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Thursday, October 9, 2008

I’m glad I was wrong, says Mahathir

(The Star) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s decision to not contest in the Umno elections in March will be good for Umno as it can rebuild itself.

Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he was glad he had been wrong when he wrote in his blog that Abdullah would not step down.

“Of course, I am very happy for Umno, not for myself, because Umno can rebuild itself.

“But Umno will not be able to restore the full confidence of the people as many of its supporters, who voted for the Opposition, may want to continue working for them,” he said in response to Abdullah’s announcement here yesterday.

Dr Mahathir, however, said he felt it was better for Abdullah to step down now rather than wait until March as he could still be an obstruction because he was not giving Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak full authority to rehabilitate the party.

“Until March Pak Lah must keep quiet and let Najib run the show. He should not interfere because if Najib appears to be following him or taking his advice, I think the latter will lose support,” he said.

Asked if he would rejoin the party now that Abdullah would not be Prime Minister after March, Dr Mahathir said he would have to study the situation.

“Yes, I said I am going to rejoin Umno but he is still (Umno) president until March. But if I can do some good by rejoining, I will,” he said, adding that if he was to go back to Umno, those who had left the party with him should be readmitted to ensure Umno wins votes at the next general election.

On whether he would be roped in to act as mentor to Umno, Dr Mahathir said he was prepared to be consulted to solve problems, adding that he would give advice even if he was not asked.

RPK's Sedition Trial: Breaking News

11:20am, October 9, 2008: The prosecution just admitted that the exhibit which forms the foundation of the charge against RPK was not originally taken from Malaysia-Today but was a police cut-&-paste job.They also did not deny the large part of the original article is true.

11:30am: The prosecution is seeking to stand down the trial, and decide what to do as the charge may be defective. The judge is alarmed that the exhibit to the charge is not the original but a police's cut-and-paste article.

11:35am: Prosecution is in a quandary as the trial appears to be scuttled since charge may be held to be defective midway through the trial.

More to come.......

10 things Umno must do

For Umno to remain relevant and appeal to the masses, it has to evolve to suit the expectations of a fast-changing Malaysian society.

P. Gunasegaram, The Star

SEVEN months after the general election of March 8, Umno is floundering and is hard-pressed to find its way out of the morass that it and its coalition partners are stuck in. Currently in the throes of a leadership overhaul, it must change — and change drastically — if it is to be relevant to a rapidly changing Malaysia.

Umno and its partners must remember that they obtained less than 50% of the popular votes in peninsular Malaysia and that they rule at the Federal level in large part to a near total victory at the polls across the South China Sea in Sabah and Sarawak. They must therefore pay close heed to why that happened, and take the necessary action.

Not to do so would be to imperil their collective future as political parties when they stand to lose their majority in Parliament at the next polls to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition spearheaded by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR, assuming that they do not lose their current majority via the threatened cross-overs from their own ranks.

The unmistakable winds of change are blowing, and not to bend with it may mean reaching breaking point. Here are 10 things we figure that Umno — and its coalition partners in Barisan Nasional — must do or push for the Government to do to keep themselves relevant.

It’s not an exhaustive list but it is a starting point and it applies just as well to Umno’s partners. But we focus on Umno because that’s where change must start for Barisan Nasional.

1. Be a true champion of Malays. Somewhere along the way, the Umno train became derailed in terms of serving the genuine and pressing needs of the Malay masses. Instead the focus came to rest on things such as contracts, companies, cuts, equity stakes and such — in other words the enrichment of a relative few in the community.

Sometimes such things have been at the expense of the interests of the country when businessmen (including some from other communities) got deals which were too good from the Government. That is already bad but this was coupled with less attention and intelligent effort on vital areas such as education which has set the clock back in some cases.

2. Put a full stop to money politics. The best way of doing this is to simply get the Anti-Corruption Agency into the act to stop vote buying and tampering. It is against the law to buy votes, so let the law enforcers in — it cannot be kept as purely a party matter and only for the party’s disciplinary committee to deal with. Only if such measures are taken will Umno members and the general public be convinced that the leadership wants to do away with money politics once and for all.

3. Renew the fight against corruption. The evidence of corruption is all over the place if one cares to look for it — people living beyond their means, questionable contracts, strange land deals and so on. These are all at great cost to the nation and an immediate stop must be put to such things.

Measures already considered for more independent law enforcement as well as prosecution of offenders must be put in place to give real meaning and effect to fighting corruption instead of just lip service.

4. Put serious checks against patronage and its abuse. It may be just too much to expect the nexus between business and politics to be nixed just like that. But certainly a lot, lot more can be done to ensure that patronage politics does not do undue damage to the interests of the country.

One easy way of doing that is to ensure that the awarding of contracts is more transparent and follows guidelines. The next point shows how this can be done.

5. Set benchmarks for all contracts and procurements. There are international benchmarks available for the procurement of all manner of goods and services. It is also possible to employ consultants at a fraction of the cost of a project to determine benchmark prices and to oversee the project to see that it is finished according to acceptable standards. Doing such simple things ensures that the Government never needs pay excessive sums for goods and services while ensuring that they are up to international standards.

6. Be less racial. It must be pretty obvious by now that Malaysian communities are not taking too well to the tried and tested means used by the politicians of yore — race — of increasing their appeal to their own communities. If that does not change, there is great risk of polarising some sections of the voting public — and these days you can’t afford that, as the not-so-recent elections showed. Policies these days must appeal to the broader mass of Malaysians.

7. Be more tolerant in terms of religion. Religious issues have often been deliberately manipulated by all shades of politicians for their own narrow benefits, not of the community even but of the politicians who seek to be champions of their own race and religion.

There are real problems of religion, especially when it comes to things like conversion and the rights of individuals. These won’t go away if their honest, frank and considered discussion is suppressed — they merely surface somewhere else. Politicians must facilitate the discussion of religious issues rather than suppress it, in the spirit of acceptance and tolerance.

8. Cut the emotive content in language issues. Long ago, Bahasa Malaysia was accepted as the national language. There is no issue there. What we have to do is to think of how we can get our people to equip themselves with everything that they need to thrive in a very competitive world.

One of that is mastery of the English language and we must not let our affection for the Malay, Chinese and Tamil languages stand in the way of that. If we can’t agree, then perhaps the best way is to give people genuine choice in the kind of education they want. As long as language gets politicised, it’s going to be very difficult to move forward.

9. Become more accommodative rather than confrontational. The old mode of working among the BN coalition was to shout and to draw the lines and this was especially so with Umno. The approach was well, rather confrontational.

And, of course, when the lines are drawn, they are pretty difficult to redraw. It would be far better to seek reconciliation through accommodation and consultation instead. In that mode, chances for solution — rather than stop-gap measures — are infinitely better.

10. Be a true champion of Malaysians. The time has come for all parties to think of themselves as Malaysians and see how we all as a group can move forward. If we help all the disadvantaged amongst us, automatically the most disadvantaged communities will be helped more.

Malaysia considering ban on Hindraf: official

Kuala Lumpur, Oct 8 (PTI) Malaysian authorities have indicated they are considering to impose a ban on the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which hit headlines last year after it organised a massive rally of ethnic Indians to protest alleged marginalisation in this multi-ethnic country.

Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, a senior official in the Home Ministry, said as Hindraf was not a registered organisation, the ministry's legal unit would look at the technicality of disbanding the group, a media report said today.

Since the past week, Hindraf has been getting bad local press after a few supporters including children of the detained five leaders handed a note to premier Abdullah Badawi at his open house to celebrate Id, asking for their release.

Abdullah had on Monday said he was irked by Hindraf's attitude during the incident.

Having allowed the group who came in colour-coordinated T-shirts to join the celebrations, Abdullah said he regretted their unruly behaviour of chanting for the abolition of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the release of their leaders detained under the Act.

Abdul Aziz cited the incident at the cabinet's Id open house and alleged that "Hindraf's insolence could not be tolerated as it had angered many, especially Muslims who felt it had marred the spirit of the Hari Raya (Id)," a local daily said.

The five Hindraf leaders were detained under the controversial ISA for organising the rally on November 25 last year which was declared illegal by the government. More than 20,000 ethnic Indians took part in the rally which took the government by total surprise.


Upstart gets Umno uptight

Nur Jazlan is nonplussed about the lack of media spotlight.


OCT 9 — Datuk Nur Jazlan’s bold bid for the Umno No. 2 post has got his party elders uptight.

Umno-linked TV3 cancelled an interview with the Pulai division chief two days ago as it joined the rest of the party-owned media in reporting his “struggle” to fend off a challenge by his deputy for his current position.

The two-term Pulai MP has had a good run in the local press and also with the online media after his shock announcement to vie for Umno’s deputy presidency, which carries with it the deputy prime minister’s post. TV3 had a phone-in interview with him on Sunday night while local newspapers splashed the news with commentaries and analyses.

He even had a Utusan Malaysia "Senyum Kambing" cartoon about his ambition to be the Umno deputy president.

However, senior party officials greeted his announcement in disbelief and dismissed him as a party lightweight out to make a name for himself for a seat in the party supreme council. They together with several commentators had cited his age and lack of experience in national politics as reasons for him to be realistic of his place in the party.

"There is a Malay proverb which goes like this: Ukur baju di badan sendiri," New Straits Times political writer Zubaidah Abu Bakar wrote on Monday, echoing the view of politicians and observers across the country on Nur Jazlan's tilt at the senior post.

Others were not that kind. Former party president and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said apart from Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who has yet to announce his bid, the others contesting the post were "jokers".

Perlis Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said: "There are too many candidates for the post... this is not a place for any Tom, Dick and Harry", while his Pahang Umno counterpart Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob warned that having too many candidates might give the public the impression that members were power crazy.

Their initial comments have now given way to a concerted campaign to highlight Nur Jazlan's chances of retaining his division from his deputy Datuk Omar Sapian, who told TV3 that there was a difference between running a division and a party, let alone the country.

But the 42-year-old chartered accountant and his allies are undeterred. State party elders had tried to block his nomination in the 2004 general election but Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had insisted his candidacy then and also retained him for the 2008 polls.

"They can only attack his age and lack of experience but not his ideas," a close associate of Nur Jazlan told The Malaysian Insider.

The associate said Nur Jazlan is not campaigning but has received encouraging response particularly from outside the party. His website has also seen increasing hits as those curious about the politician surf the web in search of information.

"The Umno seniors are out of touch. They can blank him out in the mainstream media but the young ones only rely on the Internet. They haven't learnt from their losses on March 8.

"This is why Nur Jazlan is making his bid now. It’s not about getting power today but for Umno to remain relevant and keep up with the times," he added.

When contacted, Nur Jazlan was nonplussed about the lack of media spotlight. "I don't know what the fuss is about. I just declared my bid. I am not a candidate yet as there have been no nominations," he said, adding he was amused by the shrill opposition to his candidacy even as nominations start this week.

Umno divisional meetings begin tomorrow with the first two in Kimanis and Machang.


Battle for top job expected to intensify

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — The decision by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to cut short his leadership is unlikely to end the larger political battle between a resurgent opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and a considerably weakened Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.

Political analysts say the tussle would worsen because Abdullah's choice, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and Anwar are arch-rivals and see each other as standing in the way of their ambitions.

"The rise of Najib would also see the return of (former prime minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Umno and possibly to the political centre stage. He would probably be the biggest influence on Najib," said political commentator James Wong.

Abdullah rose up the ranks of Umno, was well liked and in the shadows during the 22 years when Dr Mahathir held sway. Dr Mahathir had said last year he picked Abdullah as a "temporary substitute" to hold the seat for Najib.

"Abdullah would be remembered as a pleasant man who simply did not have the skills or the gumption to rule," said a Chinese newspaper editor who declined to be identified. "He tried to please everybody and in the end
failed to please anybody."

Najib, an economist by training, has more than two decades of political and government experience.

He was only 22 when he entered politics after the death of his father, revered second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak, in 1976. He became the country's youngest minister two years later.

But his standing has been damaged by links to the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman with whom he allegedly had an affair. Anwar also accused him of receiving kickbacks on defence deals he had handled. Najib denied the allegations and swore on the Quran he had never met Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was blown up with C4 explosives.

Anwar said it would be an "unmitigated disaster" for Malaysia if Najib became prime minister.

"He takes over at a very difficult time for Malaysia, with political and economic turmoil on the rise and with all previously accepted norms now under attack," said Ramon Navaratnam, a former senior finance ministry
official who is now the president of Transparency International, Malaysia.

"He has the experience and Umno backing, but he is under a cloud over the Mongolian affair. His performance as national leader would be affected unless the controversy is cleared up."

Abdullah succeeded Dr Mahathir as the country's fifth prime minister in November 2003, but he immediately got into trouble for cancelling several large public projects. He also reversed Dr Mahathir's economic focus from manufacturing to agriculture, ostensibly to benefit rural Malays.

Under fierce criticism, he reversed the policies and in the past four years kept changing decisions, earning the nickname "Mr Flip Flop".

But critics of Najib say he is a "carbon copy" of his mentor Dr Mahathir and is likely to use harsh measures, including security laws that allow for detention without trial, to curtail the resurgent opposition.

"Najib is very experienced in government and politics," writer and commentator Karim Raslan said. "He has political pedigree, strong support in Umno and a good grasp of complex issues."

Foreign diplomats said Najib's immediate tasks were to get a grip on the sliding economy, reassure foreign investors, play by the rules against political opponents and ease rising ethnic tensions. — South China Morning Post


Poll shows most Malaysians want NEP to end

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Seventy-one per cent of Malaysians surveyed in a recent poll agree with the statement that Barisan Nasional's "race-based affirmative action policy is obsolete and must be replaced with a merit-based policy".

Surprisingly, the poll, conducted by the independent Merdeka Centre between June 18 and July 29, up to 65 per cent of Malays who were asked the question agreed that race-based affirmative action should be done away, compared with 83 per cent of Chinese and 89 per cent of Indian respondents.

The overall consensus against race-based affirmative action was also apparent in that 61 per cent of rural and 75 per cent of urban respondents agreed that it should be replaced with a merit-based policy.

The same result was true in nearly all major categories of race, age, gender and income class, suggesting a majority of Malaysians are now ready to do away with NEP-type policies.

Asked to comment on this, Pas head of research Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad noted that the stated objective and vision of the New Economic Policy is to eradicate poverty and reconstruct society so that economic functions according to race would be ended.

The Kuala Selangor MP said it was the abuse of the implementation that has resulted in such a dire opinion of the policy.

"You cannot deny that poverty has been reduced over the years. But, for example, the Approved Permit system was meant to allow Malay entrepreneurs a stake in industries such as the automotive business. Instead, it became a monopoly for a selected few.

"It's not redistribution of wealth but reconcentration into a bangsawan (nobleman) class."

However, Umno MP for Pulai Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said that no one has come up with a detailed alternative so it was doubtful if "this opinion is based on hard facts."

"I feel it is based on sentiment without actually being properly thought through. What is the alternative? Has anything been clearly defined? The last time the NEP was properly discussed was in the '90s."

Centre for Public Policy Studies director Tricia Yeoh agreed with Nur Jazlan in that the statement appealed to the normal idealism that meritocracy is the way forward.

"But when a Bumiputera thinks about what needs-based as opposed to race-based means to him in real terms, he might be less enthusiastic."

Yeoh, however, said the policy was inherently flawed due to conditions such as the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity or employee headcount.

Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairperson P Waythamoorthy has taken Malay daily

Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairperson P Waythamoorthy has taken Malay daily

Utusan Malaysia and television station TV3 to task over their 'biased and invalidated' reporting.

In a statement today, he said: "This was a clear to invoke racial tension."

pm open house 011008 small hindrafHe was responding to reports regarding Hindraf's visit to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's open house at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday.

"The visit has been demonised and given the impression that a criminal act was committed and Islam insulted.

"It is indeed shocking that federal ministers, senior professors and government officials do not have the intelligence to differentiate between a memorandum and greeting card," he said.

Waytamoorthy, who is currently in self-exile in London, also noted that Hindraf's previous pleas for a dialogue with the prime minister have fallen on deaf ears.

"The open house is the only day in the year a commoner could make the acquaintance of the PM personally and Hindraf took the liberty to send a clear message- release all prisoners held unjustly without trial in spirit of forgiveness," he said.

Reveal photos and videos

The Hindraf chief also slammed Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar for interpreting the event as an insult to Islam.

p waytha moorthy"We challenge Utusan (Malaysia) and TV3 to make public their photographs and video recordings to prove that Hindraf supporters behaved in an inappropriate manner.

"To the contrary we have evidence that the PM and his deputy were all smiles and accepted the greetings and card with an open heart," he added.

Last December, five Hindraf leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act several weeks after they had organised a mammoth street protest in Kuala Lumpur. They remain incarcerated without trial at the Kamunting Detention Centre.

Meanwhile, Waythamoorthy said the Umno-led government failed to realise that Malaysians were at a different wavelength now and could judge for themselves what truth, justice and equality means.

"Utusan Malaysia and TV3 can continue to act as an apparatus of the ruling government with their inept propaganda, but they fail to comprehend that most Malaysians are equipped with their own resources without any real need for their ultra bias commentary," he added.

Legal action

On Saturday, Hindraf coordinator RS Thanenthiran said the movement would initiate legal action against Utusan Malaysia over its reports.

According to him, Hindraf was disturbed by the reports which he claimed were 'tainted by lies and distorted facts.'

He said the Utusan Malaysia front page report under the headline – 'Hindraf Keterlaluan' (Extreme Hindraf) was unfair and communal, and seemed to suggest that the movement was made of extremists out to disrupt Muslim festivals and pour scorn on Islam.

Criticising another article - Baharom Mahusin's commentary in the same edition, Thanenthiran said the writer was unfair, attempted to incite racial hatred and instigate communal conflict.

Among others, Baharom had penned that 'kalau penyokong Hindraf melakukan penghinaan seumpama itu di kawasan-kawasan pendalaman yang menjadi kampung halaman orang Melayu, mereka sudah pun diajar tentang makna dan akibat berperangai kurang ajar.' (If Hindraf supporters poured such insults in the interior areas dominated by Malays, they would have been taught a lesson on the meaning and consequence of misbehaviour.)

Hindraf-bashing 'politically motivated'
Andrew Ong | Oct 8, 08 5:11pm
A Malay-language daily's continuing condemnation of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) is politically motivated, claimed coordinator RS Thanenthiran.

Utusan Malaysia today front-paged calls for action against Hindraf supporters who were allegedly unruly at the ministerial Hari Raya 'open house' last Wednesday at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The report entitled 'Tegas tangani Hindraf' (Deal firmly with Hindraf) quoted several individuals who called on the government to take action.

hindraf penang utusan pc 061008 thanenthiranReacting to this, Thanenthiran said: "Umno elections are around the corner. Now, they are condemning Hindraf to get Malay support...(Utusan) is trying to please its political owners."

He claimed that the daily did not present a true picture of what transpired at the event and did not contacted Hindraf representatives for clarification either.

Information coordinator S Jayathas said photographs of the event would be sufficient to prove that the movement's supporters had not misbehaved.

"They should go to our website and see the photos. These show very clearly that everything was done in a peaceful way. It is not our culture to create havoc in other people's house," he said.

On suggestions in the Utusan report that Hindraf was being rude to the Malays and Islam, Jayathas said it was a non-issue because the movement merely used the opportunity to ask Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA).

"How can they say that we are racist? In what way? We are just asking for the ISA to be abolished," he said.

When they eventually met Abdullah on Oct 1, Hindraf activists presented him with a teddy bear and a Hari Raya card which contained their plea for abolition of the ISA.

'Absurd suggestion'

Defending the activists, Hindraf legal advisor N Surendran, alleged that it was the police who had acted in an unruly manner that day.

n surendran"They were intimidating and threatening to arrest people who came to participate in the 'open house'. They (initially) prevented the Hindraf supporters from entering the venue.

"One even asked P Waythamoothy's (Hindraf chairperson-in-exile) wife to remove her t-shirt (which carried a Hindraf logo)," he said.

Surendran said Hindraf has become the victim of a harsh campaign to incite hatred against the movement and Indian Malaysians.

"They creating something out of absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing violent happen during 'open house' (at) an open venue. Nothing wrong with that in a democracy," he said.

hindraf rally hunger strike 230108On Home Ministry secretary-general Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof's suggestion that Hindraf be 'banned', Surendran said that the statement was "absurd" and without justification.

"(Hindraf) is not a terrorist or armed movement. It is a mass movement of citizens calling for social improvement - not just for Indians, but all marginalised communities," he added.

Although Hindraf is not a registered body, Surendran argued that the movement exists by virtue of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of association.
Hindraf Raya visit: 'Stop whining'
Oct 8, 08 11:47am

DAP parliamentarian Charles Santiago today called on political leaders to stop whining about Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders and supporters being present at the premier's Hari Raya open house last week.

pm open house 011008 small hindrafThe opposition politician also found it amusing that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi - who holds the top job in the country - is disappointed that a group of people approached him to request for the release of the Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees during the open house.

"But when the prime minister laments that Hindraf supporters failed to shake hands and extend Hari Raya greetings to him and his cabinet colleagues, he sounds downright pathetic.

"Abdullah needs to understand that the action of Hindraf activists is part of the democratic process. He must also be educated that the chanting of slogans by Hindraf supporters is all about the freedom of expression, which is in short supply in Malaysia," he said in a statement today.

samy vellu  010307Santiago also took a swipe at MIC president S Samy Vellu who expressed concerned that the activists had undermined his efforts to secure the release of the ISA-detained Hindraf leaders.

"Instead of being an apologist for Abdullah and his government, Samy Vellu should gather enough courage to demand for the repeal of the ISA which allows for indefinite detention without trial, following the examples of MCA, Gerakan and the PPP," he said.

'Not an Indian issue'

Human Resources Minister and MIC secretary-general deputy minister Dr S Subramaniam had also irked the Klang MP by saying that the presence of Hindraf members at the open house went against Indian culture.

"This is an absolutely ridiculous assertion, more so as it comes from a smart man like Subramaniam. Since when does fighting for basic rights and liberties violate any culture?" he asked.

charles santiagoSantiago then turned his attention to independent MP Ibrahim Ali, who had threatened to protest over the Hindraf visit.

"Maybe he does not realise that resorting to the ancient tactic of racial politics has no place in Malaysia anymore.

"I urge Ibrahim to stop seeing the detention of Hindraf leaders as an Indian issue but a Malaysian one and request Muslim groups not to regard the attendance of Hindraf members at the open house as a sign of disrespect to Muslims," he said.

"Let's not start twisting the real issues and fashion them to instigate racial problems in the country. The ISA is way off its expiry date and redundant in a modern democracy.

"But the ruling government uses it as an easy tool to create a climate of fear and head off threats to its leadership," he added.