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Friday, March 19, 2010

Hindraf initiates London start for global Anwar campaign - Malaysiakini

Hindraf Makkal Sakthi has initiated a global campaign for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim beginning with an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the British Parliament.

Malaysiakini was tipped off on the EDM by Suresh Grover who heads The Monitoring Group, a human rights organisation in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Anwar's people, according to Grover, approached Hindraf chair P. Waythamoorthy to do something for him and the latter suggested an EDM filed through an MP.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington, North London, who will introduce the EDM, said he was approached by Waythamoorthy.
"We are 100 per cent for Anwar. He's a good man badly treated by the Malaysian Government," said Corbyn yesterday in a telephone interview with Malaysiakini.

"The charges levelled at him are not correct. The EDM is an expression of parliamentary opinion on the matter."

NONEThe Labour MP based his characterisation of Anwar(right) on his efforts over the years to forge a closer understanding between the West and Islam.

He also disclosed that he, like many other members of the British Parliament, had known Anwar for a long time and could vouch for him.

Citing his EDM, Corbyn called on the Malaysian Government to "bring an end to the harassment and persecution of members of the political opposition".

He plans to call on the British Foreign Secretary to discuss an appropriate British Government response to the Anwar case.
This will go together with an appointment with the Malaysian high commissioner to Britain.

Corbyn is certain that the UK Government will make known its views on Anwar either publicly or privately besides the stand that would be taken by the British Foreign secretary.

The British MP will also be raising the issue during a forthcoming executive committee meeting of the British chapter of the Inter Parliamentary Union.

The IPU in Britain will be making common cause with other IPUs across the world to forge a common stand on the Anwar issue.

Members of the public and media are welcome to pen their thoughts on the EDM to Corbyn, at corbynj@parliament.uk.

Grover said that his movement will be monitoring the EDM for starters and will lobby MPs to ensure there's 100 per cent support in the house for it.

Political manipulation

Unlike Corbyn, Grover did not mince his words and dismissed the Sodomy 11 charges against Anwar as "not based on any real evidence but merely political manipulation of criminal legislation and members of the judiciary".

"This is an extreme example of the Malaysian Government's attempts to silence the opposition and human rights activists," said Grover.

"The ruling elite are intolerant of any political opposition or advocacy of human rights issues and reform."

Anwar aside, he said that reference can be made to many other cases against other opposition leaders and members in Malaysia.

In all these cases, he added, the basis of the government's action was to manipulate the criminal laws in the country.

The Monitoring Group, Grover disclosed, will hold a public forum in the British Parliament on Anwar after the forthcoming elections which is likely to be held by May.

Members of the local Muslim community, lawyers, MPs, NGOs, academicians, civil society and Malaysians resident in the UK would be among those invited to attend and participate.

Waythamoorthy said he did not see the EDM being initiated by him as being at variance with his publicly announced decision to cut off all links with the opposition Pakatan Rakyat and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

"Basically, I am a human rights lawyer and advocate," stressed Waythamoorthy.

"What they are doing to Anwar is wrong and I am just chipping in with my little contribution".

Anwar: Racism, not Christians, is the threat

By Shannon Teoh - The Malaysian Insider

LONDON, March 19 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has slammed as “ridiculous” the idea that Muslims in Malaysia were under threat from Christians, and instead accused Umno of sanctioning racism.

“In this Allah issue, the idea that Muslims are under threat from Christians is ridiculous to say the least,” he said at a press conference, after his talk at the London School of Economics here yesterday.

“They are playing with fire,” he said and added that the prime minister’s 1 Malaysia slogan, based on a united Malaysia, was not consistent with what was happening on the ground.

“Malaysia is not a Muslim state, or... well, I’m not sure now,” he joked. “But it is not secular either because there is not a total separation of religion and state.”

He explained that while countries like the United States are seen as secular, they were in fact built on religious principles.

Earlier in his talk, which saw hundreds being turned away, he accused Umno of simply feigning interest in Islamic values.

“What Umno has done is not about Islamic issues at all. If you find a committed Muslim, you can argue with him, but in Umno, they don’t even want to understand what Islam is about.

“It is just political expediency and a crude blend of politics. It is distasteful, the way they abuse the Chinese,” he added, in seeming reference to a recent racist statement by Datuk Nasir Safar, made when he was still an aide to the prime minister.

“There should be freedom not just for an ex-deputy prime minister,” he said in reference to the overturning of his sodomy conviction in 2004, “but all Malaysians.”

Anwar went on to explain that the basic issue was one of governance, and added that the strength of Islam in South East Asia was in its inclusivity and moderate position, which took into consideration the interests of other religions.

“The moment Syariah courts can compel non-Muslims, it transgresses fundamentals of the Constitution. It becomes contentious when you deny the rights of non-Muslims or use obscure Syariah interpretation to impose on non-Muslims.

“We need to educate Umno leaders,” said the former deputy president of the Malay party, drawing laughs from the 400-strong audience of mostly Malaysian students at the talk.

Ku Li: Goodwill payments lead to graft, abuse

By G. Manimaran - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA TERENGGANU, March 19 — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah charged that the federal government’s goodwill payment has led to graft and power abuse, saying RM20 billion of Terengganu’s petro-dollars was spent although approved payments amounted to only RM1.6 billion in the last five years.

The founding chairman of Petronas last night stuck to his claims that the oil-producing states should get direct five per cent oil royalties rather than goodwill payments made by Putrajaya agencies, which he said were prone to abuse.

“I’ve heard that the current Terengganu government doesn’t want to take (the payment) as they can’t accept the accounts of how the money was spent five years ago.

“Because there were lots of abuses... build that, build this. Everything collapses, nothing remained standing,” the Umno veteran told a dialogue in Kuala Terengganu, referring to a string of government building collapses including a stadium.

The Terengganu government used to receive its five per cent royalty from national oil firm Petronas, from 1978 until when PAS captured the state in the 1999 elections. The royalty was then converted to goodwill payments, until Putrajaya agreed to revert to oil royalty payments in 2009, five years after Barisan Nasional retook the state.

Kelantan is insisting on the five per cent oil royalty, amounting to RM2 billion, but Putrajaya says it was not eligible as oil and gas was extracted beyond the three nautical miles that was the state’s territorial limits, but agreed to goodwill payments — similar to Terengganu’s — amounting to RM25 million.

The Kelantan prince has joined the fight for the state’s right to the payments, saying goodwill payments were unlawful and prone to abuse.

“We have to remember that with a lot of money, it can be used for corruption, a lot of things are priced higher to steal the money... that is what is called goodwill payments,” he told the Premier Dialogue on Oil Royalty at the Terengganu Equestrian Resort here.

Some 4,000 people crowded the 1,000-capacity hall for the dialogue, jointly organised by two groups seeking the return of oil royalties for both states.

Among those at the hall were PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali, and Kelantan executive councillor Datuk Husam Musa, who leads a special state committee on oil royalty.

Tengku Razaleigh, who had spoken on the issue in Kelantan capital Kota Baru last Jan 28, touched on similar themes, saying goodwill payments might not follow procedures and cause leakages.

“Because there are leakages, there is corruption, abuse of power and such. In the end, the people end up with nothing,” said the Gua Musang Umno division chief popularly known as Ku Li.

Ku Li’s stand has put him at odds with his party, which initially chastised him but has taken to treating him royally for fear he might defect to political foes, Pakatan Rakyat, and provide leadership if de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is jailed for sodomy.

He also spoke about the differences between oil royalty and the goodwill payment offered by Putrajaya, noting the people were ready to accept direct payments of between RM200 and RM300 when they were entitled to more.

The Umno leader then revealed that the government had approved RM1.6 billion out of RM2.9 billion in goodwill payments in the past five years for Terengganu ,although some RM20 billion was actually spent. He did not give further details.

Tengku Razaleigh was questioned about his support for Kelantan’s campaign to get the oil royalty, as he had not done so when Terengganu faced a similar issue in 2000, but PAS officials came to his rescue.

Mustafa said the prince had played the same role in 2000 when he offered to be the state’s witness in its suit to regain the oil royalty from Putrajaya.

But he said the court declined Tengku Razaleigh as a witness.

To another question, Ku Li said he was puzzled with the government’s stand to link the Emergency Ordinance and the Petroleum Development Act 1974, but said the later law would supersede any ordinances.

“From what I understand, the ordinance was made in 1966, 1966 is earlier than 1974 when the Petroleum Development Act was approved by Parliament.

“Even if the ordinance was made after 1974, it cannot be superior to the Act made in 1974,” he added.

He also slammed Putrajaya for putting out newspaper advertisements to claim he was inconsistent in his stand over the oil royalty issue.

“Apparently it was a different talk then, it’s different talk now. The inconsistent ones are them, not me. I am still saying what I said then.

“I am trying to defend the law. I am here today to explain the law,” Ku Li said in his speech, adding the law was clear that oil-producing states were entitled to oil royalty or “cash payments”.

“The matter should not arise any more but it is still an issue,” he said when answering questions.

Asked for steps beyond the dialogue, Tengku Razaleigh said he had informed Husam that the issue can only be resolved if the prime minister himself admitted to getting wrong advice.

Otherwise, the state government will have to find a middleman to help change the status quo.

“I have said I can be the middleman for the state government — any state government, not just Kelantan — for free... for the federal government to solve the matter.

“If they are afraid that the money will be abused for politics or anything else, I am willing to be the middleman to ensure the benefit is for the people.

“That is one way. The other way is the interpretation of the law... like Perak, see what has happened, many interpretations,” he noted, saying it was up to the state government to decide its future moves.

Tengku Razaleigh said the best way was to use a middleman to convince both sides to follow current provisions or to go for arbitration.

“Otherwise, there is always war,” he joked.

Attempt to suspend me a rotten joke, says Anwar

Anwar said it was a “strange coincidence” that both Malaysia and Israel had hired Apco. — Picture by Danny Lim

By Shannon Teoh - The Malaysian Insider

LONDON, March 19 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has described a possible censure over his allegations in Parliament that 1 Malaysia was copied from Ehud Barak’s 1 Israel as a “rotten joke”.

The Permatang Pauh MP also insisted that it was a “strange coincidence” both the Malaysian and Israeli administrations had hired public relations consultants, Apco Worldwide.

When quizzed about Apco’s denial of having coined either term, Anwar countered: “Then what are they taking money for? To pay for what? Apco should not be involved in domestic politics in our country.”

While admitting that the timing was circumstantial, he said the onus was still on the government to explain Apco’s involvement transparently.

Barisan Nasional (BN) had insisted that Apco, which The Malaysian Insider understands was contracted for a sum of RM20 million, was not involved in the conception of “1 Malaysia” and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has said that the matter of referring the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmaker to the Rights and Privileges Committee would be discussed in the Cabinet.

The PKR de facto leader, whose party has been rocked by the loss of several MPs recently, also explained that his allegations had been taken out of context, and was in fact, a retort against Umno’s persistent accusations that the former deputy prime minister was a pawn of Jewish interests.

“Let’s put it in context. I have no problems with Jewish advisors but Umno leaders have been using this Jewish connection to claim that there is a conspiracy and Anwar is an agent of the Jews,” he said in a press conference after speaking at the London School of Economics yesterday.

Instead, he said that Umno Youth chief, Khairy Jamaluddin, was the one making false accusations, after the Rembau MP had brought up Anwar’s tenure as chair of the Washington-based Foundation for the Future, which Khairy claimed was a Zionist organisation.

Anwar insisted that it was an initiative by various governments, including the United States and members of the European Union, and therefore, Khairy should be the one being referred to the Rights and Privileges committee.

“Umno befriends nasty Jews and some of them are Zionists,” he added.

Anwar will speak again today at Westminster University after a busy schedule that also included meetings with Al Gore and Mary Robinson, former vice-president of the United States and former president of Ireland respectively.

Kedah’s great hydrocarbon hope

By Sheridan Mahavera - The Malaysian Insider

ALOR STAR, March 19 — Kedah has had its share of grand “vision” plans, thought up by a succession of ambitious mentris besar, to turn its modest economy into a regional powerhouse to rival Penang’s.

Those plans and the politicians who dreamed them up are gone and forgotten. However, the promises of those plans, of providing better jobs and a better standard of living, still light up the eyes of most Kedahans.

This time, there is no grand plan but a massive fuel processing and refinery project in Yan district that could transform the landscape and lives of tens of thousands of people in one of the state’s major rice-growing areas.

Part of the project involves building a two-train refinery that will sit on a 340 ha plot of reclaimed land on the coast near Sungai Limau, a tiny town surrounded by huge swaths of verdant padi fields.

It is being called the Sungai Limau Hydrocarbon Hub (Sulih).

The other part, which is currently on hold, is building a 300km oil pipeline that will snake through Kedah, northern Perak over the Titiwangsa main range to Bachok, Kelantan.

It could potentially bring in RM200 million a year for the Kedah government and create up to 3,000 new jobs.

It is not just the scale of the project that has people excited and some worried. Once completed, the refinery would turn what is now a rice bowl area, into a heavy industrial zone.

The residents of Sungai Limau, especially those who will live in the shadow of the refinery, are now contemplating the hard adjustments that they will have to make. They will have to make the transition from their now sedate kampung existence to the hurly-burly of city life.

More importantly, they are worried that they will not see a sen from the millions in spin-off revenue from the food outlets, shops and smaller industries that will mushroom around Yan.

“LARGEST IN SOUTHEAST ASIA”

Past reports state that the US$10 billion (RM36 billion) refinery venture is being spearheaded by Merapoh Resources Corp Sdn Bhd, who had inked an agreement with the Kedah government in July 2009.

The project also involves Chinese state oil company China National Petroleum Co (CNPC).

Merapoh executive chairman Md Nazri Ramli has been quoted as saying that foreign companies would also be roped into the project. So far, two companies, Hong Kong Beijing Star Ltd and Winson Investment Ltd, have pledged US$5 billion for the project.

About 30 per cent of works, such as building tank farms and pipe-laying, will be awarded to local contractors, Md Nazri said.

“We will build a 20km pipeline going towards offshore Kedah for offloading of crude oil and loading of refined oil. The refined products will be ferried, using tankers, to consumers in East Asia, particularly China,” he said.

The refinery will be able to process 350,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).

It was also reported that Merapoh has tied up with CNPC under a 20-year deal in which the Chinese oil company will buy the bulk of the plant’s output and market the rest.

An Alor Star-based contractor says the project is being widely anticipated by local construction firms.

“The business community is really excited. There’s a lot of spin-off projects that will be on offer such as roads, piping, residential units, commercial lots that locals can get in on.

“The project itself can create 3,000 jobs but there will thousands more from the service industry that will spring up to serve the refinery,” says the contractor who declined to be identified.


GREAT EXPECTATIONS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS

Abdul Rahman Mat Ali is ambivalent about Sulih. To the 44-year-old, it can go the way of the Kerpan Tiger Prawn project, a massively hyped venture in Air Hitam under a different state administration several years ago that incurred huge losses and slighted many locals.

He has also had his share of disappointments recently with a hawker centre in Bandar Putri that was supposed to benefit locals but in the end went to outsiders.

“The local council built the hawker centre in front of where mine and a few other stalls were operating. Naturally we thought the centre was to provide a better space for us but when we went to enquire, the council said all the lots had been taken up.

“So the locals got snubbed in a place which they themselves had established. I’ve seen it happen before and I hope this project won’t be like that,” says Abdul Rahman, gesturing with his thumb towards where the refinery is going to be built.

His village, Kampung Sungai Kering, faces the beach where presently, pontoons are measuring the depth of the sea bed to prepare for reclamation works.

Abdul Rahman is used to hearing about mega-projects that were all hype and no substance.

The same beach, which faces Pulau Bunting, was also where a previous Kedah mentri besar wanted to build a coastal highway from Kuala Perlis to Kuala Muda.

An ex-mentri besar after that one had wanted to build a coal-fired power plant on reclaimed land between Pulau Bunting and the village. And then the plant changed from coal to wave powered. And then the mentri besar got changed.

Ch’ng Chuwn Leong of the Central Kedah Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Indusry is also sceptical of Sulih’s supposed benefits.

“They talk about producing 3,000 jobs when it’s ready. All the companies under the Kedah Chinese Chambers of Commerce produce that many jobs per year but how come no one talks about us?

“The jobs themselves, they might be white-collar professional positions where the expertise comes from out of state. Or they might be created over a period of several years.”

“This town will never be the same”

Kak Teh, as she wants to be called, sells drinks, keropok lekor and goreng pisang to the scores of anglers who swoop in to cast their lines off the bridge linking the mainland with Pulau Bunting.

Her business is heavily dependent on them but she sees a chance to expand if the refinery brings more workers to the area. She also thinks of her three primary school-going kids who presently horse around their mother’s stall but who will be leaving school at about the same time the refinery is ready.

“Maybe there will be better jobs for my kids and more opportunities for me,” she says. Many of the state’s youths leave Kedah to look for jobs with higher wages in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor every year.

Kak Teh sounds optimistic despite having been conned in the past by men, who took advantage of the same expectations she had about another project with “big spin-offs.”

She was tricked into investing RM14,000 into a so-called canteen that was supposed to serve workers building the same bridge where her stall presently operates.

“They knew I was in the food business and came to my house. They sounded very convincing. But now I know to be more careful with my money,” she says not wanting to dwell any more on the past.

A short walk from Kak Teh’s stall is a small eatery run by Rodziah Murad.

“When that project comes up, our lives will change. This whole area will turn into a ‘taman’ (housing estate) with shops and places to do business.

“There will be no room for villages on this side of Sungai Limau,” says Rodziah, 48, who also hails from Kampung Sungai Kering.

Rodziah echoes fellow villager Abdul Rahman’s worry about locals not getting any of the project’s benefits but there is another concern.

“This whole area is traditionally a rural area. Once it changes the people here will also have to change and adapt to an urban lifestyle. Otherwise, they’ll just have to pack up and leave and that will be hard.”

The Alor Star-based contractor acknowledged that for the padi-growing communities of Yan, the changes that are about to happen can be disorientating. And for some, the benefits can pass them by.

“At the end of the day, a farmer who owns a small plot of padi has to decide whether it is more profitable to keep planting it or to cash it all in by selling to a developer.

“All I’m saying is that for the business community in Kedah, this project can have a huge impact if it happens.”

But, of course, the key phrase here is “if it happens.”

Malaysian tales of love and loathing

We dare call ourselves a religion that practices equality and peace, do we?

By Mariam Mokhtar

If there ever was a time when Malaysians should speak up on behalf of people, whose rights are being curtailed, that time is now.

But last Friday (12 March), a new twist was added to this freedom of expression when khutbahs, or sermons, throughout mosques in Selangor addressed the congregation, with the chilling message that the Muslim women’s NGO, Sisters in Islam, was insulting the religion.

And to make it personal, the SIS Director, Dr. Hamidah Marican, was singled out for condemnation.

Maybe it comes as no surprise that none of the religious officials was censured for making this abhorrent speech. If Islam is the religion of peace, how is it possible that an inflammatory sermon such as this was allowed to be delivered? True to fashion, when it comes to prosecution, some groups are allowed leniency whereas others are not allowed any leeway.

This is Muslim against Muslim, but the only difference here is that a woman’s organisation was involved. And yet it was a women’s NGO which dared to condemn the harsh and degrading treatment against a fellow Muslim, albeit a woman.

The irony is that the three defenseless women, who were caned, were given a voice by SIS. But, when the religious officials addressed an assembled audience and preached hate against SIS, this NGO was unable to defend itself nor reach out in a similar public manner. Who will speak up for SIS, if not us?

We dare call ourselves a religion that practices equality and peace, do we? It is the people who issued the khutbahs who are the ones who have desecrated the good name of the religion with their incendiary talk.

According to the JAIS representative, Mohd Hidayat Abd. Rani, the contents of their sermons are factual and focused on current issues that affect the Muslim community. He confirmed that sermons were scrutinized by a committee before they were distributed throughout Selangor.

It is shocking, inappropriate and irresponsible that a sermon such as this was even authorised. The roots of this arose when three Muslim women were surreptitiously caned in early February by the authorities.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) swiftly issued a press statement condemning this unjust and degrading treatment. An article by P. Gunasegaram, the Managing Editor of The Star, called ‘Persuasion not Compulsion’ soon followed.

SIS and Gunasegaram were like the several thousand people, from within and outside Malaysia, who protested about these humiliating and degrading acts. It was a serious matter; Civil law precludes women from whipping and another case involving a woman to be whipped, had to be resolved first. (Her punishment was for drinking beer).

Many people are probably aware that police reports have now been made against SIS and also P. Gunasegaram. Most right minded people also realise that they were only exercising their rights as a citizen or civil society organisation, to speak publicly about injustices.

The police have already begun an investigation under Section 298(A) of the Penal Code for “causing, etc., disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or prejudicing, etc., the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion”.

But why are the police investigating a legitimate action by a civil society organisation, such as SIS?

Does that mean to say that inciting hate from a pulpit, does not contravene Section 298(A)? Why the double standards? And why are religious preachers not spreading the message of peace, goodwill, cooperation and love for your fellow man?

Events in history have warned us of what can happen when people do not come to the defense of others whose civil liberties have been taken away.

Sadly, in Malaysia, those who dare speak up are themselves seized upon by the authorities. And uppermost in everybody’s mind is the hypocrisy and extreme sexism that exists.

Speaking-out against an injustice does not equate with insulting the religion. But speaking out about syariah legislation that has been poorly drafted or inadequately scrutinized, and which then causes perverse outcomes, is absolutely necessary.

The religious authorities, JAIS and other relevant bodies must end the atmosphere of mutual suspicion and distrust. It is detrimental to both Muslims and non-Muslims. It is apparent that it is not just the legislation that needs amending, but their whole culture and attitude that requires a complete rethink.

And for starters, Dr. Hamidah Marican, P. Gunasegaram and the respective organisations they represent, deserve an unconditional apology.

Anwar in the Flesh

All in all, Anwar is a great speaker. It is difficult not to be softened by his jokes about UMNO, the government and the general crap that is Malaysian politics. Anwar does promise a lot to us but he will have to earn my trust by actually implementing his words as laws.

By Farouk A. Peru (http://beingmalaysia.wordpress.com/)

Anwar1

I went to a talk by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim titled ‘Religion and Pluralism in a Divided World’ at the London School of Economics this evening. It was good to meet Anwar in the flesh for the very first time. My early impressions of Anwar was from his deep intellectual Islam from the ‘Faces of Islam’ series in the late eighties and the Asian Renaissance concept in the early nineties. Neither concept came to fruition. Ziauddin Sardar in his book ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ blamed Mahathirism for the downfall of Anwar but Malaysians may differ with him on that.

Anyway, to see Anwar in the flesh for the first time was refreshing. The great media image had become real and he had all of the humour I had come to enjoy on Youtube. He openly denounced fundamentalism (which I heartily approve) and paraphrased the great poet Rumi who said that ‘the lamps may be different but the light stays the same’. By this paraphase, Anwar wanted to press home the point that Islam in Southeast Asia has always been incluvist in nature. He believes that religion is a force to unite mankind and that by focussing on the maqasid al-sharia/higher intent of sharia law (which implies justice, dignity and basic rights for all people) we will find that Islam and democracy has no inherent discrepancy.

With this rather idealist declaration, Anwar opened the floor for questions. I will mention only some of the questions here for lack of space.

Naturally, one of the first questions he was asked was on apostasy. One young man asked what Anwar would do if he was in power. Would he allow Muslims to leave Islam? Anwar, I am proud to say, bravely declared here that it was against the principle of freedom of religion in Islam that any person would be compelled to remain Muslim when he or she doesn’t believe. This would give birth to hypocrisy in society. Quite an accurate analaysis. Anwar then threw a few names, Islamic scholars who supposedly uphold the maqasid al-sharia (but fails to mention that none of those scholars oppose the apostasy law). Nonetheless, Anwar did promise total freedom of religion. How he will reconcile that with the equivocation that all Malays are Muslim and since one cannot change his Malayness, he also cannot change his Muslimness, I don’t know. He did however close this question with a joke touching on the Allah issue, which was good.

Anwar2

The next question he was asked is whether the constitution should be changed to allow freedom of religion. He replied that that freedom of religion was enshrined in the constitution (and it is) but Islam is the official religion of the federation. The issue therefore is the denial of rights. I would agree that Islam is the religion of the federation but the equivocation that all Malays are Muslims is what’s really causing the contradiction. This equivocation is simply political and does not reflect actual belief in Islam. As RPK often laments, it is the Malays who are most deeply embroiled in corruption, one of the cardinal sins in Islam (quran 2/188) so Islam is to us is merely cultural affectation.

Yours truly finally managed to get his question in a short time later. I asked how Anwar would reconcile his approach to sharia law with the fundamentalist view held by PAS. Anwar strongly disagreed that PAS was fundamentalist. He mentioned that in the Allah issue, PAS was against the decision to restrict the use of the word to Muslims alone. True but Anwar, PAS isn’t made of a single faction. As Abdul Rahman Talib points out (look at minute 3.48) , there is the ‘geng terengganu’ consisting of Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Harun Din and others who sided with UMNO on the issue. Anwar then mentioned that PAS has totally forgotten it’s Islamic state issue. Not true, in late 2008 itself, Husam Musa was exposed by Khairi Jamaluddin on the issue. Husam loudly declared PAS’ true intent for an Islamic state. Hadi and Nik Aziz himself were squarely behind the idea. Sorry Anwar, I didn’t have a chance to rebut you in the lecture earlier but here’s my answer now. Be wary of PAS, once they come into government, Hadi, Nasharuddin, Harun Din, Hasan Ali and quite possibly Tok Guru himself will make UMNOfacists look like hippies.

Another question Anwar was asked was about Muslim women. A bright Malaysian lady who became a new friend of mine told him that Malay women were now third class citizens in Malaysia. Anwar agreed and once again invoked the maqasid al-sharia to show that if the higher intents of sharia were under consideration, these draconian laws which oppress Muslim women would not be happening. I would add that if we actually put the Quran as a criteria for law, most of sharia law itself would become non-issues.

Perhaps the most contentious question was asked was by new friend of mine who reminded him of his firebrand politics of bygone days. Anwar of old upheld Malay supremacy and brought about Islamisation to government. Anwar parried by saying that his firebrand style was a trademark of youth and that he had always been against laws such as the ISA, in fact he had been a detainee himself before he came into government. He does love the Malay language but not at the expense of other languages. He has studied other religions and often quotes from them. This is all true but doesn’t detract from his past support of racist and fundamentalist policies. Keen historians of Malaysian politics would note this. Bakri Musa certainly did in his ‘Malay Dilemma Revisited’.

All in all, Anwar is a great speaker. It is difficult not to be softened by his jokes about UMNO, the government and the general crap that is Malaysian politics. Anwar does promise a lot to us but he will have to earn my trust by actually implementing his words as laws. When he actually introduces reform and stands firm against Malay fascists and Islamic fundamentalists, I will believe him and give him my full support. Till then, I will consider this talk time well spent and perhaps to remind us of hope for the future.

Dewan Rakyat Live Broadcasting

The following links are live broadcasting channels direct from Dewan Rakyat provided by Pakatan Rakyat Information Technology Team.
By CC Liew
This channel utilizing free broadcasting service from USTREAM server. It relied on parliament WIFI network (and P1 broadband as secondary service) for streaming purpose. The picture quality had been compromised for better sound quality but overall effect is satisfactory. Broadcast service start from 10 am till the end of the meeting for the whole season.
This channel utilizing PKR hosted server for P2P service. It relied on P1 broadband and parliament WIFI alternatively. The picture and sound quality is excellent. Broadcast service only carry on for a few hours per day depend on broadcast schedule (normally from 10 am to 5 pm).
This channel utilizing PAS hosted server for P2P service. It relied on StreamX broadband for streaming purpose. Broadcast picture had been reduced to enhance sound quality. Broadcast service normally start from 10 am till the end of the meeting. But sometime the supervisor will shut down the service prior to the end of the meeting.
PAS (standalone software) : download http://webtv.pas.org.my/webtv/webtvpasplayer.zip and go to "MPPAS" channel button.
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The BN and the ISA

thenutgraph.com

ACADEMIC and activist Dr Kua Kia Soong was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) during 1987's Operation Lallang. Upon his release, he wrote about his experiences in detention in his bestselling book, 445 Days under Operation Lalang. The book's third edition is going to print soon and will be available in bookshops and from human rights organisation Suaram.

Kua, the former opposition Member of Parliament (MP) for Petaling Jaya, has been monitoring detention without trial in Malaysia since his student days in the seventies. This, plus his own personal experience of being detained without trial, are what convinces him of the need for the ISA to be abolished, not just reviewed.

In this exclusive 15 March 2010 e-mail interview, Kua shares his responses on the Barisan Nasional (BN)'s anticipated parliamentary amendments to the ISA.

TNG: In the preface to your book's upcoming third edition, you list the BN government's previous overtures to amend the ISA, which did not materialise. If the BN tables the amendments during this parliamentary sitting, would it be the closest it has ever come to reviewing the ISA?


(pic courtesy of Dr Kua Kia Soong)
Dr Kua Kia Soong: Yes, from my monitoring of the BN all these years, this is the furthest the BN government has ever come to reviewing the ISA. Despite previous attempts at appeasing the peoples' protest, they have failed to do so.

I think this time around, after the first tight slap in the face for the BN at the 8 March 2008 general election, the BN has to take the peoples' wishes more seriously. The marvel is the BN government has got away with [this] law, which is an affront to human rights, all these years when the country has been at peace after the Emergency ended in 1960.

But certainly, (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) is trying hard to legitimise his rule and shore up the country's reputation as a democratic country that respects human rights. Malaysia is also trying hard to get a seat in the (United Nations) Human Rights Council. We will be made a laughing stock if we still have the ISA when the time comes since such a law is right up the street of banana republics.

In the book's preface you also say that amending the ISA will only allow the BN government to abuse the law in its new form. But do you actually think it is more achievable to call for the ISA to be fully abolished? How is this more feasible than reviewing the Act?

In the olden days when the BN breathed fire in the kingdom far and wide, some people said it was not possible to abolish the ISA. This was a time when the democratic countries in the world [already] outlawed detention without trial.

Feasibility is just a word. Pakatan Rakyat, for example, is committed to abolishing detention without trial. [And] after [March 2008], it is now feasible to kick out the BN. It's really up to BN to decide if it wants to listen to the people or to rely on the same- old-same-old.

pullquote

The BN's latest trick is to amend this law and not abolish it. This way it gets to keep [the ISA] for however long it takes to cling on to power [and use it on] the opposition and dissidents — the ISA's only function all these years.

What do you think of suggestions by some BN MPs for the Act to be reviewed in these specific areas:

Confine its use to terrorists only, not to stifle legitimate political dissent.

Reintroduce judicial review, and limit the powers of the home minister under Section 8 of the Act?

Malaysia already includes terrorism-related offences in the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. We also have legislation dealing with anti-terrorism financing.

Other democratic countries have specific anti-terrorism laws which allow for very short detention periods for suspected terrorists. If I am not mistaken, Turkey's law allows seven-and-a-half days of solitary confinement. Compare that to Malaysia's which allows 60 days for keeping an angel like me in solitary confinement. If we are to have a specific anti-terrorism law, we would still have to first abolish the ISA.

Judicial review should never have been amended away in the first place. Any democratic country must have judicial review. I have pointed out time and again that even during the worst days of Apartheid, South Africa still allowed judicial review.

Twenty-two years after being released, do you sense a shift in public perception towards the ISA?

jail
(source: morguefile.com)

I have been monitoring detention without trial in Malaysia ever since my student days in the seventies. I would say that the biggest shift in public opinion towards the ISA happened after Operation Lallang. This was because the BN government made a big mistake by arresting and detaining leaders from practically every aspect of civil society, especially do-gooders like us.

If it hadn't been for [the 11 Sept 2001 terrorist attacks against the US], the ISA would not have had a leg to stand on [now]. Just before that, we had managed to gather the biggest coalition of non-governmental organisations against this accursed Act. But the BN government managed to cling on to this convenient instrument of repression using international terrorism as an excuse.

Reformasi in 1998 and the arrest and detention of Reformasi leaders further helped to educate people, especially youths, about the cynical way the BN wields power. (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim)'s black eye in 1998, the 2008 detentions of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, [Teresa Kok] and the Sin Chew Daily reporter are even more recent examples of the gross abuse of the ISA.

Do you think there are problems even within the anti-ISA movement? For example, in 2006, the president of the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) called for the ISA to be used against "bad apostates". But Abim is a member of the Abolish ISA Movement (GMI). During the controversial Bar Council forum on conversions in 2008, some PAS leaders refrained from advocating the ISA, since PAS is also part of GMI, but they called for the Sedition Act to be applied instead on the Council. What is your take on these inconsistencies?

I would say [Abim's stand] in 2006 was a minor aberration within GMI. GMI has been gathering strength through the years and has been consistent in its stand to abolish the ISA and not just to amend it. Suaram plays the role of secretariat within GMI and we will never accede to any inconsistent stand on human rights.

What would you say to the argument that Malaysia is not yet ready to have the ISA abolished?

I would say it's always the BN that is not ready to abolish the ISA. Malaysia was ready to do away with the colonial Emergency Ordinance in 1960 when the Emergency was officially declared over. We didn't need the ISA in the first place. The Alliance wanted it to deal with the Labour Party, the main opposition party and the workers' movement in order to stay in power.

As a former detainee, what do you think is the aspect of ISA detention that Malaysians are least aware of?

The period of solitary confinement, which is 60 days, is really mental torture. Others have been physically abused — just Google "Munawar Anees's statutory declaration" — all in our name. The abusers and torturers are doing their vile work in the name of the people. The state — including former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad — pretends this is not happening. Remember what Mahathir said about Anwar's black eye.

Many Malaysians are not aware of the fact that the ISA has been used ever since 1960 to put away opposition leaders and workers' leaders, and often just before the general election.

They are also unaware of the manner in which the ISA has been amended, especially during Operation Lallang, in order to frustrate any legal attempts at applying for the writ of habeas corpus.

Kedudukan Ekonomi Malaysia: Lima Pertikaian

Ucapan Ketua Pembangkang di Dewan Rakyat Rakyat
Rabu, 17 Mac 2010

PERDANA Menteri Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak telah mengumumkan prospek ekonomi yang baik bagi Malaysia, malah mengisytiharkan bahawa “episod yang terburuk telah berlalu”.

Walaupun ekonomi negara berkembang kembali bagi suku keempat 2009, sebenarnya secara perbandingan Malaysia masih lagi ketinggalan berbanding negara-negara lain di rantau ini. Ini menimbulkan persoalan serius mengenai hala tuju ekonomi negara; terutamanya bersabit kemampuan kita mengangkat ekonomi menjadi ekonomi bernilai tinggi.

Pada masa yang sama, terlalu banyak slogan dan permainan media yang menumpukan kepada persoalan menaiktaraf ekonomi bernilai tinggi; sehinggakan seolah-olah kita telah mengenepikan isu-isu pokok ekonomi Malaysia bersabit keadilan sosial; sedangkan apa-apa agenda pembangunan ekonomi tidak boleh melupakan persoalan keadilan sosial.

Malaysia masih lagi gagal untuk menghapuskan kemiskinan (apatah lagi kemiskinan tegar). Statistik terkini yang disiarkan secara rasmi oleh EPU menunjukkan kadar kemiskinan antara tahun 1990 hingga 2007, seperti berikut:

Usaha kita untuk membasmi kemiskinan tidaklah mendatangkan hasil yang membanggakan. Mengikut Laporan Pembangunan Kemanusiaan 2009 oleh PBB, Malaysia menduduki tempat 66 dari segi persamaan ekonomi, yang diukur melalui gini coeeficient. Kita ditinggalkan oleh negara-negara seperti Singapura (kedudukan 23), Hong Kong (kedudukan 24), Korea Selatan (kedudukan 26), Brunei (kedudukan 30) dan Cuba (kedudukan 51).

Walaupun pelbagai program telah dilancarkan sejak Merdeka, kita masih belum berjaya menghapuskan kemiskinian. Malah, kadang-kadang di bawah Barisan Nasional, kadar kemiskinan sebenarnya meningkat walaupun ekonomi negara sedang berkembang.

Antara tahun 1990 dan 1997, kita berjaya mengurangkan kadar kemiskinan sebanyak 63% (diukur berdasarkan peratus jumlah keluarga di bawah paras kemiskinan, berbanding jumlah isi rumah di seluruh negara). Kemudian, kadar kemiskinan sebenarnya meningkat sebanyak 39% di antara 1997 dan 1999.

Kalau peningkatan ini disalahkan kepada krisis ekonomi 1997, bagaimana pulak peningkatan kadar kemiskinan di antara tahun 2002 dan 2004 – kerana ini adalah zaman kemakmuran BN apabila wang negara banyak dibelanjakan dan disalurkan kepada ekonomi kita melalui pelbagai projek? Benarlah rintihan rakyat selama ini, yang mendapat manfaat hanyalah kroni sedangkan rakyat dhaif terus sengsara.

Di antara tahun 2004 dan 2007, kerajaan hanya berjaya mengurangkan kadar kemiskinan sebanyak 37% sahaja; jauh lebih rendah berbanding kadar 60% yang dicapai pada dekad 90an dahulu. Pada kadar hanya 37% ini, kita musykil sama ada Malaysia akan berjaya membasmi kemiskinan pada masa akan datang.

Jika diteliti dengan lebih dekat, kita juga akan mendapati bahawa ketidaksaksamaan ekonomi di antara kumpulan yang berbeza sebenarnya lebih membimbangkan, terutamanya di kalangan masyarakat Bumiputra Sabah dan Sarawak. Mereka kekal sebagai kumpulan yang paling miskin, walaupun sebahagian besar sumber kekayaan negara datangnya dari Sabah dan Sarawak.

Mengambil kira perkara-perkara ini, saya benar-benar percaya bahawa amanah memimpin ekonomi kita ke arah pembangunan menyeluruh; berdasarkan prinsip kesaksamaan dan keadilan sosial – adalah tugas yang terlalu berat buat kerajaan sedia ada, terutamanya berdasarkan rekod mereka setakat ini.

Oleh itu, ucapan saya pada hari ini akan memberi fokus kepada lima isu ekonomi yang bertentangan dengan pengakuan PM bahawa “segala-galanya adalah baik”.

Lima isu ekonomi ini adalah peringatan penting kepada kita, betapa besarnya tugas reformasi dan mengubah cara pentadbiran ekonomi negara yang diperlukan, sekiranya kita ingin menaiktaraf ekonomi menjadi ekonomi bernilai tinggi dan pada masa yang sama, mempastikan kemakmuran diagihkan secara saksama kepada semua.

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Pertikaian Pertama:

KEBERGANTUNGAKEPADA HASIL MINYAK DAN PERBELANJAAN KERAJAAN YANG TERLALU BESAR SEHINGGA MEWUJUDKAN JURANG PELABURAN KERAJAAN-SWASTA

Malaysia hanya mengamalkan satu dasar ekonomi sejak 1998 iaitu membelanjakan wang rakyat melalui projek-projek besar untuk menghidupkan ekonomi, sedangkan pada kebiasaannya langkah ini hanyalah langkah sementara yang digunapakai dalam keadaan tertentu sahaja.

Berikut adalah peratus defisit belanjawan berbanding KDNK:

Kebergantungan kepada hasil minyak (seterusnya jalan mudah menggunakan wang PETRONAS walaupun keuntungannya tidak lagi boleh menampung permintaan kerajaan) sebenarnya sangat membimbangkan, seperti berikut:

Bagi tahun berakhir 31 Disember 2007 dan 31 Disember 2008, PETRONAS menyumbang sebanyak 36.8% dan 44.9% kepada jumlah keseluruhan pendapatan kerajaan. Jika diambil kira hasil cukai dan duti dari syarikat minyak yang lain, Malaysia sebenarnya bergantung lebih 50% kepada hasil minyak semata-mata.

Walaupun pendapatan dari PETRONAS sangat lumayan dalam tahun 2007 dan 2008, kerajaan terus berbelanja dengan boros dan mencatatkan defisit belanjawan.

Kesan yang tidak dirancang akibat dasar tidak bertanggungjawab yang membelanjakan wang rakyat sejak 1998 ini; adalah wujudnya jurang di antara pelaburan swasta dan pelaburan kerajaan yang semakin membesar.

Ini menimbulkan keraguan sama ada kerajaan mampu meneruskan pendekatan ini yang melonjakkan pertumbuhan ekonomi dengan berbelanja secara besar-besaran; terutamanya apabila hasil minyak semakin berkurangan.

Di dalam satu kajian oleh Prof KS Jomo (diterbitkan dalam Disember 2009), sejak tahun 2000 perbelanjaan awam telah menjadi enjin pertumbuhan utama negara; mengatasi pelaburan swasta:

Kejatuhan mendadak pelaburan swasta akan terus menggugat apa-apa langkah untuk menaiktaraf ekonomi negara menjadi bernilai tinggi. Dengan hanya pertumbuhan sekadar 1% di antara 2000 dan 2006, pelaburan swasta (tanpa mengambil kira inflasi) sebanyak RM33 bilion dalam tahun 2006 sebenarnya adalah lebih rendah dari pelaburan swasta dalam tahun 1991.

Apatah lagi, kadar perbelanjaan awam seperti ini tidak dapat diteruskan kerana negara sudah tidak mampu.

Apa-apa model ekonomi baru yang hendak diperkenalkan mestilah menyelesaikan jurang di antara pelaburan awam dan pelaburan swasta ini.

Pakatan Rakyat secara konsisten menegaskan bahawa negara memerlukan perubahan dan reformasi yang menyeluruh ke atas kerangka dasar ekonomi; lebih-lebih lagi melihatkan kedudukan berat sebelah di antara pelaburan awam dan swasta yang ada sekarang.

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Pertikaian Kedua:

ALIRAN WANG KELUAR

Seorang ahli ekonomi dari UBS, Jon Anderson mengejutkan pasaran dan dunia kewangan apabila beliau mendedahkan keadaan sebenar aliran wang keluar dari Malaysia pada tahun 2009. Pada kemuncaknya, aliran wang keluar mencecah kadar 44% dari KDNK negara.

Walaupun perkara ini amat membimbangkan, kerajaan hanya berdolak dalih dengan mendakwa aliran keluar sedemikian rupa adalah bukti keupayaan syarikat berkaitan kerajaan (GLC) melabur di luar negara. Pada kemuncaknya, dianggarkan RM355 billion wang mengalir keluar dari negara ini.

Memang kita akui GLC kita lebih agresif akhir-akhir ini untuk melabur di luar negara, tetapi jumlah besar aliran wang keluar membayangkan sebahagian besarnya adalah disebabkan oleh pelabur-pelabur menarik keluar portfolio pelaburan mereka dari negara ini.

Pada masa yang sama, fenomena yang mana GLC kita lebih berminat membuat pelaburan tambahan di luar negara berbanding memperbesarkan operasi atau melabur lebih lagi di dalam negara; seolah-olah memberi gambaran bahawa mereka juga tidak mempunyai keyakinan dengan ekonomi Malaysia.

Kedua-dua perkara ini; iaitu penarikan portfolio pelaburan dari Malaysia dan GLC melabur ke luar negara – adalah bukti sentimen pasaran dan pelabur yang berbaur dan masuh belum yakin dengan prospek ekonomi negara di masa terdekat.

Ini berkait rapat dengan masalah imej Malaysia yang terus mendapat publisiti buruk di mata antarabangsa; oleh kerana kegagalan kerajaan menangani isu-isu terkini dengan baik. Isu-isu seperti isu “Allah”, kehilangan enjin jet, kapal selam yang tidak boleh menyelam dan pelbagai lagi – menjadikan Malaysia bahan ketawa di mata antarabangsa. Jika ini berterusan, ia akan menjadikan Malaysia negara yang berisiko, seperti mana yang dilaporkan oleh sebuah perunding risiko antarabangsa yang berpusat di Hong Kong iaitu Political & Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC).

Dalam laporan terkininya, PERC menegaskan bahawa imej yang diberikan oleh kerajaan Malaysia dari segi cara menangani pelbagai isu akhir-akhir ini, seolah-olah memberi gambaran negara ini menjadi semakin tidak stabil. Menurut PERC, tidak ada negara Asia lain yang mendapat publisiti antarabangsa yang lebih buruk dari Malaysia.

Kerajaan perlu sedar bahawa pendekatan fiskal dan ekonomi semata-mata adalah tidak mencukupi untuk mengatasi masalah aliran wang keluar ini; terutamanya apabila ia disebabkan oleh imej kerajaan yang buruk. Masalah ini memerlukan penyelesaian politik juga – hanya dengan ketelusan, keikhlasan, keadilan dan komitmen kepada reformasi dan perubahan, kita dapat mengembalikan keyakinan masyarakat antarabangsa kepada ekonomi kita.

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Pertikaian Ketiga:

PELABURAN KAPITAL BARU YANG MERUDUM DAN PERTUMBUHAN TAMBAH NILAI SEKTOR PERKILANGAN YANG MEROSOT

Sektor perkilangan terus menjadi penyumbang terbesar kepada KDNK sehingga kini. Untuk menaiktaraf menjadi ekonomi bernilai tinggi, kita perlukan asas sektor perkilangan yang baik, rancak dan berkembang. Hanya apabila kita mempunya sektor perkilangan sebegini, barulah kita boleh suntik penyelidiakan dan pembangunan (R&D) dan inovasi kepada produk perkilangan kita, yang menjadi tunjang utama usaha menaiktaraf ekonomi bernilai tinggi.

Satu laporan oleh ISIS dan UM menunjukkan prospek yang gelap bagi sektor perkilangan kita. Sektor perkilangan telah menunjukkan pertumbuhan yang kian merosot dari segi pertumbuhan nilai tambah; seperti berikut:

Mengambil kira penguncupan permintaan eksport terhadap barangan kota dalam tahun 2008 dan 2009, kami menganggarkan penurunan mendadak bagi pertumbuhan nilai tambah perkilangan, bagi tempoh 5 tahun antara 2005 dan 2010. Sekiranya keadaan ini tidak dibendung, menjelang tempoh 2010 hingga 2015, adalah tidak mustahil sektor perkilangan kita mula menguncup dari segi nilai tambahnya.

Ini adalah satu keadaan Pak Pandir yang merisaukan kita – sedang kerajaan bercakap mengenai menaiktaraf ekonomi menjadi bernilai tinggi, sektor asas ekonomi negara kita yang sepatutnya menjadi tunjang usaha menaiktaraf ekonomi ini sedang mengalami kemerosotan mendadak. Akibatnya, kerajaan terpaksa berdepan dengan dua cabaran getir – cuba merancakkan kembali sektor perkilangan dan pada masa yang sama menaiktaraf keupayaan R&D dan aplikasi teknikal bagi sektor ini; dua cabaran yang kami yakin tidak akan dapat ditangani oleh kerajaan.

Walau bagaimana pun, ini bukanlah satu perkara uang mengejutkan memandangkan merosotnya pelaburan kapital baru ke dalam sektor perkilangan. Laporan terkini MIDA menunjukkan pelaburan baru seperti berikut:

Jika pelaburan kapital baru terus merudum seperti ini – sama ada disebabkan oleh kegagalan kerajaan menarik pelabur asing atau kerana ekonomi Malaysia sudah tidak menarik bagi pekilang sedia ada – usaha menariktaraf ekonomi menjadi bernilai tinggi adalah tidak lebih dari slogan semata-mata.

———–

Pertikaian Keempat:

PEMBANGUNAN MANUSIA YANG TERKEBELAKANG TIDAK AKAN MAMPU MENAMPU LIBERALISASI EKONOMI

Laporan UNDP oleh Kamal Malhotra (Penasihat Kanan) yang diterbitkan dalam tahun 2008, menyimpulkan bahawa prasyarat untuk menentukan sesebuah negara mendapat manfaat dari liberalisasi ekonomi atau tidak; adalah tahap pembangunan manusia. Hanya apabila tahap pembangunan manusia berada di satu peringkat, barulah negara itu mendapat manfaat dari peluang yang dibawa oleh liberalisasi perdagangan; dan pada masa yang sama menangani dengan baik kesan sampingan liberalisasi.

Berdasarkan data UNESCO dan MOSTI, pada tahap sekarang dan perkembangan semasa, Malaysia sudah tentu tidak akan dapat mencapai ekonomi bernilai tinggi. Ia juga dijangka tidak akan mendapat manfaat ekonomi yang sewajarnya dari langkah-langkah liberalisasi kerajaan, akibat tahap pembangunan manusia yang terkebelakang, seperti berikut:

Kecuali satu langkah drastik diambil oleh kerajaan untuk mengalih fokus dan menambaik pengagihan bantuan kewangan kepada program R&D; bukan sahaja Malaysia patut melupakan impian mencapai ekonomi bernilai tinggi, kita juga dikhuatiri mendapat kesan negatif dari liberalisasi kerajaan.

Oleh itu, pendekatan melepaskan batuk ditangga yang diambil kerajaan sekarang dalam mempercepatkan proses R&D, terutamanya kajian asas (bukan semata-mata kajian aplikasi) perlu diubah dan satu program R&D negara yang lebih menyeluruh perlu diperkenalkan.

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Pertikaian Kelima:

KADAR SIMPANAN DAN KADAR PELABURAN YANG TIDAK SAMA, SIMPTOM KEPADA MASALAH MENDAPATKAN KREDIT

Cabaran untuk meningkatkan pelaburan swasta untuk menggantikan perbelanjaan awam oleh kerajaan yang tidak lagi boleh diteruskan; akan gagal sekiranya kemudahan kredit tidak disediakan dan diagihkan secara berkesan kepada kumpulan yang paling memerlukannya.

Malaysia mempunyai kadar simpanan yang sangat tinggi, tetapi berbanding negara lain, kadar simpanan ini tidak pula digunakan untuk dilaburkan semula ke dalam ekonomi.

Perbandingan kadar simpanan dan kadar pelaburan negara berbanding negara lain adalah seperti berikut:

Perbezaan di antara kedua-dua kadar yang besar itu membayangkan ketidakmampuan negara untuk menggunapakai simpanan sedia ada untuk disalurkan kepada aktiviti ekonomi yang produktif.

Ini sebahagiannya disebabkan oleh kegagalan dan ketidakberkesanan kemudahan kredit kepada industri kecil dan sederhana (IKS), sehinggakan akhirnya hanya syarikat besar dan kerajaan yang mendapat kemudahan kredit dari kadar simpanan tersebut.

Senario ini perlu diubah dan kerajaan hendaklah menumpukan perhatian untuk memperbaiki proses agihan kredit kepada IKS untuk mempercepatkan pertumbuhannya. Apatah lagi, IKS sebenarnya lebih mudah berubah dan menerimapakai aplikasi teknologi baru; dan ini penting jika kita ingin melahirkan industri yang berdaya saing selaras dengan aspirasi ekonomi bernilai tinggi.

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Kesimpulan:

REFORMASI MENYELURUH ADALAH SATU-SATU JALAN

Kelima-lima pertikaian ekonomi tadi secara jelas menggambarkan sukarnya kerajaan melaksanakan apa jua slogan yang dijual kepada rakyat setakat ini.

Pakatan Rakyat tetap dengan pendirian bahawa hanya reformasi menyeluruh yang melibatkan perang habis-habisan menentang rasuah, memperketatkan proses tender kerajaan, menghapuskan hubung kait kerajaan dan ahli politik dalam perniagaan, mengangkat martabat institusi kehakiman dan instituse negara yang lain dan pembaikpulihan menyeluruh sistem ekonomi negara – yang akan dapat membantu negara mencapai ekonomi bernilai tinggi.

Pada masa yang sama, kita tidak boleh hilang fokus untuk mempastikan usaha menaiktaraf ekonomi ini adalah bermotifkan aspirasi kita membasmi kemiskinan dan menagihkan kemakmuran secara saksama.

ANWAR IBRAHIM
Ketua Pembangkang

FOR CIRCULATION IN CONJUNCTION WITH

Leader of Opposition’s Speech to Dewan Rakyat

16 March 2010

STATE OF MALAYSIAN ECONOMY: FIVE CONTENTIOUS POINTS

§ Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak has painted a rosy picture of Malaysian economy and declared that “the worst is over”.

§ While the economy began to grow again in the Q4 2009, relatively speaking Malaysia continues to fall behind in comparison to other countries in the region. This poses a serious question on the direction of the economy in the future vis-a-vis the efforts to bring the economy to a higher value chain.

§ At the same time, too much pre-occupation has been given to plans to upgrade the economy into a high value economy that we risk putting aside key economic issues concerning social justice; that should always take centre stage in any economic development agenda in Malaysia.

§ Malaysia has not been able to eradicate poverty (let alone hardcore poverty). The latest data officially published by EPU charts incidence of hardcore poverty up until 2007; as follows:

[Source: EPU published in 2009, based on various RMK reports]

§ Our efforts in eradicating poverty have had mixed results. According to UN’s Human Development Report 2009, Malaysia ranks 66 in terms of economic inequality, measured by Gini Coefficient. We are behind Singapore (ranked 23), Hong Kong (ranked 24), South Korea (ranked 26), Brunei (ranked 30) and Cuba (ranked 51), among others.

§ Despite having programs after programs since Merdeka, we have not been able to eradicate poverty. In fact, at certain juncture in our history, under BN government, poverty incidence in the country had actually increased in spite of the economic growth.

§ Between 1990 and 1997, we registered a 63% reduction in poverty rate (as a percentage of no of households). Then, the poverty rate actually jumped 39% in between 1997 and 1999.

§ If the jump in 1997 and 1999 can be attributed to East Asian economic crisis, a jump of 12% in poverty rate in between 2002 and 2004 should baffle everyone, because this is a period of pump priming when a lot of state financial resources were diverted into the economy. Alas, only cronies and connected people benefit while the poor continued to suffer.

§ Between 2004 and 2007, we had only managed to reach a 37% reduction in poverty rate; which pales in comparison to the high 60%+ achievement in the early 90s. At the rate we are going, one wonders whether we will be able at all to eradicate poverty in the near future.

§ Upon closer scrutiny, one will realise that the economic inequality between different groups in the country is even more worrying, especially to the Bumiputras of Sabah and Sarawak, which remain the most disadvantaged group economically in spite of its natural resources contribution to the Federation.

§ Taking into account all these factors, I sincerely believe that the task to lead our economy towards wholesome development – based on equality and social justice – is a humungous task that is beyond today’s administration; especially looking at its past records.

§ My speech to Dewan Rakyat today will therefore focus on five economic indicators that provide a stark contrast to PM’s claim that “the worst is over”.

§ If anything, it is a reminder of the gigantic reform and monumental shift in the management of the economy that is required, if Malaysia were to upgrade itself into a high value economy and ensuring the prosperity is distributed equally to all groups and levels.

First Point:

PUMP PRIMING/OVER RELIANCE ON PETRO DOLLARS AND WIDENING PUBLIC-PRIVATE INVESTMENTS GAP

§ Malaysia has resorted to pump priming measures since 1998, despite the conventional wisdom that pump priming measures are only adopted for short term period to boost the economy in certain circumstances.

§ Budget deficits as a percentage of GDP:

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Note 1With petrol income 1.8 3.2 5.5 5.2 5.3 5.0 4.1 3.6 3.3 3.2 4.8 7.4
Note 2Without petrol income 6.8 8.6 8.8 11.7 15.1

Note 1: Overall budgetary deficit (% GDP at current market prices) [Source: Asian Development Bank]

Note 2: Overall budgetary deficit without oil and gas income (% GDP at current market prices) [Source: IMF Country Report, August 2009]

§ The over reliance on income from oil and gas (and subsequently the “squeezing” of PETRONAS even when its profits can no longer support such over reliance) has been telling; as follows:

RM Billion FY2005 FY2006 FY2007 FY2008 FY2009
Payment to Government by PETRONAS 32.1 47.7 52.3 61.6 74.0

PETRONAS’ financial year ends on 31 March. [Source: PETRONAS Annual Report 2009]

§ In calendar year ended 31 December 2007 and 31 December 2008, PETRONAS contributed to 36.8% and 44.9% to the total government income for the year, respectively. If we were to take into account income (in the form of taxes and duties) from other oil and gas companies in Malaysia, the country conservatively relies more than 50% of its income on non-renewable source.

§ Despite the bumper income from PETRONAS in 2007 and 2008, the government continued to spend lavishly and registered deficit budgets.

§ The unintended consequences of a marathon of pump priming since 1998 is a widening gap between public and private investments trend in Malaysia, which raises serious doubt of the sustainability of the government to continue spending lavishly to create demands, in light of the expected reduction in oil and gas income.

§ In a study by Prof KS Jomo (published December 2009), since 2000 public spending has become the key driver for economic growth, taking over from private investment:

[Source: Prof KS Jomo, “Economic Turmoil & Higher Education in the South” – 15 December 2009]

§ The massive drop in private investment will continue to threaten any efforts to mould Malaysian economy into a high performing, high value economy. At a marginal 1% growth in between 2000 to 2006, in real terms private investment of RM33 billion in 2006 is lower in value than private investment in 1991.

§ Furthermore, the pattern of public spending is not sustainable at the rate it is growing.

§ Any attempt to re-model the economy must address the skewed nature of public-private investments in Malaysia.

§ Pakatan Rakyat has always expounded that the country requires a holistic reform to the economic policy framework; especially so given the nature of lopsidedness of our economy now.

Second Point:

CAPITAL FLIGHT

§ An economist with UBS, Jon Anderson shocked the financial market when he disclosed the extent of the capital flight in Malaysia in 2009; that reached a whopping 44% of the GDP at one stage.

[Source: The Edge, 18 January 2010]

§ Despite the alarm raised by the report, the government rubbished the concern on the pretext that such net capital outflow was reflective of our GLCs more daring ventures overseas. At the height of it, an estimated RM355 billion left the country.

§ While it is acknowledged that our GLCs have been more aggressive lately with overseas investments, the quantum of the capital outflow suggests that the bulk of the net outflow was due to a genuine investment portfolios being pulled out of the country.

§ At the same time, the phenomenon where our GLCs increasingly relocate their cash reserves into overseas investments (as opposed to reinvesting into more ventures in the country) is also a worrying reflection of their confidence in our economy.

§ Both trends (outflow of investment portfolios and reinvestments abroad by GLCs) reflect a jittery sentiment by the market and business community of Malaysian economy’s prospect in the future.

§ Malaysia continues to suffer from international bad publicity due to various issues that were managed poorly by the government, ranging from “Allah” issue to miscellaneous disappearances/failure of government assets (including jet engines, submarine which does not dive etc.). This poses a significant risk as far as investors community is concerned; and was echoed by the Hong-Kong based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC).

§ In its latest report, PERC asserted that the impression given by the country (due to various issues) was as if it was becoming increasingly unstable. PERC is of the view that “probably” no other Asian countries suffer from bad publicity as much as Malaysia had.

§ The government must realise that it must combine its approach to the economic problem of capital flight with a political solution. Only with honesty, transparency, fair-mindedness and commitment to reforms that Malaysia can begin to restore confidence in its economy.

Third Point:

SEVERE DROP IN NEW CAPITAL INVESTMENTS & VALUE ADDED GROWTH OF MANUFACTURING SECTOR

§ Manufacturing remains the biggest contributor to GDP. Moving into a high value economy requires a strong manufacturing base. It is the upgrading of this manufacturing base; through injection of innovation and technology application, that can become the major drive towards upgrading into high value economy.

§ A report by ISIS and UM paints a gloomy prospect for our manufacturing sector. The sector has been registering a declining growth in the annual average manufacturing value added growth; as follows:

1990 – 1995 1995 – 2000 2000 – 2005 2005 – 2010
Annual average manufacturing value added growth (%) 11.6 5.8 4.9 Estimate

[Source: Dato’ Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin (ISIS) and Prof Dr Rajah Rasiah (UM) – “The Global Financial Crisis and The Malaysian Economy”, Dec 09)

§ Taking into account the contraction in export demand for our manufactured products in 2008 and 2009, we estimate a severe reduction for 2005 – 2010; so much so that if this trend is not reversed; by 2010 – 2015 the manufacturing sector may register a negative growth instead.

§ This spells a big conundrum that becomes counter-productive to the efforts to upgrade to high value economy; as the very foundation of our economy; upon which this thrust should be grounded – is heading towards a decline. The government will be doing battles on two fronts – propping up declining manufacturing activities at the same time it wants to upgrade its technology content and R&D.

§ This is not surprising given the decline in new capital investments in our manufacturing sector. The latest MIDA report for 2009 gives the following:

2008 2009 %
New capital investments (RM b) 62.8 32.6 (48)
FDI (RM b) 46.0 22.1 (52%)

[Source: MIDA and The Star, 13 March 2010]

§ If the decline in new capital investments continues; either due to the government’s inability to attract FDIs (new and expansion) or unattractiveness of our country to existing manufacturers, the efforts to upgrade our economy to high value economy will be in vain.

Fourth Point:

LAGGING HUMAN DEVELOPMENT THAT IS UNABLE TO SUPPORT LIBERALISED ECONOMY

§ A UNDP report authored by Kamal Malhotra (Senior Advisor) published in 2008, concluded that the key prerequisite that determines whether a country benefits or suffers from trade liberalisation is the level of human development that can capitalise on opportunities provided from liberalisation yet manages to absorb the side effect brought by it.

§ Based on UNESCO and MOSTI’s data, at the current level and trajectory; Malaysia will not be able to achieve high value economy – nor will it benefit substantially from further trade liberalisation; given the level of human development achieved so far.

Malaysia Singapore South Korea Taiwan Japan
Engineers & Technical Researchers per million (2008) 367 5,713 4,162 4,159 5,148
R&D expenditure as a % of GDP (2008) 0.64 2.39 3.23 2.58 3.4

[Source: MOSTI and UNESCO]

  • Unless something is done drastically by the government to shift the focus and improve the delivery of government R&D/technical programs/support programs; not only that Malaysia can forget its dream to achieve high value economy; we are expected not to benefit from further trade liberalisation moves currently adopted by the government aggressively.

Fifth Point:

UNMATCHED SAVING AND INVESTMENT RISKS, SYMPTOMATIC OF PROBLEM OF ACCESS TO CREDITS

§ The problem of stimulating further private investments to replace the unsustainable practice of massive pump priming by the government, will be hampered if credits are not efficiently and sufficiently extended to the groups that need it most.

§ Malaysia has among the highest saving rates, however divergently (compared to other developing and developed countries) this does not translate to matching investment rates.

§ A comparison of our saving and investment rates with other countries is as follows:

Malaysia Thailand South Korea Indonesia
Average saving rates 2001 – 2008 (%) 43 33 33 30
Average investment rates2001 – 2008(%) 21 29 30 24
Differentials (%) 22 4 3 6

[Source: UNDP Report “The Global Financial Crisis and the Asia Pacific Region”]

§ The large differentials suggest Malaysia’s inability to tap into the high savings to channel into productive economic activities.

§ This is partly due to the inefficiency of providing easy credits to the small and medium enterprises (SME); that in the end only the big corporations and government have access to this savings – while the smaller enterprises struggle to obtain adequate credits timely.

§ This scenario has to be eased and government must concentrate to improve the disbursement process and encourages the financial sector to extend more credits to the SMEs in order to cultivate its growth. The SMEs are in the best position to quickly acquire technical application and upgrade itself due to its flexibility and agility to adopt and adapt (without the constraints of sheer bureaucracy associated with big conglomerates) – providing more credits will certainly facilitate this process.

Conclusion:

HOLISTIC REFORM IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD

§ The five economic indicators clearly point to an uphill struggle to achieve whatever crafty slogans on high value economy that government has drummed up so far.

§ The nature of the divergence in economic data is an indicator of the massiveness of the reforms required.

§ Pakatan Rakyat is consistent that without a holistic reform involving a total fight against corruption, the tightening of the government procurement process, the dismantling of the state-politician business relationship; injecting integrity back into the judiciary and important institutions; and an overhaul of our education system – the efforts to move to high value economy will remain as rhetoric.

§ Even more so, when we should not lose the focus that our drive towards high value economy is driven by the need to combat poverty and distribute the economic prosperity fairly and justly – lest we continue driving up the wedge between the “haves” and “have nots”; with or without the high value economy.

YB DATO’ SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM

Leader of Opposition

Dewan Rakyat, 16 March 2010

Video : 3 Acid Tests for 1 Malaysia

Church and Govt leave ‘Allah’ issue to court

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The Catholic church and the Government have agreed to leave it to the court to determine whether the newsletter The Herald is allowed to use the word “Allah”.

It is understood that this was the outcome of a meeting between church authorities and the Government. Several issues were discussed during the meeting but no details were available.

Meanwhile, Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew confirmed that the church had received the Government’s notice of appeal last week. No date had been set for the case to be heard.

The Government is appealing against a decision of the High Court which found that the Catholic church had the right to use the word “Allah” in its publication. Following the ruling, the Government applied for a stay of execution.

DANGEROUS PLAYGROUND

WAYTHA FIGHTS BACK

Promises to go to the International Court of Justice

waytha
PETALING JAYA:
The self-styled leader of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) P. Waythamoorthy (pic) yesterday challenged the Malaysian government to revoke his citizenship.

He said this would give him the opportunity to bring his case to the International Court of Justice and Malaysia could then defend their case against him.

Waythamoorthy, who is in the United Kingdom after he fled from Malaysia, said this in response to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz's statement in The Malay Mail yesterday that he was not welcomed in the country due to his stand to abolish Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which involves Malay rights.

Mohamed Nazri also said that the large majority of "our Tamil brothers" were loyal to the constitution but only wanted a bit more equality and a reasonable share of the economic cake. Waythamoorthy also reiterated that he wanted the Malaysian government to return his passport, which he said was revoked in April 2008.

"Allow me to come back and I am willing to face any criminal charges, including treason which carries the death penalty for questioning Malay privileges as suggested by the Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam in 2007," he said in an email reply to The Malay Mail.

Waythamoorthy said he would not apologise to the government when asked whether he was willing to do so for them to allow him to come home.

"There is no issue of apology as I have always spoken the truth and sought justice for the marginalised, oppressed and suppressed Malaysian Indians," he said.

When asked to comment about a report in a local Tamil daily last week that mentioned him, Hindraf adviser N. Ganesan as well as a group from Sabah and Sarawak represented by Common Interest Group Malaysia (Cigma) activists Daniel John Jambun and Nicholas Bawin Anggat who had visited the House of Commons to enlighten the British Parliamentarians about marginalised ethnic Indians in Malaysia, he said:

"Last week’s Conference at the House of Commons by both Hindraf and the natives from Borneo is just the beginning of a series of campaigns that Hindraf will mount to challenge the unlawful and unconstitutional act of the Malaysian government."

He said Malaysia was independent for 53 years and the government had instead recolonised the non - Malays and natives from Sabah and Sarawak.

"As the fifth and sixth generation labour migrants, we are equally sons of the soil and deserve the protection of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which provides equality for all," he said.

Last September, Waythamoorthy had also stated that he wanted the Malaysian government to return his passport and was prepared to take responsibility for his actions, even at the risk of being detained under the Internal Security Act.

He had said the government owed him an apology and held Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, the former Home Minister, responsible for revoking his passport.

Syed Hamid, however, denied he had ordered it.