojan
3. VS Mogan
4. RA Ragu Moorthi
5. S Murugesan
6. M Devandran
7. A Saktivel
8. Randhir Singh
9. Jaspal Singh
10. KRA Naidu
11. K Ganeson
12. S Ananthan
13. MM Samy
14. SP Manikavasagam
15. M Paanjamoorthy
16. AGaneson
17. VK Suppiah
18. S Ganesan
19. KP Samy
20. SS Rajagopal
21. N Ravisandaran
22. P Palaniappan
23. Madhu Marimuthu

- Malaysiakini.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

> Here comes the next MIC President

by R.K.Anand

The debonair politician looks dashing in a crimson shirt as he strides into the finely decorated living room of his lavish bungalow in Petaling Jaya for another interview.

As the clock ticks down for the MIC elections, one of the party's most recognisable faces is being hounded by the media of all languages.

While his critics may accuse him of numerous misdeeds, one thing that even they cannot deny is that the man ages gracefully. And although S Subramaniam turns 65 next month, the father of three does not look a day over 50.

During a casual chat with journalists, Subramaniam quipped that his youthful appearance may also be a sore point for his political nemesis, MIC president S Samy Vellu.

"That is why he tells people that I go around like a mapillai (bridegroom)."

Whether or not there are superficial differences between the two, one thing is for certain. Their political differences is legendary.

For nearly three decades, the president has tried every trick in the book to make him disappear, but Subramaniam always reappears.

When Subramaniam lost in the 2006 deputy presidential elections, Samy Vellu thought he had finally vanquished his foe. Two years later, the 2008 general election returned Subramaniam to the forefront of politics.

And come Saturday, he will attempt to reclaim his No 2 post in the party and realise his dream of helming MIC.

Four-cornered fight

While the incumbent G Palanivel is embroiled in a three-way battle, Subramaniam said he sees himself and to a certain extent the third challenger S Sothinathan as being in a four-way fight.

Why? Because "the biggest campaigner happens to be Samy Vellu."

The MIC president has openly endorsed Palanivel and has been urging the some 1,400 party delegates to cast their ballots in favour of his line-up to ensure stability.

So as far as Subramaniam is concerned, this is actually shaping out to be a battle for the top post itself.

"The president is battling me. He is the one who has come into the fray. The president is getting involved so deeply, so it must be seen as almost a contest for the presidency. It is his team, endorsed team, official team. What does it mean?

"My time is taken up to respond, reply and explain to the delegates these unfounded allegations that are being made by the president."

Given the recent developments, Subramaniam said he sometimes regrets not taking on Samy Vellu for the presidency but claimed that it was not fear which stopped him.

"Because now he is behaving like a candidate (for No. 2). I wish I had contested against him and had the opportunity to tell where he had not performed and where he went wrong.

"He is not a candidate, he is trying to be one. He is campaigning against me. It was not fear. I made it (the decision not to contest against him) in the interest of the party.

"Many urged me to contest, but I said 'No' because the party was weak (after the general election) and I did not want to cause any problems in terms of the strength of the party."

'There is no feud'

Subramaniam also denied that he has an axe to grind with the president, saying it is the latter who is always picking a fight.

"There is no feud. As far as I am concerned, I am not starting a feud. But of course the president is trying hard to draw me into a war of words and all sorts of controversies. But I am prepared to face him anytime, anywhere."

Despite the obstacles, Subramaniam, whose clarion call is 'Change for the Better' is confident of winning this election and possibly even becoming the next president.

"I have a very strong response from the delegates, because they are interested in seeing change, a change for the better in MIC.

"This is a critical election. The delegates must choose the right person, not only as deputy president but in the event he (the president) steps down, (the elected candidate) takes over the leadership."

While Samy Vellu is toying with the idea of staying on for a few more years, Subramaniam wants him to stick to his promise.

"He said on the day he was elected (in March) that he will retire after the deputy presidency is filled. I hope as a leader, he will keep his word."

Commenting on the president's reluctance to bid farewell just yet, he said: "Probably he thinks 30 years (as president) is not enough... he continues to claim that his services are required... some say he wants to put his son (Vel Paari) in a proper place (in the party before retiring)."

Although Samy Vellu has acknowledged the need for changes and has embarked on a re-branding of the party, Subramaniam however to a "arge extent" agreed with the view that for any transformation to be effective, the president has to step down.

And when asked if this means the president should throw in the towel, he replied: "I hope he has the heart to do it. That is the reality on the ground."

On whether Samy Vellu will be receptive of his victory, Subramaniam stressed that the former has no other choice but to accept the decision of the delegates.

"It is not the president's wish to accept or not accept, It is the delegates who decide and it is the (party) constitution that is binding on everybody."

'I've never dabbled in caste politics'

Subramaniam also vehemently denied that he has exploited caste organisations, which he terms as social organisations, for his political advancement.

On this issue, he challenged the president to a debate to prove this allegation.

"I dare him to say this in the debate he challenged (me to) and I accepted. Fix it quickly. Because I have never dealt with any social organisations for my political success.

"He is probably the user (of caste politics)... he is probably is the user and that's why he thinks others are doing it."

As for money politics, Subramaniam said nobody has accused him of attempting to buy votes from the delegates.

"I have not heard any accusations against me... I don't have the evidence (that others are doing it). But I hear that some money is being handed over..."

On why the delegates should choose him, the veteran MIC leader argued that he has the best experience among the contestants to ensure that the party is ushered along the right track.

Furthermore, he said he carries no baggage.

"I have never amassed any wealth. I have nothing to worry about. The community knows all this."

Responding to the speculation that Sothinathan's bid for the deputy presidency is an orchestration to break his votes, he said: "Many people have told me that. Many people have asked me that. I really don't know what is going on between Samy Vellu, Sothinathan and Palanivel."

"As I see it, my votes cannot be split. It will be a solid vote. Sothi (right) cannot split my votes."

Subramaniam also explained that the change he is espousing relates to transformation for the betterment of the party and not otherwise.

"When I talk about change, it is to change for the better. Change alone is not good enough because you can change for the worse. So if they (the delegates) elect me, it will be a change for the better.

"I will liberalise the party further. I will (provide) greater freedom for members to express their views. Whether I agree or disagree (with the views), I will hear them out.

"Basically, the change must be something where party members are given new hope, aspirations and direction. The party must be a united and strong party."

Should Subramaniam not succeed in his bid, will he quit politics?

He replied firmly: "The question does not arise that I will not succeed. As of now, I am confident that I will succeed." - Malaysiakini.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

> Damning PKFZ report singles out Kong Choy

A confidential report by a government-appointed task force probing one of Malaysia’s biggest financial scandals has identified serious breaches on the part of several government officials, including a former minister.

The breaches led to billions of dollars in losses at a tottering state-owned transhipment hub, the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

The yet-to-be-released report, which will be discussed at the weekly Cabinet meeting tomorrow, singles out former transport minister Chan Kong Choy; Madam O.C. Phang, the former general manager of the Port Klang Authority; and board directors of the port agency, for not carrying out their duties with adequate care.

The findings of the special task force, which were read by The Straits Times, also finger Barisan Nasional MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, the main shareholder of private company Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd which carried out the construction of PKFZ.

Tiong has been named as one of the “possible conspirators” in a scheme that exposed the government to huge financial losses stemming from the failed PKFZ development venture.

The report by the special task force, headed by senior Malaysian lawyer Vinayak Pradhan, will add to the long list of disclosures of alleged criminal wrongdoings and mismanagement that has forced the government to bail out the project. The government also had to stand by debts estimated to be in excess of RM10 billion.

Already, the police have frozen the accounts held by Kuala Dimensi with funds of roughly RM140 million as a result of their own investigation into the scandal.

Government politicians who reviewed the findings said the report will pile pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration to act against those responsible for the huge losses.

But that route could prove tricky for the Premier because it will force the government to come down hard on political warlords within its own ruling coalition, such as Tiong. He is an MP from Sarawak and head of the Barisan Nasional’s backbenchers club.

“Depending on how deep you want to probe, this scandal goes to the heart of government because payments for the project came from state agencies and had to be approved by the Transport and Finance ministries,” said a senior government official familiar with developments around PKFZ.

The free trade zone project began as a joint-venture between Port Klang Authority (PKA) and the promoters of the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone (Jafza) in 1999, to attract foreign investment and promote the main Malaysian port of Port Klang.

The land from the project belonged to Kuala Dimensi, which had acquired it in the 1990s for RM96 million or roughly RM3 per sq ft.

But under mysterious circumstances, the PKA, led by then general manager O.C. Phang, moved to buy the land from Kuala Dimensi in 2002 for RM1 billion, or roughly RM25 per sq ft.

Equally mysterious was the PKA’s decision to award Kuala Dimensi sole rights to develop the free trade zone without an open tender.

To fund the development, Kuala Dimensi raised funds through the issue of bonds that were backed by so-called “letters of comfort” from Malaysia’s Transport Ministry.

The PKFZ project has since been saddled by cost overruns and mismanagement, leaving it to the government to stand guarantee on its loans and bonds issued to fund the project. – The Straits Times

> McDonalds vs McCurry: Court wants questions rephrased

The Federal Court adjourned to tomorrow the hearing of an application by McDonald's Corporation for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal's findings over the usage of the prefix "Mc" to enable McDonald's to rephrase the questions on the point of law.

Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria, who led the panel with Federal Court judges Datuk Wira Mohd Ghazali Mohd Yusoff and Datuk James Foong, today ordered counsel S.F. Wong, representing McDonald's, to rephrase the questions based on the findings of the Court of Appeal.

Arifin said the court was not clear on the questions raised by Wong, and this was supported by counsel Sri Dev Nair, who appeared for McCurry Restaurant (KL) Sdn Bhd, a local Indian food outlet, that some of the questions posed in Wong's submission yesterday had not been raised in the Court of Appeal judgment.

McDonald's filed an application for leave to appeal after it lost its exclusivity to the usage of the prefix "Mc" when the Court of Appeal allowed McCurry Restaurant, whose outlet is located off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur, to use "Mc" in its business signage on April 29.

The Court of Appeal ruled that it was wrong to assume that McDonald's had a monopoly in the use of the prefix "Mc" on a signage or in the conduct of business, and the irresistible inference to be drawn from the totality of the evidence is that McCurry's Restaurant signboard would not result in reasonable persons associating McCurry Restaurant with the McDonald's mark.

In reversing the High Court's decision, it also held that the McCurry Restaurant signboard was different from McDonald's and none of the food items on the menu card served at McCurry Restaurant carried the prefix "Mc", unlike the items of food available at McDonald's.

On Sept 7, 2006, the Kuala Lumpur High Court held that McDonald's had the exclusive right to the prefix "Mc" and ordered McCurry Restaurant to pay damages to McDonald's Corporation, the proprietor of the McDonald's chain of restaurants.

McDonald's, in its statement of claim, said it created the prefix "Mc" as a trademark and that with the usage of the prefix, together with the word "Curry", McCurry Restaurant, formerly known as Restoran Penang Curry House (KL) Sdn Bhd, had misrepresented itself as being associated with McDonald's business.

McCurry Restaurant, in its defence, contended that McDonald's could not claim monopoly or exclusive rights to the use of the prefix "Mc", as that prefix was extensively used around the world as surnames, particularly by people of Scottish origin -- Bernama.

Monday, September 7, 2009

> Kit Siang wants former ministers probed over PKFZ

DAP's Lim Kit Siang urged the government today to investigate Cabinet-level abuses of power in relation to the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

Calling it the mother of all scandals, he expressed concern that a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe appeared to be leaning towards putting the blame for cost overruns on poor management, with former Port Klang Authority chairman Datin Paduka OC Phang being singled out.

"It (PAC) is not prepared to probe to a higher level to ascertain the extent of ministerial or Cabinet responsibility," he said in a statement today.

The current Cabinet, he said, should establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry to conduct a "no-holds barred" probe into the scandal.

"This is to unearth all the abuses of power and criminal breach of trust even at ministerial level, right from the beginning of the project."

Lim's remarks come as the PKFZ project has taken centre stage in the ongoing factional fighting within MCA.

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, who is also transport minister, has been facing accusations levelled at him by the PKFZ contractor Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) after the company was blamed for the cost overruns by a special task force.

KDSB boss Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, who is also BN backbenchers' club chairman, has alleged Ong took RM10 million in cash from him, which Ong has disputed but the allegation is being used against him in his party battle with rival Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

While KDSB was under probe, Ong also took free rides on the company's private jets, suggesting he had cozy ties with the company that was facing a probe from his ministry.

But Ong is now trying to portray himself as a man who is determined to expose all wrongdoings in the PKFZ project.

Lim appeared to suggest today, however, that Ong should push harder to investigate the previous Cabinets and his predecessors in the Transport Ministry.

A previous BN Cabinet, Lim said, had taken the decision in July 2007 on a RM4.6 billion bail-out of PKFZ by giving retrospective approval for the four illegal Letters of Support issued by the two former Transport Ministers, Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy.

"What is needed is a no-holds-barred inquiry into the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal to unearth all the abuses of power and criminal breach of trust not just at the PKA and PKFZ levels, but all the way to ministerial and Cabinet stages right from the beginning of the sorry saga of the PKFZ scandal a decade ago when the PKFZ proposal was first mooted with Liong Sik as the Transport Minister under the premiership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad," Lim said.

Ong briefed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last week on the PKFZ probe. During the same meeting it was also announced that KDSB's bank accounts had been frozen.

Najib said the Cabinet would discuss the PKFZ scandal this Wednesday and decide on the next course of action - The Malaysian Insider.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

> Malaysiakini: Don't be cowed by it.

The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), now parked under Rais Yatim's Ministry of Information, Communications & Culture, has asked independent news portal Malaysiakini to remove two 'provocative' videos, including the footage of the controversial cow-head protest, from its website.

The affected videos are:

Temple demo: Residents march with cow’s head

Hisham: Don’t blame cow head protesters

"These videos contain offensive contents with the intent to annoy any person, especially Indians," said Abdul Halim Ahmad, MCMC's monitoring and enforcement division senior acting director, in a letter dated Sept 3.

"This is an offence under Section 211/233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998," added MCMC.

Under the communication and multimedia law, any individual found guilty of publishing content "which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person" is liable to a fine of up to RM50,000 or a jail sentence.

Editor: Our intention was not to offend

Commenting on MCMC's request, Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan said both the videos are news events which are of public interest.

"Our intent in putting up the videos was not to 'annoy' anyone, but to do our job as journalists to draw attention to the protest and to ensure action is taken so that incidents like this will not happen again in Malaysia."

Gan said that there was no plan for Malaysiakini to take down the videos and the news website was seeking legal advice on the matter.

Late this afternoon, MCMC made an appointment with Gan for his statement to be recorded at the Malaysiakini office in Bangsar Utama tomorrow.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS... Through the lens that tells no lies, we came to know the message of this cow-head lesson. To Malaysiakini, just don't be cowed by it - Screenshots.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

> Cowhead: What the rakyat say ...

'If 1Malaysia is our end goal, then the intolerant racists who are trying to divide the very multicultural foundations our nation is built upon should be punished and shamed.'

Hisham to meet Section 23 residents.

Lucia: The protestors were already clearly in the wrong and ought to be arrested immediately by police but police kept delaying and now they want to meet the home minister?

What kind of double standard is this from the police and the home minister? It is 2malaysia, not 1Malaysia - one standard for the opposition and another for the ruling coalition

Dr Jacob George: It would be foolish for a minister to meet the residents when police investigations are continuing!

This incident was telecast around the world and we are being watched by others to see if we have several sets of laws operating in the country - one for the opposition, another for the ruling party.

The home minister being a lawyer knows no one is above the law just as well as he knows that laws have been broken in this case. There are to date over 52 police reports. It is his call whether our nation's laws are ridiculed by others for alleged selective prosecution or bartered for political expediency!

Changeagent: This is the time for S Samy Vellu to stand up and show leadership on behalf of all Indians in this country. Go on Samy, stand up to your Umno contemporaries and tell them that their hypocrisy and double standards will not be tolerated.

If 1Malaysia is our end goal, then the intolerant racists who are trying to divide the very multicultural foundations our nation is built upon should be punished and shamed.

Samy, if you remain quiet on this, then we would hypothesise that you are not man enough to confront Umno and don't really care about the Indian race as much as you would like us to believe.

Kenny: If the police take no action against the cow head protesters, the public can infer who is behind the protest. Which party is above sedition laws in this country?

Tmf: Dear Minister, entertain those perpetrators of racial and religious provocations as long as you like. The world is watching and our reputation as a tolerant multi-racial and multi-cultural country is fast going down the drain. 'Once the leaders do not behave as they preach, the people are not going to believe them anymore.' - Yasmin Ahmad

Habib Rak: What a shame. Despite black-and-white proof and inflammatory statements caught on tape and broadcast, the police are 'still investigating'. And to top it all, the home minister is prepared to meet the culprits!

Azaman bin Abu Bakar: The question is: should the minister meet them when police investigations are ongoing? Would it not compromise the situation, and set a precedent?

Selvendera: As a Hindu, I'm not offended by the cow head but I'm very offended by the home minister's double standard - Malaysiakini.

> Opposition Slammed For Attempting To Convene Assembly Sitting

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has slammed the the opposition parties in Perak for attempting to convene a state legislative assembly sitting on Wednesday.

He said that the opposition parties wanted to split the people by trying to turn Perak politics topsy-turvy despite the fact that the people had already accepted the Barisan Nasional's (BN) rule in the state.

He said that the opposition pact of DAP, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat was trying to disrupt the state's administration as it was clear that the BN government, led by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, was accepted by the people.

"They have no locus standi to call for a state legislative assembly sitting as the former speaker no longer holds any post," he told reporters after attending a reception for orphans organised by the Perak Umno Youth at the Perak menteri besar's residence on Monday night.

Last week, former speaker V. Sivakumar, who is Tronoh assemblyman, issued a notice informing assemblymen that there would be a state assembly sitting on Wednesday.

Speakar Datuk R. Ganesan had asked all assemblymen to disregard the notice.

Khairy said that Perak opposition parties were becoming desperate as efforts by Dr Zambry to bring changes to the state had brought about positive momentum for the BN.

He said that political chaos which the opposition parties bent on creating was not helpful to the people who wanted to see stability in the state.

Meanwhile, Perak Umno Youth condemned Sivakumar's action, saying the opposition was no longer in power in the state.

Its chief, Maslin Shah Razman, said the opposition parties had lost their majority in the state assembly and that their latest antics showed that they were desperate after realising that the BN state government was administering the state well.

"They are running out of issues and are now seeking cheap publicity," he said - mySinchew.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

> Cow head - Hisham issues stern warning

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein today issued a stern warning to any group which resorted to actions that could jeopardise public order and national security.

He was referring to the demonstration by residents on Friday against the building of a Hindu temple in Section 23, Shah Alam.

He stressed that in issues involving race and religion, the government would not bow to pressure and would not hesitate to act against those who refused to heed to such a warning.

"If such incidents are not curbed, they could result in prolonged communal tension and conflict, and I see this (temple) issue as a very sensitive issue," he said in a statement Sunday.

Hishammuddin said although there were calls for him to invoke the Internal Security Act in addressing the issue, the Act would only be used as a last resort or in a situation which could harm national security.

"I also wish to state that there are other laws that can be used in such a case," he added.

On postings in the Internet that incited the Indians, he said the police, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Attorney-General were taking action as agreed by him together with Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

On the claim by Shah Alam member of parliament Khalid Samad that the police were colluding with Umno over the (temple) issue, Hishammuddin said it was a very serious allegation and aimed at discrediting the police force - Bernama/Mysinchew.

Monday, August 31, 2009

> Some lessons Malaysia can learn from Tony Fernandes

The weaker growth wrought by the global financial crisis means that Malaysia's economy will need to expand at a frenetic 8 per cent per year over the next decade if the country is to achieve its vision of being a developed nation by 2020, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak revealed last week.

Given that in the past decade only twice has gross domestic product (GDP) growth breached 6 per cent, this is going to be well-nigh impossible.

Although committed to the vision mooted by former premier Tun D Mahathir Mohamad in the early 1990s, Najib has observed a need to “redefine, recalibrate the timeline” of how to “get there”.

Malaysia's gross national income per capita is about US$7,000 (RM24,500) — some US$5,000 short of an advanced economy — and US$10,000 less than the projected growth of US$17,000 per capita these economies would enjoy by 2020. With rival developing economies already proving to be tougher and hungrier competitors, “getting there” will be challenging — a fact Najib acknowledged in a keynote address at the inaugural meeting of the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) last week.

“Economically, Malaysia is under pressure on all fronts. Our rules remain overly cumbersome and, in certain sectors, restrictive.” It was not Malaysia's choice to change, he said, but it had “no choice but to change”.

NEAC is the latest think-tank comprising foreign and local personalities to advise the government on how to effect Malaysia's transition into a high-income economy.

Najib has, of course, made some brave changes, earlier this year liberalising 27 sub-sectors and instituting more market-friendly measures.

Even so, bolder out-of-the box reforms are needed to convince investors that its domestic economy warrants a second look when neighbouring ones are so much larger and more vibrant.

As many have observed, better integrating the local economy with Asean as well as China and India would provide stronger growth, given the combined 3.5-billion-strong market for Malaysian goods and services. Why else would Australia and New Zealand want into the regional trading bloc?

Locally and perhaps regionally, no one has better latched on to the integration concept or capitalised on it as craftily as Datuk Tony Fernandes. In seven short years, Asia's budget travel pioneer has transformed AirAsia into arguably the country's best- known brand. Given its increasing brand recognition in the region, it could conceivably be true of Asean as well. Even in the emerging super-economies of China and India, the brand is not an unknown entity.

In expanding his company, Fernandes leveraged on two inherent strengths to great advantage: Malaysia's geographical position on the global map, and a multi-racial and relatively cosmopolitan workforce, which helped when it came to getting a toehold in new markets.

The country hasn't availed itself of these distinct advantages as adroitly. Culturally, Malaysia's three main races — Malays, Chinese and Indians — have a distinct advantage when it comes to dealing with their counterparts in the Middle East, China and India.

In Asia, where relationships are prized, this could spell the difference between success and failure.

By phasing itself out of the markets so as not to crowd out the private sector and small businesses, the government would afford savvy businessmen and entrepreneurs more room to manoeuvre. Undoubtedly, some of these entrepreneurs could teach it a thing or two about economic integration.

They might also be able to offer pointers on racial integration. AirAsia's crew, for example, are as diverse as they come, comprising Asean citizens, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Iranians, Iraqis, South Americans and Europeans.

Their differences notwithstanding, the company has managed to instil in them a sense of pride, unity and commitment.

Still grappling with unnecessary racial and religious tensions more than half a century after independence, Malaysia could do worse than to listen to some of its corporate chieftains on how to extract the best out of their workforce and to forge a consensus so that everyone wins - Business Times Singapore / The Malaysian Insider.

Friday, August 28, 2009

> The political costs of caning Kartika

by Farish A. Noor

Malaysia has long tried to cultivate the image of being a moderate Muslim state that can serve as a model for others. Particularly in the wake of the attacks on the United States in September 2001, successive prime ministers have worked hard to ensure that Malaysia would remain on the list of moderate Muslim states that could serve as the bridge between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Today, that image stands to take a significant pounding, thanks to a relatively isolated incident that has managed to grab headlines worldwide: A Malay-Muslim woman by the name of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is set to be caned for the offence of drinking alcohol in public. Kartika's case has bedevilled lawmakers of Malaysia for the simple reason that nobody seems to know what to do about it.

Kartika was found guilty of drinking beer in Pahang. The religious authorities in the state found her guilty of committing a syariah offence, and she was fined and sentenced to six strokes of the cane. Kartika herself pleaded guilty to the charges. But what baffles many observers is that the former model said she was prepared to be caned, and what is more, to be caned in public.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has asked if Malaysia would celebrate its independence day (on Aug 31) with the caning of a Muslim woman. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has himself asked Kartika to appeal against her sentence. Needless to say, the case has brought Malaysia to the world's attention for all the wrong reasons.

The problem that this case poses for Malaysia is complex. For a start, Kartika's case was handled by the Syariah Court of Pahang, raising the question of whether the federal government can intervene to save her.

Adding to the confusion is the problematic and complicated relationship between religion and politics in the country. The borderline between Islam and politics has grown increasingly blurred after three decades of state-driven Islamisation. The enfeebled ruling Umno is now trying its best to defend its own Islamic credentials in the face of the opposition PAS. At the same time, Umno would not like to gain the same reputation as the Taliban of Afghanistan.

PAS in turn is likewise split in its conscience, between moderates who wish to push the democratisation agenda and conservatives who want more Islamisation. Already in Selangor, where PAS came into power as part of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, moral policing has been introduced by the conservative PAS leader Datuk Hasan Ali, who has called for religious functionaries to arrest Muslims who go against Islamic law.

PAS conservatives may feel that their electoral gains have given them the green light to further Islamise the country. They have thus called for a ban on the sale of alcohol and music concerts. But in the wider context of international politics, Malaysia is looking more and more like a parochial state where books are banned and people are whipped for doing things that would be regarded as perfectly normal elsewhere.

Malaysia's conservative Islamists, their religious convictions notwithstanding, do not seem to understand why the international community is upset with the idea of a woman being caned for drinking a pint. Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria, for instance, has wondered why a fuss should be made over a woman receiving six lashes when, in his opinion, she should be receiving 80 lashes.

It is this sense of disconnect that adds a surreal air to the goings-on in Malaysia today. The government is concerned that failure to enact Islamic law will compromise its standing in the eyes of conservative Muslims in the country. But to have Kartika caned would jeopardise the country's image internationally. Like it or not, Malaysia still depends on trade with the developed Western world, not Afghanistan.

This, then, is the dilemma that Malaysia faces at the moment, and there seems little consensus on how to proceed. Kartika's caning has been postponed for now. One thing, however, is certain: The costs of caning Kartika are simply too high. Should Malaysia cane her, it would have jumped one rung up the Islamisation ladder. After that, there may be no turning back - Straits Times / The Malaysian Insider.

Friday, August 21, 2009

> MACC under arson attack

The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission came under attack from unknown persons when a vehicle belonging to the commission was torched early today.

Six Molotov cocktails were thrown at the two-month old Klang MACC office early this morning, destroying a four-wheel-drive vehicle belonging to the Selangor MACC.

The attack was confirmed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz when he mentioned it in his speech while presenting the Excellence Awards to MACC officers at Putrajaya today

Eye-witnesses said that MACC officers only realised the damage to the vehicle when they reported to work this morning.

The vehicle, a gold coloured Nissan X-Trail, is usually used by the MACC officers while on duty.

A police report has been lodged over the arson attack and Klang police chief ACP Mohamad Mat Yusop said the incident happened at about 2 to 3am but there were no witnesses.

"Police believe the assailants had scaled down the slope behind the building and thrown the Molotov cocktails from outside the fence. The impact of the attack damaged a portion of the vehicle," he was quoted by Bernama.

He added that the attack was the first of its kind at the office and believed the incident was linked to political aide Teoh Beng Hock's death at the Selangor MACC headquarters in Shah Alam on July 16.

The Klang MACC office started operations two months ago but has not been officially opened due to bad publicity received by the commission after Teoh's death.

Underworld connections obvious

Attending a press conference in Putrajaya later, Nazri did not rule out "underworld connection" to the arson attack.

He said that it was well known that the Selangor MACC was investigating claims that some state exco members had links with the underworld, as alleged by Wangsa Maju PKR MP Wee Choo Keong.

"If there was no investigation on the underworld links, this would never have happened. This goes to show what Wee had suggested exists," said Nazri.

"Such attacks are usually done by cowards...and samseng (gangsters) only," he added.

Meanwhile, MACC chief Ahmad Said Hamdan who was also present in the press conference confirmed that four Molotov cocktails have been thrown at the branch office and it "was enough to burn the whole building".

He said only one official vehicle was damaged badly.

The attack was a threat to scare off his officers, he added.

"But this will not deter us from performing our duty," he said.
MACC Advisory Panel member Robert Phang has condemned the attack and asked for patience from everyone for the commission to put its house in order.

"This is not our culture. Let's not take that path. This is what differentiates Malaysia from so many other countries. Agree to disagree," he told Malaysiakini in Kota Kinabalu - Malaysiakini.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

> Peat fires add to haze over Sabah, Sarawak

Air quality in six areas continues to be 'unhealthy' in Sabah and Sarawak as the haze from local and external sources takes its toll.

As at 5pm yesterday, the Air Pollution Index (API) readings remained among the worst in Sri Aman (108), Sibu (175), Samarahan (148), Sarikei (133), Miri (140) and Kuching (105).

Smog from Kalimantan continues to plague Sabah and Sarawak as satellite imagery from Asean Secretariat's HazeOnline monitoring site reveals.

However, rain in recent days appears to have cleared much of the haze over Peninsular Malaysia, with 20 areas recorded in the 'good' category of the API.

Most areas in the peninsula registered readings in the low 60s and 50s, especially in the north where Universiti Sains Malaysia had the lowest at 23.

Kuala Selangor and Muar had a 'moderate' reading of 88 and 94 respectively.

Air quality is deemed 'unhealthy' at readings of 101-200, 'very unhealthy' from 201-300 and 'hazardous' if above 300. A reading of 0-50 is deemed 'good' and from 51-100 as 'moderate'.

Battling peat fires

Local Government Minister Kong Cho Ha told Star that some 600 fire officers have been deployed to Sarawak to help control peat fires over an area of 566ha.

“Main towns like Sibu, Miri and Kuching are experiencing 'unhealthy' air quality due to fires mainly in a neighbouring country, but there are also fires in Sarawak that are worsening the problem,” he was quoted as saying.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, meanwhile, said burning is a common practice in land clearing activities, and that the ministry needs time to come up with an appropriate solution.

Deputy Minister Joseph Kurup told Bernama that the ministry will impose a fine on those involved in open burning, which contributes to unhealthy air quality and haze in the region.

Recently, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah Embas was unable to do an aerial survey of hotspots in Sarawak as his flight was grounded due to poor visibility.

Status quo on haze

Earlier in the day, as of the 11am reading, the Air Pollution Index (API) maintained its steady downward trend in continuing to ease things for Malaysians both in the peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak.

The recent rainy spells have helped to clear up the worst of the haze.

The number of 'unhealthy' areas went down from six to two, the worst API today recorded in Miri and Sibu, with a reading of 184 and 113 respectively.

However, Miri actually showed an increase from yesterday's reading of 140, idling dangerously close to 'very unhealthy.'

'Good' classified areas went up to 23 from yesterday's 20. The north of the peninsula still leads with better air quality with Universiti Sains Malaysia having the lowest API of 27.

The 5 pm API readings also remained status quo with Miri (185) and Sibu (104) remaining the two 'unhealthy' areas - Malaysiakini.