Share |

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hindraf’s interpretation of the Malaysian Political reality

I refer to Ken Gan’s article in the Malaysin Mirror reproduced in Malaysia today of the 22nd of Sept 2009 titled ‘The Indian dilemma and Hindraf’.

He adds nothing new to our understanding in Malaysian politics from his article. He just repeats what is already a common refrain from the DAP/PR viewpoint. "Hindraf did not cause the tsunami of the 12th GE, Indians cannot get anywhere by engaging in monoethnic politics, the young PR state governments cannot do much, so it is unfair for Hindraf to bark up that tree, there are more Indian reps in the legislatures now than before, KBP fiasco was not a result of a Chinese government being unjust to the Indians, the key to solving the Indian problem is by need based affirmative action, not race based actions."

An episode like the destruction of Kampung Buah Pala really is revealing about the reality of Malaysian politics. It is so blatantly clear that the forces arraigned against the poor villagers are big money, the DAP/PR state government and the federal UMNO/BN government. So effectively, we have a nexus of Big Money and the State against the marginalized people –the weakest section of Malaysian society, the Indian poor. Numerically they are small, politically and economically they are weakest. The way the State and Big Money has come down on them in the last few days speaks for itself.

Ken Gan and the likes of him do not quite understand the true basis of the conflict in KBP. It is not about Chinese and Indians, it is not about which tree we should bark up. It is not that simple. It is really about the structure of power and the concentration of power in the power elite of this country and they way they operate – often with impunity . The power elite of our country are:
  1. The UMNO Putras
  2. The Chinese, Malay and Indian Big Money
  3. Big Business Executives
  4. Senior Civil Servants
  5. The Royalty
  6. The Foreign Corporations in the country

In order to understand better the way they operate let me illustrate with the following example. Enough has been written on Kampung Buah Pala, so let me take another developing situation in Penang.

The way the land issues are being dealt with in Penang is very telling about all of this. Decisions are being made craftily by the DAP/PR government in Penang that clearly favours the big moneyed developers . The latest issue is the corridor zoning issue in Tanjung Bungah in Penang. The residents of Tanjung Bungah say the State Draft Development Plan as it is written establishes the boundary of the primary corridor, which is the high density area, at a certain point before Tanjung Bungah. But the DAP/PR government now refers to the zoning map (another document, conveniently) which has extended the corridor boundary into Tanjung Bungah, which is contrary to the written document. They (DAP/PR Govt) say the Zoning map is the authoritative document not the State Draft Development Plan.

You can actually see who the DAP/PR represents in this ambiguous situation. The way they have interpreted and decided, the Developers gain and the people of Tanjung Bungah stand to lose. This decision favours Big Money. In the case of Tanjung Bungah the Penang State government cannot create the illusion of the Chinese government being wrongly accused on the basis of race. The DAP/PR government will continue to make decisions like this on land matters, because this is where they have unfettered powers and where you can see them clearest.

I give this case which is about to explode in Penang, shortly, to clarify this reality of our Malaysian Politics. The conflicts around the country today has much to do with way this Power elite operate. The instruments by which they operate are
  1. Corrupting Money
  2. Know-who Networks
  3. Control Instruments such as:
i. Parliamentary/Legislature Majority

ii. The appointment of judges

iii. The ISA

iv. The Seditions Act

v. The Official Secrets Act

  1. Synergistic use the different instruments of control
  2. Media created Illusions

It is becoming clear that it does not matter whether it is BN or PR who hold the reins of power, ultimately it is the power elite in the background,that wields true power. BN/PR are illusions of a difference. There is very little difference, especially for the poor and the marginalized. Ultimately, politics is about how the resources of the country are divided up. So more to the poor and marginalized will mean less to the rich and powerful. So when the rich and the powerful control the resource decision making levers of the country, what you can expect is a continuation of the poverty creating and marginalization processes. That is what Hindraf is realizing now after 18 months of PR governments in the 4 states. This is the politico-economic basis of this change in Hindraf’s view.

Hindraf said, recognize the heritage value of the KBP village as a basis for retaining the village for the poor – this is a reasonable position to take given the history. But Big money does not care for all this., they just brush it aside with impunity, create an illusion of greedy villagers and a racist Hindraf in the media. This is not the work of the UMNO or BN but the work of DAP and PR. So what is the difference between them in fronting for the Power Elite? Not much. When the villagers argue on the basis of their equity in the land, the entire Power Elite operate to marginalize them as powerless squatters – the courts, the police, the federal and state government and the media. So when Hindraf stands up for the Indian villagers, they are standing up against this powerful nexus in the country.

In effect Hindraf is now fast evolving to represent the interest of the Indian working class. Though it originated as a Hindu Rights Group, today it is evolving into an organization that represents the Indian working class interest. Since both UMNO and the PR both are trampling upon working class interests with impunity, Hindraf finds itself diametrically opposed to both the coalitions. And it is not afraid to speak up, so speak up it does regardless of who is involved.

Some (like Ken Gan in their supreme wisdom) may and do say this is foolish. When both sides continue to hurt you, it will only be foolish to not speak up for what is happening now for the illusion of the carrot sometime out in a dubious future. One can only be spoilers if there is going to be substantive change. When there is not going to be change, where is the issue of being a spoiler.

Ken Gan’s superficial articulation of the situation I feel is a purposeful attempt to damage the Hindraf point of view which is too close to the truth for the comfort of the Power Elite. He tries to marginalize Hindraf – creates an illusion of disarray , promotes arguments such as why is Hindraf being racist - marginalization and poverty exists in all races, mono-ethnic politics is a thing of the past and so on. People like Ken Gan just become spokespersons for the continuing source of injustice in our country against all, Malays, Chinese and Indian.

But we must all work to demolish the illusion that he and the likes of him try to create , so we can all get the change we so sorely desire. True change, not what political parties promise.
Vive La Makkal.

Hindraf alleges Pakatan double standard in Tanjung Tokong - Malaysiakini

Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Front) in New York has come forward over the Aidil Fitri festive cheer period to welcome Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's pledge on Tanjung Tokong in Penang which is being touted as having heritage village status.

But the opposition leader should also be taken to task for his "chameleon-like stance" on the tragedy which befell Kampung Buah Pala in recent days, says the human and equal rights movement which groups together 30 Indian-based NGOs in Malaysia.

NONEAnwar has long been accused by the ruling Barisan Nasional, Umno in particular, of being a political chameleon.

"Why is that the state government suddenly seems to have power to resolve the issue of Tanjung Tokong but not Kampung Buah Pala?" asks Hindraf's International Coordinator, R Shan, in an exclusive email to Malaysiakini from the Big Apple.

"Anwar has been silent on the issue of Kampung Buah Pala. He failed to take a stand on behalf of the residents there."

Shan noted that Anwar had rightly stressed that land is a state matter and urged the residents and UDA (Urban Development Authority) to meet and discuss to settle amicably the issues of compensation, resettlement and preservation of the heritage value of Tanjung Tokong.

"In the case of Kampung Buah Pala, this approach was not taken and in fact brute force was employed," alleged Shan.

"The state government seemed to be powerless in the face of the developer, the police and the court. All it could do was to keep putting all the blame on the previous Gerakan-led state government while challenging the MIC."

Spin story goes out of control

"The Penang Deputy Chief Minister 2, P Ramasamy, even led a group to Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate in front of the MIC Headquarters just to side-track from the Kampung Buah Pala issue."

NONEHindraf pledged that it would hold a watching brief on Tanjung Tokong to see whether the residents there are bound by the dangerous precedent set by the Kampung Buah Pala fiasco.

And if not, it wants to know why double standards are being practiced?

However, it stressed at the same time that it did not want to see the people of Tanjung Tokong being taken for a ride by the state government as in the case of Kampung Buah Pala.

That Hindraf statement says that although the sale of the land in Kampung Buah Pala was initiated by the previous government in Penang, the Pakatan Rakyat government could have stopped the process at any time.

Instead, it continued to point fingers at the previous government at every step of the way as it spun the story out of control, Hindraf said.

Even the threat to cancel the approvals for the proposed condominium project did not materialise and in the end proved to be "a lot of hot air".

The movement also wants "the real history of Kampung Buah Pala", to be a matter of public record and "that there is a moral dimension to the sorry episode."

The fact remains, according to the movement, that the original British family which owned the land had decreed that it be held in trust by the government for its inhabitants and their descendents.

This, the government failed to do, and instead claimed it was state land and subsequently proceeded to sell it.

'Tantamount to theft'

In effect, it was tantamount to theft of the people's land, said Hindraf.

"The people fought bravely to save Kampung Buah Pala but their cause was hopeless after the state government declared that the condominium project could attract tourists," said Hindraf.

"How could an ugly project like a condominium attract tourists? As if tourists have never seen a condominium before and are coming all the way to Penang to gawk at the condominium on the Kampung Buah Pala land?"

NONEIn view of Tanjung Tokong, the Hindraf chief in New York wants Anwar to explain himself once and for all on the matter of Kampung Buah Pala and does not consider it a closed chapter.

Secondly, he wants him to give a categorical assurance that the Indian community matters to the Pakatan Rakyat and not just their votes during election time.

And finally, Hindraf wants to know how Pakatan Rakyat will redeem itself in the eyes of the Indian voters with Kampung Buah Pala hanging over its head.

"Anwar should bear in mind that thousands of Indians and other Malaysians risked their lives and poured onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur in late 2007 to press for their just and legitimate aspirations," said Shan.

"We urged the Indian electorate and all Malaysians to support Pakatan Rakyat last year when the Opposition Alliance solemnly promised that it would struggle for all Malaysians."

Hindraf report on Buah Pala

It now looks like that Anwar and Pakatan merely rode into public office on the makkal sakthi (people power) wave unleashed by Hindraf, according to Shan, "and had no intentions to consider the legitimate aspirations of the Indian community or others except themselves".

NONEHindraf, although never registered, was outlawed by the Malaysian government reportedly after a newspaper in Singapore claimed, without citing any evidence, that it had links with the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam.

Four Hindraf lawyers and a co-coordinator were also held under the Internal Security Act, allegedly as a result of the Singapore report, and released recently after several years in detention without trial.

Hindraf is now based in London and also has offices in India, Australia and New York, among other places.

Its main work is to release the Malaysian Indian Human Rights Annual Report every year. Kampung Buah Pala is expected to feature prominently in this year's report.

A heavy crown for Pakatan

By Baradan Kuppusamy (The Star)

After winning big at last year’s general election, Pakatan Rakyat seems to be having a tough time managing that victory, no thanks to feuds within the coalition.

BIG brother PAS is again flexing its muscle trying to derail the Selangor state government’s Select Committee for Com­petency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) into why and how district officers released millions of ringgit in development aid in the run-up to the 2008 general election.

There were instances when officers had released RM500,000 in annual allocation in a single day and in one case, the money was released for spending on the day Parliament was dissolved.

Naturally, the DAP and PKR that had pledged to promote transparency and accountability now want to know why the money was released as such and whether it was used for its intended purpose.

But the Islamist party has come to the defence of the district officers, seeing the committee, chaired by Selangor Speaker and DAP assemblyman Teng Chang Khim, as an act of harassment against civil servants.

Selangor PAS chief Datuk Hassan Ali has publicly crossed swords with Teng and questioned the worth and motive of the Selcat inquiry while a district officer accused the committee of political opportunism and causing shame to high-ranking officials serving the people.

It is alleged that the DAP is continuing its long-standing anti-Government agenda but this time, it is using the Selangor state machinery to advance its political agenda.

Hassan also said Selcat officers were “bullying” the district officers during the inquiry and suggested that further inquiries be held behind closed doors.

The issue took a turn for the worse after at least five district officers, who were questioned by Selcat, boycotted the Selangor state government’s Malaysia Day celebrations last Wednesday.

To compound the matter, within Selangor PAS itself, Hassan is not entirely loved for his hardline policies like banning the sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas, banning foreign artistes and closing down massage parlours.

His critics in PAS want the party and state government to stop Hassan who is strongly supported by the conservative leaders in the party’s top leadership echelons.

Saari Sungib, a former ISA detainee who is PAS assemblyman for Hulu Kelang, told The Malaysian Insider on Monday that Hassan should be referred to House Privileges Com­mittee for his outburst on the Selcat inquiry.

Unlike Saari, PAS leaders like Hassan are agreeable to working with the district officers, many of whom are connected to Umno, in the best interest of the people and Islam.

Likewise in the PKR, not everybody is happy with the lukewarm leadership coming from Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, a former corporate bureaucrat-turned-politician.

He has his small circle of supporters but PKR sources said he is generally out of tune with key PKR leaders like vice-president Azmin Ali, who is seen as a potential candidate for the job.

In the DAP too, Teng is not in the good books of the top DAP leaders but is popular with the DAP grassroots for his precise manners, eloquence and knowledge.

Their intra-feuds in their political parties is intrinsically linked to their inter-party disputes that are frequently breaking out between the Pakatan allies, giving the impression they are amateurs at government and cannot or are unwilling to get their act together.

“I get the impression their disagreement between them is too deep and too fundamental especially PAS and the DAP,” said Richard Lim, a retired bank worker who strongly supports Pakatan.

“My fear is that unless the differences are resolved and they find a common ground, they might eventually go separate ways,” he said, adding that PAS is proudly Islamist while the DAP is totally secular.

PAS, because of its numbers, Islam and Malay support, sees itself as an alternative to Umno and natural choice to lead the Pakatan and rule the country after its own vision of society.

The DAP, on the other hand, will remain a small, Chinese chauvinistic party if not for the support of PAS members.

In that is their dilemma — both need each other but their policies run counter to each other’s philosophies, causing frequent eruption over various issues especially in Selangor, which is multi-ethnic with a large, well-educated and upwardly mobile non-Muslim population.

Former Umno minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, now with the PKR, has been given the task of getting the Pakatan transformed into a full-fledged coalition with a common aim and agreed objectives.

One of the reasons the Pakatan was successful was because it was a loose marriage of con­venience with each party agreeing to bottle up its core principles in order to win at the polls.

It performed exceptionally well, capturing five states and denying Barisan the two-third majority in Parliament. But the hard part is managing that victory.

The DAP and the PKR are focused on cleaning up, promoting transparency and accountability and for settling scores with the Barisan.

PAS, on the other hand, is focused on its Islamist mission – to turn the country into a syariah-obedient society, thereby setting off the now all-too-familiar fights in the Pakatan.

ADB: Recovery prospects not so bright for Malaysia

TOKYO, Sept 23 — Asia’s emerging economies are proving to be more resilient than had been feared in the face of the global financial and economic downturn and will recover faster than expected, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said yesterday in its latest Asian Development Outlook.

Led by China, the region as a whole will grow by 3.9 per cent this year, rather than the 3.4 per cent forecast just six months ago while next year it should reach 6.4 per cent against an earlier forecast of 6 per cent, the ADB said.

But Southeast Asia's “more open” economies will fare badly. Singapore is forecast to see its GDP contract by 5 per cent this year before returning to 3.5 per cent growth in 2010, the ADB said. Pulled down also by Malaysia and Thailand, Southeast Asian growth will fall to just 0.1 per cent this year.

“Despite worsening conditions in the global economic environment, developing Asia is poised to lead the recovery from the worldwide slowdown,” said ADB chief economist Lee Jong-Wha. The upbeat tone of the ADB report contrasted sharply with the view taken by the IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook published yesterday in which it warned that recovery from global recession “is expected to be slow”.

Warning of “concerns about the prospect of long-term damage to the path of global output”, the IMF said that some of the global output losses caused by recession could prove to be “permanent”, damaging government revenues and threatening future fiscal crises.

The prospects of a much hoped-for “V-shaped” recovery in the global economy, in which output quickly returns to pre-crisis levels, are not justified by evidence from previous recessions, especially where these are linked to banking system crises, the IMF suggested.

On a more optimistic note, the ADB said that “firm action by many governments and central banks, the relatively healthy state of financial systems prior to the global crisis, and the rapid turnaround in the region's larger, less export-dependent economies, have all enhanced developing Asia's growth prospects”.

The ADB's growth forecast for East Asia was upgraded to 4.4 per cent in 2009, from the 3.6 per cent projected earlier. In China, aggressive monetary easing and massive fiscal stimulus bolstered the region's largest economy, which is now forecast to grow by 8.2 per cent in 2009 and 8.9 per cent in 2010.

A shallower contraction in South Korea is also expected on the back of effective fiscal stimulus measures. Meanwhile, the economies of Hong Kong and Taiwan are likely to “shrink more sharply on account of the severe drop in the demand for their exports”, the ADB said.

Growth in Southeast Asia is projected to fall to 0.1 per cent this year, against expectations of 0.7 per cent growth as of March. “The more positive outlook for Indonesia and Vietnam failed to offset the deteriorating prospects for the more open (Malaysia and Thailand) and smaller (Brunei and Cambodia) economies,” the ADB said.

By contrast, forecast growth for South Asia has been upgraded sharply to 5.6 per cent this year. South Asia's “limited reliance on trade partly shielded it from the adverse effects of the global slump”, the ADB said.

India is now expected to grow by 6 per cent this year thanks to fiscal stimulus and an upturn in business confidence. Despite improved prospects, “the regional outlook should not make developing Asian economies complacent”, Lee said.

“A protracted global slowdown or the hasty withdrawal of stimulus packages can degrade the region's ongoing recovery,” he added. — Business Times Singapore

Guan Eng warned of Strong Backlash by HRP

Saturday September 19, 2009

Guan Eng warned of strong backlash

THE Human Rights Party has warned Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his political allies to expect a strong Indian backlash in future polls after the Kampung Buah Pala fiasco in Penang, reported Tamil Nesan.

Its secretary-general P. Uthaya­kumar said Lim’s lack of action and his political allies had caused the demolition of the Indian heritage village, and the state government had taken the community’s votes for granted.

He said Lim together with the DAP, PKR and PAS might have politically calculated that Indians had no alternative but to vote for Pakatan in not wanting to support the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional.

The furore over Hindu temples

By Deborah Loh

Illustration of person stomping on cow head

THE cow head protest over the relocation of the Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu temple from Section 19 to Section 23 in Shah Alam shows, on one hand, the existence of racial and religious bigotry. But it also points to a deeper, more systemic neglect by town planners to adequately provide land for non-Muslim places of worship in a fair and just manner.

It goes as far back as 1977, when the Catholic Church first applied for a piece of land to build a cathedral in the township. Delays, including stop-work orders on construction, resulted in the church only opening in 2000, some 23 years later.

Dr Xavier Jayakumar

The argument of majorities cannot hold water in a multi-religious society, says Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar. He chairs the state committee on non-Muslim places of worship and hence, became the intended recipient of the cow head during the protest on 28 Aug 2009.

Xavier, who is from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), is also the assemblyperson for Sri Andalas. Additionally, he is the state executive council's chairperson for health, plantation workers, poverty, and caring government.

In an interview with The Nut Graph on 15 Sept 2009 at his office in Shah Alam, Xavier traced Shah Alam's development from the mid-1960s when the area was plantation and estate land. Indian Malaysians were the majority workforce then, until the land's agricultural status was converted for development by Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS). But the Hindu temples stayed on as the city was built around them. This led to the Section 19 temple in question being a mere 20 metres away from residential houses.

In this first of a two part interview, Xavier explains how relocating temples is now all the more difficult because there is little land left due to rapid development. He also explains how the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government is attempting to resolve the issue.

TNG: A second site in Section 23 has now been identified (for the relocation of the Hindu temple). Why wasn't this site chosen earlier?

Xavier Jayakumar: Shah Alam Member of Parliament Khalid Samad, executive councillor Rodziah Ismail and I felt that the first plot on industrial land was most appropriate. Even PKNS, the Shah Alam Municipal Council (MPSA) and the temple committee agreed.

Khalid Samad (file pic)

We were planning to consult the residents there although the state by-laws and rules don't require us to do so. We only need to ask residents if their houses are within a 50 metre radius of a place of worship. The by-laws were created by Barisan Nasional and are still there. After we identified this area, people complained that it was too near a playground. So we moved the plot further in. But then all hell broke loose with the cow-head protest.

What borders the alternative plot in Section 23?

This plot is still under discussion and nothing is finalised. Suffice to say it is 200 metres from the nearest house and 300 metres from the nearest surau.

Based on that distance, you don't need to consult the residents but will you anyway, so as to prevent more protests?

I don't think we will. We'll just inform them.

The perception after the town hall dialogue is that the state government has given in to the protesters when the Menteri Besar (MB) said the site would be reviewed.

It's not true. We did not give in to the people who disrupted the meeting. What we said is that we've noted their objections and the state will now discuss it further.

But ultimately, since you didn't have to consult the residents based on the by-laws, you also didn't have to review the initial plot in Section 23. Couldn't the state have stood firm?

True, we don't have to consult them. But the temple committee also took a step back after seeing the reactions. They didn't want to move to a place where there would be confrontation and they would have to put up with abuse. So they had a rethink about the whole scenario and they came back to us and said, if this is how it's going to be, we don't think that will be the proper place to go to. In response to that, Khalid said the state government would review the site.

The previous state government had identified an enclave in Section 18 as a place to relocate all temples. What was the problem with that?

The area borders a huge drain which passes through an abattoir once used to slaughter pigs and now goats and cattle. From the beginning, the temple committee refused to move to this place. There were many reasons. In Hinduism, the different deities have their own religions protocols which devotees have to follow. And the temples have to be built according to Hindu beliefs like whether the soil is right or what direction to face.


And you don't have mosques or surau all in a row like terrace houses, do you? Taking those things into account, they refused the site. After the [Section 19] temple didn't move, there have been skirmishes and provocations on and off. Like when the Pewaris group was given permission to build a shed next to the temple on empty land and slaughtered two cows there. I don't know why MPSA or PKNS didn't put a stop to it because they could have said that the shed was an illegal structure.

Why weren't you at the town hall meeting (on 5 Sept 2009)?

I was not supposed to be there. The people who brought the cow head to the state assembly building brought it for me. They called my name out and said this is for Xavier. The MB and others felt that my presence would be a provocation.

How many temples are there in Shah Alam?

About 12. I have stopped approving places of worship where the land given is beside septic tanks, monsoon drains, high-tension power cables, or Tenaga Nasional substations. Previously, these were the types of land given for temples.

Temple from Brickfields
Temples were given land of least value under the previous state administration (© Lainie Yeoh)

A place of worship has to be a place that is convenient to devotees, the travel time to that place should be as minimal as possible without having to go through heavy traffic, and it must be in a respectable area. As respectable as masjid and surau are, other places of worship should also have that respectability.

Which authority is it which gives land to temples?

Firstly, the state itself. Secondly, the developer. In the development masterplan they are supposed to earmark places of worship. But what I'm saying is that land earmarked for non-Muslim places of worship are of the types I just mentioned, the most useless of value. And it is approved by the state planning committee and the municipal planning committee.

So I am telling these committees now to look at the land they are approving. It should also be done in a way where people know that there is a place of worship in an area before they buy their property.

How bad is the issue of illegal temples in Selangor?

Quite severe. There are three categories.

One, a place of worship that has already been built on government or private land. Secondly, places of worship that were built on reserve land, whether for playgrounds, road reserves or TNB reserves. The temple also doesn't have rights to the land. The third is applications for new temples to be built either on government or private land.


My aim now is to authenticate temples that have been built on government land. For those on reserve land, it is more technical and would take more time to resolve. And for new applications, we are looking at the areas concerned and giving out approvals accordingly.

What is the cause of temples being constructed haphazardly?

The lack of proper regulations and planning for non-Muslim places of worship. The government closes one eye and a politician comes along and says there's a group wanting to build a temple here and the government says go ahead. It is known that over the years, MIC people have obtained posts in the temple committees. So they have the political clout and protection to build wherever they want.

That is why we have this problem. You've allowed temples to be built haphazardly and now the temples are saying they want the land because they have been there for years. If the state were to de-gazette the land and convert it to use for a place of worship, it would be a long and tedious process.


When Pakatan Rakyat took over Selangor, we decided that there would be no more temple demolitions. At the same time, we've also said that there won't be permission for any new temples to be built without proper approval.

So you are in the process of giving temples the land they sit on?

Yes, but it will be a lengthy process. We are also trying to formulate a policy together with non-governmental organisations like Hindu Sangam and other Indian [Malaysian] NGOs (non-governmental organisations) for all districts to have committees that will self-regulate on how many new temples are needed in an area. If anyone wants to build a new temple, they will have to discuss with this committee whether there is a need for it.

Will this self-regulation also apply to other non-Muslim houses of worship?

There is some difference between Hindu temples and other religions. There is no governing body for Hindu temples. Every temple is an entity by itself. Whereas, churches, the Buddhists and Taoists each have a governing body.

Is the number of non-Muslim houses of worship in Shah Alam enough for non-Muslim residents?

Yes, I think it is. About 20% of Shah Alam is non-Muslim. For that 20% I think that there are enough places of worship. That would be the 12 temples, and six or seven churches. For Chinese religions, at present there's been no problem, in the sense that I've not had any queries for a Chinese temple within Shah Alam.

It is alleged that some of the cow-head protestors were from PAS and PKR. Have you identified them?

There has been no proof. We have openly called for the names of those alleged to be our members (to be revealed) and we will immediately take disciplinary action against them. Till now there have been no names so this is just rumours by unreliable people.

But within PAS and PKR, too, there must be Muslims who feel very zealous about this...

But from the pictures and videos of the incident, we've not identified anyone from PKR or PAS. And of those charged, we've checked their names and they don't exist in our membership database. PAS also says that none of the names are their members.

On hindsight, what were the weaknesses in the way the issue was handled and how could that have been avoided?

From the beginning, we knew that relocation would be a difficult task. But we started on the premise that everyone agreed the temple had to move. Even the temple committee agreed. I didn't expect it to break out into a racial and religious issue.

From another spectrum, it was politically motivated. To me, it is pure politics where Umno is trying to prevent us from solving a problem they could never solve in 26 years. And this is not the end of it.


In other areas we are facing obstruction to land that has been offered for places of worship. One case is a temple in Jenjarom, in the Lundeston estate. The estate temple is on land that was sold by Guthrie to a subsidiary, which subsequently sold the land to a private developer. It involves private land but as the state government, we decided to help. We called the temple committee and the developer for talks and it was agreed that the temple plot would be moved to the back of the land, with the initial structure provided by the developer and some compensation. When all this had been agreed upon, a group of Umno members from that area in Kuala Langat staged a protest and said they won't allow a temple in that area because it's too near their homes.

Is that true?

Not really. The temple site is in an oil palm area and there are Indian [Malaysians] in that area. But there is no place in Malaysia where the Indian [Malaysians] are the majority and you can say a temple ought to be built there. All places are majority-Malay [Malaysian]. Even if Indian [Malaysians] are 10%, they still need to pray. So why can't you allow a place of worship for this 10% or whatever percentage they are? It's a very racist and bigoted reaction. Negotiations have broken down, and we're trying to re-start talks with the residents, the developer and the temple committee.

You know for a fact that the Kuala Langat protestors were from Umno?

Yes. You can quote me.

Poverty Remains As India's Main Concern, Minister Tells UN

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (Bernama) -- External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the world leaders here that India continued to face enormous developmental challenges and poverty eradication remains the nation's top priority.

"Nearly 200 millions live on less than one dollar a day and nearly 500 millions do not have access to modern sources of energy," the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported Wednesday, citing him as saying.

"Our overriding priority, therefore, has to be eradication of poverty for which we must address our energy poverty and use all sources of energy, including fossil fuels," he added.

Krishna was speaking at a Round Table during the Climate Change summit at the United Nations. The high-level summit, which featured more than 100 world leaders, was convened to mobilise political will ahead of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The meeting in the Danish capital is expected to yield a climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Krishna said the outcome in Copenhagen "must also ensure that developing countries can pursue accelerated development also so that they have the resources to cope with and adapt to climate change."

"The creation of mechanisms along with provision of financial resources and access to technology which will enable us to upscale our national efforts is an important expectation that we have from Copenhagen," he added.

Give More Attention To Penang Port, Guan Eng Asks Federal Government

PENANG, Sept 23 (Bernama) -- Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has asked the Federal Government to give more attention to the Penang Port following a drop in container traffic.

He said the port recorded a 24 per cent decline in container traffic.

The decline was a warning to the Finance Ministry to inject fresh funds and new ideas into Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), the port operator, he said.

" It's a signal to the Federal Government to save the Penang Port. When all ports in Malaysia recorded healthy volume increase, the Penang Port is the only port to "sink" in performance," he said in a statement.

Guan Eng said the Marine Department records showed ports in the country handled 10 per cent more containers in the second quarter of the year compared to the first, reflecting a recovery in both domestic and transhipment cargo.

Container traffic at the 10 major ports rose to 3.79 million on Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) from 3.44 million in the period reviewed while the volume in the Penang Port was only 2,000 TEUs, less than the Johor Port, in the first quarter," he said.

Guan Eng said that while the container volume at the Johor Port went up by seven per cent, it slided by a shocking 24 per cent at the Penang Port.

The dismal figures showed the Penang Port now lies a distant fourth busiest in the country when it was only slightly behind the Johor Port in the first quarter

The Chief Minister said questions are being asked on the role played by the regulatory body, Penang Port Commission (PPC), to revitalise the Penang Port and reverse the downward trend in container traffic.

" While the PPC's promised completion of the Swettenham Pier by this month remained unfulfilled, the Finance Ministry should intervene and actively engage in the activities of the Penang Port," he said.

The Federal Government should seriously consider restoring Penang's free port status to revive Penang port as the pride of the nation, he said.

The state government had offered its cooperation and coordination for the new found focus for the halal port in line with the state government's emphasis on the halal industry, he added.

Bakun dam to be much worse than PKFZ scandal - Malaysiakini

Nearly 50 years after independence for Sarawak, we see a comparison with the 'Highland Clearances' in Scotland during the 18th century when the highlanders were driven off their lands for capitalistic sheep farming.

The English did it with brutality and thoroughness through “butcher” Lord Cumberland and even obliterated the 'wild' Celtic mode of life.

What we have seen in Sarawak recently has the same capitalist logic, namely, to drive the indigenous peoples out of their native customary lands so that these lands can be exploited for their commercial value and the indigenous people can be “freed” to become wage labourers.

penan blockade in sarawak loggingThus, even though the accursed Bakun dam had been suspended in 1997 due to the financial crisis, the government still went ahead to displace 10,000 indigenous peoples to the Sungai Asap resettlement camp in 1998.

Well, there is a reason for this - the contract for the Sungai Asap camp had already been given out to a multinational company. After all, the whole Bakun area, which is the size of the island of Singapore and home to the indigenous peoples, had already been thoroughly logged...

All this happened while Dr Mahathir Mahathir was the prime minister. Wasn't he a liability to the BN government then?

I was part of the fact-finding mission to Sungai Asap in 1999 and even then we could see the destruction of so many unique indigenous communities and their cultures, including the Ukit tribe.

There was only one word to describe what had been done to these indigenous peoples and their centuries-old cultures... wicked!

Banned from my own country

As a result of my concern for the indigenous peoples and the natural resources of Sarawak, I was told at Kuching airport in August 2007 that I could not enter Sarawak. So much for 1Malaysia! So much for national integration! So much for nearly 50 years of independence! I was not even welcome in my own country.

bakun dam resettlement sungai asap 051107But the contracts for the resettlement scheme and the logging are chicken feed compared to the mega-bucks to be reaped from the mega-dams. Even before the Bakun dam ever got started, Malaysian taxpayers had to compensate dam builder Ekran Bhd and the other “stakeholders” close to RM1 billion in 1997.

How much does it cost to pay our 'mata-mata' (police) to investigate the alleged scandalous rape of our Penan women?

The contracts from building the Bakun dam and the undersea cable run in excess of RM20 billion. Malaysian taxpayers won't know the final cost until they are told the cost overruns when the projects have been completed.

But if the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal is anything to go by, the leaks and non-accountability all along the line will result in Malaysian taxpayers paying billions for the same kind of daylight robbery.

bakun dam scale model of completed project 301007In the early 90s, when the government was trying to assure us that there would be no irresponsible logging in Sarawak, I pointed out in Parliament that if the government could not monitor the Bukit Sungai Putih permanent forest and wildlife reserve just 10 minutes from Kuala Lumpur, how did they expect us to believe they could monitor the forests in Bakun?

Likewise today, if the government cannot monitor a project in Port Klang just half an hour from Kuala Lumpur, how can they assure us that they can monitor a project deep in upriver Sarawak and through 650km of the South China Sea?

How can we be assured that we will get to the bottom of politically-linked scandals when the Sarawak police tell us they don't have the resources to investigate the rape of Penan women and girls?

How can we be assured that the Sarawak state government cares about its indigenous peoples and its natural resources when NGO activists are banned from entering Sarawak to investigate a part of their own country?

It makes no economic sense

In 1980, the Bakun dam was proposed with a power generating capacity of 2,400MW even though the projected energy needs for the whole of Sarawak was only 200MW for 1990.

The project was thus coupled with the proposal to build the world's longest (650km) undersea cable to transmit electricity to the peninsula. An aluminum smelter at Sarawak's coastal town of Bintulu was also proposed to take up the surplus energy.

In 1986, the project was abandoned because of the economic recession although the then PM Mahathir announced just before the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that this was “proof of Malaysia's commitment to the environment”.

So what happened to that commitment, Mahathir?

In 1993, with the upturn in the Malaysian economy, the government once again announced the revival of the Bakun dam project. To cushion the expected protests, then Energy Minister S Samy Vellu gave Parliament a poetic description of a “series of cascading dams” and not one large dam as had been originally proposed.

Before long, it was announced that the Bakun dam would be a massive 205-metre high concrete face rockfill dam - one of the highest dams of its kind in the world - and it would flood an area the size of Singapore island.

bakun dam electrical cable lines from sarawak to semenanjung malaysiaThe undersea cable was again part of the project. There was also a plan for an aluminum plant, a pulp and paper plant, the world's biggest steel plant and a high-tension and high-voltage wire industry.

Have feasibility studies been done to see if there will be adequate local, regional and international demand for all these products?

Six years later, after the economy was battered by the Asian Financial Crisis, the government again announced that the project would be resumed albeit on a smaller scale of 500MW capacity.

Before long in 2001, the 2,400MW scale was once again proposed although the submarine cable had been shelved. Today we read reports about the government and companies still contemplating this hare-brained undersea scheme which is now estimated to cost a whopping RM21 billion!

More mega-dams to be built

The recent announcement that the Sarawak government intends to build two more mega-dams in Sarawak apart from the ill-fated Bakun dam is cause for grave concern.

penan blockade in sarawak loggingMalaysian taxpayers, Malaysian forests and Malaysian indigenous peoples will again be the main victims of this misconceived plan. We have been told that some 1,000 more indigenous peoples will have to be displaced from their ancestral lands to make way for these two dams.

Apart from the human cost, ultimately it will be the Malaysian consumers who pay for this expensive figment of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud's wild imagination. Indeed, enough taxpayers' money has been wasted - Sarawak Hidro has already spent some RM1.5 billion on the Bakun dam project.

penan benalih baram blockade logged forest 280807 barrenRight now, the country is being fed conflicting reports about energy demand. There is supposed to be a 43 percent oversupply of electricity capacity in peninsula Malaysia. Experienced Bakun dam watchers will tell you such conflicting and mutually contradictory assertions have been used by the dam proponents to justify every flip flop of this misconceived project.

Apart from the economic cost and the wastage, how are investors supposed to plan for the long-term and medium term? What is the long-term plan for Bakun? Can Bakun compete with the rest of the world or for that matter, Indonesia?

The suggestion for aluminum smelters to take up the bulk of Bakun electricity have been mentioned ever since the conception of the Bakun dam project because they are such a voracious consumer of energy. Even so, has there ever been any proper assessment of the market viability of such a project with the cheaper operating costs in China?

laila taib mahmud sulaiman taib 290409 electionDoes it matter that the co-owner of one of the smelters is none other than Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS) Bhd Group, a conglomerate controlled by Taib's family business interest?

Sarawak's tin-pot government

Clearly, Bakun energy and Sarawak's tin-pot governance do not give confidence to investors. First it was Alcoa, and then Rio Tinto - both giant mining multinationals - had expressed second thoughts about investing in Sarawak.

Concerned NGOs have all along called for the abandonment of this monstrous Bakun dam project because it is economically ill-conceived, socially disruptive and environmentally disastrous.

The environmental destruction is evident many miles downstream since the whole Bakun area has been logged by those who have already been paid by Sarawak Hidro.

sam bakun catchment 210607 long pelutanThe social atrophy among the 10,000 displaced indigenous peoples at Sungai Asap resettlement scheme remains the wicked testimony of the Mahathir/Taib era. The empty promises and damned lives of the displaced peoples as forewarned by NGOs in 1999 have now been borne out.

The economic viability of the Bakun dam project has been in doubt from the beginning and the announcement to build two more dams merely reflects a cavalier disregard for the indigenous peoples, more desecration of Sarawak's natural resources and a blatant affront to sustainable development.

When will Malaysians ever learn?

Killer mother jailed for 33 years

Davina and Jasmine
Davina and Jasmine were killed with a kitchen knife

A mother who murdered her two daughters as they slept has been jailed for life and must serve a minimum of 33 years.

Rekha Kumari-Baker, 41, stabbed 16-year-old Davina 37 times and 13-year-old Jasmine 29 times at their home in Stretham, Cambridgeshire.

Her ex-husband said the killings were "an act of calculated viciousness".

The 33-year minimum sentence handed down at Cambridge Crown Court is one of the longest jail terms given to a woman in the UK in modern times.

David Baker, Kumari-Baker's ex-husband, said he had been "robbed" of his daughters.

'Mystery motive'

Kumari-Baker admitted killing the girls in June 2007 but denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

However the jury did not believe her and took just 35 minutes to find her guilty of murder.

Cambridgeshire Police's Jim McCrorie: "All of those involved have had an emotional connection with this case"

Sentencing her, Mr Justice Bean said the Parole Board would not consider her for release until 2040, when she will be 72.

He said she had been found guilty of two brutal murders on the basis of "clear and compelling evidence".

"Most people will find it inexplicable that a mother could kill her own children and you have given no explanation for it," he said.

He said she was "certainly upset" at the breakdown of her relationship with boyfriend Jeff Powell.

He added: "I think mild depression was probably combined with a wish to retaliate against David Baker and destroy the happiness in his life but to some extent your motive remains a mystery.

"Your defence of diminished responsibility was flimsy and unsubstantial. You knew quite well what you were doing and you were not mentally ill."

Rose West, Beverley Allitt and Myra Hindley
Rekha Kumari-Baker's 33-year minimum sentence - or 'tariff' - is among the longest handed by a UK court to a woman in modern times. Others include:
Rose West: Sentenced in 1995 for killing 10 young women and girls over 20 years - 'whole life' tariff
Beverley Allitt: Nurse who killed four children in 1991 - given minimum 30-year tariff
Myra Hindley: Moors murderer jailed for life in 1966. Minimum term increased by home secretaries during her time in jail to 'whole life'. Died 2002

The judge considered whether Kumari-Baker should ever be considered for release but concluded that the premeditation was significant but not substantial so a "whole life order" was not warranted.

In a victim impact statement read to the court by prosecutor John Farmer after Kumari-Baker was convicted, Mr Baker told of the "incalculable" loss he had suffered.

"Having them taken away from me in such a brutal way and by the woman who was their mother... has had an incalculable effect," Mr Baker said in his statement.

"I am haunted by the horror of the events of that night and probably will remain so for a very long time."

His statement continued: "She tore them from us all and life can't be the same for those who remain."

Prosecutors had said Kumari-Baker was trying to "wreak havoc" on her ex-husband.

Asda knives

During the two-week trial, jurors heard that she attacked the girls in the early hours of 13 June.

The court heard evidence showed that Davina - whose body was found kneeling on the floor - had struggled. Jasmine was found dead in bed.

The prosecution said Kumari-Baker bought the knives she used to attack the girls at an Asda supermarket two days earlier.

She argued that she had been suffering from a mental disorder and mounted a "diminished responsibility defence".

Watch Michael Jackson sing "Human Nature" during one of his last rehearsals.

Rule of law versus rule by law


They may be so-called ‘legitimate’ laws. And they are ‘legitimate’ because the laws were passed by Parliament. But this just means Malaysians are being subjected to rule by law. There is a difference between rule by law and rule of law.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Many are of the opinion I should not comment on religion because I am not learned enough in matters of religion to be able to comment. I suppose lawyers would also argue that I should not comment on matters of law since I never went to law school.

I also do not know how to cook. But I can damn well tell you whether the rendang and ketupat taste delicious or are rancid, notwithstanding the fact I could never cook a decent rendang even if my life depended on it. And, in that same context, I can’t sing a single note but I can certainly tell you whether the song is pleasant to listen to or is torturous to my ears.

Anyway, while the majority of us never went to law school, we can certainly ‘see’ injustice when we see it. We do not need for injustice to bite us on our sorry behinds to understand what injustice means.

No doubt, those who walk in the corridors of power would scream that Malaysia has laws and, therefore, as law-abiding citizens, we must respect the law. And if we do not ‘respect the law’ then we should face a future in jail.

Sure, Malaysia has laws. So does Afghanistan. Should we, therefore, not also respect the laws of Afghanistan instead of criticising the Talibans when they stone to death a teenage girl who was gang-raped because of her crime of ‘immoral behaviour’? Who are we to decide that this is wrong? It is, after all, the legitimate laws of that country, just like Malaysia too has ‘legitimate’ laws which the powers-that-be do not want us to criticise.

They may be so-called ‘legitimate’ laws. And they are ‘legitimate’ because the laws were passed by Parliament. But this just means Malaysians are being subjected to rule by law. There is a difference between rule by law and rule of law.

We shall continue this discussion later. However, before we do, first of all understand what is meant by rule of law. And once we understand this we can then enter into an unemotional and intelligent discussion as to why some Malaysian laws, although they may have been legally passed by Parliament, need to be opposed. The legality of these laws is just one aspect. The more important point that needs to be debated is whether these laws violate the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which thereby subject Malaysians to rule by law instead of rule of law.


Rule of law - Definition

The rule of law implies that government authority may only be exercised in accordance with written laws, which were adopted through an established procedure. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary rulings in individual cases.


Perhaps the most famous exposition of the concept of rule of law was laid down by Albert Venn Dicey in his Law of the Constitution in 1895:

When we say that the supremacy or the rule of law is a characteristic of the English constitution, we generally include under one expression at least three distinct though kindred conceptions. We mean, in the first place, that no man is punishable or can be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. ...

... every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen. The Reports abound with cases in which officials have been brought before the courts, and made, in their personal capacity, liable to punishment, or to the payment of damages, for acts done in their official character but in excess of their lawful authority. [Appointed government officials and politicians, alike] ... and all subordinates, though carrying out the commands of their official superiors, are as responsible for any act which the law does not authorise as is any private and unofficial person.

-- Law of the Constitution (London: MacMillan, 9th ed., 1950), 194.

Thus, those who make and enforce the law are themselves bound to adhere to it.

The concept "rule of law" is generally associated with several other concepts, such as:

* Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali - No ex post facto laws

* Presumption of innocence - All individuals are "innocent until proven otherwise"

* Double jeopardy - Individuals may only be punished once for every specific crime committed. Retrials may or may not be permitted on the grounds of new evidence. See also res judicata.

* Legal equality - All individuals are given the same rights without distinction to their social stature, religion, political opinions, etc. That is, like Montesquieu would have it, "law should be like death, which spares no one."

* Habeas Corpus - A Latin term meaning "you must have the body". It is a component of the Magna Carta which ensures the right of the person being arrested to know what evidence the arresting body has against them. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that commands the custodial authority to present the arrested/detained person before a judge or court to determine the validity of the arrest. Its purpose is to help curb unlawful detainment by ensuring that anyone arrested or detained is entitled to a court appearance within a reasonable amount of time (normally within 48 hours of the arrest).

The concept of "rule of law" per se says nothing of the "justness" of the laws themselves, but simply how the legal system upholds the law. As a consequence of this, a very undemocratic nation or one without respect for human rights can exist with or without a "rule of law", a situation which many argue is applicable to several modern dictatorships. However, the "rule of law" is considered a pre-requisite for democracy, and as such, has served as a common basis for human rights discourse between countries such as the People's Republic of China and the West.

The rule of law is an ancient ideal of first posited by Aristotle as a system of rules inherent in the natural order. It continues to be important as a normative ideal, even as legal scholars struggle to define it. The concept of impartial rule of law is found in the Chinese political philosophy of Legalism, but the totalitarian nature of the regime that this produced had a profound effect on Chinese political thought which at least rhetorically emphasized personal moral relations over impersonal legal ones. Although Chinese emperors were not subject to law, in practice they found it necessary to act according to regular procedures for reasons of statecraft.

In the Anglo-American legal tradition rule of law has been seen as a guard against despotism and as enforcing limitations on the power of the government. In the People's Republic of China, the discourse around rule of law centers on the notion that it will ultimately enhance the power of the state and the nation.

While there is a consensus both in China and the West that rule of law is a good thing, this is not a universally accepted truth. Some communist governments, including China during the Cultural Revolution, have been at least partially negative toward the idea of rule of law, arguing that it interferes with class struggle. Furthermore, rule of law is opposed in many authoritarian and totalitarian states. The explicit policy of those governments, as evidenced in the Night and Fog decrees of Nazi Germany, is that the public should be constantly in fear of the government.


The above definition of rule of law shows that Malaysia does not adhere to certain principles like no double jeopardy (where you cannot be punished twice for the same crime), no detention without trial (where you need to be put on trial and be found guilty before you can be sentenced to jail), your right to Habeas Corpus (where you must be produced in court and be told of the crime you are alleged to have committed), your right to legal representation, your right to defend yourself in court, and whatnot. The fact that the laws are passed by Parliament and therefore this allows the Malaysian government to violate your fundamental rights do not make these laws right. And the fact that the laws also violate the Federal Constitution makes it even worse.

In fact, there are certain Articles in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia that are ambiguous because they violate or contradict other Articles. While one Article says you can’t do this, another Article says you can. And this was how the unconstitutional laws were passed and made ‘legal’.

In the past, it was believed that the King of England was appointed by God. Therefore, if you criticise the King, this is considered seditious because then you are then criticising God. And if you are ruled to have acted in a seditious manner then the government will cut off your ears. This was the law. So it was ‘legal’ to cut off the ears of those who criticised the King. But that does mean it was right even though at that time it was ‘legal’.

Read what Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has to say about the issue of rule of law:

There are many who see the promotion of human rights as a threat to order and security and inconsistent with stability and public order. Others see it as detracting from more pressing economic issues which, they argue, should take precedence. Some have argued that because we have different cultural values, the concept needs to be modified and that it is necessary for us to be very selective of the kind of human rights we can have.

But let us be clear. Human rights do not challenge social stability and development. On the contrary, human rights promote these ideals by recognising the value and importance of each and every individual in society. What human rights do challenge is authoritarianism.

Human rights are not and have never been a luxury wish list; they are not about promoting the rights of the individual without regard to the rights of the community. They are not about promoting selfish individualism as some would have us believe. They are about treating people with respect, with due regard to the due process of the law.

If we have no capacity to respect the dignity and the rights of one individual, then be assured that we will also have no capacity to respect the dignity and the rights of many.

The rule of law has no meaning if judges are not prepared to enter the fray in the struggle for the preservation of human rights and fundamental liberties. Supreme Court judges in other jurisdictions have done so time and again. Though it is far less difficult to accommodate the will of the government, that must be resisted at all costs, particularly where justice so demands. Only then can we say that Malaysia is grounded on the rule of law.

To all our judges I say discard your political leanings and philosophy. Stick to justice in accordance with the law. As Lord Denning reminded us, justice is inside all of us, not a product of intellect but of the spirit.

Your oath is to the Constitution; shield yourself behind it. Without your conviction, democracy is but a concept.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim

Samy Vellu: I love Dr Mahathir

(NST) - MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu seems to want to bury the hatchet with former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad.

"I am not saying anything any more. I want to only say that he's a great leader. I love him and I respect him," he said at the Hari Raya open house at Sri Perdana here on Sunday.

Samy Vellu said he had met Dr Mahathir during a Hari Raya reception at Istana Negara that morning and shook hands with him.

Brushing aside the acrimonious exchanges between the two over the past two weeks, Samy Vellu said he would take a scolding from Dr Mahathir seriously.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu greeting each other during a Hari Raya Aidilfitri reception for distinguished guests at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. — Bernama picture

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu greeting each other during a Hari Raya Aidilfitri reception for distinguished guests at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. — Bernama picture

"If someone like a big brother or a father scolds you, just take it and keep quiet. That is the family concept."

He also said that he had met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to discuss when he would be stepping down as president of the MIC, a post he has held for 28 years.

He refused to reveal details, saying "only the prime minister and I know when".

In the run-up to the party elections two weeks ago, Dr Mahathir was reported as saying in a vernacular newspaper that Samy Vellu should quit as party chief. He later said that Samy Vellu had become a liability to the Barisan Nasional.

Samy Vellu then lashed back, saying the former premier had no business interfering in the MIC.

A delegate at the party annual general assembly suggested that a garland of slippers be hung around Dr Mahathir's portrait for butting in and "not doing anything for the Indian community".

The delegate has since been suspended from the MIC.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir appeared to have ended the row by saying an apology from Samy Vellu was not necessary.

"We shook hands. No, he did not apologise. I think it's not necessary," he said at the same function on Sunday.

Dr Mahathir described the spat as "nothing".

Is Palanivel ready to lead MIC?

By Baradan Kuppusamy - The Malaysian Insider

Samy Vellu (left) has laid the gauntlet on the ground. Can and will Palanivel (right) pick it up? — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 – As usual, there is a “but” and a big one at that in MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s offer to quit in favour of his newly elected deputy Datuk G. Palanivel.

Samy Vellu says he is prepared to quit “even today or tomorrow” if Palanivel feels that he is ready to take over the party leadership.

“I am ready to pass the baton to him… but he must be ready,” Samy Vellu said yesterday, indirectly piling pressure on Palanivel to declare whether he is ready or, as the president hopes, announces instead that he needs Samy Vellu to remain. Palanivel is in India for prayers.

Is Palanivel ready to lead a fractious MIC that has long been dominated by strong willed personalities?

It is a question on the minds of MIC members and Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders for some time now as the MIC, after suffering massive losses in Election 2008, is trying to find its feet hopefully under a new leader before the next general election is due in 2013.

In 2006, helped by Samy Vellu, Palanivel won the party No 2 post handsomely by defeating Datuk S. Subramaniam with a 483 vote majority.

Three years later on Sept 12 his majority fell to just 82 votes, showing the erosion of his standing in the party despite strong support from Samy Vellu.

His rival, Subramaniam, polled 546 votes, more than the 495 he got in 2006 but significantly a third contender Datuk S. Sothinathan garnered 280 votes, indicating the majority of the votes had gone against Samy Vellu and his choice, Palanivel.

The results show both Samy Vellu, and in particular Palanivel, are now in the minority in the MIC.

Although he won the deputy president’s contest, he is the weakest among the three in terms of the support he personally receives in the party.

Palanivel got about 43 per cent of the 1,450 votes while Subramaniam received about 37 per cent and Sothinathan about per cent indicating the battle is far from settled among the three.

Of the 43 per cent of votes, a good number were strong supporters of Samy Vellu who were duty-bound to support Palanivel because “their president” had asked them to do so.

On winning, the first thing Palanivel did was to thank Samy Vellu and declare he would not have won without the president’s backing, which simply means Palanivel will need Samy Vellu to stay on as president for some time.

“He is in no position to let Samy Vellu go or ask him to quit,” said an MIC insider.

“He is too weak to hold the party together without the strong backing of Samy Vellu.”

“This is exactly the situation Samy Vellu wants… a weak deputy president dependent on him to keep the wolves at bay,” the MIC insider, a former vice-president, said while adding that such a situation was engineered by Samy Vellu.

“He could have backed Subramaniam or Datuk Dr Subramaniam (newly elected vice-president and Human Resources minister) but these two would be pushing him to retire,” the former vice-president said.

“Palanivel, however, is unlikely to pressure Samy Vellu to quit… he needs him,” he said. “Samy Vellu is in no hurry to retire.”

Nevertheless Samy Vellu is unlikely to stay until 2012, when his 11th term as president expires.

This gives the MIC leadership about two years to reinvent themselves in time for the next general election.

Palanivel is expected to bide his time and play along, allowing Samy Vellu unhindered space to run the MIC in his usual haughty manner just as Subramaniam had for many years, excelling in the art “sitting pretty and doing nothing.”

If he does take over, Palanivel’s leadership would be a sharp contrast to the puffed-up, boisterous and fun-loving Samy Vellu.

Except for the early years after its founding in 1946, the MIC has been dominated by two men — Tun VT Sambanthan for 18 years until 1973 and Samy Vellu from 1979.

The original MIC was a mixture of pro-Asian nationalism with mild socialist leanings but all that changed after Sambanthan took over on a wave of Tamil chauvinism.

His successor Tan Sri V. Manicavasagam held the post for only six years but left a deep imprint by bringing Western-educated intellectuals into the party, setting up the Nesa Co-operative and building the current MIC headquarters.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Palanivel does not have the “big man” personality, boldness or charisma of either Sambanthan or Samy Vellu.

He does not wax eloquent in Tamil, nor does he narrate stories of past Tamil glories or sing songs like Samy Vellu does to captivate the hearts and minds of the party rank and file.

He does not have a presence nor can he walk into a room and fill the space to overflowing but he once said he had ideas.

“I know what to do for the Indian community,” he told this writer.

“The era of the giants dominating the political stage is over… the era of Nehru, Marcos, Mao, Sukarno is over,” he said. “We are in the era of functionaries, leaders who know what to do, do it and move on.”

Review paper of ISA may be tabled in parliament next month

ALOR GAJAH, Sept 22 – A review paper of the Internal Security Act (ISA) may be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat next month, said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop.

“According to our plan we will try to table it in Budget 2010 for first debate in October,” he told reporters when met at a Hari Raya open house at Masjid Tanah near here today.

Last August Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had said that the government was getting feedback on the ISA.

On the claim that the release of the five ISA Jemaah Islamiah (JI) detainees on Sept 15 was a “political play” for the Barisan Nasional (BN) to root for votes in the Bagan Pinang, Negeri Sembilan by-election on Oct 11, Abu Seman said: “Whenever we do something good it is seen as otherwise as such is the work of the opposition.”

Abu Seman, who is also the Member of Parliament for Masjid Tanah, said the five ISA detainees were freed because they were no longer deemed to be a threat to national security. – Bernama

Mahathir: Corruption-free candidate important for Bagan Pinang and beyond

SEREMBAN, Sept 22 — Umno should pick a candidate who is free of money politics for the Bagan Pinang state by-election, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

He believes that the Barisan Nasional can win the by-election on Oct 11 with a big majority because the seat is an Umno's stronghold.

Having corruption-free candidates would be a very important factor in Bagan Pinang as well as in the next general election, he told reporters after attending Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan's Aidilfitri open house in Rantau here.

"For me, it's not just this place. The people throughout Malaysia want to know whether we are serious about eradicating money politics, corruption and so forth," he said.

If Umno fields an candidate who is not clean, it might win in Bagan Pinang but would lose in other constituencies, he said.

He also feared that the party would lose badly in the 13th general election if the trend continues.

"I'm not thinking about individuals. I know everyone and I don't care about anyone but I'm thinking only of the party," he said.

The Bagan Pinang seat fell vacant following the death of incumbent Azman Mohamad Noor of the BN on Sept 4. Nomination day is scheduled for Oct 3. — Bernama