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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Female suicide bombers blamed in Moscow subway attacks

Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Russian investigators combing two subway stations attacked by female suicide bombers think Chechen rebels may have been behind the rush-hour strike that killed dozens of people.

"Our preliminary assessment is that this act of terror was committed by a terrorist group from the North Caucasus region," Alexander Bortnikov of the Federal Security Service said of the investigation at one of the blast sites.

"We consider this the most likely scenario, based on investigations conducted at the site of the blast," Bortnikov said. "Fragments of the suicide bombers' body found at the blast, according to preliminary findings, indicate that the bombers were from the North Caucasus region."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the "terrorists" responsible for the Moscow subway attacks Monday "will be destroyed."

"We are providing Moscow metro with additional CCTV cameras. Today's events show we should not only continue this work but to make it more effective. Changes in legislation may be necessary."

The two explosions that rocked the subway stations in central Moscow during rush hour killed at least 38 people and wounded more than 60 others, spawning widespread public outrage.

"It's disgusting," one witness said. "I don't know who did it and what they wanted. Life is so short. How could people commit such terrible acts?"

Although they have yet to claim responsibility, Bortnikov's statement is a strong implication that Chechen rebels fighting for independence were behind the strike.

How Chechen rebels threaten Russian stability

Thousands have been killed and 500,000 Chechens displaced in the Chechen rebels' almost 20-year conflict with Moscow. The area is in the North Caucasus region of Russian between the Black and Caspian seas.

A timeline of Chechnya violence

The first blast occurred at 7:56 a.m. at Lubyanka subway station, the Ministry of Emergency Situations reported on its Web site. The Lubyanka station is near the Kremlin and Federal Security Service headquarters. The Federal Security Service is Russia's intelligence agency.

Another blast happened about 40 minutes later at Park Kultury station, on the same train line. Three Moscow hospitals were treating the wounded, the ministry said.

Are you there? Send photos, video, stories

Yulia Shapovalova of Russia Today TV was at the second station at the time of the blast.

"The staff members started urgently evacuating people, so that meant they probably knew about the first blast at the Lubyanka station," she said. "All the people -- a huge crowd of people -- slowly started to move. ... As soon as I got upstairs, I heard the blast."

iReporter takes images of the scene

"It was a terrorist act carried out by the female suicide bombers," Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said of the first and most lethal explosion, citing the Federal Security Service. "They were specifically timed -- for ... the train was nearing the station -- to make the most damage."

Both stations reopened about 5 p.m. Moscow time, according to Veronica Molskaya from the Press Service of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

In St. Petersburg, three metro stations were shut as the result of a bomb scare.

Millions of commuters use the Moscow metro system every day. An estimated 500,000 people were riding trains throughout the capital at the time of the attacks. It was unclear when the system would return to normal service, and the incident generated fear among commuters.

"I feel scared," one woman said on TV. "I have to walk to get to work, because there is no way I'm going by Metro."

The attacks reverberated around the globe.

U.S. President Obama condemned the "outrageous acts" and passed along his condolences.

"The American people stand united with the people of Russia in opposition to violent extremism and heinous terrorist attacks that demonstrate such disregard for human life," Obama said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will offer her condolences to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday in Ottawa, Canada, where the Group of Eight foreign ministers are meeting to plan for the June G8 meeting in Canada.

"This brutal assault on innocent civilians is another reminder that terrorism is a threat to peace-loving people everywhere and must be met with unwavering resolve," she said.

"Together with our G8 partners, we will discuss how to further strengthen international counter-terrorism coordination and cooperation."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that there have been no reports of U.S. citizens killed in the Moscow attacks.

The federal Transportation Security Administration said there is "no specific or credible information indicating an imminent or current threat to U.S. transportation systems," even though some local authorities have decided to beef up security measures in some cities.

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said police are stepping up security in the New York City subway system.

In Washington, Metro, the operator of the city's transit system, said it is expanding security in light of the Moscow attacks. Coincidentally, it had a terror drill this past weekend and is holding another one Monday.

Why no subway is safe from terror

Amtrak, the national passenger rail network, said there is "no specific threat " to its system, but its police assigned to the FBI's National and Regional Joint Terrorism Task Force "remain informed regarding any potential threats and other security issues."

In Atlanta, Georgia, MARTA's police department has heightened security measures throughout the transit system.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "appalled" by the incident and sent condolences to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, according to Britain's Press Association.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and said he "is confident that the Russian authorities will bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist attack."

Interpol, the international police agency, condemned the attacks and offered help to Russian authorities in the investigation.

Interpol's executive director of police services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, called the actions "despicable and senseless attacks targeting the public."

APCO links with government started before 1 Malaysia, claims Anwar

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim caused a stir in Parliament today when he claimed that APCO’s links with the Najib administration started well before the 1 Malaysia concept.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had previously stated that APCO’s engagement came after the inception of 1 Malaysia.

Today, Anwar said that leading figures within APCO were already working for the Malaysian government under the company Myteam Sdn Bhd.

“Before APCO existed in Kuala Lumpur, the government had appointed Myteam Sdb Bhd. This company, which had offices in KL, were led by key individuals who are also senior personnel within APCO.”

Paul Stranford who was the director of Myteam is now the CEO of APCO based in Kuala Lumpur and the other person, Margaret Kraus, is CEO of APCO Worldwide.

“Now the CEOs of APCO are key individuals involved in major accounts in Israel,” said Anwar.

Anwar to zero in on APCO in Parliament today

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — The ongoing controversy involving APCO Worldwide, the US-based public relations consultancy hired by the Najib Administration, will be ramped up a notch when Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim addresses Parliament today.

After years of accusing Anwar of Jewish ties — his close association with World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is often cited — it appears the tables have been turned against the government.

The Straits Times reports that Anwar has “fresh information on APCO’s activities, its contract with the Malaysian government, and the strong links of one of its associate units with Israel.”

The report also goes on to say that “Anwar is expected to zero in on Asero Worldwide, an APCO associate company that specialises in homeland security and is headed by several personalities who were involved with security agencies in Israel.”

The Straits Times quotes B. Jay Cooper, APCO’s deputy managing director in Washington as saying that while “Asero has no contractual relationship with the government of Israel” and is a “separate business from Apco”, it did through its corporate holding provide “some administrative support to Asero in the form of accounting and other corporate services”.

Ironically, one of the reasons APCO was hired was to help improve Malaysia’s ties with the US, which had soured during the Mahathir Administration.

But it looks like this APCO-Israeli controversy may have a negative impact with the Malay ground.

The controversy started two weeks ago when Anwar alleged that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia campaign mirrored former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s One Israel campaign. He also accused APCO of being behind both campaigns.

The Straits Times also reports that APCO was given very specific objectives.

“These included identifying areas in which goals of the Malaysian and US governments were significant and aligned, and to identify officials, think-tanks and news organisations relevant to Malaysia’s ties with the US.”

But that is not all.

Cooper said the firm was “also involved in Malaysian government initiatives in such critical areas as creating jobs and economic reform.”

There has also been widespread speculation that Apco was paid in excess of RM20 million.

The NEP is officially dead

KUALA LUMPUR: Every individual counts. Merit and effort would now count. With those words, Malaysia today buried the decades-old New Economic Policy which gave preference to Bumiputeras in all spheres of life.

Affirmative action would now be based on needs and merit, and the focus shifted from ethnicity to low income households and individuals.

Mutual respect and dignity would be accorded, said the National Economic Advisory Council in its first report of the New Economic Model that would guide Malaysia's development.

"All communities can contribute to and share in the wealth of the country," it said. "Every part of the country matters. Resources, jobs, contracts and licenses (will be) based on merit and effort."

In charting Malaysia's growth towards a high-income economy, with a per capita income of US15,000 a year, the report stated that the rakyat could expect:

  • More choices and higher purchasing power.
  • An upward spiral of consumption and high income career choices.
  • Better quality of life. Not only higher incomes, but quality healthcare and social support, for all.
  • Opportunities for upward mobility.
  • Readily available skills development programmes.
  • Access to resources, jobs, contracts and licenses based on merit and effort.
  • Reward for innovation and creativity.
  • A more developed, specialised, innovative, technology-driven and knowledge-based economic structure.

All rakyat will feel included as a result of:

  • Safe surroundings free from the fear of crime, the indignity of discrimination and the anxiety of need.
  • Equal and easy access to information.
  • Connected, sophisticated, modern cities, townships and villages.
  • All communities able to contribute to and share in the wealth of the country.
  • Every individual counts.
  • Affirmative action shift from ethnicity to low income households and individuals on the basis of needs and merit. Mutual respect and dignity accorded.
  • Every part of the nation matters.
  • Regional and sub-regional development will be given more emphasis, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.
  • Everyone will be consulted and their voices heard.

Now Showing in Bolehland

By Kee Thuan Chye - Free Malaysia Today

COMMENT You would never dream of a former British prime minister opening a general meeting of the right-wing British National Front or the English Defence League, or a former US president (not even George W Bush) opening that of the supremacist group White Aryan Resistance. But things are different in Bolehland. Something like that took place last Saturday.

That was when Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, earned himself a place in the Hall of Shame by officiating at the inaugural general meeting of Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Negara (Perkasa).

To be sure, it was not unexpected. He was being consistent with his practice over the years – enhanced during the last two – of the principle of divide and rule. Endorsing the chauvinistic activism of Perkasa was something right up his street and he played his role with relish.

His son Mukhriz was there to provide support in the audience. However, as an Umno leader and deputy minister, how could he justify to the Malaysian people of all races his presence at the gathering? And what about Deputy Finance Minister Awang Adek Hussin and Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, the deputy chairman of the Election Commission, a civil servant in what is supposedly an impartial body?

Perkasa is anathema to progress; subscribing to it is to subscribe to a bleak future. What does it preach but narrow-minded concerns? What does it really champion? An old system that has seen Malaysia plunge into the abyss of corruption and rent-seeking, a system that has made the country unattractive to foreign investors, that perpetuates a mediocrity arising from affirmative action that has gone extreme and awry.

Mahathir used to pride himself as being a forward-thinking man; yet in his speech at the gathering, he asked Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and the Umno leadership to listen to Perkasa and to return to the old ways of defending Malay rights. This is pass̩ politics. Malaysia should be looking forward to multi-racialism and globalisation rather than be frozen in a time warp Рand for whose benefit? Everyone suffers if we stagnate.

Even Malays talk of the need to reform affirmative action, chief among them Nazir Razak, Najib’s own brother and the boss of CIMB Group. In an interview with The Edge on March 15, he said, “I spent much of the 1990s listing companies and saw at close proximity arbitrary allocations of shares [made] to individuals in the name of the NEP. Many become rich or much richer overnight, and then we wonder why bumiputeras are not competitive.”

He advocates that the New Economic Model that Najib will unveil tomorrow must be “transparent and conducive to competition and market forces”. This would be the kind of thing Perkasa would object to strongly.

Mahathir of course won’t acknowledge it but opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s idea of an economic model that provides assistance based on need rather than race makes better sense. Why talk of protecting Malay privileges when it is only a small group of Malays who reap the rewards of such privileges?

Why fight for an NEP that benefits only a small group of Malays with the right connections and helps them succeed in business without really trying? According to Nazir, “Unfortunately, (these) few may be politically powerful and loud.” Is Perkasa in cahoots with them? If not, why serve their cause?

What problems, indeed?

Ibrahim Ali's own speech at the gathering sounded like an Umno speech. He hit out at Anwar and blamed him for causing the problems faced by the Malay community. What problems, indeed? Does Ibrahim see as a problem the split in thinking between progressive Malays and the backward ones like him? That, surely, is not a problem? Is it wrong to want to move forward, to cast off the old beliefs that are a proven burden to the community and the country as a whole?

He hit out at DAP’s “Malaysian Malaysia” concept, of the DAP wanting to do away with the Malay rulers, of being against Islam and the Malays. That’s irresponsible talk. The objective of “Malaysian Malaysia” is to bring together all Malaysians to “enjoy justice, freedom, democracy and good governance”. How can that be objectionable? Must unity be exclusive to Malays? Why not extend it to the whole nation? How would that be detrimental to the Malay rulers, Islam and the Malay race?


The rest of us might well ask why 'pribumi' features in Perkasa’s name. Ibrahim and his gang are not pribumi, surely? Do they represent the Orang Asli?

On the whole, Ibrahim’s speech was full of bravado and nothing much else. He even warned political parties not to make an enemy of Perkasa because they would lose at the elections. And strangely, among the resolutions adopted at the gathering was one urging the government to retain the Internal Security Act, the infamous ISA. What has that to do with Malay rights?

The event itself was more theatre than politics. Mahathir was given a tengkolok to wear and a sash to adorn his torso, and bestowed with the ‘Bintang Pribumi Perkasa’ award. There was a silat performance. Ibrahim unsheathed a keris and kissed it, then waved it in the air to the cries of “Hidup Melayu!” An act that might have made Hishammuddin Hussein proud. There was also a performance by the Istana Budaya cultural troupe. If they are a government-sponsored troupe were they were hired as professionals or were their services offered gratis?

Should Perkasa be taken seriously? Or is it just a showcase of tribal emotionalism with more hype than substance? Right-wing groups have not been known to go very far – anywhere in the world. As long as they don’t create violence or cause harm to anyone, they should in a democratic space be allowed to vent their geram – and then be roundly rejected by sensible citizens. If Najib has any guts, he would make a strong statement against right-wing thinking and activism. He would staunchly stand by his 1Malaysia concept and make an unequivocal commitment to multiracialism.

The rest of us might well ask why “pribumi” features in Perkasa’s name. Ibrahim and his gang are not pribumi, surely? Do they represent the Orang Asli? As far as we all know, those are the real pribumi. Let’s not confuse the meaning of the term with that used in Indonesia. Here, we already have “bumiputera” so let’s stick with that. The Registrar of Societies should look into this.

And as for Mahathir, he should have known better than to associate himself with Perkasa. After this, what credibility is there left for us to still give the old man? He is obviously as misguided as Ibrahim by tribal emotionalism. Pathetic, indeed. Those non-Malays foolish enough to hold him in high esteem in the past would surely now be disabused of their foolishness.

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang puts it eloquently. “Mahathir has come full circle, from an ultra back again to an ultra (sic) – repudiating Bangsa Malaysia and Vision 2020 which he enunciated in 1991. This is the greatest tragedy.”

I have to disagree there. Tragedy, in the original Aristotelian sense, occurs only with tragic heroes who embody nobility and greatness in their character. Mahathir is nothing of the sort. A person who does what he does exudes neither nobility nor greatness. Consorting with enthnocentric right-wingers merely reduces him to puniness


Kee Thuan Chye is a dramatist, author and journalist. He is a contributor to Free Malaysia Today

Ketuanan Malacca

So, in essence, all of Malaya belonged to Indonesia!!! And they all used Chinese money!! And they were all Hindu!!

By John Doe

A few friends from Malaysia emailed me and expressed surprised that Malacca minted their own coins. Yes they did. Let's see how Ketuanan Malacca held up.

Apparently, the coins were made between 1446-1459. They were minted from tin. Supposedly during the rule of Sultan Muzaffar (4th Sultan). However (for those who read Jawi) the inscriptions read “Al Sultan, Al Adil”, which literally translates to The Sultan, The Just (fair). And since it does not actually bear an inscribed year on it, the actual Sultan who made this could be anyone's guess. I was however going by “popular belief”, when I mentioned that it was the 4th Sultan's currency.

The coins look like this:

coins1

This must be magnificent, right? Proof of Ketuanan, right? Immediate questions arise!! Why were these coins not minted till the collapse of Malacca? And why wern't coins manufactured before the 4th Sultan? The answer is relatively easy once you look at a time-line. The Ketuanan Malacca was in reality, using Chinese coins. In fact, the use of Chinese coins had already been well established since the year 1300 (more than 100 years before Parameswara) by the Majapahit Empire. They were called “Kepeng”. And were authentic Chinese Currency.

coins2

(verified by Indonesian Ancient Relics Conservation Bureau)

This is also a very well established fact which is strangely “missing” from Malaysian History Textbooks. It becomes no surprise then that Parameswara only recognized the Chinese Money called “Kepeng”, and continued its' use when he set up shop in Malacca. His miniscule hamlet was simply NO MATCH for the Great Majapahit, or Pasai Kingdoms. Not to mention that it would have been dumb to try to start a new currency with only 30 men in his entire empire. (Excluding himself, the 29 others were Bugis Pirate-Mercenaries whom he hired.)

Enter Zheng Ho. Yes. Zheng Ho lived from 1371-1435. He was already in the area during the time of Majapahit, and before the start of Kampong Malacca. (30 people qualifies as a kampong, right?)

Raise your hands, all thos who know that to help “legitimize” Malacca, the Sultans actually manufactured CHINESE COINS WITH Zheng Ho's name on it?

Called “Zheng Ho Yan Pau”. They were THE currency of Malacca!

A nicely framed Display of the Zheng Ho Tin-Coins Collection.

coins3

Ketuanan Malacca was solely using Cheng Ho Money!!

And here's a closer view of some surviving coins:
coins4

I am reliably informed that the Chinese Kanji reads as Xing Yuan Tong Shi Yi.

To add to all this hidden History, one must know that China occupied Vietnam for over 1,000 years. Thus making all of Indochine part of China itself. Hence, the name (old) Yunan included all of IndoChina. According to the book of Nagarakertagama (1365) pupuh (canto) XIII and XIV mentioned several states in Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara islands, Maluku, New Guinea, and some parts of Philippines islands as under Majapahit realm of power. This source mentioned of Majapahit expansions has marked the greatest extent of Majapahit empire.

So, in essence, all of Malaya belonged to Indonesia!!! And they all used Chinese money!! And they were all Hindu!! Ok. some were Buddhist, and most were continuously flipping from Hinduism to Buddhism, and vice versa. Take Prambanan (Hindu) in comparison to Borrobudor (Buddhist). Both were on the same island of Java, merely 20 miles from each other. And just like Angkor, they kept flipping from Buddhism to Hinduism, and vice versa. What a completely different world !!

And since all these Keris-weilding people swear that Allah chiselled Article 153 in stone, then by definition NONE of all who lived in Southeast Asia was a “malay”!! Simply because NONE were Muslim at all!! Based on the same logic, then, exactly what Ketuanan are they ranting about? Since during the time of Parameswara, there were CLEARLY NO “malays” at all as per defined by Article 153!!

So, for those who define “malay” by Article 153, then the best-case scenario, is that the “birth of malays” began when the Gujeratis' brought Islam over to Acheh. Which is circa 10th Century. This makes the “malays” 600 years old. Otherwise, if you prefer a “longer/older” history, then the First Austronesians emerged as a result of Mongoloid and Dravidic marriage (Chindian) somewhere in Taiwan or a long the China Coast of Amoy. And that History my friend, puts the entire Austronesian origins at around 6,000 yrs old. There is no need for arguing with me. Let your DNA do the talking. Your Mitochindiral Markers are for all to see. And they never lie!!

So what exactly is all this Ketuanan about? Is it about Lordship? Is it about Superiority? Is it about pride?

Google “The Pride of the Malay Race”, and you will end up with Dr. Jose Rizal. Strange isn't it? He is also known as “The Greatest Malay Hero”. Who was he? He was born in 1861 in the city of Calamba, in Laguna province, as the seventh of eleven siblings. At such an early age, he already demonstrated superb intellect. He went on study at notable schools of the time, such as Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now the Ateneo de Manila University) and the University of Santo Tomas, where he excelled both in academic and athletics. After that, he went to Madrid to study medicine. He lived in Europe for quite a time, trying to convince the Spanish government to initiate reforms in the colony and further enriching his knowledge.

jose

Aside from being a doctor, Rizal was also a sculptor, a a writer, a scientist, a poet, and a polyglot who knew how to speak at least ten languages. His main contribution to the literary (and political) world was his two novels, the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo. Both books which I bought while I was in Manila. By far, he seems to have more “Ketuanan” than any UMNO I know.

Have a look at the comparison between Malaysian Parliament and Singapore Parliament members:

PM Lee Hsien Loong

Cambridge University - First Class Honours (1974)

Harvard University - Masters (1980)

PM Dato’ Sri Najib Razak


University of Nottingham - Bachelor of Arts Honours (1974)

Former PM Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi


University of Malaya - Bachelor of Arts Honours (1964)

Former PM Goh Chok Tong


University of Singapore - First Class Honours (1964)


Williams College , USA - Masters (1967)

MM Lee Kuan Yew


Cambridge University - First Class Honours (1949)

Former Minister of Foregn Affairs Syed Hamid Albar

(can someone tell me his univeristy?) - Bachelor of Arts [UITM]

The list goes on....

So for those who still insist on “Ketuanan Malacca” now, take a good hard look at this map. Notice how land is labelled.

map

Try looking for “Tanah Melayu”. Can't find it? SURPRISE !! But I'm sure you will notice Malacca. You will also notice Borneo, Sumatera, Celebes, Mindanao, and Java. And what is my point? There was never a Kingdom of Borneo, Sumatera, Celebes, Mindanao, nor Java. They were simply reference names to the land. Malacca happened to share the same name as the land on which it resided. Whichever the case, “Tanah Melayu” was definitely NOT it's original name.

Coming back to the Ketuanan issue now. How much Ketuanan did this Migrant Murderer Prince actually have? (He did murder the brother in-law of Sultan of Pattani). And is anyone going to stress the Kelantan, Perlis, Kedah and Terengganu Royalty migrating from Thailand? Or the Sultan of Selangor who migrated from Sulawesi? (Nephew of Daeng Kemboja) How about the Sultan of Johor, who “took over” after the original bloodline of Parameswara was killed? The new line is Bugis, if memory serves me well. He was then Bendehara of the dead Sultan.

What if History books read this way ...

“The Malayan Peninsular was first Colonized in 1402 by an Indonesian migrant called Parameswara?”

Does he not fit the description? If someone were to jump on a boat from Palembang today, Malaysia would lock him up in Jail, and call him a “Pendatang Haram” isn't it?

So why wasn't Parameswara called a Pendatang Haram when he first came to Malaya?

Instead, he was transformed into a pseudo-Hero?

trap

After all, Parameswara was a Criminal, and there were already 2 death sentences against him. One, decreed by his own father, and the second was by the King of Siam. (His third death-sentence came much later from Acheh.) Somehow “Pengkhianat dan Pembunuh” comes to mind to describe Parameswara. Not to mention the driving away of all the Orang Asli's from their land; of which they had already lived for 60,000 years!!!

So it is very evident that this “Ketuanan Malacca” is simply a creation of overzealous Nationalists, who distort it, and create a “Myth” about a non-existant Ketuanan. UMNO is NOT a descendant of Parameswara. Most are cross-breeds from goodness-knows-where. At best, they share the same island of Palembang. Which makes them Sumatran. Which confirms that they are as “pendatang” as everyone else.

So Perkasa, please take your 67% Ketuanan and stuff it up where the sun don't shine, as someone so quaintly phrased it.

What the film censors want

thenutgraph.com

WHO would have thought that on the issue of film censorship, Malaysia and the US would have so much in common? Just look at the Home Ministry's updated film censorship guidelines, which took effect on 15 March 2010. The four broad areas covered are: public peace and security; the religious; the socio-cultural; and manners and morality. Under "manners and morality", the Home Ministry forbids depictions that "arouse viewers' sympathies towards the immoral, deviant and evil". The US had a similar provision, where movies that "lower[ed] the moral standards" of viewers were condemned by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). The difference is that the MPPDA announced this in 1930.

casablanca
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
(film still source: Wiki Commons)

But if we ignore this gap in time, it is amazing how the US's film censorship dynamics of a near-century ago are so similar to present-day Malaysia's. Groups in the US such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union and Catholic Legion of Decency condemned films as "immoral" and protested against religiously "objectionable" films. In 1915, a Supreme Court ruling allowed state and local bodies to censor films.

The Malaysian Home Ministry, though, says its new guidelines are not meant to "stifle filmmakers' creativity" and will be applied "within the context of the storyline". Perhaps the ministry has a point. After all, during an intense decade of censorship, Hollywood still managed to produce classics such as Gone with the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1943). But were these gems made because of or despite the strict censorship regime? If we follow the Home Ministry's logic, there is no contradiction between censoring free speech and artistic expression, and promoting artistic creativity. Is this true? What are the larger implications of film censorship, really?

movie poster
Perhaps Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam and
its sequel were not supernatural horror films
(poster source: Wiki Commons)

Censorship vs creativity

The US has moved on since its flirtation with censorship in the first half of the 20th century. Malaysia probably has more in common now with China and Iran. Our censorship guidelines forbid "extreme" supernatural horror films and depiction of environmental pollution. That's almost identical to China's censorship provisions. We also have an exhaustive list of movie-making don'ts — no characters believing all religions are equal; no challenging of existing official fatwa — that would make Iranian censors proud.

But it is also true that Iran and China have produced some of the best cinema in recent times despite these restrictions. In the 1990s, Iranian films won 30 international awards.

We must remember, however, that this was also the decade in which Iranians elected the reformist Mohamed Khatami as president in 1997. Censorship rules were then relaxed, and Iranian filmmakers could even depict cross-dressing, something Malaysian filmmakers cannot do under the new censorship guidelines.

mohsen makhmalbaf
Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Fabien Dany | Wiki Commons)
But then censors started getting more aggressive again, and by 2004 award-winning director Mohsen Makhmalbaf said, "It seems that the new censorship strategy intends to push the Iranian artists to migrate from the country." In 2005, the ultraconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president.

China's filmmakers have not been spared, either. Most of the earlier internationally-acclaimed films from director Zhang Yimou were actually banned within China. Zhang remained persona non grata until he decided to make more nationalist fare, starting with Hero (2002).

The thing about China, though, was that directors often didn't know why their films got censored or banned. A film could be banned over something as arbitrary as farming organisation representatives from remote provinces, appointed to watch the movie, being offended. This is why state censors chose to finally publicise their filmmaking no-nos in 2008, saying the rules were aimed at "purifying screen entertainment" and "creating a more harmonious and green film environment for the public, especially children".

Romanticising censorship

Censorship does force filmmakers — and citizens, really — to be more creative in trying to get their voices heard. But it can be a losing battle. Maziar Bahari, an Iranian documentary-maker said that "romanticising censorship is a great disservice to Iranian artists."

He said, "Censorship has had a negative effect on Iranian arts for centuries. I believe without censorship we would have many other great artists and filmmakers whose talent and effort cannot bear fruit because of governmental, religious and social restrictions."

So here's the thing: Censorship can make artists try to circumvent it more creatively, but only for a while. Ultimately, censorship achieves two interconnected goals: it infantilises those who accept it, and crushes those who challenge it. The Home Ministry, however, phrases this goal differently in different parts of its guidelines. Films should not cause controversies or doubts in society. Films should not go against government policy. Films should not depict things that go against public opinion.

Films as art

But if we accept that cinema is an art form, then we have to accept that the very purpose of art is to ask questions of society. It is creative engagement and communication between the artist and the viewer. And so art, by definition, causes the public to question certain values and assumptions.

bowling for columbine
Poster for Bowling for Columbine
(source: Wiki Commons)
Films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) were Hollywood's way of interrogating racism in the US, while Bowling for Columbine (2002) explored the US's normalisation of armed violence. Certainly, a post-censorship Hollywood has come out with a load of rubbish, but US cinema has also produced important and compelling films which are rightfully considered works of art.

It is telling, then, that US censorship rules were relaxed as society became more democratic — after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the successes of the women's movement especially. And it is telling that film censorship still prevails in China and Iran — two countries that have not successfully democratised by any stretch of the imagination. And it is telling whose footsteps the Malaysian authorities have chosen to follow.

The Home Ministry could be sincere about wanting to preserve artistic creativity yet needing to censor films to protect society from undesirable elements. But this is not just undemocratic, it is also insulting. It means that in the midst of feel-good efforts such as 1Malaysia and the Government Transformation Programme, the government still believes Malaysians are too stupid to watch a movie without falling apart.

Anwar Ibrahim at University Of Westminster

Dr M, The Father of Re-Colonisation

Mahathir forgets easily (I)

By Martin Jalleh

Recently, Dr Mahathir (Dr M) reminded the younger generation, who will one day lead the nation, not to be taken in by the subtle tactics of foreigners who want to bring about neo-colonialism in the country.

He said that “foreign forces would take advantage on the basis of globalisation and liberalisation to fulfil their agenda. We are now “faced with various challenges from abroad…(and) threats from blog sites”.

He was speaking at the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad Statesman Discussion organised by the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) of the Ministry of Information Communication and Culture (Bernama, 27.03.10).

It was one amongst the many of Dr M’s anti-re-colonisation rhetoric. Once when he was in power (in reality, he still is!) he declared that the rakyat must ensure that the BN “is returned to power with a big majority in the next general election so that the nation will be ruled by a strong Government capable of standing against any attempt by foreign powers to re-colonise the country”.

Alas, Dr M forgets very easily these days. Re-colonisation had in fact taken place in 1981 when he became PM. He had donned the mantle of British supremacy and with his Executive supremacy even outdid the white colonial master in many ways during the 22 years that followed!

Dr M and his cohorts who once detested the oppressive laws of the British, brandished a gamut of harsh executive powers during his reign which were deeply and undeniably derivative of authoritarian colonialism.

Many laws left behind by the British were amended and made even more draconian to contain, cripple and crush legitimate dissent by citizens and the Opposition. There were countless examples of this.

British “propaganda” was replaced by a powerful broadcast media owned by the Government and allied companies, and regulated by the Broadcasting Act, 1987, which gives the Information Minister vast powers of control and manipulation.

The Sedition Act (1948) was a British law used to stifle Malay nationalists (especially those in UMNO, a party born two years before the Act came to be). The Act was amended and made use of by Dr for selective prosecution of political opponents and to protect UMNO.

The Internal Security Act (ISA) (1960), a relic of colonialism, meant to combat the then communists, was amended more than 20 times to make it more repressive than the original. Its powers were abused to protect the “security” of Umno. Known as ‘white terror’, the ISA was and is still used by Malaysians on Malaysians.

The Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) originated from the Printing Press Act (1948). Amended in 1987 by Dr M’s regime to exclude judicial review of the Executive’s action vis-a-vis publications it served as a stranglehold on the press and opposition publications.

The Official Secrets Act (OSA) (1972) was based on the British OSA of 1911. Amended in 1986 to provide for mandatory jail sentences, Dr M used it to reinforce the cult of secrecy and to hide his many misdeeds. It resulted in self-censorship by the press.

The Police Act (1963) was amended in 1967, 1981 and 1987 to enhance the wide array of police powers, thus making the constitutional right of assembly absolutely “irrelevant”. The late Tunku Abdul Rahman died a disillusioned man on seeing his independent Malaysia reduced to, in his very own words, a “Police State” by Dr M.

Even the Special Branch was a creation of Britain in 1887. It was meant as a direct response to Irish anarchist terrorism. It was perfected by the Malaysian police to “trace”, threaten, torture and “turn over” political dissidents, an infamous fact glaringly highlighted during the first sodomy trial of Anwar Ibrahim whom Dr M was bent on getting rid of!

Every trick and treachery by Dr M during his 22 years as PM – “divide-and-rule”, purveying a “culture of fear” or creating a “siege mentality”, manipulating ethnic and religious fears, trotting out a bogey – were tools of British Colonialism. Now the supposed “Statesman” tells the young to be wary of re-colonisation!

Alas, how can UMNO “re-invent” itself when its leaders who were the once-oppressed have now become the oppressors? As it happened to the all-powerful supreme British Empire, the day will come when the sun will set on UMNO….

(30 March 2010)

Najib Unveils NEM To Transform Malaysia Into High-Income Economy

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Tuesday unveiled the much-awaited New Economic Model (NEM) which will transform the nation into a high-income economy that is sustainable and inclusive and will position the nation on the right path towards attaining developed nation status by 2020.

The NEM would make Malaysia more competitive regionally and globally with benefits accruing to all Malaysians, with their per capita income increasing to US$15,000 by the end of the decade from US$7,000 currently, said Najib, who is also Finance Minister.

Under the NEM, the Government would no longer tolerate practices that support the behaviours of rent-seeking and patronage, which have long tarnished the altruisic aims of the New Economic Policy (NEP).

The NEM wil be "inclusive" with all Malaysians contributing and benefiting from economic growth -- a fundamental element of any new economic approach, he said in his speech at "Invest Malaysia 2010" conference.

Among highlights of the NEM are:

*Employees Provident Fund (EPF) will be allowed to invest more in overseas assets;

*Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) will be corporatised and renamed as Malaysian Investment Development Authority to make it more effective as an investment promotion agency;

*Government and EPF to form a joint venture to promote the development of 1,200 hectares of land (3,000 acres) in Sungai Buloh into a new hub for the Klang Valley;

*Several parcels of land in Jalan Stonor, Jalan Ampang, Jalan Lidcol in Kuala Lumpur will be tendered out and developed by private sector, failing which it will be wasteful if the assets were not developed as the government will incur cost of maintaining them;

*The land development in Sungai Buloh and development of parcels of land in the city centre is expected to generate new investments worth over RM5 billion;

*The Ministry of Finance Inc companies such as Percetakan Nasional Malaysia, CTRM Aero Composites Sdn Bhd, Nine Bio Sdn Bhd and Innobio may be privatised;

*Petronas has identified two sizeable subsidiaries with good track record to be listed this year on Bursa Malaysia, a move that will reduce government's presence in business and enhance private sector's role;

*Khazanah Nasional Bhd will divest its 32 per cent stake in Pos Malaysia Bhd through a two-stage strategic divestment process;

Khazanah Nasional, the government's investment arm, will have to achieve greater progress in divesting non-core assets to increase liquidity of these counters, said Najib.

He also said the government will reassess the subsidy system and broaden revenue-raising base through proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST).

This will place Malaysia in line with international norms and reduce unsustainable reliance on a small number of industries, business and taxpayers.

He also said Malaysia should rise out of the "middle-income trap" that will be a precarious position for any nation in the new global economy, which means pursuing economic policies in knowledge industries of the future with high-wage jobs and prosperity that can be shared by all.

The Prime Minister said the NEM, formulated by the independent National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), will be integrated into the 10th Malaysia Plan with a longer term vision that will be delivered through the 11th Malaysia Plan.

"These can transform the economy to become one with high incomes and quality growth over the next decade," he said.

Najib said Malaysia should make a quantum leap from the current US$7,000 per capita annual income to US$15,000 in 10 years.

"It will be no easy task, but the rewards will be great if we make this transformation...the challenge is how we will do it," he said.

He said that creating a high-income nation will mean higher wages throughout the economy as growth is derived not only from capital, but from greater productivity through the use of skills and innovation, improved coordination, stronger branding and compliance with international standards and intellectual property rights.

Najib lamented that 80 per cent of the workforce today have education only up to SPM qualification -- Malaysia's equivalent of the O-levels, which "is not in line with the high income economy that Malaysia aspires to be."

The Prime Minister also said under the NEM, no one would be left out in contributing to and sharing in the creation of wealth as the country progresses.

"Not only do I want the rakyat to earn better but they must also live better" which is why raising the quality of life is an integral part of the economic model, he said.

Legal panel set up over local elections

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The Penang state government has set up a legal advisory body to look into restoring local elections in the state.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the body would be headed by former Bar Council chairman Yeo Yang Poh.

“The legal advisory body is to study, review and respond to the Election Commission. It is to see how we can move forward, or whether we can move forward or not,” Lim told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

Last week, the Election Commission rejected the Penang government’s plan to hold local council elections for the the Penang and the Seberang Prai Municipal Councils.

Live - Perak State Assembly sitting

We will be following what’s happening in and around the Perak State Assembly this morning.

Pakatan assembly members march to the Dewan this morning – Photo by Jong

30 March 2010

Hindraf's Waytha seeks debate with Perkasa

By Joe Fernandez - Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi will invite Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali and his most prominent supporter, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to a conference on Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which it plans to hold in the British Parliament.

“This will be a chance for the duo to flog their racist cause before the world once and for all,” said Kelantan-born Hindraf chief Waythamoorthy Ponnusamy, who is in exile in Britain.

Speaking to FMT by telephone from Singapore, he said the proposed conference would also prove de facto Law Minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz wrong about Article 153.

Nazri recently said the article could not be questioned and that it was because Waythamoorthy had broken this taboo that he could not be allowed back in the country.

“I did not merely question Article 153,” said Waythamoorthy. “I have repeatedly called for it to be scrapped.”

He said the proposed conference will see “a distinguished gathering of Queen’s counsel” debating Article 153 within the full scope of the Federal Constitution and declassified documents pertaining to the Merdeka talks.

“Hindraf will be holding talks with two QCs from the Doughty Street Chamber on April 6 in London in preparation for the conference,” he said.

“We have not finalised whether the conference will be in the House of Commons or the House of Lords, but most probably the latter.”

The conference will discuss at least four topics:

* Special Malay privileges is a myth created by Umno’s propaganda machine and does not exist in Article 153;

* Article 153 also covers the legitimate aspirations of the non-Malay communities besides mentioning the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Malays;

* The powers of the King over Article 153 have been systematically usurped by Umno as a party and government since independence in 1957 and this must be viewed as treason; and

* Article 153 was supposed to be scrapped 15 years after independence.

Declassified papers

Waythamoorthy said he would also invite the Attorrney-General “to state the Malaysian government’s position before the international community”.

He rejected a comparison between Hindraf and Perkasa and the allegation that both are racist organisations.

“It doesn’t mean that we are racist just because we talk about the plight of the Indians all the time,” he said. “We are only seeking our rights under the Federal Constitution which have been denied us. We are not out to deprive anyone of his place in the sun, unlike Perkasa, although they will deny it like all racists.”

He does not rule out participation in the London conference by apolitical groups like the Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMa) headed by Jeffrey Kitingan and various Orang Asli associations who were involved in a rare demonstration recently in Putrajaya.

However, he said, he saw little point in Umno taking part in the conference since the party, he alleged, had out-sourced its racist ideology to Perkasa in order to stay relevant in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

“We are going to prove through the conference that Umno has been misleading everybody on Article 153 and taking them for a ride,” he said. “We will easily establish this. We are backed by the Federal Constitution, including Article 153, and the declassified papers on the Merdeka talks.”

He pointed out that the declassified papers, although still considered official secrets in Malaysia, were no longer so in Britain.

The bottomline is that Hindraf wants Article 153 scrapped but would consider supporting a new article guaranteeing protection for the underprivileged of all races.

“The weakness of the present Article 153 is that it has been ignored and the legitimate aspirations of the non-Malay communities have been legislated against subsequently by Umno and institutionalised in various forms to discriminate against them,” fumed Waythamoorthy.

He conceded that the Malays, as well as the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, were still claiming that they were backward and needed affirmative action by the state.

“Over one trillion ringgit was poured into the Malay economy alone under the New Economic Policy,” he said. “It’s time that the Malays stood up as a community and asked their leaders what happened to the money. Why isn’t it in their pockets?”

Anwar has crowd in stitches

'Trace the missing RM52 bil in bumi shares'

'Trace the missing RM52 bil in bumi shares'

HRP’s stand on the Hulu Selangor by-elections

There has been much speculation in the last few days about what HRP will do in the upcoming by-election in Hulu Selangor. The Central Committee of HRP after due deliberation based on its analysis of the situation has made its decision. The decision has been guided by the principle of “ increased true representation” for the Indian poor and not by any considerations of expediency or of personal gain.

Both the PR and the BN government have yet to clearly show in their policies any real consideration for the problems of the Indian poor. We consider therefore that neither of them make a difference to the lives of the Indian poor. HRP’s objective is to change all of that, so there will be more political will in the system to positively address these issues. We believe this is possible only when there is increased true representation for the Indian poor.

In this by election the size of the primary constituency of HRP is not large enough yet, for an outright win for HRP. HRP participation in the elections would therefore only mean delivering advantage to PR or BN in default. We do not want to give any advantage to either coalition as they do not deserve it.

We do not need, either to test our strength on the ground or to demonstrate our political potential. We know our strength from the groundswell of inputs we are getting from our supporters and well wishers across the country to contest, no matter. And we know we are a rising force in the Malaysian Political landscape. We are not in a hurry.

Our aim in any participation in elections for the legislatures, is to increase true representation in the halls of power. We will go in when we do see, that we will be able to achieve that objective clearly, but not otherwise. That is what the Indian poor require – more real representation and not dog and pony shows.

We will continue to focus per our resources and efforts on our political empowerment strategy for Indians as laid out by P.Uthayakumar, to capture 15 Parliament seats and 38 State seats in the 13th GE. That is the only way we can increase real representation and the political will in the system to develop and implement policies that will help the Indian poor break from the trap of poverty and oppression.

In this by-election in Hulu Selangor therefore, our stand is that we will not contest in the elections. We will neither endorse anyone who contests in this elections. We will remain completely neutral . We will let the people of Hulu Selangor decide for themselves who they prefer among the lesser of the choices. We are very clear about all of that.

We hope this statement clarifies not only our position in this by-election but also about the manner we make decisions of political significance in the interest of the people we lead.

P.Uthayakumar

Pro-tem Secretary General of the Human Rights Party of Malaysia

29th March 2010

International Law and the Limitations of Sovereignty of Nations

International Law and the Limitations of Sovereignty of Nations

A constitutional myth that has developed in recent years is that of Sovereignty. Whenever the United Nations or a foreign government focuses on an act or omission of any nation, the immediate response is that our sovereignty is under threat or attack, or it is condemned as an infringement of our sovereignty, or as an affront to national sovereignty.

The rule of customary international law recognized the doctrine of state sovereignty. According to that rule, a sovereign had full, complete and exclusive authority to deal with its own territory and with its own nationals. It followed that international law did not permit any interference or intervention by any other state, or by the community of states, in respect of either of these matters. Accordingly, a state was free to deal with its own nationals in whatever way it chose to. In particular, it alone had the right to determine the subject-matter and content of its domestic laws. In the context of the doctrine of state sovereignty, it was inconceivable that international law could vest an individual with any rights exercisable against his own state. But that doctrine has long been eroded.

The erosion of the doctrine of state sovereignty, in so far as it related to the treatment by a state of its own nationals, began as far back as in the early nineteenth century with the incorporation of certain humanitarian norms in international law. The first was a series of international treaties which declared that “trading in slaves is forbidden in conformity with the principles of international law”. Their object was “the complete suppression of slavery in all its forms and of the slave trade by land and sea”. Thereafter, every state enjoyed the right to board, search and confiscate any ship, to whomsoever it belonged, if it was engaged in the slave trade. The second were the series of Geneva Conventions that now regulate the treatment of combatants and victims of war, including the victims of internal armed conflicts, such as those between the armed forces of a government and dissidents or other organized groups which control part of its territory. The third were the series of multilateral labour conventions that now regulate working conditions. The fourth were the series of treaties that formed an integral part of the peace settlement following the end of the First World War in which provision was made for the protection of the rights of minorities living within the newly carved boundaries of several European states.

These were the only areas in which the doctrine of state sovereignty had begun to erode and where the international community could presume to judge, or even legitimately express its concern at, a government’s treatment of its own citizens. But the Second World War and the events that preceded it in Germany (and in the territories under German occupation), where unprecedented atrocities were perpetrated on millions of its own citizens by the regime then lawfully in power, demonstrated how hopelessly inadequate international law still was. According to the strict doctrine of state sovereignty, any foreign criticism of the domestic laws that authorized those atrocities was illegitimate. It was also meaningless. Unless there was established a set of superior standards to which all national law must conform – an overriding code of international human rights law. That was precisely what the Charter of the United Nations set out to do.

The United Nations Charter was the standard-bearer, the first of several international treaties that helped to create an international human rights regime. Article 55 imposed a mandatory obligation on the United Nations “to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all”. Article 56 imposed a similar obligation on member states to take joint and separate action to achieve that objective. Therefore, while Article 56 bound each member state (according to the International Court of Justice) to observe and respect human rights within its territorial jurisdictions, it also imposed an obligation on other states and on the international community generally, to ensure that this obligation was fulfilled. From being solely a matter of domestic concern under the archaic doctrine of state sovereignty, a government’s treatment of its own nationals has now become the legitimate concern of the international community.

When a nation signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the First Optional Protocol, it gave certain solemn undertakings to its own nationals and to the international community.

First, that it would respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory the rights recognized in that covenant. Second, that it would adopt the necessary legislative measures to give effect to those rights. Third, that it would provide an effective remedy in respect of those rights. Fourth, that it would report periodically to the Human Rights Committee on the measures it has adopted and the progress made. Fifth, that it would give effect to the decisions of the Human Rights Committee in respect of individual complaints lodged by its nationals. It is a matter of common knowledge that many nations have failed or neglected to perform these obligations even to a reasonable degree. When a government fails to abide by the terms of a multilateral treaty, other states parties to that treaty have the right, under international law, to draw attention to that failure in any form or manner permitted by law, and in any forum they choose to.

Whether for purely cosmetic reasons or because of a genuine desire to improve conditions within their territories, an overwhelming majority of states have ratified or acceded to international human rights treaties. Therefore, there is now an international climate that is increasingly sensitive to the illegality of human rights violations, less willing to tolerate them, and more responsive to public and private efforts to prevent them. If some states choose to respond, while others do not, it is because realpolitik often determines the conduct of foreign relations. To invoke an obsolete doctrine of state sovereignty to defend oneself is to deride the contemporary world order. It may also suggest, particularly to the international community, that the facade of apparent defiance only seeks to obscure from view a host of rattling skeletons.

The challenge that faces many nations is to recognize, acknowledge and address the fact that in recent decades compliance with human rights obligations has remained on the backburner. The space that ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are entitled to as of right has been denied them. Political dissent and opposition has been wedged in by suffocating authoritarianism.

As a great judge once remarked, “amidst the clash of arms, the laws are not silent; they speak the same language in war as in peace”. To denigrate those who criticize us or to demonize those who seek to hold us to account, is only to lay bare our own culpability.

Excerpts adapted from the writings of Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama, Professor of Law at the Universities of Hong Kong and Saskatchewan, in the “Island“.

temenggong

Url united nation

BN's liability - it's Khir not Palanivel

By Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Selangor menteri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo has come under fire for suggesting that MIC field a new face in the Hulu Selangor by-election.

According to the Umno warlord, MIC should not let its deputy president G Palanivel run for the parliamentary seat, which the latter lost in the 2008 general election.

Khir had cited two reasons – should Palanivel win, it could result in MIC vice-president Dr S Subramaniam having to relinquish his cabinet post to make way for the more senior party leader.

This, he warned, would not go down well with Subramaniam's supporters and lead to disgruntlement in MIC.

Secondly, Khir said a defeat would spell the end for Palanivel's political career, and therefore it would be better for him to wait until the next general election.

In view of this, the former MB urged MIC to field a fresh face to woo the 19 percent Indian voters, in the Malay-majority seat.

According to sources, Palanivel's camp is livid over these remarks.

However, when contacted, the MIC deputy president brushed it aside, saying that his focus is on winning the by-election.

Furthermore, Palanivel added that the good public support he enjoys in the constituency, which he held for nearly two decades, outweighed these trivial matters.

Look who is talking

Meanwhile, other sources had lambasted Khir, arguing that he is in no position to comment on this issue, given his track-record.

One source even dismissed the former menteri besar as the biggest liability for Barisan Nasional in Selangor.

“He was the one responsible for the demolition of a Hindu temple prior to the last general election which sparked outrage among the Hindus.

“And he was the one who irked the civil servants by presenting a broom to the president of the Hulu Selangor District Council as a form of punishment,” he said.

He also pointed out that in the last general election, there were close to 1,500 spoilt votes in Hulu Selangor whereas Palanivel had lost the seat to PKR's Zainal Abidin Ahmad by a mere 198 votes.

“These were mostly protest votes, and they were mostly out of frutsration towards Khir,” he added.

Another source also questioned Khir's credibility, noting the avalanche of allegations against the Umno leader, ranging from corruption to abuse of power.

“If BN is serious about wanting to win back this seat, then it should not allow the likes of Khir to hit the campaign trail, which would only provide ammunition for Pakatan Rakyat.

“So in reality, it is Umno and not MIC which needs a fresh face to pull in the votes,” he added.

The Hulu Selangor seat fell vacant following the death of its incumbent Zainal last week following a protracted illness.

Observers have noted that the latest development would provide a fresh impetus for Palanivel's political career and has the potential of altering the equation in MIC.

What is the real cost of the NEP? Do we really know?

Seriously, I am only ‘guestimating’ here. I honestly do not know the real figure. But if you take into consideration everything I have mentioned above and total up the real cost of the NEP, you may probably see that it is a colossal figure. You might even fall off your chair when your calculator clocks a figure of RM500 billion in total.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

March 2010 appears to be the month of debate regarding the NEP, the Bumiputera share of the economic pie, and whatnot.

Okay, never mind if it is 3%, 19%, more than 30%, or should be 67% (Chinese say 67 is ‘lok chat’ or cock). No one appears able to give the real figure or show how much the Bumiputera share of the economic pie really is.

The issue currently being raised by Lim Guan Eng is not how much the Bumiputeras still own but how much the Bumiputeras were initially given. What they still own might no longer be 30%. It could even be 19% or 3% or whatever. That is not the real issue. That is what they have left. We need to talk about what they had before it was reduced to 19% or 3%.

Do you know that many Malays own expensive properties in other countries, huge sums of cash in overseas bank accounts, large foreign investments, and whatnot (Daim alone owns 10 banks)? Maybe you do not see all this in Malaysia. So it appears like there are no filthy rich Malays. This is a fallacy. There are many filthy rich Malays but they have ‘hidden’ their ‘worth’ in other countries.

This makes sense of Lim Guan Eng’s statement that the Malays were given RM54 billion worth of shares and that RM52 billion have ‘disappeared’. It has not disappeared. It is just hidden from view. It does not mean it is no longer there just because you do not see it in Malaysia.

Now, note one thing, those RM54 billion worth of shares were given at par value, which was far lower than market value. When did these people cash out? You would normally cash out only when you can make a huge profit. So what was the ‘missing’ RM52 billion worth when they cashed out and moved the money overseas? Can I safely assume that the RM52 billion would have easily been RM100 billion at the time these Malays divested? I mean, the TNB and Telekoms shares alone, which were RM5 and RM4.50 per share, shot up way past RM10 per share when many started selling them.

That was more than double.

Okay, that is only as far as shares are concerned. And that is something which is easily enough to calculate and is no secret. What about contracts given to private Bumiputera companies? How much contracts went to sendirian berhad companies over the last 40 years since 1970?

Okay, let’s make an educated guess. RM2 billion a year? That’s a paltry sum. The development budget itself is 20 or 30 times that. You mean only 5% to 10% of the contracts went to Bumiputeras? It is actually more. But even if you take that paltry sum it is still RM80 billion over those 40 years. (And I am not even going to talk about APs, which Tun Dr Mahathir himself admitted will run into hundreds of billions of Ringgit).

Alright! Lets move on. Forget about shares and contracts. Let us now talk about education.

I personally know a Malay doctor who the government spent RM1 million to educate in England over seven years. I can believe that because it cost me RM300,000 to educate my daughter in England over three years. And if she had done medicine it would have cost me much more than that -- I checked.

How many Malays received a college/tertiary education because of the NEP over the last 40 years (both local and foreign)? I don’t know the answer. But for argument’s sake let us just take a figure of one million students although we know it is higher than that.

How much did it cost the country to build all those colleges/universities and run them since they were built? Add that cost to the cost of sending Malays overseas since 1970. How much would it come to in total? I don’t know the figure but even if we take an aggregate figure of RM100,000 per student, one million students would come to RM100 billion.

And trust me, RM100,000 per student and one million students is very much on the low side if we not only take the cost of the overseas universities but also the cost of building, managing and maintaining local colleges/universities as well.

In business there are always hidden costs. In the NEP there are hidden expenses. If you add up all these ‘NEP expenses’ to the value of the RM54 billion shares given to the Bumiputeras, then you can see that a hell of a lot was given to them.

The NEP is not just about shares. It is also not just about government contracts. It is many things. What about all those FELDA, FELCRA, RISDA, KADA, MADA, KEJORA and God knows how many more land settlements and agricultural schemes?

What about the many agriculture subsidy schemes involving subsidised fuel plus free fertilizers, tractors, fishing boats, marine engines, outboard motors, fishing nets, wire netting (bubu), artificial reefs (tukun tiruan), and a host of other things?

What about the bloated civil service and GLCs (that never make any profit but money keeps getting pumped into them anyway) that employ a large percentage of Malays (who were educated at the cost of the taxpayers) which costs us loads of money over the last 40 years? And even when they retire we shall still be paying their cost,

Yes, let us look at the TOTAL cost of the NEP, not just the RM54 billion shares where RM52 billion has already ‘disappeared’.

Seriously, I am only ‘guestimating’ here. I honestly do not know the real figure. But if you take into consideration everything I have mentioned above and total up the real cost of the NEP, you may probably see that it is a colossal figure. You might even fall off your chair when your calculator clocks a figure of RM500 billion in total.

And I am not exaggerating here.

*************************************************

Where are RM52 billion Bumi shares, asks Guan Eng

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng wants the government to investigate why RM52 billion worth of shares in public listed companies allocated for Bumiputeras under affirmative action policies were no longer in their hands.

He told reporters in Parliament today that the fact that the shares were no longer in the hands of Bumiputeras was an act of betrayal.

The Penang Chief Minister suggested a Royal Commission be set up to investigate such leakages.

He said that out of RM54 billion in shares allocated for Bumiputeras, only RM2 billion were still in their hands.

“According to a Bernama report, the Prime Minister had been quoted as saying that of the RM54 billion in shares allocated, only RM2 billion worth of shares were left in the hands of Bumiputeras,” said Lim.

“There is a leakage of RM52 billion which is not in the hands of the Bumiputeras. This is a betrayal. The government has to arrest and take action against the people who have hijacked the money,” he added. -- The Malaysian Insider, 29 March 2010

*************************************************

Update on wealth data

The data on wealth distribution in the country will be updated, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the updating would cover the distribution by race so the people’s socio-economic achievements could be evaluated.

“Current records show that a large portion of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of the non-Malays.

“Maybe that (the data) needs to be updated,” he told newsmen after closing the National Parent-Teacher Association Convention at the Institut Aminuddin Baki here yesterday.

He was commenting about a suggestion by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the Gov­ernment conduct a comprehensive study on wealth distribution in the country. -- The Star, 29 March 2010