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Monday, December 28, 2009

A piece of Ethopia in Malaysian Indians. Compliments from UMNO.

Poverty striken single Indian parent Mageswari (33) and her impoverished four children’s picture speaks a thousand words. They are aged a mere 8 months, 4, 7, and 8 years old. But UMNO will never give this poor Indian family the ten acre land ownership schemes in Felda, Felcra, Risda, Fama, Agropolition or the scores of livestock land schemes especially cow and goat rearing land schemes however poor or deserving these Indians are. Instead to add insult to injury the UMNO Welfare Department has reduced Mageswari’s welfare help to mere RM 100.00 per month “as she is living below the poverty level”.

This RM 100.00 per month welfare help would not even be enough to buy pampers for Mageswari’s 8 month old baby.

But then again this is the implementation scheme by UMNO’s Biro Tata Negara “graduates”.

P. Uthayakumar.

ethopia3

PKR’s Rule : 40 Indian squatters to be made homeless soon (Makkal Osai 10/12/09 at page 4)

Even their rumah panjang in Petaling will be demolished soon. Almost every day in the three Tamil dailies it is either the hindu temples, hindu crematoriums, Tamil schools or Indian settlements that are demolished or to be demolished.

P. Uthayakumar.

HRP Secretary General

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ABDUL KHALID IBRAHIM / MENTERI BESAR SELANGOR

MACC wants PI Bala to write formally

By G. Manimaran - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) is seeking a formal request from private investigator P. Balasubramaniam to enable the graft busters to probe allegations he has made about the circumstances surrounding the death of Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The missing private detective has made a series of sensational claims that Najib knew murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and his brother Nazim and a businessman linked to the prime minister’s wife made him retract a statutory declaration on the case.

Earlier this month, Balasubramaniam (picture), who is now overseas, had said he was prepared to give a statement to MACC.

The MACC had, in a letter dated Dec 17 to the private detective's lawyer Americk Sidhu, asked Balasubramaniam to deal formally with the agency.

"The MACC have contacted me by sending a letter to my office in KL requesting that I correspond with them on a formal basis before they respond to my original offer of arranging an appointment for them to interview Bala.

"Their letter to my office was dated 17th Dec and arrived on the 21st.," Americk said in an email response to The Malaysian Insider.

Balasubramaniam had expressed his intention to cooperate with MACC in an email to the agency earlier this month. On Dec 4, PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin lodged a police report over Balasubramaniam's allegations and handed over a recording of an interview with the private investigator to the authorities.

After a number of blogs and news portals published the interview conducted with Balasubramaniam and his lawyers in Singapore, a number of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders had lodged reports with the MACC.

Balasubramaniam, in his original email to MACC, had listed down conditions for his questioning by the authorities, including a requirement that it be conducted either in Singapore or London.

Asked today if he thought the MACC's response was positive, Americk said:

"I am not sure whether we can consider the MACC's response as positive as all they have asked is for me to reiterate what I have stated earlier in a formal format.

"In this day and age I am not sure why the MACC consider an email not 'formal'."

Datuk Seri Najib Razak has frostily ignored Balasubramaniam’s claims that his architect brother was allegedly involved in the private investigator’s disappearance and payoff for his silence in the Altantuya murder case.

The Umno president has previously denied knowing Altantuya, who was killed in October 2006, despite claims by Bala and popularised by fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin. Najib’s close friend, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, was acquitted of charges of plotting her murder while two elite policemen are to hang for the offence. They are appealing the sentence.

In an interview with Bala carried in Raja Petra’s Malaysia-Today.net news portal, the private investigator claimed he met architect Nazim, a younger brother of Najib, last year.

Bala claimed the meeting had been arranged by a carpet businessman identified as Deepak Jaikishan, whom the investigator claimed was a close associate of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the PM’s wife.

He also alleged that he was offered RM5 million to retract his first statutory declaration and that his family was threatened if he did not do it.

The former Special Branch policeman further claimed he was forced to sign a second pre-prepared statutory declaration which he claims to have never read and was paid RM750,000 after he disappeared.

So far, no one knows the whereabouts of the private investigator but he claimed he returned three times to Malaysia this year since fleeing in July 2008 after issuing contradictory statutory declarations. Police are seeking him although he claimed to have given them his statement in Bangkok before travelling to India.

Pakatan Rakyat has used the Altantuya case in some of its campaigns in the nine by-elections since Election 2008, winning seven in most opposition-held constituencies. The only Barisan Nasional seat it wrested effectively was the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.

Pakatan mulls push for Senate elections

Syed Husin wants his senators elected not appointed. - Picture by Jack Ooi

By G. Manimaran- The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is considering a proposal to push for direct senatorial elections to elevate the status of the Dewan Negara as a significant part of the parliamentary process.

The proposal comes even as PR parties continue to search for a solution amid disagreements about their campaign promise to introduce local council elections if the coalition took federal power.

PKR vice-president Dr Syed Husin Ali said that PR was considering a proposal to have at least a portion of Dewan Negara seats filled through elections.

“I personally feel that the members of the Dewan Negara should be elected, and I have forwarded this proposal to the PR leadership.

“Even if they are not all elected, at least some of them should be,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Syed Husin, 73, who recently took his oath to become a senator nominated by the Selangor PR government, acknowledged there was still a need for the federal government to appoint some senators who were not politicians so that certain Cabinet posts could be filled.

He said that any proposal to change how Senate seats are filled would require the federal laws to be amended.

But he pointed out that PR state governments should start giving their inputs on the issue to the federal government.

“I hope that the four state governments under Pakatan will do something, including giving their views to the federal government.

“We have to start doing something now to create awareness on this,” he said.

The Dewan Negara consists of 70 members.

A total of 26 senators are nominated by state assemblies while 44 are appointed by the King on the advice of the prime minister.

Senators hold the post for a three year term and can have a one-term extension.

On the proposal to revive local council elections, Syed Husin admitted there were concerns within all PR parties about the racial composition of those elected to be councillors.

During the recent PR convention, the coalition announced a commitment to local democracy, but did not spell out its total commitment to revive local council elections if it comes to power.

Munawar loses bid to expunge sodomy judgment

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 28 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s former speech-writer Dr Munawar Ahmad Anees today failed to get parts of the Federal Court judgment relating to his sodomy case expunged.

Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria and Federal Court judges Datuk Wira Mohd Ghazali Mohd Yusoff and Datuk Raus Md Sharif unanimously dismissed his application for a review of the judgment dated Dec 17, 2008.

The judgment was handed down by the Federal Court in dismissing his application for a review to remit his appeal against conviction and six-month jail sentence for sodomy to the High Court for argument on merit.

Neither Munawar nor his counsel Manjeet Singh Dhillon were present today while deputy public prosecutor Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud was the only party who appeared before the court.

In putting an end to the legal bid, Raus, who read the 15-page the judgment, said the court found paragraphs 20 to 26 in it were not something "plucked from thin air".

"From the impugned judgment itself, it is clear that what was said by this court in paragraphs 20 to 26 was in relation to something which was argued by the parties. Hence, there is nothing wrong for this court to express its view or opinion on the matters submitted before the court," he said.

Raus said whether what was said in the paragraphs 20 to 26 is obiter dicta (remark) or a ruling was not for the court to determine through the review application.

"As rightly pointed out by the learned deputy public prosecutor, there should not be a declaratory order to pinpoint which part of a judgment is obiter or a ruling. Such determination has to be done by the skills of counsel appearing before the courts. It cannot be done by way of an application as it being done in this case," he said.

Raus said in this case, the court did not see any circumstances to invoke its inherent powers to review its own decision.

He said only in very limited and exceptional cases, the court had the inherent jurisdiction to review its own decision such as when the decision had been obtained by fraud or suppression of material evidence, there was a clear infringement of statutory law and where bias had been established.

None of the above could fit into the facts of the present case, he said.

Raus said in a criminal matter which originated from the Sessions Court as in the case, the appeal should stop at the Court of Appeal.

"This court had ruled it could not deal with the matter for want of jurisdiction. Surely, after declining jurisdiction, this court cannot now assume jurisdiction. The matter has come to an end. It has to stop otherwise there will be no end to a litigation," he added

Munawar, 61, had served six months in prison in 1998 after he pleaded guilty in the Sessions Court, to allowing Anwar to sodomise him in Anwar's house in Jalan Setia Murni 1, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur during March 1993.

Munawar had served his sentence but decided to challenge the court's decision to clear his name, claiming that he was coerced into pleading guilty to the charge. — Bernama

MiG-29


1. Saya dengar pesawat pejuang MiG-29 Tentera Udara Di-Raja Malaysia sudah tidak dapat digunakan lagi. Jika saya tidak silap umur pesawat ini kurang daripada 20 tahun.

2. Banyak negara-negara lain, termasuk India, menggunakan pesawat ini. Apakah mereka juga tidak dapat guna MiG-29 mereka lebih daripada 20 tahun? Apakah mereka sudah kondem pesawat MiG mereka seawal ini?

3. Walaupun pesawat tentera Rusia lebih murah daripada buatan Amerika, tetapi wang yang banyak terpaksa dibelanja juga. Kalau di-kondem ratusan juta Ringgit akan hilang.

4. Jika kita beli ganti lagi ratusan juta diperlukan. Dalam keadaan ekonomi negara sekarang, mampukah kita belanja ratusan juta untuk pesawat ganti?

5. Penjualan dan pembelian pesawat oleh Kerajaan mampu memberi keuntungan besar (berjuta-juta) kepada orang tengah. Apakah ada kepentingan orang tengah yang mempengaruhi keputusan kondem MiG-29 untuk beli yang baru?

6. Saya percaya ada cara untuk baikpulih pesawat pejuang dan pesawat lain. Tak bolehkah kita baikpulih MiG-29 ini? Kalau kita tak boleh, orang Rusia mungkin boleh. Mungkin India juga boleh.

7. Jika pesawat pejuang yang berharga ratusan juta hanya tahan 20 tahun, lebih baik kita tidak ada pesawat pejuang.

8. Pesawat Amerika kononnya tahan lebih lama. Tetapi kita perlu ingat apabila duit untuk beli MiG-29 diguna untuk beli pesawat F/A-18, akhirnya kita tahu syarat ketat yang dikenakan oleh Amerika Ayarikat.

9. Mereka tidak beri "source code" yang mana ini menghadkan kegunaan F/A-18 untuk pameran sahaja.

10. Saya harap keputusan untuk kondem MiG-29 dibatal dan kita baikpulih pesawat ini.

Thanks, Tee, for drawing votes for Pakatan

By Thomas Lee

I wish to thank Utusan Malaysia columnist Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah for being so clever to suggest that Malay-Muslims have more rights because they form the majority in Malaysia. His articulate political reconnaissance will surely contribute a much bigger swing of votes to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) at the next general election.

Tee has proposed in his article a formula based on the racial and religious breakdown of the 27 million population of the nation, to apportion the share of what is due to each community in terms of rights, festivities and celebrations.

His so-called formula is based on the statistical breakdown of races and religions in the Year 2000 census, where the percentages of Malaysians by religions were 60% Islam, 22% Buddhist-Taoism-Confucius, 9% Christian, 6% Hindu, 3% other races and religions.

Am I correct to interpret the Tee formula to mean that the numbers of residential houses, number of festive and religious holidays, allocation of land for places of worship and burial ground, permits and premises for business and trading, number of educational institutions and scholarships, quota of jobs in both the public and private sectors, number of professionals in all fields, or even the number of inmates in old folk’s homes, orphanages and prisons, must be all be apportionable or assigned according to 60% for the Malay-Muslims, 22% for Buddhist-Taoism-Confucius devotees, 9% Christians, 6% Hindus, 3% followers of other religions?

Tee said that his formula can be applied in the context of the nationalisation (read: forced enforcement), including the justification on the rights of religious festivals and celebrations of all races.

He claimed that there was an overwhelming number of non-Muslim places of worship, with their festival celebrations actually drowning the Muslims celebrations even though the non-Muslims are the minority races.
As a university lecturer, Tee must provide tangible evidence from empirical observation and indepth studies to justify such a general sweeping accessment. Otherwise he stands condemned as a mere rumour-monger for his speculative conjecture.

The authorities should haul up people who made such unsubstantial and seditious allegations which could incite racial disharmony.

Tee gave as an example the widespread celebration of Christmas, with the shopping malls going all out to promote the festival, although Christians constituted only 9% of the population.

Such an example reflects uninformed and shallow thinking, unbefitting someone who holds a doctorate degree and is a university lecturer.

Such a person simply do no understand that the Christmas celebration, although associated with the Christian faith, has now evolved into an international multi-racial commercial cultural festival. Christmas is celebrated nationwide in even a Shinto-Zen Buddhist country like Japan, with nothing much to do with the Christian faith.

It is sad, but true, that the real meaning and significance of Christmas, which is the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ, have been degenerated into a mere cultural event. Even a so-called “educated” person like Tee associates Christmas with Santa Claus. He has condemned a state excutive councillor for taking a Santa Claus to meet his leader, implying that what he knows or understands about Christmas is merely all about Santa Claus.

Tee also accused the DAP, which he labelled the “ultra kiasu group”, of alledgedly raising sensitive issues that could lead to racial chaos similar to that of the May 13 riots in 1969.

If what the DAP has been doing since its establishment more than 40 years and is still doing — that is raising issues and fighting for true democratic practices, social justice, human, civil and constitional rights of the citizens — is being “ultra kiasu” (meaning extremely afraid of losing), then people like Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng, the late P. Patto and many others would have been thoroughly broken and destroyed by their unjust incarceration under the oppressive legal instrument called the ISA (Internal Security Act), and the DAP would have disappeared from the face of this Earth years ago. It is simply their brave, bold and bona fide conviction and commitment to the causes of democracy and social justice and their passionate love for the country that they have the strength and courage to go through the intense emotional sufferings of separation from their loved ones while under detention.

To alleged that the DAP, by implication its leaders, are “ultra kiasu” is simply the most unkindest cut of all, and armchair critics like Tee should be thoroughly be ashamed to have made such an unjust allegation.

The DAP and its leaders have proven over the last 40 years that they have been consistent in their vision of a fair, just and united Malaysian Malaysia, and have worked and struggled truthfully and tirelessly, without fear or favour. The party’s clean, corrupt-free record is testimony to the character and conduct of its leaders.

Kiasu? Please conduct an honest scholarly research studies into the political history of post-Merdeka Malaysia, Dr Tee. I also give you the benefit of doubt that you are not writing what you wrote to draw attention of the political bosses.

AN AFTERTHOUGHT: Sometimes I wonder about the intellectual capacity or even the simple level of intelligence of many of the so-called doctorate degree holders in our country, given the way many of them articulate about the vital issues of the nation. For example, there is a Ph.D holder who did a thesis on the evil of the Internal Security Act (ISA), but then endorsed and support of the oppressive law. Another Ph.D holder and university lecturer wrote a thesis about social justice but made unfounded and unjust allegations against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

NOTE: Thomas Lee, who retired as a deputy editor in The Star in June 2009, has been a socio-political analyst for nearly 35 years.

Enhancing The Role of Private Sector in Education – Part 5

By M. Bakri Musa

[Fifth of Six Parts]

[In the preceding four parts, I discussed the rationale and benefits of enhancing private sector participation in education, surveyed the various models in the rest of world, and summarized the current state of affairs in Malaysia. This fifth part contains my specific prescription for private sector participation at the pre-schools and schools, while the last (and sixth) part, for tertiary level.]

Private Sector Participation in Preschools and Schools

Private sector participation at the preschool level is already robust; there is not much more that can be done to increase that. However, the glaring deficiencies must be remedied. One, these private preschools cater only to those who can afford them. No surprise there as they are profit-making ventures. Two, there is minimal regulatory oversight; it is strictly a case of buyer (or more correctly, parents) beware.

Private preschools catering to the poor and disadvantaged are non existent except those few set up by religious and charitable entities, as well as public social agencies. The government could increase that number considerably by granting generous subsidies. As we want to encourage our young to integrate early, these grants should only be given to those preschools whose pupils reflect the general population. If the subsidies were generous enough, there would be plenty of takers. I envisage a chain of brand name preschools set up all over the country catering to the poor.

The government must regulate these private preschools more stringently to ensure safety. Such issues as adequacy and safety of the physical facility, criminal background checks on the staff, and qualifications of the licensees must be clearly established before these preschools could be set up. The facilities should also be regularly inspected to ensure their compliance.

Private Schools

There has been a remarkable increase in private sector participation worldwide at the school level both in developing as well developed countries. In resource-challenged Benin, enrolment in private primary schools increased from 3 to 12 percent from 1990 to 2005, and 8 to 25 percent for secondary schools, reflecting the vast potential for contributions from the private sector even in a poor country.

Private sector participation can take two forms: on its own, independent of the government except for regulatory compliance, or in partnership with the public sector (public-private partnership – PPP). Both would require an official recognition of the fact that while education is a public good, the government is not the only entity that can provide it.

As schools are concerned with the nurturing of young minds – the future citizens – permits to operate a private school even one free of government funding should not be granted liberally as if one were dispensing licenses to sell ice cream. Even operators of ice cream parlors have to meet certain rules with respect to public health.

Private schools too must be subjected to certain rules not only with respect to protecting its consumers (students) but also in serving legitimate national interests. An example of the first would be to require these schools to post performance bonds such that if they were to fail, the students would be compensated for their inconvenience and time loss. Beyond that I do not think the government has any legitimate right to demand these schools follow the national curriculum or dictate the teachers they employ.

As for serving the national interest, these schools must assume their appropriate responsibility of preparing their students to be citizens of a plural Malaysia. Thus their students must be sufficiently fluent in our national language, and be familiar with our history, society, and system of governance. Specifically the school must teach Malay language every school day and at every level. To prevent such classes from being a sham, their students’ aggregate performance must match those of government schools. If not, these schools would risk losing their license.

All the current private schools – international, independent Chinese, and private religious schools – meet these minimal physical standards, except perhaps some of the private pondok religious schools in Kedah and the East Coast. This is evident from the regular news reports of students succumbing to food poisoning or being burnt to death in dorm fires.

The greatest demand is for international schools, in part because they do not follow the national curriculum. This tells us something of what citizens feel about our national curriculum. These schools are still few in numbers and expensive. If we liberalize the setting up of such schools and open up the admissions, many more would be set up. Then the wonders of the marketplace would take over: Their fees would come down because of the competition and more Malaysians could afford them.

As with anything else, we will never know how such a policy would actually turn out. Thus it would make sense to start out small, like giving out permits for about 20-25 such schools initially and then study the results for the first few years.

My hope is that the experiment would be so successful that there would unanimity to expand it. By this I mean that these schools would provide quality education, with their students flawlessly fluent in as well as proud of our national language, and have a faculty and student body representative of Malaysian society. The poor would also be sufficiently represented, made possible through scholarships. In short, they would emulate the successful “private” non-profit American prep schools.

Of course many things could go wrong. There could be corruption in the awards of these permits. The schools would then be expensive, ineffective, and merely a repository for spoilt rich kids who would be illiterate in our national language and have no appreciation of our history. That would only generate a backlash.

Or these schools could be set up by extremist groups (secular and religious) bent on perpetuating their own brand of intolerance or on proselytizing rather than educating. That too would not be healthy.

Should any of these were to happen, then the policy or its implementation would have to be reexamined and modified.

Public-Private Partnership

The other avenue for private sector participation would be through a variety of public-private partnership (PPP). The World Bank recently analyzed the global experience with PPPs. At one extreme is the Netherlands where the government is merely the provider of financing, with the private sector the provider of services. At the other end is Chile with its extensive use of vouchers. In between we have charter schools (America), direct subsidies (Quebec), or where private contractors are engaged to run public schools (America).

Nearly two thirds of Dutch pupils attend private schools, which can either be fully or partially funded publicly. This model obviously works for it receives wide support. Dutch students also consistently score at the top in various international comparisons like TIMMS.

If such a model were to be adopted locally without any modification, there would be the inevitable self-segregation based on class, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. That would not be healthy. There would also be the question of inequity of access based on geography, with the good schools in affluent areas and beyond the reach (physically as well as psychologically) of the poor.

The best for Malaysia would be to have PPP along the concept of charter schools. Charter schools are fully funded by the state but run by private (usually non-profit) entities. The state would pay the school the same amount what it would normally cost for a pupil to attend government school.

The main barrier to charter schools in America is that such permits are issued only by the local public school board. That immediately sets up a conflict of interest because for every charter school it approves, funds would be taken away from the board’s budget. Further, to maintain their charter these schools have to satisfy the local school board, which views such schools as unwelcome competitors.

I suggest that Malaysia adopts the charter concept but with some adaptations. The first is that these charters should be given only to entities that meet the openly stated criteria put forth by MOE. These should address the financial and academic requirements, specifically the qualifications of senior academic officers like the headmaster. He or she should have a degree from a recognized university and have specified years of relevant experience. I would also put as a requirement that the governing board has significant representation from parents and teachers.

The student body of these schools must also reflect Malaysian society with respect to race and socio-economic class. To minimize inequity of access based on geography, these schools must also have sufficient hostel facilities to cater for those who live beyond commuting distance.

The admission policy too must be fair and transparent. Where there are more applicants than space, the school must have a fair method of selection (a lottery for example) to prevent favoritism or corruption. This would also avoid these schools from skimming the top talents. There must be exceptions of course, to accommodate the siblings of present students and children of staff members.

As for the curriculum, the only requirement would be that these schools teach our national language for one period a day at all levels. Again as with private schools, the students of these charter schools must collectively demonstrate competency in Malay comparable to those attending national schools.

If at any time these schools fail to maintain these standards, they would be given a specified time (three years, for example) to correct the deficiencies, or risk losing their charter.

In return such schools would get preferred government funding and credit for capital projects like new buildings and instituting new programs, in addition to their per student grants.

Beyond those guidelines these schools would be free to carve their own path, including the freedom to choose the curriculum and language of instruction. I venture that if there were to be sufficient demand from a broad section of Malaysians for a charter school using Swahili, there will be one.

Again, as with the private school program, I would start small, limiting such charter schools to about 15 or 20 each for primary and secondary levels per state. Study the development, and if successful expand it. I would also allow for the conversion of existing schools into charter schools upon petition by a majority of the teachers and parents.

Malaysia should also be open to other models of PPP. One would be to have private entities (local or foreign) run a national school under a management contract. That would include recruiting the teachers to designing the curriculum, subject to the same conditions as charter schools. The difference is that the contractor would not own the physical facility; the buildings and land would remain government-owned. Likewise, the government would select the students entering such schools.

My first candidate for such private management would be our residential schools. I would invite experienced operators locally and abroad to bid in running such schools. The contract would specify the goals, like the type of matriculation examinations the students would sit, as well as the costs.

Imagine the operators of Exeter running Malay College! We need not go far; we have many existing excellent private schools that could be encouraged, through proper incentives, to run some of our residential schools.

Another PPP would be the reverse, where private companies bid to build the entire school complete with desks, chairs and blackboards to the government’s specifications and then lease it back to the government. The government would run the school, just like any other government school. The P3 program of Canada’s Nova Scotia province is one such program. Such a scheme would lighten the strain on the government’s capital budget.

The government, spearheaded by Khazanah, has initiated a PPP with its Trust Schools scheduled to be operational by 2010. It has wisely started with a small pilot project.

There are a number of commendable features to the concept, principally the granting of greater autonomy to the schools and the possibility of supplemental funding from the sponsoring private entities. However, this autonomy extends only to administrative matters, and a very limited one that. For example, the teachers would still remain as civil servants, and thus the school management would still be unnecessarily constrained by civil service rules especially in critical matters of hiring and firing.

From what I can see from the preliminary design, a private entity would form a non-profit body to run the trust school. So far so good! Then this non-profit body would engage a for profit “operator” to actually run the school. This is an unnecessary intermediation, adding another layer of cost structure (the operator is for profit) and administrative hurdle. I do not see why the non-profit entity cannot run the school itself, thus dispensing with the “operator.” I can just see it: the awarding of these contracts to the “operators” would be yet another source of local corruption and political lobbying. I can predict who the owners of these for profit operators would be. Yes, companies associated with the local UMNO chiefs.

More problematic is that these schools will have to follow the national curriculum. What is at issue is that the national curriculum itself that is wanting. This critical point is missed by the originators of the Trust Schools concept. True, these schools are free to add beyond the national curriculum, but that is a meaningless freedom. The national curriculum already consumes the entire school day; there is little time left for anything else.

Similarly, the freedom to prepare students for other examinations (like GCE or IB) is also a meaningless because these schools must also prepare their students for national examinations. Imagine a school trying to prepare its students to sit for the IB as well; it would be a horror to design the curriculum and train the teachers. This is just not practical.

Lastly, the trust schools designers have not addressed the issue of access, specifically equity of access, and increasing racial as well socio-economic segregation. I would hope that a condition for such schools must be that their students and teachers broadly reflect the greater Malaysian society, and that these schools must have adequate boarding facilities to cater for those who live far away, specifically those in rural areas.

Truly the opportunities for meaningful private sector participation in education, either alone or in partnership with the government, are limitless, bounded only by our creative imaginations and self-imposed limitations.

There is a great pent-up demand for a school system other than what is being offered today by our national schools with its hide-bound culture and outmoded curriculum. We see this in the backlog of applications to international schools, and more dramatically in the daily convoy of school buses carrying our young across the causeway in Johor. It is time we address this desperate need with the help of the private sector.

Next: Last of Six Parts Private Colleges and Universities

Malaysia’s sodomy laws: Progress with the times!

Loyar Burok
By Kua Kia Soong

This post is reproduced from here.

25 December 2009

Ever since the political trial against Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy in 1999, I had been hoping that the gay community in Malaysia (”the pink brigade”) would have spoken out against our antiquated sodomy laws and fought for equality of treatment for all consensual sex between adults. I have always believed that the rights of any section of our community must be fought for and led by that particular section, for only then can the exploited and those transgressed against be empowered in the process.

All over the world, not just in the West, the times are certainly changing. On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court delivered a historic judgment to amend a 149-year-old colonial-era law and forthwith decriminalised private consensual sex between adults of the same sex. India became the 127th country to take the guilt out of homosexuality. Only rape and paedophilia remain offences under the law.

Inclusiveness

The Delhi bench invoked Jawaharlal Nehru’s politically resonant theme of inclusiveness:

If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be (the) underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of inclusivenes…

Those perceived by the majority as ‘deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracized.

(The Times of India, July 3, 2009)

Equality

The Delhi High Court further ruled:

Indian constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is the antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual…

There is almost unanimous medical and psychiatric opinion that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder and is just another expression of human sexuality.

Article 8 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution guarantees the equality of all persons. If this is not specific enough, the Malaysian Charter on Human Rights by Malaysian civil society in 1994 spells this out more specifically:

There shall be no discrimination in the rights and privileges of persons based on their ethnic origin, class, social status, age, sex, mental and physical being, language, religious belief, sexual identity or political conviction…

(Article 8:2)

Recently, Judge Jonathan Heher of the Johannesburg High Court struck down South Africa’s sodomy law on the grounds that it violated the nation’s new Constitution which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation:

To penalize a gay or lesbian person for the expression of his or her sexuality can only be defended from a standpoint which depends on the baneful influences of religious intolerance, ignorance, superstition, bigotry, fear of what is different from or alien to everyday experience and the millstone of history.

Just a few months earlier Ecuador’s Supreme Court ruled that nation’s sodomy law unconstitutional. And Romania’s new Prime Minister recently promised to repeal his nation’s sodomy law to bring it in line with that of the European Union.

Pragmatism

Even closer to our shores, the attitude of our southern neighbour, Singapore, to homosexuality is also changing. In April 2007, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said in a Reuters report:

If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual – because that’s the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes – you can’t help it. So why should we criminalize it? … Let’s not go around like moral police … barging into people’s [bed] rooms. That’s not our business… So you have to take a practical, pragmatic approach to what I see is an inevitable force of time and circumstances.

Lee said Singapore should no longer discriminate against homosexuals but must take a pragmatic approach. Lee’s comments came at a time when many groups, such as The Singapore Law Society, were clamouring for a review of antiquated British colonial laws against homosexual sex, which they view as outdated and archaic.

Humanity

The plight of Malaysian transsexuals such as Fathine, is but the latest in a litany of woes suffered by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) in this country. For a society that claims that our Asian values are far superior to Western values, such demeaning treatment of our LGBT community is unacceptable. What has happened to that slogan by the BN government to create a “masyarakat penyayang” (a caring society)?

Stand Up For the Rights of all LGBT

On the grounds of inclusiveness, equality, pragmatism and humanity, it is time for all progressive Malaysians, political parties and organisations to stand up for the rights of all LGBT and to call for the abolition of our outdated sodomy laws.

Pendidikan Malaysia tiada subjek Perlembagaan

Suara Keadilan
Kolum Paksi Kata oleh Edmund Bon

Sistem pendidikan di Malaysia masih kurang menekankan aspek pemahaman 'perlembagaan' dengan lebih jelas di awal persekolahan menyebabkan rakyat tidak terdedah dan faham mengenainya.

Berdasarkan pengalaman sewaktu di sekolah dulu, kita hanya dimaklumkan untuk melafaz lima aspek rukun negara dan salah satu yang terkandung di dalamnya adalah keluhuran perlembagaan.

Malah jika ditanya murid-murid darjah satu atau dua mereka juga tidak faham mengenai keluhuran perlembagaan mahupun kedaulatan undang-undang itu.

Di Malaysia kita tiada subjek 'substentif' (isi di dalam undang-undang mengenai apa yang salah atau betul bagi teras) tersebut atau mata pelajaran yang berteraskan kepada perlembagaan semata-mata.

Sekolah hanya ada subjek moral dan sejarah, namun bagi dokumen yang penting seperti perlembagaan ini tiada subjek 'substensif' untuk dilaksanakan sehingga kini.

Kita memerlukan subjek yang memerlukan murid-murid sekolah, membaca dan mengadakan peperiksaan mengenai perlembagaan kerana dokumen ini penting, jika tiada dokumen tiada institusi negara.

Berbeza dengan Malaysia, di United Kingdom walaupun tiada perlembagaan bertulis namun tahap pemahaman rakyat mereka memahami isu hak-hak kemanusiaan adalah lebih baik.

Di UK wujud akta hak-hak kemanusiaan malah kerajaan mereka turut menekankan dengan membangunkan subjek-subjek tertentu seperti politik, undang-undang kerajaan dalam bentuk yang mudah untuk difahami oleh murid-murid sekolah.

Kini penting bagi negara kita menggalas tanggungjawab yang diabaikan generasi terdahulu untuk menguasakan rakyat mengenai perlembagaan ini.

Kita perlu melahirkan generasi yang faham dan berkuasa mengenai perlembagaan, kerana perlembagaan sesuatu yang amat 'berkuasa' dalam undang-undang di Malaysia.

Sebenarnya sehingga sekarang rakyat tidak mempunyai pengetahuan mengenai hak mereka kerana kita tidak mengetahui sesuatu perlembagaan itu dengan lebih mendalam.

Malah kita tidak sedar selama 52 tahun ini kerajaan tidak mempunyai inisiatif untuk mendidik dan menguasakan rakyat bagi memahami setiap isi perlembagaan tersebut.

Ini kerana mereka bimbang apabila rakyat lebih faham mengenai perlembagaan dan akan mempertahankan hak-hak sedia ada dalam perlembagaan tersebut, dan perkara ini cukup tidak diingini oleh pihak berkuasa.

Maka jika mulai sekarang rakyat masih tidak memahami dan kurang berpengetahuan mengenai perlembagaan maka kita tidak ubah seperti 52 tahun yang dahulu.

Dalam pada itu, melalui kempen Perlembagaanku yang diperkenalkan oleh Majlis Peguam ini memberi asas dan kepentingan perlembagaan yang tertinggi ini akan memberi impak kepada rakyat.

Malah pihak Majlis Peguam akan bekerjasama dengan pihak kementerian terbabit untuk membawa kempen PerlembagaanKu ini ke sekolah-sekolah di seluruh Malaysia.

Kini target untuk kempen PerlembagaanKu adalah mereka yang berumur 15 hingga 35 tahun, selepas dua tahun dijalankan perancangan akan diatur untuk membawakan versi perlembagaan ini dalam bentuk kartun memberi fokus kepada golongan muda terutamanya golongan umur 15 tahun dan ke bawah.

Walau bagaimanapun menjadi tanggungjawab kerajaan pusat dan negeri bagi memudahkan perlembagaan ini diakses oleh golongan muda ini.

Investigate crime and not politicians, police urged

The Star

IPOH: Police should be spending more time investigating crime and preventing it from happening rather than investigating politicians.

DAP national vice-chairman M. Kula­segaran said police were barking up the wrong tree by investigating Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over his alleged seditious remarks.

”What Lim said during the Pakatan Rakyat convention in Shah Alam recently was based on the findings of Thai pathologist Dr Porntip Rojanasunan,” he said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters before distributing calendars at the Jelapang market here, the Ipoh Barat MP pointed out that Dr Porntip had said in court that the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock was 80% homicide.

Kulasegaran was commenting on Selangor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar’s statement that Lim was being investigated for allegedly saying that Teoh was murdered.

On another matter, Kulasegaran called on the Elections Commission to introduce automatic voter registration.

“If the EC is serious in ensuring qualified people become registered voters, it must push for automatic registration,” he said.

Beyond the special effects of Avatar - Anil Netto

A couple of days ago, I thought I would check out the movie Avatar after a couple of friends tipped me off about the story line.

Of course, the special effects from the directors of the Titanic movie were spectacular. But looking beyond that, I was pleasantly surprised by the powerful and rich underlying messages in the movie.

In the movie, the earth is dying as humanity has destroyed the environment. Humans are colonising another planet to extract minerals and other raw materials from a site where an alien tribe lives. But corporate greed is still alive, this time focused on exploiting the untapped resources of an alien planet, while science is being used to serve these corporate interests.

The movie has a strong anti-imperialistic message that many developing nations that have been colonised can identify with. The colonisers (the humans) try to use diplomatic means to achieve their goals, by hoodwinking the local population with promises of “development” – roads and schools – but all the time, their over-riding goal is to extract the minerals from the land where the natives (the aliens) live. They try to infiltrate the local community and win over the confidence of their leaders with agents in disguise. This message could also apply to neo-colonial situations, in which local elites have taken over the colonialists’ role in exploiting the land belonging to native communities.

To the humans, the alien natives are savages and “roaches” that have to be driven out of the forests. If ‘diplomacy’ (more like trickery and deceit) fails, then force will be used to evict the natives. It is easier to do use military force when the natives are portrayed as terrorists (“we have to fight terror with terror”) and subhuman. Thus the human corporate predators think nothing of carpet bombing or incinerating the forests (shades of Vietnam and Iraq here?) to the horror of the natives.

Apart from the anti-imperialistic tone, the film contains a powerful environmental message. The forests and its creatures are all inter-connected. The natives are heirs to an ancient wisdom that the corporate predators simply do not understand. Like in many parts of India or even Sarawak for that matter, the forests where the natives usually live are a treasure trove of rich natural resources. They are thus the targets of corporate predators who want to extract minerals (or build dams or plantations or what-have-you). The natives, however, have a strong bond with the creatures of the forest and they are in tune with their holy Spirit, which infuses creation with its breath. The chief scientist in the human team discovers that the biodiversity of the forest is almost similar to the intricate nerves of the human brain – something that the corporate types scoff at (“Come on, a tree is a tree!”). The whole of creation is inter-connected.

I won’t spoil the movie for you but it’s worth checking out, if only to see how the movie directors persuade audiences to identify with an alien native tribe (the good guys) against their human predators and to marvel at the sheer beauty and inter-connectedness of creation in this era of environmental destruction.

Terror suspect out of hospital, held at undisclosed location

This photo of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab appeared on the Web site saharareporter.com.Officers take suspect into custody in Detroit, Michigan, after an attempt to destroy a Northwest Airlines flight.

(CNN) -- Investigators combed through Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's history Sunday in hopes of learning how the British-educated son of a Nigerian bank executive ended up carrying what authorities said was a bomb onto a Michigan-bound jetliner.

Abdulmutallab was released from a hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Sunday after being treated for burns, according to Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit, Michigan. The 23-year-old is charged with attempting to set off an explosive device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from the Netherlands shortly before its landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, and was being held in an undisclosed location, Balaya told CNN.

Meanwhile, investigators were trying to retrace Abdulmutallab's steps halfway across the globe, from the Arabian peninsula to West Africa to Britain.

Abdulmutallab claimed to have extremist ties and said the explosive device -- made from a plastic explosive known as PETN -- "was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used," according to a federal security bulletin. U.S. intelligence warns that the al Qaeda terrorist network has established a foothold in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of its founder, Osama bin Laden, where government troops are now battling both al Qaeda operatives and a Shiite Muslim separatist movement.

In Britain, where the suspect studied engineering at a London university, police spent a second day searching his last known apartment. Bombings by home-grown Muslim radicals killed 52 people in London in 2005.

"This man had been in London, where there is frequent evidence of recruitment by al Qaeda, al Qaeda-related people," said John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA, now a CNN analyst. "He claims to have been in touch with Yemenis, and Yemen is a place where al Qaeda is on the move."

Detectives with Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch spent part of Sunday interviewing Michael Rimmer, a former high school teacher who described Abdulmutallab as a "very devout" Muslim who had once expressed sympathy for Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency during a classroom discussion. But Rimmer, who taught Abdulmutallab at a school in the West African nation of Togo, said it was not clear whether the then-teenager was simply playing devil's advocate during the class.

The site of the London search was a basement apartment in an ornate building in a wealthy neighborhood. Abdulmutallab returned to London in May, and received a tourist visa from the U.S. Embassy there that he used to fly to Detroit from the Nigerian commercial capital of Lagos via Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

A family source said Abdulmutallab received a college degree at the University College London, where spokesman Dave Weston said a man named Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Department between September 2005 and June 2008.

He then went to Dubai, the UAE's financial hub, around January 2009 to study for a masters degree in international business.

A U.S. official said Saturday that Abdulmutallab's father contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria several weeks ago to report that his son had "become radicalized." The father, Umaru Abdulmutallab, told the embassy the family feared his son had gone to Yemen to participate in "some kind of jihad," the family source said.

The source told CNN that Abdulmutallab's father -- who recently retired as chairman of First Bank PLC, one of Nigeria's premier banks -- had his concerns raised by a text message from his son. But a senior Obama administration official with knowledge of the case said the father's call amounted to little more than a "missing person report."

The official, who could not speak on the record because of the sensitive nature of the information, said the elder Abdulmutallab was deemed credible as a source, but did not have enough specific information to justify canceling his son's U.S. visa or putting him on a "no-fly" list.

"If we pulled his visa or banned him from flying, that would have alerted him you are onto him," the official said. "Whereas in some cases if you have a terror lead, you watch to see what happens when he travels, which could be more valuable." In addition, the official said, it was "fairly early in the process of what kind of threat this guy poses."

The father's information was vetted and a determination on how to proceed was made through a U.S. inter-agency process, and a file was opened on Abdulmutallab about five weeks ago. But the official added, "One part of the system that absolutely failed" was that Abdulmutallab was able to board a plane to the United States allegedly with PETN.

Abdulmutallab first boarded a KLM flight from Lagos, Nigeria, to Amsterdam. Both Nigerian authorities and KLM, a Northwest partner, say he received secondary security screening. But a U.S. official said Friday that Abdulmutallab was not checked for traces of explosives using a more extensive test.

Petronas deal to sponsor Mercedes GP was a business decision

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — The controversial decision by national oil company Petronas to sponsor the Mercedes Formula One team instead of the Malaysian-backed Lotus F1 racing team was not made without sanction from the administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, The Malaysian Insider understands.

Since last week's announcement of the Mercedes sponsorship, speculation has been rife about the future of Petronas chief executive Tan Sri Hassan Merican.

Conservative hawks within Umno have also been questioning the patriotism of the move by Petronas to back Mercedes instead of Lotus F1, which has been touted here as the 1 Malaysia F1 team after the prime minister's political slogan.

But according to industry sources familiar with the deal, Hassan, who is slated to retire in February, had made a strong argument for backing Mercedes to the government.

"Tan Sri Hassan would not have done this without sanction," a source told The Malaysian Insider about the decision.

It is understood that Petronas had considered the relative value to the company's future plans and decided Mercedes would fit into its plans better than Lotus.

Petronas is hoping that through its collaboration with Mercedes Formula One, it will be able generate business growth in the lubricants market.

Hassan and the Petronas management are understood to have argued that while the Lotus brand had huge historical significance, it did not sell many cars compared with Mercedes.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Petronas, which has been involved in Formula One for more than a decade now, was not looking at just establishing a brand presence through its motorsports sponsorship.

"It is about building a market for lubricants, and that can be achieved better with Mercedes and Michael Schumacher," a source told The Malaysian Insider, in reference to the return to racing of the legend in the Mercedes team.

Another factor that was considered in Petronas' decision was the fact that despite the government's backing, the Lotus F1 team would not be known as the 1 Malaysia F1 team. It has been officially entered as the Lotus F1 team.

The Petronas decision has piled the pressure on Lotus F1 boss Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, who also controls AirAsia, to bring in the funds needed for his team.

Fernandes had hoped to bring Petronas on board given that his team has government support and his airline is a major purchaser of aviation fuel. The Lotus car company is also owned by Proton.

With no other local company either having the funds or seeking a global presence, Lotus F1 is likely to have to go global in its search for a major sponsor.

Lotus F1 was understood to have been seeking US$85 million (RM297 million) in funds from Petronas.

Pakatan MPs slam don over racial formula

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders lashed out today at prominent Utusan Malaysia columnist Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah for suggesting that Malay-Muslims have more rights because they form the majority in Malaysia.

PR leaders from PAS, PKR and DAP also took issue with the National Defence University lecturer, who is a prominent Muslim convert, for accusing non-Muslims of putting their own interests above that of the country’s.

They accused him of acting in the interests of Umno and for living in a world that no longer exists.

In his regular column in Mingguan Malaysia today, Ridhuan also put forward a formula based on the racial and religious breakdown of the country’s 27 million population, to apportion the share of what is due to each community in terms of rights, festivities and celebrations, adding that no one should question the “social contract.”

“What he is doing is not right. As a Muslim, we want to emphasize that Islam teaches justice. Everyone has rights. We do not accept a rule where only one race’s rights are protected simply because they are the majority. We cannot deny the minority,” said Khalid Samad who is the PAS Shah Alam MP.

The PAS man said that the problem with how democracy in Malaysia is understood is that it tends toward the majority rule, instead of being based on principles of justice.

“Even if there was one Buddhist in a village, he must be allowed to celebrate and practice his faith because it is his right. Just because the Malays are the majority, Islam does not say we can go around and oppress others,” stated Khalid, who sounded upset when told about the arguments made in Ridhuan’s latest article.

He added that while the original social contract of the country did provide some form of protection for Malays so that they would not be left trailing behind, that was in the past and even then that did not mean that other races were not considered as equal citizens of the country.

“It is disappointing that Ridhuan Tee is becoming more UMNO than Muslim. As a Muslim convert, he should be concentrating his efforts in trying to show the truth and justice within Islam, and not trying to win acceptance from the Malay-Muslims minorities who buy into this racist sentiment.”

Ridhuan had also taken the opportunity to hit out at people who questioned the large government allocation for mosques and the comparatively smaller sum set aside for houses of worship for other faiths, in what is understood to be a direct jab at DAP’s stand over the issue.

He also labelled DAP as an “ultra-kiasu” party, meaning that they were willing to do anything to retain their position for fear of losing it.

“Are the number of churches and the pile of houses of worship, to the extent of sinking the number mosques and suraus, not considered as rights? Have we ever prevented them from going to church every Sunday? Do not compare with the Muslims because we worship differently. We have different needs. Similarly goes the requirements for jamaah prayers.

“Hence, the concept of equal rights and the equal opportunities should be based on the formula that has been outlined in the constitution and by proportion of races (religions),” wrote Tee.

PKR Information Chief Tian Chua laughed when he was told about Ridhuan’s written outburst in Utusan, dismissing it as a desperate attempt to serve the interests of the UMNO elite.

“I personally do not feel threatened by this, I laugh ... this is desperate. Tee is not acting alone. He is making justifications for his big boss. Right now, UMNO is cornered, and they need to find some way to justify their position,” said Chua, who is the Batu MP.

The outspoken opposition lawmaker asserted that UMNO no longer had a raison d’etre, and by doing this it was a way to tell the non-Malays in the country to “not muck around with Umno, because it might unleash something nasty.”

“In the past, their (UMNO’s) language of violence and supremacy was implied more than expressed.

“Now it is so openly racist, something is wrong,” said Chua.

Pakatan Rakyat-ruled states such as Penang and Selangor were singled out by the Mingguan columnist as being under the “ultra-kiasu party” and no longer serving the interests of the Malay-Muslims, which according to him were under siege.

“Just look at the shopping malls, although Christians are only nine per cent, the Christmas and New Year 2010 celebrations are incomparable to the Hari Raya and the Islamic New Year. If you do not believe, visit the states ruled by the ultra kiasu and its allies, and the shopping malls of their allies throughout the country,” stated Ridhuan.

The DAP’s Liew Chin Tong agreed with his PR colleagues and lashed out at Ridhuan for his views and ideas which are “really behind time.”

“All this talk about race doesn’t really help anyone. We need a society which lifts everyone up. Sixty per cent of household family income is below RM3,000. Among this 60 per cent are also Malays.”

Liew, who is also Bukit Bendera MP, argued that equal opportunity was pivotal as the issue of poverty moves well beyond racial lines.

“He must be mistaken if he thinks that people all around the world thought that Malaysia was an ideal place to live in during the 1950s.

“That is why the message of Pakatan is clearer. Under the Pakatan Common Policy Platform, it is stated that in order for Malaysia to move on there is an urgent need to address the issue of equal opportunity of the lower-earning income group,” said Liew.

He also noted that Ridhuan’s article further validates the impression that UMNO is currently split between ultra conservatives and more liberal minded individuals.

MIC quest for Indian hearts begins with lowly branch chairmen

An MIC branch leader (left) makes his point during a recent “rebranding” meeting.—Picture by Baradan Kuppusamy

By Baradan Kuppusamy - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 — The MIC branch chairman, that archetypal man always waiting on the sidelines to garland the chief but who is often “rewarded” with abuses and unfairly blamed for the party’s failures, is finally coming into his own as the party struggles to re-invent itself after suffering massive losses in Elections 2008.

Previously, the party’s 150 division chiefs were treated as kingmakers and feted as key agents of change but that mantle has now moved to the lowly branch chairmen.

The reason is that despite numerous “rebranding and reinventing” forums at posh hotels acoss the country, the division chairmen have not, in the words of one senior MIC leader, “moved one inch” to reconnect with the Tamil masses, the majority of whom voted for Pakatan Rakyat in the 2008 general election.

After a year of “re-branding” with division chairmen, the MIC inner circle has decided it was a waste of time “rebranding” them to ensure they reconnect with the Tamil masses.

The MIC division chairmen suffer from the same disease as the Umno or MCA division chairmen — they are on the prowl for titles, patronage, contracts, other business opportunities, directorship in GLCs and the like.

The key word for the BN parties that suffered huge losses is “re-connect”, with the masses that once dutifully lined up to cast their votes for BN but don’t anymore.

“Despite numerous the rebranding forums there is little reconnect with the Tamil masses. The key word is reconnect and how to re-connect with the Tamil masses,” one MIC leader said.

“In the new thinking, the branch chairman is gaining prominence. He has the members and he is the one face-to-face with the masses,” the leader said.

“It is through him that we can re-connect… he is the key,” the leader said, adding the MIC leadership itself is undergoing a re-thinking on how to reconnect and “the way we should do it is through the youths in the branches.”

The party is telling branch chairmen to get acquainted with the new weapons of political mobilisation — emails, Twitter and Facebook — in a move to win over those upwardly mobile, IT-savvy voters, not just among Indians but among all Malaysians.

“Everyone is a voter and we need everyone’s votes to win. We need to reach every group of voters, from the high-tech voter to the low-tech voter,” said MIC deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel.

“We only need a five per cent swing among voters to win back the seats we lost,” he told a group of 30 MIC branch chairmen from Subang constituency at a meeting last week.

The newly re-elected Palanivel is touring the party’s divisions to push the MIC grassroots to re-invent and become effective grassroots political leaders.

The party is trying to answer key questions like, “Who are really MIC members?”; “How many of them are voters?”; “ Where do they vote?”; Why they did not vote in 2008?”; “Are they still on the MIC membership roll?”; and “How will they vote in the next general election?”

These are key questions that not just the MIC but all Barisan Nasional political parties want answered adequately and accurately.

Umno wants its allies to give honest answers because BN’s seat allocation for the next general election will depend on the answers.

“If we can’t show we have the support of grassroots Indians, then we are not going to get the seats to contest,” Palanivel told the gathering.

“We need to know the answers for ourselves also, to gauge our strength and plan re-building strategies,” he said.

Palanivel, who has been criticised for inaction since his Oct 10 election as deputy president for a second three-year term, is touring the country and meeting branch chairmen to infuse new thinking and give them confidence to take up the battle with Pakatan Rakyat.

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu is fond of making membership claims ranging from 600,000 to 800,000 members.

Likewise the PPP and others, including the seventh-month old Malaysia Makkal Sakthi Party, all claim membership strength ranging into the hundreds of thousands.

If so many Indians are MIC members, how is it that the party lost so massively? It can only mean many of the members “exist” only in the form of names provided by branch chairmen to beef up their numbers.

“We must be prepared to write off 25 per cent of our membership. Their names are on our rolls but their hearts are somewhere else,” said another senior MIC leader on condition of anonymity.

A major clean up of the MIC membership is also under way as part of the rectification campaign.

While other political parties like the DAP and Umno are rushing to recruit new members, the MIC has just started to clean up its membership.

“Getting new members is not yet a priority, not yet,” the MIC leader said adding, “We have to clean up our house first.”

The problems the party faces in winning back the Tamil masses is massive and could be seen in the faces of the 35 MIC branch chairmen gathered at the meeting.

They were in a grumpy mood — the BN’s trouncing in Selangor had taken away whatever little prestige and patronage they had enjoyed before under BN rule.

They had also lost status and face in their kampungs and settlements where, as MIC branch chairmen, they had once enjoyed clout as agents of the ruling party.

“We have become nothing… how do we reconnect with the masses?” asked one branch chairman at the meeting. “Everything (patronage) is grabbed by the division chairmen and his people… we get nothing!”

“Rebranding has to start at the top of the party not at the bottom,” he said.

Why America is great and Malaysia is shit

In Malaysia, the focus of the education system is on the glory of the past, Malays as the Lords of the Land, Malay Supremacy and Apartheid. In America it is about the future. Compare the quality of America's education system to Malaysia's in the video below.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

MALAYSIA: Don pushes racial line in 1 Malaysia

AMERICA:



SEE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE HERE

Polis ambil keterangan Adun Seri Kembangan

(Bernama) - Ketua Polis Selangor, Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar berkata, polis akan mengambil keterangan daripada Anggota Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) Seri Kembangan, Ean Yong Hian Wah berhubung kenyataannya yang cuba menakut-nakutkan polis.

"Kita akan memanggil Hian Wah dalam waktu terdekat untuk dirakam percakapannya bagi membantu siasatan di bawah Seksyen 506 Kanun Keseksaan dan Akta Komunikasi dan Multimedia 1998,” katanya.

Beliau berkata, kenyataan Adun itu dalam media yang mengarahkan polis menghentikan siasatan ke atas Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang, Lim Guan Eng adalah satu kesalahan dan seolah-olah cuba menakut-nakutkan pihak polis.

"Ingin saya tegaskan, Yang Berhormat jangan cuba menakut-nakutkan kita dengan memberi arahan supaya tidak meneruskan siasatan ke atas Guan Eng,” katanya kepada pemberita pada Hari Mesra Bersama Masyarakat Dengan Polis di Seri Kembangan di sini hari ini.

Sebelum ini, Khalid berkata, Guan Eng akan disoal siasat kerana mendakwa setiausaha politik Exco Selangor Teoh Beng Hock mati dibunuh, pada konvensyen Pakatan Rakyat pada 19 Disember di Shah Alam.

‘Malaysia is Zimbabwe By Another Name’

By Hazlan Zakaria

Without mincing his words, political analyst Abdul Aziz Bari likened those who hold the reins of power in Malaysia to a bunch of ‘thugs’.

According to him, these individuals do as they please without proper regard for the law of the land and the percepts laid down in the federal constitution.

“We are like Zimbabwe, just with another name!” stressed the law expert.

Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe has earned international infamy over it’s questionable policies and use of the legal system and laws to prop up the government.

Elaborating, Abdul Aziz said: “I don’t know how else to call them, sometimes we need to call a spade, a spade. What we have is a state of lawlessness, it’s like the law of the jungle.”

He pointed to the recent overturning of the high court decision regarding the Malaysian Anti Corruption Agency’s (MACC) right to interrogate beyond office hours as a glaring example.

“It is painful to hear the court of appeal decision. They are using the provision to overrule the high court, saying it is silent on the matter,” he told Malaysiakini.

‘Judiciary takes its cue from government’

According to the UIA law professor, the court of appeal’s recent decision “is a lame decision and in itself a failure to carry out the court’s role, namely to fill the gap left by parliament in the statute.”

Abdul Aziz is adamant that “the high court decision is to be preferred as it is closer to justice and the spirit of the constitution.”

“It is for the court to fill the gap by making a decision that is closer to fairness and justice,” he added, though he bemoaned that in Malaysia, “the judiciary takes its cue from the government.”

“When you have a judiciary like what we have, what can we do? In normal circumstances you go to court to compel the parties who refuse to do its legal duty to do it. But not in our case,” he said.

What is worse, according to Abdul Aziz, Barisan Nasional is “undermining or simply could not care less about the constitution.”

“BN has demonstrated complete disregard for the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution, either the letter or the spirit of it,” he said.

Abdul Aziz contends that the Reid Commission’s original intent was to propagate federalism, this he said permeates through the entirety of the constitution with the express delineation of powers to the state and the federal government.

On a micro scale, he added, this framework of federalism included the issue of the petroleum royalties and funding for states.

Umno warlords stumbling block to change

Abdul Aziz believes that the BN government is clearly going against the constitution when it set up the JPP (Federal Development Department) which is ultra vires of the defined rights of the states.

He explained that the state has rights to certain grants and funding the federal government sans such ‘intermediaries’.

The use of the Emergency Ordinance to define territorial waters in the Kelantan oil royalty issue, he said, is another example of the BN government’s disregard for the law.

“Why not refer to the Petroleum Act or the Law of The Sea?” he asked.

In a similar vein, he also criticised the federal government’s ‘play acting’ in making much ado when giving assistance and aid during natural disasters to opposition held states,

“Why the furore, it is their duty anyway, as described in the constitution,” he said.

According to Abdul Aziz, this rot of lawlessness goes right down to BN’s core which is Umno.

He is of the opinion that the Umno warlords cannot be reformed and as long as they exists, Umno cannot be reformed.

“They simply don’t want to do it,” he said.

Group Asks PAS To Withdraw From Selangor Pakatan Rakyat Pact

SHAH ALAM, Dec 27 (Bernama) -- A group of people claiming to be supporters of PAS in Selangor on Sunday, urged the party to withdraw from the Pakatan Rakyat pact in the state, allegedly over disappointment with the Selangor government leadership on the matter of championing Islam and the Malays.

Its leader, Wan Hilman Abdul Rahim, said the group felt that the other partners of the pact -- Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the DAP -- were neglecting PAS in the decision-making process though the party was very much in the Selangor government administration.

"We feel that PAS is being deceived and neglected in the decision-making process ... we are not happy with the way the Selangor government takes care of the people, especially the Malays, and Islamic interests.

"As such, we want PAS to review its position in the Pakatan Rakyat pact in Selangor," he told reporters after a peaceful demonstration by about 20 people in front of the Selangor PAS liaison office near here.

Wan Hilman, who is a member of the PAS Gombak division, said a memorandum would be handed over to Selangor PAS commissioner Datuk Dr Hassan Ali at his office on Monday.

He denied a claim that Selangor Umno and PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had orchestrated today's action by his group.

Raja Petra boleh kena Akta Imigresen

Utusan Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR 26 Dis. - Pengendali laman web Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin boleh dikenakan tindakan undang-undang mengikut Akta Imigresen jika sah dia memiliki dua pasport selain menggunakan laluan salah.

Namun tindakan itu akan hanya diambil jika terdapat laporan daripada polis atau perintah mahkamah berhubung kesalahan dilakukan Raja Petra.

Ketua Pengarah Imigresen, Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman berkata, biarpun setakat ini tiada kesalahan mengikut Akta Imigresen boleh dikaitkan dengan Raja Petra namun ia bukan mustahil jika dia didapati pulang dari luar negara.

"Sehingga kini dia belum disahkan berada di luar negara. Oleh itu kita tidak boleh menganggap dia bersalah.

"Jika dia ditahan polis dan didapati benar menggunakan dua pasport atau laluan salah, kita akan mengambil tindakan ke atasnya," kata beliau ketika dihubungi di Brunei hari ini.

Selain itu, Abdul Rahman memberitahu, untuk mengambil tindakan ke atas Raja Petra, Jabatan Imigresen perlu mendapatkan perintah mahkamah.

Akhbar ini hari ini mendedahkan Raja Petra yang dikehendaki polis dipercayai menggunakan pasport negara lain untuk memasuki Britain.

Ini kerana imigresen sehingga semalam tidak mempunyai rekod 'keluar masuk' Raja Petra di negara ini sejak sekian lama serta pergerakannya di negara-negara lain.

Ekoran ketiadaan rekod 'keluar masuk' itu, Raja Petra dianggap masih berada di negara ini dan tidak pernah melawat negara-negara lain.

Begitupun siasatan polis sebelum ini mendapati Raja Retra dipercayai bersembunyi di Apartment Trinity Court di Gloucester Terrace, Bayswater, London.

Cigarette prices go up on Jan 1 (Update)

The Star
By DHARMENDER SINGH

PUTRAJAYA: The cheapest cigarettes in the market will cost RM6.40 per pack of 20s by Jan 1, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

He said this was under the Tobacco Products Control Regulations gazetted by the ministry that will also see price promotions for cigarettes being prohibited.

Liow said the new regulations would set the minimum retail price for a stick of cigarettes at 32sen.

Currently, a pack of 20s costs RM9.30 but cheaper cigarettes that cost as low as RM4.80 per pack are available in the market.

He said the regulation prohibiting price promotions was aimed at putting a stop to promotional activities through discount offers for cigarettes.

“The two regulations are vital in making cigarettes less affordable to children, youths and those from the lower income group,” he said in a press statement issued Sunday.

Liow said the move was in line with the government’s commitment to protect children and teenagers from taking up the smoking habit and exposing themselves to chronic diseases or taking drugs.

Even the World Bank, he said, agreed that taxes on tobacco products and price controls were the best ways to reduce the number of smokers while Malaysia’s own studies had shown that a 10% increase in price reduced the number of smokers by 3.8%.

Liow said the regulations would require cigarette companies to declare to the ministry the retail price of their cigarettes before Jan 15 next year.

Those introducing new tobacco products will have 14 days before their products hit the market to make the declaration, he added.

“A notice listing the minimum price of cigarettes will also have to be clearly displayed at the counter or place where the cigarettes are sold but the notice cannot contain logos, brands, trademarks or descriptions related to the cigarettes,” he said.

Under the regulations, producers or importers can adjust the retail prices of their cigarettes as long as they follow the minimum price regulation and notify the ministry 14 days before the adjustments took effect.

Adjustments, however, will be limited to only three times a year and the period between adjustments must not be less than 30 days while the adjustments must be less than 5% of the earlier retail price.

Cigarette labels will not be allowed to carry the words discount, special price, special offer, promotion, limited edition or any other words that indicate the offer of a discount or prices cheaper than those listed on the cigarette packs or labels.

Vegetables: Just grow them ... the natural way! - Anil Netto

Concerned about expensive vegetables? Why not do something about it…

Blog reader Anthony Louis comments from afar:

Hello Malaysians,

I live in Germany. You guys will be surprised how many people grow their own veges in their homes and then share them with their neighbours.

And the prices of veges are far, far cheaper than those in Penang.

Dont complain; just do it.

If you are looking for inspiration, check out what Yahqappu has done here.