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Friday, April 2, 2010

Indians die miserable deaths in prosperous 1Malay-sia

From Deeban, via e-mail

When I first met N (my cousin) after many years, I remembered her as a pretty secondary school girl. Her father was a junior technician in JKR but because of inequal upward mobility opportunities in the Malaysian civil service because he was not a Malay Muslim, he ended up becoming a street alcoholic.

He was forced to retire as a junior technician. In the meantime N’s mother a housewife, fed up with her husband's inability to keep the family afloat, left her JKR quarters with her two teenage daughters and a son, came to live in her mother’s squatter house.

N’s mother was ignored by Umno’s JKKK (grassroots-level eyes and ears of the Malaysian government) as she was an Indian Hindu and not a Malay Muslim under Umno's racist, religious extremist and supremacist policies in Malaysia.

Because she could no longer take the pressures of life, N’s mother got into depression and ended up becoming a mentally disturbed person. One day N’s mother beat up her persistingly nagging old aged mother on the head with a pail and critically injured her.

Had her grandmother died, N’s mother could have been prosecuted for murder and brought on more shame and mysery to the family. N’s mother had to move out of her mother’s house. Just before his retirement, a relative managed to secure a government loan to buy a medium cost house for this family.

In the meantime, N became pregnant. She started working at 19 and was quickly married off. She had two more children. N too, ended up becoming mentally depressed after her husband abandoned her and her three teenage children.

History repeats itself. N’s eldest boy was forced to stop school. He was exploited as a child labour. He had also worked as a door to door leaflet distributor. N initially worked as a dish washer. Thereafter she relied on her teenage son to put food on the table for the family.

B, the only brother of N, despite the odds, made it to the science stream and scored 12As’ in the SPM. Had he been a Malay Muslim he would have been a medical doctor, if not a medical specialist.

But because he was an ethnic minority Indian he merely qualified as a radiographer. And Umno would expect him to be grateful for this. D, the elder sister of N could not afford to continue her studies beyond SPM as her family could not afford it.

N’s house was eventually put up for auction as they could no longer service their housing loan. N eventually became a mental case. Her ex-husband sent all three children to an orphanage.

N’s relatives were in no position to help raise N’s three children or to take care of N as they all had their own set of serious family and financial problems.

Feeling guilty I tried making contact with N’s eldest son to offer him a job as despatch boy but was told that he was now a car repossesor cum small time gangster. One fine day he could potentially end up being shot dead with impunity by the police for being a suspected car thief and gangsterism activities.

N and her children never got welfare as the local Umno-controlled JKKK would not attend to her as she is an Indian. She never received proper psychatric treatment as the health and welfare personnel would not attend to her as she was Indian.

And then the final blow came when I went to my mother’s place last weekend. My mother told me that N who had been living at an abandoned home and wondering around the streets, was knocked down by a car and had died at age 38.

N’s two daughters who are in orphanages and living in cramped and poor conditions, are likely to run away, become teenage pregnant mothers like their mother, and the cycle mos likely will be repeated. Compliments to Umno in prosperous One Malay-sia.

N’s story is just the tip of the iceberg. The pain and sufferings of the Indians in Malaysia is a result of Umno's racist, religious extremist and supremacist policies, and Umno specifically excluding the Indians from the mainstream development of Malaysia.

They live in misery most their lives, and perhaps only death ends their sorrow. Many people ignorantly blame the individuals, families and their own society for their wretched lives, but it is the government's callous insentivity and denial of opportunities that is to blame.

Minorities cry foul in Malaysia

Anwar meets potential by-election candidates - Malaysiakini

About 10 potential PKR candidates for the Hulu Selangor by-election were summoned to the party headquarters on Wednesday to meet party de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

According to a source, the session took place immediately after the party's political bureau meeting at about 11pm.

Among those present were Pakatan Rakyat coordinator Zaid Ibrahim, PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin, former ISA detainee and firebrand cleric Badrul Amin Baharun, Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud, Anwar's former press secretary Khalid Jaafar and human rights lawyer N Surendran.

azlanOthers at the meeting were two potential candidates from the Hulu Selangor PKR division - vice-chief Razali Mokhtar and treasurer Dr Halili Rahmat.

The source described it as a 'meet and greet' session with Anwar, who has been entrusted with selection of the best candidate for the crucial by-election.

Another source claimed that Syed Shahir and Khalid were frontrunners while the rest were either uninterested or wanted to give way to others.

The Hulu Selangor by-election is scheduled to be announced by the Election Commission today. It was necessitated by the March 25 death of Zainal Abidin Ahmad.

The by-election is a crucial test for PKR which has been rocked by the resignations of three MPs as party members.

It will also be a litmus test on the performance of the party which leads the Pakatan Rakyat state government.

Barisan Nasional will be working hard to secure a win because since the March 2008 general election, it has yet to score a victory in a opposition held seat, let alone in an opposition held state.

Lawyer: Dr. Murray 'hanging on by a thread' financially

The California Medical Board wants a judge to bar Dr. Conrad  Murray from seeing patients in California as a condition of bail.
The California Medical Board wants a judge to bar Dr. Conrad Murray from seeing patients in California as a condition of bail.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Dr. Conrad Murray is "hanging on by a thread" financially and could not afford to defend himself against charges in Michael Jackson's death if he loses his medical license, according to his lawyer.

"His ability to pay for his own defense depends almost entirely on his ability to continue to treat patients in Nevada and Texas," defense attorney Ed Chernoff said in a court filing Thursday.

The California Medical Board will ask a judge Monday to bar Murray -- formerly Jackson's doctor -- from seeing patients in California as a condition of his bail.

When Murray pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in February, Los Angeles County Judge Keith Schwartz ordered him not to use any anesthesia on patients, as a condition of his $75,000 bail. The judge refused a prosecution request to suspend his medical license.

Read filing on behalf of Dr. Murray (pdf)

The Los Angeles coroner concluded Jackson died of "acute propofol intoxication."

Murray told investigators he gave Jackson propofol, a powerful anesthetic, to help him sleep.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a document last week arguing that Murray's treatment of Jackson "demonstrated a serious lack of judgment that should prohibit him from practicing medicine."

Murray's lawyer argued the state is trying to "take another bite at the apple" since the case has been moved to a different judge. They must show "changed circumstances" since bail was first set at the arraignment on February 8, Chernoff said in the filing.

"It cannot be based on a conclusion by the subsequent judge that the first judge simply got it wrong," Chernoff said.

Murray resumed his medical practice in Texas and Nevada last fall, but hasn't had a California patient since Jackson's June 25, 2009 death, Chernoff said.

"As a practical matter, an order that prohibits Defendant from practicing medicine in California will have no effect on the citizens of California," the filing said.

"The order would be a shallow one, designed only to prove a point rather than make a difference," Chernoff said in the filing.

The suspension of his California license, however, would have a "domino effect" on his practices in other states, he said.

"If his Honor restricts his California license even temporarily, then by application of Texas law, Dr. Murray's Texas license to practice medicine shall also be similarly revoked," he said.

The loss of his practices in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Houston, Texas, "would be financially and personally devastating," he said.

"He will likely be faced with the inability to adequately defend himself of the charges facing him in the Superior Court of California."

Murray's defense "will be scientifically based" and requires "intensive attorney work and fees," he said.

"Dr. Murray's financial difficulties as a result of the investigation into this case have already been well publicized," Chernoff said. "He is, without fear of overstatement, hanging on by a thread."

Chernoff also made an argument similar to one successfully used by lawyers for the doctors charged in actress Anna Nicole Smith's death. The judge refused last year to suspend their medical licenses, ruling the medical board should use its own authority to do so.

Attorney General Brown "wants this court to take away defendant's medical license so that the medical board does not have to go through the trouble," Chernoff said.

The constitutions of California and the United States "require due process and at a minimum this means a hearing before an impartial forum."

Kartika starts 3-week sentence

Kartika surrendered herself to the Pahang Islamic authority this morning. — Picture by Jack Ooi

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani - The Malaysian Insider

KUANTAN, April 2 — Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor has begun serving her punishment for drinking beer — three weeks’ community service at a children’s home here.

The teary-eyed mother of two said that she was strong enough to handle it, despite a preference for her original sentence of six strokes of the cane.

“I am ready to accept any punishment. I am strong,” Kartika told reporters at a mosque here, where she surrendered herself to the Pahang Islamic Affairs Department this morning.

But the 33-year-old said she was sad because she will miss her children.

“I have told my children that I have gone to work. My children can come and visit me,” said Kartika, who was dressed in a green baju kurung with red floral and grey tudung.

The part-time model was sentenced to six strokes of the rotan and fined RM5,000 for drinking beer at a hotel in Cherating on July 11, 2008.

However, the caning sentence that was delayed from last August was replaced two days ago by the Sultan of Pahang, who is also the head of Islam in the state.

The state ruler had instead ordered her to perform community service at a children’s home in Kuantan for three weeks.

The Pahang Islamic Religion and Malay Adat Resam Council had, on March 26, issued Kartika a letter stating that the Sultan had ordered her sentence to be replaced.

The letter directed her to serve at the Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Children’s Home in Kuantan for three weeks starting from today.

Kartika said she respected the Sultan’s decision and would follow it.

She was later whisked away from the office in a white van and taken on a 20-minute journey outside the city centre, to the children’s home.

The white van drove directly into the compound and reporters were barred from passing the main entrance.

Security officers told reporters that outsiders were not allowed to enter the premises.

Zaid Ibrahim, to field or not to field?

By Zefry Dahalan - Free Malaysia Today

SEREMBAN: As the clock ticks down for the April 25 Hulu Selangor by-election, the burning question is - Will PKR be able to retain the parliamentary seat, which it won with a razor-thin majority in the 2008 general election?

The by-election is crucial for PKR, which is being rocked by an internal crisis. Over the past month, the Anwar Ibrahim-led party has lost four MPs, three of whom resigned, and one sacked.

A victory in the by-election would boost morale among members and silence the critics who argue that the opposition party is on the verge of imploding.

On the other side of the fence, some quarters view the contest as a referrendum on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's leadership, with tomorrow marking his 100th day in office.

Since Najib took over the reins in April 2009, Barisan Nasional had scored an impressive by-election victory in Bagan Pinang, Negeri Sembilan.

However, that win was mostly attributed to the popularity factor of the Umno candidate Mohd Isa Samad.

So, according to observers, it is the Hulu Selangor by-election which would be an acid test for the Najib administration, and its '1Malaysia' clarion call.

The Hulu Selangor by-election has also provided MIC deputy president G Palanivel with a lifeline.

After having lost the seat, which he held for three terms, by a mere 198 votes, this contest could reverse his political fortunes.

Is Zaid the best bet?

All eyes are now on PKR, with regards to who the party would field in the Malay-majority constituency, which also has a sizeable number of Chinese and Indian voters.

News reports claim that there is strong indication that PKR may field its Hulu Selangor treasurer, neurosurgeon Dr Halili Rahmat.

Also mentioned as a possible contender is Zaid Ibrahim, who some in the party, like PKR Negeri Sembilan vice-chairman M Ravi, believe is the best man for the job.

He said the former law minister has the best chance of retaining the seat for PKR even if BN fields a candidate from Umno instead of MIC.

According to the Port Dickson state assemblyman, he carried out a random survey in his constituency and discovered that the voters preferred Zaid.

"Even the Chinese and Indian communities want Zaid to contest as he carries the multiracial tagline,” he told FMT.

Another grassroots PKR leader from Selangor, who preferred to remain anomymous, said the people know that Zaid is a principled politician.

“You tell me, who would resign as a minister just because he did not agree with what the government was doing. Most would just swallow their pride and nod their heads.

“But Zaid did not. He openly voiced his disagreement and tendered his resignation,” he said.

The PKR leader was referring to Zaid's resignation as the law minister in September 2008 after disagreeing with the decision to detain opposition politician Teresa Kok, controversial blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin and a Chinese newspaper journalist under the Internal Security Act.

'It would be disastrous'

Meanwhile, some observers warned that fielding Zaid in a semi-urban Malay-majority seat could prove disastrous.

“We all know that Zaid is seen as a 'moderate Muslim leader with a very Westernised outlook' and his opponents are bound to portray him as 'not Malay or Islamic enough'.

“Umno would campaign that Zaid, who left Umno to join the multiracial PKR, is another 'traitor to the race' like Anwar and he would dance to the tune of the non-Malays unlike the MIC candidate who would listen to instructions from Umno,” they added.

The observers also pointed out that in Zaid's case, his place of origin would also be an issue.

“He is from Kelantan, and therefore local Umno leaders would argue why should the voters cast their ballots for a 'foreigner',” they said.

Furthermore, they noted that a defeat in the elections would just provide additional fodder to his enemies within PKR.

According to the observers, it is best that Zaid gives this contest a skip, and opt for a more urban seat in the next general election.

The Hulu Selangor by-election will take place on April 25. Nominations are on April 17. The by-election is held following the death of its PKR incumbent Zainal Abidin Ahmad last Thursday.

Zainal won the seat, which has some 63,000 registered voters, at the 2008 general election with a slim majority of 198 votes, beating BN/MIC's G Palanivel who was a three-term Hulu Selangor MP prior to the defeat. BN is expected to nominate Palanivel to contest again.

Govt may bet on sports betting

(The Straits Times) KUALA LUMPUR – The government, facing its most serious budgetary crisis in decades, is leaning towards allowing gaming tycoon Vincent Tan Chee Yioun to revive a potentially lucrative gaming concession.

Government sources and financial executives close to the businessman said Prime Minister Najib Razak's administration has agreed in principle to allow Tan, who controls the Berjaya Group, to proceed with the concession, which permits nationwide 'off site' sports betting, according to a Straits Times report.

Backlash

vincent-tanBut the government could face a potential backlash from the predominantly Muslim population, they added.

"The economic rationale for allowing this is very compelling, but the PM has to weigh the political fallout because the opposition will have a field day," said a government official close to the situation.

Tan, one of Malaysia's most politically well-connected businessmen, declined comment.

Bankers close to the businessman said that he had been actively lobbying the government for the past six months to allow him to activate his licence.

He told the government that it was losing hundreds of millions of dollars in foregone tax revenue to illegal betting syndicates.

Interfaith Education Part 1

Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.
By John Doe

In seeing that Knowledge is the Key to Empowering the People, and that UMNO has absolutely NO INTEREST whatsoever in educating the public, I will now, through the graciousness of Malaysia Today, start a Series of Interfaith Education. We shall start by stressing that this is to foster better Harmony, and developing stronger inter-religious ties. We anticipate much opposition from UMNO, because time and again, they really want you to remain stupid.

By no means will we limit our discussion to "your" religion, or only the "Correct" Religion. We will discuss ALL religions, and our only request is that one refrains from insisting that "My God is Better than your God" type comments. UMNO cybertroopers need NOT watch these.

We start by introducing Karen Armstrong. She was born in 14 November 1944 in Wildmoor, Worcestershire, and is a British author of numerous works on comparative religion, who first rose to prominence in 1993 with her highly successful A History of God. A former Catholic nun, she asserts that, "All the great traditions are saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences." They each have in common, she says, an emphasis on the transcendent importance of compassion, as epitomized in the so-called Golden Rule:
Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.


white book
history yellow book

Based on Karen Armstrong's book, the following History Channel Documentary examines the concept of God in the three major monotheistic religions from the days of Abraham to modern times. Through analysis of historic and holy texts and incorporation of ancient art and artifacts, the program explores the deity written about in the Bible and the Quran. The evolution and intertwining of various Christian, Jewish and Islamic interpretations of God are also addressed.

RunTime 1:33:30
I wish you all a splendid Journey, on learning more about things which UMNO has fervently denied to all.
If you like the program, the DVD's have been available for a while now.
And NO, I do not get a commission from their sales.
Peace be with you

PM Najib one year later

thenutgraph.com

COME 3 April 2010, Malaysians would have spent exactly one calendar year with Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister. The year can hardly be described as a honeymoon — after all, there was unprecedented opposition from civil society and politicians from both sides of the divide to Najib's ascendance.

The new premier, in turn, wasted no time in building "Brand Najib". Almost immediately, Malaysians were introduced to his 1Malaysia slogan, with its tagline People First, Performance Now. This was followed by the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). On the eve of his first anniversary as prime minister, Najib unveiled the New Economic Model (NEM) and promised to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation. This will in turn feed into the 10th Malaysia Plan, another thrust in Najib's agenda. Najib also promised to keep tabs on government performance, through his ministerial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and National Key Results Areas (NKRAs).

Indeed, the Najib brand is one of crisp acronyms. But to build a successful brand, consumers must be convinced that the brand delivers what it promises. The thing is, Najib has made some pretty awesome promises during his first year in office, but what exactly has he delivered?

Report card

Perhaps it would help to look at three broad areas to assess what has worked or could have worked better over the past year: macro-economics; governance; and civil and political rights. After all, from the beginning, Brand Najib promised to lift Malaysia out of economic recession, deliver effective services to all, and even review the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite state detention without trial.

"I will be steadfast in my commitment to meet the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians," Najib said, exactly one year ago.

Has he demonstrated that commitment? And have all Malaysians' needs, aspirations and concerns been met? To answer that question, here are some highlights from Najib's first year in office:

Macro-economics

Gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 1.7% in 2009 amid the global economic downturn, compared to a growth of 4.6% in 2008. Experts forecast a 4.5% growth in 2010, while the government is confident of a 5% increase.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Malaysia shrank by 66.6% in 2009, the biggest contraction in the region. Indonesia's shrank by 36.0% while Singapore's shrank by 19.5%. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Southeast Asia's FDI inflows shrank by 31.8% on average.

Governance


The GTP, launched in 2009, covers six NKRAs: reducing crime; fighting corruption; improving student outcomes; raising living standards of low-income households; improving rural basic infrastructure; and improving urban public transport.

In December 2009, Najib said he was satisfied with achievements in the six NKRAs. In February 2010, the police claimed they were well on their way to reducing street crimes by the year's end according to the NKRA's requirements.

Nevertheless, Najib's government transformation does not include the reintroduction of local elections, which he has openly opposed.

Civil and political rights

Apart from his initial goodwill gesture in releasing ISA detainees and lifting suspensions on opposition newspapers, Najib's administration has been continually marred by tension.

In May 2009, Najib initiated his first mass crackdown on political dissenters — academics, Members of Parliament and activists — albeit without using the ISA. These citizens were all opposed to the way in which Najib's Barisan Nasional (BN) toppled the elected Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government earlier in February.


Candlelight vigil performance for Teoh Beng Hock, December 2009 (© Lainie Yeoh)

In July 2009, political aide Teoh Beng Hock died mysteriously while being held by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. This highlighted the question of the safety of those called in by enforcement bodies for questioning.

In August 2009, the police used excessive force to disrupt a massive anti-ISA demonstration in Kuala Lumpur. The police also arrested nearly 600 people including 44 juveniles, likely the highest ever number of people arrested at a public rally in Malaysia.

In August 2009, the infamous cow-head protest — in which Muslim protesters threatened bloodshed over the planned relocation of a Hindu temple — made international headlines.

The cow-head protesters were beaten by the church arsonists in terms of media coverage, though. Malaysia made international headlines in January 2010 as a result of violence in the midst of the "Allah" controversy.

But of course, if there was a winner for best international media coverage in this category, it would be Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for his second sodomy trial, which commenced in February 2010.

At least, however, Anwar was not caned in secrecy the way three Muslim women were the same month under syariah law, for "illicit sex".

Najib had also repeatedly stressed over the year that there was media freedom in Malaysia, even if actions by his administration proved the opposite.

This list is only a sampling of the many civil and political issues that were centre stage under Najib.

Nevertheless, Brand Najib appears to be quite resilient. In February 2009, Najib enjoyed the approval of only 41% of Malaysians polled by independent think tank Merdeka Centre. By June, however, approval for Najib stood at 45%. In October, he enjoyed a 56% approval rating.

In this edition of Six Words, The Nut Graph invites readers to share their thoughts on Najib's first year in office. Are you hopeful? Cynical? Satisfied? Unconvinced? Let us know your thoughts in six words only. To start off, here are some of the newsroom's contributions:

Deborah Loh:

Good intentions but will they happen?

Saying the right things so far!

Smart PM. Just remove surrounding sycophants.

Is it really him on Facebook?

Ding Jo-Ann:

Stop underhanded tactics and govern properly.

Get rid of corrupt, greedy politicians.

Scrap racist members and incompetent ministers.

Focus on principle, not on popularity.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Action?

Jacqueline Ann Surin:

One year later, what has changed?

Big on acronyms, small on action.

Smarter and savvier. But any better?

Kenapa tak tukar menteri yang buruk?

Kenapa tak nak hormat hak asasi?

Bila lagi nak mempertahankan wanita Islam?

Lainie Yeoh:

Stop leaving Malaysians out of 1Malaysia.

Shanon Shah:

Bikin mesti serupa cakap, baru betul.

He came. He ascended. He flounders?

Fix predecessors' mistakes first. Celebrate later.

Articulate PM. Strange cabinet. Frustrated citizens.

Good sound-bites do not democracy maketh.

APCO: Laskar Upahan Yang Kita Percaya?

Dari Harakah Daily
Oleh Tian Chua

Dalam dunia yang penuh pancaroba dan berkembang APCO Worldwide berdiri teguh sebagai gergasi dalam dunia industri pelobian. Firma ini, dalam katanya sendiri menawarkan “kepakaran luar biasa dan profesional” kepada kerajaan, ahli politik dan syarikat korporat, serta senantiasa bersedia membantu pelanggan untuk mengharungi cabaran getir dalam dunia yang rumit pada peringkat antarabangsa dan hal-hal dalam negeri.

Pelanggan khidmat APCO, bukan sahaja negara Malaysia. Dalam tulisan saya sebelum ini, saya telah menjelaskan hubungan firma perunding pengurusan risiko dan keselamatan dalam negeri ASERO Worldwide. ASERO seolah-olahnya merupakan rumah persaraan buat bekas-bekas pegawai perisikan Israel, bekas Mossad dan bekas Shabak.

Melihat rekod syarikat APCO, cukup menakjubkan melihat kelancangan syarikat dalam tindakan yang secara berterusan menentang keadilan sosial.

Mendandan diktator

Seperti yang kita tahu, APCO dan rakan strategiknya ASERO berkhidmat untuk Israel dan agenda Zionis. Di persada antarabangsa, APCO secara khususnya terkenal kerana membantu para diktator di seluruh dunia.

Ketua Menteri Gujarat, seorang nasionalis pelampau Hindu, Narendra Modi memakai khidmat APCO sebagai perunding imejnya pada Ogos 2007. Ahli politik BJP ini telah dikaitkan dengan rusuhan antara agama yang mengorbankan kira-kira seribu orang Islam. Pembunuhan beramai-ramai itu mula dicetuskan dengan kejadian pembakaran keretapi Godhra pada 27 Februari 2007, yang mana beberapa ratus penganut Hindu terbakar hidup-hidup.

Puak radikal pelampau BJP dan RSS menyalahkan penganut Islam berhubung kemalangan tersebut dan membalas dendam dengan memulakan rusuhan anti orang Islam. Kerajaan Gujarat yang dipimpin Modi kemudiannya membayar USD25,000 setiap bulan kepada APCO bagi membina semula imej antarabangsanya dan menarik pelaburan asing (FDI).

Selain dari Ketua Menteri Anti Orang Islam, si Modi, APCO juga terkenal dengan menjalankan kempen perhubungan awam untuk ahli-ahli politik yang begitu mengaibkan.

Pada pertengahan tahun 1990an, syarikat itu telah dikontrakkan oleh bekas Presiden seumur hidup Nigeria, Sani Abacha. APCO mewakili diktator itu di saat rejim tersebut menindas kebangkitan gerakan rakyat dan menghukum bunuh 9 orang aktivis pro demokrasi, termasuklah seniman pro alam sekitar Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Setelah runtuhnya blok komunis Eropah Timur, APCO menemui lubuk keuntungan di Rusia, negara-negara Eropah Timur dan Asia Tengah.

Ken Silverstein, editor majalah Harper Magazine (30 Jun, 2007) menyifatkan pelobi APCO sebagai, “penyelamat penting buat rejim-rejim kediktatoran mengembangkan kepentingan mereka di Washington”. Beliau mendedahkan kepakaran pengalaman APCO dalam bekerja untuk rejim-rejim kuku besi seperti Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan dan lain-lain lagi..

Silverstein menulis: “Dengan bayaran yuran khidmat sehingga USD 1.5 juta setahun, APCO menawarkan untuk meghantar delegasi Kongres Amerika Syarikat ke Turkmenistan serta menulis dan menanam pendapat di suratkhabar atas nama-nama ahli akademik dan pakar-pakar pemikir yang akan direkrut mereka. APCO juga menawarkan untuk menganjurkan acara untuk media “bebas’ di Washington yang akan mempromisikan Turkmenistan…”

Di China, APCO membantu syarikat-syarikat Israel untuk menjalankan perniagaan. Dalam salah satu risalahnya, APCO mengiklankan bahawa: “APCO akan membimbing dan memberi panduan kepada para peserta dengan proses mencari dan mengenal pasti rakan niaga berpotensi ataupun potensi peserta untuk menjadi pengedar, penggabung, agen, pembekal atau pesaing kepada China.”

Memukul gendang perang

Melakukan kerja-kerja perhubungan awam untuk rejim-rejim kuku besi mungkin merupakan sebahagian daripada sumbangan kegiatan kebajikan APCO. APCO juga memiliki sebatalion pelobi penyokong perang di bawah sayap syarikat ini. Firma ini juga merupakan pendokong kuat peluasan peranan ketenteraan dan persenjataan Amerika Syarikat (A.S) dalam urusan hal ehwal dunia

Pada Oktober 2004, APCO dan Kissinger Associates (dimiliki oleh bekas setiausaha negara A.S, Henry Kissinger) membentuk “persekongkolan strategik.” Mereka sama-sama mengumumkan “Genggaman kami terhadap dasar-dasar asas dan isu-isu peraturan di berbagai negara digabung dengan pengalaman luas hal ehwal awam oleh APCO akan menghasilkan pemikiran yang lengkap tentang ‘cabaran-cabaran’ para pelanggan kami.”

Selain Kissinger Associates, APCO turut membina jaringan atau persekongkolan dengan kumpulan konservatif pelobi pro Zionis dan kumpulan-kumpulan perundingnya termasuklah Heritage Foundation, Frontier of Freedom, Jewish Policy Center, dan lain-lain lagi.

Atas nama perang melawan keganasan, APCO membantu untuk menyelaraskan komunikasi kerajaan bagi meyakinkan orang ramai berhubung perlunya perang. Kerja APCO termasuklah mengolah pendapat awam dan maklum balas yang akan membantu usaha-usaha ke arah peperangan. Mudahnya mereka mengeksploitasi rasa ketakutan terhadap Islam dalam masyarakat Barat untuk menjual idea bahawa serangan penaklukan merupakan penyelesaian masalah bagi mendapatkan semula keamanan di negara-negara Barat.

Selain menyokong George Bush, APCO turut sama mempertahankan tindakan tidak popular Perdana Menteri Britain, Tony Blair untuk ikut sama terlibat dalam peperangan. Bersama-sama dengan Foreign Policy Institute, yang berpengkalan di London, APCO menyediakan dan menerbitkan risalah berjudul, ‘A Global Alliance for Global Values’ (Persengkongkolan sejagat untuk nilai sejagat) yang diisytiharkan sendiri oleh Blair.

“Penyelesaian yang kita sedang hadapi sekarang adalah perang, tetapi bukan perang biasa yang konvensional. Dan ianya tidak dapat dimenangi dengan cara-cara yang biasa. Kita tidak akan memenangi pertempuran melawan keganasan sejagat sehinggalah kita memenangi setiap peringkat nilai dan juga kekuatan tentera.”

“Untuk melakukan hal ini memerlukan perubahan mendadak terhadap keutamaan dasar kita. Kita mesti menyerahkan diri kita terhadap pembaharuan sepenuhnya dalam strategi kita untuk mengalahkan pihak-pihak yang mengancam kita.”

Setelah penakhlukan di Iraq, APCO secepatnya meletakkan diri mereka untuk membantu syarikat-syarikat Amerika memeras kekayaan dan sumber Iraq. Pada Mei 2003, APCO Worldwide melancarkan pasukan petugasnya yang diketuai oleh Marc Ginsberg, bekas duta Amerika Syarikat ke Maghribi bagi mendapatkan kontrak membangunkan semula Iraq.

Anti-reformasi di A.S

Kesemua kejahatan ini bermula di rumah mereka sendiri. APCO bukan malaikat di pengkalan asal mereka. Dilengkapi dengan penampilan berat condong ke politik konservatif, ia selalu siap untuk berkhidmat terhadap agenda politik puak sayap kanan yang menentang reformasi dan kepentingan orang ramai.

APCO Worldwide lahir daripada firma guaman Arnold & Porter, salah satu firma guaman yang terbesar di Washington D.C serta berhubungan langsung dengan industri tembakau.

Pendokong gerakan hak-hak pengguna menyifatkan APCO sebagai firma pelobi yang “pakar dalam membantu syarikat korporat untuk mengembangkan matlamat-matlamat mereka dengan memanipulasikan penggubal undang-undang serta merancang dan mengajukan model bentuk peraturan dan perundangan. Perkakas utamanya…termasuklah dengan mencipta persekongkolan perniagaan serta penubuhan kumpulan-kumpulan ‘akar umbi’ palsu yang bergerak atas isu-isu tertentu.

Pada tahun 1983, syarikat gergasi tembakau, Philip Morris membayar khidmat APCO untuk menyerang kempen kesedaran awam menentang tembakau. APCO menyusun NGO tipu yang dikenali dengan nama The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). Matlamat NGO ini adalah untuk melawan usaha-usaha kesihatan awam yang mendesak kepada perubahan perundangan serta menghalang sebarang cubaan untuk menghalang jualan tembakau.

Bukan sahaja APCO mahu orang ramai berfikir merokok itu baik untuk kesihatan, ia juga mewakili kepentingan yang menguntungkan daripada syarikat-syarikat farmasi dan industri penjagaan kesihatan. Tidaklah menghairankan apabila kita melihat APCO secara aktifnya menentang dan memperlekeh usaha Obama untuk mereformasikan sistem penjagaan kesihatan di A.S.

Salah seorang penggubal undang-undang yang disukai APCO ialah Senator Joe Lieberman, penyokong kuat bantuan ketenteraan ke Israel. Isteri Lieberman, Hadassah merupakan bekas pelobi utama APCO untuk para pelanggan dari sektor penjagaan kesihatan dan famasi.

Mewakili syarikat-syarikat gergasi menjual dadah (ubat-ubatan), Senator Lieberman menganjurkan gerakan anti reformasi sistem penjagaan kesihatan yang diharapkan para penyokongnya akan mengecewakan usaha Obama, dan mereka telah berjaya menunda pembentangan skema baru sistem penjagaan kesihatan.

Di luar A.S, APCO memimpin kempen undang-undang yang menentang pengedaran ubat-ubatan murah untuk sakit AIDS di Afrika Selatan.

Selain kesihatan, APCO juga terlibat sama dengan syarikat-syarikat besar multi nasional dalam sektor tenaga bagi menolak keprihatinan terhadap pemanasan global. Sekali lagi, tugasan TASSC adalah untuk menyampaikan pandangan yang ‘rasional’, bukti ‘waras’ saintifik bagi menyatakan bahawa bahaya pemanasan glogal hanyalah ilusi orang-orang pro alam sekitar yang kurang siuman.

Dibayar oleh syarikat seperti Exxon Mobil, APCO ditugaskan untuk menyusun sepasukan ‘laskar upahan’ yang berpandangan skeptik terhadap perubahan cuaca dunia dan menentang Perjanjian Kyoto sebagai “kesilapan sains dan teknologi.”

Pada kesemua hal ini, matlamat dan cara APCO tidak ada lain melainkan untung dan lebih besar lagi keuntungan bertimbun.

Kapten perhubungan awam di Malaysia

Pengarah Urusan APCO di Kuala Lumpur ialah Paul Stadlen. Memang benar tugas pertama APCO di Malaysia bukanlah untuk mempromosikan 1-Malaysia.

Paul Stadlen datang ke Malaysia pada tahun 2008, sewaktu berlakunya penangkapan ISA terhadap Teresa Kok, Raja Petra dan wartawan Sin Chew, Tan Hoon Cheng. Dia diambil berkerja untuk membantu strategi komunikasi Kementerian Dalam Negeri bagi menyokong penangkapan ISA, khususnya kepada masyarakat antrabangsa.

Naib Presiden APCO, Larry Snoddon dilantik sebagai CEO Rantau Asia pada Januari 2009. Sebelum bersama APCO pada tahun 2002, Snoddon merupakan CEO untuk Burson-Marsteller, pemain utama perniagaan perhubungan awam di UK.

Burson-Marsteller juga memilki rekod menarik. Seperti APCO juga, Burson-Marsteller pernah dibayar khidmatnya untuk Kementerian Penerangan Nigeria pada hujung tahun 1960 an bagi mengimbangi kutukan antarabangsa terhadap dakwaan pembunuhan etnik dan pelanggaran sistematik terhadap hak asasi manusia yang dilakukan tentera Nigeria.

Dalam perkembangan yang sama, firma ini juga dilantik sejurus selepas Lee Kuan Yew melancarkan operasi ‘Cold Store’ dalam tahun-tahun pembentukan Singapura (yang menyaksikan bekas Ketua Pengarang Utusan Melayu, Said Zahari merengkok tanpa bicara dibawah ISA selama 17 tahun). Lee Kuan Yew mendapatkan khidmat Burson-Marsteller bagi membantu Singapura membangunkan program selama 10 tahun untuk menarik pelaburan dari luar negara.

Firma ini juga diambil berkhidmat untuk kerja-kerja perhubungan awam oleh syarikat loji nuklear setelah tragedi kemalangan nuklear di Three Mile Island di A.S pada tahun 1979. Paling terkini, Burson-Marsteller mewakili syarikat khidmat keselamatan Blackwater dalam suatu kes kontroversi. Ia dibayar untuk mempertahankan kakitangan Blackwater yang membunuh 17 orang awam rakyat Iraq, sejurus selepas kejadian tembak-menembak di suatu jalan di Baghdad pada 16 September 2007.

Namun demikian, bos sebenar operasi APCO di Malaysia berpengkalan di Washington DC. Dengan bayaran khidmat RM23 juga, dia mampu untuk terbang ke Kuala Lumpur sebanyak dua kali sebulan.

Orang yang bertanggungjawab sebagai perunding imej Najib ialah Jonathan M Winer, Naib Presiden Kanan APCO di Washington DC.

Sebelumnya, Winer bertugas sebagai Timbalan Pembantu Setiausaha Penguatkuasaan Undang-undang Antarabangsa dari tahun 1994 hinggalah 1999. Semasa penggal perkhidmatannya sebagai Timbalan Pembantu Setiausaha Negara, dia dikenali sebagai pakar dalam hal kewangan pengganas.

Dalam politik dalaman A.S, Winer pernah sekali membantu kempen presiden John Kerry. Namun tidak seperti bosnya John Kerry, Jonathan Winer bukanlah kawan baik kepada Anwar Ibrahim. Sebetulnya Jonathan Winer telah membantu Najib berkempen menentang Anwar sebelum mendapat kontrak APCO lagi.

Sejak tahun 2005, kumpulan-kumpulan konservatif A.S mengutip pengakuan kongres Jonathan Winer yang menyifatkan World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Perhimpunan Belia Islam Sedunia – WAMY) sebagai organisasi berkait dengan pengganas.

Dakwaan Winer merupakan cakap kosong tanpa asas. Dia membuat kesimpulan berasaskan pada kejadian tunggal, di mana WAMY telah mengundang pemimpin Hamas Khalid Mishal sebagai tetamu kehormat (VIP) untuk persidangannya di Riyadh yang berlangsung pada bulan Oktober 2002.

Selain menjadi simpatisan penyokong kepada perjuangan Zionis, Winer dalam banyak leadaan melontarkan syak wasangka buruknya terhadap orang Islam dan agama Islam secara umumnya. Dalam pengakuannya kepada Jawatankuasa Senat untuk Hal Ehwal Kerajaan A.S (US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs) pada 31 Julai 2003, Winer menyifatkan organisasi Ikhwan Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) sebagai “kumpulan pengganas”.

Katanya, “Ikhwan berperanan dalam membangunkan organisasi-organisasi militan Islam lainnya. Hal ini dapat ditunjukkan dengan hubungannya terhadap penubuhan kumpulan pengganas Indonesia Jemaah Islamiya (JI), yang dicipta untuk menubuhkan negara Islam di Indonesia. Pelopor yang menubuhkan JI mengakui mendapat inspirasi daripada matlamat jihad Ikhwan sebagai cara untuk menciptakan negara Islam di Asia Tenggara meliputi Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapura dan selatan Filipina.”

“JI kemudiannya mendapat dana daripada hartawan kaya Arab Saudi yang bergabung dengan Al-Qaeda. Hasilnya, mekanisme pusat kewangan Ikhwan, Al Taqwa, yang ditubuhkan operasinya di Malaysia terkait dengan JI…kumpulan Al Taqwa…sejak dahulu lagi berperanan sebagai penasihat kewangan kepada Al Qaeda,…menyediakan bantuan langsung kepada Osama bin Laden serta nasihat pelaburan dan mekanisme pemindahan wang tunai untuk Al Qaeda dan kumpulan-kumpulan radikal Islam lainnya.“

Saya beranggapan pandangan di atas sepertimana yang disuarakan Jonathan Winer tidak dapat diterima di kalangan kawan-kawan saya dari Barisan Nasional. Namun demikian, apakah kerajaan Malaysia meminta perunding APCO ini mengubah kepercayaan yang dipegangnya sebelum menandatangani kontrak mahal bernilai RM23 juta itu?

Bolehkah kita mempercayai APCO?

Cara bergerak APCO tidak pernah berubah, ia menyediakan khidmat ‘laskar upahan’ perhubungan awam yang akan menasihatkan rancangan sesiapa sahaja, dan pastinya rancangan untuk pihak yang paling banyak membayar mereka.

Perkara-perkara yang saya timbulkan dalam rencana saya ini, telahpun dimasukkan ke dalam debat membahas Titah Di Raja di Palimen pada 29 Mac 2010. Dalam perdebatan itu, saya merayu kepada BN, juga terhadap rakyat Malaysia untuk melihat isu ini dengan lebih serius lagi.

APCO mungkin menyediakan jalan pintas untuk mengangkat imej kerajaan. Tetapi wajarkah kita percaya kepada ‘laskar upahan’ untuk berkhidmat terhadap kepentingan nasional kita?

Lebih-lebih lagi, jika 1Malaysia seperti yang didakwa kerajaan adalah berkenaan bagaimana rakyat Malaysia berkongsi memenuhi hasrat bersama, kita sebenarnya tidak memerlukan campurtangan asing untuk membentuk masa hadapan negara.

Najib Stalls on his New Economic Policy

Image(Asia Sentinel) Fleshing it out is probably impossible

As expected, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak unveiled his New Economic Model in an 8,000 word speech on March 30 to a national investor conference in Kuala Lumpur. And, as expected, despite the hype and favorable news stories in the international press, it contained virtually nothing of substance. The speech can be found here.

Najib remains caught between the need to eliminate costly subsidies enshrined in 40 years of economic policy that benefit ethnic Malays and the fact that eliminating them would alienate a major part of his United Malays National Organisation political base.

His pledge in the speech to eliminate rent-seeking is fraught with political danger, since UMNO has largely been built on party cadres who have made fortunes on government contracts or other arrangements. As Lim Kit Siang, the leader of the opposition Democratic Action Party, pointed out to Asia Sentinel, Najib's promise to end rent-seeking echoed speeches by his predecessor, former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was unable to make any progress whatsoever in the face of implacable opposition from UMNO cronies.

The premier has been trying to walk the fine line between economic liberalization and alienating his base virtually since he took office a year ago, offering to unveil policies and then delaying. The details now have been delayed until the release of the 10th Malaysia plan, probably in June. Some, including veteran UMNO politician-turned-reformer Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, whose speech appeared on March 24 in Asia Sentinel, have questioned whether it is possible to split the difference.

Last year, Najib quickly stoked ethnic Malay anger by removing a long-standing requirement mandating ethnic Malay participation in 27 economic sub-sectors as well as removing a requirement that 30 percent of shares in IPOs go to ethnic Malays. That, along with rising irritation in other ethnic parties, led to rallies across the country put on by the Malay Consultative Council, an umbrella group of 50 ethnic Malay non-government organizations, and its most active voice, an NGO called Perkasa.

While there has been no open break between Najib and the splenetic former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mahathir has appeared several times at rallies to defend ketuanan Melayu, or Malay superiority. Some of the rallies have turned into near riots and have been likened to the Tea Party rallies in the United States that have roiled American politics. Mahathir is also close to Ibrahim Ali, a former UMNO wheel-horse who is a major force in Perkasa, leading some to believe Ibrahim is Mahathir's spear-carrier.

As Asia Sentinel reported on March 8, the widening gap between what Najib wants to do and what a major portion of his constituency wants is putting in jeopardy his so-called 1Malaysia campaign, designed to bring the country's alienated and fractious ethnic groups together, and to rebuild the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition of ethnic political parties.

In his speech, Najib said the country could no longer rely on a few sectors like oil palm plantations and crude oil sales to drive growth. He called for the country to diversify and provide incentives in new strategic industries. The education system – which critics say now gives ethnic Malays virtually blanket passes with little academic rigor – must be reevaluated and improved, he said, to reward excellence and nurture talented graduates who excel in strategic and creative thinking, and entrepreneurial and leadership skills that will drive success in the decades ahead.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Insider, an increasingly influential website, reported that the Malay Consultative Council is split over Najib's plans, with the council taking an unofficial stand to support them on condition that affirmative action features contained in the New Economic Policy, put in place after bloody ethnic riots in 1969, remain in place. Given that Najib's economic plans would remove many of those perks, it remains to be seen how he can convince the rank and file of their value.

Najib does have an improving economy working in his behalf. As he told the Invest Malaysia conference Monday, fourth-quarter 2009 Gross domestic product grew by a higher-than-expected 4.5 percent, that exports have rebounded, and foreign direct investment is picking up. The Industrial Production Index, he said, rebounded to 12.7 percent growth in January with exports, which traditionally have comprised more than 100 percent of GDP, exports rose 37 percent to RM52 billion and imports increased by 31 percent to RM40 billion. His decision last year to inject RM67 billion of stimulus funding provided a much-needed boost to the economy.

The government, he said, "can no longer tolerate practices that support the behavior of rent-seeking and patronage, which have long tarnished the altruistic aims of the New Economic Policy. Inclusiveness, where all Malaysians contribute and benefit from economic growth - must be a fundamental element of any new economic approach."

However, there is no better example of how closely tied Najib's own coat-tails are to rent-seekng than a contract to provide services and coordination for two Amaris submarines purchased for US$1 billion from DCNS, a French defense contractor, when Najib was defense minister. Najib and one of his closest friends, Abdul Razak Baginda, were intimately involved with the purchase of the submarines. Although many critics characterized the €114.96 million payment to a company called Perimekar, partly owned by Razak Baginda, as a bribe, Malaysia's defense ministry defended it in Parliament as a support services contract.

Perimekar was partly owned by the Armed Forces Superannuation Fund Board (the military retirement fund), Boustead Holdings Bhd, and KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd. Ombak Laut was in turn owned by Razak Baginda, who was tried for the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu and found not guilty in a controversial trial that saw two of Najib's own bodyguards convicted of the crime. Altantuya had served as a translator in France on part of the submarine transaction and was demanding US$500,000 from Razak, her former lover in what she herself called blackmail in a letter found after her death.

Yet there is another service contract as well. The submarines became controversial again in February when it was reported that the first one to be delivered had problems with its ballast system and couldn't submerge. Although that turned out to be a relatively minor problem, it brought to light questions over an additional service agreement between the government and a well-connected firm called Boustead DCNS, a joint venture between BHIC Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of publicly-listed Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd, and the France-based DCNS SA, which built the subs. Originally Boustead told the Malaysian Stock Exchange that the service contract was for RM600 million (US$184.1 million) for six years, or US$30.68 million annually. However, the contract later ballooned to RM270 million per year. Boustead Holdings is partly owned by the government and has close connections with UMNO.

There are dozens of such contracts or other arrangements between the government and favored companies closely connected to either UMNO or the Barisan Nasional as a whole. One of the costliest scandals in Malaysian history blew up last year when it transpired that a plan to modernize Port Klang, a seaport 60 km west of Kuala Lumpur, had gone so far out of control that the costs skyrocketed from RM1.96 billion to a potential RM12.45 billion if the government has to pay all interest costs it is obligated to by guarantees. Although the scandal is mainly centered in the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second ethnic party in the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, it also implicates several leading members of UMNO as well, and there appears little appetite to prosecute any of them despite Najib's rhetoric.

"The government promised the world it would be announced by the end of last year," Razaleigh wrote. "It was put off to the end of this month. Now we are told we will be getting just the first part of it, and that we will be getting merely a proposal for the New Economic Model from the National Economic Advisory Council. Clearly, politics has intruded. The NEM has been opposed by groups that are concerned that the NEM might replace the NEP. The New Economic Model might not turn out to be so new after all."

NEM and NEP – Only One Letter Different!

By M. Bakri Musa

With threatening clouds overhead, there are no prizes for predicting the flood, only for designing or building the ark. The recently-released New Economic Model (NEM) Report draws our attention (not that we need it!) to the darkening Malaysian skies, and then goes on advising us to build an ark.

That is as far as the report goes. There are no hints on whether the clouds would bring a tropical drenching or just a midday sprinkle. There are also no suggestions on the type of vessel we should build. A barge, yacht or a sampan will all keep us afloat, but beyond that they serve vastly different purposes, not to mention their enormously varying costs. And if the forecast calls for only a light sprinkle, then a simple umbrella would do; no need to expend scant resources on an unneeded ark.

We are told that following “public input,” another report will be released by June, in time for its recommendations to be incorporated into the Tenth Malaysia Plan and the 2011 Budget. This second report, we are further assured, will contain specific policy prescriptions – the ark design, as it were.

The current report is silent on how this “public input” would come about. Before deluding ourselves that we could participate in robust public debates, let me intrude a cautionary note. Acknowledging that there will be opposition, the report urges the government to take “prompt action when resistance is encountered.”

You can be assured that those UMNO-Putras and others glutton on the NEP-spawned patronage system would be spared this “prompt action.” They as well as the Perkasa boys can continue with their shrill voices opposing NEM. For Pakatan folks and others however, be warned!

Major Conceptual Flaws

On a general level, this report suffers from three glaring conceptual flaws. One, it fails to recognize that the bane of past policies is in their implementation. Two, it ignores the major role culture plays in the successful execution of any economic initiative. And three, there is no attempt at learning from the successes and failures of earlier policies.

This last deficiency is surprising as well as disturbing. If NEM were to supplant NEP, then we should know the strengths and weaknesses of that earlier policy. Or if it was basically sound, then what or who perverted it, and where the failures were in its implementation.

No one argues with the twin objectives of NEP: eradicating poverty and eliminating the identification of race with economic function. Those are laudable goals; the second in particular for a racially diverse society like ours. Indeed, the report pays tribute to NEP for reducing poverty and minimizing inter-communal inequities.

Unfortunately, there the report ends. In an earlier chapter, the report duly lists the numerous problems facing Malaysia to day: widening inequities especially among Bumiputras; talented citizens leaving; the rise of a rent-seeking class; entrenched corruption; and the failure of our institutions.

What happened in between? Unless we know, there is little assurance that the laudable goals of NEM would not be similarly derailed. If we are unwilling to acknowledge and learn from the mistakes of the NEP, then we are bound to repeat them.

Thus there should be some critical analysis of the NEP, at least an elaboration of the positive elements and the highlighting of the negatives. The one chapter that should be in the report would be one titled, “How did we get in the mess we are in today?” I reckon that such a chapter would be filled with narratives on the failures of our institutions. It is this that doomed NEP.

On the role of culture, it is surprising that a committee made up of mostly Malaysians and those familiar with Malaysia would come up with a report that is totally oblivious of this reality. This cultural dimension is crucial not only in economics but also in management and healthcare. Of all people, Malaysians who are daily immersed in a diverse cultural environment, should be well aware of this.

An initiative that would be embraced by urbanite Chinese in Penang would fall flat among Iban rural dwellers of interior Sarawak. The solo entrepreneur model would probably find a fertile ground in Penang, but not in Kenawit. There, the social system would be more supportive of cooperative-like ventures.

Challenges for the urban poor regardless of race are radically different from those in rural areas; race only compounds those differences. The failure to recognize this dooms many an imaginative plan. When that happens, those policymakers would resort to blaming and stereotyping the poor victims. We have heard that many times.

The colonials brought modern schools to Malaysia with the best of intentions. Non-Malays responded to that gesture and benefited immensely. Malays did not, and suffered the consequences in terms of our economic and social development.

It would be wrong as well as cruel to conclude that Malays did not value modern education, as many (and not just the colonials and non-Malays) were wont to. For when those schools were named Tuanku Muhammad School instead of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Malay parents readily enrolled their children. The content was still essentially the same but only the packaging was different; it was sensitive to the culture of the clients.

American consumers readily respond to their leaders’ exhortations to increase their spending to pull the country out of recession. For the Japanese however, the more their leaders urge them to spend, the more they save, and hoard. Same economic circumstances and the same economic rationale, but the responses and results are diametrically different. Culture explains that.

“Most of economics,” as Landsburg put it in his The Armchair Economist, “can be summarized in four words: ‘People respond to incentives.’ The rest is commentary.” Alas what are viewed as incentives in one culture can be definite disincentives elsewhere. That is the central challenge. Policymakers ignore this at their own peril.

The British, in an attempt to encourage Malays to save, duly increased the interest rates on Postal Savings Accounts. However, instead of increasing their deposits, Malays withdrew theirs! Malays viewed the increase as an inducement to a life of sin. Those sneaky white devils!

Ungku Aziz created Tabong Haji and labeled the investment returns as “dividends.” Malays swarmed to that institution, making it the largest in the region. Essentially the same content, but different packaging! The Ungku understood economics well and fully comprehended its central axiom: People respond to incentives.

An extension to this observation is that the incentives you offer would influence your responders. Offer honey, you get bees; rotten meat, maggots. When the committee decries the economic rent-seekers emerging under the NEP, it should carry the analysis further to find out the incentives offered. Rest assured that if NEM were to offer rotten meat as NEP did, NEM will too get its share of maggots.

On the crucial issue of implementation, the report only tangentially addresses the strengthening of our institutions when that should be the major focus. Our institutions are blighted with bloat, incompetence, and corruption; they simply cannot deliver.

Consider the current initiatives to improve the civil service, of which there are too many to count. First there was PEMUDAH, self-described as “a high-powered taskforce to address bureaucracy in business-government dealings.” It is chaired by no less than the Chief Secretary. Then there was the appointment of Koh Tsu Koon as the minister in charge of “Performance Management.” He had hardly warmed his seat when yet another minister, Idris Jalla, was made in charge of – you guess it – KPI!

Who is in charge here? Meanwhile the civil service continues its bloat and ineffectiveness, as exemplified by Najib’s own cabinet. And if you have to get your driver’s license, you would still need the services of runners and touts, as well as some duit kopi.

Corruption will not be dented – much less ended – merely with the report blandly declaring “zero tolerance” for it. Make the Anti Corruption Commission independent, answerable only to Parliament or the King, and appoint a seasoned professional to head it. If you cannot find a native, recruit from the FBI or Scotland Yard. That one move would more effectively curb corruption and improve our institutions than all the KPIs, National Integrity Institutes, and NEM’s and others’ declarations of “zero tolerance.” It would also be considerably cheaper.

Accurate Portrait, But No Revelation

This report is refreshingly different from the usual government publications in that it is highly readable and the content well organized. The chapter headings too are clear and simple; they accurately reflect the contents, with such titles as “Where We Are?” Where Do We Want To Be?” and “How Do We Get There?” An index would have been useful, but the well laid-out and sufficiently detailed “Table of Contents” made up for that deficiency.

This report is remarkably free of gross grammatical gaffes and awkward syntax. The committee staff has also done a credible job with the executive summary. The report was made available online almost immediately. These features are rare with our government publications, and thus merit special commendation.

The full report is available only in English, a glaring omission considering that NEM would supplant NEP. As everyone knows, NEP is dear to most Malays, especially those of the Perkasa persuasion. Any tampering of NEP, even if it involves only one letter of its acronym, risks raising the hackles of those folks. Having the full report in Malay would have been a splendid start at trying to influence them, quite apart from being a politically smart gesture. Malay after all is our national language.

As things stand, those proficient only in Malay would have to be satisfied with the Ringkasan eksekutif (Executive summary). My hunch is that they would find the going rough, what with such phrases as “Menginovasi hari ini untok hari besok yang cemerlang,” (Innovation today for a glorious tomorrow) and, “Inisiatif Pembaharuan Strategik” (Strategic Renewal Initiatives). I would have said it differently, “Cara baru untok menjamin masa depan yang cemerlang” (A new way to ensure our bright future).

Dark clouds there are – and many – hovering over Malaysia, from the hundreds of thousands of skilled citizens who have migrated, to the anemic growth in our productivity. The report rightly points out the lack of political will to overcome these myriad problems. Kudos to the committee for this forthrightness!

The report paints a gloomy picture for Malaysia if it were to stay the course. Again, few would disagree with that. I wish those luminaries would help us sketch and build the appropriate ark, one that would meet our unique needs and challenges, instead of merely warning us of the impending flood.

The report does not lack for specifics. For example, it aims for an economic growth of at least 6.5 percent annually. Its target too is specific, the bottom 40 percent of Malaysians.

One specific suggestion on improving the government machinery is the proposal to “corporatize” and rename the Malaysian Industrial Development Agency (MIDA) to Malaysian Investment Development Agency. The committee pats itself for the brilliance of substituting “Investment” for “Industrial,” as then the agency could continue keeping its acronym and logo!

If only they recognize that changing even a single letter in a corporate name would entail changing entire letterheads, advertising plates, and web pages. The exercise would consume as much effort as if you had changed the entire name. It would have been more productive if the committee had recommended changes to MIDA’s mode of operations and strategies. After all, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway did not need to change its name in order to diversify very profitably beyond its initial textile roots.

The Report goes out under the signatures of all but one (Dr. Norma Mansor) of NEAC members. Of the ten who signed and thus responsible for the report, three are non-Malaysians while two are Malaysians (or at least born locally) who have spent their formative careers abroad.

Of the remaining five – the ‘natives’ – only one, the chairman Amirsham Aziz, has substantive private sector experience, having spent his time in banking. He had a brief political career as a cabinet minister, but that was through the appointive senate route rather than through elections. In short, the chairman, like the rest of his committee, is short on political acumen as reflected in the lack of a Malay version of the report.

Again referring to the ‘natives,’ all have formal training in economics except for one. The exception is Dzulkifli Razak, Vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia; he is a pharmacist by training. Two of the ‘natives’ were former academics but now, government bureaucrats. The resumes of the committee members are impressive, with seven having doctorates, all but one in economics.

I have no quarrel with the committee’s assessment of our current dismal state. I concur with its observations. I just wish that the committee members would have been more forceful in pointing out whether the Najib Administration’s many recent moves were in the spirit of or contrary to the committee’s aspirations. For example, the committee wisely noted the need for devolution of authority to lower levels, yet Najib’s recent response to the request for local elections runs counter to that.

Similarly, the committee decries the failure of our educational institutions. Yet it does not address whether the recent rescinding of the policy of teaching science and mathematics in English would accelerate or reverse this decline.

I hope that in its final report the committee would be more forceful in addressing these contradictions. The committee owes this obligation not only to the Najib Administration but also to all Malaysians. Doing so would also help us design and build a better ark.

April 25 The Polling Day Of Hulu Selangor By-Election

PUTRAJAYA, April 2 (Bernama) -- The Election Commission (EC) fixed April 17 as the nomination day for the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election and April 25 for polling, EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof announced here Friday.

The seat fell vacant following the death of incumbent Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad of PKR, due to brain cancer, last Thursday.

Nazri: Perkasa are opportunists

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abd Aziz labelled Perkasa as “political opportunists” for disagreeing with the suggestion to set up the Equal Opportunity Comm­ission (EOC) under the New Economy Model unveiled by the Prime Minister.

He said Article 153 would not be in “any jeopardy” as the EOC was subjected to the framework of the Constitution.

“You can have the Equal Opportunity Commission subject to the requirements of the Consti-tution.


“Equal opportunity for all must be subject to the provisions of the Constitution,” Nazri said when contacted.

Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali had said the EOC, to ensure non-discrimination and injustice, was against Article 153 of the Federal Consti-tution.

Nazri said any decision by the commission should not contravene the Constitution.

He said if Perkasa was against equal opportunity then it should also condemn the New Econimic Policy, adding that Perkasa was using EOC for political interest and mileage.

Nazri also stressed that the Constitution did not state that bumiputera share in the national economy must be at 30%.

APCO = the new Altantuya; the Shin Bet connection

By Nathaniel Tan,

I think we may be on to something big here. I suggest you start with Tian’s 2 articles, here and here.

As what will hopefully be part of a multi-part series (sorry in advance if you get sick of it), let me start with the Shin Bet connection.

Shin Bet = Shabak = Israel Security Agency (ISA, ironically) = the Israeli internal spying agency = Israel’s Special Branch (but if you can imagine, even worse).

I think I too must add the obligatory “this is not anti-Semitic” preamble. Like many of us who studied in the US, we have tons of great Jewish friends, and have long learnt to differentiate between Jew and Zionist.

Especially after researching the Shin Bet however, I think there is even less doubt as to some of the repressive tendencies of the Israeli government.

First, let us establish the Shin Bet connection to APCO (APCO’s involvement w/the government, we must note, has been established beyond doubt).

It starts here, with a member of APCO’s Advisory Board, a man named Doron Bergerbest-Eilon:

Doron Bergerbest-Eilon is the former head of the protection and security division and the senior ranking security official of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), a position equivalent to the rank of major general. Mr. Bergerbest-Eilon is the founder, president and CEO of ASERO Worldwide, where he advises clients on strategic and tactical security challenges and provides assistance to both governments and corporations to prepare, mitigate and recover from threats of terrorism and other hazards; and to protect lives and critical assets and ensure continuity of operations.

Someone with the connections of an ex-Major General of the Israeli Defense Forces? And CEO of which company again? ASERO? Back to Tian:

Apco’s involvement in various intelligence and security-related projects is done through its strategic partner and sister company Asero Worldwide. While Apco’s expertise is in the field of communications, Asero specialises in homeland security and risk management consultancy.

Apco and Asero have many overlapping consultants and management members. For example, Doron Bergerbest-Eilon who sits on Apco’s International Advisory Council was also founder and president of Asero Worldwide.

Mara Hedgecoth, the daughter of Apco CEO and President Margery Kraus also sits in Asero as Vice President. At the same time, Mara Hedgecoth also serves as Vice President and Director in Apco Worldwide.

The connection between APCO and ASERO is fully public. The only other company mentioned on ASERO’s About Us page:

ASERO is a partner company with APCO Worldwide, an independent, majority employee-owned global communication consultancy.

Let’s leave most of the details about ASERO for another post – suffice to say that they are clearly being run by the same people; practically part of the same holding company / mafia. Let’s just start very simply with ASERO’s Management Team.

David Harel
Managing Director and Vice President, Israel
Former head of international relations for the protection and security division of the Israeli Security Agency

Oded Raz
Vice President
Former senior ranking security official of the Israeli Security Agency

Gadi Kalai
Director
Former regional security manager (RSO) of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA)’s north region

That’s a company run by four top ranking Shin Bet officials. I think it’s time we hear a bit about Shin Bet, aka Shabak. To Wikipedia:

Shabak also extracts information by interrogating suspects. In 1987, after complaints about excessive use of violence in interrogations of Palestinian prisoners, the Landau Committee (headed by a former Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau) prepared a two-part report on Shabak’s interrogation methods. Only one part was made public. It revealed that the Shabak regularly used violent methods of interrogation and that Shabak agents were tutored to lie in court about how evidence was uncovered. The committee report also gave guidelines for future interrogations, but most of the details were in the secret part of the report. The open part revealed that the guidelines allowed Shabak to apply “moderate physical pressure” in the case of “necessity”. In 1994, State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat, in a report not made public until February 2000, found that during 1988–1992, “Violation of the Landau Commission and the GSS regulations continued to be widespread in the interrogation facility in Gaza and, to some extent, in other facilities.… Veteran and senior investigators in the Gaza facility carried out severe and systematic violations. Senior GSS commanders did not prevent these violations.”[2]

In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court heard several petitions against Shabak methods. It found that these included: (1) “forceful and repeated shaking of the suspect’s upper torso, in a manner which causes the neck and head to swing rapidly,” (2) manacling of the suspect in a painful “Shabach position” for a long period of time, (3) the “frog crouch” consisting of “consecutive, periodical crouches on the tips of one’s toes,” and other methods. The Court ruled that Shabak did not have the authority, even under the defense of “necessity,” to employ such methods.[3]

In the Justice Ministry, the Department For Special Roles, there is a senior investigator who checks complaints about Shabak interrogations.[citation needed] Shabak claims that it is now basing its interrogations only on psychological means[citation needed]. However, organizations such as B’Tselem and Amnesty International still accuse Shabak of employing physical methods that amount to torture under international conventions.[4][5]

Harassment and detentions

Salah Haj Yihyeh, an Israeli who runs mobile clinics for Physicians for Human Rights, was detained for questioning by the Shin Bet. In the questioning, Yihyeh answered questions about the activities of the organization, its budget, the identity of its donors, and details about others employed by PHR. The board of Physicians for Human Rights, in a letter to Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, rejected the “crossing of a red line in a democracy.” The letter argued that since the only cause for calling an employee of the group was to scare him, the tactics were unacceptable and illegal.[13]

Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer was detained in July 2008 by Shin Bet. Having arrived on a flight from London, Omer says that he was taken aside by a Shin Bet official. According to Democracy Now! Omer was later questioned, strip-searched, and then beaten by eight armed Shin Bet officers. Injuries from the ordeal allegedly left Mohammed Omer in the hospital for a week.[14]

Whoa. What kind of monsters are we dealing with here? (and this is just people linked to APCO. we haven’t started talking about APCO’s list of clients yet).

*

For a government that loves nothing more to slam Zionists and Israelis, we sure are getting cosy with a lot of them.

Next on APCO – the dubious clientele they serve.

Gunshot victim Norizan meets home minister

BN to censure Anwar over 'One Israel' jibe

UMNO: Make public JPN, Petronas, TNB, MARA, Telekom, all state Yayasan scholarships

Images
We note that RM 2.8 Billion is allocated for the 2010 National Budget for students assistance scholarships but only an estimated 1% may reach the Indian students. Most of the funds go for scholarships to Malay Muslim Students. 1,266,671 students have benefited from the government PTPTN (Government Higher Education Loan Fund) study loans till 2009. 147,441 such loans were approved at RM 17.0 billion (UM (UMNO) 25/3/08 at page 31).

But thousands of private Indian medical students studying in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, India and Indonesia have been denied these loans. Similarly Indian students studying at private Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning have also been denied these study loans.
We welcome the UMNO led Malaysian government in releasing the name list of 30 receipients of the government Biasiswa National scholarships (The Star 1/04/2010 at front page and N10). On a similar note the UMNO led Malaysian government must similarly forthwith make public the full list of receipients according to ethnicities, merits, the grades scored and from which institution of JPN, Petronas, TNB, MARA, Telekom, all state government Yayasan scholarships and PTPTN loans, etc. If not in the newspapers the same should be published in their respective websites and the website of the Prime Minister’s Department within one week of the offer of scholarship letters. We demands transparency. Some thing the PR Indian mandores have never asked for in Parliament.
Then and only then will there be Prime Minister Najib Razak’s One Malaysia.
P. Uthayakumar.
1-04-2010 - STMT - UMNO Make public 1
1-04-2010 - STMT - UMNO Make public 2

UMNO wipes out Indian JKR and government quarters in Fraser Hill

During the colonial days the British brought the Indian manpower to man their hill stations amongst others in Frasers Hill, as the locals were complacent in their villages and would not want to work up in these hills.

And now UMNO as usual wants to “ethnically cleanse” these Indian government quarters to wipe out the history of the earliest Indian presence here. We have seen even a Hindu temple at a sharp bend in Fraser Hill’s mountainous land scape. Our immediate thoughts was that UMNO would someday also destroy this temple.

Why can’t UMNO preserve and recognize as a National Heritage of the early Indian workers homes here, some of whom had died while clearing the jungle with their bare hands and with no machinery as we know today, vis a vis the development of this Frasers’ Hill Resort?

Why can’t UMNO preserve this JKR quarters, their Hindu temples, Tamil school and cemetery as a part and parcel of the history of Frasers Hill? Why can’t UMNO expand and enchance these historical sites as a part of the Malaysian heritage?

Under UMNO’s racist, religious extremist and supremacist agenda they are just waiting to cap and roll back, erase any and every semblance of Indian and Hindu landmarks in Malaysia as the Indians are the softest targets with no or very little political power.
P. Uthayakumar
UMNO