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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

> An idea whose time has come

Those who wish to see the break up of Pakatan Rakyat similar to that of previous opposition coalitions will be disappointed.

Formed on April 1 last year, PR was a response to the post-March 8th political terrain, in which the Opposition won five state governments — Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor — and more than a third of the Parliamentary seats.

The three parties — Democratic Action Party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia — were advised against forming a coalition before the 12th general election as polling results consistently shown that going alone without attacking each other give the parties the best chance of capturing more seats combined.

The election mandate went beyond the widest dream of the Opposition as the daunting task of governing these states as a coalition begun. A new formula was necessitated.

Past experiences of opposition coalition were not encouraging. The Socialist Front coalition, consisted of Partai Rakyat and Labour Party, and later joined by National Convention Party, ended in the mid-1960s amidst government crackdown and arrests. Internal crisis also emerged when Labour Party’s move to the extreme left at the prodding of the grassroots, escalated by the dispute between the two major parties over issues of language and cultural identities.

The Malaysian Solidarity Convention mooted by Lee Kuan Yew in 1965 was short lived, disappeared from the political radar together with Singapore’s expulsion in the same year.

The Opposition parties, particularly Gerakan, DAP and PPP reached a non-aggression pact after the defeat of Serdang by-election in December 1968 due to a three-corner fight. But no further collaboration among the Opposition parties was made after the suspension of parliamentary democracy as a consequence of the May 13th incident.

In 1986, Pas attempted to forge an alliance through Harakah Keadilan Rakyat (HAK) with several minor parties but did not get anywhere as Pas itself could only muster a single parliamentary seat in the election.

In 1990, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah led two coalitions — the Gagasan Rakyat with non-Malay-based parties and Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) with Muslim-based parties — through his Semangat 46 party. Non-Malay support for the Opposition was impressive but Malay vote did not swing as expected. The coalitions died a natural death subsequently.

The sacking and humiliation of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998 resulted in a massive Malay revolt. For the first time in Malaysia’s history, DAP, Pas, Parti Keadilan Nasional, and Parti Rakyat, coalesced under the umbrella of Barisan Alternatif in October 1999, weeks before the general election.

It was a reverse result of the 1990 general election where the non-Malays did not support the Opposition due to Barisan Nasional’s effective propaganda of political violence in Indonesia that might occur in Malaysia if the opposition was voted in.

The coalition effectively collapsed on 22 September 2001 when DAP pulled out of BA due to differences with Pas over the issue of an Islamic State.

Malaysia has been in search of an alternative to BN’s half-century rule and Pakatan Rakyat is an idea whose time has come. Unlike the previous attempts, today’s Pakatan is likely to survive for a long time and will serve as a viable and practical alternative to BN.

First, cooperation among the Opposition has improved since the Reformasi era. Prior to the 1998 crisis, the two long-standing Opposition parties operated in their respective comfort zone — Pas among rural Malays and DAP among urban Chinese — and had virtually no contact with each other, even at the top level.

But in the last decade, many leaders increasingly felt that only by working together that they can check or even defeat BN. These are the leaders who have worked closely with each other in the BA secretariat and the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or BERSIH secretariat, as well as forging a close rapport in the Parliament.

Second, in the states governed by Pakatan, the day-to-day working relationship among its second echelon leaders solidifies the coalition at the sub-national level. Governing in coalition also forces the parties to think beyond their support base with a national perspective.

Third, it is clearly discernable that the voting public is all for the creation of a viable alternative. Previous Opposition coalitions failed because they were rejected by the voters, one way or the other.

For instance, in 1999, DAP’s close ties with Pas was one of the causes of the painful defeats of the party’s heavyweights such as Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh in Penang.

But the 2008 election was a major eye-opener. DAP won in seats that it had never dreamt of winning, thanks to substantial swing in urban Malay votes in its favour while the reversal of Indian votes was the number one factor in the victories of many Pas seats.

The cultural breakthrough for Pas to be accepted by the non-Malays and DAP by the Malays is gaining momentum, albeit the slow momentum.

A year ago — even during the March 2008 election campaign — no one could imagine seeing PAS flags in every corner of Kuala Sepetang Chinese village in Bukit Gantang, Perak. Today the flags are proudly on display for all Chinese in the village to see, without anyone complaining or protesting about it.

I still recall two years ago when I was coordinating the Machap state assembly by-election in Melaka contested by DAP, our political opponents from BN put up Pas flags in a Chinese village two days before polling – just to frighten Chinese voters!

The sea change in cultural acceptance is not to be ignored. The idea of replacing the federal ruling coalition with an alternative is as old as the existence of BN and its predecessor the Alliance.

It is only now that the idea whose time has come will appeal to the young people as well as the old guards who have been chasing the dream throughout their political life. It’s not just the physical coalition; it is really an idea of hope - The Malaysian Insider.

> Earth Hour: TNB records 550mw drop

Although the Earth Hour campaign last Saturday resulted in electricity consumption dipping by 550 megawatt, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is not complaining.

Rather, TNB accepts the hour-long campaign which began at 8.30pm, was for a good cause.

The 550 megawatt is equivalent to 14 million fluorescent bulbs of 40 watt each.

"While this minor fall in demand will result in a slight shaving of our revenue, we accept that Earth Hour is for a good cause," said TNB president/chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh in a statement here today.

He said, during the one-hour period of the energy conservation initiative, TNB staff were extra vigilant, in the event of untoward operational snags.

"Everything went on very smoothly and we were able to respond to the slightly lower demand, without any operational glitch.

"Demand peaked almost rapidly at 9.30pm, to follow the normal Saturday evening demand pattern," added Che Khalib.

He said TNB was surprised by the support and appreciation demonstrated by many of its customers on the worldwide Earth Hour campaign - Bernama.

> Battling over land rights in Batang Ai

by Deborah Loh, The Nut Graph

Food on the table and a roof over one's head — these are key issues in almost any election in rural Malaysia. But in the Sarawak hinterland, it's a more emotional subject as food and shelter are derived from a hereditary source, the forest, which has been fought over by native communities and the state for decades.

As such, expect Native Customary Rights (NCR) to be a major issue in the coming Batang Ai state seat by-election on 7 April 2009. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, whose Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is fielding a candidate against the Barisan Nasional (BN), has already promised as much. The PKR candidate is Jawah Gerang, who will face the BN's Malcolm Mussen Lamoh.

Anwar has pledged to restore customary rights to land if the PR wins the state in the future. He's also promised higher oil royalties for the state, and to make an indigenous Dayak the next chief minister. All this if the PR takes over in the next state elections, which must be held by 2011.

The PR will want to test the efficacy of playing up the NCR issue in Batang Ai during the campaign period. Away from the political tsunami and "new politics" of equality that rocked the peninsula in March 2008, NCR is probably the opposition's strongest rallying cry in Sarawak.

Frontline issue

Anwar has called Sarawak and Sabah the "frontline" states in the PR's bid to wrest the federal government from the BN. But while NCR will become a political issue, it must not be forgotten that it ought to first and foremost be a human rights issue. Promises made for the sake of winning elections can all too easily eclipse the realities of how entrenched the exploitation of NCR lands is.

If the PR wants people to believe its promises for Batang Ai and the rest of the state, it should show how it plans to untangle the intricate network of state and business interests. This will be no easy task given the high stakes.

Shedding light on NCR violations is an international fact-finding mission conducted by several non-governmental organisations under two networks, the international People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), and the Malaysian-based Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (Panap).

The mission's report, Rampaging the Rainforests, was released on 21 Feb 2009. While not targeted at the Batang Ai by-election or specific to the seat, it provides an understanding of NCR issues.

The findings, gathered from an April 2008 trip through north, central and south Sarawak, covered over 19 communities consisting of 70 villages and longhouses. More than 800 people were interviewed.

Land rights eroded

The report states that "continued and systemic organised aggression of indigenous peoples' land and rights" have taken place over the years. Evidence that attests to the natives' claims over their lands is usually disregarded. Such evidence is usually in the form of ancestral graves, fruit trees and cultivated land, handed down from generation to generation through customary practices.

The report notes the state institutions that have been used to steadily take away indigenous lands and place them under state or private interests.

One entity is the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra), which since 1976 has had the mandate to develop crops, usually palm oil, on indigenous land. Appearing as a joint-venture between the state and the natives, the idea is for Salcra to plant, harvest, process and market crops on behalf of the natives until such time when the indigenous farmers know how to do so themselves.

The land is then supposed to be divided among the participating natives, with each given a permanent land title.

However, Sarawak lawyer Bian Baru, who handles NCR cases, says the reality is that Salcra has issued few titles. He believes the BN might do so in the coming days before the by-election as a ploy to woo voters.

"In most cases, no land title is issued. In some cases, the land is divided into plots and given to the natives, but there is no title attached to the lot.

Bian Baru"If they (the BN) want to pacify voters now, they might think of issuing titles to those who have complained about not receiving them," Bian tells The Nut Graph when asked to comment on the use of NCR as a by-election issue.

Another mechanism used to expand development of plantations on indigenous lands was the 1994 Konsep Baru. It facilitated the acquisition of NCR land over 5,000ha by private companies.

Under this scheme, the private sector holds 60% of the land, native communities 30%, and the state 10%. However, the state also holds the natives' 30% in trust. The entire land is leased to the private sector to develop. In exchange, instead of compensation for the fruit trees and other ancestral claims to the land, the natives are to be paid annual shareholder dividends.

But according to the report, native farmers interviewed say they never received their dividends. In one instance, after the lease period expired, NCR land that had been turned into a plantation was sold off to another company, which then sold it to another company. The villagers who claimed customary rights to the land did not have any copies of the initial lease agreement.

Evidently the exploitation of native peoples is a well-told story the world over, including in Malaysia.

A "non-issue"

In Sarawak, indigenous communities are told that the state is developing their NCR lands "on their behalf" and that the land still belongs to them.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak president Datuk Seri Dr James Jemut Masing explains in a phone interview what the situation on Salcra land is in Batang Ai.

"We have always respected NCR, which are the laws and traditions of the natives. In Batang Ai, there is no land that has been taken by the state government. Salcra has only developed the land on behalf of the natives. They still hold the titles. The titles are given to them and we develop on their behalf."

However, Bian adds, besides the issue of land titles, the natives also feel that they would profit if they were allowed to develop the land on their own instead of receiving dividends from Salcra.

Will it work?

The fact-finding mission logged a total of 170 cases of legal action taken by Sarawak natives against either the state or private companies over claims to NCR land.

The manner in which NCR lands is taken for development also violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, notes the report.

PCFS and Panap have launched an online petition, calling on the federal government to step in to protect NCR lands if the state government won't.

But will it work as a by-election issue?

Bian says while there is unhappiness among native communities, such sentiment may not necessarily translate into votes.

"It depends on what the BN can offer them. For a long time, people here have easily believed the promises of change and development. Over time, some are no longer so simplistic," he says.

Already, Masing has announced RM42 million worth of projects for Batang Ai. He says this is the proof of the BN pudding. "PKR talks a lot and has no substance. But the BN has been in Sarawak since 1963, and the people know that we deliver."

It is certainly easy for the BN to take that position when it has had the advantage of incumbency over the years.

Batang Ai will be a tough fight for the PR, and a lot hinges on the believability of its claims. For if Batang Ai were to fall to the opposition, how would the PR fulfil its NCR promises when the state government is still in BN hands?

Can Batang Ai voters, and other constituencies watching, wait a few more years for the next general election to give the PR a shot at making good on its promises?

Sadly, one consequence of turning a human rights issue into tactical political games is the nullifying of the good that nonpartisan civil society groups are trying to achieve for these indigenous communities. If everything is politics, little else is sacred. 

Monday, March 30, 2009

> Royal Commission to clear Najib first?

by Kim Quek in Malaysiakini

In a heated press conference at the end of the Umno annual assembly on March 28, the newly-crowned Umno president Najib Abdul Razak failed to dispel swirling rumours of his alleged links to the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

This press conference had attracted unusual foreign press attention, due to heightened international media coverage over the scandal as Najib’s anticipated ascension to premiership nears.

And as the name of Altantuya splashes in news features that pop up all over the world from France to Australia and from US to India, Najib seems to be irretrievably linked to this murder scandal.

Answering a barrage of questions from foreign journalists whether these persistent aspersions would undermine his premiership, Najib said: “These are malicious and baseless lies. I have already given my answers, but they persist. This is an opposition ploy.”

Najib sounded as if he had already given all the necessary explanations to exonerate himself from his apparently strong connection to the case, but all he had done was the repeated uttering of these few words: “I had never met the Mongolian woman.”

In fact, he has sworn in public several times, using these same words.

A few unanswered questions

If Najib thought those words were sufficient to quell the mountain of suspicion arising from the myriad of burning questions as yet unanswered in the face of dubious action or inaction by the law enforcers.

Just to pick a few of these to demonstrate how serious these questions are:

Private investigator P Balasubramaniam and his entire family mysteriously disappeared a day after he revealed a sworn statement giving intimate details incriminating Najib to the murder case in July 2008. Despite promises to investigate, the police have remained silent over the contents of this affidavit. And the court had also barred the admission of this document. Why did the police and the court keep a safe distance from this document that could have led to a breakthrough of this trial? What has happened to Balasubramaniam and family – as nobody seems to know their whereabouts?

Why further evidence by Altantuya’s cousin Burmaa Oyunchinmeg when she testified that Najib appeared in a photograph with Altantuya blocked?

Why did the court block further evidence upon revelation in court that Malaysian immigration records of Altantuya and her two Mongolian companions had been mysteriously erased? Shouldn’t such erasure have been considered an important lead and an indication that some VVIP was involved?

Why were Najib and his aide-de-camp Musa Safri not investigated and called to the witness stand, since it was Musa who gave instructions to the first accused (first and second accused were Najib’s bodyguards) to solve third accused Abdul Razak Baginda’s ‘woman problem’.

Now that Razak Baginda (a close associate of Najib) has been declared innocent, we are now left with the bizarre scenario of a murder without a motive, since the first two accused had no motive on their own to kill the victim.

During the press conference, not satisfied with Najib’s answer, journalists repeatedly asked the same questions. Finally, Najib snapped: “We will deal with it.”

When asked whether this means possible crackdowns against his political opponents, Najib protested: “It is not fair to prejudge me. Give me a chance to take office first. Judge me by my action.”

So, Najib is pleading to be allowed to become the prime minister first, then judge him for what he does. 

But is it fair to ask the nation to accept the risk of appointing a prime minister when such formidable dark clouds clearly hang over his head? If there is indeed incriminating evidence, would it not act as a potential time bomb that could cause the PM to be prosecuted or subject to blackmail by those in possession of such evidence?

Even if such evidence is non-existent, Najib has no way of running away from this taint, which would surely undermine his standing and effectiveness as PM at home and abroad, so long as he refuses to submit himself to a proper investigation and subsequent vindication in a court of law.

Independent inquiry necessary

It is therefore imperative that a royal commission be set up to clear Najib of such suspicion before his appointment as PM to safeguard vital national interests. That would mean a delay of a few months to his impending appointment.

I can see no possible reason to object to such delay as incumbent prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose term does not end until 2013, is fully capable of helming the state, fresh from accolades heaped upon him by his party for rendering invaluable service to the nation.

Najib in particular should welcome such an authoritative process to free him from the current tag and enhance his credibility as future premier and he should therefore have no objection to such delay. Unless of course, for reasons only known to him, he cannot afford to be so probed, neither could he afford not to be at the pinnacle of power at this very moment.

As for the nation at large, such an independent inquiry should bring a sigh of relief that the future premier is cleared of at least the taint of Altantuya.

KIM QUEK is a political analyst and PKR member.

Yes, but who is to set up the Royal Commission? - Counterpoint.

> The mood on the ground

Picture that tells the story:    All the key characters waiting for the word go. The Pakatan Rakyat crowd waiting outside the nomination centre earlier today in Bukit Gantang, and all set  -  as are the watching police personnel - for the 9 days of campaigning for the April 7 by-election - The Malaysian Insider.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

> Damn the Dams of Sarawak

Comment by Sim Kwang Yang

After timber and land for plantations, the water resources to generate electricity at many of Sarawak's great rivers are the last opportunity for making mega bucks by crony capitalism in the state of Sarawak.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has recently announced that plans to build 12 more hydroelectric dams in Sarawak will go ahead to meet future industrialisation needs. They will be located at Ulu Air, Metjawa, Belaga, Baleh, Belepeh, Lawas, Tutoh, Limbang, Baram, Murum, and Linau Rivers. The plan will also see an extension to the Batang Ai Dam. The construction of these dams will push the total generating capacity of Sarawak to 7000 mw by 2020.

I was vehemently opposed to the construction of the Bakun Dam since the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad came to Kuching and launched the project together with the Sarawak CM in the early 1990s. The project was awarded to Ting Pek Kiing's Ekran Bhd and associates without an open tender. Neither Ting nor his company had any track record of dam building at all.

The project became messy. Finally, the project was halted in 1997 due to the Asian Financial Crisis. As a result, the Malaysian government had to take it back from the consortium. According to information divulged in Parliament, RM700 million to RM1.1 billion was paid to Ekran as "compensation".  (That's negotiated contracts for you!)

The on-and-off Bakun project is still fumbling forward, with unknown cost overrun.  

Meanwhile, the social and environmental disasters that I and many environmentalists had predicted have come to pass in Bakun.  Writing on the subject on the blog The Borneo Project, Harian Thompson and San Hui had the following grim story to report:
"While project logistics continue to be developed, thousands of people resettled for the Bakun Dam continue to suffer at resettlement sites. In 1999, 10,000 indigenous Kenyah and Kayan people were forcibly relocated from their ancestral homes to make way for the dam. Most were forced to move to the government-sponsored Sungai Asap resettlement site, while a few communities moved to other sites or remained on their land.

In the past, the indigenous peoples subsisted in a self-sustainable economy, cultivating land, fishing in rivers and hunting in forests. They occupied 70,000 hectares of ancestral lands. Now, living in poorly constructed longhouses and forced into the cash economy, unemployment and hunger are prevalent.

Compensation for people's land has reportedly been paid out, but resettlers claim that the amounts were inadequate and below market-value. Problems with food security are rising as cash-poor villagers are unable to grow food on their small plots of mediocre land. As a result, many villagers have resorted to meals of rice and salt. Alienation has led to increased alcoholism and violence. In recent months the population at the resettlement site has since increased 40 percent, further straining meager resources.

The desperate situation for people living at the resettlement site threatens to worsen in the next couple years, particularly as compensation payments run out and the fertility of their small plots of land drops. It is likely that many will be forced to purchase expensive fertilizers to cultivate food to feed their families.

Further problems loom ahead as residents at the resettlement site must pay back government loans for housing construction. A five-year grace period to begin repayment of the $13,700 in debt is set to run out in 2003. At that time, families will owe an average of $80 per month over a 25-year period. The Malaysian government has offered to reduce payments for families who cannot afford to pay; however, they will still be required to pay back the loans with interest.

"There is not much to look forward to these days," said Junis Win, a Kayan farmer from the Sungai Asap resettlement site. Junis, like many others, is concerned about the future, particularly how he will pay back the housing loan despite the fact that he does not have a stable income."

Urbanites have little idea of how important land is to the native people of Sarawak. As long as they have their ancestral land, they will always survive in the jungle far away from the cities.

They plant their rice for food self-sufficiency, fish in the river, hunt for wild games in the jungle, and collect or plant vegetables in their backyard.  Since they need to fallow their land after a harvest, they do need a few plots of land to grow rice on rotation year after year. 

Left alone, they tend to be happier, healthier, and less stressed out than city folks who have to mortgage their lives for material things.
Plunge them into a small resettled site to make way for the Bakun Dam with inferior housing and push them into cash economy, they soon degenerate into social and financial chaos, going down the path of the Native Americans ("Red Indians") on their reservations!

Development for whom? 

These native Sarawakians who are the original residents of the vast Bakun territory for God-knows-how-long have become the first victims of the Bakun Project. They put paid to the lie touted in the BN slogan of Politics of Development. You have to ask: development for whom?

(The proposed dams on the upper reaches of the great Baram River are particularly worrisome. More than a few Penans would be resettled there. The Penan people's way of life makes them very vulnerable to drastic change to their surrounding eco-system. I shudder to think of how they are going to survive with dignity at the resettled site!)

At the moment, Sarawak's total generating capacity stands at 933 mw, which is much more than current demand. So why build 12 more dams? Macro-economic planning aside, that question needs to be answered.

Let us take the proposed RM3 billion Murum Dam for instance. The developer is Sarawak Energy Berhad. This is what the contributor to my communal blog The Hornbill Unleashed Apang had to say in his latest posting:

"What is not announced is that Sarawak Energy Berhad is the sole "developer" but not the actual dam builder. SEB is fully in the hands of Taib Mahmud's family members.The Chairman is Abdul Hamed Sepawi, a first cousin to the CM, who also heads Ta Ann Holdings Berhad (involved in logging and plantations) and Naim Cendera Holdings Berhad (involved in properties and construction). Brother-in-law and former State Seretary Abdul Aziz is group managing director and chief executive officer of SEB. As Aziz confirmed in the recent Al Jazeera's interview it sure is an advantage to be well connected to the CM of Sarawak when you do big business in the state."

On how big money is made through political connection and rent, Apang takes us to the Bengoh Dam: "The Bengoh Water Reservoir Dam, an hour's drive from Kuching has already begun construction since late 2008. The construction contract was awarded without tender to Naim Cendera for about RM310,650,000 to be exact. The company then sub contracted it out to the dam builder from Mainland China, Sinohydro for RM145 million. Sinohydro is finishing the infamous Bakun Dam. See how easy it is to make big money in Sarawak when you are well connected?

Four Bidayuh villagers with hundreds of years of history and ancestral land must give way for the project. The Sarawak Government is in the process of acquiring NCR lands belonging to other 20 Bidayuh villages in Semadang-Bau areas for this sort of twisted 'development'.

It seems every time there is a mega development project, the wealth of the elites in Sarawak politics will be vastly developed, while the rural people would lose their land upon which they depend for their survival."

These are the stories about Sarawak politics that Sarawakians are very familiar with. Children grow up with them, hearing them at the family dinner from a young age. Friends exchange inside information about these deals, over dinner and in private conversations. None of these important bits of information would ever see the light of day in the Sarawak mainstream media.  

It used to be the Chinese who were informed and angry over the status quo, and they punished the BN in the last state general election in 2006. On my last trip home, I discovered that many Dayaks and Malays are also getting nauseated.

At my age, I am supposed to have mellowed. Indeed, I have. But whenever I read of minor BN ministers descending on Batang Ai in droves mumbling as if in a dream about their politics of development, dropping Maggie mee from the sky, and dispensing with their petty cash to the voters, I am overcome with a rage at the massive hypocrisy of it all.

If we tell a lie, and we know it is a lie, at least we still know the truth, and that is not so bad at all. But if we live a lie, talk the lie, and eventually believe in the lie as truth, then that is a fate worse than death. I did not say that. Socrates said it in The Republic.

Damn the stupid Dams in Sarawak! - Malaysiakini.

(PS - The roving reporters from Hornbill Unleashed Willie and Chee How will be reporting live at Ground Zero in the morning of nomination day at the nomination centre in Lubok Antu, Batang Ai, on Sunday, March 29, 2009. I thank Malaysiakini for the free advertisement - Sim Kwang Yang.)

> Perak PAC wants salary of MB frozen

The Perak Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended an immediate freeze of the salary, allowances and basic facilities of Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and six state executive councillors.

PAC chairman Wong Kah Woh, who announced this at a news conference today, also said that the PAC had decided as invalid the appointment of three advisers to the menteri besar as well as a state information chief.

Wong, who is the DAP elected representative for Canning, said the freeze was necessary because the Barisan Nasional (BN) had declared a new state government while the opposition alliance of DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and PAS insisted that it was the legitimate state government led by Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the menteri besar.

He said the PAC had all along emphasised that it had no authority pertaining to the validation of the legitimate government but was only concerned with who was eligible to receive salary, allowances and basic facilities as it involved public funds.

"The decision will be conveyed to all the relevant authorities for implementation and the PAC will make available a report on the matter for the consideration and approval of the State Assembly.

TAS TAS MGN "We have also warned the relevant government staff to abide by directives to avoid facing action," he said at the news conference held at the State Secretariat building, here.

On the appointment of the advisers -- Datuk Chang Ko Youn (Chinese Community Affairs), Datuk S. Veerasingam (Indian Community Affairs), Datuk Mohd Najmuddin Elias (Islamic Affairs) -- as well as Datuk Hamdi Abu Bakar (state information chief), he said there was no necessity for the posts because the government could obtain advice from the relevant government departments.

He said the PAC had instructed State Secretary Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Hashim to immediately clear out the four offices used by these people and withdraw all facilities, including the official car if they had been given one.

"The administrative officers provided for Datuk Chang Ko Youn and Datuk Veerasingam are also invalid and that appointment also involves public funds," he said.

Wong said the PAC felt that if the four people insisted on carrying on with their advisory service, they should do so from premises other than the State Secretariat building without using facilities involving public funds.

The PAC, which has met four times, on Feb 27, March 5, March 13 and March 26, had called nine witnesses to resolve the issue of salaries, allowances and basic facilities as well as the appointment of the three advisers and information chief by Dr Zambry.

Those called were Dr Zambry, Dr Abdul Rahman, State Financial Officer Datuk Jamaluddin Al Amini, State Legal Adviser Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid, Chang, Veerasingam, Hamdi, Datuk (Capt) Najmuddin Elias and former menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, Wong said.

Of these, only Jamaluddin, Ahmad Kamal and Mohammad Nizar had come forward to give their testimony, views and clarification, he added - Bernama.

Friday, March 27, 2009

> We live in confusing times

On Tuesday, we read about the call for change and improvement by our leaders.

However, just a day or two before that, we also read about the suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan, the denial of media accreditation for the Umno General Assembly to The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, the Nutgraph and three others, the breaking up with tear gas of the PKR rally in Bukit Selambau (and the arrest of 21 people) and, of course, the charging of Karpal Singh with sedition.

So why is there this terrible disconnect between what our politicians are saying and what is happening on the ground? Is this a case of over-zealous functionaries trying to second-guess the powers that be? If that is the case then it is easily remedied by immediately reversing these orders. However (as I suspect it is), if these orders have the approval of those at the top, then this is a case of a serious mismatch of word and deed.

This Jekyll and Hyde syndrome reflects an undignified sense of insecurity. Our leaders must make up their minds. Are they interested in upholding the rule of law and our democratic institutions or are they insistent on showing utter contempt for all that we hold dear just to protect the interests of a few? If only they would realise that they are more likely to win the popularity contest if they would instead show utter contempt for dishonesty and injustice and constancy in protecting the rule of law, the independence of our institutions and the freedoms of our people. If only they would realise that the whole world is watching us and that our platitudes on human rights (particularly at the universal periodic review that just took place) ring very hollow.

If this was a fairy tale it would be that of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”. Interestingly in that tale (as in any similar tale), what kept the emperor in denial was the presence of so-called loyal, sychophantic subjects who told the emperor only what he wanted to hear and shielded him from what was in fact the truth.

Another case of mismatch of word and deed is to be found in the case of Karpal Singh’s charge under the Sedition Act. For a start, those who formulated the charge may want to reconsider it in the light of the amendment to the Federal Constitution (pushed through Parliament when the Barisan Nasional had a two-thirds majority in the House) that set up the Special Court. Article 182(2) states that any proceedings by or against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of a state in his personal capacity shall be brought in the Special Court. Of course there is an argument that the acts of a Sultan in his official capacity are not acts done in his “personal capacity” but it has been suggested that official acts are included. The point is, Parliament, under the aegis of the Barisan Nasional, saw fit to remove the absolute immunity of the Rulers and allow for suits to be filed against them. It therefore follows that one can disagree with, and take legal action to challenge, some acts of the Ruler. Whether such a legal action falls within the ambit of Article 182(2) of the Federal Constitution is something for a court to decide if and when such legal action is instituted. In framing charges against Karpal Singh under the Sedition Act, the authorities appear to have overlooked this constitutional amendment and acted precipitately. I would argue that the particular section in the Sedition Act must be interpreted subject to the constitutional amendment.

Then there is the point of selective prosecution. Let us reflect. There are many who have commented on the Perak crisis from a legal and constitutional perspective and have discussed the actions of the Sultan. However, we must surely also recall the public discussion last year of the appointment of the Terengganu menteri besar that involved the palace. On March 19, 2008, the Attorney-General was reported to have said of our Yang di-Pertuan Agong that “His Majesty cannot interfere in the appointing of the menteri besar.” If one also recalls, it was reported that the palace’s candidate for menteri besar Datuk Ahmad Said, was initially stripped of his Umno membership and 22 assemblymen were going to boycott his swearing in as menteri besar in defiance of the palace. In fact these assemblymen were planning a protest walk from Seri Iman to Istana Tamu. Needless to say there were no prosecutions under the Sedition Act in any of these cases.

More recently, on Monday the Attorney-General put before the Federal Court for consideration four questions, every one of which involved in some way the powers of the Sultan of Perak in appointing the new menteri besar. One example is Question 2 which states : “Sekiranya jawapan kepada persoalan pertama adalah ya, persoalan seterusnya ialah sama ada perkara Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Perak tidak memberikan perkenan itu sah di sisi undang-undang.” Had the application succeeded it would have necessitated arguments on the very issues that Karpal Singh had commented on and for which he is being charged with sedition. Perhaps it is timely for a reconsideration of the charge against him in view of these inconsistences.

“Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it” — Albert Einstein

I have often wondered if there was not one man or woman somewhere in our great machinery of government including our parliamentarians, who felt at some point that their conscience did not permit them to carry out or support an act that was so plainly unjust, partisan and unfair. If there is, or are, resignation on principle sends a good message but those who can’t do this must at the very least make it clear that they will play no part whatsoever in acts that smack of abuse of power.

Our hope therefore ultimately lies with the people. Malaysians have changed dramatically; we are more vocal, we are not prepared to suffer in silence or to watch others suffer and most importantly we see clearly what is happening before us. We are bored with explanations or statements that insult our intelligence. We do not accept pronouncements by the authorities or those in power that lack substance. We do not “buy” the divisive rhetoric hurled at us. We are disgusted at the repressive conduct and attempts to muzzle dissent. There must be a “passive resistance” by the people against unjust actions. We have seen ordinary people producing extraordinary results when they stand firm against injustice, dishonesty and the destruction of our institutions. Indeed, what we have seen is an awakening of the will, wisdom and the collective conscience of the Malaysian people. And that is a formidable force that those in power ignore at their peril - The Malaysian Insider.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, the immediate past president of the Bar Council, joined the legal fraternity in 1982. She was Bar Council president two years in a row from 2007. A litigation lawyer, she runs her own practice.

> Perak Speaker vs Election Commission

The Kuala Lumpur's High Court today fixed May 28 to hear a leave application on a judicial review by Perak speaker V Sivakumar against three BN-friendly independents and the Election Commission.

The court also fixed the same hearing date for another similar action filed by three Pakatan's exco members and three voters from the state.

The hearing date was decided by Justice Lau Bee Lan in chambers after meeting Sivakumar's five counsel led by Sulaiman Abdullah. Senior federal counsel Azizah Nawawi and Amarjeet Singh represented the Election Commission.

The leave application sought by Sivakumar's counsel and the three Pakatan state exco members is a normal procedure at the High Court to determine if the court can hear the applicants' application.

In Sivakumar's application, the speaker sought an order for the three BN-friendly assemblypersons to present authorities or powers stipulating they are still elected representatives for Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang.

He named Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang Assemblyperson), Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changkat Jering), Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang) and the Election Commission as respondents.

In addition, he is seeking:

that the three state seats be declared vacant and cleared following the resignation of the three representatives from Pakatan;

an injunction against the three respondents or their agents to make a representation that they are the rightful elected representatives and are responsible, with the functions and job as a state assemblypersons;

an order of certiorari to quash the EC's decision not to call for by-elections in Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang;

an order of mandamus (to compel) the EC to hold by-elections in the three state seats; and

punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages from the court as a result of the course of the action and other relief sought and awarded by the court.

Back-up application

Azizah, when met after the proceedings, said that she would be making a preliminary objection on May 26 on two reasons, namely:

the applicants (Sivakumar and the other Pakatan excos) have no locus standi (no legal standing) to make the application,

there was no arguable case following the EC's decision not to call for elections.

She said the full arguments of the preliminary objection to oppose the action would be made known then.

Sivakumar had filed the application on March 10 in his personal capacity to ensure that he can appear in court or appoint his own lawyers to represent him and not be represented by the Perak state legal advisor Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid, as was the case in Perak.

The other review application was filed by three ousted Pakatan Rakyat exco's namely A Sivanesan (Sungkai), Tai Sing Ng (Kuala Sepetang) and Chen Fook Chye (Keranji) along with three voters, one each from the constituency of Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang.

The three voters are Ahmad Sabri Wahab, Ahmad Latip Ariffin and Foo Hong Wai representing the three constituencies where their three assemblypersons had become BN friendly representatives.

All six named the Radzi, Osman, Hee and the commission as respondents. The application was filed by the law firm Chooi & Co.

The second application is in fact serves as a back-up, just in case Sivakumar would not be allowed to be represented as in his other case in Ipoh.

In Ipoh, the three BN-friendly independents have sued Sivakumar for wrongly declaring their seats vacant and calling for by-elections. The EC however overruled the speaker and decided that the three remained state reps - Malaysiakini.

> Are you a Malay traitor?

Are you a Malaysian who is constitutionally classified as a Malay, but are unsure as to whether you are a traitor? Well, we at the Malaysian Institute of Learning Foundation for Political Research On Nationalism (MILF-PRON)[1] have prepared a set of guidelines as a primer so that you may self-determine your traitorous status. To craft this primer, we have elected to distil statements made by current and former members of the 21-year old political entity Umno (Baru).

Umno, as we know, is the last line of defence for any (far) right-thinking Malays who are concerned about their race, religion and nation. Some wits might say that in reality Umno only worries about race and ignores the other two aspects of their struggle, but one out of three is a start is what we say.

Before we begin, it is important to note that as a simultaneously pro-active and reactive research institution, MILF-PRON applies a rigorous and exacting methodology to produce a credible sociometric psychographic analysis of the statements made[2].

This then allows us to produce a precise regression-based modal transformation which is then retrofitted into set distribution models, such as the Gaussian, Pareto or Cartesian/Venn distributions to see which theory fits the data best. Out of this, we have managed to produce the Traitor Quotient Index of {0..1}, where “0” denotes a “low probability” ? “none whatsoever” and “1” denotes a “high probability” ? “absolute certainty” indication that you are a traitor.

There are various factors which we considered in order to produce the TQ but for the sake of brevity, we have approached the problem from a “big picture” angle, and have come up with 10 questions for you to answer.

In order to determine your TQ, consider the following questions below, and assign the respective coefficient factors into your overall score matrix for every question that you say “Yes” to. For every question which you disagree with (i.e. “No”), subtract the coefficient number with 1. After which, add the coefficient factors to arrive at the summation value, which then represents your non-normalised TQ. This number represents the “numerator” in the TQ formula. Since there are 10 questions, then the number “10” becomes your “denominator”. To arrive at the final TQ index, divide the numerator with the denominator. You might want to use a calculator at that point. Also, remember that the closer you are to “1”, the higher the chances that you are, in fact, a traitor to your race.

Let us begin.

1. Are you a member of the opposition, or a supporter of the opposition? If you are, then it's considered a fairly traitorous trait, and the TQ coefficient is: 0.8.

2. Following from that, do you consider the Petualang (i.e. the politician formerly known as the Leader of the Opposition) to be an upstanding, honest politician who does not engage in money politics or conspiracy theories (with or without bomohs), nor the sort of person who would engineer mass defections of lawmakers, either in Parliament or state assemblies; who champions the rule of law and the freedom of information (including for universities)? Really? Well, if you say so. Give yourself: 0.6.

3. Next, if you are a man, are you a homosexual, or if you are a woman, are you a lesbian or prefer to wear men's clothes? If yes, your TQ coefficient is: 0.7.

4. Do you regard those who consider the Internal Security Act to be one of the “rights” of the Malays (and should therefore never be challenged) to be absolute nutjobs? If yes, your TQ coefficient is: 0.75.

5. Do you object to the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English, considering it to be a threat to the Malay language and Malay identity, and would eventually erode the culture of the Malays? If yes, assign this: 0.5.

6. Do you consider those who object to the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English to be backward-looking people who want to obstruct the progress of Malays in the sciences, and their business dealings with arms dealers in France? If yes, it's 0.5.

7. Do you feel that the decision by the Perak Ruler to deny dissolution of the state assembly and allow BN to form a new state government to be wrong? If yes, then that's bad. Derhaka bad. So: 0.95.

8. Do you dispute the existence of a social contract, and feel that the non-Malays have every right to demand equal treatment as IC carrying Malaysians? If so: 0.9.

9. Do you take to the streets, or light candles in front of police stations, whenever you disagree with an action by the government, for example, the aforementioned Perak state turnover, or the locking up of reporters who report what comes out of the mouths of BN politicians? If that's a yes: 0.7.

10. Do you consider singing the national anthem in a melodic manner at the Malaysia Cup final, or the length of flight attendants' skirts to be issues too petty to be brought up in Parliament? If so, consider throwing yourselves into the sea and assign: 0.8.

Hopefully, if you have reached this point, and have a calculator handy (the one in your phone works like a charm), you will have calculated your TQ[3]. If you find yourself with a low TQ Index, congratulations. You are not alone.

If, however, you find your TQ Index to be perilously close to 1, don't worry. You are not alone, either.

Whichever you are, we at MILF-PRON are grateful to have the opportunity to assist you in determining your traitorous inclinations and wish you well. May you find “closure” on this, as you move about in your daily lives, earning a living, caring for your family and friends, visit your parents (and avoiding your in-laws) and do all the other things that non-politicians do, regardless of race or religion.


[1] Our motto: Cogito, ergo fornicato (translation: I think, therefore I am an Italian ice-cream).

[2] In other words, we make it up as we go.

[3] If, somehow, you find the calculations difficult, fear not. We have a Science & Mathematics Centre of Excellence(S&M CoE) which can provide tuition for you. Free of charge (FoC), though terms & assurances (T&A) applies.

Yusseri Yusoff can't decide between writing words or code but he has a penchant for the obvious in Malaysia. He runs an MSC company apart from two websites, the humourous and the serious  -  The Malaysian Insider.

> Muhyiddin is Deputy President

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin convincingly defeated Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib in the race to be deputy president of Umno.

Muhyiddin obtained 1,575 votes and Muhammad, 997.

The strongest critic of Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, Muhyiddin was the first senior leader to urge the outgoing premier to step down after the disastrous general election last year and his victory will be widely seen as the delegates’ appreciation to the Pagoh MP for making that move.

Muhyiddin was also said to be Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s preferred choice for the post and he had also received the endorsement of another strong critic of Abdullah, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Throughout the intense race, Muhyiddin was said to be trailing behind Datuk Seri Ali Rustam but the Umno disciplinary board’s decision to bar the Malacca chief Minister from contesting gave Muhyiddin the lead in the race.

His victory put paid to the theory that disappointed supporters of Ali would swing to Muhammad and propel him to the No 2 post.

Muhyiddin called on all leaders, whether they had lost or won, to close ranks.

“It is important for us to be united in the face of challenging times. This is a big task ahead … and I do hope that Malaysians will endorse this change and, hopefully, they will be able to assist the leadership to move forward.

“I believe the delegates are very mature and they know that the deputy president is something very significant and important,” he said.

When asked if he would be appointed deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin said “I hope so but I will assist him (Najib) in what ever manner I can.”

Muhammad, meanwhile, put on a brave face.

“In a contest, there are winners and losers. I will help the party in the future in any way I can. I will continue to be more supportive,” he said  - The Malaysian Insider.

> Winners and Losers

Embattled Tourism Minister Azalina Othman Said has failed in her bid to retain her Umno supreme council seat.

Also unable to clinch a seat in the supreme council were other heavyweights including four out of five menteri besars.

They were Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hassan, Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman, Perlis Menteri Besar Mohd Isa Sabu andPahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob.

The only one who made it is Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman.

A top minister and three deputy ministers are also out - Domestic Trade and Consumer Minister Shahrir Abdul Samad, Deputy Human Resources Minister and Puteri Umno chief Noraini Ahmad, Deputy Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department Johari Baharum and Hasan Malek.

Also defeated was former Wanita Umno chief Siti Zaharah Sulaiman.

Seven ministers and five deputy ministers however made it to the final 25.

Two former menteris besar - Mahadzir Khalid (Kedah) and Idris Jusoh (Terengganu) also managed to retain their seats.

The seven ministers who were successful are Mustapa Mohamed (agriculture and agro-based industries), Noh Omar (entrepreneur development and cooperative), Ismail Sabri (youth and sports), Mohamad Zin Mohamed (works), Shaziman Abu Mansor (energy, water and telecommunications), Zulhasnan Rafique (federal territories) and Ahmad Shabery Cheek (information).

Meanwhile, the five deputy ministers who managed to emerge victorious are Saifuddin Abdullah (entrepreneur development and cooperative), SP Lajim Ukin (transport), Hamzah Zainuddin (housing and local government), Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah (finance) and Idris Haron (higher education).

The sole woman candidate who retained her seat is Bank Rakyat executive chairperson Norraesah Mohd from Penang Umno. There were
 six women among the 50 vying for the seats, five of whom failed to make it.

Probed by MACC

Azalina, who is one of the biggest casualties, is currently facing investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for alleged money politics.

One of her senior aides had also been detained for questioning before he was released. The aide was supposedly caught with RM70,000 on him.

It has been alleged that Azalina or her aides have used her ministry to canvass support for the party polls.

Three MACC officers had also visited Azalina's ministry on March 11 and took away two documents for investigation. And on March 20, MACC officers recorded a statement from her and later went to her house in Shah Alam.

Yesterday, she had expressed confidence in retaining her post, arguing that the controversy should not have any bearing on the contest as a pers
on is considered innocent until proven guilty - Malaysiakini.

> Illegal dissolution of Balkis

The dissolution of Balkis, the wives of Selangor elected representatives charity and welfare organisation, in March last year may have been illegal because there was no quorum, a member of the Selangor State Assembly's Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) suggested today.

Azmin Ali (Bukit Antarabangsa) said that according to Article 15(I) of the Balkis constitution, the organisation cannot be dissolved without the approval of at least two-thirds of its ordinary members.

"Because those present (at the dissolution meeting) were not ordinary members, the decision to dissolve the organisation was against the law," he said.

Azmin made his remarks when the select committee was questioning state Registrar of Societies officer Tairah Yusoff in its ongoing inquiry into excesses by Balkis.

"Why did ROS not  take the responsibility to advise Putrajaya (the head office of ROS)?"  he asked Tairah.

"This is your function and responsibility as a ROS state officer, as the constitution of Balkis was approved by the state ROS."

State Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim, who chaired the committee, also questioned Tairah on the matter.

"If the state office knew that several provisions were breached in the dissolution, why did the state ROS not advise the head office accordingly? he asked.

"The members who attended the meeting on March 11, 2008, were illegal members. Why did the state office keep quiet on this?"

Tairah replied: "This was the process and we did not know the rest. We looked at the constitution and the quorum. We don't know the rest."

Teng pointed out that it was insufficient to merely assume quorum was constituted based on mere numbers.

"The quorum is more than just numbers. One has to see the membership of the people in the quorum, whether they are all valid members. If they put in people who are not members, does that make it a valid quorum? It is not. You have to examine (the membership," he said.

Teng said the change in the state government after the March 8 general election had to be taken into account.

"On March 8, you knew that the previous ruling party had lost and that 34 seats had changed hands. This means that 34 members (of Balkis) had lost the right to be members. This means that out of the 70 who attended (the meeting), 34 were ineligible. This means there was no quorum," he said.

Azmin then told Tairah: "You testified that at the time, the new mentri besar (Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim) had not taken his oath of office yet. That means, there was some consideration (by ROS) at the state level.

"If you could think that the members (of Balkis) were valid as Tan Sri Khalid had yet to be sworn in, that means that a consideration was made."

He said the consideration was not the right one and that the question of whether the new mentri besar had been sworn in was a matter of procedure.

Azmin described the action of the Selangor ROS as a "political" one, to which Tairah disagreed."We do not go to that level of detail," she said. 

"We do not check for the validity of members. I really did not go to that level of detail and I really did not know," she said, adding that the state assistant registrar would know such details.Teng then asked Tairah to provide the details of the assistant registrar, who would be called to  testify on a later date.

The other members of the select committee are Taman Medan assemblyman Haniza Talha, Ulu Kelang assemblyman Shaari Sungib, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Edward Lee, Dusun Tua assemblyman Ismail Sani (BN) and Permatang assemblyman Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN).

The inquiry continue today - theSun.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

> PSNB foot RM 338,000 bill for Balkis

More than RM338,000 was spent for a Bakti sporting event hosted by Balkis, the wives of Selangor elected representatives charity and welfare organisation, in August 2007, the Selangor State Assembly's Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) heard today.

 The amount included RM131,000 spent on sporting attire, Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan, chief executive officer of the state-owned Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB), told Selcat which is investigating execesses by Balkis.

Selcat is chaired by Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim while its members are Bukit Antarabangsa state assemblyman Azmin Ali, Taman Medan assemblyman Haniza Talha, Ulu Kelang assemblyman Shaari Sungib, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Edward Lee, Dusun Tua assemblyman Ismail Sani (BN), and Permatang assemblyman Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN).

"The sportswear purchased by PNSB were tracksuits for 400 people and 180 liaison officers and everyone got four pairs," Khairiyah who was continuing her testimony from yesterday, said.

She said the sportswear was originally provided by the Malaysian Sports Council (MSN) but had failed to meet the criteria set by Balkis.

"MSN should have supplied the sportswear but as they did not meet the Balkis specification, we were directed to buy new ones," she said.

Khairiyah said only three sports were organised for the games -- telematch, bowling and badminton.

"The total amount, RM338,000, looks like (it is for) a big sporting event but only telematches (were played). And if we look at other sporting events, the contingents have to prepare their own sportswear, while here, the organisers are supplying it," he said.

Teng commented that it was not the norm for organisers to provide the apparel for sporting events.

Khairiyah corrected Teng and said the amount was also for the staff who had helped in the three-day long games.

"They were for the drivers, the police and other staff," she said, adding that the purchases included packed meals. He then pointed out that in the programme given to them, no telematch was listed

This was countered by Khairiyah, who said that in her schedule, the telematches were listed for Aug 4.

"But our programme does not show this. All it shows on that date is a team-building exercise at Sunway Lagoon Theme Park," said Teng.

Khairiyah then added that over RM 30,000 was paid by PNSB for three pairs of batik wear for the Sultan of Selangor, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Jeanne Abdullah, before being asked to testify on a 2007 trip by the wife of former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo, Datin Zahrah Kechik to visit her son in Melbourne.

When asked about the trip, Khairiyah told the committee that she had received instructions directly from Zahrah for PNSB to foot the bill for the trip and to accompany her on the three day visit.

Over RM14, 000 was spent to purchase return business class and economy class tickets sometime in December 2007, she said, adding that the trip was not an official visit.

Khairiyah was then asked by Teng about a Balkis charity visit to Cambodia in 2002, where USD11,000 was listed as being set aside for "contingency" expenses, while the other expenses, including the donations made were listed in Ringgit Malaysia.

Khairiyah replied that the other expenses were also paid in US Dollars, but were not converted in the accounts.

When grilled about a gift of a watch worth almost RM160,000 by PNSB to Khir Toyo, who was then chairman of PNSB, she said it was merely a "token of appreciation" which had been decided unanimously by the board.

"A token is something small, given as a small mark of appreciation. A certificate is a token," quipped Teng, who asked why the gift was given discreetly, when it was intended as a show of appreciation.

In response, Khairiyah said that Khir had declined the gift, and it had been sold for double the original price.

However, Teng pointed out that the accounts showed that the watch was sold for the same price it was bought.

The inquiry continues tomorrow - theSun.

> Khairy wins UMNO youth chief

Khairy Jamaluddin has stepped up as Umno Youth chief after multiple recounts due to disputes in procedures which delayed the official results.

With this, the hopes of former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and the son of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir were dashed after months of fierce campaigning.

As tension mounted across the evening, rumours had spread that all three candidates were leading at one point or another.

However, the former deputy Youth chief edged it in the end, collecting 304 votes to Khir's 252. Behind them was Mukhriz who received 232 votes.

A source told The Malaysian Insider that polling agents had complained of being unable to examine the ballot papers properly due to the distance they were positioned from the vote counters.

Further recounts ensued with each one resulting in slim margins of victory.

As Mukhriz walked into the hall after 10pm, he was seen being consoled by supporters before a triumphant Khairy entered after 11pm to jubilant hugs and cheers.

Khir was nowhere to be seen as results were announced.

It keeps Khairy's political future bright despite talk that he was finished now that his father-in-law Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi will step down as president and Prime Minister in two days.

For Mukhriz, his father's shadow continues to loom large over the party.

Khairy's deputy will be Razali Ibrahim, said to be aligned with Mukhriz.

The tension became literally tangible as after the results were announced, supporters of Khairy and Mukhriz clashed.

The latter's group accused Khairy of bribery and cheating but police stepped in to break up the scuffle.

Later while winding up the Umno Youth assembly Khairy acknowledged that he did not receive a strong mandate from the delegates.

"I got 304 out of 793 votes; this is not a majority, but it was because of the three-cornered fight, therefore the most important thing for the Youth after the intense contest is to close ranks," he told delegates.

"To the Pemuda Berani, stand by me when we are fighting the opposition," said Khairy referring to Khir's campaign platform and he also urged Mukhriz's supporters who campaigned on the platform of change to join him in instituting reforms.

He also reiterated his stand on multiracialism, calling the Umno Youth members to fight not only for the Malays but also for all Malaysians.

Meanwhile, Mukhriz told reporters he was not discouraged by the defeat.

"This is not the first time I lost, I also lost the Kubang Pasu division election in 2004 so I will learn from this experience," said Mukhriz.

"I congratulate Khairy and hope Umno Youth will continue to be strong and not shy away from its causes," he added - The Malaysian Insider.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

> Convenient Fall Guy

Free Speech, or an acceptable definition of its indulgence, is lashing out in massive palpitations in Malaysia, like a tectonic earthquake attacking, not emanating from, the epicentre - Prime Minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak. Prime example: the unprecedented and unremorseful hatchet jobs executed on Najib by his harshest critics. Blogs and websites dementedly antagonistic towards the idea of Najib as PM have gobbled up tidbits - foreign reports or local critiques - to thrash and steamroll the man, preferably to an unrecognisable pulp. 

The bashing is so relentless that it has shaped up into the classic feel of backyard bullies - chiefly Anwar Ibrahim’s and Lim Kit Siang’s blogs - picking up on the little, vulnerable guy. Imagine this: the PM-in-waiting, 10 days from being officially handed over power to the highest office in the land, is the UNDERDOG, electing to endure the blows and rakings with silent grace (eloquent silence?), and favouring to focus on the more difficult tasks at hand, like injecting comfort food into the hungry-as-hell economy demanding undulating financial stimulation.

The blows and slashes are so hard and so surgically precise, and fears of Najib transforming Malaysia with much-needed new energy so morbid, imaginable and perceived missteps by the Government are quickly blamed on Najib, like the precipitous suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan, political organs of Pas and Parti Keadilan Rakyat with the savage bites of untrained pitbulls. If you were to include the aftershocks, just wait for hillslopes to collapse or buildings to crumble and lo behold, Najib will be the one-size-fits-all fall guy to take the rap for all woes distressing the nation. And he’s not even the Prime Minister yet!

Political free speech, the ones spewing like chilli sauce and sold like hot dogs by Pas and PKR, is now encumbered with a distribution glitch after their mouthpieces were slapped with a three-month suspension. The arbiters of free speech, the Home Ministry, deemed that the two rags as a bad sale and stopped them from being public digested like a health warning. 

Alternately, it seemed to be a superfluous move. This is because the two websites repurposing the content of the print reports have been page-viewed and hit thrice as much. Whatever grounds the Home Ministry reasoned in stopping the distribution of the two rags - distorting facts, misleading information and attempting to instil hatred - are now inconsequential. The websites will unquestionably redouble efforts in doing a bang-up job berating what had been irrelevantly banned on paper. 

At the Parliament lobby, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung had the virtually impossible task of defending the suspensions, seeing that the Opposition parties are already charged up like Ben Johnson on triple dosages of steroids, and no amount of explanation, justification or elucidation could appease the hyperventilated reactions, that the suspensions were not politically motivated days before Najib is handed the keys to Putrajaya and the official hustings of the twin peaks and one river by-elections were to commence.

“Despite repeated warnings; the two publications breached publishing rules as stated in their permits,” Chor exhorted to the media. “This (suspension) is normal. There's nothing special about it.” That’s just it: Chor may well be telling the truth but to the purveyors of the two rags, he might as well be spinning his way out of a hopelessly insufferable political loop. Not after PAS youth chief Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian), Pas information chief Mahfuz Omar (PAS-Pokok Sena) and PKR information chief Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) mobbed the Deputy Minister at the lobby, like vultures descending on a corpse.

Mahfuz pressed for details of what conditions were breached while Salahuddin and Tian Chua demanded a meeting with Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. But Chor remained steadfast with the official line as the Government might be thrown a little spanner in their unilateral decision in the mode of a court injunction to reverse the suspensions. Mahfuz contended that Harakah did not breach any publishing condition but frustrated at not getting a plausible response from Chor, he and Tian Chua claimed that the suspensions acknowledged their publications influence. "We believe this latest move will further boost people's support towards Pakatan Rakyat," said Mahfuz, indicating that an angry letter will be sent to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

Capitalising on the suspensions, Kit was even more disingenuously explicit in his hyperbolic attacks on Najib: he crammed every sordid affair of past weeks into a little simplistic nutshell - Gobind Singh Deo’s one-year suspension as MP, Karpal Singh’s sedition charge, the Perak Menteri Besar mess, last night’s crowd dispersal tear gas dispersal of crowds at Anwar’s Bukit Selambau ceramah and the party organs’ suspensions - and spuriously blamed it all on Najib. “…the PM-in-waiting has confirmed the worst fears that his ascension as the sixth Prime Minister would see a return of Mahathirism and a Najib crackdown,” Kit bellowed in his website.

Kit’s rant and Anwar’s bacchanalian moves to tie Najib to all kinds of horrendous perpetrations could only mean one intolerable manifestation: Najib’s hugely potential energy will kick into high gear next week after his anointment to undo the indolence sapping the nation, win back lost Umno support and woo back the deserting electorate. And bang goes the Pakatan Rakyat’s one-year propaganda.

The elementary principle of allowing these two rags to spew their editorial venom and even selling it illegally to non-members had been to appease the larger demands of a freer political discourse, the good and the bad included. But as some good-thinking people alluded, perhaps banning the mouthpieces was not a good idea because it expediently played into Pas’ and PKR’s penchant for victimology, especially to bolster its highly radioactive leaders. 

While the two rags may sell like chilled beer at a U2 concert in July, the rags progression will soon be naturally stalled, just like mainstream newspapers, whose readers are dwindling by the year as readership moves over pugnaciously to the World Wide Web, being the gargantuan and insuperable communication matrix that it is. The web, ironically, is actually salvaging print’s pride, mainstream newspapers in present company, and it would have been a different proposition had the Home Ministry able to disengage the Harakah and Suara PKR’s websites from publishing what was essentially deleterious junk food.

Free speech, democratic and free association red-hot issues notwithstanding, stopping the websites would have been more of a pragmatic feat rather than suspending the party periodicals, which was welcomed fuel, fodder and sustenance for the brutal battles in the days and weeks ahead. 

But here’s the thing and here’s a heads-up to Kit and Anwar, if they are interested: If Najib surely had his way, the suspensions and other transgressions that he is getting the rap for would not even roost in any Government agenda. Being the dutiful deputy has not helped him one bit - NST.

> Election petition dismissed

A voter and a Pas candidate today failed in their bids to nullify the Barisan Nasional's victory for the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary and Kubu Gajah state seats in the March 8 general election last year.

The federal Court here dismissed their appeals against the High Court's refusal to nullify the election results for the Kuala Kangsar seat won by Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and the Kubu Gajah seat by Datuk Seri Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar.

In the general election, Rafidah polled 10,735 votes to defeat Perak Pas deputy commissioner Dr Khairuddin Abd Malik with a 1,458-vote majority, while Raja Ahmad Zainuddin polled 4,114 votes to beat Pas candidate Mohamad Nazri Din by 66 votes.

Rafidah retained her seat for a seventh term after first winning it in 1982.

The appeal was heard before Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Datuk S Agustine Paul and Datuk Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

On July 4 2008, Ipoh High Court judge Datuk Zakaria Sam rejected the Kuala Kangsar petition filed by a voter, Ahmad Jamaluddin Abd Majid, who also named returning officer Datuk Mohd Ghazali Jalal and the Election Commission as respondents.

Ahmad Jamaluddin sought to have the election result for the seat declared null and void on the ground that Rafidah did not sign two of the nomination forms as provided for under the First Schedule of the Election (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981.

Zakaria also dismissed the petition for the Kubu Gajah seat filed by Mohamad Nazri, who claimed that Raja Ahmad Zainuddin had committed corrupt practice while campaigning at a house in Kubu Gajah.

In today's judgment, Zulkefli said that Rafidah had consented to be nominated as a candidate despite the absence of her signature in the other two nomination forms.

In unanimous decision, Zulkefli said Rafidah came personally to hand over her nomination papers to the returning officer (RO) and that signified her intention to accept the nomination to contest as a candidate for the constituency.

The judgment was read out by Federal Court Deputy Registrar Maziah Joary Mohd Tajuddin.

Zulkelfi said the supporting documents such as the receipts and the deposit for election campaign materials presented together with the nomination papers were sufficient and cogent evidence that Rafidah consented to her nomination as a candidate for constituency.

He said said the RO had exercised his discretion judiciously in accepting the nomination papers by Rafidah even though she had signed the original nomination form while the other two nomination papers were not signed. The RO then found the defect not to be of a substantial nature.

In Raja Ahmad Zainuddin's case, Paul in his judgment said, Raja Ahmad Zainuddin's promise while campaigning at a house in Kubu Gajah did not amount to a corrupt practice.

In giving the gift, loan or offer, it must be for the purpose of changing the mind of the voters who had been identified, he said.

This was logical as the question of inducing a person to do something  simply could not arise if he had already decided to do the thing, he added.

He said the first complaint which related to a promise made in return for voters was defective as it did not set out the full text of what Raja Ahmad Zainuddin gave.

He said the complaint in the plaintif's petition also did not identify the persons to whom the gift was made.

The judgment was read out by Federal Court Deputy Registrar Surita Budin - Bernama.

> New role for SPR

 Heard about the new role being played by the SPR in Selangor?

They have now become part of  a committee formed under the PM's Department responsible for the implementation of a program called 'people centric'.

This programme has, as its objective, the upliftment of BN's image in the eyes of the public and the battering of the image of the PR.

This is then to lead to the defeat of the PR government in Selangor in the next General Election. The activities which are being planned in relation to this program is to be financed by Federal funds!

If this does not constitute misuse of public funds, I do not know what does!

When the Minister in charge of the ICU (Implementation Coordination Unit) under the PMs department, being the unit responsible for the implementation of this programme, was queried about the matter in the Parliament, he refused to respond. He neither denied nor acknowledged the allegation nor was he the least embarrassed about its disclosure.

In fact, there were those from the BN who even responded by asking, "What is wrong with it?"

When such blatant misuse of power happens and is then defended, one wonders if the BN members of Parliament have any understanding what a Democracy is all about. It would come as no surprise if the answer to that question is a straight forward 'no'.

They have no understanding nor any respect for the system and will be willing to stifle or cripple the system in order for them to survive.

In the Dewan Undangan Negeri Selangor, I was told, a BN ADUN responded by saying, "What's the problem? You have been surpressed all this while before and you still won.

So, surely now, while in power, you can face this challenge with no problems". Talk about dumb.

There were other BN MPs who simply asked out loud, "where did you get that document? Pass it to me. You should be charged under the OSA!" Yes, the OSA. Another act to protect and cover their misuse of power.

The SPR being the independent Commission responsible for a fair election cannot be a party to such a program.

The fact that it sits in the committee which works for the down fall of the PR government in Selangor only adds legitimacy to the fear that the next General Election will be the most crooked in Malaysian history. As if it was not bad enough already!

This means that there will be no short cuts to victory next time around. In 2008 the BN was complacent. They never realised the mood of the rakyat and they allowed for a semi-tainted election process.

This time around they are completely aware of their poor chances and the need for a completely tainted election process. Nothing short of an over whelming support from the rakyat will nullify and neutralise the dirty tactics which they will have in store for us.

That is why we have to work hard. Harder than ever before. Harder than when we were in the opposition. As the cards are stacked against us and the dices doctored,

I estimate that nothing less than a clear 60 per cent voter support will be able to see us through this time around.

The BN will have at least a 10 per cent advantage from the word go.

An advantage due to the phantom voters or 'pengundi hantu' who will be registered as legitimate voters, compliments of the SPR.

A fitting strategy for a dying political entity - The Malaysian Insider.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

> Gobind's deprivation of allowance, unacceptable

DAP MPs have described Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia's decision to reject their emergency motion to "cancel or set aside" (DAP-Puchong) Gobind Singh's suspension and deprivation of allowance as "unreasonable" and "unacceptable".

Chong Chieng Jien (DAP-Bandar Kuching) said his motion was tabled on Thursday and today it was rejected in the Speaker's chamber and not in the House.

"The Speaker's reason for rejecting the motion in chamber was because the matter has been raised and the minister has given clarifications," he said in a press conference in Parliament lobby.

Chong said the issue of the House making an "unlawful decision" (Gobind’s suspension and allowance deprivation) was not raised.

"We tabled a motion to set aside the suspension with good intent to salvage or save this House from proceeding with an unlawful decision, which ultimately may become a great embarrassment to the House," he stressed.

M.Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) said the most important aspect of suspension which was missed out is there should have been a proper inquiry by the committee of privileges under Standing Order 18.

Standing Order states that "there shall be referred to the committee any matter which appears to affect the powers and privileges of the committee. It shall be the duty of the committee to consider any such matters."

Kulasegaran said the failure of the House to refer the matter to the committee was in itself a mistake and, worse, the whole motion was completed within one-and-a-half hours without giving many of the Opposition MPs a chance to debate.

"Today, after Bandar Kuching raised the matter, I told the Speaker 'the Malaysian Parliament is a laughing stock' and that people are asking why the accused was not given a chance to explain himself?"

Earlier in the Dewan, there was a heated exchange between DAP MPs Chong, Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah) and Kulasegaran, and the Speaker when Chong said the reason for rejection was "unreasonable".

The Speaker refused to allow them to even speak about it, reiterating that the motion had been rejected in the chamber, therefore no further discussion was allowed.

Visibly unsatisfied, Fong said: "Can you by way of motion remove an MP's privileges just like that? He is not disqualified, if he is disqualified, you can remove all the privileges."

Gobind was suspended on March 16 without allowance and benefits for one year for alleging that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak was involved in the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu and for contempt against the Deputy Speaker - theSun.

> Tear gas fired at Anwar ceramah

Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) forces fired tear gas and used water cannons tonight on thousands gathered at a ceramah in Bukit Selambau just as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was beginning his speech.

At about 10pm, the FRU engaged the crowd gathered in an open field in front of a shophouse that is being used by PKR as its operation centre for the April 7 by-election.

The opposition leader and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders were holed up in the operation centre until nearly 11pm as police continued breaking up the crowd outside.

According to PKR’s Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, those arrested include fellow party member Zamri Yusuf who is a Senator from Kedah and Anwar’s chief of staff Ibrahim Yaacob.

He added that the crowd of thousands dispersed into nearby housing areas with the FRU giving chase as they continued to fire tear gas.

Others arrested include aides to Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak and S Manikumar, the candidate for the Bukit Selambau by-elections.

According to PKR party workers, about 50 people were detained and taken to the police headquarters in Kuala Muda.

“I am so angry that the FRU used water cannons and tear gas on 5,000 people gathered to hear DSAI speak,” Dr Jeyakumar stated.

He also told The Malaysian Insider that there were rumours that the authorities wanted to detain the PKR de facto leader.

Other PKR sources have also told The Malaysian Insider of such rumours since last week when Anwar first hit the campaign trail for the three simultaneous by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai.

Anwar did however manage to leave the scene after 11pm after being escorted by his security personnel to his car.

Jeyakumar also said that many were injured in the attack as the crowd were ambushed from the back.

The police and FRU also dismantled the tents, confiscated the rostrum and all the PA equipment from the site - The Malaysian Insider.