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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Family ties take root in Malaysian politics

Najib set to be PM like his late father. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 — Politics often appears to be a family affair in Asia with Pakistan's Bhuttos, India's Gandhis and the Lees in Singapore; now Malaysia looks set to join the party with Datuk Seri Najib Razak now set to be Prime Minister next year.

Najib, the 55-year-old son of Malaysia's second premier and the nephew of the third, will take the helm in March at a time when this Asian nation of 27 million people grapples with economic problems and rising political and ethnic tensions.

News agency Reuters released a feature today, noting that another rising star of the party that has ruled Malaysia for all 51 years of its existence as a country is Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of its longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

On the opposition benches in Parliament sits Nurul Izzah Anwar and her father, veteran politician Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar is a former deputy premier who once looked set for the top job until he was kicked out of the ruling party and jailed on what he says were false charges.

"There is an Asian belief that political power can be passed on to the next generation through bloodline," said James Chin, political science professor at Monash University in Malaysia.

Critics say the sense that blood entitles a person to exercise power has generated corruption, stymied development and hampered good government.

More often than not, the progeny of political leaders fail to live up to the family name.

"If Malaysians or foreigners expect Najib to be like his father as PM, they will be greatly disappointed," said Abdullah Ahmad, a political author and a former aide to Najib's father.

Najib, who has a bachelor's degree in economics, will take over at a time when a re-energised opposition led by Anwar is seeking to gain power and when economic growth is skidding due to global financial turmoil.

Adding to his troubles, Najib will need to address Malaysia's failure to keep up with more nimble neighbours in the competitiveness and investment stakes.

Growth in Malaysia's export-oriented economy looks set to fall to 3.4 per cent next year, the lowest since 2001. The budget deficit has soared due to spending on fuel subsidies and national infrastructure projects, according to the Malaysian Institute for Economic Research, a leading think-tank.

"I pity Najib. He's taking over from the worst of times and from a man who messed things up," said Abdullah Ahmad, referring to the outgoing premier Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Najib has been in Parliament since the tender age of 22 when he took over the seat of his father, who died in office. He has held posts in the sports, education and defence ministries and now holds the powerful finance portfolio.

His father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein designed Malaysia's race-based system which was supposed to help ethnic Malays climb the economic ladder and compete against the more entrepreneurial ethnic Chinese population. His uncle, Tun Hussein Onn is credited with forging unity among the races during his premiership.

Najib's family links run to the heart of politics and business; his cousin is education minister and his younger brother Nazir runs Malaysia's second-largest bank CIMB.

Najib's recent move on the top job has been marked by continued attacks on his integrity by the opposition and by Internet bloggers obsessed with a lurid murder trial that involved Najib's former aide. The aide was acquitted, but not before Najib had to issue statements denying involvement.

Many political observers believe Najib may simply owe too much to too many people to stake out a separate political identity.

"He (Najib) was coddled and helped all along, first by his uncle Hussein Onn and then by Mahathir, the man who owed a debt of gratitude to his father," said Zainon Ahmad, political editor of the local Sun newspaper.

"Only now I think Najib has to be on his own," he said.

When he took the reins of power in 2003, current prime minister Abdullah looked like a tonic for a country that had grown tired of Dr Mahathir's 22-year rule.

Dr Mahathir dragged Malaysia towards developed nation status, oversaw the building of the iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and guided the country through the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Yet his long rule was also criticised for the growth of cronyism and its failure to help poor Malays.

Abdullah seemed to have laid the ghost of Dr Mahathir to rest in 2004 when the Barisan Nasional coalition, led by his Umno party, scored its biggest election success on promises to end corruption.

That success turned to dust in elections in March this year when the opposition stunned the government by depriving it of its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament, which means it can no longer automatically change the country's constitution.

Dr Mahathir has since turned on Abdullah, sniping from the sidelines when the premier cancelled some of his massive infrastructure projects. He resigned from Umno, swearing not to return until Abdullah was ousted.

In a further twist to that feud, Mukhriz is battling Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin for the leadership of Umno's influential youth wing, a staging post to the party presidency and the premiership of the country.

That political battle is a sign that dynasty politics will be around for a long time to come, worrying some Malaysians who feel the country is governed neither by them, nor for them.

"The ones that keep coming back for more are the sons, daughters and grandchildren of yesteryear's leaders," said a comment posted on political blog www.bakrimusa.com.

"It is, to them, their birthright to be accorded such positions as their fathers and forefathers. If you are not born to 'the families', then you must marry into one!"

Hindraf wants political figures to help

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 — The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), while welcoming the Pas offer to mediate on its behalf to lift the ban on the movement, has called on political figures to do the same.

"We would like to invite matured and seasoned politicians like Tun Musa Hitam, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan to mediator for Hindraf," said its chairman P. Waytha Moorthy, who is living in exile in Britain.

"We trust they are able understand the problems faced by Malaysian Indians as a minority and may be able to reach out to the Umno-led government in lifting the ban on Hindraf," Waytha Moorthy said in a statement released today.

This represents a softer stance from the group which has continued to attack the government despite being outlawed on Oct 15 in the aftermath of its presence at the Cabinet Hari Raya open house at Putra World Trade Centre.

On Oct 23, just prior to Deepavali, 11 leaders of the group, insisting they were there as ordinary citizens, were arrested as they attempted to submit a letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi demanding the release of five Hindraf leaders currently held under the Internal Security Act.

Two days later, Pas offered to act as mediator in resolving the problems Hindraf supporters had with the government.

The offer was made by two Pas leaders, vice-president Datuk Husam Musa and Youth chief Salahuddin Ayub, who met about 40 Hindraf supporters in front of the Putrajaya police headquarters where the 11 were being held.

The group was released on bail the next day.

Zaid lucky to be born a Malay, says Syed Hamid

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim Zaid hits back at critics
Ex-minister called 'a traitor to race'
Pakar gesa Zaid keluar dari Kelantan, Malaysia
Zaid not going to apologise for Ketuanan Melayu statement

©New Straits Times

• I will not apologise, says Zaid

PUTRAJAYA: Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said historical realities must not be questioned to prevent potential issues from cropping up.

Elaborating on his call for Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to apologise for his remarks on the concept of Malay supremacy, Syed Hamid said the former minister in the Prime Minister's Department should extend the apology to all Malays in the country.

"It (the apology) is a simple statement that he should make. He should tell them (Malays) that it was not his intention to make them angry or hurt their feeling as the realities are all there," the home minister said.

Zaid should realise that in practising freedom of speech, he should not go to the extent of hurting the feelings of Malays, he said.
"If he does, then issues will start arising. So, those historical realities must never be questioned. Let us look forward.

"If you say that the concept of Malay supremacy has failed, then Zaid will not be what he is today. He is fortunate he was born a Malay," he said after launching a forensic level security control system, NexCode, here yesterday.

On Friday, Zaid was reported to have said that the concept of Malay supremacy had failed and was a distraction from the real issues confronting the country.


I will not apologise, says Zaid

KOTA BARU: Former minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said yesterday he will not apologise for his remarks on Malay supremacy.

He said the concept did have negative elements and racist traits.

"Many Malays want their achievements to be respected and recognised based on their abilities.

"Malays have extraordinary abilities and they do not have to be arrogant that they have more rights than the other races.

"It does not mean that I am questioning the Federal Constitution. The problem is that the so-called Malay champions could not differentiate between rights and privileges.

"Maybe because of the (Umno) party's election season, many, especially those contesting the vice-president's posts, want to gain support by giving their own interpretations of my statement."

In his statement yesterday, Zaid said as a Malay kampung boy from a poor family, he wanted to see Malays advance in economy and education.

A rare parliamentary sight not seen for decades – eight UMNO Ministers queuing up in Parliament till 11.30 pm last night to reply

A rare parliamentary sight in Parliament for decades – eight Umno Ministers queuing up in Parliament till 11.30 pm yesterday to take their turn to reply in the 2009 Budget debate yesterday.

Clearly, my Sunday speech to the DAP Kuala Lumpur Convention castigating Umno Ministers for neglecting their parliamentary, Cabinet and national responsibilities because of the protracted Umno party elections and suggesting that they take five-month leave so as to ensure that the people and country do not suffer because of their party politicking when Malaysia faces the worst global economic crisis in 80 years has hit home and taken instantaneous effect.

On Thursday, two Umno Ministers, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein played truant from their Ministerial duties when they were absent in the winding-up of their Ministries, passing the buck to their deputy ministers.

If Hamid and Hishammuddin think that their deputy ministers were equal to them and could reply of behalf of their Ministries as effectively as they themselves could, then it is time they resign and give way to their two deputies to become full ministers!

I hope that this unprecedented show of discipline and responsibility is not a “one-shot” affair but will become a directing principle for all responsible Ministers for the rest of the parliamentary term – and we will see Ministers taking full charge of the debate for each Ministry during the 16-day Committee stage debate of the 2009 Budget beginning tomorrow till 4th December 2008.

Yesterday, the Umno Ministers put up a responsible show, but the MCA Ministers fell short, with two MCA Ministers absent from their parliamentary posts during the reply, viz the newly-elected MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Ong Tee Kiat and the newly-elected MCA Vice President and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen, who had to depend on their deputy ministers to save the day.

There can be no excuse for the absence of Cabinet Ministers from their parliamentary duties for the parliamentary calendar for the Ministerial winding-up in the 2009 budget debate had been fixed many months ahead of schedule and there can be no excuse for Ministers to be away from Parliament, whether overseas or somewhere else in the country.

I hope today, the fourth and last day of the Ministerial winding-up of the 2009 Budget debate, will see other Umno Ministers continue to set a good parliamentary example to their other BN Cabinet colleagues

How should a judge endear him/herself to the Bar?

NST's chief Dewan dispatcher Azmi Anshar is not letting the Salleh Abas vs Bar Council issue die just yet. I must thank him for reminding me about Robert Lazar's comment to my disclosure here on Salleh's predicament: "If Rocky really wants to know, the Tun never really endeared himself as a friend of the Bar pre-1988 ....".
I'm not sure why I didn'tn pin Robert Lazar there and then. Am glad Azmi's asking these questions in his latest despatch:

"But to “endear as a friend to the Bar”? How should Salleh endear himself to the Bar as a friend? Play golf with lawyers? Lunch or dinner together? Go for holidays together? Rule everything in favour of the lawyers of the Bar?"

Read Azmi's piece If you have to sock Salleh Abas ..... The new CJ should take serious note of Robert Lazar's response ...

Finding Equilibrium

Zaid Ibrahim’s impassioned call for a rejection of race politics last Friday at the LawAsia conference is one that deserves its place in history. His plea for the restoration of democracy and the Rule of Law has reverberated throughout the nation.

This is not surprising. Zaid’s message is rooted in an obviously deep and heartfelt commitment to the nation and the interests of all its citizens. Where the Malays are concerned, he is strident in his rejection of policies that have left the community struggling against a siege mentality that robs it of its ability to meet the challenges of a globalizing world. As he observes, the “Malays are now a clear majority in numbers. The fear of their being out numbered is baseless; they are not under siege. The institutions of government are such that the Malays are effectively represented, and the there is no way the interest of the Malays can be taken away other than through their own weakness and folly.”

Equally forceful in his defence of non-Malay interest, Zaid laments attempts by politicians to do away with a social contract that guarantees “equality and the promise of the Rule of Law” in favour of one that promotes a supremacist ideology that ultimately serves only the interests of an elite. This, he opines, has left the nation deeply divided and cut off from the democracy and Rule of Law so vital for the sustainable and inclusive development that all Malaysians need, irrespective of race and religion.

Put another way, Zaid has given voice to what it is most Malaysians think: that we need to be united to face the future. The founders of this nation understood we could, appreciating that there was no reason for fear and that we had every reason for mutual respect and dignity. Fear mongering has however kept us apart and from seeing the threats that confront us, and what we need to do to counter them.

Zaid’s message is persuasive for its simplicity and self-evident truth. He must be credited for having been able to say what had to be said, as it needed to be said.

If there is any doubt as to the legitimacy of the viewpoint expressed, then we need only consider the reactions from senior UMNO members entrenched in the leadership structure of the party. These reactions not only make it evident that Zaid hit the nail on the head, they also show why it is UMNO and the Barisan Nasional need to seriously reconsider how to make themselves relevant. Two responses are illustrative.

Perlis UMNO liaison chief and former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim had this to say, according to media reports, “Zaid should repent. Otherwise he should get out of the ‘rumpun Melayu’. Paraphrased by BERNAMA, his explanation for this was that “if Zaid continued to question the Malay supremacy concept, then he should no longer be a Malay as a Malay should be defending the Malays and not running them down.”

But, is that not what Zaid was doing? Apparently not, for the New Straits Times reported Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who is incidentally an UMNO supreme council member, as saying that Zaid was “a traitor to his own race and should apologise for his remarks.”

Both responses are so self-defeating that they boggle the mind. They typify the might is right attitude that Zaid speaks out against. Being senior UMNO members, both individuals must be open to the possibilities. As Zaid put it, if “affirmative action is truly benchmarked on the equitable sharing of wealth that is sustainable, then we must confront the truth and change our political paradigm; 40 years of discrimination and subsidy have not brought us closer.”

Zaid was not alone in expressing concerns about the way things are. At the same conference, His Royal Highness Raja Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak, called for a rejection of discriminatory policies. The Raja Muda observed that the “consequence of not empowering citizens or, worse, disempowering them, is to create a deep sense of alienation and hostility. Indeed, it is very often an overwhelming sense of alienation and powerlessness that causes the rash acts of violence that fracture societies. It gives these citizens every reason to seek to divide society in order to redress their dissatisfactions. This is bad and insensitive politics. On another level, we cannot morally turn our backs on the fundamental responsibility of ensuring that all stakeholders in our society, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, have a place under the sun.”

The ideal could not be better articulated. Malaysians, all of us, want our place in the sun. We do not wish to live in fear, looking over our shoulders all the time. There is more than enough for us all to share in. We have been blessed with a nation so abundant with resources and so rich with potential that generation upon generation will be able to live in peace and prosperity. The only catch, if it can be called that, is that we need to be left alone to find our equilibrium. Only then can we get on with the task of doing it right.

(Malay Mail; 4th November 2008)

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

Kuil SRI BATHRAKALIAMAN, JLN MASJID INDIA

Eventhough the new structure already been build on 10 meter by 11 meter next to the old structure DBKL was not considerate.
Temple priest Kanmanibala say he had ask for time for him to remove the dieties, earlier he had agree to remove on 30/10 then extention given till 3/11. DBKL doesnt consider plea by the priest. They came and bulldoz the old structure and also the toilet and a room where the priest stays. Even water supply been cut off.
S.JAYATHAS











MPs want answer on 'missing' TV show

DPM NAJIB’S OPEN HOUSE PLEDGE ANOTHER EYEWASH

DPM SHOULD INSTEAD ANNOUNCE A SPECIAL ALLOCATION AND CONCRETE PLAN TO UPLIFT THE INDIAN SOCIO ECONOMIC STATUS

We refer to DPM Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak’s Statement that a “the Indian community's plight was also being seriously looked into by a special cabinet committee, which he chairs, to ensure that it had participation in the national economy and equity”.

HINDRAF wishes to reiterate that the Indian community had heard enough promises for the last 51 years that would last them the next 3 generations of the Government’s promises that it cared for the plight of the Indian community and that they “would look into it”. The statement of the DPM is yet another eyewash during the festive Deepavali period to pacify and mislead the Malaysian Indian community as usual.

Every Deepavali open houses and MIC annual general assemblies the Indians are made to believe and given the assurances that their “plight are being looked into” and “help is just around the corner”. We have been hearing this for the past 51 years now and no Malaysian Indian would believe this apart from the MIC cronies who live and thrive on the “biscuits” thrown at them by UMNO.

The DPM must have thought the Indians could be fooled as usual and perhaps he would have received a “thunderous applause” for his “goodie announcements” which no doubt must have come from all the planted MIC cronies. The DPM who is also the Finance Minister should stop the “empty talk” and instead make a concrete announcement of an allocation of funds to uplift the socio economic condition of Indians in the country.

We want to know how serious the Government is in solving the woes of the Indian community in dollars and cents. Enough of setting up Special Cabinet committees and all the years of empty promises. The Malaysian Indians have woken up and can no longer be cheated with mere bare promises. The Government of the day has to be serious and solemn, come up with a concrete plan of how to address the issue instead of giving piecemeal solutions and empty promises.

P.Waytha Moorthy
CHAIRMAN
HINDRAF

Anwar says Ketuanan Melayu only benefits a minority

Anwar: Only a small group benefiting from ketuanan Melayu. — Picture by Choo Choy May

IPOH, Nov 3 — The “ketuanan Melayu” or Malay supremacy concept as advocated by certain groups, benefits and enriches only a small group of Malays, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said.

“I believe that the Malays and Bumiputeras should not be sidelined,” he said.

“We should do all we can to help them together with the Chinese and Indians,” Anwar told reporters after a talk at the Bangunan Darul Ridzuan today.

He said, however, that fighting for Malay supremacy to enrich a small number of Malays while a larger section of the community were still in deplorable condition, was unacceptable.

On the remark by former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim recently that the Malay supremacy concept had failed, Anwar said, the statement should be studied by all.

At the 21st LawAsia Conference in Kuala Lumpur last week, Zaid said the Malay supremacy concept had failed and distracted from the real issues confronting the country.

The remark irked several Umno leaders, including Perlis Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim who described Zaid’s statement as excessive, while Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar called on Zaid to apologise to the Malays.

Meanwhile, Anwar said that certain media had been manipulating the appointment of Low Siew Moi as the acting general manager of Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) and turned the matter into a racial issue.

He said the appointment was only temporary until a new one was made by the Pakatan Rakyat. — Bernama

Three Higher Education Ministers in 4 years while universities continue plunge in international rankings and losing out to Indonesia after left behind

Three Higher Education Ministers in four years while Malaysian universities continue the plunge in international university rankings – this is the second consecutive year Malaysia is excluded from the Times Higher Education Supplement’s (THES-QS) World’s Top 200 Universities.

Are these two matters inter-related?

This is the question I posed to the third Higher Education Minister in four years, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin in Parliament this morning when he replied during the winding-up of the 2009 Budget debate, but as expected, he could not throw any light on the conundrum.

It is a sad reflection of the “paradigm shift” in university quality and excellence in Malaysia that while the first two Higher Education Ministers (Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh and Datuk Dr. Mustapha Mohamed) talked about how to defend Malaysian university rankings in the Top 200 World Universities, Khaled spoke with pride this morning at the inclusion of Malaysian universities in the Top 500 world universities!

I warned this morning that Malaysia is seriously losing out in competitiveness, with our univerisites not only left behind by Singapore [National University of Singapore (NUS) ranked 30th and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore ranked No. 77] and Thailand (Chulalongkorn University ranked No. 166), we are beginning to straggle behind Indonesian universities!

Until last year, Malaysian universities were all ranked well ahead of the Indonesian universities, but in the 2008 THES-QS World Top Universities ranking, Indonesian universities are catching up with Malaysian universities in leaps and bounds.

Last year for instance, the three top Indonesian universities were all ranked behind the Malaysian universities – University of Indonesia (UI) No. 395, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) No. 369 and Gajah Mada University (UGM) No. 360, as compared to the three top Malaysian universities University of Malaya (UM) No. 246, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) No. 307 and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) No. 309.

In this year’s ranking, University of Indonesia has improved by 108 placings to be ranked as No. 287, Bandung Institute of Technology No. 315 and Gajah Mada University No. 316.

This means that in the 2008 THES-QS Ranking, University of Indonesia (No. 287) has narrowed the gap with University of Malaya (No. 230) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (No. 250), while ahead of Malaysia’s apex university, Universiti Sains Malaysia (No. 313), University Putra Malaysia (No. 320) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (No. 356).

RM5b + RM5b = RM10b worth of questions

The first 5 billion ringgit question is of course related to state investment company Valuecap. That’s the RM5 billion taken from our EPF money to be used by Valuecap to “invest” in the stock market.

But Malaysian Insider raises a new question. It claims that Valuecap owes its three shareholders RM5.1 billion, which is due to be repaid in February 2009.

This debt, in the form of interest-bearing unsecured bonds, raises questions over plans for the Employees Provident Fund to lend RM5 billion to Valuecap to invest in the stock market.

In March 2003, Valuecap borrowed RM5.1 billion from shareholders Khazanah, Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pencen and Permodalan Nasional Bhd to invest in the stock market. At the time, world stock markets were bracing for a looming war in Iraq which followed on the September 2001 attacks on the US.

Valuecap’s bonds were due to be repaid in February 2006, but the company was given another three years to this coming February. At the end of 2006, the three shareholders each held RM1.7 billion in these bonds, according to documents obtained by The Malaysian Insider.

Since these debt instruments were not listed and are not tradeable, the three shareholders are probably still holding these bonds today.

Recently, the government proposed that EPF lend Valuecap RM5 billion to invest in the stock market. In view of its impending obligation to repay its shareholders, however, questions arise over whether the loaned funds will be used to redeem the bonds.

As at the end of 2006, Valuecap’s investments were valued at RM4.8 billion. Since then, the stock market has lost 21 per cent of its value. If Valuecap’s investments have tracked the stock market, these could be worth RM3.8 billion currently.

Then there is Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua’s call on the Finance Ministry and Khazanah to explain their involvement in Silterra Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which lost RM1 billion last year. This is compounded by the alleged loss of RM5.17 billion that Khazanah Nasional is said to have invested in the semiconductor wafer manufacturer since 1994, reports Malaysiakini.

Tony is concerned that Silterra is now seeking an additional RM8.5 billion for its expansion efforts.

I think the Finance Ministry has some serious explaining to do. It should come clean and make public the accounts of these two entities - Valuecap and Silterra - and tell us exactly how much, if any, has been lost. The Ministry should also explain to the public exactly what it intends to do with the RM5 billion from EPF.

PAC SAYS NO WRONGDOING BY GOVERNMENT ON EUROCOPTER DEAL

Public Accounts Committee Chairperson Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid announced today that the committee has cleared the government of wrongdoing in the suspended billion-ringgit Eurocopter deal although they were concerned with the fact that there was no physical examination on the 12 Eurocopter helicopters which the government wanted to purchase.

It was proposed that the PAC wanted the government to be more transparent in all future dealings, and recommended that an independent review panel be set up to look into at all major purchases before the government commits.